Thursday, March 26, 2009

RAIN



As my friend Shannon always said when it would rain constantly, "It's really 'set-in.'"

Today, my friends, it has "set-in" in Alabama and I'm pretty sure it's going to remain this way for several days. I left my tomato seedlings out yesterday morning as the forecast indicated incoming by afternoon. They were partially protected by my upstairs neighbor's deck, but when I came home at 5 p.m. they were practically floating. Let's hope it wasn't too much too soon.

I always thought this was a song that should've been more popular. They lyrics are very well done and so is the execution of the video. It's hard to believe this was shot in 1993 - 16 years ago. It still seems really relevant and modern.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Step It Up: You And Your Health

I know many of you think The Robby Johnson just happens effortlessly, through osmosis (even if you don't think this please pretend that you do), but the truth is it's hard out here for a pimp and the older I get, the more help I need. Por ejemplo, right now my eyes are red and puffy from a luxurious 7.5 hour sleep and I am full-on contemplating cucumber slices even though I have no cucumbers. And if I did, I would have to eat them with vinegar because, let's face it, that's an awesome snack that sure as heck beats spoonfuls of peanut butter and honey or raw cake batter (my favorite).

It's both a blessing and a curse to have sensitive skin. Mine tells no lies. The second I go hardcore on my Eat To Live lifestyle, my skin says "Oooooohhhhhh I'm gonna tell! Look at what was inside your body." This goes on for a week or so and then, overnight, it's like lights-camera-action and everything comes together and not only do I look better, I feel better.

Our bodies have evolved to filter the impurities we put into them via our diets, and respond to external stressors in ways that can be downright cannibalistic. Times are tough right now, but that is all the more reason to slow down, breathe deep, take inventory of what you can and cannot control, and develop strategies to address them so as not to worry unnecessarily. We can easily make better choices about what we eat and how long we sleep. Ditch the processed food and hit the sheets between 9:30 and 10. And drink as much water as you can.

Robby's Refrigerator Cukes

1 Cucumber
Apple Cider Vinegar
Freshly crushed black pepper

Slice a cucumber in 1/4" rounds. Place in a storage container with lid. Add cukes, vinegar and pepper in layers. Return to refrigerator, eat when hungry.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Over-Stimulus

Do you ever feel uninformed when conversation turns to politics, particularly the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009? I do. Mainly because I like to be armed with facts so as not to default to sounding off using sound byte derivatives as the basis of my position.

I felt the same way during the controversy surrounding Madonna's "Confessions Tour" in 2006, when she appeared on stage on a big mirrored cross with a crown of thorns on her head. It's easy to judge, from a photo only, someone attempting to gain attention but, in actuality, the staging did a fantastic job communicating the message of the music and the statement she was attempting to make about domestic violence, self-hatred, etc. But I know this because I saw it live. And I feel like if you're going to be a naysayer, you should at least be objective enough to meet your opponent on the field to fully understand what it is you oppose.

And thusly I have downloaded the actual act so I can read and understand it better. It's 407 pages long. Why do I do this to myself?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Vast Expanse

I love my life.

Last weekend I was gettin' all cultured-like at art museums in Dallas, this weekend I was baiting minnows on both a trotline and random limb lines for catfish along the Alabama River with my dad. This is actually a pic of my dad and mom leaving out yesterday morning to check said lines. Hey, we all get in on the action. (The results, as of yesterday, were less than stellar though the one fish they brought in was quite nice.) It's not so much about the fishing, but moreso about the fun.

After we had a slight mishap setting the first trotline - and by mishap what I mean is Daddy ran over the line with his boat motor, dragging the heavy weight with it and wondering 500 yards away why the boat wasn't running properly, then returning to repair it - my father said, "There's nothing I'd rather be doing on a Saturday evening than spending it on the river with you." Not often you get that kind of affirmation and it was just what I needed after a few rough weeks at work.

Combined with all kinds of campfire cooking (toasted coconut marshmallows anyone?) and visiting with the people who matter to me the most, and a brisk halfhour on the treadmill this morning, I'm ready to conquer my week. Sure, my Monday began at 4:30 a.m., but I'm ironed and energized and ret'ta'go!

Friday, March 20, 2009

SUCKGASM Email Lists

The reality, I'm here to tell you, is that email marketing is bloody anarchy. Maybe that's a bit dramatic (No, really? Robby you? Dramatic?). It's at least like recipes for fried chicken. Everyone has their own way - better, of course - and just as soon as you buy-in or adapt, a better solution becomes apparent. Sort of like marriage. God I should just go back to bed.

Anyhoodle, yesterday's Holy Grail search at work involved finding duplicates in Microsoft Excel. I use Salesforce.com and would like an e-letter solution inherent or compatible with the platform, just in case anyone has ideas, but right now I export the contacts and send the letter using a really great web-based solution called Constant Contact. This in and of itself isn't such a big hurdle, but I have to manually reconcile the bounce addresses back in Salesforce once a campaign concludes. My idea was to create worksheets per bounce category inside an Excel workbook, alongside my master list, then check for duplicates. The duplicates would reflect email addresses I need to amend.

I never fully got to my intended result - why run a formula when you can manually click and strain your eyes further? - but then I Googled and this is what I found. I cannot wait to try it. Until my integrated solution presents itself, this could be a heckuva lot easier for my routine list maintenance.

Anyone else have ideas or tips to share? Is this the technological equivalent of wearing acid wash and listening to Def Leppard on CD?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Lotto Nothing

Years ago I had a dream I won the Texas Lottery while at a horse show. Calling it a dream is even a stretch because it was so detailed it was more like a premonition, right down to the numbers and the authority asking jovially, "What are you going to do with $60K per month?" (Like I would do an annuity, child please, give it to me at once so I can SPEND, okay? Ibiza for everyone!)

It was so real I awakened feeling very happy and rich! It took a minute for reality to establish but instead of being sad, I was determined. And so I play Texas Lotto every time I go to Texas, and I usually play my numbers but never have they won. I did quick pick last week and while I didn't win, someone did. The number string was nowhere close - it began with 31 as the lowest value and worked up from there. Who would select that on purpose?

Guide me, Lotto Dream Guide. Guide me in the right direction. I will be happy with $60K per month. I promise.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Natasha Richardson

I find this story so very, very sad.

I recently watched a little bit of the new season of "Top Chef" and Natasha was a host for a big AmFAR event in NYC at Christmas where the contestants catered the event.

I have always thought she was such a class act. My thoughts are with her family now. Tell the people you love how much you love them - again. Reiterate it. Life is short and tragic and our only balance to that reality is our ability to care and triumph through the celebration of our spirit.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shambhala-Na-Na-Nah

Lord have mercy, y'all, I am nearly ashamed to be a week behind on my blog! Other than vacations, this is the longest I've ever gone without waffling on about nothing and it's been building up in me. I must express.

First off, sleep is a critical thing and the less I get, the crazier I seem. Captain Crazy must be stopped and so I have made a vow to get back to my 7.5 hour groove, particularly since I have really gotten into early morning cardio at my gym. Amazing how when I'm there at 5:30 and home by 6:45 I still make it out the door to work earlier than when I just wake up and tool about slowly. But admittedly my blog suffers. I will figure it out, not to worry.

I had a VERY busy week at work last week - anticipated but still rough and am using this week to reclaim my professional self. I've gotten off-kilter there due solely to tactical workload (not my strength) but strategically (strength) I have seen a big picture and now I'm all thrilled and excited and ready to implement. It's a future full of NO PAPER. I abhor stacks and yet I seem to make them and eventually just throw everything out. Such a paper waste. I'm going full-on paperless with an electronic filing system that will cost my company absolutely nothing and ideally will give me more time to invest in the "project" side of project management.

All work and no play is also a fast track to implosion, especially for me. I live to engage with people and when that ratio gets unbalanced I begin to suffer. As much as I want to be a lotus, I'm more like a day lily. I need sunlight to grow. Which is why I hit up Dallas last weekend to visit some friends and had a blast. We did way too much nightlife but it was overdue, mostly because I've accepted the fact that I'm getting too old for this. Why can't nightclubs happen from like 5-9 p.m.?

Shopping and culture was the schedule for Saturday afternoon and in the Bishop Arts district we patronized Shambhala Soaps. I highly recommend it based entirely on the use of this foaming sugar soap, as well as the shop manager who was so fabulous I just wanted to curl up at her feet and sleep on a mattress for a week. Think Glenda the Witch of the North meets your eccentric aunt. Total amniotic experience. I am a little bit of a product-ho but it's mostly because I'm very sensitive to smell and navigate well with aromatherapy. Their soy candles are fantastic too; I'm currently burning the Tomato & Basil candle as an homage to the gardening God in anticipation of my crops this summer.

So now I'm off to conquer my day and I'm feeling good about it. Hopefully I can get my schedule more efficient so I can accommodate the things I deem important. Writing is definitely a practice that helps, and I'm blessed to be employed in a capacity which taps into this outlet.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fennel and Dill

Arky, for you! Er'thang a brotha need to know about fennel.

Did I plant it because I liked the fennel "limoncello" in Italy last summer and had visions of making my own this year? Yes of course. Am I more likely to use it in a salad or my rare fish foray? Indeed.

When it comes to dill, I love it in summer soups and salads and, of course, pickling and preserving. Which I've never done. But am planning to do. We shall see how it works out, but having grown it fresh and used it for culinary purposes, I give it 2 thumbs up fo' shizzle.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Gardening Weekend

I cannot believe that in just, what, 3 weeks?, my seed-starting self has produced herbs! And like, voluminous amounts. When I was potting the peat pellets into larger peat pots, I couldn't help but get excited when I saw real little leaves - not just the sprouts - emerging on some of the cilantro, basil, and fennel.

This picture, taken today on a particularly warm and muggy early Spring day, reveals the bulk of my intended 6' x 8' patio garden. The clay pots are temporarily hanging on my wall garden just to demonstrate my engineering ability (read: not so engineer-y), which is tres' portable.

I'm also doing 3 hanging coconut fiber baskets containing cilantro, lime basil, and sweet basil. So far I have successfully produced all of my herbs and have one lavender seedling emerging. That list includes:

  • Cilantro
  • Lime Basil
  • Sweet Basil
  • Oregano
  • Chives
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Rosemary

And I also have 12 tomato plants, which I've started from seed. Yes, tomatoes. I am going to pot 6 of them in 5-gallon buckets and hope that will produce enough. Of course I might get crazy and do all 12 because my ultimate goal here is to not only have fresh produce and herbs for cooking, but also to use for my holiday gift extravaganza. My favorites are the basil, which is why I'm growing so much of it, cilantro (limited growing season - again, reasons for growing more) and the oregano; I'm interested to see what I can do with fennel, and of course am always happy with dill.

I'm also going to share the surplus started herbs with some friends and family. It's an exciting time down South, y'all. Let summer begin!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Olive Oil

Tuesday is yoga day at my office. We have an instructor come in who teaches us in a vacant space and it's amazing - I live for Tuesdays.

What I don't love, however, is winter dry skin, or the fact that my feet are starting to look old. You know what they say ... old people feet will get you no play. You've heard that old saying, right?

Anyhoodle, I got the big bright idea last night before I went to teach that I was going to do something about it. And because I am the world's most rational person I thought, "Olive Oil. Yes, Olive Oil. That will do the trick. MWWAAAHHHHAAAAHAAAA."

So I slathered a little on my feet and legs and, hey, instant dry skin treatment. It did attract all sorts of lint to my legs and, sure, I may've slipped a little on the wood floors at the studio and my kitchen at home, but that's a price I'm willing to pay. Snap a hip in exchange for smooth feet? I think the choice is pretty clear.

I did Google, however, and of course this isn't a new concept at all. But I do sorta love the idea of making my own moisturizer with beeswax (where to get, where to get?). Don't tell Aveda.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

My SuperFamous Friend and Biodiesel

Clearly I've got Earth on my mind - sorta like Freemasons except they've got love on their mind and if you think this song is totally not Mexico 2006, and Harmonica and I may have sung it LOUDLY as we were sailing back into the harbor, you're wrong - this week. I mean, yesterday I get all bike-y then my friend Schulte sends a link to a story he just wrote on a documentary about biodiesel, which I shall put on my Netflix list as I vow to be more informed in 2009.

When I used to have diesel-powered vehicles (F250's y'all!) it always irked me that I couldn't get this environmentally-progressive fuel option. Of course, I wasn't too keen to break down in the sticks of North Texas even though you know they have a surplus of used cooking grease from their cultural fixation on chicken-fried steak - now that I think about it, why was I worried? - so I just stuck with the tried and true Flying J petroleum-derived diesel.

But this is a reminder that our new day has dawned. We MUST continue seeking and implementing better options if we intend to inhabit this planet, and leave it behind responsibly for succeeding generations.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Carbon Emissions Eliminator

I am , if anything, compulsive and irrational. It's what I do, it's who I am. It's the way I exist. I see pictures of The Future Me, and I take actions to help that person develop. Who cares if we're in an economic free-fall? If I'm going to simplify and comply, I must do so in such a way that complies to my standards and the way The Future Me looks in my head. And I can justify just about anything.

