Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day: Ouch

Today is Boxing Day, and we're gathering up donations and cleaning the house. We took a little Boxing Day break and ran up to Carkeek Park, and let the kids run around for an hour. It was wonderful, cold but clear, and the kids had a blast. I, however, was not careful and fell hard, crashing my lumbering oaf body to the concrete. Both of my hands are now horribly sore. There's no permanent damage, but it doesn't feel nice.

Then, as an irritation addendum, I broke my teapot. Luckily I have a back up. A true tea aficionado is never without a reserve in which to prepare his tea. Overall is was a nice relaxing day. I just need to learn to be careful. The strangest thing about my age is that I feel the same as I did at eighteen. I just can't correct for mistakes as easily, and when I make a mistake, the pain doesn't ease in minutes. It takes days.

Taviri is really hilarious about Boxing Day. I don't think he understands at all that we are gathering donations for Goodwill, but he is so excited about the day regardless. Whatever his personality quirks, his unbridled enthusiasm for whatever is happening at the moment is a great asset. The day seems more fun now.

Friday, December 25, 2009

On The First Day Of Christmas

My truly lovely family gave to me a wonderful day. Until some late onset spazz attacks at Herc and Sarah's Christmas dinner extravaganza, the kids were incredibly sweet and well behaved on Christmas day. This was our first Christmas that really felt like a family event; everyone is big enough to enjoy it, the kids really got into their gifts. The night before, Viri and I curled up and watched the NORAD Santa tracker, and talked about the traditions of the day. This is an interesting time, when they are young enough to look at the holiday as a special day, but too young to understand what is going on or what is expected of them.

Everyone had a great day, so I consider it a rousing success. Viri got various fun gifts, and Arkaedi made everything super cute. Due in a large part to The Full family, and Gramma and Bebe, and Herc and Sarah, my kids were loaded with awesome presents. It pays to have great friends and family, kids. That's a good holiday lesson.

If anyone is interested, here are the multitude of holiday photos. Merry Christmas to all! Joy and peace to you. And to me and my exhausted children, a good and restful night. Hopefully silent. But I'm not banking on that part.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's A Christmas Week Celebration

We've had a fun week of Christmas celebration here, beginning with a trip to Seattle Center to see the winter village with the mighty Herc. It was a good time, and Viri ran spazzing into the chilly afternoon. As he is wont to do. To be honest, the standard money and career and parenting frustrations had been building for a few weeks, and I was really not looking forward to the season. I've been avoiding it fairly successfully. But, the sight of the festive families and my kids running and playing cheered me up, and I shifted into holiday gear.

Jaime takes the twelve days of Christmas idea very seriously. The twelve days represent the months, and you are supposed to treat them as a microcosm of the coming year. Christmas eve is the last day of advent, a day off, so to speak, and Christmas day begins the twelve days. We're very sincerely trying to make these days good, and prepare ourselves for the enxt year. It will have it's trials and tribulations, certainly. The next year for us is very up in the air. Which can be good or bad; hence the preparing. I'm setting the foundation for a great year for our family, in my attitude and behavior.

Today we took a vacation day. We drove out to the little Bavaria of western Washington, Leavenworth. It is a really fun and odd little town. It really reminded us of the touristy type places in Switzerland. (A lot of people in Seattle mock it for being a tourist destination or not actually being Bavaria. Which is ridiculous; sure it's touristy. But being "German" in a fun way isn't any sillier than being a French restaurant or Japanese karaoke place. It's just a theme. Pull the stick out, city of Seattle, and relax.) It's a neat place, and the kids just loved it. Viri went sledding, we looked at bizarre German knick knacks, and got keychains with our family crests! (Barkers have lions and gryphons! We're awesome.)

The kids were perfect, which was a pleasant change from the earlier part of the week. I think the mood was affecting them. I know Viri especially was sensitive to how irate I have been. So, I made an effort to relax and have fun, and Jaime and I joked and laughed, and the kids just fell right into step. We had an amazing family outing. The high point for me was watching Viri dive headfirst down the hill on his sled. He was a berserker today, and I think it really opened him up. With the weather being chilly and wet, he hasn't gotten enough outside time. He is an outside boy; he behaves so much better when he can run and scream and go crazy.

Tomorrow is a day to get things in order, and take some personal time. I'm going to the gym, cleaning the car, and clearing my head for the twelve days of Christmas. I think it will do me good to take it pretty seriously this year as well. I want good things for the family in the coming year. And today I was reminded that good things aren't luck. They happen when you take a breath, open your heart, and have fun with the people you love. In my experience there's no such thing as luck.*

*That's in the Bible, right?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Baseball Off-Season Shenanigans

The baseball off season has been very wonderfully busy for the Seattle Mariners. We acquired a Cy Young pitcher in Cliff Lee, we got rid of some bad contracts, and we got a nice hitter with the hilarious name of Milton Bradley. In addition to the pieces already in place and the feel good signing of everyone's childhood hero Ken Griffey Jr., this is shaping up to be a masterpiece.

Bradley has a pretty bad reputation as a troublemaker, actually, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. For one, when you're winning, those things become less important. Secondly, I've heard some pretty nasty things said about him from the fans in Chicago, and that would make everyone a little irate. I can promise you this, Milton: we might chuckle softly at your fun name, but there will be no racist epithets from the fans at Safeco. We do not tolerate that in Seattle.

So, the year that I may be leaving Seattle is the year that they trade for some star players and really make a try at contention. They haven't been to the playoffs since 2001, and they look to seriously want to get back in 2010. If I do move, I am flying back to Safeco for the games this season. I'll hitchhike to the playoff games if I must, but I will not miss a winning season here.

I often state that people should support teams by geographic region. Meaning, if you live in NYC, you root for the Mets or the (God forbid) Yankees. But I have destroyed my own theory with my devotion to the Mariner's in the past few years. I can change football teams, I can root for other NL teams...But I'm doomed to be a Mariner fan, for good or ill. No matter where I live, Seattle is going to be my baseball team. I am now stuck with two teams, my university, West Virginia University, and the Mariners.

The current GM, Jack Zduriencik, definitely gives me reason to hope. If I was the kind to hold up signs at the ballpark to express myself, I'd make one that says "Cliff Lee is great, Jack Z, but you had me at Junior."

On second thought maybe I'll become the kind of guy who makes signs just for that one.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Paella Man! Wing One Over Here!

This has been the month of cooking experiments at the Barker household. As you may have noticed, I am enamored with olive oil, garlic, and other Mediterranean staples. My favorite Mediterranean dish I've ever made is the farmer's paella. It's fairly quick, easy, and wonderfully colorful. It's also probably the most nutritious thing I have ever eaten. It's basically fresh veggies and rice in vegetable broth. This is actually so wonderful that I'm going to post how to make it. I don't know if anyone will want to try it, but I highly recommend that you do.

First, what you need. It's flexible, but the basic stuff I use are as follows:
2 cloves garlic
A nice olive oil (3tbl or so for this recipe)
A yellow onion
Saffron threads
2 cups Veggie broth (I use low sodium)
1 red bell pepper
1 cup arborio rice
1 lb tomatoes (four normal roma tomatoes are roughly a pound)
6-8 baby carrots
1 bag frozen lima beans
1 bag frozen peas
pepper (NOT Pepa)
some slivered almonds for garnishing

I cook the entire recipe in one big cast iron, save for the first bit, which I simmer in a small sauce pan.

