Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wish I Could

Wish I could:

  • say the truth in all things.
  • end the negative and retain the positive.
  • relax.
  • stop the internal struggle against entropy.
  • lose the weight.
  • finish this senten....

Saturday, November 28, 2009

South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee 2009 Day Seven

Friday was awash in sunshine. A bit cold perhaps, but not the threatening weather we had thought. Driving north through Spartanburg and approaching the Mountains was a treat for us an the guys, who had never seen real mountains before. Ford kept asking where the mountains were for the first couple of hours.

Because of the rock fall on top of Interstate 40 at the Tennessee / North Carolina border, we had planned an alternate route north of the Interstate through the French Broad River valley. Meredith of course loved the term and thought of every opportunity for me to keep seeking out my French Broad.

We stopped for an hour or so in Asheville, NC. This is the Austin of Appalachians. Lots of trendy restaurants, bars, hipster places - so hipster that by accident, we wandered into a head shop called "Wonderland". One would think that a statue of the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland would have been a big we enjoyed looking at the tie-dyed t-shirts.

We walked along Church Ave and came about back to the main city center right along a 1967 London double-decker bus. The bus had been put into a parcel of land (permitted as a mobile food vendor) for a coffee shop. You buy your coffee on the first level and can sit outside or on the second deck. They had to use a crane to place the bus in its current location. Meredith enjoyed their coffee.

I thoroughly enjoyed the landscape architecture of the public park surrounding the civic structures of the City and County buildings. We will be coming back to Asheville. Next time - to see the Biltmore Estate.

Taking the Dixie Hwy northeast to Tennessee turned out to be our best decision yet this trip. There was lots of mountains and valleys to look at, nice roads that wound through the trees. Small towns including Hot Springs, NC on the Appalachian Trail (we're coming back there also) and opportunities to ride white water rafting along the French Broad River.

Reaching Tennessee, we headed to the southeast towards Gatlinburg, TN. There were lots of RV camping and cabin rentals along the way. Reaching Gatlinburg, we found a public parking space and began walking through the main drag of the City. Gatlinburg can only be described as a cross between a Carnival Midway and Bourbon Street in New Orleans. T-shirt shops, candy stores, mini-golf, barkers, street performers, people smoking and lo, the literally tens of pancake houses as far as the eye can see. Meredith especially wanted to come to Gatlinburg as it was were her parents had honeymooned almost 50 years previously. They had ridden on a ski lift up the mountain where they had their picture taken. So we rode up the mountain. It wasn't until I was sitting down on the chair with Alexander when I noticed that this was a real ski lift with only a metal bar and a rather slick-worn seat between you and the 15 to 30 foot drop to the road/mountain below. I ended up with a death grip on Alex and couldn't turn around to check on Meredith and Mr. Bouncy Ford. I had visions of having to fish him off of the side of the mountain.

Luckily, we moved slowly and obviously we all survived.

Later, we took in a streetside magic/comedy show. Alexander wanted to purchase the floating dollar trick and the "peeing raccoon" trick.

We ended up driving through Pigeon Forge and seeing yet more Pancake Houses and "As Seen on TV" stores. We stayed that night in Knoxville, ate at a nice local restaurant and looked forward to the next day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

South Carolina 2009 Days Four, Five and Six

Ford has caught a slight cold. It's frustrating because he's normally very healthy. The other night he was coughing once every 15 seconds which made it difficult for him to go to sleep and me to stay asleep. It's also annoying that there is literally nothing we can purchase to help him with the cough. Everything over the counter now reads "not for children under 4 years of age". We did get him some nasal medicine and some vapor rub for his chest. Luckily we hit it rather hard and fast and it didn't bother him too much.

We ended up going to the Edventure museum in Colombia and climbed around Ed the three story kid. You can climb into his head, chest cavity and eventually slide out his bowels. All in the name of science!

