Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Christmas Away from Home

My first Christmas with Doug's extended family did not turn out as I expected.  Oh, the Christmas breakfast was all that Doug described it to be -- delicious crepes, delightful company, stress-free visiting, and snow on the ground to give me my first-ever, white Christmas in this country.  But the girls had such awful coughs and non-stop sniffles, that we couldn't visit relations nearby because of Uncle's delicate constitution.  We were all disappointed.  Though that meant extra days of rest for us, we were away from home but visiting nobody.

Yet it turned out to be one memorable Christmas.  Auntie gave strict instructions for us to pass by her house on our way back to the hotel at the end of Christmas day.  From her magic hat, she produced the unforgettable Christmas meal for this displaced family -- seafood salad to put in dinner buns, a green salad with two kinds of dressing, a fresh-from-the-oven pan of baked stuffed pasta shells in a red sauce that reminds the children of Grand-Nana, and three kinds of dessert: a plate of rugelach, a fruit cake, and sugar cones to be filled with Ambrosia fruit salad. And just in case the girls became picky, another aunt added a box of See's chocolate truffles, its red box complimenting the green of the table napkins that Auntie thoughtfully remembered to pack with the plates and utensils.

As we pulled out each item from the large brown bag, our eyes got bigger, our hearts became fuller, and we all felt the love that went into packing this Christmas dinner.  As if these weren't enough, Auntie packed presents for the girls to open after our meal.  She really didn't need to do all this extra work!

But she did.  

So on Christmas day, at a hotel's breakfast room, our family had a feast.  And a Christmas that could have been relegated to a been-there-won't-do-that-again list, now tops our most memorable one.

Thank you, Aunt Roberta.  May God bless you abundantly for your kindness and generosity.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

First-person, plural

Adding fuel to the fire of the language-affects-thought debate. The English language has only one meaning for the first-person plural pronoun ("We" or "Us") and the context supplies (or does not supply) the rest of the information.

I'm not familiar with many other languages, but one I have some contact is Tagalog. It has three words, one for each meaning of the first person plural.

  1. Tayo: "we, all of us", including the person addressed. When we (tayo) are going to the movies, you are cordially included in the invitation. It is so intrinsic to how people relate that this word is often implied and not said: "Ka-in na!" Means "Eating now" but it really means, when a younger person says it, "I'm eating now, but I'm not comfortable eating because you haven't joined me." and the older person waves a blessing for the younger person to continue. When an older person says it, it means "You will eat now." allowing and requiring the younger to sit at table.

  2. Kamé: "only us", excluding the person addressed. Usually stated among equals or from older to younger "We (kamé) need to discuss your grades" means the child must steer clear of her parent's bedroom, and perhaps reread and take notes on the Noli Me Tangere before the test this week.

  3. Kita: "You and I". This word actually refers to a single entity and is used in special modes of address. It refers to the (single) person that exists from the unity of the speaker and the addressed. "Mahal kita" is the most often use of the word and a loose translation is "I love you." But its deeper meaning is "This single entity that is you and I together exists bound in love." Kita has no separation between the speaker and the one spoken to, because they are one. When he says "Mahal kita," and she roles her eyes and sighs, it is the unity of one single action. There is no love being sent out by one and then received by the other. The love simply subsists in the unity of the two.



Is not kita a description of the Triune God? Father and Son, I and Thou, and the Holy Spirit, Love Divine, connecting the Three-in-One? Reflecting on the annual homily of the Trinity, I find it now humorous, and obvious, that it's so difficult to explain this mystery to English speakers (and sad correlation: how few English-speakers get the Trinity), but the Philippines has a near 100% Catholic population: they don't need to get it, they have the concept imprinted on their minds, and consequently hearts and souls, from the day they commence speaking.

My first "I love you"

It's Saturday (one of the days not named in honor of the Æsir), so allowed Diane to sleep in (having craftily ensured her alarm-clock was disarmed). I like watching her sleep, as she has a peaceful nature in sleep that I wish would permeate her conscious moments more often.

The game was up, however, when little Lizzy clomped into the room and snuggled into bed beside me: "Até? Ma-pa? Papa?" She eventually matched my title to me: "I missed yooououooouuoouu..." I gave her hugs, as my cara spoza smirked with her eyes still closed, unwilling to give up on her restful moment.

"Isabel," I declared gravely, "you look just like your mother: so beautiful." Another smirk. The little one was restless, however, so I deflected her from her mother by telling her a story.

"Do you know the first time I ever said: 'I love you'?"
She solemnly shook her head, giving herself completely to the coming story.

The first time I ever said "I love you" it wasn't even in English. You see, the first time I saw your mother was in the choir. She was smiling so beautifully, and there was kindness in her eyes. I knew, right then, that I loved her.

After an uneven start, including the postlude to our second first-date (I took her to coffee then drove up to Connecticut to celebrate my birthday for that weekend. While there, I wrote a three-page letter declaring, in rather exuberant language, my love for her. My little sister watched me for a while, then, after she pressed, I allowed her to see the letter.

Me: "What do you think?"
Beki: "Do you ever want to see her again? She'll think you're a psychopath. Don't. Give. Her. That. Letter!"

Why is it that I must be lectured to in one word sentences?), we took to walking the trails of a nearby park. We prayed the Rosary together, talked about many and diverse topics, and sometimes held hands. This special time drifted forward calmly, a river meeting the sea, for several sweet months.

At the time, I worked at Coast Guard Headquarters with CWO Maglalang. His last name translates to "the Creation" from Tagalog. I asked him how to say "I love you" in his language. He cautioned me: in the Philippines, this was not something to be said lightly, I learnt that this declaration would commence courtship.

Fine by me.

As Diane and I walked back to her home that night, I was unusually quiet, averting my eyes. We arrived at the driveway, and she asked me about it.

I took her hand in my hands and looked into her eyes: "Mahal kita." I said. I love you.

She ripped her hand out of mine and jumped back five feet in an instant, shock written across her face. She quickly collected herself, leaning forward, leading with an angry index finger. "You had BETTER know what you're saying!" she shouted at me.


Isabel tinkled with laughter.

It was not the response I was expecting, but then, she always surprises me. After all, I was everything she didn't want in her life: American (the cultural and media juggernaut) and Military (the oppressor). To her, I was a walking nightmare of a stereotype. She didn't want marriage; she didn't want us; she didn't want a mommy van with the kids (yuck! she thought) in baby seats. She just wanted to finish her post-grad work in the U.S.A. and return home safely to the warmth of her family, and to a country where all her instincts weren't backwards and where the people spoke in her first language. She craved home.

Yet. For all that, and all that, she looked beyond herself, and she looked at me, and gave me herself. All of herself.

That's why I'm the luckiest man in the world. She gave me everything, and went against everything she thought she wanted in her life, and then gave me so much more, and now we have two living daughters that we like and we love. We have a house and we have our dreams, ... and we have hope and happiness.

She gave up everything for me, and I'm working as hard as I can to give her it all back, because when I said "I love you", and kept saying "I love you", she responded quickly one month later on the 4th of July, of all days, with a sighed "I love you, too."

"Magic" "Ice Cream"

I indulge myself at times.

Well, yes. Perhaps this is the first time I've indulged in understatement?

We were finished with dinner, when I asked the girls if they would like some dessert. They readily agreed, asking what I would produce. My answer: "Magic ice cream." How could this be? They probably wondered this, because we had no ice cream in the freezer.

I had their rapt attention.

I then raided the fridge, pulling out the cottage cheese and peach preserves, then I proceeded to the pantry escaping with nutella, valencia coffee flavoring and vanilla extract. My grocery shopping trips have not been in vain, as you see.

We gathered around the counter, and I scooped out a [small!] stone of cottage cheese into a bowl and then added each new ingredient, one by one, allowing the children to sample the scent for each new flavor: a smidge of valencia, two drops of vanilla, a teaspoon of peach preserves, and a glop of nutella.

The children were transfixed.

We each took turns stirring the admixture into an even consistency whilst my cara spoza snorted: "Children, Papa's just like your Pépé!"

The magic ingredient, I told the children, was the stone of cottage cheese. But remembering their glowing faces, I know I missed telling them the one special ingredient: love.

