Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Balls Like No Other




Sony's Bravia Advert
"Colour Like No Other"
(Flash version)

(You'll need broadband to watch the High Resolution version available from Sony Bravia, but it's worth it, I promise. Watch it.)

+++++




How They Did It

(High Resolution longer version here.)

+++++




And don't miss the Tango Parody/Tribute Advert.

+++++



Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Politics As Usual


I have long had an interest in current events and politics, even from a young age. I didn't always understand the nature of power, and its uses and abuses, but I found it all a fascinating study, nonetheless. Some time back I decided to jump into the process with both feet, and got involved in Republican Party Politics, starting at the caucus level, and advancing as a delegate to that year's District and State Conventions.

I knew full well, going in, that the political game was a rough and tumble one, that it really is just war by other means, but I found some things more disturbing than I expected. Watching the machinations of it all up close reminded me of Otto Von Bismark's line about about the legislative process: "Laws are like sausages. You sleep far better the less you know about how they are made."

Indeed.

It seemed that 'carrying water for the Elephant" - party fundraising and getting-out-the-vote efforts - counted much more to the Party Power Elite than did character, or integrity, or even adherence to the party's own platform. Although I started out enthusiastic, I quickly became disillusioned, quit and have not participated in the party process since.

Don't misunderstand: I don't think that any other party is better than the Republicans, and in fact, I have much more faith in the policies and platform of the Republicans than I do in the that of the Democrats. Besides, there really are only two parties in this country, anyway: Republicans and Democrats. Although I admire some of the policies of the various smaller parties, they are irrelevant. For all their whooping to the contrary, the smaller parties are tilting at windmills, and haven't a ghost of a chance of getting their hands on the levers of power. The patriotic American can cast his lot in with any party he chooses, but if he cares a whit about having any real kind of influence, he has to go with the Elephant or the Donkey. So, for me, Republican, it is.

But the thing is, the political process is the same for any party, and debases virtually all comers. Any man or woman who will engratiate themselves to those with money, who will get down on all fours with carny barkers and flim-flam operators, who will promise anything to anyone for a vote, such a candidate for office is by definition a third-rater, and not worthy of leading others. Sadly, the Elephant is all too often just as debauched in the lust for raw power as is his Ass of a cousin.

So, all this is by way of pointing out that I am vaguely aware that the Minnesota State Republican convention is going to start later this week, and yet I am mostly ignorant of the players and policies on the docket. I have tried to muster up the energy to educate myself, but in the immortal words of Rhett Butler: "Frankly my dear..."

Anyway, I made a long holiday weekend of it, and took today and tomorrow off from work. Instead of paying attention to politics, I spent a good chunk of this afternoon and evening at both performances of 7 year-old AE's school musical play about bugs. She had a speaking part in the Matinee, and had a walk-on part in the evening performance. And yes, since you asked, I had the digital video camera in hand, both times.

(Poor thing: she thought she was supposed to be a dancer in the jitterbug group, and broke down in sobs when she was not called to center-stage for the big number. She managed to hold on, but was rather fragile the rest of the evening. The last song of the night was a performance of The Beatles' - bugs, beetles, get it? - 'Twist and Shout,' during which AE was crying a river, while singing 'Shake It Up Baby' with her classmates. It kind of broke my heart to see her in so much distress, but she figured out how to handle it, and managed to pull it together well enough to not come completely unglued. I was proud of her.)

In the end, don't get me wrong. I am not saying that I think politics is not important, only that there are other things that are equally important, or more so. And today, my daughter's musical play was one of them. Twice.

SugarMama? They're Kidding, Right?


I use Virgin Mobile's phone service, but I'm not sure this is a good idea. In fact, it sounds annoying to me.

From Yahoo News:



Virgin Mobile Offers Free Minutes for Viewing Ads

Virgin Mobile customers willing to spend a little time with advertisers can earn more calling minutes thanks to a program geared to the operator's prepaid user base.

