Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Seems I forgot to mention that yesterday I went to a fashion show.

I offer this picture with its faded emulsions to illustrate my interest in fashion. That's me, the smallest one, in the plaid shirt and jeans. Notice that my mother and sister are in fashionable blouses from the early fifties.

I enjoyed the fashion show yesterday. I took a little more care than usual dressing. I wore a custom-made pants suit with a faint stripe made from super-100s tropical worsted wool and a cream on cream custom blouse. I wore chocolate and black Bally spectator shoes and a vintage alligator belt. The custom clothes were at least eight years old and the shoes had been refurbed many times. I'm not sure where the belt came from. It's possible FFP outgrew it and we let my mom wear it and I recovered it when I disposed of her clothing. Anyway, that is about as much fashion sense as I could muster. FFP wore a new sport coat, an expensive tie that he bought at a thrift store, pants that he bought at the outlet mall and some carefully-selected Italian shoes. He put a lot of thought into dressing. I just wore the cleanest, least ragged and most fashionable at some point daytime clothes I could muster.

The fashion show was put on by Neiman Marcus. They open their first Austin store in March. The show was on the 30th floor of the Frost Bank building in some unfinished space that had been transformed with fake walls, a rear projection screen, a carpet runway and a bunch of chairs painted silver with leopard seat pads. A lot of Austin's most fashionable were there and looking fashionable indeed. There weren't too many men but, of course, FFP didn't care. There were delightful bits of food being served by caterers. The show was fun with emphasis on trends that the NM fashion director sees for Spring. Flat shoes for women, cropped jackets, sequins in day wear. Flat shoes? I can do that! For men, he predicted an emphasis on driving shoes among other things which pleased FFP who recently scored a new and lovely pair. The show had a lot of interesting clothes. Not that you will see me in any of them. But I really enjoy fashion shows. There was even a wardrobe malfunction. I didn't see anything untoward but the model's startled look and her hand pulling up the strapless gown. Still, good drama.

I don't understand why the least fashionable among us enjoys a fashion show, but I do. Similarly when we are at fancy events I enjoy other peoples' clothes even as I have dressed just well enough not to embarrass myself.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Sunday night we went to a script reading. It was a pleasant Austin group gathered to listen to the script for Anne Rapp's "Double Wide." A group of actors did a great job of rendering it. On stage were the likes of Johnny Hardwick (one of his characers, the sheriff, sounded suspiciously like Dale Griblle) and Ray Benson. In the audience were folks like Bill Witliff and Bud Shrake and Janet Pierson. During the reception before the event FFP pointed out an attractive blonde, apparently alone. When he'd been in the drink line, he said, she was friendly so we went over to talk. She was an actress. Who had moved to Austin. She'd gotten a little work, too. But, of course, she waits tables. As actresses do.

The reading was fun. FFP introduced the actress to some of the movers and shakers.

This afternoon we called the restaurant where the actress works. I would link to her actress page but I don't know if actresses like to be associated with their restaurant jobs. Anyway, the restaurant is Bess. Bistro Bess. It's in the historic Stratford Arms building which was once a hotel. This restaurant has been associated with Sandra Bullock. This is not something that interests me. I'm a celebrity agnostic. No. We were going to dine at Bess because (1) the actress worked there (the unknown one we just met); and (2) it's a bistro and we don't have that many in Austin (mussels, pommes frites). However, they don't take reservations. For the record, I prefer places that take reservations.

We enjoyed the food well enough (although I'd give it fewer stars than Capitol Brasserie), we enjoyed talkng to the waitress, it turns out we knew the hostess and we were amused to see that Dale Rice had slipped into the restaurant undetected. (He's the food critic of the local paper, The Austin American-Statesman.) We didn't see any celebrities. Which is fine. Best even.

By the way, today we have an old picture of Chalow. Because Bess doesn't allow photos. Because of the paparazzi I guess. And old Chalow...she looks better than any pommes frite!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tastes Change

Last night I had dinner at the ultra trendy (for Austin) Uchi. People were stacked everywhere. Somehow our friends had secured a table.

I ate things like miso soup, edamame and a giant display of sashimi and accompaniments. I drank some fancy pants Sake.

I didn't take any pictures. But this one popped up in my chase through old photos this morning. Dart Bowl enchiladas. I think you could probably get these today if you went over there. I haven't tried in a while. In fact, the photo was taken before I bought my last desktop which was, I think, in 2003.

Can a photo give you heartburn? How do you feel after having about a pound of raw fish? These are today's questions.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Lots of Pink

First, I'm still sorting old photos in spare moments.

A little perspective on this one. The last job of my working life was at a company where I worked for over thirteen years. The last office I occupied was in a building that was newly built to be rented to our company's location in Austin. I chose a large but windowless office. I think we chose in seniority order and I had a lot of that.

The large size accommodated a lot of frivolity and collections and the blank walls made good places to park posters and prints that we didn't have room for at home any longer. A collection of flamingo stuff went on display. I have little of this stuff now. I saved a few things but mostly I gave it away. The neon light to a woman who worked there whose granddaugther wanted it to decorate her bedroom. A box full of the geegaws to the thrift store. When I left work I had to move home a ton of stuff and in an uncharacteristic fit of downsizing I did get rid of some of it.

While I worked there, however, I think people enjoyed the busy collection of pink flamingo stuff as well as various toys and globes and other things that decorated the place from time to time. I know it made me smile. Primarily I have photos to remember that. And that's good enough. And yeah it seems silly. Now that I'm all grown up and retired.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Letting Go

There are times when you have to let go of stuff. You even have to let go of your dreams of stuff.

