Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Guys Suck -- Reality TV Edition

OK, I have to confess a secret -- after a long day, Renee and I sometimes unwind by snuggling in bed and watching bad reality TV. Well, last night it was the first episode of the new season of "The Bachelorette", and we had to watch. Twenty-five guys competing for the affections of (and the eventual chance to marry) the female protagonist.

Now, I understand the squeamishness some might feel with this whole concept -- turning courtship into a televised freak-show. And perhaps you are wondering about what sort of person I am to treat my brain to this type of abuse. But set those concerns aside, and focus on the spectacle.

It was terrific in its awful-ness. Renee and I couldn't stop laughing at the comical, almost clownish behavior of these guys. Non-stop strutting and preening by twenty five jerks, all trying to out-do each other with their showing-off. I just kept wincing as each hair-gelled, abs-sculpted man-child made a total ass of himself trying to impress this woman. Not one of them seemed like a genuine person who you might be interested to meet. I kept waiting for someone with some dignity to just sit down and try to talk to this woman like a human being.

I know that some of this is the result of the selection process -- they picked a bunch of 20-something actor/model wannabees (who were willing to sign up for this sort of self-debasing activity).

The woman who is at the center of this maelstrom seems very personable and genuine. I kept wishing that a slightly more seasoned gentleman (maybe with a hint of salt-and-pepper in his hair) would stroll in and show these boys how to actually talk to a woman.

We've watched previous seasons of "The Bachelor", where it is one guy v. 25 women, and the feel is entirely different. I mean, some of the women are manipulative, back-stabbing and competitive in their own ways. But none of them are so loathsome.

Wo here's my question. Are guys really like this? Is this what my little Emma has to look forward to? I mean, if this show captures 1/100-th of what it is like for a woman to go out to a bar to try to meet guys....if guys really act like this when they are trying to impress women...then I feel sorry for you all. Dating must just suck.

On behalf of all men everywhere, let me apologize. Obviously we are disgusting creatures.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My Answers to Christy's Tag

What were you doing 5 years ago?

OK, let's see...five years ago was 2003. Emma was in first grade. James was four. That means that I was living in Henniker, NH with my first wife and the kids, working at the Attorney General's Office. We had put our house on the market and were getting ready to buy my Mom's house in Sanbornton.

What are/were 5 things on your to-do list today?

Pay a couple bills (the car payment and homeowners' insurance)

Send in my signed contract for my summer singing gig with the NH Music Festival (Renee actually took care of this for me. Thanks sweetie!)

Email the powerpoint presentation for the sexual harassment training seminar that I'm teaching later this week.

Get to work on the summary judgment motion that I still have to write which is due later this month.

Go to an emergency selectmen's meeting for the town, and then race home to spend some quality time with my honey.

What 5 snacks do you enjoy?

Pistachios (I'm not just saying that cuz it was on your list Christy. Renee and I have been going crazy with the pistachios lately)
Pickles (the sweet kind)
Popsicles (the Taste-E-Freeze kind)
Ice Cream

Damn, it was looking like I was going to get all five P-words, but then "Ice Cream" came along and ruined everything.

What 5 things would you do if you were a billionaire?

Buy a sailboat that you can live on.
Travel the world.
Set up a charitable foundation to work on international relief projects.
Give a bunch of money to each of my family members.
Purchase all of the available open land in Sanbornton and place it into conservation.

What are 5 of your bad habits?

Avoiding difficult conversations
Trying to please people
Lying (although I have gotten a lot better about this recently, and have turned my life around in that respect)

What are 5 places you've lived?

Fairfield, CT
Brooklyn, NY
Tarrytown, NY
Chicago, IL
Nashville, TN

What are 5 jobs you've had?

Lanscaping crew foreman
Installer of residential irrigation systems
Cashier in a bookstore
Church musician
Waiter/busboy/bellhop/chambermaid at a resort
Timeshare vacation salesman

What 5 people do you want to tag?