First, simmer the broth with a 1/4 teaspoon of the saffron threads. (I just toss in a small bit. I don't like measuring unless I have too. It's why I'm a good cook and a lousy baker.) Don't boil the sauce, just get a light simmer.

In the big skillet, saute the garlic and onions for a few minutes.
Add the bell pepper, and cook a few more minutes.
Add the tomatoes, diced fairly fine, and all of the juices.
Stir in the rice, uncooked. It'll cook up nicely in the next few steps.
Mix all that up fairly well, then add the broth.
Simmer this on medium high heat, then turn it down.
Add the lima beans and the baby carrots. For tender carrots chop them up pretty fine.
Cover it and simmer on low-medium heat for ten minutes.
Add the frozen peas. (I never use the whole package. I use a half cup or so)
Simmer for a few more minutes. It should be creamy and thick. If it's runny, or the rice isn't soft, leave it a few minutes.
Serve immediately with slivered almonds on each bowl.
Make sure to honor the Simpsons and order each guest (ORDER them) to say, "Yo, paella man! Wing one over here!" before they get served.

This is a wonderful and wholesome wintry delight. Viri even likes it. ("Papa, this is not gross!")

This is adapted from the Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen, my new favorite cookbook. Buy one today!

Rifftrax Xmas Joy

Herc, Sarah, Jeff and I saw Rifftrax live last night. It was as wonderful as it sounds. Enjoy these insane clips.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nice Cooking Part Deux

I know how to spend a weekend. I went to the gym, burned off a few calories, then proceeded to pile them back on with pastries. I continued my experiment with cooking Mediterranean delights today with a favorite in southern France, pain au chocolat. Or, chocotastic doughy yumminess. I was exceedingly pleased with how these came out, although I can't really take any credit. Jaime helped me, and the cookbook (Vegan Brunch) was from Ryan Full. So, all I really did was listen to Jaime, follow directions, and make some yummy pastries. For me, however, that's a huge win.

These have a special place in my heart because of a trip Jaime and I took to Europe in the winter of 1999-2000. My parents were separating, I had just graduated college, and I was a little discomfited by everything going on in my life. Jaime and I flew to Italy, and traveled through Italy and France and Switzerland as a graduation present to me. It was a wonderful trip, perhaps our greatest vacation ever. We had been married so long we traveled together easily, with no arguments or disagreements about where to go or what to do.

A few days before New Year's eve we ended up in Nice, France. We decided to stay there, and spend the holiday relaxing on the chilly beach and eating wonderful food. No one in France was panicking about the Y2K nonsense, which shows that they are more sensible than Americans in at least one way. As one person there put it, Nice survived Roman invasion, marauding barbarians, and Nazis. It would still be there in 2001. That's just a sample of their wonderful attitude.

Jaime and I spent every morning walking in the cold, eating pain au chocolat. We would walk up the old streets, past beautiful old churches cottages. It was a lovely time. On New Year's Eve at midnight a beautiful French girl ran around kissing everyone and saying "Bonne Anne!" or something that meant happy New Year. Pain au chocolat makes me full and happy and transports me to that memory. And they look good too!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mediterranean Extraordinaire

I had an extremely successful cooking experience today. I made risotto and bruschetta, and they came out great. I took the time to venture into holiday shoppers and hit Delaurenti's deli downtown, and it was well worth it. The extra good olive oil and cooking wine made the difference. The risotto was slow cooked to perfection, and the vine ripened tomatoes in olive oil and balsamic vinegar made for a fantastic bruschetta appetizer. I was very pleased with the final result, and so where Jaime and the kids.

The entire trip downtown was fun, in truth. It was packed at the Pike Place Market, with tons of people out for the holiday shopping. Everyone was having fun, and celebrating that age old Seattle tradition of standing wherever they wanted and not moving for anyone. Even Viri got in the spirit and stood in doorways, blocking people from moving.

Seriously though the mood was nice, and there were carolers and decorations and trees enough to please Viri. Arkaedi didn't notice as much, as she is less impressed with Christmas and more impressed with mundane things at her age. ("Purple wall!") It made for a pleasant day off, and everyone was happy and festive. The holiday season is officially here at the Barker household. Arkaedi even limited her attacks on Viri's face to one today, in a charitable holiday spirit.

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's The End The End Of The Quarter

I had Ramones in my head all day, since Viri heard Blitzkrieg Bop on a commercial and said, "Hey Papa I like that let's go song." I was torn between irritation that his exposure was on a commercial, and joy at hearing my music hating child express pleasure at a song. A fun song, at that.

It's the end of a quarter of work. As usual, I'm torn; it's nice to have some time off, especially for the kids. But I hate having three unpaid weeks. Especially when Jaime gets to working on the budget. It reminds me again of the unsustainability of our situation. It's a shame, because I love my job, and I love Seattle. But I don't have a way for this to work long term. I need to get a better paying job, with fewer weeks off a year.

The plus side of all of this, as I mentioned in my career ruminations earlier, is my search for just such a job has been really interesting and rewarding. I'm discovering what I want to do, and how that can turn into what I can make money doing. I'm not hamstrung by ideology. I'm ready to just flip through the metaphorical listings and make some choices. Hopefully, when the new year rolls around, I'll have some concrete progress to show for all of my cogitation. Which will be a first time, granted, but I'm willing to accept that the first time for this has come.

And here's Pretty in a lovely pink dress: who wouldn't want to work and provide for that paragon of cuteness?

Nobody, that's who.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Live Cinematic Titanic!

This is one of the films we saw live when they played in Seattle. I'm not sure where this live dvd was filmed, but I'm sure it's awesomely wonderful.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Terrible Not Quite Twos

We have entered that dreaded phase, the terrible ego maniacal twos. Arkaedi Sue is a demon on wheels. (When... when she is on wheels. Usually she's a demon on feet.)(Actually she's a demon in awesome pink boots. Perfect.)

In a few short seconds, she scratches Viri, knocks over his soy milk, runs into the computer room and deletes something, then does a victory dance. I don't even know how she moves so fast. She must have planned out the attack in order to execute it so ruthlessly. It's deadly efficiency from someone who is three feet tall and twenty five pounds. (Viri hugged her and said he still loved her. He's a trooper.)

I remember this stage with Viri. It was the "never again will I have children" phase. Now, knowing I probably won't be having any more, it is both more and less frustrating. I'm anxious for it to be over, but I'm sad, too. They're only irritating in this special way for a short time. Which sounds sarcastic, but it isn't.

Arkaedi is going through this sooner than Viri did. I guess it's a combination girl/second kid thing, but she is terrible a few months before two, and he was terribly a few months before three. Maybe Viri just saved it up. Maybe I didn't notice it as easily. I surely notice this; the milk stains and scars on my son are a record.

At least she's cute about it. She gets away with so much more due to her cuteness. After dumping her food out for the third time the other day, I growled at her in exasperation. She ran over to the doorway, threw her hands in the air, and shouted "Me!" at the top of her lungs. Which, now that I think about it, means she wins. I have a feeling I'd better get used to that. Pretty Pretty is born to be a winner.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Me Time: Crayons And Potties

We spend our free time in various ways, reading, watching a show, or perhaps having a cup of coffee and relaxing. The kids have there own ways to find down time. Viri, avoiding his pestering little sister, goes to the potty and takes some crayons. He draws up a few starship Enterprises, and has a few moments free of Arkaedi Sue.

