Monday, December 29, 2008

South Carolina Days Two and Three

Sunday morning we woke up and got ready to go to church. The Rentzes church is Saluda Baptist Church. Alexander went to Sunday School, Ford to the Nursery and Meredith and I to their parent's respective classes. The topic of the day was being called to mission and was backed by the story of Saul/Paul and his trips to Damascus and Antioch along with Barnabas.

Saluda Baptist Church is in the middle of a change in pastor. They had a guest preacher in who I really enjoyed listening to. He will be soon planting new churches in Calgary, Alberta. His most recent trip to Canada he witnessed -20°F. A bit cold no doubt.

After church we drove on to Greenwood SC, Meredith's mother's hometown and where her grandparents and great-grandparents lived. We had a quick lunch at a local buffet and then went to go see Meredith's Granddaddy, and our kid's only remaining great-grandparent who resides in a nursing home there. John Christopher Young (whose photos from the late 1940s you can see in my flickr.com account) was doing better than he has been doing in the previous several months. He is a bit hard of hearing, but he is still really with it and if you can get over the communication issues - you can have a good conversation with him. He and I talked about baseball and the kids. We gave him a digital photo frame with about 200 photos from us, the Holders, Brooksie's sister's family and some older Young family photos. He sat through the slide show of all the photos and commented on many of them. He didn't want us leaving the photo frame with him because of his concern that it may be stolen. So our compromise was to leave it with Meredith's mother who will take it with her on occasion to him and update the photos as well.

Afterwards we travelled to Columbia to see the Mewbourns including the new grandbaby Helena. We had a fantastic dinner, Meredith got lots of time playing with baby, and the guys roughhoused with Uncle Jerry.
Today has been a rest day. Tomorrow we're off to Beaufort and several days with Charles' family and the annual new year's oyster roast.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

South Carolina Day One

I started this blog writing about our trip to South Carolina over Thanksgiving in 2006. We haven't been back to the state to see Meredith's family since then for the simple reason that Ford was a little too small to travel last year. This year's trip almost didn't look like it was going to happen because of the job changeover. However, due to the way more relaxed attitude and employee-focused atmosphere of my new job, I'm able to take the week off and be here for the New Year.

I was stressing a little the past couple of days because I was worried about the crowds at the airport, the amount of time it would take for us to check-in, getting on the plane, and handling the boredom level of the two guys for a two and a half hour plane ride.

We left the house at 6:30am this morning, picked up by my gracious father, and arrived at DFW. We had a long line that went fairly quickly - and only had to pay $15 for one checked bag, the carseat bag got a free ride! We were able to go through security easily enough and then found plenty of seating at the gate.

Our seats were towards the rear of the plane and we had a precocious seven year old named Michael sitting in the row behind us who was instantly enthralled with Alexander's Leapster. Alex offered Michael a chance to play the Star Wars game for a while without even being asked.

The real bummer of the morning was after we had pushed back from the gate, taxiied to the end of the eastern runway...and then waited for the thunderstorm squall line to pass through the the northern and eastern edges of the airport. This took two and a half hours. We were stuck on the ground with two bored kiddos for that amount of time. Fortunately, Meredith and I had enough snacks and entertainment, (books, DVD player, Leapster) for the guys to remain fairly calm during the wait.

After the flight we had another lengthy wait getting off of the plane after arrivial to Charlotte NC.

Alexander and Ford were really happy to see Grandmama and Papa and were really good on the drive to their home in South Carolina. The only further bummer was that SC is completely covered in dense fog this evening making the trip in the van nerve-wracking for Papa.

We had a lovely Christmas leftover dinner and I have spent the past hour or two fixing their computer and getting photos put onto a digital photo frame that we have bought Meredith's Grandfather for his room. Church, Granddaddy Young and dinner at the Mewbornes tomorrow.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Photos

Christmas pageant at St. Barnabas. Alexander obviously was a shepherd and Ford a sheep. We have had a good Christmas. We will be travelling to South Carolina for the new year. 

We won a Leapster2 from Megan's Blog. Thanks Megan!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Arpeggios of chaos.

An arpeggio is a chord of notes played singularly. They act as individuals alone with the corresponding note close, but still separate. Never in an arpeggio will they coincide. Without strong leadership that brings the harmonies into close ties, the running of individual notes will be come more strained, less in tune and finally dischordant into true bedlam. 

I see the strain. The looks on the faces of those in the grocery store. The running of the cars in the parking lot with tape holding the windows shut from the cold. There's always the slightly mistrustful and paranoid glance, the look of guilt, of defense, of defeat. Where does one turn to? Our success is now our shame - our isolation, once prized is now our burden as those willing to help have left to save themselves.

Are we a lost society? Are we doomed to be trapped within sticks and brick facades and homeowner's associations? Is the life only a lie? You can see it from here. The past, no longer envisoned in sepia - now the polaroid of fading colors into red hues.  The softness in tone, the bent corner, and the faded pen markings on the back. Our past in faux wood grain and car hoods reaching for the horizon beyond the tempered glass. We've been here before. We've stayed in line, flown our flag and burned the fuel.

It is time to change. To look into the face of chaos and say no. I will stand. I will walk. I will be different. We cannot afford any less of ourselves and of our children or of each other. 

"Art in the universe? None. Because art is the holding up of a mirror to the universe and there just isn't one big enough." - Paraphrased from Douglas Adams

Thursday, December 11, 2008

POW. ZAP. SHOOOOSH. BANG.