Hmmmm...I don't really have any bloggy friends to pass this on to. Sorry to break the chain.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday Photo Blogging

Today I learned a lesson about the destructiveness of gadget lust. You see, I've always loved photography. I love tramping through the woods taking pictures, and have wanted to get more deeply involved in taking pictures. My camera of choice for many years was an old Canon AE-1 35 mm. Recently, I've wanted to switch to digital, but have had my heart set on getting a really good SLR Nikon digital. My object of desire was the Nikon D200, or (if I had to settle) the D-80. I would regularly scan through the photography magazines and read the reviews of these wonderful cameras. The problem is that the D200 (with a lens) costs somewhere around $1100 and the D80 costs around $800, and I've just never had the cash to spend. So, I have gone without a digital camera, unwilling to settle for less than what I wanted.

So, I would mope around, moaning about the fact that I couldn't afford the camera I wanted. Every once and a while I would get out the AE-1 and shoot some pictures. But then the rolls of film would sit around for months until I got around to getting it developed. For my blog, I was using the camera on my phone, which is pretty bad.

Well, today the always-wise Renee put an end to my silliness. We were in the camera store, and she said "I want a digital camera. I'm sick of not being able to take pictures of you and I and the kids. I'm going to get one." And she did. She bought a $79 Nikon Cookpix package (I went in halves on it with her). She told me she was getting it for us, but when we got home, she told me that it was really for me.

So, I unwrapped it and started playing around with it, and you know what? It's great fun! It takes good pictures and the photo editing software that came with it is easy and powerful. I went out in the woods for a few hours and took loads of shots. The camera has it's limits, but I'm learning to work within them.

Someday I'll get that fancy digital camera. But until then, I'm not going to let my desire for perfection get in the way of doing what I want to do.

Now, without further ado, here are some of the pictures I took today.

Friday, May 2, 2008

I'm Not Sure What to Think About This

A ritual in India involving dropping kids off a tower. Looks like the kids don't mind -- kinda like a long drop onto a trampoline. I suppose every religion has its odd rituals. As a parent, not sure how I feel.

It is interesting to note, however, that the crowd seems to made up entirely of men. I guess the dads are OK with it. Wonder what the moms think

Let the Denunciation Begin!


Came across this video that's spreading around the internet of Bill Clinton's 1992 Campaign Chairman (now one of Hillary Clinton's '08 Advisors) Mickey Kantor telling George Stephanapoulos and James Carville: "Look at Indiana...it doesn't matter if we win. Those people are shit. How would you like to be a worthless white ni**er?"

read more | digg story

This raises a bunch of issues. First, it will be interesing to see if this grows into a shitstorm for Hillary the way that Rev. Wright did for Obama. If not, why? After all, here we have a close campaign advisor to Hillary caught on tape saying ugly nasty things about folks in Indiana. This is someone she has known, and worked closely with for years. Did she not know about his views? Did she ever hear him saying things like this? Doesn't it say something about her character and judgment.

Admittedly, this video was back in 1992, but hey, if the media's gonna play that way with Obama, I think we need some balance.

It also raises questions about the potential conflicts in having George Stephanopoulos appear as an "objective" journalist on ABC news and to continue to cover this campaign.

Update: Oops, looks like I jumped the gun on this one. Atrios has a post up suggesting it's a fake. Kantor has been interviewed on Huffpost, claims it's fake. I guess I allowed my anger at Hillary (for engaging in Rove-ian tactics) to overtake my normal skepticism. I apologize

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Not In My Name

When I first saw the image below, I was heartbroken -- torn up at the thought of innocent babies STILL being killed by American bombs five years into this mess. But the feelings have mutated into much more than just sadness. No, I'm mad as hell, fed up, pissed off. I can't avoid it any more -- I can't blog about happy things, when children continue to die because of MY COUNTRY -- presumably on MY BEHALF.

NO, No, No.

Two-year-old Ali Hussein is pulled from the rubble of his family's home in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq on Tuesday, April 29, 2008. The child, who later died at the hospital, was in one of four homes destroyed by U.S. missiles. More than two dozen people were killed when Shiite militants ambushed a U.S. patrol in Baghdad's embattled Sadr City district, bringing the death toll in area on Tuesday to more than 30, a U.S. military spokesman and Iraqi officials said. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

I didn't want this war. I spoke out against this war. I voted against the President who brought us this war. I have written letters trying to convince the Democrats to grow a spine and end this war.

And yet, I know that I cannot escape the creeping stain of blame...that I haven't done nearly enough. I have remained largely silent, stunned, as this horror has continued to unravel with its demonic insistence. I should have been marching in the streets, refusing to pay my taxes, throwing Molotov cocktails.

