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*

Reading Mama

Photo taken sometime in late June, 2005

A happy B(aseball)irthday story

Originally posted April 10, 2000:

Diane's birthday party last year went off much better than I could have ever planned. Diane bought herself her birthday presents, then, miraculously, Mom sent us a check that covered the cost of her presents. She didn't want a party, so we drove around and looked at houses for sale on Friday, so we could visit them on her birthday. (Which, eventually, led us inch-by-inch to our new home ... because we always kept that dream alive). But, Mike Malovic called up and invited us to an Orioles baseball game for Sunday. I was ecstatic. Diane is a big baseball fan, so the gift was perfectly timed. All Saturday, Diane practiced the song, "Take me out to the Ballgame"; learning Doug Auclair's version of the lyrics (à la Dad's way of changing words here and there until, years later, it's nothing like the original).

The Baseball Game:

We arrived a little late, because Mike and Pinky drove us up in their Mercedes after Church. The Orioles were down 0-3. Oh, no! That's okay, though, BECAUSE we sat in the shade and did the whole thing: hotdog, beer ("Git chur be-ah he-ah!" the vendors shouted their calls), cheers, sassing the referee. It couldn't have been a better game. The Orioles caught up in the third inning to fall behind 3-4 in the fourth. Then, in the seventh, they fell back even further when the designated hitter for the Angels placed the ball between the short-stop and Cal, the third baseman, with the bases loaded to bring in three more runs for the Angels. (When I say Cal, I mean the Cal Ripken, Jr. a.k.a. "Iron Man" because he's got the record for playing the most games without a break (it's somewhere around 3,000 games straight))

We were down 3-7 for a long time. What made things worst is that the Angels brought in a hot pitcher: he threw fastball after fastball without tiring. The Orioles seemed unable to get a hit off of him (but he hit, or almost hit, a couple of the Orioles, letting go a few bases to walks. He even (almost) hit Cal on the head, which caused an extended period of boos from the crowd and a talking to from his coach. He throws fast, but he needs to get some control).

Then, in eighth and ninth innings, one of the Orioles players (Belle) evened the score by hitting two homers: the first with two on base and then one alone. When he hit the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, the crowd (and I) went into hysterics. The inning went on a little longer, but no more runners came in. The game went into extra innings.

Nothing happened on the tenth, except that each team changed out some of their players (notably the pitchers). Then, on the bottom of the eleventh, a new pitcher for the Angels, Hasegawa, walked a couple and then hit Belle.

Belle was furious. I believe he told the umpire to ignore the pitch so he could hit a homer again. The umpire got ready to throw Belle out of the game, so the Orioles' coach jumped between the two and walked Belle to first base, all the while talking to him, calming him down.

Then, Cal got up to the plate. Each and every time that he did the crowd became full of energy. He got up to the plate four times before and got a hit to base each time except against the fast pitcher (he struck out); one time he hit a homer that tied the game. The bases were loaded; there were two outs against the Orioles. Hasegawa was good: he mixed a couple of balls with a couple of in-the-box pitches which Cal hit into the foul zone. Eventually, the count was 3 (balls) and 2 (strikes). Hasegawa pitched. Cal hit it into the foul zone. This happened three times on the 3-2 count.

Can you feel the excitement of the crowd? Diane was chanting: "Please, please!" Pinky was saying, "No pressure, Hal, just get a hit [she thought his name was Hal]." Mike responded, "Well, he doesn't need to hit the ball if he can walk." As Hasegawa threw each pitch, the energy would bring me to my feet in expectation.

Hasegawa pitched; Cal hit a grounder to centerfield, bringing the man on third home, and the crowd went wild. The final score was 8-7 at the bottom of the eleventh inning.

*****

We finished off the night by watching "You've Got Mail" (I love the sly observations it has) with Diane's birthday Peach ice cream with Chardonnay dessert.

I call her up and sing "Happy Birthday" to her. She asks, "Do I get to celebrate my birthday this whole week?" "Sure," I say, thinking of Pooh:

… you can't help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn't spell it right; but spelling isn't everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simple doesn't count.

"By the way, Pooh, how do you spell Tuesday?"
"Spell what?" asked Pooh.
"Tuesday. You know - Monday, Tuesday…"
"My dear Pooh," said Owl, "everybody knows that it's spelled with a Two."
"Is it?" asked Pooh.
"Of course," said Owl. "After all, it's the second day of the week."
"All right, Owl," I said. "Then what comes after Twosday?"
"Thirdsday," said Owl.
"Owl, you're confusing things," I said. "This is the day after Tuesday, and it's not Third - I mean Thursday."
"Then what is it?" asked Owl.
"It's Today!" squeaked Piglet.
"My favorite day," said Pooh. (1)

Mine, too. Please enjoy this wonderful day called today.

(1) Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff, E.P. Dutton, New York, 1982, pp. 27-28.

"You're in MENSA?"

Originally posted June 28, 2001:

Okay! Kuento time. So, the air-conditioner guy came to repair our air-conditioner (by resetting the fuse -- don't ask). I always pay with my personal card ("Mensa MasterCard -- Spend Wisely"), but I've never got a reaction until now. "OH!" exclaimed the very big air-conditioner repairman, "YOU'RE IN MENSA? I'VE NEVER MET A GENIUS BEFORE!" I informed him that now he had (siyempre, nahiya ko, diba). He examined my credit card with great interest and asked my I.Q. (I dunno) and discussed entrance testing a little while. Our transaction complete, he (reluctantly) returned my card and drove off. And so.

"Constancia" Elena Marie?

Originally posted July 16, 2001:

So, we went to the sonogram clinic (they do other things there too, but the people were nice to me (they thought I was kenkoy), so it'll be called the "sonogram clinic" from here on out).

Okay, I can get side-tracked in my emails.

So, attached is a picture of baby from the sonogram clinic. SHE (Diane wanted to know if the baby was a boy or a girl until she found out that the baby was a girl ... "A girl ... ... ... oh, that's nice." (I was delighted because si Diane thought of two names for girls only and rejected all my names for boys, so I guess God gave her what she wanted (not what she rejected ... gets mo?))).

Side-tracked!

So! I was visiting Nana and Dad and they asked what Diane's Grandmothers' names were (because Eugilda Theresa Mucciaroni Saccho Auclair was too funny for Nana ... even though that's her name), and when I told her Constancia and Maria, they practically leapt with joy ... ('cause I recommended Maria Constancia or Constancia Marie (the latter sounds kinda French, diba?)) ... "Oh, I love Constancia Marie", cried Nana. Dad stated pleasedly and officiously, "Constance is an excellent virtue."

They demanded I call my dearest love, the light of my life, my tweets-hart right away and "suggest" "Constancia Marie" ... Quote Nana: "But make SURE that you don't tell her that we suggested it!" (Notice how negative orders always backfire?)

"Constancia Marie" -- what a wonderful name, diba? The determined clarity of purpose (focused, even) tempered with the Sweetness of Our Lady (with that lilting French touch). Very traditional, too, especially since no other member of the Estrella and Sebastian families has honored their matriarchs with their first born bambina. Being traditional fits Diane's personality to a "T". :-) ← that's Diane laughing.

Diba?

Love always to my favorite family(-in-law),
(douglas) MICHAEL Auclair ← note the accent on the preferred name?

Dear Manang,

Baby Constancia Marie is doing wonderfully and can't wait to meet you. My dear Mother(-in-law) (si Ate) and my dearest, sweetest pookums (I guess it's true that expecting a baby girl turns the guy all to mush -- "Hoy! I'm going to be a little girl's Papa!") recommend we raise baby girls sa atin kasi babae turn out better than sa states ("Yo! Guy! Outta mah way!" -- diba). Missing you lots and hope to hear from you soon!

