Monday, December 03, 2007
Friday, August 03, 2007
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
Monday, March 12, 2007
If you followed RGV Life, I may continue that theme as a podcast only. However, it may just be easier to merge that with the new blog.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Most of the time, whe I start talking tech, people's eyes glaze over. This is not so here. It's a nice change.
Friday, March 09, 2007
I took a pic of this note that says "Too late, too bad, so sad. Love, Rob" on Rep Eissler's door. Basically, lobbying for new bills is over. For the most part, lobbying will focus on those bills already in the pipeline.
Good thing I went early, a line of other filers formed behind me at the Chief Clerk's office.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Just as a notice, these bills are scheduled, but there is always the possibility that one or more may be rescheduled. You may see the video feed at the House Audio/Video page later today.
Monday, March 05, 2007
I don't take this cup to work because it's the only cup I brought from home, along with 1 bowl, 1 plate, a knife, a fork, and a spoon. If I take the cup to work, then I might forget it and have a horrible time waking up in the morning. We don't want that to happen.
I recommend you listen to Jennifer and Jackie if you get a chance. You will hear what high doses of caffeine can do to you. Even if you're not a coffee drinker, their laughs are contagious and you will at least find yourself smiling through the show.
The Morning Brewcast also has another segment in which listeners tell the crew of two their earliest coffee memories. I've been meaning to record a bit for their show, but haven't made the time. I'll have to get around to it soon.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
The past couple of weekends were great because I had the opportunity to spend time with my family. The only downside was that I spent my free time with them or on the road. The result is that I had two weeks of mental junk piling up without a moment to go through it and throw out all the useless information. When you collect mental crap, it clogs up your thinking.
This weekend, I am without family and with a few housekeeping tasks to do. I also have a few hours to devote to mental housekeeping. The result has been great. I had something happen recently that really hurt my dignity. I think that if I had not had the opportunity to decompress and look at the big picture of my life, I may have made a poor decision. In retrospect, it doesn't matter; my life is not affected in one way or the other. So long as I can put food on the table, provide shelter for my family, and live a good life, the rest is just chaff that gets blown away in the wind. Very few of us have the chance to become great people and even fewer have the ability to do it successfully without losing ourselves. I doubt that I'm destined for greatness, let alone have the ability to deal with it; I would be better served with focusing on my humble needs. So, I have a clean slate and am ready for more.
If there is a lesson to be gleaned from this post, it should be that when you are lost in a forest of details, it helps to take some time to put your head above the treetops to make sure you are going in the right direction. Sometimes problems seem huge until you look at the big picture and realize that it's an inconvenience that doesn't really matter. Deal with it or forget it, and move on to your goal.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Two miles into the trail, I decided to turn back. There was a small drop that passed between a manhole and a large rock that I attempted to ride through. I hit a rock that turned my handlebar and lodged the wheel with another rock. The end result was that I flew off my bike and landed a few feet ahead of my bike. Unfortunately, the landing was amongst the rocks. I scraped my knee and bruised my left hip really well.
I was stunned for a moment when I realized I was no longer riding a bike and in pain. I did not move for a few moments while I figured out if anything was broken. After determining that there were no fractures, I hobbled my way to the manhole until the pain could subside.
The ride back was tough. In addition to the discomfort from the fall, I ran out of energy around downtown. I didn't think I'd ride so much, so did not take any sugar or other energy food. I granny geared it most of the way back, except for the downhills.
I'm still exhausted and sore all over. I'm going to load up on protein to assist in recovery.
When I ride, the first half-hour is hell. My legs don't want to go. After that, I seem to be able to go with little problems. That is, until I run out of energy. I did OK, only 18 miles after months of not riding. Subsequent trips will be better. For now, recovery is the goal.
Friday, March 02, 2007
I never went to a 3D movie as a kid because they were all violent. As an adult, I haven't seen many movies in 3D that interest me. I was skeptical about enjoying a movie in which I had to wear glasses in red and blue.
At the Sharks movie, you don't wear colored glasses. I don't know for certain, but I think the glasses they hand out are polarized. It's the only way that you could get a 3D effect with clear lenses. This way you can enjoy the movie in its true colors.
Down at the Committee Offices, clerks do have to show up. It isn't mandatory, but taking time off only makes the work pile up. Clerks have to process incoming hearing requests, which includes entering stuff into a database, writing bill analyses (despite getting one from the author's office), and a bunch of filing. Prepping for the hearing involves assembling hearing packets for the committee members. Usually the pieces to the packets slowly creep into the office up until the day of the hearing. We send out the packets as soon as the more important pieces are available. Some pieces may not arrive until the day of the hearing. It helps to drop by on the weekend to check for new items. Even with holidays, committee staff have firm deadlines.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The Texas Association of Builders threw together this big event. The food smells delicious, but the line is incredible. I'm better off buying lunch than waiting for a free one. There is much to do today.
UPDATE: I forgot we had lasagna in the fridge. I microwaved it and had it for lunch.
It's not a loss. The hearings are recorded on hard drive before burning. They can hook up to the recorder and burn another copy. Last night I noticed my keyboard was gone. I learned this morning that it was intentional to prevent problems. I don't think the keyboard and CD problem are related. I've had a few CDs fail to burn properly at home, they now function as coasters.
The hearing ended a while ago, but the committee work is not done. We have to start preparing for next week already. So far, we have over 200 bills in the criminal jurisprudence committee. Given the amount of time available before the end of session, there is no way we can hear all of them. Tonight, the Chairman mentioned setting up subcommittees to allow a hearing for as many bills as possible. I agree that the need is there. What immediately comes to my mind is that it will complicate the process of organizing the hearings. We would have to juggle multiple timetables to perform certain tasks on different days. In addition, the more difficult aspect would be having multiple bosses with the subcommittee chair. I've had this situation before, where there is more than one boss. It's always a recipe for problems. Nobody can serve two masters (or three or four). Still, it must be done. The alternative would be to leave many bills unheard.
In terms of my work, I find myself more and more enmeshed in the committee because of the volume of work headed our way. Consequently, I am becoming less connected with the goings on upstairs. I'm hitting that two masters issue again. If I concentrate more on one job, the other suffers.
I've already got a list of stuff to do tomorrow. If we'd got out of committee earlier, I may have put some work into getting it done. In practical terms, I could have stayed tonight to start on some work, but it is still too early in the session to start burning the candle on both ends. I need to ensure there is enough candle to last through the end of the session.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Bar Camp Austin II - March 9th-10th 2007
BarCampAustin II will be held around SXSW Interactive in March 2007. whurley is currently making venue arrangements and looking for sponsors. If you know any individuals/projects/companies that would be interested in helping support this event, please send contact info to barcamp at whurley.comI'm not 100% certain what BarCamp is, except it has geeky undertones. Naturally, it beckons for me to attend. It's tech related and that's enough for me.
Recently, Rep. Peña posted a blog entry about the discovery of a tomb that is said to contain the remains of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary (his mother), and the son of Jesus and Mary M. If this is true, which I don't know if it is or isn't, then I think many people will find themselves questioning their faith, or not. I guess it depends on how you believe. Let's just say that we can conclusively prove that Jesus et al were in that tomb; and we can prove it through DNA evidence. I'm not saying that it has been proven or that it will be. I'm saying, let's just play out the scenario. I've had issues with this in the past.
I can see the possibilities in my mind's eye. There will be those who refuse to accept the truth and will call this a trick of the Devil. There will be those who will be devastated for having believed in Christ's death and resurrection, only to find out that it never happened. They may never believe in anything again. Then, there may be some who, like me, will continue the tradition.
One of the problems that "the faithful" have is that there are those among us who believe that faith alone will save them. Somehow living a good life and carrying out God's will in tending to the less fortunate take a back seat so long as they can study the bible for countless hours and talk about it with other bible geeks for even longer. One thing the Church, I mean the Catholic Church, teaches is that we have to carry out our vocation to the best of our abilities. Single people should be of service to those in need. Married people elevate their holiness by "smoothing out the rough spots" in their personalities. Running from prayer group to prayer group doesn't cut it if you are neglecting that which God has given you, like your family. It is these people who try to find holiness through brute force that will either be most disillusioned or hold on doggedly to their mistaken beliefs in spite of the evidence.
