Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Portents of a Cold Winter

When grandparents are far, we revel in the warmth that others shower on us and our girls. When they give us handmade presents, we bask in the love they send in a special way. But perhaps they just knew that it will be an unusually cold winter for us. Or that little girls need colorful tents and forts as they spend many hours indoors.

From the hands of an adopted Grandma and Aunt (don't we call all of them nice folks, aunts and uncles?) Wanda, crocheted blankets with signs of spring: yellow tulips.

And from Anda's sister, not ever called Lola, and forever called Tita Femme, granny square blankets in colors that complement the receivers' personalities.

Thank you for your wonderful works and gifts!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Santa Lucia Day!

It was a cold morning (--the heater broke and we didn't have heat through the night!) Yes, it was very cold, and the Parents were hiding in layers of blankets and a comforter. Then lo! Two barefoot Daughters dressed in white, walked in the room to warm us up with mugs of hot drinks and a big plate of cranberry bread. They were aglow --mostly from the big smiles they sported, as the candles on their wreaths were made of paper, because this year, they finally pulled off a Santa Lucia morning breakfast. All on their own.

Next year, they hope to walk in singing this song --

Now 'neath the silver moon ocean is glowing.
O'er the calm waters soft winds are blowing.
Where balmy breezes blow, all things invite us,
And as we gently row, all things delight us.

Hark! How the sailors' cry joyously echoes nigh:
"Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!"

Since they're part Italian, maybe they'll learn it in Italian instead! Their Grand-Nana would have been proud.

DDR: Blow by Blow

Some of you know my tweets. Some of you don't. Well, now you will. Here's a rundown on yesterday's work-out, because you, my readers, demanded to know!

  • Working out. DDR Ultramix2. Excuse me? B? on Jet World? I DON'T THINK SO. Bumped that puppy up to an A. Now, movin' on!

  • You know, as much as I like to rag on it & it is ripped, there's nothing like Red Octane dance pads. Parallel Floaters on anything else? No.

  • Diamond Jealousy: C? No: A! Guilty: B? No: A! Done. I guess I haven't played DDR Ultra2 in a (long) while.

  • What is this, an old game save? Helpless C⇒A. Yes, please, and done.

  • You know what I hate? I hate FCing a song in practice mode but not in score mode. Well, who is better? The song or me? Me. Waverer A⇒AA.

  • Of course, they just have to put Real right next to R5: two 40+ kcal songs in a row. Like'm both, but I think Real is my favourite today.

  • Well, that was the frist time I ever FCed Era ... in practice mode. Let's try score mode. And, yes, 'frist' is for realz, yo. A 'net meme.

  • Oorah Kiruv Rechokim! (um: how do you spell that in Hebrew?) Yup: first time ... aced that Era in score mode.

  • DDR done: 173#; ~600 kcal (recorded, more like more than 800 kcal). More leftovers eaten. Back to work.

(okay, seriously! Nobody has written Oorah Kiruv Rechokim in Hebrew on the 'net? But they've written Shemhamphorasch in Hebrew? The word itself (שם המפורש) and what the word actually is? All seventy-two words of it? But not the Oorah? What's with that?)

Rules for Pancake Breakfasts

Rule#1 of protein powder enhanced pancake batter: cook it all; do NOT store in the ref for the next day (ewww! green!)

Rule#2 of protein powder enhanced pancake batter: when it calls for buttermilk, use BUTTERMILK, not just plain old 2% milk! (ewww! flat!)

Rule#3 of protein powder enhanced pancake batter: DON'T make rules while cooking (ewww! burnt!)

Rule#4 of protein powder enhanced pancake batter: Don't recook the sausage-i ("Papa! The cooked ones are too peppery!")

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Squaring the Rectangle

Some of you know that I am a mathematical philosopher, so you may be surprised at the title. After all, all squares are rectangles.

But some rectangles are not squares, ... but they can be made thus, and here's how.

Let's take a rectangle that's 8½" x 11".

If you fold it in half one way, you have a rectangle that's 8½" x 5½".

Turn the rectangle so it's "standing tall." Fold the top right corner down to the center left side. You now have a quadrilateral. Fold the top left side down to the left center, joining where the top right corner was folded, you now, again have a rectangle, but now it's 5½" x 2¼".

This fold, by the way, is called the "I love you" fold, and many letters of love are sent folded this way.

Now, seal that love closed for your beloved by folding the bottom half up into the triangular lip. You now have a 2¼"x2¼" square from an 8½"x11" rectangle.

How do you make a rectangle into a square? It's neither instant nor easy, but, the recipe is simple: just add love to a piece of letter writing paper, and then seal that love in.

Letter to EM on St. Nick's day

Dear EM,

Happy St. Nicholas day! I hope you enjoyed yours. By your huge smiles as I opened the presents you and Li'l Iz gave me, it looked like you did.

But do you know what was my favourite present of the bunch? My favourite present ws not for me, but the one you gave to Mama. Remeber it? It was the heart of hearts that showed that you do love her.

I see that it's heard for you sometimes, trying to do the things you'd like to do, trying to be the person you are. Just remember no matter how difficult things or times become, we love you. Mama and Papa love you, and we are so happy to receive your love in return.

It is hard doing what you do and being who you are, but remember and know that we love you, and we are very proud of you: what you do and who you are.

Keep being you and discovering who you are.

Because we love you.

Doug (that's "Papa" to you, Miss EM)

Letter to Li'l Iz on St. Nick's day

My dear Li'l Iz,

Happy St. Nicholas Day! I hope you enjoyed your St. Nicholas day this year. Thank you for the presents. It was very sweet of you and Até to wrap them for me.

