Thursday, October 15, 2009

A personal flash back over the last month or so.

A little picture bonanza, since the iphone has been filling the gap in the absence of our camera. (Lost the camera battery charger on our trip to VT last month, took us a month to bite the bullet and buy a new charger.)

A turned 27 last Friday. Here's a flashback to 2006, building a cabin in VT, pre-children, pre-MS living.

And look at her now. It's going well, don't you think?
Which all roles up into taking my girls and boy to the airport yesterday for A's annual trip back to VA to visit her family. I don;t mind sharing, I was getting very clingy by the time I had to watch A a and c walk away through security. Here's the little girl on the drive to the airport.
While packing and getting dressed for the trip, the two little ones had a little love fest. These are in chronological order, all in less than a minute.

We have a little family tradition of dance parties in the front hallway. Annaliese will ask for them, pull on our legs and do her little hand-waving asking for things to get us into the hall, point at the computer and jiggle until the music is turned on. Everyone participates.
That's right, that sexy lady is airborne. (I hope she doesn't mind me sharing, I'll find out soon enough. :) )
Little c has to ride along, but seems to love them just as much as his sister.
This little guy showed up on Friday night, after the birthday bash. After removing 2 pounds of matted fur, and killing several thousand fleas, he's getting quite comfortable around the house. He's getting shots and snipped tomorrow, and we'll see if we can find him a home, or maybe he'll stay with us. We're pondering. He's been incredibly easy, very sweet, at first he kept trying to run away, we finally let him go thinking he might have a home that he has left (yes, a home that must have treated him terribly) but after that one walkabout, he can go out by himself and comes right back to the door without supervision. Here he's commandeered my flannel shirt. That flannel shirt was made for my father by my mother. It has passed through almost everyone in the family before I snuck it south, and now both A and a periodically steal it from me.
Bought a dozen pairs of thermal Atlas Fit gloves to last me through the winter on the building, a decided to open the package and try them on.
Little poodle, we're calling him Hercules.
A's birthday cake. If you look closely you will notice the bites missing from most of the chocolates. This was maybe 5 minutes after I brought the cake out. Made to order the night before, had to wait until that afternoon to frost it, because I ran out of butter. The frosting alone took 5 sticks. They ain't kidding when they say butter-cream.
Isn't she lovely?
Part of the birthday meal. I can't tell you how good the first bite was, it had been too long.
I know A put this on her blog, but I took it, and he's adorable.
A also complained about a baking day we had a couple weeks back. A photo I took that day. Missing are the molasses cookies, the two pumpkin pies, the cream pie, the lasagna, and the chicken soup. Oh, and a, who kept me company in the kitchen all afternoon, had some play dough. Great way to spend a rainy Sunday.
The last farmer's market of the year. A has effectively made the town on Saturdays, and after a great season, she put together an antique tractor show, potluck, music, and big vendor bash. She's done amazing things for our town.
a sat on every single tractor there, about a dozen. One of the beaming old farmers who had brought his tractor fired it up for her. She wasn't the biggest fan of that.
On our morning walk to the market. Our routine is we set the tent up on Friday night, A gets down there on Sat morning before 8 to get the vendors set up and put out the signs, and I get the kids ready and walk down a little later. It's been more fun since a has started refusing to ride, and trundles on her own.
It's been a long time since I had any pictures of the building. We started back on our respective projects after a summer focusing on the house and babies. A is back on book #3, and I'm back at the building. This was one of the last upstairs windows in the project to replace them all. This particular window had the extra issue of the neighbor's roof line, which used to be an alley until they threw a roof up, cutting across the window above the level of the sill. I had to raise the sill, and cut down the sash to just barely get enough incline on the sill to pull water away from the window and back onto the roof. All the windows are now new on the second floor, and we are weather tight for the first time since we bought the building.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Not so Random.

Driving into work this morning, I had the radio playing some pop station. My mind was wandering, but not all that far down any particular path.

I clicked it off, and this is what I thought about:

The world used to be much quieter. Living must have been much quieter. Music was not always something you had in the home playing in the background, unless everyone was constantly singing. Possibly in the evenings someone might have the time to pick up an instrument and entertain folks, or a traveling group of musicians might come through town, but in between these events there was not the constant drone of semi-storied lyrics floating through people’s thoughts.

The same thing applies to plays / movies. These used to be an event, again a troupe passing through town, or the local theater, or eventually a movie theater. With space in between. Not the glowing box in every home, streaming various alternate realities into our lives first thing in the morning, or last thing at night.