Arkaedi Sue, when she isn't poking and scratching at her poor brother, sits and draws by herself at the table. She draws kitties and babies, mostly. She often draws Papa. She doesn't have the passion for the starship Enterprise that he does. She makes up for it by singing cute songs as she draws.

The ability the kids have to just spend time having fun is really great. Both of them are always enjoying themselves, and they rarely complain that they're bored. Maybe this is because I'm always around, but I think they are good at keeping themselves occupied. Two and four are strange ages, and it's funny to watch their worldviews adapt to the situations they see around them. The strange part is not how they see the world; that's often odd and funny. The strange part is that their basic temperament is not altered. They still act like themselves, even when faced with totally new paradigms. Viri is the little fist of justice, Arkaedi is physical and singing. (Beef Singsong!)

I hope to be able to see this aspect of them, even as they grow to adulthood. I know the seeds of the little babies are still there, in some sense. I want the wisdom to continue to appreciate it. And to have a daughter who doesn't get too mad when I call her Beef.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Brain Flexing And Neurological Heft

If last year was my year of being reminded to keep my physical health up, this year is the year of the mental exercise. I've always prided myself on being able to learn. Especially the things that interest me. So, this year, I'm making an effort to dust off some books, nail down some logical puzzles and linguistic acrobatics, and get me some ol' fashioned book learnin'.

To start with, I got a few books of Greek and Latin. I figured I'd really go old fashioned. It's really exciting, and I love it. I adore languages, and I've always had some skill at learning and using them. It's a little different to just read ancient languages; my skill has always been in speaking and communication. Ask anyone who's spoken Japanese or Spanish with me-- it ain't pretty, but I get the job done. With my ancient language study, I'm trying to approach it differently. Much like a logical problem, I'm trying to get the basic structures down, and not communicate basic ideas. An advantage of studying something no one else speaks or uses is the process becomes wholly an intellectual one, and the social and cultural concerns I usually obsess over are non-existent.

One my major problems has always been my laziness. Not the "lay around the couch" kind of laziness; I'm actually pretty energetic. But the intellectual laziness that comes from not being challenged by mediocre problems. School was always easy for me, even college. I wasn't brilliant, but it was easy to be good. When it's easy to be good, a mentally lazy person like me never strives to be great. Now, at a relatively young 33, I feel the desire to push myself to reach for an intellectual greatness. If not a world shattering greatness, at least great beyond what I have used my mind for so far.

I've spent a lot of time being the person I wish to be, spiritually and emotionally. I'm a good father, I hope, and a good husband. (Or, Jaime's a good liar!) I don't want to be a Senator or a millionaire, or anything ridiculous. But I want to use my mind to do some good work, for me and my community. I haven't decided exactly what it means to attempt this, or exactly how: part of my cure for laziness is taking time to think it through, to plan it to the last detail. I wouldn't leave my kids in a situation where I hadn' contemplated every permutation, and I don't ever plan on leaving my brain in such a place. Not anymore.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Thankfulness And Thankless Tasks

We had a mixed holiday yesterday. On one hand, we had a wonderful dinner at our friends' houses, including a meal at one place and dessert at another. On the other hand, our house flooded for the second time this year and a ton of our stuff was ruined. So, after a morning spent worrying and being really upset, the afternoon with friends was much needed. Today, we're cleaning and trying to figure out what we can save and what we must trash. Jaime is doing most of the deciding.

On the plus side, today is a nice day, and we're not as upset as we could be. It's all a matter of perspective. In the grand scheme of things, some ruined things are not the end of the world. The real problem now is trying to sort through the stuff and figure out where it goes and what to do next. Jaime is a natural hoarder, and there is a lot of stuff to organize. We did have the nice meal and a night's sleep to energize us though, so we'll get it done.

All of this has a huge silver lining for me: it really highlights my search for what I want to do next. I feel young, in a way I haven't felt for years.

It's odd. I am young, at 33. But for a few years, with kids and money and poor habits and all of that, I have been feeling overextended and worn out. Suddenly, in the past few months, that has gone away. Even yesterday, with the frustration and sadness of dealing with the house, I felt excited and filled with purpose. Jaime says it's change; and there is no doubt I am a junkie for change. But I thing it's also the energy of being reminded that I'm young, I have a wonderful family, I'm healthy, and there are always options out there for people who want to excel.

I no longer define success by the narrow terms that used to limit me. I spent my twenties trying to be true to myself. I wanted an ideological victory. In a sense I achieved that victory, by learning the shallowness of ideology. In my thirties, I want to excel at being who I am, as a person. My kids are growing, and I'm trying to provide for them, socially and spiritually as well as materially. That process of learning what really matters to me as a person has given me strength that the ideological quest never could. I no longer have a standard to aspire to on paper, I have a person to be. I used to write about abstractions that made up a person without understanding the limitations of those abstractions. The next decade is my concrete dedication to growth, for me and my family. That means materially, spiritually, and socially. Most important, it does not mean abstractly or ideologically.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Very Fresh

Careers And Working (For A Living, Not On A Highway)

I'm continuing my ever-evolving quest to evaluate my career and professional goals. I expect this to continue until I die, so please don't expect any great epiphanies. (Actually it may continue well past death-- I'll be the one lined up at the pearly gates discussing possible Seraphim openings with Gabriel.)

I've always been guided by ideology, something which I have worked hard these past few years to stop. I didn't go to law school after college, in a large part because of my professor's disdain for the profession. I went to acupuncture school to learn about alternative health because of a political interest in the health care system. I'm grateful for the people who informed these decisions, of course; they shaped me and allowed me to move forward in my real life. No one would have been well served by me in a cubicle and miserable for this past decade. (Well, the prostitution and pastry industries would have benefited-- but no one cares about them.)

I needed to be where I was, when I was. Now, as Jaime begins her career and evaluates where she is where she wants to be, I'm doing the same. I have time: I'm just over thirty, my kids are ready to start school in a few years. This is the chance to really think about where I want to be and how to get there. I'm really happy I spent the time I did, building myself and my family. It sounds self-indulgent, and maybe it is a little, but I know if I had tried to have a career at twenty I would have messed up something badly. Now, I have a stable marriage, two great kids, and years to really make a living. I could work from now for thirty years starting in two years and still be relatively young. Especially if J succeeds in hiding all the sugar in the house.

I'm off to write resumes and contemplate where I want to be in two years when both of the kids are in school. I feel strangely how my mother must have felt, when her kids were getting bigger and she went off to school to become a teacher. Oddly enough, my life has paralleled hers in this way. And perhaps I'll look back on my few years with the kids tiny, me at home, as the best of my life. But somehow I don't think so; I think the best years of your life are very much in how you live it, and in how you appreciate the moments in front of you. At least, that's what I'll tell Gabriel when I'm interviewing for the guardian angel job.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Long Winter's Rest?

Apologies to family and friends who keep up with my blog. With a busy week, and the dark and dreary Seattle weather, we haven't gotten out as much, and so I haven't had a ton to write about. In the coming weeks we have some time off, a holiday, and I'll finish a fun book about the Cincinnati Reds. I promise I'll get back to work on writing about the kids soon. In the meantime, check out this!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Soul Of Baseball

I'm really getting into sports in my thirties. It's odd; I'm not sure exactly where the impulse comes from, but it's happening and I'm going with it. (I'm referring, of course, to the two important sports: football and baseball. Soccer gets a pass for being Europe-y and fun to play, if impossible to watch sober. The others are not sports, and should be watched accordingly.)