Sincerely,
(douglas) MICHAEL Auclair ← MichaelMichaelMichael

P.S. Sinabi ni Diane, "Can we visit when [Constancia Marie's] turned 12 months?" (She really didn't say "Constancia Marie"; she said "the baby" ... she's still in awe of my brilliant insight for the name ... or that's how I interpret it).

Go Congress and Dainty Diane

Originally posted August 1, 2001:

I spent all last week at the Go congress, lost most of my games (which I wasn't too happy about), but I learned some good things that have my game better (which I am happy about). Monday, back in Virginia, I played at the NOVA Go club and won my game handily using some of the techniques from the go congress. My roommate in my dorm at the college at York (York, Pennsylvania: it's biggest attraction is a coffee shop that serves greasy meatloaf as its lunch special -- ugh!) was a minister (Methodist), so we would have conversations long into the night about Faith and Grace. We didn't know out voices carried until someone from another dorm banged on our door telling us that it's hard to sleep at 1 a.m. with loud conversations ... *blush* hehehe!

I also had the pleasure of talking to one of the vendors of go books/equipment. She told me that she was living off of royalties from a contract her (wholely-owned) company set up with NEC in Japan. NEC puts a Go program on every computer it sells there, and for that they pay her (I think) $0.10 per copy. Galing! She wants to do that again for the Macs, so she was quizzing me about my Mac-OS X skills (which're good, so, *hope*, maybe I can get a piece of that action). At any rate, that got me thinking: creating a simple, "killer app" and licensing it to a hardware vendor sounds very possible now (instead of the difficult path: creating the app and selling it as shrink-wrapped media). Diane, I believe, has come up with two business plans off this idea.

Kwento: I was preparing to shower. I laid out the foot towel, then carelessly stepped on it whilst still wearing my slippers. Diane exclaimed: "Hey, don't walk on that with your dirty slippers! Think of my dainty feet!"

Kwento: My sweetie had an urge for a fast-food burger and McFlurry. Whilst I was getting the food, she waited for me in the car. I returned carrying the goods, and she said, "I didn't know 'facial' was spelt with an 'i'." I didn't understand her until she pointed to a big neon sign outside a spa: "F-A-I-C-I-A-L" was how it was spelt. I turned to her: "Wheal, Hoouney, when you in da Soufh, you spail 'faicial' waith an 'ah-ya'."

"Haaaay!"

Originally posted February 21, 2002:

So, I was cooing over Elena Marie at the dinner table, and, as she looked at her Anda sitting by the window, she suddenly breathed: "Haaay!"

Diane was quite pleased to announce that she's been practicing the word "Hi" with Elena Marie for some time.

For the rest of the day nothing but "Hi! Hi! Hi!" was heard ... from me. Elena Marie decided once was enough and was visibly (if only slightly) displeased with my encouragements -- you've seen from her pictures how effectively she can purse those eyebrows!

She also is quite talkative with her Mama when they have special quantity time. It's quite entertaining to observe Elena Marie start, and then maintain, a conversation with swee-theart.

"We are powerful beyond measure"

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

1994 Inaugural Speech -- Nelson Mandela
Written by Marianne Williamson

Shopping cart incident

Originally posted circa July 5, 2002:

Elena Marie got her foot caught between two spokes of a shopping cart: she was frightened and in pain; Diane and I were acting as if we weren't panicking as we failed in our attempts to release her (her leg swelled when she had forced her foot through the spokes). A Latina quickly ran to the bathroom, put soap on her hand and used it as a lubricant to free her.

*Whew*

Right after the incident, Elena Marie was back to normal. Diane and I are still recovering.

I had earlier offered Diane the night off (I would rock the baby to sleep while she would go watch a movie), but now all we want to do is be with the baby.

It reminds me of when Diane had told me that sometimes she had become frustrated because she must put other, seemingly important or urgent, things aside to look after the baby. But then she reflects that if Elena Marie was gone, these other things would be pointless in light of the great sadness she'd feel.

The Gospel today was "If you love your mother or father, your son or daughter more than me [Christ], you will have no part of the Kingdom." I was like (before the incident) "no problem" as I look at Elena Marie as a loaner from God. After the incident, I now realize a little better how difficult those words are: I would have gladly traded places with Elena Marie -- I would have died or killed to shield her from her agony. I guess the good things that came from this were that I know better how God loves me (like I love Elena Marie and Diane, and He did, after all, die for me) and I know better what a precious gift Elena Marie is to us.

So, practicing breathing, and feeling overcome with joy at Elena Marie's big smile.

Baby Elena

Originally posted circa August 27, 2002:

Elena Marie has become much quicker crawling (esp. when she sees an open refridgerator door ... she likes touching, cautiously, fruit juice containers ... maybe it's the cold she likes, or the novelty), and she lifts herself onto her feet with confidence. Walking is not too far away, I think. Have you seen her crawl? She likes to lift one leg, and sometimes both, alternately, and plant a foot on the ground, instead of using her knees. It's delightful watching her scamper about like this.

She's also developing a personality in that she shows a stronger preference for things and people. Diane handed her to me this morning to rock to sleep. She squealed, once, in anguish, at being separated from Mama, then fell right to sleep to the reggae beat danced by Papa. She squeals more frequently now, mostly with delight, as Diane and I invent games to play with her.

Happy Birthday to Beki!

Originally posted September 25, 2002:

Dear Beki,

It's still a few days away, so maybe I'm the first to wish you a very happy birthday! What would you like for your birthday (besides your jar back, which we've just got a box for so we can ship it back to you and sorry for it taking so much time but I haven't slept much these last 4 weeks because I'm teaching an XML class)? Diane and I have created "wish lists" on Amazon.com, but I didn't see one for you, so, then, Happy Birthday with a Surprise Present coming your way!

Elena Marie fell asleep in my arms to the ukulele of Iz Kamakawio'ole, so I very carefully cradled her into the bed, and rested with her until Diane returned from choreographing a (some?) dance(s) for a Christian/pop-rock quartet. Elena Marie may be getting longer, but she's also getting sweeter, so my heart breaks more easily.

Please say hello to Howland, and I *know* you both will be enjoying something very delicious on your birthday, 'cause that's how good the food is *every* day!

flu + bronchitis ~= pneumonia?‏

Originally posted circa October 7, 2002:

Elena Marie is congested but in very cheerful spirits (she only gets afraid of me when I cough).

I've been in bed all last week sleeping and coughing every 1/2 hour. Didn't watch movies, didn't read books: I was much too sick to have any energy to do either. Could drink okay but could only take very light meals, once a day.

Felt a little better today (when I coughed, it didn't feel like my head was exploding), so I went to work, then to the family clinic. It turns out my lungs are pretty full of fluid. I'm at home now, and when I breathe it feels that I can only take very small sips of air. It feels like I'm treading water. I tried eating some squash soup, but it was a toss-up between that and breathing, so I only had a little bowl and one very small bite of Duck Pad Ped.

The nurse gave me some antibodies and said if things don't improve rapidly in the next two days, then I may have pneumonia and must go for chest X-rays.

Diane's been an absolute saint through this whole process. What's worse is that she now gets zero time away from the baby (whereas before, I could entertain the baby in the early mornings and evenings, now she and the baby leave the house so I manage some uninterrupted sleep).

OT: At work there were some maneuvers to put me into a vastly more political/"important" position which would require (besides the usual politics, which I play very poorly) a 50% increase in work and a 50x increase in responsibility (of course, there would be no change in pay). I knew about all this as it was going on, because I've got good friends on the inside, who stood up for me ("That move should have his input"). It hurt the healing process, but I found out today that I would not be receiving the promotion.

Thank God!

Well, anyway, much going on around me and to me. I didn't need any of it, but I'm riding this wave the best I can. I'm going to bed, again. Hope to feel much better tomorrow. Please don't call: if I try to speak, you'll hear this agonizing coughing for 5-10 seconds first, and not much more than an unintelligible whisper after.

Commander Howland

Originally posted February 26, 2003:
Master Chief, are you going to be able to hold out until you commander comes home?
Over.

H

I returned the XBox to Best Buy the same day I mailed Beki her rice crackers. I tell you what, though, if you can pick up a shotgun from one of the flood (that you just killed, of course), then you've got it made. It takes a long time to reload an empty shotgun, but the flood usually fall after only one shot.

Those hunters aren't so bad now either. I learned from you to engage them face-to-face, and they fall pretty quickly (especially when they try to jump on you and you flank them and you get to shoot them in their unprotected back a few times).

I completed a whole game of Halo before I returned the XBox, and the ending, the last level, was amazing. We must team up again when you visit here again or when we go up to Vermont (um, when it's Summer).

More snow!

Originally posted circa March 26, 2003

It's still snowing ("1-3 inches", but it looks like there's more than that on the ground), and tomorrow has a prediction of 10". WOW! What a wintery, uhm, winter!

I received a nice phone call from Mom, saying she'd like to visit March 8th through 11th. Cool! I received a nice phone call from Diane, where both she and her mother spend most of the time coaching Elena Marie to say "Papa". Nothing came of it, 'cause she was fascinated by the telephone.

The XML class I'm supposed to teach tonight is cancelled, YEAH! which means I must teach a make-up class March 19th, BOO! Good thing I have all the course notes completed and photocopies ready for the students.

I had a ham and cheese omelette (with rye toast) and carrot-apple juice for breakfast this morning, and I haven't been hungry since then. So, what should I have for supper?

's funny: I drove the buick to the repair shop (7/10ths of a mile from my house) to replace the brake pads and wheel cylinders. Then I ran home -- what an experience! The sidewalks are not plowed, and it's much too dangerous to walk on Braddock road. So, here I was, Aranthajut, running on/in the snowbanks along the side of the road. Thankfully, I was wearing a nice, warm scarf to keep me toasty.

I hope your day is going well. My days are getting better and better, as I'll be picking up my Swee-theart and bunsoh (ELENAMARIEEEE! Do-di-do-di-doot!) at the airport Friday afternoon.

Isabel Marie

Originally posed circa the Ides of March, 2003:

With joy I announce that my wife (Diane) and I are expecting our second child. We went to the Doctor's today and a tiny wiggling baby with a good heartbeat was what Gina, our midwife, saw in the sonogram.

Diane and Elena Marie have just returned from the Philippines after a five week stay with family -- Diane, in her condition, needs much more rest, and Elena Marie, being a one year old, needs much more play -- that's where I come in. I'm doing my best to overcome my shy, retiring nature to provide adequate entertainment.

Mahal Tata Omar at Tata Dennis: sinabi ni bunsoh, "Tata! Tata!" at tinuroturo kung sa pinto. Siyempre, balikbayan kami! Kaylan?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

No, you didn't!

geophf, you really didn't take three Java books on your honeymoon? you ask, gasping, as your face blanches at the thought.
Me: Yes, I did; I also read all three on the honeymoon, too.
Me: Yes, we are still happily married; thank you very much.
Me: I count this as one of the two necessary miracles in order to petition Rome for my cara spoza's election to sainthood.
you: ...

P.S. *sigh* I also found out from the several comments on that entry that I'm an arrogant punk. Ah, well, at least I can take comfort in the fact that I'm a happy arrogant punk...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dancing Elena Marie

Me: Elena, would you bring your dish to the sink?

EM stands up from the table, gracefully flitting past the counter to the sink and then twirls back into her seat.

Me: Elena, you weren't walking just now, that was the most beautiful dance I've ever seen performed!

EM looks up from the comics she's reading in today's newspaper, ponders a moment in silence, and then returns to her reading.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

les Rêves

So it happens every few years that I have a vivid dream relating to my experiences at my alma mater, the United States Coast Guard Academy (which, according to surveys, is the most difficult university to enter, and then to graduate from, in the U.S.A.). I had one last night that was so strong that it carried over into wakefulness, cresting my heart rate at something over 120 b.p.m.

The dream was a typical one of anxiety: I was a senior (first classman), second in command of "Alpha" company (The correct spelling, in the phonetic alphabet, is "Alfa", but the company TAC officer put it to a vote and the company decided to change the name because they liked it better that way. I didn't make this up.) The commander was Sue Gregg.

I don't think there was anyone tougher than Sue Gregg in our class. She wasn't "one of the boys"; because she could have taken on any one, or several, for that matter, of us boys and taught us a few things. She was much more an absolutist than (it's shocking, but true) myself. With her it was right and wrong, black and white. For me, I was always breaking the wrong rules and upholding the wrong-er ones.

The year book lists her rank as second, but the year book was wrong, because in the last semester, she set her sights on the number 1 spot, which had been occupied for the last four years by the sweetest girl in our class, Mindy Dalrymple, and she wrested it out of Mindy's hands. Sue also married the most easy-going and friendly guy in our class, Doug Subocz. It was this dream that gave me a realization: I admired Sue. But that didn't help my dream at all: this was the first day of class, we were roommates (no, the Academy definitely did not allow co-ed roommates, but the company commander and XO were usually quartered together), and as we prepared for the ritual of morning formation, Sue calmly prepared her perfect uniform and gave me a disparaging look: I didn't have my name tag; I was missing my ribbons; I couldn't locate my shoulder-boards — and I was the XO: the one standing in front of the entire company (of three platoons) and supposedly setting the example for the rest to follow. It also occurred to me that I had on my summer class-A's, but Sue was correctly dressed, of course, in the fall uniform (SDBs "Standard Dress Blues").

Like I said, an anxiety dream. But the meaning was simple enough — as much as I loved serving in the Guard, and as much as it (still) broke my heart to leave, I was cut from a different cloth than the one that they needed.

The dream resulted in a powerful wave of nostalgia that I still cannot shake. Paging through the yearbook, I've come to realize that these kids were, are, the best of the best, and that my admiration for Sue is also my admiration for them. The ones that made it with a degree in their hands and the ones that didn't. The ones that thrived in the service, and the ones that didn't. I was probably a roommate to about half of the graduating class (we started with 300 kids and ended up with about 150 shaking George Bush, Sr's hand), and each page I turned brought forth both amazement and pain. I don't think I can remember a harder four years of my life. Remember the cloth? I went in as a sociopath, and the Academy beat that out of me, one bloody day at a time. Now I'm merely anti-social. But every single day I reciprocated, mostly taking it out on myself, but definitely my classmates were casualties, as well. Even if I was paid overtime, I don't think I could have worked harder at alienating these companions, these people who were in the same stew I was, these friends.

So, it's with awe, when I meet up with them out in this real world and am greeted not with disdain, but with genuine warmth:
  • Andy "T" Tiogson and his wife Kathy and two sons shouting out "Hey, Hawk!" from his SUV in Old Town, Alexandria as I walked by with my baby Elena Marie in my arms, and then he shot me a friendly email
  • Brian Nelson, the class hard-a$$, comforting me after I got drummed out of flight school. And, when I turned to his yearbook page, there I was looking out along with his other rugby buddies.
  • Eddie Comer warm and friendly on his wedding day
  • Roger "Buoy" Kuhn and Rolando Sandidad hanging out with me at the headquarters "charmingly" situated on Buzzard's Point in D.C.
  • Chris "Ski" Myskowski, that great big football player of a man, always on the "hunt" for the next girl to score at the bar, until he fell head-over-heals in love with Terri, the quite kindergarten teacher that stole his heart, so totally opposite to everything that I was, taking me under his wing as I tried, unsuccessfully to navigate the duties of a junior officer on my first ship tour.