"Will you marry me?"

We were at table, eating breakfast ("magic" eggs and sweet Italian sausage), when the radio began playing some sweet and pure and joyful music. I sighed. "There is no composer, before or since, like Beethoven" — it was his second symphony. Not his best one, but much better than most of the rest of the world could ever produce.

Don't get me wrong: other composers — Chopin, Schubert, Mahler, Brahms, Vivaldi, Handel ... ugh, Mozart — are unexcelled in their own ways, but you know what you're getting with them. Beethoven has something in his music that is ineffable and impossible to demystify. Beethoven's music, whether heard for the first time or the fiftieth, is always surprising. Beethoven's catalogue of music, too, spans from the Classical to the Romantic to Polyphonic chant (his last quartet in A-flat minor is eternal, and listening to it never fails to make swallowing past the lump in my throat impossible), and he is not "stuck" in a genre as the other greats were.

Okay, Bach, also, wins here.

I mentioned this to my cara spoza highlighting that even Mahler's music, in the worshipful imitation of Beethoven's, still could not ascend the heavens as did his. She mentioned that she was not familiar with his music.



Hmphf! The very first thing I ever did was to invite my beloved to was Mahler's second symphony. She flat-out refused! ... I suppose it would have been helpful if I gave her more than a few hours notice before the concert. But still.


I encouraged her to do so (learn Mahler) and told her this story.

Once upon a time, Mahler proposed to his wife, Alma (née Schindler), by composing his Fifth symphony — his exquisite Fifth Symphony. She was also a composer of note. Her response: "I didn't know you were writing a percussive symphony." Mahler listened to her. He crossed out the entire percussive section and rewrote it, toned down by half. She accepted his proposal, and now we have one of the most beautiful pieces of music in the world because of her. The End.




My sweet and dainty cara spoza tilted her head, reflecting on all that she had heard and said: "How can people not read and miss out on such wonderful moments?"

Me: "Well, I guess people are comfortable in their ign..."
She: "It. Was. A. Rhetorical. Question!"
Me, nonplussed [God! She is so beautiful with her stormy eyes]: "You should know by now that I have ready answers for questions, whether asked or unasked..."

She growled at me and stomped out of the room.

*Sigh* I just love her!

Now, my proposal to her was quite different than Mahler's to Alma; it started "simply enough" with an "I love you." But that is a story for another time.

P.S. Mama, you'll note from the lyrics it really, really, really is "Everyone know that it's Windy". Q.E.D.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Fairfax (Road) Trips


Though we're just a one-van family right now, we seem to find ourselves on long road trips. Fairfax went to Massachusetts with us to catch the fall display of the Sugar Maples in early October. By the end of the month, Fairfax had seen the bright reds of the Black Gum, the light purples of the White Ash, and the orange of the Sassafras in central Virginia.

Of course, we always made time to stop at our favorite watering holes. Here we are in CT to get our fill of food that fills the soul and warms the heart.


On our way to see Mr. Jefferson's home, we basked in the ambiance of Charlottesville's Downtown Mall. That meant riding in the historic kiddie carousel, and sitting at the counter of century-old Timberlake's Drug Store for a grilled cheese sandwich and a vanilla malt milkshake.


Unfortunately, in the rush to catch the shuttle to Monticello, Fairfax was left in the van. She did enjoy the visit to the garden shop, though we had to make up for our neglect with a java stop at the Mudhouse.


The girls are taking a break from long-distance travels to concentrate on our election unit study. Fairfax is more than grateful for the rest but looks forward to having the wind on her ears and to spread the word about Marissa again.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fairfax Trips

As the D-meister has mentioned, we are helping spread the word on Infantile Spasms. We got our own Fairfax and lugged *her* around on our homeschool field trips. There must be something about cute girls and a bunny that elicit comments from strangers. Right on cue, the cute girls start their spiel about their little cousin, Marissa Ann.


Fairfax's first outing was to Hartland Orchard for our annual apple-picking. She encouraged the girls to climb trees, and was more than happy to comfort the girl that fell. No, she's not begging for a bite. We made sure she had her share.


We're learning American History this year through stories from our local monuments. OK, so we live in the DC metro area, and local refers to all those national monuments: Washington monument, the Lincoln memorial, the Jefferson memorial, the White House. But a field trip is a field trip, even when it means just taking the bus and the metro. The girls and Fairfax had an exciting time taking their first-ever bus ride, and deciphering the Metro map.


Of course, we had to take the obligatory shot with the Washington monument perfectly balanced on the bunny's nose, and another at the Navy Memorial for Marissa's dad. The big whale that welcomed our troupe is part of a half-mile long mural called Hands Across the Ocean by Wyland.


Brave Fairfax didn't even blink as she stared at the shark; the girls happily painted more fish next to Wyland.


We are finally getting the hang of bringing Fairfax along, and here she is, enjoying the biggest pumpkin in the state, as well as tolerating the girls' penchant for speed. We are still *discussing* the source of their speed gene.

Next up: the trip to New England



Friday, October 24, 2008

Fairfax was here ...

Fairfax, my God-daughter's bunny, is now visiting Hawty McBloggy. I found this out, when, out of the blue, her daddy, marissas dad, called me up:
Are you near a computer? he asked.
Me: Um, yes? Not getting the non-sequitur; where else would I be?

Marissa has infantile spasms, and it was her parents' brilliant idea to get the word out using the metaphor of the travelling gnome, substituting Marissa's bunny for the gnome.

And, boy, has Fairfax traveled! Read the "Rocky and Hometown Barbershops" on Marissa's Bunny blog. First and foremost for the flying squirrel incident, but then to see some of Fairfax's travels. The good that has come from this is immeasurable (perhaps also at times intangible?), so I helped things along by getting the word out a bit myself. So, my "name" was front-paged on HBO (no, not that HBO, as it's a bit too vampiry, as you recall), again!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I can't make this stuff up!

I have been accused of exaggeration (perhaps the accusers exaggerate the exaggeration by calling it "hyperbole") in my story-telling skill. But I must say, in my own humble, honest, and totally unopinionated view, I'm actually not at all that creative (if there is one fault that I do have, it is that I am far too humble — but that's barely a fault to blemish my near-perfection ...). I simply report here what's going on. After all, not even in my wildest imaginings could I ever create an exchange that transpired yesterday between the bunsoh and my cara spoza:

Lizzie: Mama, may I go to the party tomorrow? I only have a cold.
Me: Yes.
Lizzie: Yay!!! (pause)
Lizzie: What if I make a friend?
Me: That's good.
Lizzie: Well, only if she looks like me?
Me: Why?
Lizzie: Because I like looking at myself.


I don't "make up" interesting stories; I just happen to be near them when they transpire.

Red Necks? Pfft! New Englanders!

Forget Red necks ......here is what Jeff Foxworthy has to say about New Englanders...

  1. If your local Dairy Queen is closed from September through May, you live in New England.

  2. If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't work there, you live in New England.

  3. If you've worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you live in New England.

  4. If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number, you live in New England.

  5. If 'Vacation' means going anywhere south of New York City for the weekend, you live in New England.

  6. If you measure distance in hours, you live in New England.

  7. If you know several people who have hit a deer more than once, you live in New England.

  8. If you have switched from 'heat' to 'A/C' in the same day and back again, you live in New England.

  9. If you can drive 75 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching, you live in New England.

  10. If you install security lights on your house and garage, but leave both unlocked, you live in New England.

  11. If you carry jumpers in your car and your wife knows how to use them, you live in New England.

  12. If the speed limit on the highway is 55 mph -- you're going 80 and everybody is passing you, you live in New England

  13. If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow, you live in New England.

  14. If you know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction, you live in New England.

  15. If you have more miles on your snow blower than your car, you live in New England.

  16. If you find 10 degrees 'a little chilly', you live in New England.

  17. If there's a Dunkin Donuts on every corner, you live in New England.

  18. If you actually understand these jokes, and forward them to all your New England friends & others, you live or have lived in New England.



... of course, "snow blower" is just plain wrong: shovelling snow builds character. And where're the parts about wood stoves (with the accompanying necessity of chopping, sawing, and splitting the wood) as central heating? Add your own observations below, dear reader.

