Monday, November 30, 2009

Thirty Days of Writing

Thirty days of writing have now been completed. I haphazardly entered this quest after noticing various posts on the Facebook and several other blogs about the writing month and having neglected the blog most of the year. Now that the end has come, I have found it to be much more rewarding than I ever expected it to be. Some days were really a chore, but most have been a joy to complete.

Writing for thirty straight days has proven for me one of the rules about writing: to be a writer, one has to write. Editing comes later, but writing has to take place for editing to even happen. Some writing is good. Some writing is bad. And honestly, most of the good writing starts out as pretty bad writing. I’ve noticed about my writing that when I could get days ahead and take the time to edit a few times before hitting publish (even when I scheduled the publication well in advance), the writing came out much crisper and clearer than those days with a last minute (digital) scribble.

As I have perused other blogs in the last month, much as I though I would find, the month of writing has produced some very strong writing and some plain hack writing, and much of it writing that would never have happened had the author not participated in the month or taken the time to put their thoughts and idea on paper.

With graduate school essentially over, I’m looking forward to having more time to devote to writing again and hopefully, being back in the swing of writing and posting, I miss posting for as long as I’ve done in the last few months.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday Dread

We are already into the holiday season and I have one of the busiest seasons ever booked, but I am totally NOT into it this year. I don’t know why that is because it should be one of the most exciting in a long time. We began Advent at church. Parties are already on the calendar. Trips are booked.

I’m really not into it.

By inspiration from R., I have a gift list produced.

I have not bought any yet.

I do not know what it is, but I am not ready for it yet. The year has passed too quickly for me. After 2008 being a year full of dissatisfaction, 2009 has been on the whole an entirely positive year with a new job and a new relationship. I do not want it to pass too quickly.

I wonder at this point what is going to put me in the mood. I have no desire to decorate, but R. loves all things holiday. I don’t know how we are going to manage all the decorations he wants even on all the days we are going to be gone. I may have to find a house-sitter to stay here during the dates we are gone.

I can’t believe I just typed “house-sitter.”

I really am going to dread the holidays.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Where Have All The Good Voices Gone?

The couple of days I spent preparing for the Thanksgiving feast at my house, I played classic country music in the background from on of the digital music stations that comes with my cable package. About half the music came from my hey-day of listening to country in the late 70’s and the 80’s. I remembered every lyric and unfortunately for my neighbors, sang along.

Another substantial portion of the playlist was from the 60’s and early 70‘s. The songs reminded me of the reason country music had such a reputation for silliness and for counting on sorrow for inspiration in ways that put the best bluesmen to shame. Over all this clutter, the quality of the voices, particularly male voices, simply is unmatched by any singers today. Singers like Eddy Arnold, Tom T. Hall, Charley Pride, Glen Campbell, and Jim Reeves had voices like liquid silk. Most of the songs are heartbreaking tales of broken love, cheating, prison (many of a man on his walk to the gallows), but I could listen to them all day long as those perfect voices croon their misery.

I wonder why it is today that we cannot have singers with the vocal quality they had in the past. We have good singers, but I cannot think of a country singer whose voice compares to the greats of old country music. With all the pitch control and digital enhancement, one would think that the “voices” today would be better than back in the olden days where there were only knobs and ears to guide the engineer and producer. Country songs are generally much more positive today, while some still have a propensity for silliness, but I could be much more into country than I am now.

Friday, November 27, 2009


One of these days I am going to learn to cook in reasonable amounts. Eight people ate at my place for Thanksgiving. R and I cooked for numbers in the twenties. I’m not certain how to make less than these recipes make.

For me, though, there is as much joy in the cooking and preparation as there is in the eating. I get hours to think, process and listen to music as I prepare some really good food. Cutting, chopping, tasting, and planning and the constant smell of new dishes being prepared keep the house with a festive feel.

Fortunately this year, the greening of the church is Sunday and we are invited to bring leftovers for a pot-luck lunch after worship. I think I’ll be able to feed half those who stay and clean out my refrigerator.

So now I can start planning the New Year’s Feast!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Something to be Thankful For

I have never really lacked for things to be thankful for when Thanksgiving comes around, but this year has been exceptionally good for me and I go into the day with a true exhilaration and desire to spend it in celebration.