Dubbed SugarMama, the new service invites Virgin Mobile USA customers to watch a brief video advertisement, then answer a few questions about the message. Correct responses result in free minutes of airtime. Users also can agree to accept SMS messages that contain advertisements or discounts.

To participate, customers must sign up for SugarMama on the Virgin Mobile Web site by filling out a demographic profile. The offering is strictly voluntary and can be shut off by customers at the Virgin Mobile site.



Read the rest here.

Myth America


From Popular Mechanics:

9/11: Debunking The Myths

Monday, May 29, 2006

(Not) Music Monday




"Not About Love"
Fiona Apple


The Sun Never Sets...


From the BBC:



Dozens hurt in cheese roll race

A teenager who knocked himself out while chasing a Double Gloucester cheese down a hill was among 25 people hurt in a Cheese Rolling competition.

Chris Anderson, 18, won one of the five races which make up the annual contest, in which dozens of people race down a 1:2 gradient hill after a large cheese.

St John Ambulance workers at the race, on Coopers Hill in Brockworth, said two people were taken to hospital.

One spectator was given treatment after being hit by a runaway cheese.



Read the rest here.

(Video here.)

Streetcars




Taken by Yours Truly, Memorial Day, 2006, with footage of two classic urban streetcars in use on the Lake Harriet Line, and a short interview with one of the Minnesota Streetcar Museum volunteers.


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Visiting Hours


On the occcasion of this Memorial Day, please re-read Ben Stein's moving piece Visiting Hours, reproduced here last year by kind permission of the American Spectator. It still makes me tear up.

Memorial Day 2006


06.06.26.Memorialday06-X

Cartoon courtesy Cox&Forkum

More On The Story From C&F


She Blinded Him With Science


SpeedDatingNews spills the beans:



Marriage And Great Science Don't Mix

Several years ago, Satoshi Kanazawa, then a psychologist at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, analyzed a biographical database of 280 great scientists--mathematicians, physicists, chemists, and biologists. When he calculated the age of each scientist at the peak of his career--the sample was predominantly male--Kanazawa noted an interesting trend. After a crest during the third decade of life, scientific productivity--as evidenced by major discoveries and publications--fell off dramatically with age. When he looked at the marital history of the sample, he found that the decline in productivity was less severe among men who had never been married. As a group, unmarried scientists continued to achieve well into their late 50s, and their rates of decline were slower.

"The productivity of male scientists tends to drop right after marriage," says Kanazawa in an e-mail interview from his current office at the London School of Economics and Political Science in the United Kingdom. "Scientists tend to 'desist' from scientific research upon marriage, just like criminals desist from crime upon marriage."



Read the rest here.

Tivo Or Not Tivo, That Is The Question


I spent a good deal of time yesterday and today filling one rather large partition of my new 250 gig external hard drive with content from Guba, the free web-based front-end for Usenet video binaries.

As might be expected, the lion's share of the stuff available is in English, but the majority is not American. I downloaded a slew of CBC documentaries, BBC comedies, and various Aussie dramas, like 'The Cooks,' 'McLeod's Daughers,' and 'Head Start.'

I haven't viewed most of many hours of programming I downloaded to my make-shift Tivo, but I did manage to squeeze in time to watch the first 3 episodes of an excellent but short-lived Australian series called 'The Cooks.' The reviews I read online from both the Australian and British press were rather dismissive, but I found it charming, witty, well-written and well-acted. Unfortunately, I was only able to snag those 3 episodes, so I'll have to watch and wait to see if the rest of them show up.

I must say, as I glanced at bits and pieces of what I downloaded, I was struck by how absolutely shabby most American programs look, by comparison. It isn't that we Yanks are incapable of producing good shows, but rather, I think, it's the insidious nature of Hollywood in taking any good idea and homogeonizing it, and diluting it to suit the lowest common denominator.

