Saturday, December 31, 2005

Playing to Your Weakness

It's New Year's Eve. Maybe I should wait till tomorrow to think about resolutions, but I'm not doing much else at the moment.

Are there more futile traditions than the New Year's Resolution? How many have you kept in your life? In previous years, I tried. I would make a deeply meaningful resolution, often keeping it to myself, but really being earnest about it. Never meant squat. Think about it, you pledge to wipe out this deeply rooted part of yourself, to grind smooth some groove you've been wearing into yourself for your whole life. Starting this arbitrary day. Talk about built to fail.

I closely observed an exception in 2005. My wife resolved to get more organized, and she did. She didn't become a paragon of order, but she made real progress, dragging me part of the way with her. Credit given where it is due.

I've given up on this approach for myself. I had given up last year, and so I made a trivial, fun resolution. Cause you think you could do that. I resolved to remember jokes. I don't remember jokes. I hear a joke, I laugh or don't, and its gone. I succeeded for maybe 3 months. I had like tripled my cache of jokes. By this December 31st, I've forgotten them all. I didn't resolve to save the world or fix my greatest flaw, just get better at something I suck at. Again, planned to fail.

So I'm working on a new strategy for this year. I have a recent success as a model. I decided it wouldn't hurt me to dress a little more nicely on occasion. I can decide that, but the groove, the habit, the vision of I have of who I am, it doesn't' give up easy. So I played dirty.

I have this pattern. I buy two pairs of jeans. I wear one of them almost every day until one or both wear out. I buy two pairs of jeans. Repeat. A few months ago it was time to buy two pairs of jeans again. I bought one pair of jeans, and one pair of kakis. One moment of strength set me up for months of virtue. I hate to shop. I'm always behind on laundry. I won't go buy another pair of pants till one wears out, and I won't do laundry often enough to keep clean alternatives to the kakis. I'm stuck. I wear them once or twice a week. I played to weakness, instead of relying on strength.

You see where I'm going. I'm trying to devise New Year's Resolutions based on this strategy. If suitable, I'll share them with you, once I've dreamed them up.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Gentry's Hammer

Current formulations. These laws apply to the creation of laws, I've noticed ;-)

Gentry's Hammer To be good at something, you must first be bad at it.


Gentry's Scythe Everything that is not fundimental is a distraction.

Gentry's Anvil Fundimentals are simple and hard.

A Scattering of Clowns

My wife and I have carried the bedtime story into adulthood. When we go to bed, we read out loud before turning off the light. It is interesting how often there is a slip of the tongue, an error somewhere in the processing between eye, brain and mouth. One of my earlier posts in this blog was one of those. Here's another.

Last night I'm reading out loud and what I read was:

...a bitter winter wind from the northeast blew in a scattering of clowns...


Obviously it was written as "clouds," not "clowns."

Monday, December 26, 2005

A Post About Strategy -- on that other blog

Consistancy is the big challenge posed by blogging, to me. Both in time spent writing posts, and in ideas for posts. I've written a post over on EgoBurp on strategy for dealing with the boom and bust cycle.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Commit to the Asking

Browsing cdbaby.com, some friends and I discovered Alix Olson's spoken word. I'm digging it. Between us we have her CD's Independence Meal and Built Like That on the way. From what I've heard of the samples on CDBaby, I'm excited to hear the rest.

One line that gets me every time I hear it. It comes from the track "Unsteady Things" on Independence Meal.

I prefer to give to those who commit to the asking


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Remove Tire Tracks From Skin

There have been no referrels to this blog that were searches for any variation or segment of "remove tire tracks from skin." There have been referrels that were the result of searches for "big ass angel" and "Steve Owen." You can see for yourself by clicking on the "Site Meter" button in the footer of this blog.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Phrases that people search for

Plotting the crooked path to this blog. Luke turned me on to Site Meter. It is one of the exploding number of "services" on the Net that allows you to use it by simply pasting a little javascript into your web page. It provides traffic statistics. Really handy if you have a blog hosted someplace like Blogger and you don't have another way to get those stats.

