Most Important Job
Overflow
The stuff that spills out of my head. Half Journal, half Blog, half stream of consciousness, half meaningless blather, half....

My name is Cody Clark.
If you're interested, you can find out about me here and here. But this is the site where I am most at home. Please excuse the mess.

I love guests, like everybody else, so sign my Guestbook.

Oh and if you wish to shower me with gifts, here's my wish list.


Listening To
Wilco
United Future Organization
Thievery Corporation
Steve Reich
Fuschnickens
Mocean Worker
Bowling For Soup
Radiohead
Barenaked Ladies
Cornershop


Reading
The Constant Companion
   by Eknath Easwaran
SoulSalsa
   by Leonard Sweet
The Perennial Philosophy
   by Aldous Huxley
Peace Like A River
   by Leif Enger
Tomorrow Now
   by Bruce Sterling
An Intimate History of Humanity
   by Theodore Zeldin
Sandman
   by Neil Gaiman
White Noise
   by Don Delillo
Creating Positive Futures
   by James Ogilvy


Stuff To Do
Environmental Scanning
Work on Waitt Foundation Community Site content
Finally learn how to use Paint Shop Pro
Put poetry on website
Finish friend's tshirt
Paint more tshirts


People to See
me
Rebecca Blood
Fleming Funch
Chris Corrigan
Peter Russell
Phil Ringalda
pamie
Phil Gyford
Owen
Mark And(erson)
Bob McDaniel
Nick Bostrom
Eric
Mary T.
Margaret Berry
Eliot Wilder
Daniel Talsky
Fred from Floyd
Gwen Zepeda
Alison Hawke
Malcom Davidson
Veronica Nichols
Caterina Fake
Meg Pickard
Kurt Brobeck
Dave Trowbridge
meesh
Sarah Hepola
Matthew Sturges
Dooce


Places to Go
Building Tomorrow's Communities
Futurescan
Mondo News
Everything2
Arts & Letters Daily
SciTech Daily Review
Arts Journal
Slate
Salon
Business Daily Review
EurekAlert!
SmartMarriages
Metacritic
Red Rock Eater
Obscure Store
memepool
Techdirt
Robot Wisdom
kottke.org
Boing Boing
Daley News
Raising Hell
Internet Scout
The Marriage Movement
Shifted Librarian
Deviant Art
Beliefnet
Relapsed Catholic
Holy Weblog!
Sursum Corda
not martha



Archives:







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Friday, January 31, 2003
Goodbye Esther.

For over eleven years I've worked for a little Cuban lady. She was a very good boss. It was like working for your favorite aunt.

Her management style combined a mother-hen concern for her subordinates with a guard-dog-like vigilance in protecting them from the intrusions of upper management and their micro-managing ways. In stature she is diminuitive, but her colleagues and sometimes adversaries respected her acumen and fierceness. She was, like Carol Keeton-Rylander (to use a local Texas political reference), "One. Tough. Gramma."

And now she's retiring. We'll miss her dearly. So I'm sad. And when I'm sad I write.

I'm sad because it seems like the end of a lot of good things. We, due to our efforts, brought an end to a piece of NASA history -- the Mission Operations Computer at Mission Control. It is the end of what one of our managers called one of the largest software successes in large software project history. We are moving to another set of offices next week. Another desk, another cubicle. Another boss. 'Cause our old boss is leaving.

But it's more than just that. There was this feeling that you were doing just the right project and you were surrounded by the only group of people in the world with the combination of skills, experience, and history to do it right. It was that good feeling of being on a great team. We clicked. We flowed. It was great having a job that you looked forward to coming to and co-workers you looked forward to seeing every day.

So we've had the speeches, the awards, the banquet, the going away party. And next is the curtain.

We are in the coda at the end of a great symphony. And the next opus has not yet been written.

What comes next might be good too, who knows? But right now I have this feeling that it will never be like it used to be.

That's a universal truth -- it will never be like it used to be. Change is inevitable. Sigh.

I can think of no other melancholy platitudes about change so I'll stop there.


Question

What is it, exactly, that makes "daylight" so "broad"?


Wednesday, January 29, 2003
Omigosh.

Dave Barry has a blog (via Fred). A Blogspot blog no less. This is so cool!

No, no. I'm still working hard, promise.


Thursday, January 23, 2003
It's not about me...

At least for a few weeks.

I have to go off and do some intensive work on a project I am launching elsewhere on the web. I will need to concentrate my online energies for a while, and so I'm afraid that my posting here on Overflow will be less than regular. I'm not saying I won't come here -- I may need a break and just want to post my usual blather -- but I won't be dependable.

What's the project? Glad you asked!

