Monthly Archives: December 2016


Laundry day today. Every time I fold my T-shirts I think about when and where they came from. At this point about half of my non-V-neck T-shirts are still from my days as a stagehand at Arco Arena in Sacramento. There it was common for a show to hand out T-shirts to the crew at the end of the load out. Occasionally they would be used to establish crews, with different colors indicating whether you were, for example, in sound, or carps, or backline, or lighting. More often they were all the same.

One I saw today I was particularly proud of. It was from a show called Walking with Dinosaurs. Walking with Dinosaurs was supposed to be a TV show and the show we did at Arco was an arena tour version of it. I say supposed to be because I had no direct knowledge of it.

I worked the shows on truss spot, which is sitting in a seat about 30′ in the air and aiming a small spot light at various people. I say people even though the stars of the show were these huge mechanized dinosaurs that slid across a special floor and acted out a story narrated by a guy walking amongst them. As the show ran several days I brought a small camera up to my perch on the third or fourth day and snapped some pictures when my light wasn’t being used. They’re not very good. This one is the best at conveying the size of the dinosaurs. You can see the Arco audience in the background. The shadows in the foreground are one of the speaker stacks and the frame holding my light.

But back to the T-shirts. For the load in and load out of this show, I was assigned a fork lift. I spent a whole day driving around to large trucks and lifting pieces of these dinosaurs off and taking them into the building. Fork lifts were a common accessory for the shows that came to Arco but it was rare that I got to operate one. I never considered myself an expert but I did ok. I ran a fork lift perhaps a half a dozen times at Arco. This show taxed my skills to the limit because the dinosaurs were not only heavy but bulky. It was important to maintain a low center of gravity while moving them. Some were unloaded in the parking lot and driven inside up and down ramps.

So, my T-shirt was the same color everyone else got but mine said ‘Fork Lift’ on it. I think there were probably three of us on that show so that was a pretty exclusive group.

The show was in 2008 and the T-shirt is showing signs of age. I’ll probably put it in the Goodwill pile before it’s completely trashed. Somebody might like it.


OK, I’m going to vent here. All these people – most of them friends of mine – who moan about how 2016 is a terrible year because Carrie Fischer died, or George Michael, or Prince, or some other celebrity or pop star that I forget right now: get a grip!!

That is all.

Dad’s birthday

Dad turned 87 today. Teresa hosted a party at her house. All the Bay Area Woods were there. Mary called and sang him ‘Happy Birthday ‘ over the phone. He couldn’t hear her with the handset so Paul got the speaker phone going and that was better.

After dessert of lemon meringue pie (his request) he opened the cards from his children. All contained heartfelt personal statements of love and admiration. He had trouble reading them because they were handwritten, though. Jane was sitting next to him and helped out.  He was in good humor all evening and even made a couple of jokes but sometimes the conversation moves too fast for him and he checks out. Other times he makes self deprecating remarks that recognize his limitations.

I had tea and conversation with Tom V yesterday who I haven’t seen in nearly a year. He lost his mother in the spring of 2015 and many of his reactions to the loss were familiar to me. He’s still feeling the effects. All death is traumatic, even when one is older and has lived a long life. It just makes me treasure Dad and Mom all the more. One day they’ll be no more and all we’ll have left are memories.


I’ve been a computer guy for a long time. I actually took a computer class in my first quarter in college in 1971. I was part of a group of stagehands who pooled money to buy a Radio Shack TRS-80 in 1982. I always had the ability to understand how to relate to the machine in such a way as to get productive work out of it. When other people had trouble, I was often the guy who was brought in to figure it out.

So, a couple of minutes ago, I was typing up a post when all the text disappeared. So many times I’ve been on the troubleshooting side and I ask, ‘What did you do?’ and the answer was. ‘I don’t know.’ I always was a little incredulous. How could you not know what you just did?

Well, I just found a key combination that erased 10 minutes of typing and I have no idea what it was. I couldn’t find any key combination that brought it back so I guess it wasn’t too important!

(If it wasn’t a key combination then my mental powers are greater than I thought. I wasn’t really happy with what I was writing. Now I’ve written this instead.)

puzzlement revisited

I made reference to my original ‘puzzlement‘ post today in an email and I thought of a comparison. Saying ‘Zach is dead’ is like saying ‘the Pacific Ocean is huge.’ Intellectually you know it is true but you really can’t grasp the real size of it.

grief cues

The weirdest things snag me sometimes. Some music came up on my rotation and even though I didn’t recognize it, something told me before I even looked that it had something to do with Zach.

He was a big fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie music. That’s what it was.


I want to document the extraordinary dream I had last night. I don’t usually remember my dreams but I can still – more than an hour after waking – remember this dream.