I will look back on my behavior in this decade with some shame.

In surveying the media I have often wondered "where are the voices of dissent" "where is today's peace movement, our generation's John Lennon or Abbie Hoffman or Phil Ochs. Where are the college kids? But that's just an attempt to shift blame, because deep down I know that I could be doing more to raise the noise.

Damn, damn, damn.


Wow, this video is just mesmerizing. I love the camera work.

What do you think?

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spring Skiing (Belated Post)

I was just looking through my phone and came across these pics from when my kids were up visiting for April vacation.

These were taken Monday, April 7, 2008 at Bretton Woods (which has become my new favorite ski area in NH).

What a glorious day it was -- temperatures started out in the 30's, but by mid-morning it was up in the 50's and it got up into the high 60's as the afternoon went on. When we stopped for a late lunch, there were folks sunbathing on the picnic tables.

I'm so grateful to be able to shares these times with Emma and James. I was telling them about when I was their age, that my father (who had been an excellent skiier as a young man) never skiied with us. My kids were really puzzled by that -- they couldn't understand why not -- and I didn't have a good answer for them. It just seemed like the way things were. Mom and Dad dropped us off at the ski area in the morning and they went off and did whatever grown-ups do (lunch dates? shopping?). I didn't feel like I was missing anything. But now looking back, through the eyes of my own kids, I know that my Dad really missed out.

It's not like anything remarkable happens when we are skiing -- no deep insights or breakthrough moments. But it's our time together. A big block of time that we get to spend together, with no interruptions, hanging out, talking on the chairlift about whatever comes up.

OCD Watch

I love obsessive single-issue blogs -- you know, the type of blogs which have only one narrow theme or idea, which is then repeated day after day, carried out to the extreme. Like the one of the guy who posted a photo of himself taken every day for several years.

I don't know why I get a kick out of them. They seem like a strange form of performance art to me. The quirkier, the better.

Well, here's todays entry -- a blog dedicated to cataloguing sneezes.

The site is awesome, with its minimalistic feel. It is stripped down to the bare essence of obsessive counting.

If you stop by, be sure to read his "Reflections on the Counting of Sneezes".

Grim Thought for the Day

I was reading the news today, thinking about the war when a thought flashed through my mind. A child in Iraq who was five years old when the US invaded is now ten. Think about it.

I look at my own kids -- now 8 and 12 -- and think about how much the events of the past five years have shaped who they are. What must it be like for that child in Iraq heading into his or her teen years with almost no memory of a life without war. Maybe some distant hazy memories of a more normal life -- of being able play outside without fear, of regular electricity and running water. Overshadowing those will be the last five years filled with check points, bombings, stories about people being dragged out of their homes and cars, street battles between different militias, seeing heavily armored soldiers patrolling through the streets. These are their entire reality.

I'm sure there's a whole body of literature out there on how growing up in a war zone effects children, and how it impacts them as adults. In a way, it seems too grim to investigate.

Here's an article from the Guardian last year that touches on theses issues.

What future horrors are we sowing?

[Iraqi boys in a refugee camp in Baghdad play with toy guns. Photograph: Namir Noor-Eldeen/Reuters]

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Amen, Brother

Sometimes I read a blog post and it resonates with me -- expressing with clarity and vigor ideas that have been stewing around nascent inside me. Well, this post from John Cole (of Balloon Juice) [writing about Obama's speech today distancing himself from Reverand Wright] made me just want to stand up and holler. He's absolutely spot-on

And for those of you who don't read John regularly, he used to be a Republican. But the unremitting policy disasters of the past seven years have caused the scales to fall from his eyes.

Read and enjoy:

As to Wright himself, well, I have my own thoughts. First and foremost, I guess I am no longer the delicate fainting flower that most other bloggers and media commenters are these days. I spent several years in the early days of this blog being all sorts of outraged about petty bullshit. I spent days calling Ted Rall an asshole (he still is, I think), days opining about what an asshole Michael Moore is, and so on. I got my panties all in a bunch about Ward Churchhill (also a dick), and stupid things Bill Maher may or may not have said, and so on.