Back in July, I wrote about one of the things I would no longer mention in the blog because the two times I had mentioned it, that thing ceased within days. At the time I wrote it, I had actually had a date or two with someone who would become my next “unmentionable.”

He reads the blog and knows everything I say, and he gets the gentle jabs (Boys just want to shoot each other!) I throw his way. He is well aware that he is the “unmentionable.” The truth is that he means too much to me, and typing “unmentionable” everywhere I would say boyfriend or partner or otherwise infer a relationship name truly pains me. I truly am blessed to have him in my life, and this Thanksgiving, having him in my life is without a doubt what I am most thankful for.

I am thankful for the way he looks at me when he thinks I don’t see him.

I am thankful for the way his eyes scrunch up and close when he has a genuine smile on his face.

I am thankful for how often there is a smile on his face.

I am thankful that in the ways I am a “get‘er done” kind of guy, he is thoughtful and contemplative.

I am thankful for and amazed at his intelligence.

I am thankful for his independence within the relationship.

I am thankful for his eternally positive attitude - despite his caution and familiarity with the field of international disaster management.

I am thankful that he is a man of strong faith and gladly worships with me.

I am thankful that he appreciates my grouchiness and just gives me a hug and a kiss and moves on.

I am thankful for the “Ohhh La La!”, but most of all I am thankful that it does not define our relationship despite its extreme ultimate amazingness.

I am thankful that my friends and family who have met him genuinely like him.

I am thankful that I appreciate how he is always right - even when I disagree with him just to be cantankerous, he is still always right. People who know me know just how much being wrong grates on me and just what it took for me to admit that.

I am thankful that even when we disagree, I still cannot think of anyone else with whom I would rather be.

I am thankful that every day I know him, I find something more about him to like and pray that there will be many more days of discovery before us.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Identity Crisis

The move to simplify my life online led to a few hours of identity crisis Monday as I began to find ways to consolidate the various chat and emails into common identity. I frequently chat with friends from around the world on AIM, Yahoo IM, and MSN messenger, so I feel compelled to have a name on each medium. I don’t really need email in each of those media, but you have to have one to get the chat identity. In some cases they come as a package deal.

So, who am I?

I wanted a name that merged both private and professional lives.

My childhood nickname is Rusty and that name has continued with me through various parts of my life even when I have moved on professionally with my “real” name, Roy.

Of course, plain Rusty and Roy were taken. It was much easier to get the name you wanted back in the 1990’s when all this internet stuff was just getting started.

As I began to play on the various sites, I began to play with variations on a theme.

Then I remembered a comment that had been applied to me multiple times. “Pocket” was used as an adjective before a noun to describe me. The term refers to my small physical stature - “I could put you in my pocket and take you home.” My friend B called me Pocket Hercules because I was always the one carrying the kitchen table down and up the stairs when he moved (which was frequently for a while). Another friend E called me a Pocket Queer.

I decided to embrace it.

So my online identity is now “pocketrusty”. Add me to your instant messenger and keep in touch!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Shopping List

I decided to get organized this year and actually prepare a shopping list before I went to the store.

Well, there is that.

And then there is the fact that "The Unmentionable" insists on lists and menus and assigned tasks for the meal. So not only was I motivated to make a list, I was actually motivated to type it, and organize it somewhat by section of the grocery store.



Fresh Cranberries





Sun dried Tomatoes



Cream Cheese

Sour Cream (LOTS)





Whipped Cream

Whipping Cream

Frozen corn

Lemon Jello

Vanilla Instant Pudding

Apple Pie Seasoning



Karo Syrup

Pie Shells

Graham Cracker Pie Shells

Cornbread mix


Brown Sugar

Olive Oil

Olive/Canola Oil


Chickpeas (Canned)

Cranberry Juice

Orange Juice

Pineapple Juice

Lemon Juice

Lime Juice

Margarita Mix

Rose’s Lime

Toilet Tank Tablets

Sandwich bags

Aluminum Pans



This list does not consider the various items I have stocked at home in my pantry.

Now, to prepare for "The Unmentionable's" spreadsheets with given shopping assignments by store based on Black Friday advertisement.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cleaning Up Online

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

This morning as I turned on the computer, one of my chat accounts tried to get cranky with me and would not log-on. The other names all had no problems, only the one did. It was only then that I noticed I had seven chat-identities. Most of them were repeats of the same name - just one for each of the major chat programs, Yahoo, MSN, and AIM. Some were creations from years ago (all the way back to the 90’s when chat first began) that have continued to hang around though I no longer use the email addresses associated with them.

