Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Ed Clark, Christmas Guest

December 28, 2016

Maybe non-Texans younger than a certain age have no idea who they are looking at in this photo.

Here's a hint:  

Here is the same man directly behind President Johnson's right shoulder outside the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Still stumped?

Then you may not be ready to understand why Davis named his Best Christmas Present Ever! after him.

Apparently, this is what every man wants (and coincidentally,what we gave Davis this year):

According to Davis's self report, this is a better gift than a kayak, an electric piano, a new interview suit (last year--and it worked!), or any of those other Must Have! gifts that I tracked down and procured over the years.

The key to complete happiness was finding the perfect name.  Suggestions poured in:  Jeeves, Roomie, Alfred.  These just didn't ring true.

Then, I thought of the man our friend Walter Hall called, The Fixer, Ed Clark.  I thought that was his own personal pet name for his long time compadre, who, by the way returned the nickname favor by calling Walter Hall, The Little Loan Shark (which I always thought was sort of a funny thing to call one of the only solvent liberal Texas bankers I had ever met).

Anyway, I went looking for a photo of Ed Clark and discovered that The Fixer was what A LOT of people called him, as you can read in this Texas Monthly article published a couple of months after his death:  "Death of a Fixer".  

So now you know.  For half a century, in Texas, if you needed something done or if you had a mess to clean up: 
 He got things done, usually without leaving so much as a fingerprint. If you were Governor Jimmy Allred in 1935 and you needed someone to massage a few recalcitrant anti-New Deal state legislators, you called on your chief political adviser, Ed Clark. If you owned a chain of stores and needed to get the Office of Price Administration off your back in 1943, you contacted attorney Ed Clark, who would then use his influence to see that a crony was hired in the OPA’s Austin branch. And if you were Lyndon Johnson and you needed any number of things—money from Brown and Root, votes in Duval County, an endorsement from an East Texas newspaper—then Ed Clark was the man to call.
Now Davis and his Lyndon has what everyone needs, A Fixer.  And I have been the lucky recipient of multiple test runs and my house is officially roomba'd.

Seven second demonstration.

I'm so glad Ed Clark came to my house for Christmas.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Not Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). . .Seasonal Ordering Disorder (SOD)

December 26, 2016

I've been holding this entry for over a week because I didn't want to suffer from SOD.  I don't know what I expected in mid-December when Walter and I took a rare four-for walk.  Usually, our live are so hectic that we take our own turns walking Will and Teddy.  I do long 6:00 am and 6:00 pm walks, and Walter does a much larger number of shorter walks to alleviate doggy boredom and to mitigate the need to pee.

Somehow, things had calmed down enough that we all went for a medium loop together, and just when we were about to swing back towards the house, we turned a little bend in the road and spotted something a *tad* out of the ordinary.

I first thought we had discovered Plato's Cave, which could have reasonably explained the previous election season and so much more.  If you have forgotten, here is a schematic of Plato's Cave:

The prisoners can only discern what is on the wall in front of them.  These prisoners would mistake appearance for reality. They would think the things they see on the wall (the shadows) were real; they would know nothing of the real causes of the shadows.  It occurred to me that all 330,000,000 Americans could be sitting at the end of our road in a cave watching the shadow of reality.

We walked on.

And discovered something quite different.  That's right, Teddy Magdalen can now provide an authentic apostolic witness that the tomb is, in fact, empty.  He has risen, indeed.  Willie Peter. . . well, as usual . . . he doesn't know whether to believe or not.

I always knew that Christmas was mysterious, but never did I know HOW MYSTERIOUS!  

Anyway, I thought it was too dangerous to conflate Christmas and other holidays, so I decided to wait before I shared this image.  Then a few days later (maybe the 21st or 22nd) I started seeing photos like this on on my FB feed:

That iced it for me.  If Walmart could put up Valentine's candy (and do you really think it will still be fresh in mid-February?) before Christmas, do I really have to wait until April for the Easter tail?

