Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Missouri Land

I found my photos from Summer '07. These will show you how incredibly beautiful it is up there...this is the turn to the left (west) to the flying field across the Gerald Creek. I was forced to name the creek Gerald because I had to Ford it . . . This is the height of summer, mind, and squarely in the middle of the photo is where I caught my Luna Moth - at night - I spotted him in the headlights, jumped out with the net and charged into the darkness after him. My first swing with the net knocked him out of the tree ------DAMN! he's not in the net! There he is in the grass! Saaaawooooooosh! I'm a lousy golfer; the grass just collapsed, and I had to take another swing - an overhand smash to trap him with the net against the ground to finally get him into the net. I folded the net over to trap him in there and the Ranger and I clambered across the creek to the Launch Control to put him in the killing jar. Did you know months can scream? You want to talk about depressing . . . I waited up with him while he died so I could pin him in my collection box while he was still flexible.His wings were so incredibly soft and flexible - they just sort of rolled up on my fingers and tongs while I was working with him. But I got it done by around 1:30 or 2:00 a.m. Then it was all right to go on to bed. Gawdawg! but he's a pretty corpse in my box.]This view looks directly west after Fording the Gerald. Right where the sunlight is the brightest is where the road takes another fork. Going straight and slightly doglegging to the left goes on up the hill to the Buffalo Natural Area. This is 486 acres of Missouri State land, and it's on my west fenceline. And it's just incredible - walnut trees a couple hundred years old, deer, turkey, skunk, armadillo, fox, coyote, rabbit, every tree God made in North America, some of 'em bigger than for of us can reach around . . . I like it.

After taking that turn to the right I mentioned, you come up this rise that is cooled by the trees and it just keeps coming till you get to the sentinel walnut I stopped the dozer man from flattening. this is the gate, the statue-in-the-fountain-drive that opens into the flying field. I plan to plant daffodils and anything else that is deer- and rodent resistant. There's plenty enough to eat out there; I don't need to supply the salad bar.

Notice how the land has a little slope to it? Hah! It's a lot easier to walk toward the creek than away from it. And you see how thick the trees are across the field? That whole area was that way before George and Randy bulldozered it down. It was a shame to tear up/down all the forest, but there was nowere to see the sky. Now you can see where you are and still be embraced by the wood. It's enchanting on a midsummer night with the fireflies putting on a lightshow and the owls hunting up and down the creek in accompaniment and the Milky Way overhead turning so slowly you don't see it unless you drift off and wake back up in your chair. Kathryn and I launched daylight parachute fireworks out there that 4th of July. Those are so cool! This gargantuan monster mortar tube lobs seven or nine aerial bombs up into a sky of crystal blue with horsetail streaks of strato-cirrus cloud . . . and the bombs blow up, of course, and spray a dozen or so colored-tissue parachutes all over the sky to drift down in the echoing silence after the booms. It's like being a little kid again and blowing dandelions in technicolor . . . This is all I can handle right now; I need to get lesson plans together for the rest of the week. But I can breathe a little deeper knowing that little slice of heaven is up there waiting.

Monday, August 25, 2008

C'mon, Pearl Harbor Day!

My life is so working.

I just got an email from a Cub Scout Den Leader to schedule his den for a workshop December 6 or 7. This is before scouting even gets started for the year in the elementary schools. I love pinewood derby . . . look at the discipline involved.

You have to start with a block of pine (actually spruce, pine, fir, or larch . . . some of the white pines are so soft you can crease the block with your thumbnail; the Douglas fir is so dense, you can cold-cock a running horse with the block). This car can max out at seven inches long by two and three-quarters wide (including the wheels). The height doesn't matter unless you are terminally into speed. Then you go for thin, and you use high-dollar tungsten weights.

Depending on the Pack rules, you may or may not relocate the wheels from the pre-sawn slots. Otherwise, dork around with the wheels at your own peril. You can't machine them to reduce tread/track contact or to reduce their mass (lighter wheels begin turning faster from a stop).

You can use lead (Pb), except, since California [I think it was] determined that people shouldn't eat lead weights, almost everybody uses zinc (Zn) to add mass. Or you can spend the money and spring for tungsten (W). This is so cool. Look at the specific gravities . . .
Zn ---- 7.05
Pb ---- 11.35
W ----19.62
OK, kids, let's use our thinking caps . . . which element gives you more mass for your ducat? Uh, by a factor of almost 3, for sweet Pity's sake. You can really shave a car body down thin with that. And, uh, which mechano-bod has to have all this drag-inducing wooden frontal area just to carry the largest volume of mass? This is so cool. (Did I already say that?)