This letter is my St. Nicholas Day present back for you. And, this past year, you've come quite a long way. What, with all the learning and adventures you've had, the travel to the Philippines and Connecticut and Amhert, the performances you've put on with Até, ... and now dancing with Nuns! Wow!

As much as you've done this past year, this coming year is filled with much more: much more promise, and activity. I hope this new year will be as adventurous and as exciting as this past year.

But I hope something more than that for you: I hope it's better than tat. I hope that this new year is so much better than what you hoped, so much so that you are just wowed by it.

That's what I hope for you.

All my love,

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's THAT Time of the Year

Because her godparents wanted to know, I casually asked Lizzie what type of gifts she'd like to receive for Christmas.

Lizzie replied, as casually too, "Oh, you know, dolls, toys, whatever... (paused here) ... or $5."

Hmm, that seemed too easy. So I asked what she'd do with the money.

"Of course, I'll put it in my purse. So when you need money, I can give you some."

Of course.

So there, dear godparents. $5 to help her Mama will be perfect :-)

(O.K. If the photo gives you any indication as to her preferences, a $5 Starbucks card will reward her with her favorite bagel and chocolate milk breakfast. Until such time when she can pay for her own expensive habits!)

Thanks for asking.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Paalam, Tita Norma

Lizzy visiting with Tita Norma last January in the ancestral home.

The most feared telephone calls are those that, though sometimes expected, come early in the morning.

Today, we learned that my mother's 79-year old sister, Tita Norma had died. Which makes me even gladder to have made the trip home early this year with the girls. We saw her dance on the street with the old ladies at the Sto. Nino fiesta, her flirty old self peeking through the shell of illness slowing her down. We heard her demand to have a photo taken -- and please make sure she looks great in it! The excellent cook that she is, she will have her best party in the next few days because as she requested, and as our culture dictates, there will be plenty of food to feed family and friends at her wake.

Sadly, we'll have to miss the party. But we will always remember you fondly, Tita Norma.

Give her eternal rest, O Lord, and may your light shine on her forever.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I'm a twit now.

Do you twitter that you are twittering? I'm sure this thought occurs to all twits. twitists. twitterers. Whatever they are called.

Oh, my; I've joined the Twenthieth Century ... um.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What a feast!

When my dear mother visited us some time ago, my daughters continually echoed her exclamation of: "What a feast!" whenever we served a meal.

Hey, we cannot allow our guests to go hungry.

Well, this is the week where the exclamation has earned its way into the record book (the record book's name? "Clichés we know and lov-... well, we know"). Why?

Well, we just had our anniversary, and my cara spoza said it was the best one yet. Why? Because, instead of her prepping the roast chicken, I basted it with the mustard and butter and put it into the oven that I preheated, and I opened that bottle of Dom ... even though we were saving it for that big contract signing ... and it was she that found out that the bottle was vintage 1996 ... the year we were married.

And Até had the presents all figured out, and she did drag me to the store so she could buy these self-same presents, wrapped them, and then presented them when I opened the box holding the moccha cake from the Swiss bakery inscribed with "For My Sweetie."

Yes, my sweetie enjoyed the surprises, thought and effort.

Well, of course, the next day brunch had stuffed baked potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and corn beef hashi.

"What a feast!" my little one exclaimed.

Tomorrow is the little one's birthday, and the mama has already begun the preparations, sending the thoughts of sleep miles from the little kiddies heads as they helped unpack the groceries and found jell-o pudding and marshmallows.

Marshmallows, from my cara spoza?

"Who are you?" I demanded of the personification of the Mary Cassatt.

Her answering smile was small, sweet and cryptic.

It is funny in a way. This post has got me thinking about topics further afield ("What's funny about you getting off topic, geophf?" you ask. My answer is editted to keep the kid-friendly rating for this blog). And that is: words. Funny how we (cultures) adopt and transform words to describe the oddest things. We hinglish types call an article of clothing used for support a "bra" ... which means "arm," and when we wish to rave on through the night we go to a "party."

Ever think about that one? I never did, until I learnt the Swedish word for it: "fest," which is equally inaccurate. Our word means "group of people" (at restaurants you hear all the time: "geophf, party of four; geophf, party of four"), and their word means "food." Neither captures the essence: a "party" is not a mundane group of people, and people don't go to "fests" for the food (even though they say that's what brought them).

But, then again, what word captures the essence of the thing described ... I mean besides the word "abstruse" ...
abstruse: n. 1. abstruse.
Hm. Somehow we started with feasts, went to a garden party, and ended up with a meditation on the game of go.

Wait a minute, geophf, I was with you up to the go thing, but then ... ?

Come on, now, it's a `pataphor! For, after all, the word "abstruse" is defined as "recondite," and "recondite profundity" is the term Fujisawa Shuko (藤沢 秀行), one of go's three crows

(which I wrote about ... tangentially ... to nothing) and a noted calligrapher often took to study. Apparently, the term "recondite profundity" has a koan-like significance to professional go players attempting to grasp than ineffable essence of what it is to grok the game.

You do know, don't you, that "to grok" means "to eat" ... right? So that puts us back right where we started:

What a feast!

Well, this post was more a feast for the mind's eye, as opposed to something that would delight a gourmand or epicure ... but sensuum defectui ... and all that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It hit me

Yes, I miss the puke and the poop.

Not really in the "Oh, I miss stepping in and then cleaning poop and puke." No, I don't miss it that way. It was always annoying when we had it, and one of the few good things I can say about it was that it enforced a habit of vigilance.

Watch where you step.

