4.0 the new non-web

12/27/2010 - pic from this summer

We share this planet with whales.  Humpback whales make you pause.  They are majestic, huge, graceful.  They don't care who we are.  Oblivious to our boat, they blow bubbles to the surface, confusing a school of bluefish.  They then rush to the top to hunt. 

We learn our humpback's name: Grackel.  We say: "You've been Grackeled!"

  Miracles?  The world-champion Giants believed.  The US Hockey team in 1980 believed.  So who knows?  Maybe there will be an NHL player born and raised in San Francisco.  Until then, it's fun to skate for free thanks to U Charles!
Rip Van Bloggerhead 09-03-10.  In July, I started pen/ink drawings.  I see one major obstacle to my becoming a great artist: I cannot draw.  But why let that stop me?  The change in perspective this exercise gives me is awesome.  Everyone should read Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain - a book Oren told me about years ago.  I now look at people and think: "Wow.  Her tip-of-nose to end-of-ear to tip-of-chin triangle is not quite a perfect isosceles."   

I'm not sure why this desire to draw hits me now.  My philosophy is that crosswords are fun but they leave you with nothing.  If I draw something, it's like journal and a crossword.  Keeps me calm and I get something in return.

But it takes an amazing amount of time to churn out a pretty mediocre product.  Strange.  Some classic kid quotes:

"Why did you draw our hallway?  That's the most boring thing in the world.  Who would want to look at a picture of our hallway??"

"Daddy.  That doesn't really look like me.  It doesn't really look like a person."

"Daddy.  In that picture, you look maaaaaaad."

Kids on Computers 09-03-10.  It may come as a surprise to some, but in this house, we are not chaining our boys chairs and having them study C# and VB.  In fact, I asked Mon about possibly getting the new xbox console in there - with Kinect technology - and she promptly put the big ol' xbox cabash on that one.  Dash likes playing with the netbook and (gasp) they both like the iTouch for games.

They get 20 minutes of computer OR 1 TV show (usually 30 minutes).  And that's how we roll in ludditeville stalag 13.

I once sat down at my computer and saw a notepad open with the word "USA" written all over the place.


Your humble blogger, being crushed by Carlin Falls near Camp Mather.

I'm not standing, folks, I'm treading water.  My friend Adam egged me on.  I was a little wobbly, after leaving the water, but was very glad I swam out.

What is it with waterfalls?  Why do we love them so much?  Maybe that's where we're from.  Are we salmon with legs?  Perhaps.  But no capers and no lemon, please.

It's deep thoughts like this that enter the slightly damaged brain of a waterfall  swimmer and humble blogger. 


I remember my friend Tim Carter from Atlanta once said: "When you start dating some girl, she's all into camping.  'Sure!  I'll go camping with you!' she says.  She just looooves camping.  But then you get married and she says: 'Camping?  No, I was just foolin'.  Don't ever take me camping again!"  Monica is not like that!  And it's another reason why we love her!
When is the right time to let your kids jump into waterfalls?  Without mentioning my favorite parenting book again (NURTURE ASSUMPTION), I'd say that parents do have a role in setting boundaries.  But these boundaries have to do more with not jumping in water falls (even though your father does) and not walking in the middle of the road.  The rest is... our own convenience.
Saying 'Dec likes trains' is like saying 'fish like water' or 'humans like air.'  Trains are a part of his thought process.  He has told me he plans to work for either BART or the MTA.  In both cases, I'm told Mon and I will have free rides.  And the MTA will run from Gloucester to San Francisco - a full day trip.  In this pic, he sets off like a steam engine 'blowing steam' along the track.  We found part of the Hetch Hetchy railroad during our Mather visit.
If your mom looked like this, you'd be a very polite little boy.  The ladies took their lads to archery class (note the three little boys on the left).  This is true San Francisco values.  We're always ready to fight, but we only fight with 'organic weapons.'   
Most people say Dash favors the Gibbons side.  I look at this pic and I see Monica.  Maybe a bit of Meme...
Pollywogs and frogs.  At Birch Lake, Dec followed the technique of some of the older kids and ended up with buckets full of frogs and pollywogs.  This was quite a change over last year, when he would barely touch the huge frog someone caught.  We tried and tried to snag this one turtle, but he was too smart and too fast.  In the water, turtles fly.
Assess this situation and determine how many asses you see.  Should I leave this ass-is?  Can you ASSist me in this decision?  Ass I see it, there is certainly more than one ass.  Ass Shakespeare would say: "Ass you like it."
It's tough playing ping pong with kids.  First of all, both my kids refer to ping pong as 'table tennis.'  Dash says: "Daddy, 'ping pong' is what the Chinese call it."  I start to challenge him on this point, but then think: "Gosh.  Is he correct?" Kids think they're good at ping pong, but they're terrible.  They just whack the ball in the air - and I have to go run and get it. I thought making them pick up the far-away ping pong balls would discourage them.  But no!  They're ready for more 1-point games! 
I was lagging a bit behind the team in the waterfall hike.  Everyone said: "Don't go in that cave!  Avoid the cave!  You'll DIE in that cave!"  I came whistlin' around the corner and said: "Hey dudes!  Look at that CAVE!  Let's check it out!!"  Mon sighed.  I took Dash through first and on the way back we all went through.  In mid-cave, with 6 boys crawling next to me, I thought: "Don't snakes like it where it's cool and shady?"
If you give a man or a boy a pile of rocks and a clear view into a body of water, he will be happy for hours.  If you give a man or a boy a stick and some matches, you will soon have fire.  If you let a man or a boy shout into the loud wind, he will smile and be happy the rest of the day.
The gang.  Matthew, Beckett (behind), Declan, Dash, Cooper and Nate.  This photo gives my heart a twinge because I feel that our friends did not have the best time ever at Mather.  I think they liked it OK, but it did not rock their world.  This bums me out.  I'm not offended, just disappointed.  It's like this...  If I took you to a Tommy Flannagan show and you yawned mid-way through his version of CC Rider, it would sadden me greatly.  But only because I want everyone else to love what makes me happy.  In the end, we all have different opinions.  For the record, if you do yawn during Flannagan's CC Rider, there's something wrong with you.

Dec is 3 days deep into his summer break.  I'm not sure he really understands how much time he has off.  Like his dad, Dec's concept of time is pretty loose.  His only 'below average' score in testing was naming the days of the week and months of the year.  No surprise there, as I have trouble remembering what day it is, during the day that it actually is.  Isn't time a prison we've created?

I remember the first few days of summer.  Sheer bliss.

The days stretched out like a beach horizon. The hours and minutes were mine again.   I could do anything. 

There was no long time.  There was summertime.

Shut the classroom door

Dump those books on the floor

Let the waves crash against the rocks

Let the chimes of freedom ring

Let summertime begin


Take Risks

Dash started his hockey class this past week-end.

He falls a lot, but gets right back up.  At one point, he sees me through the glass and gives a little wave.  He looks small on the rink and it reminds me of those days when he first started walking.  I remember feeling so proud and so scared.

Hockey is Dash's own thing.  He wants a San Jose Sharks uniform.


Jack and Dash, good friends, getting ready to hit the ice.



Boys!  This is where you live!  It's where you're from!

I hope the boys are proud of where they're from.  I hope they really identify with San Francisco.  If you have a mom as cool as Monique, you'd find these cool city spots.

Adolf Sutro (yes, of Sutro lights) built these salt water baths near the Cliff House.  He also built a train to bring people to this freezing cold water.  He called the water 'organic' and made millions.

The place is wild.  It's part haunted house, part amazing view. 

We even went into a spooky cave for a bit, until we saw the sign that said DO NOT ENTER had been knocked down.  Actually, I saw it before we went into the cave and I was hoping Mon wouldn't spot it.  But she did...

I kept yelling above the wind: 'Boys!  This is where you live!  Can you belieeeeeeve it?   It's where you're from!'  They just laughed. 

Windows 7 baby!  This is where we live.

Windows 7

Dec has 'choice time' at Kindergarten.  The kids can do whatever they want: color, play with toys, etc.

What did Dec do?  He built a Windows 7 Laptop!  Yeah baby!

You might say: 'This is a sorry state of affairs where a kid is so brainwashed that he builds a Win7 laptop...'