Some of the neater information you get from from Site Meter is what the referring sites where that brought visitors to your page. Luke brought this to my attention when he remarked that he had seen a referrer to one of his posts was the result of a search, and that the search terms that brought the visitor to his blog were surprising. Another of our friends, Matt, suggested it would be fun to seed articles with terms just to see how many people might be searching for them. I'm doing that in this article with the phrase

remove tire tracks from skin


If you are reading this post and you were indeed brought here by a search that found that phrase, I hope you aren't too annoyed that there is no information here on how to remove tire tracks from skin. Grin along with us, eh ;-)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Battlestar Galactica is bluring into my life

A few days ago I found myself examining the power relationhips in Battlestar Galactica, looking for some clues about power relationships in my job. Seriously.

The Sci-Fi channel has a series that is a reimagining of the grand old series, Battlestar Galactica. I say "grand" because I was a fan of the original, in all its cheesy glory. I held off watching the new one for a long time, but I heard too much positive feedback to ignore it. When I finally checked it out, I loved it.

The new version is a much grittier, realistic show, and the characters are pretty real. There is a lot of exploration of the relationship between the civillian and military aspects of the fleet, and also inside the military itself. Good characters, good actors, good writing. So at lunch at Spuds on saturday I realized I was sitting there thinking about the power dynamics in Battlestar Galactica and what they might teach me about the power dynamics in my life.

Virtue

My rapacious heart,
my uncertain hand,
I am saved by my lack of audacity.

Words

Just some words I heard recently that I liked.

From that masterpiec, "99 Red Balloons",
open up one eager eye

I heard this one in a Steve Owen song, though I know that its one of those phrases that has come down to us in the form of cultural heritage:

Tommorrow is a day that's promised to no man


The first Steve Owen song I heard has as part of its chorus:

The world is a tuxedo and I'm a pair of brown shoes


My fashion IQ is low, and I only recently learned that you don't wear brown shoes with black pants. I heard this at just the right time in my life for it to strike me :-)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Found a poem, Kipling's "If"

My friend Matt recently started a blog at Blogger, and he choose for the title, "Filling the Unforgiving Minute." One day when I hadn't quite remembered the URL yet, I did a search on Blogger for "unforgiving minute," to find his blog. I was surprised at how many search results there were. Turns out the phrase comes from a famous Kipling poem, "If." I didn't know it. It is quite something.

This might be the most quoted part:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cigarettes and Musk

I am walking down the frozen food isle of the grocery store, and I pass through a cloud of scent: cigarettes and musk. The chrome and glass freezers, the white floor, dissolve and I'm in another place in time and space. No, several places at once. One is a particular dorm room, with a particular young woman. She's the smoker. Another is the stairwell of that dorm as I've just walked through a cloud of cigarettes and musk and stopped in my tracks, mirror image in time of this moment. One is a lake shore at night, my heart trying to pound its way out of my chest. There are others. To call them memories, no, they are then and now simultaneously.

This happened to me last night. I blinked hard a couple times, literally, returning to the "present moment" that my mind can deal with for more than a few seconds without going into a tailspin. 15 years later, my god. And I picked up the frozen blackberries Jae wanted for desert the next night, tonight, when we have company. And I walked back to my house, vivid in its warmth after the cold of outside, and my wife, my very favorite human, and I think about how poor we are for having to live our lives serially, frame by frame.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Over attention at fancy restaurants

Yesterday was my Mother-In-Law's birthday. Priscilla likes nice restaurants, in the fancy way, so her and Dave and Jae and I went out to dinner at a nice steakhouse. It is not my big kind of thing, but it can fun occasionally. One thing drives me nuts, though, the constant coming and going of the wait staff.

I admit, I want them to fill my water glass every few minutes. I drink a lot with meals. But the picking up this fork and the delivering of this spoon and the procession of little plates to go with the bread and the appetizer and the salad, give it a break already. It constantly interrupts the flow of conversation at the table, and makes me really uncomfortable. I feel like I should say, "Thank you," every time they perform one of these little interruptions, but like I said, it gives the evening this weird staccato flow. And if I ignore them, I feel rude.

I know, that's how it is supposed to work at these places. It's my hangup. Am I the only one who feels this way?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

This Cold -> It's and ill wind ...

This cold has been kicking my butt for several days. I managed to drag myself into work because saturday I'm the only person in my position who works, but I'm doing the bare minimum. But its an ill wind that blows no good. Spent a fair bit of the day with my feet up and listening to music.

My brother Luke introduced me to a great Internet radio station, Boot Liquor Radio. They played a song that I liked, " a Pair of Brown Shoes", by Steve Owen. I checked out the whold cd, the Turlock 2, at CDBaby It is a little hit or miss, but there are severel gems.

