Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday Mish-Mash

Either I am mellowing, or I have said all I have to say. That said, couple of thoughts/observations:

Had a huge ice dam on my roof the other day, causing melted water to pour down inside my walls. Called around for some help. The roofers that came by were hired on the spot (and, really, could have named a much higher price). My wife was asking if I thought these guys would do a good job; I responded, "Well, they have a business card, they are here, and English is not their native language."

In other words: they had emblems of a legitimate business, no one else had responded, and clearly they were not lazy, good-fer-nuthin' American losers. Racism? Maybe. But those guys spent four hours whacking away at a couple of tons of ice on my roof, then cleaned up my driveway to boot. And all I had to do was cough up some benjamins (versus, say, breaking my back falling onto my neighbors picket fence).

So, is "racism" in favor of so-called under-opportuned minorities bad?

Other observations (after my wife asked what I meant about English not being their native language: she asked "are the Greek?"): Guy #1 had coffee colored skin an tiger eyes (don't know how else to describe it)--I am sure the girls find him very handsome. Guy #2 had darker skin and eyes, but was clean-cut, trim, and worked like the dickens. I will likely be hiring them in the spring for a full roof job.

So, the mantra is that immigrants are oppressed and will only be hired to do crap jobs, the jobs Americans refuse to do. That may be so but, in my observation, the Americans refusing such work are found among the laggards, drunkards, and losers, whereas these disadvantaged immigrants are working their butts off and driving some awfully nice automobiles. Sure, the work is hard, but if you do enough, the pay mounts. Aren't these the kinds of folks we WANT here in the good ole U.S. of A.?


Note the second: I remain one of the luckiest men I know, and I here give a hearty shout out to Those Powers That Be (If Any) just to say, "Thanks!" Carrying around this big ball of gratitude is pretty warming this time of year, and I look forward to sharing it with the deserving, regardless of all the usual regardlesses. All you cranks and capital 'L' Liberals and capital 'F' Feminists, Marxists, evangelical atheists, anarchists, and various other social engineers can, well, kiss my big ole inclusive American Azz. Life is good. 'Nough said.


Just got back from a trip to the American Interior, you know, those kinds of places totally discounted by Liberals ("But no one *I* know voted for Nixon!"), where Christmas remains merry and folks say hello even if'n they don't know you all that well. Refreshing (and, to be honest, a bit scary: way more churches than I am used to, what with my residence in one of the secular humanist snot-nosed enclaves...). That said, I really, honestly, truly can think of worse things than passive Christianity...


WSJ had a GREAT piece on the origins of our two Christmases, A Brief History of Christmas.

Also, I am thinking of moving towards the WSJ's OTHER take on Christmas, or simply adopting a Festivus for the rest of us! And, just FYI, I am not kidding (I never kid about these things). Festivus appeals to my sense of irony and to my pre-Christian roots (my people, as it were, were so lately conquered that they still hark back to their pagan rituals).

Did I say Merry Christmas already?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Uh Oh

So for some time I have laughed about "Child Free" or "I'm Not Kidding" rants; you know, those who have chosen not to reproduce lording their self-righteousness over others. Well, it's gotten worse: environementalists are now haranguing and harassing families with more than two children (I can't WAIT for this to happen to ME, by the way!). I will find the article and link it when I can.

In any case, this is on my mind because just recently I have noticed that my wife is no longer praising her non-pregnantness; indeed, she has begun to talk about how she misses that the youngest is no longer a baby...

I'd better check my finances...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Random Chance

My town is in apoplectic apology mode: seems that Ole Saint Nick has offended someone, so now any mention of Christmas is being wiped from the community. Huzzah.

I was thinking about white guilt; part of its stance is in the "random chance" mode, e.g., "it is totally random that you hold such a position of power and privilege." I am sure you have heard this on college campuses: "I could have gone to your school; it is only random chance that you got to attend, and you only got that because you are a member of the white power hierarchy, and that too is random" or similar claptrap.

But you see, it is definitely NOT random, not at all. When my wife and I decided to make our children, we knew in advance and with complete certainty that they would have us as their parents, that they would enjoy a certain standard of living, that they would be able to claim "legacy" status at some reasonable colleges, and a whole host of similar "privileges." We made our children consciously (indeed, we even know the dates of conception), and consciously provide them with every advantage ("privilege") at our disposal. It is not surprising in the least that they are reasonably intelligent, healthy, and good-looking, with sufficient familial assets to back up their training and education; their creation was not random.

They could not "just as likely have been brown" or Bangladeshi or bastards--we were there, nay, ARE there to make sure that things go their way to the best of our abilities. I do not want them feeling guilty for laying claim to a good family, a good education, or all the gifts and achievements of Western Civ.

No, they should not feel "entitled" to their advantages, they should feel just as they do: damn grateful. So far as I can tell, they do indeed feel that way.

Such a weird world we live in: my community seeks to foster and applaud "pride" in all cultures but its own, seeking there to instill shame and regret. Bosh!

I do not hold one "people" above another, but I certainly hold some cultures over others: the tolerant, forgiving, mobile, striving AMERICAN culture is, in my opinion, the best that Western civilization has to offer (despite such egregious flaws as McDonald's...), and I am rather tired of hearing about how terrible is these United States. Funny, I don't see people lining up to flee; in fact, quite the opposite.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Random (mini-)Rants

Support Our Troops

I am SICK of such bumper-sticker philosophy. First off, the Libs in my town do NOT support the troops; they may support individual service-members, but not "the troops," whom they consider, collectively, as jack-booted thugs. MUCH more important would be SUPPORT THE WAR EFFORT.

I passed a sign this morning, a poster really, a picture of soldiers in the Korean Conflict; handwritten on the sign in black magic marker was a statistic that something like "33,000 US soldiers died in Korea." The actual number is irrelevant, it is the MAGNITUDE that I find interesting.

Fewer than 4,000 US soldiers have died in the Iraq war (yes, losing even one is a tragedy, but that could be solved by means other than non-participation...). That is likely in line with how many would have died in training during the same period, by the way...

How nice for us that we live in a society--at WAR--where all we really worry about is our stock portfolios, what time the kidz birthday party starts, and whether it will be cold or warm today. Sheesh.


Freakin' hypocrites. Kinda like Al Gore screeching about waste, consumerism, and global warming, all the while stomping his HUGE carbon footprint all over the globe. Hypocrites. Like Prius drivers. Like "multiculturalists" (who, apparently, only REALLY admire the "culture" of the former East Germany, i.e., where everyone is equally miserable and grey).

I keep thinking of Ahnahl Schvazhaneggah's first book, "Pumping Iron"; I forget the exact quote, but it is something along the line that while his workouts seem tough, one can either follow them or remain "soft and weak, like most Americans." And that was, what, 30 years ago?!


Enough; my assistant has arrived.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Been Busy

Been busy; certain rants have been posted elsewhere but were a bit more focused, a bit more local, so not quite fit for this forum.

But the world is still going crazy.

The WSJ had some GREAT editorials/Op Eds the other day--each one caused me pained laughter, fearful laughter. The best one--the scariest one--was about the cult of Bush Hatred. I urge you to read it.

How does a logic-based person forge ahead in an increasingly irrational world? How, when I am not even allowed to construct a logical framework, can I engage in "debate?" Some (mostly Liberals, and highly educated Liberals) have openly abandoned logic, and are even proud of it.

"Um, with regard to your stance, let us work from first principles. 2 + 2 =?"
"Racist! I bet you are a homophobe, too!"
"Um, what does that have to do with the number 2?"
"Help! Help, I am being harrassed; I am being made to feel uncomfortable; this person is subjecting me to a hostile environment!"
"But, um, the number 2?"
"Burn the witch! Burn the witch!"

A rational reader might think I am making this up, but although the words are meant to be humorous, I have, at least conceptually, engaged in this exact "debate" (actually, now that I think about it, one early exposure to such "thinking"--and formal repercussions--was all the way back in graduate school in an early online forum--anyone else remember IRC? Funny, funny story: I should relate it some time.)

To even ask a question regarding another's rationale is to invite public condemnation, being hit with some -ismic 2-by-4 to the head.

"Um, why was Santa banned in town?"
"Separation of church and state: people have rights, you know!"
"Santa, though--and despite his saintly moniker--is rather secular, don't you think? I mean, he's not exactly Jesus..."
"Racist! I bet you are a homophobe, too!"
"Um, what does race have to do with Kris Kringle?"
"Help! Help, I am being harrassed; I am being made to feel uncomfortable; this person is subjecting me to a hostile environment!"

You think I am kidding? Sadly, I am not.

(I think way back, way way waaaaaay back to my undergraduate days where I once asked a friend of mine what he was doing for Christmas Break. Someone nearby, not part of the conversation, said very loudly, "It's INTERSESSION"
"Um, come again?"
"Intersession; it's in-ter-sesh-un."
"Huh? Christmas Break? What?"
"Help! Help, I am being harrassed; I am being made to feel uncomfortable; this person is subjecting me to a hostile environment!")


Thursday, November 1, 2007

It's not WHOM you know...