And you know what? They may be assholes, or jerks, or whatever term you want to use, but they sure as hell didn’t run this economy into the ground. They aren’t responsible for turning a huge surplus into a several hundred billion dollar deficit. I have yet to read any memos from Barbra Streisand detailing how we should spy on American citizens.

And so it is with Jeremiah Wright. Is he a jerk? I don’t think there is any argument to be made that lately he hasn’t in fact been one big, giant, puckered asshole. His ego tour the past few days was all about him, but so what? I blame the media as much as I blame him. Is it an offensive notion that the government created aids? Absolutely, but I refuse to get all bent out of shape about it, because the government that tortures people and ran the Tuskegee experiment and wiretapped MLK for years opens itself up to crazy accusations like that.

So Jeremiah Wright has acted like a jackass the past few days, and he may have acted supremely selfishly by hurting Obama’s electoral chances. Regardless, he may be a flawed man, but that does not undo all the good he has done over the years. I don’t know of any bloggers with thirty years of service to the poor and the indigent. Get back to me when Chris Matthews feeds hungry people for three decades. . . .

Maybe it is because I am totally and unrepentantly in the tank for Obama, but I just can’t get worked up over what his pastor said. Maybe it is because I am not religious, and I am used to religious people saying things that sound crazy. Or maybe I just refuse to spend any more time and energy getting worked up over and denouncing, distancing, and rejecting the wrong people- people who really don’t matter in the big scheme of things. If you have a memo from Jeremiah Wright to John Yoo showing how we should become a rogue nation, let me know. If you have pictures of Jeremiah Wright voting against the GI Bill, send it to me. If you have evidence of Jeremiah Wright training junior soldiers on the finer aspects of stacking and torturing naked Iraqi captives, pass them on.

Until then, I just can’t seem to get all worked up about the crazy scary black preacher that Obama has to “throw under the bus.”

Now, let me apologize (to the two or three people who might be checking in here) that I haven't written anything particularly interesting or insightful about my life, thoughts, emotions, or ideas lately. It's been a combination of a lack of time coupled with a lack of inspiration. I really admire those bloggers out there (yeah, you Christie) who manage to come up with something witty every day.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Shameless Thievery

This is fun -- it's a website where people post childhood pictures of themselves alongside a recent picture, in which they try to recreate the pose. Go check it out.

I can't take any credit for finding this site -- I am shamelessly stealing from Andrew Sullivan's blog.

This entry is one of my favorites -- lots of attitude points:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why I Get Most of My News From Blogs

One of my favorite big-time bloggers, Glenn Greenwald has been watching television news the past few days as the brouhaha over Obama's "bitter" comments (predictably) unfolds. His critique seems spot-on to me.

"Our elections are dominated by the same tired personality script, trotted out over and over and over. Democrats and liberals -- no matter how poor their upbringing, no matter how self-made they are, no matter how egalitarian their policies -- are the freakish, out-of-touch elitists who despise the values of the Regular Americans. Right-wing leaders -- no matter how extravagantly rich they are by virtue of other people's money, no matter how insulated their lives are, no matter how indifferent their policies are to the vast rich/poor gap -- are the normal, salt-of-the-earth Regular Folk. These petty, cliched storylines drown out every meaningful consideration and dictate our election outcomes, and they are deployed automatically."

It's true.

Think about how many times you heard about John Kerry's heiress wife, and about the fact that they lived in a house that was purchased with her family money. It crept into news reports over and over again. Have we heard a peep in the media about John McCain's wealthy wife? No. Not even when the media attended a barbeque at his extravagant Arizona home (that belongs to his wife). And you won't hear about it.

Why not? Because it doesn't fit the television news overarching narrative -- that John Kerry was wimpy, effete, snobbish, and out-of-touch. The idea that he married a wealthy woman and is beholden to her for her money fits that narrative, because it helps to emasculate him. But John McCain by contrast is supposedly a straight-talking, war hero tough guy. So the fact that he married a wealthy woman and is living off of her fortune undercuts that narrative. So they can't mention that.

It doesn't matter how much public opinion shifts away from the Republicans...the narrative stays the same. Why? I'm not sure. Some times I think it is because journalists are simply lazy, and don't want to do the work necessary to break out of these pre-cast narratives. Other times I think it is because they are part of an insider media culture that shapes their world view. Or maybe they really are (unconsciously?) beholden to their corporate patrons.