Catz, Ninja and otherwise

I'm not really writing a blog entry, I'm doing my civic duty right now, filling out tax forms for the Man.

My cara spoza has me on a blog-writing diet, so I won't talk about the reason for my side trip to Amherst, and I won't talk about how my entire extended family magically knew about my Amherst visit, and how they asked how it went even before I got to say hello! And how they phoned in from California to have my Aunt [my regal Aunt] inquire into the matter.

No, this blog entry is not about that.

But, as you know, I've had this constant struggle between my piratey-self and my super-secret-ninja-assassin-self. I had thought that pirates had it all wrapped up in the debate.

But then I came across this:



That, folks, is a clear win for the ninjas this round.

Speaking about Brittany Murphy, the pussycat — yeah, don't gimme that look: for I was speaking about her, `pataphorically — I had no idea that besides being a Jane Austen actress, she is a singer, too! Amazing, the things one can learn while exercising!

Back to doing the taxen ... *sigh*

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Calvinita

EM sits in her chair, reading, of course. The book she currently holds is one of the Calvin and Hobbes collections. She, still being all of six years, reminds me of Calvin almost not at all ... perhaps she's little Susie Derkin? — I never knew Susie was Filipina ... I now see her in an entirely new light, and since EM is also, they now have a special kinship.

There have been, oh, a few Calvinistic incidents recently, which I will now relate.

  1. I was working in the office, as usual, when I heard a loud crash from upstairs. EM and I were home alone, and she seemed well enough alone, as she was reading, as usual, at the time. I waited for any follow-up noise, and then, waited patiently for little Thérèse to come tell on herself. Which she obligingly did:

    EM: Papa, I was fixing the window, and then it broke; can you help me?

    I didn't help my stern look one wit, those guilty, imploring, eyes of hers. Pusong mumon is my middle name, after all. I went upstairs to investigate, finding merely the curtains had been dislodged from the window frame. That (the curtains) was easy enough to fix, so I then needed to fix my little girl's heart. A hug and a word of encouragement fixed that.


  2. Another day, in the midst of one of my DDR sessions, and the li'l tyke interrupts me between sets.

    EM: Papa, I tried to flush the toilet, but the water didn't go down like it should...

    Those eyes again, working on me.

    I went upstairs to resolve the issue. The toilet didn't seem jammed, but, yes, the bowl was full. So, what's a genius to do? Flush the toilet.

    Not so smart.

    Water, clean water, Deus gratia (that is Suisse), flooded the banyo. All the more embarrassing because I had just finished lecturing and praising the little one about not fixing this problem herself, just as Calvin, erhm, didn't. Everyone else was still sleeping, but my hurried repairs and plunger action was a guaranteed reveille (that is Mayan).


So, I guess it's okay for her to read Calvin and Hobbes, maybe it's her pater familias that is more like Calvin than she is.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

DISC-world

*sigh* Myers Briggs, move aside. Apparently, there's a new quadrant available that more aptly describes personality traits, the DISC: Drive - Influence - Steadiness - Compliance.

Notice how they put my personality type last? ... Jerks.

I've known about this new assessment for a couple of years now, because every year, a few times a year, Amway (now called Amway again, thank God, and not Quixtar) sends in some trainers to Mike and Pinky Malovic's organization to help us improve. Our sponsoring rates are among the highest in the world — Mike and Pinky are very good disciples of their mentor, Rex Renfrow, who has the largest autonomous organization within Amway — but are sales rates are among the lowest in the world.

So, Amway comes in to teach us balance. For free. And then a week later calls up each participant, and interviews them for 1-2 hours to improve the course. And then they do.

Please read that last paragraph again and tell me of any other organization in the world that does the sum of those things.

One of their improvements is that brought in a successful sales distributor, Giove ("Joe") Pici, to talk about people. I like Joe; Joe is a very D direct person. If I'm going to be trained in something, it had better be somebody who is better than me in the subject matter, and they had better get to the point expeditiously. Joe does that, with confidence and with the surety of authority. Not many people get past first base with me in the "knowing the subject matter" department; Joe does. Did I mention that I like Joe?

So, I show up to the meeting at 8:55 am (breakfast starts at 9 am) with Gödel's Proof (studying the enumerable property of categories, don't you know). So, after Joe set up, he sauntered over to me in a friendly fashion and asked what I was reading. Getting to know his audience (of one, so far), as any friendly instructor would, you see. I handed him the book and explained:
Gödel's proof is a discourse about using the laws of the Principia Mathematica to show that it itself, and any system than claims completeness, is inconsistent.
As I explained, I watched his face and his jaw fall. I could read his thoughts — This is not what us eyetalian from Neu Joysy talk about over pasta on Wednesday nights... — so, instead he lied very politely by stating a fact made obvious to him: "You're really smart, aren't you."

I didn't see any point with equivocating with this guy. "Yes," was my answer. But then he did something I didn't like. He said, "Hey, Mic," calling over the conference organizer, "come over here. Doug, explain to Mic what your reading."

I sighed (I catch myself sighing often; I guess Nana was correct to call me her "Charlie Brown." God, I miss Nana. You had better be taking good care of her, please) and explained. Mic nodded, indulgently. Joe then went out to chat with Mike and Pinky, I later found out, because Mike relayed the conversation. Joe said: "There's this guy in the conference room reading a book that I didn't even understand the explanation of!" Mike's immediate answer was, "Oh, that must be Doug."

I hate that. I don't mind being recognized or praised, if my actions are worthy of such attention. But "Wow! a kid's reading a book to learn something; that's amazing!" I mean, shouldn't everybody be doing that? What's so laudatory about self-improvement. Isn't that what the purpose of this seminar was, at base, anyway?

Sandy Frazier came in with Sandy Foster (I'm still grieving; I miss Joel). Sandy (Foster) went out for some breakfast; that's when I noticed something about Sandy (Frazier). "You look happy," I told her, and she thanked me. No, that wasn't correct, so I tried again, "You seem to be radiating inner peace." She didn't flinch away, as people normally do from my weirdness. "Thank you," she said, "I got to spend some time with God this morning." Ah. I mentioned that we're told that special time is so vital, but that so few people make the effort to do that. "Yes," she responded, "of course, I read the Bible, but I've found that journalling has helped me listen more." Diane would be please with her confession: she, too, has been journalling, and I've seen the improvement to her equanimity. I agreed: "Hm. It can be easy, reading the Bible, to be an inactive participant, but journalling requires your effort." Sandy (Foster) returned, and we chatted amicably, about our plans to go to the Pink Bicycle for Isabel's birthday Tea. Sandy (Foster) asked what she should get for Isabel on her birthday, so I recommended a few books on mathematics that would help her down the road (because they would help me now). Others had arrived by then, Gene and Donna Dwyer, and Donna interrupted my monologue and Sandy' blank stare with a whispered: "Ask Diane instead!"

What I did learn at this conference was that polar opposites in the DISC types can, in fact, work together to achieve so much more than if they worked separately. Michael (the definition of a D) and Faye (the textbook of an S) Edmonson are the strongest organization in the Malovic team. Just like Bill Britt storms the castle walls, busting right through them, and Peggy follows right along, smiling at her Bill, making sure everyone's okay, Mike and Faye stormed and cruised right up to and past their level of success. Amway has taken note of this couple, and for good reason. It happened to be their anniversary, and I happened to know, because it happened to be my anniversary. So I thought it would be nice for the team to wish them well on this special day. I purchased a greeting card, and handed it off to more capable hands: Gene Dwyer's and Pinky's, both strong I's, both polar opposites to me. It took them three hours to work the crowd, discreetly avoiding Michael and Faye, but they loved every minute of it, because they like people, and they got everybody in the conference to sign the card.

That result was a vast improvement over anything I would have accomplished. They like people; my feelings about people, qua people, are the dual. I have a Comonadic relation with liking people. On the other hand, I types are impulsive — they had no idea about their anniversary, after 15 years of associating with them; calendar? planner? What's that? — whereas C types are always calculating, always sizing up the situation. Working together, we made a very nice gift for them. Mike Malovic led the singing of "Happy Anniversary" (he's a professional opera singer) for them. And then, of course, Sandy Foster, in on the game ("Doug, how did you know it's their anniversary?" "Because it's ours.") signalled for Mike's attention.