Right now, in my closet, there is a pile of clothing that has to be thrown away. It's tough, but I've got to do it. Two cashmere sweaters with holes worn in the left elbow. A fine cotton custom-made shirt with the right cuff and collar frayed beyond that 'one more wearing.' It was a not quite but almost black material, a black basket weave pattern and oh so perfect for LB, traveling light, of the last few entries. Once expensive clothing but now worn and must go to the trash, not even the thrift store. I suppose the truly thrifty could add elbow patches to the sweaters, salvage the buttons or remake the shirt or make little cashmere sweaters for Barbie and Ken. I am not that person. I must throw them away. It's a little harder than the average ragged pair of underwear, though. Speaking of which, I have been known to take my ragged underthings out on a trip for 'one more wearing' and then toss them for the homeward trip, using the space in the suitcase for souvenirs.

The picture was stolen from ebay long ago. It's a detail from one of the best stamped tin toys ever, in my opinion, a cool Ferris Wheel. I once thought of being a toy collector. I didn't become one but I did collect a few things and a pile of books. I've let go of the books. Mentally anyway. They are stored at my dad's house to be taken to Colorado and donated to a toy and miniature musuem my sister is associated with.

But back to those cashmere sweaters. One was a present from FFP long ago and was an expensive one. The other I bought a long time ago, too. In a secondhand shop. For fifteen dollars. I'm sure I paid a hundred dollars for the custom shirt. But I've probably worn it a hundred times. I probably spent more than the hundred dollars on laundering it. Now I will often wear a shirt (blouse if you this case the tailoring was shirt-like but the buttons went the opposite way of the menswear I sometimes co-op it being custom made and all) multiple times. Especially on trips. This shirt probably had been to Europe, maybe Africa and maybe Australia. It was well-traveled.

I'll miss these things when I let them go. They are hard to replace exactly. Custom clothing seems too extravagant for someone who is retired and spend a lot of time in sweats. And I loved that one sweater because it was such a bargain.

But you have to do it. You have to let go.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Still Recycling Here

It's sort of interesting recycling stuff. Especially pictures on the computer.

This one was taken in New York in January 2002. These signs are at that weird angle, I believe, because when the World Trade Center fell the blast blew them around the pole. The careful observer will notice the decoration on the street signs.

Well there you go. I'd forgotten all about this picture. We (I went with a couple of girlfriends) were like all those tourists who went down to the area. Seeing things where there was nothing to see.

It was freezing cold that day and I had a cold. We finally found a place to get a cup of coffee and a snack a block or so away. How those guys were holding on in that little hole-in-the-wall joint across the street from places with a fine dust all over everything you could see in the windows I'll never know.

Well no drama today. A meeting discussing gates, playscapes, pool deck finishes and sidewalks. A small workout. (Exercise rule here: if you do something it's better than nothing.) Dad doing well. Picked up his own shirts at the laundry. I installed a 160 Gig Maxtor external USB drive on FFP's computer. And it worked perfectly and immediately. I only paid $69 bucks for it at Fry's, too. I remember when I got a computer that had two disk drives, each with a 1/2 gig. A gigabyte! On your desk. I thought that was ultimate computing. But I digress. As always. Ground zero should bring on thoughts of off-site backup. Yeah, I do some of that.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Eye on Myself

Last few posts have been a little self-indulgent, don't you think? With our heroine appearing without the scrim of shop window contents and reflections.

Well, here's more.

Have you ever seen the London Eye?

Well, in 2002 I had a business trip to England. I had to meet with customers in London and environs, give a speech at some conference there and take a day trip to Glascow to give a pitch. A fly in and fly out speech was my nightmare. No matter how I balanced the decongestants I arrived deaf. Add in the accents and I would have trouble understanding my customers' questions. Of course, they had to overcome my Texas accent to understand my answers! Anyway the fun started at something like 7AM, London time, on a Monday.

My mother was in the hospital, very ill. This trip to London was the only time during her almost hundred days in the hospital that I left. I'd agreed to the conference speech and I was only going to be gone a few days. I finally decided not to cancel. I told my assistant, though, to get me in on Saturday. I couldn't imagine arriving jet-lagged on Sunday, risking delay and then having to be conherent at 7 on Monday. I arrived in London about 11 in the morning on Saturday. I checked into the hotel and went to sleep. I kept intending to get up and find food and drink that wasn't in the mini bar. I kept sleeping and sleeping. I think I could have slept all day Sunday. But I didn't. I had to get in the time zone. About nine the following morning, twenty-two hours after I'd crashed in the room, I decided I had to stop sleeping. I guess I didn't know how weary I'd gotten working, going to the hospital. Anyway I got up, showered, put on my black jeans, hiking boots, black blazer (at least the shirt wasn't black!) and had some breakfast. I bought an Underground pass and went to London proper. (I was staying at the airport.)

One thing I did was ride the London Eye. Somehow I figured out that at a certain point they took a photo. (A camera was mounted on arms of the giant ferris wheel.) So I moved over to the right part of the car at the right moment. No one else seemed to be aware of this or maybe they thought it was silly. When I got off, I went to the kiosk and bought this photo.

Hand on backpack slung over one arm, that's my travel self. And no, I don't keep really valuable stuff in the backpack. Just stuff like bandaids and mints and reading material. Maybe a camera.

I look pretty relaxed here with my twenty hours of sleep, doing some touristy things to get moving and get in the right time zone frame of mind. I was feeling really strange and out-of-it though. I got this picture to show my mother. I hated leaving her and she had told me to bring some souvenirs for her. I did that, too. She enjoyed seeing the photo and the stuff I brought her. We then took her souvenirs home and she never saw them again. The other day at my dad's house I saw a dish towel that had garish graphics celebrating the Queen's Golden Jubilee. Must have been one of the things I brought her.