The summary of the previous post might be "it's who you know that counts." But that is not perfectly accurate. It is WHO knows YOU that matters (or, even more precisely, who is aware of the quality of your work).

So if your circle is Nintendo players, or online chatters (or bloggers), or BMX bike riders, or Ska/EMO/Goth/Hip-Hop folk (or whatever), then those will be the ones familiar with your work... Hope they're hiring.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Just finished Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Fooled by Randomness; great book. There is a bit about Stoicism:
"Started as an intellectual movement in antiquity by a Phoenician Cypriot, Zeno of Ktion, it developed by Roman time into a life based on a system of virtues--in the anccient sense when virtue meant virtu, the sort of belief in which virtue is its onw reward... The stoic is a person who combines the qualities of wisdom, upright dealing, and courage. The stoic will thus be immune from life's gyrations as he will be superior to the wounds from some of life's dirty tricks."

He points out that it really has little to do with a "stiff upper lip," that there is nothing wrong or undignified about emotion or its display; rather, what is wrong is not following "the heroic or, at least, the dignified path." That is, do the right thing without regard to reward or thanks, without concern for others' reactions, thoughts, or opinions.

He goes on, in a section titled "Randomness and Personal Elegance" to urge that one "exhibit sapere vivere ("know how to live") in all circumstances," summing that advice via:
"Dress at your best on your execution day (shave carefully); try to leave a good impression on the death squad by standing erect and proud. Try not to play victim when diagnosed with cancer (hide it from others an donly share the information with the doctor--it will avert the platitudes and nobody will treat you like a victim worthy of their pity; in addition, the dignified attitude will make both victory and defeat feel equally heroic)... Try not to blame others for your fate, even if they deserve blame... The only article Lady Fortuna has no control over is your behavior."

Act always in a manner that precludes oneself from being considered or treated like a victim.


I recently hired an assistant. I lured him from another firm, paid a higher salary and bonus (higher than this person ever dreamed of earning). I forewent several other candidates, many highly qualified--even more qualified in some ways (at least on paper). Why did I hire the person I did? And why do I relate the story? Because I knew and respected this person's work; indeed had worked with him in the past and wanted to do so again (for my own benefit and the benefit of the firm). He had the skills I needed and, more importantly, I remain confident that he can learn anything needed that he currently lacks. That, at least, is why I hired him.

But, more importantly, I knew him; he was known to me. There are many, many people unknown to me; many of whom actively, consciously choose to be unknown to me--and to others like me (i.e., hiring managers).

I admit that much of Life is luck ("Lady Fortuna," in Taleb's words)--perhaps even more than it should be (but not as much as some would have you believe). One would do well to maximize one's chances of being visited by Opportunty, of being prepared when she knocks to grab hold of her forelock as tightly as possible. Despite one's starting circumstances--which, I agree, might be quite dire for some--one would do well to "do the right thing," to prepare and optimize, just in case, to make the best of the situation. This effort, I believe, feeds on itself, a virtuous circle.

Or one can cry victim, refuse to prepare (indeed, lash out or even denigrate the behaviors that lead to opportunities--or jobs), and believe those that whisper "the world owes you." (Yah, good luck with that.)

I should not be where I am--or perhaps I should be much further along; I just do not, can not know. But I try to maximize what I have been given (within my own very human limitations), and be grateful (and I am). ("How nice for you.")

But really, what is the alternative? To be ever bitter and angry? Predetermined to fail?

True story: Years ago I interviewd a Harvard undergrad for a position. She had green hair. I did not hire her. I learned later that she had dyed her hair the day before in order to prove that those of my ilk were superficial, could not get beyond the surface. Yup; she was right. And unemployed. One of those hired instead (for an entry-level analyst position) is now a portfolio manager, likely on his way to partner. Good job, Green Hair!

Why do we feed and foster the proles (or even moreso the so-called "underprivileged")? Is anyone really over-privileged? I know I could use more privileges! Do I resent Bill Gates (a man whose wealth I do not consider directly tied to his innovation, merit, or worth)? Not only do I not resent him, I do not resent the way he has chosen to waste his fortune (it is, after all, his money). Do I resent the residents of Catalina Island? Nope: but I'd like to be one someday...

Getting off track: just wanted to point out the relative and cumulative benefit of maximizing potential, of "doing the right thing." If you were always maximizing your openness to opportunity, perhaps you too would be in someone's preferred hiring network, lured from your current job to one of (so my employee reports) relative flexibility, creativity, and compensation. Need not be my network--or even field--but one of your own choosing and desire. Or you could just play Nintendo or basketball or whatever. It's your life, and I cannot advise you (indeed, am precluded from doing so due to my "privileged" background and position) what "doing the right thing" is for you and your circumstances. Good luck!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

More On (Moron?) Bell Curves

I was thinking about bell curves this morning--and maybe (MAYBE, just maybe) I should be more charitable, i.e., maybe I should try to see the world from more "liberal" eyes (at the very least to understand their world view).

So: let us posit for a moment a bell curve of opportunity, i.e., average choices, good choices (fewer), and bad choices (fewer). Maybe due to my "culture" and/or upbringing and/or community/environment, my bell curve of opportunity was shifted to the right, offering a target-rich environment for "pretty good" choices.

And maybe, if you grow up in some ghetto, your opportunity curve is shifted left, meaning that unless one is paying particular attention, then one might have a relatively higher propensity to make bad choices.

Let us assume that this is so; if so, then, how does one intervene to somehow show the under-opportuned how to make better choices (an especially difficult endeavor given that any attempted "intervention" would likely be seen as, at best, cultural imperialism and, more likely, as "racism"--although I maintain that "racism" is lately and often confused with the larger and simpler "classism" or "culturalism").

Somebody asked me why I have my children enrolled in a particular program targeted at a culture to which they do not belong (Russian math? Jewish after-school? Japanse class?); my response was two-fold: to set what they think of as "normal" (or mu, in bell-curve speak) and to give them a target-rich environment from which to pick appropriate friends. In other words, to increase their chances of success--or, rather, to shift their bell curve of opportunity.

So: are SOME people better able to be "adult" in their choices, i.e., to be allowed complete, Ayn-Randian autonomy? Should other, "differently-abled" over-21-year-olds have their choices restrictd or redirected?

I often argue for individual responsibility while others argue for the collective; perhaps some will benefit from greater independence but, if so, how and whom does one choose? Do Liberals (who, I contend, secretly--even unto themselves--look down on the needy as "less able to compete," i.e., stupid) really want that outcome (no, they just want, like Communists, for EVERYONE to suffer, but suffer EQUALLY).

But maybe there is some kernel there: maybe we need to find a way to shift the opportunity curve rightward. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Keep on Keepin' On

I graduated college in the midst of economic recession; I and my friends, at that time, BELIEVED (really KNEW) that we would never achieve the middle-class success of our parents; and yet, what else was there to do but plug away?

And, lo, the world changed. And now I am fortunate...enough.

My point (or, the lesson)? Given that the future is inherently unknowable, it serves one well to proceed as if good things will eventually come.

The application? I was recently berated with one of those "you have no idea the obstacles these kids face" diatribes. Yeah, yeah; I know: despite divorce, bankruptcy, family dissolution, and that whole Gulf War thing, I have no idea how "the other half" lives. Liberals say that "these kids" live lives marked by hopelessness, i.e., the BELIEVE (really KNOW) that nothing awaits them no matter how hard they try (better, then, to await boosts and handouts from the Liberals, who think they will get into Heaven that way).

I am more of the Clarence Thomas camp.

On a related thought: I was thinking about "the poor" and the empathy gap (where the rich and the poor are so far apart that mutual understanding is now impossible) and how "the rich get richer," blah blah blah; I was also thinking of the "how NICE for YOU" crowd. And I was also thinking about who really kills whom in this world (Liberals might argue that me and mine kill from the top down, i.e., set up conditions under which the down-trodden seek to kill one another as proxy for their inability to "fight the power"; yeesh).

But being "poor" in the U.S. really isn't a bad deal or, if it is, then why don't people change their circumstances--or at least their zip code? ("How NICE for YOU.") Okay, then why don't grown-ups act like, well, grown-ups, at least insofar as their children are concerned? (hNfY) Okay, then why have *I* been able to more or less follow through on that Life view which, for me, really has not changed since I was 12 (and, by the way, was in contravention--and is still--to much of my family's worldview)?

Those with ability (or luck) prefer meritocracy; those middling to mediocre (and below) prefer some level of [synonym for] socialism (and usually at the expense of the other group). Beyond self interest (i.e., insurance to keep the hordes from stealing one's stuff), does Group A have some responsibility for Group B? If so, what level of responsibility do members of Group B have for themselves?

Personally, insofar as I engage in charitable activities, I prefer those efforts that seek to sort out some likely members of Group A who, for whatever reason, have fallen among Group B. That is, I feel responsibility to help those of my tribe, if you will (because we need more members, THAT's for darn sure!).

By the way: I have been reading Fooled by Randomness, which does little to forward the Group B cause.