There are those who were never faithful in their hearts and finding out that Jesus actually did die would just give them reason not to go to church anymore and sleep in on Sundays.
I suspect that there are people like me who, even acknowledging the evidence, would continue the tradition of the Church. I understand that there is the possibility that all the scriptures are entirely man inspired and written. To me, however, even if this is so, it does not diminish the value of the teachings of the Church. Just as it was thousands of years ago, murder is still a bad idea. So is theft. And adultery. And so on. The Golden Rule still applies. Even the idea of having one God, even if he were to not exist (remember, I am just saying it for the sake of argument), is still good because we humans have trouble serving more than one master. If you can't please one God, what are the odds that you'll please a pantheon of them?
So, even if the people in that tomb do turn out to be Jesus and his family, my faith in the Church would not be diminished. I believe that the principles that the Church espouses are just as applicable today as they were millennia ago. If you were to find God's presence, it would be in these universal truths more than anything.
If you are one of those who would refuse to acknowledge the truth and would cling to your beliefs, you are a blind believer. If you lose faith because the rug was pulled from under you, you were never a true believer. If, on the other hand, you accept the truth and continue to believe in the principles of what the church teaches, you will not have lost anything. Even if Jesus was mortal and died a horrible death, all that we would have learned is that he wasn't divine. The principles which he brought to humanity would still hold true, Son of God or not. For 2,000 years, his teachings have, when followed, brought us peace and comfort. Nothing will change for me. So, how would this affect you?
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Today, I spent some time helping my mom pick out a computer at Best Buy and then installing it. She just signed up for Road Runner and her old WinMe computer could not cope with the demands of broadband acess. I also networked the connection so that Mrs Mata can share the Internet connection. One of the computers is connected through ethernet; the other has a wireless connection. Once all that was done, Mom got onto YouTube, which was almost impossible on dial-up. My job was done.
I spent my last hours with my in-laws. We celebrated my brother-in-law's birthday at Danny's in Sharyland. Afterwards, i picked up some of my meager belongings from home and hit the road.
The great thing about this visit home is that t weather got its act together and gave us a glorious day. We essentially hung out at home until the afternoon when we went to a family birthday party. My son had a little incident in which he got whacked in the head with a piñata stick. Poor little guy was going to cry but I distracted him with the candy that fell. He occupied himself picking up candy while I observed the lump on his head. I sent the daughter for some ice. He'll be fine.
After the party, we went to my in-laws to pick up the van. He knows a guy who did the bearings and breaks for $40. Total cost was $100. I took the van for a test drive and am satisfied with the result.
The day was so nice that the evening was obligated to follow suit. It was just too nice outside to stay in. We stayed out and chatted until about 9 pm. At that time, we went inside to watch George Lopez on HBO. We went to sleep soon afterwards.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
We had our first criminal jurisprudence hearing on Tuesday. I helped in the preparation and clean-up. During the hearing, I witnessed all the testimony as I have a front row seat by virtue of operating the audio recorder and keeping a log of witnesses.
Up in the Chairman's office, things are much the same. There are many calls, many visitors, and much work to do.
I've been saving money left and right.
I'm going home again this weekend. I'm in a win-win deal where I brought a car up to be serviced and I left mine to be serviced back home. That sounds odd, but it works out well for all involved.
While I was home, Mrs Mata pointed out that I'm a little squishier around the middle. I'm going to have to practice a little more self-restraint at the receptions. All-you-can-eat is not the same as eat-all-you-can.
I have heard several suggestions, lately, that seeing the legislative process from both the member's office and from the committee side is a great opportunity. That is usually where it stops. I don't know what I could do with the experience. There is only one Texas Legislature. The only application of the experience is as a government relations worker, a lobbyist, or other similar job. Then again, what are the odds with one session under my belt? I won't hold my breath. Campaign workers have a better shot at these things as they eat and breathe government and politics. Maybe I could write about politics..., nah.
