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3/2/05-Wed.-Yesterday I got our new mower ready and tried it out on the front yard. It worked well, but there were a couple or three surprises: there was no side vent, so if I did not want to use the grass bag, the cut turf and debris had no easy place to go and thus made little trails around the edges. The bag, which I employed at first, fills up quite quickly, in fact after less than once around the lawn. Also, the gasoline tank is a little small. The machine ran out of gas roughly halfway through the job, something that would hardly ever happen with the old mower. Oh well. I'll adjust to it. The yard does look a lot nicer now.

Last night, Puff wanted to go out fairly late, despite chilly, wet conditions. Then she didn't want to come in. I suppose she was entertained by some varmint out there. But once she finally entered the house, she was rather cold. I dried her off vigorously and thought she'd gotten warmed up before we retired for the night. But, even with two blankets, she was trembling in bed. I was worried about her and so noticed that the shivering persisted for nearly an hour. Fortunately, she was fine, though, when we got up a couple hours later, this morning.

Today I'm celebrating about two years of no new skin lesions, at least none needing surgery right away. Yea! I had my six-month skin check this morning and passed with only a minor problem that the dermatologist advised me to monitor: a pair of small growths on one side of my nose. She said they could become cancerous. Otherwise, all's well.

Today I bought greasy fried chicken and some donuts! I got a coupon in the mail for free coffee with a purchase of Krispy Kreme donuts (but not in a grocery store). Went looking for the nearest franchise and couldn't find it at first. Figured I'd feel better about an otherwise wasted trip if I got some chicken (having seen a fried chicken place at that point). But the manager there knew the way to the Krispy Kreme, so I went on down the road to get the goodies: two chocolate covered donuts along with one tall cup of coffee. When I was ready to pay, they said it was all free. They were having a blackout and could not open their register, so they said I could just have it on the house this time. I'm saving the second donut and piece of chicken till tomorrow's brunch. Mmm!

Later I received an e-mail from Fran in which she mentioned she and her mom, by coincidence, had stopped today for both greasy fried chicken and donuts too, not very healthy, but convenient and delicious.

Puff loved today's food trip. She got to put her head out the window most of the way, and then an apparently homeless man gave her a lot of attention when I let her out by the donut place. He said "he" was a good dog. He apparently couldn't resist her and kept petting and talking to her (till she planted a quick kiss on his tongue, and he was disgusted).

Perhaps remembering how cold she'd been last night, Puff did a funny thing just before we were going to take an afternoon nap. She stuck her head under one edge of a thin blanket and them flung it up and back several times till she managed to completely cover herself, then settled down that way to sleep. She's never done that before, but is talented for a dog!

3/4/05-Fri.-Frances is on her way home. If all goes well, she'll likely be completing the entire trip from FL by around midnight. She surprised me last year at about this time by getting in so early, but now I expect it. Unfortunately, I also expect, despite my reminders, she'll ignore most of the car's maintenance needs. We lost a car of hers in 2002 to transmission problems. And we've come perilously close to an accident because of driving at high speed for long distances on virtually bald tires. On another long trip, the oil was allowed to get down to about the last pint or less, after which it was clear the vehicle uses oil at a high rate, roughly a quart every 600 miles on major trips.

Yet, when I mention such things, Fran acts as though she could not be bothered, saying only things like "The oil light will come on if it really needs more added." Then she tends to drive flat out, as fast as she can for over a thousand miles without any significant break, just asking to have to replace the latest car. Afraid I find such behavior and attitudes irritating.

Late last evening I received an e-mail from Mom about my brother, Allen, going in for gallbladder surgery today. I'd not even known he was having gallbladder problems. I sent him a message, wishing him well and offering to go up and help out a little while, if I could be of assistance.