I started going through emails and realized there are six different email addresses I use regularly.

I went through Facebook and saw that there are some 300 “Friends” I have. As I scrolled through the names, I saw some people who had added me as friends with whom I have not talked in over 20 years. Am I really friends with them if we have not spoken in over 20 years or was the friend request simply a statement of “Oh, hey, there’s a name I recognize.”

Some of them were people from college and we have moved our different ways and prior to the internet, staying in contact really did take more effort, but now it is quite easy for us to stay in contact and sites such as Facebook have played a valuable role in the reconnections. But for others from my home town, with whom I barely had a connection while growing up, are we really friends now? I started removing connections - or as the word of the year says, “unfriend”ing people.

But if we never really were friends, is it now unfriending?

I’m in the process of consolidating the various chat names into a single ID for each of the three main programs, but I have not thought of the right creative catch name. My primary two emails will likely stay the same, however, I will most likely kill off all the others. It may even cut down the junk email for a few months!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Taking a Breath

For the first time in my professional career, I have the entire week of Thanksgiving as a break from work. The way our calendar for the year was approved, we get an entire week’s rest and it really cannot come too soon. Work has been exhausting and while I have extra days off, I actually plan to use them to get some things done that I have been distracted from due to the daily interruptions that come in the normal course of work.

Even though I will not likely be fully taking the time off, it is a nice breather to work without interruption and when I return from the break, I’ll be in the place I need to be to get more done.

That and I’ll be much fatter.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Courageous Conversations

The hardest conversations to have sometimes come with those we care about the most concerning the most central issues that connect us. It takes pain to move forward sometimes and feelings and egos get bruised when the conversation is most honest. Only by loving each other enough can we even begin to have such hard conversations that create broad ranging and meaningful change to the comfortable, somewhat static world we occupy.

Professionally and socially the challenge to ask a thought provoking question that tackles taboos or threatens traditions seemingly violates our established social contract to do it the way we’ve always done it and to be the way we’ve always been. After all, it was that social contract that kept us together this long. To what shall we cling if that gentleman’s understanding does not stay understood. That very risk too often makes us retreat into the half-self we become by the limits such social contracts hold us to.

Having the conversation that changes the contracts moves us beyond that half-self. We begin to move into our fuller self and as a result those under the same contract also begin to become fuller selves. None in the contract remain limited as new boundaries are drawn and additional opportunities present themselves.

Hard conversations in relationships and in organizations are sometimes avoided because one can never predict how people will react when their sacred cows are grilled for dinner. The challenge then becomes to remove unneeded emotion from the debate and find the value of alternatives either a wholesale change or minor revision may present. If emotions are withdrawn from the discussion, it is no longer a hard conversation, but unnecessary emotion can derail the conversation. Cows, if they are lucky, have a life-span in the teens. Should sacred cows be any different?

I don’t remember the last time I saw a black-and-white television set for sale in a store. We are now in a generation with everything being high-definition color. The “console” is gone and the television has become “art.” Things change. Any organization that remains black and white will soon be replaced by a high-definition organization that represents today’s standards. Tradition gives us history, but they study of history shows us that even traditions adapt to the times. Sometimes the changes are slow, and sometimes they are rapid, but the reality is that traditions change.

Lately seems to be the season for having hard conversations within different organizations with which I am affiliated. Each one has been exhausting and yet in each one, the energy at the end has far exceeded that the organization had going into it. Another of my most meaningful organizations is beginning the process of an extremely hard conversation, but given the recent history I have had with such conversations, I look forward to this coming discussion.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Stuck in Space

One of the headlines in today’s news concerned the scheduling of an astronaut’s flight. Apparently, one astronaut on a current mission is due to become a father during the course of the mission.

He may have some trouble being the lamaze coach this time.

The headline, however, made the statement that the said astronaut was “stuck” in space on his wife’s due date. This puts in mind some “Apollo 13” or “Lost in Space” scenario. Neither of which is true.

I think the AP manual has guidelines regarding specificity of language the headline writer needs to consider for future headlines. The connotation of “stuck” is that it is somewhat against the will of the astronaut to come back or that he is in an unplanned or unexpected circumstance. The scheduling of missions is highly planned and scheduled and the reports following the inspection of the shuttle following launch found no damage that will prevent or delay it’s return to earth.

