Friday, July 28, 2006

Anticipation is over

The anticipation is now over. My boss finally told me.

I’m going to support a task force that will study and recommend a statewide home energy conservation plan.

It’s not a new job, and there’s no pay raise involved. So I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. It’s my own fault for getting my hopes up so high. (That’s my “Runawayimagination” at work - lol) However, on the other hand, and most importantly, I will have a chance to do something that could actually benefit the people of my state.

I spent an afternoon researching on the Web and discovered that there are many government and private resources devoted to helping people weatherize their homes and pay for heating bills. I’m not sure exactly what more this task force can do, except perhaps to ramp up some of these programs a bit more. Maybe I’ll devise some innovative approaches.

Time will tell.

Earlier in my career such an opportunity might have meant a chance to position myself for a promotion. Maybe I would receive a bonus or merit raise if I did especially well at such an assignment. But now I work for the state, and state employees (at least the ones in my agency) never receive a bonus, and the only raise I’ll ever get will be the same annual “cost-of-living” raise that every state employee gets. And with only six years left to work, I doubt that any prospect for a promotion is realistic.

Does this sound like sour grapes? Maybe it is, but maybe it’s also just realism setting in.

I have found that true satisfaction in life cannot be obtained from material success. Every raise I’ve ever received has been spent on the necessities of life. I’m justifiably proud of what I have accomplished during my working life, but I’m much more proud of having raised a son and a daughter to adulthood. The pay I’ve earned has served as a means to that end.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I am justifiably proud of my professional accomplishments. In 1980 I wrote the first-ever book explaining how to forecast demand for local telephone service, and in 1991 I edited Bell Atlantic’s first Strategic Technology Plan. And there are many more. At the same time, I have maintained a parallel career in the arts, playing keyboards professionally, which I do to this day.

Life just looks different from the perspective of 60 years.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Times of turmoil, times of ease.
Times of anxiety, times of peace.
Times of sorrow, times of joy.
Times up, times down.
Times young, times old.
Times healthy, times sick.

Nothing ever stays the same.

Always changing,
always moving,
always in the process

of becoming.

Something else

that is not yet

but forever

on the verge

of becoming.

So then life is a process,
not a state of being.

A vector,
not a location.

And this idea we call time
is only our way of understanding

For being is not being,
since how can something be
when it is constantly

I was born, it is true, on 2/14/46 at 11:35 p.m.

But my birthing was only
a step
in my process
my flow
my vector.

Before that I was developing in my mother’s womb.

But before that I was raw potential
contained in a million million possibilities
of union

Each of these possibilities could have
but did not.

I myself am a million million possibilities.
Things I might do,
Places I might go.

Only time will tell.

But whatever I might do is only a step in a much longer chain of doing that began before the sun was lit

and shall continue long after it burns itself into an empty cinder.

And every place I might go
is only a stop on my way to
someplace else.

As one word proceeds the next
and follows the one before,
until the last one this hand writes.

But my writing will continue
by another hand.
Perhaps by the hand of my son.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

"Anticipation is everything"

My boss left me with those words yesterday afternoon.

The day before yesterday I had spoken to a task force at the state legislature about broadband deployment & adoption. My talk was very well received, and that afternoon my boss came into my office, sat down across from me and repeated what a good job I had done.

Then he told me that I my efforts might result in a new opportunity for me. I tried to prod him for more information, but to no avail.

Yesterday he gave me a summary of a report and asked my opinion about whether we should purchase it. I read through the summary, consulted with a co-worker and replied that I thought it was a good investment for us to make. He thanked me, and on his way out I asked if this was the opportunity he had mentioned the day before. He replied, “No,” and he grinned his final words, “Anticipation is everything.”

This makes me speculate that this might indeed mean a new job. Maybe a raise! My runaway imagination is now running wild (as it is wont to do).