Puff and I were involved in a little fracas Thursday night with a big, dark dog on a dimly lit stretch of road during our walk. There was not enough light there to notice the creature till it was dashing in and attacking our canine barbarian, who yelled immediately, as if in pain, once the stray got hold of her. I was yelling as well, but the other beast was not backing off till I got a good blow in with my walking "stick" (golf club), this defense slightly delayed because the two animals were both moving fast, and I did not want to hit the wrong one. Once he had a solid demonstration of my displeasure, the bigger dog went running off.

Puff was checked carefully but seemed uninjured, just very excited. Back home again, I found no blood. I suspect now that she had yelled more in fear than pain. In the dark, I could not really tell how vicious things were (or were not) getting. A few moments after the encounter some people came driving slowly by in a pickup, a child hanging out one window and calling for her apparently lost pet.

I had a surprise when I took the Puff out for her necessaries this morning. We have not had rain for a day or so, but there was a little pond forming in the backyard. It turned out a pipe had broken in our nearest neighbors' front area. A small geyser was shooting up a few inches in their lawn. They'll have a shock when they return from work. The same thing happened to us around five years ago. Tree roots had seemingly burst one of the plastic pipes that are used these days.

I took myself to lunch at Tien Jin again, then did some Wal-Mart shopping before returning home. I took Puff along. She was excited, of course, but then threw tantrums when I had to leave her in the car. At the restaurant, I chatted with a friendly waitress who has gotten used to Fran's and my preferences and so quickly each time assures we have everything we want, down to a straw for Frances' water and a doggy bag for my leftovers.

3/9/05-Wed.-The dog got us up this morning about 6:00 with loud upchuck sounds. Frances rushed her outside, but a check of the bed and floors revealed no vomitus, and she did not appear to be sick in the backyard either. Having only retired for the night about 2AM, I attempted to sleep more, but then got up around 7:15, did a few ablutions, and went with the beast for our initial walk of the day, a couple miles in the neighborhood. I took a different route than we've used for awhile. On the old one, there've been too many encounters with unleashed dogs and their irresponsible but doting owners.

Later I drove with Puff over to the bank and then shopped for groceries again at HEB.

Last night I finally completed the cost bases project, a calculation of our gains and losses on taxable account trades for 2004, in preparation for the IRS return next month. Including all sources of income, such as (in descending amount order) net profits on taxable account purchases and sales, my retirement annuity, modest distributions from tax-deferred accounts, Fran's musician earnings from part-time gigs, and gifts, our resources are now significantly greater than usually was the case when we were both working full-time. Yet the nest egg's net on average has been going up (even after the distributions and writing some checks against our margin accounts) more than the major averages. Later this year my early (age 62) Social Security benefits kick in, and our annual taxable income will likely be close to $90,000. Hopefully we'll manage to live on that!

Tonight, a little before sunset, I used the new mower again, this time on the overgrown backyard, and it did just fine. There were no problems. Unlike before, I completed the job with one tank of gasoline, even though the grass was tall and thick after several months without having been cut. Afterward, though, the lack of enough sleep was taking its toll. Will get to bed earlier tonight.

Am enjoying reading another contemporary literature book, I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company, by Brian Hall, an historical novel on Lewis and Clark and on Sacagawea, an Indian woman who became an important part of their Louisiana territory expedition.

I'm leaving early on Sunday, 3/13, on a trip to near Dallas for a few days of visiting with my brother, Ernie, and his family.

3/10/05-Thurs.-This morning I met my brother, Ron, at his room in his ex-wife's house, while she was at work and their girls at school. All things considered, he was doing okay. But his only income is from a part-time job at Sears, and for quite awhile he's been going more into debt each month to partially pay some of his bills and alimony, expecting to resolve the indebtedness when his application for Post Office medical or retirement disability would be approved, probably an unrealistic assumption from the outset, though there is perhaps a small chance that eventually, after various appeals, he may get part of what he hopes from his former employer.

He expresses no doubts about having quit the Post Office, though having no other full-time job on which to fall back, but merely on the wishful-thought that he'd be granted disability benefits. Indeed, even if he were realistically relying on that eventuality as his "deus ex machina," he did not at first formally complete any application process, instead just submitted a letter from a physician suggesting that he would have extra stress from continuing his job as a postal carrier. At each stage he has had high hopes, innocently depending on others to do what he considers to be the right thing, but without appropriate efforts on his part, and then has changed his life based on such illusions. As time passes and things get worse for him, the illusions are being painfully transformed into disillusionment.

Ron has meanwhile fallen from easily in our middle class, a couple years ago, to easily among the poverty class today. In fact, in the course of his job searches through local government offices, he was advised to apply for food stamps and Medicaid. He did so but was told that, now he is living again - even if as a temporary tenant rather than in a conjugal relationship - with his ex-wife, she must apply as well, for him to qualify. He was assured that, based on the incomes he indicates for both of them plus their two girls, the entire household would qualify.

However, his ex-wife refuses to apply. Ron says she does not want to submit her personal info to a public office's data files, and this reluctance is more important for her than medical care for either their children or for Ron. Oh well. One wonders if failure to arrange for medical care for one's offspring should not legally be considered a form of neglect. Of course, with much more pressing concerns among the child welfare caseloads, such a situation would never receive the scrutiny it perhaps deserves. His former wife's irrational rigidity on certain issues helps explain why their marriage failed, the first in a series of events that led to Ron's current predicament. But clearly he has also had a big hand in that downfall.

Ron, each time I have seen him for over a year and a half now, has talked of the next best prospect he has for a new job, always hopeful that things will turn around for him in the next few days. What else can he do? Already depressed before this downward spiral began, he must be often now tempted to return to drinking or fantasize even of taking his life. I can see all too easily how he might be but a few further faltering steps from homelessness or suicide. Yet, I do not know how to turn things around for him. Like Ron, I continue to hope for the best for him. Yet, turning age fifty this year, with likely bad supervisory reviews from his main employment of the past many years, and with no minority status in his favor for affirmative action hiring, the odds are against his success.

He was receptive to our going for breakfast together from time to time. I'll be out of town most of next week, but if by a few days after that he still has a similar schedule, I'll give him a call again, see if we can have a visit over vittles, and perhaps in our conversation not even touch much at all on his job status, just go for our having a good time in each other's company.

3/13/05-Sun.-"What's it all about?" Yesterday I was contacted via e-mail by a friend known last about 25 years ago, she having found me through one of our web sites. The communication catalyzed several hours of anxiety and depression. Reality for me in the interim has not lived up to the idealism of my comparative youth. By contrast, Jasmine, this erstwhile buddy, is still integrally involved with the Lifestream Way community (while I regard it as one of the better religious options, but still largely illusory, and am thus isolated in my purist integrity), lives in a beautiful, rural setting with plenty of land and animals about, and has a career I envy, in teaching and psychotherapy. All of this begs the introspective question: what have I been doing to justify my existence?

Of course, she expects to need to work indefinitely, while my wife and I have been essentially retired already for several years. And I've begun a second career as an investor, one I find more rewarding than I did my work in social services.

Fran and I are wondering how Puff will react to my being gone for a few days, so soon after the dog and I had bonded better while Fran was away for three weeks. We got a partial answer as I pulled out of the driveway. Canine the barbarian was distressed enough at not going too that she was violently struggling and barking in Fran's arms, and even started biting her.

Made good time on the trip up to Murphy. I got off the Mapquest route a couple times, but quickly found my way again, and arrived within a few blocks of Ernie and Caroline's place an hour earlier than I'd expected. This was just as well, though, for I became lost in their little town, fruitlessly looking for the destination residence over and over again at the east end of the correct road, forgetting that they lived on the west end. So, once this was realized, I rolled up Ernie and Caroline's driveway almost exactly when I'd suggested to them I'd arrive. While lost, I had called them three or four times, but they all apparently had their phones turned off. So I was on my own. I later learned they'd been napping. No big deal. I later learned too that Ernie had dropped his phone in a lake when his canoe capsized while he was on a camping and fishing trip last week with his son, William.