Um, no. I would not allow a well-meaning, but spur of the moment, action cheapen the gift to Michael and Faye. Sandy was going to have everyone recognize my own occasion, but I wasn't having any of that. I hsst her into silence.

But Sandy, another Über-I, is always in my good graces (I hope I could say the same for the contrapositive case). She had earlier asked Joe a question, in her inimitably I-style, about selling to an AVON™ lady; Joe's answer: "Products do not have politics."

Huh! Just simply seeing an AVON™ sticker on the back of a car gets my back up, for no other primordial reason than enemy! I just learnt something from Sandy. I leaned over to her and soto voced "Good question!" She looked pleased.

Pinky interviewed me after the conference. "Did you learn anything here, Doug? Not that I'm pushing you to build your business more. No, really, I'm not, but I was curious if you got something from today." *sigh* It seems that more than of the few people close to me are I types. I smiled at her and turned the question around, as I didn't think my answer would be helpful, having a near-perfect memory and having had this material at least three times before from these special Amway conferences. "Oh, yes," she answered me breezily, but knowingly. She's known me long enough to read my hesitancies, "I learned a lot about TINs, 30-day B2B deferred payments and sales!" So, I challenged her, "But don't you have those already set up in your business?" She smiled in return. It appears two could play the circumspection game. But, of course, my business wouldn't exist without Mike and Pinky's guidance. It was Mike who introduced me to Joel who got me my first job in software. It was Pinky who goaded me with my one successful sale, "You should order ten more and sell those." They were model train sets, deeply discounted post-Christmas from $150 to $20. I didn't sell ten more; I sold seventeen more. That's when I learnt that I am the greatest salesman in the world. And I used that learning to help me break into the field of artificial intelligence and helped me to help the company for which I'm currently working close a contract that could become a multi-year multi-million dollar. C's and I's working together. There is a God.

The happy postlude to my silence about our anniversary is that Diane was the lector for the Filipino Mass, she read from Isaiah in clear Tagalog, and then, the offertory prayers included the following:
That Douglas and Diane Auclair have a blessed wedding anniversary. Let us pray to the Lord.
As many Filipinas know us from Paaralang Pinoy, we had half the congregation wish us a happy anniversary, and then we celebrated with some bing soo at Le Matin de Paris (that is French), and so it was indeed a happy one.

Happy Anniversary

Today is my wife's parent's anniversary ... if you are in the neighbourhood and reading this entry, please wish them a "Happy Anniversary". I happen to know this date well: my parents'-in-law anniversary date, because it coincides with several other occasions: Mike and Faye's wedding anniversary, Marshal Law Day (Proclamation No. 1081), ... and my own wedding anniversary. This is the day that my cara spoza took me as her man.

So, as I greet them on their anniversary, it is actually they who gave me the best gift: my dear sweetheart. Thank you for the present.

Monday, September 15, 2008

My Scientist Husband

Recently there was an article in the Washington Post about the Large Hadron Collider. Of course the report delighted in interviewing the staff. Who wouldn't, when one could get as juicy quotes as the following?
"A completely novel engineering material," is how Lyn Evans, the project manager of the collider, describes supercold helium. "For example, if you were to put it into a beaker? It could crawl out."

This is how they talk at CERN. If you stop them, and say, "What do you mean, crawl out?" The may go to a blackboard and begin with the math. You do not want them to do this.
I read this passage to my cara spoza and asked her, blankly, "is that how you feel about me?"

She choked, because she couldn't decide whether to snort or to burst out laughing, so she did both simultaneously.

Gratitude

During our last sweetie time, little Isabel passed us a picture of three little girls in a house: her até (Elena Marie), herself, and her little sister to be. Our girls desire a sibling. We all do.

Diane, my cara spoza, takes delight in this. When Isabel was reorganizing the house, adding a new bed for her new sister, Diane explained to her that the baby would be sleeping with her parents for the first couple of years of her life (attachment parenting). She warmed to the subject, as she always is looking forward to being a new M.O.M.: "When we have twins," she enthused, "Papa will need to sleep downstairs!" She cackled with that expected pleasure.

If you haven't caught on by now, then I'm happy to inform you that I'm all for it. After I reflected for awhile on her last comment, I let my dear wife know that it'd be my pleasure to become a full troll-basement denizen. I was the happiest man on earth when Diane uttered "I do." But how could I know that happiness would multiply with her continued company, and then with the addition with each of our children. I don't know how much happier I can become, but I am ready, willing, and able to find out.

But, then again, God has already given us much more than we deserve, I've been blessed time and again by the joy of my family, and if the blessing of children stopped here, I'm much more than grateful. It was a miracle that we could have even one living child, and what a miracle Elena Marie has been, and now that we have two, with little Isabel a blessing so different than her sister, but so perfectly matched with her sister, how can we ask for more than that?

Easy. When one climbs a hill, one can better see the mountain. When one reaches the mountain-top, the stars are so much clearer. Thank you for what we have. Now, more. Please.

Sweetie Time is SILLY!

My dear children are at that tender age where affection shown by their parents is either craved or "ewwwww"ed. Well, the special time my cara spoza and I share has been dubbed "sweetie time" by Elena Marie much to her delight and chagrin.

What is sweetie time? Well, one day when Diane and I finally had a date (we went to see a movie) and we shuttled the kids off to an obliging neighbor, we were having sweetie time. When I came home from work and captured some private time from my cara spoza to discuss the happenings of the day, we were having sweetie time.

That sweetie time was silly, see, because our girls, perfectly happy to be involved in their own activities, once made aware that something was off-limits (our closed bedroom door), were consumed with curiosity. As I described my day to Diane, and as she laughed at my stories, the girls, beyond the closed door screamed with delight. They composed notes to us which they slid under our door:
"Sweetie time is SILLY!"
*sigh* Silly me. Silly sweetie time.

My perfect video game



... 'cause I think my steppin's pretty hawt, too. Oh, and when is it ever going to enter any rhythm game maker's head to create "Keyboard Hero"? Imagine all the whinings of pre-teens — "But I don't wanna take piano lessons anymore!" — being replaced by the queue: "Hey, it's my turn to play Freeze Pop!"

Bonus: learning French and the Moog all in one go!

Well, okay, maybe Freeze Pop is not to everyone's taste, but then one can include Chopin's Berceuse as one of the tracks. Image that: learning to play classical music becomes cred for k-radness with your B's!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Vampires were people, too!"

Finally, something has displaced our vicarious attention from the young wizard, Harry Potter. What is the new hawtness? you ask. Apparently, it's Casper (actually, Edward) the Friendly Vampire. Sales of one of the books in the Twilight series uprooted the current Harry Potter sequel, and the latest release sold 1.3 million copies in its first day. The soon-to-be-released movie (caution: scary movie at link) is supposedly based very closely on the source material from the book.

Apparently, also, HBO is airing a new series on vampires as ordinary folks (leading to this entry's eponymous title), that is also based very closely on the books by the author.

Both these efforts are serious undertakings: top-of-the-line actors and directors and high production values, with a media blitz to garner as much mind-share as possible.

So, it's the good news/bad news situation — the good: people are reading again, so much so that it affects how the TV/movie medium decides to portray these stories; the bad: ...

The bad news is this, not that evil is alluring, because evil has been glamorous, and always will be so (it's called temptation for a reason).

First of all, what is evil? The romantic view is that evil has some kind of reality to it, that it has a draw of its own. And the success of the romantic era is that it has given evil this: it's cool to be bad. But this, in the history of history, is only a very recent development, which has more recently been overturned by a newer judgment-free position: "it's all good", which isn't far from the mark, but first let's pause for a moment to review the development of morality to see why I'm alarmed at the thought of there being friendly vampires — at why something so unreal as mythical creatures should be a cause for alarm.

