Category Archives: Activities


I must have been 12 or so.

6th grade at Paul Revere middle school in any case.  A shiny new school at the time but already overcrowded.  Rather than build another school, the district decided to invest in “temporary buildings”.  Basically double wide trailer homes converted into classrooms behind the main building.

That’s where you might get in trouble.  At lunch time no one is supposed to be back there.  Everyone is supposed to wait and hang round the cafeteria till the bell rings.

As for me and my friends?  We just figured that was a polite suggestion and didn’t apply to us.  We would regularly sneak out of the cafeteria and hang out on the steps of the temporary buildings.

So there we are hanging out with other kids when we hear a commotion.  The vice-principals are out hunting.  Corporal punishment was very much in vogue back in the early 80’s.

We sneak behind the buildings and peek to see who’s coming.  There’s old man Brailsford.  A sadist that loved to wear a dark blue, three-piece, pin stripe suit and mirrored sunglasses in 90 degree heat.  Slowly swaggering down the road.

He seems to know exactly where to look.  He catches most of us, except….

I duck round the side of the building.  Nowhere else left to hide.  He just has to turn the corner to spot me.  My only chance is to go around him right in the open.  I take a deep breath and walk slowly and steadily around his right side. He’s busy browbeating my friends. I can’t believe this is working but I don’t dare stop walking. At most I’m 20 feet away from him and walking without any cover.

My friend Dean is there with the rest of the kids that got caught.  All the kids are lined up against the wall of a temporary building like criminals.  Dean looks right at me but doesn’t say a word.  One foot in front of the other.  I finally step out of sight and break into a run and make it back to the “safety” of the cafeteria zone.

I later catch up with Dean.  Everyone else got saddled with 3 days detention.  But rather than being mad at me, they celebrate my great escape.  I still can’t believe it.

This wasn’t the last time that this happened.  I’ve walked in front of people who I know in coffee shops and they’ve been totally oblivious to my presence.  Sometimes I have to obnoxiously wave to people for them to notice me.

I have “one of those faces”.  Nothing extraordinary about it.  At times I have been mistaken for almost every imaginable ethnicity.

In a culture where everyone wants to be distinct and individualized it can be a bit bothersome to think that I am totally indistinct.  But I suppose that I have to appreciate this gift for what it is.  The ability to blend into the background and not be bothered when I don’t want to.

The appeal of the stage

I have to say that on the whole I admire actors.  Being able to pull off a performance as they do.  Not just reciting lines but moving to specific places on stage, affecting moods to transmit mood.  Being able to do it over and over on command for several performances and then forgetting it all and moving on to the next production.  It’s quite a skill.

But I think I admire the plays more.  It takes talent to adapt something written on paper and to imagine how you would portray a particular sentiment so that an audience would understand your meaning is a feat.

Miller outdoor theater in Hermann Park

Miller outdoor theater in Hermann Park

It takes a particular type of writer to pull it off.  The act of adapting a story can be somewhat arduous .  In some cases it can prove to be impossible.  Some writer’s styles (Lovecraft for example), some media (some comic books) don’t easily lend themselves to be turned into plays or movies.

So what is the appeal of going to see a live play?  I think when it’s done properly and you have a good script and talented actors that it’s not so much a recitation of the author’s words as much as it is a peek into someone else’s life.  You forget that you’re in a theater surrounded by strangers and the story begins to be transmitted straight into your mind.  You can get involved in this other world for an hour or two and see a conflict evolve to its final climax and resolution.

One thing I never understood about public school is when they would take classic plays and force the kids to recite the plays in class.  It was a ridiculous chore and I could tell most of the kids hated it.  The teachers did it because it was mandated but even they had no real appetite for the material.  The old English text didn’t make much sense to the kids.  The words were dead. I remember at one point a kid had recited a joke in “As you like it” and the professor had to explain that it was a joke.

Instead they should have taken the class on a field trip to see real professionals put life and passion into the words.  Let kids see the anger and confusion in Hamlet, hear Macbeth and his inner turmoil over killing his king, laugh along at some of the jokes in midsummer’s night dream.  That’s how these pieces were meant to be received.

I don’t get to go as often as I like but when I do I find that we have so many options in Houston that you can really find a wide variety of pieces ranging from light comedies to heavy and thought-provoking pieces.  I always feel that it’s time well spent.

Abbreviated post

Life gets hectic, even impossible sometimes.  It just does.

When push comes to shove we sometimes have to shed some activities or habits in order to keep the rest of our lives running.

“Just the essentials”

We all come upon these times in our lives.  Right now my household is turned upside down, my ankle is twisted, my air conditioning is broken, my….  You get the picture.  It’s a mess.  Why am I at a keyboard then?  Even for a short post?

well I suppose I can take comfort in writing, I can keep practicing something that I like doing.  It provides a little bit of focus in a world out of focus.