Their dog, Fatso, and I got along much better this time than in our previous encounters. I suppose we are both mellowing.

Ernie, Mom, and I went shopping at Kroger's for groceries. There was a little lull afterward, so I rested for half an hour, then banged my head on a low alcove before fully awakening. That definitely woke me!

3/14/05-Mon.-(Actually 12:30 AM, Tues. - "Beware the Ides of March.") We enjoyed a relaxed evening Sunday, Ernie, Caroline, Diane and her friend Hank, William, Mom, and I. After I found Ernie and Caroline's place, several of us had gone grocery shopping, Hank worked on a dysfunctional mower, Ernie fixed a seafood entree dinner, I looked at album pictures of Diane, Hank, Hank's kids, and images Hank and Diane had taken at the local aquarium (where we are to go 3/15), and/or we had all just "hung out" and chatted. I took a late scorcher of a bath after everyone else had retired for the night.

I was too cool and kept waking up, not having quite enough bedding and so felt very tired, but calm and upbeat, today. The plan had been to go to the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art. However, nobody checked till quite late which was their day of the week to be closed, which turned out to be on Mondays, today. We drove over to Fort Worth anyway, but just visited with Allen, Nina, and Sharon at their house and went to a Thai restaurant. I took a number of pictures. Hope some come out. Then Fran and I can use them on a web site page for family viewing.

New to me, Allen has had some seriously bad luck. Red flags for the overly "homeland security"-conscious and zealot bureaucrats in Washington may have first been raised by Allen's visiting and then marriage to a foreign national. And, due to the security clearance he has (and is required to have) for his job, he is required to report to Washington all contacts with foreigners. In any case, since Allen also had a web site promoting his book on alternatives to traditional modes of energy production and use, proposing ideas he suggests might be employed in the development of flying saucers, and is selling said book plus a CD about the same ideas, a little interest has been generated among some in the sci-fi hobby realm, a few of them also foreign nationals. I think the creator of his web site may himself be a foreign national. After Allen had duly reported such contacts in connection with his site and book, he was then contacted by Washington and told he's been investigated to see if his security clearance should be revoked. Apparently the decision has gone against him.

Upon getting this assessment, Allen says he immediately suspended the web site and ceased selling the book and his CD. He also attempted to answer Washington's concerns, one by one, with refuting arguments, including that he had only published the book and started the site with full knowledge and approval of his company's top management.

Nonetheless, Washington is still telling him they are revoking his clearance. Faced with the end of his career of close to twenty years, when he has done nothing wrong, has always played by the rules, and is a loyal, conservative Republican, in some anxiety he has hired a lawyer (giving him a $4000 retainer), but his tentative "legal" points, including suggestions there is a conspiracy by the government to prevent the release of his revolutionary ideas, seem unlikely to me, Mom, or Ernie, to have the desired effect (which we told him firmly). Nina, though, seems to believe, like Allen, that perhaps big energy companies are trying to put pressure on Allen through the government because of the threat to their profits represented by what Allen says in his book. Lord!

With a too small house, a new wife, a small child, a second baby soon to arrive, an unemployed spouse, and virtually no savings, Allen's situation is now almost as threatened as my brother Ron's, despite his excellent work record with one of our country's top companies and till now making an excellent salary (that he has largely, however, blown on very bad investments).

3/15/05-Tues.-This morning, we (Ernie, Caroline, Diane, Mom, and I - William in school and Hank plus Carlos [who sometimes works for Ernie and who, like Hank, stays at Ernie and Caroline's old place] working on Ernie and Caroline's yard in our absence - just as, yesterday afternoon, while we were visiting in Fort Worth, three women were cleaning up Ernie and Caroline's large house, so the homeowners wouldn't have to do so) drove over to and explored the Dallas World Aquarium (DWA). The facility is not up to the Monterey (CA) Aquarium standard, but certainly very rewarding! Even though I do not take nearly as many pictures or observations as Fran, I could have spent at least another hour there, but Ernie and Caroline felt they'd gotten their money's worth after about an hour and a half.