I remember the days in the Academy as I watched with dread my fellow classmates trickle out the exit: Ira Copple, the ex-army guy who chuckled over us unexperienced swabs at the firing range, Elaine Gee, hopelessly ironing her dress pants in a last ditch effort to survive the expulsion board, Nevels Nevels Nevels, never down, even as his grades continued to plummet, Rose Shay, mothering her classmates as they got too drunk to handle themselves, John Klein leaving in the very first summer, despite "T"'s rally from the football stands: "You're stayin' Klein!" Brett Alexander soloing every heart-breaking Journey song at whichever bar we ended up in on summer cruises; Sean Doyle, taking me to his house by the beach in Carolina and surfing those three-footers while listening to the Violent Femmes, Dan Felipe giving the positive peer review that kept me in one more semester.

And then I have other fleeting memories:
  • Wendy "Smurf" Abrisz, always very entertaining after one wine-cooler, giving George Bush a sweet little kiss on the cheek as he shook her hand at graduation
  • Chip Aydlette taking us to his house, Southern mansion, actually, and playing spanish guitar like a mariachi
  • Nick Bartolotta dancing up to the billet board, and triumphantly selecting his preferred billet: Lahng-Gisland
  • Scott "Silver Surfer" Bates, never speaking, and then when he did finally whisper a phrase it always shocked us with his warmth and humor: it was he who intoned to me, as a van full of screaming girls passed us uniformed stalwarts by the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk, "Hawk, they are calling for you."
  • Paul Boinay balancing a lead-filled M-1 rifle (our shoulder-torture devices) point down, on his chin
  • JB shouting out from the pyramid of beer cans, "T, I need a head-butt!"
  • Charlie Coiro working his way to becoming the beloved class president, keeping in touch and keeping us informed.
  • Eddie Comer, my old roommate, coming into my office when I was the Regimental Conduct officer (the only time, in my entire four years that I earned the two stars) to straighten me out when I was in the "enforcing the wrong-er rules" spiral
  • Jenn Dunning looking around the room of Admirals and GS-whatevers and volunteering to lead Coast Guard Headquarters Civil Rights branch, and lead it she did.
  • Doug Fears, sailing unpreturbed through the Academy after weathering the storms of prior enlistment, taking me under his wing out of some unfathomable charity to my dad
  • Rob Gandolfo, my roommate, singing, bellowing, along with his walkman during study-hour, blissfully oblivious of the impending demerit storm headed our way.
  • Walt Green, my roommate, and I breaking down to some series rap music 5 minutes before formation, as upperclassmen stormed into our room and told us to cut out the noise; Walt got held back one year (so he graduated in the class of '90), but he was one of many of my classmates who started to dull the sharp edges of my squaritude
  • Pat Gardella finessing an advanced degree in AI earning our stunned admiration
  • Matt Gimple, my old roommate, pissed and cringing with pain in the midst of a really bad charlie horse, unbelieving my kindness as I stretched his leg back into shape.
  • Rob Hoffmann, always leading a Bible study, always looking for the good in a person
  • Scott Malcolm, always a friend, on the bowling alley or off
  • Pat McMahon, along with Scott Rogerson (my best friend in the Academy), helming the Howling Gale through surf and storm, and ... my ever creative and divisive article submissions
  • Pat McMillin, setting his eyes on the prize, and never letting her go
  • Tom Miller holding up the demerits I just gave him, asking: "What's this?" and then shrugging off my explanation with unconcerned ease
  • Jeff "Sweet Pea" Novotny, getting brutally and intensionally kicked by that Conn College punk on the soccer field, and then getting right back up and playing the game more brilliantly than anyone else on the field. And, not shaving for two weeks, but still passing daily inspection
  • Jon Ohta dragging us into the component stereo store with his monthly magazine, rhapsodizing over the Schleep speakers
  • Mike O'Brien, along with Buoy Kuhn running across the football field to confront the brothers of the boys I turned in for underage drinking on our graduation party as they squared off to share their views with me. Oh, yes, I was that bad, and Mike and Buoy where that protective of their friend
  • Ernie Pacheco singing out "A yellow bird, with a yellow bill" for cadence as we marched, never failing to get us into trouble for laughing out loud with his enthusiastic lyrics.
  • Ty Rinoski faking a pass and then running 80 yards to get the touchdown; what a QB! But then the shock that flowed from his unbelieving eyes looking at me as he listened to my father sing his praises will be something I always remember
  • The ever irrepressible Lenny "LT Freshness" Tumbarello, my roommate, who, seizing the opportunity, asked why I was surprised at the sudden squall as I talked in my sleep:
    Me, sleeping:Wow! it's raining!
    LT, craftily: Why is that surprising, Doug?
    Me, annoyed, and returning to a deeper sleep: Because it issszzzzzz.
  • Scott Rogerson, marching tours with me, surviving the storms in front of Captains and Admirals from my anonymous article submissions to the Howling Gale, opening up his home in Carmel by the Sea, driving across the Country, sharing the happiness of his marriage and the first days of Christian's life. Why he put up with me, I don't know, but I'm grateful for his friendship that helped me through the Academy years.
Scientiæ cedet mare — the Academy motto: "The Sea yields to knowledge" ... it should be "The Sea yields knowledge", and I thank this ocean of friends for the gift of help through the storms of my life. Sometime this gift came grudgingly, and most of the time it was not well-received, but you gave the gift of yourselves. Thank you.

Mary Cassatt

I woke up this morning (yes, I know: that's a shocker! It means I did actually sleep at night. Like I said: a shocker!) after a vivid and horrid dream to gaze, as I always do at the "Breakfast in Bed" framed beside our own bed:



As I absorbed every detail of the painting in the early morning light, our li'l Iz, who looks exactly like the child (although two years more mature), detached herself from her mother, rolling into my arms, moaning with her own dream. As I rubbed her and cooed comfortingly, I marveled at the sameness of Cassatt's portrayal and our own microcosm. The painting and the scene before me were exactly one and the same, and, at the same time, entirely the opposite. My cara spoza and the mother in the painting couldn't be any more alike: closer, even, than twin sisters. They have the same tired and protective look in their eyes to their children (she counts me as child #3). The mother in the paint has a fuller, rounder, face and the nose is a bit different; Diane's face is thinner and more heart-shaped, showing the full force of her compassionate nature. But if this mother and my cara spoza were in the same room, I bet people would be hard pressed to distinguish the two. And, as I said, two year ago, Marie probably had Isabel pose for this sketch.

That's how our domestic life and this painting are the same. But they are different because it is Isabel who gravitates and grasps her mother, not the other way around, as in this painting. Minutes, nay, seconds away from her mother bring forth the water-works: gales of tears threaten to muffle the heart-wrenching sobs.

Yeah, I just love watching the kids when Mama's out.

But when her Mama-batteries have reached full capacity, she happily disentangles herself from being her mother's shadow, and sits on her pashti's lap-lap-lap, as she did today at Mass. The relief from the constant physical attachment was writ large on Diane's face. Be that as it may, just like the mother in the painting, Diane's eyes never once strayed from her children.

Another one bites the dust ...

Two dance pads destroyed; two days in a row.

That must be some kind of record. The first one was a Red Octane; supposedly indestructible for a year; so they last three months for me, on average. The second one was a metal dance pad. It died the same day I took it out to replace my Red Octane. Not sorry to see the metal pad go, as it had a rather distinct feel on my feet — the feeling that I was giving myself shin-splints by pounding with inhuman strength against the corrugated steel of deck-plating of a ship. Ugh!

So, we took a family trip to Best Buy (that whooshing sound is their quarterly hit of their stock prices when I visit their stores), and now I am the proud owner of a "professional series" React dance pad. The padding feels nice, but I think the profession it follows is that of teasing: "You really didn't mean to hit the up arrow just now, did you?"