It was sort of like a Gibson-esque sojourn into cyberspace. I was moving in some kind of electronic environment and someone or something was looking for me. Someone or something that I wanted to remain hidden from. I had the ability to move amidst representations of data and manipulate it to some extent. It was all very abstract; I had no body. I remember thinking about the speed at which it was all happening and wondering what the speed was compared to the corporal world. I thought it was much, much faster.

I am also reminded of the character Gaby Plauget in the John Varley novel Demon. It’s too complicated to try to explain fully here. Read the whole Titan trilogy! Anyway, there’s a scene where Gaby is moving among what are clearly atomic particles where their movements can be clearly seen. In my case, I didn’t feel that I was sensing particles but images representative of data and I could manipulate that data.

Meaning? Who knows? It’s just so rare that I remember a dream I wanted to write it down. FWIW, I had a 16 hour day at Davies yesterday and didn’t take any sleeping pills before bed. I slept straight through from about 12:30 to 7:15 or so. That’s not bad.

Not really dreams but this is as good a place as any to mention the mini nightmares I get while driving these winter days. At night, driving City streets, it’s the worst. Usually it’s a bicycle rider appearing suddenly from behind a parked car or an intersection.

holidaze 2

Well I went tonight. It was fine. It was a totally different scene: at Eddie’s home instead of a public space, kids all over the place. I asked twice but he told me not to bring anything and there was lots of good food. The vast majority were relatives and neighbors but a few IA people were there so naturally I talked shop with them. I did talk to a few other people tho’.

Later the guitars, ukes and other instruments came out and Christmas carols and other songs were sung. Eddie gave me Diana’s guitar to play along with. I did for a while until my fingers started hurting from the big strings.

Sarah came by so I was able to be with her a little. She found the cookies in the back of the kitchen which I hadn’t noticed and made some nice designs. I had forgotten it was billed as a cookie party.

All in all, I did OK. I told a couple of people about Zach and they said things like, ‘I don’t know how you do it.’ and ‘I can’t imagine . . .’ I’d probably say the same things if I were in their shoes. The horror is so great there really is nothing to say.


I went to a holiday party today. I almost didn’t go, though. It was potluck and I was assigned a salad so I bought some pre-made greens at Trader Joe’s and added some dried cranberries, walnuts and avocado to it. Luckily, I found that I actually had a large salad bowl with a lid. I needed to wash it as it was dusty from sitting in the cupboard for a couple of years. Then I realized that I didn’t have any salad tongs.

By then I was pretty committed to going but it had hung in the balance for the whole morning. For some reason it was terrifying me. I knew plenty of people who were likely to be there. I can’t explain it, but that’s what I felt.

So on the way I went to the grocery store and bought some tongs. When I got to the party I had to go wash them before I stuck them in the salad but it all went ok. Someone besides me actually had some of the salad!

I ended up having a couple of nice conversations but honestly I was never relaxed. Sorry people, I’m just not feeling joyous. Then I feel bad about harshing their buzz . . .

I have another one tomorrow. Today was sort of a company party. Tomorrow will be more personal. I know there will be people there playing guitars and singing. I’ll let you all know how it goes.

ten thousand hours

I started writing a post about writing and how long it might take for a writer (or anyone else, really) before their writing would be critiqued by anyone other than the writer. I wrote the phrase ‘thousands of hours’ and immediately thought of Malcolm Gladwell. Zach had an infatuation with Gladwell at one time and actually introduced him to me while he was at Xavier.

Gladwell famously posited in his book The Outliers that ‘the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours.’ The quote is from the Wikipedia article so it may not be completely precise, but it makes my point.

Searching ‘Gladwell’ in my folder of Zach’s journals gets 11 hits. In one of the earliest, he reflects on the 10,000 hour concept which leads into a discussion of another article which leads into his own goals and how he could direct his own learning and development. He says, ‘ . . . one of the great things that I always am trying to improve is my deliberate approach to my own growth . . .’ This was in December 2011, six months after he started working at UREC.

Zach points out that the Gladwell concept was focused more on motor activity but my thought was that it could also apply to writing. Specifically, my own writing, here in this blog. I’m putting in the time, writing something, just to write, in the hopes that eventually I’ll get a result that is more worthwhile. I admit that I’ve become obsessed with the fact that very few readers of this blog are commenting here. I have gotten some nice comments via email and in person but those are somehow not the same. I have to admit that of the probably thousands of books I’ve read, I’ve only sent feedback to the author a handful of times. (Of course this all begs the question as to what is ‘worthwhile’. The act of writing is itself worthwhile to me but I also would like my thoughts to have value for others.)

Early on, the posts seemed to flow from my fingers. Lately they haven’t and it bothers me. I’ll keep trying. Thank you, dear reader, for coming here and getting this far.