Sunday, June 28, 2009
Right now I am in Houston visiting family. It's just Jackson and me right now; mom and Emmett stayed behind to make the trip easier. It's heart-warming what a little separation can do for a family. Jackson and Emmett talk to each other every day on the cell, and we exchange "I miss you" messages back and forth, with the occasional picture attachment.
Here in Houston, my first official act as a cool dad was to upgrade our full-sized car rental to a convertable, which through some haggling with the Hertz agent turned into a rag-top Shelby Cobra. It's gorgeous, and baby does she scream. It's added a whole new dimension to the trip that I never expected. My son and nieces and cousins are loving the looks we get from pedestrians and other motorists as we prowl the streets with the top down.
We'll be home in a couple days. As much as Jackson and I are enjoying ourselves, we are looking forward to sleeping in our own beds again. My mother's side of the family is so spoiled with their big and beautiful homes--and I'm glad that Jackson is getting a taste of what it is like to live the priveleged life (dual shower heads, whirlpool tubs, self-balancing swimming pools, spacious skies and amber waves of grain). They all love me so much and I am truly blessed to have them.
That's about it for now. Just checking in really. I'll stop by and say hi over the coming weeks. Be well.
Oh, I saw the new Star Trek. Call me sentimental, but I loved it. Better than any of the motion pictures except for maybe Wrath of Khan, and even that may have been exceeded. Acting was great, story was great, Uhura was a freaking knock-out, Scotty was out Scottied, Bones was dead-on, Spock was a stud, and Kirk got punked for a change--and the original flavor that made the original series a cult favorite was recreated from Roddenberry's recipe, with a few extra spices sprinkled in.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
I'm pretty excited about the new guitar I just bought. My wife and I have decided to not spend any money that we don't have, and definitely not on frivolous things such as toys. So I sold my motorcycle that I haven't ridden since Jackson was born. I called a local mechanic so that I could get the bike back in running condition since the throttle was sticking and it was leaking gas. When I told him what kind of bike it was, and that it was in otherwise mint condition with less than 10K miles on the engine, he decided to buy it himself.
We made a deal after some haggling back and forth, something I totally suck at by the way, but in the end I think I got a pretty good price for it. So my with my wallet loaded, I decided that this money was all mine. It wasn't for paying the bills or doing something really responsible like an adult would treat it. Nope. For the first time since I was a bachelor, I was going shopping for boy toys. There was also a sentimental aspect to this train of thought. Although I didn't ride that motorcycle anymore, which I gave up because I wanted my children to have a father when they reached puberty, I still loved that bike. I know it sounds corny, but that bike was my buddy. We toured California together. Down highway 1 from San Francisco to LA, to Palm Desert, Sequoia National Park, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite. We learned the streets of San Francisco together and took in the breathtaking views from Twin Peaks and the overlook across the Golden Gate and into the wetlands beyond.
When I signed over the title to the mechanic, I took what I knew was going to be my last look at the bike. He patted me on the shoulder because he just knew.
So I have to respect how I spend every cent of the money I sold her for.
I've been a big fan of Brent Mason, who is a Nashville session guitarist. You can pretty much hear him on any album recorded by any country artist in the 90's. His sound defies imitation, and I had long since given up even trying. But of late I've been seeing YouTube videos here and there of guitarists that play a style called "chicken pickin'" which is Brent's style as well. YouTube is an incredible source of guitar lessons, and there are resources that enable you to copy a YouTube video locally to your computer, and free software that will scrape the audio from a video into an mp3 file. On top of that, there is software such as The Amazing Slow Downer that will slow down a recording without altering the pitch, meaning it plays just like the recording only slower, just as if the artist was playing it slower for you. It really is as advertised: totally amazing.
I noticed that almost all the chicken pickers have Telecaster guitars. I asked my guitar instructor why that is, and he pulled his out and let me play it, telling me that you just get more pop and bend out of the strings than you get with a Stratocaster, which I already have. So, long story short, I spend seven hundred dollars of my motorcycle money on a new Tele, and I totally love it.
Ninety more went to Mr. Doug Seven. He's a Brent Mason enthusiast and he publishes videos on how to play in that style. I'm on disk 1 of four working on riff one of around nine. It's insanely fast.
Ok, so the point of all this. It all goes back to the early days of life when my Grandma Rose would listen to me sing along with the radio. She asked me to make a cassette tape for her so she could listen to me some more, and I always told her I would. Now I'm 45 and still haven't done it. So I spent two hundred more dollars on a Tascam recorder that will facilitate the recording of my guitar and voice and whatever else into the computer. I have to figure that out still, but I've got everything I need now to make it happen.
The only question left was which song to start with. I've decided on the Judds song called Grandpa Tell Me about the Good Old Days or some variation of that title. I'm going to change Grandpa to Grandma and give it a go. A long time ago I tried to figure out what the guitarist was doing with the main riff, but it was beyond me. Picking around with it yesterday, suddenly I know exactly what he is doing. It's really such a pretty sounding song. If you've never heard it before, look it up. If you've ever thought that life was simpler in your Grandparents' day, when families stuck together through good times and bad, and a man's word and a handshake was all the assurance you needed, then this song will resonate with you.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I don't know if I have the courage to tell you about every fax pas I've committed in my lifetime, so far, but I have to tell you what happened to me yesterday.