In any case: it is my belief that I would continue to live as I do under pretty much any condition. I admit that I have not been tested under all conditions, but I would argue that I certainly have kept on keepin' on under greater extremes than that experienced/endured by many, if not most. Plus, many examples exist of people clinging to principle even unto destruction (think of certain of Primo Levi's characters, or of Levi himself), although there may be self-reinforcing (random) luck involved as well. How NICE for YOU.

I recently read a criticism of Ayn Rand, stating that her adherents are most often young men at the height of their powers, unable or unwilling to empathize with the weak (even or until when they themselves, older, are diminished). Perhaps, though, Fortune really does play a greater hand than we would like.

Oh I am a lucky man
Favored by good Fortune's hand
Far more than I'm deserving.

I had no say in being born
Or where or when it happened to me
It was only Chance that turned the wheel
And made my living easy

Friday, October 19, 2007

Younger Days

This piece, while a bit over-earnest and self-conscious, still conveys some honest thoughts; I think I wrote this in 1995 [ed. note: upon re-typing this, I believe it was part of my graduate school application other thought is that Hemingway would disapprove of the overabundance of adjectives; I do, too.]:

Thoughts on the Occasion of Transitioning from Static-Line to Free-Fall Jumping

Now I have stepped from many an aircraft, and believed Fear to be conquered. But in each instance, I had been irrefutably connected to a parachute-pulling umbilical cord and, really, military operations do not engender such niceties as choice. This time, with nothing between me and the over-zealous embrace of Mother Earth but my own ability to locate an apparently shrinking toggle attached to an ever slenderer rip cord, with my toes over the edge of some shaking, shuddering whirligig with really no right to fly, with a man staring deep into my eyes and shouting "Go!" I was re-acquainted not only with Fear, but also with his bigger brother, Terror.

In that single moment, I foresaw the green-blue-green of my own mortality, understood Nature's primal exhortations pertaining to Fight-or-Fly, and ignored her logic. I jumped.

Many pursuits provide a sense of accomplishment: the quiet precision of the flute, the long reflection of the marathon, the simple pride involved in coin-collecting all suggest that my learning curve is not yet flat. The stage, too, remains exciting, although each word, each reaction is, by definition, scripted (how much more exciting to deliver, in one's best delivery voice, a briefing during which at any time anyone with metal on his lapels may feel free to spit a perhaps not very relevant question to which one had better be able, ex tempore, to formulate some intelligible response). In free fall, none of this matters.

Each time I go up, each time I fall down, I am struck with the utter foolishness of skydiving. To thumb one's nose at violent Death does not, somehow, seem very wise. In fact, it seems inevitable that such nose-thumbing will eventually attract attention.

A long-standing joke differentiates two types of skydivers: those who opened their 'chutes and those who did not. The day an incoherent mess materialized above my head, I found that composure and preparation can indeed prevail. I had, between the cutting of the main and deployment of the reserve, literally the rest of my life for self-assessment.

We allow ourselves so little influence over our lives that we often lose sight of the fragile distinction between being and nothingness, permitting the clutter of quotidian demands to dominate: bills, errands, perceived slights all conspire to cloud our vision. During the long, desert days of the Persian Gulf Conflict, I determined for myself the insignificance of many formerly consuming concerns. The remainder, what is meaningful, is a brief list, but encompasses themes from simple companionship to the tectonic interaction of divergent cultures. Returned to the business and busyness of modern America, I am not immune from misplacing my little list, but hurtling towards the hard ground serves to re-order my priorities and remind me tha certain principles--notably Honor, Duty, Tolerance--are more vital than comfort, or even food.

I am not, during free fall, aware of this narrowing; I am conscious merely, afterwards, of its having occurred.

Some Rules for Being Human

I am not usually partial to these kinds of things, but this one seemed worth considering. Busy period: some interesting events coming up; I'll try to remember to report them.

Rules for Being Human

You will receive one body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for as long as you live. How you take care of it or fail to take care of it can make an enormous difference in the quality of your life.

You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full time school called "Life" Each day you will be presented with opportunities to learn what you need to know. The lessons presented are often completely different from those you think you need to know .

There are no mistakes -- only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error and experimentation. You can learn as much from failure as you can from success.

A lesson is repeated until it is learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it (as evidence by change in your attitude and behavior), then you can go on to the next lesson.

Learning lessons does not end. There is no stage in life that does not contain some lessons. As long as you live, there will be something more to learn.

"There" is no better than "here". When your "there" has become a "here", you will obtain another "there" that will again look better than your "here". Dont be fooled by believing that the unattainable is better than what you have.

Others are mere mirrors of yourself. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.

What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the resources you need. Remember that through desire, goal setting and unflagging effort you can have anything you want. Persistence is the key to success.

The answer lies within you. The solution to all of life's problems lie within your grasp. All you need to do is ask, look, listen and trust.

You will forget all of this. Unless you consistently stay focused on the goals you have set up for yourself, everything that you just read won't mean a thing.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lighten Up

I may have posted this before, but it is worth revisiting; remember, folks, even if you are late: never, never, NEVER leave for your workout prior to completing ALL your morning duties.


Couple of thoughts (which will go out not fully formed, as I am in a rush):
Racism: article in the WSJ today about school re-districting in Milton, MA (affluent, whitish 'burb of Boston); some parents up in arms that their children were re-districted to a)the "black" school or b)the "low score" school; depends on whom you ask. Local blacks "deeply offended." My first reaction was "but it ISN'T racism--it's all about the test scores; if the school were good, ppl would be busting down the doors."

But then I remembered another article re: Berkeley? Where some white families were leaving schools because of competition from Asian students (schools were "too smart"). So... which is it?

I am reminded of my grandmother discussing one of my cousins and commenting "She's smart... but not TOO smart" (I am the black sheep of my family, mind you, for reasons alien to me...)

Second thought: a memory popped into my head this afternoon after reading a review of Kaye's documentary "Lake of Fire." My father, who was living with me at the time (after a stroke or two), and I signed up to protect abortion clinics. We went to the first day of training--learning all about what we would be doing, who our "opponents" were (some were well-known regulars), etc. At one point, we were asked to play the part of anti-abortionists and, apparently, we played our parts too well (I had just gotten off active military duty and believed that realism would help the training, so I put my heart into it). We were never asked back.

Today, as noted, I was reading the review of the documentary which, apparently, included b&w footage of a doctor sifting through the remnants of an aborted foetus to make sure he got everything; the camera lingers on a "perfectly formed hand and part of a face." I cried in my office; indeed, I am holding back tears just THINKING about a documentary that I have not seen.

Sure: I support a woman's right to choose (just as I support your right to kill yourself), but...less and less. California just passed a law disallowing smoking in a car with children in it. How different is that? Just because THOSE tykes escaped the womb they get special consideration vis-a-vis adults? I rather doubt I will get into the fray (it is really not my style), but I find myself sympathizing with the Pope (who recently came out against foetal research)--how strange is THAT?!

Having children--especially girl children--changes a man (logical fallacy: it changed ME--I cannot speak for the rest of you). My daughters' preciousness--at least to me--is uncapturable, ineffable. Juxtaposing their faces with the "part of a face" of an aborted daughter makes me quite literally a little bit sick. My whole raison d'etre, really, is to protect (and maybe to serve, cop-boy), and abortion speaks to failure at the very outset.

So, maybe the women who never asked me back to help protect clinics were onto something...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


Signed up for a marathon in a couple of weeks; we'll see how the old bones hold up.

Traveling: will likely be silent for a while.

I really should post some drawings: Daughter B is playing with perspective (again, no guidance from me--or anyone, so far as I can tell). She does frameless, extreme-close-ups of torsos (usually ballerinas), with others in the background. Really amazing--and beyond what *I* come up with, even as an adult! Well, I'll just post some (someday) and you can see for yourself...

Friday, October 5, 2007

Still Here - And Glad of It

Running in along the river today (13.1 in 1:26), I was again nearly overwhelmed with gratitude: I am here, I am alive, I am healthy, and all in my family are as well.

Are we programmed to be grateful? And to whom (or what)?

In any case: thank you. We must remember our dead, and remember the living. What else can we do?

On my run, I was thinking about water. When I was a boy, fun comprised playing War, making forts, playing walkie-talkie-hide-n-seek in the graveyard, that sort of thing. For thrill and adventure, I and my mates sometimes "snuck" into the town hall for a drink of water from a thin, fold-out paper cup, always expecting to be shoo-ed from the building.

Innocence. After decades of static childhood (really, was my 1970s childhood that different from that of the 1950s? Or '40s?), we now push and rush and prod and cajole these little worker-bees into adult-like stress and frenzy. Sheesh.

Funny (and true) story about my own lil geek-girls (aged 7 & 4, respectively):

So, the other day I heard Daughter B in the living room shouting "My eye! My eye!" I rushed in, ready to be furious:
"What happened?! What’s the matter?!" Daughter A was standing with a foam "noodle" (from swim class) in her hand; B, apparently, was inside a large cardboard box.
A said, "We’re just playing.
B added (from inside the box), "Yeah, we’re just playing. We’re playing Cyclops!"
A said, "She’s Polyphemus, I’m Odysseus."
B added, "Yeah, she’s Odysseus, I’m Polyphemus! And she just poked my eye out!"