I love baseball to a great extent. While I'll watch football and have fun (I'm watching the Colts and Patriots now. Great names. Indianapolis Colts. New England Patriots. Definitely in my top ten team names) baseball really means something to me. I'm moved by baseball. I'm hurt when people don't get it. I'm angered by fans and owners who don't treat the game with respect. I agree with one of my heroes, Buck O'Neil, who said that baseball and jazz are the two greatest American inventions. I learned a ton of amazing things about him and his amazing life, and read a ton of the cool sayings that got recorded in Joe Posnanski's book, The Soul of Baseball. It's about baseball, and America, and race and faith. It's mostly about Buck O'Neil. He also wrote a great book about the Cincinnati Reds, which is fun. (I've really gone to town on baseball books this month.)

Buck O'Neil, as any casual fan even knows, was a Negro League first baseman who later became the first black coach in the majors. He was a brilliant baseball man, and in a different time would have been a manager or a GM. He was smart, he charmed everyone who met him, and he said wonderful quotable things. (Another of my favorites: "There are angels everywhere.")

The book is on my list as one of the greatest I have ever read. I'm quite a reader, and I don't make that statement lightly. It is an amazing book. Joe basically follows Buck through his life for a year or so, chronicling his interactions, listening as he makes the effort to remember people who deserve to be remembered. When baseball fans like me go on about baseball, we often talk about the history of the game, and how that tradition makes it great. But that tradition isn't great because it's all good; on the contrary, it's great because it's enormous, flawed, and American. Baseball is intertwined with the country, and love it or hate it, every American is a product of that history as well. It's fascinating to me for that reason.

I highly recommend that book to everyone interested in baseball. Or race. Or faith. Or awesome people. Or anyone else. Look, just read the book.

Top Ten Team Names, in no particular order:
1. NY Giants (the baseball one was first)
2. NY Titans (better than Jets)
3. Cincinnati Reds
4. Chicago Cubs (so cute. "cubs." cuddly)
5. New England Patriots (the whole region. we're too big for one state!)
6. NY Yankees ( hate 'em, of course. but good name.)
7. Washington Nationals
8. Boston Red Sox/Chicago White Sox (tie)(or pair? hehe)
9. Philadelphia Athletics
10. Indianapolis Colts (as cute as cubs, but tougher!)

This list was restricted to Major League or NFL teams. I could have talked about minor leagues for days. Or Negro League teams. Atlanta Black Crackers? Genius!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Space Ghost And Dino Boy Together Inexplicably

My son's obsession with strange and disturbing cartoons continues, this time with the discovery of the 1966 insanity that is Space Ghost and Dino Boy. They aren't together in the show, just paired together in separate shorts for no discernible reason. They have nothing in common: Space Ghost is a superhero who turns invisible and wastes everyone's time until a monkey can save him or get saved, and Dino Boy is a virulently racist kid who travels around with a caveman and dinosaur and runs from things.

Space Ghost is a pretty good time in some ways. The voices are over the top. (Jace is voiced by Tim Matheson, Vice President Hoynes in the West Wing!) The animation is horrible, but colorful. Space Ghost has a fun array of powers from his wrist bands, although the turning invisible seems the least effective of them. When you can make giant pile-drivers appear and smash your enemies, is there a need for subterfuge? But despite some of these silly problems, and the attempt of the writers to shoehorn the whole "invisible space ghost" theme into a science fiction show, Space Ghost is pretty good. The real problem with this show is Dino Boy.

First of all, the boy is voiced by Johnny Carson, and that made me waste time discovering that it isn't THAT Johnny Carson. I bet he got really sick of that. Second, the premise is one of those half baked ideas that drive me nuts. The boy crashes in South America, and finds a lost kingdom of cavemen and dinosaurs. Now I recognize that these writers didn't have Wikipedia to look up La Paz, but come on, writers. You know South America is not Pangaea. Is it that hard to just make the kid fly through a time warp? I'll forgive the caveman/dinosaurs living at the same time thing. It's a cartoon. But I won't forgive lazy storytelling.

The second, larger problem, is that the show is oddly racist. The bad guys are weird caricatures of Africans, or sometimes Native Americans. One strange villain is a short dark skinned guy with a bald head, straight out of a racist political cartoon of the 19th century. I understand that 1966 is not 2009, but come on, guys. It isn't 1830 either. At one point Viri just turned to me and frowned. They don't use any bad terms, so I didn't want to turn it off; but the creepy image was a bit much. I would definitely avoid it for my kids, if these strange and disturbing cartoons weren't so captivating to Viri.

The Dino Boy doesn't do anything either. The two episodes I watched involved him running from bad guys he found. He just wanders around and finds trouble? Then runs away? Solid storytelling there! At least Space Ghost had fun monsters that chased him and developed ridiculous plots to capture him. (My favorite: Metallus invites him to his ship, shows him his plan, then lets him go. Later, Space Ghost just comes back and beats him up. Can you explain your thinking on this, Metallus?)

I've got to continue to find some of these for him, and for my own twisted curiosity. I'm especially curious about the Alex Toth cartoons, like Space Ghost and Herculoids. He also wrote early Green Lantern comics, which I would love to expose Viri to when he gets old enough. If he likes the style of the cartoons, he'll really like the Golden Age comic style, once he's able to appreciate it. For now, it's crazy animation and invisible monkeys! And Dino Boy wandering around Copacabana being racist!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Death Of My Camera

So, my trusty Konica Dimage has passed on. It is an ex-camera. Nothing I can do will restart it, or even get the little lens-cover device to close. I have no idea why it won't work, it just locked up and won't do anything. It is no more. I'm a little more sad at this than I would be any other device that I could lose or break, because this camera has documented the entire life of Viri and Arkaedi. JoAnn and Becky bought me this camera when Viri was first born, and I have used it to take thousands of photos. Mostly I have pictures of the kids, but also friends and family, some nice natural scenery in the Northwest, and even a few of me.

Here is a link to my photo album, which will mostly stay the same for a bit until I can get a new good camera. Any recommendations?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Jaime

Today is Jaime's birthday. I'm using the day to shower her with love and affection. After so many years, we've run out of gifts. I was never the best gift buyer anyways; I think she'd rather have a clean house and fed children. Appropriately enough, we're spending it working and cleaning and caring for the kids. It's a little more fun, though, because we're reminded of how awesome it is to have our little family. We're also reminded of how long we've been a couple, since today is also the anniversary of when we started dating. Appropriately enough, it was the day she turned seventeen. She has been dating me half of her life, as she reminds me. (I could trade her in now for two seventeen year olds, I remind her. She isn't sure that's legal.)

I can't believe how long it's been, how many birthdays and anniversaries. It's pretty amazing though. Looking through old pictures, so many of the memories are tied into places and people and situations that have since changed; the one constant in my life is Jaime. I can even remember in perfect detail the one birthday of those seventeen years that she was in Malaysia and we weren't together. It still makes me sad. One day without her in seventeen and it gives me a little twinge of pain. It's a sweet twinge, though, because the years we've spent together remind me of how precious that time is.

