Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Laugh (December blogfest)

Laugh. What was your biggest belly laugh of the year?

Too many to single out just one. As the four of us have grown together and developed our own, individual, comfortable sense of self, we've had so much joy over the last few years that it seems like one long laugh, punctuated only infrequently and stochastically with occasional sadness or sorrow, like the death of my father.

In stark contrast to my younger self and life, I am a happy person. My wife and kids are responsible for that remarkable transformation. And that makes me happy, too!


L'homme qui rit! I should have my own cheese.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Stationery (December blogfest)

Stationery. When you touch the paper, your heart melts. The ink flows from the pen. What was your stationery find of the year?

Well, it's not new this year but I'm a traditionalist as well as a classicist so I've always had personalized stationery. The stationery I use now is a design I've had for a lotta years. I like it. There's something very civilized about using quality, personalized stationery. If my handwriting weren't illegible, I'd use a fountain pen as well; but, alas, even my printing is barely decipherable so I simply use a ballpoint pen for clarity's sake.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Gift (December blogfest)

Gift. What's a gift you gave yourself this year that has kept on giving?

I guess that would hafta be Marty and Wolfgang, my electric guitar and amp, respectively. Music has charms to soothe my savage breast.

Marty:


Wolfgang:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Project (December blogfest)

Project. What did you start this year that you're proud of?

This is an easy one for me to answer this year: The Greybeards.

I hadn't played music in front of an audience in almost twenty years and then Jeff and Russ accreted to initiate the inescapable gravity well of The Greybeards. I was pulled in, unresisting, closely followed by some Hot Backup Chicks. Playing with The Greybeards and Hot Backup Chicks has been a fabulous experience and an onging project which I hope will continue into the indefinite future.

Our incarnation at LIFE is Good 2009 without drummer Alex:


Here's one at Good Vibrations 2009 with Alex but without the Hot Backup Chicks.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Shop (December blogfest)

Shop. Online or offline, where did you spend most of your mad money this year?

The thing that comes most directly to mind for this past year is music gear. We disposed of a great deal of income at Guitar Center, Kennelly Keys, craigslist, and even got some stuff from eBay. Overall, we bought:

Guitars: 2 acoustic-electric guitars, 1 electric guitar, and 1 electric bass.

The four facing the camera are the new ones. From left to right: MJ's acoustic-electric (Isolde), Ronnie's acoustic-electric (nameless), Chloe's bass (Cornelius), and my electric (Marty).

Amps: Fender Princeton combo amp, Fender 100B (Bassman) amp head, Peavey Centurion amp head, Fender cabinet (2X15), and another cabinet with one 12" and one 10".

The Fender Bassman head powering the Fender cabinet.

The Fender Princeton (named Wolfgang) sitting on the additional speaker cabinet.

The Peavey amp head under my synthesizer (Synthia), who is 20 years old and, therefore, not part of this year's purchasing.

Percussion: A coupla djembe drums (one seen clearly and another half-hidden by the keyboard stand above, under Synthia and the Peavey) and an assortment of other rhythm devices, many of the small ones in the orange bag seen above.

Plus an assortment of peripheral and/or miscellaneous extras like cords, stands, etc.

Word of the year (December blogfest)

A word that encapsulates your year. "2009 was _____."

My fellow dudes and dudettes, if your year can be encompassed by a single word, YOU AIN'T LIVING! Get out there and do something. Or investigate inside your own head. Just please, c'mon and show me something: think something, learn something, watch something, explore something, try something, rediscover something you'd forgotten you love, Hell!, fuck something up (I excel at that one!), but don't just sit there merely existing in a one-word state, Mr. A. Square of Flat(-affect)land. LIVE fer gawd's sake!

This past year for me was, like most years, encyclopedic. Dictionaryous? Lexiconic? Thesaurian?

Busy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tea (December blogfest)

Tea of the year. I can taste my favorite tea right now. What's yours?

Mine is the unseasonal, cool-down treat lemonade-tea. This drink is sometimes called an "Arnold Palmer" but you'll never hear me say that. Apologies to my friends who like the sport, but golf? Just kill me now. I enjoyed watching golf just once - during the movie Happy Gilmore.

This is a very flexible drink which can be biased toward the lemonade or the tea, can be strong or weak, etc. I like it best when the lemonade is made from fresh-squeezed lemons sweetened with a simple syrup made from super-refined white cane sugar and the tea is a somewhat strong brew of a black tea like Irish Breakfast. My personal mix favors the lemonade side a bit. Serve it in a tall glass over ice with a slice of lemon as a garnish. Me, I don't like mint in my drinks, but if you do, feel free to add a sprig. Ahhhhh!



Feeling festive? Add some vodka. Or feel a bit more Southern by adding bourbon. Or do it Noo Awlins-style with Southern Comfort. Or go all the way down to the islands with added rum.

NOW we're drinking lemonade-tea!

Late addition: Ronnie suggested that I add my "recipe" for quick-and-dirty lemonade-tea made from powdered mix(es). Here 'tis:

3/4 of the recommended amount of powdered lemonade to make a half-gallon.
1/2 of the recommended amount of powdered instant (sweetened) iced tea to make a half-gallon.
1/2 gallon of water. [Sparkling water is an interesting variation].
Stir.

Yes, you did notice that this mix is "richer" than recommended. That's how I roll. Can you dig it?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Best packaging (December blogfest)

Best packaging. Did your headphones come in a sweet case? See a bottle of tea in another country that stood off the shelves?

I intended to do a rant about packaging in general - the expense, the waste, etc. But my friend Denise, a New Orleans area unschooler, just did a Facebook link to famous New Orleans cocktails. One of the offerings was an Ojen cocktail and that resulted in a discussion of the fact that Ojen was used as a substitute for Absinthe after it was outlawed. All of New Orleans wept on that day and began bootlegging and smuggling genuine Absinthe while simultaneously looking for legal substitutes for the lovely and seductive Green Fairy. If nothing else, emptied Ojen bottles served as an excellent beard for serving real Absinthe.

But we're in a brave new millennium and Absinthe is no longer (completely) illegal in the land of the free. So my favorite packaging of the past year is not a fancy bottle of tea but a happy new bottle of Absinthe, purchased from my local Washington State Liquor Store.


Try the classic preparation a la louche or be brave and sample my own concoction the Zombie Princess Cocktail.

A votre sante! Suivez la Fee Verte!

P.S. Amusing factoid. Wormwood is used to make Absinthe. The Russian word chernobyl can be translated as wormwood, if you stretch just a bit. Don't worry; I don't think Absinthe is responsible for that event. Like Neil Young said, "Don't let it bring you down; it's only castles burning."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rush (December blogfest)

Rush. When did you get your best rush of the year?

I had a lot of emotional "rushes" this year but I've mostly covered those already. Besides, I'm taking this prompt to mean physical, adrenaline-type rushes. I didn't do anything with a huge adrenaline component this past year. SpaceShipTwo has not quite begun flights (and I don't have a loose $200K lying around to fund my presence on one of those joyrides). No spinnaker flying. No glider time. Haven't bought that Velocity airplane yet. We were busy doing social stuff in the Summer and didn't do any rock climbing. (Falling is always good for a lovely rush. Big fun!) Etc. Some exhilirating sailing was probably my biggest rush in '09 with two lovely instances.

I spent the New Year's holiday on the beautiful catamaran of my pal Laureen and her fabulous family. We went for a zippy sail under the Golden Gate Bridge. Yes, it was pretty damned cold but it was an exquisite sail with a lovely family on a big fast cat. Delightful.

The second instance was in March when MJ and I drove to New Orleans. My friend Bob's boat, GORT, was about ready to be relaunched after some work in the yard and we went for a couple of sprightly sails on Lake Pontchartrain. I love that boat; a total rush to sail!