Visitors learned that, almost to a person, the hard way. We would invariably forget to pass on that tidbit of vigilance, and, in the early morning, we would see perfect footprints of people's "chinellas" (outlined in ... well, Mr. Darcy leavings) as they had (invariable) awakened during the night for a sip of water and tracked much more through the house.

No, I don't miss the smell; I don't miss the mess; I don't miss the following cleaning and scrubbing and disinfecting and washing and bagging and ...

I don't, but I do. For I've caught myself a few times already. I would walk into the house, and I would test the air for that unmistakable smell that told me I needed to get out the paper towels and cleaner. I would catch myself looking around a room to see where Mr. Darcy had marked his domain. I would close a door behind me to make sure Mr. Darcy doesn't go downstairs and run amok.

But none of these things are now necessary. By his dying, Mr. Darcy has given our house back to us.

This "gift" of his dying doesn't make things less arduous ... no, it makes things emptier.

Yes, I miss the puke and the poop, because I miss him, that "don't hold me" cat that would lie on his back, not for belly rubs, but oh, the better to eviscerate you (your arm would do just as well). That cat that would chase squirrels as far as the tree (at 21 pounds at his biggest he'd climb the first meter of the tree, maybe, before thinking about other things).

I hate death. It casts such a pall over so many other important-to-keep-going things. Important to keep going, yes, but death makes one ask: "why keep going if this is your end, too?"

And the sun still rises and the sun still sets. Interminably; relentlessly. Life still goes on, whether you elect to participate ... or not.

And in spite of all of that ... and despite all of that ... I still miss the puke and the poop, 'cause I miss me some warm, furry, claw-y, feisty Mr. Darcy.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lucky 13

He was the cat who got locked in the cat food closet overnight almost 13 years ago. We found him the next morning, a few pounds heavier, next to the ripped cat food bag. Since then, he's the cat who ate when he was stressed. Just like his humans.

If you've ever been a guest at our house, then we are sure you will remember him. You may actually have helped us clean up after his *mess* for he shows his affection that way. Puke here. Poop there. As if to tell us that THIS is home. All of it.

Life without him will be different. Doug and I will find out how much different in the next few days, and it will hit us. We've lived all our married life with this cat. Thirteen years with cat hair all over our stuff, our children, our selves.

Goodbye, Mr. Darcy.

You will be sorely missed.

Time of death: 4:12 PM

Our cat, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy ("Mr. Darcy" for short) has been fading away this past six months very slowly, but this past week he's just went away.


But he was still spry, even though he could barely pull himself out of the bed. He was still there, seeking attention and affection, even though his mews were faint and complaining. The rheumatism.

Last night, he couldn't make it to the litter box anymore, and today, all he could do is lie beside me in the big bed, he couldn't manage an escape when my cara spoza came in to check on us (cats on the bed is a no-no).

It was time.

I brought him into the clinic, and, wouldn't you know it, he worked up enough energy to try to hide from me when it was time to go. I held him as the tranquilizer took effect, and it did so expeditiously. And then he got the shot. He was gone before I even felt him go. He was still warm, but his chest wasn't moving anymore, but I could only tell by looking into his eyes.

"He's dead?" I asked the doctor who looked like he was about to cry, too.

"Yes," he answered quietly, "he may gasp, but his heart's stopped."

The aide couldn't look at me as she offered her regrets and offered not to give me the receipt. "I'm sorry for your loss," she said.

"Thank you," I replied verbally, but I thought me, too.

No more hugs and rubs and scratches from our playful ocelot.

I wonder when it will hit me.

September 11th, 2009, 4:12 pm. A minute before he was leaning heavily into my embrace, and then a minute later he was gone.

Another reason for me to hate this date.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Living in History: "With the Depression On"

I wrote a chapter for my story, "My Sister Rosalie," entitled: "With the Depression On" that looked at (thematically) the philosophies of economy and abundance.

Reviewers didn't get it.

Or, more correctly, they judged that chapter and the characters' actions in that chapter as people informed by modern experience. These reviewers come at it from nearly a century's worth of experience in economics and politics: "Oh, Bella shouldn't have reused her bath water, she should have ..." "Oh, Rosalie's wasting the planet's resources, she's being much too ..."

We are forgetting something here. The Depression's on in 1934. You know? The Depression? The Depression where twenty-five percent of American people are jobless, where checks don't bounce because banks are bouncing. Where rich, rich, rich people are throwing themselves out windows of sky scrapers. Where the Wheat Belt has become the Dust Bowl. Where prizefighters queue up with the rest of us just to get a shot at hard labor for the day so they can be paid a pittance. Where the lamentation "Brother, can you spare a dime?" was made into one of the most popular songs of the day.

Where parents, if they are the lucky ones that have flats, are watching their own children fade away and die because the heat bill hasn't been paid in months, so never your mind about getting a doctor to look at the wee ones. Doctor? And pay him with what? Today's gruel? That is, the only meal of the day?

When you read this chapter, please don't judge your Bella with modern sensibilities. Put yourself into her woolen socks. Look at those rich kids over there, sharing one apple. Go up to them and ask if you can have the core after their done with the apple. Have them look at you with disdain and tell you "Nope!" as you watch them eat the core, and feel the emptiness in the pit of your stomach.

That would have been a nice dessert, a nice change, from the one meal you've had today, and yesterday, and, if you're lucky, will have tomorrow.