And then there's wheel lubrication - no liquid lubricants . . . says that right in the rules. Now, of course, I have a moral/ethical question. If a hypothetical racing team of a dad and a lad spray a penetrating aerosol on the (linoleum nail) axles so that the axle is wet, push that through the bore in the wheel a couple of times from each direction, then clean the wheel with a pipe cleaner three or four times till it's dry, and, finally, wipe the axles with a very clean cloth till they're dry - and never lube the wheels again for the life of the car . . . is that a liquid lubricant. In the immortal words of Anna's friend the King, "'Tis a puzzlement."

Last year over four hundred racing teams came through my shop and built their cars using my bench-mounted tools. That's because Grampa, who even had a metal lathe in his garage so he could repair his own lawn mower (we're talking about grinding and milling cylinders here, folk) or car, died and gramma sold all his stuff, and his son went to college and got a mindworker job instead of a handworker job, and his son never even saw a hand tool, much less machine/bench tools . . . and since shop in school is only for socioeconomically challenged kids who aren't smart enough to get mindworker jobs . . . well, that's why I have my shop. Actually, that's the excuse for my shop. Really, I just like to uncle and grampa everybody; Lord, but that's fun.

I have a bud at the end of the block, across the alley, named Jim. His boy and mine joined Cub Scouts at the same time. The kids are in college now, but Jim and I still race each other at our old Pack's Derby. We'll work for months (I've been working on a tank for over a year) on one of these silly-assed little wooden race cars, then saunter nonchalantely down the alley, and say, "Hey, man, look what I just whipped up in the shop this afternoon." We both know he's lying through his teeth . . . but, dammit, maybe he did just bang that out. "looks good, bud; how's it run?" (Evokes Kicking Bird's query of Dances With Wolves' pipe, doesn't it.)

Anyway. I think I'll finish this tank. The turret spins. The commander's hatch opens and closes. The gun tube elevates and depresses. I have entrenching tools and picks in a little cage on the engine comparment. There are shielded headlights, a tow chain, hollow exhaust pipes . . . and I'm fabricating (non-functioning) tread out of two weights of paper, glued one atop the other and separated where they are visible from beneath the fender skirting.

It's either that or grade papers . . .

First Day

First day - finally got my class lists, just not my gradebook.
I have wound up with around 75 kids that are CADD students and another two classes of total 20 or so kids in a Plato (credit recovery, computer-driven) lab. It surely makes for an easier transition, even with two preps. One class is Architectural Graphics, three classes are Engineering Graphics. I know what I'm doing with the three classes, but it's tap-dance-and-whistle time for Architectural.

Things went so smoothly it was anticlimatic. No drama in my life at all. Well, actually the Principal did catch me in the hall to tell me to go ahead and put in my flower box under the windowsills. (I have the only windows on the entire west side of the building. Is that cool, or what?) I can't drill into the masonry to hang them, so I'll put some torsion rods into the openings and hang the boxes from those. Oh, man. Dirt, flahrs, bulbs, color, weather, rain, stuff outdoors. Check this grower's website about flowers and the women who grow them. I love to read his page just for the stories . . . I'm putting it in my links section.
http://www.buydaffodilbulbs.com/ Besides, he has such a subtle page name. There's a link on his page to another cool spot: http://www.chineseshuixianhua.com/. I'm waitin till he opens back up.

It's all good, isn't it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

First Day Tomorrow

Back up at school for three hours after church doing last-minute stuff with new materials in a new campus . . . must have been twenty cars in the parking lot. That's just ridiculous, but, I guess it's the nature of the beast.

----Time out; I have to check on a sardine label bid on eBay. Still twelve minutes to go. ----

I read Shelly's comments . . . sounds like a torero putting together her traje de luces. I'll probably wear khakis, a collared shirt, and my SASes like I have every day for the past fourteen years. Since I'm planning to ride the bike every day, I've made a little rat's nest in a corner of the lab where I can drive up with the truck and hang shirts and trew and stash meine Schuhe in a dark corner. One of the local cleaners delivers; I'm looking into the possibilities there.

---- Back to check on the labels . . .

