Monday, March 26, 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pirates vs. Ninjas!

Arrg, me hearties! and yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rhum!

Yes, this entry is about pirates. I wish it was about ninjas, because the Real Ultimate Power belongs to Ninjas (you can look that up if you don't believe me), but it turns out that I am a pirate, not a ninja, no matter how much I hoped to be the latter, not the former.

No matter how much 剣術 I practice, I'm still a pirate at heart -- I have a tendency to bury treasure and mark them with cryptic maps, I raise the jolly roger just before I fire my opening salvo, I wear high leather boots (when I'm riding my motorcycle), I carry around a curved sword (you can image the shocked looks I get from hotel staff ...) and an eye patch for instant night vision (Mike told me this one ... coolness!) And I break out into song at least once a day: "16 men on a dead man's chest; yo-ho-ho and a bottle of ..."

"Rum!" my girls scream and then squeal with laughter.

Given an objective perspective (which I have, because I say so, and I'm a pirate), pirates are waaaaay cooler than ninjas. I mean, come on:

  • Pirates get treasure; ninjas go around assassinating for a bowl of rice

  • Pirates get the girls (have you ever seen an "authentic historical document" (sometimes called a "movie") where the pirate didn't get the girl? Didn't think so); ninjas live this solitary, silent and invisible life -- those losers!

  • Pirates get to see the world on their barques, swinging onto black ships (to get more treasure, of course) from mainsail (pronounced "mainsl") lines (they are never, ever, called "ropes"); ninjas live in a little ninja hideout, which is a burnt out temple if they are lucky or the dirt in the forest if they're not.

  • Pirates have this whole swashbuckling aura with a swagger and whenever they pull ashore, they sing and dance and drink rum. What do ninjas do on their off-time? "Meditate" Yeah, thrillsville.

... so pirates win hands down.

Now, I didn't know I was a pirate until I was informed by my daughter (who found out she was a daughter of a pirate when she answered her mother one day with: "Arrg!" Her mother wasn't as amused as she thought her mother should have been to that reply to the command of: "Make your bed, Elena"). I mentioned something in the way of Mama in command of a pirate ship when Elena Marie immediately corrected me: "Mama's not a pirate!" Me: "Oh! Are you?" EM: "No!" Me: "Isabel?" EM: "No! You're a pirate, Papa!"

... to which I responded in the only way possible: "Arrrg!"

I've accepted my piratey lot (with good grace, if I don't say so myself), but all throughout history, people have had pirate-envy ('cause they're wannabes!). Consider the following:

  • In ancient Greece, Jason wanted to be a pirate, for he called his merry band the "Arrrgonauts!"
    -- a black spot to the young man over there who groaned

  • Every last Latin philosopher had pirate envy. I'll tell you why. You notice at the bottom of every single one of their proofs, they put "Q.E.D." (quod est demonstratum)? Some think this means "Therefore it is proved." It means nothing of the kind -- it really means "so there!". If any of these philosophers had a spine, and a pair of high leather boots (which they didn't, those sandle-wearing latte-drinkers), they wouldn't be saying a whimpy "so there" (in latin, no less, which makes it super-whimpy), they would really be saying a manly: "Arrrg!"

    Besides, they had those ever silly Roman numerals, which they didn't even use on their clocks because IV upside down would insult Jupiter (this is a true fact!). You don't need Roman numerals; you just need two numbers: 2 and 8 for doubloons and pieces of eight. Aye, me hearties.

  • Back when they world had two super powers (no, not those super powers, because did the world get split in half for the U.S. of A. and C.C.C.P.? No way, but Spain and Portugal each got a Papal nod for half-a-sphere each -- which was actually an attempt by the Papacy to stop the needless deaths cause by the ongoing conflicts between the two kingdoms in the New World(s) over disputed lands), the Queen had a sign-up sheet for letters of marque for privateers (well, she called them privateers; the Spanish, since they "owned" England called them traitors): the waiting line wrapped around Windsor castle ... twice. Of course, every last one of those privateers were named "Blackbeard" and Francis Drake (later, Sir Francis Drake) and William Kidd and Henry Morgan and "Long John" Silver (although, come to think of it, I would choose a first name other than underwear for my kid, but that's just me).

