Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

So I Have This New Job, See...

...and for the first time ever, I am Management.

This is deucedly weird.  I have been one of the rank and file for so long that I thought the rank never ended and the file expanded indefinitely.  But no, I am really Management. I have an office, though not a secretary, and I am in charge of some stuff. In short, I am more responsible for making sure other people get stuff done than I am for getting things done myself, though there are still things I am supposed to get done.  That is probably the best definition of Management there is.

So how does one Manage Things, you are no doubt wondering.  Well, so far, it's pretty mundane; I answer email. People send me email, I look up the answer and answer it.  And people, I get a crapton of email.  I mean about two hundred a day.  And true, a lot of them are reminders or things that don't apply to me, but a lot of them are actual things I have to do.  It's like trying to keep up with falling snow.

(Just incidentally, one of the email accounts I'm monitoring is actually my boss's. And that man gets more solicitation email than anyone I've ever known.  But almost all of it is from the good guys.  I won't say who the good guys are, exactly, but if you know which way I lean on the great political wheel, you can probably guess some of their names.)

Besides email, I'm also chasing folks around and getting things, documents and information to give to other people.  That's not so different than what I was doing before, but instead of writing up the documents myself, other people are writing them for me.  I'm kind of the litigation border collie, I guess you could say.

One thing I am in charge of, though, is travel.  When my boss goes somewhere, I make sure he has a way to get there, a place to stay at the other end and a way to get around. Well, that doesn't sound so hard,nyou are probably  thinking. How many places can one guy go in a single month? Uh, try the Virgin Islands, Mississippi, Colorado,  Thailand and Japan. Thats the first month.  Then the next month is Sweden, Washington and Florida.  Then--well, you get the idea.

But let me tell you; I'd MUCH rather arrange somebody else's travel than hop on a plane myself.  Travel, for me, is a logistical nightmare. Part of it is the sheer mental energy that it takes to get oneself to an airport and through the TSA lines and find the right gate and the right seat and so on. That's hard on a normal person,  let alone someone like me or (horror of horrors) a single mom with three under 3. Then there's the sleep problems that come with crossing time zones and having to figure out what medication to take when because it's really three in the morning, not six in the afternoon like everyone else seems to think. Top it all off with being too fat to fit in a single airplane seat and I'm serious, just forget the whole thing.  I'll just stay in Texas for the rest of my life.  Honestly, I can't do it without an Ativan.  Some days I can barely do it with an Ativan.

In case you did not know this, airline seats are getting smaller all the time.  In the 1990s, the average coach class seat was about 19 inches wide with a pitch of 35 inches (that's the distance from the back of one seat to the back of the next seat). As of 2016, the average coach class seat is now 17 inches wide with a pitch of 31 inches. In fact, some of the discount airlines like Spirit and Jet Blue have pitches of only 28 inches, barely enough room for an average-sized person's calves. Forget it if you are tall, or fat.  You can either pay for a roomier seat or you can just not fly.

My solution, and it is not a great one, is to fly only Southwest and buy 2 seats. Most airlines, including Southwest, will require me to buy two seats anyway.  If you fly Southwest and buy the two seats in advance, rather than be pulled out of line and forced to buy a second seat in front of two hundred other people, they treat you like any other disabled person and they're usually very nice. They let you preboard, for one thing. They also refund you for the second seat if the flight happens not to be full. The main problem I run into on Southwest flights is shooing people away from my second seat when they're trying to find two seats together. Nobody wants to sit next to the fat lady, until the prospect of being separated for two hours from one's beloved/child/parent/friend becomes too much to bear.

Now, I've been lucky so far. I've always been able to keep my second seat empty and nobody's complained about me or told the flight attendants that I kept repeating "Allahu akbar" or something in an attempt to get me thrown off the plane (yes, people do this).  I've never been asked how much I weigh or kicked off a flight to make more space for skinny people. But I know that happens, most often to women (fat men are less expendable; they must have Somewhere Important to Go, whereas fat women are just frivolously jetting off someplace and who cares about them anyway).

Here's the thing, though. As  airline seats continue to get smaller, this too-fat-to-fit-in-one-seat thing is going to affect more and more people. The average American is not getting any smaller. The average airline seat is. The more seats they can cram onto the plane, the more money the airline makes.