*sigh!* I wonder how much money and I will part ways when I finally realize that only the industrial-strength arcade games will actually survive the beating I give this game on a daily basis. Not that I'm giving that any thought — it's just that the DDR series shines the brightest on the original XBox, and dance pads are becoming a rare commodity for that platform. I'm going to miss that series when I shred the last XBox dance pad in the world ...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Twirling Bambina (that is French)

As it was my my duty today to watch li'l Iz, as my cara spoza was ferrying EM around the town for chores today, I have three stories about her.
  1. In my last post about shopping lists I wrote the fateful word nutella. When my darling daughter saw that word, she burst into her song, as she always does, rocking from foot to foot in a swaying dance as she sang:
    nutella! nutella!
    I love
    nutella!
    It is a blessing a $6 jar will please her so for three months. I shudder at the following thought: what if her delight food was sushi? So, remember everyone (*ahem* right, dear?), sometimes nutella-love is a small sacrifice to make.
  2. Li'l Iz and I went out to check for the mail. She asked, plaintively, Anything for me? so I handed her a "ValPack" of coupons to the local pizzaria, etc. She was so happy that she grabbed my hand and twirled about in graceful waltz-like steps, forgetting the new treasure of coupons for the precious few minutes of twirling with her pashti.
  3. I was doing DDR [Of course! What's a pater familias post without DDR?], and I crowed with victory when I posted a new grade for Jam On It (Newcleus) A → AA, Isabel looked up from "feeding" her "baby". A thoughtful look crossed her face and she asked: Papa, how long have your been doing DDR?

    This question took me aback. Oh, more than 10 years, sweetie was my reply. That got me to thinking. She asked a question about an activity that has been going on for twice the length of her life. For me, a (nearly) 5-year-old looking beyond what's affecting her now was nearly unfathomable. When was the last time I have thought about things of more than 100 years?


Of course, I also posted improvements to
  • Tough Enough (Vanilla Ninja): A → AA

    A super cutesy-silly song with a "Tough Enough" grrl-band (get it?) that I finally aced today because I finally bore down hard enough to play through the entire song without bursting out in laughter; and
  • Life is a Game (Arctic Blue): A → AA

    Another one of those simple songs that I aced by coming back to after more than a year of not playing it. There was gritting of teeth (so I wouldn't burst out "oh, please!" during the saccharin-y melodramatic turns of phrasings), and after a short while, the AA.
It's a good thing, actually, that this was an easy-going workout, because I've finally done it, again. I so thoroughly stomped my DDR pad that now the "Down" arrow no longer registers. So, not only did I manage to shred this dance pad (Li'l Iz interrupts my entry here, asking how is it possible that my feet could rip apart a dance pad. My explanation, including eagle's and hawk's talons, seemed not to give her much comfort, and she squeaked in feigned terror when I approached to give her a comforting huggy), but now I've gone all the way: it be busted.

Time for another dip in Best Buy's stock price.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What was She thinking?

So, I was off to the post office to send of our home-schooling letter of intent for this year, when my cara spoza stopped me at the door:
Oh, get me some cranberry juice
... and some ice cream
... vanilla ice cream
... and some french vanilla yogurt
I informed her, half-way out the door, that she needed write me a shopping list. And, so, she did:The "Your L<3ve" is an on-going joke between us, for whenever she goes out on an outing, she unfailingly asks if I need anything, and my invariable answer is:
Yes: your love
so I guess she assumed that turn-about was fair play.

Queensbury rules, and all.

But let's ponder a moment here. We've been married coming up on 12 years now, so I put the question to you: "What was she thinking?" Really. She knows whenever I go out a shopping expedition ("Now, just get some orange marmalade, dear" "Yes, dear") I come back with possibly the requested item, but also at least, oh, one or two, or, oh, twenty-seven more things that, well, we have been longing for all our lives. She knows this; she knows it viscerally! So, as I see it, by her sending me out on a shopping quest for no more than three things is the red cape waved in front of the bull in a Royal Albert factory.

Duck and cover, people; duck and cover.

Actually, I was a good boy, I only purchased what she requested, but I wasn't sure which brand of cranberry juice would be to her liking, so I purchased two brands (Mama, can you believe the Safeway by the post office does not have Apple&Eve? That must be a sin!), and then I wasn't certain if she would also like to try the pomegranate juice, as I hear that has excellent medicinal and nutritive properties.

... and then I recalled that she was making hummus tomorrow (Beki's recipe), so I was sure that she'd like some falafel to go along with that (plunk went the "Near East" brand into the cart).

... and then she was making gnocchi with red sauce, and I remembered Nana's secret was to add 17 slices of prosciutto ("plunk") ... and then we had run out of nutella ("plunk-plunk") ... and she always loves making orange spritzers for the kids with ginger ale ("plunk") ... and I haven't had corned beef hash in a while, I'm sure she'd like to take a break from making breakfast this weekend ("plunk-plunk") ... and I haven't had Dasani water in such a long time, surely she wouldn't begrudge me this little additional purchase ("clunk").

Well, I did very well following the shopping list, so I went to the Swiss bakery to reward my prudence and picked up a couple of pieces of heaven apple strudel.

I drove home with the satisfaction that my cara spoza would be pleased at my moderation today.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rock Lobsta!

Okay, this isn't supposed to be happening like this. None of it. I'm not supposed to be writing two entries about DDR in a row (but I am), I'm supposed to be cooing over my cara spoza (she is) and my cute kids (they are), but here I am, wringing out more digital ink onto the virtual pages fluttering out into the νούςσφαίρα. About what? Yes, about DDR ... again.

Actually, I'm flying a bit high, perhaps as high as a kite (how come John Cusack has so thoroughly invaded the American psyche?), because of what happened in today's session shouldn't have turned out the way it did, either (but it did). It goes against reasonable expectations that I could achieve the results I did with the songs I selected today, so either my body was substituted with something extra-human, or I must acknowledge another incident of Divine intervention. A miracle, as it were, like a spiderweb. All right, let's get on this this, I know you cannot wait for the results, and they are:
  • Hit'n'Slap (Asletics): A → AA

    Harumph! This is DDR3 that I'm playing today. Must I improve my score on every DDR game I have for this song? I guess I must; I must!. Good thing that this song is so fun for me to dance.

  • Spirit of the Hawk (chuji): A → AA

    This started the "oh, that's nice" phase: "oh, that's nice" I improved my grade. I wasn't expecting that improvement today, but I assumed it would come some day. I thought I had yang-ed out my string of successes, and, as before, I thought it would be another year or two before I could improve on the ensuing plateau. Apparently, this song was precipitous; apparently, I have yet to plateau.

  • Imperial Carnival (kumiko): A → AA

    Slightly easier than Spirit of the Hawk, so I still lulled in Lullsville. But, then again, neither song was one that I could ace, even though I've had DDR for years. I should have seen this as the storm clouds on the horizon (but I didn't).

  • Cat in the Moon (901(Clay)): A → AA

    Okay, this was the clarion call. There is no way, NO WAY! that a mortal can ace this song ... years of practice and patience and observation and super-high-intense training (Hi, there, Dennis!) all failed before this sinuous, spontaneous, frenetic, chaotic song.

    Do you know how cats have extra-sensory perception? Do you know what it is, this extra sense? It's the impossible ability to be in the exact space you maneuver yourself to avoid tripping over the thing. Even, and especially, when the cat, the very split second before-hand, was going in the completely opposite direction, ya know, away from where you tended, but NO in a flash you find yourself stepping on the thing, jumping up in fright as it screeches, and you end into a very sharp edge of some furniture.

    Well, the cat's sense is the embodied by this song. All your mighty plans of completing this song with any dignity are humbled before its complete unpredictability. But there I was, fully concentrating on the song, and there were my feet, blurring out of visibility in their speed, and there was my dance pad, literally being torn to shreds in my effort. My God-brother, Mike, always gets a kick of how I need to return a dance pad every three months for defective manufacturing ... the defect: they didn't use enough adamantium. Best Buy's stock takes a quarterly dip due to the Auclair Rebate Program. This dance pad, because of this song, didn't quite have the longevity of the others.