For those of you a bit rusty, Polyphemus was a one-eyed giant outwitted (and out-eyed) by Odysseus and his men: Odysseus got Polyphemus drunk, poked out his eye, and then he and his men escaped their prison (Polyphemus' cave) by holding fast to the undersides of the theretofore penned-in sheep...

One other story/brag: Daughter B was being "tested" for full-day classes; the testing included a bit of reading (to make sure that she was up to speed with the class, which was mostly a little bit older). The teacher reported: "We read a book about butterflies, and the only trouble she had was with the word 'chrysalis' ."

Grateful--amazed and grateful.

On! On!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Modern Death

I have read about this phenomenon: the living hover over artifacts of the deceased (and by "artifacts," I mean technological remnants--blogs, emails, avatars). Such communications remain fresh, almost (to our living, projecting minds) expectant, awaiting reply. The living have just so much, and remain hungry for more: there ought to be more; there must be more.

And so I re-read her emails, a brief flurry after 10+ years of silence. A rush of foregiveness and apologies and clarifications, of "getting things off the chest" while there was still time. And now, time is stilled, at least for her.

We will serenade our Louie,
Till health and voices fail,
And we'll pass and be forgotten with the rest.
We are poor little lambs
Who have lost our way,
Baa! Baa! Baa!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Running and Being -- We Must Go On. On, On!

1952 Olympics
Mens 5,000m Final
1. Emil Zatopek 14:06

Mens 10,000m Final
1. Emil Zatopek 29:17

Mens Marathon
1. Emil Zatopek 2:23:04

Before the 1952 Olympics, Zatopek had never run a marathon, yet all his winning times at the 1952 Olympics were Olympic records.

At the start of the 1956 Olympic Marathon, Zatopek was heard to say: "Men, today we die a little."

Other quotes:

"When a person trains once, nothing happens. When a person forces himself to do a thing a hundred or a thousand times, then he certainly has developed in more ways than physical. Is it raining? That doesn't matter. Am I tired? That doesn't matter, either. Then willpower will be no problem."

"If you want to win something, run 100 meters; if you want to experience something, run a marathon."

"After all those dark days of the war, the bombing, the killing, the starvation, the revival of the Olympics [London, 1948] was as if the sun had come out....I went into the Olympic Village and suddenly there were no more frontiers, no more barriers. Just the people meeting together. It was wonderfully warm. Men and women who had just lost five years of life were back again."

When asked about his tortured expression during races,
Emil Zatopek said, "It is not gymnastics or ice skating you know."

"It's at the borders of pain and suffering that the men are separated from the boys."

"Great is the victory, but the friendship is all the greater."

See Zatopek run:

Monday, October 1, 2007

Technology and Death

We all have read of the difficulties of post-death email accounts and whatnot; in the past, I read them with a jaundiced eye.

But my inbox contains recent missives, complete with dozing--and now never to awaken--smileys, from Ms. H., and the effect is eerie. On her blog page is an avatar, currently in pajamas, blinking at me, perhaps expectantly. And I find myself wishing for something...more. A coda, perhaps, or...something. You see, she is never to return--and I know not what, if anything, is on the other side, and she will never tell me. Now is not the time to air my opinions, but I have been anaesthetized upon occasion (e.g., surgery) and, upon waking, discovered in myself a increased fear of death, theretofore unexpected.

Her avatar, so blank yet, somehow, expectant, is a canvas onto which to project all my questions and inferences. Unnerving.

Un Ange Passe

In 1995 she was given two years, but being so young and strong, her doctors could apply the most aggressive techniques; she was spared, it seemed. Cancer, however, is eminently adaptable, and despite bouts of optimistic remissions, it resurfaced again and again.

This past August, she was given an awful diagnosis: "months." She did not last even one. The remaining available treatments had such profound side effects--and so little efficacy--that the cancer, i.e., Death, became preferable. Foregoing further treatment, she entered a home hospice program last week, passing on the evening of September 29, her husband at her side, her sister upstairs brushing her teeth.

She was just a few days shy of her 39th birthday.

Her blog is factual, not emotional, but the facts about the oxygen tanks and the difficulty breathing or focusing or reading or sleeping are deeply painful, deeply lonely (but not, as far as I can tell, afraid).

Today marks the first day of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month; if you are here to read this, rejoice and be glad.

"And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Cycle of Life

I am in that phase of life where all things are equally likely. Think of, for example, "Alumni Notes." When one is a recent graduate, the notes are all about jobs and graduate school. Evenutally the stories move into family-making. Later, some deaths begin to occur. Looking ahead at the remaining alumni from the '30s (the '20s are...done), all messages that are not about death are of the "no news is good news" variety.

I am of the age where all the icons of my life are passing. Marcel Marceau died yesterday. While I did not like his work (I prefer his teacher, Etienne Decroux), I respected the man (and his penchant for cognac and cigars). Maleine L'Engle died a couple of weeks ago. Ed Bradley (who was only a SECONDARY icon, a relatively recent addition to 60 Minutes). Lots of "personalities" I "grew up with." I had better start replacing them or the world will become foreign.

At the other end of the spectrum, one of my close friends just had his first child (well, his wife did, but you know what I mean). She (the baby) is beautiful, and likely to be a runner some day. Of course, his daughter will have to outrun mine: good luck!

Friday, September 21, 2007


My alarm went off as usual, cutting into my dreams at 5:15.

Sometimes I have to reconstruct events: my placement, my reactions, my mid-night reasoning. This morning I awoke wedged between Daughters A and B, with Daughter B snuggled up tight in the crook of my arm and Daughter A hogging the covers, her back to mine. Why was I here?

Bits resolved: Daughter B's nighttime shrieks had resulted, it seemed, from Daughter A's refusal to cede any bedcovers. A cup of water cooled the frustration, diverted attention. Then the grasping arms, the snuggle request. It all came back to me, and I fell asleep once again.

Daughter A was poking me. "Papa. Papa, wake up. Papa. Papa, will you take me running with you today?" It was now quarter to six. "Hold on." I had planned to run to my office. My latest route was a perfect half-marathon, taking me through several city squares and then in along the river. Beautiful. I was wondering whether the ROTC boys would be out again. "Hoo-ah," I was thinking to myself. I was practically to the office.

"Papa, wake up!” It was now 5:46, and I was still in bed. Dilemma. It was Friday, after all, one of the two days I allow my eldest to join me and, as she calls them, my "running-friends." But that would not get me to work.

"It's too late," I tried. "They've already started running. Besides, I was thinking of running to work today."

"But Papa, it's Friday. You are supposed to take me with you on Fridays."

"But it's too late."

"I don't care. We can go on our own, just you and me."

I could not make this stuff up. Who am I to squelch a pre-dawn request for PT? Other parents cannot get their young fatties off the couch; my offspring fail to grasp the concept of fatigue. And, after all, I live to serve. Why am I here? I am here to direct, guide, and train the next generation of leaders, to


"Okay, okay. Give me a minute. Go get dressed."

Prepping in the a.m. is not a problem for me: a pair of socks, a pair of shoes, a pair of shorts, a single singlet. How much more elemental can one get? Daughter A returned in a pink terry ensemble with a purple feather-knit boa, pink Crocs and a blue bicycle helmet (indeed, she does not per se run with the group, instead she rides one of her several dump-sourced bicycles; however, she completes the full six miles and never complains, is unfailingly cheery, and chirps "hello!" to all passers-by). She explained that the scarf was to keep her neck warm, but that she did not really like the color as she did not think it went well with her outfit. Have I mentioned that she is seven? Have I mentioned that she often states an intention to become an entomologist?

I attach various reflectors and blinker things to her various limbs. She began to twirl, "Look, I'm a siren." I was going to explain that the siren is an audio device, but perhaps she meant siren in the Greek sense. And I knew what she meant, and she was accurate.

It was too late to chase down our running-friends (who fawn over Daughter A's determination and goodwill). We headed for the river, starting downhill toward Main.

"Stop. Stop. Hit the brakes. Stop! Stop stop stop stop stop stop STOP!" My daughter whizzed down the hill and across Main Street, blinking like an aircraft coming in for a landing. I sprinted after her, ordered her to the side of the road, and grabbed her bicycle.

"Why did you not stop? Why did you disobey me?"

"I tried to stop. The brakes wouldn't work. There were no cars."

What followed was a brief, reasonably logical discussion, a test for faulty equipment. The beginnings of a lecture concerning my fear and anger were cast aside for straight out admonition:

"And what am I supposed to do if you get squished? If you get squished, I am hurt many times over: first, because you are squished, and that in itself would kill me; second, third, fourth, and fifth because Mama would kill me, probably literally, and worse, do so rightly. Do you hear me?"

"Yes, Papa."

"Test your brakes first thing, and now and again as you go. Maybe it was the dew." (Or maybe it was that my daughter weighs about as much as my leg.)

"Yes, Papa."

We ran along the river for a bit, then into some of the nicer neighborhoods. I was silent, but Daughter A, a reasonably proxy for Chatty Cathy, kept up a stream of commentary. "Crummy" is her new pejorative, as in "these houses are nicer than our crummy house. I guess they hired the good painters, not our crummy ones who smoke and leave cigarettes in the driveway and yell and do crummy work."