I sometimes get on a little rant about relationships, and staying together. It drives my friends and acquaintances nuts, especially those who have been through divorce or serial monogamy. But there is a reason I come back to it, other than the standard "I-can-never-shut-up" reason that I go on about everything: My life works and contains joy to the extent that I have held onto the people who have meaning to me. My time with Jaime has made my life better in innumerable ways. I think many of us would benefit from making an effort to build commitment in all areas of our lives as well. This means not only staying together, but working and building and growing together. We don't try to do that, we don't compromise, hold fast, or change in the right measure. We don't do what it takes to be together, as friends and partners, and our society and world suffers for it.

I'm glad we made the effort, forgave each other mistakes, and learned to be a couple. We're both better for it.

Okay, mostly me. But maybe a little bit Jaime too.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Busyness Isn't A Word

We've spent a crazy few weeks here. Between J's busy schedule, and my fairly busy schedule, and 24/7 kid stuff, I'm about to collapse. Well, I would be, if I wasn't spending my Saturday evening sitting on the recliner watching cartoons with the boy. That's a fairly relaxing end to the week, I'll admit. But overall, this is not a sustainable pace for me. I'm enjoying my work; and I even kept the house fairly under control. I cleaned the kids' room, even, which is a shock to us all.

I really wonder how people do it, week after week. I know the kids won't be 2 and 4 forever, and as they grow they get easier in some ways. But they get tougher in some ways too, and running them all over town for this and that, helping with school, and then trying to work enough to pay the bills seems as daunting to me as taking them with me everywhere does at the moment. It will possibly be harder, because at least now I get a baby girl hugging me and saying "Wuv wuv Papa!" as she toddles along. When she's embarrassed to be seen with me, will it be harder to get motivated?

I think a big reason is that I am not happy in our situation. I'm extremely happy with how awesome my family is; but being really broke and working hard, living in a city that I'm hot and cold on, and (alert Homeland Security here, Glenn Beck) a country I'm increasingly frustrated by and disappointed in, I'm losing patience with my workload. I'm working hard, and Jaime is damn near killing herself, to make bills in a place with no health care, lousy education for my kids, and the prospect of millions in student loan debt for my whole family just to get them all through college. Is it worth it?

There great things about this country. I'm not saying I'm casting any votes for Somalia or Indonesia anytime soon. But more and more I find myself fantasizing about Sweden, or Japan, or Canada. (Your national anthem rocks, Canada. Seriously. Even the name. "O Canada" is awesome. It sounds so casual. Like, Oh, yeah, Canada, by the way, we like you. Do you like us? Check a box below for yes/no/maybe. Canada is awkward in a really cute way.)

Are these places better? They seem better, when I visit. They seem calmer, more polite, more egalitarian. Is it true? I don't think I'm totally rose-colored-glasses here. Other people tell me the same thing. People a lot like me, in mindset and temperament. Which I think is the key; America has greatness, and maybe will have greatness again in the future, but it isn't me. Does that sound weird? It does, I know. But more and more it seems true. I do find that woman with a gun slightly hot though, as disturbing as it is. Maybe the problem is that it's more me than I want, and less me than I need.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Everyone Hail To The Pumpkin Song

We had an extremely successful Halloween day at the Barker household. I got Halloween donuts, and a wonderful frittata breakfast, the kids looked super cute in the Godzilla and Godzooky costumes (aka Frog and Dragon. Don't tell them) and everyone got some candy treats. Viri learned that special and timeless holiday question, "Is this vegan?" and Arkaedi learned people give her suckers for no reason if she holds out her hand. That is sure to be valuable information.

We decided to trick or treat in Fremont, and I am really glad we did. It was a cool experience, and the local shops were really awesome to the kids. Fremont is a cool place, and I can see having a great family holiday tradition there if we stay in Seattle for a while. This is my first halloween going all out with the kids. This has always been a fun holiday for me, traditionally for the girls who dress up slutty for no reason, but I'm really seeing the appeal of the holiday as a dad. The kids get to dress up, get some treats, everyone is out and happy. At three it isn't nuts yet, but people are still dancing in the streets. It's a good time for all. And for the dads (and moms who are so inclined) there are still the slutty girl costumes.

So, Happy Halloween, have a good time. Please choose the appropriate level of sexiness for your age and location.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dragonlance: Dragons Of Dorm Room Night

I'm a huge fantasy fan. I don't read a lot of fantasy, however. I usually wait for years, letting my friends pare it down to a good series here and there, and then break down and read it all in one go. I wasn't always so cautious, however. I once read D & D novels. I recently went back and reread a series of stories of my youth. The classic "we did this awesome D & D campaign let's write it down!" story, the Dragonlance Chronicles. It was really fun to read, and I had forgotten a ton of it. It was a slightly better cribbing of the Tolkien story than I remembered, in truth. The writing is really not terribly good, but they take the basic premise of the story of Lord of the Rings and insert some fun spins. They don't flesh out any of the characters, so it really does read like a late night adventure with stoned college kids. I'm okay with that, in small doses, so I had a really fun time following along again. The story, if you don't feel like bothering wikipedia, is this: A band of adventurers come together in a world threatened by evil dragons, and find proof that the "old gods" exist. Together with help from the good dragons, they restore balance to the world. There are the typical D & D type characters. A half-elf, a warrior, his mage brother, a dwarf, a knight, and some strange hobbit rip off, a kender. Oh and there are some barbarians too. (I never got that archetype. What the hell makes a barbarian different than a warrior? He doesn't use a fork?)

They manage a few really fun scenes, fighting dragons and rescuing people. The two brothers of the story, Caramon and Raistlin, have some nice moments. I can't help but read everything the half-elf leader says in a Kirk voice. ("WE...must get them to safety... I AM... responsible!") The writing is very stilted and unnatural, but they really run with some of the story elements. My only real problem is the central theme of triumphing over the evil armies is a little undercut by the epilogue of the book, where one of the "old gods" goes on about the balance of the universe. (I put old gods in quotes because there are no new gods... another quibble I have with the writing.)

Apparently, as this old god would have us believe, good is inherently intolerant and self absorbed, so it needs evil to be around to remind it why to fight. The elves are the example, because see they are good and they became self absorbed and turned from the world. That makes perfect sense see, because... What?! Wait, not to get all philosophy 101 on you here, but isn't a basic tenet of our conception of "good" an outward focus, away from egotism and towards service and selflessness? You can't just redefine good in order to justify having bastards around! That's cheating!

But seriously, they didn't try and write a masterpiece here, just a fun Tolkien rip off. And they did that. It's pretty fun. The dwarf is Gimli 2.0, right down to some exact dialogue, and the kender is Merry or Pippin. The half-elf is Kirk, so that's odd, but you have Sturm the Aragorn, and there's a girl Legolas. (Like the movie Lord of the Rings! But I kid Orlando Bloom.) For a real intense read I'll take Tolkien, or my new modern favorite, Jim Butcher, but for silly light entertainment when you're not up for a serious read, this is perfect. Which I imagine is exactly why they wrote it. Good for them.

Now check out this truly atrocious animated version!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Thunder Thunder Thunder Thunder... Cats! Thundercats, Why?

As I wrote a few weeks ago, my son has a bizarre interest in strange or awful cartoons. Recently he discovered one from my youth, Thundercats. It is way odder than I remember. Unlike the broader social messages of He-Man, Thundercats is more about a dimwitted man child, Liono, and the little lessons he learns as he grows up. This seems very strange, since he appears to be thirty, but okay, I'll accept it. Combine it with the surreal Rankin/Bass animation, some mummies and mutants, and you have a mid-eighties romp into madness.