This might be something to address with your Congresscritter, because Congress ultimately tells the FAA what to do and the FAA regulates the airlines. You might also check out Flyers Rights, www.flyersrights,org, a grassroots organization that advocates for the safety and comfort of airline passengers. But in the meantime, be nice if you end up sitting next to a fat person on an airplane, folks. Trust me, she doesn't want to be there any more than you do.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

State of the Blog Report

Y'all, I'm sorry.  I've let the ridiculousness of my life take over and suck up all the time needed for blog posts.  Well, that's part of the story.  The other part is that I'm in the middle of, or hopefully toward the end of, a low period, where extra energy for stuff like blogging simply eludes me. I've also been cranky, mopey and hard to live with.  But, I made it through Christmas, I have four days off after Friday and then the first week of January I start a new job.  Because definitely what you should do in the middle of a low period is go out and find another job. I mean, that only makes sense, right?

Well, sometimes the timing of stuff is not perfect.  Sometimes people call you based on a resume you sent to them like six months ago and tell you they need to hire you immediately, even when it's practically Christmas and nobody, and I mean nobody, is hiring right now.  And sometimes your current job is part of what's making you mopey.  Let's face it, an intermittent lack of electricity, a chronic shortage of copy paper and a heater that can't seem to make it through two weeks without stopping for repairs has a way of getting people down.  I can't tell you where I work now and I can't tell you where I'm going to work then, but I can tell you that the new place has a steady supply of electricity, copy paper and heat.  As an employee, I'm really not that hard to please.  Supply those three essentials and don't sexually harass me and we're good.  Helps if you don't text me on Sunday afternoons with inane questions, too, but I can be flexible on that point.

I will blog more next year.  I think every other Thursday would be a good schedule so we're going to try that out and see what happens.  It's not that there's been a shortage of bloggable substance (that guy who calls himself President, Roy Moore, Joe Arpaio, Vanity Fair, Star Wars, the Russians, discrimination against Muslims, discrimination against black folks, discrimination against basically anybody who isn't white and male and Christian).  Really, it's been a heck of a year.  I'm hoping that years from now, in like 2024 just before Ms. Clinton starts her second term, the whole 2016-2020 period will be like a bad dream and we'll have universal health coverage and carbon emissions will be way down and the deficit will be back under control and Merrick Garland will finally be on the Supreme Court. 

In the meantime, as the year winds down and the entire state of Texas closes until January 2, let it be known that I'm still here, plodding along.  Still swimming.  Still going to OA meetings and hanging out with my meditation group (though I skipped last night; it was 36 degrees, and once I got Joan home after work I was in for the night.  You know how it goes).  Joan's good too.  Still cranking out the social media for the big library downtown.  Still cross-stitching.  Still scooting around with her Rollator.  The house is still standing, the cats are fine and we need a new mattress. 

 In closing here's a picture of me with Artemis the Cat.  Yes, I know my hair's too long.  I got it chopped off shortly after this photo was taken. 


Monday, October 2, 2017

What Happened In Vegas

Well, I had a really good blog post all set to go here, with lots of links and subreferences and even a few nice photos, but now I can't run it because after yesterday in Las Vegas it's totally and completely lost its immediacy.  That, and Joan said there were too many things that linked it to the Real Story,  and somebody out there might recognize it, which is a problem because confidentiality and stuff. so I just scrapped the whole deal.  (Yes, Joan vets my blog posts. Well, most of the time.)  Alas, blog post, you are not to be. Also, I walked into the office this morning and one of my cow orkers immediately said to me, "Do you think the world's getting worse all the time, or was it always this bad?" which is, you know, slang for hello, I guess.  

And I told him the truth.  I told him I didn't think the world was any worse today than yesterday, or yesterday than it was the day before, but the interconnectedness of everything (by which I meant primarily the Internet, but I'll come back to this) means we hear about everything that happens regardless of where or why or who's involved.  Plus, there are more of us now than there ever were, so by definition more stuff is going to happen.  You just have to figure in a population of X number of humans, X / Y equals the number of violent events that could feasibly happen, so an increase in X will proportionally increase Y.  Or something like that.  