More importantly I don’t have anything else to do.  I have to wait for others to make decisions, to come back with answers  or to do some work.

I have nothing else to do, so why not write.  Even just this short blurb.

Just the essentials.  Sometimes, something like this is an essential.

The friendship net

Being a shy introvert I don’t tend to make friends easily. I tend to run alone in both the literal and figurative sense. Most of the time I will make plans on the fly and not even think about inviting other people to come along.  A bad habit I know. Things can get a little lonely at times.

But at times it does have some advantages.  The other day my social media page suggested I might like to do a yoga event for the Summer solstice at the Rothko Chapel at sunrise.  It was too late to organize anything (late Saturday night) so I just hopped in the car the next morning, parked the car in the neighborhood, took a quick 5 mile jog, and got back with a couple of minutes to spare just before sunrise.

When I do have time to properly plan things out I try to reach out to those that might share an interest in what I plan to do.  I think it’s important to share these things with people and give them the opportunity to enjoy these things as I do.  Of course sometimes that doesn’t pan out.

I used to take it personally when plans wouldn’t work out.  But I soon realized that we all live such busy lives that we can’t be expected to drop everything and change plans.  Still, it is nice when things come together.

I’ve learned to enjoy life for it’s own sake and make the best of what life hands me.  I will continue trying to make room for other people in my life but I will also learn to live life on my own terms.

Living a life the best way possible

It’s easy to quit and despair.  It’s easy to say “well I gave it my best shot but it didn’t work” and just give up on trying to move ahead.  It’s quite another thing to see a failure or a difficulty and to shift gears out of one venture and go into another.

This last week the world lost Sir Christopher Lee.  While most of the world knew him as a long time actor, very few people knew about his other exploits before becoming an actor or his other ventures and honors that he accumulated over a lifetime.  I could do a list of all of these things but I think there are plenty of websites and articles out there that do a fine job of this.

Looking at his life in a totality however it is worth noting that he never had an easy or obvious path to success.  This was an individual that faced setbacks and failures quite a few times over the course of his life yet he never allowed this to slow him down or stop his progress.

What’s more he was an individual that actively went out seeking new opportunities and interests on his own.  You would think that someone who had difficulties in his life might be content just to “break even” or just be a little better off but in his case he did not wait for these new ventures to present themselves.  He either went looking for these new ventures or he created them himself.

Like I said above, it’s easy to despair. Despair is easy to do.  It’s comfortable, it can be done at a moment’s notice, and requires little to no investment.  Despair can be such a hard temptation to resist sometimes.

But lifting yourself up, having the presence of mind to look around and plot your next move, getting on with your life as it stands after a setback, that’s hard.

I think that’s something that a man like Christopher Lee can teach all of us.


If you open your eyes, and I mean really open your eyes you will find that life can amaze, astound, appall, and leave you speechless on a nearly daily basis.

We have so many things that we fail to appreciate when we look at them that we will never be able to fully consider let alone understand in this life that I can’t even begin to enumerate them.

One thing that I have learned to appreciate however is how a subject can change meanings and become a totally different thing if you let yourself take a slightly altered perspective on the matter.

We can come upon a situation from one viewpoint and direction and if we fail to look at it objectively it can take on particular meaning and it is often difficult to change that perspective unless you alter the way you perceive that subject and then an almost magical thing can occur.

That thing that you were so sure about, that you thought you knew changes almost immediately to something else.

Houston is a great place to find these changes in perspectives.  Because we have no zoning laws the neighborhoods here are a mishmash of urban and suburban and country.  All right next to each other.  Poor neighborhoods alternate with rich.  High rises sit right next to ranch style houses and those next to poor apartment complexes.

It’s something that I see on an almost daily basis and I have to wonder if people living in these neighborhoods ever stop to wonder and think to themselves how their neighbors from different socio-economic backgrounds perceive the world.  Do their viewpoints agree with my own or are they so set into their situation that they can’t step back and see the overall situation from a different perspective?

the new 20s

I was listening to an NPR program about retirement and they touched upon my generation (Generation X) entering into middle age.  This reminded me of a one-off phrase that a friend of mine had used the other day.  Namely that “the forties are the new twenties”.

Thinking about it I certainly don’t feel like what I imagined I would feel like when I hit my forties.  Growing up in suburbia I didn’t really contemplate my future that much but when I did I imagined a stereotypical suburban future with button down shirts and khakis and minivans and whatnot.  My career would be well underway and would probably be spent at a single company for more than twenty years and would be backstopped by some sort of pension plan.  My family life would be typical suburbanite and traditional.

Little did I know what the future would bring.

But then again I don’t think anyone really knows what the future will bring.  Sure there are folks out there that do have that sort of lifestyle but it’s becoming rarer and rarer these days.

I never imagined a multigenerational household or that I would have to guard, tend, and cultivate my own retirement fund.  I never imagined that I would have to be more dynamic and keep abreast of the latest developments in my field and several related fields in case I had to change jobs.

