4/1/03-Tues.-A splendid blustery spring day. Made a pilgrimage over to The University of Texas again and picked up a couple certified copies of my transcript (for employers). They fit in two small envelopes. The process was amazingly simple. No forms had to be filled out. The duplicate representations of my complicated undergraduate career, spanning nearly eleven years, were properly signed, sealed, and delivered in about five minutes. Impressive!
I wondered, were I ordering just one transcript and my college career less complex, if the entire transaction, officially summarizing four years out of a life, might have been finished in just a minute or two.
Reminds me of a one-inch square patch of periods I'd seen while in Berkeley, in the 1960s, on the front page of "The Wall Street Journal," purported to demonstrate how little space a similar patch of microdots would take to reproduce The Bible, cover to cover.
During that period my feelings were as upfront as a stereotypical Italian's. I was suddenly anxious, realizing for the first time that if so much information, perhaps equivalent to a record of one's entire existence, start to finish, could be so neatly encapsulated, then my own life mattered little. I could die, and it would mean no more than this little smudge of dots, almost nothing at all.
A good novelist, playwright, or poet, perhaps a Melville, Shakespeare, or Whitman, might sum up all of a person's existence in a few pages. Those words could be photographed, reduced, and printed as such microdots. How many persons' lifelines, I thought, might fit on the head of a pin? Ten, twenty? This awareness filled me with foreboding.
Today, of course, much progress has been made in our capacity to reduce. An individual's total genetic code, in binary bits, could fit onto a microchip. The history of our species might be encompassed on a small, efficiently loaded CD. A superpower's military can do even more to reduce the perceived worth of the individual, as tens of thousands or even millions may now be snuffed out in a single explosion.
In Arabic/Islamic countries now it is clear that thousands of their victims are not valued as much by Bush as the lives of our own citizens and troops. Nor is the sovereignty of any other nation seen as having the same significance as the hegemony of the U.S. Even NATO and the UN are viewed by him as suspect organizations, taking a back seat in his priorities to whatever he wants for our nation and his interpretation of its interests. These are interesting, perhaps highly dangerous, views.
Yet each person's unique universe of experience, I contend, remains priceless, sacred. I find no objective support for this idealism. It is but an existential article of strongly held faith.
Of course, there are a few people and politicians with values and behaviors so alien they seriously call into question the worth of a life. I am steadfastly non-violent myself, but one wishes the gods would simply smite such individuals or the earth open up beneath their feet and swallow, as if they had never been!
4/4/03-Fri.-In recent weeks there has been a large increase in my problems from tummy gas. Maybe it's just a reaction to current events. In any case, it is quite uncomfortable and troublesome, but in no way an emergency. For some reason it has no noticeable relation to food I have eaten or even to antacid supplements I take. The phenomenon can occur at any time, but is now more prevalent than not. This is just one of several hopefully minor conditions to mention to the doctor, when it comes time for my annual physical.
Since the last entry I've gone, on Wednesday, for an initial interview, computerized application, resume and transcript submissions, and timed testing regarding a full-time, but temporary, job that would entail reading and scoring others' tests, in several projects, each a few days or weeks at a time, scattered through the next three or four months.
Although I suspect I did better than average, I'm sure I didn't ace everything. The most important portion of the testing was an essay, said to be worth about two-thirds of the final "grade," but for which we had only fifteen minutes! I'm a decent writer but not a terrifically fast one. In this part I completed my thoughts but in rather harried fashion. So, if I am not among the merely one in six applicants they expect to hire, it will be understandable.
It may be a case of advance "sour grapes," but the workplace involved is about fifteen to twenty miles away and requires both morning and afternoon travel through extremely intense rush-hour traffic. Also, the work itself will not easily accommodate my need to take more frequent bathroom breaks than is usually true for younger workers. So, I'll probably not be disappointed if it works out I'm not among those chosen to serve.
On the other hand, there would be no need for much standing, dress would be casual, the pay is above minimum wage, and the income would give our budget a nice boost through the summer. It would as well make it easier to get further positions, if I do alright in this return-to-work endeavor.
In the past couple days, with great assistance from Fran, a new web page has been created for my sites, at vintagediarist.com, and I've gotten online a previously written "Interlude" summary of my situation from 1976 to early 1977. This will open a newly transcribed portion of this overall journal, entitled Broken Branch, Fallen Leaf, Rippled Water, which will cover the period from 1977 through the end of my bachelor days.
After my comments here over the past few months concerning the proposed and now actual war Bush directed on Iraq, and bearing in mind some strange interpretations by conservative, pro-Bush politicians and columnists, including some that outrageously equate anti-war sentiment with a wish that the conflict not go well for our troops, as an embarrassment to Bush, or with aiding the enemy, allegiance to Saddam Hussein, or treason, I wish to state my views, as follows, clearly enough for even the most obtuse to "get it:"
1. I have no problem with, and even greatly desire, the removal of Saddam Hussein and any other similarly criminal dictator in the world from power, so long as this may be done within the bounds of international law and without any single outside country or its "coalition" taking matters into their own hands (in the absence of specific sanction for military action, as a last resort, upon a sovereign nation);
2. Nonetheless, in defiance of most world opinion and many interpretations of international law, without evidence of imminent threat to our country, and apparently also without realistically considering the nuanced implications for our nation of a new, perhaps reckless and rogue policy of preemptively invading sovereign nations and toppling governments at our discretion, we have in fact gathered a coalition and led it into the current war with Iraq.
3. Now that we are there, I am appalled to what horrible and terrorist lengths Saddam Hussein and his loyalists have been willing to go in defense of their remaining in power and/or protecting their independent country from the invading and occupying forces.
4. In the confusion of war and of competing propaganda messages, however, it is perhaps understandable that some would see defense of their homeland against foreign invaders as of paramount importance, just as, were the situation reversed, we would likely resort to guerilla tactics to obstruct those attacking us on our own soil. If conventional means of thwarting an invading adversary were not open to us, who can doubt that some patriotic Americans would not even use suicidal means to defend this country from aggressors?
5. I am, on principle, non-violent except in the most extreme and clear-cut circumstances of necessary defense. In the context of the international community, I feel that we must rely on international law, not law unto ourselves, in determining when violence is appropriate and legitimate. We claim to be for democracy's spread and complain that the United Nations is not effective, even as we dispute the democratic judgments of that body and undermine it by ignoring its will with respect to both our ally, Israel, or our enemy, Iraq. Nationalistic policies, at the expense of the international organizations established to maintain peace and a higher quality of life among the peoples of the world, do not make for a safer, more stable globe, but rather detract from the vital role in stabilization and peace-keeping envisioned for the UN.
6. Our nation is not somehow above the law or exempt from the requirement to work within the international community simply because we claim that God is on our side, that we have no ulterior motives for our aggression, or that some force, namely we and our coalition partners, must go in to take out such a bad leadership person as...(fill in the blank from: Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Iran, etc. - whomever we currently allege is part of the evil arrayed against our ever so benevolent crusade of pure goodness).
7. However, I certainly do not wish our forces ill or that circumstances would arise at their expense which would tend to embarrass Bush. I have only the greatest and best hopes for our forces' quick conclusion of their current actions and departure, under positive conditions, from the nation of Iraq.
8. Since we are the invaders and occupying forces, though, it is our responsibility to conduct a campaign with the absolute minimum of harm to Iraqis and with as prompt and complete as possible a return to normal for them in terms of access to food, water, health care, livelihood, personal freedom, and so forth.
9. Only the international community has the authority to oversee the rebuilding of a state so damaged by war or governmental collapse that it cannot lead itself. It is simply self-serving, arrogant, and in violation of international law to insist, now that we have taken upon ourselves the destruction of a country which had not attacked us first, that we must also control its rebuilding, attempting to assure that it takes a shape and form to our liking. At the earliest possible moment, we should turn Iraq over to the UN for management, pending a return to sovereign Iraqi control of itself. This process should begin immediately. We ought as well to substantially beef up our support for the UN, with funding, diplomatic efforts, and peacekeeping troops, to permit it the power to do the job intended for it when its charter was approved, shortly after World War II. Were we merely to give the UN the support we have given Israel, the United Nations likely could help bring about a far safer, more humane world than if we try to fulfill the role intended for it. To instead seek foremost our narrowly interpreted nationalistic interests at the expense of the UN will only work to the detriment of not only our long-term strategic goals, but true improvement in the geopolitical situation generally.
10. We cannot now escape the negative consequences of our unilateralist policies with respect to Iraq. We can only mitigate them. (Their reality has nothing to do with my opinions or sense of national morality [or immorality]). The sooner we accept our responsibility for destabilizing the international community and for creating resistances and hatreds through our bullying tactics and worse, the sooner we may begin the healing process that can in time lead to the end of terrorism as a global phenomenon. So long as we insist on a "my way or the highway" approach, throwing our super-power weight around in the world, forcing others to deal with our dominance, rather than cooperatively engaging with the rest of the world for common goals, so long shall we have to fight a "war on terrorism" on many levels and at huge ultimate cost, both for us and for billions of others. Might really does not make right. We must lead by example, seeking others' respect for us, not their fear.
Meanwhile, what with the Iraq war, threats of war - perhaps even a nuclear confrontation - with North Korea, many uncertainties about how the disparate cultures in and around Iraq will respond to an end to the Saddam Hussein regime and a likely coalition forces occupation, questions also about the continued effectiveness of Al Qaeda, and, now, a new concern, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), people are often feeling quite insecure and are putting off both travel and consumer spending when they can.
It may be quite awhile before things feel like they've returned to the level of stability we considered normal prior to 9/11/01. In one small sign of the times, a favorite pen pal of Fran's, a Chinese-Australian lady, indicates great frustration that, all things considered, she dare not go anywhere on her upcoming Easter vacation, travel for which she had already planned and paid.
4/9/03-Wed.-Fran did the laundry this morning. I got ready for and kept an appointment with my dermatologist, who gave me "a clean bill of health" and told me to return in three months.
This will be the longest I've been without an essential scheduled physician visit since before my retirement began. It further emphasizes that now is an excellent time to be pursuing a temporary and/or part-time job. No word yet from the application and testing last week for work scoring exam papers.
I heard a great interview this morning, on Public Radio's "Morning Edition," of a former Texan who is now working for the English language edition of the professionally respected Arabic news network, "Al-Jazeera."
Although the commencement of the English form of "Al-Jazeera" on the internet has run into problems from hackers angry at some of its coverage, ironically so, since the coverage in question is often shown first on European networks that scoop even "Al-Jazeera," as was the case with the allegedly inflammatory incident of U.S. deceased troops and prisoners of war being telecast (and let's not mention the numerous prior and continuing telecasts of dead or prisoner of war Iraqis by U.S. and other Western media), the new English version web site is now scheduled to begin in a couple months.
Found myself thinking that the interviewed reporter's job would be a neat and worthwhile one for me, consistent with my interests and aptitudes. Pipe dream. At least I can applaud such alternative journalism where I find it!
During a short rest this afternoon I had a brief hypnagogic state in which I was seeing shifting imagery, like in a movie. It was beautiful and vivid, as if each film frame were painted by Vincent Van Gogh. In this sequence, occurring at once in our actual, current backyard and yet also in a field in my folks' old ranch property outside Austin, I saw a sunny afternoon scene and a large hawk descending from a high dead branch, braking its flight, snatching a live dove off the ground, and then flying off with its prey.
4/10/03-Thurs.-Up at 6:30 AM. In a dream last night, for an unknown reason there was an overnight sweeping transformation such that only social units encompassing between them both fluency in more than one major language and at least two daily work shifts would now be viable. The vast majority of the population, Fran and I included, was forced, willy-nilly, to rapidly find and weld alliances into new, small groupings which could contribute the now requisite two eight-hour periods of employment in each twenty-four as well as at least two different languages. Fran and I quickly arranged and settled into such a new domestic unit that included a German-speaking woman plus a couple other individuals.
Since we had not only to meet the bare minimum of new social and financial circumstances but also to be competitive with all the other new "family" units, and did not want to always have to work two shifts a day, one as translators, in our free time our group began teaching one another the languages of our group, English for those who spoke only German, and vice versa.
It was a mini-lesson in how, when one must, people can rapidly adapt to new survival arrangements. Great upheavals can provide a strong incentive for people to become proficient in other than simply their native tongue. Our current family arrangement perhaps persists mainly because it is the simplest socioeconomic unit. New circumstances, though, could mandate a reorganization of what is normal for family groupings. At the same time, a relatively relaxed set of financial circumstances, such as appears to be prevalent in the US now, may result in some disintegration of the typical family unit. I heard a statistic recently that may be indicative: between forty and fifty percent of children growing up in the United States now live part of the time in single parent households, a level previously not seen, at least for large numbers of people in the historical period, except due to major warfare.
My youngest brother, Pete, has been dealing with grief over a breakup with his latest girlfriend, with whom he'd had high hopes of a lifelong relationship. She had accused him of instability and alcoholism. She'd already given him a couple tries at making the romance work before this final rejection.
Pete in the past had been aggressively vehement in denials of having any such problems, but this time responded positively by taking up a healthier lifestyle and (so far) stopping his drinking, even going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
He has now become mildly interested in meditation as well and asked me generally why I meditate at all and specifically what I like about the method I use. I replied as follows:
"Why do I meditate and what do I get out of it? Well, it's relaxing, generally, and helps with organizing thoughts. Sometimes there are nice insights. Occasionally I remember things I might not have otherwise. It takes up time when I might be doing things less healthy. It allows a better access to inner experience than through drugs. If there is any truly deeper realm of reality, it may be attained in this way. If not, it at least helps one stay fairly well grounded and clear about what is what. It is a straightforward, low expectation, nonjudgmental, and fairly safe way to gradually come to know the inner landscape.
Blaise Pascal said (except he said it in French!) 'All men's miseries come from their inability to sit quietly and alone.' While that's probably a bit of an exaggeration, I think it's true overall, especially if one factors in the changes to the world if everyone were to practice to make perfect the ability to sit in this way. (For women, of course, all misery comes from their inability to avoid men.)
Why this technique as opposed to others? I use a form of insight meditation in which I focus on thinking (thoughts, memories, or imagination), feelings, or sensations of all kinds. I like the simplicity and religiously neutral aspect of the method. For much of my life, I had all sorts of people telling me that this or that set of beliefs or practices was the one secret to salvation, enlightenment, and so on. I find that with this approach I do not have a lot of intellectualizing going on, about whether the system is or is not really the best way or any way at all. Now I am seldom distracted by such side-issues.
The only thing of any relevance is just whatever bubbles up into my own consciousness from one moment to the next, and then letting go, letting it pass on into the next moment and the next thought, feeling, or sensation. We usually do almost everything except focus awareness in that way. Or, if we do concentrate on the mental contents, we may soon rush off to do something else and so avoid actually dealing with them.
All our lives seem to be successions of thoughts, feelings, and sensations. To notice them is, in a way, to live. To avoid them, to be less alive. And maybe, if we peel away the onion enough, by noticing each layer of mentation, we may get to a place or experience that is beyond all of them.
Some say that when thoughts, feelings, and sensations are stilled, or relatively so, psychic powers or other "fun" phenomena may be more manifest. There could be precognitive dreams, creative ideas, influences of a "magical" nature, awareness of others' unspoken thoughts and feelings, long-lost recollections, or even "knowledge" of past lives. It's also possible that one must go through "hell" before getting to "heaven." There may be guides along the way. Such experiences are interesting, but if one is not careful they could be just other distractions. To dwell on them may be a way to keep from merely noticing one's thoughts, feelings, and sensations, a deceptively simple guideline.
Somebody else might get just as much out of prayer, reading a book thoughtfully, making love with heightened awareness and sensitivity, enjoying the heck out of the natural world, solving mathematical puzzles, doing excellent photography, being a genius at investing, painting pictures, doing volunteer work with people who are dying, Zazen meditation, or what have you.
Well, that was pretty long-winded! Ignore it all except Pascal, and you'll probably be as well or better off."
4/11/03-Fri.-This morning the alarm woke us while the sun was still sleeping. As I in my methodical slow old body way got myself ready, Fran got herself and our gear quickly organized, and we left in forty-five minutes, bearing with us both the mutt and our kayaks.
Before 8 AM, we put into the water of Town Lake, a relatively wide and long picturesque stretch of the Colorado that lies in the heart of Austin and rests between two dams, with hike and bike trails, lots of tall trees, flowering shrubs, fern-covered rocks, beautiful cliffs, and fountains from natural springs, at various points along the waterway.
Few others were out and about with us, just here and there a boat or two filled with unison rowers quietly streaking across the mirror-like lake surface.
The temperatures for the whole time we were out were in that exquisite Goldilocks range, not too hot and not too cold. As the sun crept over the horizon, clouds dissipated its brilliance, so that even as we were returning the light was not intense.
We had a most enjoyable, relaxing couple or three hours, with lots of fun laughing at Pepper's antics or noticing all the different other animals. Besides scores of turtles (some small as a silver dollar, some large as a big dinner plate), coots, and swallows, we saw a big white swan (which tried to take a bite out of my boat), great blue herons, green herons, two noisy white geese (which nipped at my paddle), a night heron, a snowy egret, a woodpecker, several killdeer, a vulture (eating a recently dead raccoon on a rock at the water's edge), many other birds, a (still alive) raccoon, and a snake.
Halfway through our outing, we stopped at a little peninsula of land that extends into the lake/river right below one of the dams. Because of intervening creeks, it is really more like an island. We hiked around on it a little before heading back.
Afterward, we went out to a favorite TexMex food restaurant for each (of the humans) to have a delicious brunch.
This was a most satisfactory poor man's (or woman's) vacation, and definitely beats working.
A pen pal from Johannesburg, South Africa, wrote of her squeamishness about the killing of animals for food or sport when she was little. It reminded me of a winter incident in which, when I was about three and we lived in Albany, GA, my folks, thinking I was soundly asleep, were out on a back patio butchering a pair of what I'd thought till then were our pet rabbits, to the accompaniment of rude comments about the appearance of their insides, and the fact that one had been pregnant, as evidenced, as I watched and saw through the curtains and a frosty window, by the several little almost formed bunnies Dad pulled out of the carcass. The results of their grisly handiwork were served for dinner the following day (refused by me) and helped set the stage for my being a vegetarian for many years later. Of course, they thought my sensitivities amusing, which they were!
After the return from a perfect respite on the lake, I had communication from my youngest brother, Pete, who, at eighteen years my junior, is in unfortunate ways like the son I never had, and our relationship sometimes seems to be typical of father/son generational discord and misunderstanding. He wanted to tell me in private that "in private" Mom had told him she was upset with me for having stressed the importance of good record keeping related to several large loans she has made, for some of which there are not even written promissory notes and for none of which has she done the books to the extent of jotting down when and if repayments were ever received, nor amounts, from whom, dates, etc. Since she wants me, if the time comes, to administer and execute the estate, or whatever is the lingo, I thought such info might come in handy. It is an old bone of contention, but between us, not involving Pete. I wish he would keep his secret conversations genuinely private, not be Mom's rescuer and bolster his self-esteem by attempting to manipulate me to suit a misguided view of her needs. What she really needs is a better system of record keeping or to not be making large loans. Meanwhile, if Mom has a complaint, let her tell me.
Instead, she's complaining to Pete behind my back rather than actually getting her loan records up to date. Oh well. Her latest to me on this was about a $30,000 loan requested by one of my nephews and her grandchildren, to help him go to chef school. This young man has never held a job long, has often borrowed or gotten outright gifts from her with no repayments, enjoyed alcohol and drugs, been arrested for various crimes, been a "skinhead," and so forth.
The joys of coming from a large and often dysfunctional family!
Last night I watched an extremely effective, mesmerizing, but terribly depressing movie on video, "Dancer in the Dark." I can highly recommend it, but please plan on a way to cheer yourself up afterward!
4/15/03-Tues.-Up before 7 this morning. Worked on the next issue of our online family and investment newsletter (which now has well over 10,000 hits!) and then went for a walk. The sky was overcast. A mild breeze kept things comfortable. Next, drove to the supermarket, renewed my car registration, had a snack and a cup of "half-caf. decaf." coffee, and did some shopping. We need to check the roof tiles today to assure there was no significant damage from the hail storm two or three weeks ago.
Later. I went up on top of the house, an awesome but initially scary perspective on our now tree-filled yard, looked over the tiles (OK), and swept a bunch of arbor debris out of some drainage channels next to the chimney, discovering carpenter ant colonies there, which, with Fran's help, I treated.
There's a new web site hassle. All our guest books are down, and the provider no longer "recognizes" our accounts. We figure Alxnet may have discontinued their free services and just did not bother notifying us.
Nothing special going on here today otherwise.
4/17/03-Thurs.-Fran and I completed our latest online newsletter (officially for April 21) about 1 AM last night. What with "plumbing" problems and my usually slower pace now, I didn't get to sleep till about 3:00. Up again at 7 this morning. I checked for messages on the computer, went for a walk with Pepper, gave her breakfast, shaved, did my teeth, and so on. Then I went with Fran (in separate cars) over to Office Depot where we made copies of the new issue, to mail for folks who are techno phobic or just behind the times. We then went our different ways for lunch. Fran wanted a pizza buffet, while I was going for a (hopefully healthier) soup brunch.
After eating, I drove on over to Half-Priced Books to see if they had openings (did not) and to the supermarket, where I caught us up on the grocery shopping.
With my plumbing hassles, foot troubles, and skin sensitivities, plus a likely bad reference from a last supervisor (with whom I had more than usual differences), the recession, negative age factors, some mental and physical "slowing," an employment plus educational background that does not naturally lead into new work, lack of much computer literacy, and being monolingual, I realize now the odds are terrifically stacked against my finding and retaining any job, much less having the luxury of "rewarding" or "meaningful" employment.
I'm hoping not to get completely discouraged, though, and, as the spirit moves me, to continue my job searching. Meanwhile, am managing our portfolio to try and assure a 10% per year minimum increase in net assets, after expenses. So far, we're up over $40,000 since early March of this year. If the minimal level of increase can on average be sustained, working will be a nice but not a necessary option.
4/20/03-Sun.-We are presented with a splendid spring day, amazingly cool, clear, and blustery for so late an Easter. On my early walk I separately saw a snake and a vulture, both close at hand, the bird picking at a bit of road kill. In our backyard, a pair of toads were putting the finishing touches on one another and a slimy cascade of egg strings, deposited at the surface of the larger of our ponds, there to settle quickly into the algae and water weed. Have also now begun to notice a less desired sign of the maturing season, the return of the mosquito, carriers of the quickly spreading West Nile virus.
The front and back gardens Fran has been tending these many years by now are gorgeously abundant in their multicolored blooms. I'll likely mow the grass on public view later, closer to evening, and give Frances a long massage (while watching the video of Kevin Costner's "The Postman"), then call my sister, Alice, who was just going out last evening, when I'd first phoned, and wished me to call her back tonight to wish her "Happy Birthday!" and have a chat.
Yesterday we celebrated the holiday weekend with a special seafood meal at a restaurant on Town Lake. Austin was experiencing a drizzly precipitation at the time, our window table overlooking a gray, misty scene. And the atmosphere inside had been changed to one much more raucous than upon our last visit, with gaudy decorations, glitzy fast-food replacements on the menu for the sumptuous grand dinners they'd offered before, and a very noisy beat of noise that passed for music, so loud we could not communicate with each other or the waitress without shouting.
However, the shrimp, of which both of us returned home bearing leftovers, were delicious, and we did enjoy noticing nearby, in or on the lake, a huge snapping turtle (strangely being closely followed in its swimming course by a coot) and a pair of tree ducks, remarkable for their so aesthetically pleasing long necks.
4/22/03-Tues.-A rather hectic day. Up long before the sun. Got ready and drove my car over to an inspection station. Though these were the same folks who passed it last year, this year they say that, ever since I got it, in 1990, it should have had some pollution control equipment I have not had. Said in all other respects it passes with flying colors. I mentioned their approval of its current condition last year. They took my money for the inspection and said to either get the car "fixed" or find a less "reputable" inspection station. Debated this over a quick breakfast at Kerbey Lane South, then drove on down the road and took the car to the next inspection station to which I came. The fellow there passed it, except for ten dollars' worth of allegedly necessary light bulb changes. I debated the $200-300 cost of getting the repairs made the first inspector said were needed vs. the $10 at this station and decided to go with the less reputable inspector. When I got home, I found the loose fuse on the passenger side floor, where it had apparently fallen after he'd removed it to show me that the car needed two new bulbs. Hmm. I suppose I should count my blessings that the total bill for getting the annual inspection completed was only about three times what it cost in the same condition last year, and for several years before that.
Next I drove to find a government office that "assists" older workers like me find jobs. I won't bore the reader with all the grotesque details but will summarize the proceedings thusly: the address and phone number I'd been given were wrong, the actual location not evident for another hour or so, once a Good Samaritan came to my rescue in yet another office, about ten miles from the one in question. The staff in the correct office, once finally discovered, were quite rude, evidently smug in their assumption of superiority to their clients, and, once I'd filled out more paperwork, had much less to offer than I'd hoped. The parking situation and community location of the office left something to be desired. One space was found for my car after I had circled the lots for some minutes. The neighborhood appeared to be one that falls under the generic description: "high crime."
I debated following through with several hours of additional bureaucratic steps later this week, as recommended by a third staff person, who could not be bothered to speak with me while I was there, though she had no other clients at the time, but told me to call her later in the afternoon. When I had done so, she was hard pressed to tell me what services she would have to offer, once another day were devoted to the preliminaries. Finally, I decided just to stick with private employment resources and to, metaphorically, shake off the dust of that place, never to return.
Besides eventually getting the vehicle sticker, another good thing to occur today was that I sighted and heard a monk parakeet, just outside the Samaritan's office, which, like an omen, seemed fitting. His office is in the vicinity of Town Lake. Both Fran and I have seen a number of these noisy, social birds in that area before.
I've put a moderately expensive ad in our Austin Statesman paper, for two Sundays. I indulged there in a bit of humor. It will be interesting to see if anything comes of it.
Arranged today to add a $1,000,000 umbrella liability policy to our insurance coverage. Need to stop in, complete the application, and pay the premium. This will cost slightly more than $200 a year and is valued at least that much, for greater peace of mind.
I seem to be adapting with difficulty to the quest for a new job and to other frustrating matters lately, my GI system for days (and nights) now being in something of a tempest.
Fran and I have discussed the situation. We agree that another job is not really necessary and is certainly not worth getting stressed out. (Too late!) But, if a new position comes along, well and good.
On the bright side again, the weather has been quite pleasant recently, and our stock portfolio, no less mercurial, continues for now to go up.
4/23/03-Wed.-Today is generally accepted as the anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare. It falls appropriately as well in the month in which we celebrate National Poetry Month.
Our weather continues to be rather pleasant (cool and windy with an overcast sky when I went for my morning walk), though we are disappointed that the predictions of rain over the past two or three days have thus far not been realized. Oh well. Maybe later. We still have a 60% chance of precipitation tonight.
I've gotten some important personal finance business taken care of today. And my insides are not in open rebellion. Positive developments!
Fran and I enjoyed a nutritious, inexpensive brunch this morning.
4/28/03-Mon.-This just past weekend, starting on Friday, we drove up to Waco, visited with Mom, and drove back home to Austin. Frances felt unusually discombobulated by this disruption to our normal routines. For me, the period was fairly innocuous and neutral, but more positive than negative.
Highlights included a delicious TexMex restaurant meal (as Mother's guests) on Friday afternoon, some nice walks with Pepper (during one of which I saw a low-flying common egret), working on a landscaping project in Mom's backyard, taking photos for her of the main contents of her place (in case of need for an insurance claim - you never know), going swimming at the YMCA/YWCA and watching the quite well done, often hilarious comedy video, "Sweet Home, Alabama," on Saturday, browsing for books at Hastings (a large combined book, video, and CD store), successful shopping for a couple pair of new shoes that will help me deal with plantar fasciitis, discovering and dealing with a leak in one of Mom's van tires, and a chit-chat kind of hanging out together. Fran spent awhile on the computer and had some successes there, including finding sites that will prove valuable for us.
There have been no positive calls based on my job-seeking ad, so I'll cancel its next publications. However, late last week, I was informed I have been selected for the temporary position (grading exam papers) for which I'd applied and been tested two to three weeks ago. I'd earlier thought I had not been among the few applicants chosen for that gig, since the prospective supervisor had led us to believe she'd be letting us know within a week, and that marker had come and gone with no word. Only about one in six of us were to be selected, she'd warned.
This morning, Frances, Pepper, and I are going over to UT and doing our monthly walk about the university campus and check at the music building's library (for orchestra job postings of positions for which Fran might apply).