Saturday, November 19, 2016

I Have Turned the Corner

I have found a way forward for my thinking.  It is grounded in these quotes:

Albert Camus wrote of the feats of Sisyphus pushing the boulder back up the slope 

that the struggle of Sisyphus is enough to fill a man's heart.

just as Luke 21:19 says that 

by your endurance you will gain your souls.  

And yet It will not be easy and it will take courage.  Therefore, I look back to Camus who also wrote:

Courage is what love looks like when tested by the simple everyday necessities of being alive.

Susan Sontag also wrote of courage in her timeless and increasingly timely meditation on the power of principled resistance to injustice, 

Courage inspires communities: the courage of an example — for courage is as contagious as fear.

I am ready.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Making Sense of Family

March 27, 2016

This isn't about what you think it is about.  I'm not going to explain how you figure out exactly what to say when you have family in for the holiday weekend and you hear one sister, locked into the bathroom with her 11-year-old daughter say, "Tell me all the things you have learned from this incident" as said daughter stands dripping in her Easter dress haven fallen in the backyard lake. . . while at that precise moment you hear your other niece's voice from a different direction saying loudly to your other sister (her mother), "What do you mean you were changing Ava's diaper on the middle of the bed without a pad and she left a mess?"

In both instances, the correct response is to keep your head down and your eyes on your own paper!  You can't actually make sense of your extended family in these situations, any more than you can when your own children or your own parents do things you prefer they hadn't.

Instead, I would like to provide a guide to the other part of family that never makes sense:  what is a cousin "removed" and how is that different from a second cousin?  Scan the chart below until you find "YOU ARE HERE."  Then read up and to the right to figure out what to call your ancestors, and down and to the right to figure out what to call your descendants.

This came to mind this morning when I took both my niece and my great niece to church.  Of course, because they are both incredibly precious, 

many of our friends and church cronies wanted to meet them.  I started out saying, "This is my great niece Ava and my niece Emma."  

Every time I said that though, the little voice in my head said "Emma is just as great as Ava. . . that's not fair."  So I amended my introduction and said, "This is my great niece Ava and my excellent niece Emma."  But, of course, since we had spent most of Saturday making awful egg puns (Aren't we having an egg-strordinary time together?  Do you know any egg yolks?  Someone's got some eggs-plaining to do.), I kept slipping up and calling Emma my egg-cellent niece.  Which felt a little weird and caused me to switch to "This is my great niece Ava and my fabulous niece Emma" and that worked just fine.  

It worked so well that I figured I could follow the same logic at the next extended family reunion.  That way I won't have to work out who might be my third cousin, just whether they are great, egg-cellent, or plain old fabulous. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Click. . . .Bait

March 17, 2016

I'm a sucker.  So are you, sometimes.  I bet.


Don't tell me you don't occasionally follow the white rabbit down the hole known as "clickbait."  I always fall for the ones about "sarcasm font," "real meaning behind rock lyrics," and things that might be very funny:  Voice Activated Drone, Baby Monitor Win's Amazon's IoT Contest.

Still don't know know what I'm talking about?  Your Favorite Celebrity Has a Secret Just For You!

Okay.  I just tricked you.

We hate to get suckered.  Almost as much as we despise certain political candidates.  

So I started playing around with combining candidates and clickbait headlines.   
  1. Trump Drowns Puppies. Poll Numbers Skyrocket
  2. Kasich Staffer Explains Delegate Process to Boss:  One State Not Enough to Secure Nomination
  3. Clinton's 23 Secret Email Servers.  Not Even Tech Support Knows About Them
  4. Watch Cruz Eat a Booger
  5. Sanders Furiously Wags Finger at Democratic Debate.  Crowd Goes Wild.
  6. Revealed. . . How the Establishment of Both Parties Betrayed the American People
  7. Revealed. . . How the American People Betrayed the Establishment of Both Parties
Try it yourself in the comment section.  It's actually fun and a sort of relaxing!

While we like to imagine the opponents of our fave candidate as despicable evil-doers and dufuses (dufusi?), we simultaneously (because we're optimists) hold out hope that the headline that catches our eye will hold the truth about our candidate that we have searched for like Diogenes.  These are MUCH harder to write:
  1. Trump Knows Exactly What He's Doing and Saying.  All Part of a Greater Plan
  2. Kasich Earns Re-Do in Key Early States 
  3. Archivists Discover Warehouse Full of Proof that HRC Is Trustworthy
  4. 53 Fellow Republican Senators Admit They Were Wrong About Cruz
  5. Women, Blacks, Seniors, Latinos Volunteer for Sander's Revolution 
  6. Path to the White House for Your Candidate "All Clear" 
Bonus Click:  Leprechauns Claim Responsibility for the Current State of American Political Conditions.  Also Promise Map to Pot of Gold.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Position Opening--Best Dog in the Universe

August 9, 2015

If you go to the search box for this blog and type in "Willie,"  the first post that pops up will return:
Actually, the trip worked out just fine. Willie only ate a little woodwork around the kitchen bar area and Davis's second flip flop. He was not arrested, detained, incarcerated, nor did he become a ward of the state in our absence.
The second:
As you know, I had to do something about Willie. He doesn't chew stuff as often or as thoroughly as he used to (at one time I compiled this list of Willie Treats that he helped himself to), and in fact, the only materially important ...
And most entries that I mention Willie in prior to 2011 or 2012 are some variations on this theme:
Good call. We made it home, and I exercised The Wildman while Erin did her homework. Today Willie had only eaten about six mouthfuls of the bathroom cabinets, so I declared it a training victory.
Or this one:
Those of you who follow the Willie angle (DO NOT EVER, EVEN FOR A MOMENT, SWITCH THE "l" and the "e" IN THE PRECEDING WORD) are probably wondering what he did in our absence.
Or this one:
I had considered an entry organized around the theme, "Can Dogs Go to Hell?" in the aftermath of finding that Willie had eaten my Bible last week, but decided that weighty theological questions were out of place in an entry
I believe I once said:
Willie (named for William Marsh Rice) is a 10 month old Rhodesian ridgeback, lab, terrier mix. He brings the worst qualities of those three breeds and packages them in a 60 pound puppy body.  

But all that was in the first half decade or so of his life when he was still a puppy (an increasingly old puppy).  Later he became more attached to us.  Less willful.  Less destructive.  More lovey-dovey.  More companionable and obedient.  Recently, Walter has taken to calling him the "Best Dog in the Universe."  

It's probably best that you don't think about that too much because you really don't want to consider what that says about the state of academics. . . if one of the most prominent historians in the state can morph Will from "Wildman" to "Best" in any category that doesn't involve chasing, chewing, or general mischief or mayhem making.

Still, even I have been noticing that he wasn't providing that much fodder for the blog anymore.  

That is, until today when we came home from church and lunch and found the miniblinds in our bedroom scroodled and scrunched in three different places and dog pee on the window sill.

So now, apparently we have an opening at the top.  Qualified candidates are invited to submit their CV's for Best Dog in the Universe.  Dogs that climb and balance on foot stools to pee on window sills when taunted by naughty squirrels need not apply.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Librarian's Secret

August 7, 2015

And so, my mother, a life-long reader and lover of books, finally discovered fulfillment beyond motherhood, beyond owning and running a successful business, beyond the satisfaction of rendering accounting figures "in balance."  Her latest life chapter has been working as a college librarian, and I suspect she now knows what she has always known about libraries (as captured by this Joseph Mills' poem):

“…a book indeed sometimes debauched me from my work…”
–Benjamin Franklin
If librarians were honest,
they wouldn’t smile, or act
welcoming. They would say,
You need to be careful. Here
be monsters. They would say,
These rooms house heathens
and heretics, murderers and
maniacs, the deluded, desperate,
and dissolute.
 They would say,
These books contain knowledge
of death, desire, and decay,
betrayal, blood, and more blood;
each is a Pandora’s box, so why
would you want to open one.

They would post danger
signs warning that contact
might result in mood swings,
severe changes in vision,
and mind-altering effects.
If librarians were honest
they would admit the stacks
can be more seductive and
shocking than porn. After all,
once you’ve seen a few
breasts, vaginas, and penises,
more is simply more,
a comforting banality,
but the shelves of a library
contain sensational novelties,
a scandalous, permissive mingling
of Malcolm X, Marx, Melville,
Merwin, Millay, Milton, Morrison,
and anyone can check them out,
taking them home or to some corner
where they can be debauched
and impregnated with ideas.
If librarians were honest,
they would say, No one
spends time here without being
changed. Maybe you should
go home. While you still can.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Rock, Paper, Scissors

July 2, 2015

Many of you know that I spent the first half of the year working on increasing my arm length by operating Camp Mimi, a Special Long-Term Residential Camp for Incorrigible But Exceedingly Handsome and Lovable Beagles. 

Now that my left arm (A.K.A. retractable leashing holding arm) is sufficiently stretched so that I can easily retrieve crystal from the top shelf of any cabinet while standing flatfooted, I have had to bid adieu to my special guest, Lyndon, my grandBeagle.  Here he is right before the final boarding call for his drive to Ohio.

Over the six months he stayed with us, we experienced many mirthful moments, many of which I am not quite prepared to relate, lest I trigger some of my latent PTSD symptoms.  
  • Did you know that some dogs can perform a quick Houdini if you let them wear their halters loose enough for comfort?
  • And that having bold squirrels in your yard induces hearing distortion and deafness in otherwise healthy beagles who slip their leash, causing them to hear "Run free, my friend, run free" instead of "Stop! Wait! Come Here! Now!"?
  • Did you know that some dogs have stressed-induced colitis and that car travel, thunderstorms, and having recalcitrant bunnies in the front yard can act as stressors? 
  • Did you know the College Station dog park does not have an escape-proof fence? 
  • Did you know that a rough housing dog can get his lower teeth stuck under another dog's collar and scare himself so much that he shakes his head, bucks like a bronco, and tries to run away, almost asphyxiating the much smaller dog?

The only story I actually feel comfortable telling is about our multiple games of rock, paper, and scissors every day. In this version of the game, Willie is the Rock.  Lyndon is Scissors.  And Teddy is Paper.  The game might play out in terms of urine marking, where Rock would cover Scissors; Scissors would cover Paper; and Paper would cover Rock.  (Can you imagine how slow it is walking three dogs who have to drip a bit of pee on every novel smell or sign of intruder?)

It is also played as a roughhousing game.  In any game of woof and chase, Willie would dominate Lyndon, Lyndon (would try to) dominate Teddy, and of course, Willie lays on his back, so that Teddy can dominate him.  Here they are between rounds:

Teddy actually has the power to be dynamite in rock, paper, scissors, but she tried mightily not to play that way unless she truly had to.

Of course, the truth is that we all miss Lyndon now that he has returned to Ohio.  And Davis has set up his bed so that Lyndon can keep up the squirrel and bunny watch, just like he did here:

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Things That Make You Go Hmmn!?!

May 9, 2015

I left the office yesterday around lunchtime, so that Walter and I could get on the road to Denton for a friend's memorial service.  That's not what made me go hmmn!?!.

As I drove north on Harvey Mitchell (which for non-locals in a by-pass-type highway, two-full lanes in each directions, center turn lane, and full width paved shoulders), I saw a twenty-something guy walking on the shoulder by himself headed my same direction.

He was turned out top to bottom in desert camo fatigues, less the lid, and had a full matching pack (probably ~40 lbs) strapped to his back.  He stepped lightly, but purposefully, eyes set on the horizon   In his right hand he held a standard (I'm guessing 8-10 lb.) sledgehammer, gripped like he was a golfer striding down the fairway with a nine iron.