    How much more manly can you get than William "Billy" the Kidd and Henry "Captn" Morgan (Humphrey Bogart in "To Have and Have Not" reference, anyone? Now there's a modern day pirate that played a manly man rôle manly) or Francis ... well, okay, Francis isn't a super manly name, but we also had Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who do ninjas have for girl-power? Nobody ... yeah; pirates rock!

  • Even in this modern era, everything, even the kitchen sink is trying to get a pirate gig. These days even vegetables are going for the cool factor of being a pirate.

So, move aside ninjas, your time has come and gone with the Edo period; but pirates have owned ancient and modern history and are still going strong.

Fancy that, Hedda!

P.S.: Origin.

Some of you, who may not have lived with us for the past six months, may be wondering why I chose to dedicate a seemingly off-topic entry to pirates. Well, when we visitted St. Croix (and I became entirely too exposed to the sun), there was bar/restaurant, where they had crab races for rum prizes (the winner was a 9 year old girl), and it's theme was piratey: the waitresses wore back T-shirts with the jolly roger on their backs. I asked Elena Marie if I should ask the waitress if she was a pirate and what she did as a pirate, but Elena Marie, after many stern admonishments ("You'd better not do that!" waving her finger like a scimitar), we didn't gather much (or any) information about pirate waitresses. Elena Marie's curiosity remained, that is, it remained so long as a living example was far removed from the discourse. So, over the following months we learnt much pirate lore from Elena's repeated entries to "tell me a story about pirates, Papa". Eventually, I found out that I am a pirate, so I guess I can now tell pirate stories with some authority, having first-hand knowledge of the subject.

P.P.S. (edit July 15th, 2009) And "Pirates of the Caribbean" rockzorx.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Skip, Skip, Skip to the Zoo!

News Epigrams

A renaissance writer sent a long missive to a colleague, apologizing for its length because he "didn't have time to write a short letter" -- I have the modern-day problem: I don't have time to write a long post, so the below epigrams must do for now.

  • This contract has got me working again; so now I'm working on everything again: last week I set aside time to play a game of go during the evenings -- I was able to play through three games last week. Not very satisfying, because "Cosmic Go" Takemiya didn't have any challenge winning the games I played through. I love his go, but I love playing through games where he faces an earnest challenge. This week will be much better, as I'll be more selective: when "Thickness" Otake and Takemiya play, some very entertaining games are made.

    I did, however, get to play through the magical game between Yamabe (one of the 三羽烏 ("Three Crows") of which Fujisawa Shuko and Kajiwara are also members -- Shuko created an opening that accentuated thickness and became so popular when he demonstrated it in China that it is now known as the "Chinese opening") and Go Seigen (the co-author of the new fuseki (opening) that so revolutionized go playing throughout the world that its effects are still being felt today, 50 years later), and that game was scintillating, as it always is when I play through its moves.

  • I'm suffering a case of "Logician's Absurdity": that being (re)defining Number. This seems to be a phase logicians experience, much to the amusement of their mentors. The crisis for me is that the things computers call numbers are of little value to the things I need to do, computationally (because, unlike normal software engineers who are satisfied with the IEEE standard, I need computer models of numbers to model, you know, Number, not some extra-logic compromise packaged in N bits ... and, yes, I'm always pushing things to their breaking points). The first step in the crisis is to (re)implement the peano series, which works perfectly well with infinite induction, but in practice gives one a bad aftertaste (after all, 1,000,000 has 1 million successors to zero), so I've gone ahead to the "next" kind of logical representation of Number ("next" being defined differently from one logician to the, *ahem*, "next"). I'm going in the Gödel numbering direction; not in the functional Church encoding. Yes, I am feeling rather silly, but I'll stop when I think I'm not getting any more utility out of this endevour.

  • There is this thing ("thing" is a technical term) in mathematics called quantification which I am, again, currently exploring, because when unified with type theory may yield the expressive power I need to do the following task:

    There is some concrete type T that I will define at a later time where the following predefined properties hold [...].

    My problem is that the predefined and at a later time are usually reversed in (mathematical) problem-solving (you have a predefined type with properties expressed at a later "time", not the way I'm going about it); so I'm hoping that existentially quantified types will allow me to express the problem and then to solve it.