Put yourself into the mind of a person not too distant from her parents' immigration from the Old World, where saving was considered to be an act of Faith. Saving? Money? The Old World had its own issues, including pogroms and potato famines. The New World, the streets are paved with Gold. So what did you do when the streets weren't, but you still were getting money for work (instead of just working for the roof over your head and a meal on the table)? You horded it. You buried it in the back yard. You stuffed your mattress with it. You put it into a bank because you got 5% interest, and then the bank went belly up, so you learned a hard lesson there: hold onto what is yours with a death grip, because times are hard now, and they'll be harder later.

Now, eat off a paper plate. What are you going to do with it after you're done? Throw it away? Never. You are going to wash the paper plate, because who knows when you'll ever see another paper plate again in your life?

Do you have that mindset now, with this understanding?

No, you don't. Because, even in today's "troubled" situation (and it is troubled, but it's nothing compared to the Great Depression that our (great-)grandparents went through with no context of a prior Depression to help them weather that interminable storm), we are surrounded by abundance: cars and homes and cellphones and 50" HDTVs. You can't put yourself into a scenario that doesn't exist in your experience because you can always pull yourself out and say "Oh, well, Bella should have done ..." as you grab the remote and switch to ESPN.

But maybe you can be grateful to the people who fought in the Great War and then fought in the Second World War and who built this country up from its infancy through the Roaring '20s through the Great Depression to now where there are hot running water and heating and air conditioning. Maybe your modern sensibilities, that they earned by the sweat of their brow for you, can judge them a little less harshly, and maybe you can drink your morning coffee as you do (or don't) read your morning newspaper with a wee bit more reverence.

Yes, I do say that this is the best of all possible worlds, but, unlike Voltaire, I do not say it with biting sarcasm. I am appreciative of what I have today, and I am grateful to the men and women who committed their lives, then and now, to give me it.

This whole entry points to the fact (sad but real) that people do not learn from history. But we can be comforted that we do, now, have ESPN. Just like the Romans had the Colosseum. Oh, what happened to the Romans? Who knows? Who cares? Besides, the game's on, pass the chips.

Monday, August 10, 2009


It's the little things, isn't it?

After every meal, I make sure I thank my cara spoza for it, telling her how good it was. I may have liked it; I may not, but that really doesn't matter: I wouldn't have had it if it wasn't for the work she put into making it.

My dear heart recently told me how much she appreciates my effort in complimenting the meals, and that's when I reflected on what prompts me to do this. Surprisingly to me, it wasn't (primarily) the example of my parents. Surprising because all the good things that I am have come from their example.

No, it was from a book: Ursala Le Guin's Lathe of Heaven. In that story, the wife of the protagonist George Orr (called "Jor Jor" by his not-so-imaginary-"friends") reflects on how it makes her feel when he thanks her for the meal, especially when it turns out ... well, not so well. She reflects on what a good man he is, for many reasons, but particularly for this little thing, this nothing thing: that he eats his meal, and that he's grateful for it ... that he's grateful for her.

It's the little things, isn't it?

I recall talking with a chief in the Navy on how his wife decided he was the one. He took her out on a date to a fancy-schmansy restaurant, and they were dressed to the nines, and the waitress tripped, spilling a tray full of drinks right into his lap.

Of course the waitress was mortified, but Chief made sure she was okay, helped her clean up as best he could, and told her to forget about it, because he already had.

That's when his (to be) wife knew. I'm sure she thought: if he behaves in this way, in this situation, to somebody he doesn't even know, well, that must show how he really is deep down.

Sometimes people like to think: oh, this-or-that didn't turn out so well, and I was rather nasty to the wife and kids then, but I'll do something really big to make up for it.

But you don't, and you can't. It's easy to say, "I'm not really like that ..." or "If the situation were different ..."

But this is how you are, and this is what the situation is, and the big event is never going to come. What you are is how you are in this scenario right now, all the time, because that's all you have.

Yes, it's easy to say, "When I am the grand poobar, I'd do this."

No. The strength of a man is measure thus:

  • When he is weak, does he stand for what he believes in the face of overpowering adversity? That is, does he accept martyrdom, even if it's the little death of saying, "No, boss, you're wrong, and I refuse to go along with this"?

  • And, when he is strong, how does he treat the littlest of these, including the waitress, including the wife and kids?

And that is the story of the soul that God will read on Judgment Day. That is what the spiritual exercises and that is what George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior are for: to help weak men grow into strength and to keep strong men, strong.

For, after all, it's the little things, isn't it?

Sunday, August 2, 2009


So, I was preparing breakfast for my cara spoza yesterday.

What kind of oatmeal do you want? I asked her.

Oh, she waved regally, any kind is fine.

So I ripped open the very-berry oatmeal packet (purple wrapper) and poured into a bowl.

That's for you, right? she said cautiously.

No, I've already eaten. Hours ago, in fact. I've taken the habit of waking up early nowadays.

My cara spoza grimaced. When I interrogated her, I found out that she didn't like very-berry oatmeal.

How could this be possible? Everybody loves blueberries! Very-berry oatmeal is my favorite! How could my cara spoza not like that flavor?

Well, she doesn't like that flavor. She likes the maple syrup one (brown wrapper) or the oats and flax one (orange wrapper). So, any flavor as long as it's one of those two flavors.

"Any color you like, as long as it's black."

I wrapped the bowl of very-berry, under my cara spoza's distressed protests and made her the maple syrup one.

What did I have for breakfast today? Day old very-berry oatmeal. And it tasted great.

'Cause it's the best.

407 Arrows: Will and Want

Kayso, just in case you didn't get the hint and all? I rock at DDR.

What is it this time, geophf?
you sigh exasperatedly.

Well, I'm glad you asked.

So, I was doing my DDR thing (Ultramix 3), and I aced "Dança de Yucca."