I'd have to admit that Windows 7 gets some serious airtime at our house (see lingo table below).  But over-all, I love this.   And besides, Dec complained to Mon that 'A lot of other kids put Apples on their computers...'


I love what I do.  I love that my kids know this and know they can make me happy by being proud of me.  We spend so much time thinking about being proud of our kids.  But it's just as important that our kids have times when they can be proud of us.

Windows 7 baby! 

Work Photos

I got a new position within Microsoft.  From now on, I'll focus on one customer and really try to understand their technology roadmap and strategy.

This table summarizes photos I considered sending for my new position.


I love technology!
Technology, love, and flowers
Cool!  Technology!  Give me a hi-five!
Team player (I went with this one)



We have our own little language, like most families do.   


Get zeroed (v, tr) Buckle your seat belt.  When loading into the car, we used to count down 5-4-3-2-1-zero!.  Declan came up with the phrase: "I'm getting zeroed."


Adios (v) Get rid of.  'I adiosed that piece of paper.  I threw it out.'


Shakey Milk (n) Milk shake.  Declan called milk shakes 'shakey milks' from a very early age.  The name stuck and now we all refer to milk shakes as 'shakey milks.'  There's also a fantastic kids music group who took this name.  Buy their CD!


Bubbly juice (n) Soda, any flavor. 


Peeps and PJs (n) Get ready for bed.  This is more of collective phrase.  You can probably figure out what it involves.


Windows 7! or Windows 7 Baby! Awesome!  This is generally shouted out at anything you find particularly great.  If you see a chopper bike drive by and the engine ROARS, you say: 'Windows 7!' 

'Windows 7 baby!' is usually accompanied by a hi-five.



Play with me!

Saturday mornings are busy here.  Lately, I've been worried about  Playing with my kids.   I prefer actually being close to my boys when they play, but like staying 'uninvoled.'  Most times, I'm too big for thei towns and I end up just getting int he way.

But they ask: 'When are you coming to play with me?' So, I usually jump in.  It's an interesting conundrum. 

It takes imagination to turn a rug with bumps into a mountainous city perched high above the earth.  It takes imagination to turn our front room into the Stanley Cup Finals rink.


Do we lose this ability or am I just lazy?  Should we actively play with kids all the time and seek out moments to join their games or should we always wait to be asked?  Do we help or hurt our kids' imaginations?

I try not to make suggestions.  Unless the train tracks don't fit or someone obviously needs a hand, I try not to say: 'Hey let's put this house over here.'  My ideas sound bad to me, out-of-place.  Most times, my boys don't ask me:  'Dad, what do you think?' so... I don't offer.

But I love watching the boys play.  And I wonder: When did I lose the ability to turn a bumpy rug into a town?  Curtains aren't clouds to me and a cup can't be a pirate ship.  It's a curtain.  It's a cup.  But I clearly remember turning a table and pillows into a bus.

When did I stop believing? 

Trouble Coffee

(photo by Jean)

I have discussed  Trouble Coffee before.  Thumbing through pics Jean took while he was here, I came across this gem.

The coffee is definitely buzz-in-your-ears type stuff.  But the flavor is exceptional.  Better than in France?  Mais oui, malheureusement pour les francais.  

But it's more than the black oil and foamy steam. This place is the crowd most people would label 'typical San Franciscans.'  Lots of tattoos, lots of alternatives.  All people.  Celebrating each other.


Is it more important to be tolerant or to be free?  I would say 'free' because you can't be tolerant unless you're free.  Tolerant people are comfortable in their own freedom, and they let others be free.

But beyond tolerance, there's celebration.  It's one thing to be tolerant, it's another thing to celebrate the differences of someone else. 

Look at the tattoo on that dude's nose?  Would you do that?  I dunno...  Hey Dad, go ask him if it hurt.

Clean your room.  Don't clean your room.  It doesn't matter.

Everyone knows how into Judith Rich Harris I am.  This woman gets it!  And the newsflash is that parents don't matter!

But if parents really don't matter (and they don't) then what about room-cleaning?  Asking a kid to clean his room has got to be the most obtrusive, tyrannical and useless request a parent could make.

Clean my room?  Why should I clean my room?  The one place in this house I can really be myself and let it hang out.  The one place where people can't bug me - and you want me to clean it?

My mom and dad never made me clean my room, which may explain things about my personality.  But I really believe it's wrong to ask kids to clean their room.  I'd say we draw the line at clothes - they do belong in the hamper or else they stink the place up.  But otherwise:


Toys are tools

Unkempt is cool

And a mess is an artist's path

finding his own school


Stuff I say to my kids (followed in parentheses by what I actually think)

Declan, you cannot have 3 Oreo cookies, 2 is plenty (and we need to save these for later, as I will surely chomp down 6 while watching the Sharks game)

Yes Dash, Pokeman is cool (actually Pokeman scares the sh.t out of me - I mean: what are they actually SAYING?  It doesn't make any sense and seems to be selling me something)

I'm telling you this because it's a lesson you need to learn (I'm making you do this because it's convenient for me)

Everyone has a job.  Your job is to go to school (I never liked school either.  I always wondered: Why does the teacher get to pick the books?  If you wanted to leave school and hitch-hike down to Mexico, I'd probably shrug my shoulders.)

It's not funny when you hit your brother (It is funny when you two fight and it looks like Moe and Larry falling all over each other.  The Three Stooges had to be influenced by kids fighting.  I envy that closeness.  To know someone so well that you feel compelled to punch them.  Only a brother can feel that, a close brother.)

Do you want a hug? (I really need a hug and I'm worried about how I'll spend the days when you're off in college.  You can stay at the house until you're 40.)

Dash, band-aids will help you (How can that blood dripping down your finger not freak you out?  Just put this stupid band-aid on, man.  How can the band-aid freak you out and the blood not cause any reaction?)

Dec, answer your brother when he asks you a question (It breaks my heart to see you ignore Dash, but I know why you do it.  I think I'd probably do it too.  It's easy for you to get his goat, and there's something in your blood and mine that simply loves getting people's goats.  We are goat-getters.)

Dashi, let go of my arm... (When you cling, I must admit, I don't mind much at all.  I'm more surprised than anything.)


I have trained myself: Every time I start to say 'no' to my kids, I ask myself: 'Why not?'  I don't always get this right, but I try.

Top 3 Reasons to watch baseball

1. You can pretend to listen to your wife.

2. At Giants Ballpark they have a slide and a mini-baseball field.  If you go to Giants stadium with DecDash you will see about 5 mins of actual baseball.

3. You can blog while watching!

Dash on second.  Dec in center. 

Auctioneer / Blogger

Our friend Sara asked Mon if I was still up for running the auction for Miraloma.

I was still recovering.

At times, I dreaded this night.  I almost chickened-out that very day.  But in the end, I did it.

Sara is such a great friend.  She told me once: 'Some people at Miraloma think you're too low-key for this job.  Can you talk to them and, well you know, just be funny?'


During the auction, I sometimes forgot the original bid number.  This lead to much bidder stress, I can assure you of that!  Other than that, we raised some serious cash for Miraloma and Mon bid on the 12-dinners-out!

Sara and I were the Regis and Philbin of pre-school charity auctions!  Also see Cortney smiling there in the bottom right corner.

Sunset Talkin' Smack (04/24)

(Photo by Jean)

Jean and Florine settled in for some serious baseball on Saturday morning.

Mon gets embarrassed, but I like talkin' smack when the boys play baseball.  These absolute LOOOOSERS from the Richmond sauntered into Sunset Field like they owned the place. 

Oh...  What's this in my pocket?  Why!  Look-see look-see! It's a can of Richmond whoop-ass.  The extra large kind!  Yeah!

We spanked them and sent them home cryin'!  As i tell the boys: This is not about meeting new friends and having a good time; it's about CRUSHING your enemey!


Dec takes a serious lead at second.  Creepy guy from Richmond doesn't like it...


Dash  Thoughts

(Photo by Jean)

Dash definitely has his own drummer clicking along there.  He understands numbers very well.  He tells Mon: 'My brain figured it out' when she asks him a tough math question.

