Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Father's Day and Other Stuff

Last week we celebrated Honduran Father's Day*. We've decided that as long as we live in Honduras, we'll celebrate both the Honduran holiday and the American holiday. Ezekiel and I visited school for the Father's Day program. Afterwards, we celebrated at home with some fast food and a family pool party- it was a special day!

Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, I lost my cell phone. This is our fourth cell phone loss this year. The biggest bummer is that we had been using that 3G cell phone as a modem for our home internet. Ah- the wonders of technology. Well, this latest loss has left us without an internet connection at home. Please accept my apologies for lack of blogging- it's been a really tough week so far without internet! I never realized how much I depend on the internet to answer my questions and connect me with the outside world. Hopefully we'll have another connection option soon.

*I've been struggling with the use of the apostrophe in Father's Day. I know it's a day for more than one father, but Fathers' Day looks silly and Fathers Day takes away ownership of the day. By putting the apostrophe before the s, I'm giving ownership to the one father that means a lot to our family today- Tom. (Sorry, Dad- you have to live in Honduras to celebrate this holiday with us. We'll get you in June!)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dear Tom

Dear Tom,
It's a beautiful day in our backyard. Ruby asked me to write and say how sorry she is about the pool. She had so much fun ruining the pool last year that she couldn't help herself this year.

Zeke would like you to know that he thinks I did a pretty good job cleaning up the pool today while he napped. Zeke would like to have a family pool party when you get home from work.

I did not find the hole, but I spent a long time looking for it and worked on my tan in the process. Meanwhile, I've refilled the pool with air and water and both seem to be staying. See you soon!

Karine, Zeke, and Ruby

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Inflatable pool

When I was a kid I always liked the idea of building models. I say I liked the idea of building models because, in truth, I lacked tenacity and patience as a child and never did successfully complete a single tank or airplane or anything. I never allowed adequate time for the glue to dry. That was my problem.

I remember working on a model F4U Corsair when I was in about the third grade. That’s a great little fighter plane, the Corsair. It was my favorite. I desperately wanted to get the pieces together, so I could fly it around the living room. I couldn’t finish fast enough. I jammed the landing gear in and slathered them with glue before the wings had set. I left the plane to dry. When I returned the wings had dried all cockeyed and crooked. I tried to pry them loose to reset them, but I broke one of them off in the process. At this point, my little head exploded and I smashed the thing to bits. That was the end of the Corsair and my relationship with model airplanes in general.

This sad little story about the Corsair that never was is one of those sticky stories. It’s sticky because it’s a variation on a theme that has played out many times in my life. A hasty race to perfection leads to inevitable imperfection which, in turn, results in explosive anger. Usually the anger is directed at myself, or at inanimate objects. Karine has seen it many times. That little vein looks like its going to pop out of your forehead again, dear, she says. I am writing about this today because of two things that happened yesterday.

I arrived home from work to find that Ruby, our German shepherd, had spent at least a portion of the day yesterday swimming in our brand new plastic inflatable pool. We splurged on this luxury item last Sunday. We loved this pool. We felt like it was the best money we ever spent. Ruby killed the pool. In her frolicking she punctured one of the sidewalls. The half-deflated pool now sits in the mud, utterly useless, a picture of sadness.

I wanted to punch the dog in the face and throw her down a dark hole. But I couldn’t. Instead, I was mad at the dishes and the curtains and the patches of dirt in the backyard. I was stomping around the yard scowling at a pile of rocks when Karine called me into the house.

Ezekiel was lying on his back on the couch. He was smiling. In his six short weeks on earth, he had learned from us that smiling is something that humans do to communicate. And it hit me like a ball peen in the forehead. Whatever this little fella learns about anger he is going to learn from me. So maybe I need to examine what is going on with this sticky story of mine before it becomes a sticky story of his.

Monday, March 16, 2009

6 Week Smile

For the past few weeks, we've been able to see Ezekiel smile as he runs through his "vocabulary of facial expressions" just before drifting off to sleep. We had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of real smiles during awake time. Well, this weekend we got them! Zeke is officially a smiler now! It just melts my heart when I see them. Here's a 30 second video full of smiles for your Monday.

It's been awhile since we've done a post about what we're up to. Over the past week, we went to a Mazapan School fashion show (one of Tom's special projects), had dinner with some new neighbor friends, and worked on a few projects at home. I sewed something pretty cool for Tom and Zeke. I'll post a picture of the final product later. You'll just have to guess for now.

This past weekend, we discovered a new place just up the Rio Cangrejal. It's called Villas Pico Bonito and it is gorgeous! They've got an infinity pool that overlooks the river and a nice little restaurant/bar area. You can rent a villa for the night or just enjoy a daytrip as we did.