See, it's a tango, and the beat increases in speed along with the complexity of the steps so that in changes from a tango to a tango that a whirling dervish or the Tasmanian Devil might have trouble keeping up.

I've been dancing, and loving to dance, this song for years. Years. A tango? Me? geophf? Dance a tango in real life? That might be possible, but in the virtual DDR-world, I am dancing away like a madman or Michael Flatley in Riverdance ... wait: aren't they the same thing?

So I love to dance "Dança de Yucca," but ace it? Nevah! But I did last week.

Now there is no weapon formed against me that shall prosper. So, I put in DDR Ultramix (1) and danced "La Senorita Virtual." I FCed it. For the first time, ever.

How many arrows does "La Senorita Virtual" have? I couldn't answer that question until this Tuesday past, but now I can: 407 arrows. 407 arrows in a minute and a half, and I touched them all.

Latin songs. Latin songs are so hard for the stuffy "Pretty Fly for a White Guy" dancers with their off-beat lead-ins. But now, for this pasty-faced fella?

Yeah, the site is down, so I can't show you the numbers, but yes, it's true: in over twenty-thousand DDRers out there, geophf rings in at number 38.

Psssst! Hot! I'm hot!

So of course I tried doing "Paranoia Rebirth" ... didn't quite get it, but I came close. So I left it for now. After burning through 700 kcal during that workout I knew that now was time to take a break.

For I know this, after about ten years of DDR, a FCing or acing a song is simply will and want now. If I don't FC a song, it's now because I'm not concentrating enough on it or that I don't push myself all the way through it (Paranoia and La Senorita can get tiring three-quarters of the way through). If I don't have the skill to do a song now, like Waka Laka, it's now simply a matter of doing a song over and over and over again until I do, even if that means I must do that song for years to be able to complete it.

Perfect example: Dorset Perception. I aced that song a couple of months ago, but then I played it again the next week and my score, albeit higher, wasn't an ace, so I had a low grade staring at me from that song for two months as I played and played it to regain my ace, which I did, time and time again, but didn't earn the score to knock out that lower grade.

DDR is funny: it gives you points for style as well as precision, so may dance a song "well" but not well enough to merit a better grade: I've failed songs with higher scores where I previously had an 'A' grade.

So, what to do?

Will and want.

I kept doing that song until I FCed it, restoring my ace. Now anytime I dance it, there is nothing that will take down that peg: I can now only improve on that grade.

But isn't that what life is? You work at something because you have the will to work at it and the want for it. You don't get it because you really don't want it: your will isn't directed toward that thing. Or, you get it because your will and want is such that you will get it. You don't have something? You want it bad enough and eventually you will have it.

"Mean Papa"

My little ones EM and Iz came downstairs to play in that large, spacious playroom they invade and occupy. I stopped DDRing.

"No, no: no playing until the area is clean," says I.

"Why, Papa? Why? We are going to be playing with the toys that are already out, anyway," they counter, whiningly.

... and the toys they'll be pulling out of the storage area, and the books scattered all over the floor, and the books on the shelves, and the ...

"Because," I 'answered,' "I'm a Mean Papa."

They moan. But EM loves this game, too: "But, Papa, why did you let us come downstairs to play if you're a 'Mean Papa'?"

I give them a growly look: "No playing until the area is clean."

"Awwww!" they complain, and set to work cleaning (by intermittently cleaning between reading books, serving "tea" to their dollies, imitating my dance steps, then intermittently cleaning some more).

Diane returns home from shopping and tromps downstairs.

Kids: "Awwww! We had no time to play! Mama, Papa made us clean the downstairs because he's a 'Mean Papa'!"

Yep, that's me: the Mean Papa.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

PSA: Cell Phones in Restaurants

PSA: "Public Service Announcement"

I feel a bit weird for having to say this.

Yesterday, I took my cara spoza for her birthday lunch at a very nice Sushi restaurant (owned and run by Japanese ... authentic? Yes).

Well, it would have been nice, but it seems that people in a public place seem to believe that they have a private, sound-proofed bubble of silence that surrounds them as they bellow into their hand-held devices.

Hello, my name is geophf, and I am your friend.

And, as you friend, let me tell you something: you are being rude, rude, rude to every single person in the entire restaurant when you carry on your very loud side of your "private" conversation about your financial matters or your affairs at work (both inappropriate and not) or your family discord.

I don't know why I must tell you this, but, please show some respect. When you make a call, or when you receive a call, stand up from your table, and if possible (it nearly always is possible) step outside the restaurant and carry on your conversation. You don't even need to bellow, because, you know, modern devices are capable of carrying your voice and your recipient has volume control.

If you don't, and you are seated with other people at your table, what is the message you are giving to your guests or coworkers.

You are giving this message: "you are unimportant." You are further telling them this: "You are not worth as much time to me as the person I could call, or take the call from, at any other time of the day."

You know what you are saying about your parents when you do this? You are telling the world that your parents didn't raise you with manners, respect or dignity.

Oh, and the blue tooth. Take off the implant when you are talking with someone face-to-face.

Think about it the next time you think about making a call or taking a call during a meal. And then, when you've thought about it, DON'T take or make that call.

Or, continue as you are: thoughtless, inconsiderate, brutish, rude.

This is your call to make.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Okay, everybody, take three steps back and clear the floor, DDR Dad (that's my new name) is in da House!

For Realz, yo.

So, what was not mentioned in the last post was the my girls sang DDR songs to me as their Father's Day present, and the first one entirely in American Sign Language:


Why, why, why, I'm a little butterfly
Green, Black and Blue
Painting Colours in the sky.