Next we went to lunch at a barbeque place. The food was scrumptious and the conversation interesting.

3/16/05-Wed.-Returning home from Ernie's today, I stopped in Italy, TX.

On the radio while I was driving south of Dallas there was discussion of Arthur Miller, who died recently, and his most famous play, "Death of a Salesman." The comment was made that Willy Loman is not just a salesman but represents everyman. We are all Willy Lomans. As I was writing that, I heard one of the Dairy Queen workers talking about a boyfriend, how he'd told her he still wanted to see her but maybe not all the time, and I thought it's not just that we're all Willy Lomans; it's that we all have our lines, our stories, and our parts, as if we were all characters in a play.

Back in Austin by mid-afternoon, I stopped at a library branch to renew a book and to do research for new investments.

3/20/05-Sun.-Exhausting day. No particular reason, except that, a bit more than usual, I've gotten little sleep in the past 24 hours. The canine was restless during her nap this afternoon and so disrupted mine. Last night, I'd gotten to sleep at close to 3 AM, then was up before 8 this morning.

Frances and I completed today our 60th monthly online family newsletter issue. Yea! Then we tried to print it, so we could make copies for the few old fogies or neurotics in the extended family who as yet cannot or will not access it on the internet, and the printer ran out of ink. OK. No problem, but once it was filled again, the printer, which we've only had for five months, would not operate properly. All efforts to fix it since have been for naught. It prints at times, but not what we want, or not in any readable form. Sigh.

Finishing the newsletter took up most of the free time over the past few days, but I also attended the Wednesday night meeting of my book discussion group, interesting as usual.

Happily, Puff appeared rather glad to see me when I had returned from Ernie's a few days ago, and was not at all standoffish, as she'd been at first toward Frances upon her getting back from a three week holiday without the pooch.

Happily, Fran and I have also not been standoffish but have enjoyed each other's intimate companionship since my return.

Our grass is going gangbusters this spring. I have already mowed both front and rear once (twice in front), but the grass in places is again nearly a foot high. Our pear tree has already blossomed and now is leafing out. Our little redbud tree did its briefly glorious annual thing. Multiple birds through the yard are getting amorous or have commenced nesting behaviors. We also seem some of the time to have a sharp-shinned hawk, no doubt snacking on a few of the many doves or smaller birds who make their homes here.

Did my morning and evening walks, nearly falling asleep on the less stimulating parts, I felt so tired. Puff saw a quite fat lady, though, and did not wait for her to sing to voice her doggy displeasure at the woman's size or how she walked. The beast is intolerant of anything she regards as abnormal, and she has no cool, nor manners!

Also almost slept through Fran's giving me my massage tonight. At least I was quite relaxed!

This weekend I tried to find more outlets I'd like for developing a better social network, but nothing appealed. I checked out the local Unitarian Fellowship once more. However, instead of a neat philosophical conversation, such as I had expected, they wanted us to discuss reading the Bible again, but from a new perspective. I've already read it all once and most several times, from all the perspectives I care to. It may be interesting as anthropology or to help fill in some historical or comparative religion gaps in our understanding, but it has zero additional appeal now as an aid to my spiritual development.

I'll keep looking.

This week I plan to contact my brother, Ron, once more and see if he's interested in our going for breakfast together. This is not what I have in mind for socializing either. Ron always, always, leaves it up to me to make the overtures, even as he keeps getting himself into worse situations, so that I feel it is incumbent on me to make the effort. At least then he has someone who acts like he cares about him. But sometimes it just gets old, and I let long periods of time go by without trying to do anything with him. He never acts as though it makes any difference to him one way or the other. However, once he has gotten himself into a real mess he may send an e-mail asking for something, if only extra dishes and silverware, since he left everything with his last woman friend or spouse and so, one more time, must start over from scratch. Oh well. I'll call him and just see how it goes. I wonder, though, if I am merely playing the "rescuer" role in an old Transactional Analysis "game."