Other areas of the museum the guys really enjoyed, including climbing on a fire truck, playing indoor hockey and looking at different forms of communication. I think the museum needs a little money to update and rework some of their exhibits which have had a little too much play.

That afternoon we went to Saluda and went to a farm and food festival. Local businesses, organizations and restaurants had booths. Our favorite of course, was Shealy's BBQ. We told them that we had driven 1000 miles just for their BBQ. They gave us six bottles of their sauce as samples.

Wednesday we spent mostly around the house. I prepped my brine for the Turkey. The guys and I walked about a mile and a half to the boat launch in the neighborhood. That afternoon, Meredith, Ford and I went shopping in Lexington. Alexander stayed home with his grandparents. Almost on our way home, we received a phone call from her father which began with the words: "There's been an accident." Your heart is racing because you're thinking about ambulances, surgery and other disasters. The accident was Grandmama opening the refrigerator and spilling out an entire bowl of cranberry sauce onto the kitchen floor. It basically exploded from there with sauce appearing under the cabinets, in the fridge, under the fridge... Our job was to buy more cranberries on the way home. Our thoughts were even more relaxed when we knew that our son wasn't involved in creating the accident at all.

Thursday being Thanksgiving, I awoke early enough to roast the turkey with enough time for other things to be cooked in the oven. The turkey was a rousing success. Grandmama's sister's family The Mewbournes came over and we enjoyed taking photos, Alex showing them the video games and playing with Helena who is almost one year old. That evening, I began to stress about the weather in North Carolina and Tennessee for our next leg of our trip and tempered that stress with watching a rather good Texas A&M/Texas football game. A&M at least showed up.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

South Carolina 2009 Day Two and Three

Yesterday we had a slow day recovering from the drive. We went out on the Rentzes' boat and saw the bald eagle on his roost around the corner on the river. We also saw lots of the new houses (and ones for sale) along the shoreline. It was a bit chilly, but lots of fun. Ford fell asleep on the boat ride. Yesterday evening we went to Shealy's BBQ in Batesburg-Leesville. For the past several years, Shealy's has been the prime restaurant destination for our trips to South Carolina. The BBQ comes in three forms: Mustard based (which is the traditional midlands of South Carolina version) Vinegar which hales from the north and east portions of the State; and then there is hash which is a shredded pork with a little more of a thick gumbo consistency and is served on rice. I go for the mustard based - which ranks right up there with Texas BBQ Brisket as my favorite two.

We went to Church this morning and had a nice discussion in the couple's bible study class about teachers and their responsibilities and roles in Christianity. Ford and Alexander had a nice time talking about being thankful in their Sunday school classes.

We're going to do a little shopping tomorrow and then on Tuesday we're off to Columbia to check out the Children's Museum. We are still looking at going through Tennessee next weekend for our drive back.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

South Carolina 2009 Day One

We left Keller at 5:03am on Friday morning. Exactly eighteen hours (12:00am EST) we arrived in South Carolina. We stopped several times for coffee, potty breaks and running around time. The weather started out sort of rough leaving Texas right up to Tyler we were in a downpour with thunderstorms in the area. Once we got to Mississippi and stopped at the traveler's station on the eastern bank of the river, the sun was shining.

We sort of "teched up" for the trip. We had Alexander's new DSi, Ford had his Leapster 2, and we had our portable DVD player for the trip. All of these helped out in the long trip during the day. Meredith had also packed snacks for us which made the travelling much easier.

The hardest part of the trip was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. There was a five mile back up of traffic on the east side of town. A large dump truck had lost a wheel, swerved across three lanes of traffic and slammed front end first into the center concrete divider. It also lost much of its load. Many people were very impatient and were driving on the rumble strips and down the median attempting to avoid the long traffic lines.

Once we were through that, Birmingham and Atlanta traffic wasn't too bad. Only about 10:00pm CST did Ford really start getting annoyed with the trip. A brownie from Quiktrip helped out that situation quite well.