I've been riding the bus to and from work this week. This ties in to my experience at the Capitol. When you ride the bus at the same time of day on the same route, you see many of the same people and even have a casual chat with them. It becomes familiar and you feel more comfortable. The same is happening at the Capitol. I am running into the same people and meeting others through my work that I will be dealing with regularly. I'm beginning to feel more comfortable here. More importantly, I'm getting a better sense of the resources available to better do my job(s). Many times, doing something for you office is a matter of knowing who to call. This awareness is beginning to sink in. Whereas when I first arrived, I did not know anybody except my co-workers, I frequently meet many familiar faces throughout the day now. For the most part, everybody is friendly and helpful. There are a few who I sense would sell me off for a cheeseburger; but those types are everywhere. All you can do is be nice and play dumb.
Overall, I'm having a good experience working at the Capitol. I had an opportunity to eat at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse this week. I've been wanting to go for years. Now that I got to go, I wasn't hungry. I'd just eaten a couple of tacos we had stashed at the office. I guess it's just not meant to be. Life is funny sometimes.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Sensing the increased pace, I realize that some things will fall by the wayside if I don't attend to them now. One of them being visiting my family. I decided to take a gamble and drive home with the noisy wheel bearing. After work, I hit the road without stopping at the apartment. I topped off the tank at Wal-Mart and bought some nuggets to tide me over on the drive. Before leaving Austin, I called my roommate to let him know I'm going home lest he worry I've disappeared.
The reason I decided to gamble getting stranded is that I've often held back because of what "might" happen. I figure that if anything is worth the risk, it is seeing my people.
I am also concerned because my son was put in time out in class again. He's in pre-k. Many would think that at this age it's meaningless; but what is the cutoff? Might as well nip it in the bud before it becomes an issue. I can't do more than voice my disappointment. Parenting long distance is worthless. With my wife working full-time and spending much of her day on the road distributing the kids to their schools and picking them up, she doesn't have much time to dedicate to parenting before sending them to bed. I've learned as a pre-school teacher, that kids need structure and routine to successfully negotiate their day. While I'm away, the Mrs is, effectively, a single parent. This is not ideal.
I'll be home for the weekend, driving back to Austin on Sunday.
Friday, February 16, 2007
In my case we have settled on split duties between the Rep Pena's office and the committee. I'll be doing half days at each. Talk about getting a great opportunity. The only aspect of legislation I won't experience is being a rep myself. I've mentioned before that I'd rather shoot my dog than be an elected official. Back to the point, I'm getting a well-rounded experience in this session by working both offices.
I fell asleep typing this in bed last night.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
work is basically reactionary. Individual pieces of data come in and you deal with them individually. Different inputs require any number of different outputs.
The committee office is different. You have, essentially, the same item coming in daily and produce the same outputs. This allows for some processing efficiency. You can take random, staggered inputs and produce batched outputs. Each item gets individual attention, but in a dependable, organized fashion.
I'll be jumping back and forth between offices for now and will work with both environments. The contrast should be stimulating.
I'm glad to be able to help out. Gina, the Committee Clerk, and I share a common vision to establish a system to brainlessly get bills processed without error, much less a point of order. I am glad to have the opportunity to work with somebody who understands setting up and working with systems. I told her that it gives me a warm feeling in my heart. Gina understands teamwork.
My current job as scheduler is up in the air. I refused to call the Rep "Mr Chairman" and kiss his ring, so it's off to the salt mines for me. Seriously, we have not settled on it yet.
Being a House staffer is definitely a slightly challenging job. The volume of mail, meeting requests, phone calls, and visitors is far too much for two staffers to handle. I've been working until 9 or 10 at night this week to be able to process all the information that flows into the office in the various formats. I hate leaving a pile of unprocessed papers on my desk. Yet, when I leave, I see some office lights on at other Reps' offices too. I left early tonight, at 8:30. One can't really deal with this stuff during the day because of the constant interruptions. For me, it's awkward to ignore visitors while I'm working. As guests, I do my best to be hospitable and engaging with them. Lately, everybody wants to see our Reps in our offices, of course, including us. If you're lucky, your Rep is methodical and reliable. If you work for a free spirit, may God be with you this session.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
I got to work around 6:30 this morning and started working. There is a GTD wiki I've been using. GTD is a system by David Allen that allows you stress-free productivity. This isn't some sort system you buy for $300 and use out of guilt for paying so much. Allen lays out the system in his book, Getting Things Done. It's up to you how you implement.