The unfortunate thing is the wife’s fertility cycle, but the astronaut is not technically “stuck” in space. With the technology we have available now, he can “virtually” be there. I have seen those people who walk around wearing web-cams that broadcast their every move. Surely the doctor could put a webcam on his cap and have the images beamed up to the astronaut.

Likewise, the astronaut could be beamed down to a monitor so his wife could scream at him as necessary. Better yet, this is NASA, let them beam him down in a 3-D hologram so he can “virtually” hold his wife’s hand.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bird Dogs

As long as I've lived in the house, I have been accustomed to the dogs bringing me presents they captured outside. To date those presents have all been mice who moved closer in as winter approached.

That chihuahuas catch mice is not really surprising. They are all at the same level and the dogs can get into the small places near them.

Today I was quite surprised to find a dead sparrow on my kitchen floor.

How chihuahuas managed to catch a bird baffles me, but they did indeed manage.

I successfully disposed of it right away and in a way that they will not be able to retrieve it in the three days that I will be out of town. The last thing I want to return to is the smell of ripened fowl.

When the dogs leave behind such a present - am I supposed to reward them or scold them? I've never quite figured that out. They seem to be quite excited about their accomplishment, but I find it hard to match their enthusiasm.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Boys Just Wanna...

Recently I’ve had several conversations about hunting and have had the craving to buy a hunting rifle. I no longer have one since I moved to Austin and sometime that time out in the wild and the adventure of hunting one’s own food is just too appealing.

The idea of it came to the forefront in the last couple weeks as the “unmentionable’s” brothers have expressed and interest in going to the air soft range near their home. Air soft was something new to me. I remember a few years ago when paint-pellet ranges and competitions were all the rage, but did not know they had been replaced by something else.

The “unmentionable” has been highly concerned about his brothers’ safety and vocally objects to there participation in this sport.

I, on the other hand, grew up in the country before even the paint guns came around. When my friends and I wanted to play war, we just broke out the b-b guns and as we got older, the pellet guns.

Since the invention of projectile weaponry, I’m convinced that boys just wannna shoot each other. It is simply a boy thing.

Growing up we were always responsible about the b-b gun wars. We knew enough to wear safety glasses as none of us wanted to put an eye out. When we graduated to pellet guns, we had the two-pump rule.

Each pump on a pellet gun increases the amount of air to project the b-b or the pellet from the gun with ten pumps being the maximum recommended by any of the manufactures. Two pumps gave a slight sting at about 25 yards - safe but effective.

Now the kids can shoot foam projectiles that far.

Because we were always careful, none of my friends lost an eye, and in fact, none of us even had a skin-break from being shot during the various gun wars. The closest call was when my brother K was shot on the cheekbone during a particularly close battle after violating the two-pump rule to shoot B through the tin wall of the barn.

Really - B never should have hidden behind the tin.

Nevertheless, after being severely stung by K’s b-b, B also violated the two-pump rule and returned fire catching K on the cheekbone just as mom turned in the driveway.

Our driveway was .2 miles long, so the shot had a chance to take great effect by the time she made it to the house. Concentric circles radiated out across K’s cheek. The b-b did not penetrate the skin, but it certainly made a spectacular bruise.

All my friends took the long way across the pasture as they fled my house.

For quite some time afterward we were limited to cow-dung wars.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Clothes + Sale = Me

Why is it that when Macy's has dress shirts for 65% off, I always manage to find my way there?

I don't mean to sound conspiratorial, but I think they kidnapped me and put a chip in my brain that is connected to the signs.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Talking Off the Top of My Head

There is nothing like a last minute (relatively) to get the heart racing and mind clicking.

Apparently I am talking tonight at the joint meeting of the local community college board of directors and the school board. Most people who know me realize that this is something I can do and generally do well. The competitive debate in high school definitely has served me well at thinking on my feet and being able to communicate with minimal preparation.

Of course, since this has been my job for six years, is it really minimal preparation?

My name was not on the agenda, but alas, I am actually excited about the chance to clarify some pieces of my program and present ways in which it can grow with support from both sides.

This is really exciting! I just have to remember the boards want to be home before midnight.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What to post...and not

Today was one of those days when I did plenty of writing, but none of it is anything I can post today.