It doesn't seem likely that British, Canadian and Australian content producers are any better or brighter than their American counterparts, but simply that they have to try harder and be better because their potential markets are much smaller, and because they are competing with ubiquitous American product. Their production values not only have to be top-notch, but their story-telling has to be top-notch, too. Of course, to be fair, I suspect they make their own share of rotten shows, too, but they just doen't reach these shores.

Anyway, I find it fascinating to watch these shows, written and produced from a different perspective than what I'm used to. Now, all I need are a few free weeks to watch the various episodes of the new 'Dr. Who' series and older epsidodes of 'Time Team,' and this past month's various CBC documentaires, and the 17 of 21 espisodes of the critically-acclaimed but mostly-unseen-in-the-US series 'Head Start.' You'll be able to find me on the couch, if you need me.

Free Napster


Unfortunately for those of you outside the US, this only works for Stateside users, but it's pretty slick. Read the following is from Napster's FAQ:



Can I Really Listen to Napster Music for Free?

Yes. Here's how it works. You can listen to every track in our 2,000,000 song catalog up to 5 times for FREE. That's 10 million free plays! After the 5th free play of any single track, you can either purchase the track or become a Napster subscriber. As a subscriber, you can download an unlimited number of full-length songs to your PC. As a Napster To Go subscriber you can transfer those tracks to your compatible portable player without paying per track.

Free Music! How do I sign up?

Napster & free music . . . they just go together. To sign up and start listening, select the Register link at the top of the page. Enter your unique username, a password (minimum of six alpha-numeric characters) and your email address (if you forget your username or password we will send it to the email address you provide in this form.). Read and agree to the Napster Terms and Conditions and choose if you would like to receive periodic emails from us containing artist updates, exclusive content and special offers. Then select the submit button and we'll send you a welcome email letting you know your registration is complete.



So, yeah, it's free, but there is a catch. You can only play each song 5 times for free. After that, you can't listen further without subscribing to Napster, or paying for the song. And Napster's purchase prices aren't any better than buying tracks from iTunes. But the Free Service appears to work as advertised, and gives users the chance to listen to alot of music before deciding whethter to buy it. No more purchasing an album on the strength of the single, only to find out the rest of it is garbage.

One more thing: Napster allows Free Service users to embed links to songs from Napster on their blogs. Blog readers can then listen to each song for up to five time each, for free, but they will be prompted to register for a screen name and password, unless they already have one. It's a bit annoying, but it's a cool way to share your favorite tunes. (You and your readers do need a Flash plugin to listen, and it's best to have a broadband connection.)

For example, give a listen to the following track, 'Genius,' by Inara George, one of my favorites of this past year.

Genius (LP Version)

Enjoy.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Kipling


I recently bought a cassette recording of several of Kipling's original Jungle Book stories. As I've been listening to the reading in the car over the past day or two I've been struck by how very different it is from the Disney version.

I know the cartoon and music of the 1967 movie is loved by children around the world, but taking a charming set of stories like this and Disneyfying them amounts to the debasing of a classic. It's a crude and vulgar thing, akin to putting ketchup and mustard on a suffle'.

I'd utterly forgotten how much danger and tension existed between Mowgli and Shere Khan, how clever Bagheera was, how seriously the Law of the Jungle was taken by the animals. And I'd forgotten the hint of menace that permeated all the stories, start to finish. It's a wondrous set of tales.

If you haven't ever read the real thing - or haven't read them in a long time - do yourself a favor and read them (slowly) here. I'll bet you won't regret it.