I am working with a couple of other futurists and the Waitt Family Foundation (You know, Ted Waitt, the founder of Gateway Computers? The guy who talks with the cow on all those commercials?) on an online community to help connect those people who work to build and plan communities in the offline world.

We want to connect people with information and futures thinking about the practice of community building. We want to connect those forward thinking people with each other so they can collaborate and do awesome stuff. We ultimately want to serve underserved and marginalized communities around the country. We want to be like a Slashdot for progressives, activists, and community developers. And I am to be the editor/moderator/caretaker of the place.

So that's where I'll be blogging for the next few weeks. The real work will be in bootstrapping an online community, working to build up a membership from nothing. Right now I'm blogging to an empty room, and I need to take some time to try to fill it somewhat.

Of course, you can always come visit. Bring friends. You can even pitch in to help. It's a free membership.

The cool thing about this project is that it dovetails well with my own life mission -- bringing people together into community with one another. That's also what I love most about the Internet -- the way it connects people.

It's a project that hits me straight in the heart, so I'm going to pour my heart into it.

Not saying "Goodbye," but more like "Via Con Dios" for a few weeks.


Some more info:

::Building Tomorrow's Communities

Building Tomorrow's Communities (BTC) is an online community for people who work to build communites in the offline world. It's a place where community-minded futurists and forward-thinking leaders work together.Where people, information, and resources create the future of communities. Where community developers can share, learn, and dream.

BTC provides a number of resources to help community builders stay on the cutting edge of the field of community building and create their preferred futures:

- Daily news highlights and pointers to useful resources and information available elsewhere on the web.
- A searchable database of annotated weblinks on a variety of areas of concern to community builders.
- Interactive features such as a discussion forum that facilitate dialogue between community members.

BTC is run by the staff of the Waitt Family Foundation with the help of consulting futurists and a dedicated moderator and editor - a team focused on building a place of value on the web.

::The Waitt Family Foundation

The Waitt Foundation believes that stable and empowered families are the building blocks of a safe, open and prosperous world, and that the material and spiritual needs of these families can best be served through their communities. The Foundation takes a broad and long-term view of the family that includes all of its global and cultural diversity, and examines challenges and opportunities facing families from a perspective that considers the past, the present and the future.

The Foundation envisions a world in which every child and family has the opportunity to choose their own futures and succeed in fulfilling their dreams.

To that end, the Foundation seeks to:

Empower Communities - Enhance the capacity of communities to promote positive social change supportive of families.
Leverage Partnerships - Partner with projects that show promise and are widely applicable.
Communicate Ideas - Help in the dissemination of new ideas to communities and families that will help them plan in the present for a better future.



Wednesday, January 22, 2003
And when it rains...

It pours. I came home yesterday fresh from my fishing expedition at CD Warehouse and found four CD's waiting for me. I quit the Columbia House record club last August and, through a variety of snafu's, I didn't get my final four selections until yesterday. I'd forgotten they we coming.

The biggest surprise was my CD "Music for the Movies of Clint Eastwood" which I got because I am a fan of Ennio Morricone and he composed most of the music from Eastwood's "Spaghetti Westerns." I was disappointed on that account, because there was only one Morricone track, the theme from "The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly." Just one. Bleh.

Turns out that, except for a few that were included because they are the ones most naturally associated with Clint Eastwood movies, most of the music was composed by Eastwood himself. Go figure.

You know, I don't usually associate the ideas "music" and "Clint Eastwood" that often. And when I do, I think of him singing "They Call the Wind Mariah" in "Paint Your Wagon" or maybe his direction of Forrest Whittaker playing Charlie Parker in the brilliant bummer of a movie called Bird. I never figured this guy for a composer. But it's all there, and it's pretty good. There's even an original orchestral piece, featuring sax solos from Joshua Redman, called "Clint Eastwood: An American Filmmaker Suite." Think Aaron Copland pasted to Duke Ellington with a John Williams Glue-stick.

S'kinda bizzarre. But in a good way, I guess.


Last catch in these waters

Yesterday was the last day CD Warehouse was in business. All CDs were twenty-five cents. It was pretty picked-over. I couldn't resist casting my net once more into the Dead Sea of Bargain Bin Land. So after I tossed off the trash fish, here was what was wriggling in my net that I'm happy with:

Fu-schnickens-- Nervours Breakdown : These guys rap with a wordplay style that'll give Eminem a run for his money. And they're damn sight more pleasant too.
Geggy Tah-- Sacred Cow : I can find no words, just smiles.
Toure Kunda : Afropop worldbeat. Makes me wanna go to the beach.
Mocean Worker-- Aural and Healthy: Fun party 4/4 beats, some breakbeat and lounge. Booty-shakin'!
"Giant Steps"-- Various: 1993 Blue Note Acid Jazz compilation with Us3, SooneMC, Guru, and the Beastie Boys. No clue why these folks are on the same album, but they flow.
Microphone Theology-- Various: Street Corner Gospel Hip-Hop Rap. Real raw, urban stuff you'll not hear on Christian Radio in anyone's lifetime.
This is Strictly Rhythm-- Various: Almost tossed this back as it is a barely passable 90's House Mix, except for the one track by Phuture. I'll rip that one to MP3 and toss the carcass.