At the time, I thought to myself hmm!?! And I still can't think of a story that explains it.

Your thoughts?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Keep Swimming

April 10, 2015

April comes around every Spring and reminds me why T.S. Eliot called it the cruelest month.  

I struggle to get through to the end of the semester and to weather the emotional storm of the anniversary of Erin's death, all while being lured outside and away from the growing stacks of work by flowerbeds flooded with color and a landscape filled by every imaginable shade of green (and, inevitably, weeds that need my attention by threatening to block my view).  I work to lift up and celebrate Davis's birthday, press through tax prep, and keep the stressed-out students on an even keel.

As these days pass in a blur, I remind myself that I'm must be like some species of shark:  constantly moving.  Check this off.  Handle that. Swim. Swim. Swim.

Here's another group of sharks I think of:  The Bryan Soccer Club U-7 Sharks.

Dustin, Erin, Noah, Bailey, Tori, Jackson, Nico, Nestor, and Josh all were classmates, buddies, and teammates, and most will be graduating soon.  Thanks for being my inspiration on this chore-filled day.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

We Got Away

March 21, 2015

Davis works in math heaven.  We visited his work space when we first got to Berkeley.

He didn't actually believe me when I explained he would be just as well off in our living room in Bryan, since I also owned a set of Zomes and other math-oriented toys (including polydrons that were not available at the MSRI) that I would set out on a coffee table for his building pleasure.  I think it has something to do with the inspiring view:

Plus turkeys.

The whole week wasn't wine and hikes.  More like wine, hikes, and views.

And time with Davis.

Teddy suffered mightily in our absence.

Monday, March 2, 2015

What Could Be Worse?

March 2, 2015

You may have read my post from yesterday and wondered "what could be worse" than being stuck for a day in a hotel room in a strange city with a stack of grading accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea. 

Well, of course, there are an infinite number of things that might be worse, including receiving a cancer diagnosis for your precious child and burying that child.

But if you want to keep the conversation within the same order of magnitude of misery and awfulness, here's what could be worse:

Finally boarding the plane home (wearing the clothes you slept in and sporting a hairdo that had not made contact with a hairbrush in longer than the average Jerry Lewis MDA telethon) flying to College Station and making the requisite 45 minute flight, only to hear the pilot's frustrated voice announcing that the visibility was too bad to land and the instruments to assist a blind landing were inoperable. . . and that we were flying back to Dallas.

Insert naughty words here: _______________________________.

The good news is that I made it home by 11:00 last night.

The bad news is that my suitcase didn't.  Which would be okay, but I'm scheduled to leave again in less than 48 hours.   This means that I will be chatting with baggage claims and bag status regularly until it turns up.  Luckily, I have the airline 800 number memorized.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Good News, Bad News

March 1, 2015

The good news is that I received an incoming phone call from an 800 number at 2:03 this morning canceling my 10:15 a.m. re-booked flight from my canceled flight home yesterday.  

And if you can get your head around the idea that a second canceled flight in twelve hours was good news, then I don't really have to explain why I my spending the first part of my day drying my undies with a blow dryer, wasn't as bad as it would seem, because at least I had a salvageable pair of underwear.

Why do people travel in the winter?  And even more importantly, why do people eat shrimp potstickers from an airport hotel bistro this far from the coast (Grapevine). And if I had eaten the cheesecake first, would it have coated my stomach and protected me from the aftermath of the shrimp?

The only really bad news is that Davis is in the state for the weekend, but my delayed arrival home and weakened constitution mean that we will have to wait a little while longer to see him.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Obese Squirrels--Not the Name of a Band

February 22, 2015

Don't you hate when people make excuses about things. . . when they won't take personal responsibility when clearly they need to?  That's not me.  I try to live by the mantra "own it."  Not in the let's-go-shopping-and-buy-stuff sense, but in the just-face-up-to-your-mistakes sense.