" 25 vintage Telmo Brand French Style Fancy Fried American Sardines labels, Distributed By Franklin MacVeagh & Co., Chicago, Ills. These seldom-seen labels are close to 100 years old. They were discovered in a barn near an old factory site here in Maine. "

. . . these are todally dudical. I got into a bidding war over this same lot about a month ago, and it got over $25 plus s/h. I quit when it passed my limit. Then all of a sudden - same dingdong day - they were back on the market in a second-chance auction. Uh . . . no thank you. Smelt Hamletic . . . Five minutes to go ----

Where Shelly has manicured and pedicured herself to a fare-thee-well (I'm just going to remain sans comment about the parts in the middle . . . well, I'm gonna clean my fingernails and wash my feet . . . who cares? They're clad in leather (sounds kinky) . . . the feet.

---- Back to eBay . . . they're still mine at 2 mins 13 seconds . . . I'm clicking the "refresh this page button like a channel surfer . . . YES! . . . they're mine at less than half the bidding war price.

Is this cool, or what? Look at the saturation of the colors and the wonderful Deco linework and the curved text. Remember, this was all done without photolithography or Microsoft programs. Oh, man, oh, man. What a prizeI And there are twenty-five of these puppies in this lot. I can sweeten my collection and turn around an resell the rest to another addict like myself. You know what? I don't care if anyone buys them or not. These are schweet.

OK; so maybe it's an acquired taste, but I feel like Scrooge McDuck with another canvas bag of "gold coins that were used as a trade currency throughout Europe before World War I. Each coin's weight was 3.4909 grams of .986 gold, which is 0.1107 troy ounce, AGW, actual gold weight. Gawd, I'm going to miss teaching English and being able to pun with my smart buds.

I'm gonna go watch a movie, eat a little ice cream, and bring myself down slowly from all this excitement.

God Bless All Here.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Last Days Before School . . .

Jeez-ola Peaches . . .

Four hours on a Saturday in a new building, copying syllabi (two preps) intro worksheets . . . in the immortal words of Captain Jack Aubrey, looking at a hull model of a French frigate, "What a fascinating modern age we live in . . ." The copy machine is a Ricoh monster-truck. The lights are off, the copy room is still, only Hardage is moving, tentatively pushing random buttons to see if the machine will talk to me . . . aha! Click! and with a series of solenoids slamming shut and vacuum pumps generating absence, honest-to-God eight feet of machine fires up like an F-15 on the catapult of the Enterprise. You have to turn your head to see the source of the noise. The beastie is huge! And it all comes to life with flashing green and red lights atop the control console - at eye level . . . I'm expecting to hear, "Danger, Will Robinson!"

I got my copying done. Well most of it, anyway. I ran out of paper. Other people had been there ahead of me . . . maybe tomorrow.

I came home to veg-out and watched Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy. ROFLMAO. That is really a delightful piece of work. What a terrific line of . . ."Professor! What does an intellectual genius like you want with a simple young nurse like me?" to the accompaniment of ripping fabric. Really; go rustle up a copy from Amazon.com or eBay and watch it with someone you enjoy talking to and thinking with. So much laughter that the back of your head hurts where your jaw muscles attach.

Mental Health Break!

Last year I took off a week to ride around our forty-five acres with George and his D-6 Caterpillar bulldozer (tracked front-end loader). Oh, Lord, have mercy; what a rush. I'm starting to get an idea how George Patton felt driving through Germany!

So, here we are at the top of the hill clearing out a circle in the trees for a council-fire ring, and we stop to . . . ah . . . water a tree . . . and I smell wood smoke. What a happy smell. Uh, the smoke is coming from the pile of tree/brush we just trod over! Damn! NO water left - this is the top of the hill. I'm sprinting across the clearing grabbing up a stick to beat out the fire with. It's in a punky, rotten log, so I start digging out the coals that are glowing in the daylight! The more I dig out, the more I find. Fifteen, twenty minutes - I get them dug out. OK. But there's more smoke back across the clearing where I just ran from. OGodOGodOGod! More running, more digging, more scooping rocky dirt to smother embers - no open blaze. Thank you, Father.

Another trip back to the first pile and the fire's out, but George and I hear the crackle of flame and smell - OSHIT! THE ENGINE'S ON FIRE! Bail off the Cat!

The little yellow-painted thumbturn screws that hold the engine compartment closed won't open. Did you know that it is humanly possible to bend heavy-gauge metal when one is excited enough? George and I stepped into the Twilight Zone and bent metal to get the engine compartment open. The only water we have is our water bottles. That doesn't impress the gods of fire. The oil and fluids that drip out of the engine and puddle on the bottom of the engine compartment . . . that's what's aflame. So I'm ripping up handfuls of hardscrabble dirt and rock and tossing it into the sump.

Then George starts sounding his Death Rattle . . . he's 68, lean as a snake, weathered as an old Paiute moccasin in the Mojave desert . . . the man has stress-induced asthma, his inhaler's in his truck down on the flat, and he's leaning against the 'dozer trying to get enough air not to die. Finally the fire in the engine sump goes out.

But smoke has started again across the clearing. This is not a fun afternoon so far. Exciting for sure, but not much fun. Scared witless. All I need now is to burn down the woods. The cellphone doesn't work down in here, so we can't call the VFD, and the neighbors are about a mile away through the trees. That's the same way the crow flies, by the way. So I'm back being a forest ranger/smoke jumper when George yells, "The fire's back up in the engine!" and guns the dozer down the roadway we've just bulled out like a Russian in a T-38 on his way to Berlin. I get the hilltop fire out again. I hope. And I hear the dozer engine revving and the treads shredding vegetation --- then the scream of limestone as the beastie slides (Thank God it didn't roll) off the top of the hill and down to the creek. I later learn that we now have two paths up/down the hill.

Then all the noise just stops.

And there's not a sound in the woods. Even the birds are still.

I start reenacting the Battle of New Orleans . . ."I ran through the briars, and I ran through the brambles; I ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn't go." Greenbriar is a real bitch. I am being polite, Mom. I get off the hill and pelt down the road (it's gravel). There stands the 'dozer, engine off, smoking gently. No George. No sound. OGod! He's dead somewhere on the road!

Nah. Here he comes, sauntering back up the road with an empty milk jug, sucking his inhaler like a kid with a Dr. Pepper, cutting the top off to make a bailing bucket. Now I'm standing in the creek - in my boots, yet - bailing creek water into the engine compartment, and now the damn fire is out.

Uh, it's not really wise to run heavy equipment with an engine compartment full of rocky mud and sh....tuff. So we unbolt this 100-pound skid plate to get access the the beast's steel gut, and the young guy (that's me) gets into a semi-erotic configuration with this caterpillar and starts pulling out all the mud and the blood and the beer I have been shoving in there in the first place. The smile is because there's no smoke on top of the hill, either. You can laugh or cry. It's easier to just laugh.

Then we bolt the skid plate back on, and just let the machine sit in the road. That's enough for that day.

When I got back to town and back to school, I learned that that same day -- at that same time -- the fire sprinkler in the hall outside my classroom blew and put, I'm told, a couple of inches of water on the carpet and partway up the walls. The Principals shut down my classroom and herded my kids into Kay's class and Dawn's class. Actually, they herded them into Kay's room, but she was so tough on 'em some of them just sort of migrated over to Dawn's.

A little psychokinetics goes a long way . . .

I love being in my classroom; but I flat smooth would not take for that day.

The 'dozer worked fine the next day. And that evening's bath in Buffalo Creek was uniquely refreshing.

This is the road we pushed up the hill when we were calm. I didn't have the strength to take a shot of the one George cut coming off the hill. It looks a lot like this one, except theres some bare-naked limestone up just below the crest where the treads slipped.

Missouri Visuals

This front gate photo is my screen saver at home. It keeps the dream alive. This was taken in at the end of last summer ('07) when I had been starting to build the first structure and working on my tan out there all summer. The grass is kept mowed just by driving back and forth on the road, and the trees on the right are still browned-off at the way George and his bulldozer came through and cleared a mountain-bike trail down that hill.

This is what it looked like the day it was put in by George's son and grandson -- Tim and (damn; I forgot it the instant I went to type it in . . . the kid rides bulls in high school rodeo! He's a good kid, too. They dug those holes in by hand and strung the barbed wire back to the blackjack trees to keep the riffraff out.)

And, finally, this is what the front gate looked like when I finally got back up there this summer, between CADD classes at Mountain View and the first day of in-service . . .

Needs a little work with the lawnmower, but, you know, it feels so way, way different from mowing the lawn back in town. I'm not sure that I could articulate that.

Lord have mercy, but I love it out there.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Missouri Visual

Maybe Katie or Mary can identify this incredible creature. Yes; dammit; I know it's a butterfly; I just don't know all his Latinations. I stalked him while he was at lunch on a thistle. Spread your hand as wide as you can . . . that's how big he was. This was the weekend of 8/11, after CADD classes at Mountain View, before In-Service. Large dose of mental health.

A Movie and A Book

The Movie:
IOUSA. It's a documentary about current American monetary and fiscal policies. It's the scariest damned thing I've seen since I was a little kid and went to horror movies. In the time it took to watch the movie the National Debt (notice how that is capitalized?) increased by $85 Million. King George II almost doubled in six years what it took the other 42 guys ahead of him to do. If you are feeling too good, if you are feeling giddy with the promise of life and spring and butterflies . . . go see this thing. I'm not saying it's not good . . . it's incredibly informative; it's just a major downer.

The Book:
American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Holy Printing Presses, Batman! This boy can write! Gods, demigods, sprites, dwarves, pantheons from around the world cascade and crash into the techno/drug/cultural icons of today in an unhibited (do not leave this lying around your classroom; a couple of passages are . . . uh . . . mental-image-astonishing - but you do get the picture, and the violence and language are explicit and graphic) Armageddon. It's an exploration of the roots of religion and their relevance to current life. You will visit iconic American sites with Old World deities in modern garb; you will ask all the right questions as you read; you will reach all the right conclusions; you will be wrong. And Gaiman put a twist into it . . . he's given you so many indicators, but you read right over them. This is a serious, enthralling read. It is not for the faint of heart or conviction. The answer a power greater than a god gives the protagonist's question is, "Believe." Another glorious wordplay is delivered by a television commentator . . . "This is still God's country; the question is: Which gods?"
This one is meat for much discussion.

New School - Pre-Kid Days

I'm lovin' it. It ain't G-Hall at Lowery, but it's going to be a good year.

Uh, I have a designated classroom budget from the campus. Oh, and I have a designated classroom (curriculum) budget from the District. Fifteen years into the program, and someone has decided that I might be trusted to figure what I need most in my classroom. Kowabunga! Buffalo World!

I got my hands terminally dirty today . . . and I'm not through. The senior guy downstairs in my department taught this program fourteen years ago. Then the guy next door between us had it for a couple of years, then an anonymous guy had it, then the guy I replaced had it for six or eight years. Follow that? OK. I'm cleaning stuff out of all manner of closets, cabinets, and file drawers . . . and I found brochures promoting the class from the first guy on the list - fourteen years ago! tucked in cabinet - forty or fifty copies of the stuff. And parts and pieces of drawing boards and tables and equipment that have been landfill and recycled into Japanese Zero fighter planes. My favorite is the wall cabinet that was chained shut with a combination lock on it. I phoned my predecessor to ask what was in the cabinet and if he remembered the combination. He replied, "You know, I just used to pull those doors open and peer into the crack." Uh . . . I borrowed the boltcutters from Robert the Construction Tech guy next door. That cabinet had dried ink, dried tape, broken tool parts . . . it's empty now.
People I don't know yet have stopped me in the hall to thank me for opening the blinds on the west wall. Uh . . .

I'm gonna have a good time.

I asked Robert if he'd build me (have his students build me) a stand-up window box to go under my west wall windows for daffodils, irises, gladiolas . . . you know, bulbs . . . "Draw it up; give me the plans; I'm visual." Learning experience time: my kids draw it; his kids build it. Bofus plant it. Everybody who comes in the west (back) doors gets to enjoy it. You gotta love it.

More later; taking Kathryn to the movie. IOUSA - documentary.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Second Day of In-Service

Once again in the cafeteria with hand-held microphones and tripod-mounted speakers and reverbs when the speaker strolled too close to the speaker . . . you know the sound . . . the owl getting a vasectomy with a plastic spoon and two rubber bands . . . Newman Smith is one of the top 5% high-performance in the country according to at least one study (not by a staff member). They'll be offering Arabic next year, even.

The speaker today was a retired English teacher - the IDEA is to have the kids write 20-minute essays each six weeks (we're on a 9-week schedule) in their other disciplines. You can't imagine the relief that washed over me when I heard that. I just got a permit to commit literature . . . in public, mind you. The engineers are going to be in for you, and you don't want even to think about what the architects are going to have to go through. Heh heh heh. The Principal's behind it all. This is going to be a good year. That was in the building - the Convocation - now that was a different matter altogether. CFBISD filled Prestonwood Baptist Church (Fort God as it's known in the neighborhood {till the trees grew taller and a new spawn of commercial buildings went up, as you crested the hill on Hebron Parkway, you saw the form of a sleeping dragon with its head tucked under its wing on the far hilltop [alas the dragon snoozes neath an oaken coverlet now]}). I loved the visual irony. I wandered into the sanctuary and was almost knocked over by the blast of the faculty jazz band - really good horns and traps - and the boy (teacher) singer had a nice tenor. Nettie would have enjoyed him. The lights went off, colored lights hit the discoball, the band went away, and a half dozen juniors and seniors put on one of the most poised skits (collegiate quality) re: "what are teachers about" in white light I have ever seen. It was impressive, young Skywalker. The Superintendent got on, said her piece, and got off. Wow. Not "Polly stories", but good nonetheless. The the speaker came on. Neal Jeffrey stutters, but, dog my cats, he 's good; got the audience to honk like a flight of Canadian Geese. Then they finished up with Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog. Helluva show. I'd thought about cutting it, but I'm glad I stayed.

David, the guy I'm following around 'cause I'm still locating offices, restrooms, and the cafeteria, tracked down the guy who has the password that unlocked my lab. Whew, friends and neighbors. It was looking like T-squares and triangles for a while there. Overhead projector, sound, even a pulldown screen. The works. Starting to get set up now.

Got hold of Dawn by phone finally. I figured she must have been hanging in her parachute harness after having fallen off the edge of the world.

I still miss the G-Hall rowdies (and Korah!) from Lowrey, but it was time to flee . . .

Took a photo of el classroom today. I'm still negotiating with the nanogods about letting me load the image into this page. I've already sacrificed 10 bits and a dozen reboots. "Can you hold, please?"

Lucky sumbitch . . .

I am married to the most incredible woman in the world.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Teacher In-Service

It's really odd to start a new year without Kelli or Charlie. Kelli's gone to Denmark with Mads, and Charlie died last spring. Damn. Just, "damn." Charlie wasn't supposed to go yet, and Kelli - I think she was too good with people to be where she was. She did what she was about, and I think that scared people who didn't. Gonna miss both of them.

This is differently the same stuff. Teacher in-service - sitting in a large volume with bad acoustics with some people you know and some you don't trying to catch all the signals that you know you're missing. What do these new guys mean by "red" or "blue"? Playing math games to document the statements "The numbers show . . ." or "Evidence proves . . ."

I've been sitting with a couple of guys I'll be teaching in the same spaces with: David and Robert. David drives in to Carrollton every day from the TCU neighborhood of Fort Worth. Robert is originally from Pennsylvania (I don't hold that against him), drinks green oolong tea and has a 1950+ vinyl record collection. These are good guys. Hooked up again with Chad Bishop from across-the-hall at Lowery. Good feelings. Met up with Brian Shafer from upstairs E-Hall at Lowery. He's still tall. Met the new boys' soccer coach - from Amarillo - by way of South Africa; met the new cheerleader from another northern state . . . 3 1/2 inch heels. We're going to have a good year. Got a change-of-address from Joel Adkins! Remember him? What a gloriously-comptent/compassionate/impassioned geek. He's building an empire down in Kerrville.

My classroom is wall-to-wall computers. As far as the eye can see. And we can't figure the password from last year to unlock the beasts. Where's Napoleon Solo when you need him? But we're still gonna have a good time. I'm looking for a place to plant daffodils here. Not very promising - acres of asphalt (no; that's not an Aggie birth defect) outside my window.

I just drove over to Mountain View JC to pick up my transcripts (10-13 hours a day learning CADD) all summer. It was easier than doing it electronically . . . I don't do well with administrative hassle. Walked up to the window, gave Rafael my student number (we were inc class together), picked up my paperwork, grinned and shook hands, and left. That's how you're supposed to do business.

One of the best parts of MVJC is the drive home. From a dead stop on Keenland Parkway where Vista Real tees in - you can see for twenty-five miles - you release the brake and let the truck roll. It's slow for about half a block while it rolls slightly uphill over a contour line, then down and around a turn to the left - foot off the gas - 47-mph from a flat stop and no engine noise. What a rush. It's even faster when the bed of the truck is full of white limestone for lining the garden.

I'm reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods. It's weirdly serious or seriously weird. The research in this is wonderful, and the wordplay is delicious. There are passages that will drive my politically/morally correct friends nuts-ola. It's a wonderfully wide world. The protagonist, Shadow, asks, "What do I believe? All I have is the evidence of my senses and I have to go where they lead." The answer from Wotan/Odin/Glad-of-War is, "Believe everything." Works for me.

I love being old and humbly arrogant. I know there is more that I don't even know I don't know. By being receptive, by at least listening, I might actually learn something.

This is an incredibly lovely world. Challenging as hell, but terrifyingly beautiful.