History can be roughly divided into four stages: primitive, classic, romantic, and post-modern (Milan Kundera used the stages of a football ('merkan "soccor") game: pep rally, 1st half, 2nd half, and overtime). In the primitive stage, there isn't a concept or a distinction between good and evil: the gods reflect or explain natural or human behavior and have their own motives, people are left to their own devices to survive, and any interaction with the gods is arbitrary. During the classic stage, good and evil come into sharp focus: God is good and on the side of people, the enemy (Satan, or whomever is that personification) is bad and seeks to follow his own way, and people who are good are rewarded, people who aren't good are punished. The romantic stage is firmly entrenched in this duality, but, whereas before in the classic stage, where evil was simply a lack — a bad act is simply an imperfectly good one — evil now takes on its own reality, and particularly in this stage, its own persona. Whereas in the classic stage, God and His angels are the ones interacting with people (the serpent makes a cameo, but only once or twice), in the romantic stage, it's Nick, faeries, vampires, werewolves, what-have-you, making their presence known to mankind.

But take note, in the romantic stage, these creatures are not pretentious: their aim is evil, and relations with them are uniformly bad ("... and Tom's death shows us the moral of the story: don't mess with the undead!").

Why is it, then, in this post-modern era (after a very brief and self-absorbed modern stage) that these creatures come to represent good? The conflicted vampire, refusing to feed on people, in fact, protecting them, are what these tales tell nowadays is that it's thrilling and exciting and romantic to become involved in the supernatural.

Why?

Oh, vampires are romantic enough in and of themselves, I suppose, but this era has taken the vampire one step further: the vampire is now no longer a supernatural creature, created by an unknowable angel of darkness. No, vampires now-a-days are human creations, and the media reflects this. All the features of the vampire — brilliance, charm, cunning, ruthlessness — are now fully realized in the cylon skin-jobs, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Dexter, or the ballerina terminator. All excellently produced shows; all have resonated with (popular) culture.

Why?

I'll put forward my thesis: we, as a people, have abandoned all hope. We still need rescuing, but, since, as it is now believed, there is no God, the only good we can get is from the crumbs from the table offered by the bad. The vampires of today have something we don't have, they have their immortality and their cool lifestyles. The tagline from the movie Lost Boys sums it up pithily: "Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It's fun to be a vampire." That was the romantic view, which still holds forth, given the rabid devotion of the fans around the world for the vampire genre (Why would Goth ever be in? Really! But it is). But, on our trip down D'spayre lane, having evil, incarnate, around at all is still too much to bear, to hope for, because having evil implies that there is hope for Good after all. Therefore, evil, personified, must go. The post-modern era has rid us of the hope of super-human evil, entirely supplanting it with purely human-created evils — with damnation out of the way, and with no hope of salvation, we've neatly slid into relativism, still clinging to the vague hope of resurrecting primitivistic simplicity and happiness.

But we cannot, and we do not, blind ourselves with false hopes: we cannot go back. Kundera shows us the exiled never truly return home (Testaments Betrayed: an Essay in Nine Parts), and Gaiman shows us the education of history will forever stain our attempts to return to simplicity (American Gods). Once tasted, the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge cannot be unbitten.

How, then, shall we live? If we can't go back, and if we can't live with the promises from false (or no) gods, what are we to do?

I answer that, the greatest of these is Hope. Love is freely, and always, given; Faith is something you have now or can choose now, but Hope ... Hope is the courage to soldier on in the face of all this that the world throws our way. Hope is the strength to believe (through Faith) in Love and then to accept it.

Yes, Hope takes courage and Hope requires strength: in short, Hope is hard work. But, for someone willing to open their eyes, Hope is the only way. You can't go back, you mustn't give in to despair, so there's only one direction left to us so that we may live: onward, and upward.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Homeschoolers' Dilemma

Diane and I were having a discussion about this, that and the other thing — did you know that "month" doesn't rhyme with any other word? The amazing things one discovers when one goes to Mass. The topic turned to our friend, Adina, a homeschooling mom in our parish, who has a daughter in her 20s and a son in his late teens.

Her daughter is pursuing dance, and her son wishes to become a Catholic film-maker. These could be alarming-enough choices for a parent, but what Diane related to me was that Adina's children had no interest in going to college. Adina is not surprised that her children are choosing these paths; after all, she has been as close to them as anyone could be, having stayed home and raised them and schooled them for their entire childhood years.

As Diane related this story to me, I could hear the trepidation in her voice. You know what I'm talking about, right? That feeling that what one does is one goes to school — to college — and one gets a degree to secure a job. Diane reflected on Adina's children's choices and what these would me for our own children: what if our children don't wish to pursue college? How will they find their way through the world? How will they learn? Or present themselves to others? How will they secure their livings?

In short, a parent's, all parents' (I would venture to say), heart-felt concern. We wish our children to be happy and to be at ease, and easy, in their social circles, to be just, valiant and kind. We don't wish them to have our failings, but we also wish them to have our joys.

This is the crux, isn't it?

But I put forward the view that college isn't about learning, not anymore. I'm grateful for my degree and for the years of learning that I had in public high school and at the United States Coast Guard Academy. But what did those institutions teach me?

I will grant you this: those years did help, significantly, in my formation. I am, well, "grateful" that the Coast Guard Academy gave me skills and strength that I didn't have before (or, if I'm being Socratic, "brought forth from me the skills and strength I didn't know I already had"). But, realistically, home-schooled children who enter college, in general, adapt better and have much more confidence than their peers. Why? Because their parent have already actively formed these children's character. These children already know better who they are, where they stand, what they accept and what they don't — they don't need their peers' approval to guide their consciences. So, in general, home-schooled children don't need the formation that college provides.

What about learning? So you are going to tell me that college professors are a well-spring of impartial and pure knowledge? Okay, some are. A very few are. There are those one or two professors we remember just standing in awe of their learning and their love of it. Most, however, are doing their jobs (well, good, or otherwise). And then there are those not so few professors we remember that we don't wish to remember. What about learning? I put forth that I have learned what I've needed to learn not from college professors. I didn't even learn how to go about learning from my college professors. Like my father before me, when I need to learn something, I go forth and learn it. I buy the book; I read the book; I devour the book. Then I buy three more from three different perspective. I do this until that thing I need to know is an integral part of me. It's not one, or three, or however many other, person's point of view. It is mine, because I have thought about it, I have pondered it, I have used it until it is mine.

Has anyone else besides me ever used the internet?

So I think we can put aside the thesis that college is the sole source, or the best source, of knowledge or of acquiring knowledge.

What, then, is my thesis? College is a hierarchical society. A job is a hierarchical society. "Most" children go to college today to get a good job (I only wrote "most" as an appeasement, because the numbers who do go for other reasons are way below statistical noise, and colleges, being fundamentally business enterprises, cater to what sells). And it is a truism: college graduates get better jobs, better-paying jobs, more often than those without the lamb-skin. So, then, is that how we define "happiness"?

No. Show me the rule that says to make a living one must work for the Man. Show me the happy person on the job. You can do the latter, I'm sure, but doesn't that just prove my point? Why is it that a person who is happy in their job is the outstanding exception? In fact, on reflection, many of you reading this blog are happy in your vocations. Back to the point: why is it that a person who is happy in their job is happy in their job because they are happy about themselves? Why is it that almost everyone is, well, not sad, but just existing in their jobs? Is that God's plan for us, to submit our will and our time to punch the clock? To look in the mirror and see the dulled eyes that tell us that the next eight hours are going to be just like yesterday's eight hours; just like tomorrow's eight hours will be: trying to justify the nothingness, the emptiness, of our pursuit?

You do know that corporate jobs are a relatively new thing in the history of the world? This country, in fact, encouraged a man to go out, literally and carve his homestead right out of the next patch of forest. And, when that was done, he had to do something that ensured his family and his community survived. Jobs were a necessity: I was a farmer because someone in my family and the families surrounding me could eat, or a blacksmith or an apothecary or a traveling salesman or a preacher.

No, I'm not a luddite: I'm also not turning my back on modern society. I believe, vehemently, that progress is necessary and good. Progress expands our horizons: allowing us to live our lives longer and better, giving us more options from which to choose to live our lives.

What I'm saying is that the "job" as we know it today, the thing that is wrapped up in our American Dream (that is then exported to the rest of the world as the "way to live" — which is a sad irony: America's "Rugged Individualism" so conveniently packaged as "Workin' for the Man"), is a relatively new choice and not the only choice, and, probably, not a good choice for one's happiness.

What, then, is the good choice for happiness?