We arrived right at the stroke of midnight and fell into bed as soon as we all brushed teeth. I probably wouldn't attempt to make the trip in one day again as it was a bit exhausting, but we now have had all of Saturday to rest and enjoy Papa and Grandmama's company. This afternoon we're looking forward to a boat ride and Shealey's BBQ in Batesburg-Leesville.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Alexander's First Day of School

Hi, my name is Alex. I'm 5 and a half and today was my first day of school in kindergarten. I got up and had breakfast. I had shredded wheat and Fruity Cheerios mixed together with Almond Milk. I put my clothes on and then we got in the car. After my Mommy got her coffee for the day, we went to my school.

After I got to school, I went into my classroom. I have nine kids in my class. I colored my Franklin picture. We then did our calendar for the day. We read books and had goldfish crackers for a snack. We then had recess outside and then had lunch. My Mommy made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I also had some applesauce with cranberry in it.

After lunch we had our Centers part of the class where we read books. After Centers it was time to leave. I met some new friends and I saw an old friend. His name is Luke.

I felt good about my first day of class. I got a lucky star for "free star day" today. If I get ten stars I get a prize from the prize box. The prize box has candy and toys in it.

I am looking forward to going back tomorrow to see Luke and my other new friends.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Power of Public Performance

There comes a time when most people have to stand up in front of a large group of others and speak. Sometimes it's a hastily written toast to your friends at a wedding; some other time it might be a presentation to a client or the like. It is a skill that is rife with anticipation, paranoia and at times exhilaration. I started out in theater in high school wanting to be in the "big play." There were moments that were embarrassing - leading off my first line with a terrible accent - other times were fantastic. One of my two favorite moments in theater happened when I was asked by a friend of mine to appear in a talent show when she sang a song from Phantom of the Opera. I would come out of the darkened wings dressed as the Phantom about 2/3rds of the way through her song and then at her crescendo, envelope her in a cape. I didn't want to distract the audience from her performance so this is how we wanted to play it.

The best moment came for me when I appeared in mostly black (with the correct white mask) from the dark. Because of the mask I didn't have my glasses on so I couldn't see the audience. But when I stepped onto the stage...there was a loudly audible gasp from the audience. They were surprised, shocked and thrilled. I think I might have had the white flash of absolute "in the moment" at that point. I had power over the audience and I hadn't said a word.

My second favorite experience came from a point of disaster within an improv act. We were playing a coffee house and the game was a story with five different genre books. I was gothic literature. I committed the ultimate sin in this game for when it was my turn I said:

"And then I died."

That pretty much ends the story no? My friend John Flores who was running the game looked at me with this expression of disbelief that I would submarine the whole thing like that...but then I followed with:

"but only figuratively..."

and the room roared. It was the biggest laugh of the night and the timing was great.

I use those skills in my everyday job when I talk about planning to neighborhoods, when I speak with potential developers, homeowners and business owners. It's something to have the ability to speak, to listen, and to provide enough timing that your audience is captivated and not bored with what you're saying. I miss being in the theater. I don't have the time to devote to art as much as I would like. I praise my good friends John and his wife Christie and all those who I was in theater with in both high school and college who've been able to make it their vocation as well as their avocation. I've found where my talents lie and how I can still command the stage.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wired Article

I received my new issue of Wired yesterday. Going with the ultra-cool meme that everything must have lately, it has Brad Pitt on the cover. There is a funny joke on the cover with Pitt wearing a bluetooth headset: the caption: "Ditch the headset. He can barely pull it offf - and you are not him."

I enjoyed that. The article inside was about good/bad advice on changing behaviors in a digital age. One that particularly struck me was a small column:

which I won't quote here but let you pop on over to read.

There are times where I know I've lived a life more frugally than most, which has done us well. But I still think of the prime learning part of my marriage (those first five years) when I worked 60 hour weeks getting a comprehensive plan and a development code completed - that we could have taken more (read: any) vacations. Perhaps it would have made a larger difference in how I view and take on stress? Perhaps it would have made our strong marriage that more stronger having had more powerful travel experiences together.