My parents were always the ones who got technology last. I remember going to Sears with my best friend Chris and his Dad to purchase Space Invaders for the Atari 2600. He bought it for the astronomical amount of $50 in the late 1970s. We eventually got an Atari, but it took a while (at least in my prepubescent memory) to get cable and then FINALLY a VCR. These slow steps in technology were made by my parents in order for us to know the value of patience - of not purchasing things until you can really afford them - It was hard to take at the time, but was beneficial to my ability to evaulate needs vs wants.

My first computer at home was a Commodore 64 with a 300 baud modem that I saved up and bought myself. I used it to play games, write some work for school, but mostly I went online - tying up the one phone line in the house talking to people on some guy's personal BBS (Bulletin Board System) about time travel and Doctor Who.

I became somewhat of a luddite during my collegiate years as I did my undergraduate work on a Smith Corona typewriter/word processor. It worked. It wasn't until grad school that I went back to Macintosh, learned what Windows was, and started my first forays into the web through usenet groups and email. 

Now, of course as I sit here on my Dell XPS with an (albeit Gen 3) ipod, palm zire 72, and numerous video game systems, dvd players and HDTV in the house...I wonder: Does my use of technology help my family or harm them eventually? I personally strive to research not the most expensive, or highest standard or most bells and whistle type of technology to purchase. I do my research and try to find the best value for the money I'm investing in. I keep technology around (well organized of course) and keep it working for multiple years and purposes. My 20G ipod is still very much in use. I just bought a new battery for it and installed it myself to keep it going for much longer. My desktop computer bought in 2001 is still the home computer and is working rather smoothly, even though the fan is a bit loud. And video games? I've got several copies of that Space Invaders game...although I purchased them for about a quarter a piece. 

Technology to me is the social campfire in which we now gather as a society. Communal experiences occuring over wireless networks and down fiberoptic cable. 

"Did you see that final drive for the touchdown?"

Yeah I did. I'm part of the group. I'm able to experience things that others experience and be able to be part of the conversation - of the greater tribe.

But, my life isn't exclusively about technology, nor do I wish my kids to participate solely within its confines. We go and play outside. Meredith is terrific at taking them to the park. Alexander has expressed an interest in doing sports next spring and summer. Meredith has him taking nature classes and art classes. His classroom doesn't have a computer. 

The right balance for me is to let he and his brother know the fun of watching science fiction - to zap the alien invaders - to talk to their uncle living halfway across the continent, live and personal with video and everything but to also let them know that it's ok to turn off the tv and read A Wrinkle in Time or to play with Legos. It is technology that has increased our ability to live together through a wider communication. It is definitely with its dangers and pitfalls, but it can bring joy, creativity, escape from the responsibilities you know that you have to do when you turn off the machine. 

One of the most important things I've tried to tell my son about technology, is that it is only as smart as what humans tell them to do. Otherwise, they're just metal and plastic. If we take care of them and repair them occaisionally, you can get the best value out of the technology you purchase. 

Oh, by the way, I have that first VCR my parents bought. 


It still works like a champ. 


If you would like to read more about other parents and their view on technology and their kids, please check out Largerfamilies.com and their blogging contest about this subject. 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Deadlines

Many times I have begun to write a blog entry attempting to get out some sort of feeling, emotion or other thought process that’s been rattling around in my head. I’m particularly proud of writing about the perception of time and my particular relationship with time-travel fiction. Too many times I’ve written something in my word processor fully intending to transfer the file to my blog setting up a rant about why I can’t seem to argue with other people correctly, fighting the dreaded procrastination monster, or some sort of other self-involved writing. Many people post blog entries with a few words and a link to an article, video, or some other information usually generated by someone else. Thus, showing that they read through the blogsphere / news-articles and can fins something interesting that other people might find diverting for a few minutes. Others, being more jaded and attempting to increase their income from blogs, I suspect, will deliberately find items to post that will trigger a better class of Google advertisements that will generate the ever-so important click-thrus for a higher return on their kickback checks. I attempt to either post photos that we’ve taken and post writings that I’ve made or thoughts that I’ve had. Not particularly mind-blowing, but cathartic in its own way.

My personal touchstone between true philosophy and pop philosophy (to anyone who’s been paying attention) is Douglas Adams. He died on a treadmill in Hollywood in May 2001. He had a saying that has been often quoted, but mostly joked about that he loved deadlines. He especially “enjoyed the whooshing noise they made as they went by.” Many of the things I agree with Adams as written in his books, the over-glorification of money in our society rather than the steady work/accomplishment/reward cycle that I now find myself in. Other things I don’t agree with. He was a renowned atheist. Not particularly militant like Christopher Hitchens, but his take was more of the satirical view such as the quote from Dennis Miller: “Hare Karishnas can’t be a real religion, because God made us in His own image, and I know He wouldn’t wear His hair that way.” The other item that I disagree with is the lack of holding to a deadline.

 I love having deadlines for generating content. I will do the research; provide a report; generate an image – just tell me your basic parameters and the drop-dead time you’d like for it to be done. Make sure that the deadline has a built-in review period to it so I can make corrections that you have. I can meet or exceed those expectations. Tasking me and then leaving it open-ended causes me to have to create my own deadlines and then lower my own expectations because I have to have a perfect product within a self-imposed ticking of the clock. Not so good for the stress. It is a form of planning, control, even. Without a specific deadline (even if it is an arbitrary one) I personally feel a lack of control. I will focus on smaller goals like washing the car or mowing the grass rather than tackling  the big item because it isn’t as pressing or as tactile as a deadline imposes upon it.