But hey, not bad for $4.83.


Monday, January 20, 2003
Already There

"You have always been one with the Buddha, so do not pretend you can ATTAIN to this oneness by various practices." -- Huang Po

"I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you." -- Isaiah 44:22


Sometimes the way to achieve my spiritual goals is to allow myself to realize I'm already there. I must simply get out of my own way. Easier said than done, though.


Sunday, January 19, 2003
Pablo Neruda Rocks

'Don't Go Far Off'

Don't go far off, not even for a day, because --
because -- I don't know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don't leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don't leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you'll have gone so far
I'll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?

-- Pablo Neruda


If you're going to be sniveling and needy, at least do it in style, right? Pablo totally rocks.


And Vice Versa

"As clouds are blown away by the wind, the thirst for material pleasures will be driven away by the utterance of the Lord's name."
-Sri Sarada Devi


I think that works the other way around too, right?


Saturday, January 18, 2003
An encouraging word

"Our peace of mind increases in spite of suffering; we become braver and more enterprising; we understand more clearly the difference between what is everlasting and what is not; we learn how to distinguish between what is our duty and what is not. Our pride melts away and we become humble. Our worldly attachments diminish and, likewise, the evil within us diminishes from day to day."

-Mahatma Gandhi


Gosh, I hope so. But I have a hard time believing this can happen without some awareness, some effort. But I want to believe.


Friday, January 17, 2003
As it should be.

Wilco beat out Eminem for Wired's Rave Award for Music.


Delphi process underway

The Millennium Project at United Nations University wants to know what you think about the future of science and technology. If you want to see the work of bureau-techno-futurocrats at its best, check out the Millennium Project.


Missed it.

Well, I totally missed Overflow's three year anniversary, which was, from what I can see, on January 10th. I was planning to write a self-indulgent retrospective entry looking back on all my favorite posts. I missed my chance to get all self-congratulatory for this being the first time I've ever kept any sort of journal for this long. I missed my opportunity to hint for lots of comments and well wishes.

Yep, completely missed it. ;-)


Bowen Island Poet

This is a nice poem by Bernice Lever, established writer and Bowen Island resident:

PRAYER
I don't want to live everyday
as the last day,
grasping and clasping
at disintegrating care
like a fish leaping
from an oil slick
into our polluted air.

Grant me the wisdom
to live each day
as the first day,
shy in its newness
strong in its promise.



Seren damn dippity!

I've had the name Chris Corrigan written on the whiteboard in my office for well over a month now. He's an expert I've identified for a project I'm working on (big things... coming soon...) -- a specialist in using Open Space Technology to facilitate groups of people through the process of planning and visioning.

So fast-forward to yesterday. I am planning an nice getaway for Heidi and myself to British Columbia. We were going to jet off to Las Vegas for a fun-filled weekend, but lately decided that our action-packed holiday season has left us craving calmer cozier climes. So I chose a cozy B&B on Bowen Island off the coast of Vancouver. It's a bucolic bedroom community for some of Vancouver's artists and writers. It seemed like the perfect place to take a walk on a wintery beach with crashing waves and then go into a cozy cafe and read pretentions literature by the fire. Probably just the environment for me to begin my assault on Gravity's Rainbow. (Yes, again. Shut up, you.)

So anyway, after booking our lodging. I started poking around to see what people who live on the island have to say about the place and I found a charming Community Forum. I also found a good blog called Bowen Island Journal. It reminded me of Fred's blog -- you know, blogging in place, astute observations, down to earth yet eclectic and interesting without being pretentious. So it takes me awhile to figure out that this blog is written by none other than Chris Corrigan. And guess who he links to?

Well, slap my ass and call me pappy! There are about 27 separate cliches for this situation. Small world, etc.

Now I haven't actually contacted him yet. I definitely need to email him about his Open Space activities, but I haven't decided if I will mention to him my upcoming trip. I don't want to impose any obligations to act as host or tour guide, or even inspire any imagined obligations. And I want to keep the option open for Heidi and I to be antisocial if we wish (it would be a first, but you never know.) But from reading his bio, it sounds like a conversation with him would be well worth the price of several shots of whatever whiskey he drinks.