Perhaps this is fodder for new resolutions.

Lastly, the image associated with the article got to me as well.

Illustration by Jason Lee from

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Never Growing Up

Just read an article about Kevin Smith on Newsweek. He is quoted in the article about never thinking that he couldn’t extend the childhood state that he’s been in while making movies. I really identified with that sentiment. I actively accept that I’m an adult and that I have adult responsibilities, but it is amazing and more than a little frightening to realize how much adult life is made up of attempting to “get by” and bluffing your way through to a semblance of competence. Maturity is the knowledge that there is much more to know than you will ever know. Then the real test is being able to personally handle it when someone points out that you don’t know it all.

I used to want to know it all. Now all I want is time to play, read, and drive to interesting small towns.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Grad School and Lego Store

Saturday, Meredith, the kids and I went to College Station for the day to see our friends from grad school. Bruce, who lives in Cambridge, MA was in Houston for a conference he was speaking at. Bruce drove up to College Station to see everyone. Since it was graduation weekend, we assumed that the entirety of restaurants in the BCS area were going to be booked up, a fact confirmed as we drove in and saw people waiting to get into Cheddars lined up out the door. We ended up having a picnic in Hensel Park. The rain held off for two hours. We had the whole park to ourselves. The kids had access to a playground and had a great time playing together. We cooked hot dogs and sausages and roasted marshmallows.

After the rain came, we all packed up and drove to the mall to allow the kids to play on the play structure inside while we all sat around and talked. It was a great day. The kids slept on the drive home. We were able to get back around 8:30pm so it wasn't a late night.

Then on Sunday, after washing the cars, Alexander and I went to Dallas, then to Frisco to the newly opened Lego Store. We went to North Park Mall, because Daddy was mistaken about which store was open. You've never seen the disappointment in the face of a five year old after driving all the way to North Dallas and then finding a parking space in the garage and finally getting to the store to see it all boarded up with a big Lego logo plastered on it saying "Opening Summer 2009."

After calling Meredith and determining that the open store was in Frisco (about 20 miles away), Alex and I had an hour and 15 minutes to get there before it was closed. As we rushed through the traffic on US 75 heading north, Alex could tell my frustration and aggravation with myself. He told me:

"Daddy, its ok if we don't get there in time. I have enough Legos to play with."

Waiting for my internalized sobs to cease, I then told him thanks for saying such a nice thing.

We did get there in time. We say the 8' tall R2-D2 and the life-size Indiana Jones made out of Legos. We looked at all of the different models they had there including specialty models of the Eiffel Tower, a 1960s Volkswagen Beetle and a $400 Death Star with 16 characters.

We bought an Anakin Skywalker Jedi starfighter to match Daddy's Obi-Wan Jedi starfighter. We came home and made chili and had a great evening.

42 MPG - Good, but not the emphasis we need.

Today President Obama announced a new plan to force automakers to increase miles per gallon on new vehicles to levels of 42 MPG for passenger cars and 27 MPG for trucks by 2016. This is a good thing. Those who can afford the supercars won't be happy, but I think that they will make a new category for those rather than calling them "production" vehicles.

My concern is that the administration is still not concerned enough with finding alternatives for people to get out of the cars in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I love my new Honda Accord with its 27-31MPG and a peppy 4-cyl engine. I even like watching the adrenaline pumped, testosterone laced Top Gear.

But I also wish I lived within walking distance of a grocery store, and a bookstore. The closest grocery store is over 2.5 miles away. A bit far of a round trip carrying much more than one bag, plus the major highway separating me from it is deterrent enough not to do the walk.

We need to build more communities where public transportation is available. We need to build more communities where the choice of public transportation or bicycling or walking is an easier choice than the personal vehicle. I'm not for eliminating the personal car - far from it - what I'd like to have is the option on a more regular basis.