I started work with the state six years ago, having moved to Nashville after wrapping up a 29-year white-collar career with Bell Atlantic (now part of Verizon), then spending 18 months playing music professionally. Imagine a 53-year old man touring the US with a country-rock band, driving 7,500 miles crammed into a 1991 Econoline van with six other people, pulling a 2,000 lb. trailer laden with instruments and luggage, driving 19 and 26-hours at a stretch. Playing music for a living (well, not “quite” a living, but let’s say a ‘career’), writing a book about my experiences while living a real-life Odyssey – an internal journey of self-discovery wrapped inside an external journey across the country. I learned that my keyboard chops were up to world-class standards at the same time that most of my Bell Atlantic cohorts were settling into their comfortable front porches after having secured financial security for life. I gave it up for love (another long story for another post).

Then reality began to set in. The purchase of a house required a regular income, and one thing I had learned so far about the music business was that even the best players were unable make a living in Music City by playing music. The key to a successful music career is called “day job.”

So began the job search, my first since 1969.

After nine months of intensive searching and increasing desperation, I began to wonder if I would soon take my place alongside the kids bagging groceries at Kroger. Then one day I noticed an ad in the employment section of the classifieds. A state agency needed someone with telecom experience, and I knew I was their man. It would mean a $32K cut in pay from what I had been making in 1998, but it was a Helluva lot better than any alternative that had presented itself up to then.

There was a lot to learn, but I absorbed it easily and began applying my writing and computer skills to the job, settling into a relatively unchallenging job and riding out long periods of nothing to do by inventing challenges for myself.

The task force presented me with a rare opportunity to demonstrate my public speaking skills and ability to summarize complex information for executives.

So what could this new opportunity mean?

Like my boss said, “Anticipation is everything.”

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Yesterday morning I presented a summary of a GAO report to a task force at the state legislature, which included a state representative and senator who had sponsored the bill creating the task force.

This was my first major presentation since I retired from Bell Atlantic (now part of Verizon) in 1998. I knew it was a “big deal” and was understandably nervous for weeks beforehand. Usually we dress in “business casual” for work, but yesterday was an occasion for me to wear my new suit.

I batted “cleanup.” The speakers who went on before me represented the telephone companies, cable TV companies and organizations that provide backbone facilities to major research institutions, universities, public schools and libraries. But all of those speakers either dodged the central issue or danced around it, which is, “why are our rural areas unable to get broadband access to the Internet?”

They all had their own turf to protect. Neither the phone companies nor the cable TV providers want to show their hand to their competitors, and so they didn’t really reveal very much about where they had deployed broadband infrastructure around the state.

By the time my turn came, time was running short, and the task force was becoming frustrated by the lack of useful information provided thus far. But I had sensed early in the morning that this situation was playing directly into my hand.

Without going into a lot of detail in this post, I was able to summarize the 70-page GAO report in about 15 minutes, looking directly into the eyes of the Task Force members instead of at my slides (since I had pretty well memorized my presentation). I used my best calm but authoritative voice to deliver them the message they needed to hear:

Broadband take-rates (the likelihood that people will buy broadband if it is available) are determined primarily by income and education, not rural versus urban environments.

However, this is a “chicken and egg” situation, because:

Access to broadband Internet is critical to 21st century education and income opportunities, particularly for small, isolated communities.

There is a win-win solution to this problem.

I introduced them briefly to the ConnectKentucky program, in which the government served as a catalyst by creating a public-private partnership involving computer manufacturers, providers of Internet access and other major industry players, all of whom who stand to benefit by increasing the number of broadband subscribers. I think this is a good model for our state to emulate.

They seemed very interested.

I showed them some tables I had created that listed broadband penetration rates by state. I had created the table by using housing unit estimates I got from the Census Bureau and numbers of high-speed lines serving residential households from the FCC. It showed that our state was 5th in our region and 37th in the US.

In case you’re interested, the state with the highest broadband penetration rate is Connecticut with 45%, and the state with the lowest is Mississippi with only 14%. The US average is 31%, meaning that only one in three US households have access to broadband. Chances are that you are one of these, because uploading and downloading large files is very time-consuming on dialup.

Lastly, I showed them where the US ranks in the developed world in terms of broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants. We are #12.

Who’s ahead of us? Iceland, South Korea, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Canada, Sweden, Belgium and Japan.