Yesterday, we had our own pool party at home. After I had bugged Tom for several weeks about getting a pool, we finally made the trip to the mall to buy one. We had so much fun yesterday that we didn't have time to get any pictures of our sweet setup except for this picture of Tom and Zach blowing up pool toys.

Zeke is napping now, so I think I'm going to go head out to float in our pool for a little bit and work on my tan. Happy Monday!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Psychology Apology

Karine has always been a great supporter of my various attempts to assemble words into coherent sentences. She laughs at my stories when they are funny and cries when they are sad. More importantly, she always lets me know when I say something stupid. She told me yesterday that, while she personally enjoyed my piece about psychology, economics, and the happiness industry, it may have offended the following people:

People being treated for mental illness
People who have purchased books about happiness
People who are trying to become happier
People whose loved ones are trying to become happier
My mother-in-law

I offer my sincerest apologies to anyone offended or hurt by what I wrote yesterday. I have tremendous respect for mental health professionals who make it their life’s work to alleviate suffering and serve those experiencing emotional distress. This is not easy work.

Anyone who listens with an empathic ear as someone unloads their troubles comes to carry a portion of those burdens themselves. Psychologists, counselors, priests, bartenders, friends, AA sponsors, teachers, coaches, and complete strangers do this every day. It is truly God's work. Emotional support and careful counsel are some of the greatest gifts we are able to give one another.

Karine also delicately informed me that I am hypocrite because this book
is currently resting on top the toilette tank in our guest bathroom. I purchased it using a credit card several years ago. I read it and loved it. She says it has made me happier. Unfortunately, there is no way to verify her claim. I’m taking the fifth.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Economics, the Happiness Industry, and Hating on Psychology (Again)

Psychology is not my favorite science. It’s a wishy-washy mish-mash of slapdash claptrap when compared to a science with teeth, like physics. Newton did a heck of a job describing how gravity works three-hundred years ago. I’ve tested his theory. All evidence I’ve collected in my lifetime conforms to Newton’s predictions. Good job, Newton. That there is some science you can count on.

Psychology, on the other hand, relies on well-meaning, over-educated postulators and thier toothless theories about why people feel or act certain ways. They argue amongst themselves over whose theories are the best. The winners get to publish books and have university jobs.

Some of these theories have been wonderfully helpful. Good job on those! Other theories resulted in therapies like the lobotomy (driving ice picks into patients’ brains to fix them) and the drug thalidomide (sleeping pill – possible side effects: babies born with flippers, fingers and toes in the wrong places). Oops!

There is nothing wrong with these enthusiastic postulators. Their ideas are often pretty neat. They get themselves into trouble though when they claim to understand the human mind with the full force of Science. Capital S – you know, in the what goes up must come down sense. I’ve spoken with a few psychologists over the years and a few psychiatrists. I never once heard the following disclaimer, to which, I believe, any individual seeking mental health services is entitled:

Thanks for coming in today. I’m Dr. X. I have no idea what’s going on with you, but I am going to take a stab at it; I’m going to give it my best shot, here it is… By the way, that will be $140.00. Thanks.

That, I suppose, is the origin of my personal beef with psychology.

That's where I was before I read an article in this month's Psychology Today about happiness. The article examines happiness and the happiness industry from opposing theoretical viewpoints. I about fell out of my chair from the stupefaction. The article tells me that four-thousand books about happiness were published in 2008. That’s a lot of books. By contrast, only six books about how investment bankers’ over-leveraged accumulation of credit default swaps could lead to an apocalyptic world financial crisis were written last year. Says something about priorities, that.

Four-thousand books about happiness written by four-thousand different brains. How many educational man-hours went into pumping those brains full of sufficient expertise to write all those books? There’s a question worthy of study. Those books are the result of how many years of public education? How many degrees, graduate degrees, post-graduate degrees, university fellowships, were wrapped into the production and publication of those four-thousand books? Could you put a dollar value on something like that? Just let that one bounce around your head a little bit.

Back to the article. Next it warns that everything is not happy in the land of happiness, that perhaps the happiness industry has not actually made anyone happier: “According to some measures, as a nation we’ve grown sadder and more anxious during the same years that the happiness movement has flourished.” Not to worry though, science is on the case. Researchers are actively pursuing new theories to help us make sense of the world around us. One university professor has written a formal defense of melancholy entitled Against Happiness. The pendulum swings in the other direction and the great postulators have a whole nuther set of theories to consider.

Thank you, science of psychology.

There is a point in here somewhere. You’re going to be surprised when you get there. But first one more dangling thought bud. No charge. Its gonna tie everything together.