Regardless of the reason, the bottom line is that the Democratic candidate can not expect to get a fair shake in the media, and we need to go around them.

A Very Exclusive Club


Sorry for the recent lack of postings. The kids were visiting from Atlanta last week, and I was trying to juggle spending time with them and keeping up with work. We had a great week -- lots of fun. I'll be blogging about the kids and our experiences together once I have some breathing space.

In the meantime, here's a fun little fact I saw in the news.

What do the following countries all have in common: China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the USA and Yemen.....?

Hmmm...do you give up?

Those are all the countries that have executed children for criminal offenses since 1990.

Don't you feel special, knowing that we are in such good company, with those human rights champions, Sudan and Pakistan.

[UPDATE/CORRECTION -- The information in the preceding four paragraphs about the US executing offenders under 18 is misleading and inaccurate. My apologies for posting it. Thanks to my brother Greg for catching this. I no longer have the link to the site where I found the information, which I think was an Amnesty International report I read. The truth is that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the execution of minors who commit crimes in 2005 in a 5-4 decision. So, we are no longer in the club for executing juveniles. The Washington Post article states that between 1976 and 2005 there were 22 executions of juveniles, 13 of them in Texas. So, I guess we have seen the light on that issue.]

Here's the list of all the countries that still retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes: Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, China, Comoros, Congo (Democratic Republic), Cuba, Dominica, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea (North), Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saint Christopher & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Trinidad And Tobago, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States Of America, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe

Again, what good company we are in.

You might be asking, where are Great Britain, Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, etc.

Well, I don't need to tell you. They have all abolished the death penalty.

Hmmm...what do those countries know that we don't?

Ah, but we can't talk about that, because doing so might suggest that the United States isn't the greatest country that has ever existed, and we know that is blasphemy.

I can just hear Lee Greenwood in my head, "Well I'm proud to be an Americaaaaaaahn, where at least I know aaahm free!"

Friday, April 4, 2008

Nature Blogging -- Friday Edition

I got home last night from work around 6:00, grumpy and tired, and the lovely Renee said "why don't you go skiing, baby?"

In normal years I can't go skiing after work, because with the short days it is usually dark by the time I get home (although to be honest, I have been desperate enough to go out a few times with a head lamp -- "yeeeeargh!")

But it's April, and we still have snow on the ground!! So I threw on my gators and a windbreaker and headed out.

The conditions have deteriorated sorely since last weekend. There was less cover, and the snow was hard and crunchy, like skiing on crushed ice. It made conditions fast and treacherous on my narrow touring skis. It was so firm on top that even though it was ungroomed, I was able to skate across portions of the open fields.

I saw a line of moose tracks in the woods. Every third or fourth step the moose had broken through the crust and sunk down about 2 feet in the softening snow. Must have made for difficult going.

Alongside the moose tracks (following? chasing?) were dozens of large canine tracks. Dogs? Coyotes? I can't tell. But I saw several different sized tracks, so there were at least 3 or four different animals. Were they tracking the moose? Hard to imagine that coyotes could take down a full-grown moose. Maybe if it was hurt.

The trail I was following had some nasty water hazards -- little rivers and gullies that had formed across the trail. (Those weren't there last week!) There were a couple times when I was caught by surprise, half in control, and nearly got a bath. Luckily each time I was able to maintain just enough control to squeeze between the water and the trees.

Darkness was coming on pretty quickly though, and I didn't have a light with me, or any other gear, so I couldn't stay out after sunset. So, I turned around and headed home to go see Renee, make some dinner and play with the new puppy.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

It Comes Right Before "Gullible" in the Dictionary

Last week Renee and I were browsing through the Shaws produce section (btw grocery shopping with Ren has become one of my favorite chores. Really, I'm not kidding. I think because it often leads to a Sunday afternoon cooking adventure) and I saw these fancy looking apples, called "Grapples" They came in a clear plastic four pack (ooh, they must be good if they are taking such care to avoid bruising) Initially I thought "what a crappy name." Makes me think of wrestling. But according to the package, it should be pronounced with a long "A" -- like Gray-ple. (OK, but if they wanted that, they shouldn't have put in the two p's. Don't these people read English?)

Intrigued I read a bit further, and saw that it was a special apple that supposedly tasted like a grape.