And so after 6 years of working for the state and not doing too much really exciting or very important, yesterday I got my moment in the sun.

I’m still basking. Opportunities like this don’t come often, and so you have to make the most of them when they do come around.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Seven deadly sins

Greed:Very Low
Wrath:Very Low
Envy:Very Low

Take the Seven Deadly Sins Quiz

Monday, July 10, 2006

Survey says...

1. FIRST NAME - You already know it if you're close to me
2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE – Yes, since I’m a Junior I was named after my dad. He was named after family friends, one of whom was a cowboy, and the other was killed by a runaway horse team in the early 1900s.
3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY – Today when talking on the phone with a friend whose partner’s son was found dead yesterday.
4. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING – No, it’s complete crap and always has been. I lost the ability to write in cursive sometime in my 20s. My signature is somewhat artistic, although you would never discern my name from it.
5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT – About any kind – I’m not picky.
6. KIDS? – Daughter 36 and son 34.
7. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? Sure, it wouldn’t be hard being friends with myself (although it’s taken me some years and lots of effort to understand who I am). The hard part would be being another person.
8. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL? Yes. I’ve documented my life in great detail.
9. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Not when I can help it.
10. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Nope; had ‘em taken out when I was ten.
11. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Noooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!! I'm not risk-adverse, but I don't believe in temping Fate, either.
12. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Crunchy oat stuff.
14. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Yes, pretty strong. I’ved Jazzercised for 18 years.
15. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR? Chocolate! (but most any flavor will do – like I said above, I’m not picky.)
16. SHOE SIZE – 10D
17. RED OR PINK? Red.
18. WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? Soft teeth & flat feet. Other than that I’m just fine. Oh, sometimes a tendency to introspect a little too much and get too down in the dumps about stuff. But wifie always picks me back up.
19. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? My 2nd wife who died of leukemia 3 years ago, and my father, mother and grandparents. I suppose I miss all the people I love who I’ve lost.
22. LAST THING YOU ATE? Frozen chicken alfredo
23. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? XM Radio -- XM Cafe. XM rocks, y'all.
25. FAVORITE SMELL? Wifie’s unadulterated fragrance, good coffee brewing, homemade bread baking, wifie’s perfume (that I got her, of course).
27. THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO? That they are attracted to me? (What kind of question is that?)
29.FAVORITE DRINKS? Fresh coffee in the morning, cold water during the day and an occasional Cosmo or Margarita on weekend nights (prefer my own homemade).
30. FAVORITE SPORT? Frisbee and volleyball
31. EYE COLOR? Blue, sort of
32. HAT SIZE? 7 1/2 (large)
33. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? No; I wear glasses.
34. FAVORITE FOOD? Homemade pancakes or waffles, a good steak on the grill
35. This question was blank. I wonder what’s supposed to go here? Maybe the author wants to see if I’m creative enough to answer an un-asked question. Umm… lemme see…. THREE! That’s the answer!
38. SUMMER OR WINTER? I guess you mean what season is my favorite? I’d say fall and spring.
39. HUGS OR KISSES? Both! Bring ‘em on!
40. FAVORITE DESSERT? Frozen custard or malted milk or banana split or… (you get the idea)
42. LEAST LIKELY TO Someone who doesn’t read this blog. I dunno – maybe Chairman Mao?
43. WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING? Old Jules by Mari Sandoz (from the same town as my dad)
44. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSEPAD? I don’t have one, since I use a trackball. But before I got a trackball I had a mousepad with a design made by my oldest granddaughter.
45. WHAT DID YOU WATCH LAST NIGHT ON TV? "The March of the Penguins" (DVD)
46. FAVORITE SOUNDS? Dear wifie sleeping, dear cat purring, birds at night before they bed down, the sound of XM radio, the sound of a band I'm playing in. (You can see I'm very much into sounds.)
47. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? What kind of question is that?
48. FURTHEST YOU'VE BEEN FROM HOME? Tofino, which is on the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
50. WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Feb. 1946 in Arlington, VA.
51. WHAT IS THE MOST ROMANTIC THING SOMEONE HAS DONE FOR YOU? The first time I met wifie we went for a ride in the car after talking for two hours in Applebees. The most romantic thing was when she gently placed her hand on my arm and said softly, “I think I need to kiss you now.”
52. WHAT WAS YOUR PROUDEST CHILDHOOD MOMENT? When I was accepted into my first rock band at age 15.
53. STAY HOME OR GO OUT? Usually stay home but can be enticed to go out if there’s something better out than there is at home (which is very rare).
54. FAVORITE MOVIE? I'm not much of a movie person, but I loved Airplane, Top Secret and Monty Python & The Holy Grail.
55. WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? I stole it from

An untimely death

We were shocked to get the call yesterday afternoon.

A good friend's son was found dead in his car of an apparent heart attack.

He was only 27.

He had just started to get his life back on track after a very difficult period and had begun a steady job.

He was her only child.

My son is 34.
My dad died suddenly of a heart attack at age 57.
He died shaking my hand after my 25th birthday party.

I lost my wife 3 years ago to leukemia.

My wife lost her husband 7 years ago to a heart attack.

The death of a loved one almost too much to bear;
especially an untimely death.

But bear it we must.

Russellville trip and philosophy

The weekend before last we decided to take the new car out for a country drive.

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. The ostensible reason for our trip was to find a butcher shop. It seems that the part of Nashville in which we live is bereft of such establishments, but wifie found a listing on the Internet in Russellville, KY.

As is our wont, we took the back roads.

Rt. 76 took us from White House west to Springfield, then we followed Rt. 431 north into Kentucky and finally Russellville, which we found much to our delight is richly populated with proud old homes like these.

On our way back my wife drove so I could snap pix of the many picturesque barns that dot the landscape. Some of the barns are very traditional in their shape and color. I'm sure that can tell us the purposes for which these structures were built.

Others are more like large sheds.

Others are a bit more interesting.

Some of the structures are in the process of being digested by the landscape from which they arose.

I find a subtle kind of beauty in the way the old houses and barns gently sag under the weight of time and the ravages of termites and eventually succumb to Mother Nature's beckoning call.
At first the paint peels off,

Vines begin to gain purchase on the rough wood

and before long the timbers begin to crack under the unrelenting attack of the elements.

and even the homes that once housed the barns' owners are slowly digested as well.

Before you know it, the housing stock of a new generation arises from the ashes.

And Interstate kitsch appears near the exits.

I am tempted to draw value judgments from my observations about the demise of rural America, the pollution of our environment or the unsustainability of our modern lifestyles.

However, I believe that in the broader sense we and all that we build are destined to be consumed by Nature.

I suppose a future generations' photographers (assuming the human race doesn't extinguish itself before then) will lament the demise of our quaint lifestyle, along with our quaint Internet, our quaint little laptops, quaint little cell phones and so on.

Remember, high tech is always disposable, never permanent and always in the process of becoming something else.

Just like life itself.

Friday, July 07, 2006

I tagged myself

Several blogs I read have been tagged. It sounds like a fun idea, so I decided to post my own answers.

A) Four jobs I've had in my life

Rodman on USGS survey team (summers of 1964-65)
Naval officer (1968-69)
Local Area Forecaster for the Telephone Company (1972-90)
Professional musician (keyboards, 1962 to present)

B) Four movies I would watch over & over

Groundhog Day
Monty Python & The Holy Grail
Dead Poets Society

C) Four places I have lived:

Falls Church, Virginia
Newport, Rhode Island
Williamsburg, Virginia
Nashville, Tennessee

D) Four TV shows I love(d) to watch:

The Daily Show
The Colbert Report
My Name is Earl
The Office

E) Four places I have been on vacation:

Outer Banks of North Carolina

F) Web sites I visit daily:

Yahoo! News
Blogs of,,,, and
New York Times

G) Four of my favorite foods:

Spicy stuff
Sweet stuff
Salty stuff
Crunch stuff

H) Four places I would rather be right now

Outer Banks of NC
British Columbia

I) Four friends I think will respond:

I have no idea. Let’s see.