Viri loves it. He's been drawing Thundercats, playing that he is a human/cat thing, the whole shebang. (That always weirded me out about the show-- are they can people? Why no tails? Why no fur?) There is one episode with a space-policewoman, which he is crazy about, as you would expect. Police, laser guns, and cat people? Viri heaven!

The premise of the show has always confused me. These cat people are on some strange planet. I'm not sure why they are there, or why they brought the ghost of a dead leader. How do they survive with only one woman? (That's a very Ryan question, I apologize.) Why is the man named Tygra, which is clearly a woman's name? The whole show is crazy, it doesn't surprise me that it is quickly becoming Taviri's favorite. His taste tends towards the bizarre.

Here is a fun fan trailer of a Thundercats movie.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

NLCS And No Guys Named Melky

The baseball playoffs are one of the highlights of my year. This year, oddly enough, I get to watch every game of the Championship Series, due to sick kids. So, I'm sorry you are sick, kids, but thanks for making me stay home. I'll clean up puke if it means watching some great games. And there have been some great ones. The NLCS is really the one to watch, as the Angels/Yankees ALCS has been both less exciting and way more filled with guys with dumb names. And the cursed visage of Dark Lord A-rod.

It's almost over, and it looks like a Phillies/Yankees World Series is in the cards. That's fine; I'd much prefer Angels/Phillies, but it's okay. The Phils are a great team to watch, fast, great offense. I'm rooting for them to destroy the Yankees, of course. Like all moral and right thinking human beings, I root against the Yankees. There is simply not a choice. And as fun as a Dodgers/Yankees WS would be, the Phils have a better chance to beat the Yankees. I would get a chance to say Trolley Dodgers a million times, which is fun. Baseball teams, because of the era in which they formed, still have the greatest nicknames. Trolley Dodgers, Red Sox. Did they spell things differently in 1900? Cincinnati is simply the Reds. Wonderful. Even the worst names aren't as bad as NBA or NFL names. (Grizzlies? Jaguars? Don't just pick a tough sounding animal, sports. That doesn't work.)

I'm hoping to see every World Series game, if work and kids allow. Every year, the Series provides a perfect gateway into the winter season. It's coming later and later in the fall, and it makes me want to just curl up and eat cookies and rest until spring. I'm ready to grow my beard back, put on a few fun holiday pounds (Halloween counts right? And new years? I can legally gain weight until April) and enjoy my winter. Even the flu and cold blues won't sink me this year. I'm excited, catching some great baseball, and ready to lounge.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thirty Three, The Adult Hobbit

I'm officially an adult today. Thirty three years old. It's a good age. I'm happy to be here. I feel better than ever, in terms of my emotional and mental health. My life is a little insane, but that's okay. I don't imagine I'm able to function in any life that isn't insane, certainly. Any more than I'm capable of ending a sentence without using an adverb...really.

I got a ton of nice birthday wishes today, which is awesome. It makes me glad to have the access to people that I have through this interweb series of tubes. I got emails, messages, texts... it was cool. I had a sick baby girl, so I spent a lot of the day holding her sleeping body, so the messages were especially welcome.

That's pretty much what I have to say. I'm happy and filled with love, which as always doesn't make for good art, but makes for damn fine birthday living.

Tomorrow, the suffering that is Dragonlance; painful and hard to wade through, therefore probably a good blog post. Ironic. Or silly, at least.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Age, Football, Illness

Well, my kids are getting into the heart of cold and flu season in style. Meaning, I had a child vomiting on me all night. But, as luck would have it, we also got our cable hooked up this weekend, so I got to hold a feverish boy while watching baseball playoffs and football games. So, it was not so bad. I got a chance to see some good games, even though the cursed Yankees won.

I'm enjoy sports more than I ever have before. I'm not sure why, exactly, but I have a few ideas. One, I get older and the superficial, us vs. them mentality falls away. Two, I see lessons in people working hard and finding success through their skills. As a youth, it's easy to write off what people do that makes them successful. I not only respect the players and coaches more, I respect everyone involved. It takes work to be good at what you do. I respect a lot of people now that I never did; I know it isn't easy to get up and get your work done. ('Yours' work as Viri used to say.)

Another big reason is the insanity of my week. I'm working a lot, watching different kids. It takes a lot of energy. So, it's nice to have something I can enjoy that is low stakes. It's fun to just watch a game, and not really worry for a few hours about money, or illness. I can just relax, cuddle up to a child, and save my energy for the week. As I write this, Arkaedi Sue is snuggled into my lap, half asleep. It's a great way to unwind after a long week.

Get well, kids. Crawl up here and watch some sports with Papa. I'm that kind of dad now.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Buttons? What Are These Buttons Of Which You Speak?

I've heard different ideas about the relationship that my generation has to technology, and how that affects the generation gap. In some ways we do seem to be more tech savvy, and we keep up with modern gadgets well. On the other hand, any child can kill me at video games. So, is it furthering the gap or narrowing it? I don't know. I do know my son is growing up in a very different world, technologically, than I did.

When I was his age, it was September of 1980. It was the blessed evening before the terrible dawn of the Reagan era. No one had cell phones, computers were not common. In many ways, large and small, Viri would find the world different. I don't know what Seattle looked like then. Fewer coffee places. No wi-fi. But it would have been different. And that was not really that long ago. When he's 33, it will be 2038. I'll really have to reach back to describe the world of 1980, I imagine.

Two funny things that made me think of this happened this week. First, we were in a public restroom, washing up. Viri waved his hands under the faucet, and nothing happened. "No, you turn these. Like at home." He scowled at me. "No, Papa, these are broken. You don't touch them." I realized he was right. I don't know if he has ever touched a faucet outside of someone's home. They all are automatic. He asks me, usually, about lights and toilets and faucets, do these go by themselves or do we touch them? To a three year old me, that would have been fantastic. I don't know if anything like that even existed in 1980. I certainly didn't see it. The doors opening by themselves at the grocery store were still pretty amazing to me.

The other thing was a video game. He found an old game boy, and was pretending to play it. It was fun, he said, you play it too. So, I grabbed it, and pressed the buttons and played along. "No, Papa! What are you doing?" He took it back, and started showing me how you play the game: by touching the screen, and moving your finger to make the man move. Buttons? Ridiculous outmoded things!

It's fun to watch this. Since I'm not much of a technological person, my kids are going to quickly outpace me. I'm not going to mind. I'll make them set everything up, and shout for them to help me. I don't care if I'm fifty, as soon as possible I'm leaping straight to seventy-nine. I'll refuse to call their spouses by name as well. And make them help.

"Viri wife! Pretty-pretty husband! Get in here and make the tv work! I wanna watch the game!"
"Um, Ryan, you're fifty-two. Here's the remote."
"What the hell's a 'remote,' boy? Just make it work!"
"Man, you're lucky your daughter is so great."
"Shut up, Pretty-pretty husband!"

That's exactly how it'll go.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dancing Meditation In San Fran

My Sufi order had a meeting in San Francisco, a celebration of the life of our previous master, and I got to go. It was, as usual, amazing. The Sufi house there is huge, with a diverse and committed group of darvishes. This meeting, due to the emotions involved and the fact that it was the only one on the west coast, was particularly high energy and inspiring. Even with everything else, and the rushing around and the work, the darvishes there still went out of their way to talk to me, make me welcome. I have never seen a better group of sincere men, I think, than that one. I'm extraordinarily grateful to them for being who they are. I can't share too many details, since it is primarily a matter for initiated members of the order, but I wanted to mention it for a few reasons. For one, it gives me an excuse to encourage everyone to check out the order, which I cannot recommend highly enough. And for another, the flights down and back reminded me of exactly why I am who I am, and made me a little happier to have made the choices I had made.