Recently, I found a web-based system that runs GTD and it is accessible and updatable from my phone's browser. You can visit www.vitalist.com To check it out. If you are not familiar with the GTD method, it may not be so easy to use.
I have loaded vitalist with some data to get a feel for it. I'll give it some use this week, but I have my reservations. The wiki I have adopted is highly customizable, which may suit me better than universal web access. At least I can print out my list for the day and access the paper anywhere I go. I'll make a decision later this week.
In any case, I am from Mission, Texas. The closest rep to where I live is Rep. Kino Flores; however, I live in Rep. Veronica Gonzalez's district. And, I work with Rep. Aaron Peña. Being that my hometown was present, I could not miss this event. It seems that several Reps could not miss the event either. We had, at last count, about 7 Reps present. Senator Hinojosa was busy in Committee, so regrettably, he could not attend. I should not be, but I still am surprised that Mission is able to attract so much attention to themselves despite being a small town. I guess I'm biased, but I love my home town.
Tomorrow, Mission leaders will go out to Legislator's offices to advocate for our town. If you've never had grapefruit pie, tomorrow is your chance. I'm writing this past midnight, so I should say, today is your chance.
Oh, and Hidalgo County will be at the Capitol as well. Our County Judge and his staff will join us. We look forward to meeting with them to discuss matters that concern our county. It's late and I'm sleepy. Good night.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
This soup was served with a side of steamed rice and extra, cold, kimchee and bean sprouts. I loved it. If I weren't stuffed, I'd have finished everything. The cold kimchee was still nasty, but the soup brought a smile to my face. I love spicy, hot foods. It even made my nose athletic; it started running more than mere sniffles.
It's just a short walk to the UT Campus from the Capitol. I'm definitely going back to try more dishes. Dobie has an Indian restaurant and a Greek restaurant. There's other stuff; but those are my targets. It will take me a while to work through Oma's menu first.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
One of my challenges for riding to work was that I did not know where to park my bike. I asked House Parking, and they told me where I could put my bike. It's near the exit I normally use and has a DPS officer nearby to allay my fears of having my bike stolen. I know bike theft is a popular sport here, I lost a bike to this passtime in Austin once.
My only remaining challenge is riding in work clothes. I may just rubber band my right pant leg to keep it from getting caught in the chain. Or, I could change clothes. If I keep my shirts at work and take them to be dry-cleaned, all I need to do is take my pants and shoes in a bag to and from work. Then I could switch riding wear with work clothes at work.
Once the cold weather has passed us, I hope to be able to start riding again. The forecast calls for a drop in temperatures this week. Riding in cold weather won't kill me, but I would live to regret it during the ride. I can't wait to go for a long ride one of these weekends.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
I was going to see our Chief of Staff, James, at a gig he and the band he plays with had tonight, but I'm just not motivated to do anything.
Early this morning, I spoke with Mrs. Mata. She would like it if I go home this coming weekend. She says the kids are a bit affected by my absence as well. They would also like it if I were to go home for a weekend. It's a bad business decision to mess with the budget like that; however, I care for these people and would like to provide them the comfort of having me home for a weekend.
If anybody is headed to the Rio Grande Valley this weekend, I would appreciate sharing a ride there and back. Alternativly, if anybody knows where I can change a wheel bearing cheaply in Austin, that would also help. I don't feel comfortable taking a long drive with a bad bearing. Although, I could buy all the necessaries to do the repair myself before heading out or on the road. I'll think of my options after getting some sleep. I'll blog to you guys tomorrow when I can think clearly.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
I stole a quick pic while the Senator and Reps were posing with people from Edinburg. They were posing for the Senate photog, not me. This is why they are not looking at my camera.