(Incidentally, did you know that we use X as an unknown because in Spanish, there's no sound like "sssh"?  The character that the Arabs use to denote the unknown was pronounced "sssh," but when they were translating the first algebra texts from Arabic to Spanish, the scholars didn't have any equivalent sound.  So they borrowed the X, which is pronounced "ch," which was close, from the Greek alphabet.  And that's why the unknown is X.  Just fyi.)  

Anyway, to be honest, I don't know if the world is getting worse all the time, but I don't think it's really getting any more violent.  I think up until the 1960s and maybe even a little later, the majority of violence in this country went on behind closed doors, and was inflicted primarily on women and children.  In the 1960s, with divorce being more acceptable, women starting to figure out they were human beings too and just a general refusal to subject kids to this kind of thing, men who would ordinarily beat their wives and kids, found themselves with fewer wives and kids around to beat.  So they moved out of their homes and, I dunno, started fights with other people in the harsh light of the rest of the world.  Well, that's one of my theories, anyway. I have a lot of em.

One thing I don't have, though, is a theory that explains mass shootings of innocent people.  I doubt very many of us do.  My understanding is that this guy killed himself, like a lot of mass shooters do, before the police got there, so we're not going to know what made him tick, at least from his ownself.  I'm sure there'll be forensic examination of this guy's diaries, bank account, family members, political views, religious beliefs, the manifesto he left behind (if any) and half a dozen other things, which will ultimately tie into somebody's pronouncement that "This guy experienced X (see the unknown again?), and so he did Y."  Which will make us feel safe again, because obviously X is a very rare occurrence and we don't experience X in our own lives, so there won't be another Y anywhere we might happen to be.

Which is all great, right?  We all need explanations for This Sort of Thing.  Even more so, I think we need to believe that somebody somewhere is taking care of all the Xs.  But here's the Buddhist theory, and I promise you're not going to like it:  This event happened not because of one crazy guy and his experience with X, but because we all, as a group, have forgotten our true nature--that is to say, our interconnectedness with other beings.  And in the process, we evidently failed this guy in about the worst way you can possibly imagine.

Told you you weren't going to like it.  

See, if you listen to Thich Nhat Hanh (and I do, though I argue with him a lot, at least in my head) you can't possibly miss how dependent we all are on each other for basically everything we need to get through life, not to mention being happy and healthy.  I can't phrase this as well as Thay* can, but let's take a piece of paper, for example.  If you look at a piece of paper, you can start to see that it contains the entire universe.  Don't believe me?  Think about it.  The sun is contained in that piece of paper.  If there were no sun, then the tree that eventually became the paper would never have existed.  There's also a tree in the piece of paper, obviously.  There's rain, there's rich soil and loam, and the farther you get into this, the bigger it becomes.  The logger who cut down the tree is contained in that piece of paper. No logger, no cut tree; no cut tree, no paper.  The mother and father of the logger are contained in that piece of paper.  And I mean, when you start doing this (and you should try it, it's really neat) you will eventually realize that there isn't anything in the universe that isn't also in that piece of paper.  Including you.  Because if you didn't need paper to write on, the sheet of paper wouldn't exist, or it would exist in some other form, or some other person would be holding it. 

The same holds true for us as human beings.  We contain and are connected to and are part of every other being that has ever existed, that exists now and will ever exist.  (This is why I think the Buddhist theory of reincarnation is just very slightly wrong, but we'll do that one another time).  You can do nothing for yourself. Nothing, do you get that?  Everything you do and will do is completely dependent upon the existence of other beings.  You can't, for example, buy a house by yourself, because someone had to build the house, and someone had to pave the road to where the house stands, and someone had to install air conditioning and electricity and so on, and--yeah. Keep going.  You'll have the whole universe in your house in no time.  

(Remember when Obama said, "You didn't build that" and everybody freaked out?  He was right, people.  He wasn't as articulate as Thich Nhat Hanh, but then, few people are.)  