I was watching the Denver nightly news last night. The news was all economic and it was all bad. Tent cities in Sacramento. Stock market at a new low, again. They ran a local color piece about a job-seekers' networking group that meets every Thursday morning. People sit around and brainstorm about how to retool their resumes and find jobs. Well, these particular proactive job seekers were sitting around chatting and networking while drinking four dollar coffees and eating three dollar muffins. I saw them doing it on TV! The news story was about how they were being awesome and proactive, not how they were wasting their money on overpriced snacks.

Here’s the point: the change that this economic whirlwind will bring to the United States is titanic. Things are going to get worse before they get better. But they will get better. The ditch that separates now and better times is wide and deep and full of crap. By the time we get to the other side, overpriced coffee for the jobless and the happiness industry will seem to us quaint fossils of a silly time long ago, when leisure was our biggest problem and nobody knew the value of anything.

Friday, March 6, 2009

GE Augmented Reality Module in our living room

GE: Smart Grid Augmented Reality Module

I guess the future is now.

Way to go GE. Try it at home on their website.

You can show your appreciation for this good old fashioned ingenuity by buying a piece of the company. You can get a share for $6.82.

Bonsai Friday

I have not yet achieved my quarterly sales goal of one bonsai tree. Don't worry, though. The dream lives on. It will not shrivel up like a raisin in the sun. I will someday be North America's number one bonsai tree salesman. It is my destiny.

Thank You, Bonsai Bob

Thursday, March 5, 2009

For the Big Nerd in your life

If you are hanging out at work or wherever today and you want to really impress that special nerd in you life, try this one:

"Hey, did you hear that Daftpunk is going to score Tron 2.0. What a great choice! Wendy Carlos did an amazing job with the original. This movie is going to be huge. Its like the new Watchman."

Say something like that and see what happens.

Let me unpack it for you a bit.

Tron was originally released in 1983. It is the best movie that Disney has ever made. A human enters the computer world to save programs from being deleted by the Master Control Program. This was pretty heavy duty stuff in 1983. I saw the movie when I was in kindergarten. It is one of the reasons I became a nerd.

Here is the original movie poster:

Daft Punk is a French electronic music duo. They formed in 1987 and had their first mainstream commercial success with their album Homework, released in 1997. They are both awesome and important.

Check out the dancing spacemen in this video:

Daft Punk Daft Punk
Around the World Daft Punk - Homework - Around the World

Tron 2.0 is the sequel to Tron. Currently in pre-production. Slated for a 2011 release.

Wendy Carlos is the electronic musician who scored the original Tron. She also wrote the score for Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. She was an early master of the moog synthesizer, a real genius. Her most successful album, Switched on Bach, sold over one-million copies. I bought it and love it.

An early Moog Synthesizer:

Watchmen is a movie based on an awesome comic book. It comes out this Friday. Nerds everywhere rejoice.

More Lucky Dube

I got an email from my cousin Brian about Lucky Dube. He and his wife were Peacecorps volunteers in the Caribbean:

"Great to see Lucky Dube on your blog. Brings back memories - our neighbors would blast Lucky on their monstrous speakers in the Caribbean early in the morning while cleaning fish."

Lucky Dube, what the Third World listens to as its waking up. Here's another classic for everyone to enjoy while you clean fish this morning.

Lucky Dube -- Remember Me Lucky Dube - Prisoner - Remember Me

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Meatspace and Transhumanism

I had the distinct pleasure of reading the following sentence today:

“Only the most outrageous West Coast transhumanists actually believe they can cast off the mortal realm of this meatspace for the immortal realm of the virtual.”

Meatspace. Transhumanist.

I found these beauties buried in a long article on health care reform in Harper’s. You can read the sentence in context here: Sick in the Head. I would like to thank the author, Luke Mitchell, for choosing these words. I think they are awesome and I am going to try to use them each at least once a day.

Meatspace: Space that contains actual physically tangible objects. The opposite of cyberspace.

“It was so nice to be in Omaha at Christmastime. It was great to see all my old friends in meatspace once again.”

“I love keeping in touch on Facebook, but its great to hangout in meatspace too. Like at a restaurant or something."

Transhumanist: You can find an actual definition here. I’m going to use this one as an epithet. Something to call twenty-first century techno-hippies. Think patchouli, iPods, yoga, organic gardening, Apple laptops, meditation, and positive thinking. These people are transhumanists.

“Um, Is Rachel going to go to the Lamb of God concert with us? Their new album, Wrath, comes out on February 24th. Its gonna be sweet.”

“No, she’s too much of a transhumanist for that. She’s going to, like, be in her garden, thinking about her organic tomatoes. Then she’s going to blog about it.”