Thursday, January 16, 2003
Judith Viorst

Judith Viorst is one of my favorite authors. She's a poet who also straddles the line between the Children's and Adult's literature world quite nicely. I did her "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" for humorous interp back in my seventh grade speech days. I've read her to my kids. And she has one of my favorite quotes about marriage:

"One advantage of marriage, it seems to me, is that when you fall out of love with each other, it keeps you together until maybe you fall in again."

Judith Viorst now has a new book called "Grown-Up Marriage: What we know,wish we had known, and still need to know about being married" (Free Press) This should be a good buy, because, of all writers, Judith Viorst has the deft sense of humor to lampoon our culture's ridiculous expectations about marriage and redraw a picture of marriage that is endearing yet more realistic. Bully.


Santa, Interrupted.

My Secret Santa was a bust. Sort of. She tried, though. I got part of the present in the mail, a book called Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse. I checked the "gifts already purchased" section of my wishlist -- it's not peeking *after* Christmas, is it? -- and there's a copy of Fantastic Planet listed as having been purchased. But it has not been sent.

My poor Secret Santa got SNAFUed by Amazon or something. But hey, it *is* the thought that counts. I like the book. Thanks for being my Secret Santa.

But Jennifer, I'd give Amazon a nasty call and get my money back if I were you.


Wednesday, January 15, 2003
Hey, Yeah.

I had a "Hey, yeah." moment last night.

Have you ever had something you really used to like but sort of forgot about on a "let fall by the wayside" kind of way and then gotten reminded of how much you used to like it quite by accident so that it seemed new and old at the same time? That's a "Hey, yeah." moment.

Like when I got back into Radiohead last month because one episode of CSI ended with the opening to Kid A. I said, "Hey, yeah! I totally forgot I groove to this album!" Or like a few days ago I picked up my Utne Reader and said "Hey, yeah. Why haven't I been drinking my Yerba Mate (a mug of which is the green nectar which is fueling this very entry) lately?"

Well, last night I was too tired to work and I was channel surfing, trying to find filler material to watch until Gillian Welch came on Sessions at West 54th, and I caugh the last twenty minutes of Party Girl. I totally forgot how much I like Parker Posey. Hey, yeah. So now I want to buy the DVD and go see Personal Velocity.

That ever happen to you? Huh?


Tuesday, January 14, 2003
Tipping Point -- Yerba Mate

I haven't forgotten about my beloved Yerba Mate. Sales at the local health food store have been brisk. I just ordered three kilos myself from Gran Tangolandia which has the best selection and prices I know. Tip: Don't buy yerba mate at a health food store, go to an Argentinian or South American import store instead.

I got back on my Mate buzz when this month's Utne Reader highlighted Yerba Mate. I've also found it poppng up in fine art and trendy cocktails. Could Yerba be on the verge of a Tipping Point? Gee, I hope so.


Moderation

"All the wealth you've acquired
from beginningless time until now
has failed to fulfill all your desires.
Cultivate therefore this wish-granting gem
of moderation, O fortunate ones."
-Milarepa, "Drinking the Mountain Stream


Who is it that said "Everything in moderation. Including Moderation"? And who said "It is easier to like what you have than have what you like"?
I dunno, but I like the image of Moderation as a "wish granting gem."


Set Theory and Being God

"Have faith, my Child, have faith.
Do not be bewildered.
For you are beyond all things,
The heart of all knowing.
You are the Self.
You are God."
-Ashtavakra Gita 15:8


Though Christmas is over, I'm still stuck on the Incarnation. I am conflicted about this idea that I am supposed to "be" God somehow. Much of what I am hearing and reading dances around it -- "Be Christ to one another," "We are one body in Christ," etc. The above quote is the first I have read that comes out and says it plainly: "You are God."

It was then that I remembered something Thomas Merton told me about "being Christ":

"It is the Spirit of God that must teach us Who Christ is and form Christ in us and transform us into other Christs. For after all, transformation into Christ is not just an individual affair: there is only one Christ, not many. He is not divided. And for me to become Christ is to enter into the Life of the Whole Christ, the Mystical Body made up of the Head and the members, Christ and all who are incorporated in Him by His Spirit."
-- Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation, p.88


So I become Christ by Entering into Him. This goes against my mathematical training. Set theory tells me that "is a member of" and "is equivalent" are two different relations. No set is a member of itself, right? That gives fuel to some nasty paradoxes that negate the possibility of a Universal Set -- U -- of which I've always pictured God as being the spiritual metaphorical equivalent. Is the Universal Set a member of itself? Well, if it is, there must be an even bigger set still. If not, then the Universal Set does not contain quite everything and is not truly universal. No wonder Bertrand Russel was an ardent atheist.