Monday, January 22, 2007

About Nothing

I decided to post something and I have no idea what it's going to be about. The picture was taken by one of my friends in 1999 on the Normandy beach. Near a memorial probably. We might have been awaiting an exercise of landing craft to commemorate the 55th anniversary of D-Day. In fact, the dots on the horizon are LSTs or something. So that's it.

It's cold and windy and I have on my trusty anorak (purchased in 1997 it has lost a bit of waterproofing and has been replaced but I still wear it sometimes). I'm carrying my backpack with whatever emergency supplies and provisions I deemed needed. I have a 'fresh for the trip' haircut as this is the beginning of the trip. Same trip mentioned in the previous entry where I showed an arrival picture. The anorak and backpack are key in my travel scenarios...just like the black blazer, the hiking boots, the black jeans.

I'm pensive I guess. (Both at the moment and over seven years ago in the picture.) Thinking about the sacrifices of our fathers' generation. My dad wasn't in Normandy on June 4, 1944 but my friend's dad was. And storming beaches wasn't the only type of sacrifice that generation made.

This morning I need to go shopping for my dad. And empty his dishwasher. The bending over doesn't play well at the moment. However, he drove himself to Sunday School and church yesterday. And to some friends' house for football watching and a meal. And he said he did his own laundry and hung everything up. "I'm getting better," he declared.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Traveling Light (Darkly)

I was fumbling through old pictures and found this one. It isn't too clear for two reasons: it was bigger (I cropped out my friend who was pointing at me and waving her camera) and it was probably scanned and manipulated poorly by me. In 1999

So almost eight years ago. It's June 1999.

I'm going on a trip with my friends that includes Normandy (the fifty-five anniversary of D-Day) and Paris and Berlin. A couple of my friends have been somewhere else (Switzerland, I think, or looking for chocolate factories in obscure parts of France). They are driving to Normandy and have kindly agreed to pick me up at Orly. Our great plan was that I would meet them at an airport hotel. Naturally my flight in was dead on time or early, I zoomed through customs and immigration and I was there hours before them. I got the shuttle to this hotel where I was not actually staying. I sat in the lobby and ordered strong espresso from one of those typical French waiters. I had to drag all my luggage with me (well, what you see is all of it) to use their public restrooms since I was alone. I waited and waited. I pondered the alternate plan. (That I would take a train to Paris and Bayeux and find them.) After what seemed like days (I'd been traveling a day by then) but was only a couple of hours, one of my friends stormed into the lobby with a big 35MM camera and started snapping pictures of me. Some people were staring like I was some celebrity they couldn't place. I was staring hard ahead at that point trying not to doze and look like a vagrant sleeping in this lobby. In the parking lot my other friend snapped a picture and later gave it to me. In the uncropped version, my friend is in a white T-Shirt and jeans and tennis shoes, waving that big camera.

Fuzzy or not, I like this picture because it shows me in traveling mode with everything I took on the trip either on my back or in my hands. Black jeans, gray waterproof hiking boots, a dark shirt, a black blazer. A small rolling suitcase and a day pack (which zipped onto the suitcase in a pinch allowing one to bust out straps on the bigger bag and put the whole mess on one's back). In the old days, I could have carried all this luggage on the plane. My trusty Swiss Army Knife would have been in the backpack in any case. It has a less than four-inch blade and was entirely acceptable for flying then.

Yep. I had everything I needed. Some dress shoes and dress pants. More servicable shirts. An anorak. A small camera. A few maps and books. The knife. Clean socks and underwear. A spare pair of eyeglasses and my prescription. Toothbrush and toiletries. I'm not sure how long I was on that trip. I'm thinking about ten days. I found a couple of notes about it in my online archive but nothing complete.

Notice though that I was traveling pretty light. One secret to that, obviously, is dark clothing that you can wear multiple times. My friends have so tired of my several black blazers. I still own the one in this picture. I occasionally actually wear it. I so need some new clothes. In dark colors.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

What I Learned From Tennis

Google Earth provides a view of the club I belong to (and the water treatment plant next door). In any case, you can see tennis courts. I've got to admit that whenever I see courts with their neat lines marking ins and outs I want to be out there batting the yellow balls around.

As I type this I'm watching James Blake play tennis. It is raining and in the 40's outside. (Which seems like nice weather after the big freeze.)

Tennis is the only sport I've ever really pursued with much spirit. As a small kid I played a little softball. I used to throw around baseballs and footballs. As a twenty and thirty something I played a little softball again. (I was terrible.) I got a little exercise pretending I could play racquetball for a while. Tennis, though. I got into it after college and have dabbled ever since. I'm not great but I can put the ball in play and keep up with duffers.

I've learned a lot from tennis.

I've learned why people like to play and watch sports. Everything is reduced to a few easily understandable rules. (Tie breakers excepted.) It's not like life where you can't get a clear enough view of things to sort everything out. On any given day with a sport you have winners and losers. It might be 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5) but it's a victory.

I've learned that some things are not in your control. The call belongs to the person whose side of the court the ball is on in a casual tennis game. You may control where you hit it, but there is also a certain psychology of fair play.

I've learned that you might not win the game, set or match. You might be confident you won't. But you might win a point. You might win the next one in fact. And the less likely your victory in the bigger segment of the event (game! set! match! championship!) the more it will irritate your opponent if you do get a point. The next point. So I concentrate on that next point. Which is not a bad way to go through your life.