Tonight, he shows me his six new coins in his special no-touch box.  I say: 'What if I took 1 coin away?  How many would you have?'  'Um. five,' he says.  Impressed, I say: 'What if I took 2 away?  How many then?'

'Four,' he says, 'But please don't take any away, OK Dad?'



My sister Oren drew a picture of me sitting in a chair, and it's exactly the same pose as this photo Jean took.  Dash often sits in his chair, thinking. 

I remember doing the same thing.  But I cannot remember what I was thinking about.  Maybe trucks.


Declan lego videos

The Martin Scorsese of lego layouts graces us with some serious vids here.

In the fireboat video, Declan seems unsure if Uncle Charley is older or younger than daddy.  Tragic as it sounds, this hesitation cost Declan his 529 account!  So it's love from Uncle Charley and typing school for Declan!


Bus and Bus Stop

Fire Boat, Fire House and Dash

Pizza Place and Bike Shop

The videos are worth watching.  This might be over-kill parental love, but some of the side comments really are great.  It's interesting to note how much Dec copies from videos he sees on Youtube.  Kids upload 'Lego Reviews' all the time.  He uses some of their approaches, and inserts his own style.

Ayn Rand Household

Dec wanted a 'Bus Stop' lego set that cost 60 bucks.  We're not sure how it started, but he got to know math pretty quickly.  He asked me ten times a day 'Dad.  How can I earn... say... 20 dollars?  That's TWO tens.'

So.  We put him to work.  Man!  The house is sparkling.  I seriously considered asking him to clean the gutters, but backed off.  I mean, it would have cost me about 300 bucks.


We were supposed to stretch out the dollar-earning time period so that he would earn his new Lego set right before Tara and the gang arrived, but I must have miscalculated how much he made.  One day, he says: 'Hey!  I just finished counting!  I have 64 dollars!'

And he did!  Ayn Rand, she smiles upon us.  A capitalist is born.  I love his philosophical response to my kinda dumb question.  He's 6, and I'm already a step behind.

Well... maybe Ayn Rand meets Mr Rogers household

Dashi is more of socialist, or a fiscally responsible Democrat with a strong penchant for race cars.

While Dec was washing the car, Dash was playing race cars.  His races are complicated, and I still haven't figured out how he manages to push three race cars at once, but he does.

The races are even, and sometimes his friends win.  He always has the same three or four guys racing: him, Jack, Beckett and Matthew.


It's also interesting to note on the video how Dash gets very close to his cars, right at nose level.  Boys do this.  Girls do not.  Not sure if it's related to boys being more visual, but you will always see boys play with toys up close.

Later in life, this leads to a refusal to ask directions of strangers.

Coolest Mom ever (parte un)

Picture by Dash!

Check out that necklace and funky glasses!

She's the best!  We love mom and we're lucky to have her.

We try to keep our home girl-friendly but it's tough.  We're not even sure what girls like, and it's tough to get any of them to actually talk to us (besides mom).


Reading an alphabet book about boats tonight, the G-word is 'gondolas' in Venice.  The caption reads: 'Watch out.  This may get romantic.'

Dec: 'What does romantic mean?'

Me: 'Well...  When a man and a woman have a special friendship, they want to spend time together and sometimes they kiss.  It's like me and mommy.  Does that make sense?'

Dec: 'Is it always on a boat?'

Coolest Mom ever (parte deux)

Did we tell you our mom is the best?  We expect dad to think that playing hockey in the front room is a good idea.  In fact, this was his idea.  But mom?  She loves it too!  This we did not expect.

She cheers us on and says 'sweeeeet' when we get a goal.  If it's not too noisy, she even knits in her chair while we play.

Lately, we've been listening a lot to The Who while playing hockey.  Dad says this is the best way to listen to The Who and Guided by Voices...




The first day, we lost all the pucks.  Somehow, we managed to find all three again and we're back at it!

Since we're still learning numbers, the game's score can change from 3-2 daddy's winning to 12-nothing, daddy's losing - with just one goal.  This is amazing!  And true!

Daddy has never won a game.  Not.  One.  Single.  Game!  Yeah baby!

Advantages of losing your front tooth, along with some quotes

1. straw fits in the space exactly

2. gives me a cool lisp like a true Castillian

3. can play fight during our hockey games and pretend I lost my tooth

4. can stuff french fries into 'perfect french fly slot'

5. makes it easier to pick at my other front tooth, which is now loose 



Funny quote: 'I need a credit card.  I'm tired of this saving money all the time.' (We have Dec on a Save/Spend/Charity program, and he's itching for this new Lego set.  He's like the IMF: he wants to help, but...).

Serious quote: 'You're around now, Dad, but you might not be around when I'm a man.  So it's good for me to love you, but it's good for me to be separate from you too.'


Advantages of having all your teeth, along with some quotes

1. a full set of teeth goes better with curls

2. it's strange that my brother is losing his teeth.  why don't they just stay in?

3. look at that smile?  why wreck it?

4. since I'm not losing my teeth, can I eat more sweets?

5. tooth fairy seems cheap to me.  50 cents?  Com'on, I'm working here!




Funny quote:  If I win, I win.  If you lose, you lose.  But I win, pretty much almost always.

Serious quote: 'When you die, you go to a different house.  Santa doesn't go there.'


The Q

Jim Watson gave Dash his nickname.  We were visiting Gloucester and Jim kept singing softly: 'He's a dashy Dash.'  This name stuck.  And we call him Dash, Dashi and (usually if we're mad) the full 'Dashiell!'

He knows that 'dash' also means to 'run fast.'  When we encounter the word he always points to it on the page and smiles at me.  I swear he's thinking: 'Damn cool name, Dad.  Nicely done.'

But the truth is that Dash was almost Graham. 



It was wrong of me, but I cornered Mon in the hospital after Dash was born. We hadn't 100% decided, but I wanted to have a name before the kid was born and was doing my I-know-you-just-gave-birth-but-I-want-an-answer-now routine.

Mon spent a moment looking at his little head, and said quietly: 'Are you a Dash?  OK.  I think you are.'

And that's a brief history of Dashiell, Dash, Dashi and someone I, from time to time, call 'curly cue' or just 'The Q.'


Highway 61 revisited!

Dec is digging heavy on Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited.  His favorite song is 'the mail train song' which we play together, him on drums.  Sometimes he'll play my guitar tuner like a harmonica. 

This is interesting because...

I have always thought that Bob Dylan's harmonica playing was some kind of terrible private joke gone horribly wrong.  Every time I hear Dylan play the harmonica, I think: 'Is he serious?  He can't be...'  He (Dylan) sounds exactly like Declan playing my guitar tuner.  They both sound interesting, great and god-awful all at the same time. 



Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61”

The boys like that one, but it is strange singing it to them.

'Dec, what do you think Highway 61 is?'

'I dunno.  Just someplace far away where things go.'

Helicopter! Soccer! No wait! Paint!

In approximately 60 minutes of play time we:

 - built a helicopter out of wood

 - painted on wood

 - played soccer (Dash won, see quote above)

 - played football

 -   fixed the American flag in the tree house



Great friends, Dash and Jack - 02/23/10

You can tell great friends by how much you can leave them alone.  Dash and Jack head to our backyard and keep themselves busy for hours.

I could not get a picture where they were both facing the camera, so I favored Dash (it's my blog, after all).

It's interesting to note how kids form friendships.  It's surprisingly similar to how we adults form friendships. 




- Do you like soccer-football?  This game makes no sense, but is quite fun.

- Do you like long discussions about what Green Lantern means to the whole Batman team?  And why does Green Lantern get a rocket ship, while Robin has to ride on that silly bike?

OK!  Cool!  You're my friend!


Speed skating - 03/01/10

Here we are at the starting line of the speed skating '1622 rink.'  It's the lego-skate-o-rama. 




Calling 'Water' berry - 03/01/10

Declan's kindergarten teacher's name is Mrs. Waterberry.

At dinner, we decided to call Mrs. Waterberry on the 'water phone.'

This phone does not work as well as a windows mobile 6.5 or 7.0 phone.  Reception is sounds a bit like a 'water tunnel.'






Bobsled - 02/28/10

The boys love bobsled, with a strong preference for the 4-man team lead by Steve Holcomb.

Check out the video.