If Logic and Science are my ultimate authority (as I had decided early in my twenties), God cannot exist. God does not exist entirely within the bounds of the Logical, but exactly the opposite (as I decided in my late twenties). If my idea of God has to be logical, if I feel the need to come up with Scientific "proof" of God and other basic articles of faith, then my "God" is Logic and Science, not God. I lived with Logic as a God for the first twenty-seven years of my life. I prefer life after my upgrade.


Monday, January 13, 2003
Women With Literary Chops.

I love a woman who can write. Literally. I married one.

But just because I'm married, that doesn't stop me from forming my literary crushes. (Don't worry, they're way unrequited.)

Both Maggie Berry and Sarah Hepola have been particularly good lately. And Caterina Fake? Adorable in an unattainable kind of way. Any woman who calls her little dog Dos Pesos -- a deft literary reference that comes off as cute and not pretentious (Dos Passos. Get it?) -- demands my admiration.


Fenton for myself

I love discovering a good new poet. Well, he's new to me anyway.

James Fenton writes good modern poetry and, hey, he rhymes. Modern poetry that rhymes? Wow. Some of his rhymes seem comically contrived for effect. He's like, I dunno, the poetic love child of Billy Collins and Ogden Nash.

Here's one by Fenton that, like the Billy Collins one below, is tastefully sexy:

'In Paris with You'

Don't talk to me of love. I've had an earful
And I get tearful when I've downed a drink or two.
I'm one of your talking wounded.
I'm a hostage. I'm maroonded.
But I'm in Paris with you.

Yes, I'm angry at the way I've been bamboozled
And resentful at the mess that I've been through.
I admit I'm on the rebound
And I don't care where are we bound.
I'm in Paris with you.

Do you mind if we do not go to the Louvre,
If we say sod off to sodding Notre Dame
If we skip the champs Elysees
And remain here in this sleazy
Old hotel room
Doing this or that
To what and whom
Learning who you are,
Learning what I am.

Don't talk to me of love. Let's talk of Paris,
The little bit of Paris in our view.
There's that crack across the ceiling
And the hotel walls are peeling
And I'm in Paris with you.

Don't talk to me of love. Let's talk of Paris.
I'm in Paris with the slightest thing you do.
I'm in Paris with your eyes, your mouth,
I'm in Paris with?..all points south.
Am I embarrassing you?
I'm in Paris with you."

-- James Fenton
(1993)



Christmas is over.

Okay. Yesterday was the Baptism of the Lord. The last day of Christmas. Our family actually stops celebrating Christmas at Epiphany, but the Baptism of the Lord is the end of the Liturgical Season of Christmas.

That was the last day of plausible deniability for taking down the Christmas decorations. Now we have absolutely no excuse.


Dang.

I forgot to pay my Geocities bill, so my pictures are not viewable right now.

I had an auto pay thing going with them. Then I lost my card and had to get another one. I forgot to give them the new card's info. Drat.

Another reason to find one server to host my entire site. This is too much to keep track of.


I-69, don't you?

I was driving to work this morning listening to a story about the NAFTA Freeway, I-69, on NPR. They were talking about how everybody's for the idea of it, but there's contention from NIMBY types and questions about how to pay for it.

It was right then that I had an idea that might help pay for it.

Does anyone else see the obvious merchandising opportunities for a major mid-continental freeway called I-69? Of course you do. The double-entendre is there, they might as well use it. Face it, you just know that at Stuckeys' and truck stops all along that road the jokes will appear on caps, tshirts, and beer koozies. State governments might as well trademark them and fund the freeway by selling the licenses to make keychains that say "Let's I-69" and bumper stickers that say "Travel I-69 and Go Down on America."

Could I-69 take the place that the old Route 66 had in American mythology? Someone could write a song. Someone wake up Billy Ray Cyrus...

Personally, I am not very much for the idea of suggestive I-69 inspired kitsch. In fact, I'd vote to pay a few cents more at the pump if I thought it'd spare me and my family from all such crassness. But it won't, 'cause if I had the idea, then any idiot with a screen printing machine can get the idea. It's inevitable. So the only question is whether some of the money will go to strapped state governments or will all of it go to some guy named Bud in Missouri wearing a stained wife-beater and flip-flops.

Hey wait, my brother has a screen printing machine... Forget I brought it up. It's a terrible idea. Really.

Now where did I put those flip-flops?


Friday, January 10, 2003
Bargain Bin Gold

The CD Warehouse chain is closing down, and I'm hooked.

I love bargain bin diving at music stores. It's the only form of gambling I like. Actually, diving the 5 for a dollar bargain bin is more like a form of music trivia than gambling -- how does my knowledge of obscure and eclectic music stack up against that of the store's buyers? They know that if even 1% of the people out there know who this band is, their CD won't go into the deep discount section. So it's me against them, and they're armed with sales data. Can I find unrecognized gem amidst the trash? It's a challenge I cannot resist.