And books. They used to be rare, prized, and less book-warehouse-ee.

Athletics events: Used to require participation or at least attendance, and they were not every day options. Certainly not available to watch from a couch at any time of the day, every day.
I’m not sure if video games have a historic analogous activity. At risk of stretching too far to find one, let’s say role playing games preceded video games, and look at secret societies as a distant cousin. Or possibly crusades. Play acting in an effort to live a life more grand than what you have right now. Again, gathering to chant in robes, or go kill the heathens, took commitment, activity, and was not something done any day, in between other activities.

All forms of entertainment. Or, if that raises your hackles, things that occupy the mind.

Let’s not think about the issue of quality and quantity. I’m sure folks have strong feelings about quality, either the erosion of it in these forms of art/entertainment, or the perseverance. I’m sure it has nothing to do with their professional or academic investments.

I am just struck by the amount of time a mind is occupied with these external stimulants. Not whether the mind is weakened/numbed by the onslaught we experience today, again I imagine this would be a contentious place to step, but with the restriction on the amount of time the mind has to pursue its own ends.

How often do you unplug and let your mind wander?

When was the last time you really thought about something, and something you found in your own mind, not something that was stimulated by a piece of entertainment? How much time did you allow your mind to contemplate? Did you follow the thought as far as it would lead, or did you get distracted?

You may notice a theme with my last post…

What would come out of all our minds if they weren’t kept so busy processing what, I humbly submit, is busy-work?

A thought for another day, is it a good thing all that raw possibility is kept in check? Is there an equal chance that the potential of our species, while huge, could be hugely catastrophic instead of glorious?

What purpose does it serve to keep ourselves zonked for fear of finding out?

A large part of me is yelling “let’s get on with it, whatever it is.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Throughout the weeks, and sometimes months, that I don't come to this spot and share my life's activities with you, I try to set interesting ideas and thoughts aside in my mind for sharing here. When I finally get back here to share something, they're usually all gone, and I end up doing a re-cap of the activities, without any thoughts or feelings shared.

No remedy here, just noting what happened again this morning.

One major exception. I have been struggling to grasp the number of living, thinking, feeling creatures on this planet, let alone what might be beyond. Last year Time magazine had a one page filler article that listed the sales of specific products in the world by day. I tore the page out and posted it on my office wall, and almost every day would find myself trying to bring those numbers into my head and get comfortable with them. They were things like 15,000 bottles of one vineyards specific zinfandel, or 36 Porsches, hundreds of thousands of cans of certain types of beer.

Theoretically 5 to 6 billion people is no trouble. Sure. Large population masses, social behavior on grand scales, nations and their conflicts, religious groups and their disagreements, at this conceptual level my mind relaxes and can cruise through. But when I try to think of 60 thousand people getting together to watch an athletic event, or 11 million sitting in bed or on a couch at the same time to watch the same television program, or 100 thousand people wiped out by a wall of water, or 500 million parents picking up babies and worrying about feeding them, or thousands of individuals getting angry for different or the same reasons and striking each other. This is the stuff I can't open up and examine. Getting on a plane, seeing 100 faces that are all headed somewhere, for so many reasons, each with its own complex process of arriving at a decision, based on 1 to 90 years of experience leading up to their being on that plane.

I haven;t been able to do it. I can't sidle up to all that information, I find myself zooming out, back to the conceptual level or experiencing the more basic blind spot to this sort of data overload.

For two reasons, I keep returning, trying to find something. The first reason I think has to do with the challenge. This is a new sensation, where I feel separate from my computing power, and am observing the struggle from some other position.

The second is that there is a problem with all these people, and it needs to be fixed. And I want to find that solution. (Disclaimer, as this has distracted some I have talked this over with. I do not need to be the source of the solution, the source of the idea, the recipient of credit, etc. But this is what I want to work towards. It's a variation of the fixer complex, but in this case I want to see this problem fixed, and I want to be involved.)

The problem is that we have 6 billion people. (all these numbers are going to be very rounded.) And a good half of those are under educated, under fed, mis treated.

There are many people who dedicate their intellectual or physical pursuits to solving parts of this problem. They help victims of natural and people-driven disasters. They help feed, clothe, medicate, protect, and educate groups of people. They protest the destructive impulses of large groups of people. They make sacrifices for these things, and change many lives for the better.

But what they are up against is a crushing force of violent, negative, and greedy people in huge numbers.

There is a problem, and an opportunity. Using that guess of 3 billion above: We have as an asset, 3 billion human beings. Each with a mind, a heart, and an opposable thumb. I read a number of years ago that if the Sudan alone was cultivated into farm land, that piece of land would produce sufficient food for the entire globe. I'm sure that is out of date now, but I believe that feeding every being on the planet is not a challenge, or a strain on the planet's resources. It simply is not a priority for the other 3 billion.

I don't believe in giving people something for nothing. Not because I begrudge sharing the fruits of my labors with someone who is not working, though I certainly understand that emotional response and have experienced it myself. I think that receiving something for nothing is bad for the soul. (I would take exception to this for things like Grace, but for another time.) I believe a person derives their sense of self worth through their contribution. These contributions take all manner of shape and form; contributing food, art, love, friendship, ideas. People do not feel good if their only contribution is need.

And this comes down to their self perception.

So the problem is both to gainfully employ, by whatever standard each individual needs to be for their self perception to be healthy, these 3 billion individuals. (Two asides: 1) I do not limit this to those 3 billion, there could be great cases made that the currently active, and well fed half of the world could do with some serious re-purposing. 2) I don't accept the arguments that the world is overpopulated, full stop. That may be the case, but this is pulling the discussion away from a solution, and focusing on a symptom.)

Think of the cost to feed, clothe, house, and educate these 3 billion.

Now think of what 3 billion people could produce. This gets us back to my shortcomings at the micro-level. First think of what you could do with 20 skilled people. That is a solid software company, a decent engineering firm, a very well staffed kitchen, and in some cases 5 decently sized farms. Now think of 2,000 people, educated and motivated. Even at this point my head starts to hurt.

Let's guess that it would take 25% of the efforts of those 3 billion to feed/clothe/house/educate the full number. That may be high, it may be half the amount, change that number to whatever makes you comfortable to proceed. I don't think an argument can be made that it would ever be greater than 50%. (Keep the damn military budgets out of this. Another symptom.)

With this huge amount of productivity, what is being produced?

What is the goal? And very importantly, what types of education will get there.

Now lets drop the us and them. Honestly, what's the goal for all 6 billion of us?

I strongly feel that success here is not having 6 billion producing refrigerators, tvs, computers, and entertainment for each other. I may be wrong, but it makes my chest hurt to think that is the pinnacle for humans.

Is it exploration of the universe? Turning the planet into a well manicured, preserved, safe environment for all? Extending life spans, or working towards a departure as a species from our corporeal restrictions? I have no idea. Because it is not only the task of finding a direction to head as a species, it's also determining the necessary steps to redirect, and compel each individual mind and heart to participate.

I don't know if the process is the solution, or if the solution is the goal.

But we have incredible abilities, as individuals, and as a species. We have a huge number of us, and if we make it a priority, a little work can bring a huge additional amount of potential online.

To make it a priority, I believe the need for those resources is the only thing that will drive this. So, what can we do, what do we need to do, that will take every man woman and child on this planet to play an important role in?

Think huge.

And get back to me. Even with two children who aren't fans of sleeping, and an inordinate number of things on my plate each day, I lose sleep over this.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Point in time

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Detroit.

The weekend was spent working at our usual pace at home. A has today and tomorrow alone at home with the kids, so we did everything we could ahead of time to ease the two-baby-alone marathon. (Yes, these two cutie-pies are a marathon, for even the shortest stretch, let alone a solo night/morning/day/and another early night.)

Last week Boatie (see A's blog if that doesn't mean anything to you,) cooked her battery, to the pleasant odor of sulfur/rotten eggs. Since I needed to drive something to the airport, and A needed something safe for her and the two bebes today and tomorrow, I put a new alternator in the pretty blue station wagon.

And while I was at it, I replaced the demolished left motor mount, reinstalled the headlights that someone put in upside down, new hatch struts for the trunk, cleaned her inside and out, and reassembled the dash around the radio that, even with a new fuse isn't making any sounds, and fixed the passenger rear door so it doesn't lock itself each time you start her up. (Super annoying when you walk around to get one of the kids out and the door is locked.) ((Yes, it's hard to stop once you get started.))

And since I was in the mood, I moved on to the tundra, and replaced the front brakes, rotors and pads, cleaned the K&N filter, and cleaned her inside, and the bed outside.

A is almost finished priming the porch, which she's done entirely herself. All 300+ spindles. We have a date this coming weekend to put the paint on. She also ran the Farmer's Market with little a, (C was chilling with me in his buzzy chair while I was under the hood of boatie. And he came with me to the auto parts store.)