That's obvious: listen to your heart and answer the call. With all this running about — going to school, going to college, getting a job, getting fired and then running, scrambling, to get the next job — there's no time left for standing still and just listening. What do I really wish to do ... no, really wish to do with my life? Which legacy do I wish to leave? How will I impact other people's lives? How do I wish to be?

I think that Adina's children have asked these questions, and are asking these questions, and the answers they are reaching are not pointing them in the direction of going to college to/and get/ting a "good" job. No matter what complacency is promised in that direction (an empty promise, for the most part, but the illusion of it, the maya, is so strong, that it pulls most people in without question), these children, no, not children, these human persons — these souls! — are choosing their own paths. But isn't that really what happiness is? Knowing who you are and doing what you are? Choosing your vocation?

And that is our problem, we who are homeschoolers and parents, our dilemma: we sketch out a path to what we see as happiness for our children, but will we be happy if they follow our path? Maybe. But, ultimately, they become their own persons and must make their own choices. They are not us (no matter how hard we work to make them us), nor will they always be ours. We must give them the strength to overcome their own trials, and the courage to face those trials. We give them the roots, and we give them the wings. It is they that must grow, blossom, and then fly.

Stunning

This morning I was headed off to work, as usual. Diane was standing over little Isabel by the mirror, brushing her hair into a cutesy pony tail. I marched right past, but then did a double-take; Diane was wearing a ankle-length floral black skirt and a lime-green blouse. There was a faint aura about her of motherly, domestic, tranquility.

I stopped in my tracks: my hands encircled her with a portrait frame, and I uttered "Wow!" continuing on my way with the surprised snort from my cara spoza following me.

Monday, September 1, 2008

"Out"-Laws?

My favorite, and only, mother-in-law, recently posted her thoughts on the interesting approach I took to my studies ... on my honeymoon. Two unrelated thoughts arose together with her comment. The first, least `pataphoric, thought was that I, as an Auclair, am a force of nature — as any who have married an Auclair know that the words "passion" and "intensity" are far too tame words to describe our natures. It would be folly for Diane to mention ... So, like, you might consider not bringing three Java books on the honeymoon? ... so she didn't even bother bringing up the topic. But it also turns out that I'm actually the tame one in this marriage. Or, to put it another way, Diane sure is cutesy sabre-toothed tiger. That she would consider extending an invitation to her parents on our honeymoon cruise had nothing to do with retribution or quid pro quo (that is French) and had everything to do with family! They are as much a part of her as she is a part of them. I married into her family with my eyes wide open (I, besides visiting her family in the Philippines, where the cute little traitor — yeah, come visit with me, it'll be fun! — did not speak one word, ONE WORD, of English to me from the time the plane touched down to, months later, when the plane return to the good-ole U.S. of A., also read, cover-to-cover all twenty books her family gave me about Philippino language, culture and mores). I did put my foot down on that one, however:
Me: Um, no. This is our honeymoon: yours and mine alone.
Diane: Please, can we take my parents, too? Please?
Me: No.
You see where Elena Marie gets her powers of persuasion.

But the second, tangential, thought that arose is as follows. And that is this: I just don't get it, and I don't desire you to explain it to me, either; thank you very much. It seems that there is nothing more universally agreed-upon, and reviled, than that of the in-law relation. Where ever I go, when the topic arises, it's always presented with duty or disgust rather than delight: Oh, yeah, I've got to visit the in-laws, rolling their eyes as they spit out the words. Or even worse, it's a "joke", Tee-hee they titter so I get that they're "joking," aren't my "out"-laws funny? [trans: embarrassing]

Perhaps the reason that I don't get it is that I happen to view my family as something more than my parents, my sisters and myself. I now have four brothers, two married to my sisters, and two my wife's siblings. In which world would I have that blessing? Not in the world that most people here are living in: one time at work I mentioned I was going on vacation to St. Croix. Lucky you! was the response until I added I was accompanying my parents-in-law. The condescending reply was you must have the patience of a saint. When I countered I liked spending time with my in-laws, the condescension became bafflement, so I decided to drop it.

"Love your enemies" we are commanded [Matt 5:44] but it was only in an Amway conference that that commandment was put into context: "Love your enemies because you made them." The admonishment is not that our in-laws are our enemies (as I hear most people ruefully label them), it's that it's our choice whom we make friends, whom we make enemies, and whom we love. Here are the people how are the closest to you in the world. Wouldn't you rather they help you, and you help them?

In one very important respect, I have the blessing of being an Auclair. It seems, when I see myself in my cousins and siblings, in my Aunts and Uncles, I see the sharp, sharp pride and intellect that makes us impossible to be around for more than half-a-day. But we are so desperately vunerable — so full of pride that we always choose to swim against the stream, to climb the mountain on foot instead of using the ski lift, to shake our heads angrily when everyone else is smiling and nodding — but at the same time the slightest word or look crushes us into despondency. Delicate and strange creatures we are.

Or, perhaps, all these faults are just my own.

But one thing I've noticed in my family is a magical gift, a gift which I have felt the full force of the benefits: we pick a spouse, a cara spoza — a mate of the heart — that so perfectly excels us in so many ways. We're smart; they are smarter. We're jittery; they are an ocean of patience. We want to be alone; they are always socially graceful and the life of the party. We're angry; they are witty — so much so they diffuse us, walking time bombs, until we can't help but to smile, warmly, in return.

So, maybe this odd perspective on in-law relations is an Auclair thing. For me, I know exactly where I'd be without my cara spoza and her family, my in-laws, so I love her, and I love them with an Auclair intensity and fierceness and gratitude (always grudgingly given from my family) and sincerity. They see me for what I am, yet they accept me still. How is it not possible to have the greatest respect and admiration for people such as these, my in-laws.

Everyday exchange

My cara spoza, Diane walks timidly into my "office" (more like a French cave) and checks the mood. I slouch, sullenly, in my chair, fingers flying over the keyboard as my eyes bore into the screen. My usual posture.

But, since I'm not growling invectives, as usual when I'm working (actually, I just got comonadic streaming primes working, so I was rather well-pleased), she essays the breach in my concentration. She tapped her pencil to her notepad and did a half-twirl.

Do you notice anything? she asked.

There she stood, gorgeous, as always, in an ankle-length dark-blue skirt and a blouse that complimented her beauty. A heart-stopper, as always.

No. I responded, confused.

She gave up. Men! she probably thought.

I got dressed to go shopping at Costco ... she hinted, helpfully.

Me: Oh, ya. You look beautiful. as I returned to my work. But she wasn't to be deterred. As always. So she returned to tap-tap-tapping her notepad, which I discovered was her shopping list. She rattled off her items — it was she that was going shopping, not I, so the list had a rather domestic theme. We've agreed to give a go to making sandwiches for lunch, so she asked after my luncheon meat preferences.

Turkey, ... and ham, slipping the latter in wistfully. But her reaction took me aback:

Nitrates! Nitrates! Nitrates! she fumed as her pencil beat time with her accusations, and she stamped her foot with displeasure. God, I love this surprising woman! She's so beautiful when she's on one of her crusades. Good thing she's always on one; and good thing we're not in France, as they treated her sister Jeanne d'Arc rather badly. But then before I could entreat, she surprised me again:

We'll get honey baked ham, instead, and freeze the excess. She was pleased at her inventiveness, and she shouted out with laughter at her victory over the dreaded nitrates. She has the regal bearing, insight and intelligence always to be pleased with her pronouncements.

I couldn't have dreamed this turn of events (Diane is pleased that she's getting me honey-baked ham?) suiting me better, so I played the smart guy and kept my mouth shut. Yeah, that is possible for me to do, okay? Back off.

Well, she was on her way with the kiddies, and I wasn't going to get any more work done with all the requests for "huggies", and playing Olé as a charging bull with the tykes. The children must be appeased. But then, of course, as I set them in the Mommy van, Elena Marie got all dewy eyed:

Papa, please, please, please come with us shopping! Ugh, my heart absolutely melted and ended up limpid resting on my left kneecap. Diane could barely contain her delight at my torn expression.