Why, why, why, I'm a little butterfly,
Green, Black and Blue
Painting Colours in the sky.

Why, why, why, ... why, why, why
Where's my Samurai?

And then:

Hey, "Papa," dup-du-dup-pi-doop, yama-jama

Yes, they are seven and five year old girls, and, no: they do not the lyrics of the above "Hey, 'Papa'" song. That's why they sing dup-pi-doop, because they do not know the lyrics of the original, and no: they haven't seen the music video, either.

But that's not my point.

geophf, there's a point to this blog post?

Of course there's a point, there's always a point to every thing I say, or else why would I say it?

Um, quit giving me that look.

My point is this: I have arrived. I've gone from being merely awesome at DDR to being expert at it.

Humble about it, too, aren't you, geophf?

Yes, why do you ask?

I've started to push the 'A' graded songs to 'AA', but I've also done that to my 'B' and 'C' graded songs. No big deal.

But now I get 'A's on 10-steppers ... like Bag (the poor girl, her mom called her to supper right in the middle of the song). Now I can Ace ("Double A") songs like 30 lives and can FC ("Full Combo") songs like Dorset Perceptions and Cosmic Hammer and Feels Just Like It Should ... take away my Ace from me? Well I'll just FC the song, then!

And now I can even complete songs like Cartoon Heroes and Waka Laka ... you know, songs I couldn't even complete before? But now get 'A's on? Those songs?

Yeah. That's right. Whoz yer (DDR) daddy?


Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to do me some DDR UltraMix 3, please (Rock Lobster? Git me more o' dat! I have a question ... how come this particular DDR game has so many good songs, all in a row?)

Post Script

Yeah. Just aced Just Pretend. Didn't see that happening with all the quick twisting about and switching of dominant feet during a held note. Tough little song wrapped up in a "This is a simple beat" façade.

Love that song so much, even though it's so sad. Maybe because it's so sad ... it's like a story waiting to be written somewhere. It's opposite is only a few songs away on the wheel: Don't Don't Go Away, another wonderful, and wonderfully hard, song to dance to with beautiful music hiding the pain of the singer underneath.

Why do I like these kinds of songs?

But, then again, I do have Monkey Punk for my "defense."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Life got in the way and Doug's 42nd birthday passed without blog mention. Oh, the missed opportunities to quote Douglas Adams! But as Doug himself would say, "So it goes."

The littles made up for it by slaving (yes, slaving!) over the annual Father's Day scrapbook, now on its second year. And because they are now big girls (little girls being 3 and 4 years old, of which they're not), there was a program filled with dancing, poetry reading, and singing (the kind where the words are made up as they go along). To the dear Papa, whose heart could be broken by a single tear rolling down a dear daughter's cheek, this was almost too much to bear! But so it goes. He is much loved, and it is Father's Day.

Enjoy the rest of your day, Papa. We're extending quiet time to 3 hours, about the length of a DDR session, right? Just for you.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wherefore Angels?

So, last night, I told my brother Mike I have many reasons for happiness that day. The first, AOL is hiring contractors, and, with that, I can start receiving more income than sending outgo per month. That's a "plus." The second, my cara spoza doesn't have cancer; that's good, too. And, thirdly, my children are alive and not truck tire-tread road-pizza.

Like I said, a very good day.

Yeah, that last one. The setup is as follows: it was raining buckets, and I was walking my little dears to the library as my other little dear was getting her mammogram. We looked all ways, crossing that busy intersection of Burke Lake Road and Old Keene Mill Road. Surely there was traffic — there always is — but none oncoming. That is, none until we were halfway across the road, and truck the size of a Ford 150 came out of nowhere, barreling into the intersection at a speed faster than the speed limit, speeding past right-of-way traffic to make that left turn, right onto us.

I didn't even see it. And the driver didn't see us when he made the turn, but he slammed on the brakes, skidded on the rain-slicked road and did not crush EM and me and did not throw our little Iz a good distance.

I didn't think anything as this happened, anything other than getting the children safely across the street, but another driver did: she rolled down her window, shouted at the truck driver and then turned to us and apologized for his driving. I waved and stated my thanks.

But now I am thinking about it. Viscerally. I'm thinking: two little hands. One little hand in my left, Elena Marie's, that would have been crushed under the truck, and another little hand in my right, Isabel's, that may have been crushed or may have been thrown clear. But then what? She wakes up, or doesn't, in the hospital, and asks her mother: "Mama, where's Até? Where's Papa?"

And I'm thinking, how did this not happen?

As a Catholic, there's an obvious answer: guardian angels. Either the man's angel said: "Excuse me, blue jeans and sweaters on your left have people inside them …" Or our own guardian angels stopped that truck as the momentum of it and the lack of friction caused by the rain did not.

I have had discussions with other "Christians" who do not agree. They argue: what's the point to the entire set, all of them? Why have angels at all? God is sufficient unto Himself; He doesn't need angels to carry out His Work.

Why, indeed!

But that's not the real question, is it? The real question is why have us at all? I mean, it is clear that there are compelling reasons for God creating the angels, but what is not so clear is why would God even bother with us and the questions that we pose. I mean, obviously, God has more important Work to carry out that to stoop down and save two little girls that I'm rather fond of and the pater familias holding their hands, so why did He bother in this particular case, and why did He bother in the general case at all?

That's another question. And that's your homework — your essay question — "God, why did You create me?" Your life, ever second of your Now, is your answer.

But why angels? And why do angels bother with us? And why does God even bother with angels, when He can do it all Himself?

First of all, do angels exist? Answer: yes. Proof, read the Old Testament>Pentateuch/Torah, or the new Testament, or the Noble Qu'ran.