Church, very unsuccessful naps, a first lunch out with both kids. Tried to mow the lawn, but a belt snapped on the mower. *sigh* didn't even get irritated at that one, it was Sunday night and dark, so I figured the weekend was ready to wrap up.

We'll be able to have the painting date because A's sister and father are coming down for a 6 day visit, arriving on Thursday. E has been in New Zealand, Australia, and China since January, and we're super excited to see her. And c has not met either E or F (grandfather).

Hmm. We're tired. Taking a week in VT over Labor Day, which we're very much looking forward to. c's first time in VT, and our first flying trip with 2 little ones.

a's 4 eye teeth are coming in all at once. Heart breaking to pick her up in the middle of the night as she sits in her crib crying into her blanket. We're burning through the motrin and teething gel.


I may continue to ramble later.

Our meeting turns out to be way north of Detroit, in Lovernia, or something like that. A suburb that was founded by immigrants from New England, previously from around the Baltic sea. Incorporated in 1950, primary reason being the tax revenue from a local horse track, which has since closed. But it's pleasant, nice greenery and people take care of their homes. Just not the downtown area with the abandoned comercial buildings that I have such a penchant for.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love abandonned industrial buildings? Steel and glass, brick, stone, solid structures with wide open spaces, solid, hard lines, that have a strength and beauty that is super? (Wasn;t sure where that sentence was going.) I just really like them. Old churches, manufacturing spaces, I just really like 'em.

But we're not anywhere near them, and I'm tired. So we're going to try to find somewhere nearby to eat, then I'm curling up and making sure I make the most of this sleeping opportunity. Early morning meetings, then flying home tomorrow afternoon.

so. cheerio.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A very pleasant weekend.

I think this is the first picture I have of my family, all awake, and mostly looking at the camera.
Blessed, I know.
Our chickens are enjoying a free-range lifestyle. They find their own way back to their roosts inside the chicken house at dark, we just have to keep the dogs away from them (especially Shadow, who has a terrible track record with chickens,) and keep their water filled. 4 to 5 eggs a day, out of 9 hens.
Here's the rooster. These chickens have no names: as I explained to them when they moved in, if they stop contributing to the household, it's into the pot, and a name would just make that difficult.
My beautiful girls.
Alexe let me go on a daylong kayaking trip on Saturday. 17 miles down the Mississippi, crossing between the Arkansas and MS sides, a couple stops along the way. A good time all around, and planned and made possible by my good friend and neighbor, pictured below. We've been fishing together down on the gulf, and all I can say is, I hope I'm in that kind of shape when I'm his age.
Rounding out our party was another friend from Water Valley. His current incarnation is as a real estate agent, keep that in mind for the next picture.

Now for a little bit of commentary on life in general. Things are good. Our little boy is an amazingly easy baby. Sleeps, eats, sits quietly and looks around, smiles in huge bursts when you coo at him, and then goes back to sleep. By himself, in his bassinet (which he's almost outgrown, in 8 weeks on Wed.) in a separate room.

Annaliese is adorable, running around the house, adamant that she and we spend lots of time with her book collection, and working on an ever expanding vocabulary. She still refers to the chickens, or anything chicken related, as "bok bok", but is calling the dogs by name.

My bride is crazy. Not 4 weeks ago, after the second baby had arrived, we had a decompression where we went over the events of the years since we were married, and decided the next years should slow down a little. A week later she bought a flock of chickens, and as of yesterday I think we're getting a jersey cow.

She went to a friend's house to pick figs, came home with a bowl full, and then was anxious all evening worrying about what we were going to do with them. Could not settle down.S

She's also the source of some of the most unbelievable quotes. Because I love her dearly they are not being repeated here, that and you probably wouldn't believe me.

Certainly a source of smiles and on-toe-keeping.

I think that covers my ever expanding family. 2 dogs, 2 kids, 1 wife, 10 chickens, a number of mice (that number is decreasing as quickly as I can manage) and possibly a cow. With a calf, if I heard correctly.

A busy fall coming up, a few business trips, some family visiting, and everything else that will crop up. We've planned out the next 9 months, with deadlines etc. for our various projects. I'm impressed with our abilities to accomplish things, start to finish, but even so, we've started far more things than we've finished. With a whole bunch of luck we plan on coming to a caught up moment in the next year before launching into the next storm we choose to create.

Hope all is well in your varied worlds.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

keep scrolling...

You may note a shortage of Caspian pics. He kinda looks the same in all his pictures right now...

Pictures will have to speak for themselves. Good times.