We made Steve Holcomb proud! 



Super Hero Yoga - 02/17/10

Batman!  That looks like a pretty inadequate Ananda Balasana

You call that a BHUJAPIDASANA Superman?

That daddy super-glued my foot back on and I cannot move it.  That idiot couldn't save humankind if it slapped him in an elevator.

Just your foot?  He glued my arm and part of my leg back on.  And I still do a mean Adho Mukha Vrksasana


Where did that cute mamacito go?

Superman, you never stop...

I'm serious.  Does she do yoga?

No.  She knits.  All.  Day.  Long.

Hmmmm.  I have read that knitting and yoga are similar.  So...



Short Track - 02/15/10

We are big Winter Olympic fans here at 1622.  I think Mon got me into this a while ago.

Dec and Dash pretended to be short-track racers.  Watch the video (complete with wipe-out).  It's interesting to watch kids imitate TV.  Listen to this interview with Team Canada (Dash) and Team USA (Dec)

Not sure why Dash associates with the Canadians but he does.  Check out how they both sound like athletes.  'Well, you know Bob...'


Watching the men's downhill, Mon says: 'This run would take me, probably, all day...'



Mag turner - 02/15/10

Dashi loves flipping through magazines.  I wonder if he'll do this later in life.  He likes marking pages and even circling some super-hero stuff he likes.

This week, we check his pages while he's asleep and order some stuff online.




You like that Batman cave, my man?  Maybe one is on the way..


Legos and Yarn - 02/15/10

Look at this inventiveness.  Dec uses Mon's yarn and the Lego boat he got from Charles to setup a harbor.

He says he wants a sister, but 'she has to be older.  She can't start as a baby.'


The worst music you never heard - 02/07/10

The latest in Danish-American music comes our way.  We thought long and hard about providing these links; here they are on the right.  These two avant-garde virtuosos provided for us a veritable voyage of Zappa-esque licks and thoughts, dreams and codas.  It's music that changes your life twice.  Once, when you first hear it.  And then once again, when you throw the MP3 player through the nearest open window.

Juleshannah or "J and H' as they sometimes go by, really rocked the Groove Lounge Studios.  Click the links at the right, but remember:

There's your whole life before you clicked the link, and then your life after.  And nothing will ever be the same.


jules hannah take 1

jules hannah take 2

jules hannah take 3

jules hannah take 4

jules hannah take 5

jules hannah take 6

Cousin Jam - 02/07/10

No matter what the context, a picture of bunch of people in a studio always looks serious.  If I told you these four kids were working on a song-by-song, pound-by-pound, punch-by-punch, lick-by-lick response to Revolver, you'd say: 'Well, that makes sense.  They sure look serious.  I bet their album kicks bum-bum.'

Do the knobs and dials give us credibility?  How about all those great blue grass albums with some dude with one tooth?  They're still great albums, but you wouldn't guess so by looking at them.  And Lynard Skynard album covers were all lame, but they're great. 





This is a pretty meandering post - even for me.  But the premise is this:  If you want to be taken more seriously as a musician, get a picture of yourself with some dials in the back-ground.  Don't smile.  Hold a guitar.  Go far.


Parents are dead, long live parents - 02/07/10

I'm reading Judith Harris' latest book, which is great.  This picture could go on one of her book covers.  The younger kid following the slightly older ones.  This week-end, the twins taught Dec that he could climb around the entire yard on the fences.  I thought this was cool.  Grant and I admired their climbing ability and didn't think the fall was that far... Sunday morning, I heard Mon shouting from the window: 'No!  No!  No!  Absolutely not!  Get down from there!'  The kids all looked at me.  I cut in, 'Ah, Monique.  I thought it was OK that they... um... climbed on the fence...'

Many of you have heard me wax on and on about how parents don't matter.  Since I know I'm right, I'll try to condense my argument into a few key points.



Why parents don't matter, or how I let go of my ego and learned to love Judith Harris.

It's our ego that tells us we matter.   We really, really want to matter.  But we don't.  Let that go!  It's so easy.  Trust the force Luke!  This flies in the face of a billion-dollar book, magazine and academic hysteria party bent on telling parents how bad we are.  Imagine if none of what they said mattered.  Imagine how happy you'd feel.

Your kid will have 100's of people influence him.  Teachers, friends, bullies, some dude in Jazz band.  A parent's job is not to be the central figure - but the invisible one.  Anyone who 'thanks mom and dad' when they win the award is really saying: 'Here I am with this huge accomplishment but my parents were so goddamn domineering that I have to thank them first.'  Nobel peace prize?  Super bowl ring?  And your parents did that for you?  Please.  It's ridiculous.

When I realized how unimportant I was to my kids, I realized how much I could learn from them.  Everyone says they learn from their kids; it sounds corny.  But it's really true.  If your kid says: 'I'd like chocolate cake for breakfast' the best thing is to think about it.  Chocolate.  Cake.  For.  Breakfast.  It's actually brilliant.  I became a better parent as soon as I realized how little I mattered and how much I had to learn from my kids. 

We teach our kids one thing and one thing only:

Unconditional Love.  Only parents can teach this.  Even marriage (and believe me, I've tested my marriage)has some very clear conditions.  No one will love a kid the way a parent does.  No one.  We're the ones you call from jail.  The ones you call for money.  The ones who never lock the door, never say 'get out' or 'go away.'  We're always there.  That's our lesson.  We teach kids what it's like to have someone who always has your back, someone who loves you no matter what.  My parents taught me this, and this is all they taught me.  It's the only lesson I needed.

We do one thing for our kids - and one thing only:

Environment.  I want to make sure DecDash have a safe, fun environment at home, at school, etc.  Of course I'm part of that environment, but I want to be the smallest part.  I want to influence that environment, but not rule it.  In fact, it's not mine to rule.  To the extent we can, parents should influence their kids' environment to reflect their values.  Life lessons come from others within this environment. 

Parents are dead.  Long live parents.


Brothers Part 2 - 01/23/2010

The picture is deceiving because this post is about my brother Den, not about these two navonod characters.

Den and Mike (his son, my nephew) came to visit us in SF a couple years ago.  I promised Den time off, site-seeing in San Francisco and a Pogues concert Monday night to cap it all off.  All I asked - my measly request - was that he 'help' me build a tree house in the back yard.

Over a 4-day stay, Den and Mike worked 14-hour days (we gave Mike a 1/2 day free on Saturday).  I made at least 30 trips to Home Depot.

There were a couple fond memories.

1.  I told Den I could hammer a nail as well as any man.  I showed him by whacking away at nail and two-by-four.  He said, in that friendly Denny way: 'That's great.  You're in charge of PAINTING the tree house.  Don't touch another piece of wood for the rest of the week-end.'



2.  To make way for the tree house, we had to cut quite a few bushes from our back lawn.  Mike really took this task to heart and I dubbed his venture the 'Dick Cheney forestry association.'  It's motto: 'Trees are Al Queda.'

3.  Monday night.  Me and Den.  It's dark.  The taxi cab is out front, honking.  We have a flashlight and we're trying to nail in the last couple pieces before the cab takes us to the Pogues concert.

Neither Den nor Mike ever complained.  They actually saw San Francisco for a total of, maybe, 20 minutes.  I felt terrible, and told Den I was sorry - that I really thought this whole thing was only going to take a few hours.

Den said: 'I don't see your boys often.  This is how they'll remember me.'

And he's right.  This is Uncle Denny's House.  We still have to get the 'Double D Ranch' sign.  It's a special home to all 'Double D's' - Denny D, Declan D and Dashiell D.

When I say: 'What are you guys doing in there?'  They say: 'We're really busy in uncle Denny's house!'


Trust your kids - 01/23/2010

I have no idea how this happened.  We're in the back yard, I hear a lot of noise coming from the Double D Ranch, but I can't see what's going on in there.  Dec and Dash have tied the play stove and have figured out some pulley system that allows them to drag the stove across the tree house floor from over 20 feet outside the tree house itself.

I don't even understand how they tied the knots to make the pulley system - but it works.

It ends with this shot, and Declan stuck on the top deck of the tree house.

'Dad!' he yells, 'Get me out!'


Blue Skies - 01/23/2010

What a pic of the Dec man!  He's on the top deck of the Double D Ranch here, smiling down. 

Declan is happiest when he's:

 - busy

 - building

 - working with his hands

 - drawing

 - climbing

 - watching trains

 - building Legos

 - running

 - talking with his mom

 - starting a sentence with 'Well... Let me tell you..'


 - making up rules

 - changing rules he just made up

 - wrestling

 - laughing

Like most boys, he gets very close to trucks or cars he's playing with and watches them roll along the ground.  I have seen many boys do this, and am certain it's some genetic pre-disposition.  It has to have something to do with vision.

Coach Dashiell - 01/23/2010

'You be the coach, Dad,' he says, 'You have to hold your hands like this!'  And he shows me by pacing back and forth along the edge of the grass with his hands crossed behind his back.  His brow creased in some deep, painful coach-like meditation.

Dash is coming along quite nicely.  He will not lag in his brother's shadow.  He's his own man, already.

Dash has an easy smile and wants only that you laugh with him at whatever he happens to think is funny.  As a baby, Dash didn't like being held much and he never came into bed with me and Mon.  But he's grown into a curly little cuddler and I love it. 


I do feel sad sometimes when I hold him close.  I know those days are numbered.  Dash is growing up - cuddling with Daddy will soon go the way of Puff the Magic Dragon.  But he loves wrestling, tackling, running - anything physical.  He is more squarely built that his big brother and can take the Dec man down easily.  Dec respects him on the field, and tries to out-wit him or use sheer 6-year-old force to get by.  Dash is not a sore loser and laughs off his losses.  'Dec got 6 goals on me Dad!' he shouted one day - happily.   

Sometimes when he calls Dec's name I can hear the hope in his voice.  When he asks Dec if he likes the Lego truck he built or if Dec wants to play a game.  He's asking: 'Do I matter?  Am I important?'  He knows that Mom and Dad will always include him - but that makes them nice and boring by default.  The real test is the world, and that starts with Dec.

I love his curls.  I love how he wants to read Declan's school book for beginning readers - and sometimes can!  Dash knows how to reach out to his friends and talk with them (not at them).  I've seen him do this.

Coach Dashiell?  Maybe someday...


They will be brothers - 01/23/2010

Will my boys be friends?  This worries me.  But like Judith H says, so little is in our control.  Some of my friends try to make sure their kids act as a team, almost never compete with each other and 'take the family's side.'  For better or worse, I'm not like that.  It feels to forced to me.

I really, really want my boys to be friends.  I want them to be close and rely on each other like I've relied on my brothers (and sisters).  But if they don't.  If they choose to be independent, far apart, or if the world pushes them that way...  That'll be OK too.


The French say: 'La famille, on ne la choisit pas.'  It's true, we don't choose are family.  We choose our friends.  And this is important to remember.  My kids might grow distant; they might leave.  It breaks my little PFO-heart in two more pieces to think about it, but it's true.  And that's OK.  It's tough, but it's alright.  They are a gift, but not ours to keep.

Right now, it's all Mon and I can do to keep them from killing each other.  Competition is important - especially to Declan.  Winning is important to them both.  Points are important.  Rules are very important. 

They are min-hunter gathers and we love them for it!



Kids in control - 01/17/2010

The Randall museum lets kids drive trains this Saturday.  Dec and Dash take over.  It comes down to pulling a lever from the red square to the green square, but hey, 'control' is 'control.'

This Randall museum is great.  It has just the right mix of trains and live animals.  Unlike the zoo, which has animals everywhere, the Randall has a couple bats, some snakes, a frog, some turtles, and trains.  Lots of trains.



What makes us want to grab that handle and rock the train world?  When you're a kid, you control nothing.  When you're an adult, you think you control everything.

In both instances, you're wrong.




Randall - 01/17a/2010

My life involves trains, super-heroes and strange and wonderful technology I don't understand.

I love all my boys, but sometimes I look at Barbie Dolls and sigh.

I understand that boys like rules.  Moms with boys are a different breed.  Here is what we understand about boys:

 - They need rules

 - They are violent, sometimes surprisingly so.  This is OK.

 - They assert themselves in ways that seem silly, but are not silly.  If it's important to a boy, it's  important.

Do I ever wish I had girls instead of boys?  Never!  But I did dress as a fairy at Halloween.  My boys complimented me!


Can I teach you? - 01/17/2010

This ones for all those people who frown when a kid sits next to them in an airplane.  This one is for all those who think a crying kid is a brat.  This one is for...

Ah forget it.  Just look at the picture. 






Where we live - 01/16/2010

We are San Franciscans!  No suburbs for us baby!

It's chips with walruses for us










A Scientist of Trains - 01/15/2010

I will probably be an engineer.  My drawings are amazing.  Show me a bridge and I think in circles and lines. 

When I work, I'm completely focused and often cannot be bothered.

My projects are serious work.  When I play, I learn.




Bird - 01/13/2010

my head turns quickly (against my will?)

and I see it -

not a luggage cart, not a truck, but a-

bird!  A bird!

(a raven, I think, but I have no idea)

he's a black paper bird cut-out against concrete grey


the jet engine roars and then slowly winds down - a few feet away

the bird dips his beak and drinks from a puddle that is jet fuel blue

I think two things:

1. Will my kids ever see a live bird?

2. Why am I here and not with my kids?


The man of the house - 01/12/2010

Dec and I talk in the front room.  We're playing chutes and ladders and at one point he says: 'Well.  Anyway.  You're not the boss of me!' 

'Really?' I say, 'Who is the boss of Declan?' 

'Declan is the boss of Declan!' 


'Yeah.  And I'm the man of the house here, you know.' 


'Really? So what makes a man a man?' 

'I dunno.  I used to know.  Then I forgot.'

'Mom!  You gotta hear this!'

Mon comes out.

Dec: 'I'm the man of the house, Mom.'

Mon: 'I don't think so...'

Dec pictured here with his birthday shirt - his drawing of an N-Judah train made into a t-shirt by our friend and super-artist Cortney.


Dash's World - Teddy! - 01/06/2010

Dash took a lot of pictures of cake, me fixing Legos and other film-noir angled living room shots.  But he also took this one of his cousin Teddy.

Dash loves Teddy.  When Teddy left, Dash said: 'I wish I could see Teddy EVERY day!'  He dotes on him, always making sure he has the toy he needs.  Sometimes he gets too close, but mostly he gives Teddy space.  He always encourages him 'That's GREAT Teddy!'  Mon won't have a third - I get the 'NO WAY' look when I just joke about it.  But Dash makes me want to have a third kid.  He'd be a great big brother.  I'd be a better father.


My friend Jeff said that parenting is like walking backwards into a brick wall that's right behind you, but constantly moving.  The job left behind is the easier; the one ahead is always the tougher. 

(NOTE: Teddy is wearing a hat knit by his Aunt Monica!)

Dec is 6 - 01/03-05/2010

Remember your birthday when you were young?  That magical stomach-tingly feeling?  When we first lived together in Atlanta, my birthday was coming up and Mon said: 'What do you want to do?'  I said: 'I dunno.  It's just another day.'  Mon looked at me, all serious: 'No.  It.  Is.  Not.  It's your BIRTHday.'  She taught me how special birthdays are. 

Now I feel like this photo - and it's fun to see the boys look this way.  Check Dec out!  He's got the conductor hat on, a pile of presents AND he's on the TV!

It's your birthday!  You're ten-feet tall and wearing a mile-wide smile!


Cardboard - 01/02/2010

Santa didn't tell us he was leaving behind all these cardboard boxes.  One family's holiday waste.  There's a dude (I won't say Hispanic dude because that would be racist) who drives a pickup full of cardboard.  He must drive around looking for cardboard and then sell it to someone.  Anyway, I want to flag this industrious gentleman down, but Mon says it's illegal. 


Bridge across fear - 01/01/2010

I once picked every high tourist destination in a city I lived in, and visited one per week for over a year - just to over-come my vertigo.  It didn't work.

I also get no sense of accomplishment from 'taiming my fear.'  After finishing my walk across the bridge today, Mon says something. I respond, rather rudely: 'Doing it is one thing; enjoying it another.'