And finally tennis taught me that I don't control the weather. When I ran a low-level USTA team years ago my mates always thought I could somehow divine whether we'd have a rainout. Well, no. The weather does what it wants. There you go.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Consumer Loyalty

Today's picture is from 2003. It is a photo of 'house fluff.' That combo of small plastic things, ticket stubs, odd coins, useless keys and little parts of the natural (shell?) and unnatural (fuse?) worlds. A lot of our possessions are this mostly useless fluff, I sometimes think. What do you do with this stuff? That's one of the dilemmas of downsizing.

But today's title is 'consumer loyalty?' I cranked up Blogger today to do a piece on my woes with computer stuff and loyalty to companies that make it. I'm still cleaning out pictures and I just decided to add this one. But a lot of house fluff is made up of old gadgets and plastic parts from them.

When I fired up Blogger to talk about consumer loyalty? That's when my loyalty to Blogger was tested! I uploaded the picture and then hit upload picture again to check to date on the picture. I got several errors from Blogger when I tried that and then I tried to 'save as draft' and got an error. So...I started the post over. When I did that and tried to upload the picture locked up my computer. Permanently apparently. I waited while I made a big commuter cup of coffee on my Capresso Jura Impressa E8. In spite of weird problems over the years with my CA2000 from them and the fact that this one has a weird quirk or two and the cleaning supplies and filters are expensive, I love this machine. And I'm loyal to this company. This new one communicates, too. "Change Filter" it says. Or "Press Rinse." Or "Empty Grounds." Or "Drawer Missing." Or "Add Coffee." Or "Add Water." Or "Clean Machine." It speaks to me. (OK, it's an LED.) In English. (In spite of being a Swiss product, no German or French or Italian.) Anyway, back from the coffee machine and my Sony computer was still locked up. (Their TVs used to be great, didn't they? I have one in the kitchen that we bought twenty-nine years ago. Seriously. It has never even been repaired.)

But I digress. After cycling power on my Sony, Blogger was behaving. Which it mostly does. It is a good way to be online, I think. I'm loyal to Blogger (now Google). And the price is right. Free.

I really popped open to post to talk about my three new pieces of computer gear...and some older computer things that have been giving me pleasure...or making me upset.

I bought a new laptop. My old one was a refurbished Dell I bought at Mr. Notebook three-and-a-half years ago. It had developed a habit of refusing to switch on. When it did everything was fine except for a one or two pixel drop out in the video and the fact that I used a card for wireless that didn't seem to stay seated well in the PCMCIA slot. I really only need a laptop for (1) backup when my Sony desktop is misbehaving; or (2) trips. Although I'd always thought it would be nice to use it wirelessly in the bedroom. But that never worked well with an old wireless access point (and that flakey wireless card) I tried at one time. So I ordered a new HP laptop, custom-configured through

I bought a new router with a wireless antenna. I bought this some weeks ago. At Costco so it was shielded in impenetrable plastic. I hate that by the way. But I digress. The reason I bought the new router was that the Linksys router I was using kept giving me trouble. When I couldn't get it to work, I dug around in my drawer and found an old router with only one LAN port. I found a hub, too, and used the two to hook up to my Sony and another hub for the rest of the house. It worked a while and I didn't mess with it. But I thought "maybe I should buy another router, with wireless built in and maybe I could go that route again." So I bought one that was packaged with a USB antenna. Which I thought I could use on the laptop. I never installed this stuff. Then, of course, the laptop failed. The one I bought has a wireless antenna built-in, of course. This new router is Netgear. I'd been pretty loyal to Linksys, but what the heck. My current kludge with the ancient Linksys gear started failing Wednesday although it worked after a boot to the head.

I bought a Western Digital 160MG Passport Drive. This was after getting these first two pieces of equipment working very well. I didn't do it myself. No. Wednesday, the last day of our confinement to avoid ice, FedEx delivered the computer. (We didn't get any actual mail that day. Post Office Loyalty? Right?) Anyway, my computer guru came over, braving ice and snow (not really, streets clear between our locations) and he got the laptop going and he hooked up the router and made it work with everyone wired and the laptop wireless. (The old laptop, by the way, decided to briefly switch on due to the competition from the new, shiny HP.) Where was I? Oh, yes, everything working and, in fact, FFP claiming his Internet access was faster in spite of two hubs between him and the router (well, it was three before so maybe).

And then I bought the Passport Drive. The limited installation instructions (though in many languages) said plug it in and it will install itself. It seemed to do this. It downloaded some new software and some software asked me to set up how I wanted to use a Sync program. I really kind of wanted to just use it as a USB drive. I've had a 120MG, AC-powered, USB drive I've used happily for a long time. (SimpleTech is the brand). Then I ejected the Passport and brought it up again. Nothing seemed to work. The instructions said to launch an .exe. There were actually two on the drive (one it just downloaded). Both failed to launch. You couldn't copy things to it. It said it couldn't find the sector. I tried it on the Sony. Same weird behavior. And on both machines, when I tried to 'safely eject it' it refused for a long time. Now, these portable drives and external drives are something you need to trust. I think I'm returning this. After looking at Western Digital's WEB site I think I may reconsider buying their MyBook product. Costco has this, too. And there are complaints about it losing data. Well, I think I'm returning this one.

Two out of three in getting new computer stuff to work? That's not bad. Too bad I didn't have the Passport here when the computer guru was here. At least he would have commiserated with me. Which is one reason I hire him.

We all so want to buy (or use for free!) products we love and trust. My feelings for Sony are mixed...this computer hasn't been the best I've had, but a TV that lasts almost three decades? Geez. My feelings for Western Digital are at a low at the moment. I'm appreciating that SimpleTech drive that works so well. HP? Well, I've recently purchased a small laser printer, an all-in-one inkjet and this laptop. Pretty happy with those, so far. Linksys? Netgear? Jury's out but both kind of work. Netgear WEB interface sucked, though, my guru and I agreed.