So far, for twenty cents apiece, I've purchased:

Crossover Classical: Joshua Bell, Short Trip Home
Japanese Acid Jazz: United Future Organization's self-titled release
Various: For the Masses: A Tribute to Depeche Mode.

I found the Subdudes, a Wall of Sound electronica compilation, and a nice recording of Abbey Lincoln on Verve records.

But my best find of all was the delicious Cornershop CD. How dare they put Cornershop in the 5 for a dollar bin! I consider its rescue a moral victory.

**** Oooh, and I totally forgot to mention my Thievery Corporation CD. Bonus. Total Bonus. ****

Granted, I had to spend about six dollars to get all those CDs from the 5 for a dollar bin, but I still think I came out ahead. I loves me some cheap music...


Decadently Adult.

Heidi and I are children oriented people. We have children, we love children, heck, we *collect* children. We are a family of sippy cups, goldfish crackers, Baby Einstein videos, and developmentally-appropriate interactive toys. Our TVs are tuned to Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Disney more than every other channel combined. Our mini-van has three carseats and enough cracker crumbs in the cushions to bread three dozen chickens.

That's what made last night's outing such a treat. We had our anniversary dinner at Aries. This was serious Adult Entertainment. No, Aries is not a strip joint. The only dollar bills we slipped to anyone went to the valet. But it was scandalously indulgent, wildly decadent, preposterously kid-unfriendly dining.

We took several hours. We had quiet conversation. We had silence. We sat still. We took small bites and used the correct fork. We ordered one course at a time. I ordered the Foie Gras and a nice Austrian Riesling. It was enough to set the average kid to screaming inside of three minutes.

I have this personal theory that small children like TV programs such as Teletubbies and Barney because, like with teens and their rebellious music, they know it drives their parents nuts. It's theirs and theirs alone. That's how I felt last night, only in reverse. Sure we pulled up in a minivan, and yes, I was wearing a suit that cost less than the other patrons' neckties. It was obvious that we were suburban frumps playing dress-up, but I didn't care a bit. This was *our* night, just for us adults. No kids allowed.

So I find myself this morning listening to my James Tenney CD, wistfully remembering our adults-only dining experience by listening to adults-only music. It seems fitting.


Thursday, January 09, 2003
Taking off Emily Dickinson's Clothes

Here's a sexy poem about Emily Dickinson. I never thought I would use the words "sexy" and "Emily Dickinson" in the same sentence. Anyway, rare is the sensual poem that is not hamfisted or sordid -- Mildly erotic and yet treats Emily with a delicate touch.

First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.
And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.
Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer's dividing water,
and slip inside.
You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.
The complexity of women's undergarments
in nineteenth-century America
is not to be waved off,
and I proceeded like a polar explorer
through clips, clasps, and moorings,
catches, straps, and whalebone stays,
sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.
Later, I wrote in a notebook
it was like riding a swan into the night,
but, of course, I cannot tell you everything -
the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,
how her hair tumbled free of its pins,
how there were sudden dashes
whenever we spoke.
What I can tell you is
it was terribly quiet in Amherst
that Sabbath afternoon,
nothing but a carriage passing the house,
a fly buzzing in a windowpane.
So I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset
and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers,
that reason is a plank,
that life is a loaded gun
that looks right at you with a yellow eye.
      -- Billy Collins



Coraline

Last night, I finished a wonderfully creepy little book by Neil Gaiman called Coraline. We gave the book to Girlzilla for Christmas, but I snatched it off her pile while whe was in the middle of her umpteenth reading of Harry Potter.

It's supposed to be a kids book, but it's a kids' book in the same way that Grimm's Fairy Tales are kids' stories. Gaiman's Coraline is a very strong and resourceful little girl up against a witch who has kidnapped her and her parents. The witch, who is chillingly referred to as the "other mother," is trying to trick Coraline into coming to live with her voluntarily.

One piece of dialogue struck me in partcular (I'm paraphrasing somewhat):

"Stay here with us. We will listen to you and play with you and laugh with you. Your other mother will build whole worlds for you to explore, and tear them down every night when you are done. Every day will be better and brighter than the one that went before..."

"And will there be gray, wet days where I just don't know what to do and there's nothing to read or to watch and nowhere to go and the day drags on forever?"

"Never"

"And will there be awful meals, with food made from recipes, with garlic and tarragon and braodbeans in?"

"Every meal will be a thing of joy. Nothing will pass your lips that does not entirely delight you."

"And could I have day-glo green gloves to wear, and yellow Wellington boots in the shape of frogs?"