Put that one to bed. ("Oh, angels don't exist, but I believe in God and in man." Pshaw!)

Second of all, why does God even bother with them?

Now that's the real question. Because God has no need to bother with them at all, just has He has no need to bother with us at all. But He did. Why? I don't know. But I can take a guess, informed by scripture.

God thought of the angels "long" before He thought of us. Boom, He spoke, and whammo: Creation! What's the first thing out of His Mouth? The Bible doesn't put it like this, but the first thing out of His Mouth were the highest forms, Lucifer and the Seraphim. And guess what? God said, "Lucifer, how do you want to work this?" and Lucifer said, "Well, I think …"

And that was all she wrote for Lucifer. Because God was really asking: "Lucifer, you or Me? Your way or My Way?" And Lucifer lead off with the I, me, and mine, instead of the correct whatever you say, Lord, goes, or: only Thou, Lord. So, Lucifer picked up his ball, taking a third of the angels with him ("Hey, guys, b-ball at 5!") and played in his own damn court.


But here's the miracle, God asked the Seraphim the same thing, and what did they say? Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh … or ("English"): Holy, holy, holy … or (French): Saint, Saint, Saint … or (the modern translation): OMG, OMG, OMG!

The Seraphim, the most powerful angels, were so overcome with the Presence of God, that it set them on fire, and all they can do is shout: "Oh, God!" as they adure.

And so it went with all created things, the Cherubim, the Archangels, the angelic choirs … and then us.

And why do the angels bother with us? I mean, here's Gabriel, "just" an archangel, … an archangel that, with just one feather of one of his wings spans the entire Universe … "just" an archangel that with one blow on his horn calls then end of all creation, and here's Michael, "just" another archangel, that when God said, "Um, who's going to take out the trash?" St. Michael said: "Oh, God, let me get that for you, please?" and then took the rebellious angels and threw them in the incinerator … "just" an archangel that's more powerful than Lucifer, now Satan, and all his cohorts, combined.

And with all that power and majesty, they want to help us. Why?

Some more guesses here. God says, "Um, who wants to …" And He has the entire heavenly hosts just begging at His "Feet" to do something for Him. Anything! Imagine the honour! "God needed this done, and He picked me to do it for Him!"

And to be clear, God doesn't have "need" of anything, but He allows others to do things, in accordance with His Divine Will. "You know what will really perk up Mary [or whatever a particular Angel's name is, Mary may be a popular name in Heaven, but I wouldn't know]? That she helps guide Elena Marie to Heaven. I bet she'd like doing that."

But also imagine the hardship and "disgrace" that they must endure! Here's an angel, an eternal being of pure intellect, having to interact in Time and in the (Physical) World, to enact God's Plan. I mean, you can't get much farther than God, than Time (as opposed to Eternity) and the World (as opposed to Immateriality), but they do it, they beg to do it, because it pleases God.

"Hey, I need two of you to come down with me, assume temporal physical form, 'cause I gotta tell Abraham and Sarah about Isaac, you two wanna come?"

"Yes, Lord!" said tremblingly, awed that God picked them, ignoring the coming agony of assuming physical form, a form so opposite in nature to their own, even for a short "time," because they are doing His Will.

The second reason (in case you lost count, there were two reasons angels help us) is this: so they can learn from us.

Now, wait a minute, geophf, angels are eternal and pure intellect. They don't change, so what do they have to learn?
You say this so smugly, sure you've got the geophfster this time.

Yes, they don't change, do they? At the moment of Creation they picked God or they picked themselves, and now they exist, eternally, with and in that choice.

But we do change. Every second, we pick God or we pick ourselves. Every second we struggle with that choice. It gets better, doesn't it, right? Because the more we pick what we want, the harder it is to pick what God wants. But, sometimes, despite this concupiscence, we choose God.

Put yourself in the angel's place, watching this happen. Your thinking: God is God, c'mon, human, pick God, please! And the human, so stained by sin, says, ya know, I'm gonna go with God on this one.

What does the angel think, seeing this nearly lost soul reach heavenward? Maybe something like, Wow!

Why do Angels exist? No reason, as God has no need for them. But, it must be nice seeing that "little" guardian angel say wow! because it helped that soul take one more step toward God, because it helped Him in His Plan.

Why have angels? I really don't know. But today, even though I don't know, I'm grateful for their presence and their help.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In the Company of Fairfax

Marissa's Bunny is now officially dingy. Marissa's cousins have dragged her across the oceans to visit relatives, to share stories of Marissa, and to escape Virginia's already-mild winter. Unfortunately, humid and sticky weather doesn't help Fairfax's fur either. But she had a grand time, as these photos can attest.

Y'all know about the cosplay convention. Can you tell that the guitar lady was Fairfax's favorite?

Yes, Fairfax found a better coffee. She went for the local beans.

At the beach, Fairfax meditated on the serene sound of waves, punctuated by the sound of Marissa's cousins shrieking, as they played a loud card game called "1-2-3 pass."

Since Marissa's mommy can't make it to her godson's upcoming wedding, Fairfax gamely posed with them and their furry companion.

To establish her location (14,000 km away from Marissa), Fairfax asked to pose in front of the national hero's monument in Luneta Park with its usual visitors. Yes, it was a nicer, cooler evening, perfect for hugging someone furry (or not).