    Like I said, it wasn't I, unless I am Iron Man.

  • Dança de Yuka (Big Idea): A → A

    Gosh, I love this song! When Big Idea misses with a song, it's "meh", but when they hit, look out. I didn't improve my score at all, but I only made one or two mistakes, and then it wasn't out of panic, as I have experience before. I was aware and in control throughout then entire song, ratcheting my effort in synch with the accelerating tempo.

  • Bag (RevenG): B → B (std)

    Okay, I'm human. I saw someone play this in the arcades and hit every single arrow with a calm self-assuredness. One day, I'm sure, I'll be able to do that, too. But for now, I'm simply happy to listen to the Moorish tones and rhythms, and hitting the occasional arrow correctly.

  • Mobo*Moga (Orange Lounge): A → AA

    Piece of cake. What took me so long to get the AA? I love dancing this song for its care-free French rhythms and accompaniment.

  • SP - Trip Machine (Jungle Mix) (De-Sire): AA → AA

    Finally you get to see a k3wl guy in action at the arcade. Heh! Well, DDR4 is all about Waka Laka, and DDR3, for me, is all about SP-Trip Machine. A nice, tricky, song that I play every time I load this particular DDR set. No improvements on my grade in this song, but that's fine, because there's nothing I'd wish to improve — it's purely perfect enjoyment.

  • Bath of Least Resistance (NOFX): A → AA

    Okay, so, you see those arrows fly for complete disregard for the fact that a human being must breathe every once in a while? How did I get the AA?

  • Hey Mama (Blackeye Peas): A → AA

    This song is deceptive. Its slow undulations make it look easy, until one realizes that, actually, it is easy. To ace this song, one need merely to hit the arrow with the correct timing. Of course, this particular song eschews quarter and eighth notes (it has, like, third notes and 17th notes, or something), but that is all there is to it.

    I suppose that, even though I don't like dancing this song particularly, I always will: the kids hop about the house for days after singing...
    Hey, Mama! Eu-pi-du-pi-doop, yama jama!
    La, lala, la la!
    ...something not to be missed.

  • Rock Lobster (B52s): A → AA

    Any DDR4 session that ends with me completing Rock Lobster is a good DDR4 session. A slightly frustrating one, however, because I know it's physically impossible to ace the song, so I knew my fate was to be consigned to the be the guy who could get the occasional A for the song. AA? Posh! Nevah!

    But, there it is: I danced every single arrow correctly, except for one toward the very end (skipping the second of two 32nd-note arrows in a set of 5 pairs). I winced in pain at that, knowing me it cost me perfection, but the game was feeling generous, I guess. Maybe I have this aura that scares away down-grading gremlins?

    I must say. The game's 2-minute version of the song is a vast improvement on everything else out there: the game reduced the song to pure essence. If I do regularly listen to a B52s song (and I do), then it's Shaque l'Amour which is perfectly balanced in fun, music and length.
So, at the end of the session I had burned 1031 KCal. Hm. Ouch, that hurt (my legs, 12 hours later, are still tender), but it's a good hurt.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cleaned my clock — DDR-style

There are good days and there are bad days with DDR. Of course, the "game" is unchanging and uncaring, so, again, it's all me and what I'm expecting of myself. Yesterday was simply a fun time through the delightful song-set of my DDR2 favorites, but three days ago I challenged myself to improve my scores on some tougher DDR1 songs.

I had a few issues controlling my temper.

The previous turn, I just went along with the game, learning the songs better and not fretting myself over (the lack of) visible improvement in the score boards. I can feel I'm at a cusp on the DDR4 song set: I haven't improved my grades, but I'm beginning to understand the songs in an entirely new way.

  • Music Revolution (Scum Frog): AA → A → AA

    I've held my AA on this song for a very long time, and I love dancing it, even with its tricky parts. Well, it finally happened that I messed up the sequence but still did better than I had done, stylistically, than my previous correct (but sloppy) attempt. My higher score "awarded" me with a lower grade! I went from AA to A on the score board. This has happened before, and it probably will happen again on another song. Of course, I would not let that stand, so I danced it again, careful re-earning my AA, then I danced it again well to improve the style.

    Then I danced it one more time to near perfection to cement the grade on the score board.

  • These words (I love you; I love you) (Natasha Bedingfield): A → A

    What a simple, sweet, song! Why haven't I earned the AA on it yet? I've probably (marginally) danced this song on this set more than most of the others. The slow tempo does hide some frantic and dense patches, but, even though I didn't improve the grade this time, I did finally start to see how the arrangement of arrows flowed. I have hope of, one day soon (possibly years from now), earning that AA with ease.

  • Giri Giri Daddy (Hirata Shoichiro): B → B

    This song, on the other hand, albeit much slower, is much meaner. You see the "easy" version being played; I play it at the expert level. I hoped simply to upgrade from a B to a A, not aiming for the lofty AA, but it wasn't descending to me from Mt. Olympus. However. However! I did see some order in the arrows so thick that they obscured the background movie entirely, and I did start to improve how I played this song (from the desperate "Stomp hard, stomp fast, stomp anywhere!" to a more measured "Oh, okay, this is the eighth-sixteenth-eighth patch" but flubbing the transitions between patches, still), so, who knows?

  • Fire Dub (Asletics): B → A

    [Sorry for the bad audio transfer]. Did the song three times to earn the A. What was the problem? I've gotten AA's on this song in other DDR games. I suppose that I was pushing myself too hard today (more on that later). I does have a really simple ("simple" for expert settings, that is) and delightful arrow set, backed by a fun little rhythmic song, so eventually I worked my way up the grade scale.

  • Cosmic Hammer (Jondi & Spesh): A → A

    Actually, I love dancing most anything by Jondi & Spesh. You name it: Cosmic Hammer, Edge of Control, Insander, their remixes, too: Balalaika. So whenever they have a song up I dance it. I've gotten AA's on this song in every other DDR game, but I didn't sweat the grade today. I must have been feeling really mellow.

  • Waka Laka (Jenny Rom vs. Zippers): C → C

    Any exercise set I complete where I finish Waka Laka, is by definition good ("amazing" is the correct term). So I guess this set wasn't all that good, because, as the wife and kids watched curiously, I failed to complete even a third of the this song before failing out, twice ... pausing 45 seconds (after failing 30 seconds into the song) between attempts.

    My cara spoza eyed me carefully as I gasped for breath.
    cara spoza: You know, it's a good thing they stop the song; you should be able to talk.
    Me, panting: ...
    Me, panting: Okay.
    I think I earned her ire, showing how far (too far, my cara spoza was clearly thinking) I push myself, for when I looked at the workout recorder, I had expended over 900 kilocalories. Hm, a good workout is 400 KCal, a hard one is 600 KCal. I guess I did push myself a bit far today.
So, good DDR days and bad DDR days. Really bad DDR days, however, are days when I don't dance at all.

Like today.

Off to work.