__

 

I’ve gained back much of the weight that I had lost over the summer from my stress episode. The blood pressure and sugar haven’t been so much of a problem lately, but I’m back to eating out much more at lunch and/or getting sandwich stuff from the grocery store and storing it in the fridge until needed. I need to find more time to move,  to use the tools that I have including a walkable neighborhood, a Wii Fit, a tennis racket (do wish there was a close court nearby) and to just quit eating quite so much. I’ve been using food again for a sedative. Mainly in the late evenings when at midnight, and I’m still not tired, and boredom has brought me to deciding between watching reruns of earlier news programs or surfing around the ever-decreasing library of DVDs on the Netflix account. I haven’t been sleeping well since the stress events in July. Some nights I’ll wake up two or three times. The other night both boys woke up at 3:44am. Ford wouldn’t go back to sleep and Alexander wanted to argue whether it was close enough to morning time that he could stay snuggled in our bed or have to go back to his room. Ford, being rather crabby that morning, benefited from a nice warm shower to calm his mood. We then went to IHOP at 5:00 in the morning to transition from a crabby morning to something that was more family oriented and a treat.

 Now that I have a job, I need a goal. The long-range goal had been to replace my 144K mile Mustang with a Honda CR-V, but in the shrinking economy, it doesn’t seem appropriate or wise to expend that amount of money (for the small return I’ll get for selling the Mustang) for a new car. Although, the clutch is starting to make a slight noise that I’m having worries over. I should set the goal of losing weight, but the hardest part I’ve found is the exerting control over the amount I’m eating. I wish I could just stop eating for a couple of months. Not feel hungry or deprived either. Just drink mineral water. So much of our social interaction with other people is set around food. The hardest decisions that many in our society have are not those about whether we should drill in the Alaskan north, whether we should have a stronger renewable energy policy, but most often: where are we going to lunch?

 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Photo Update

Things have been busy enough for me that I haven't had time to write much, but I've got some new photos of the past month. Included in the slideshow are photos from our trip to the pumpkin patch in Flower Mound, Alexander's 5th Birthday and the guys hanging around the house. The job is doing well. We're planning on going to South Carolina in December after Christmas.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Photo Update

Here's some new photos from the past several weeks of being with the family. We've got Ford eating chocolate, going to Six Flags and going to the State Fair. We've had a great time.


For more widgets please visit www.yourminis.com

New Beginnings

So after several weeks of being just "Daddy"; attempting to enjoy my time off; and doing some assistance to some of my friends who are consultants, I'm going back to work. I've procured a Senior Planner position with a new nearby city and will start on Monday October 13th.

The best thing about the job was that I didn't even go looking for it. It found me. The Director talked to a friend of mine (who I now owe dinner to) and called me up. We talked on the phone, in person several times and I was offered the job prior to the job being actively advertised.

I'm extremely excited to go work there for several reasons. First, it's relatively close to the house, the meetings aren't long affairs like the previous two jobs, and I'll be working with some really great people with a new set of talents that I can learn from.

Without the support of Meredith, my family and the multitude of friends I've recently found more time to enjoy, I couldn't have made such a transition. I've found much more connection to my kids and a deeper appreciation for Meredith's responsibilities for them. I also hope she has found out that I can be a better Daddy and keep the housekeeping to the bare essentials.

We've had a great couple of weeks even though all of us have had the bout with the sniffles. Two weeks ago we had Meredith's niece stay with us for several days as her flight back to Houston was cancelled due to Hurricane Ike. Her parents were without power for several days. She was able to go back the following Thursday in a newer Honda that her Dad bought from my father. 

Then last weekend, they're family came up for the weekend to go to Six Flags. We enjoyed all of the rides and had a great time, with the exception of a half an hour looking for a lost cousin who was safely found.

This past week I reformatted a 200+ page Unified Development Code for the City of Schertz for a friend of mine who needed the original document to flow better.  It was a nice tranistion work to get me back into the mindset of planning and it helped retrain me in working with some of the more subtle aspects of MS Word. 

Yesterday we went to the State Fair and Alexander had his first encouter with cotton candy which he ate with gusto, but didn't fall into the trap of getting it all over himself. We sat in our usual spot watching the Vita-Mix guys for about half an hour and received inspiration to restart our smoothie regimen.

Today we're going with our friends to pick apples (a particularly fall event) and perhaps to the Southlake Oktoberfest where Me and My Monkey will be playing this evening. Tomorrow we're going to go to church and then possibly decorate the house for Halloween.

Hey, I told you it was going to work out didn't I?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Weeks Four and Five - Update

Had my first interview yesterday afternoon. It went really well. The Director of Planning talked with me for three hours. I felt that was a good sign. I'm going back on Wednesday to talk with the Asst. Director. Hopefully I'll have something in the bag by Friday and I'd like to start October 6th.

I've been working on more projects around the house, including repairing and cleaning up my sailboat which has had some neglect the past couple of years. I've also repaired the kitchen faucet.

Things are going well. On to the end of the week and hopefully some good news.

BTW, today's my birthday. Yeah me.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Week Three - Wrap Up

I had a great conversation with a consultant friend of mine who was very encouraging and thought they'd might like me to move to perhaps move to Austin if I was interested. We're still holding out to finding a job without moving which would be the ideal candidate.

I went to my friend Greg's house on Tuesday and we had a terrific conversation about Doctor Who and kids and just hanging out with a buddy.

