Saturday, May 3, 2008

Kids, Inc., and MMM (more than a modicum of musings)

ma chere famille (that's French for 'my expensive family'),

Aunt Rolene wrote:

From: Rolene AuClaire
Date: Tue, 7 Dec 2004 18:00:52 -0800
Okay, busy papa, I give up. When do you find time to compose such delightful reports on life in the fast (child) lane? I was exhausted just thinking of what all of you are experiencing as mom, brother, and two daughters, not to mention, you, adjust to the time changes. Keep up the good work. I'm going to bed!

So, if I were to respond to her question in full, my email would have the subject line: 'Time, keeps flowing like a river, to the sea'. But, since this is only to be a brief treatise, the subject line is what it is, and not, 'Time [etc]'.

You know, of course, that since Einstein's revelations, that space-time is (generally and specifically) relativistic: time is what you make of it, and what you make of it depends on how (relatively) fast you're going. 'Relative to what?' you ask. Glad you asked! Well, we have Mach to thank for this answer: everything else. Mach, in a thought experiment, uncovered that if the universe contained nothing but you, you couldn't tell if you were standing still or twirling in one spot, because you need at least one other point (mass) to get any feeling at all of acceleration. It was Mach's realization that debunked Newton's 'aether' supposition (that was universally despised, perhaps even by Newton) and therefor eliminated the last defense of an "absolute" or "static" universe, and opened the door for Einstein's work. Wow!

So, since Time is relative, and since, we know, that time 'slows' for faster objects, the simple answer to my dear Aunt's question, 'where do you find the time?' is that I manufacture 'more time' (a very good reggae album from LKJ; I highly recommend it) on an as needed basis.

Another answer is that sleep deprivation does weird things to one (just ask Diane), so that one loses all sense of attachment to the present moment -- the less sleep one has, the more one resides in otherworldly no-time. Me, having fallen asleep at the wheel more than one time (ya know, driving from Florida, where I used to live, to Connecticut, where I used-used to live, without stopping can lead to some rather dicey situations: I've actually seen 4' high pink elephants gallopping across the superhighway in front of me), I've come pretty close to being entirely in an otherworldly state on a permanent basis.

Some of my colleagues here believe that, in their opinions, since I have no actual grounding in this reality, that I'm already deep-deep into otherworldly territory. It's pretty cool, then, that they've entrusted so much to me, given their views ("Yeah, Doug ... he's out-there weird, but pretty harmless, I suppose").

Of course, "time" qua scheduling things, etc., is really a Westerner's notion. Only of my favorite Chautauqua is the story of the BIA set up a meeting with chiefs from various tribes for 9 am in two weeks. Two weeks later, 9 am, no representatives appeared. 10 am, noone. 11 am, no. Noon, one or two showed up, and by that time the BIA people were nervous that the meeting would be a no-go, but were reassured with this statement from one of the tribal elders: "They said they would be here for the meeting, and so they will. What does it matter what time the meeting is? They'll be here." and by 8 pm, all the representatives were present for the meeting. Robert Persig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) shares another perspective of time at by relaying a sad-sad story "to illustrate". Then, there's the whole eastern no-concept/no-concern of time, which I can't say I really know anything about at all. But there it is.

So, where do I find the time? Well, for one, nowadays, I've become better at "programming" or "instructing" my body: "Okay," I tell myself, "I've got two hours to sleep, and during that sleep, it will be a deep, relaxing and restorative sleep, equivalent to 8 hours of normal sleep." Another is that how one spends one's time defines that person, I am, essentially, a being that produces these artifacts (St. Thomas Aquinas calls them 'accidents': accidents do not reveal the essence, but they certainly aid one's understanding of it).

So, perhaps this is one of my gifts from the Holy Spirit: the gift of gab ... *ahem* ... oh, well! Whereas for you, Aunt Rolene, I see your gift evidenced in your concerned listening spirit and thoughtfulness in your responses. Words fail, as always, to describe the essence of it, but I believe, that when this gift is pointed out, it would be universally acknowledged: "Oh, yeah, that's how Aunt Rolene is."


Remember the movie "Monsters, Inc."? Well, really, it has nothing to do with email, other than the subject line, and some relation to incidents described below.

Little Isabel is still ever-so-attached to her papa, and it's unfortunate that I'm coming home from work later than the kids bedtime, because both she and Elena Marie very much enjoy sharing their time and talents with me, their big pushover. Reveille (the French word for "torture") for me is Elena storming into the room shouting: "Papa it's time to wake up! Are you sleeping? Get up!" at some incredibly early hour of the morning (like, *shudder*, 8:30 am, *grimace* ... sorry, didn't mean to scare any of you). Isabel storms in, alongside her Ate (Tagalog: eldest sister), and comes up to the bedside with a huge toothy smile and a deep throated growl: "AaaaaaahhhhhhrrrrrraAAAAHHHH!" Me, just waking up, I survive this onslaught with distraction: I drum my fingers on the side of the bed. Isabel thinks this is the funniest thing in the world and can't stop from pounding the bed with all her might in response. This delays her, for a moment, from her real goal: she has invisible strings which she loops herself and my poor self into a tightly bound ball of hugs. She gets these strings around me when Elena Marie grabs one of my drumming hands and pulls me, bodily, out of bed: "Are we going to cook eggplant now?" is all Elena wants to know. All I want to know is when the room is going to stop spinning, and when someone would kindly turn off that big, bright orb in the sky -- it's so bright it's giving me a headache!

Elena Marie "helped" me get ready for work this morning. She "counted" out my vitamins and packed them for my lunch, then she accompanied me into the bathroom: "I'm going to shave and shower!" she was pleased to announce to me. I explained that little girls didn't need to shave, to which I received in response: "I BIG Elena!" I knew my thesis had a logical flaw somewhere ... *cough*. She spent the time while I shaved leaping from bathmat to floormat: "I shave and shower, Papa!" and waving about a roll of toilet paper in directorial (dictatorial?) manner. I could have chosen to become annoyed and ordered her out, but I reasoned that she was first, causing no harm ('Primus non nocere' is a pretty good motto to live by, anyway, along with 'Living, learning, loving, and leaving a legacy' (the 5 lambdas, as I call them)), second, that she was well-intentioned: attempting to express her inexpressible admiration for me by imitation (when I dropped a vitamin on the floor, I slapped my knee in frustration; Elena, sitting beside me, repeated that movement with the same passion and intensity ... scary how greatly we parents affect our children in even the smallest gesture) and coparticipation, and third, what was display costing me? Nothing, that's what; so, chill, Doug. So I did, enjoying her little performance.

She's also respectful. When I said, "Okay, Elena, Papa needs to [do something not to be discussed in polite conversation] and needs some privacy," she immediately left the bathroom "to help" Diane prepare breakfast. Poor Diane! (Well, at least neither of the following happened: the kitchen didn't explode and we didn't need to rush off to the hospital to have them sew back on Elena's severed arm: "Honey, we told you that running around with that cleaver would eventually cause you to lose an arm, but did you listen? Nooooo! Now see where you are!" Yeah, we don't subscribe to the: "in order for your children to be good, you must make them feel bad" school of thought ... we also don't allow Elena to run around with a cleaver, either, just in case the implication in my example got you wondering ...). Oh, well, I'll work on improving the morning evolution to help (really) Diane and me prepare us and the children to face that big world out there.


Dennis and I went to choir practice and then sang for the Immaculate Conception Mass. Dennis is a better singer that I am, of course, but he also had every piece ready at the appropriate times. I think John, our choir director, after catching me off-tempo during the athem, is probably wishing that Dennis will stay here and that I return to the Philippines ... `;-)

After Mass, Dennis and I shared a supper of pasta and leftover sauce. Then we started talking about what he does (which is computer graphics animation, and he's also creating a feature) and about the movies we've seen: he likes the Pixar movies (Toy Story, Monsters, Inc.) more than the Dreamworks ones (Antz, Shrek) because Pixar doesn't make obvious and inconsistent outside references to get the laugh. He said of the CG movies coming out these days that they should concentrate more on story and character development than on presentation and cool effects.

Hmm, I wonder what would happen if half of all the movies coming out of Hollywood would do that?

OH, NO! SO MANY WONDERFUL MOVIES TO SEE! WHATEVER SHALL I DOOOO? would probably be the public outcry.

He, as a CG animator, doesn't care about new gee-whiz features of animation packages, he's looking for absolute dependability: if it fails, he doesn't care, so long as it fails predictably. Me, as a software developer, view the flip side of the coin as the aim: absolute fidelity to algorithm -- if there's a bad piece of code in there, it should immediately be excised. Funny how two people with "opposed" views can be striving for the same thing ("quality" or "perfection" -- there's another Robert Persig reference) in entirely different ways. I described my geas as philosophical. It may take only 5 minutes to write one line of code in practice, but getting myself to write that one line may take hours: is it right? is it a quick and dirty fix? will it help or hurt in the long-run? is the long-run a viable concern? is there a better way to do this? Coding can be a heart-wrenching experience.

... which is what I will now go back to doing, 'cause, after all, my work is an expression of my true self. That's why I work.

Love Doug

Postscript: poor Isabel missed her nap and was inconsolable for quite a while this morning, I was just told ... another thing to improve on my part: parenting to help our family and to alleviate unnecessary suffering. Me, I'm suffering right now, thinking about the poor little "aaahrrraaah"er, but this is necessary suffering: it hurts, but it'll make me a better person. God's little wake-up love note to me.

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