*sigh* I guess I'll do my exercise this evening.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fixation on the Thunderer

Our family has recently developed an interest in Thor, the Norse god of thunder. Like most interests, it developed in an innocent-enough way, but now it has certain members of the family in its thrall ... obviously, this is all my fault. (TM)

You see, earlier this summer, little EM and I were walking back to the van from a Cubs-Nationals (baseball) game (Baseball: America's past-time), and, this being (the heart) of Washington D.C., the weather turned from slightly too-warm-pleasant, to cool winds, to a raging thunderstorm in a matter of minutes. When I say raging thunderstorm, I mean rain coming down in buckets (as Beki once wished for my birthday: "I want to shower ewe with hogs and quiches" with an accompanying Boynton illustration), with drops the size of golf balls.
We interrupt this blog-post for one of Doug's usually regular `pataphors:
Hey, Wow! There's a Maori-English dictionary! homepage.mac.com/andrewlindesay/apps/wA/data/ma-en-utf8.txt.gz

It's amazing what Google turns up for "I want to shower ewe with hogs and quiches"!
Well, you may not know this, but EM and li'l Iz sometimes react strongly to thunder and lightning. One year, we had a particularly violent storm that destroyed cars, power lines and housed (no joke, the wind and the lightning ripped two-foot thick branches from trees, crashing them into roofs, cars and into the roads). I was in Philly, and my cara spoza was oblivious, staying upstairs, and only slightly annoyed that her wireless internet connection would flicker out.
cara spoza: La, la, la; I wonder when I'll get my googling back?
Thunderstorm, responding by destroying the roof of a house across the street and a car down the block.
cara spoza: La, la, la.
The kids, however, were not so easily distracted. Whenever the lightning would flicker or when the thunder would explode in response, the would scream and hug tightly. After the crisis, the would break free and would create a tintinnabulation of laughter at their own surprise.
By the way: please listen to Miserere by Arvo Pärt, it is hard for me to compare it to any other music in the world, which easily puts it on my Top-10 music list.
So, given that histoire (that is French), you can imagine how little EM was reacting to the mighty power surrounding us. She grabbed my leg tightly slowing progress to a crawl, and this despite my reassurance that the car was a mere two blocks away. So, to comfort her, I turned to narration, and told her how the ancients, when faced with such majesty tried to comprehend it as best they could. How they invented Thor, the god of Thunder, and his hammer, Mjollnir, and imagined that as he swung his hammer the sparks from it striking rocks or giants were the lightning and the sound of the blows were thunder.

My story worked like a charm: she forgot her fear and immersed herself in this new and undiscovered world, pestering me with questions flowing out of her at the frequency of the rain pelted on my head. We drove home, in rain so thick that it cut visibility to a few car-lengths, the whole while her universe expanded to include Heimdall, Loki, Wednesday/Wotan/Odin, and the exploits and interactions of the gods and men in Norse mythology.

Of course, you know what happened:
EM: Papa, tell me a story about ... Thor?
That has been the refrain in our restful moments around the dinner table or during long drives (of more than two minutes) in the van.

I willingly complied. I don't know who of the two, myself or EM, can become more absorbed into a world of our own construction, so I would spin out fables of what I remembered of my reading. Of course, my memories, and then my creativity, is a drop in the pond of her appetite. So, I pulled out my Incompleat Enchanter by L. Sprague de Camp, and then read the family the story of Harald's finding of Mjollnir in Jotunheim (remembering, with pleasure, the misadventures along the way, such as Thor attempting to lift the giant's house cat, which was actually the serpent of midgard, Jörmungandr, which, by the way, the battle between Thor and Jörmungandr at the end of the worlds was best captured in comic book form (Thor, ep 380, to be precise). The memory is fresh today of when I bought that comic book and read its one-panel-per-page epic and when it came out in 1987), and then Harald's escape with Heimdall with hilariously rapid and unstable magicked brooms.

Was that enough for my vociferous ones? Of course not!

So, now we are reading Thor's Wedding Day one chapter at a time at the dinner table. The invariant play unfolds as follows — I pick up the book, and EM begins vibrating with excitement in her chair. I begin reading, and then li'l Iz thinks of something tangentally relevant which she relates to her mother. At the interruption, I put down the book.
Me: ah, well, since nobody's interested, I'll stop reading here.
EM, spasming in pain: Nonono! Pleeeease keep on with the story!
Me, sighing, and picking up the book: Well, okay, then...
I then finish the chapter (each of which are about 6 pages), and set the book down.
Me: Well, that's it for today; I wonder what happens tomorrow?
EM, writhing in pain: Nooooooo! Please read the next chapter!
I'm only a quarter of the way through the book, but I'm experience a hint of trepidation. Where do I go next? Neil Gaiman has never softened the dread and consequences of fairy-tales, as most modern reinterpretations have done (which actually, for me as pater familias, turns a fairy-tale into something much scarier: a consequence-free romp. "Oh, don't worry! Wrong choices always lead to right resolutions, just look at Ariel, Belle and Jasmin and their brainless Prince Charmings"), and American Gods (which actually stars Odin as "Mr. Wednesday") continues in the vein — I think that level of reading has a little too much danger for my little girls right now. I guess, like Helen DeWitt, I could learn Icelandic and recite Þrymskviða in its original cadences?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Cleaning house — DDR-style

So, yesterday, it was my turn to exercise with Dance Dance Revolution: Ultramix 2, aka DDR. I like this particular game, the song selections range from enjoyable to gasp! And a random spin of the song selection wheel usually pulls up a fun song to dance to. I did notice, however, that I've had this game for almost 4 years, and some of the grades I've received on the songs were an embarrassment to my 1337-skilzxorz, so I made it my mission to improve those grades from (what grade I've had for years → what grade I have today). Fruitful:
  • Sleepwalker: B → A

    Abrupt changing tempos mid-phrase always bring out the beast in me; this time I got the better of the song, and not the other way around.

  • Hit 'n' Slap (Asletics): A → AA

    This has got to be one of the baddest (in the sense of 'coolest') songs in the repetoire, and the very slow tempo should make this super-super easy. Nope: the density of the arrows demands constant attention, which, this time, I gave to it.

  • Love Shine: A → AA

    This song is right up there with Waka Laka, not for difficulty, for Love Shine is merely very hard, not, well, Waka Laka hard ...

    EM, after I completed a Waka Laka run: Papa, why did you fall down on the futon?
    Me, gasping for breath, not responding for about 30 seconds: ...

    ... Waka Laka, by the way, is only a 2-minute song.


    ... but for its unapologetic exuberance. Getting the AA grade was sweet after 4 years of working at it.

  • Monkey Punk (Big Idea): A → AA

    This has got to be one of my favorite songs in the entire DDR repetoire. Getting a AA after 4 years of playing just shows how hard it is ... a fast-fast tempo with some tricky transitions makes it fun, and hard!

  • Mellow (Alien#Six13): A → AA

    It's too bad I haven't found a link for this song: the very smooth sound belies dense arrows during the show tempo, and the fast tempo is very much faster than the slow parts. I have no idea how I got the "AA" other than that I made it my mission to study every nuance (particularly during the tricky slow parts) for two runs before arriving at the AA in the third run. But I always do that; what made the difference today?

  • Tittle Tattle (Zonk): B → A

    Mean, mean, mean song — it has a traditional build up, with the usual tricks in the transitions, and then in the wind-up takes a completely unexpected turn down La-la lane.

  • Balle le Samba (Big Idea): A → AA !!

    Okay, I don't remember how I got to A (the first few times I tried this song on hard, I failed it within the first 10 seconds), and I have no idea how I was able to play this song flawlessly, but there I was, hitting every arrow, after arrow, after arrow, and then suddenly the song was over, and I had the AA. Huh? How did I do that?

  • Skulk (echo !mage): A → AA

    Okay, this song was determined to keep me down — I did it three times in a row, earning a AA each time, but my technique was not as good as it needed to be to earn me the final grade of AA from my previous A ranking. Well, this was simple: I would earn the AA, with or without the compliance of the scoring system, so I danced it to near perfection one more time, and DDR finally capitulated, giving me my earned AA.

    This little conflict reminded of way back when I was in high school, I was watching Beki practice with Sport over a not too difficult jump. Sport flat out refused to jump it, balking at the jump each time she cantered him forward. Beki, in turn, flat out refused to accept anything other than Sport going over the jump. I watched as she cantered up to the jump, as he balked, and as she circled him around in a large loop back to the jump; he balked again. She did this 5 times, 6 times, 7 times. She wasn't angry at all: she just simply was having Sport take the jump, and she wasn't going to accept any other outcome.