"Their work isn't crummy, actually."

"Yeah, well, their cigarettes are crummy. And they leave juice boxes all over the place. And they're loud."

What she says is true: I have recently had my understanding of the need for US immigration broadened. It is not so much that immigrants will do the jobs that Americans no longer want to do, it is also that they do them better, and more cheaply. And more quietly. And sober.

Given that we had started late, we only went about four miles, finishing just in time to have departing running-friends beep their horns and wave.

"Papa, did you bring your credit card."

My seven-year-old understands cash, credit, and savings. Sometimes, a bit too much. She likes to end our morning runs with a hot chocolate and, if she can wear me down sufficiently, a sticky bun. I send her in with the card; she stands in line with grownups, assertive and unself-conscious. She can almost see over the counter.

The weather is cooler now as we head into autumn, but often folks hustling off to their jobs cast a questioning eye on a fine-featured child--delicately nibbling at a sticky bun held in but two, maybe three fingers--perched next to a still-huffing man adrip with sweat. Tough. My child; my life.

Later we play "Go Fish" (she wins). Daughter B is awake now, and complains that I never take her running, and that if she is asleep I should just bundle her into the jogging stroller and push her while she sleeps. She and I play "Chutes and Ladders, Jr." (not enough time for the more honest "Snakes and Ladders"). Daughter B gets my cereal while Daughter A makes my coffee. Daughter C is by now in my lap, trying to squeeze all the air out of me. She is very strong. It is eight o'clock.

By the time I leave the house, Rocko is removing some old concrete; the other workmen are yelling at each other; one is puffing a cigarette. Across the street, the Brazilians are hard at work, quietly. Down the street, a huge crew of Greeks has arrived; they will have my neighbor's entire house scraped by the end of the day. One of my workmen heads off to get coffee.

My daughters trail me to the end of the driveway, then line up in descending order for their kisses. I am late to work today. So what.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lonely as a Cloud

Celebrating the bicentenary year of its publication, Cumbria Tourism has, uh, "updated" Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud."

In the words of MC Nuts, "Check it!"

Monday, September 10, 2007


For those unfamiliar, please recall Icarus, son of Daedalus, who flew too close to the sun and, as the wax securing his feathered wings melted, plunged into the sea below. Icarus' legs can be seen in the lower right of the painting, just before the waters close over him forever.

Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
--W.H. Auden

I have been thinking quite a bit about the recent deaths in my area of operations, deaths which, in some ways, have affected more than some that should have been closer (e.g., the death of my father). But my father, as I knew him, died ten years before the shell of his body gave out.

The men struck down recently were, well, other versions of me, that is, they belonged to my age/education/goals/position/outlook cohort. And they are gone. Could have been me; indeed, might be me.

As I was leaving the wake for one of the passed fellows, I was wondering where Death was that night; had he seen me? Had the bullet that was to end my life been cast? Was it now in someone's box of ammo, just, well, waiting? Was the part that was to fail in the plane in which I would be flying into the ground already on a warehouse shelf? Had my bout with pneumonia ten years ago gone about calcifying my aorta yet? Was the cancer already there?

Is it really that Les Jeux Sont Faits (A 1947 Sartre novel in which Pierre and Eve were predestined to be soulmates, but their premature deaths delay their meeting until their passing into the afterlife where, despite being allowed a second chance, they remain powerless to escape, avoid, or otherwise change the consequences of their choices in life and they die once again, unfilled)? I do not think so.

The first instance of the irrepeatability (a term which somehow better conveys the concept better than the more grammatical "unrepeatable") of action had to do with a supercomputer being forced to reproduce a weather system. Despite all factors being the same, some minute variable was off, eventually leading to an entirely different weather system (Sorry for the vagueness here, I forget the reference: I was in high school when it happened, although I believe it was at MIT). The point is that dynamic interactions (and their outcomes) are not always predictable and, more importantly, not always the same. That is, if you could go back in time, time very likely would not repeat itself.

My point? Even if I could find the bullet with my name on it, I could not stop the (real) bullet with my name on it. Or, said differently, although we have greater influence over our destinies than Sartre believed, we likely have far, far less than we, as individuals, generally believe.

"Live for today" does not work because the mortgage still comes due, the children still get hungry or need their faces washed. The catbox needs cleaning.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

More Mortality

A guy I run with had a heart attack; still in a coma; five children + a wife.

Life can be so

brief, so utterly, painfully, destructively brief.

Why am I here? Where am I going? What am I supposed to be doing?

My eldest asked today, "do you like going to work?"

Good question.

What is the best use of my time? What is my highest purpose. If Death calls me tomorrow, am I ready? Am I done? Have I accomplished...anything?

[Addendum: I wrote the above early this morning; just now, word has reached me that the husband of one of my co-workers suffered an aneurysm this morning and died. I will be busy doing what I can, but the untimely death of yet another seemingly healthy, definitely fit father of young children is hair-raising. I am speechless.]

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Well, THAT was Amusing!

Re-reading last night's lonely post. Fellows, don't drink and blog! I will let the post stand, however.

Wine, by the way, was Oxford Landing GSM (grenache, 56%; shiraz, 33%; mourvedre, 11%). More reviews here and here. Some folks love it, others seem to hate it (one equated it with "vomit sprinkled with Strawberry Quik").

At $8, it was a good value: peppery, fruity, with some tannins. Over time, though, it began to wear on the palate, with some of the black/sour cherry getting on my nerves, seeming a little harsh. Good with pizza, though.

And I was still able to get up and put in a hard run in the a.m.

In other news, Mike Nifong will be spending at least one day in jail. I wonder what the eventual compensation for the falsely accused Duke Lacrosse Players will be..?

Addendum: what I wrote last night was true, i.e., I no longer no what to do with myself when the family are not around. Raising a family weakens a man, makes him vulnerable, mortal (with mortality being something I think about quite a bit lately). I absolutely understand how family-making reduces a country's propensity to make war; indeed, it puts further light on my increasingly conservative response to the sexual revolution, ubiquitous birth control, easy access to abortion, etc.

Freedomnomics, a direct (and intellectually angry) response to one of my favorite books of late, Freakonomics, puts a whole different spin on the effects of easy access to abortion.

Freakonomics correlates increased abortion rates with lower crime (because, in a form of localized eugenics, "unwanted" babies--of the sort that would have worse financial, educational, and medical outcomes if they had lived--get aborted, so they are not around to do crimes).

Freedomnomics, on the other hand, correlates easy abortion with higher crime rates, the thinking being that women became less risk-averse, hence pregnancy rates are higher and, thus, while some women terminate their pregnancies, some (for a variety of reasons) who otherwise would not have gotten pregnant at all now bring their babies to term. Freedomnomics puts the stats out there in all their socio-economic gory glory.

I do find it interesting that Liberals, in pursuit of equality for all, favor policies whose meta-outcomes lean toward ethnic cleansing (e.g., African American abortion rates are triple that of other groups). Of course, I have always found the Liberal view toward certain groups to be condescending in any case (John Edwards admonishing Americans to forego their SUVs, while driving one, is just one simple example; affirmative action, which assumes that certain individuals, by the mere fact of their melanin, cannot compete academically is one of the worst cases).

In any case, my point here is that the joys of family are subtle, and take a long time to ferment. The way society treats men, women, and relationships does not seem conducive to the amount of time and effort required to build a really strong, really stable relationship. Easy divorce, long cohabitation (which, for men, is absolutely not the same as marriage; different thought process altogether), sexual access, acceptance of unwed mothers, all lead to a further fracturing of the male/female complementarity (a distinct goal of capital-F Feminism).

D-mn I sound like a fogey. And all this from a clear beneficiary of all the things about which I now complain... I guess, fundamentally, while it seemed worth it (i.e., fun) at the time, looking back I am saddened by the waste. I met my wife at age 16 (and I knew at the time that she was...important; indeed, her effects colored my cravings and relationships forever after); we married at 30. In between I, uh, "benefited" from several long-term cohabitations. Now, to me, that time seems, well, wasted and unproductive, time that could have been spent (seriously, it could have) with my wife. Some of the adventures I have had--most of which cannot be reproduced--are not part of our ongoing conversation.

But hindsight, as they say, is 20/20 (unless, of course, it has to do with recognizing, acknowledging, and undoing all the damage wrought by "progressive" social policy over the last 40 years). Praise be that I have time forward to spend with my growing family. Can't wait 'til they get back here!

Friday, August 31, 2007

In Vino, Veritas

Okay, I am (likely) drunk off my ass (if one is drunk, how can one tell?). I started the bottle (a fine bottle of granache, cabernet, and some other things that escape me at the moment) at my grandmother's. You see, the wife & chillun are away--the painters are scraping and sanding and the wife wanted to minimize the possibility of lead exposure.

And I am a mess. And, well, proud of it.

You see, I am at a complete loss when the wife is away. Where, exactly, does food come from? And cash--where does cash come from? Okay, those are details--the bed is a mighty lonely place when alone. If any over-40 men are reading this--and you are unattched--by gum man, what are you thinking? (btw: while typos are minimized, you, dear reader, have no idea how many corrections I am making at this time...). Get thee to a nunnery! If, for nothing else, to find thee a wife!