The flight down was filled with families visiting friends and relatives. It was an interesting plane ride, and it made me miss my kids, who I'd just said goodbye to hours before. I really like having a family, and every experience I have makes me glad I choose to have one, and didn't sit on a plane wishing I had. You get a chance, and you take it. That's a recipe for a happy life. The flight back was the same lesson; corporate douches discussing how much they drink and sales meetings. If I had taken one of these office jobs, you would not be reading this blog. My internet presence would instead be news stories about how I'd gunned down my office mates for saying "synergy" one time too many.

I've made mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. But every time a real life decision, one that really shaped my life, was there before me, I took a shot. There is only one I would take back, which could have changed my life, but even that worked out for the best. (Still, you can't help wonder 'what if?' with a moment or two over thirty odd years.)

Next week I turn thirty three. I'm an adult, in hobbit terms. (In Sufi terms I think I need to wait until forty.) I'm happy where I am. I love my kids and my wife. I even like my job. I'm broke, but that's okay. Not bad for thirty three. I'll take it.

SInce I can't share a lot of the amazing music and dancing and poetry and friendship I experienced this weekend, here is something I can share. A poem by the late master. Enjoy.

“From everything we were or were not, we are free, with Love
The heart remained tied to your passion, with Love
Love alone, was the goal of our journey
Free from all other we rested, with Love.”
-- Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Know This Guy

I swear I went to college with him. He was in my anarchist book club.

Everyone's Your Friend In New York City

There are a few places that I consistently fantasize about visiting. I even fantasize about living there, having a place, getting to explore it. Most of these places are places I have already lived, and wish to return to explore in greater depth, such as Hiroshima, Japan. Some are places I visited, briefly, and would like to experiment with living there, such as Nice, France. The one in the latter category that I have been focused on a lot lately is NY, NY.

I'm not sure why I have had such interest. Something about NYC is fixed in American mythos. It's everything I love about America, diverse, huge, and intense. It has stories that have shaped the rest of the country, and I feel like I know it in a way that most places I have visited I do not. And I know, really, that I don't know it; the mystery adds to the fascination. It isn't a place to live with kids, in my opinion, so I don't imagine I will ever explore it like I want to. I don't have the money or the time to spend a year there, which is what it would take to even begin to understand it.

One reason I am fascinated is that I have become such a city person, here in Seattle. And Seattle, being a small city, makes me want to visit the east coast big brothers that it emulates. The first thoughts of the Americans who came here were on building the NYC of the west. It didn't come close to happening, of course. It's too far away, it didn't have the position as a trading center that NYC had from almost the beginning. Really until the past thirty years, Seattle was barely a city. It has grown, in positive and negative ways. (Light rail! Yay! I-5 is a parking lot! Boo!) But it can never be the beating heart of the country that NYC has been and will likely to continue to be.

Some of this may have to do with the history. But that's not the whole story. Every modern story I see about the city draws me in as well. It's still fascinating. I would love to see the past of the city, but the present excites me too. The vitality of the city, in my awe-struck limited time there, is real. I don't imagine I'll get a chance to really walk the streets in the way I want to, but it's still fun to imagine the place from the perspective of a resident, pavement under my boots, and noise and lights all around.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Gumby Is Twisted And Evil

My son has a habit, a habit which, in retrospect, I think I may have had. This is the habit of finding the strangest pop phenomena he can possibly discover and then falling head over heels for it. The current oddity, hands down the winner of the craziest thing I have ever seen (non-sexual category) is the Gumby shorts collection he found at the library. It's a dvd of various shorts from the sixties and seventies.

First of all, it is poorly done claymation, which seems creepy even with a normal storyline. But when you add in Gumby and Pokey walking through books, exploring different worlds, and visiting other cultures, it opens up to a whole wonderland of brain damaging ridiculousness. One episode, "Rain Spirits," features Native Americans that would be a little racist if they made any sense at all. The episode ends with some shaman looking guy spanking a goat. Seriously. That memory is burned into my mind with piercing clarity. There is another one about a bee that build crates around things. To... trap them? I'm really not sure where that bee fits into God's plan.

Naturally, Viri is smitten. I wish I understood why my son is so fascinated with this late sixties, early seventies madness. He's not even four, so I hope it isn't some viral, pre-irony infection. I did force him to wear a Sex Pistols onesie. If I infected him with irony, I am truly and profoundly sorry. I doubt it; I think he is just a weird and confusing boy. (Still, my fault. Sorry.)

As a parent, you have two options with odd children. You can be upset by it, and dread the Gumby episode where the horse sprouts wings and flies for no apparent reason. (Dad of daughter on flying horse: "Hmm. The horse flies." WHAT?! That's it?) Or, you can take my route, and embrace it. I'm going to get him whatever cartoon he wants to see, pop some popcorn, and go along for the ride. My only caveat: no more goat spanking. That really isn't so much to ask, now, is it?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Louis CK

A funny bit about kids. "I'm not afraid of her, she's two. I could take her." (WARNING: Language)

Anti-Social Socialite

I'm the perfect blend of my mother and father. It's really strange. It isn't that I am surprised by genetics or anything, but I don't seem to lean towards either parent to an appreciable degree. Even down to appearances, I'm proof positive that they actually are my biological parents. I have mom's pale complexion, light green eyes, and traces of red in my beard. My face shape is Roger Barker II, except I'm the super sized version of him, at four or five inches taller and thirty pounds heavier. This well blended version of me is even true of my personality. I'm incredibly social and cheerful, but I don't like being around people because they depress me.

I spend a lot of time at parks, and with kids in general. I like being around kids. Honestly, I love being around kids. (Kids and old people. Give me anyone under five and over seventy.) I think this is due to my odd social anti-social traits. I love the noise and energy of groups, I love people. But I can't take it when people say awful things when they should know better, or talk about nonsense as though it was important. I'm not guiltless, here, of course; I'd bug me too, I imagine. But with children, they are just present, in the moment. They say awful or silly things all the time, but it doesn't bother me, since they can't know better.

I hope I can give my kids the positive aspects of these traits. I think I can help them remain critical of the ridiculousness of our culture while still finding joy in others. There is a place for frivolity, certainly. There are depths to be delved as well. I want them to learn to surround themselves with people who appreciate that. And aren't necessarily above seventy or under five.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rural King County Wins

We traveled through some amazing places in rural King County this week. First, we went out to Index, and saw the most amazing scenery I think I have ever witnessed. It was breathtaking, from clear rivers to towering granite mountains. It was like seven folk songs about America all rolled into one 360 degree view. I can't describe it well enough. Here is a picture.

Then, as part of the King County Farm Tour, Jaime and I took the kids to several farms in south King County. (Which, apparently, is the 14th biggest county in the US. Weird.) We had a great time, and saw some more of the most lovely farmland I have ever imagined. The Little Farm at Windwater is like some postcard that sprung to life. Even the animals were picture perfect. We had a picnic lunch there, with perfect roosters running around us, that was maybe the highlight of the day.