Wednesday was my self torture day in which I wen to the dentist at 7 am and had the most painful cleaning of my life. The most awful part of it was I get to do it again tomorrow as the hygienist only had enough time to get the lower half done. I'm on a more regular regimen of flossing and rinsing with a new hydrogen peroxide cleaner to keep my mouth healthier.

I volunteered at Alexander's school on Thursday.

Saturday evening I played outside with the guys (chase) as Meredith was baking oatmeal raisin cookies. After chase, the three of us laid down on the hammock watching the stars, Venus and the Moon come out. Ford was pointing very enthusiastically at the Moon. As we sat and the stars one by one starting blinking into view, Meredith came out with three warm cookies for us to eat. We had an enjoyable time and memory.

Monday saw us going to the zoo. Beforehand, I had to drop off some paperwork at the former employment and saw a couple of people there who were very encouraging. One kept telling me "good for you!" That helped reduce the stress of going there. I didn't make the effort to go into the department, it still is a little soon. The zoo wasn't crowded and was very pleasant to go to. Alexander and Meredith had a close encounter with a silverback gorilla making faces through the viewing glass. Ford has decided that he is an orangutan.

This week, I have the dentist again and will be trying to set up some get-togethers with some friends.

I've had more people tell me that I should be enjoying the time that I have here. I'm trying to achieve that goal.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Week Two - Wrap Up

I've gotten some more stuff done this week. The yard is looking much better. I've killed off numerous ant piles and have fully decimated the number of clover plants in the front yard. The boys have played extensively with the water slide this week. No less than three times have I drug out the thing, set it up, deflated it and laid it out to dry and rolled it back up.

I've made several phone calls to colleagues and have made several connections. Things are still a bit positive. I'm a little put out that the previous job put all of my last checks into one which bumped me into a higher tax bracket on withholding.

On Saturday, the boys went over to my parent's house and Meredith and I had a lovely dinner at Anamia's Restaurant in Southlake. We then went to Central Market and had some Italian Gelato. Meredith tried the Hatch Chili one...I went with mint. Luckily for us we ran into some old friends from my church in Bedford and we sat down with them and had lots of good laughs. It was an uplifting experience.

We had some of Alexander and Meredith's friends over this evening for Labor Day (getting out the water slide again). Meredith made white bean chili with Hatch roasted chilis and they brought ice cream.

Their son (who is only turned four this summer) is reading like a pro. I'm not sure how they've done it. It is really impressive. I wish I could get Alexander to pay attention enough to recognize the letters correctly. He'll get it. He has one of the best vocabularies of any child his age I've met. We read longer, more involved stories at night time. We've read to date:

The Wizard of Oz; The Adventures of Robin Hood; The Phantom Tollbooth; Alice in Wonderland; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

This week Alexander and Ford go back to school. I'm going to volunteer in Alexander's class on Thursday. I'll hang out with my friend Greg, and hopefully get a call on one of my applications I've got sitting out there.

I'm learning about expectations and anticipations. I'm also attempting to do some professional reading as well. I need to brush up on some case law and fix my boat.

Things to do while you're still working at getting work.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Week One Wrap-up


It hasn't been a bad week. I've been able to count some successes this week. On my first day off, the washing machine broke and the oven wasn't working correctly. So with a little help from the internet and some time self-diagnosing, I was able to correctly figure out that the washing machine had a power-transfer coupler broken ($15 at Sears Parts Supply) and the oven's baking element had broken ($43 at Appliance Parts Depot). So those were happy things.

I've had a good week talking to other people in my profession, all of whom were really supportive. I've made two applications and one possible job inquiry. There are two good possibilities for consulting work coming up this week.

My doctor was really impressed with my improvement from a week ago.

The best part of the week was being able to hang out with Alexander, Ford and Meredith more without the overhanging thoughts that the time will have to end and I'll have to recover from being miserable before I'm with them again.

That's the problem in a nutshell. I know a new job will make me stressed. I know a new job will require me to be at late meetings. But I don't want to have a new job that takes me to such depths that it takes me a whole weekend to recover before I have happy time with my family. The drive home in the evenings was not enough time for recovery from the day.

Saturday saw a long day for Meredith with running two Weight Watcher's meetings, helping out a college class in the afternoon and hosting a party in the evenings. The kids and I had a good day. We ran some errands, had McDonald's for lunch and then went to our friend Greg's house for a Doctor Who birthday party. Alexander dressed up as the David Tennant doctor, I as The Master, and Ford as a little creature called the Adipose. We ended being the only ones dressed up, but everyone was especially impressed with Alexander's costume. He even got to wear it to church the next day.

On to week two and more successes.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Water Slide!



We played with a new water slide someone at our church gave us. The thing is an inflatable. The tallest point is 8' off of the ground. It's huge. The guys had a great time.

This evening, we went to Meredith's uncle's house n Richardson. We enjoyed Meredith's extended family tremendously. I'm relaxed this evening. I have to be careful not to eat to help relieve any of my job situation stress.

You did what?

Ok, here's the storyline. I interviewed for the Director of Planning in April. I had lots of good indications from the Mayor, the City Manager and the Deputy City Manager that I would be a great candidate for the position. They ended up hiring someone else.

The new person had a completely different philosophy of urban planning than me. I started feeling terrible every day. I've had panic attacks, shakes and tremors and finally feeling like my adreniline wouldn't stop running - burning pain in my back and all down my left arm.

Last Monday I went back to the doctor with tremors and determined that the stress was really messing me up.

