Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I talk a lot about what I consider to be home. I suppose that definition is different for everyone. I remember going to college and making friends, most of which never really bothered to go back to their hometowns to visit friends & family very often. They got out, and for the most part, they stayed out. Home may bring up scars, pain, memories to be forgotten. They seek to find their own place. Many have, and many are making memories in that place they now call home. It's not the same for everyone. I consider myself fortunate, to be sure.

I get ribbed at work for how often I go back home. It's not even 2 hours away, and recently I needed to be there often to help with my parents' move. But it doesn't take much for me to find an excuse to come home, even when nothing is going on. I've thought a lot about why it still means so much to me. Part of it comes from my family, and the deep sense of community and love there was in how the town treated my Uncle Burt all of his life. I grew up watching those interactions between normal townspeople and a man with a handicap and an immeasurably large heart. Nothing could've resonated stronger with a little kid, learning life lessons, one post office trip at a time shadowing my uncle. Maybe it's an overwhelming sense of gratitude I have to the town for all of those moments of kindness and love shown to him while he was alive. A life that could've been so hopeless and lost, instead was one of the most meaningful and special, to the hundreds who were willing and eager to let him into theirs.

Another important reason that home is still home stems from the loss of two close friends when I was 16, and the healing that only came with time spent with other close friends who were feeling the same gaping sense of loss that I was. I never missed a chance to get together back home with the boys when I knew there was going to be a group back in town. There was no better time spent in my life than those times among friends, living moments we knew wouldn't be possible for two lives cut entirely too short.

I know I'm not alone. People transplanted much farther away than me still feel a connection they can never shake to the same home I have. Like many, you have to be away from it for a while to appreciate it. Zack is one of those people. We express our love, gratitude, and admiration of home in different ways. SOmw write about it, some make music inspiried by it. In Zack's case, he expresses it on a canvas. Now he shares his admiration of home with anyone who can appreciate the subtlties that can only be pulled out of regular, everyday scenes with an artist's eye. I'm fortunate enough to have 3 of his prints, each of which is a scene I consider to be part of my home. So many of his paintings resonate deeply with many from there. Consider me one of them.

I've attached a few pieces of his work. Below is an interview done a while back from an Omaha news station. It's good to know that I'm not alone, I guess.

Long Live The Rue!

I was finally able to catch Ardency Rue back in Malvern over Homecoming weekend. Darren Schnoor & Adam Giaffoglione played a long set down at Bowley's Bistro after the game on Friday night. They've been playing together for over 5 years, and their experience is really showing. Now if I could only get them to play me some Tenacious D.... They've got some of their stuff up on their page, so check em out. Adam likes Corona. Darren pees a lot. Just some observations.

Random Trivia: Darren & Dixon, back in the day, formed a band the likes of which have never been seen....what did they call themselves, and what was the first song they played together?

It was a good crowd, but for once in my lifetime, there were actually 3 options for revelers to choose from for their Friday night downtown carousing. Charlie & Cindy have their place going well, and with a town the size of Malvern, that's no small feat. Bradley's opened up recently, and has been doing a very good dinner business, drawing crowds from out of town every weekend. City Councilman (God, that is strange to say) Shane Sayers brought his brand of country & parrothead singing to the place, which was a good time. And can always count on Shaker's. It's funny how you can't smoke in Shaker's anymore, yet you still come out of there smelling like the ass end of a Marlboro Red. Awesome.

Good times with good friends all night, regardless of where you were. The old town seems to be doing just fine these days.

Pics courtesy of Gary Giaffoglione

Sunday, September 14, 2008

College Football & the Brunswick Stew Experiment

There's usually 1 or 2 college football Saturday's where I'll decide to veg out all day and watch non-stop college football. Easily one of my most enjoyable days to spend a fall weekend. Yesterday was a classic day where the coffee is poured about 8 AM (not too early for a bloody or a beer, but coffee seemed more justifiable that early in my house), the t.v. is turned on to some pre-game stuff (in this case it was finishing watching the unreal ending of the Kansas-South Florida game from Friday night), and I settle in for the all-day marathon.