Yah, so, my wife is out of town--and she has the children. Wow. My life right now really does revolve around FAMILY. How unlike my own parent, with their cold marriage + lots of business trips (really, it is taking me several passes to remove the typos; have I mentioned that I have downed a bottle of vino, and then some?).

At 40+, what the hell ELSE would I, a man, be doing w/o a wife? Yah, sure--hang-gliding, harley-riding, and sky-diving (lots of hyphenation there, huh?), but, seriously, would any woman take me seriously? I pine for my friend (name typed then redacted) whose wife left him (for a woman!): now he worries about gold-diggers. Sheesh.

I am in love with my wife (have been, really, since I met her at age 16). Have I mentioned that I am, uh, satisfied? (We'll see if this post outlives my sobering-up period.) My running club includes many guys who complain about...insufficiency. Praise d-rwin I can remain silent.

On a different topic: yah, too bad I do not have a boy to raise right. My girls are being trained (karate, charm school) to be heartbreakers, but it might be a public good to provide the world a right-thinking boy-o. Ah, well: c'est la vie. Of course, you boys out there--look out! My girls are gonna kick your azz!

Memo to self: do not drink + blog.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ordering Wine With Dinner

Waiter Rant offers some good advice on Ordering Wine with Dinner without Looking Like an A-Hole.

Short form: there is always the "Fonzie" method ("#11"). A slightly more subtle version consists of tipping the wine list toward the sommelier (or, barring that, the waitron), running your finger up and down your preferred price range and saying "I was thinking of something along these lines; what do you think?"

Other methods include the "third up from the bottom" technique (or, if you are going to be cheap, choose the cheapest wine, not the second cheapest; you have a higher chance of getting something palatable, believe it or not--it has to do with restaurants anticipating your cheap-but-self-conscious habits...).

Best, of course, is the "expense account" method, but only use it when you actually have an expense account. This consists of alerting your sommelier that you are, well, on account, and that you would like something memorable--but justifiable. This usually puts you around the $50 to $80 range (higher in New York); that is, around the cost of an addition to your party (which, if the wine is good enough, it sort of is).

Friday, August 24, 2007

View of Men

Thirty years ago (!), feminist polemicist Marilyn French wrote The Women's Room, in which she stated, "All men are rapists." When I was in college in the 1980s, photocopies of our "Face Book" appeared around campus with the caption "Potential Rapists." The photos were, of course, of men only. The usual uproar ensued, with no action taken by the college to remove, discourage, or otherwise hamper this exercising of free speech (the college took similar non-action in the regular removal and destruction of the one or two conservative papers on campus, but that is a different story).

Yesterday's Moving On column in the WSJ was on the current state of aversion to men. My intent today is not (necessarily) to decry the ongoing denigration and devaluing of men in society; rather, I am (ironically) in solidarity with my sisters on certain points.

While the article points out the usual insults and betrayals (e.g., the coach who dares not hug a player, the requirement of a "female parent" on the sidelines at all times), amidst the pain are some stark truths.

The article points out that "[g]uidelines issued by police departments and child-safety groups often encourage [children lost in malls] to look for 'a pregnant woman,' 'a mother pushing a stroller' or 'a grandmother." These are examples of "low-risk adults." Men need not apply.

Child Advocate John Walsh, of America's Most Wanted fame (and who tragically lost a child to a stranger), advises parents to "never hire a male babysitter." (Duh!)

I am not complaining about these portrayals, but I am asking/hoping that we change them We could start off with a simple admission: Men and women are different.

I have unwittingly agreed with John Walsh on these very pages: of COURSE you would not hire a male babysitter (despite what the liberal nags online and in town say; and how easy it is for them to say so, given the tiny odds of a male being sent--or even HIRED--by a babysitting agency) or male-run daycare center (would such a thing even be allowed?).

How has the status of men fallen so low? Why does the death spiral continue? How have we let this happen? And why are men excused from adulthood?

Fact is, as we allow men to run amuck, to extend indefinitely their adolescence via, e.g., unwed motherhood or, yes, same-sex marriage (in which the complementarity of parenting is destroyed, replaced with the false notion of the absolute interchangeability of male/female roles or more pointedly, given the ratio of M/M to F/F unions and the intentions of those units, the supposed dispensabilty of the male input altogether). Modern feminism decries the former burdensome role of women, where they were expected to be the moral influence of society (expected by themselves, it appears, given that since their abdication the position goes unfilled), and yet women accrue greater and greater responsibility.

Liberal policies on criminals place individual privacy concerns over community safety (in my opinion); pornography pervades every aspect of our "culture," sex sells. [I state again, that I now sound like the Apoplectic Lutherans I ridiculed in high school causes me no end to amusement and pain.]

I was thinking last night about the purpose of marriage: one purpose, really, is to tame men. A countries proportion of unattached men has a direct effect on its propensity to make war (duh!). Yet we allow men (encourage them, one might say--that is, the absence of peer pressure against unwed motherhood is pretty much the same as encouraging men to forego the whole marriage thing) to remain war- and whore-mongerers. (Let's here it for equality!) And then those who DO care are browbeaten into submission.

Men dare not touch their students or athletes (and, ironically, research shows that girls need physical attention more than do boys). If you review the picture at the top of the page, you will see that some might choose to refrain from touching their own daughters. The picture--a BILLBOARD program in Virginia--is supposed to urge women to follow their gut instinct, and the program directors deny that the picture could be interpreted to call into question any adult/child interaction, right down to father/daughter.

[As an aside, yes, this is concerning to me because I am the father of daughters, and lemme tell you--they need attention! Tickling, rough-housing, hugging, and whacks on the bottom. If I am not affectionate enough, they let me know, climbing into my lap, wrassling me around the house. And I revel in it. But no way in heck am I going to coach a girl's team, teach a class, or do anything that would put me at risk with anyone else's children. What the WSJ deems the "predator panic" is just too prevalent. Oh--so, THANKS to all you 1980s campus Feminists: I hope you are happy with what y'all have wrought (and, sadly, maybe you are).]

A Feminist I knew once stated that it was acceptable if, in the name of equality, men be brought down. "If that's what it takes." (Strangely in line with communism--where everyone is equally miserable--I might point out.) Well, looks like she got her wish. Men are ignored, discarded, exempted from their societal requirements to mature (themselves) and nurture (others). Weird (to me) that because men cannot nurture as well as women then they are no longer required to do it at all.

My other diatribe, by the way, is that in order that a (very) few may succeed, all must suffer. I have written before how the "freeing" of a few professionals and academes has enslaved the other 90% of women, shackled now as they are to jobs. Just. Like. Men. [I forget where I was going with this: I had another "success for the few = failure for the many" epiphany, but it escapes me at this moment.]

I am petering out here; my question is this: why are men "allowed" to be different (which we all know anyway, really) when it comes to crime/rape/predatory behavior, but we are said to be exactly-100%-the-same when it comes to our value as parents or, lately, as humans? I would think that, logically, if one accepts the first proposition (which I do), then one must accept the second. How do we re-integrate men into an increasingly segregated society?

Oof. e-NOUGH.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wine Club Review - Redux

Up to the age of forty eating is beneficial. After forty, drinking.
--The Talmud

Never been much of a drinker: I never really cared to lose control of my surroundings. Also, I am pretty cheap.

Never much of a wine drinker: while I might be a skinflint, cheap wine is not (in) my (brown) bag.

In the course of my profession in recent months, however, I have been treated to some fairly fine wines (strike that, some stupendous wines)--and it turns out I like wine--good wine, anyway.

In my quest to secure good wine AND remain cheap, I signed up for several wine clubs simultaneously (penny wise, pound foolish):
4Seasons Wine Club
Wine Insiders (formerly A Taste of California)
My Wines Direct
Wine Library
Wine Woot

Addendum: Wine Buyer: free shipping section and sort by rating: some real bargains there!

Addendum the Second: Wines 'til Sold Out! is like Wine Woot for the ADD crowd; instead of one deal a week, the site offers one deal a day, shipping included. Offers reviews and tasting notes, as well as retail value and "Best Web" comparison.

Following are my thoughts, my wine club reviews, or at least my review of wine clubs in which, so far, I have participated. I will update as I drink more (although my typing may deteriorate). I started with discount wine clubs, but have moved up the scale a bit in terms of price and quality. As it stands now, I am bumping up against my supply/demand limits (i.e., I am cheap by nature, and wine ain't cheap).

Folks join clubs for a variety of reasons: local availability is slim; snooty stores can be intimidating; things are cheaper on line; whatever. Often, newbies are looking to be led by someone with greater experience (regardless of the endeavor), so clubs that tout their expertise and "insider" status and elitism will always have new adherents (uh, like me, apparently). On to the club reviews:

Four Seasons Wine Club has, by far, the best marketing (their wine is a different story...). The 4Seasons pitch is that they send a case a quarter (get it? Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter!). To entice new sign-ups, they offer the first case at half price AND deliver your choice of a "connoisseur" wine opener (with wooden box), a tabletop corkscrew, or a six-bottle wine fridge (yes, yes they do!). The also include some really nice write-ups of their wines, the region, the background, whatever. Useful information.