Me up forward.


Not on Lake Pontchartrain but a good boat shot.

Change (December blogfest)

What's the best change you made to the place you live?

No contest on this one; this is easily the best thing I did to improve the place I live: Inaugurated a new president who is neither insane, nor a traitor, nor a war criminal.

Although we may hafta wait and see about that last one. Why is the current Justice Department defending John Yoo? This man, along with Bush, Cheney, et al. is clearly as guilty of war crimes as the Germans and Japanese we tried and convicted after WWII.

Welcome, Connor Lewis!

Jerry (my sister Judy's son) and Cori say: Connor Lewis is the newest addition to our little family he is 8#11Oz 20.5 inches.

Ready to make his appearance:


He's here:


Molly says, "Hi!"

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Challenge (December blogfest)

Challenge. Something that really made you grow this year. That made you go to your edge and then some. What made it the best challenge of the year for you?

I'm comfortable inside my own head. I'm uncomfortable trying to share what's in there with others. It has taken me so many years, decades even, of active thinking and reading and doing to integrate my body of knowledge and experience into my personal epistemology and teleology that I feel that I would typically need a thousand pages to adequately answer people when they ask seemingly basic questions. I mean, it took Bertrand Russell approximately 400 pages in Principia Mathematica (volume 1) to say that 1+1=2 and the proof of it is not completed until a hundred pages into volume 2.

So what am I to think, much less do, when some asks me what "unschooling" means to me? That's a concept which is a bit more complex than 1+1=2, after all. To respond adequately is a Herculean challenge; but about a year ago I gave in and composed my very first unschooling-specific post here, after being prodded by Jon Gold.

Since then, I've written two other unschooling-specific posts but both of those were defensive reactions to, and criticisms of, people who were claiming the mantle of unschooling for unpleasant, and in one case, vile, behavior.

The two critical posts were not so difficult to compose. That type of writing comes to me readily. However, writing that first one, giving my take on something important to me, was terribly challenging and scary as hell. Of course, that alone was a valuable lesson for me, to accept that fear was a significant part of my resistance to writing about unschooling. And that makes it the best challenge for me because I pushed through my fear into the place beyond. And that "place beyond" is, as Ronnie once wrote, a wide-sky life.

Lagniappe

A fella named Sam Clemens called it "a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get." The dictionary gives a definition of it but culture gives it meaning. Bakers give it life in the phrase "baker's dozen." It's a little something extra thrown in for free after concluding a significant exchange of goods or services.

This post is a little lagniappe for my readers cuz I just realized that my last post about a moment of peace was my 200th post. I know that, for the prolific among you, that ain't much but I'm miserly with my writing. And slow. I'm kinda amazed that I've made so many posts. I have been many things and will be many more but I am always me.










And I sincerely hope, Dear Reader, that I will always be silly and, perhaps, entertaining, but that's for you to judge. For me, silliness is the achievement.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Moment of peace (December blogfest)

Moment of peace. An hour or a day or a week of solitude. What was the quality of your breath? The state of your mind? How did you get there?

I was thinking about skipping this one but then decided to give my take on it. For me, the idea espoused here equates to internal stillness. I know people who meditate. I think I understand the concept. The closest I come to that is when I'm soaking in the bathtub/shower, my mind floating among the quanta. Otherwise, my brain is always gnawing at something. Always. Except...

Interestingly, I frequently achieve a significant, mind-expanded inner stillness during animated conversations among the four of us. Chloe, MJ, Ronnie, and I will be engaged in a spirited discussion which will then mutate to the point where the three of them are embroiled in some specific concept, leaving me in a quiet conversational eddy. As I sit and watch them attempt to unscrew the inscrutable, I find myself slipping into an exceedingly peaceful state, my awareness open but unengaged, not actively gnawing at anything, my needs nonexistent, my wants nonexistent, the flow of time nonexistent. Ronnie, MJ, and Chloe are intensely engaged, their minds integrating, synthesizing, their brilliant exchanges of energetic thought almost visible in their intensity; but in those moments I feel that I am a stillness at the center of things, the shanti of the East.

Fuck yeah!


Thanks to Ronnie for twigging me to this. I hadn't seen it yet.

SpaceShipTwo rollout.

Hanging on her launch craft, WhiteKnightTwo, dubbed "Eve," the innovative SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise, is getting ready for commercial spaceflight. This is a seminal day for humanity.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Conference (December blogfest)

Workshop or conference. Was there a conference or workshop you attended that was especially beneficial? Where was it? What did you learn?

We attended two wonderful conferences this year.

First, our perennial pilgrimage to the LIFE is Good Unschooling Conference last May in Vancouver, WA. Here's what I wrote after the '08 conference. Dunno if I can really add much to that narrative. This past year's conference saw our little family playing music together for the talent show. That was a delightful addition. Can't wait for next May!


Second, the first-ever Good Vibrations Unschooling Conference last September in San Diego, CA. An unschooling conference in warm, sunny San Diego with an appearance by The Greybeards and their Hot Backup Chicks. 'nuff said!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Night out (December blogfest)

Night out. Did you have a night out with friends or a loved one that rocked your world? Who was there? What was the highlight of the night?

I can see that there's gonna be some overlap in my answers to the prompts I choose to respond to. Dass awrite. Dat don' boddah me, no. Pas de tout!

I've said it before, music is a big part of my life. I always have a soundtrack going for my life's movie, even if it's only in my head. Some of my most fun times ever were my adventures playing rock 'n' roll in New Orleans and nearby areas in the '60s but that was decades ago. My most excellent night out with family and friends this year was playing music with The Greybeards and their callipygian Hot Backup Chicks.

I've told the background story of this group elsewhere on this blog. The specific answer to this prompt is the night of the Farewell Dance for the Good Vibrations Unschooling Conference where we were the house band, playing our hearts out for family and friends.

The energy of playing live music is unequalled when you're playing for/with an excited crowd of wonderful pepople who are dancing and grooving and enjoying the hell out of the experience. The bonus was that my wife was in the band with me, as a Hot Backup Chick, and my daughters were in the crowd having fun, except when they joined us behind the mikes for a group rendition of YMCA. Additionally, the crowd was composed of our unschooling friends of all ages and the room just glowed with fun and friendship.

Here is the YouTube channel with about a dozen of the two dozen songs we played that night.

Unfortunately, I don't have a photo from Good Vibrations with a clear view of Alex, our drummer, in it. If anybody has one, please share it with me so I can use it here. Thanks!


Here's one at Good Vibrations of The Greybeards without the Hot Backup Chicks.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Book (December blogfest)

Book. What book - fiction or non - touched you? Where were you when you read it? Have you bought and given away multiple copies?

I know the intent of this prompt is to obtain a recommendation for a delightful or interesting book but I'm gonna go in the other direction. This book touched me in the bad way, the way they talk to kids about in grammar school. It made my personal places shrink all up and sent icky chills up and down my spine. I'm here to warn you off before you go to the effort of taking this sanity molester home.

My opinion of (not)James Patterson's Sail is here.

Yes, I'm doing some of these the easy way by linking to stuff I already wrote this year. Color me comfortably lazy. But participating!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Restaurant moment (December blogfest)

Restaurant moment. Share the best restaurant experience you had this year. Who was there? What made it amazing? What taste stands out in your mind?

I have two from this year.

1. January. After my dad's funeral on Friday (January 23, 2009), Saturday night we went to see my old buddy Big Daddy O play music while having a family restaurant get-together in classic Noo Awlins style. There were 17 of us ranging from my 60 years of age down to nephew Paul's new baby at less than a year. We ate po-boys and other delish Noo Awlins foods, consumed delightful adult beverages, and danced and/or just listened while BDO played his heart out. We toasted Marty (my dad) and celebrated his wonderful life with stories and memories.