Dell? Well, that old refurbed notebook worked for a while. And it never burned up or anything. We have two Dell computers running in the house at the moment. One has never really failed and survived a memory upgrade and upgrade to XP. It's old and slow but it was purchased in 2000, I think, so there you go. The other one is of 2001 vintage. The hard drive failed. The guru put in a new, giant one and we recovered all the data from backups and reinstalled everything and that was a pain. And the monitor we bought with it failed. FFP is happily using this machine, though, with a 19inch flat panel. Don't know the manufacturer but it works fine. Truthfully, I won't be buying Dell anymore. My bookkeeper who died last year bought a laptop and had to eventually buy another laptop from a local store because it never worked. You can't just return their crap apparently. She changed the logo on the machine she used here with a post-it...changing the 'D' to 'H'. She owed money on the laptop that never worked when she died. I understand they forgave the debt. Nice of them? Well it was a couple of hundred dollars. In itself too much to pay for nothing. And she'd paid a bunch on it, I guess. I was moved to buy the HP online from Costco because they said they would take it back at the store. And the interface to customize was easy to use. I've not been happy with Dell in this regard. No, I won't be buying from Dell. But you should. Because they are a big part of the local Austin economy and I have some stock.

Why, you might ask (if you are the type of reader still around after a boring recitation of comptuer joys and woes), would I buy a computer now when XP comes installed instead of the new Vista? Well, friends I don't want Vista. Not for at least six months. Maybe a lot longer. Not that I love XP. But I know enough not to love something new from Microsoft. Although for all you Mac users who claim nothing ever goes wrong...I read blogs from people who have Mac failures. So, yeah, nothing's perfect. My new HP has 'Windows Vista Capable' sticker. And some kind of limited offer for an upgrade. But, no, I won't do it. I hope to use XP on it until it dies. Unless it lives a very long time.

Now, of course, from the downsizing point of view, there is the question of what to do with the old laptop that boots sometimes.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Running Out of Excuses

Today I had a noon meeting. At my club. Which is closed. So I had to cancel that. I had a social occasion tonight. But it's been moved to tomorrow night.

To avoid cleaning my office or cleaning up anything else (the maid didn't make her usual visit yesterday due to weather no doubt) I have sorted through all my finances online. I have a few other things I could do on the computer to displace but I guess I'll just have to clean up 'stuff.'

I'm crawling back through old pictures as part of cleaning up. No doubt this is a thrift store offering of an old typewriter. I once thought I might collect typewriters. Yikes!

When I travel (lightly) I always take a plastic folder to hold itineraries, confirmations, maps. For a complex trip especially involving driving I may have a notebook with transparent inserts to organize some of this. As I'm cleaning out today I see that some of this stuff lands in other places when I reuse the plastic folders and notebooks. And my question this a good idea? Shoud I have folders for the likes of Denver and San Francisco and boxes for Paris and France and New York and store guide books, printouts, clippings in these? Seems like a good idea. If I can then keep up with these folders and boxes. And if I occasionally sort through them and eliminate some stuff.

Sort of in the middle of all that I discovered a problem with my Internet connection. I talked to my guru on the phone, got it working myself by giving the right equipment a boot to the head and then FedEX delivered my new laptop so I had my guru come over and help me install it and and install a new router with a wireless connection. And I guess I'll ponder getting things sorted another day.


The mayor and TxDot and the city workers said we were 'prepared for the worst.' If fact, not even.

I can't believe it. The mail didn't get delivered yesterday. "Neither rain nor snow nor dark of night?" The papers did get delivered yesterday (except no Wall Street Journal) but today no papers.

It is teetering on thaw. Right at 31 degrees according to the TV. The street in front of my house looks fine. The ecocrete in the driveway in the picture lets air as well as water through to the lower level I guess and looks frozen. The icicles are icicle lights living up to their name. But just a few more degrees. And it will all be forgotten with only a few damaged plants and tree limbs and some runoff.

Apparently we 'ran out' of sanding material so they closed some flyovers and such. And the airport was supposed to "get some de-icer from Houston" but it didn't arrive. Lots of cancelled flights.

We officially can't deal. I've finished all the newspapers we actually received, finished my book. I even started shredding stuff and cleaning my office. OK, I didn't get too far with that. But it's something. I've been going through old clippings that are five or more years old and shredding receipts from the same era. Maybe it will thaw this afternoon. But until then...time to really get busy with the organizing and downsizing and such. Or maybe just get another cup of coffee and read?

I can't wait for the club to open and let me get to the gym. I've even resorted to doing sit-ups and stretches around the house. I'd take a walk but, oh well.

Fortunately the power has stayed on at our house and, more importantly, those of the parental units. And no one has run out of food.

Wonder what would happen if we had some really bad weather for a really long time? OK...warm up already. I'm doing something useful in the interim. Really. Because who needs grocery receipts from 2002?

Monday, January 15, 2007

We Interrupt This Program

Thought I'd give you an old shop window picture with some gray clouds and a familiar head.

The very hint of winter weather sends Austin into a tizzy with the local weather prognosticators leading the way with a combination of seriousness and barely concealed glee.

So, mind you, it looks perfectly safe outside now at my house. The temperature is above freezing. It isn't cold enough to freeze the rain here. But as you drift out of the area, it might be a bit dangerous and they found ice to show on TV. And the police decided to close a flyover near here for some reason.