Okay, enough of all that [oh, yes, I'm also doing paid work in XML, but that a different story, with not much to tell] ...

  • I was ferrying Elena Marie about one day when she asked: "Papa, why did you need to scrape your car windows? Why?" ... she often asks 'why' more than once, just to show her sincerity. [Diane, to me, when I gave her an extra bit of ice cream after a firm denial to her entreaty: "She's turning into a master negotiator" Me: "I get to see you and the children on the weekends: your sadness has 5 times the affect on me; so I'd rather see you happy." Diane: "*Harumph!*" (but it was a slightly pleased harumph)]. My quick answer: "Because Jack Frost covered the windshield with his magic faery dust."

    I need hardly mention, given my wild imaginings and a 5-year-old's curiosity, that my quick answer turned into an hour-long deconstruction of Jack Frost's motives (Elena Marie calls him "Jack-the-Frost", like we Christians call the Big Guy, "Jesus-the-Christ"), his appearance (including clothes (green seems to be a favourite) and hair (wavy and shockingly bright red-orange)), his skittishness, his size (EM: "Is Jack-the-Frost small?" Me: "I'm not sure, as I haven't seen him, but I remember reading a story of him being very tall, towering over other people"), and his wealth. Elena Marie made plans to catch him the next morning so she could throw him into her jail (?!) until he surrendered his pot-o'-gold. Okay, so I was more than a bit liberal in my story telling, but I figured that was that and put it out of my mind.

    The next morning, Elena Marie presented me with a present: a cut out drawing of a man in green wearing a pointy green hat over a shock of red hair.

    My, my, my!

  • Isabel Marie has learnt a new skill: when I arrived home Thursday night (to work on taxes ... Beki called during one of my "I've got to get this third corporate form done on time!" spates and crowed: "I hate to tell you this, but I've already done my taxes -- I filed them in January. Teehee!" Me: "Okay, you must explain how you hated telling me that, because I heard what sounded like triumph." Beki: "*snicker*") she greeted me with "Papa, watch what I can do!" as I watched her skip away from me down the hall [Diane, soto voce, "She just learnt to skip today"]. So, everywhere we went this weekend, we did so at a stutter pace: to the baño, to church (Me: "Okay, Isabel, but no skipping in church", Isabel: "okay, Papa" skip-skip-skip), in church (Me: "Isabel, no skipping in church", Isabel: "okay, Papa", skip-skip-skip), at the restaurant for breakfast (Isabel: "Papa, I'm hungry" skip-skip-skip); yes, everywhere.

    It doesn't help that she has those big-big eyes (Isabel, correcting me: "Beautiful eyes, Papa"), and killer curls.

God, yes, it hurt driving away this morning to go to work 150 miles away.

See, like I said: a short post ... *cough*

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Views from Home-Away-from-Home

Can't get better than this: heated pool and Papa!

Can it get worse than this? No Ate. No Papa. Nothing on TV.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Sick, sick, sick

Over the holydays (Christmas and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (which some of you may know as "New Year's Day")) I was sick, I was so sick that I ended up in the ER with a spinal tap. The doctors said: "Yeah, you're sick; no, we don't know why." Then, as I was recovering, during Beki and Sofiya's visit, I got the 24-hour stomach flu. Beki said to Howland on the phone that next day: "Yeah, he [that's me] looks better: it's as if only 11 trucks ran over him, not 12."

But this story isn't about me.

I've new work in Virginia Beach, so I've become a geographical bachelor in the southern part of Virginia. This is hard, because for the last 3 months, I've been a work-from-home Dad, and the kids have become quite used to my company in the office (they'd sneak into the office: "Papa, what are you doing? Will you play Viva Piñata?" [They only asked for this because Mike owns the PSP so I don't have LocoRoco available]), so we all trekked down here to get the hotel room and rental car (because I was needed on the contract "yesterday! I tell you, yesterday!", that, despite the fact that the contractor didn't have the paperwork squared away for me to get onto the base until a few days later, but I digress), and we had some fun in the (indoor, heated) pool (we played: "Who can splash the quietest?" That game didn't last too long.)