Chris, Dec and Cooper peer over the edge and see sharks.  I zip by - not even able to peek at the edge.  I keep thinking about the lion tamer and the lion (see Oct18th 60-to-90).   I tell myself: 'My fear is the chair and the whip, but this city view is the lion tamer...' But that imagery is, well, strange and doesn't stop blind panic.

Dash and I walked way ahead.  Dash says: 'I want to go home.'  I say: 'We're almost there, don't panic' which makes no sense - I'm not even sure Dash knows what the word 'panic' means.

Why does fear drive obsession over fear?  Should I cross the Golden Gate Bridge once a week in 2010? 


Brothers - 12/31/09

I feel like a spy, snapping pics of Dec and Dash playing football in the backyard and then 'fishing' from the top of Denny's Tree House.

A friend of ours (a mother of two girls) once saw Dec and Dash playing behind me and Mon and said: 'Excuse me, your two kids are killing each other..'  We turned to look and replied: 'That's just football.'

But they must love each other.  Some mornings, Dec comes down from his top bunk and joins Dashi in his bed and they sing songs.  Mon went in there once and said: 'This is great guys, but can you keep it down?'

And in this pic, they work together, throwing the line out, yelling for fish (if you watched Sesame Street, you'd know why).  Dec makes Dash his own fishing line and shows him how to throw.

Will they love each other?  Will they be 'close' or not?  Will one move away?  Will they call each other on Christmas?  The French say: 'La famille, on ne la choisit pas.'

But I hope they stay close.


Building a new room - 12/30/09

I worked for an Irishman who almost murdered me one day at a construction site.  I had put on the quick-dry bathroom caulking all at once and made a newly built shower unit look like a cave from Star Trek.  I realized - too late - that 'quick dry' really meant 'really f..kin' quick' and I couldn't remove ANY of the caulking.  Mick, my boss on the job, had the Irish temper big time.  I really thought he was going to kill me.  I thought I was going to die in an abandoned shower at the hands of an Irish immigrant.

But no!  I grew up and shopped at Ikea!  What a place!  I don't care if they make their Swedish meatballs from left-over particle board.  This place is great.

Following directions, however, is not my forte.  At one point, I tell the boys to let me put in all the screw holds - 'don't touch!' I say.  Dec goes ahead and puts one in while I'm not looking.  I see it and let out this big sigh of frustration.  I look at it, pause, and realize that he has put the thing in correctly, while my other 3 are backwards.  'I got it right, didn't I Dad?' he says, meekly, respectfully, but smling all the while.




Big Trouble, Little Shirt - 12/29/09

Hiking with friends brings wide smiles.  Only a kid can show you what friendship really means.

Being a teacher must be nice because you must hear that unfiltered, unashamed, reckless, kid-laughter every day.


The Artist's Touch - 12/28/09

'I get these things in my body that tell me what to draw,' says Declan.  He has the artist's touch for sure.  His approach to drawing and painting is so... confident.

Look at the carrots and the flowers on the plants.  He works non-stop until the painting is done.  He says to me: 'If I wake up early, I might just head right over and finish that painting tomorrow.'

I'm a big believer in genetics + environment, but it's flattering to think Dec reflects me and Mon.

Where does that confidence go?  Why do we have to seek later in life what kids know implicitly?



BALUG - 12/27/09

What is Declan doing in this picture?  If this website is still up when he's a teen-ager, he'll have the right to ground me.  And for anyone in my family who thinks I only make fun of my brothers and sisters, well, you're probably right.  But simply by showing this photo, I'm sending a message. No one is safe.

The Bay Area Lego Users Group (BALUG) hosts a Lego town in Palo Alto every year.  And we hit that baby hard.  Boy, Palo Alto.  Who are these people?  How many strip malls can one town have?  They should call that place 'Stripo Malo.'  Their city motto should be 'Not Houston yet, but tryin' real hard ya'll!'

I'm glad I'm a snob from New England.  That's right, a place with zoning laws.  I remember when Meme and Grampy fought the whole town of Lynnfield on that strip mall expansion plan for the place across from 567 Main.  They could have used Meme and Grampy in ol' Stripo Malo.

Declan's expression makes a lot more sense now that you know where he is.  in fact, that's exactly how I feel about Palo Alto.  And on the plus side, the boys are wearing sweaters from Meme!



Who put the 'Ho sh.t it's Christmas!' back in 'Ho Ho Ho!' - 12/26/09

A common question we ask ourselves this time of year is: 'How much do I really enjoy Christmas?' along with the other favorite: 'Is family time way over-rated or just over-rated?'

Look no further than this great family pic.

Jim is thinking of fixing that leak in the bottom of Marlin and thinking that would be more enjoyable than this picture.  Lea is thinking that whoever is taking this photo (and it could be Ansel Adams, for all we know) just does not understand photography at all.  Zan is far away, and worried - he looks downright stressed (is he farting?).  Fraser is thinking about his beard - and why is his dad so mad that he has a beard and a mustache?  Keara smiles and thinks: 'I'll be living in France and done with this sh.t for ever!  Heaux! Heaux! Heaux!' That's French for 'Ho! Ho! Ho!'


Why paganism? - 12/25/09

A savior?  For someone with strong pagan beliefs, I really enjoy religious music.  I love chorales, the godlier the better!

Christmas to me is the ultimate pagan celebration.  Gifts.  Mystery.  An unknown character who might bless you or might not.  It all depends on him, really.

The front room is transformed into Donovan speedway.  Mon watches the Nutcracker.


I hope Matti Makes it! - 12/24/09

On Christmas Eve Day we made trains at the Randall Museum!

From left to right it's Dec, Simon, Mon Dash.

We read The Best Christmas Ever before going to sleep.  Dashi is very tired and puts his head on the pillow.  But Dec is into it.  'I hope Matti makes it home, 'I say.  And I think: 'Would my sister Lea send us a terribly sad Christmas tale?

The answer is No!  We learn about giving and why gifts are important - no matter what they are.  There's a point in the story where Erkki looks at his Dad thinking 'Man he's old' right when his Dad says: 'I'm still a young man.'  I watch Dec after I read this part.  He's listening, thinking.  I wonder when he'll think that about me.

Happy to be alive.  Happy it's Christmas.  And look at those trains!!




Give a kid a camera - 12/23/09


Another installment of Declan's world. 

I love Mon.  I learned from her that letting the boys mess with stuff is A OK.  We often give Dec the camera and let him go nuts with it.  His photos are crotch-view and crazy.  He gets fixated on something, in this case, fish at the Japanese Tea Gardens in San Francisco. 

And look at this shot!

Give the kids all the most expensive toys and laugh when they break them in two.


Microsoft Guy? - 12/22/09


In order to work at this office, the question they ask friends is: 'Are you a Microsoft guy?'  If you answer 'Yes' then you get a seat on the couch.

How much of what we say every day influences our kids?  I find it's the most mundane little thing that I say that gets repeated back to me.

Well... whatever... Nevermind...  It's not important...  It doesn't matter to me...  I'm busy...

Careful with these words.  You say them around your kid and they'll get said back to you.  Sometimes on the phone I'll say: 'Is he a Microsoft guy?'  The boys copy me now at their 'work.'

So asking if you're a Microsoft guy?  That's totally A-OK in this house!


Shopping - 12/20/09


Buy me a pair of sunglasses and a piece of pizza.  Take me to Santa.  Love me, love me, looooooove me.

Everyone says Christmas is materialistic.  I don't think it's materialistic enough.  Christmas is when we show each other that a little gift, a surprise, a wrapped little package, can bring joy.  Sometimes it's exactly what you wanted.  Sometimes it's what the...?

But it's Christmas.  It's gifts.  It's fun.  The Christmas Killers come at us with their holier-than-though malarkey about too much materialism. 

Do you want to steal that kid's smile away?  Are you so self-righteous that kids having fun has become a sin?

I say bring the noise and bring those toys Mr C.


Dec's World - 12/19/09


Sometimes, we give Dec the camera.  He takes great pics and they always surprise.

Puzzles, drawings, Dash jumping off a chair (sans pantalons), trains, his feet - all objects important in his world.

4.0 assignment: Pick up a camera and randomly take pictures of your world.  What's the first non-human thing you capture?  Why is that important?