If I scramble eggs and forget to use Pam, I don't leave the skillet for Walter to scrub.

Every semester I fall on the sword on behalf of my entire profession for teaching the BCG model/GE business screen in the 80s, which ruined value in many good companies in the pursuit of short-term financial gain.  Mea culpa.

And after seeing the obese squirrels in my front yard yesterday, I'm here to say "I apologize.  It was my fault."

Who would have guessed that the simple combination of feeding the songbirds all winter and complying with the neighbor's not-so-friendly request to never, ever let our dogs outside without a leash would have created a public health menace in the squirrel world, but it has.

This is a borrowed photo image.  The actual squirrels in my actual yard are actually much fatter.

Walter tried to give me a pass on my culpability, suggesting that there must have run out of SBCP (squirrel birth control pills) at Squirrelgreens and CVSQ, and that what I was seeing out front was just an extraordinary number of pregnant squirrels, great with child.

First, their numbers were impossible to justify the pregnancy theory. . . And their asses were too wide. . . and they had double and triple chins and dimples on their elbows and knees. . . and they were hiding extra servings from the all-you-can-eat birdseed buffets in their oversized purses and backpacks. . . and they were carrying super-sized drinks to wash it all down. 

So now I will own it.

It is my fault that legions of squirrel families are living without one or both of their parents who have succumbed (choose all that apply):

    • Coronary heart disease
    • Type 2 diabetes
    • High blood pressure
    • Dyslipidemia 
    • Stroke
    • Liver and Gallbladder disease
    • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems

It is also because of my personal actions that many squirrels must traverse the yard in small, but sturdy power chairs (and that the families must endure those half-hour infomercials teaching them how to get around squirrel medicare rules to acquire them without a co-pay).

I may have given rise to the squirrel mumu industry.

Anyway, It's my fault.  And I'm sorry.

Next time you may be saying, "Who Let The Dogs Out?" but at least the squirrels will be getting some much needed exercise. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Burn, Baby, Burn

February 5, 2015

Quiz time.

If you needed to start a fire and you didn't have a handy charcoal chimney starter or two in your pocket, what would you do?

And if you forgot to pack back issues of The Eagle or your scout manual that you could crumble up and light, what would you do?

If you didn't want to waste your slim supply of matches on something that wouldn't catch fire and burn steadily until other material could be added bit by bit until you finally had a roaring fire, what would you do?

Forage around looking tiny dry sticks and lifeless bark?  Hope to stumble across some cotton batting spilling out of an abandoned mattress?

The real answer is that you would hope you had a bag of Doritos handy.

Yesterday at the Carter Creek After School Program, Payton Foote led the kids in some survival activities and experiments.  They built a variety of small piles of kindling to test which would be the best option as a fire starter.  The pile that consisted of 3 Doritos burned quickest, most robustly, and longest--better than the piles dried bark or dead leaves or moss or paper or combo piles.  

Go figure.  But it does give us all yet another reason to keep Doritos at hand.  I wonder if Cheetos would work?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Run or Walk, You Choose

January 27, 2015

In honor of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's birthday today, I'm going to talk about things completely unrelated to Mozart.

For instance, why didn't Davis name his dog Houdini instead of Lyndon. . . probably more fitting.  Although Walter and I may have caught on that Davis was planning a middle-age fitness program for us by letting Lyndon stay at our house for the semester and didn't want to give away the surprise that we would frequently be running willy-nilly cross country, scaling fences, shoving our way through brush, and generally tracking down a jetting dog who has escaped.  We keep upping the ante on security and then looking at each other and saying "Again?"

I also had the moment on the phone this afternoon with KBTX morning show reporter and anchor, Kessler McLaughlin, who said, "Can we do the interview at your house a little before 8:00 tomorrow morning?"  and I thought, "Isn't that about the time when Lyndon stirs up Willie and Teddy into a baying/howling/barking furor over the passing through the yard of "Dog Friend" and the simultaneous invasion of the morning squirrel brigade?"  Then I thought, with modern technology, the television station can probably dub over any background noise, as long as they keep it below the 130 mark (which they usually do, unless the squirrels are particularly naughty and press their noses against the porch door and stick their little tongues out).