Wow, I thought, this must be some sort of fancy hybrid or genetically modified fruit. "Hey Ren, let's try these!"

So we plunked down $4 for four apples (gosh, they must be good if they cost so much) and took em home.

As soon as we unpacked the groceries I wanted to try one. I'm not sure what I was expecting -- some new delightful blend of different fruit flavors.

What I got was the taste equivalent of Barney the Dinosaur -- the sicky sweet grape flavor was overpowering and vaguely unnatural, like someone had injected my apple with grape kool-aid.

"What sort of diabolical food product is this" I thought. Then I looked at the package, and in fine print it said "Ingredients: apples, natural and artificial flavoring"

Ingredients!?! Since when do apples have "ingredients"?

I later learned that I had been duped into buying Fuji apples that had been soaked for a while in artificially flavored grape syrup.

Ah...yes -- isn't this modern technological world amazing. Flying cars? No. Free unlimited energy? No. Apples that taste like grape candy. Yes!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fools' Day

April Fools' Day is one of James's favorite days. James is my budding comic -- he loves jokes and riddles. He carries around this book ("1000 Jokes for Kids" or something like that) and he will read them out-loud, trying for that good laugh. And even though I've heard a lot of them repeatedly, I still laugh (or groan) appropriately.

As with all 8 year olds, he especially loves bathroom humor, fart jokes, etc. Renee absolutely adores James and totally "gets" his sense of humor. This is a huge blessing for me, because I get to watch the two of them going at it, laughing together over some silly joke, putting on a crazy voice or accent.

Every year when April rolls around, he gets very excited at the thought of playing tricks on people. Some years I will catch him let slip a little comment several days in advance that tell me he's thinking about it, scheming away. And when the day comes and he launches his little joke, he is so excited!

At his age, he has a hard time coming up with the right angle -- and his ideas often outstrip his ability to execute a gag. But he sure gives it a good try. (And heck, comedy's hard.)

Sadly, I won't get to be there this year for when he tries to spring his jokes, since he's down in Atlanta with his sister and my ex.

But I'll get to chat with him on the phone tonight, and maybe we can talk on Skype and play some Battleship or Chess.

And hopefully James will get to play a trick on somebody today, and they will give him a good reaction.

Next week the kids come up to stay with Renee and me for April Vacation. I can't wait.

Until then, I miss you James. Have fun, and play a good trick on someone for me.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Happy Birthday Rene

Fun fact of the day -- today is the birthday of Rene Descartes -- French philosopher born in 1596. I stumbled across that on Yahoo this morning, and it brought me back to one of my earlier lives.

Back in graduate school I read a lot of Descartes. At the time I was interested in the history of ideas and the history of science. I thought I was going to pursue a career in academia, become a professor of philosophy maybe. Well, it didn't work out that way. Another one of those roads not taken.

Seeing his name on the "today in history" page brought home that feeling I get when I reminisce -- the feeling like I've actually lived two or three lives already. I have changed life paths several times, and the break has always been very sharp -- I am not good at keeping in touch with people when I move, and so I lose contact with the people who once surrounded me and filled my world. So many distinct stages of my life -- different schools, different jobs, different cities. When I think back on some of those earlier episodes, it seems like some other person lived that life, not me.

I liked Descartes because, like me, he was a generalist. Back in those days philosophers studied all different topics of knowledge -- everything from the physical science (what today we would call Physics and Astronomy) to mathematics, cognitive theory, psychology, theology.

I remember reading "Le Monde" -- a book in which he sought to explain the physical laws of the universe. It contained his (incorrect, as it turns out) theory to explain how and why the planets moved: the "vortex theory". His idea was that the planets are all being carried along in these whirlpools of a aether-like substance.

We now know Descartes was on the wrong track, but I always liked the theory anyway, the idea that the heavens were full of this swirling fluid-like substance that carried the planets around. Nothing but a scientific dead-end, sorta like my graduate school experience.

Anyway -- Happy Birthday Rene!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I Fought the Log, and the Log Won

Today was one of the best days of spring skiing I've ever experienced. Just perfect in every way. Weather -- bright sunshine, temps in the high 40's, flawless deep blue skies. The snow was perfect too. A solid two foot hard base (formed from the thawing and refreezing of the snow pack over the past few weeks) with about 3" of soft, wet, fresh snow on top. But it wasn't sticky - no need to scrape it off the bottom of the skis. But heavy enough to slow you down on those descents through the trees. And cutting a track across the open fields was awesome -- the soft powder kept the skis firmly in line.

