Sunday, September 21, 2008


*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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.