"Frogs, ducks, rhinos, octopuses --- whatever you desire. The world will be built new for you every morning. If you stay here, you can have whatever you want."

"You really don't understand, do you? I don't
want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted? Just like that, and it didn't mean anything. What then?"


Man, I was an adult before I learned that lesson. And I still need reminders.

Such a heroine is Coraline. I imagine that if Gaiman's Coraline and Roald Dahl's Veruca Salt were in the same room, they'd destroy each other in a matter/antimatter style reaction.

Anybody who reads faster than I (which is everybody) could read this in one sitting. And it would be a worthwhile sitting indeed.

To whet your appetite, Neil Gaiman answers readers questions in this public forum. It's very interesting to get a glimpse into the process by which these remarkable characters were developed.


Happy Anniversary, indeed.

Today is Heidi's and my fifteenth wedding anniversary. I have been with her in some form for over half my life.

We're on our sixth marriage. We've had the newlywed phase. The DINK phase. The new parent phase. The Jet Set yuppie phase. The June and Ward Cleaver phase. And now The foster/adopt/caregiver phase.

You see, every marriage is actually a collection of marriages -- phases when things change so much that you're essentially in a different relationship. A new relationship that requires its own preparation and plan, its own reconfirmation and rededication, it's own renewal. Heidi and I have been blessed with the knowledge of this and have done pretty well at keeping the "Us" as the core of all this change constant and growing. It is for that reason I truly celebrate our anniversary in my heart today.

In a few years we will likely be out of our foster/adopt phase. We are just about top-loaded on kids and will have to stop collecting after the next one (or two). Then, what? The Brady Bunch phase? Followed by the Career Renaissance phase? Then Teenage Turmoil? Then Empty Nest? Who knows?

Heidi and I are gifted with an ability to approach our life together systematically, analytically, while also making room for romance and spontaneous fun. I do know that as long as Heidi and I are side by side, we can face anything.

These are the best years of my life. Not the best ever, but the best so far.

In mathematical parlance, Heidi is a dominant term in my equation which gives the function a positive derivative (and second derivative, and possibly third as well). Yeah, there's always a local maximum and local minimum, but never an absolute maximum.

Or, for you non-geeks, we have our ups and downs, sure, but overall it just keeps getting better.


Tuesday, January 07, 2003
Books I Want to run out and buy.

Just as soon as I buy my real car, I want to buy Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs and Bruce Sterling's upcoming Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next Fifty Years. My interest was piqued by reading interesting converstions about the books on the Well's public discussion forum where both Rheingold and Sterling are members.

Particularly telling is this Sterling quote:

"Heavy duty industrial futurism is stuff like forecasting the demand curve for freon-free refrigerators in the American Midwest, 28-34 demographic. You might get paid for it --lots -- the report alone might cost nine hundred bucks -- but Jesus, who wants to read that? Nobody WANTS to read it. Conceivably, somebody might HAVE to read it.

What really happens is that the CEO is gonna do whatever he wants anyway about the refrigerators, and if anybody on the board of directors dares to cross him, he drops the 900-page futurist report on their desk and dares them to read it."


Therein is the primary problem of the futurist. Make something compelling and vivid and you're labeled an unsubstantial "pop futurist". But make something well-researched and thourough about a direct application and your work is so dry and narrow that no one wants to read it. And then the client rarely listens to your advice anyway and goes out and makes decisions based on the next quarter's profits, which is what he'd have done before he hired you.

Man, I'm all ranty today...


Blog Mode: Z+Blog

A futurist friend of mine, to accompany his new futurist consultancy venture, is publiching a new futures-oriented blog. Z+Blog. Check it out.


I want a real car

I am a big boy. I am relatively successful. I make my own money. I'm nearly 40 freakin' years old for Chrissakes. I deserve to have a real car. Nothin fancy, just a basic grown up car that a relatively successful near 40 year old would drive.

You see I'm sitting here at home this morning stranded because I essentially drive the same car I've always driven since High School -- a POS beater with a million jillion miles on it. It's my own fault. It's my friggin "principles" about frugality and not wanting to burden my family with debt when a simple paid-for beater will (just barely) serve my needs.

But, you know, screw frugality. I want a real car. It's a matter of independence. I can't just hop on the bus or walk or take the subway. I live in Houston where they don't believe in providing convenient public transportation. Houston is about sprawl. Houston is about single passenger vehicles. Houston requires a dependable car.

Sure, I could ride my bike like some liberal, environmentally conscious twenty-something, but I'm a late thiry-something with bad knees and I want to drive to work, thank you. Right now, I'm not feeling very liberal, environmentally conscious, or frugal. Screw my principles, I want to drive a real car.


Friday, January 03, 2003
Book of the Future

This sounds like a really cool opportunity:

"Book of the Future is a collection of your thoughts and opinions on the future in 2020.

The idea behind the project is to create a democratically edited book - The Book of the Future - which is a snapshot of what we think the future may hold. The content, we hope, will be eclectic, incorprating laugh-out-loud pieces as well as serious and heartfelt contributions. You may submit poetry, short essays or one-liners."


In seventeen years, my youngest child will be a Junior in High School. I can only imagine the new headaches parent of teenagers in 2020 will have to deal with. Should we let them have purple skin? How do we supervise their virtual personas? How to coax them to do real world things like go outside in the sun, play sports, have real meatworld dates...

Deadline for submissions is March 21st. I have some futures poetry I've already written to submit, but this might be a good occasion to write something else. Hmmm...


The future we were promised

A friend on my futurists list point out a cool page featuring the art of A.C. Radebaugh, a futuristic artist from mid last century who painted visions of a future filled with circa Jetson-style houses and personal hovercraft. Modern conveniences run amok. My friend says it reeks of "insular US technocratic hegemony" but is "kinda cool in that T-bird-with-swept-back-fins way." Indeed it is fun to look back and laugh at those who dreamed a different future which is now our present.

Ephemera Now is more of the same. Visions of a future of sleek design and retro-mod stylings. Turns out cheap and ugly design has amazing staying power after all.

These are excellent examples of past visions of the future that fail. Too much imagination. Too much faith in technology. What lessons can we glean from these visions for our own visions of our own futures? Do we even dare to have visions? Pity if we don't. What will folks in 2070 laugh at?



Appetizing Request

Okay, after attending a number of holiday parties and throwing one myself, I'd like to make a public plea. Can I request a general moratorium on bringing the "Stuff Poured Over A Block Of Cream Cheese" appetizer? I know, I know, it's convenient and cheap and requires absolutely no cooking. And I am an occasional violator. But I've been at two parties so far that had three blocks of goopy cream cheese and that's just way too much cream cheese. Any party should have at max one cream cheese pour-over, tops.

Can we all agree to unilaterally disarm and leave the pour-overs for the Host, who, of all people, probably needs the convenience more than we do?

So, if it's a Pot Luck, why not get a pot involved? We'll all be happier for it. Thanks for listening.

And, for those who don't use pots at all, what's *your* favorite convenient, no cooking, bring-along appetizer?


Wednesday, January 01, 2003
The Day After the Night Before

Me: "Honey, what do we have going on tomorrow?"
Her: "Nothing."
Me: "Good."

Partied out. Visited out. Dominoed out. Holidayed out.

Our party was great but tame. We welcomed children and served no alcohol. As a result, the party was hopping at 9:00 but kind of dead by 10:30. Apparently, everyone who had multiple parties to hit in the area chose us as the First Stop and then moved onto the other, more adult parties. We had some families stick with us 'til the new year but they were the quieter, less partying types of people, so we just kind of chilled and played games, biding our time until the Stroke at Midnight. It was a good party, but it is hard to let die the youthful expectation that New Years Eve should be a wild happenin' affair with champagne flowing and the joint a jumpin'. Still I guess it's more appropriate that we rung in the New Year with our family and other families.

But we did not go quietly into that New Year. No sir. We rang in the New Year on our patio, with my brother's DJ setup flirting with the boundaries between Private Party and Public Nuisance, his disco light ball a-twirlin. We had noisemakers. We wore funny hats. We did the Chicken Dance. We sang a rousing, off-key, version of "New York, New York" with Frank Sinatra. And then we toasted with grape juice and apple cider -- the black coffee of the two to five year old set -- and kissed everybody on the patio, making as much noise as we could muster. (It was the closest to wife swapping this boy would ever come. My wife's cheek and lips are the best for kissing, having done the comparison.) We danced, we talked, and kept our children up way too late.

So, having cracked the tamper-proof seal on a fresh new year, we look forward with hope and renewed resolve. It occurs to me that this calendarly boundary we've designated -- which inspires us to be forward-looking, hopeful, and resolute -- is more or less arbitrarily determined. And what's more, we should be forward-looking, hopeful, and resolute every day, not just on New Year's Day.

But still, I am more inspired today than I was, say, two weeks ago last Wednesday. I assume that, even though we may choose any moment we wish as the divider between our past and a new start for the future, the fact that we all do it together, that we all stand and face in the same direction and ponder the same things at roughly the same time, gives us added strength, hope, and resolve.

So I am thankful for you, the readers, my friends, my family, my community and Church, and all those who stand together in various states of bleary-eyed wooziness and square your shoulders with me at this New Year. May God continue to bless you and keep you. May Her face shine upon you and give you peace. May She be gracious to you this year.

Amen.