No, sweetie, I've got to do work after I do DDR. As I replied, Diane's impish look froze into a mask of horror:

I thought you said you had work to do today! She accused, and little Isabel immediately dove-tailed her own question:

Papa, are you going to do DDR all day and all night? and my negative response of:

No, sweetie, I'm just going to do my regular workout had Diane snort derisively. Huh! I don't think my workouts will take that long, so I tried to reassure my cara spoza &mdash It's DDR3, I think, I soothed, so after I do my workout and Rock Lobster, I'll get right back to work ... unless it's DDR4, then I'm going to do Waka Laka. Her nonchalance was instantly replaced by tender concern:

Please, take care of yourself and take it easy. she requested. I guess my little show-n-tell was still a very present echo in her mind.

As soon as they were out of sight — Bye! the children shouted, Bye! Bye! — I turned back to the house thinking about how I could form a relation between enumerated types and transitive types using Gödel numbering.

Yup. Just an ordinary day.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Why I work

Originally posted circa August 3, 2004:

Latest bulletin from the Olde Dominion, the Commonwealth; from Columbia, the gem of the Ocean.

Aunt Rolene sent me a very nice email about setting aside some special time with Diane. Thank you, Aunt Rolene: I took off both Saturday AND Sunday from work to spend special time with Diane and to give Diane some li'l tyke respite.

Diane has been acutely ill (a cold) from a little sniffle Isabel caught, and then spread to the rest of the family (Isabel and I were least affected), so we've spent extra time in bed, recovering ... I think I actually slept 4 hours last night, *WOW*. Besides the colds, the whole family is in excellent spirits. Isabel woke me this morning, on time: 7 am on the dot, with her joyful, open-mouthed, squawks. Elena Marie had already left with her Mama to shower and then to leap into her dress; after that, she joined us in bed, entertaining Isabel, who was delighted to see her Ate (big sister).

I've restarted my martial arts training, practicing kenjutsu every night, which I enjoy very much (and which is making writing this email difficult: my arms are heavy). I've also been playing through a game of go every night (not last night, unfortunately): specializing in the games of Takemiya Masaki, as I'm best able to understand and to play his moyo (center-oriented) style in my games.

So, I was preparing to leave for work this morning, kissing each of my darlings goodbye. Elena Marie enjoys the leave-taking, cheeringly shouting a "Bye!" Diane rushed me out the door, as Isabel is now able to crawl from the dining room to the front door with speed. But Diane queried Elena Marie first: "Why does Papa go to work?" Elena Marie looked at her mama quizzically. Diane pressed forward: "... so Elena can ...?" Elena Marie didn't answer the question, just shouted out another "Bye!" to her departing Papa, and then went out to the entrance to wave.

All who work are called to answer that unanswered question (first posed in music by Charles Ives), and I believe that my answers are pretty much the same as every other working person's, but sometimes it's good to summarize them and then meditate on them.
  1. Because I can: I'm blessed with ability and with a task to which I can apply that ability

  2. Because it's my vocation to provide for (and to protect) my family, and the fruits of my work give that.

  3. Because I learn from work, about myself, about others, and about the things which my work affects

  4. So I can return home a better husband and father

  5. So others can return home to their families and friends

  6. So the country and the world can be a better place.

Insh'Allah.

So, I'm off to do that.

After writing this email, my sweetie called me. She had arrived, and parked outside the facility so that Elena Marie could complete her message. I strolled through three sets of armed guards, two check-points and a gated barbed-wire fence to rendez-vous with them in our little Mazda so I could hear the special message:

Diane: "Elena, Papa goes to work to give Mama ..."
Elena: *smile* *look* *look* "Pera!"
Diane: "So that Elena may buy ..."
Elena: "dresses!" *bounce-bounce* "And, Elena tried them on and turned around!" (Elena Marie exults in modelling her acquisitions)

Diane then handed me a tin full of muffins (Elena Marie had been asking to 'bake a cake' this morning): "Elena, what are we giving Papa?"
Elena: "'anana mffins!"


With her message delivered, Elena's mission was complete. "Bye!" she cheerily dismissed me. I waved them off, and walked back to the facility, knowing why I was returning to work.

Back in the Groove

It's been over a week since my last email, and, as I promised my sweetie daily email reports ("I'm here; I'm alive; I'm happy"), I'm sure I've caused at least one person some consternation. But there it is — I've spent the last week in bed, with an illness that has been, thankfully, only inconvenient and fatiguing, so I've been out of the loop during that time.

I started to get back into the groove on Sunday when I went to Mass, and then, in the evening, I exercised (which felt very good) and played through a game of Go (my model, Takemiya, lost because of one single misjudged play, at play 43 (a game lasts usually 250 plays), so I wasn't extremely happy about that, especially since the rest of the game was excellent ... I should play though it again, channeling his challenger, O Reissi, because his play was sharp, inventive and brilliant).

This morning I woke up chipper. I said, "Today, I am going to work!" and felt very happy. Funny, the majority of heart attacks occur Monday morning: people would rather die than return to work. But, for me, as you know, my work gives me pleasure, fulfillment, and the opportunity to create and to serve. Today, at work, was a good day: productive and cordial (as usual, things were in a state of near pandemonium, but I was serene throughout ... probably confirming in some minds that I am the representation of Loki here on Earth, but so it goes).

Speaking of Norse mythology, the weather here has been rather Visigoth: cold, gray and wet. I love it! I don't care what the studies say: if every day were like this, I would be in my element, as it were — an expectant thundershower with peals of lightening and a torrential downpour would be a very nice addition, as well. By the time Diane and the children return (1 December, with her brother, YAAAY!) I expect several layers of snow on the ground. All I need are two goats, two ravens and one giant-slaying hammer (Hmmmm, I already have "god's own hammer" as my friend Mike Wuerthele called the mallet he and I used to be creative with the various home-improvement projects going on in the basement) to complete the picture.

Ummmmm, yeah.

Had a bit of a Fall cleaning of the house today, so everything's pristine: 2 loads of laundry, change of bedsheets, bathroom sparkling, dishes done. A new house, and a new me. Just lying on the bed for a second felt very sweet (and I would've fallen asleep and slept through the night if I hadn't stood up right away — first day back at work was a shock to the system after a week in bed)! Treated myself special tonight by having a bit of supper and then a latte and choco-coconut bun (I know, I know, but I hope the carb blocker and the exercise later tonight will cancel it out).

So with the paperwork (mostly) up-to-day, the house cleaned, and a recovered self, I'm back in the grove.

Time to sweep the deck, to exercise, to play through a game of Go, and to hit the S-A-C-K!

"Really strange" guy

Originally posted November 8, 2004:

So, I've survived (barely) the first day of a national conference, where they pulled me in from vacation 'cause I'm the point man on the project. *Sigh* it's nice to be so loved. First time meeting the majority of the experts, and, boy, were they in for a surprise! One of the experts, with whom I've been working with for a year, when I pointed out a technicality with one of the rules decided to give me some back-talk, so, I laid the smack down,

"Hey, ya wanna piece o' me? I'LL TAKE Y'ALL ON!"

This bellow kind of attracted attention to myself, as the other experts burst out laughing at the kid in the back corner posturing so extravagantly. One of the experts asked my boss's boss (he's new to the project), "Hey, can you keep control over your people?" He answered, martyred look on his face, wringing his hands: "I'm trying; I'm trying!"

So, at lunch, at the BBQ place (the boss like all kinds of foods, as long as they're pork and have been barbequed), I went around, pressing the flesh and meeting the experts: "Oh, you're the one who's going to beat us all up?" was the only question I got. On the ride back to the conference, the boss's boss said: "You know, Doug, I have to go on record: you're REALLY STRANGE!"

Huh? This from a guy who noted how, um, unique each member of the team was (and said how shocked he was that he found a project where he fit in). So, I guess that makes me "fringe" unique? Anyway, I tried for peace: "Well, I hope that otherwise my skills are helpful to the team and the project."

Deafening silence followed ...

...

... the boss's boss said: "*Ahem* Well, that was a deafening silence ..."

So, I'm hoping tomorrow they'll forget all about the day before (*cough*) ... anyway, the conference will start at 8 am, and it's 1 1/2 hour commute (ugh-ugh-ugh), so I think nature, in the form of lack of sleep, will take its course in transforming a REALLY STRANGE Doug to a quiet and subdued Doug (but, I hope, not a snoring Doug).