Friday Night Videos




Vertigo
U2

+++++




Like A Stone
Audioslave

+++++




All My Life
Foo Fighters

+++++




White Flag
Dido

+++++




Sweetness
Jimmy Eat World

+++++



The Best Of The Worst


PC World lists the 25 Worst Tech Products Of All Time for you:



The Complete List of Losers

  1. America Online (1989-2006)

  2. RealNetworks RealPlayer (1999)

  3. Syncronys SoftRAM (1995)

  4. Microsoft Windows Millennium (2000)

  5. Sony BMG Music CDs (2005)

  6. Disney The Lion King CD-ROM (1994)

  7. Microsoft Bob (1995)

  8. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 (2001)

  9. Pressplay and Musicnet (2002)

  10. dBASE IV (1988)

  11. Priceline Groceries and Gas (2000)

  12. PointCast (1996)

  13. IBM PCjr. (1984)

  14. Gateway 2000 10th Anniversary PC (1995)

  15. Iomega Zip Drive (1998)

  16. Comet Cursor (1997)

  17. Apple Macintosh Portable (1989)

  18. IBM Deskstar 75GXP (2000)

  19. OQO Model 1 (2004)

  20. CueCat (2000)

  21. Eyetop Wearable DVD Player (2004)

  22. Apple Pippin @World (1996)

  23. Free PCs (1999)

  24. DigiScents iSmell (2001)

  25. Sharp RD3D Notebook (2004)






Read the full post here.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Very Interesting Site


PLoS Medicine.

Royalty


I watched the big American Idol finale last night, after only having watched one or two episodes the whole season. I don't know why, but I just couldn't get into it this year. Still, I wanted to see who was going to be crowned the winner, and if you care a whit, you already know that it was Taylor Hicks.

Taylor? Really? It's not that runner-up Katharine was better, but Taylor wasn't the best of the finalists, either. The only one of the top 12 who truly had star quality was Chris, and he left the show several weeks ago. (I thought it cool that Fuel asked him to join them, after his killer rendition of 'Hemorrhage,' a few weeks back.)

Anyway, what made last night's show kind of creepy for me came at the very end. After a tepid performance of Bacharach hits performed by Burt on piano, and the finalists on vocals, Dionne Warwick came out to sing a song or two. Even in her golden years, with a shaky voice, she still radiated more charisma than the young pups standing behind her. That in itself felt weird. Then Ryan Seaquest announced that the guest appearances were over, and that it was time for the results, but he was just teasing.

There was one more to come: Prince.

His Purple Royal Badness strolled out and took control of the huge stage, giving a stunning mini-show, doing two new songs accompanied by his two gyrating female backup singers. In under five minutes he showed the assembled horde - and the millions at home - why he's a superstar on a level that none of the Idol Contestants will ever be.

Prince did more with a flick of the wrist than Hicks could do flopping around on the floor, or prancing about back and forth on the stage for hours. I'm not even a huge Prince fan, but my jaw dropped as I watched him perform. But you see, that's the problem. It's not a good idea, really, to have a performer who is that good, and at the top of his game, come out and perform a smoking mini-set just before the winner of this year's singing contest is going to be announced.

Yes, I know that Prince has 30 years' experience on the younguns. But still, come on. He made the rest of the event at the Kodak Theatre look like some kind of Amateur Night down at the local Junior High. And Taylor had to sing in the shadow of a musical genius that he cannot hope to ever match. Sure, he's good, but he's not great, and it's not a good idea to follow someone who outshines you by that order of magnitude.

Anyway, the season is over, and I have no doubt that Taylor will go on to sell a reasonable number of recordings, and will have a decent career in the music business. But after watching him perform at the end last night, I was left with the unmistakable impression that he lacks the ability to take it up a level like Kelly Clarkson did, after her win in the first season. In the end, he will never be a King, let alone a Prince.

This Is Very Cool


Audio Books For Free.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The First Thing We Do...


From the Prescott Daily Courier:



Suing in sports for all the wrong reasons

By Jordan Kobritz
Courier Columnist

Too bad lawyers couldn't be substituted for oil. Unlike oil, there's obviously a glut of attorneys in the marketplace. Need proof?

For a Mother's Day promotion last year, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim gave away a tote bag to all female fans over the age of 18. Michael Cohn, a Los Angeles psychologist, decided that the Angels were discriminating against every male fan over the age of 18 and every fan under the age of 18. Worse, Cohn found an attorney, Alfred Rava, with nothing better to do than sue the Angels for discrimination.