On the fun side are, "Close Enough to Shore", and "a Pair of Brown Shoes." On the somber but eerily cool side are "Like a Wedding Band" and " What Makes the World Go 'Round"

more about Gentry's Law

Still thinking about the title. Occam's Razor is partly cool because of, "Occam", of course. Short of changing my name, I can't do much about that part. The other part though, "Razor" is so much cooler than "Law." I can work on that.

In Occam's Razor, "razor" both sounds cool and describes the law. The simplest explanation is the likeliest. That slices through so much crap. Can I come up with a name that has the same attributes?

How about, Gentry's Hammer. The law tries to pound into peoples' skulls a truth they don't want to accept.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Reformulating Gentry's Law

As Luke pointed out, "Gentry's Law" lacks zing as a title. There is precedent, of course. Murphey's Laws leap to mind. But if I want this to ever spread and be quoted, I need to work on a more catchy title.

Also, the Law itself needs to be more elegant. The "for a long time" is important for the meaning, but it reduces the impact of the language. Perhaps I need to break into Gentry's Laws.

1. To be good at something, you must first be bad at it.
2. You will be bad at it for a long time.

Maybe.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Gentry's Law

I've always wanted to have my own "Law", like Murphey's Law or Occam's Razor or the Peter Principle. This is my bid, Gentry's Law:

To be good at something, you must first be bad at it for a long time.

Friday, November 04, 2005

My job matters

I was raised to think you should do stuff to help other people. Not be a martyr, exactly, but tithe 10% to the church, volunteer, etc. I don't belong to a church anymore, so I satisy part of the tithing obligation by giving regularly to some charities/non-profits. On the volunteer front, not so much.

I do think I give value to society by just being a decent, productive individual. I have a job that allows me to pay my bills, not be a burden on anyone financially, and in the course of my work help other people get things done that they need done. I work at an Internet service provider, so I do my small part to make the Internet function. I feel pretty good about that. Overall, I think the Internet is helping make the world a little better place. It's not a job like a teacher or doctor where you concretely know you helped make peoples' lives better each day, though.

I saw something today, though, that boosts my feeling of credibility. You might be aware that in the cutting edge of philanthropy in recent years has been spreading of microcredit programs. Now there is Kiva. It is an Inernet enabled, almost peer-to-peer approach to microcredit. You can go to their website and choose a business to give a microloan to. Supposedly you get progress reports via email, and in theory you get paid pack, without interest. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm excited about it.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Stuff I Saw on the Walk Home

I walked home from work on thursday. It was my last chance because of sadist Daylight Savings Time. I started at about 5:30 pm. The sun was just beginning to go down, and it was the fall light that gilds everything a soft gold. Twice I stopped in my tracks and laughed out loud because I saw something that delightful.

The first of these 2 sights was early in the walk. I was walking south from Indian School on Washington, up the hill. At a particular spot, I was facing a window that was reflecting a tree that was across the street from it. The leaves of tree had turned yellow, and the setting sun was full on the tree. The window was a sheet a flame.

Right as I turned north on Constitution, there was a yard that had a kind of decorative grass or something that sent up these spikes with big cottony puffs on the end. Again the setting sun was full on them. Otherworldly.

Those were the delightful bits. When I reached the bottom of the hill, where Constitution and Carisle intersect, I almost saw, mostly heard, a bicyclist hit by a car. I saw his motionless body lying in the intersection, the cars stopping, the people gathering, cell phones out. I didn't actually see the collision, and there was already a crowd and even a doctor, so I didn't stop.

As I left the sidewalk to cut behind the Walgreens towards the park where I take a break on this walk, I saw a single shoe in the median. I might scribble something about that.

Down with Daylight Savings Time

I hate Daylight Savings Time. Sure, that sunday morning in the fall when you get an extra hour sleep is sweet. Then it gets dark at 5:30 pm. And spring, lets not even talk losing an hour in spring. How can Indiana and Arizona be the only sane states about this?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Cool lyrics of the day

From Iron & Wine's song, "The Rooster Moans"

lift your head because you can't sleep
bite your lip because you can't eat
darkest den the devil made
Jesus weeps but he's been paid
not to ride inside this rusty train

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Footwear for Dancing on the Head of a Pin

We dance on the head of a pin, in our bare feet, or those pink, plastic flip-flops with the white stars. Thoroughly modern, we have no muscle tone, no flaming sword. Terrible granduer is so Old Testament.