It's been 3 months, and Fairfax is ready to visit Marissa again, and to show off her pink Victorian mini top hat from the cosplay convention. That is, after her date with the dry cleaner.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Last Day, First Day, Thursday

3:30 a.m. April 16
Saying goodbye at Ninoy Aquino (Manila) International Airport

1:00 p.m. April 16
Celebrating Easter Thursday at Nagoya Airport's Starbucks Coffee

9:00 p.m. April 16
Papa time at A&J's restaurant, Annandale, VA

All in a day's travel.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Building Memories

It all started with a Gingerhaus that Uncle John and Auntie Wanda gave us for Christmas. But with a week left to pack for our long vacation overseas, the gingerbread house kit ended up in the luggage.

As with all brilliant plans, this one almost didn't get done. Someone had to slave over a hot stove in a far away hot country to bake in the middle of summer, and because it was my brilliant idea, I had to do it on our last vacation day.

The young girl who was supposed to make the gingerbread house with us went swimming (it was that hot!) but Anda gamely assisted in the construction of this masterpiece.

But can artists remain spectators too long?

Apparently not! Anda demanded for a panel and a ziploc bag, and in two seconds, was creating a masterpiece roof for the gingerbread house.

Tanya, the dachshund loved it. Luckily, she was too old to be climbing tables and gobbling up designer houses.

Our playmate eventually took home a souvenir from her visiting friends, who kindly left two panels of the house for her to decorate as she reminisces about two balikbayans, yelling at the gate of her house, "Julianne, can you play now?"

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Easter!

"Ito ang araw na ginawa ng Panginoon; tayo'y mangagagalak at ating katutuwaan." Ps. 118

In the girls' short lives, they've already celebrated Easter in various ways: quiet family meals, fun lunch cruises, and loud egg hunts with cousins. But what has remained constant is their participation at Mass, either of the Easter vigil or on Sunday morning. This year, they experienced this special day in a new way.

Before 5 a.m. on Easter Sunday, they waited with the rest of our parish as the images of Mama Mary wearing a black veil and the risen Christ were processing from two different locations in the neighborhood. They watched as a young girl dressed in angel attire met the statue of Mary and lifted off the veil, and a chorus of "angels" sang Aleluya. As the sky brightened, the salubong celebration ended, and we all walked to church for the first Mass of Easter Sunday.

Back home, we shared a version of our own Easter tradition and decorated the bulletin board with paper flowers and scripture verses, and brought out the hidden Alleluia. As a special treat, the family feasted as the girls went bunny-crazy at the Manila Peninsula Hotel.

In the true spirit of Pinoy celebrations, the house specialties were prepared at home: roast chicken with lemongrass and sotanghon. Easter dinner was capped with a friend's generous gift of Pampanga's best -- Nathaniel's buko-pandan salad!

We are filled to the brim with wonderful memories that would take months to record in our vacation scrapbook. In these last few days, we are savoring every single bite!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Week to Remember

This Holy Week, the girls experienced Lent with all their senses. It was tiring, even though we spread out the visita iglesia and drove, instead of walked to 7 different churches in 4 days. At the beginning of the week, already there were signs of the color and sounds that would bombard them.

Parked near the municipal hall, this Birhen Dolorosa took shelter to avoid the sweltering heat and slight drizzle.

Church grounds were filled with all sorts of construction in progress, in preparation for the senakulo on Good Friday or salubong on Easter Sunday. (Our Lady of the Abandoned, San Roque)

In imitation of the other pilgrims, the girls have learned to reach out and touch statues and icons, as they pray at each church. (National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Baclaran)

A dress code poster has become a familiar sight, as well as information about the Reproductive Health Bill. In this country of "texters", mobile phones get its own poster.

But business goes on inside the churches, already filled with pilgrims following the Way of the Cross. Members of the Mother Butler Guild can be seen sweeping around the altars; carpenters and painters are working on various beautification projects; helpers drape statues and other images in purple fabric. Fortunately, we were able to visit (the exposed image) of our Blessed Virgin of Antipolo, whom we also visit in her Washington, DC oratory at the National Shrine. (Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, Antipolo)

For sentimental reasons, and because we also celebrate this saint's feast day as our name day, we went to the all-steel San Sebastian Church. The girls lit candles and went down their prayer list to remember their Papa, their little cousin Marissa, and their Italian great-grandmother Jill. (Basilica of San Sebastian, Manila)

All that driving around is bound to bring us to places that trigger fond memories for Anda and Papo. On our way to the Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat, we posed in front of the university that Marissa's grandmother attended. (This one's for you, Tita Femme!)

In this predominantly Catholic country, Masses are celebrated inside shopping malls. It was no surprise that the owners of the largest shopping mall in the Philippines (and the third largest in the world) donated land and built a church near their Mall of Asia. The mall, as most estalishments, were closed on Good Friday. But the church was filled with pilgrims. (Shrine of Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Manila)

Most Filipino celebrations come with processions, lights, and songs, and if the girls' humming is any indication, some of the week's highlights have filtered through their being. It may have been a long and tiring week for the girls, with rarely a day spent at home for relaxing. But in the quiet that they'll find in VA, their senses will remember. (St. Paul of the Cross, Marikina; Maundy Thursday procession, Marikina)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Anime Fairfax

The girls' cousins are big cosplayers, so Fairfax, Marissa's Bunny got to attend her first Cosplay Summit. There were gamers and manga merchandise galore. Fairfax personally loved posing with Kitty-chan, who's celebrating her 35th year.

The girls, on the other hand, got to pose with very gracious (female) cosplayers. There were awesome (and gruesome) male cosplayers but we stayed clear of weapons and blood, and tried hard to stay Rated G.

We finally caught up with Kuya Kyle (sans wings), who worked on his costume for 3 weeks. It would have been out of character to grin at the camera so the girls did all the smiling for him.