Is this a great country, or what?

Read the rest here.

Knock-Knock


After hearing it several hundred times it's no longer all that funny, but it's still awfully cute:

LK: Knock knock.
Dad: Who's there?
LK: Goliath.
Dad: Goliath who?
LK: Goliath down, you looketh tired.


(Click above for the audio.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

This Made Me Laugh




Dontcha
(Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Them?)


Pussycat Boys


Just Rambling


I started writing this last week, and never really finished it, but I decided I wanted to post something tonight, so here it is, in all its unpolished glory.



Up until the time I started this blog I'd been keeping an online journal on a different site, on which I wrote things that were personal, but fairly innoccuous. I also belonged to a couple of online communities, but when several people in one of those communities began engaging in name-calling and verbal mud-slinging directed at me, I decided to move over to Blogger and start a new online identity.

I started posting here in late September of 2004, and for 3 months wrote almost exclusively about the American political presidential campaign season. I was writing very different stuff from the kinds of things I'd put on my other journal, and I liked having an outlet for that kind of expression. Unfortunately, when the elections were over, I suddenly found I had little taste for doing a poli-blog, and started just posting a hodge-podge of things.

Then, in March 2005, came the Terri Schiavo debacle. For several weeks, until the day she died, that's all I posted, nearly every day. Interestingly, it gave me one of my biggest hit months ever (over 500 in one day), with a link from Captain's Quarters to one of my posts. But after Terri's death I felt wrung out, and once again, I found myself blogging without a theme. Eventually what evolved was a mix of political and personal writing, mixed with an aggregation of stuff from various sources.

For one whole year every week I posted a thing I called 'Music Monday.' Each weekend I'd spend hours reviewing online sites, looking for MP3 downloads, and I'd try to find other music-related links that I found interesting. Doing so I often felt the same as I did when I was a wee tyke, turning over rocks in the back yard, just to see what I could find.

(Oddly, judging by the stats, very few readers frequented Music Monday each week, yet now that I've mostly stopped posting regulary, I find the old Music Mondays drawing dozens of hits a week, mostly via search engines, from people around the world who seem to be looking for links to the kinds of music I had been writing about.)

For a while I posted something each Sunday that I called 'Remembering Church,' in which I recounted a visit to a different local house of worship. It was an interesting exercise, for me, at least, but hardly anyone else seemed to read or care, and I stopped doing that after about a half-dozen posts. Still, I thought it was worthwhile doing it, as I had intended to write down my impressions of those visits at the time, and I never had gotten around to doing it.

For about 8 months I put up something every day I called 'Your Moment Of Zen,' (with apologies to The Daily Show) in which I'd post images I thought funny, or weird, or compelling. Surprisingly, it seemed to be one of the most popular things I did with the blog. It was fun to try to come up with those images, and when all else failed, I'd just Google 'ugly' and 'cows' or 'dogs,' to see what came up.

Most days I would try to post a 'Cox and Forkum' cartoon. Even though I found their fascination with all things Ayn Rand a bit disturbing, the mix of a conservative and libertarian leanings made for editorial statements that I could usually agree with. And then there are still the auto-pilot updates of the 'Day By Day' cartoon, the NY Times headlines, the 'Digg' headlines, and the 'WorldNet' headlines. To this day I often find myself going to my site, just to read the news.

And, of course, sometimes I just end up writing my 'Lileks' pieces, about a trip to the mall, or an adventure with my kids, or I'll post pictures, or some wry observation about the world, as I see it.

Over the past month I've been in a bit of a blogging slump, and I haven't been posting as much, sometimes not for days at a time. Yet even when I don't post, I still get 2 or 3 dozen hits per day, including visits from some readers who seem to show up daily. Some I recognize from their IP addresses, some I don't. There is one reader in New Zealand who seems to check in regularly, but I have no idea who it is. And then, of course, there are undoubtedly some who read via an RSS aggregator, who leave no trace, because they don't actually visit the site.