Mainly, I want to rejoice in the wide range of friends and supporters who are rallying to put on and participate in a Fun Run/Walk in Erin's memory, just in time to give all of her friends a great send off in their last semester of High school (which is why I have to deep clean my house AND work on maximizing my beauty potential between now and breakfast tomorrow, so I can be ready to love the camera).

Here are some key rules:
  1. You don't have to run.
  2. You don't even have to walk very fast.
  3. You have to give me a big hug when you pass me.
  4. Or an elbow bump if you are going too fast.
  5. If you have a pair of sneakers that don't work for you anymore, bring them to donate to Dunk Your Kicks.  Donated shoes will support low-income cancer families at Texas Children's in Erin's memory.
  6. If you are reading this, Erin probably considered you a friend.  And that means you are invited! 
Some of you might not have an outing to College Station in your travel plans.  You can still support the race, by registering as "Donation Only."  If you want to send a card or remembrance, I will take them to the race that day and share them in a display.  The race benefits the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer, which, as Walter will tell you, is how I spend my non-paid work time these days.

So, what do you have to do?  


Monday, January 5, 2015

As Promised. . . The Family Gallery

January 5, 2015

Here I go, spoiling you again by posting so soon.

But I did promise to give you an update when all the Lego family portraits were finished.

Here is our foursome (at a distance, so you can tell who we are):

And here we are, a little closer and with a beagle bonus.

And here is the work in progress (Emma, building herself):

Saturday, January 3, 2015

My Christmas Gift Is Better than Yours

January 3, 2015

Maybe you think this is going to be a spirit-filled post larded with warm feelings about being together with friends and family in the holiday season.   

Maybe you saw on Facebook that we deferred the celebration of Christmas by a week plus because our collective schedules didn't line up until the new year, and you think I am about to wax on about how the 25th is an arbitrary day to celebrate, and how we defied convention and harvested the blessings of a less-stressed day.

Maybe I have lulled you into the mindset that I am about to talk about perfect love or the wonder of thirty married Christmases or memories of Christmases with our complete family.

You certainly don't think I'm comparing what I got to what you got . . . but actually I am . . . and I haven't even got it yet.

For the last two months, Davis has been planning our family Christmas present.  He found individual photos of family members, pixilated them, and built algorithms to translate the pixilated photos into colors in the Lego color palette.  Here's an example:

Then, he ordered Lego pieces from all over the world (more than 6000 of them) that matched our various complexions, hair coloring, and shadowing and had them delivered to our house.  And today he and Emma got to work on this year's Christmas Project--A Family Photo Gallery Rendered in Lego Brick (1x1s):

Since they haven't completed the full gallery yet, you still have time to whip your children into shape so that you have a chance to get an even better gift than I am going to have.   Let me know when you are ready to concede.  

I will post the full six lego portraits when they are done.

Friday, January 2, 2015

"Stop Putting Hot Air on Me"

January 2, 2015

Years ago, when we commuted regularly between Nashville and Bryan with a pre-school-aged Davis, a Rottweiler, and a back up dog, Davis would sit strapped into his car seat booster, with Dolly, the Rott on the seat next to him on one side, and Sparky, the back up, on the other.  Inevitably, he would tire of Dolly panting in his ear and whine, "Mommm!  Dolly is putting hot air on me.  Make her stop!!"

And as annoying as that was, you haven't lived until you have spent twenty-three hours in a crowded, mid-sized sedan with an anxious, hyperventilating beagle and a grown man who would prefer to stick a fork in his eye than be trapped in a car with an anxious, hyperventilating beagle.  But that is the nature of parenting and grandparenting.