Back to our shooter, though.  The only way you can possibly want to do harm to other people is if you forget your interconnectedness to them.  Otherwise, shooting them would be like shooting yourself.  If you forget your interconnectedness, then you're drowning in delusion, as Thay would say.  When you become enlightened, you realize the complete and absolute reality of interconnection.  (Or so they tell me; I was only there for a second, not really long enough to get a good look at the landscape or the trees or even all of the rocks.)  And then your heart will always belong to others and you will want nothing but the best for them, because what benefits them will ultimately benefit you. 

So how do we get there, you ask.  How do we get people to understand they're fundamentally interconnected to everyone else.  Well, we're working on it, one heart at a time, but what you can do right now is take a look at the barriers you use to keep other people out.  Do you really need them?  Maybe it's time for some of them to come down.  Maybe it's time to be more honest about what you're thinking and feeling with the people you're close to.  Maybe it's time, in other words, to be more yourself.  To be more compassionate, with yourself and everyone else. And to be willing to love other people, no matter how obnoxious they are. 

It's risky.

But consider the alternative.  

*Thich Nhat Hanh is often referred to as Thay, an honorific.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Because Cake Is Speech, And Other Stories

Thich Nhat Hanh, in case you did not know this, is a big proponent of what he calls "engaged Buddhism."  Which means that he thinks monks should leave the monastery whenever it's appropriate, go out into the world and do everything they can to relieve suffering.  And that so should the rest of us. While that sounds logical, it was pretty radical in the 1960s, so you can safely call Thich Nhat Hanh a 60s radical.  In fact I think he'd be pleased.  And I think he'd also be pleased to know that my gang of Buddhists, or a small faction of them, anyway, went to Richardson City Hall here in North Texas last Sunday to put together meals for people in shelters after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  They were vegetarian meals, just incidentally, and I was in charge of weighing the finished product to make sure it was between 320 and 330 grams. Sounds easy, but it wasn't, actually; especially when the meals were coming at me like an assembly line. I'm so glad I don't work on one of those.  Anyway, together we cranked out 65,000 meals, which is a lot of meals.  Here's a pic of me and the gang in front of a stack of finished product.



I'm hoping that this will be the first of many volunteer thingies we do as a group.  My thoughts are, if you're going to be part of a visible religious body, you sort of owe it to people outside that body to show them what it's all about.  One of the reasons I hung around so long with the Lutheran church in San Diego was that we fed the homeless meals every night, and we had chiropractors and doctors come in to treat people for free, and we had a lawyer who came down and helped people get Medicaid and food stamps, and oh yeah, we had this church over here, too, and if you came by on Sunday you'd hear some pretty good music and maybe learn something, but that's kind of ancillary, you know?  It's about being the message, not just carrying the message.

Speaking of strange messages, the Department of Justice just submitted a friend of the court brief in the infamous "Cakegate" case (which I'll get to in a second) stating that cake, the lovable confection that for me at least is the black tar heroin of the food family, is free speech.  That is, if you make a cake, and you decorate it, and it says something like "Congratulations, Larry" or even if it doesn't say anything and just looks pretty, you have made an artistic statement and you should be free to do so.  Nobody should tell you that you can't make a certain cake (except maybe the Laws of Physics, the inflexible bastards) and nobody should tell you that you must make a certain cake.  In fact,  "...(F)orcing (the cake guy) to create expression for and participate in a ceremony that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs invades his First Amendment rights in a manner akin to the governmental intrusion in Hurley. Colorado has not offered, and could not reasonably offer, a sufficient justification for that compulsion here." Brief for the Department of Justice as Amicus Curiae, p. 8, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Civil Rights Commission, no. 16-111, Supreme Court of the United States.

The Cakegate case all began one sunny day in Colorado (or hell, maybe it was a snowy day; I don't know) when a couple who wanted a wedding cake sat down with the cake guy at his "cake consulting table" at his business, Masterpiece Cake Shop.  When the couple told the cake guy they wanted a cake for their wedding, the cake guy told them he couldn't do it because of his religious faith and because the state of Colorado (then) didn't recognize same-sex marriages. (Did I mention the couple were two men? No? Okay, the couple were two men.)  And that might have been the end of it, but then somebody's mother got involved (I'm not kidding; the brief actually says this) and the couple ended up complaining to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which determined that in fact the couple had been discriminated against.  The cake shop appealed to an administrative law judge, motions and countermotions started flying through the air, and a whole bunch of legal stuff happened that's really not relevant here.  Suffice to say that the case was eventually accepted for review by the Supreme Court, and now the Justices are going to have to decide if cake is speech, or if cake is, you know, just cake.  Now that the Department of Justice has weighed in, though, it gets even more interesting.  Does the Trump administration eat cake? If so, whose? And only if there's no bread, or what, exactly?