Inspiration? Beach trip. Catalyst? Near-miss last year that could've seen us walking about 4 miles to get to our beach tent. CARRYING A FULL ICE CHEST! As it were, we told a white lie (vision dreams of passion!) and only had to walk about a mile. It's a harrowing experience none of us have forgotten. I went directly to Target and bought a rolling ice chest upon my return. But over the year, I've done more thinking. As we're staying in the same condo complex this year, we run the same risk and quite frankly, I like to be prepared.

Initially I contemplated buying an adult tricycle with a basket on the back. But then I felt like that might be a bit geriatric and even though the one I considered folded down into a cube, it was huge and would've been a challenge to fit into Banzai. This is another reason to wear skimpy bathing suits ... less room in the car. See, I really can justify anything.

This led to my considering a bicycle, which led to my father suggesting a bicycle trailer. I was in love with this idea but, still, had that Banzai challenge. Over the weekend I saw a bicycle I quite liked at Target, so decided to see if I could find it cheaper online. While I didn't find the exact bike, I found an improved version with a rack and then - stay with me here - I discovered ACCESSORIES! And before I knew it I was a confirmed orderer with integrated options. I just need to buy a bike rack for my car now and I'll be good to go.

The truth is that I live in an area where a bicycle isn't entirely difficult to integrate. I can ride it to my grocery store - even my pilates studio, possibly my office - or the farmer's market. And yes, I know I'm beginning to sound REALLY white, but that's OK. I like the idea of consolidating my life and making things easier.

note: My bicycle might be a little geriatric. It has regular brakes that you push backward! Just like when I was a boy!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Hell Trifecta

Hale.
Hail.
Hell.

Friday was really ominous here in West Alabama. Severe weather began to manifest mid-morning and by noon it was pouring. I always get nervous in winter when warm weather is sent packing by a cool front, and their battleground is a thunderstorm. Like Celie said in "The Color Purple," "It be lookin' like twister weather."

Shubutta and I were planning to drive down to Mobile for my niece's 13th birthday party, and wanted to leave Friday night. It's nearly 4 hours by car so having 2 nights to spend always makes it a little more worthwhile. But the forecast was scary so I rang her to tell her I thought perhaps we should wait until Saturday morning.

Around 3:15 Friday afternoon I was pleased we'd made that call as there was rotation spotted near our office and we were required to seek shelter in our "safe place." I'm now a safety warden for my area of the building so I got to step into action which was a rather daunting task. Once the warning was lifted, about 30 minutes later, I got a text indicating the weather was clearing, so we decided to leave for Mobile as planned.

About 10 minutes into our drive south I sensed danger. It was raining harder than I can ever recall and it was dark and threatening. Still we pressed on. The drive to Mobile is VERY rural and as we entered Hale County, I started thinking it would be better to turn around because a lack of phone coverage and my itty-bitty Honda Fit could certainly have seen me and Shu-Shu blown to smithereens with nary a bread crumb left behind.

A low-lying area probably 10 minutes outside Faunsdale finally got my hackles up. Until that point I'd just been guarded, optimistic that surely we were about to drive out of it. The water on the road was getting so deep so fast that I was having to drive 40 mph and I did begin to panic over flash-flooding. I knew the road well enough to know we were about to rise over a hill so fortunately that scenario remained behind us but was replaced, instead, by hail.

As we got near the stop sign at Highway 80, it began to fall so hard and with such force that I remained at the stop sign for probably 10 minutes. It wasn't large hail but it sounded like we were being assaulted by AK47's. We couldn't hear each other speak and for a brief moment it slacked so I crossed the intersection and entered into Faunsdale proper.

At that point the wind and rain picked up so hard and the hail regained its fortitude that we were forced to pull over in a church parking lot. The wind on the road's surface was blowing the water so hard that it looked like smoke - even with my fog and lights set to bright. From this vantage point I could see the wind blowing down the highway and it reminded me of the hurricanes I've lived through so, of couse, I began to think May-Day.

People often marvel at how I seem to know someone everywhere and this was true in Faunsdale. I was very near the farm of some friends and rang to see if they were there so we could seek shelter. I knew I'd likely get voicemail, and by the time we got to their highway things started to slack significantly. In fact, 4 miles later when we hit Dayton it stopped raining and the rest of the 2.5 hour drive was clear as a bell.

I asked Shu at one point if the forecast she read indicated severe weather that far down and we deduced that she'd interpreted just the prediction for Tuscaloosa. All's well that ends well, right? It's hard to keep this in mind when you're basically sitting still holding each other's hand and realizing you need a safe option.

Safety first, amigos ... have a safe week!

p.s. Miraculously there was no hail damage to Banzai.