Thursday, July 31, 2008


"Are you sitting down?" he asked.

He told me to sit down. But I was already seated. I sit all day for a living. So I told him to go ahead. And he started to talk about the diagrams I had drawn.

Arrows go here. Arrows go there. But this one should be different. And that one doesn't really matter. And you can draw this one if you want, but we're not going to do that any time soon.

That's why he wanted me seated. They wouldn't be doing quite what my diagram suggested.

I work as a systems engineer. We do early integration to mitigate future risk. And it seems that my role lately has been to draw these diagrams with colored arrows showing data flows and dotted lines showing boundaries and boxes within boxes showing the details of this or that.

But he didn't need to tell me to sit down. I don't care about the pictures themselves. What I do care about is that people look at them and poke at them and maybe even scrunch up their faces at what they see. And his news confirmed that the diagrams had served their purpose. Brains were engaging in ways that they had not before.

So we'll stop and talk and figure out what we need to do. I'll update the diagrams. And then maybe someone else will give me a call.

2:55:06 AM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

 Saturday, July 19, 2008



Yes, and let me tell you about the two that live under the manhole next to the cutoff valve for the water.

It's almost midnight. Your wife has been in bed for hours. Toads! Have you no sense of decency!?

It's not just the toads. Have I told you about the hummingbird? And the bees that have come with the flowers that followed that rain we had a couple weeks ago? And...

Dear god, man.

11:41:05 PM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

Wondering About Toads

I wonder how it decides to come out at night, that toad that we found in the street several months ago and invited to come stay with us.

There's a shallow pan of water next to a low stack of logs between the Hummingbird Bush and Silver Germander, and we've seen the toad soaking there on occasion in the evening. But usually when I go out to look, the toad's not there. And it's not there tonite, although the pan is full.

It was hot today, and it still is, even though the sun's been down for hours. If I were that toad tonite and I had to choose between the logs or the water, I'd choose the water. But I don't need to state the obvious.

Maybe I should go check again.

11:30:23 PM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

 Thursday, July 17, 2008

The House Is Really Quiet

The house is really quiet now.

No clink of spoon and bowl as the boy eats his cereal huddled over a book at the dining room table. No interminable showering in the morning. No boy-dog tussles. No garage door rumble as he gets his bike out and rides off. No "yoo-hoo" as he comes home at the end of the day.

The house is really quiet, and his Mexico project trip is only half-way done.

They posted a midterm update for his bunch of kids in Michoacan today — something we were looking forward to even though it doesn't have much information. Evidently it's been rainy there. I imagine him walking along a street in a downpour. I wonder if he packed a raincoat.

I imagine him walking in the rain along that street with a smile on his face and his curly locks hanging flat against his forehead. I doubt the rain is bothering him. Still, I wonder what he's thinking, where he's going.

He'll come back a different person.

So in a way, my job is pretty much done. His thoughts and walks are his own. And even though there are only three weeks before he comes home, I realize that the quiet is really just beginning.

11:15:07 PM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

 Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Old Trees

It was Frank's turn to speak. He stood at the microphone and greeted the Planning Commission. His quiet voice was a welcome change from those who had preceded him.

He briefly described his property, addressed an accusation that had been leveled earlier that the abandoned house was mold-ridden, and spoke about the trees.

"I love trees," he said. "I've been in the lumber business for years."

Did he really say that? There was stunned silence in the chambers. Then the room erupted in laughter.

It's true, he does own a lumber yard, but Frank is a soft-spoken, humble man, and everyone there knew exactly what he was trying to say, and no one doubted his sincerity.

Those two acres and the trees surrounding the original ranch house that was there long before the sprawl are not long for this world. I'd like to think that Frank's sincerity counts for something, that when he develops the land he'll keep his love of trees in mind. I want to trust his low, calm voice and non-abrasive way of talking. I want to think some of those trees will make it.

But the commission denied his request, and it looks like they'll just end up subdividing the land into standard lots like all the rest around here. And we all know there's not much place in standard lots for old trees.

10:41:03 PM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

 Monday, July 7, 2008

Wonderful Things

A broken digital camera sits on the shelf, taunting me. A printer that turned out to be so lame that we only use it as a copy machine sits next to the camera. It torments me whenever I leave the room.

In the closet behind me, there's a box of old hard disks that I once disassembled with the intent of doing something to them, but I'll be darned if I can remember what that something was.

Two very old Macs sit on the desk over my right shoulder, recently plugged back in so that I might use them to connect my SCSI Zip drive so that I might salvage the Zip disks that I once thought were a good place to archive digital data. But I couldn't boot them, despite hours of trying.

I have boxes of power cords and boxes of ethernet transceivers. I have boxes of SCSI cables and boxes of telephone miscellany from the days of dial-up. I have two extra DSL modems, an evidently broken broadband router and a replacement for it that was too pathetic for words.

There is a 128K Mac in the garage in the original box. There is a Mac Classic on the shelf that I found by the curb a couple years ago. And there is a green iMac from the days of Apple's infatuation with lickable groovy.

These things were supposed to make my life wonderful, and admittedly they did for a while. I can still hear the Macintosh beep that was such a thrill back in 1984. And I remember Ben unpacking that groovy green iMac on Christmas morning. But in a flash these things were obsolete, and now they just taunt and torment and take up space.

We know what I must do to solve this problem. Imagine the space I'd regain if I could. It's just not in my genes to do it ... yet.