3/25/05-Fri.-Met this morning with my brother, Ron, first at a Mexican restaurant he'd selected, which turned out to be closed, then at a Dan's, which turned out to be so crowded it took us awhile to find parking, and then there was too long a wait, and finally at a Whataburger. By the time we'd gotten served, we had only about 15 minutes before he needed to leave for work at Sears, giving himself less than 10 minutes to get there through busy traffic. (And he said the food [which he selected from the menu, and for which I was paying] was too greasy, not healthy, which was true, but I did not hear him suggesting he buy breakfast for us at a health food restaurant.)

Still, it was a start! I've been attempting to have us meet for several days.

Ron says he's gotten an offer of a sales job with a home security firm. He's delighted and convinced this is finally his ticket out of the mess he's been in since quitting his long postal carrier career as "too stressful." After three months, he'll be expected to be earning $40,000-50,000 a year in straight commissions, no base pay. He says there may also be an expense allowance, up to $500 a month for use of his truck for all the driving.

It occurs to me (Duh!) that he's unrealistically upbeat on the new opportunity, even as before he was unrealistically negative on the postal job. But, like Willy Loman, one must first sell oneself to be a decent salesman. He says he's found at Sears that he likes selling and is good at it. The only trouble has been that there he does not get paid enough.

But I do not mention to him that there's a big difference between soft retail sales, when the customer comes to you already intending to buy, and hard sales, when you must find the potential customer - or mark - and convince her or him to pay for your product, when he/she has no prior inclination to do so.

I do touch on the major downside, that if he gives up the Sears job for this and it turns out that hard sales is not his thing, he has nothing on which to fall back. In a true salesman's (self-deluded?) fashion, he does not see this as a real issue, feeling he just needs to be given a chance, to then be back at the top of his form. I so hope he's right.

He said things were going well, or as well as can be expected, in his current residence arrangement, staying in his youngest daughter's room (she sleeping on the sofa) at his ex-wife's place. That daughter, at least, he says, is happy to have him around.

I took a few pictures of him, before he left for his Sears job.

He said he'll know for sure if he's gotten the security firm work in a few days (after their drug and clearance checks).

We plan to meet again, and then I may interview him for short life history essays (to put in our family newsletter) leading up to his 50th birthday celebration. But, as usual (groan!) we did not set any definite place or time for the next meeting, things being too much in limbo about his schedule.

He said he couldn't afford his depression medication and had run out earlier this week. He finally got more, through Mental Health on an emergency basis, after a 6½ hour wait at one of their hospitals yesterday, a wait that necessitated his being rather late for his Sears shift. He said that during the delay he could feel himself getting more and more worked up, till he was a hair's width away from hauling off and hitting a noisy young kid that had been cutting up near him. To deal with his rage he had begun pacing around the waiting area, but still could feel the anger completely consuming him. Finally, another patient whom he knew suggested he go outside where it was calmer and they had speakers so he'd know when his name were called. He did, and immediately had felt a lot better.

Today, once again with the meds, he says he's much more relaxed, though still not completely on an even keel.

Ron says his disorder is a manic-depressive disorder. I feel disloyal, but cannot help wondering if his conviction that the security firm sales job is right for him, when the opposite seems the case as I see it, may in part be a symptom of the manic phase and from being off his medication several days.

Of course, I must admit that for many years I've had mixed feelings toward Ron, which affects my ability to look at his proposals or actions objectively. For instance, it amazed me, but also made me jealous, in younger days that a number of really attractive women would go for "bad boy" Ron, when conscientious Phil was having trouble getting dates. Later, after he'd had kids but was rather callous about it, taking them for granted or even neglecting them, when I would have given almost anything to have been a father, I could not easily accept the unfairness of it and both envied and resented him for his cavalier attitudes toward either parenthood or being a good spouse, basically toward being a grownup! So, while I feel I ought to "do my duty" toward Ron as my brother, even today he makes me angry with his self-indulgent, immature, impulsive, wish-fulfilling approach to just about everything.

Not surprisingly, Ron was unreceptive to any reservations about his latest venture, and it was clear he'd already firmly decided to take the offered sales gig, if as expected he passes the security and urinalysis checks. Accordingly, I just sincerely wished him well, then watched him drive off into the morning commute's congestion and on toward Sears. "What will be, will be."

I very much wish the best for him, yet fear he is making yet another mistake. May I be proven wrong! As with my involvements with my mom, siblings, nephews, and nieces, sometimes one must be humble, hope things work out despite misgivings, and be supportive when, inevitably, sometimes they do not.

Naturally, as a true friend I would not also be thinking in the back of my mind that, sooner or later, they'll see the errors of their ways, in not having followed my wiser counsel, and that then I'll need to restrain myself from a self-righteous kind of "I told you so" reaction. Maybe at heart I'm kind of a prick. Or perhaps I'm being more realistic. Probably both are true.

Frances and I had a good time tonight at the belated gathering of some friends, to celebrate recent birthdays. (They also invited me to join them for an hour or so on 4/2 for entertainment at a Tango dance workshop. I won't be attempting to dance, but Fran will be there participating in the live musical performing, and our friends said I'd be welcome too.)

Then, on our way home we got caught on the edge of a big storm. No harm done. The other couple called us, though, and as it happened they had felt the full measure of the tempest, going off the road in the cloudburst and receiving hail damage to their truck. Evidently, Frances and I, having left just ahead of them, were only a couple minutes from a similar fate.

I have looked for a group of vegetarians meeting in Austin, in order to make new friends, eat better, and be encouraged generally in a more healthy quality of life. I was lucky enough to find a group here that even accepts folks like me, who are thinking of eating in a more vegetarian way but still have some (yucky?) carnivorous tastes. The group is part of, which evidently has thousands of small organizations and meetings around the world, on all kinds of subjects of interest to at least a few people who enjoy getting together and talking about their hobbies. In fact, I found that, right here in Austin, there are another half-dozen groups through about which I'm curious. It should be fun checking some of these out!

3/31/05-Thurs.-Up about half past 7 this AM. Fran was away early for her volunteer work at a local park. The pooch and I took our morning walk. Later I did some investing research and recording. Once Frances had returned, we put the dog in her kennel and went for a fast food TexMex lunch, supplemented by a half-off coupon.

This afternoon we took medium-length naps, and then Fran gave Puff a good trim. She's been suffering in the past few days with our 80+°F temperatures.

Fran's been getting a gratifying number of performing gigs lately, averaging around $100 a day for playing her instruments this week.

The dog has a fresh source of snacks: big beetle grubs. Puff is quite a little sneak and terribly fast both about easily finding the larvae and retrieving them from just at or beneath the yard surface, secreting them into her mouth without my noticing, even as I am watching to see if she does her eliminative business, then getting them inside still undetected.

The other night I only noticed her latest success when she began playing with a new "pet" on our front room carpet. It was the same shape and ugliness as a cut-worm, but larger, maybe three-eights of an inch wide and an inch and a half long. I grabbed it up to throw outside and was so surprised when it bit my hand that I dropped it. Puff, of course, thought this a game and raced to grab it back. Eventually, I got it safely outside but now have more respect for the critters. I wonder how Puff manages not to be bitten!

This afternoon, she did get her comeuppance with a stink bug she tried to mouth for awhile. It released some of its special aroma on her tongue, and she was distressed over this new "spice" for several minutes afterward.

Last Saturday afternoon I checked out the just opened Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, going to its S. Lamar location for a showing of "Blues Harp," a macabre yet fascinating foreign film. I had a quite enjoyable experience that included Hot Hot Wings, so intensely peppered I needed two containers of liquid refreshment to dilute the fiery vittles.

I've volunteered to be part of the fund drive for one of our radio stations, starting 4/2.

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