2. August. We have kids so we don't really get to have "dates" very often. However, this past August, the girls were away at NBTSC when we celebrated our anniversary(#19!). We took ourselves to the Bellevue (Washington) Ruth's Chris Steak House for a lovely dinner for two. RCSH has become a national chain from its pedestrian solo beginnings on Broad St. in New Orleans. They don't offer Kobe beef (Tajima, Wagyu) but they serve a quality American steak and it was tasty. Add in a coupla champagne cocktails (I'm a sucker for kir royale made with M&C White Star.) and a decent wine, then follow it with a competent bread pudding drenched in whiskey sauce and you have a nice meal. What I enjoyed more than the food itself, however, was the experience.

I love it when Ronnie and I have time alone together to reconnect as a couple. I love to eat at quality restaurants, places where they understand the proper pace for a pleasant meal. I also like to dress well. Occasionally. Yes, you'll usually see me in shorts and a T-shirt or jeans and a T-shirt and you'll never see me in yuppie corporate casual "slacks" and "dressy" collared shirts (Dear gawd, how I detest that clothing niche!); but in addition to my typical seriously-casual couture, I do enjoy the feel of a nice suit or even my tuxedo with a hand-tied bowtie. It's just so civilized, especially here in the Northwest where people even go to the ballet, opera, or symphony in jeans. Sigh!

Anyway, the total experience of our anniversary dinner date was delightful and a highlight of the year in eating out.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

December blogfest, kinda

There's a December blogfest being instigated here. Not being much of a joiner, I'm not gonna officially link up and play along but I might do a few of 'em just for the hell of it.

Today's theme is: Trip. What was your best trip in 2009?

I tend to dislike comparison questions like this: best trip, best friend, best sex, etc. I find that concept as strange as the idea of dividing the world into the absolutes of good and evil. Really? I wish someone could explain that to me in a way that makes sense. Anyway, in terms of the theme, I'm gonna do a simple, easy laundry list, linking some of the trips I/we took this year and which I've blogged about previously.

Unplanned January trip to New Orleans for my father's death and funeral. "Best" in the sense of seeing my dad, which was always nice, being there for his death, which was important, and celebrating his life, which was crucial. I love you, dad.

In March, my older daughter, MJ, and I decided to take a surprise roadtrip to New Orleans for a coupla reasons. Chloe was in Atlanta visiting friends, Ronnie was interested in having the house to herself for "a coupla days," and we had a dink we weren't using while Bob in New Orleans needed a dink. Plus selling Bob the dink would pay for the trip. Perfect. We had a great visit and got in some nice sailing on Gort. I love that boat. My trip last Summer delivering Gort is detailed here.

In May, we attended the always-fabulous LIFEisGood Unschooling Conference. We put together a family band and did a song for the talent show there. That was supreme fun, playing music with my wife and daughters. As an added bonus, I fell in with a coupla other unschooling dads and we did a song, too, as The Greybeards with unschooling moms helping us out as The Hot Backup Chicks. Fantasy version of those events is here.

In June, we travelled internationally (to Canada, which is actually just a short drive for us) for some fun with friends. I don't seem to have blogged about it but Ronnie spoke of it here. It's a wide-sky life, indeed, with friends like these.

In September, we loaded up the car, and a U-haul full of music gear, and drove to San Diego for the first-ever Good Vibrations Unschooling Conference. I know it's limited and selfish of me to focus on this narrow aspect of that experience but my favorite part of the conference was playing music. After our performance at LIFEisGood, The Greybeards and Hot Backup Chicks wanted to repeat the experience. We negotiated our way into being the house band for the farewell dance on Sunday night at Good Vibrations and it was simply magnificent. I talked about that experience a bit at #3 here. Some of the two dozen songs we played that night are here.

I'm a firm believer in the motif of life as a journey. Life is movement. That's kind of an unspecified, peripheral theme of my #4 gratitude post. Keep on truckin', y'all!


Ronnie calls this shot "Yes we were cruisers!" no doubt because of all the crap festooning the deck. It was taken on Bayou Bonfouca, just a little way up the bayou from Lake Pontchartrain, on the North shore, across from New Orleans proper. It was taken after Katrina but before Rita, which we rode out at anchor in this spot. Now that was a trip!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

What? Based on my previous post(s) about this holiday you thought I was gonna be all Scroogey and not celebrate today? Well, I guess I fooled you, then.

I am a cynic, I freely admit it. However, remember that in many ways I'm a classicist and the ancient Greek philosophy of Cynicism differs somewhat from the simplistic "cynicism" of today. Historically, Cynicism gave rise to Stoicism. Interestingly, I came to my Cynicism, or cynicism, from [S/s]toicism. It seems I frequently do things ass-backwards. My dad could probably have had a career as an ascetic and the Jesuits profess a Stoic philosophy, at least superficially. The Marines... well, I think Stoicism is the official Marine philosophy. I definitely feel a kinship with the Cynics in the context of the importance of ethics, being critical of dogma, abjuring meaningless metaphysics, living in accord with nature, decrying social convention qua convention, etc.; but I was never, and am not now, into the whole "live on the street and beg" aspect of the original Cynics and I never masturbate in public. Not that I can recall, anyway.

Although I'm not above barking at someone who irritates me, just like the Cynics of old. [Kunikos (cynic) translates as "dog-like," an appellation they embraced.]

And I'm certainly not a full-time cynic or Cynic, especially when I'm being all maudlin and shit. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and so I have a simple, genuine wish for you today:

Happy Thanksgiving and I hope you and yours have a happy, healthy, fun-filled, and love-filled day.

Share the gratitude #6

The final one in the series. Now that's something to be grateful for!

O xein!, angellein Lakedaimoniois hoti tede
keimetha tois keinon rhemasi peithomenoi!

- Simonides of Ceos

Paraphrased quasitranslation:
O dear reader!, go tell Clint that I rest here all finished,
while obeying his initial injunction undiminished.

Yes, Clint is a modern Spartan (Lacedaemonian). You didn't know that? You mean you've never seen him in his spandex bodysuit with the big lambda on the front? Huh.

I'm grateful for:

1. Tom's health. FIL Tom has been dealing with some significant health and pain issues. It was pretty scary for a while but he recently got a diagnosis and treatment plan which seems like it should provide a good outcome. I'm grateful for "Papa" Tom in general because he's a wonderful person but I'm specifically grateful that this particular issue is looking like it's gonna turn out ok.


2. Bob's health. My old college gymnastics buddy Bob has had a couple of unpleasant health problems lately. I won't go into great detail but after two operations recently, he's finally gotten a kidney stone condition resolved after almost a year. Once he heals up from those surgeries, he'll go under the knife again for a hernia he's been living with for a coupla years. By the time he's done, he'll be out of pocket for the equivalent of a new compact car. It sucks to be without health insurance in this country but I'm grateful that my friend will have these problems corrected, despite the cost. Then, it'll be time for some new adventures for us crazy, and now old, idiots and our frequent companion, the infamous monkey bastard. Don't ask. Never mention the (infamous) monkey bastard. Never.


3. The Greybeards and their sexy Hot Backup Chicks. It all started at the fabulous LIFE is Good conference in May 2009. I don't remember exactly where the concept originated or who was the first to mention it but Jeff Sabo wanted to play some bass and Russ Anguish wanted to play some guitar. When they queried me, well, I'm always willing to play my organ (Synthia) and we had our music gear there cuz my family was doing a song for the talent show. So, in a progression as inescapable as the gravity well of a singularity, we formed up as the Greybeards and decided to play a song after the Maier family appeared as the Motley Penguins at the talent show cuz that way the gear was already set up. We did Gloria cuz it's an easy one and had Ronnie, Shonna Morgan, and Robin Bentley sing the chorus and backup bits as our Hot Backup Chicks. That effort is (mostly) recorded for posterity here.

It was tremendous fun and we glibly spoke of repeating the experience at the Good Vibrations conference in the Fall without any actual specificity to that brave talk. I enjoyed the experience so much that I did strongly wish for a repeat, whether at Good Vibrations or some other venue. Be careful what you wish for because once we entered the gravity well of the Greybeards singularity, things accelerated all on their own. First, we committed, actually and specifically, to do a song together at Good Vibrations. Cool! Talent show here we come! Then, somehow, it became a mini-set of a few, or a handful, of songs, maybe as an opening act for Amy Steinberg or perhaps as part of the Sunday night Farewell Dance or …? The next time I read my email, we were talking to Flo, the conference organizer, using the phrase "house band" in the context of the Farewell Dance. Ultimately, we wound up sending around among ourselves email lists of potential songs to fill out TWO COMPLETE SETS of music, approximately two dozen songs!

We lived in two different states and a province of Canada. We had no drummer. We did have a preliminary song list and a commitment. We voted for a core list of songs from our distribution list which would probably work for us. We decided on resources for and versions of those songs so we could listen and practice individually and we started looking for a drummer.

The Washingtonians visited Canada for some partial-group practice and further refined the playlist while getting some experience actually playing together. Later, the Canadians visited Washington for some additional practice and song refinement. Meanwhile, Jeff bought himself a beautiful bass and practiced alone in San Diego while trying to work in some together practice time with Marc Lavallee who planned to play guitar with the Good Vibrations incarnation of the Greybeards. Jeff's wife, Ginger, was also considering a position as one of the Hot Backup Chicks but ultimately decided that she had too many other obligations, assisting Flo with general conference stuff.

As we got closer to our play date, still without a drummer, we finally snagged Alex Hoeltzel through some desperate online begging. We emailed him the playlist and he started working through it with his drumming teacher. Despite his temporal status as a teen, he instantly became an official Greybeard. Phew! Rock band achieves completeness.

Eventually, we all wound up in San Diego at Good Vibrations, except that Russ couldn't make it there until Saturday; so the rest of us met together, some for the first time ever, on Thursday. We had a couple of get-acquainted practices in my hotel room and then on Saturday, with Russ' arrival, Flo gave us access to one of the big rooms where we had our first-ever practice all together with full gear. Sunday was the gig.

And it was wonderful. Obviously, we weren't fabulous. We weren't tight. We screwed up a lot. We won't be going on tour any time soon, earning zillions of $$ from adoring fans. But we were pretty damned good for a gang of near-strangers who had negligible practice together. Most significantly, we were good enough for rock 'n' roll and we, AND THE CROWD, had FUN. Marc didn't get to play with us because of family demands. Being unschoolers we all understood that but I wish he'd been able to. He plugged in and started to tune up but then he was called away. Maybe next time! Ginger did get to join us for one song as she sang lead on "Walkin' on Sunshine."

I love playing with the Greybeards and the Hot Backup Chicks and look forward with vast excitement to future gigs! I'm also grateful for our fantastic FANS. They are the best!


4. My friend Mange and his killer stuttering guitar. (#31 at that link. Edited version reproduced below.)

THE G100
THE 100 MOST LEGENDARY U.S. 60s GARAGE 45s

31. Better Half Dozen: I'm Gonna Leave You/I Could Have Loved Her. [Link to "I Coulda" on YouTube. No online version that I know of for "Gonna Leave." I might hafta upload one.] A supreme 2-sided masterpiece which has everything. The A-side is a monster punker with frantic organ, basic pounding drums and a ridiculously effective stuttering guitar [Emphasis added] solo. The B-side combines a memorable haunting chorus with upbeat pop sensibilities, and more frantic organ and killer guitar [Emphasis added]... Hear both killer tracks on Sixties Archives 5: Louisiana Punk Groups from the 60s.

Mange is my remaining pal from high school and my music compadre. We played together thru the 60s then physically went our separate ways, although we kept in touch over the years. We played a reunion gig once, in '91, then returned again to our separate lives. Mange has just announced that he reactivated his guitars, amps, and accessories from a 10-year dormancy and he has returned to playing. For my part, as I said in #3 above, I've reactivated my musical life by playing with the Greybeards and the Hot Backup Chicks, which has been wonderful. And now I really wanna play another gig, even just ONE, with my old guitar pal Mange.


5. Knowledge. In contrast to bowdlerized and eviscerated school textbooks containing nothing but pablum, I've enjoyed reading serious history books from which I learned the harsh reality of the Pilgrims/Puritans/Separatists and the pogroms against, and wholesale enslavement of, the indigenous peoples of the American continents undertaken by the European powers from 1492 onward and especially the draconian increases in violence against the natives to the level of genocide by the newish government of the United States of America, compared to the more-reasonable interaction of the Northern European nations with the same native peoples prior to the formation of the U.S.A. For an Anglophobe like me, it really sucks to be morally inferior to the fucking British Empire. And, yes, I did specify Northern Europe cuz Spain was always the worst of the worst for enslavement for profit and wanton genocide under the umbrella and in the name of religion. Give Spain that, at least their purposeful, unadulterated evil made the emerging USA's casual genocide look decent and compassionate by comparison.

Speaking of religion, Thanksgiving Day is historically a day to give thanks to some mythical boojum, usually called "god," for giving us this land just like the Tetragrammaton gave Jericho and much of Canaan to Joshua; all Joshua hadda do was exterminate the current inhabitants. I'm happy that I don't believe in any kind of sky-dwelling superbeing, mystical juju, or Western cargo cult. Guess that makes me grateful to be an atheist.

The Pilgrims' legacy: strange fruit.


Me, I'm grateful to have ordinary fruit in a delicious pie with the family as a dessert course after our turkey feast, specifically, homemade, hand-picked blackberry pie luxuriating in grandma's perfect crust. Thanks, Mary!

Vivamus … atque amemus! - Catullus
Let us live and let us love!

Because, really, what else is there?

----------
Golden oldies:
Gratitude #1
Gratitude #2
Gratitude #3
Gratitude #4
Gratitude #5

Friday, November 20, 2009

(Meme)mento mori

Another -ish meme. Hey, I couldn't resist the title.

Choose the sixth picture from the sixth picture folder on your computer and post it.

So, here's mine:



The folder is FrankSail08 and it contains photos from my trip helping my pal Bob deliver his boat from St. Augustine to New Orleans. This shot is from the "test sail" (aka sea trials) just prior to the final purchase paperwork. We spent the day after this running around provisioning the boat. The day after that, we started our 1200-mile sail.

Great memories.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

TV show meme

From -ish.

Rules: Bold all of the following TV shows which you’ve ever seen 3 or more episodes of in your lifetime. Italicize a show if you’re positive you’ve seen every episode of it. Add a * for particular favorites

I'm tempted to add a designator for shows I detest or would never bother to watch. Maybe later.


24
7th Heaven
ALF
Alias
American Gothic
America’s Next Top Model
Angel
Arrested Development
Babylon 5
Batman: The Animated Series
Battlestar Galactica (the old one)
Battlestar Galactica (the new one)

Baywatch
Beverly Hills 90210
Bewitched
Bonanza
Bones*
Bosom Buddies
Boston Legal
Boy Meets World
Brothers And Sisters
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Californication
Chappelle’s Show
Charlie’s Angels
Charmed
Cheers*
Chicago Hope
Chuck*
Clarissa Explains it All
Columbo
Commander in Chief
Crossing Jordan
CSI

CSI: Miami
CSI: NY
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Dark Angel
Dark Skies
DaVinci’s Inquest
Dawson’s Creek
Dead Like Me
Deadwood
Degrassi: The Next Generation
Designing Women
Desperate Housewives
Dexter*
Dharma & Greg
Different Strokes
Doctor Who (original series)
Doctor Who 2005
Dragnet
Due South
ER
Even Stevens
Everwood
Everybody Loves Raymond
Facts of Life
Family Guy*
Fantasy Island
Farscape
Fawlty Towers
Felicity
Firefly*
Frasier
Freaks and Geeks
Friends
Fringe
Futurama
Get Smart
Gilligan’s Island
Gilmore Girls
Glee
Gossip Girl
Grey’s Anatomy
Grange Hill
Growing Pains
Gunsmoke
Happy Days
Hercules: the Legendary Journeys
Heroes
Home Improvement
Homicide: Life on the Street
House*
I Dream of Jeannie
I Love Lucy
Invader Zim
Invasion
Hell’s Kitchen
JAG
Jackass
Joey
Kim Possible
Knight Rider
Knight Rider: 2008
Kung Fu*
Kung Fu: The Legend Continues*

La Femme Nikita
LA Law
Laverne and Shirley
Law and Order: SVU

Leverage
Life on Mars (UK)
Life on Mars (US)
Little House on the Prairie
Lizzie McGuire
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Lost
Lost in Space
MASH
MacGyver
Malcolm in the Middle
Married… With Children
McLeods Daughters
Melrose Place
Miami Vice
Mission: Impossible*
Mod Squad
Monk
Mork & Mindy
Murphy Brown*
Mystery Science Theater 3000*
My Life As A Dog
My So Called Life
My Three Sons
My Two Dads
Mythbusters
NCIS*
Ned Bigby’s Declassified School Survival Guide
Nip/Tuck
Northern Exposure
Numb3rs
One Tree Hill
Oz
Perry Mason
Power Rangers
Press Gang
Prison Break
Private Practice
Privileged
Profiler
Project Runway
Psych*
Pushing Daisies*
Quantum Leap*

Queer As Folk (US)
Queer as Folk (UK)
ReGenesis
Remington Steele
Rescue Me*
Road Rules
ROME
Roseanne
Roswell
Sanctuary
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
Scrubs
Seaquest DSV
Seinfeld
Sex and the City
Six Feet Under
Slings and Arrows
Smallville
So Weird
South of Nowhere
South Park*
Spongebob Squarepants
Star Trek*
Star Trek: The Next Generation*

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Voyager
Star Trek: Enterprise

Stargate Atlantis
Stargate SG-1*
Starsky & Hutch
Superman (For me, the original series from the 50s)
Supernatural
Surface
Survivor
Taxi
Teen Titans
That 70’s Show
That’s So Raven
The 4400
The Addams Family
The Amazing Race
The Andy Griffith Show
The A-Team
The Avengers*
The Beverly Hillbillies
The Brady Bunch
The Cosby Show
The Daily Show*
The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd
The Dead Zone
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Flintstones
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
The Golden Girls
The Honeymooners
The Jeffersons
The Jetsons
The L Word
The Love Boat*
The Magnificent Seven
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Monkees
The Munsters

The Office (US)
The Office (UK)
The Powerpuff Girls
The Pretender
The Real World
The Shield
The Simpsons
The Six Million Dollar Man

The Sopranos
The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
The Twilight Zone*
The Waltons
The West Wing
The Wonder Years
The X-Files*
Third Watch
Three’s Company
Twin Peaks
Twitch City
Torchwood
True Blood
Unfabulous
Ugly Betty
Veronica Mars
Weeds
Whose Line is it Anyway? (US)*
Whose Line is it Anyway? (UK)*

Will and Grace
Wings
Xena: Warrior Princess

Share the gratitude #5

Unlike my last coupla gratitude posts which were long and thematic, this one is gonna be short and stochastic. Kinda like me. Stochastic, not sarcastic! This is gratitude time not grumpy time. I'll be short and sarcastic tomorrow. Maybe. Everything is possible.

Oh, and I promised/threatened that this post would be spicy because the last post featured no colorful language, unlike my usual writing style. So, because I keep my promises: Shit, fuck, piss, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits. Now that's colorful language! With gratitude to George Carlin, R.I.P.

I'm grateful for:

1. Our unschooling tribe. From our very first interactions, our fellow unschoolers welcomed us and accepted us and made us part of their group, seemingly instantly. That's something I had never experienced in my previous half-century of life. I love my tribe of unschoolers and I'm grateful for the love and support and friendship they provide.

2. Mambo #5, in honor of this being Gratitude #5 and symbolic of music in general. Music has always been an important part of my life. I love music. It has charms to soothe my savage breast.

3. Johannes Gutenberg. He made the mass production of books possible, bringing information to all the people, not just the elite. When I was a child, books brought the world to me: The physical world, in books describing distant lands. The intellectual world, in books by great minds from the invention of writing til the present. All the various universes of the human condition, as if they were spoken directly to me by the original experiencer. Books are a huge part of my life.

4. Snopes.com, with a nod to factcheck.org. Some folks used to use me as a fact-checking resource. Sometimes I could give them a satisfactory answer in a few minutes but sometimes it took me hours to marshal the history, facts, and arguments to explain their conundrum to their satisfaction. With the advent of snopes, most of the time my response effort was reduced to a few seconds of search followed by a copy-and-paste in a return email. Voila! The smart ones even figured out that they could use snopes themselves without bothering to send the material to me first. Hooray! Although I do confess that I once sat and did some figuring and it turns out that Bill Gates actually did pay me circa $5 for each and every email I sent (while I was working at Microsoft). Context is important for facts. The "money for emailing" idiocy is debunked here.

5. Last, but certainly not least, and because this is the spicy gratitude post, I'm grateful for Hot Dinosaur Sex because, let's face it, who isn't?


You know they're about to have some!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Armistice Day

Until I was in school, this holiday was Armistice Day, legally defined as "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'." [Emphasis added] It was changed to "Veterans Day" about the same time that religious ideologues crammed the words "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance and subverted "E pluribus unum" into "In God we trust." We could argue as to whether those are sensible (and Constitutionally acceptable) changes. You can guess my position.

Today I celebrate Armistice Day because IMO, unfortunately, "Veterans Day" has become something of a rallying cry for jingoists. I am a patriot but absolutely not a jingoist.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Share the gratitude #4

I love the warm, tropical sun. I am a son of the sun. No matter what name he goes by - Re, Helios, Apollo - he is eternally Father Fusion, endlessly ejaculating his life-giving photons onto the fertile ovum of our earth. Well, technically he's only got another 5 billion years or so during which he'll still be useful to us and then an additional 5 or so in a prolonged senescence before he fades into death as a black dwarf; but that's close enough to "endless" in human terms, as far as I'm concerned. I do so love Phoebus and the bright day he brings.

However, I am also a child of Selene, Artemis, Diana. Luna is my lambent mother, empress of the night, torn from Gaia by Theia's assault and flung into the void. Of Gaia but no longer with Gaia, she circles us endlessly, one face forever fixed on ours in desperate longing, her desire to reunite unfulfilled despite the mutual maternal attraction, doomed to increasing separation as she constantly recedes, propelled by Theia's collision, inching farther from us with each passing year even as Terra herself slows the frantic pace of her simulation of a sidereal driedel. Sometimes even Big G, one of Science's premier gods, is insufficiently powerful to resolve a separation problem. The Moon's average orbital distance currently increases by about 1-1/2 inches per year but that figure isn't static, it will ameliorate with large values of delta-T; and Earth's angular acceleration (rotation speed, if you insist) decreases by about 20 millionths of a second every year. Selene sails dolorous and alone in her Science-imposed orbit, comforted by the enfolding embrace of Ur-mother Nyx. Much as I love the realm of Re, I also crave the respite of the beatific calm when Nyx is sovereign, from Erebus' first shadows to the lengthening rosy fingers of Eos. Night, day's perfect complement.

Therefore, my theme for this gratitude post is night and here are five specific instances of night for which I'm grateful, each introduced by an appropriate [hopefully!] line from various poets you might wanna check out if you're interested in that sorta thing. One instance is on foot, one is in the car, one is under the ocean, one is on the ocean, and one is in the sky. I'll begin and end with the ocean, not one of the arbitrary, multiple, individual, discrete oceans created and restrained by our modern, highly-accurate, technologically-derived cartography, but the One True Ocean, the world-girdling pool of heaven's tears, which is singular - Panthalassa.

I'm grateful for:

1. Night light
Nox mihi prima venit! Primae da tempora nocti! - Publius Ovidius Naso (Ovid)
(My first night has arrived! Give me more time on this first night!)

For our honeymoon, Ronnie and I chartered a sailboat out of St. Martin, French West Indies. One night we were anchored off the uninhabited island of Tintamarre where, after a lovely dinner, the two of us sat in the cockpit, alone with the universe, the shimmering black-velvet bowl of the sky inverted above us, coruscating with stellar luminescence and the bold swath of the Milky Way. That was beautiful enough in and of itself but as the night progressed we were treated to a spectacular demonstration by Iupiter Elicius who filled the full 360-degree horizon with towering thunderheads until we were surrounded by a 40,000-foot wall of roiling caliginosity while there remained above us a small, central opening through which the stars still shone.

We watched for hours, seeing frequent, random lighting bolts and sheets illuminate the umbra encircling us. Single, brilliant spears which briefly spotlighted but a few degrees of our horizon from sea to stars. Magnificent immense sheets of discharge which lit layers thousands of feet in altitude and tens of degrees of horizontal arc. It was an incredible display of power and beauty. I half expected to see Cthulhu appear above us in the rift; but we weren't in a horror story, it was (and still is!) a love story, so we reclined in our cockpit, dry, comfortable, and awe-struck (but not attacked by mythical monstrosities), as nature's theater-in-the-round put on a lightshow just for us while Panthalassa gently rocked us into the succoring embrace of Hypnos and his son Morpheus.

As wonderful as that was, I'm grateful that it was Aphrodite and Eros who reigned in our cockpit that night rather than Iupiter Pluvius raining in it.

2. Night flight
O come with me into this moonlight world. - Lloyd Frankenberg

Flying is a recurring theme in my life. I love to fly, to be alone in the middle of the sky, like an ancient god, soaring above the plebian world. And night flying… well, it's just the palate-pleasing frosting (in the context of flying, I try to avoid the word "icing") on the already-sublime gateau au marrons of flying. On this particular night, I was winging back from Port Angeles on Washington's Olympic Peninsula for a landing at Paine Field in Everett, feeling like the embodiment of Beryl Markham's West with the Night. For those of you who are inclined to be prosaically precise, I was technically heading East but work with me here, ok? It's a literary conceit.

I flew along the coast at 8,000 feet and conditions were the night version of CAVU (ceiling and visibility unlimited), the silky dark cloak of the sky tattered by stars and lighted by a brilliant full moon. On my right, the glaciers of the Olympic range glowed and undulated in the silver moonlight, in stark contrast to the profound, stygian depths of the shadowed valleys, the purity of the scene scarcely disturbed by sparse clusters of artificial, manmade light. On my left, the Strait of Juan de Fuca glimmered and glittered, heaving in constant motion under Selene's glow, seeming to me a living beast, breathing deeply and slowly, rolling restlessly, biding its time, gathering its strength for the morning's waking. Hungry.

Then, there's crackle of the radio in my headphones and a remote voice is asking my intentions. There ahead is the bluff on which sits Paine Field. Geometric. Brave with plentiful artificial light. So thoroughly lighted in fact, that it even features a centerline strip of lights on the runway, making night landings child's play. Darkness banished. Humanity triumphant over the old gods who lurk at the edges of shadows, faded but not wholly gone. And I'm reducing power, descending, and returning to the world of Man. Straight lines, logic, engineering, and grandiose imitations of daylight imposed on the amorphous, organic messiness of unconstrained Nature and her dark span. Soon I'm pulling the yoke back into my belly and my wheels are squeaking their protest as unforgiving gravity and friction have their way, grabbing at us, reclaiming us, as that glowing centerline light strip, initially speeding beneath my wheels, slows, then stops. We're back. Grounded. My metal Pegasus and I brought down by my own volition. For now.

I'm grateful for the time I had with the night, the sky, and Mother Luna and long to return again to their company.

3. Night showers for hours
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

Bob, mon vieux, sometimes known as the dread Cap'n Blacktoes, is my age. For his, and my, 40th birthday, he came to Seattle to visit me for an adventure vacation as a common birthday celebration. This was August 1988. One of our planned activities was a climb of Mount Rainier with some friends who'd been on the 1984 Ultima Thule Everest expedition. It's always good to do dangerous things with highly skilled people. We chose an approach from the Sunrise area.

After a long day of uphill work, we camped for the night at altitude. It was a fine, clear night and we were on the side of the mountain opposite any potential city light pollution so the night sky was really lovely. We unrolled our Therm-a-Rests, fitted our sleepingbags into our bivisacks, and crawled in, hoping for some restful sleep to energize ourselves for the summit assault the next day at oh-dark-thirty.

Unfortunately, we'd forgotten that it was the time of the Perseid meteor shower. Well, only "unfortunately" in the sense of trying to get some solid, consistent sleep. We lay there in our bags, staring up at the sky as firetrail after firetrail burned across the heavens. Dim, short, brief ones. Lightning-bright, long, lingering ones. Every kind inbetween. Physical exhaustion and the high-altitude thin air conspired to make us sleepy but the sky was so magnificent that we tried desperately to stay awake in order to enjoy the ethereal beauty, time and again finding ourselves startling back to wakefulness after nodding off.

It was the most exquisite display the night sky has ever shown me.

4. Night drive
I have been one acquainted with the night. - Robert Frost

I love driving at night, the knowable world reduced to the coverage of my headlights. I especially love zooming along on a deserted desert freeway, feeling like my speed could be measure in warp factors rather than mere mph, the undiscovered highway ahead suddenly appearing in the leading edge of the headlights as if I were playing a videogame on the windshield, the starkly beautiful landscape floating past on the periphery as if it were moving and I were standing still in my own personal pocket of spacetime as the quintessential observer creating the scene by the act of observing it, and that delicious, tingly fantasy of being the star of my very own post-apocalyptic reality/movie.

Zombies optional. (But, yeah, I want 'em in mine! With a drum-fed 8 gauge shotgun on the rack beside me and a couple of my favorite katanas to hand! Heads up and heads off! We're gonna party all night! Of course I'm wearing my body armor; I never go anywhere without it.)

I am a tachyon in and of the dark, nestled snugly in my climate-controlled bubble, both isolated from and, simultaneously, congruent with the external obsidian world, summoning Hecate from her chthonic realm to open the gate between my individuality and the vast, all-encompassing ebony surrounding me. Achieving oneness, I soar.

It's even better on a motorcycle.

5. Night dive
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear. - William Shakespeare

Before we were married-with-children SITCOMs, Ronnie and I were Microsoft DINKs and one of our earliest adventures together was a SCUBA vacation to Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean. It was an idyllic time. Every morning the dive boat would pick us up on our condo's beach, take us out for two dives, and return us for a dilatory dejeuner. Fabuleux! In the afternoons we were free to dive more or go exploring/sightseeing or maybe just sit around the pool or beach relaxing. It was a completely delightful time but the apogee of that adventure was our night dive.

Some people fear the dark. Some fear the ocean. I love both; but for those who fear both, what follows probably seems more like a horror story than one of the most beautiful scenes one could possibly experience. For us, it was incomparable.

A handful of us boarded the dive boat after dark and we headed out into the night. We departed from the West side of Grand Cayman, a seven-mile-long beach crowded cheek-by-jowl with hotels and condos but when you turned your back to the bustle of the shore you saw the endless, empty ocean above the Cayman Trench, the deepest spot in the Caribbean Sea dropping precipitously more than 25,000 feet. Above us in the night sky, the full moon did indeed sit like a lustrous pearl suspended from the ear and resting on the cheek of a child of Cepheus, her light seeming to run straight to the boat from the place beneath her on the horizon, a phosphorescent highway to the stars.

We arrived at the dive site and busied ourselves with donning SCUBA gear plus a flashlight or two each and Cyalumes per individual taste. Some timorous souls carried Monk-approved redundant backups to their primary backup divelights and festooned themselves with Cyalumes like chemoluminescent Christmas trees. Ronnie and I each snugged our flashlight's wrist lanyard and tied a sole Cyalume to our tanks. Preparations done, we stepped to the edge of the boat and dropped in.

The surface of the ocean, which had seemed viscous when viewed from the diveboat deck, parted gently, welcoming us into its amniotic embrace. The reef lay about fifty feet below us and was visible in the ambient moonlight as was the dim silhouette of an 80ish–foot shipwreck resting nearby on the sand. We descended, eschewing the artificial brilliance of our flashlights. Looking up from near the bottom, the moon was clearly visible, if somewhat distorted and wiggly, evoking for me thoughts of wiggly spacetime and my place in a 10-dimensional universe. Sigh! Note to self: Once in a while, close down your brain and open up your heart. Ok, now I'm ready to experience this experience.

We spent a congenial hour exploring this submarine world. The reef's diurnal denizens were absent, hiding in crevices, wrapped in mucous cocoons, etc. and the night crew were about their shadowy business. Life in its myriad forms, evolutionarily abundant. Inside the nocturnal shipwreck we drifted among half-seen piscatorial presences and communed with a ghost moray eel who emerged to welcome us.

All too soon it was time to ascend to the surface and return to our condo to wrap up in our own air-conditioned cocoon of sheets and dreams, and in my dreams I could hear Panthalassa's lullaby. Through the eons she has continuously crooned a canticle of endless enticement. She abides, eternal. She is patient. So is the night.

And I'm grateful.


----------------------------
And the poem made from the headings… ok, more doggerel than genuine poem, nonetheless, here 'tis:

Grateful for the Night

Night light,
Night flight.
Night showers for hours.
Night drive,
Night dive.


Friday, November 06, 2009

Cartoon cascade

The cartoon Ronnie found which she said reminded her of me may have started an avalanche. My friend Stephanie sent me this:


There's no getting over the singularity flu, baby!
Unless you've been inoculated. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

Ohm my gawd!

Ronnie sez this cartoon reminds her of me.


I love xkcd and I guess it does kinda evoke my core persona.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Share the gratitude #3

This is my silver-lining-themed post because it seems that wonderful things often emerge from terrible things. I'm grateful (in retrospect, and in retrospect only) for the following five fonts of foetid feces "of which vertu engendred is the fleur," as Chaucer declared six hundred years and a Great Vowel Shift ago. Here are five of my experiences with growing flowers from shit.

I am grateful for:

1. Bullies.
My dad fought in WWII in the Pacific Theater and was even awarded a Bronze Star but he was a fervent Catholic so when he returned home after the war he chose the path of "ain't gonna study war no more" and my early upbringing included the maxim that fighting is a sin and we, meaning me, do NOT fight. The neighborhood bully quickly learned that I was a perfect target because I would not fight back and I soon became his favorite punching bag. This went on for quite a while and, in case you didn't realize it, this is the shitty part of the story. I did not enjoy those times but I endured them because "fighting is a sin" and sin buys you a ticket straight to Hell. At that time I believed in Hell and definitely had no interest in going there.

My folks rarely fought but this situation caused one of those occasions. The ultimate result was that my mom told my dad, "You teach him to fight or I will!" (My mom was also a devout Catholic but, unlike my dad, she was a badass Catholic. She did not embrace "Turn the other cheek!" as much as she did "Let one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one!") Dad, as usual, gave in.

Most of my fighting instruction from my dad consisted of a long discussion about how it was ok to defend yourself, but only defend yourself and only when attacked. But he did change "fighting is a sin" into "defending yourself is ok." Thank you, Jesus! That was enough for me. My very next encounter with the neighborhood bully changed the course of my life. From then on I knew intuitively that not only is it ok to defend against bullies but also that it's vital for yourself and for your society to resist them. Instead of looking ahead to decades of being bullied physically, mentally, and socially, I could now look ahead to a life in which I had the final say. To this day, bullying is one of the things which really gets my blood pressure boiling. I will not put up with it. No one should have to. A crucial life lesson I'm grateful for.

2. The Jesuits and the U. S. Marines.
Those who know me have previously heard me piss and moan about my prep school experience at some length so I'll keep it brief here. It was a hellish time and just about the worst environment I can imagine for a teenage boy. It destroyed any tiny progress I'd been making in the context of learning how to function in society. It was institutionalized bullying which drained me completely as I fought it for five endless years but my earlier experience and intuition about bullying gave me the strength to endure and resist to the best of my ability.

Thus, eventually, from the profound depths of that adamantine coprolite, I ultimately emerged with the sublime flower of an intellect sharpened, focused, and broadened by a nonpareil education. Whatever else you say about 'em, and I could say plenty, the Jesuits give good education. Oh yeah, and the Marine component helped to distill my position as a(n imperfect) pacifist. I'm grateful for those lovely blooms.

3. Disneyworld.
Ronnie and I reached the nadir of our relationship at Disneyworld in '96. Without going into dreadful detail, it was a culmination of a lotta stress and conflict which reached a head at the shittiest place on earth. What flower could possibly bloom from such mephitic maleficence? The best flower of all, of course.

We worked together to address our difficulties. The realization that we could do such a thing and that we were both committed to doing whatever it took to be together was perhaps the greatest revelation a couple can ever have. It was the New Testament's "pearl of great price" in flower form, a blossom of august beauty which, if it were an actual physical perianth, would no doubt be Tyrian purple.

4. Our Zombie Princess (mis)adventures.
On the face of it, our Zombie Princess adventure was horrible. We spent scads of money. We spent gigajoules of physical effort, maybe terajoules. Ever done fiberglass work in the deep lazarette of a boat in New Orleans in August? Yeah, terajoules. We spent the coin of emotional attachment profligately, cutting ties with friends and family to head out to sea "for a while." The result of all that promiscuous expenditure?

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in New Orleans, plus life in New Orleans post-Katrina. A terrible crossing of the Gulf of Mexico from New Orleans to Florida, a couple of days of which comprised the worst time I've ever had sailing. Reaching the Florida Keys only to be set upon by Hurricane Wilma. Ultimately, a final decision to return home for Christmas, instead of pushing on to the Lesser Antilles. All very sad, no?

In retrospect, no. Not completely. It's still a somewhat sad memory for me, but some lovely flowers bloomed from that particular poop patty. From that seemingly shitty experience, which was nowhere close to our intended idyllic Caribbean cruise, we emerged as a family which could work together, face adversity at a significant level, and emerge triumphant. We bonded under circumstances which were harsher and more threatening than most families ever have the opportunity to face together and we overcame them. My wife and children demonstrated the extensive depth and breadth of their inner strength. That's a wonderful thing to see and experience.

5. Chronic depression.
I have a long history of clinical depression. This is another story where I won't bore you with a lotta details but Ronnie has had to put up with a pathetic, self-loathing vegetable more than once, and for somewhat lengthy periods, in our history together. Shitty for me, shitty for her, shitty for the kids.

The felicitous flower emanating from this particular fecal fen is that in growing past and recovering from my depression (Make no mistake, my family is what made that happen.), I have an intense appreciation for the happiness I have with my sweet family. The contrast between the vale of my depression and the pinnacle of my happiness is astonishing and it makes this particular flower the biggest of them all.

So, out of curiosity, I Googled for the biggest flower in the world. It turns out that there's some mild disagreement about that. The Rafflesia arnoldii and Amorphophallus titanum are the contenders and both are commonly referred to as the "corpse flower" because they smell like… well, take a wild guess. The Amorphophallus titanum (Remember your Greek roots and take another wild guess as to what that means.) has the largest unbranched inflorescence but the Rafflesia has the largest (single) flower.

Given that we're talking about me, I'm gonna ignore the specificity of Rafflesia being the biggest single flower cuz I really wanna be analogous to a flower called "huge shapeless dick" (Amorphophallus titanum) which smells like a corpse. That's my kinda flower!

I'm grateful to be the human Amorphophallus titanum of happiness.


The preternaturally prominent Amorphophallus titanum

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Share the gratitude #2

Shit! It's Wednesday again already.

I mean... Oh boy! Time for a delighted Wednesday gratitude post! (wink!)

Last time I did this I listed the basic building blocks of my universe. This time I'll be more subjective and specific about the eigenstate and eigenvalues of my life and times. Five more things I'm grateful for.

1. To live in a time when anyone with a minimal level of intelligence and physical ability can learn to fly all by themselves for about the price of a modest used car. A bit more than a hundred years ago, the richest person on earth and/or the most powerful person in the world COULD NOT. Having a pilot's license is miraculous. I love it.

2. Being alive when humanity left home for the very first time and watching live on tv when we set foot on a different celestial body. How can that not move you to tears of amazement? And (speaking with only a teeny, tiny drop of bitterness) we're finally talking about going back! Fuckin'-A!

3. Watching Burt Rutan (recently mentioned in my "adult meme" post) and his tiny band of brilliant mavericks [I refuse to let recent abuse of that word eliminate it from my lexicon. I use it here proudly.] cobble together innovation after innovation in the world of aviation, culminating with SpaceShipOne. A private company, a small private company, sent a reusable manned craft into space for a comparatively negligible amount of money and they're in the process of developing commercial spaceflight. That's so wicked cool I can barely breathe!

4. Speaking of NASA, their renewed interest in space beyond LEO (low-earth orbit) antics is a welcome change from their last coupla decades. Welcome back to what you're supposed to be, a SPACE administration. Live your mission statement, folks: To improve life here, to extend life to there, to find life beyond!

5. This might be even cooler and more meaningful than SpaceShipOne. It's looking like work might actually begin on a space elevator within a decade. In my lifetime, this concept has gone from being a crazy science-fiction gimmick to being close to starting construction. The thought that I might get to ride an elevator into space is staggering. How could I not be grateful for my incredible life?


SpaceShipOne attached to her launch craft, the White Knight.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Adult meme

From Linda H.—

Tired of all of those surveys made up by high school kids? Here's a list of questions for the people who are a little older. Copy and paste into your own note, then answer the questions. Finally, tag your friends (including me, please!). The usual thing, in other words.

I don't do tagging but here's mine.


1. What bill do you hate paying the most?
I hate them all so much that I have Ronnie do them.

2. Do you miss being a child?
I am finally a child. I wasn't when I was young.

3. Chore you hate the most?
Yes.

4. Where was the last place you had a romantic dinner?
Romio's Restaurant, nice local Italian-ish place. Last nicer romantic dinner was Ruth's Chris.

5. If you could go back and change one thing what would it be?
Well, in the context of absolute power over the past, I'd undo the car wreck we had when I was two. My older sister died.

6. Name of your first grade teacher?
Sister Mary Discipline. All my grammar school teachers were Sister Mary Discipline. The Catholic Church learned how to do cloning centuries ago from a secret manuscript which they stole from DaVinci.

7. What do you really want to be doing right now?
Sailing in the Caribbean.

8. What did you want to be when you grew up?
Astronaut.

9. How many colleges did you attend?
Just one, the University of New Orleans.

10.Why did you choose the shirt that you have on right now?
It's warm and comfortable and it was on top in the warm-shirt drawer.

11. What are your thoughts on gas prices?
They're artifically low and should rise to a realistic level. See what that does to spur efforts on renewable resources.

12. First thought when the alarm went off this morning?
I think I heard Ronnie's alarm. I dunno why she sets one. I don't set one. My typical wakeup thought is, "So, what's gonna happen today?"

13. Last thought before going to sleep last night?
Shit. I don't remember. Probably a grump about the rain I could hear pounding on the skylights.

14. What famous person would you like to have dinner with?
Burt Rutan.

15. Have you ever crashed your vehicle?
Several but none in more than 40 years.

16. If you didn't have to work, would you volunteer?
Maybe.

17. Get up early or sleep in?
Early sucks. I'm pretty sure it was invented by Satan during that contest thing he had with God over Job.

18. What is your favorite cartoon character?
Maybe Cartman from South Park.

19. Favorite thing to do at night?
Sleep.

20. When did you first start feeling old?
I guess when I blew out my knee last year but I still don't really feel old.

21. Favorite lunch meat?
Oyster po-boy. Oyster is a lunch meat. Seriously.

22. What do you get every time you go into Wal-Mart?
I never go to Wal-Mart.

23. Do you think marriage is an outdated ritual?
Not especially. I believe bonding is part of our genetic makeup. I think "marriage" should be more broadly defined.

24. Favorite movie you wouldn't want anyone to find out about?
Ummn, maybe "The 10 Commandments" cuz I'm an atheist? But I love sand-and-sandal epics and it's a great one. Maybe "While You Were Sleeping" cuz it's a "chick flick?" I dunno.

25. What's your favorite drink?
Kir royale. Rum punch. Wait! I know! A delicious Zombie Princess cocktail.

26. Who from high school would you like to run into?
Mange is the only person from high school I kept in touch with over the years. I'd love to play music with him again. We had a LOT of fun when we did our band reunion in '91.

27. What radio station is your car radio tuned to right now?
Air America or any of a variety of music stations.

28. Sopranos or Desperate Housewives?
Neither. Howzabout Dexter?

29. Worst relationship mistake that you wish you could take back?
Gosh. Just one. Fuck if I know.

30. Do you like the person that sits directly across from you at work?
I quit work in '95. At that time I had a lovely corner office.

31. Have you ever had to use a fire extinguisher for its intended purposes?
Yes. Car fire. I keep fire extinguishers in all our vehicles.

32. Last book you finished reading?
The very last book I finished was Jane Haddam's "Living Witness." The last meaningful book I finished was "Phantom Warrior," a fascinating tale of a WWII grunt who single-handedly fought and killed over 100 enemy troops in a single engagement and what his life was like after the war.

33. Do you have a teddy bear?
No.

34. Strangest place you have ever brushed your teeth?
This question is kinda silly, isn't it? Bivouacked 4000 feet below the summit of Mt. Rainier. In the cockpit of the Zombie Princess during hurricane Rita. Those are somewhat unusual.

35. Do you go to church?
Raised Catholic, chose atheism in my teens.

36. How old are you?
Older than my teeth and younger than the moon. But not by much. 61