Thursday, since my expectations for the job had drastically changed since beginning thee years ago I quit.

I received a severance package that I think was well planned and fair.

The plan is that I'm going to be working for my friend Larry doing some consulting work for a little while - all the time looking for a new job with a city. So things are good. The best thing is: 1. I'm still officially employed by the consultant...2. I'm pretty sure there's going to be some job openings in the next couple of months as the new fiscal year begins October 1st.

We've planned for this eventuallity for a couple of months now.

But I'm feeling ever so much better. It was either the job or my health and family, and I chose the right one.

So, with the support of family, friends and church, I'll move on and there will be great things going on for me.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

New Photos, Discovery Green - Alex's Nature Class

Here's the photos:



While I was in Florida, Meredith and the guys went to Houston to visit the Holders. Alexander appreciated playing with Gareth and Ford and Bethany really enjoyed each other. One of the day trips that they took was going to Discovery Green, a Downtown Houston park that was preserved through the efforts of many of the city leaders. Featuring public art, performance venues and water features, it's a gathering spot in the middle of the urban landscape.

Last week, Alexander took a class at Arlington's River Legacy Park. He learned about animals using camoflage and building bird nests and how animals show that they are scared. He's even demonstrated how a skunk tells you before it squirts you.

We went out on Saturday to walk the trails. We saw turtles, squirrels, lizards and Alexander saw a two foot green snake before anyone else did. We enjoyed our walk.

This week has been Vacation Bible School for Alexander. He's been going to one (Outrigger Island) in the morning in Grapevine and to Power Lab at our church in Denton in the evenings.

A quick funny story about Ford. He and I hung out at the church on Tuesday evening as Alex was at the VBS. As part of the decorations for the Power Lab they had areas with black lights. I smiled real big for Ford and my teeth glowed. He tried to grab them. Then as I was looking closer at his face, I noticed that because his hair was so light and blonde that it was glowing yellow in the uv light. I was greatly amused by that.

Enjoy the photos.

Monday, June 16, 2008

How to Neglect your Friends in 3 Easy Steps

1. Say you're going to call and then don't. Really, I've been meaning to call, email, send flares whatever...but I'm only doing well enough to make sure that I take a shower once a day.

2. Go months and months without contacting them and booking yourself up with stuff on the weekends that you couldn't possibly be available to go see anybody or do anything.

3. Gripe about it in your blog, like THAT's going to help anything. Oh...crap.

Anyway, to anyone who still reads this silly thing. I'm sorry I haven't been in touch with you personally. As you might have guessed, I'm a little busy at the moment and will be attempting to actually have some time off soon. Alexander and I may even get to go see Kung-Fu Panda on Wednesday. But I'm going to make some time to get in touch with you and see how you're doing and hopefully make some plans to have dinner, let kids play and generally be human instead of driving to work - working - driving home routine.

Love to you all.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Gone to see a 6 foot mouse

I left Sunday afternoon to go to Orlando for a conference on our new computer system. The conference is being held at the Disney Coronado Resort in Orlando, Fl. I'll say up front here and now that I've never been to Orlando and never been to a Disney-anything...resort, development, theme park - well except the Disney stores once in a while, but they're closed now.


I do not like Disney. I enjoy many of the movies (Peter Pan, Finding Nemo, Pirates of the Caribbean) but I've never bought into the whole "Disney" image. I've always enjoyed the more tongue-in-cheek humor of Warner Bros much more. But, even Six Flags became overly aggressive in the "cute" factor.


The long and short of it is - I'm here for 4 days, no family, with a few work friends - but really no one to hang out with.

Meredith, home with the kiddos left on Monday morning to go visit Angela, Anthony and the cousins for the week.

I arrived at Orlando airport about 9:30pm on Sunday evening. I rode the Disney bus from the airport to my hotel, the Disney Coronado Springs Resort. I have a casita hotel room. About the same size as most Holiday Inn hotel rooms, but at least I overlook the large lagoon in the center of the resort. The walk from the main building to the room is a little over a quarter of a mile. I bought a $11.99 plastic mug for sodas as it can be refilled (only at this resort) for free and not pay the $2.18 per soda price tag.

The conference this morning was much more applicable than I thought it was going to be. Rather than just the basics of the system, they did discuss much of the theory behind their convoluted programming. The owners of the software are aware of much of the issues with the system as we are. That is not only encouraging but also a bit worrying.

I particularly enjoyed a presentation of a plan review software that allows the applicant to upload their plans and staff can overlay one set o plans with a revision set and it will show the modifications of the plan. Even if the changes weren't specifically requested by staff. That type of information would be invaluable for the quality control of plan review.

After the sessions were over, I went on the bus to "Downtown Disney". A boardwalk environment dead center of the WDW area. Restaurants from Wolfgang Puck to McDonald's and even a movie theater. Being me, and alone, I ended up going and seeing Iron Man. Most likely the best superhero movie I've seen. Much better acted than the last Spider-Man movie. I think the Marvel Studio concept may work well.

I wandered around the area for a while. The most impressive of the stores was the Disney store with all of the Pirates of the Caribbean stuff and, if I had a little girl instead of two guys, a complete princess makeover studio. But by far and large, the most involved store was the Legoland store. They had Lego models of robots, dinosaurs, dragons and fish out front. Inside every Lego set you could imagine was out for display.