I love Dec's pics because they remind me how big the world is - how big it can be.


Circles baby!

Coffe Mom - 12/18/09


One of the best Dash-Mom pictures!  If you don't know Blue Blue Bottle Coffee, then check it out.  The second-best coffee available in SF.  They sell bags full of "Bella Donovan' coffee, so who can beat that?

What about kids who are exposed to good coffee drinking?  Will they be artistic?  Vote Independent?  Be more jittery than their peers?

Circles baby!

Knits - 12/17/09


If you're wondering what Mon is up to, look no further than this photo.  She has taken to knitting like a dog to a bone.  And we love it here at the house.

A woman who knits is a mystery.  Everything Mon does is a mystery to me.  What is she thinking about?

Remember that woman from A Tale of Two Cities?  Madam De La Farge?  That's Mon.  She's knitting, not saying anything.  But she sees all...


Circles baby!

Santa - 12/16/09


When we get close to what we want, we often back away.  The boys talk non-stop about Santa.  'Let's put that on the list!' they say, when they get a new gift idea.  But when it comes time to sit down with the big man, well, that's another story entirely.

Aren't we all similar, though?  When was the last time you got what you wanted and jumped at it?

At Declan's school, the kids will sing:

 - 'Happy Holidays'

 - Chinese New Year

 - Chanukah Song 

While I'm not turning all news channels to Fox, it does seem strange.  We're celebrating everything except Christmas.  Is the C-word dirty?

Anyway, we owe it all to the pagans.


Circles baby!

Curly Hair - 12/15/09


Dash calls his curls 'circles.'  And there's no doubt about it; 'circles' are cool.  Curly hair has its own personality.  It's like having a neighbor follow you around, except the neighbor would be on top of your head.  Dash looks a lot like Meme.  In photos like this one, the resemblance comes out.  And the curls!  Dash once asked me: 'Why is other hair straight?'  What a Zen thing to say!  Why is any hair straight?

Also note how Dash and Meme both tilt their heads when they smile.  Tara does this as well.  Maybe I do, I'm not sure.  It's one of those mannerisms that makes us look similar, as a family.


Circles baby!

The Mall - 12/14/09


The mall is a fascinating thing.  Malls are a perfect of example of something that makes sense in concept, but in implementation becomes downright creepy.  Malls make sense.  You want to buy stuff?  Put it all close together and serve lattes; people will come.  Sweep the floor and add some sparkly lights for the ladies and put in some gadget stores for the guys.  But things go terribly wrong.  You end up with people in logo-emblazoned shirts, holding trays of pink yogurt shouting: 'Hello sir!  Would you like to try our candy cane mocha chip gellatinianno today?'  And some of these stores sell... exactly what?  A pillow case that doubles as an iPod holder with room from a built-in frog sanctuary?  Two for 50 bucks?  Well...  Now that we're talking price that doesn't seem like such a bad idea.  Where does all this stuff come from (I mean before it's made in China)?  Where is it all going?  When will we run out of plastic?

Brothers, part 1 - 12/13/09


Grant and Charles have always been the 'west coast' brothers to me.  It's interesting, thinking that most of the family thinks of me as a west coaster now.  I don't know if anyone knows how much Grant and Charles have helped me.  When I moved back from France, Charles gave me a job at his law firm, while I was living at his house.  He never rushed me to move out, never complained about my stature as 'not sure what I'm doing here.'  That may be because he convinced me to move back, but that's another story.  We'd play guitar together, swap songs, it was fantastic.  Grant got me an interview with Constructa.  They hired me as a 'French Project Liaison.'  This was my first real job.  Before that....  well... before that there's a long story but I hadn't really worked much before that.  At Constructa, I worked for an absolute nut named Jeff Poetsch (whom I still talk to).  Jeff got me into programming and said: 'You should leave this translation thing behind and go full bore into technology.  You're damn good at it.'  I took his advice and got a job working for a pen software company in Atlanta.  So depending on how you look at it, these guys get all the credit or all the blame!

I still talk to these two a lot, and I'm thankful for it.  So even though I'm cynical this 4.0 non-web thing can be quite touching, even a little hallmark-y.  I owe Grant and Charles a lot!

This photo is from Charles' wedding last year.  Grant was the minister, a thought which sends chills down the spine of even a die-hard pagan like myself.  But Grant really rocked the part.  Charles looks quite dapper and the place he and Doreen got was perfect.  At dinner, everyone was sharing stories about Charles and Doreen.  As the best man, I suddenly realized I had to think of some funny story to share about Charles.  My challenge was not thinking of one; my challenge was which one.  Anyway, I stood up to deliver my eulogy and suddenly Dec reached across my lap and slapped Dash in the face - real hard.  It was a smack-down take-no-prisoners-I-don't-care-if-you're-on-Dad's-lap slap.  They both start fighting right there at the table.  It was all Mon and I can do to wrestle them away from the dinner party.  'Sorry!' I shout, over my shoulder, 'I'll be right back!'

I regret not telling that story, and also regret that I've forgotten which story I was going to tell!


Grant, Charles

Jump in every puddle you can find - 12/12/09


This is serious, mud-flying, boot-filling, teeth-chattering puddle jumping.  Dec pours water out of his boots afterward.  I suggest you jump into any puddle you can find.  I went record shopping with my Dad a long time ago.  I was hemming and hawing over some Thelonious Monk Japan pressed vinyl I had never seen before.  He said: "You gotta buy it.  You'll always have twenty bucks in your pocket, but you might never see this album again."  Well I didn't buy it - and he was right twice.

Jump in every puddle you can find.  If you're not pouring water from your boots at the end of the day, then you haven't lived.

Kids teach you to live life twice - 12/11/09


There's a left-hand turn we take off seventh avenue.  The left-turn light is slow and we often have trouble making the turn.  Lately, the construction crews are 'improving' the road, which means they make the road so bad you wish it would just go back to its old terrible state, then they finish up and it's not much better, but it's way better than it was during construction.  So you think 'Well, they must have done something.'

Dash and I are in the car one day, waiting for that stupid left-turn light to turn green.  Dash says: "Dad!  Look!  They're dumping coal in that truck!"  I say: "I think that's tar-" "Quick!" he says, cutting me off, "Take a PICTURE!"  I fumble my phone and can't get the camera option to come up; the guy behind me leans on his horn, which makes me laugh.  Dash laughs: "Is that man upset, Dad?"  "I dunno," I say, "He's gotta be mad at someone."  I snap a couple photos (a great one has the cab of the truck - not shown here).

I don't think much of it, until later.  Dash asks to see the photos, so I load them onto Mon's computer.  He's very serious about the whole thing, not real excited, a bit grim actually.  He explains to Dec what the trucks are doing.  We all talk about the road.  Dash really thinks about this.  It's important to him to have these photos.

It makes me think of all the beautiful things I breeze by because I'm so focused on the horizon.  Stop and smell the roses?  I have better ideas...  Stop and hear the dump trucks.  Stop and smell the grime.  Stop and taste the acid rain.  It's all a beautiful circus.  Without kids, I think I'd miss most of it.


Dad!  Look!

When you can't be funny, steal a joke - 12/10/09

My friend Al sent me this photo and an email from someone at his work.  I really hesitated before putting this on the 4.0 non-web site.  It's not my joke; the photo is not from our family.  But sometimes, something is simply too funny.  I cannot be improved.  I cannot be altered.  It must be passed on.  After much deliberation, almost as much deliberation as my PFO, I decided to include it here because Bruce (whom I've never met) would fit right in at Centre Farm.  It comforts me, in fact, to know that Bruce is out there.  When I wonder: 'Is there anyone in the world crazier than I?'  I will now hear a resounding: "Yes!  Bruce Addis!"

We shall henceforth celebrate April Fool's Day in your honor and call it 'Bruce Addis Day.'  We will celebrate by taking our humor 'outside.'

Thank you Bruce!   

From: Bruce Addis
Sent: Monday, December 07, 2009 2:26 PM
To: Al Burdulis
Subject: Merry Christmas

"Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with my Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take him down after 2 days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever.  Great stories. But two things made me take it down.

First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by.

Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn't realize it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). By the way, she was one of many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn't take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard."