Anyway: I'm really on the fence about this case. Restaurants and other places of public accommodation are usually legally prohibited from discriminating against people and/or couples because they are the "wrong" race or interracial, and it seems like that should also apply to businesses like the cake decorator. But on the other hand, some restaurants will turn away patrons that aren't "properly" dressed or who don't have reservations.  Do they have the right to do that? I'm not sure it's ever been tested, but it would sure be interesting.  Also, Bob Jones University won't let you into their art museum, which I've heard is really top notch, if you're a woman, unless you're wearing a dress, presumably because women's asses might distract men (and some women) from the art.  (They have wrap skirts available for pants-wearing female would-be patrons.  I am not kidding.)   Do they have the right to do that? It's a private university and a privately-owned museum, so you'd think they do, but it's also a "place of public accommodation," so maybe they don't. If there's ever a legal case about this I suggest we call it Skirtgate.

Also, I want a right as a business person and as an individual to turn down a job I don't want to do. Maybe I'm discriminating against you because you're a cake-wielding asshole, but also maybe because you're ugly and I don't like your suit.  I'm also a Buddhist, in case that's not screamingly obvious, and because of my faith, I wouldn't work for a company that, say, made weapons or championed the death penalty. (Yep, the DA's office is Right Out.)  If I were a private contractor and I made my living writing legal briefs for people, I'd want to be able to turn down a gig from the DA's office or some company that made weapons, if I knew about it.  I probably wouldn't tell them it was religious, though. I'd probably just say I was totally swamped right now and couldn't get to it.

Which leads to another interesting question.  If Cake Guy had told our couple that he was swamped and couldn't do their cake, would we even be having this conversation? I'm not saying that he should have said that, if he felt like he'd be lying, but what if you genuinely are swamped and you genuinely can't get to the project, whatever it is? Would you have to prove that in court?  I can see it now; Cake Guy and his lawyers carefully balancing the other seven cakes Cake Guy had to make that week on the way through security to get to the courtroom.  Oops, dropped one.  What a mess.  Get one of the security sniffer dogs.

So I don't know how I feel about this whole Cakegate thing.  I can see, however, that depending on how the ruling is written, it could be catastrophic for either A. people's individual rights or B. the rights of other people not to be discriminated against in public.  Sounds like a pretty delicate juggling act.  In case I haven't said it lately, I'm so glad I'm not on the Supreme Court.  If I were, I'd have to throw this ruling out of the airplane as I left the country for somewhere like Sweden, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2009 and there's universal health care, besides.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Just Fly Casual

I wouldn't want you guys to think I'm not doing anything creative, even though I haven't cranked out anything literary in a while.  I have a WIP and every time I get to it, I'm adding at least a page. The trouble is not getting to it often enough.  Something about the number of hours in the day and how I need to spend a certain amount of them sleeping. But I have been up to something.  I happen to be a big fan of 8 1/2 x 11 wirebound journals ruled front and back, the kind made by Piccadilly Inc. and occasionally sold at Half Price Books.  They're great journals but even at Half Price, they're not easy to find. And when you do find them, you may find four copies of the same one.  In this case, I found four journals with a cover from the woodcut series, The Great Wave Off Kanegawa.  (You've seen it dozens of times, but hey, now you know what it's called.  You learn something new on the Internet every day, right?)  Now, I like the painting, but I don't need four of them all the same.  So I set out to create new covers for these things.


I'm not sure what I was actually intending to do with this one.  I remember mixing up the caramel color for the background and being delighted when it was Just Right, but I don't know what I was going to do with it after I got the color down.  Whatever it was, though, I changed my mind halfway through and decided to go for the Sea Life with Jewelry theme.  Sort of like if somebody dropped their jewelry box over the side of a boat (I'm sure that happens all the time) and the box burst open on the way down, drawing a bunch of curious fish and crustaceans. If I'd had the idea for the sea life theme a little sooner, I could have gone with a blue background, but actually, the caramel sets off the red pretty well and I'm not sure the blue would have done.