The wine, on the other hand, while...serviceable, has been nothing spectacular. Generally, their wines are "private label," that is, 4Seasons (or, more accurately, their much larger parent) contracts with vintners to produce certain wines. (And you thought that only vineyards produced wine! Oh foolish ingenue: grapes are just a commoditized fruit, and fruit can be produced anywhere--and trucked anywhere. Some "vintners" may "consult" to any number of wineries: it's almost incestual.) Also, while I am not sure whether the outcome is intended, this does mean that one cannot G--gle the wines for a review.

The wines did not make me gag but, at first, they did make me wonder whether my palate was simply...unsophisticated (more on that in a minute).

Wine Insiders niched me, too. They sent a similar advertisement/enticement: half price on a case of "the perfect combination of taste and value," of "both well-known and hard-to-find wines" chosen by "an expert tasting panel" to ensure delivery of "only the best wines."

Ugh. Really just...bleh (my apologies for my inarticulateness). I mean, again, I didn't gag (and I have had wine that made me gag), but it was so...innocuous, so inoffensive and timid: it was as if it were afraid to be wine. I could barely distinguish among their (again, private label) merlot, cabernet, and shiraz. And then it hit me: The Emperor Has No Clothes!

If one had but little frame of reference, if one were a mere neophyte among oenephiles, tipping that first toe into the ocean that is wine (or, as Homer put it, "the wine-dark sea"), one might be a bit...intimidated to say "But there's no there there." That would be me (was me, in fact--until just last night), had I not benefited from some really great, really (dare I say) moving wines. The swill I was quaffing from WineInsiders and 4Seasons was built for the fattest part of the American market, i.e., it was not very challenging; not bad (but not good, either), just...nothing special. Really, I might as well have been drinking water.

Both of the clubs above do not sufficiently exceed my local shoppes 3/$20 special; I would *never* pay full price for offerings from these two (and have cancelled).

For value-oriented clubs, that leaves MyWinesDirect. My Wines Direct sends real-label wines (so one can research actual reviews), often pre-packaged in "themes" (e.g., Barbecue Bests, Red Gems, etc.). They do not market themselves as a discount purveyor, but G--gle can find dollars-off coupons and Fatwallet delivers Fatcash (discounts), so one can realize something approaching 30% off fairly easily. So far, their wines have been...good; definitely better than the other two. I am not ready to declare them stupendousextrasuperspecial, but as discount wine clubs go, they deliver real wines with real tannins and real structure and real grapes. I have only worked through three bottles, but I have already ordered my second half-case, and give them a cautious bottoms-up. They at least exceed my local 3/$20 comparison.

What I really like about My Wines Direct is that they limit their selections, giving at least the impression that their offerings are, indeed, carefully selected. 4Seasons, for contrast, offers over 200 wines (research shows what we all know: consumers are overwhelmed with choice), making no choice "special." Wine Insiders limits their offerings, but I don't want to drink what they have! (Oh, and their shipping is super slow and their customer service, while pleasant and responsive, takes a long time to fix any problems...).

The real winner here is Wine Library. I love Wine Library TV; Gary Vaynerchuk is a hoot! And he is a great marketer: very believable, makes you think that $60 for a bottle is the STEAL OF THE CENTURY! Funny thing is: he's RIGHT! When he tells you a wine is massive, the thing is freakin' MASSIVE; when he tells you to cellar a bottle as an investment, by gum, you would do well to buy half a case! The downside? Did I mention the $60? Or the $30? Per bottle? NOT a discount seller--more of a guide to "the good stuff." And they do have sales. Shipping isn't cheap, but it's fair. They have earned my (occasional) business, especially for the special.

Lastly, there is woot! (or, more accurately, wine woot!). I have not yet ordered from them (I am still in the research phase), but they seem, for the most part, to dig up little-known West Coast wineries. Their format is to offer one deal (or "woot") a week. The best part, though, is that in their forums the winemaker will answer any and all questions (some quite sophisticated--ranging anywhere from business questions to sun/slope equations). The forumites are a wealth of knowledge and amusement. I also recommend the main site: W00T! which offers one (usually tech-geek) deal per day.

So, there you go. If any of you (two) are looking to join a wine club, you can take my experience (for what it's worth). I'll report back some day when I have tried Woot! [ed. note: at this time, I have finally begun receiving my woot purchases, but, to pervert the words of John Paul Jones, I have not yet begun to drink). And if I come across any other clubs, I'll let you know [ed. note: see below].

UPDATE--Clubs in the Pipeline:
Doorstep Wine (
Cellar Brokers (

I have signed up for the above two clubs' email hot-deals; once I purchase (and drink) something, I will update the review. Hmm... I wonder whether I should begin adding exactly what I am drinking here... BTW, I have never really had an addictive personality (too cheap for that), but this whole wine thing has really begun to bump up against my rev limiter.

What does this have to do with the search for man's essentiality? I am not sure (and I may be simply justifying some nascent alcoholism), but I think a man should know something about wine.
Search terms: woot ( wine til sold out ( wineinsiders (, mywinesdirect (, 4seasonswine (
I tasted - careless - then -
I did not know the Wine
Came once a World - Did you?
Oh, had you told me so -
This Thirst would blister - easier - now -

--Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Consequences for Effective Fatherhood

From Maggie Gallagher, author of The Case for Marriage, writing in the Louisiana Law Review:

Once we sever, conceptually, the sexual alliance and the parenting alliance, we sever children from their uncontested claim to their parents’—especially their fathers’—care and protection.

And of course it is the fathers who disappear, because while fathers and mothers are equally beloved and important to their children, fatherhood and motherhood are not equally inevitable. Far more than mothers, reliable fathers are cultural creations, products of specific ideals, norms, rituals, mating and parenting practices.

Good fathers are made, not born.When family and sexual norms are weakened, it is generally children’s access to effective fathers, not mothers, that is most at risk. When we tell adults that parenting obligations are created by free choices of adults, and when the law’s role is limited to sanctioning and affirming all adults’ choices equally, the well-being of children is put at risk.

Can a society or culture reliably make men into good fathers while at the same time affirming in its governing family law that children do not need mothers and fathers, i.e., that all intimate sexual unions are equally valuable, regardless of their effects on child and social well-being? Will a society that adopts the set of ideas and ideals driving the post-modern family over the long march of generations ultimately even survive?

[My approach to marriage thinking is from the ground--or the child--up. If you are reading this, then the odds are overwhelming that A)you were once a child, and B) you are the product of one man and one woman. It is my view that, to the extent possible, each and every offspring deserves to be born into a unit that protects and supports the man and the woman that made it. I acknowledge that other structures exist, but I think, if we are honest, we can see that some ranking exists (e.g., having at least one parent is likely superior to being raised in an orphanage, more often than not), but a "stable, low-conflict union" composed of a child's progenitors is, both intuitively and statistically, superior to all other available structures.]

Monday, August 20, 2007

Us and Our Parents

Why are we so different from our parents?

I was just reviewing my childhood summercamp, and looking forward to next summer when Daughter A will be old enough (in my estimation) to spend the summer there: and I am so deeply excited for her that tears come to my eyes. I even look forward to Parents' Day, so that she can take me sailing.

Was it this way for MY parents? I don't think so. My depression-era father and cold-war mother were much when I was a child (the irony being that my mother has regressed; my father, of course, is dead). They did not scamper about excitedly showing me what they had done as youths; they did not ask me to include them in my adventures. Not a criticism: the hands-off style of my parents was better than the helicopter-hover we see too much of today. With my own children, even though they are free to fail, I still must consciously construct (and maintain) an easy-going attitude--one that can encompass the sending of a pre-adolescent girl away from her family for a month (believe me, she'll be thrilled).

Friday, August 17, 2007


All, all that I had
Was yours more than mine.
All my best intentions
Were thine, thine, [and] thine.
Karin Boye (translated)

(Hat-tip to Joan)

Tangential string: Strindberg, in breaking with his theretofore hyper-realism, captured part of the human experience in A Dream Play when he had the bill-poster say of his heart's desire (a green fish-tank dip-net), "yes, it was supposed to be green, but not that green."

Ain't it the truth?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Quickthought: Fathers

My approach to fatherhood is, to date, deliberate and intentional. Whether my choices and approaches succeed in the long run remains to be seen.

That said, it occurs to me how many women (maybe men too, but men just don't talk about such things) have described their fathers as, for lack of a better term, "bad." Bad in the sense of self-indulgent or narcissistic or near-abusive or simply...absent. Indeed, I can think of a very few women who go out of their way to praise their fathers (praise be that my wife is one of them!).

What is wrong with the world that my marriage, my fatherhood is relatively decent?

What are you people (Teddy? Gloria? that-missing-person-atheist-whatsername? Margaret Marshall?) DOING to this country?

Where have all the fathers gone for D-rwin's sake?