I've been traveling through the rural parts of the county for the past month, and every drive I discover something else amazing. It's partly the gorgeous views, with the Cascades always looming over you, and the giant trees hanging over the rivers. But it's something else too. There is an intensity about the land out here that really grabs you. I was really put off by the intensity at first. It's so alien and harsh. But discovering places during my rural drives brings that calmer, more Appalachian feel that I miss. In many ways, Enumclaw or Auburn could be plucked up and dropped in the Ohio valley and no one would notice on either side. (In positive and negative ways; people are meaner looking, there is more smoking and drinking.) I like that. I'll take the minuses, because the pluses are so important to me. Especially when I realize I am still a short drive into the city, with donuts and teahouses and dance clubs with hot latin music and loose women.

(Okay I'm joking about the clubs and women. But it is nice to have options.)

I'm having a good time find these places and exploring the countryside around me. I had no idea, after over six years here, that what I was missing and what I found I needed were so close.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Mighty O And Doctors

Arkaedi Sue had a well child visit today, including a blood draw. She wasn't terribly happy with it, but she's a trooper. To make the entire event less of an ordeal, we stopped by Mighty O Donuts on the way. That made everyone, especially me, very happy.

I tried a strange and wondrous thing while I was at Mighty O: I had a donut without coffee. There was no coffee for me, just a donut. It was odd. Not entirely unpleasant, but a little like swimming while trying to use only one arm. It works, but you wonder why you are even trying it.

Of course I'm glad to be cutting back on coffee. I certainly needed a break. I do feel better overall, and I believe in cultivating good habits while I have the patience and energy to make the effort. And there is always tea.

Arkaedi Sue did so well at her appointment. She is such a stable kid. It's amazing how little phases her. She got her blood drawn, and fussed for a minute, then waved goodbye to Dr. Tracy as we left. Viri would have been crying for six days. It's nice to have a kid who is as calm as her. I need the break.

Fall officially arrived here, and it's warm and sunny. I used the nice day to clean out the car, and get ready for a return to work. Overall, it was a very successful morning. There were donuts, doctors and cleaning. I'm ready for another few days of flying solo with the little ones.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Going, Going... GONE!

I'm headed off to my last baseball game of the year in a few hours. I haven't seen or written about baseball nearly as much as I had planned, due to our wacky home life and lack of tv at my house. But I've followed a lot of the season, including the dramatic walk off wins the past two days, one over the evil empire of Yankees.

This season Ichiro broke yet another record, this time for most consecutive 200 hit seasons. There are not words for how amazing a ballplayer he is. I can never tire of watching him work magic with his bat. If there were words, actually, he would find them, since he is a quote machine. (One of my favorites: "If I start doing things I don't like, baseball won't be fun anymore.")

That some people even question his entrance in to the Hall of Fame someday astounds me. He holds the single season hit record, he's a career .333 hitter, a nine time Gold Glover. The lack of respect for what he does shocks me. He is one of the all time greats, and history will show that few people ever saw the ball and hit the ball like he did. The person whose record he just broke, Baltimore legend "Wee" Willie Keeler, used to say, "Hit 'em where they ain't." Ichiro has transcended that; he hits them wherever he wants, and if they are there, he outruns him. He's a first ballot Hall of Famer, and anyone who loves baseball and understands baseball would vote accordingly.

I'm sad for the end of the season. It has been a surprising success for the Mariner's, and they likely will finish above .500 after an abysmal 2008. We got to see Griffey come back, and even with a poor year seeing him in an M's uniform and watching him pal around with Ichiro was worth the nickel. I hope our situation is better next year, and I can make a few more games. Perhaps I can even hook up that televisual device and watch a few games on the picture tube. The prospect of a season in HD will inspire me to really work hard over the winter. We'll see how successful I am at convincing J to go all out.

Good luck tonight, Mariners. I'll be in the upper decks, sheltered from the rain, cheering wildly.

Friday, September 18, 2009

One To Beam Up, Mr. Scott

A few days ago I wrote about historical periods I find interesting, or intriguing. I mentioned that I didn't ever wish myself there, even for a moment, due to the problems associated with my favorite time periods. For that matter, I imagine people there would be unlikely to wish themselves magically here, and leave what they are familiar and comfortable experiencing. I've been considering the same question, (would I transport myself to this place?) about some of my favorite fictional worlds.

I'm less hesitant to imagine this, because of the ability to better shape the fantasy world. I can go to the Star Trek or Middle Earth in my mind, shaped by words and movie images, and feel less adrift in the past. These places did not exist, and they are glorified and fanciful versions of anything that could exist. They are appealing precisely because, despite the challenges, they are better than they could be in real life. They aren't created to be perfect; but they are damn fine places to visit.

Obviously the Star Trek world would be a great place to visit. Assuming you're not on the Enterprise, and threatened by a villain of the week, it's a safe and amazing world, free of needs and with countless gadgets and worlds to explore. Honestly even the Enterprise fares okay. I could be some Ensign in the Microbiology Lab, scramble off to my quarters during those crazy red alerts, then get the story on Kirk's heroics during my weekly lunches with Sulu. (I'm buddies with Sulu; Kirk and Spock are too busy. And I'm a good sounding board for Sulu's problems with his husband.)

One of the reasons these stories resonate with us to such an extent is the nature of the worlds created. They seem like great places, perhaps the Star Trek world most of all. I could never wish myself away from the real world, with the depth and clarity of the present moment infinitely richer than any fiction. I do see the appeal in the thought experiment, however. What about these fantasies makes sense, attracts us?

My top five fictional worlds I'd like to visit, in a vaguely ranked order:

1. Star Trek, in the original series era. Sure, the Next Generation is safer with cooler toys, (Holodecks? With a "erase holodeck history" option so Jaime never ever has to know about her fabricated twin sister?) but the original series had it down. Fast ships, a noble purpose, unexplored vast expanses. It's like the Wild West, only we've befriended the natives and are bringing medicine and food. We get to be the good guys.

2. Middle Earth. I couldn't resist. Tolkien worked hard to make a world really live, and he succeeded. In Star Trek it was the Wild West, in Middle Earth it's the dark ages. No plague to devastate you, just a clear mind and sharp sword. I'd still end up hanging out eating in Hobbiton for a year. Anywhere with second breakfast and elevensies is all right by me.

3. Various JidaiGeki. A lot like the Tolkien world, only in Japan. Also usually a nicer place than medieval Japan really was, although not as romanticized as Middle Earth.

4. Jim Butcher's Chicago. Once again this isn't a nice place, but I love the sense of purpose. I assume if I get transported here, I get some magical powers. Naturally.

5. Singing in the Rain. I always wanted to be a dancer.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Consider the Puyallup Done

We continued the early fall explosion of fun travels with a visit to the Puyallup Fair. Even though I still can't get the hang of how to pronounce the name of the town, it was a good fair. I think the Evergreen State Fair, for some indefinable reason, is still my favorite; but the Puyallup was huge and exciting, and had a Weird Al exhibit. And a great theme song.

The kids were really good, and I even caved in to the sad eyes of the boy and bought him a toy sword. I can't resist either my children or weapons, apparently. But, as I said, he was so well behaved the entire day I didn't feel too bad buying him a toy.

We had a blast, though, and were reminded that there is no smoking in Sillyville. Which is good to know.

I think the Puyallup will have to make it into our regular rotation. And there will be a regular Washington trip for at least the next few years, because (bigger news than the fair time) Jaime passed her board exams! So, yay for her, and really yay to the entire family, because we have a head of the household who can make more money than I could in five lifetimes! (Grand total for me in five lifetimes: $375.24)