Still, it was good and productive and I'm happy with the end product.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

And That Haircut was How Much?

For the last few years I have cut my own hair much more often than having someone else do it. That’s really because I just buzzed it. When you go down nearly to skin, it’s pretty easy to know that you have it even.

This summer, I decided that at the end of the summer, I would let my hair grow out and start styling it again. So, since August, I have let my hair grow and it has reached a nice, comb-able length. Today, since I was going to the mall to pick up some new clothes for a wedding next week, I decided to go ahead and get my hair cut while I was there.

I have used several of the places in the mall and have never been particularly happy since David left one of them. He actually always managed to cut my hair perfectly and no one has been able to match it since and I resolved not to return to that place. Today as I walked toward the store where I intended to purchase the clothes, I saw a salon I had never tried before.

It’s a mall salon. I was not expecting the best, but resolved that the hair would stop rubbing the top of my ear and driving me crazy.

A stylist was available immediately and we talked about what I wanted done. All the normal routine for a new stylist.

She wet my hair and went to work.

And worked.

And worked.

I’ve only been growing hair since early in August, now long could it take?

After finishing the cut and applying the selected creame, she messed up my hair and declared it done.

Altogether, it only took about 20 minutes, but it seemed much longer. Of course on the way out, she had to show me the products she used on my hair and she even took them to the counter for me, assuming I was going to purchase them.

I did need shampoo and the stuff she used felt really good and it was only $10.

The counter girl rang me up and announced the total - $97 and asked if I wanted to leave it open for a tip. I managed not to flinch too badly and said yes, I would tip.

I ask you, does my hair look worth $97?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Durable and Long Lasting

Sometimes I am convinced that advertising designers really were not paying attention when they came up with the wording on packaging. That or they have an even more wicked sense of humor than we give them credit for.

Take the good folks at Charmin for instance.

The cute bear family on the front of the package is holding a banner that reads, “Durable & Long Lasting” in both English and Spanish.


Toilet paper that is durable and long lasting.

I’m not sure I even want to explore the meaning they had in mind.

I can kind of go with durable as I’ve come across toilet paper in the past that has essentially crumbled in use, but long lasting?

Does it have a shelf life?

Does this mean I can re-use it?

I’m all about going green, but I don’t know how much more green one can be. You don’t find anything much more biodegradable. I’m satisfied with single use toilet paper.

This is Charmin Basic.

How durable and long lasting is Charmin Ultra-Strong?!

I spend big bucks on comfy underwear. I probably don’t want Charmin Ultra-Strong anywhere near my tender places.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Three Hours in a Webinar

As budget cuts and increases in technology have become equally ubiquitous, webinars have been replacing meetings more and more often. Frequently, one is logged onto the computer for the visuals while on the phone calling into a conference call line for the audio of the meeting.

I have enough trouble sitting still and staying awake when there are real people presenting, much less sitting at a computer screen with a handset pressed to my ear.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of being in three hours of webinars.

The only good thing about being in the webinars is that I could tweet on twitter with the sound off on my other computer.

One, highlighting updates to a software program we use was so engaging I actually set my phone to speaker and kicked back with my feet on my desk as I watched some remote specialist manipulate the screen. I recognized the voices of several friends who were also using the same program as they *2’d into the conference to ask a question.

That was the point I began to relax.

At some point later I had relaxed enough that my feet slid off the desk and the heels thunked loudly on the floor.

I’m so glad my friends were participating in the webinar so I could call them to ask about all those things I missed while relaxed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Thrills in the Bible

The Sunday School class I lead is currently reading through the Apocrypha. We had all heard of the collection of writings found in some Bibles; however, none of us had ever read them. So far we have covered the first two books and I am enthralled!

My greatest thrill so far has been in talking to seminary graduates who have never read the Apocrypha. Universally, they have responded, "Oh, yeah. I've heard of that." And yet in all their studies of Old Testament, New Testament, and Bible History, they know nothing more than that it exists.

And what a shame.

Two books down and the writing has captivated me with Hebrew storytelling and the culture of their pre-Roman world. The first two books are now known to be religious fictions written to preserve Jewish history and theology to the Diaspora following the fall of Israel. The foundations of Jewish faith are so well represented in the stories, there can be no doubt about what the Jews in that time found central in God's expectations for them.

I am excited about the next months as we examine purged verses and chapters as well as additional history in these "hidden" books.