When I was doing the back for this one, I made the accidental discovery that black gesso covers up one hell of a lot better than white gesso.  Of course, it's also black, so anything you're going to use against it has to be pretty bright.  I have an old fish pin (made by Oscar)  that might work if I can find a way to affix it in there.  Maybe I'll scoop out some of the cardboard cover in a fishy shape with an Exacto and see if I can settle it in there with Gorilla Glue.  Yeah, fish are a continuing theme.  Big fan of fish, me.  I miss my aquarium, not that I could have one with Artemis the Hunter Kitten in the house.

I haven't been remiss in my making of jewelry, either, in case you were worried:

Meanwhile, back in the real world...

Presumably you're all  Star Wars junkies, or at least familiar with the basic tenets of the movies, so you probably remember the scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Han Solo's ship, the Millenium Falcon, is sneaking up on the big Imperial fleet.  Han Solo says to Chewbacca, "Keep your distance. But try not to look like you're keeping your distance." Chewbacca says, "Gronk," which as far as I can tell is the extent of his vocabulary.  And Han Solo says, "Just fly casual."

Which is where I am in my employment history.  Just flying casual.  I'm looking, but I'm trying not to look like I'm looking.  This has made for many humorous moments (changing into and out of a suit in the ladies' room of a RaceTrac, being late to work and blaming traffic, going to pick up medical records and, as long as I was out, going to a job interview, stuff like that).

It might be a long search.  For the first time in, I think ever, I'm confined by geography. Now, I have driven to work and I have taken trains, I have commuted on buses and I have even walked to work, but now I have to be downtown, or near downtown, or no more than 20 minutes from where Joan works, in bad traffic, in case I have to take her somewhere. This rules out a job in Plano, which is unfortunate because Plano is exploding right now.  Southwest Airlines just opened an office in Plano, Toyota just moved one of its major plants to Plano and Plano is officially one of the fastest growing cities in Texas and maybe in the whole United States. Unfortunately, all those people pouring into Plano is making the 75 freeway (the main artery between Plano and Dallas) basically impassable during rush hour. It's not 10-20 minutes from downtown Plano to downtown Dallas; it's more like an hour, and sometimes longer.  So Plano is out.  If Joan needed to see a doc or something in the middle of the day, I'd have to take off the whole morning or afternoon to make it happen. And it's weird, but recruiters get huffy when you say you can't work in a certain area or you need to stay close to another area.  It's like, "Oh, are you too good to commute with the rest of us?" Like driving 45 miles one way to work and burning lots of gasoline is a badge of achievement or something.

Second, I'm old.  Well, not that old, but old enough that employers are starting to wonder why I haven't settled down in some nice retirement track job for the duration of my twenty-odd years left in the world of work.  Despite the fact that I don't "look" old, my graduation date from college isn't getting any fresher, and that's kind of a dead giveaway for how old I am (unless I graduated very early in life, which I didn't, and I don't think anyone would assume I did). Now, being old has some advantages (gobs of experience) and disadvantages (I might be curmudgeonly and set in my ways).  I think for the most part, though, employers would rather hire somebody in their early 30s (old enough to know how to behave in an office setting, not so old that they can't learn a new trick or two).  And I don't really look like I'm in my early 30s anymore. I could probably pass for around 40, though.

I'm also fat, which doesn't help either.  There's scads of studies out there about hiring managers and their fear of fat people.  If you're looking for a job around here, you can't go wrong to be skinny, blonde, 30 something and a graduate of UT.  But I keep applying for stuff anyway.  Something's got to open up sooner or later.

In the meantime, maybe I'll get a raise so I can stay where I am.  It could happen.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Rain in the Summertime

Well, we've reached the end of Swim for Distance Month and I have a total of 27,400 meters notched onto my goggles.  (Just kidding about notching my goggles. That would hurt the goggles.)  Which comes to a total of just over 17 miles.  That's neither as far as I wanted to come or as not-far as I thought it would probably be.  In short, it is Just Enough.  I have earned &a t-shirt and some bragging rights, and the North Dallas Food Bank has earned $17, though I will probably just send them a full $20 because why the hell not.  I just wish I could get the whole swim team doing this so we could send them lots of money.  I haven't sold them on this concept yet.  Maybe next year.