I know perfectly well how dangerous it can be to drive on pure ice. I tried to get home from work a bit early in 2001 when some freezing precip was predicted. Suddenly I saw the rain freezing on the road in front of me. I steered toward an exit from the elevated road but traffic was backed up. I steered (well, OK, slipped) into the concrete barrier, one of those where the bottom is fatter and you can lay your tire on them without bashing the car and get a grip. Unfortunately someone came along behind me going way too fast and crashed into my rear end hard enough to 'crumple' the car behind the passenger cage. So I've seen the dangers that ice can bring to us here.

I have no reason to get out of the house either. A dinner party we were supposed to have tonight (in a perilous hilly area west of here) was cancelled by the organizers yesterday so they could avoid starting to prepare expensive food that might go to waste. My country club closed so the staff didn't have to make their way to and fro. It was a holiday already for schools, Feds, etc.

Still I'm shaking my head and feeling a little cabin fever. So we'll be staying here, staying warm and, oh yeah, maybe doing something useful. But right now I think I'll get a cup of coffee and work the Monday New York Times crossword.

All you readers in areas with actual winter can stop laughing now.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Traveling Light

I'm fond of shop window photos like this one because they are complex. There is stuff on display, stuff reflected and, in this case, the chaos of a plant on the outside. Interesting things are complex.

That's why it's hard to travel lightly through the world. One can't simply eliminate complexity. That would be dull. Like having all wine taste like grape juice and all food like Cheetos. Rather, one must pick and choose the best and be willing to discard, recycle, reconsider.

I bring this up for a couple of reasons. One, I've thought of writing a non-fiction book called "Traveling Light: Reducing the Weight of Your Luggage and Your Worldly Concerns." For the readers who have been with me for a long time that probably seems hilarious. I have documented in words and pictures my struggle against mess. And it is not like I'm typing this from a neat, clean office where victory has been declared. I am a pretty light packer, though, when I actually travel and I'm learning to downsize I hope. And I think that packing light is a good metaphor for the complications of one's life and dealing with them. And I think I've come to terms in my life with my relationship with things.

Also, I've been reviewing those recycled resolutions and the next one up is this: "take Bridge lessons and learn more about Bridge." Four years ago I hadn't been retired that long and I hoped that I could find time to play what I think is a fascinating game. When I worked I went through a period of time when my colleagues and I tried to play Bridge at lunch. As I have done so often in my life, I decided that the best way to embrace this new pastime was to buy a lot of books about Bridge. Books about bidding systems, the play of the hand and such. In the process I discovered a niche category of books that seemed fun to collect: Bridge literature. Really these books were just analyses of interesting hands but they incorporated a bit of character and story to make it more interesting. Besides passing the time when a bunch of my nerd buddies needed a small break but didn't feel like going out to lunch, this dabbling with Bridge resulted in a two-foot tall stack of books, mostly unread. And while I never learned a bit more about Bridge, took lessons or started playing I met a lot of people who did play and realized that I probably never would take it up. So...I found a gal who was glad to have the books. Who played and liked to read about it. And I gave her the books. It's a small thing, yes. But I realized that if I ever started playing, I could get more books. My friend even asserted that she would loan them back in this case. (Although in my guide to traveling light I would never recommend you count on getting anything back that you loan or give away.)

It is quite true that much of the weight I carry through life is in the form of bound paper. I am trying to prune and sift my library, though, and I'm cataloging the ones I (currently) indend to keep. I have even started putting this data online at LibraryThing. I haven't gotten to the limit for free cataloging yet (200 books). And when I travel? Yeah. I always take too many books. And when I get to another city, even in a foreign country, I manage to find more books to buy. My spouse is no help in this matter. He is worse. Plus he reads faster and it takes more books to satisfy him. My advice for you, when you travel, is to take magazines and newspapers you can discard or a small, light book that is intense and engaging.

So travel light today folks.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sometimes Things Go Better Than You Hoped

I'm sure it wasn't a great day for everyone. But I got to play tennis. People were late arriving because there was a big fire. Apparently a giant house under construction burned. It was south of the club and I live a bit north and east. But ash from the fire fell on the tennis court here and there. And it was at least a mile away, the fire. Big fire. Someone said it damaged the house next door, which didn't burn but got so hot it was damaged.

But I got to play tennis. Because my dad felt better than I dreamed he would today. I thought I'd have to cancel tennis. But he was happy to wait a while for the delivery of some supplies and for me to do a few things like fold and hang up clothes. Which he'd put through the washer and dryer himself. That's what I'm talking about!

And the sweet doctor who has saved us from the emergency room by having Saturday hours and squeezing in patients with no appointments had called my dad to see if he was OK.

So this one day, yeah, things are going better than I had any right for them to go.

Besides I love this photo. I'm easily amused.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


My not so fit legs in my comfort-fit jeans (Men's 560 34x30 if you must know) reflected in a shop window. We hear so much about it. Exericise. And diet. The cure for so many things. But. Still. When we talk about health care we are talking about drugs and hospitals and such.

In my recycled resolutions (made four years ago in this entry) I said I should "continue my workouts and start playing tennis and maybe racquetball."

I'm in a bit of a rut with my workouts, I guess. But I probably have continued pretty well. Tennis doesn't do much for the fitness as played by me, but I enjoy it. And racquetball? Forget it? No one to play with and no desire to play. I spend too much time on the recumbent bike. Which is to say I need to also spend minutes on the rowing machine or treadmill or stair climber. And I need to get a trainer to jump start my weight work. And, you know, do more ab work. Always more ab work. I no longer really feel like I've done much when I workout although I am probably usually doing more than I was when those resolutions were written. And I weigh fifteen pounds less. But no, so far little progress on the lose five pounds front. Think cheese. On nachos. With fatty chips. And more cheese. An avocado Reuben. And last night, to celebrate a day in which I didn't have to take any decongestants (for our local scourge of cedar fever) I had two cocktails.