“Transhumanists are so lame. I never see her in meatspace any more. Only on, like, Skype.”

Tanks Dad

I read a couple of whacky essays by Bertrand Russell last week. Bertrand Russell was a big brained guy who had a pretty firm grasp on what was happening in the world around him. I was reading his thoughts on education when I came upon this nugget:

“Teachers are more than any other class the defenders of civilization”

That one struck me like a ball-peen hammer right between the eyes. Defenders of civilization. I wish someone had told me that when I was a kid. What old Bertrand said about teachers got the little gerbil running around the little wheel inside my head. I thought about my dad and tanks and the silliest lie I ever told.

I needed my father to drive a tank. I needed my father to drive a tank like a ninja needs a pair of black pajamas. It was a very real need. But my father didn’t drive a tank. He was a wood shop teacher. And there was absolutely nothing I could do to make him into a tank driver. So I lied.

I told my entire second grade class that my father was a sergeant-major in the US Marine Corps and that he drove a tank for a living. On an aircraft carrier. Why would someone drive a tank on an aircraft carrier? Fortunately, none of my classmates asked that obvious follow up question.

I enhanced the lie about my dad driving a tank with the bit about the aircraft carrier for two important reasons. First: What is cooler than having a dad who drives a tank? Nothing. The only way to improve the situation would be to place the tank on an aircraft carrier. Check. If you are going to lie, go with the big lie.

The second reason for placing the tank on the aircraft carrier was that this portion of the lie came with hard evidence. My dad had recently retuned from a teacher’s conference in Florida. He and some of the other defenders of civilization toured the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga while they were in Jacksonville. He came back with all kinds of stories about how awesome aircraft carriers are. He also came home with an official USS Saratoga baseball cap, the kind with gold laurels embroidered on the bill.

I stole his hat and brought it to school for show-and-tell. I used it as irrefutable evidence that my dad was a tank driver on an aircraft carrier. The stupid lies of little kids are often jarring and easy unravel. I don’t think I convinced a single person, even with the hat. My teachers didn’t believe me because by time I got to second grade my dad had been teaching wood shop in my school district for over twenty years. He had, in fact, helped some of the teachers in my school construct gun racks and bird houses out of wood when they were in school themselves.

The funny thing is that I told this outrageous lie to conceal the truth, that my dad was a teacher. Because I so desperately needed him to be a defender of civilization. And now I understand the whole truth. I agree with Bertrand Russell. My father was as much a defender of civilization in his wood shop as any tank commander on any aircraft carrier anywhere.

Monday, March 2, 2009

1 Month Old

Ezekiel is already one month old! I can hardly believe that a month has passed by so quickly!
Throughout the course of the last month, Zeke has grown so much. He's already outgrown any "newborn" sized clothes that have feet on the end. His body is just too long! He's got a very healthy appetite and has already acquired an extra chin or two. We work on the leg chub daily. He sleeps well at night. After his 10:30 bedtime, Zeke usually gets up only once or twice before wake up time at 6 in the morning.

Ezekiel has been visited by so many friends and family in his first month. We are so lucky to have a supportive community here. Our visit with Grandma and Grandpa Nelson was a delight, and Ezekiel was a champ on his first vacation. He made his first visit to Mazapan School last week and delighted the students and teachers with his pale skin and dark blue eyes. Everybody says that he is beautiful and looks exactly like his dad. I agree that both father and son are extremely good looking.

Zeke is developing his skills daily. He can hold his head up for 5-10 seconds at a time. He loves looking at his stuffed puppy with the big eyes. We enjoy dancing in the living room and reading books together- especially the "White Dog" page in Eric Carle's Brown Bear. Ezekiel loves cuddling with his dad on the couch and listening to him play "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel" on the guitar. He can recognize both Mom and Dad by voice and also when we stand about a foot or two away.

We love to watch Ezekiel's facial expressions. The best time to catch him is those moments between sleep and awake. During these precious minutes, he goes through his entire vocabulary of facial expressions. We get smiles, grimaces, kissy faces, and a couple others that just melt our hearts. Here is an example of the kissy face that I'm so fond of.

Happy First Month of Life, Ezekiel!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

River Day

Today, we headed up into the jungle to spend the day at the river with our friends. Tom rode his bike with 5 others, while I took a taxi with a couple other folks. This was Zeke's first trek up to the Rio Cangrejal. I think he loved it. I swear that he does open his eyes from time to time- just not for family pictures.

We had a fantastic day of fresh air and sunny skies. Ezekiel decided not to jump off the rocks today- he's going to wait until he can swim a little better. Our little guy has been asleep all evening after such an exciting family daytrip.