Didn't see another soul out there in the woods. Lots of tracks though -- deer, moose, canine tracks (coyote? wolf?) and I think I saw some big feline tracks (bobcat? Hmmm...need to do some research on those)

And to top it off, I went out and explored some new terrain. I started out following the main snowmobile trails that I always ski. But I found a branch trail that went through some recently logged woods, followed those out into the back country. After a while, I decided to leave the snowmobile path and bushwhacked my way through the woods, following the paths left by the loggers.

With the hard base it was easy going -- didn't sink too deep. Got up onto the shoulder of Hopkinton Hill with some beautiful views of the lake down below. Happily, I could see the various hills and fields around me and was able to keep my bearings, so I had a good idea of where home was.

Then I had my little accident. Skiing down through some recently logged terrain,
which was thick with raspberry bushes and recent saplings.

Got going a little too fast and caught the end of a 4 foot maple tree right in the cheek. Gave me a nice bloody scrape across the face. Kept my balance and didn't crash, but it did smart a bit. I was able to look at myself in the reflection of my sunglasses and see that it wasn't too bad -- the bleeding was pretty easily controlled.

Iced it down with some fresh snow and then headed home, bloodied but happy! Yeeeargh!!

Waiting on the World to Change

It's the last weekend in March, but you would never know it looking out my window. There's a solid two feet of snow blanketing the entire front lawn, and out across the fields. In the back yard, which is shaded from the sun much of the day, there are still huge drifts. The pile of snow next to the chicken coop is still about 5 1/2 feet high. Earlier in the winter it was well over six feet high. I stll can't open the chicken coop door all the way because the snow is partially blocking it.

It's a beautiful sunny day...I think about the birds that are coming back from the South and what they must be encountering, and the bears waking up from hibernation.

But the sap is running and the maple houses have their boilers fired up.

Spring is coming, but how much longer do we have to wait.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

So What's This All About?

OK, full disclosure -- this isn't really a blog about lunch boxes. Nope. I don't collect old lunch boxes. I don't know anything about what they are worth on Ebay. I'm not really that into antiques and collectibles.

In truth, I was just tooling around through my brain, looking for a fun title -- something that would be memorable and resonate with people. I tried song titles, quotes from movies and books, and found nothing. I considered making it more descriptive about me ("Life on the Hill" or "Diary of a Chicken Famer") but was worried about boring everyone (including myself).

I dipped into childhood memories. I could try the nostalgia angle. "That'll get em in the door." How about "Pop rocks and coke". Damn, someone already took that name. Then it came to me....lunch boxes.

Those metal ones, with the thermoses inside, and pictures from TV shows. I remembered sitting in the cafeteria of the Sanbornton Central Elementary School, watching Garth Morin open up his shiny Six Million Dollar Man lunchbox. Watched him taking out the thermos, which I imagined was full of nice cold milk, or (even worse) maybe warm soup that his mom put in there. Oh, how I longed for a lunch box of my own, to match Garth's. Maybe a "Starsky and Hutch". I wasn't picky. I would have accepted a "Scooby-Doo" lunchbox, or a "Donny Osmond".

But I knew it would never be. I was a "hot lunch" kid. My mom worked, and had to get four kids out the door in the morning, so packing lunches wasn't in the cards. Even when we had a field trip and had to have a packed lunch, I got the plain brown sack. Peanut butter and jelly and an apple, maybe some Graham crackers. No hot soup in a "Battlestar Gallactica" thermos for me.

I'm not complaining. My childhood was great. Mom and dad loved us unconditionally, and we had all that we needed. But I still remember that feeling -- a mixture of envy and shame that I felt because I lacked that important token of coolness -- the lunch box. Just one more reason why I would never be one of the cool kids.

And that feeling of always wanting to fit in, but never quite getting to the inner circle, no matter how hard I tried, well it never went away.

Here I am, thirty years later, having experienced college, law school, professional life.. and those feelings of being an outsider, never hip enough -- they haven't gone away.

So, I guess this is as good a title as any.