Games watched/suffered through included:
  • Iowa-Iowa St. (absolutely brutal to watch. Why Tim accepted a bet with Thad getting only 7 points instead of 14, I have no idea. It's your own fault, dude.)
  • Missouri-Nevada (Mizzou is like watching a video game with the opponent skill level set to "novice")
  • Cal-Maryland
  • Oregon-Purdue
  • Meeechigan-Notre Dame
  • Georgia-South Carolina
  • Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech
  • New Mexico St.-Nebraska
  • Ohio St.-USC (a woodshed game, as predicted)
  • Oklahoma-Washington (that wasn't even fair)
  • Wisconsin-Fresno St.
Some really good games, and some total dogs. That's what you get on a Saturday in September. I loved every minute of it. By the way, the Big Ten is really bad this year.

Whenever one of these days materializes, I also try to come up with something good to make. This weekend it was a dish that I had wanted to try, and I finally got the opportunity to test it out. Brunswick Stew originated in Brunswick, GA, fittingly enough. Some claim it originated in Virginia. Who knows. Once it's made, it is a cross between chili, BBQ, and some buffalo wing flavors. The main ingredient for this experiment: A whole smoked chicken, chopped up, even a little bit of the crispy skin that's rendered down. So if you're in the mood for something different from your regular 'ol chili recipe this Fall, you might want to give something like this a try. I think this will be my soup tailgate contribution this year.

I started with this as my base recipe. I figured if anyone knows Georgia cookin' it's this lady. Then I added a few things to make it mine, I guess (can't divulge any secrets, though). I was quite happy with the results, and the leftovers are back on the stove simmering away as we speak.

Time to watch the Chiefs drop a deuce against an inferior opponent at Arrowhead. You can sense my optimism.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Right off the top: I'm setting the Over/Under on national media outlets using the phrase "Houston, we have a problem." for their Hurricane Ike coverage at 73. Anyone want that action?

There's a bunch of chasers who are readying themselves today for landfall just south of the Galveston area. While it doesn't look like this one will be a huge wind maker (oh, it will be windy, I'm sure), the bigger concern is the storm surge that will be pushing right into the bay at Galveston. It's going to be a wet one down there. I'd go ahead and fill up that tank of gas today before the price jumps $.50 overnight.

Latest satellite image is showing that it's picking up some steam, trying to form a real eyewall. THe core of it has been floundering in its trek across the Gulf of Mexico, but the overal size of the storm is freakishly large. I'll get some cool GRLevel3 Radar images up when it gets in closer. I'll make weather geeks out of you knobs yet!

Here's Ike on Saturday morning around 7:25 CST. I missed out on the good images of it making landfall about 1 AM last night. Still, Houston is in for a long day after a loooooong night. Galveston, Houston, and points directly east of town took a serious pounding.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Meaningless Birthdays(?)

Since I know many of you fine readers don't have this all-important date on your recurring calendars, let this be your one reminder. Yep, today is my special day. And like most of them at this stage in life, it's really all about looking back saying, " seems like I just had my Hot Wheel's-themed 7th birthday party....what the #%&@!!??" Memories was the theme of my present from Mom & Dad, as she made a scrapbook of my less-than-stellar high school sports career. It was the best gift I could've gotten. Lisa and I made good on our promise, and we got each other a Wii for our collective birthdays. Yeah, we needed an excuse to pull the trigger. Finally in the cool club.

What is extra special about my birthday is that I get to share it with my dad. When I turned 4, he turned 40. So to a 4 year-old, my math equation deduced that when I turned 5, he would turn 50, 6 and 60, and so forth... Needless to say, Dad's old today. Love ya, Pop.

Well, this particular birthday is definitely one that falls in the "No Need To Celebrate" category. Here's one of my favorite comedians, Patton Oswalt, to explain which birthdays you're allowed to celebrate.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Getting Clear & Current

It happens to us all at some point. Somewhere along the line, one little meaningless task got put off. And then another. And another. Pretty soon your mind is begging you to stop whatever you're doing (or not doing), because it's too busy trying to figure out all of the things that you're not doing, unable to settle on just one little task. So we freeze up, forced to do the hard mental reboot, which could come in many forms, like for instance a trip to the gym to blow off steam, some time with the kids in the backyeard to decompress, or a fistful of Advil, ideally washed down with a pint of Early Times.

That moment no doubt has happened in our work or home lives hundreds of times, I'm sure. If it hasn't, then you're either one of the most successful people in the world, or you really have nothing to do. We all handle work overload in different ways. Some good, others not so good. I can tell you from personal experience that a chronic procrastinator tends to fall in the latter category. Most of the time those simple, less than 2-minute tasks get put off, thrown in the in-basket, or forgotten about in a sea of emails.

So how do you do the hard mental reboot? Well, that's obviously somewhat subjective, depending or your personality type. What is universal with humans is that your brain is a lousy place to keep a list of projects or to-do's. So a natural place to start is to figure out exactly what all of the "stuff" is that's not only cluttering your physical work or living space, but deciding concretely what the next step is to get something closer to completion. No doubt most of us have some time bombs lurking in our in-baskets, an unfinished project that landed in our email inbox that hasn't been opened in 2 weeks, or a garage that was slated to be cleaned out months ago which keeps mysteriously accumulating random crap that doesn't belong there. Whatever it is, you've got to be able to capture it all, somehow, some way, and someplace. The all-knowing wizard of Getting Things Done, David Allen, says that "You'll only be comfortable with what you're not doing, when you know what you're not doing."

Think about that for a second. It seems like the times when an unfinished task or project comes up from the deep recesses of what little brain matter I have is at a time or location when I have zero ability to do anything about it. Rarely do we even have a piece of paper and a pen to jott it down. Of course, by the time you need to remember it, your brain has already sent it back to the bottom of the stack, only to bring it back to the top when you can't do a thing about it. Again. Setting aside some time to dump as many of these loose strands out of my head as I can onto a piece of paper at least gets it out of my head. The next step is getting that information into a system I will use and trust, so when I need it, I've already done all of the thinking that I needed to. It's one thing to write it down, but quite another to get it onto a place you know you will see it and utilize it.

So if you're like me, the daily grind can turn your workspace, kitchen, house, computer, and brain into EF4 tornado damage (had to sneak in some weather geekdom). Setting aside a little time each week to get clear & current on everything you've got on your plate can mean the difference between an enjoyable, relaxing weekend at home, or one packed with nothing but fear and dread for the coming week ahead. Here's a little something I do. I'll take all of the random stuff that's accumulated on my desk, and throw it all in/around the in-basket (Yes, this is my crap. Frightening.). Then, one-by-one, I pick up each item, determine what it is, what if anything is actionable about it, and figure out where it goes. If it's a task, it'll end up going into my particular list system that I can review pretty much anywhere at anytime. Project materials get placed in the proper files, and stuff I don't need heads to the recycle bin. Same goes for email.

Do I always practice what I preach? Anyone who knows me pretty much knows the answer to that. I'm an 18-carat procrastinator, mixed in with what I'm sure has to be some adult ADHD. But I'm better today because the tricks I've learned trying to stay on top of all the different stuff that goes on in this "game of work, and the business of life." There's thousands of things you can check out about this GTD stuff, which in true geek circles is referred to as "productivity p0rn". For many it's not as guilty, but equally procrastinative to cruise a bunch of GTD-themed websites and still not do anything that is considered actual work. But I'm sure none of you will have that problem.

So bottom line: It's never going to all get done. Just (literally) get your sh*t together, and get to the point where you know all of the things that you're doing, or more imporatntly, all the things you're NOT doing!