A friend of mine—I'll call him Oniondude—from the last company I worked at likes to send me links from The Onion, which many of you know about already. I don't find it particularly funny most of the time. Satire has to be done with just the right touch and I don't often appreciate what I read there. It's sort of ironic because I can laugh from the start of Top Secret to the end (especially the exploding Pinto scene).
Earlier in the day, I had been working on a tough issue at work, and the newest addition to our software development team—I'll call her Mary—happens to have had some experience in the arena I was investigating, and she sent me her notes on how to set up my software tools to do what I needed them to do. It worked wonderfully, and I would have been sunk without her. So at 5:30PM, after finally getting everything up and running, I wrote an instant message to her, "It works! Wahoooo!"
No reply. I was thinking it was after five and she had gone home.
Twenty minutes later Oniondude sends me an Onion link entitled: Houston Rockets Catch Tracy McGrady Masturbating To Tape Of His 41-Point Performance. I didn't bother to read it and was going to ignore it, but he wrote me back:
"that is great!"
Ok, he wanted a reaction. I typed, "I would masturbate to my own perfomance too. Not sure how long it would take to wear off."
A minute later: "did you mean to send that to me? i'm not getting it. sorry"
I looked at the IM screen. It was Mary who had replied, our previous conversation having overlaid the one I was having with Oniondude.
I felt a thousand sizzling hot prickles on my face.
"Oh, my, goodness—I am sooo sorry. It was replying to a friend about an Onion article."
"don't worry. no prob :) just making sure it wasn't some new fangled programming joke"
"I'm glad you have a sense of humor… I would never do that out of the blue. That's going down in my history of big whopping blunders, and the list is pretty long already."
"definitely. i like have a laugh. well, if you don't have a list of blunders you may not be living life fully :)"
Can you imagine what could have happened if she weren't so cool? My GOD! My legs were shaking after the adrenaline wore off. I thought I was going to get fired for sure.
So, does anyone care to share a similar story? Feel free to post about it and put a link in the comments.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
My wife told me I should write this down, and my preschooler thought it was funny enough to tell his teacher about, so it's at least worth committing to my blog.
I've been a little skeptical about global warming lately—not that I'm discounting it or even changing my pattern of conservational behavior—but it's been so dang cold this winter, and the snow has been relentless. I'm sick of it. My snow blower has been on the fritz ever since I ran over a stick and took out the right front blades. Technically it still works, but I have to go over everything twice.
It's of significant importance that I keep the face of our driveway clean, since it slopes for a stretch of fifteen to twenty feet to the street; and ours is a blind driveway—which roughly translated means you never really know if some crazy teenager or Boston commuter is coming until your headlamps kiss the median.
So this morning I had a bright idea. I backed the Saturn to the road's edge, then parked the Expedition (bought before global enlightenment) in front of it, both vehicles spanning the incline. The thinking here was to keep the snow from burying the incline so that I didn't have to shovel it. Sound thinking, but just a bit too late since the snow had already coated the driveway. But the Expedition held fast. So, I made of ass of u and me when I decided it would remain so.
I went inside where my wife had the kids bundled up in winter coats, boots, hats and mittens. From that vantage point, I could see something didn't look right from the laundry room window. I could have sworn that the Expedition was not where I had parked it. It appeared to be where the Saturn used to be.
And sure enough, the Saturn was in the middle of the road with the trailer hitch of the Expedition pinned under its bumper.
Thankfully nobody hit it.
So I pulled the Saturn into the neighbor's driveway.
When I picked Emmett up from preschool, the teachers laughed and told me about Emmett's recounting of the story.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Sort of. I apologize for not responding to comments, which has been a trend for me going on the order of months now. I'm in a transitional phase and I'm not sure what's going to give. My wife approached me with the idea that I might have attention deficit issues, so I went to a doctor and he prescribed me some medicine that I am trying today for the first time. I'm already feeling something, though I can't say for sure just what. But so far this morning I have replied to three emails, written two others that have been long overdue, and my thoughts seem to be more focused on what I have to do.
Distractibility is my biggest issue. It seems that with my overwhelming workload lately that instead of focusing on getting it done I'm getting nothing done at all, as if the burden of wanting to write, play guitar, get my finances in order, read, play my games and be a kick-ass awesome parent—oh, and be good at my job—has become the weight of the earth squared, and I've dumped the whole thing.
By the way, Beth (it was you I think), thanks for turning me onto the short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I finished Gatsby, but I have to say, as much as I enjoyed it, the short stories are (to me) infinitely better. I can't stand being told someone is a great writer only to be annoyed with their florid use of the language. Fitzgerald is so not intimidating at all. He can describe people with such ease and eloquence, and follows the inner dialogue of people in so many situations. He's so intuitive. Well, I'm just soaking it all in. I've promised myself that I will go back and reread it all and write down every line that moves me. I'm actually thinking of writing a program that will categorize the type of passage so that I can recall it later when I'm looking for a way to say something. Sort of like, and maybe just like, the way you can attach labels to blog posts. But this I want to have locally so I don't have to rely on blogspot to be around. Someday we're all going to lose everything we've ever written in blogland.