Well, Diane and the children were supposed to return Thursday morning, so Diane could attend her S.A.F.E. graduation class (which involved an all-out mélée, and videotaped, no less!), but fate, in the name of Isabel (or, more accurately, in the name of Isabel's stomach virus), intervened. Isabel became so sick with the stomach flu that she couldn't even keep down water. Then, a few days later, as she slowly recovered, she couldn't keep anything other than bananas and apple sauce (mothers world-wide know what this means). So, Diane missed her last S.A.F.E. class, but I needed to return to NoVA to work on some corporate taxes (and I even got one 1065 done! Dear me!). Elena Marie would not hear of being separated from me, so off she and I departed, all 150 miles, back to Springfield. Poor Isabel, without her Papa and her Até -- this hit her hard as we left her and her attentive mother.

Well, even though I warned Elena Marie that she would be motherless and that I would be working on the the taxes, the "No Mother" part hit her that night after bed-time. Everything was fine: I read her a story; she brushed her teeth, and she even got to sleep with her papa on the big bed. But then, in the middle of the night, she woke up in tears:

"Papa, I want Mama; take me to Mama!" she repeated through my sleepy objections.

Well, she blew her nose a few times and somehow managed to sleep. The next day, she was all about making plans to return to VA Beach, yes, 150 miles away, that day. She called Mama's cell phone and made secret rendez-vous plans with Isabel (which pleased her still sick little sister no end), but I learned that Diane was hoping to return that day. Diane's hope failed for that day, but it kept Elena Marie calm enough to enjoy an outing at Smith & Clarkson Deli (grilled cheese, of course, with french fries, of course) and then an evening at the "Blue Ladies" (we actually have one within 2 miles of our house ... "Blue Ladies" is the name Elena Marie gives A & J's restaurant, because the wait staff wears pinstriped shirts (white and blue) and blue jeans).

That night, after I read her a story, Elena Marie informed me that she might cry ("Yes, I know, you did last night") and that she might need to blow her nose ("Yes, I know, you did last night"), but neither happened, as she slept soundly through the night. That next morning, Sunday, Diane did return with Isabel, and the reunion was so joyful between the sisters that it was taken matter-of-factly (it may have helped that they met at a baptism with several of their cousins).

So, off I returned to VA Beach (under the distraction of the baptism party: Isabel only moaned once: "But I don't want you to go, Papa!" before returning to play with her cousins), with my vitamins and ibuprofen, and back at the office where Diane informed me that she now had the flu, with a temperature, and that Elena Marie was in charge.

Ah, my girls, all taking sick turns, and all being missed by me, something fierce be-like.


While Diane went to S.A.F.E., I "watched" Isabel as Elena Marie took, in turn, Jazz, then Tap, then Ballet. "Watched" is a euphemism: I worked on my latest genetic algorithm implementation, and gave Isabel my iPod to see one of the top five movies in the U.S.A.: Hoodwinked!

Well, the li'l Iz soon tired of the headphones (who can blame her?), and was desirous of more direct attention, so we took a walk in the blustery and brisk afternoon. Isabel practiced her "jumping over the cracks" moves (this required holding hands, see) all the way to where the sidewalk ended, and then, as we had become a bit chilled, we retreated to the mommy van where she enjoyed 3 Burger King chicken nuggets with her water and we played a new game.

This game was called, as far as I can tell, bonk-bonk-bonk. Isabel would tap out a sequence on the passenger door with her arm: bonk-BONK-bonk, and I would repeat the sequence. The key to this game was to look straight ahead with as much seriousness that one could muster (me? serious? well, my attempt at seriousness made it funny), and only steal sidelong glances when one was sure to be noticed with an: "I see you, Papa!" delivered triumphantly.

I was a bit afraid that the chicken nugget mush would choke her as she giggled with glee during the bonk-bonk-bonk game.

After Elena Marie's class, the three of us repaired to Chick-fil-a; not for eating, mind you (come on, it's Lent, after all!), but for an uninterrupted hour of playing in their indoor play area -- down the slide -- Wheeeee! They would occasionally remember that they have a Papa and flash me an ILY in sign-language or hop out for a french fried patty and a sip of juice.

And that's what one can do with an afternoon.