Charity in the plastic age

I realized today for the first time that I do not carry cash. It was made uncomfortably evident when I went to the grocery store and encountered the Salvation Army bell ringer outside. I was only armed with a debit card.
I felt bad because I tend to spread my change around whatever bucket or jug is nearby for charity. It felt almost like I was brushing them off because I had no cash with me. Luckily, I keep an ashtray filled with change in the car – from those fat-filled McDonald’s visits – and I grabbed a few dollars and went back after I loaded my groceries in the car.
The moral of this story? If you live on virtual electronic money like me, make sure you also carry a few dollars with you for someone who needs it.

Maybe he should compensate them with a tax cut

Remember the big tax cut the Bush administration handed to the rich and to large corporations? Remember how it was supposed to bring us out of this recession? Remember when we had a huge surplus?

Happy Birthday Elizabeth Campbell!

Elizabeth Campbell is the founder of WETA, Washington’s flagship public broadcaster. Mrs. Campbell turns 100 years old next week! She is an amazing woman who worked for desegregation; became a member of the first elected school board here in Arlington, Virginia; and received the license for WETA-TV at the memorable “vast wasteland” speech by FCC chairman Newton Minnow.

If I had a million dollars

I once played the lottery when it was up to $220 million – like a lot of other people. I have since spent a lot of time trying to decide what I would do with the money (even though I never play the lottery, which makes the odds even more remote). So, tell me – what would you do with $220 million?

Giving Thanks

Sometimes I am lonely, sometimes I am sorry for myself, sometimes I am frustrated. But I have a lot to be thankful for.
I am thankful for my family: Dad & Sally; Mom & Eddie; Tony, Karen & Hannah; Brendan & Patrick; Susie, Eric and Kirk; Maura, The Cordovas, Flores, Mauzys, Welshes, and Cowans wherever they may be. I am thankful for Diego, Boothby and Squeaker who keep me company when I am lonely. I’m thankful for Jann, who reminds me that I can be loved. I am thankful for Eric (and Shauna and Nancy and Joe and Tracy and Tanner) who gave me yet another family to belong to when I needed one. I’m thankful for Sara, who found a way into my psyche with her music and then brought me joy and friendship. I am thankful that I have a home, enough to eat, and good health. And I am thankful for those people who work tirelessly to see that others have homes and do not go hungry. I have not done enough to be one of those people – many of us haven’t. Let’s change that, shall we?

Thoughtless blogging

What happens if you don’t have any thoughts to write about? I’m playing with an application that, in theory, should let me post to the blog directly without going through the browser, but I have nothing really to write today. It’s been a kind of quiet day. Other than driving my neighbor to the bus station downtown, seeing a jackknifed truck on the highway and miles of stalled traffic behind it, washing clothes from my suitcase, making airline reservations for Las Vegas next week, transferring 6 hours of conference videotape onto digital tape, and playing with my neighbor’s kitten, it’s been a slow day.
I’m very glad that my conference is over, and it was a bit less stressful than usual, but I am finding that I have symptoms of something since I got home. My back is not just sore or tight, but has a big numb spot between my shoulder blades. I have no idea what this could mean, but I assume that it has something to do with a nerve or some such thing. Will I go to a doctor? Why start now?
What I really need is a relaxing day in a spa, getting massages and lounging in salt water or some such thing. Perhaps I’ll do that next week at the lovely Venetian hotel in sunny Las Vegas. Thanks, Jann, for the room… the gambling… the flight… Jaime and I appreciate it. Viva Las Vegas!

Huh? What? Did you say something?

Why have we become so noisy?
Let me preface this little tirade by disclosing a terrible, frightening, personal secret. I have a hearing problem. OK, well, it’s not terrible or frightening, nor really very personal. But it is a problem, because I have a lot of trouble distinguishing sounds when there is more than one happening – for example, if several people are talking, I can’t distinguish any of them. Now, this may actually be a common problem these days, because there is so much noise about.
Holy crap! As I write this, the TV is on. And a Cingular commercial touting Spider-Man just blasted my ear drums. And this on a TV that purports to equalize the volume of commercials.
Loud commercials, cacophonous promos for wrestling and reality shows, cars that come down my street with deafening, thumping bass on the stereo, helicopters and jets flying over…
Yesterday as I sat in Dallas-Ft. Worth gate C-36, I was struck by the incredibly loud beeping of the electric carts, the loud soundtrack of the CNN Airport Channel that was on whether you wanted it or not, the yammering of 30 people all talking on their cell phones (many of which were preceded by insistent, annoying rings), the repetitive beeping of a Palm handheld every time someone pressed a button…
Big cars and SUVs rumbling in the parking lot. People who gather outside an office building to smoke and scream at each other. Stores like Best Buy that turn up each and every stereo and TV to create a sharp roar that makes me turn right around and leave.
I’m tired of having to ask people to repeat everything they say because the ambient noise around me is unbearable.

Location, location, location

Today after my conference ended, I took a few hours to explore Phoenix. First, I discovered that I can afford a very, very nice house here, with a pool. Of course, I would have to find a job here that would pay the same wages…

An angel and a devil


A great night with Sara in Phoenix! Need a dose of optimism? An example of humanity? A good laugh and a loud guitar solo? Try a Sara Hickman album! Visit Sara’s website to learn more about her.
Just a quick note – I really don’t think I look THIS bad in person. I hate cameras. Really.

Those daring young hares

This is one of the odd sculptures in the lobby and atrium of the Hyatt Regency Phoenix hotel. As near as I can tell, these are some human-rabbit hybrid circus performers, swinging on the trapeze with their pointy ears standing erect and their puffy tails out there for the world to see.

I suppose art is meant to challenge your perceptions. This one is pretty challenging.

But it’s a dry heat

Phoenix is in the desert. It was 83 degrees here today at the end of November. And it’s dry. I made the mistake today of being so involved in putting on a national convention that I didn’t take time all day to have a single drink or a bite to eat. Now as I get ready to think about getting some sleep, my lips are gnarled and twisted like an old mummy and my eyeballs feel like they’ve been rubbed with sandpaper.
When they tell you to drink a lot of water in the desert, by all means do so. Even if the water costs $4.25 a bottle like it does here in the hotel.

Arizona Point of Pride

As I sit here in the hotel looking out the window, I am struck by how this city has a sort of civic pride that I am not used to. In downtown Phoenix, there is a definite identity system at work, with coordinated signage, landscaping, and these cool, Frank Lloyd Wright street lamps. All the trees lining the streets have lights embedded in the sidewalks, and at night the trees are softly lit. This downtown spot around the convention center is clean and neat, and shows a kind of pride that we don’t have in DC. Everything in downtown Washington is haphazard, there is no sense of pride in the place, the best they could do is some banners on poles every so often, promoting who knows what. Washington has some grand buildings, open spaces, and monuments, but there is nothing to really make tourists feel at ease and figure out where they are. Recently, the city began posting wayfinder signs, which are not much help at all. Just a sign listing attractions and arrows. Here, there are kiosks on the corners with complete area maps.
And palm trees, lit from beneath.