My family life has been astoundingly wonderful. I've always been happy at home, but happy in a way that is deferent to the way things were before I met my wife. Marriage isn't always easy, and can sometimes be difficult, but I've never ever thought of throwing in the towel. But there has been a change lately. My wife is happier than she has ever been, and her relationship with the kids has taken a joyous turn. Where before it could be strained, it's mostly smooth and easy. They laugh and play games while I'm typing away at the keys. The kids play with each other so nicely. There are fights like you would always expect, but nothing a little room time can't clear up like magic. My kids are so well-mannered. I remember in the old days when Jackson was only three how parents would warn me of times to come. "You'll see; you just wait…" And it scared me, even as I bravely told them and myself that it would be different for me, because—and I have to be frank here—I knew that I was a better parent. And that's not to say bad things don't happen to good parents, because they do, but good things happen to good parents too, and there is a reward for doing things right.
My tenth anniversary was just last week. We got a babysitter and went out. At dinner I presented my wife with a diamond necklace that I got from Macy's the day before. Funny story behind that, but I'll stay on track (the drugs are kicking in). I told her that I was glad that she was the mother of my children. She waved it off and said, "I'm the sure thing." But I pressed on. The truth is, like Helen Hunt to Jack Nicholson, she doesn't just make me want to be a better man, she makes me a better man. Without her I would be lost. All my dreams, my hopes, my aspirations, would be nothing without her. She's the first and last part of everything I need. And that's the truth.
Happy tenth, baby.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Friday, January 02, 2009
When I was a little boy, I dreamed of the day that I would grow up and be a scientist, a robotics scientist that could breathe life into my favorite Sesame Street characters, starting with Ernie.
Life, I suppose, is the easiest answer—a dismissal for sure, but truthful. I never was a good student, but I was doing ok until I got to high school. The seeds were planted, and by then I had the ear-marks of a drop-out. It took me three years of college until I did just that.
What a poor wandering lost soul I was.
I know now that this was all on my parents. A child of multiple divorces, living with an alcoholic father and step-mother, both too self-absorbed to be bothered, except to throw tantrums when evidence of their failure arrived in the form of report cards. Sure, I had every bit to do with each decision I made, but I was a rudderless ship, and I bashed myself for not supplying one of my own. But now I'm a parent I know that I was still a child, more so than any of my peers. I never grew up until I got married if I were to be perfectly honest, and in many ways I still am.
This could never happen to my sons. I—we, my wife and I both—pay attention. We're involved. There is no way that they will be wandering the early like Cain in Kung Fu when they graduate from high school. They've got partners in this life. They'll never be alone as long as we live.
I remember my physics class in high school. The teacher, Eldon Dennis, was a bit flabbergasted that I would have even attended in the first place. I was just awful. I didn't care a lick for hard work, analysis, mathematics. I was the anti-student. Yet there I was in a class with the best and the brightest. And yet I stuck with it. I would have failed, but the assistant at the time sold me a copy of the final exam.
Ever since then, I've thought that physics was simply beyond me, even though I went on to college (my second college) and got through Calculus II without much difficulty. In fact, after Calc II, I was beginning to think I had missed my calling, since the solving on an equation gave me such satisfaction. And really, until I had taken Calc, I didn't realize just how real-life math is. By that time, on the brink of graduation, it was too late to get serious about it.
So here I am, a forty four year old man who thinks he's still in his teens, thinking that I should have traveled another path. It was clear what I wanted to do when I was a kid, pining to make fantasy come to life. But I have to wonder… even now, is it too late? The answer is a bit complicated, but I have to think that it's not. I'm roughly half way through with this life, so that leaves another half for a do-over.
I want to sit down at my computer and draw a design, then I want to build my machine with movable parts, complete with gears and levers. I want to build an engine—and not just the engine, but the tools that make the parts of the engine, and the tools that make the tools that make the parts of the engine—and perhaps a trebuchet in my back yard to hurl dead squirrels into the woods. This might be my father working his way out of me, but I realize now that this is what I've always wanted to do.
Today I build software. Whoopdie-doo. It's kind of sad, but the only reason I still do it is because it pays the bills. I'm not complaining. If it weren't for software, I don't know where I would be, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be sitting in a house that I call my own. The problem with following your heart is that you have to be in touch with yourself enough to know what your heart is.
My wife started a new tradition this New Years day. Each of us wrote down our resolutions on index cards and put them into a box which we will open next New Years day. My wife wants to write my grandmothers a letter every month, and my five-year-old Emmett wants to learn Kung Fu (Kung Fu Panda, if you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to the best movie made in a long time—Jack Black is perfectly cast!), and Jackson (nine) is keeping his a secret for now (but I know it has something to do with learning basketball). Mine is two-fold: start into the process of night-school or online educating myself in mechanical engineering, and to write a short story of at least three thousand words and submit it for publication.
No more goofing around.