I'm really going to exercise in better ways. Honest. Just as soon as I can be at the gym without worrying that I should be taking care of something else. Which is never I guess. But I have to be glad that I have, indeed, continued my workouts at all. I know occasionally when I'm doing things around the house or have to climb some stairs that I feel much more fit than I did back when I made that resolution. That's something. But, since I'm still fretting about my health, not clearly enough. This is one of those things you never acomplish. You just wake up the next day and face the need again.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Save Money

One of my old, recycled resolutions was to "Pay more attention to investments and our budget. Save money." It seems that I spend hours on the stuff. Whether it results in money saved I'm not so sure. This time of year with taxes looming and with the forms we have to fill out for our business it seems that I don't pay attention to much else.

One good way to save money, however, is to just take pictures of shops and shop windows instead of actually shopping. We were actually visiting our CPA the other day when I stopped off at Uncommon Objects and shot this one. A friend was inside admiring Victorian hair weavings. I don't think I would have realized these folk-art-type things were hair. I didn't buy one.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Only Partly There

Do you ever feel like you aren't really present in your own life? Yeah, I get that way sometimes.

As I sift through my old, recycled New Year's resolutions I have come to this one: "travel and when I do take the time to prepare by reading books." Travel really makes you feel outside yourself I think.

We are planning a trip in a couple of months. To Santa Fe and Scottsdale. A road trip to celebrate a new car and XM radio. And to visit some people in those two places. I've not read any books about either place. Really we are just planning to visit our friends and see whatever on the road.

Of course, the way our responsibilities around here are going, we have had to start planning to get someone else to take care of our 'duties.' It's bad to be retired and yet feel tied down. But that's the way it is.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Blogging at Random

I have truly abandoned all structure now. It's not once a day. It's randomly accompanied with pictures. It's what I see other people doing. Monkey See, Monkey Do. Which is also the name of the shop shown here.

The other person is a stranger wondering what I am doing. Making a monkey out of her as it turns out?

Want To Drink More Water

A worthy goal, that one. Within reason, of course. Here's a surefire way to do it: drink alcohol the night before and then work up a sweat on the recumbent bike for an hour. I had that five gallon water bottle at the club gurgling to fill up my little cone-shaped cup over and over. Probably not the best prescription for getting myself to drink more water, though.

So...Where Have I Been?

Well, I don't know. I missed a day. Probably fallout from writing about not writing anything but the journal or maybe it was just fatigue from putting away Christmas or worrying about my dad's health or the dog's.

I piled all the Christmas decor on the dining room table before putting it away in boxes.

I'm feeling pretty good about it all this morning. Why? Because my dad said he was going to try to walk to the bottom of the driveway and get his own paper and wasn't whining for me to come over there and (1) help him get well; or (2) clean something up or do an errand that he didn't feel like. I don't mind doing for him. But it breaks my heart when he needs it.

So Christmas is put away and really, even between spending time on Dad and such I've gotten some things checked off my checklist. I handed some business stuff over to the CPA, did the 941, wrestled some of our financial stuff into line. The problem with these things is that they just need to be done again and again, day after day, year after year. But I made some progress in cleaning up my office. It would be hard for anyone to tell this, however. I know, though. I have a swath of clean work area. Although this is partly because I have given up resurrecting the dead laptop which sat there and the new one hasn't arrived.

And what about those resolutions? The ones I'm recycling from a couple of years ago? Well, next on the list is 'Find an Appropriate Volunteer Activity.' Right now I'd say 'driving seniors to appointments and doing errands for them.' Only they are our parental units. But still. I do it, I have the time for it and I think I do it well. Whatever.

It's time to use my 'free time' since my dad is feeling pretty independent this morning by getting some exercise. My old resolutions weren't too specific about the exercise thing. I probably need to set some real concrete goals about aerobic exercise and weight-lifting. But first one has to go to the gym. So yeah.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Write More!

Yeah, logging in at number four on my resurrected resolutions is

Write! Not just this journal. All the short stories I've outlined. All the essays. Start on the novels and non-fiction books.

Every day I do other things instead of writing. Except the blog and my private journals and scribbling. I fret over my dad and his medicine, entertainment, shopping. I exercise while reading The Science Times in The New York Times like I did yesterday. (It comes out on Tuesday, but I'm usually a day behind.) There is an article about how medical tests are making us sick. I ride the bike and read this and think about incorporating hospital and doctor stuff into a novel. What I don't do is write the novel.

No, I do things like try to make the TxTag system yield up a solution to the fact that I got a tag for a car, never installed it and then sold the car. I do things like balancing a monthly statement for this account or that. Like figuring out how to get a logon for our business from the Feds so I can maybe figure out how to use their (free!) service to create a W-2. I do accounting for bank deposits and discover once again that whatever FFP writes on the bottom line of the deposit, whether the checks add up to that or not, is what gets credited. How they make this OK in the banking system is anyone's guess, isn't it? Does this mean I am trying to balance things to the penny (because OK, it's only fifty cents), but the bank just stuffs it in a slush entry?

No, I don't write my treatise on traveling light (in actual travel and through this life). Instead, I ponder what to do with the junk in front of my computer monitor: a business card for a California film maker specializing in surf films, a business card for a gal running a gift shop on Congress, a scrap of paper with info about getting my dad's phone bill lowered, a scrap of paper with my friend's temporary address while getting cancer treatment, a scrap of paper with a phone number I already have programmed into my phone in two different entries, a notepad with notes about a documentary film I thought of making before I decided I wasn't going to be a film maker.