We no longer break the dance to wrestle demons, golden skin against scaly hide. They, also, are diminished. What proof our we against syndrome, or chemical imballance? We jig and reel and two-step across this metallic plain, without interuption.

Perhaps, like you, we need only an aromatic salt scrub to shed our skin and be reborn a bright thing (but not too bright), and a yoga mat to revive once mighty thews, and an IRA to toss off the yoke of eternal service.

Till then we dance our unchanging dance with outworn formaility, though no one wonders, anymore, how many of us there are.


----------------------------

Author's comments: It amuses me. I'm not sure about the second paragraph. It might be weak. Should it be re-written? Cut entirely?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Scribbling

On and off, I have done some scribbling for fun. Well, sometimes it wasn't for fun. I had delusions of granduer. Lately I've been getting into it again, for fun. I think I'll post some here. Sometimes stuff in progress.

Here is a little thing I'm fond of. I'm not sure whether it should be past or present tense.

Past tense tints it as a memory, maybe colors it with nostalgia.

You stood in a puddle, temporary mirror,
and were startled by your own beauty.
Birds waded by your ankles. When the wind carried away your hat,
you let it go, sailing into another life.

Present tense makes it more vigorous and vital:

You stand in a puddle, temporary mirror,
and are startled by your own beauty.
Birds wade by your ankles. When the wind carries away your hat,
you let it go, sailing into another life.



Interesting that the change in tense doesn't change the words in the last line, but has this significant change in its shades of meaning.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The movie "Serenity"


If you like westerns in space, including opening bank robbery, six
shooters, anti-heros, chases, gun play, and revenge, and you think humor, martial arts and pretty people tossed in are OK, you will like "Serenity."




You know I'm a cult fan, so from a neutral and respectd critic, Ebert:



"I'm not sure the movie would have much appeal for non-sci-fi fans, but it has the rough edges and brawny energy of a good yarn, and it was made by and for people who can't get enough of this stuff. You know who you are."



I've seen it twice, and the two viewings were very different. The first time, much as you try to suspend your expectations, it was all about how true a continuation of the series it was. That is a very different way to see it than someone who has not seen the series. Also, the characters have a rough time, and frankly I care about these characters more than many actual people I know, so it was harrowing. We had planned to see it twice friday, but it was too intense.


Went back saturday. This time it was much more about the movie. It's damn good. I liked this line from a review:

"If you think the "Star Wars" prequels are a disease, then Serenity is the
cure."

Friday, September 30, 2005

One More That Doesn't Matter

On a local radio station in Santa Fe, Radio Free Santa Fe, they have a movie reviewer. His show always starts:

"In a world full of opinions, here is one more that doesn't matter."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

136

Last night we watched the second half of the recent Martin Scorsese documentary about Bob Dylan,
"No Direction Home - Bob Dylan". Much of the best footage was of interviews. Here is one exchange as near as I can remember it.

Interviewer: "How many song writers who toil in the same vinyards of song as you, write protest songs?"

Dylan: "136"

Interviewer: "You mean around 136, or do you mean precisely 136?"

Dylan: "Either 136 or 142."

There was this priceless bit, I think they were in France, and Dylan is in the car and while they are stopped somewhere these kids mob the car and stick their arms and heads in the window demanding his autograph. He says "No" a couple times and they keep persisting. Finaly he says, exasperated:

"You don't need my autograph. If you needed my autograph I'd give it to you."

He really didn't understand celebrity. Or maybe he understood it all too well.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

First T-Shirt Creation

Jae and I have created our first T-Shirt. We haven't seen one printed, yet. I ordered one just now.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Epidemic in a Virtual World

This is fascinating. In the elaborate virtual World of Warcraft, they had a "naturally" occuring epidemic.

A Dinner to Remember

Friday night, Jae put some asparagus, tomatoes, and a fist of garlic on a cookie sheet and baked them all. We ate all that, with olive oil and salt and pepper on it, and ritz crackers. We washed it down with gin-and-tonics. That's a meal we'll have to repeat.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Best How-To book I have read

On Writing Well is the best How-To book I have read. Schools should require students read it in every year of school, starting in middle school.

Bad Haircuts Are Good For You

I got a BAD haircut recently. I think it is good for you to get a bad haircut every now-and-then. Teaches you humility.

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