    At the seventh attempt, he went over, smoothly and easily.

    You don't stop an Auclair from doing what they set out to do.

  • Brick House: B → AA

    Ugh! I hated doing this one, with BPM at 117, I had to play the wait-wait-wait game for the arrow to arrive, then when it did, I needed to pounce with exact timing to get an above "Good" mark. It took me 3 attempts, all "A" efforts to for system to improve my grade, but when I had it, I had it — my next go rewarded me with the "AA" grade.

So, the above summarized yesterday's satisfying results. Today was just a normal workout with a new DDR game I have, DDR: Extreme.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Miracles

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It's been three months since my last confession, and here are my sins ...


Since I've not been in communion, as I have fallen out of Grace due to mortal, that is deadly, sin, my cara spoza felt it was high time something was done about this. So, around 4 pm last Saturday, as I was working in the office, a shy knock on my door interrupted me.

EM, timidly: Papa, confession will be over soon...
Me: Alright, already! I groused.

Off I stomped to confession. God, I hate relinquishing my evils, because the first thing I must do is to say: "I was wrong; You weren't. I'm not God; You are. My plan for me wasn't as good as Your plan for me was."

I really hate that.

Every time I go to confession, I deal with this. And then, every time I leave the confession box ["Good confession" encouraged Father], I am amazed at how simple it was to return to a state of Grace. "That was easy," I say wonderingly.

Reconciliation is a full-on Miracle, but that's not what I'm address here. Fr. Kleinmann, the priest who married us, had to cover a last minute cancellation, so we would not be going to the 5 pm Mass with him, and then supper afterwards, but instead would go to the 10:30 am Sunday morning Mass (as we usually do).

We showed up on time. But that, miracle in and of itself (I am pater familias and am responsible for getting to the Church on time, but I also have the Auclair ὕβρις), is not the Miracle of this entry.

The Miracle was that after three months of being out of communion (hm, I wonder, are people aware that when they are in a state of mortal sin, that the are excommunicated? It's called mortal sin for a reason, ya know ... maybe I should remember that next time I've fallen from Grace so that I go to confession before crossing the street), "out of the blue", as it were, our family was selected to bring the offering. I do not recall us ever being so selected before.

Okay. Who says there isn't Divine Providence? God Himself descended from His throne and marched me (kicking and screaming) into the confessional, so that I could receive Him in the Eucharist that I, personally, had just offered in front of then entire church community. I don't have any other explanation. Because I as sure as hell (and I was working hard to assure myself of that destination) wasn't going to confession because it felt good.

Yes, right. That was all coincidence. Go ahead, I'm waiting for you to tell me that.

Let me give you the run down again: I impossibly go to confession yesterday, Fr. Kleinmann has a last minute coverage, changing our Mass attendance plans, to arrive at Mass on time, so that the Usher selects us for the offertory, so that I can receive communion.

Coincidence? Absolutely! All those events coincided with the Hand of Providence.

Sermons from the Mount

So, we have a new priest in our parish, and I, on my Baptism day, July 2 (a Tuesday), attended Mass. The readings were as far apart as one could imagine, both in style (Amos was exhorting ["Seek good and not evil, that you may live!"] to Matthew's story-telling) and in density, but somehow, in a 15-second homily, it all came together for me. Father's homily was this:

Hm, what were the Jews doing herding swine? And why did they ask Jesus to leave, rather than thank him for casting out the demons?


That was his entire homily.

...

Yep.

But then I reflected on the words of the homily and the readings, and was grateful for the first reading being Amos. Did the Jews seek good? No. They were eating pork, even against the threat of Mosaic law (the death penalty). Why was the Mosaic law in place? To scare people? No, poorly prepared pork is a excellent transmitter of all sorts of dangerous things — the law was there to protect the people from the evil caused by eating pork.

But, there they were, herding swine. In fact, they were "happier" with their swine and a demon affliction than playing goody-two-shoes. So "happy" in fact that Jesus' act of saving the man from the horde, and removing the evil of the swine, caused so much discontent that they asked Jesus to take his business elsewhere. They were choosing evil, and not good.

Don't we all do that when we choose wrong over right, our pleasure over God's, evil over good. "Man, I really shouldn't be doing this, but, if I do it out of sight of everybody else, then I can get away with it. ... God, go look somewhere else, will'ya? Dontcha got flood victims to console, or something?"

But let's be honest, shall we? When we do bad things, are we happy? In another (much longer) homily, Father started by saying, "You know, I don't think the Pope wakes up in the morning and wonders, 'Now, how can I make life hard for all Catholics today?'" No, God has all these rules because He knows what makes us happy and He knows what's bad for us. 4000 years ago, swine was a good way to take a short-cut through life. Today, alcoholism, licentiousness, gluttony, secularism, etc, are the new swine, and our addictions, really, give us no pleasure (have you seen a happy alcoholic? Aren't the most pitiful words in the world: "But I'm only happy when I'm drunk!") and these evils we choose lead to death, because we cover them in our dark corner with our bodies, and in so doing, literally, turn our backs to God.

It's funny, reconciliation is just as Amos exhorted us, we simply turn from the evils in our lives, those dark things that give us no pleasure, and the second we do that, God is standing right there with arms wide open, and the comfort we get from Him, even though we're the second robber on a tree right next to His, makes us not even remember to puzzle over what enticed us to that damned foolish pursuit in the first place.

Here's the chilling thought for me, however. The demon horde plagued the village (in their possession of the man) because the Jews knowingly trafficted in the forbidden. The demons were punishing the fallen in their sin. Then the demons begged Jesus to cast them into the swine, and when they possessed the swine herd, they immediately drove themselves off the edge of a cliff into the sea, removing two evils (themselves and the swine) with one act, leaving the people there with an entirely clean slate to make the choice of Amos. They chose evil, again.

So, then, are the demons serving God better than us? What does this mean for us?

Friday, August 1, 2008

... yet the world goes on ...



if that image is a little too rough, it's clean version is available as a PDF.

Für Dad und Aileen

I was reclined at the Santos' house, doing what I alway do, besides eating, playing with the kids and sleeping: reading. In this case I was reading one of Aileen's books: 101 Puzzles in Thought and Logic by a C.R. Wylie, Jr. I enjoyed solving the simple problems in my head, and wondered how I would go about programming a computer to solve these kinds of puzzles (that was the real endeavor). Seeing as the book was published in 1957, I asked Mike (Wuerthele, so this entry is für him, too) if I could borrow the book.

"'Sure'" he responded, straightfacedly. ... The movie's title was The Pink Panther Strikes Again, btw.

So, after obtaining real permission for the rightful owner, Aileen, I disappeared into the bowels of my office to solve problem 1:

In a certain bank the positions of cashier, manager, and teller are held by Brown, Jones and Smith, though not necessarily respectively.

The teller, who was an only child, earns the least.
Smith, who married Brown's sister, earns more than the manager.

What position does each man fill?


Obvious solution, right? Well, to get the computer to solve it, I needed to invent an entirely new data type in my current language of choice, Haskell. So, it's all because of Aileen that the world is now a better place: Haskell is one step closer to simulating the full predicate calculus syntactically. So that's why this entry is für her (in the same fashion that Ole Abe credited Ms. Stowe).

Well, of course, if you FOLLOW THE LINK (c'mon, you can do it, it's just one click of your mouse ... doit-doit-doit), you'll discover that the data type is the (monadic) dual to the Maybe data type: it's called the Whatever data type. And that is why this post is for my father: he's a passionate and caring man -- the insipidness of the word "whatever" always goes against his grain. But here I show this word has firm mathematical underpinnings and captures the essence of a valid addition to the logic programming paradigm in Haskell. I'm sure his eruditious bones will be well-pleased with the development, however, and that's why this post is für him.

I don't happen to know any Elises, but if I did, LvB might have some choice words for me if I made this post für her, so, I won't.