There are those who would then argue, why do you live in a State and community where lower suburbia causes these problems? Why don't you move? Truth is, that considering the housing market for those areas of appropriately designed density where I'd like to move my family, I either wouldn't be able to find an applicable job within commuting distance that would pay me enough to afford to live there. That's the frustrating thing. Well designed higher density just isn't affordable to government employees.

The fantastic Obama administration needs to look at how we are funding public transportation at a federal level and place more money emphasis on revitalizing infrastructure and housing to achieve a greater modal split, rather than focusing money on just expansion of the highway capacity.

That will achieve better savings of fuel over the long run.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

New Car

After 10 years and 147,000 miles I have retired the 1999 Mustang. I did feel bad about letting it go. It was my first brand new car and I really kept it nice. It had a few scrapes and bumps along the way - all of which I had repaired by my Dad. I only replaced one major component - the alternator. It once let loose the exhaust system from the manifold and sounded like a Harley for a little while until I could get it welded back on.

But, it had replaced a 1993 Taurus which became more miserable to drive with each succeeding month. I remember the final straw with the Taurus was when I had loaded it up with all of the meeting materials for a Comprehensive Plan meeting and it died in the parking lot adjacent to the mall. I had to call my boss to come get the stuff while I waited for the tow truck to pick up the car and take it to the shop.

The Mustang was an object of desire for several years previous and when I bought it, my sister was really impressed with it - she was only 16 at the time.

But in the later years, it had its electrical problems - the windshield wipers would come on by themselves occaisionally, the clutch started making noises which could lead to a $600 bill - almost half of the value of the car itself by that point. Plus, my wife wouldn't drive it as she didn't like the rear-wheel drive coupled with its habit of breaking loose every once in a while. I couldn't easily take the family anywhere in it. It was just too small.

So, last Saturday I took Meredith to Huggins Honda in North Richland Hills and we test drove a 2008 Accord EX-L (the "L" stands for leather). We liked the sales guy and the car. He quoted a price that was quite reasonable. We went back to the house and I looked up the car on the dealership's website which was quoted for $2,000 less than they had quoted me at the dealership. I also compared that price with the average sales prices of other used Accord EX-L.

After much agonizing (hey, its me!) I went back to the dealership by myself and asked for my sales guy. His name is Jeff Fisher (look for him in the new cars sales area). He had left the dealership to go get a burger, but they called him back since I was waiting there for him. That kind of made me feel for the guy a bit. We then started talking back and forth with the used car manager. It turns out that the online posting price had been intended for an Accord LX-P and not an EX-L. The LX-P has the lesser 4 cylinder engine (177HP as opposed to 190HP), no leather or any of the other electronic extras. They told me they would let me have the car for that advertised price - which was a full $4,000 less than the dealership price. I only found one other 2008 Accord EX-L with less mileage and a better price in the Metroplex.

So I came home with the new car. My parents-in-law, visiting at the time, were very impressed with the car. It's sporty - without feeling loose, and I can get the whole family in it without feeling cramped inside.

I'll post photos when I get a sunny day to take them.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

It could be...

It could be that everything you know is wrong.
It could be that the shadows on the wall isn't reality.
It could be that they are not telling the truth.
It could be that the particles exist in all locations at once.
It could be that there is value to attempting to change it piece by piece.
It could be that the system is attempting to restart.
It could be that time is relative.
It could be that space is curved.
It could be that power and force are losing ground to thought and reason.
It could be that writing like this may be pretentious.

Or it may not.

Well, that was a bit crap.

So I've got the worst case of insomnia in a long time. I have got to stop drinking the Coke Zeroes during the day. They obviously have way too much caffeine. I was reading a rather tame book about how to be happy. It was a bit obvious and really insulting. Not an auspisious start to a book that's trying to help you feel better and make decisions for happiness. The main theme of the initial chapters I read was this.

The more intelligent you are, the higher probability of not being happy. Happier people tend to not be deep thinkers, tend to not dwell on the future or the past. They live in the moment experiencing joy of the present. 

I suppose those lucky non-ambitious and rather frankly either lobotomized or only seeming so people may be happy. But even those people living traditional tribal lives who may seem happy from their subsistence farming have their own ambitions, worries and concerns for their lives and those of others. The book was alarmingly fatuious.

I don't believe in destiny. I believe in patterns and free will. We have the individual choice either given by grace of a higher being or by environmental nature (what you will) to either recognize the patterns of life or to boldly ignore them as creatively as possible. What I don't accept is the notion that failure is a viable option, that ignorance is acceptable as an alternative to thorough thought, and that the current time is 2:30am...wait, back up - scratch the last one. 

I suppose that with everything, it is a moderation of these feelings - frustration, anticipation, fear, perfectionism  some semblance of joy can be found. I love my family and my friends, however I truly believe that I am somehow, without realising it, distancing myself from them.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Andrews, Texas

I need to go to Andrews, Texas relatively soon. My father lived there during his pre-teen days through high school. His father was the foreman for the Auto Body Shop at the Ford dealership. He lived in a modest, but nice home near the elementary school on the west side of town.

It also turns out that my Assistant Director's father-in-law was a good friend and former roomate of my Dad's. Interesting connections. Smaller and smaller world.

Bored With Facebook

I like Facebook. However I also find it rather tedious. It interesting to read about many others daily lives, several of them are witty and catch your attention. However, I primarily find myself wondering: what interesting or witty thing could I write in my status update that would garner comments. The online equivalent of "Pay attention to me! I'm relevant!" I even posted as a status update some time ago that I was feeling rather irrelevant with an ellipse inserted within the syllables of the word irrelevant to symbolize a trailing off of relevancy.

I'm paraphrasing now, but I once saw written a comment about Facebook as the place where you go and confirm that your friends from high school and college are leading as uninteresting lives as you do. A bit cynical, but dangerously close to the truth, I'd say.

I don't think of it as an indictment of Facebook as a Web 2.0 application or as a networking device, or of the people who frequently read, write and contribute to their page on a daily, hourly or minute by minute accounting of their thoughts. I feel that as many of us journal our typically American and suburban lives, working, playing, eating, going to movies, raising children, going to church... that we're somehow dilluting the importance that our own existence brings to other people by distilling it into what is essentially powerpoint presentations of our lives.

Be relevant! Tell those people on your Facebook friend list what it truly means to you that they are your friend.

Hobbies, Conversations and Nostalgia

“Let’s move one place on.” – Mad Hatter, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I need a new topic of conversation. I need a discourse that doesn’t involve city planning, work related activities…”Stephen, how is everything at the city you work at?” or the predominant topic of conversation…”Stephen, how are the kids?” Work is fine, if a little repetitive and stale, but that’s why it’s work and the kids are fine. One talks a bit too much and the other likes teasing the first. I am on a search for a different conversation though. Not one to replace the previous two as they are inherent to the life that I have, but one that may be interesting to share, learn from and advance different ideas with other people.

What I need is an active hobby.

I’ve collected many things over the years, Videos, DVDs Comic Books, Star Wars Stuff, Books, CDs – now digital files, but many of these things have been transitory for the most part and not very interactive. I’ve gone to conventions and the like, but while I’ve been a collector and enjoy reading, listening and watching the media I’ve collected, I’ve never been at such a level that I’ve made that to the exclusion of everything else – or been able to make a larger connection to a collecting community other than a few friends. Many times I find other collectors either extremely too involved and narrowly focused or they have a tendency to not be able to communicate about anything else at all. Again, with some very specific exceptions.

The long and short of it is that I’d like to find a hobby that gets me out and involved with other people on a regular basis that discusses other things ancillary to the prime focus in addition to the hobby itself. I’d like it to be creative and active rather than passive (like most of my collecting hobbies are now).

I used to build and paint model aircraft. I soon figured out that particular hobby is not very compatible with small kids. My anachronistic B-17G (one I painted with Normandy Invasion Stripes – no B-17s were used in the invasion) was an early casualty in the child rearing aspect of our lives. One of my sadder childhood regrets was the accidental damage and then subsequent destroying of a balsa-wood Piper Cub that my father built. Only years later did I find out that my Grandad had flown real planes like that and my father had built it as memory for himself. I suppose I really hate that aspect of exuberance of youth without the emotional maturity to foresee the consequences of value or history. I disliked it in myself and my peers and now I have to hold myself differently for my own kids.

Speaking of nostalgia, my wife and I have very different opinions about it. I have a higher concentration of nostalgia for places and specific things. Meredith has nostalgia for people and experiences. I make emotive connections with a place – walking up the many stairs to the top of Mont St. Michel in France – woe to that blundering idiot of a fellow A&M student I was walking with who could not place himself in 13th Century France – while Meredith needs the interaction with people to hold onto those emotive memories.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bon Soir Ma Petite Chou

La Danse de Mardi Gras
Les Mardi Gras ça vient de tout partout
Tout l'autour au tour du moyen
Ça passe un fois par ans
Demander la charité
Quand même si c'est une patate
Une patate et des gratins

Les Mardi Gras sont su' un grand voyage
Tout l'tour autour du moyen
Ça passe un fois par ans
Demander la charité
Quand même si c'est une poule maigre
Et trois, quatre coton d'maïs

Capitain, capitain voyage ton flag
Allons su' l'autr' voisin
Demander la charité
Pour eux autr' venir nous r'joindre
Eux autr' venir nous r'joindre
Ouais au bal pour ce soir

A Long Walk Off a Short Pier

I have had a series of interesting and yet, disturbing dreams lately. The most interesting one came the other night where I was attempting to become a public speaker about relationships. The unique "hook" I had come up with was a basic analogy.

Our relationships are like bags of potato chips. 

Are you done laughing? Don't worry... I'll wait. 


So the point of the excercise was that I would begin speaking about relationships, the stages of beginning - the fluidity of maturing the connection - and either the contentment or obversly, the ending of a relationship. Now, you're still asking why potato chip bags. 

Once you find the right potato chip bag you have to open it - like beginning a relationship. Sometimes the bag is difficult to open and you mess it up spilling chips all over, sometimes it opens easily and you start with fresh, chips.

But sometimes you eat too many - too quickly and you're left with the crumbs. Other times you forget about the chips and they become stale. Many times you're looking for the right dip.

Then the dream became rather too capitalistic for me. It was surprising. I had negotiated a deal with Frito-Lay that I would be sponsored by Ruffles chips as long as they had exclusive rights to market and I would only use Ruffles brand in my lectures. I even went the Oprah route and everyone leaving the speaking engagement would get a bag of chips.

Of course, telling this all to my true friend and main relationship, brought guffaws of laughter. She even came up with all sorts of tie-ins to the catchphrases of chips. Relationships have Ridges - You Can't Eat Just One. Leave it to my wife to give it that extra amount of innuendo. 

I won't EVEN go into the greasy fingers. 

Perhaps I should go to bed earlier and get better sleep.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

All Hail.

Sometimes I amuse myself. A friend of mine wrote a "how are ya doing?" email this morning and I replied back with the following. He and I both are political science/history/urban planning nerds and make jokes about the future propensity of our progeny going on to win major Nobel awards or the like. Below is my rather pedestrian email updating our current life...until I was inspired by what to write about Ford. I giggled at myself for a good five minutes. I hope you like it as well.

Working at my new city is going great. Not much going on in the development review side of things…financing being what it is. But I’m keeping busy with working on a sign ordinance revision, gas well ordinance revision and attempting to figure out the Council’s direction in a masonry ordinance or to go all the way to architectural design standards.