Tangent alert: in addition to my rant against Feminism (as opposed to "human" rights), I offer the following food-for-thought vis-a-vis the benefits of homogeneity or, more accurately dangers of (cultural) heterogeneity. The WSJ published a (somewhat...angry?) piece by Henninger on the topic, summing it up as (their words, not mine), "People in ethnically diverse settings don't care about each other."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I do not like to hurt anymore, or at least not at the level required for improvement.

What I mean is, for years I could a)forego temptation (sweets, let's say), and b)use pain as a measure (e.g., track repeats HURT). For the past year or so (as I accept "middle age"), I have been less willing to forego smaller sins (lifestyle creep, e.g., good wine; more-than-occasional ice cream; deep, dark chocolate...); similarly, I am less willing to run in a way that hurts (or, indeed, to slide, kick, jump, run with the abandon to which I had heretofore been accustomed).

This scares me. Comfort, the love of comfort, the eschewing of self-sacrifice (or the shift away from "service to others") is, to me, a slippery slope.

Speaking of slippery slopes (an extended metaphor here follows), terrorism works! (But at least a few folks are outraged. Oh, and in case you think it can't happen HERE, well, it can: state--i.e., public--universities to accommodate the religious needs of Muslim students by installing footbaths; the ACLU approves.)

[Addendum: maybe this explains it...]

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ubi all the Hippies?

What has happened in the world that I am "the conservative?" Not only is there very little in my past that would indicate a concern for social mores and moral continence (trust me on this one), but I am an outright:
earth-shoe wearin',
breast-feedin' (well, supporter anyway),
organic-food eatin' (complete with organic vegetable garden and chemical-free lawn, mind you),
animal-rights lovin' ("no gun should ever be turned on an animal"),
midwife-lovin' (again, a supporter on that one...),
assault-weapon controllin' (no civilian needs an assault weapon),
helmet-wearin' (motorcyclists w/o helmets, in addition to staining the pavement, increase insurance rates),
local buyin',
tree-huggin' (although, 'cept for, you know, that murder and all, I found the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior damn near amusing...),
UNITARIAN (AUC, not, for cryin' out loud!

And I am the conservative? Moi?!

Kee-RIST! For the love of D-rwin what has gotten into the FUV (or Prius) drivin', latte-lovin', fat-arsed, lily-livered, so-called liberals? Yah, sure, maybe they donate more $$$ to Greenpeace and MoveOn than I do, maybe they applaud the UN and Bush I's "New World Order," maybe they talk more about diversity and tolerance (from the comfort of Georgetown or Hyannis), but do they actually DO anything anymore?

Hey, JLH, if you ever stumble across this site: I mentioned years ago--and it remains true today--despite your leftist ways, I retain more respect for you and your "I am spending the summer re-building a girl-scout camp"ism than the outrageous "Open and Affirming" self-aggrandizement of my local community (What? Were we draggin' 'em out behind the woodshed an' beatin' 'em afore this here ONA--which I prefer to pronounce as "Onan," although no one ever gets the joke--initiative? And what about those of the Jewish faith? Don't we love them, too? But I digress...).

This world could use a little more hardship, in my opinion. No, I don't want all-out war, but worldwide peace and plenty (at least for the lucky few) seems even more harmful. (Hmm, that get's me right back to the old: why are we here?)

Whew! Now there's a good rant. Thanks, I feel better now.


Mr. Conservative

P.S. Maybe I should move back to MIT, the last community of free-wheelin', free-thinkers I knew--real tolerance there boy-o. Capital "T"Tolerance...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Other Isms

Anyone read Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale? [ed. note: originally typed "tail"; what would Freud say?]

1985 5-Minutes-Into-The-Future dystopia of the United States under right-wing control. Library Journal reports: The resulting society is feminist's nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" Wives.

So, folks get in a tizzy about the future of the U.S.; meanwhile, an elephant in the room goes unaddressed. The latest example of Islamic intolerance directs that "women are given a verbal warning on the street. If the problem is not resolved there, they are taken to the police station for "guidance" and to sign a vow not to repeat the offence. Should this be unsuccessful, their case is handed to the judiciary."

And Feminists et. al. worry about the U.S.?! Too weird.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Pandora's Legacy

Pandora's Box
One evening, with Epimetheus absent, curiosity regarding Lord Jupiter’s gift overwhelmed her, for something in the box spoke. "Pandora, dear Pandora, have pity upon us! Free us from this gloomy prison! Open, open, we beseech you!”

And she opened the box.

Out spilled evils theretofore unkown: Pain stung her hand; Disease plagued the lands; Hatred filled Man with disgust for all that he did not understand; Anger swept out as a cloud of poison; Sickness spewed forth with a feverish speed. Pandora wept with Sadness as Despair shoved itself into the world.

She slammed the lid.

Epimetheus reproached his wife in bitterest terms, and thus was born the first quarrel, now bane of all marriages. In the very midst of his vituperation they heard a sweet voice entreat for freedom. The sound proceeded from the unfortunate box. "Open, open, and I will heal your wounds!”

And they [ed. note: the fools] opened the lid once again. Thus was set forth Hope, healing their wounds as promised, and giving Man a small glimmer of what could be.

The lid closed quickly behind Hope, and all that remained in the box was Foreknowledge. He alone could doom man beyond any other vile beast that escaped, for he knew mankind’s future, mankind's fate. He could grant the ability to see beyond the beyond, allow the knowledge of whatwas to come. For it is said, to know one’s future, to know the moment of one’s demise, to know the ill that will come and the fate of the lands, would bring the greatest sorrows known, and would send a mortal mind to the brink of insanity, or beyond.

Pandora's Box has been of interest to me since I first fell for Greek myths as a youngster. I formed my own thoughts about the story's meaning, unaware--until the advent of the Intertubes--that some debate exists along these very lines.

One version of Pandora's story has Zeus, in a last-minute tender turn of heart, relenting in his attempted destruction of Man, inserted palliative Hope into the box of ills. Sometimes Pandora slams the lid on Hope, then releases her such that she can benefit Man against sin, pain, and pestilence. Sometimes she closes the lid and thus Hope is held by Man.

In another version, Pandora slams the lid on Despair (or, more accurately, Foreknowledge, especially as it pertains to one's own mortality, which would drive Man to madness or despair), thus protecting Man for the worst of all evils (Despair as folly seems, to me, a rather Christian notion).

But my take is a little different: in many contexts Hope is an evil, a bewilderer, a tempter, leading Man to sub-optimal choice. It is one thing to take a "calculated risk," a weighing of probability; it is quite another to plan or act upon groundless speculation. My mother, for example, uses the Lotto Retirement Plan, that is, she has no retirement: she is counting on winning MegaBucks. This "hope" allows her to e.g., continue smoking, fail to pay off her mortgage, buy new cars, and other financially wasteful actions. How many lives their lives this way, leaving all to merest Hap.

C.H. Moore: "[Pandora] opened a jar containing every kind of evil, which straightaway flew out among mankind. Only Ελπις [Elpis] remained therein — a word hardly equivalent to our Hope, but rather meaning 'anticipation of misfortune'. It is then the only plague to which man is not subjected."

Pietro Pucci: "Ελπις properly means a larger set of expectations than our 'hope', for it implies hope, expectation, and even fear... Hope [Ελπις] is a bad companion for the man in need who sits in an idle place, when he has no sufficient livelihood".

More discussion (not necessarily mine):

In "Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization" Derrick Jensen describes hope as: "a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency." In other words, I do not hope to eat tomorrow, I just do it. On the other hand, I hope my plane will not crash, but I have no agency over that. Derrick Jensen believes we hope too much for things we have some power to change (but are too lazy to take action).

In Judaism the line between human agency and hope is not so clearly drawn. In Pirke Avot (Sayings of the Fathers) - a 2nd century Jewish work - Rabbi Tarfon is quoted as saying "You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw from it."

Hope is what motivates us to act even when we know we are not in complete control. This hope can take many forms: the hope that others will have the same vision and join in, the hope that good eventually wins, the hope that one will become a better person through doing even if the intended goal is never reached, the hope that one's small act fits into a larger whole, and yes, sometimes the hope of assistance from a transcendent being.

However, this assistance is not one-sided. In Judaism, hope is often understood as a reciprocal relationship between G-d and human beings. In Marc Gellman's children's story "Partners" from Does G-d Have a Big Toe?, G-d tells human beings they are His partners. When the first humans ask what that means, G-d explains that 'A partner is someone you work with on a big thing that neither of you can do alone. If you have a partner, it means that you can never give up, because your partner is depending on you.'

Later when the angels ask if creation is done yet, G-d says "Go ask my partners."

Some do not Jensen's definition fits very well with the Christian understanding of hope either. One of the classic Christian definitions comes from Romans 8:25 "Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." (RSV) Here hope is defined in terms of seen and unseen, not agency.

On first reading, the word "wait" would seem to imply passivity and hence lack of agency. However, if we take the verse in context, we discover that the preceding verses describe the entire creation in travail, i.e., in the throes of labor. Labor is a very active and involved form of suffering and the unseen thing, a baby, will never come to light without some very active involvement of the mother. Once again, it appears that hope is understood as human involvement in the face of uncertainty.