Monday, December 31, 2007

If It Ain't Broke...

Since it is New Year’s Eve, there is a certain obligation to review one’s life. As I spent the last five minutes thinking about it, I realized that those things I would share, I have and those things I won’t aren’t going to come pouring out today.

As I talked to a friend last night, all I could come up with was the cliché, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” My life really is in good shape at the present, so I’ll leave it be (despite applying for a second graduate program…yeah – it’s a contradiction).

Unfortunately, there may also be an omen mixed within it. When I first typed it, I wrote, “If it ain’t fixed, don’t broke it.”

Somehow I think the typo has as much truth as the original chestnut. With the challenges facing the nation and people personally, there is that natural inclination to try to make things better. With a presidential campaign going on, we will spend the entire year hearing about how much better things can be. I just how we have some recognition that as we make the choice for the next four years, that despite the things that are broken, we don’t choose someone who is going to “broke” it worse.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Friday Foodie - Eggnog

Friday Foodie





Ingredients: milk (or cream or half and half or a mix of them), egg, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg

Discussion: I comment from time to time about some food I have cooked or eaten that really stands out to me. So often lately, my conversations with friends have centered on food or drink. In the holidays while gathered with family and friends, food plays an integral role in the socializing.

Food, for me, is something to be savored. Every bite should bring a few moments pleasure to the palate. Flavor, texture, and satisfaction are the three qualities that determine how much I like the food I eat. Presentation is an issue for some, but for me it only sets the stage because when I whack it into bite sized pieces, the looks don’t really matter.

For the holidays, we will begin with a drink I’ve heard described as an alcohol delivery device – eggnog (or egg nog).

Eggnog has both flavor and texture I find appealing. I have always been a fan of nutmeg and that spice lends much of the flavor to nog. The creamy texture is at once soothing and pleasing to the mouth as it coats the entire tongue and lingers there to allow a full experience of the flavor.

The satisfaction from eggnog is not the same as a hearty meal, bur rather a comforting sense like that of being wrapped in heavy blankets on a cold winter’s day. Rum or whiskey adds to the calming sense.

Around Christmas, eggnog is available at most grocery stores, but I prefer to make my own (in fact I make it year-round). It is very easy to make as the ingredients are only milk, egg, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt.

I follow the proportions: 3 eggs, 2 cups milk, pinch salt, with sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon to taste.

The recipe, of course, can be adjusted based on the amount you want, but I have found that 1.5 eggs per cup of milk gives a good creaminess. I always like to include some cream or half-and-half in the mix just because of that extra bit of smoothness. Eggnog, clearly, is not a drink for dieters.

One trick I’ve found is to put the eggs in a blender, mix them until smooth then add the sugar and spices. The spices seem to stay better infused with the egg when done this way.

Keep the eggnog refrigerated, and for safety, use within two days or dispose. Historically, eggnog was served warm, but I have not had much luck getting it warm other than in a double-boiler. Both direct and microwave heating have led to lumpy eggnog and that will ruin the mood quickly.

Once made and chilled, drink as is or add your favorite libation and have a good time!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Winter Wonderland - Not!

Annually I make a trek to Kansas for the gathering of my cousins who live in Wichita – and their prodigal brother who moved off to Kansas City. We always have a tremendous amount of fun as we gather to visit, exchange gifts, and eat.

This year I made it up to Kansas in near record time by getting a jump on the holiday traffic – and before the predicted blizzard blew in. I don’t know if anyone who gets real winter would call the weather I experienced in Kansas a real blizzard since there were only about eight inches of snow, but the news stations all talked of “blizzard conditions” and for this South Texan, it most certainly counts.

As I watched the snow fall and blow, I kept thinking that I should write about how beautiful it was, creating a winter wonderland on the first official day of winter and just a few days before Christmas. Because I’m a southerner and the snow is such an unusual sight for me, I should be in awe at the transformation from the barren brown ground visible at dawn to the bright white dune-like topography visible at mid-afternoon. Instead, I am not moved in the sense of the romantic authors so inspired by the beauty of such pristine newness. While watching the snow swirl and blow, I only saw it in the view of the realists.

The ferocity of the gusting winds shifting the snow around the ground reminded me more of the wind and rain of a tropical storm. The rain, like this snow falls sideways so much that one wonders how any of it ever makes it to the ground, yet somehow, it does and flooding ensues. The snow is somehow making it to the ground.

Mother Nature did not create this show for my interest or amusement; she did this because it is what she does when warm moist air meets frigid air. These conditions would kill me just as quickly as amuse me – not out of any malice, just because they are beyond any conditions my body can handle without help.

All that said, the disaster freak in me wonders at the quiet violence of the snowstorm. Unlike rain that pounds the walls and roof, the snow dodges and swirls with the wind. The flakes that do collide with the house do so with a sigh rather than a scream. Tropical storms announce their own arrival. The snowstorm settles in on you and envelopes you in its grasp.

I keep waiting for some disastrous occurrence in the snow outside the window. Much like NASCAR is really only fun when there are crashes, I keep waiting for limbs to give way or roofs to go flying – something to break the quiet.

Even if nothing extraordinary happens, I’ll never look at another Rockwell winter scene quite the same again. The perfection of the final product hides the stories of its creation. It is one thing to wonder at that final beauty, but isn’t the story of its creation so much more fun? That story can be retold and remembered and the exhilaration of the moment comes back fully. That final perfection only lasts until the first step breaks the smooth surface. From that moment on, only the story remains.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Too Smart for My Own Good

This past Saturday I sat for the GRE at one of the internet testing sites. I’ve already earned a Master’s degree, so though I have taken the GRE before, it was well before the five-year-window for which test scores are good, I had to take it again for the new Master’s program to which I am applying. Most disgustingly, the scores have no bearing on admission as this program has admission based on a portfolio and interviews with co-workers; nevertheless, the graduate school requires the test scores be on file.

So I forked out the $140 the test cost and woke up early on a Saturday to take it. I didn’t bother to review any sample questions or the online study guides my $140 had paid for. I resolved to see just how fast I could make it through the test.

I finished in less than half the time allotted. I was pumped.

And then the scores came up.

Remember – I made absolutely no preparation. The last real math class I had was in the spring of 1986 – almost twenty-two years ago.

Going into the testing room, my internal measure of success was getting out in the shortest possible time so I could go back to bed or get on with my Saturday.

And then the scores came up.

Kind readers, have you figured out that I have a competitive side and a bit of an ego that… well… that spills out of my head from time to time? I know that about myself and it sometimes gets the better of me.

Because then the scores came up.

I had done well!

In fact, I was shocked to see that the combined score of verbal and reasoning was exactly the same as I had earned on the SAT in 1984! (Yes, I remember my SAT scores.)

The competitive side of me rose up and I have been kicking myself ever since.

The scores were good!

What if I had used the scratch paper on a few of the math problems?

What if I had actually picked up one of the sharpened pencils they had handed me instead of doing all mental math? People who dine with me know how dangerous it is to rely on my mental math.

What if I had really read the passages instead of scanning for key words?

What if….

The scores could have been REALLY good!

I almost want to dish out another $140, prepare for the test, and take my time answering it. My competitive side keeps grabbing for the credit card, but my frugal side keeps slapping the competitive hand away.

I have nothing to gain from taking the test again but peace of mind knowing I did as well as I could. The GRE is not a measure of intelligence but a measure of academic skills; knowing I didn’t make full use of the academic skills I have gained over the years gnaws at my mind every waking moment.

The scores could have been really, really good.

Nevertheless, the scores will do for now, but I learned this about me: I will not blow off future tests for convenience.

The next scores will be incredibly good!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Larry Craig Experiment

I keep thinking the Larry Craig event will fade into political history, but it keeps cropping up in blogs, news, and humor – just as the Republican Party feared (and I secretly hoped) it would. Since the event was essentially a he said –vs- he said event, I decided to put it to scientific reasoning. Since there are a few actions that are agreed upon (the meaning is in dispute on all of them), I put them to the test: did the action lead to pee, no pee, sex, no sex, or dancing?

In order to replicate the situation as closely as I could, I used a stall in the restroom where I work rather than my own toilet at home. Just like with the label in the restroom toilet, I was careful not to be spotted doing my experiment when someone else was in the restroom.

To easily understand it, I created a table.



No Pee


No Sex



Peeking in Stalls



Wide Stance



Foot Tapping




Bending Over






Bending Over

While Sitting



*You do want to check to see if the stall is occupied before grabbing the door, so it could be for pee or sex (if the occupant is cute).

**My feet are not normally in a place that would lead to tapping during sex, but peeing is impossible while foot tapping.

***Dancing is premarital sex for Baptists.

It is time for Senator Craig to come clean (out). After my careful research, there is no way he was in that stall for its engineered purpose. Every action possibly works for sex, but peeing is only possible with two of them.

What happened to the age of investigative reporters who should have figured this out months ago? It took me getting bored while peeing one day (I had already been though a pot of coffee, so I was there for a while). But now that we have scientific proof, we can put the entire event to rest and the Republicans can adapt to having a gay senator in their midst while they continue their rhetoric of intolerance.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

When Food Stars Align

By my own declaration (and that of most people who have eaten my cooking) I’m a pretty good cook. Ninety-five percent of the time whatever I prepare is edible and sometimes exceptionally so. Food is one of my great pleasures, and when I am unable to enjoy it, either from time or illness, I’d rather just not eat.

The idea got into my head while on the phone with a friend earlier. He spent the weekend suffering from sinus congestion as many of us find ourselves doing now (Austin has been named Fall Allergy Capital of the United States).

He had just eaten the food he craves when ill. I commented that I don’t eat when I don’t feel well. As we talked, he commented on eating as a matter of necessity. He sees food as important and finds a way to eat even when not feeling well. I admire that quality because I’ve never been able to do it. If I can’t enjoy it, I just won’t eat.

Throughout the conversation, I could smell the bread then baking in the oven. I have purchased only one loaf of bread since Christmas 1999 when my mother gave me a bread maker. The bread maker has been in the closet since I moved to Austin and came out of the closet. I much prefer to make bread by hand now. Sunday afternoon and evening, whenever possible, is reserved for bread making.

Just like the bulk of food I prepare, I have no set recipe for bread. Bread simply consists of flour, milk, egg, salt, yeast – and anything else one wants to add to give it some zing or zest. Today I went with dried cranberries which I had run through the food processor briefly.

Occasionally the food-stars align and the dish I make comes out exceptionally well. Today was one of those days and the bread rose beautifully and symmetrically, browned evenly, and contained the perfect texture on the inside.

Don’t believe me – here’s photo evidence!

I think tomorrow night, I’ll be having peanut butter and jelly French toast with cranberry bread!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hazardous to Humans

Today while drying my hands in the men’s room at work I glanced down into the trash can and could read part of a label that had been torn off a bottle or box of some product. In bold letters it proclaimed: Hazardous to Humans and Domestic Animals.

I really wanted to learn more, but did not want to be “that guy” caught rummaging through the garbage in the men’s room. I’ll probably have this job for a few more years, so that’s not a reputation I want to carry with me.

From the edges of the label I could see, it had obviously been torn, so I’m not certain I could have even learned the name of the product it boldly warned me about.

Was this something the custodian was spraying around my desk?

Is it the reason I no longer have wood ants crawling around the window but have a lingering cough?

Is it the sweet-clean concoction they mix in the mop water?

All I know is that it is something used in the building and it is something Hazardous to Humans and Domestic Animals.

Which leads me to wonder:

Does that mean it is safe for wild animals?

Does appropriate disposal mean pouring it into the creek or down an open sewer with direct drain to the river?

Maybe tomorrow I’m going to be “that guy” who demands the custodians open up their secret stash of products so I can read all the labels to put my paranoia aside – or make it worse.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Family Guy...or Not

I’ve always wanted to be a father. Even though I knew I would not have a traditional family or biological child, adoption remained an option I have considered from time to time. However, after having two little ones in my house for a few hours, I’m rethinking that idea.

When my brothers and I were young, our parents always warned us about being quiet and still whenever we went to visit old relatives or neighbors – anyone who was not used to having small children around. They said it made them nervous.

I’m now one of those old people.

One of my brothers came to Thanksgiving with is wife, son, and two foster children. Their coming thrilled me as they had never been to my house and I’ve lived here over a year and a half. They stayed just over four hours.

As soon as the kids were safely in the car seat, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. My home was quiet again. I really relish the peace of being home alone or being here with someone who will just sit and read.

A guy recently asked me what my greatest fault was. That was easy to answer: I’m a genius and I’m always right. It is especially true around my house. I’ve lived alone longer than I have lived with others, and I am particular in the way things are done. My house is not always the neatest or cleanest, but I organize and clean in certain ways.

As far as I’m concerned, there is only one way to load the dishwasher for maximum efficiency and cleaning.

I make my bed in a certain way. The pillows are turned a specific direction and the cases are put on in a particular way so they look best when the pillows are turned that direction only. The stuffed animals on my bed have an order as well.

The same goes for ironing my shirts. I iron each morning as I get ready for work. I work through the shirt parts in a deliberate manner: collar, left sleeve, right sleeve, right front, left front, back. It works for me and no part ever goes unironed.

I’m likely scaring away any potential dates out there, but those who are not scared away: I’m really a pretty good catch, but I will reload the dishwasher when you are done.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thanksgiving for $42.26?

Each year, the American Farm Bureau Federation figures the cost of Thanksgiving dinner for ten people as a gauge of food prices in the nation. This year, the cost has risen to $42.26, a $4.16 increase over last year.

Who are they feeding, anorexic pygmies?

And what are they feeding them, a turkey burger, half a sweet potato, three cranberries, some corn, a roll, and a slice of pumpkin pie?

I’m cooking for fourteen to twenty people as I’m still not certain who is going to show up, but I’ve already spent over $180 and have not even made the last minute run to the store to get the things I forgot. Due to connections with a friend, I’m not purchasing the turkey (a nice 22 pounder), so that was not figured into the price. I would be approaching $200 if the turkey was included.

But according to the Farm Bureau, at twenty people I should only be out $84.52.

Maybe I’m doing it the wrong way – from scratch. I started cooking last weekend by baking the bread to make croutons for the dressing. I’ll make the cornbread part of the dressing on Tuesday and crumble it in with the bread Wednesday morning.

The only things coming out of a can are the cranberry sauce, and pumpkin and blueberries for the pies. The blueberry pie is a last minute addition since I found out my brother (who loves blueberries) is coming with his family.

The menu so far:

  • Turkey
  • Dressing
  • Sweet potato (with brown sugar and marshmallow topping)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Green beans (steamed with almond, topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese, not green bean casserole)
  • Broccoli with cheese (homemade cheese sauce, of course)
  • Corn casserole
  • Cranberry sauce (both whole cranberry and jelled)
  • Sourdough rolls (baked from scratch that morning)
  • Blueberry pie
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Pumpkin cheesecake
  • Two-layer pumpkin pie
  • Pecan pie

By the time I’m done cooking, I’m sure there will be a couple more dishes added on. It never ends up as simply as it starts.

And now the challenge will be to find enough seats if everyone shows up at the same time. I can seat sixteen, but if all twenty show up, some people are going to have to stand at the bar.

Let my heartburn begin!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Beyond Grandpa

I’m not much of a bar person, so I rarely go out, but occasionally a friend will talk me into going as C. did last night. After a while we ended up on the back patio of Rain, since C. smokes and it is illegal anywhere indoors in Austin.

We were standing around talking and looking for cute men. Just beside us was a cute guy with a couple of his friends and as I looked around the room, I noticed him looking at us every time I looked his way. The looks gradually turned to smiles and he finally took the three steps over to us.

He wrapped his arm around me and we all chatted briefly then he went back to his friends.

A few minutes later C. went to get another drink. Cute guy came back and before I knew what was happening, he planted a full-on kiss on my mouth. He then asked what happened to my friend. I answered that he went to get another drink. He then kissed me again and asked how old C. was. I answered that he was 24. He replied, “Oh, he’s a grandpa!” and kissed me again.

When he stopped kissing me, I said, “I’m 41; what does that make me?”

He leaned over again, since he was somewhat taller than me, kissed me again, then said, “Well, you have a good night,” turned around, and walked away.

Clearly, I am somewhat beyond grandpa status, but I think I may be going out more often. How else am I going to have the chance to be kissed by really cute twenty-somethings?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

My New Workout

If I could be fit and toned just by thinking about being fit and toned, I'd be Adonis. The truth is, I don't like to sweat; I don't mind hard physical work, I just don't like to sweat.

The lack of sweat makes it hard for me to get into the physical activities necessary to keep me in shape and my muscles toned. I actually enjoy jogging and wish I lived closer to the great trails here in Austin; were I to run in my neighborhood, the pit-bulls would make short work of me. I have run half-marathons before and survived the sweat, and in my fantasy-fit world, I'll run marathons. I just have to overcome that dislike of perspiration.

As the weather had changed and become generally cooler - highs lower than 90 degrees - allergy season has begun and I'm discovering it may be the answer to my no-sweat workout fantasy. Since the allergies kicked in, I've been coughing non-stop - so much that I didn't sleep the first three days. The coughing has been working my abs more than hundreds of sit-ups. If the ragweed does not clear up soon, I expect to come out of this with a six-pack and without shedding a drop of sweat.

As much as my stomach hurts, I'm surprised this has not been written about in fitness journals. Since I have not been able to find anything about it in the magazines, I should have taken before pictures so I could show off the new-found abs in an after picture beside it.

Maybe I could develop designer nasal sprays with the allergens that make people cough the most. They could make a trip to their allergist, find out what they need and then order online! A few weeks of stuffy misery and you are ready for that new swimsuit. The best part is you don't have to wait for the season to come around - you can have your allergies anytime you want them.

I could retire young and wealthy and known as a fitness guru.

Really, how much worse could custom allergens be than the custom steroids being brewed to stay just ahead of the testing systems?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

So Much for the TSA...

I am sitting here at JFK Airport in New York with a 1 liter bottle of water in my bag - a 1 liter bottle of water I brought all the way through security. I was not stopped, inspected, or delayed for a second at any point through the passage. Three ounces is the limit - 33.8 ounces is in a liter - almost 11.3 times the allowed volume.

I discovered this bottle on my own when I opened the bag to take advantage of the free wifi in the jetBlue terminal. I looked around for security officers shadowing me, standing in the doorways with hands on their guns, ready to fire at the least provocation, but no, that was not the case. There were no security officers to be seen so I happily did my post for day 5.

Maybe they took pity on me if they realized I spent $6.50 for a bottle of water from the hotel mini-bar because I was so thirsty and the maid had forgotten to leave any cups which prevented me getting any water from the faucet.

Despite my feelings about the overboard efforts to eliminate ANY and ALL risk from our lives in the name of national security, I find it disturbing that such an egregious violation of the rules went completely unnoticed.

I'm not thirsty, but I don't exactly feel safe.

New York - Day 5

Another day of conference, that while good, did not entirely meet the needs I had professionally. It was good, intense, and valuable information, but it never quite addressed what I was seeking.

I did, however, have my first experience at presenting at a national conference as part of our team. That moment of glory and recognition died a pitiful death that evening while I was waiting in line for a cabaret show my friend J. had suggested and was attending with some of his partners. One of them mentioned a presentation she attended that morning and commented on how valuable she found the information. I casually interjected that I was the presenter and she adamantly replied that no, it was not my presentation, "Don't take offense, but they guy who presented was taller and was wearing a dark suit."

The easiest way out of an awkward situation is through humor, so I replied that I had changed clothes in the intervening fourteen hours and removed my leg extensions. At that point she ceded that I was indeed the presenter. Maybe it was the dry wit that convinced her because I'm not sure she bought the leg-extension argument.

Earlier, to begin the evening, I met Eric, his bf, and Lunar Gemini for drinks at Barrage during happy hour. As always an evening with them was filled with humor and political vitriol - just a good time. They alone are reason enough to visit New York.

Upon leaving them, I went to see the off-Broadway production of the new musical, Frankenstein. I give the performers tons of credit for the quality turns they presented with material that was decidedly lacking, from a source that clearly exceeded the skill of the team who put it together.

And that led to the instance of my ego being cut off at the knees, so to speak, at Don't Tell Mama. I'm quick to forgive and even more quick to get over my ego (no comment from the peanut gallery), so I took most of the group a few doors down to The Ritz (no website found), a bar and dance club. So me of New York's prettiest boys were there and we danced until 2:30 a.m.

Actually, that was technically day six, so maybe it should be on the next post....

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New York - Day 4

Today the conference was in full swing - starting with a regional group breakfast at 7:30 a.m. (which is 6:30 a.m. back home), so I was at it bright and early. The news promised lessening rain, but as I set out on my trek to the conference hotel with a planned stop at the coffee supplier, it was raining harder than at any point since I'd been in the city.

My small umbrella was not doing the trick at all, so I took the route I could find with the most overhead scaffolding and managed to reach the conference only a bit damp and ahead of the chickens who took a cab.

The sessions I attended were good, but didn't really address needs I had. I tried to pick carefully, but found in many of these sessions, my organization is far ahead of these doing the presenting. I should be doing more than one presentation at this conference. Actually, so far, I could have presented the entire conference.

After the conference I went to meet up with Southern Boy, his bf, and a good friend of his for dinner at S'mac. He's written about going there several times and as much as I don't like mac and cheese, I just had to try a restaurant where that is the only thing served. I had the Brie with roasted figs and shitake mushrooms. It brought an entirely new horizon to my idea of mac and cheese and completely removed the image of the blue box from association forever. The friend and the bf were both generous and gave me bites of theirs to eat. Each was unique and good in its own way.

After the experience with the PB & J French Toast of a couple weeks ago, I'm definitely going to have to experiment with the mac and cheese theme next.

Grilled cheese wont' be far behind.

After dinner we wandered around East Village for a while and went to Porto Rico Importing Company and bought coffee in bulk - which means I'm going to have to leave something in New York since my suitcases were already over-stuffed coming here. I bought two half-pounds of beans. Can't wait to get home and pull out the grinder.

We then headed over to Veniero's Pastry Shop for coffee and dessert. The incredibly creamy cheesecake weighed down any chance of the coffee keeping me up tonight.

I would definitely go back to the East Village for food again. And now I'm back at the hotel at 10:00 to review the powerpoint for tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New York - Day 3

The third day in New York began the start of work. The conference registration and first sessions began, and as expected with this conference, everything went smoothly and the first two sessions were not bad even though the big guns of the conference were yet to come.

My friend Jim and I did go to see Spring Awakening and there is really not much I can say about it beyond what has already been written. It is the second Tony Award winning show I've seen this week and it was as challenging emotionally as Avenue Q was entertaining. After working 17 years with teenagers, the show moved me and left me thinking throughout the night. I have no doubts but that I will continue thinking about it over the months to come as I listen to the cast recording.

New York - Day 2

Day two in New York turned out to be much more subdued than day one, which is fine - this is vacation after all.

I slept late - well, late for me and then relaxed around the hotel room until about 11:00. Since I'm just off Columbus Circle, I decided to walk to the Metropolitan Museum of Art through Central Park. I was amazed at how used the park could be in the middle of a workday. Families, children from schools, joggers, and tourists were everywhere. The park was a bastion of relative quiet in the city, even with all the people there.

If I thought the park was busy, that idea was shattered by the busyness of the Met. The steps were filled with people and the galleries were teaming. The Age of Rembrandt exhibition is definitely worth seeing if you are in New York before the first week of January. The Abstract Expressionism and Other Modern Works and the Depth of Field exhibits were also outstanding.

The Met was my main goal of this trip, so I'm glad I spent several hours there. The time truly melted away as I gazed upon the masterworks. Still, it was surprisingly tiring. I'm going to have to make another trip to see galleries that I didn't even begin to approach. I could probably do that for the rest of my life and still not see everything there.

For dinner I met up with some friends and we went to Whym on 9th Ave. It was worth trying if you are in the neighborhood, but I wouldn't make a trip there for it.

After dinner I went to Therapy for drinks and the lip sync show put on by Sweetie. Sweetie was anything but to drunk and obnoxious women patrons or guys who thought they could lip sync, but couldn't. Other than the show, it was a rather typical bar; however, the do make their drinks fairly strong which is a good thing.

Monday, October 22, 2007

New York - Day 1

I am so excited about being in New York for vacation for a few days. I booked a really early flight out of Austin just so I could have some time today to get oriented to the city and all worked out well. I was even able to get tickets to one of the shows I've wanted to see for years.

The flight this morning went amazingly well considering we were having rain and thunderstorms in Austin as I was leaving.

I arrive in New York to a heatwave. Thank goodness for Febreze or the fact that I packed three changes of clothing each day would not have been enough.

Hey! It's New York and I 'm from Texas. I have to look and smell good to prove we are not all from the sticks.

One of the first stops I made after checking into the hotel was the TKTS booth to see what shows I could get. Quite happily, I was able to get a 4th row seat to Avenue Q. I have adored the music to it since it first debuted and have tried to imagine just what it would be like to have live people interacting with puppets. Amazingly, the puppets were just as much characters as the people and I actually found myself watching the puppets rather than the actors manipulating them.

I can see why Ave. Q won the Tony for best musical, but I still like Wicked better.

On the walk back to the hotel I decided to make it a nice stroll. I sauntered along at a nicely relaxed pace.

I kept PASSING all the New Yorkers. I thought everyone here was at such a fast pace. Those are the stories I've heard and what I've experienced from all my past visits. It was obvious enough that I noticed it. I must admit, I walk fast for a Texan, but was not expecting to be in the same league as Manhattanites. Maybe I should consider the Olympic speed-walking competition if my stroll in New York surpasses daily New York.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Just so you know...

Just so you know, drinking a gin and tonic after eating a big bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce is not necessarily the best thing to do.

Now you know.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fallelujah - briefly.

The weathermen got it completely wrong today. In fact, this may even be a record for the annals of meteorology, but I’m really not complaining.

The forecast for today was partly cloudy in the morning with sunshine and a high of eighty-eight in the afternoon. We stayed cloudy with a misty haze and a high of seventy-three degrees.

It’s FALL!

Well, for a day. The forecast is for temperatures back into the nineties in the coming days.

Fall around here is that brief period in which the leaves and grass are still green but the afternoon high temperature stays below the mid-eighties. It is perfect for being outside so you can breathe in all the allergen laden air.

Yes. Good times indeed. And I’m going to enjoy the few hours of it I have left.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Food Review: PB & J French Toast

Friday on Sirius OutQ, the morning show began a new series with Betty Fraser of Grub restaurant in Las Angeles. She began with a bang by suggesting peanut butter and jelly French toast.

I listen to the show while driving – I now believe that drooling and driving is at least as dangerous as drinking and driving.

That evening while having dinner with a friend, I told him about the peanut butter and jelly theme Betty used on the show. Without hesitation he decided I would make the French toast for Sunday dinner.

There are so many varieties of jelly; I spent the rest of the time leading up to Sunday deciding what kind of jelly to use. The idea of adding thinly sliced bananas to the sandwich ultimately led me to choose strawberry jam.

So on Sunday afternoon, I baked a honey-sweetened whole wheat bread for the meal. I also bought a loaf of Texas toast as an option for the dinner guests.

I also decided that a strawberry sauce with powered sugar and whipped cream would make a great finish to the toast, and it did! Normally I take a photo of new dishes that look particularly good. The PB & J French toast did not last long enough to photograph. The two guests I served dove right in and indicated they would be back again for more after they came out of the diabetic coma.

I’m hoping that Betty Fraser continues bringing such good, down-home suggestions for food, and I think she will after seeing the Grub menu. Home cooking. Comfort food. Whatever name one chooses, food in the style of French toast keeps the kitchen as the room where people gather. It is exactly the kind of food I enjoy making. The PB & J French toast is one of those dishes I’ll continue to experiment with and enjoy with the variety of jellies available – I’m pondering jalapeno jelly….

Losing My Mind

The model of Rodin’s “The Thinker” was given to me as a groomsman’s gift by one of my very best friends. Since that time I have proudly displayed it in my classrooms, offices, and in my library at home.

This weekend while cleaning, I knocked it off its table and it crashed to the floor breaking its arm and crushing its skull. I thought for a bit I could repair it, but the head was in so many shards that it would end up being more glue than plaster and the head would more resemble the elephant man than the thinker.

I realized, too, that the thinker without his head in many ways represented me these days. My work and social lives have become so hectic and overlap so much that I have to keep a portable to-do list with me most of the time. Mostly it’s good, but it does eat into my alone time.

I’ve said it before and it remains true, despite the outgoing nature people see in public, I’m really very much an introvert and need time alone to recharge my personal batteries. Lately it feels like I’ve been “on” so much that my mind takes breaks on its own in the middle of the day or the middle of a conversation.

I’m on the countdown to a couple days of vacation. Fortunately, I’ll be able to do that and regain my mind, but I’m afraid the statue is permanently changed.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Forty-one and Counting

For a number of years through my twenties I composed a letter each year that added one life lesson I learned for each year I had lived.


I recognized the foolishness by the time I reached my thirties and so stopped the list. Life lessons are not always maxims that fit into a pithy sentence.

Now that I’m in my forties, I just don’t care!

It is not that I don’t care about the life lessons; it’s just that I don’t care so much about sharing them – life’s lessons are lessons that come from life. It really does not matter to me the lessons you’ve learned and you probably don’t want me preaching my lessons to you.

Well – maybe the life’s lessons that involve physics (sticking metal in an electrical socket, etc.) would be some things you can use, but do you really care that I’ve learned that single men my age are usually single for a reason?

Does it matter that I’ve learned that quality underwear can make a bad day at work so much better?

Does it matter to you that even though I’m a former English teacher I don’t think punctuation is necessary and that I can run clauses together to display a sense of urgency if that is how I want my writing to read for I’ve learned that communication is far more important than a syntax perfect paper.

Maybe you could benefit from understanding how, despite all the social reasons for rejecting it, my faith is a cornerstone of my character and that I believe maintaining an abiding sense of joy creates resilience and makes life worth living.

I could go on for thirty-six more, but I don’t really want to appear as foolish as I did in my twenties. I’ll just spend the next 366 days (leap year) figuring out lesson forty-two (see "pop culture" reference).

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Was that my cell phone...

or do you make me all tingly in my pockets?

For several months, I have been experiencing a tingling sensation in my pocket area from time to time and frantically grabbed my cell phone to see who’s calling or who left a message only to be disappointed that there is no trace of a call, missed call, or message.

I feared I was getting some strange nervous disorder which caused my right thigh and pelvic area to tingle intermittently.

I feel so much better now though – the news on the Associated Press today relieved my worries. A new phenomenon, much like phantom limb syndrome has been discovered with cell phones and BlackBerries: it has been called “ringxiety” and “fauxcellarm.”

April is six months away, so the story must be serious. And it does make me feel so much better – I truly thought I was losing my mind (yet again) or was having some kind of nervous tic.

The sensation came most often when I was in busy and loud situations and was expecting a call or text from someone, so I prefer the term “ringxiety.”

“Fauxcellarm” has a nice roll on the tongue.

Ringxiety is easier to text, so I’m guessing it will make it into Webster’s first.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Bulleted Life

  • too busy to read sentences
  • must condense
  • to the point
  • only essentials
  • noun
  • verb
  • no adjectives
  • no adverbs
  • no phrases
  • just facts
Lately at work it seems that everything we do has to be done in bulleted lists rather than any kind of written narrative. The explanation given is that all the administrators are too busy to read much, so they need just the essentials.

Now that kind of writing has spilled over to correspondence we send out of the office or make public. I was directed to write a letter home to parents and students and when I submitted it, I was told there was too much writing!

Half the page was a bulleted list!

I find it highly offensive that in education we are unwilling to expect people to READ!

Initiatives by Bill Gates and other “educational reformers” have the 3 R’s as Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships in a major move away from readin’ (w)ritin’, and ‘rithmatic. The old 3 R’s have been condensed to literacy and numeracy.

I’m just disturbed that in education we don’t read or write anymore. Literacy (readin’ and [w]ritin’) remains as one of the fundamental skills on which we focus; we just don’t practice those skills ourselves!

My Sunday School class, on the other hand, provides plenty of opportunity to read. We are doing a book-study on the Gospel of John and I’m reading five other books to go along with it.

Can you imagine that?! I have more literacy at CHURCH than in my JOB (in education).

The world is really upside down – I wonder which horseman of the apocalypse reading is…?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Soundly Confused

Last spring I bought the new television and have gradually experienced some of the features that come with a HDTV.

Since I'm too cheap to pay for the cable package that includes high definition broadcasts, I bought a basic hd antenna and get my high definition for free. Since I have the sound being fed from the television, I've discovered that hd broadcasts are in surround sound.

You may wonder why I am just discovering this six months later.

I rearranged the living room this weekend and am now sitting in a location.

Twice today during football games I got up to go out and check to see the rain.

It was not raining - it was crowd sounds from the broadcast.

And someone to the back right of the microphone has a REALLY annoying noisemaker. There is nothing that resembles rain there, more like some kid playing a toy trumpet outside my window.

I finally like my living room, but the new arrangement is going to take some getting used to. I'm especially going to have to get used to the sound and stop looking out the window or running to the door to see the rain.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Poking About

I may be gay, but I always knew reproduction involved a bit of poking - I just never realized it was with needles.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Britney Does Matter

I’m so bad.

Our local Fox station just started carrying the TMZ tabloid show.

I am hooked.

Normally, I don’t give a damn about celebrity status and all that is happening in their world. Their profession is built around a world that does not really exist and their personal lives seem to be caught up in that fake life. Why should I care?

But then there is Britney.

My first date with a guy was with Britney Queers.

Rumor tells me he’s no longer a guy.

But Britney is still Britney. At least kind of.

For the sake of Britney as a person, I’m worried. Concerned. Scared.

Those who know me know I’m not one to make one of the impassioned, tearful “Brit Boy” or whatever his name is video pleas to spare Britney. I’ve never been a big fan as evidenced by the fact that I had to look up the correct spelling for “Britney” when I started writing. She is (was) an exciting performer though her voice was largely manipulated, but she never reached a status of anything more than novelty with me.

And then there was the MTV debacle.

Professionally I have a background in mental health – I’ve been a counselor.

When I finally saw “the performance” the clarity that Britney’s problems go far beyond bad-girl behavior or substance-induced missteps. Britney’s eyes speak volumes more than Nora Desmond could ever hope. I know I don’t know enough to make even an educated guess as to what is exactly wrong with her, but I do know enough to know there is something wrong with here at a deep emotional level.

Sadly, we have a hard time addressing mental illness. The tabloids and entertainment television shows thrive on the mental illness of so many celebrities. Public policy, the health care system, and cultural norms do not treat mental health with the same urgency as physical health, and make it ok for emotional issues to stay the butt of public humor.

Admittedly, mental illness can be hard to understand. Something shielded behind the fortress of the skull and hidden within the folds of the brain can be hard to grasp. It’s not a broken bone protruding from the skin or a cancerous tumor sucking out the life of the healthy body. Mental illness cannot be cut out and held in one’s hand, but it is no less real than that tumor.

Britney’s partying and bad behavior mask so much of what is going on, but if you look in her eyes, there is so much more than the influence of the substance of the day. Look at Britney’s eyes from her early videos – clearly there was no “A” student in there (that’s a McAfee Daniel story sometime), but there was a live person inside. Lately the look has been different.

It saddens me that the prospect of Britney getting the help she needs anytime soon remains unlikely. She will continue to be fodder for jokes and sarcastic headlines. Mental illness will continue to be acceptably funny, and mental health will continue to be largely ignored.