So, that's how my day went. One could, I suppose, say it was One Day in the Life of Doug Auclair, but I think somebody blatantly ripped off that title from me. Oh, the nerve of some people, jeez!

Elena Marie says: "Hello?"

Originally posted November 14, 2004:

Today started out cold and blustery: fall is upon us, no joke. So, it made exercising this morning a more interesting affair, logistically. It doesn't help that it appears our heater is on the fritz (it provides a modicum of heat, but doesn't stay on the requested temperature, so blankets and mufflers are welcome additions to the modern lifestyle). So, I exercised. The bokken, being newly oiled as of yesterday, felt very good during practice.

Today was the slower side of Dance-dance Revolution exercises — the music selection is on a wheel, and going clockwise, one encounters the faster songs (after nine minutes I hit the target calorie burn and was quite ready to stop: only 31 more minutes to go), but today was the counterclockwise direction: I don't hit the target even after 40 minutes. So, this time, I added 5 more minutes, and decided to double the requirement — for each arrow, I would hit the pad twice.

Ouch. I think I understand better, viscerally, why basketball players so often require knee surgery. Even now, 12 hours later, I still feel the throbbing in my legs. Today, I worked out more, and harder, than I ever have since I've acquired this 'game'. One benefit: the 'tough' songs I couldn't fathom before (I would just stop and stare as 20 arrows passed in a matter of 3 seconds), I now did just fine.

Mother called after exercise, and she complained that my emails didn't talk about her grandchildren enough. So, for her, and for your enjoyment, I provide the following story.

I called Diane last night, as I do weekly, and we happily chatted the night away (Isabel squawked on occasion from Mama's lap, and Diane said she smiled when I addressed her -- she's now walking about, as easy as you please and has curly hair [see, Mother, it's about your grandchildren, okay?]). After I rung off, I called right back to say hello again one more time, but this time, I received a surprise.

*ring-ring*
Elena Marie: Hello?
Me: Ummmmmm, Hello, Elena Marie!
(here I panicked, because usually the conversation continues thus: I ask her health, she says she's fine and then says, "Bye!" and hangs up) (so, thinking quickly, I continued:)
Me: I need to speak to Mama, would you give her the phone?
Elena Marie: Okay ... and that's exactly what she did.
*Whew*

Diane told me that Elena Marie bolts to the phone whenever it rings, even though she's been asked not to pick up. I figure that since she just spoke with her papa a few moments before, she was expecting that it was I again. This time she was correct.

So, that's my story: my little girl's answering the phone now. What next? A driver's license? (choke!)

chop wood, carry water

Originally posted November 18, 2004:

Sunday, Philippino day:

Little did I realize that today was Washington DC Philippino day. This morning at Church, due to shortages of flu vaccine, instead of shaking hands at the sign of peace, we all turned to our neighbors and gave each a slight bow. This is exactly how Philippinos exchange the sign of peace in Mass in the Philippines. I couldn't help but let slip a small, private smile during this evolution. I hope this goes on for quite some time: Diane and Dennis will be so pleased!

AND THEN! I went to Starbucks to by some Chai in bulk. As I approached the counter, I felt momentarily disoriented, something was strangely familiar -- the girl at the register, who I originally thought to be Black, was not: she was Brown! And, the other person working there was also a Pinay (occasionally, in this area particularly, Starbucks brings in foreign nationals -- I suppose for exposure on how Starbucks works in the USA? One time the store manager (who is also one of the national directors) was working with people from Taiwan). Again, the repressed smile, but I didn't engage them in conversation. Again, I was transported to my sweetie's side. Two times in one day!

Monday.

Heater broke, and then, car broke (timing belt). Slept that night with a space heater graciously leant to me by Mike and in a knit cap and muffler. Mr. Darcy really snuggled up to me, as well.

While I was on the side of the highway in my broken-down car, Bill, a colleague from work, called to report an at-work emergency that needed my immediate attention; I guided him through some procedures over the phone as the tow truck continued to fail to show up. Received two more calls on my cell from work, each more and more alarming.

Uh, don't worry, y'all: the country's still protected.

So, I pushed the car to an apartment complex's parking lot, conveniently located nearby, and then I walked home. In my dress shoes. Ow.

But, after all that, it seems like God cut me a break. When I arrived home, I received a check from the mail. Goody! I can eat again! Something else good happened that day, but, it being two days and several crises ago, I've quite forgotten what it was.

I went by Mike's house, and he looked me straight in the eye: "Doug, you're just sad!" Thanks, pal! But he also gave me freshly cooked roast beef and mashed potatoes with gravy. I don't know how he does it, but he makes the world's best mashed potatoes. He also loaded me down with two large logs for my fireplace.

Mike: "You need to split those; do you have a maul?"
Me: "Don't worry about it. My middle name's not 'Paul Bunyon' for nothing."
Mike: [speachless, rueful look]

That night, until late, late in the night, I turned my mind and body to the simple joy of splitting firewood with my wedges, gods-own-hammer, and my ax. It felt very good.

Tuesday.

Watching the heater repair guys ("Um, Mr. Douglas [sic], sir, you need to replace your intake filter every month, not every year."). Receiving more emgerging crisis phonecalls from work. That morning, I was in work, and I said to Bill: "I wish I could say troubles come in pairs, but I would actually be blessed in they ONLY came in pairs."

I was calm, however, govies have a tendency to panic easily and sometimes about the wrong thing. I was sure it wasn't my code that was the problem.

Wednesday.

I was wrong, of course: it was my code that was the problem. It was built with a perfect-world model, and the real-world data, ya know, can be noisy sometimes. But, then, another miracle occurred, Bill headed up the repair effort and did 90% of the work, freeing me to handle another impending crisis. It's amazing to find people who take the ball and run with it (especially since I rarely see it in the workplace); this contract has several people to do that very thing with neither fuss nor fanfare. Wow!

So, now, I'm just finishing up my workday, writing this email, and heading on home.

I missed about 57,239 other things that happened this week: each thing would've had its own paragraph of at least 17 lines each, and for this, I'm sorry, 'cause I'm wondering what happen this week, myself.

Ah, well, car works, heater works, fireplace works, self works. Good to go!

"Enough" Halo 2 time? and the girls

Originally posted November 27, 2004:

My cara spoza asked me:
Oh what a relief it is... Now that I'm done with the morning business, time to catch up with husby. It sounded like you were enjoying yourself with the family. Did you get to play enough halo 2 over the week?


Ummmm, define "enough", please! Howland and I have been coplaying H2 -- in H2, one can "jack" a vehicle from the enemy driver, so we've been doing that more than really playing the game at all, 'cause jacking's so much fun. Beki would watch and giggle when one of succeeded in doing this.

Beki's still playing H1 and refuses to join in with Howland and me. Howland also prefers to watch me play when I'm moving the story along ... after I've cleared a level, he'll play it along with me or solo.

Lowrey watched us all play in Virginia, and she took an anthropological point of view, wondering why shoot-em-ups are so popular, and wondering if there was a way to create a game that would be equally captivating without the violence in it.

Of course, I have news about the girls for your enjoyment. Elena has a new look. Just wait and see :-)

She is imitating and repeating even more Tagalog. When I spilled a chocolate drink on the bed, she exclaimed. "ayyy, natapon!" She would sigh like a true pinay, "hayy, naku." And she would argue as loudly, "hindeee!" She's also adding all the appropriate connectors such as "ang" and "si." Pretty amazing kid!

Okay. Stop the presses. "New look"? What's going on? PANIC TIME OVER HERE!

Isabel has begun to express herself loudly and forcefully. Balanced wonderfully by acts of lambing, like just going up to you for a quick kiss or hug. I can already see your pusong mamon melting like ice cream.


Oh! (clasping my hand to my head) My heart is breaking! I'm wondering if she'll do that to me. Probably so, it looks like she has a deviously charming twinkly in her eye.

We've been watching videos of the party and the anniversary and the beach trip. It was great to see you in them and I am glad that it won't be long before we see you again. The girls, esp. Elena, exclaim "Papa" when they see you in pictures or on TV. It would be a great reunion!


Oh, no! My heart, it's breaking again! *sniff*