I ended up having dinner at the Wolfgang Puck bistro with a small wood-fired pizza and a tea. There is plenty of bars, saloons and other adult entertainment. As I type this, there is loud music down the hallway from me from the lounge here at the resort. I just can't bring myself to be the sad person drinking alone in a bar in Florida. Much more creative men than me have done that...one sells massive concerts full of people wearing parrots, and the other I'm thinking of ended up in Idaho with a shotgun for a friend.

I a having more fun here than I thought I would. The massive regret I have is that Meredith and the guys (especially Alexander) aren't here to enjoy this with me. Maybe next year or the year after when Alex is 6 and Ford is 3 would be a good time to go. The transportation is rather easy to get around and well laid out. I'm not going to any of the parks this trip (really, how sad would that be?) but whereas before this trip I was an absolutely not...now, maybe it wouldn't be so bad. If we went slightly off-season or as a road-trip combination with going to see the grandparents in South Carolina it could work.

My next thought is to what to bring the boys and Meredith back as souvenirs. I think something pirate-related for Alex and maybe small pendant for Meredith that wouldn't be too-grab orienting for Ford. Ford maybe happy with a small figurine of Mickey Mouse dressed as a jedi knight.

From a planning perspective - Disney is massive sprawl. Consisting of over 46 square miles of (lets face it, reclaimed swampland in many cases) the place is extremely well planned...IF you use your own vehicle or the Disney Transit system. Otherwise you can't walk anywhere (no sidewalks to any of the boulevards connecting the parks/resorts) Everything is a controlled environment. There is hardly a bulb out or a weed present in any landscaping. Each entrance to the resorts, parks is designed for the "wow" view as one enters the park. Look at the anticipation of the sign, the lighting, the berms hiding what is a forty story tall building with fish on the top...as you turn the next corner. Pre-destined and well-thought out.

However the "Disneyification" can only be described as a real occurrence. Because there isn't anything out of place, there is a feeling that the experience isn't totally real. The "cast members" are nice, but there is a forcefulness behind it. Rehearsed lines and faces from part-time actors who put their time in and are ready to go home and their own "real" lives.

Obviously it is something that works, and has for over fifty years. It is a vision of American corporate power oriented to making people forget about their own lives and live a fantasy for a few days or even hours. Who am I to really question that?

As wireless internet access is $5 an hour here, I'm going to log off and check out my email. Most likely I won't be posting further from the Disney area. I'll use that money to buy something nice for the guys and remind myself that fun is in they eye of the person having it. I'll go back to Europe and Northern California someday when I can slowdown and really enjoy them.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

You Know What? Just Tell Me Ok?

If anybody as a problem with me...tell me straight out. Tell me I'm talking too much. Tell me that my ideas have no merit. Tell me I'm wrong. I may or may not agree with you, but in the very least I know where you stand and I can get on with my day. Well, except when I sometimes use a malapropism - wait until I'm done...then let me know.

I don't need to be stepped around lightly. I don't have the ego or arrogance to think I'm right all of the time. Most of the time I think I'm wrong or making it up as I go along anyway.

But you don't have to humiliate me by letting me hang myself with my own words. You don't have to punish me by belittling me.

I'm my own worst critic and that's punishment enough.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jim Kunstler Says it Best

If you haven't already, check out Jim Kunstler's website. If you can get past the slightly offensive title, he has some really interesting things to comment on our society especially as we reach issues of the end of the petroleum era. Of particular note was this quote:

"Of course, one of the reasons that Americans are so anxious to get away on a holiday weekend from the places where they live is because we did such a perfect job the past fifty years turning our home-places into utterly unrewarding, graceless nowheres, where the private realm of the beige houses is saturated in monotony, and the public realm has been reduced to the berm between the WalMart and the strip mall. Now, we barely have the gasoline to run all this stuff, let alone escape from it for a weekend."

Have you seen the ebay and craigslist ads for all of the gasoline powered toys? Boats, RVs, personal watercraft, ATVs, off-road motorcycles. All for sale because we can't afford to keep them running. Where do we go from here?

BTW, I'm not immune to the hypocrisy of this issue. I drive a relatively fuel friendly car (25 to 27 mpg) but I am spending $8.25 a day on gas getting to work and back. There's a guy at my office who is driving 120 milesround trip to work and back. That's $22.00 a day in his truck. He's got 200K miles on it. I'm at 138K. Eventually I might be able to ride the train from a station by my home to the city I work at, then a circular route bus from the train station to within a couple of blocks to work... but the first leg of that isn't going to be available until 2012 and the second train trip and bus...probably not until 2020. By then I'll have been working for the city for fifteen years and a total of 24 years. Somehow, I might be working somewhere else.

The View from a Four-Year Old

This past weekend I spent some time figuring out all my tech. I uploaded a bunch of photos from our camera and organized them on the main computer. I went through and found that we had extra USB2 cables and that for some reason we had for power AC power supplies for cell phones we haven't had in a year.

I also found our old Olympus Camedia camera. The viewscreen broke several years ago when I dropped it getting into the car after the graduation of Meredith's niece. So I've had it around. It still takes pictures, but you can't see them unless you upload them to a computer. Several months ago, Meredith gave Alexander the camera to take pictures around the house. Here is some examples of his unique viewpoint.


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Car Photos




Here are some photos of the 2003 Element we recently purchased. I spent most of yesterday evening and this morning detailing the paint, interior and engine compartment. It only has a few dings and for the most part is a really nice car. Mom and Dad came over this morning for a quick look. I'm really happy with the way it turned out.
With a few minutes of Dad's buffer sometime in the next couple of weeks, the last of the scratches will be buffed out as well
I tried something new - claying the car. Using a detailing lubricant, you use a clay bar (about the consistency of silly putty) and gently rub the surface of the paint, shining, polishing and removing contaminants from the surface. Then a good wax - and the black paint pops.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Cars

We're going to pick up the new vehicle this evening. Its a 2003 Honda Element - or as Meredith lovingly calls it the Talkie Toaster. She's actually rather pumped up about it.

It's from a private seller - a friend of Meredith's who she has been helping out the past week or so when they had a medical emergency in the family. It needs two new front tires and a fine detail cleaning, polishing and waxing. But, I need some zen time tomorrow to work on it. That will be ok.

Before I purchase it, I'm going to take it by my friend Brian's house. Brian is an excellent mechanic and has a ton of experience with looking over Hondas.

Meredith is excited about the poly-urethane flooring in the car - something that will make spills and crumbs easier to clean out. While it does look like a toaster, it has great visibility (much better than the 2008 Chevy HHR we've been driving around for the past three weeks). The Element's back seats fold up and clip to the sides to increase room, or they may be removed totally from the car.

It only has 64,000 miles - which for a 2003 is fairly low. I'll be happier when all of the work associated with it is done...and when we have a settlement from the insurance company representing the guy who's fault it is that we're having to purchase a car in the first place.

Ford is happy to sit in the front seat in Daddy's lap and go: "Vroom, vroom."

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jobs

At least I thought the interview went well...

So I didn't get the job. They decided to hire someone with a bit more experience in economic development. I would have had a larger learning curve. Perhaps I'll be able to take some of the heat off of me to attend all of the City Council meetings.

It's funny. This is the first job in some time that I really wanted. I had interviewed with some cities in the past couple of years that offered me jobs but there was a certain aspect or two that I didn't want to add to the stress levels. I've always risen to the occasion in many ways. Not sure that I want to anymore.

I was told that I surprised the interview panel with how well I interviewed. I had correctly anticipated the questions they were going to ask and was clear and articulate in my answers.

Not that it really matters...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Time Has No Mercy

Just thought I'd share.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Went to Austin Again

Attended the Congress of the New Urbanism Conference in Austin April 3-6. It was a meeting of architects, planners, designers and some engineers were able to sneak in through the back door. The point of the Congress is to discuss and implement human scaled, environmentally, socially and economically sustainable land use and building design to all communities.

I attended sessions on fitting street design to new fire trucks, financing new urbanist developments, marrying the comprehensive plan to form-based codes and all of the plenary sessions. The most interesting of which was when the Congress awarded thier major "Athena" award to HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. The Prince, who created the Prince's Foundation spoke via pre-recorded message to the meeting. Having never heard a formal - non-diplomatic speech from the man, I found him to be engaging, rather disarmingly funny and incredibly articulate about urban design, function and wanting to build communities that relate to the people. He personally felt that modern design, in particular the industrial nature and bauhaus style of construction separated people from their community; created a disenfranchisement of class and, designed public spaces which weren't public at all. He called for the reduction of the "uglification" of the UK and of the United States through better urban design. He didn't attend the event personally as he has made a committment to not fly from the UK unless it was for diplomatic reasons in order to reduce his personal carbon footprint.

In addition to attending sessions, I toured the Mueller Development - a mixed use, commecial and medical office complex being built on the former site of the Robert Mueller Airport - no more jets flying very low over your car on I-35. We also went to a Peter Calthorpe design - Triangle Development at the intersection of Guadalupe and Lamar Streets; and finally The Domain. The Domain was a little overdone in my opinion - it's basically an outdoor mall right now, we'll have to see if it truly will interact as a neighborhood in the future.

The biggest news of the trip was that Meredith and the boys went with me. We stayed in the Holiday Inn on Town Lake (Lady Bird Johnson Lake) and I was able to walk the mile or so from the hotel to the Austin Conference Center in the mornings by taking the town lake trail. Meredith and the guys went to the Austin Children's Museum, the Capitol Building, Zilker Park and swam in the heated hotel pool. We would meet up in the evenings and go to the Whole Foods national headquarters for dinner and sit on the veranda on the second floor and watch the sun go down.

On Saturday we met up with our Austin friends, Keith and Carrie Reeves and went with them to Bookpeople next door for a reading and book signing by Mo Willems, a children's author who wote Don't Let the Pidgeon Drive the Bus. Alexander had a great time.

On other notes. Meredith was in a car accident last Thursday. It wasn't her fault, the other guy pulled out in front of her. We're waiting to see if is insurance will total the car. Meredith thinks she wants a Honda Element.

We also had half of one of our Bradford Pear trees blow over in a thunderstorm last week. It wasn't as bad as some of my friends who were without power for several days, several trees blew over and their chimney fell over into their hottub.

I've been tapped to interview for the Community Development Director for the city I work for. My interview is next Friday. I hope it goes well.

This Friday however I have to moderate a discussion about urban gas well drilling for the Midwest Section of Texas APA. We're getting continuing education credit for it...so far they have 67 signed up to attend. Its a little daunting.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ford Video

video

Wild Weather Week


Last week it was snow - That's a picture of a Snow Transformer that Alexander and I made. We made a regular snowman and then used a straight edged toy of his to carve out blocky body parts and head for just the right Transformer look.