Anyway, here's a couple of questions, then, for those who read regularly: how did you stumble on this blog? and, what keeps you coming back? I'm especially interested in hearing from those who have read for while, but have never commented. Lemme hear from you, if you will.

(I'm not going to structure this blog in a way that doesn't suit or please me, but if I know that certain features appeal to people, and if they hold my interest as well, I might do more of the same. Maybe.)



Cheers.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Happy Birthday


It's my kid brother's birthday, today: he turned 38. Parabens, hermano. May there be many more.

Oh, and it was the lovely Lyssa's Sweet 16th Birthday yesterday. I mailed her a Target Gift Card last week, cause every girl loves to shop, but forgot to call her, and still haven't made that compilation CD I promised. Oops.

(I still remember singing Happy Birthday to her on her 5th Birthday, at our wedding reception. That was very cool. And just like that, she's grown up to be a lovely young lady. It really does go by way too fast. Hmm. That reminds me, I'm going to have to send her dad a bottle of Xanax and a box of .357 shells. Think I'm kidding? heh.)

Friday, May 19, 2006

What's Eating Them?


Celebrities gotta eat, too, you know.

(Surprisingly, even Nicole Ritchie...)

Looks A Little Like Michael Jackson


I'm going to see this in the next week or two:

Bodyworlds


Nice


I didn't sleep very well last night, but since Mrs. Muzzy is working this weekend, I had be up early to get 7 year-old AE on the bus to school. Daughter Number 1 is much-beloved, but is not always easy to motivate, and requires constant attention when deadlines are looming. But somehow it all came together, and she got on the bus and was on her way. 3 year-old LK and I hung out at home until it was time to go to her speech therapy appointment way out in one of the outer suburbs, and afterwards we went to several garage sales, to buy some books for her. Then, as we were driving about, trying to find our way out of a suburban cul-de-sac, we passed a sign announcing one Crepeau Nature Preserve. There was just a sign and a path leading into the woods, so I decided to take the LK for a walk, or rather 'on adventures,' to see what we might find. We went about a hundred yards thru a stretch of forest, and then out into a little meadow. LK looked around, wide-eyed, and asked if we would see Bambi. I told her it was indeed possible, but in the end we saw not even a bunny or a squirrel, let alone a cartoon Disney deer. We didn't stay long, and later went for a much longer walk around an area lake. Well, I walked, she rode in the stroller. All in all, it was a nice time, on a nice Spring morning, spent with one of the two nicest daughters a dad could ever have.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Music Monday - #53



Past Music Mondays


+++++


Okay, I didn't research and write a real Music Monday this week, but mostly because I was busy cobbling together my own trancendental meditative elevator music in Garageband yesterday. The following piece is not as polished as http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifit could be, but it's a relaxing ditty, methinks, the product of a couple of idle hours of a Sunday afternoon. Give a listen:

1 - Mother's Day 2006

and if you're in the mood for some earlier Muzzy Tunes, check out these from last year:

2 - Crash On You
3 - Exotic Beats
4 - Mother's Day 2005
5 - String Riptide
6 - Noodling
7 - String Composition

+++++


The Price Is Right


Skype Introduces Free Calls to Traditional Landlines and Mobile Phones in the US and Canada



May 15, 2006 – Skype®, the global Internet communications company, today announced that all US and Canadian-based Skype customers can now make free SkypeOut™ calls to traditional landline and mobile phones in the US and Canada. Previously, Skype users in both countries were required to pay for Skype calls from their PCs to traditional telephones. Free SkypeOut calls to the US or Canada will be available to US and Canadian-based Skype users until the end of the year.



Read the rest of the press release here.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Back To The Future




Three Moms


It's Mother's Day today in much of the world - although many countries celebrate Moms on various other days throughout the year - and since I haven't posted in a while, I decided I'd take the opportunity to write down a few somewhat-disconnected thoughts, impressions and memories of my Grandmothers and my Mother.

Wikipedia tells us that the very first Mother's Day in the US was celebrated on May 10th, 1908, a few months before the birth of one of my Grandmothers, and well after the birth of the other. That seems a good place to start.

Grandma Nellie

My maternal Grandma Nellie came into the world a couple of months prematurely, in a small town in Indiana, on October 13th, 1888. She was so very small and frail when she was born that it was assumed she would die within a few hours, and she was placed aside, with all attention given to the living. When it was noticed a couple of hours later that the baby was still breathing, she was cleaned up, and presented to her Mother. I recall being told she was so tiny she could sleep in a shoe box, although it's possible that was hyperbole.

Grandma Nellie was a school-teacher her whole adult life, and was well established as what her contemporaries most likely would have called a 'spinster,' until she married at nearly 40 years of age. What's more, she was not what anyone would have considered handsome. In fact, by the time she made the matrimonial commitment that begat my Mother, the pulchritude Grandma may have presented to the world as a young woman had faded. I can only assume my Grandfather was attracted to her for her character, her mind and her wide array of domestic skills. I don't say that disparagingly, but when he married her he was looking for not just a wife but a Mother for his kids.

(As a young man, Grandpa Richard had married a woman named Jessie who bore him three children. He was heartbroken after her death, when their youngest child was about one year of age. After Jessie passed away, it would be 8 years before he would travel to visit his cousins in Chicago on a 'dear-hunting expedition,' and come back married to Grandma Nellie. Undoubtedly their marriage was in some measure one of convenience, for both of them, but I've read through their letters, written while they were courting, and it's obvious they loved each other very much.)

After a year of marriage Grandma Nellie gave birth to a daughter, her first and only child, my mom, but she was also Mother to Grandpa's other three kids, as well, and remained the matriarch of the clan long after my Grandfather's death in the mid-40's.

Grandma Nellie died when I was 15, and my memories of her are of an already-old woman, sweet and kindly, back bent from osteoporosis, quite deaf, who always had a hug and some candy for me. I wish I'd had asked her more about her younger years, but sadly I did not, and there is no one left living I can inquire of such things.

Grandma Gene

My paternal Grandmother Gene was born in October also, on the 11th, but not until 1908, several months after the first official US Mother's Day was celebrated. She was born in Asia, of American missionary parents, and it's quite likely her family was unaware of any such special day. My Grandpa Allen was also the child of missionaries, and after he and Grandmother married, they worked as missionaries as well, in Asia where my father was born, and later as South America.

Even though Grandma Gene was 20 years younger in age than Grandma Nellie, I actually knew her even less as I was growing up, because she lived so far away. In fact, I only saw her once between the ages of about 2 and 18. That all changed when she and Grandpa moved to the Twin Cities the year before I came to college, and I ended up living with them for weekends and school holidays. Over those four years we became quite close.

After they retired to California I went to visit in the late 1980's, and I recall sitting at the breakfast table with her, recounting all the incredible scientific advances of the 20th century. She was already talking about being in her final days, which she seemed to accept with equanimity. I asked her if she didn't wish to still be alive in another 20 years or so, just to see what new things might have been invented and/or discovered. She looked at me as if I were daft and exclaimed: "Good Heavens, why would I want that? I've lived a full life, raised a family, lived to see my grandchildren grow up. I am in no hurry to leave this world, but I expect to go to Heaven when I die, and when it's my time, I'm ready."

Wise words, those.

Mom

My Mother Janet was born in December 1929, and liked to joke that, together with the Stock Market crash of October that year, her birth helped push the nation into the Great Depression. I think as a child, I half-believed her. Mother told me many times how she was well-liked throughout her high-school years, but that she never dated. Apparently no one ever asked her out. At her church she met a tall, red-headed man named Robert - 5 years her junior - but at first she could only lament that he was so much younger, and that he was dating someone else whom he hoped to marry. Well, as fate would have it, he didn't end up marrying the other woman, he did ask her out in late January 1955, they were engaged in April of that year, and married a year later, in June 1956.

After my birth in June 1957, Mom and Dad must have seemed to be living a charmed existence. They were young, in love, she had a good job and was supporting my father as he studied for ministry, at Princeton Seminary. The future undoubtedly seemed full of possibilities. But, as John Lennon wrote famously, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans ..." I think that in due time my Mother would have agreed.

Shortly after I was born, my Mother became pregnant again, this time with twin girls. The pregnancy proceeded well, until just a few days before the delivery date in late spring 1958, when the umbilical cords became entangled, and the babies were born lifeless. In those less-enlightened days, deliveries were often done under anesthesia, fathers were not allowed in delivery rooms, and it was considered best for all involved if the Mother never saw or held the bodies of their deceased children. As such, my Mother spent the rest of her adult life grieving a loss without closure, and it affected her - and by extension, us - in myriad ways.

In September 1959, my Mother gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Elizabeth, and in October 1963, yet another baby daughter LJ. We were a typical family of three kids growing up in South America, except that in July 1966 our family suffered yet another tragedy when my sister Elizabeth drowned on a picnic outing to a nearby river. This devastated both my Mother and father, but especially Dad, and he never fully recovered from the blow. It affected me in ways big and small, as well.

There were two more children born to our family, DP in 1968, and JR in 1970. We were now a family of four, but the older two children were effectively of one generation, while the younger two were practically another. As such, my younger siblings and I were never close until adulthood. Although we have gotten to know each other well, the underlying pretext of loss and pain and grief that my sister and I experienced is not shared with them, as they came along after all that happened.

In July 1986, nearly 20 years to the day after Elizabeth drowned, my Father died of cardiac arrest at age 51, on the front porch of the family home. Instead of living out her golden years with my Dad by her side, my Mother faced the next few years as a widow. When she retired in 1995, she settled in the Twin Cities, and enjoyed spending time with my brother's kids, but in 1996 she suffered a massive stroke, and spent the next 2+ years in a nursing home, paralyzed and unable to speak, until she died in April 1999. Mrs. Muzzy was pregnant with AE at the time, and I firmly believe that Mother was trying to hold on to see her next grandchild, the firstborn of her firstborn, but it was not to be. She died 10 days before AE was born.

So, with this brief rememberence on Mother's Day 2006, I pay tribute to my Mother and my two Grandmothers, three women who quite literally helped make me who I am today. I miss them all.

The Blog Ate My Homework


Okay, several readers submitted comments to my previous post, but when I went to batch-authorize them for publication, it seems there was some glitch, and Blogger ate them. Or maybe I wasn't paying attention, clicked the wrong button, and rejected/deleted them. Actually, I think that's probably what I did. Stupid thing doesn't warn the user, or give a second chance to correct mistakes. But anyways, I did read the comments, and thanks for the well-wishes.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Message In A Bottle


Vs lbh svtherq bhg ubj gb ernq guvf - vg'f pbqrq nf EBG13, ohg lbh xarj gung nyernql, qvqa'g lbh? - V pna gryy lbh gung sbe gur zbfg cneg, V'z bxnl. V fgvyy unir oebapuvgvf nsgre arneyl sbhe jrrxf, naq gur Mbybsg unfa'g shyyl xvpxrq va lrg, ohg V'z fgnaqvat. V'z fgvyy gelvat gb qrpvqr vs V'z pbzvat onpx gb qnvyl oybttvat urer, ohg rira vs V qba'g, V guvax V'yy cebonoyl cbfg crevbqvpnyyl. V zvtug rira fgneg onpx qbvat Zhfvp Zbaqnl ntnva, vs gur Terng Chzcxva fubjf snibe. Purref.

BTW, about the title of the post, yeah, you're right: I was thinking of the old Police tune, just now. Well, that and "King Of Pain," and "Every Breath You Take." But good catch.