Sure, I know how I spend my time. And I know that I do write. Or type. But only, it seems, in the form of a journal. Well, it worked for Anais Nin. But that was, you know, different. I read thein The New York Times Magazine the other day about Rupert Pole dying last year . He was married to Anais. Only she was married to someone else at the same time. Which was two marriages more than I knew she had. (Neither to Henry Miller.) Anyway, suffice to say, Anais could make a writing gig of her own life. I'm going to need something more. My little family, shown in today's picture, has a good deal less drama.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Eat More Healthy Food!

Working my way down the resurrected resolutions I find another of those pesty "this never ends" type of resolution. Lose five pounds? Sure watch the scale, celebrate victory. But eat more healthy food? You get up every day and it's all over again with the fruit, the salad, the rich in Omega-something fish.

Well, I'm sitting here eating a Clementine. (I love sweet, easy-to-peel, no seed Citrus because I'm lazy but these gems seem only to be around and at their best in the winter.) I had a smoothie made from bananas that were getting a bit ripe, no fat yogurt and a drop or two of honey (local) and vanilla (not local). I had salad with carrots, green onions and raisins on the top. Slathered with Eastside Feta dressing, but still. Salmon and steamed squash medley may be dinner. (If FFP cooks and doesn't get a sudden notion for eating dinner in the bar at Fonda San Miguel restaurant around the corner as he did last night.)

It's a long slog to eat in a more healthy manner. A lot of choices, over a long time. So many things are like that.

Yeah, it's a long road with potholes full of alcoholic beverages, hamburgers, fries, barbecue and huge portions of cheese. I left the grated cheese off my salad a few minutes ago. But only because I forgot. I'm not that good. Fact is...cheese is fundamental for me. My bones may be stronger because of it or I may have high cholesterol because of it, but cheese is essential to my psyche.

I was reading the Science Times from yesterday's The New York Times (it's a regular feature on Tuesday). I was reading it today on the exercise bicycle (yes, I exercised) and there was an article about free will and how maybe we don't really exactly have it. Which means, of course, that whether I lose five pounds, drink more water, eat healthier foods, etc. is perhaps predetermined. My destiny is cheese. It's in my DNA.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

More on Resolutions

It's funny about this whole resolution and self-evaluation thing: the old resolutions I dredged up will do just fine! That's sad! Although some things you do and just have to keep doing. Those are the hard ones.

My reflection in this shop window in our neighborhood is a suitable shot for this introspective mood. In fact, this shot would (with the addition of a little text) make a swell splash page for a real journal where I maintained everything and didn't lean on this swell blogging tool. Whatever.

Last time I mentioned that I'm recycling that 'lose five pounds' resolution. If I succeed I will weigh 158 or so. I didn't gain a lot over the holidays. That's good. FFP did gain, but he has already shed it, I think.

The next one on the list is 'drink more water.' I'm sitting here drinking V8. I don't drink enough water. I don't. Especially in the winter. I need to keep a bottle with me while I'm watching TV or something. This resolution is one that never gets old. You just have to keep it up.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Blog a Day?

I blogged every day during Holidailies. Which proves and solves nothing I suppose.

I had a random thought at some point (probably while driving back and forth to my dad's which I've been doing a lot) that I should use the blog to both encourage me to organize and to record it. I've thought of this before, of course. I also said a few days ago that I was going to make and examine resolutions here in public. And back in July I said you were going to get to follow along while I cleaned up. Yeah, not going well.

I just looked at that old resolution list and it made me tired. Perhaps because I'd had all these cups of coffee (and no water), eaten mostly wrong foods and spend a couple of hours taking my dad to the doctor instead of exercising. Otherwise everything is going fine. Really.

I'm going to finish up the December budget for the family and organize my spreadsheets I use for the budget for the new month and year. That will give me a sense of getting something done.

And I did that, too. And more. But I always focus on what is not done yet. That's how I'm built. Most other people, too. I did make an appointment to get my car some maintenance and a new inspection sticker. And I started trying to tame the mess on my desk area. That's going slowly, however, because I decided that if I typed up hand-written notes in old notebooks then I could discard them. Time-consuming, but it would eliminate ever having to go through the notebooks again.

Today's picture? Some colorful houses in our neighborhood. We took a walk on New Year's Day and I snapped some new pictures. So now I have more digital images to organize. So it goes.

Monday, January 01, 2007

I Already Feel Behind

I always feel this way on New Year's Day. It's a holiday. What kind of a way is that to start a productive year?

Oh, it's not like I couldn't start on my resolutions. And it's not like I have a hangover. The bottles shown are the result of me starting (one more time) to look through photos on my computer with the idea of doing a purge and winnowing. I didn't consume any of these last night. They were actually consumed (by me and five friends) in the summer of 2000.

I did have two Manhattans, expertly mixed by my husband, to accompany a dinner of sushi (bought already made at Central Market), talipia, steamed vegetables and fruit and cheese for dessert. Yes, we stayed in. And while I don't have two drinks every night it's hardly an overindulgence in my book for a evening spent reading and watching TV coverage large groups of people gathering to mark a clock tick. No, there is no reason I shouldn't have been up, bright and early, accomplishing things. I wasn't, though. My dad called at 8:30 while I was making the bed. He wondered why I hadn't already made my welfare call of the morning.

So, here I am, a couple of cups of coffee and an hour later, some things taken care of on the computer, ready to start my New Year by picking up a few things for my dad and going over there to see what I can do. I have a long list scribbled on a pad in front of my computer of things that need accomplishing...for the year end, month end and just general needs. And I'm already behind.