We've had the snow, sleet, ice, thunderstorms, rain, fog and nice sunny days. All this week. Typical weather discussions for North Texas.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Modifications to the Blog

Quick note before the main post: If you're still looking at this blog from the www.yourminis.com website, please redirect to the blog main website at: www.sacwho.blogspot.com website. I'm no longer going to maintain the minis as they're too time consuming and the only ones I use tend to be buggy.

As always, I'll make comments here from time to time and will post new photos of the family and life to the flickr account.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Illness

So we all caught the cold/flu/thing that is running around the North Texas Region this week. Ford and Alexander have been sniffling and coughing for a while, but it was last Tuesday that hit me hard. I was at work and around noon I started shaking uncontrollably. I was freezing and had to go sit in my car at lunchtime to warm up. I didn't want to go home, because I had the responsibility of running the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting that night. But eventually around 2pm I went home. After collapsing onto the bed I didn't move again for another four hours.

Chest burning, head burning, fever and body aches - I couldn't really tell if it was the flu or not. I didn't feel nausous or anything. But I stayed home Wednesday through Friday. I have never taken three days for personal sick leave before. Then Meredith came down with the same thing on Friday. At least I was able to be here for the weekend and help her through it as well. I don't think she got is as bad as I did.

I was able to do a little (very little) work from the new laptop at home. I mostly watched episodes of The Office and some really trashy movies by Quentin Tarantio and Robert Rodriguez.

Yuck.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Monday, January 28, 2008

Living in Freedom and Peace

The current President of the United States is talking. But is he actually saying anything? The problem with a lame duck President in his last year and especially with the last State of the Union addressd is that they're looking for the last amount of legacy that they can bring out. It was the same with Clinton as well. (Of course all he really had to overcome is lying that had some dalliances, Mr. Bush has a LOT more to answer for.)

Bush is not going to have a good year. The election this year is looking at becoming one of the best attended and most useful at resetting how policy is shaped in America. The President will become irrelevant this year. We're going to have shrinkage in the economy, continued challenges to the role of the United States in the rest of the world. The least of which this year is the world's focus on China in an olympic year. There will be examination on the politics, lifestyles and massive market that the Chinese represent. Much of it will be the vision of a newly industrialized country, bringing a totalitarian one-party state to a full market economy. The tale of Hong Kong wagging the dog.

China will be on the main stage, as will other Asian centers of influence. Countries willing to subjigate their human resources for greater global share and market. The American socierty that this President sees is a shielded State. Protectionism and isolationism will not balance out the power growing in human will on the other side of the globe. If it were left to a strict non-diplomatic invisible hand economy...I'm not sure that ours will be left standing on top. We must be proactive in bringing about positive change in our cities, our students and universities. Making our lives more productive by providing better places to live rather that instilling fear and a false sense of security without hope.

This is what this President has brought us to. This is where we will need to change.

Brain Dump

Hiya out there. It's been a month since my last post, which wasn't much - just some photos from Christmas time. We've been a bit busy. We've had a car accident a couple of weeks ago. We were driving in the Honda to Church and going slowly on Main Street in Roanoke when this guy backs up into our car from a parking space on the side of the road. It turns out that he is an unlicensed Mexican national. The police weren't much help. They got the information wrong on the police report. The insurance that the guy had in the truck, while looking legal, has a phone number that goes to some lady in Fort Worth. He caused 3,000 dollars in damage to our car, and our insurance is going to have to pay for it.

I knew when he had hit us that it was going to be difficult. That's why I called the police. I was really disappointed when I got the report and there were glaring errors in it. For instance, my driver's license number appeared on the report as the number of the insurance policy. Luckily, I had written down the number independently or they wouldn't have got it.

So, we're going to have my Dad fix the car in the next couple of weeks.

We had my Mom's 60th birthday party on Saturday. Her actual birthday is Jan 28th, but my sister and I planned to have a party that included several of her friends. We had a Mardi Gras theme. I cooked Cajun food including boiled shrimp, potatoes, and corn. We bought some crawfish etoufee and dirty rice and Meredith made a nice bread pudding with whiskey sauce and a lemon sauce.

Mom was really touched by the party. Laura had made her a scrapbook of photos, I made a DVD with a video from photos and Michael showed up. He surprised everyone by flying in unannounced for the weekend from Maine. That was really special. I think the event was a great experience for Mom.

On another point, we're going to be starting a comprehensive plan update at work. I've gotten a consultant on board to help look at some of the larger issues with the city and hope to set a goal list of items to update ordinances with.

I purchased a new computer. After debating for almost two years about which laptop to get, I finally broke down and purchased another Dell product. I had been looking at MacBooks for some time, but I couldn't see paying a extra 1000 dollars and not getting the compatibility with some of the work software that I have. Plus, several of my online things that I like (streaming video from my Netflix account) wouldn't work with a Mac. Dell had a 10 days of deals promotion going on, and I got a 15" Dell XPS laptop in red. It's snazzy. In fact, I'm writing this first post of the year from it. More than a toy, I'll be able to use it not only for work, but also for some consulting on the side as well.

Ford has been getting more restless lately. He has had some fairly significant separation anxiety from Meredith. He cries regularly when she leaves his immediate eyesight. He is now going twice a week to Cornerstone school with Alexander while Meredith is teaching her classes. He'll grow out of it, but it is a little disheartening for me to pick him up to play with him and all he wants to do is cry.

Lost on ABC starts back up this week. I got hooked over the past six months from watching it on DVD. I'm ready to see what's become of the rest of the Others, who gets off the island, and is the future Jack and Kate, real, imagined, or one of possible futures.

Hope you've been able to keep up...