Davis has a very cool opportunity and honor to spend this spring at the MSRI (Math and Science Research Institute) at Berkeley where he will devote his time to "furthering the appreciation of mathematics."  Which provides Walter and me with the very cool opportunity and honor to spend the spring with Lyndon, where we will devote our time to "furthering our appreciation of beagles."  It also explains why we spent our Christmas vacation chauffeuring a dog through mid-America.

Little did we know that the normally charming and very affectionate Lyndon is not enamored of car travel.  Of course, once he was out of the car at the end of each leg of our journey from Ohio to home, he no longer resembled a satan-beagle mix and reverted to his old self:

Teddy and Willie were chuffed to see us when we rolled in on Monday and were tolerant enough of Lyndon.  We are each, in our own way, helping the young dog adapt to his new "normal."  Walter, for his part, has walked Lyndon (as Peter Townsend has been singing since 1967) "miles and miles and miles and miles."  

I have become the table top and counter police.  Lyndon has an NFL-worthy vertical leap and can get up on the dining room table without the assistance of a step stool (or anything else).  You may also recognize that a beagle's keen sense of smell allows it to recognize if so much as a crumb is left for sampling.  As I do not want a dog snuffling around where I eat (much less nicking a slice of my spinach pizza when I turn my back, which happened within an hour of our arrival home on Monday), I have had to up the frequency and vigilance of my kitchen patrol.

Willie is leading by example, shining as the "good" dog in a family role that has been a long time coming.  We were counting on Teddy to be the Mistress-in-Charge of Lyndon's education, but she wrenched her back in the first evening's rough housing session and has been prescribed bedrest and high quality meds for the next week.  She does not seem to mind the pampering.

For those of you who wondered where I had disappeared off to at the end of the summer, I was not kidnapped nor did I check myself into the Magic Mountain.  Mainly, I took a break to refresh my writing voice and perspective and tend to both my paid and unpaid work.  If it makes sense to retroactively piece together some of those activities over the next few weeks or months I will.  

Otherwise, thanks to my loyal readers who have continued to check in to see if I have any nonsense to report and Happy New Year to both of you!  

Thursday, July 24, 2014


July 24, 2014

We managed to slip away last week.  The stated reason was to attend Uncle Dave's 90th birthday in Amarillo.  That, of course, was fabulous.  But if you have already made it as far as Amarillo, why not jump off into New Mexico?  And we did.

First, we stopped in to see our great friends Carla and Larry just above Santa Fe to admire their new place, get to know their new dogs better, and share their view.  I will put a photo of their view here soon.

Then we headed to Taos.  Here's our view of Taos Mountain:

Walter and I come to New Mexico mainly to soak up cool air (52 degrees on the balcony this morning during coffee) and to hike.  I picked the hike today:  The Italianos Canyon Trail.  It had numerous water crossings and some rather challenging switchback courses.  Walter and I had quite a discussions about whether a donkey could get up the trail to carry chain saws and equipment to clear felled trees and such.  We decided "no."

All along the way, I thought we were on a "moderate" trail, and I kept thinking how poor my wind was and how out of shape I was, and how I probably couldn't make it a mile on some of the "strenuous" trails any more.  It turns out that that kind of thinking was very similar to what I experienced when Davis was born.

And, in fact, there may be a definite advantage to hiking a strenuous trail while thinking it is only moderate.

I labored for about an hour and a half and couldn't imagine going another 22 hours like the birthing coach said was typical for first moms.  He was born after a total of an hour and fifty minutes labor.

The rating for Italianos Canyon is, in fact, strenuous.  I feel better now.

One of the things about Taos, is that they know how to do doors.  This is a small sample of the dozens of doors we walk by in the three or four blocks between our hotel and the plaza.  I suspect that anyone could be an optimist if you lived in a place where the possibilities of opening a door was this appealing.

This is the way my life has been, especially the last few years.  A door shows up waiting to be opened, and invariably,  I walk through.  Although it is the subject of another post, here is my most recent door: