Sunday, November 25, 2007

Rule Number Six

Rule Number Six, The Applause Rule: Joy is most readily derived from the creation of tangible products resulting in the appreciation of others.

I like to make things a person can see and hold. I like to make graphs, for instance. It makes otherwise unruly data look neat and tidy. No one ever says, “Nice graph,” though. Also unheard: “Nice form,” “That’s a gorgeous database,” and “Have you ever seen such an elegant software package?”

At some point I gave up on drawing, painting, sculpting things from Popsicle sticks and making the neatest Valentine's boxes you have ever seen (I won awards, friends...I won awards). I fiddle around with it still, but mostly I make graphs, spreadsheets and forms. I get paid to do it. I rarely got paid for a watercolor of a any sort.

The picture below is of a bunch of kids I don't know. They attend Hyannis High School, in Hyannis, Nebraska (not Massachusetts) and they won the Sandhills Conference One Act Championship in 2007. Since they are from Hyannis I already know that they are a good group of kids, but that isn't why I've pasted them here for you to see. Look very closely at the plaque...yeah, it's small, but look anyway. Yep, I designed it when I was a freshman at Hyannis. People covet something I made! Okay, not because I made it, but they covet all the same.

Rule Number Five

Rule Number Five, The Paxil® Rule: Debilitating shyness prevents, reduces and delays normal, often commonplace, life experiences.

I could be the poster boy for Paxil®. Fortunately, I’m not pharmaceutically inclined. Instead, sometimes I just don’t do certain things – start conversations with strangers (and occasionally people I’ve known for years), invite people over to watch the game (or see a movie or see the Picasso exhibit, etc, etc.) and go on dates (which is sort of like inviting people over, but more intense).

Oddly enough, this doesn't stop me from sharing this with you on a blog that anyone can see. Go figure.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Rule Number Four

Rule Number Four, The Shelf Life Rule: All people have a shelf life.

Maybe it's just me, but sooner or later people annoy me. Is it because I have no patience? Is it because I'm a elitist snob that thinks he's better than everyone else?

I don't know which it is but I do know that people have a shelf life - the amount of time I can spend with them (or the amount I can learn about them) before they spoil.

We've all been there. You decide to go on a road trip with your oldest friend and a couple days into stopping at every antique shop in the western states you jump from the car at highway speeds imagining that a few broken bones (or even death) might not be so bad as another story about Aunt Pearl's three legged dog Stewie.

With friends shelf life is renewable. With new acquaintances it can be devastating. I always like going somewhere new where I don't know any of the people. It is in those quiet first few days when you don't know that any of them are completely mad. That's really why I don't ask people too many questions. I'm afraid of the answers. I'm afraid to learn that they collect potato chips that look like the Catholic saints. I'm afraid that they harbor secret desires to shave kittens. I'm afraid they might try to suck me into their twisted little worlds and never let me go. As such, I say limit your contact to the same person for too long. Meet them often, but for short radiation.

The real problem is that I like people. I like their stories. I like their quirks. It's just that sometimes I wish they were on the other side of a thick set of bars.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Rule Number Three

Rule Number Three, The Only Constant is Change Rule: An inevitable move, transition or wholesale change is never more than a couple years away making it a folly to plant roots and foster connections.

Argue the truth of this rule with a guy who has changed address, on average, once a year for his entire life. I’m excited just realizing that I don’t have to fill out multi-state income tax returns.

The funny thing about change is that without it we'd get bored, but when change does come to take the boredom away it has a tendency to go overboard about it. Change wouldn't be so bad if we could control its pace. The slow trickle of time laced with changes here and there isn't so bad.

For instance, in my office there are 8 desks. In the two years I've been sitting up there only 1 person has remained at the same desk the whole time. In fact, only three of us are left from the original group. We miss some of them and we don't miss others. The people came and went one or two at a time and though each time caused a ripple of change, it came at a pace easy enough to absorb. Had everyone picked up and moved on the same day, we'd have gone mad.

Anyway, change happens. I'm good with that. I've adapted to it. People come and go. Apartments are merely places to drop anchor for awhile. Empty fields are filled with buildings. Childhood homes are torn down and strip malls put in their place. That's why we take pictures. It's why we get together and tell stories. It's why I don't get too attached...I never know which desk will be empty tomorrow and, of course, it could be mine.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rule Number Two

Rule Number Two, The Dark Highway Rule: The future is impenetrable and unpredictable, but only enough to be maddeningly frustrating.

Just when I think I’ve got it figured out, the future changes. I only have to think one thought – slaughterhouse in Los Angeles. Tell me that was ever an option when I was growing up, going to college or sitting on my front porch in Iowa.

For some it may all be writ large for them. They grow up in the same town surrounded by the same people. They've known since birth that they'll inherit the family farm and settle down with their high school sweetheart to raise a small gaggle of adorable children. For most, though, I think the future sneaks up on them. They make their plans, they save for a rainy day and then suddenly their plans lie in ruins at their feet.

I had my plans. When I was 10 my cousin and I were going to buy a semi truck together and run a team over the road trucking operation. We were going to merrily criss cross the country with reckless abandon. Ah, the best made plans... Instead, I haven't seen my cousin in a decade and I work in a slaughterhouse in Los Angeles. Who knew?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Murphy Had His Laws...I Have My Rules

Murphy had his laws, and they were good. They were amusing and true. Why should he have all the fun, I asked myself. So it was that on the occasion of my thirtieth birthday, I set upon a project to lay out what life had taught me. If I could boil those down to some generalized rules I’d be well on my way having a guide book to life that I had been so callously denied at birth.

The number and variety of little rules involved in categorizing my life’s patterns was transient, but a year ago I settled upon eight original rules. (This excluded important lessons I learned from movies like "never start a land war in Asia".) It was only upon organizing the eight rules that I realized the act of making rules, pondering the machinery of living and constantly and unsuccessfully battling back the urge to write it all down was an important pattern to also note. In the end, there were nine rules.

In the name of suspense and to get my few, dedicated (and may I add beautiful, brilliant and enlightened) readers to keep coming back for more I will reveal these nine rules slowly over the next couple weeks. Oh, I know you are excited. You can't hide it!

Rule Number One, The Grass is Greener Rule: The present situation is always secondary to the possibility of something better elsewhere, though it’s impossible to know what that better thing might be.

So I keep on looking for that better thing just around the corner: better toothpaste, better way to work, better place to live, better job to have. I’m not necessarily out there buying every tube of toothpaste in the world, but I’m thinking about it and wondering if maybe, just maybe, my life wouldn’t be better using Aquafresh®.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


One of the hardest questions I'm asked is: Where are you from?

I generally answer that I'm from Nebraska. Because I am...originally. I then follow up that I was raised mostly in Texas. Of course, it's at that point that I need to make some clarifications on what qualifies as being raised. Only after I start telling stories (as I like to do) that I really confuse people. You see, my dad starts most stories with what sort of car he owned at the time. That's how he frames the story. I start my stories with where I lived. Those are our references.

Anyway, I've always wanted to satisfy my nerdish desire to actually make a map of all the places of lived. Lo and behold there's a web site where I can do just such a thing. God bless the Internet! I spent the weekend making little waypoints and attaching them.

The map so far can be found at the Wayfaring web site:

My sister tells me that when Dad and she counted up all the times she's moved (she was moving again last weekend) they arrived at 37. I may need more waypoint markers. I have a couple years on her after all.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

In Walt's World

I don't know how it happened, but I've gone to Disneyland twice in the last month...three times this year...four times in 2 years. And this from a guy that never had any interest in going but here I am thinking if this keeps up I need to buy annual passes.

Also notable...I've never gone with children...not once...unless you count Thaddeus I.

My October trip was with Steve and Becky. One last hurrah before Steve went back to New York and Becky back to Oregon.

This one is for you mom - a Tigger sighting near Splash Mountain.

Okay, one more Steve and Becky shot. So Disney.

My November trip, undertaken yesterday, was with a couple old friends from Iowa that now live in Bakersfield. Next time...Magic Mountain!