Bruce Addis

Neighborhoods - 12/09/09


For those of you who don't know Declan's friend Nate, all you have to do is look at this picture.  You see that yellow-hooded blur with a smile?  That's Nate in his natural habitat.  He's a ball of energy and smiles like you would not believe.  Many have tried to photograph Nate, and many have failed.  That neutron squashing machine in Switzerland is 1/2 the speed of Nate.  Years from now, we will measure distances between galaxies as 'Nates.'  But I digress...

Declan considers this cafe his.  It's called Trouble Coffee and it's the best coffee you will ever drink in your life.  We live in the Sunset, which is the best neighborhood in the world.  If you walk the length of Judah Street, you will hear 4-5 different languages and most signs will be in Chinese, with some in Russian.  Irish bars still survive (I mean, who ever thought an Irish Bar was a bad investment?)  but they're disappearing.  From our house west, it's all nicely trimmed homes and over-cast skies.  When you hit the 40's, you begin to see the surf community.  If there's good waves, you'll see commuter-sized groups of people in wet suits walking down the street, headed for Ocean Beach. 

A couple blocks west of Trouble Coffee, the Pacific Ocean.  It opens like a blue lawn stretching the horizon.  I often walk to 30th Ave and peak over the hills at the ocean.  This is where we live!  Declan and Dashiell will say 'I grew up in the Sunset.'

How cool is that?  A neighborhood. 


Marriage - the great catastrophe! - 12/08/09

If you want to worry about your marriage, look no further than this long-winded article in the NY Times.  I just finished it.  It's not really worth the read, but for someone out-of-work, it certainly made time pass.  But look at these two here in this photo!  One time, when visiting Dad at Sunrise, I told Mon: 'Get ready.  This is where I'm headed.'  She said: 'Ok.  I'll bring my knitting.'  I had no idea what that meant, but a few weeks later I had a stroke.  And Monica brought her knitting!  She stuck with me big time.  Read the blog if you don't believe me.

Marriage is such an interesting thing.  Were Mom and Dad masters?  Did they even know what they were doing?  Since their generation had less tolerance for 'choice' (whatever that means), did they feel compelled to make things work?  Did they ever think: 'We have no choice'?  Did their faith 'force' them to stay together?  Only they know for sure, but here are some key things I saw.

 - Dad always talked about how great Meme looked.  Always.  He would compliment her 20 times in one dinner.  You would have thought he had just met her and was trying to woo her away.  He flirted with her endlessly.  She would smile, knowing he was hers.

 - Meme always knew what Dad liked.  On nights when he didn't have to go back to the hospital, she would open his beer and put the newspaper by his dinner plate.  I knew this meant that Dad had the night off.  On nights when he was on call, she'd put coffee and no newspaper (not sure why no paper).  A small thing that I'm not sure Dad noticed - maybe he did.  Not sure.

 - They laughed a lot together.  The only thing I saw Dad enjoy immensely, while Mom scowled, was The Benny Hill Show.  It still amazes me that Benny Hill was on PBS.  Anyway, Dad loved this show and he used to let me watch it with him.  Mom did not approve.  Otherwise, Mom and Dad really seemed to laugh at the same things.

 -  Dad always bought Mom stuff, surprises.  He always kept her guessing, which I think she enjoyed.

 -  They travelled a lot together.  I do think travelling bonds people.  You figure out directions, check into strange hotels, listen to the accents of the people, discover new music and art.  You eat strange foods and laugh at your belly aches.  Travel turns a couple into a team.  This was true for Mom and Dad for sure.  One time in Hawaii, Mom, Dad Tara and I were so lost (on an island!!) that we started following the setting sun, thinking it would at least bring us to the western part of the island.  At one point, we stopped at this lumberyard.  Dad asked the woman there for directions.  Trying to help, she came out of her office to point which way - and ended up locking herself out of her own office!  We four were laughing so hard, trying to hide our chuckles but unable to.  The funniest things happen when you travel together.

 - They read books together.  They didn't necessarily read the same book at the same time, but I remember them talking about books.  Oddly, I don't remember Mom talking much about Melville (whom Dad loved) but otherwise, I remember them talking about books a lot. 

 - They shared a faith.  I remember Dad once saying: 'I was reading this book about how someone thought God could be a woman.  How ridiculous!'  He laughed and laughed.  Meme said: 'Well.  She could, you know.'  And they talked and talked.  Dad's point was actually very interesting.  He thought that, since the spirit 'entered' us, then God had to be male.  I was pretty young when we were discussing this, and I thought it was fascinating.  I remember watching Dad pray at church and wondering at how weak he looked.  He would take his glasses off, holding them in one hand.  He brought his other hand over his eyes and bend his head low.   He looked so troubled, hunched over with some great weight.  I still wonder what Dad prayed for.  I watched him pray; I'd always sneak glances.  It terrified me to see him so troubled.

 - They didn't worry about money.  I never saw them argue about money.  While it's true that we certainly had a lot, I remember Mom telling me recently: 'People always thought we were swimming in money; they didn't know how far in debt we were!'  She said that with a laugh, and then explained to me how much they had to borrow to buy One Salem Street.  I was amazed.  Personally, I have not taken the same risks.  I don't have the guts.  They really were living on a string for a long time.  But I never saw them fight about it.  In fact, one year, they were audited by the IRS.  I remember this very well!  There were piles of tax files in the ballroom at Centre Farm. It was even more insane than normal.  At one point, Dad was explaining to Mom all the different files, which years they were, etc.  and he just started busting up laughing.  He and Mom were laughing hysterically for about 10 minutes.  It was all so ridiculous, so terrifyingly Kafkaesque that all they could do was laugh.  I think of that and smile.  They never took themselves too seriously.  They never fought about money. 

My favorite part of Mom and Dad is that they did not teach me by telling me.  They simply did what they did; it was up to me to follow.  I try to do this with the boys, but it's tough.   Other siblings will have their own versions of Mom and Dad and they're all true.

(And thanks to Lea for the photo!) 



We're lumberjacks, and we're OK! - 12/07/09


Sometimes, you're handed a little gem.  This is the barn at Centre Farm.  One day, in a stroke of genius, someone said: 'Hey!  Let's have a hoe-down in the barn and all act like we're from Texas!'  As you can tell from this crowd, it was probably Lea's idea. The only one smiling is Lea - and it's a big damn smile.  This proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the hoe-down was Lea's idea.  Maybe Protestants dress like this!

Let's take each of these characters one by one and savor the moment.

Meme.  Her smile is strained.  She's saying: 'I'm gonna get Lea for this one...'  You can also see that glimmer in her eye.  She's thinking: 'There's so much space in the barn.  Hmmm.  Should we go shopping after this?'

Lea.  I saw those pants on a homeless guy in 1987 and his friends we're making fun of him!  Look at those pants!  Those pants could start and then stop World War III.  Your hat is bigger than God and your hair looks fantastic!  You are savoring the moment of getting everyone to dress like cowboys.  Who can manipulate the wills of men like Lea?  Even now, if Lea said: 'Simon, you'd look good in chaps...' I'd resist, but I know I'd soon find myself, lasso in hand, singing Buck Owens tunes.

Me.  There's only one thing to do in this situation and that's give the peace sign.  You know, in London, this means something else entirely.  And my mouth, it's turned up at the corner.  I think I'm in the middle of saying: 'Please save me from these people!'

Ed.  He is thinking: 'I left med school for this?'  Also, Ed looks pretty dangerous.  Is he reaching for a gun?  And that vest!  Ed should wear that vest over his lab coat.  Advantages:

 - Keeps any blood stains discreet.

 - Who would mess with a cowboy doctor? 

Grant.  Does anyone know the band Phish?  Grant actually sings lead for them.  Grant looks thoughtful.  He just moved back from Steamboat and he's thinking: 'I leave, and everyone is normal...  I come back, and they all dress like people from Steamboat circa 1903.  Is this some strange welcome party?

Dad.  He's saying: 'You don't like these over-alls, then come over here and f..k with me!'  The only time I saw Dad looking that mad was one time when I told him I didn't think taking out the trash was work that suited me.  Of all of us, Dad looks the most like he actually came from the fields, tilling the earth on the farm.

Cowboy Donovan