“the forties are the new twenties” sounds positive but really I think what it means is that you have to not only think like a twentysomething to keep your head above water but you also have to have the strength and flexibility of a twentysomething in case you find yourself in a tough position.

The new economy is not only leaner and meaner, it’s more dynamic and requires us to think fast and move even faster in order to keep pace with developments around the world.

Thinking about my future I don’t see myself retiring at the “traditional” age of sixty-five.  Not only is it something that I don’t think I will manage to do.  I don’t particularly want to limit myself.  I want to believe that I can continue being active for as long as possible and to take advantage of my life right up to the very end.  Things are just to interesting right now to retire.

making time to make words

I’ve been horrible about writing this year.  I really have.  In total I think I have maybe 4 sessions of an hour apiece for the last 5 months.  Besides writing this blog I haven’t really done anything on my writing.

I was at a writing panel the other week and they pointed out that the most important thing to do as a writer was to actually sit down and write.  I felt as if that were aimed right at me.

I could make all the excuses in the world but the fact remains that I need to put more time and effort into writing.  Not just into writing but into editing.  I have a couple of pieces that I think have some potential but I need to get them moving and that’s another thing that I need to do.

But how to go about doing that?  The quick and easy answer is that you just do.  I could make excuses all year-long and never get anything down or I could try to at the very least I would be making the effort.

That’s really at the core of whatever you want to do in life whether it’s your work or it’s a hobby or something else you have to be willing to actually do whatever it is you do.

It doesn’t matter if it turns out terrible.  At least you’re trying and that’s more than most people do.  And even if you do fail at least you can say that you gave it your best effort.

The perils of technology

I was at a convention recently and the organizers had come out with a downloadable application (app) for people to use in lieu of paper programs.  For the most part the app was a huge success.  The organizers were able to update the information as events required and people got to where they wanted to be.

One slight hitch was that a couple of panels at the convention kept getting switched from room to room or were postponed.  So people had to keep an eye on those panels and some people wound up going to the wrong rooms at the wrong time either cause their app had not updated or they were relying on old information.

A fairly benign glitch to be sure but then again some technological glitches can be more serious.  In other news a car, supposed to be able to avoid collisions, hit several reporters that were there to witness the unveiling.  The car maker claimed that the car was not fitted with pedestrian detection capabilities.  Even though a human was at the wheel he did not brake for the pedestrians because the car did not detect them.

Something fundamentally disturbing about that.  A human operator relying more on the car sensors than his own eyes and not braking.  But I think this is indicative of a trend that I see more and more around me.  People seem to have this innate trust in technology.

We tend to see something new and assume that it is intrinsically good or perfect.  Technology is neither good nor bad, it just is.  What we do with it once it is in our hands gives it context.  Maybe it’s just middle-aged me talking and maybe my parents felt the same way about “new” technologies when I was young.  Maybe it’s been the same story since the beginning of time but I don’t think so.

I think the trend has accelerated in the last ten years.  People, particularly younger people, tend to rely more and more on their technology and less and less on their own judgment and wits.  Hopefully the trend is an aberration and can be reversed.

I would hate to see the day come when we believe more in machines than we do in mankind.

Making the most out of your travel experience the online way

Travel can be a nightmare sometimes.  Whether it’s for relaxation or for business, at best travel is a chore that you have to get through in order to get on with your plans.  At worse it can be a nightmare that never seems to end.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I get the fact that years ago when you had to rely on travel agents and paper tickets and possibly misbooked hotel rooms that things could often go awry but nowadays we have robust and well-developed and refined travel systems out there.  You really have almost no excuse not to have a good trip.

Let’s start with booking the trip.  If you just watch an hour’s worth of TV or listen to radio or read a magazine you will come across advertising for some sort of online travel agent.  I’m not saying you need to book through them but you can at the very least get online and compare prices for days and days and find those cheap tickets to almost anywhere.

You can take advantage of government security programs that let you minimize your time at security checkpoints in airports.  You can do a lot of the annoying paperwork that you had to do at the kiosks online and just drop your bags off and walk calmly to your plane with plenty of time.

Once you get to where you’re going you can arrange ground transport by taxi or über or airport shuttle.  You can tell people where to pick you up and if you’ll be late.

With hotels you can look at the actual properties where you’ll be staying and see how well you like it.  You can find online reviews or ask other people if they’ve stayed there before.

The most exciting thing about our new online life is that we can look at a location and see if there are attractions, restaurants, and other things that we can do besides what we expected.  We are no longer bound to be stuck in a hotel or an attraction.  We can now explore all the possibilities that a location can offer.

Weather of course is so obvious that it’s almost not worth mentioning but any little advantage can help.

So look at where you currently live and think about all the possibilities around you.  If you were a stranger what things would you like to know about your location?  Make up a list and then apply that to wherever it is you want to go and find out that information.