From the Senate Chamber, we went out for a group photo of the entire Edinburg delegation. It took some time to get everybody together for the group shot.
Afterwards, we went to the Rotunda, which was closed temporarily. Earlier in the morning, glass fell from up in the rotunda somewhere, narrowly missing a visitor. All visitors were sent to the hall on the South side. We listened to the Edinburg Mariachi for a while to kill time before the luncheon at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin. While we were there, we took some more pics and some people were interviewed for the press back home.
This is Maritza. She is one of the House Sergeants. We see her frequently because she is also from the Rio Grande Valley. She's a nice girl.
Once we made it to the luncheon, we were further entertained by the Mariachi. They had a great performance. I love seeing a part of our culture continuing through young performers. In a way, it gives one hope that our way of life will continue.
Overall, it was a good day.
I'm going to post some pics I took on my phone. Some aren't that great, but what do you expect from a camera phone?
Here is Rep. Chavez. It's not the most flattering pic, and I apologize for that. She and the gentleman next to her were moving around and my other pics had blurs or looked worse.
These are other Border Reps, Guillen, Gonzalez, and Peña.
Here is Philip Song. I met him the other day at the McAllen Day Reception. Cool guy.
This is John de la Viña. He is a House Seargeant. When the House convenes, he attends to the representatives and carries messages or other items from the outside world to the reps. Sargeants also set up chairs in the House Chamber for special events. The rest of the time, Sargeants deliver mail and perform other errands around the Capitol. John is from the Rio Grande Valley too.
I think all the Reps know this guy, Connor Nix. He reads things, like Resolutions, for the Reps. Anybody who watches the House on the Internet has seen Connor.
There are other people with whom I interacted last night, but I did not take pics of them. Perhaps later. I am starting to know people. There is a big difference between now and when I first got here. It's not so lonely.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
This morning, I dropped the ball on a couple of things. I won't give you the details because it involves more than just me. Furthermore, the details don't add anything more to the basic fact that I messed up. Some people can't admit to making mistakes, which makes it impossible to learn a lesson and do better. In my case, I'll accept that I messed up. In my experience, leaders don't shift the blame to their team. Having been a boss, I know that when we fell short of expectations, it was my fault for not doing a better job of preparing us for the task. I consider myself a leader of sorts in this session, so it is incumbent upon me to accept responsibility. You know the rule, share the glory and take all the blame. Leadership is about serving your team (not to be served by them), and I did them a disservice. Mea culpa.
Here is what I could have done better. I could have called people and asked probing questions. I could have set up a more systematic approach to getting the task done. I could have asked for suggestions, ideas, and guidance. I could have verified that I had the information I thought I had. In short, I could have done more to ensure success. Now I know what can be done in the future to ensure our success. Lesson learned.
Moving on to the high note, I had a great time at the McAllen Day Reception. All of my favorite people at the Capitol were there. In addition, many great people from McAllen were there. McAllen is such an organized and professional city. The feeling I get from the McAllen people is that they just want to get the job done and to do it well.
At the reception, we got to hear some august speakers. I got to meet Steve Taylor of Rio Grande Guardian fame. I met another staffer from the RGV I had not met. Of course, it's always a pleasure to see Reps again, like Speaker Craddick, Rep Gonzalez, Rep Toureilles-Gonzalez, Rep Noriega, Rep Lucio, Rep Flores, Sen Hinojosa, and I can't remember who else. It was a great turnout.
Today was also insane in the number of groups making the rounds at the Capitol. We had people coming by the office almost non-stop. Everybody and their sister had a day at the Capitol today. It was a lot of fun to meet so many people. I did not get any work done, mind you. This is why I'm posting this at all hours of the night. I just cought up with many of the items on my desk.
I also had a special treat today. I got a visit from one of my favorite podcasters, Jennifer Navarrete of The Morning Brewcast (www.morningbrewcast.com) and her sons. If you have not heard the show, I recommend it. She and her sister Jackie Adame are hilarious when they are wired up on coffee. That was the highlight of my day. I'll end on that high note.