Meanwhile, The Alarm came to town, and everything else just pretty much ceased to be important.

I should back up a little.  If you've been hanging around these parts long enough, you know that my favorite band is Big Country. That's the Scottish band that had the one big hit in 1983, won the Best New Artist Grammy (or was at least nominated for it; I forget which) and then disappeared like smoke.  Only they didn't disappear, of course; they just fell victim to the vagaries of the Copyright Act of 1985 and some bad management decisions and never really made it back across the ocean again.  But, they continued as a band in Europe and the rest of the world, put out eight brilliant albums over twelve years before their lead singer, Stuart Adamson, died tragically in Hawaii. And yes, there's this whole long story about that, and no, I'm not going to tell you about it, because I'm sure I've told that story here before and a lot of it is rampant speculation on my part anyway.

Back to the important part, though.  Big Country was without a singer.  In 2011, almost ten years after Stuart's death, Big Country's 30th anniversary came up and fans were demanding some kind of gathering to celebrate (this was in the U.K., though people I knew from the U.S. actually did fly over there to attend it).  In order to have an actual band for the occasion, the surviving members of Big Country called up Mike Peters, the lead singer of the band The Alarm (biggest hit: Probably "Rain in the Summertime") and asked him to fill in.  There's this funny story, which is probably totally bogus, that Mike was halfway up a mountain in Wales at the time and accepted the job on his cell phone while hanging from a carabiner.  Anyway, the show went unbelievably well, everybody loved it and Big Country asked Mike to stay on full time.

Which he did, and Big Country ended up recording The Journey, its first studio album since 1994, in 2013.  The band did a tour of Europe and the United States, including three shows in Texas that I, Jen, went on the road to see (taking along a reluctant Joan, who doesn't do concerts).  Yes, I followed a band around Texas.  No, I'm not considering a future career as a Dead Head.  It was actually really hard work.  But the shows were brilliant, Mike Peters is awesome, and no matter what happens in the future or what else he ends up doing, I will always think of him as The Guy Who Brought Big Country Back From The Dead.  Which, you gotta admit, is a pretty nifty epitaph if you need one.

After three years, Mike Peters returned to The Alarm.  That was actually fine, because The Alarm is my second favorite band (though the new-ish band, Fun., is jockeying for position in there somewhere). Now The Alarm is on tour, and darned if they didn't come to Texas for three shows.  Did I drag out the Toyota and follow them from Austin to Houston to Dallas?  Er--no.  It was a lot of work last time.  But I thought about it.  And I saw them last night at the Gas Monkey Bar and Grill on a VIP ticket in the balcony, so there.  They played for almost two hours and every time I thought, "Now, how are they going to top that?" they did.  I got home after midnight.  Which was fine.

Here's a pic from my balcony seat:


And here's a short video clip:












And for those of y'all who still haven't heard "Rain in the Summertime," here it is.

Enjoy!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mini-Post: More Swimming Kittens

So how's she doing, you might want to know.  Is she any closer to 20 miles in the pool?  Well, yes and no.  It's been a mixed bag this year.  For one thing, I've had some completely awesome meter counts.  More than half my swims so far this month have been 1800 meters or higher.  On Sunday, I logged 1900 meters, and Monday I logged an almost-unheard-of 2000 meters.  That's 1 1/4 mile, in case you want to know.

However, my overall meter count is a little disappointing.  I'm at 15,300 as of yesterday which is 9.5 miles.  A little less than halfway there.  I was hoping I'd be more than halfway and on the downside by now.  But:  I have approximately 8 swims left this month (maybe 9, if I can cram in an extra someplace).  One of them is also a "power swim," which lasts an hour and a half and is totally uninterrupted, so I can see that leading to some serious meterage.  If I continue cranking out 1800 to 1900 meters per swim, I should at least hit 19 miles and maybe have a shot at 20.

In anticipation, then, of something at least approaching 20 miles, I would like to post these pictures of kittens being cute.  Because who doesn't need a cute kitten or two in the middle of the work day?