In addition I’ve been working a bit on the consulting side, helping out a friend rewriting a Unified Development code and possibly will be working on a small town comprehensive plan for a suburb of Denton.

Meredith is doing well. She has three classes this semester including two sections of Business Law. I’m trying to get her interested in applying at the Junior College a bit closer to the house so she isn’t having to drive so much.

We’re working on getting Alexander into a private Kindergarten for next year as the local public school doesn’t offer full day Kindergarten yet, and the timing wouldn’t allow Meredith to teach during the day at all. There is an Episcopalian church school right behind the house…it may be our best option.

Alex is starting to really become interested in reading for himself. We work on letters and sounds during the day, but our reading at night is much more focused on story and comprehension. Currently, we’re finishing The Hobbit and have read A Wrinkle in Time and other fun fantasy works.

Ford has decided to screw the proletariat and set himself as dictator for life although he prefers the term “Great Leader.” With a support staff of Mickey as his Minister of Communication (propaganda) and Elmo as his Minister of Harmony (enforcer) he believes that in five short, but glorious, years the workers will enjoy nothing but bananas and freshly ground peanut butter in union with their brethren. Or else.

I didn’t get out to El Paso as my city is in austerity times with the travel budget. Although, Meredith and I are planning on going to Denver for the CNU conference in June and making it a working holiday.

Best Regards,


Monday, February 2, 2009

I have nothing to say...

Quick note. Still here. Lots going on. Meredith has been appointed to the Texas State Board on Midwifery. She just got back from a flying trip to Austin and back (crazily enough she took the guys) and had a great, if tiring time. I got myself appointed to be a parish delegate to the Diocese of Dallas convention in October and I'm still working on a gas well ordinance. 

I had a great time over at Justin's parent's house for his birthday and the Super Bowl. Fantastic broccoli and cheese soup. 

And been watching old British Sci-fi shows on my new half terabyte hard drive. Amazing. To think I was awed by having portable 1GB drives.

Friday, January 2, 2009

South Carolina Days Four, Five, Six and Seven

On Tuesday we left Saluda County and drove south to Beaufort South Carolina, my Father-in-Law's hometown. His sister hosts an annual oyster roast for the New Years celebrations. Much of his extended family come to the celebration. We came down a day early so that he could help in the setting up during the day.

We stayed "aboard" the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort. They have an on-base hotel with very nice rooms that had kitchenettes (so we could have toasted eggo french toast sticks for the kid's breakfast). We had adjoining rooms to Meredith's parents. The entrance to the air station has a motto: "The noise you hear is the sound of freedom." It also has several aircraft including a F15, and a F4 Phantom. Wednesday morning, we took the van to Hunting Island and toured the state park there. Alexander, Meredith and I went up the 167 steps up the Hunting Island Lighthouse and looked over the Atlantic Ocean. Afterwards we toured the other buildings on the site. Alexander was startled when a motion sensor on one of the buildings activated an automatic voice to a manniquin that started speaking about the lighthouse.

We then all went on the beach and beachcombed for a while finding all sorts of treasures to bring home.

We had lunch at the Shrimp Shack - Meredith and I both choosing a shrimp burger. Lovely.

We had a nice evening for new years, the kids played football in the yard, the adults huddled around a campfire in the back or in the garage with propane heaters. There are lots of stars in the skies above the Low Country with so much of the local area either rural or marsh delta.

Thursday we spent at Meredith's Aunt's house watching the South Carolina Gamecocks get beat in the Outback Bowl - then drove back to Saluda in the evening.

Today we went out shopping and tomorrow we'll go visit some cousins and Granddaddy Rentz as well. Since we'll be travelling on our wedding anniversary, Meredith and I might go out to an early dinner and a frosty beverage with her cousin Laura tomorrow evening.