9:58:38 PM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

 Sunday, July 6, 2008

What We Saw

From our spot on the hill, we watched fathers swinging gleeful babies in the air. We watched babies grown into little girls throwing tantrums about the ants at their feet. We watched mothers squirting whipped cream into the wide-open mouths of unbelieving boys. We watched people reading and kids playing. We watched kayaks and canoes on the water.

The sun set, chased by a splinter-crescent-moon. The sky got dark, and one by one the stars came out. The Big Dipper dipped above us as we gazed across the river at the city skyline as it began to light up.

The fireworks started after the 1812 Overture as we were recovering from the concussions of the Howitzers across the lake.

There were white fountains and rockets with spiraling tails that ejected barely-visible projectiles into the cloudless black. There were spreading florets of red, blue and white. And green. And orange. There were swarms of vectors shooting every which-way. There were bright red dots that climbed noiselessly and exploded into orange rain. There were hissing and cracking embers. There were tails of comets that seemed to reach down to the water. And when the grand finale came, my jaw went slack.

Streaming fountains shot skyward, two, three, four at a time. Bursting colors exploded upon bursting colors. The sky was full of fireworks unfolding on top of each other, and glowing trails of fireworks fell earthward while more spirals twisted into the night sky. In the last few moments as the crowd began to roar, they must have launched more fireworks than they had in the entire twenty minutes we had been watching. Tears of amaze came to my eyes.

Afterwards, we sat for a while and then began to pack our things. The sea of people around us began to move. We walked in the general direction of the parking garage where the drivers there were certain to face a long wait before they would get back onto the street. Then we rode our bikes until the mob on the sidewalks the the cars backed up on the street got so thick that we had to dismount until we came to the trail where we took a shortcut away from the crowd to where we had parked our car a couple miles away from the hill.

When we got home, the dog had many, many things to tell us about the many things that had transpired while we were gone, and to tell you the truth, he hasn't really finished his telling, yet. But, oh my, whatever he heard and whatever he saw paled for sure in the face of what we saw from our spot on the hill in the breeze by the lake.

12:06:31 AM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

 Friday, July 4, 2008


Get bikes. Helmets on. Ride to the gym. Lock bikes. Helmets off. Lift weights. Jog. Sweat. Stretch. Hot tub. Soak. Bubbles. Hot jets on yaya feet. Waterfall on yaya shoulders. Unlock bikes. Helmets back on. Ride bikes home. Stop by the ice cream shop. Lock bikes. Helmets off. Half-price cones. Yaya pralines-n-cream. Helmets on. Go home for real. Put bikes away. And lay down to sleep in our yaya bed.

4:01:19 AM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

 Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Samuel's Lunch

I don't know what his name was. Let's call him Samuel.

I was sitting outside the grocery store with the dog on a leash beneath my chair. It was very hot, and we found a spot in the shade of a red umbrella — one of several sticking out of the patio tables on the sidewalk.

People came and went. There were women carrying reusable grocery bags. There were families with their kids in tow. There was a man on crutches who evidently only had to get a single container of hummus (or some such) from the deli counter. And there was Samuel.

He walked up to the table in front of us with a determined look on his face. He set his backpack in a chair and pulled a chair out for himself, moving both of them so that they were in the shade.

Samuel sat down and unzipped his pack, pulling out a half-loaf of sliced wheat bread and a container of mayonnaise and a tin of tuna fish and a can opener and some sort of cloth. He set these things on the table before him with slow deliberation, and he arrayed six slices of bread on the cloth.

He opened the tuna and walked over to a garbage can, where he stood for some time letting the water drip out of the can, making sure that he had left no tuna on the lid before he threw it away. As he slowly walked back, I saw him muttering — not audibly, just barely moving his lips in sync with some thoughts that were clearly on his mind.

Back at his table, Samuel spread some mayonnaise onto each slice of bread with a knife that also must have come from his pack, and he mixed some more mayo into the tuna fish, wiping the knife on the corner of one of the slices of bread when he was done and then wiping it again, polishing it almost, with a napkin that also came out of his pack. Then he stowed his knife, the remaining bread and the can opener back into his pack and put one slice onto the other to make three tuna fish sandwiches.

When Trudy came out, he had just begun eating his first one. She looked at me looking at him.

"Do you have some change?" I asked her. She dug four quarters out of her purse.

"Here," I said, handing her the leash. "I'll be right back." And I walked down the sidewalk to the main entrance of the grocery store to the table just inside to the right where you can get some fruit for your kids for a small donation of change.

I got an apple and a small orange and walked back. When I came up to Samuel, I slowed down. He was eating and didn't seem to notice me.

"Would you like some fruit with your lunch?" I asked, barely touching him on the arm and showing him the apple and orange. He shook his head gently.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"No thank you," he said.

"Ok," I said, and I walked back to Trudy.

She took the dog. I put the fruit into one of the bags in the grocery cart. And we went home.

12:27:02 AM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

 Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Your Mother

I heard today that your mother passed away.

My thoughts go out to her and to you.

I remember a day long ago when my dad came to pick me up after a boy scout troop meeting at the Congregational Church that was just behind your house. On the way home, he and I were talking about what had happened at the meeting, which is odd right there, because I've never been one to get talkative about stuff like that. (Ask my wife!) I remember clearly that I told him that there was a new kid who had joined the troop and that I hoped we got to be friends. The kid was you.

I have shockingly few memories of that time, even fewer that involve such vivid recollections of friends. And my connections to those few have faded to almost nothing. If I could recast the trajectory I've followed over these years, one of things I'd do differently would be to stay in touch better — close enough that I might be able to say something more than just "my thoughts go out to you".

But here we are. And they do.

Best wishes.

10:35:15 PM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []