Friday, February 27, 2009

Megalon the Pimp: Construct Him, Bitches!

We had a surreal moment today at the Barker household. We were finishing dinner, and Viri turns to J and says, "Help me make a Megalon, bitch."

Wait, what? Did you just command us, curse us, demanding we construct a monster for you? We asked him to repeat, to clarify. "Megalon please, bitch!" This time the hands are waving around. He's getting exasperated with us for not taking care of the issue at hand. The please is a nice touch, son, but I'm not sure I like what is going on. I hope we're wrong. Could you show us? "No, I can't show you a bitch. It just is." Okay, a fair point... you need an example.

I finally get him into the living room, where he models what he wants. Apparently it's a Megalon bridge, for Megalon to knock down. This is much better, and really puts the please in a proper context. Bitch and please just sound odd together.

I'm glad he wasn't trying out new curses or anything, but I was a tiny bit disappointed. Because if he had been saying what I had thought, the hilarity of it would have made the insult almost worth it.

I really needed this after my day today. It was another frustrating work experience, with me stuck trying to plug the proverbial dam. I have said many times that for 40k a year, no problem, I would deal with the stupid problems without complaint. But for ten bucks an hour, it is above my pay grade. Thankfully I have an awesome family to come home to. I am so glad to be done and out of the Bastyr craziness in a few months. I have reached the limit of my patience. I'm angry, and I don't do anger well. It isn't a natural state for me. I walk away when I get mad. When it's a work situation, it's harder to just walk away. Centuries of West Virginia conditioning make this an impossible situation for me; it's fight or flight.

I need Viri to come in and solve the problem. "Look, bitches, I don't want to argue! Just get to making a Megalon. I don't have all day!"

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Alienation In Parenthood

I was lucky when I became a parent. I had access to some parents who encouraged our attachment parenting tendencies, and helped us find a way to work with our child, to help him understand the world and find his way in it. Viri, especially, needed this attention. Now, through strange work circumstances and new acquaintances, I'm around a lot of people who don't subscribe to our viewpoint. I'm beginning to realize how detrimental that is to us, and to our interaction with Viri. And, much as before, I am in a situation where I need to leave my current situation and find a place of comfort for me and my family.

Some of us make choices to be different, to be outside. Many people I know are comfortable with that, even enjoy it. I've never been that way. I want to fit in with people. I don't mind that aspect of my personality. I like it, even. I was outcast as a youth for being smart, and getting good grades. I was outcast as a young man for being contrary and rebellious. Now, I'm outcast for a parenting style that my job doesn't want to use. That's an odd one. It doesn't especially bug me, except that I started this job specifically to be allowed to be the parent that I want to be. Once again I made an attempt to fit into a space that either I misread horribly, or changed drastically.

My quote for these times that J gets a kick out of is this: Gravity pulls, and atoms spin around. Anywhere in the middle gets messy.

This reflects my opinion of the universe. I think it is an orderly place, on the whole. Humanity, endowed with free will, can try and make human enterprises, but they are doomed to mediocrity. The big picture all shakes out, but trying to control middle sized human things, and failure is often the result.

I want to do something that makes things work, for a brief moment, in the big picture. I think my dream job is leaping around like the character in Quantum Leap, taking care of little things so that the entire universe operates how it's supposed to. Everything isn't always fun, or pretty. But his job is to make sure that the whole tapestry looks right. There is something deeply satisfying about that show.

In a sense it's what I like about working with children. They are just little bundles of potential, and it's rewarding to work with them and see what happens with little positive changes. The frustration sets in when you hand them off to parents who don't even listen to what they did that day, much less follow through with steps to help their development. I understand parents have it tough, it's a hard job. I screw up a fair number of things with my kids. But I work constantly to give them the tools they need, and I never refuse to listen to something that might help me to do that. (Viri today: "You wanted to smack me! You're bad, Papa!" He's right. I did kind of want to smack him for pushing past Arkaedi and knocking her down. Perceptive.)

It pays off. I have two wonderful kids. Kids who deserve better than our current crazy schedule, and difficult parents. So, I'm listening. Next quarter is going to be different.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Three Bad Guys In The Hidden Fortress

I got to see Kurosawa's wonderful and funny Hidden Fortress on the big screen this week. In our standard venue, of course. This time we were without Smartz, leaving us free to pick up hot Kurosawa chicks. We... didn't.

This is the movie that is famous for having inspired aspects of Star Wars. The volunteer gave a little preview that explained how this film was not at all similar to Star Wars, and the only similar aspect was having the story approached from the viewpoint of the minor characters. Except, watching it again, I realized that there is a lot that did come from Hidden Fortress in Star Wars. There is a general who needs to escape from the authorities with valuables. There is a princess who is a badass, but sweet too. There is a tough guy who realizes at the last moment that he should help the princess. Instead of seeing the princess vulnerable when her planet is threatened, we see her shed a tear as her remaining servants sacrifice themselves to save her, and the fortress burns in the distance. Sort of a combination of Luke's aunt and uncle and Alderaan there, I suppose. But these aren't minor similarities, to me.

I had never seen this on the big screen, and I realized why movies like this are meant for the theater. It's a fun movie, big and humorous, with some surprisingly sweet moments. The funny moments are really funny. It's over the top, in good ways, much as Star Wars is. The comic relief is great, and I actually laughed out loud several times at the goofy peasants. Watching them pantomime taking the horses for a drink is worth the entire movie alone. Seeing the movie like this, I liked it immensely more than I had previously. This is not a movie to watch while drinking tea and reading a magazine, as I had before. This is a Star Wars epic, for enjoying with friends.

The subtitling was generally quite good, but I had a few problems. One is the song, which is pretty key to the plot. They translate the first line as "A man's life, burn it away," or something similar. The better translation, which makes more sense in the context, and is explicit in the Japanese, is "A man's life, man burns it away." That's important. The song is about wasting our time, and not living in the moment. It inspires the aforementioned Han Solo character to act, and the original, the despair version, would not.

This is a major problem with American takes on Japanese culture. Seen from our perspective, it can sometimes seem a little dark, or at least resigned. But it's often a problem of linguistic and cultural translation. There is a certain sense of fate in Japanese culture that isn't present in our youthful and idealistic society, true. But it isn't negative. It's just an acceptance of how things are, a low key realism, or pragmatism at the very least. One of my favorite aspects of Japanese culture is this pragmatism. It relaxes me. It's a mellow culture, at its heart. One of the sad aspects of the modern, overworked office worker in Japan is how contrary it is to the nature of the country. I've heard that this workaholic period is slowly ending, which is a good thing. The Economist referred to Japan as the Switzerland of Asia a few years back, and I really like that. I hope that is the wave of the future. They can make a few Gamera films, drink some tea, and have a good rest on the tatami. Take a break, Japan, you deserve it!

The Japanese Han Solo is Susumu Fujita. He was in some Godzilla films too. He's great. And Susumu is an awesome name.

This movie also has Takashi Shimura, who is awesome as usual. (He apparently even played the great tea master Sen No Rikkyu! He's the best.)

PS. The original Japanese title is great, and sets the tone of the film: The Three Villains of the Hidden Fortress

Monday, February 23, 2009

Viri Speaks: The Quotable Giant Monster

I've told many people about how Viri has a way with words. He's not a huge talker. He has his little speeches, though, that are just amazing. I've worked with a few dozen kids in the past few years that are his age, and no one has quite the ability to capture a situation like Taviri Issa.

Today was a classic. It started with Arkaedi knocking over a bunch of bags, and Viri exclaiming, "I'm the good one!" He saw a rare chance to not be in trouble, I guess. Later, he was sharing his toys with Arkaedi, in an effort to continue as the good one of the family, I expect. "Give her the yellow one," I told him, referring to the little hammers in the Break the Ice game that he loves. "It's orange, Papa. I thought it was yellow. I was wrong." He shook his head sadly. Okay, I can tell it's one of those nights. He's rolling.

He got a time out just before bed, for knocking over Arkaedi in a careless dash across the kitchen. "I'm a bad boy," he tells me sadly. He's lamenting the return of the good kid crown to his sister. "No, Viri, not bad. Just a good boy who needs to think about his mistake." He seizes this opportunity. "Good boys don't need time out! I can get up? I'm done?" I'm a little stunned. Uh, no. Wait! Who knew my philosophy degree was only useful in dealing with my three year old? Your state of goodness is only in potentia! There is no a priori reason for me to accept the goodness, I must witness it and prove that it follows from your behavior! While I'm thinking, he tries another route. He finds a little flower on the floor from some art project. "Look, Papa, a flower. Only good boys have flowers. I don't need a time out." I'm almost ready to give it to him. The sheer effort is worth something. I go for the classic father line, the sledge in our toolbox. "I'm the Papa, I said time out! Three minutes, now sit down." It works. But he's only three. I don't know how long I can Papa-voice my way out of this.

He marches off, chanting, into the living room. I barely catch what he is chanting. "Oat, oat! Soy, soy! Oat, oat! Soy, soy!"

He points to the movie we had been watching before starting the bedtime routine. The MST3K Godzilla versus Megalon. "Tom Servo! Jet Jaguar! I see you!"

We don't even give him sugar. Thankfully.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Downtown Streetcar Rides: A SLUT For Viri!

We took a ride on the Seattle Streetcar today. We still refer to it as the SLUT. Unfortunately, the Seattle Streetcar is no longer the South Lake Union Trolley. But, despite the lack of a fun acronym, we did have a good time running around today in downtown Seattle. Viri was very excited to take the trip, and I think it lived up to his expectations. He fell asleep the second he hit his carseat, and when he woke up, he blearily asked if the train had taken him home. In Viri's world, the trains are benevolent and don't need rails. It's a fun world.

Sunday is our official, recognized by the governing bodies, tax deductable family fun day. We make it a point every Sunday afternoon to get out and do something that we want to do. Sometimes, like today, we let Viri decide. When Arkaedi gets older, she'll pick some too. If she chose now, we'd just all stay home and nurse and toddle around the kitchen, and it wouldn't be fun for anyone. Herc and Sarah accompanied us today, so it was a family and friends fun day. Sarah actually voted for the stay home and toddle and nurse option, but we went with the Viri plan, thankfully. (If there are any Grinchs around that need help, the sheer wonderfulness of watching Arkaedi Sue toddle around the kitchen will make anyone's heart grow three sizes.)

It ended up being a nice enough day, and we got in a little walk and a quick run through downtown. I definitely don't miss living there, but it's fun to visit. I like the size of Seattle's center. It isn't huge, but there is a lot to see and do if you want. The market was fun, especially, even though the vegan cinnamon rolls usually for sale in one of the little bakeries were all sold out by ten. You'd think they'd see my little cadre of hungry vegans and make more...

All in all, a great day, one of the days that makes me happy to be who I am and where I am. The decisions I know were right, that I never think twice about or begin to regret, are exactly three. The decision to marry Jaime, and to try and have Viri, and later Arkaedi Sue. Days like this remind me why I never think twice about those.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

West By God And Economic Downturns

I attempt to keep things simple in my daily affairs. I talk about spring, or the weather. In these times, with my crowd, however, discussions of the economic situation are unavoidable. Everyone I know is affected by it, and even in my job, unrelated as it would seem, it comes up. People need extra childcare, they are more inclined to trade, etc. It really makes me wonder how other places are doing. Talking to J's dad, he doesn't see the recession/depression affecting them. I think he's just used to an economy with higher general unemployment and a tendency to see the economy in negative ways. Since I was a small child in West Virginia, it's been a tough place to work. I remember the factories slowly closing down in my teens, and the place getting shabbier and shabbier. It doesn't look any better now. One of the recent times I visited, I tried to count the number of gambling establishments, and lost count around fifty. It was funny, and sad. Like inflatable furniture. (Thank you Simpsons. I will quote you till I die.)

I have a lot of love for West By God. I don't understand why the other people who live there don't. To let something like this happen is criminal, to my mind. I cannot understand why there aren't petitions to close them down. It's the populist in me, maybe, but I can't imagine sitting by why these places fleece the poor saps just fired from the plant. My father and I drove past some spots that used to be old mom and pop carry outs, now gambling joints with deceptive names like "WV Cafe." Granted, the little groceries often sold beer to rednecks who were at that moment driving fast on country roads without seat belts; but that's honest. I don't necessarily have to approve. The gambling dens are shady ways to take poor people to the cleaners. And not in the way they need.

I discovered these places in a great way. Jason and I were looking for coffee. This is extremely difficult in WV. We saw a place, seemed like a coffee shop from far off. It was called "City Perk." Kind of a coffee sounding place, right? Well, we got to the door, and it was a screen door. That was a little off putting. And it was locked. Okay, it was closed. We started to leave. "Wait, I gotta buzz you in," a man says. Okay, what have we gotten ourselves into? Is this a mafia movie? We go in, confused. Why is there a security system? What good would it do on a screen door anyway? "Do you have coffee?" we ask. He looks us up and down. "We don't have no fancy coffee." We look like two big city fancy boys, apparently. I didn't even have a carnation in my lapel.

It doesn't have to be this way, West By God! You're better than that. There is a hard-nosed will there that I love, and tons of natural beauty. I wish I could show the state that it could embrace the village model, start making local economies function again. The spirit of those little ma and pa stores is the wave of the future, WV!

But WV is stubborn, and change is slow. I wonder if they will ultimately do better than places like Seattle with this downturn. I think Seattle has a good head start. There is a vibrant local economy here. But if the stubbornness and willpower can be harnessed, West By God stands a chance too.

PS. Note the slogan on the City Perk sign. And the map of how West Virginians view the country is incredibly funny to me. I'm an odd sort of duck.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dharma Bums and Ryokan

I never really thought about how close I am to Desolation Peak. It's a place I've wanted to visit since I was sixteen, and used to read Dharma Bums in the backyard of my little house on Princeton Street in Parkersburg WV. I used to skip school and lie in the grass reading Whitman, Thoreau and Kerouac. It's odd, but I'm more like that person now than I have been for many years. I'm not as stupid, maybe, but the thoughts and feelings still make sense to me. I recently re-read some Kerouac, and really enjoyed it. I don't idolize the characters like I used to; I understand them better. It's still a nice read. From The Dharma Bums:
Down on the lake rosy reflections of celestial vapors appeared, and I said "God, I love you" and looked up to the sky and really meant it. "I have fallen in love with you, God. Take care of us, one way or the other."
To the children and the innocent it's all the same.

I really want to climb the peak this summer, and get a good look at what he saw. Kerouac wrote a few books, and talked to the chipmunks. I'm more inclined to take some poetry from my ever shrinking library. I think the Zen poet, Ryokan, would be the perfect companion on a solo hike up the mountain.
In the village
Are sounding drums and flutes
But here on the mountain
Only the pines are whispering.

I've heard a Sufi quote about being a darvish. They say that anyone can be a darvish in the mountains, and it takes a real Lover to be a darvish in the city, surrounded by noise and hassle. I like that, it really resonates with me. I need the escape, the respite in the mountains. It isn't good for me, however, to wander off and not participate in the world. It doesn't help anyone, especially not me. I love going off in the woods, then coming back to the craze of daily life. You must be a human being, and other human beings are vital to that. Honestly it's something I like about the city. The city is a place of people, built by people, with human objects and machines everywhere. That's wonderful. The mountains are a place of nature, separate from humanity. That's wonderful too. I can imagine a fantastic country where we live in a city, surrounded by huge swaths of natural beauty. I would like to live there.

Ryokan himself had the people who visited, including his dear friend, the nun Teishin. She was his connection to the broader world, and he needed that.
Impatiently waiting for the hagi to bloom
And you to come
Through the dewy grass so thickly grown
Now you're here!

My solution to the frustration that seized Kerouac, and led to his alcoholism and swift decline, is like Ryokan's: I have the people in the world that I love, and that ground me. Kerouac was terrified of understanding the universe in a personal way. He didn't really like the anthropomorphic ideas of God that he saw in western culture, and the east was cold and foreign. Ryokan was satisfied with his spiritual path, and the personal was manageable for him. I have no issue with seeing the universe in a personal way, but I'm not really concerned with the way shape or how of it. My remembrance of God is what is present, what is real. Too much meandering from the issue of constant remembrance of the real, and it gets dull. Perhaps there is a deeper psychological discussion here, and I'm not terribly interested in the academics of it, but it is something to consider.

For this summer, I have Ryokan and Kerouac, and a nice night on Desolation Peak.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Well, That's It Then. Spankings All Around.

I'm a father. Ask me what I do, that's all I can think to say. I guess I work for money, too, if that's what is meant. Parenting is what I do. I'd like to teach again, or repair motorcycles, or play baseball for a living. I'd like to do various things, but the one thing I do every day is be a father. I lose patience, and I make mistakes. I probably make some mistakes that I'm completely unaware of, and will come out years down the road. On the whole, I think I do a pretty decent job. I would even say that it is something I am better at than most other things I have ever tried. I wondered if I would be able to be good at it, once upon a time. I don't wonder anymore. I don't pretend to be perfect at it, but I know I'm meant to be here and now, raising these two. And I am good at it. Certainly better than playing baseball or repairing small engines. I hope someday that my kids will agree. Despite the occasional skeptical look on their faces, I think they are okay with me.

The two big differences I notice between me and other parents around me have to do with what I want from the kids, and what they can expect from me. First, I have high standards for them. I expect them to be who they are, and behave appropriately. Viri was having problems today and I told him, this isn't who you are. You know better than this. He looked at me seriously, and said, "Yeah. I'm a big boy. I'm a big help." It's who he is, and he knows it. When Arkaedi Sue gets bigger, I'll expect her to be who she is as well. Parents sometimes look at me like I'm crazy when I ask Viri to help clear the table, or pick up the trash. I know he's only three; but I also know who he is, and what he's capable of doing.

The other difference is that I express myself. When I'm upset, it's clear to everyone. I pulled Taviri across the room the other day for a time out. Not roughly, but purposefully, and I was noticeably upset. I told him, I'm upset, what you did made me mad, and you need a time out to sit and think about it. I see this as a good thing. There is no confusion with me, no fits of rage. If he hits the baby, I am mad. If he spills a little water by accident, no big deal. I think people want to pretend a lot around kids, and not express honestly what they're feeling. I can't do that. And I don't think it would be healthy if I did, for me or them.

I see parenting as preparing the kids to be adults. I have no illusions about it, they are more important than me, they have greater destinies, and I want them to be ready to rise to it. They were born to me for a reason, and I have to accept that responsibility. People talk about doing anything for their children, but they don't set aside anything of their lives when they have them. I see parents trying to live almost independently of their children, and I don't understand that. This time in my life is about letting my kids grow, and guiding them. It's what I signed up for when I procreated. I'm going to do things for myself as well, of course, it's not healthy to neglect my mental health; but it fits in around them, and it's my responsibility to make it work.

I've talked a bit here about finding out what I like, and understanding my identity separate from the intellectual. My children are something I feel one hundred percent. There is no hypothetical that doesn't have me there for the kids, trying my best to do what's right. If I honestly reflect about my children, and what it means to me to be a parent, I come back to an image that I can't shake. It's a silly image, but I think of it a lot. It's an old grainy western, and the posse is riding out, strapping on guns and saddling horses. And the sheriff looks back at me and says, "You don't have to go, Barker. Stay home." And I scoff at him, pulling on my boots and picking up my rifle. "I'll pretend you didn't say that."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Scientists Labor Around The Clock To Discover: What's The Deal With Japan?

I have a love/hate relationship with Japan. It's the first place I really lived as an adult, and I spent a good chunk of my twenties there. So, it feels like my grown up place, in some ways, which is strange. I moved there when I was 21, and then came back to the states at 22. Then, at 24, I moved there again, and stayed until I was 27. A lot of things I associate with Japan are simply aspects of living in large cities, having a job, or being an adult.

Because of this, I talk about Japan a good bit. I've noticed that this is pretty evenly divided between complaining about it and missing it. I'm not sure why that is; I don't do that with other interests in my life. I think a part of my problem with Japan is that I didn't choose to get involved with it. It was an arranged marriage between Jaime and Japan. She decided to go, and I went along. Because... well, I didn't want to be without Jaime. It started a quest to understand the country, and I think that is the driving force behind my continued interest. I want to really understand the place.

Spending my formative years there also gave me no chance to develop another career path. Basically, speaking Japanese is my only skill. Speaking Japanese and putting up with insulting and borderline racist questions from my students was my job for a few years. I'm not sure what else I could ever do. As strange and possibly depressing as it sounds, it was a job I actually liked. I hated it some days, sure. But working with the kids was great, and they were so happy to be there learning English from me, for the most part. I didn't really, wholly love working in Japan, but it was a job I did that fit in with my real life fairly well. I could spend my time doing what I liked, traveling and drinking tea. It would now have the added bonus of giving me a job that paid okay while Jaime could stay home with the children. I would miss spending my day with them, certainly, but it would do wonders for Jaime. Although J is pretty industrious and ambitious for that much free time. She might be dictator for life of Japan in a few years time. I'd better keep her busy.

I never got into the things about Japan that brought most people there. I dislike Anime greatly, and Manga is awful. I have a wife, and I'm thankful every day for her. I really couldn't deal with a Japanese wife. I like the kaiju films, but honestly they are more popular here than in Japan now, I barely heard of them when I lived there. I don't like video games. I'm not really into electronics or Japanese cars... I like Buddhism, and tea. But more people are into Godzilla than Buddha these days, and as interesting as they are culturally, they aren't my spiritual path. (Buddhism or Godzilla, that is. Tea may still be...)

I wish I could set aside my interest, or come to terms with it. I'm worried that I'm going to drag myself back to Japan without fully understanding why. I'm okay with going back, or not going back: I just need to have a clear head when I make the choice. I don't know if I was totally clear-headed when I decided to take the job in Imabari. I was having fun in Morgantown, but I felt like my life was just coasting along. I didn't want to be 35 and doing the same things I had done at 20. I feel a little like that now, but there is a difference. I'm not concerned I'll be doing the same things at 45 that I'm doing at 32, I'm concerned that I'm coasting along and not allowing myself to grow. I know that a change of location isn't going to affect that, of course. But what about a change of location draws me?

Maybe I'll let Jaime drag me to Sweden. Then I get a change of location and a new country. One without subway fondlers and big eyed prepubescents with guns! Which is a good thing.

See this entire post wasn't about Japan. Some was for Sweden. Dear Sweden: Please get down on your bony European knees and thank the Lord that you aren't Japan. (Thank you, MST3K version of Prince in Space. You have healed my pain over all things Japanese better than years of intense therapy.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Throne of Blood (AKA Spider Web Castle)

I just got the chance to watch Throne of Blood, of the darkest and most fun Kurosawa films. Herc, Sarah and I went to Grand Illusion Cinema, again, since they are wisely having a month of Kurosawa films. We're getting to be regulars here, and for good reason. It's a comfy place, and the people are all incredibly nice. This is really impressive when you think that they are volunteers. They don't really have to be nice, there's no manager looking over their shoulder. But they are great folks. If they got vegan hot dogs at the concession, I'd never leave.

Throne of Blood is a great film to start off a Kurosawa marathon. It's quick, and dark. It still has some of the elements of theater that really impress me about his work. The great pauses, and long shots. If you haven't seen it, the story is Macbeth. Kurosawa changed the plot, though, so instead of being killed by a moral authority, like Macbeth, Washizu is killed by his own archers when his plans fall apart. I kept thinking of this difference while watching it. I don't know how it feels to someone raised in Japanese culture, but for me, I kept wanting someone to stand up and say, "Wait, this is crazy, what's wrong with you people!"

I'm not sure where the title comes from in English, the Japanese title is Kumonosu-jo, or Spider's Web Castle. I can see why they changed it, it has a certain horror movie connotation in English. But it's a great title. The connotation in Japanese is more of the deception, the spider's web of lies and betrayal that leads to the final conflict. You always know that Washizu is doomed; even he seems to know it, and tries to avoid setting out on the path.

The scenery is amazing, and makes me miss Japan. The exteriors were filmed around Mt. Fuji, and they are gorgeous in black and white. It appears to be winter, or early spring, and the ground is mostly barren. As usual, after watching a Kurosawa movie, or an Ozu movie, I want to sit on the floor drinking tea and staring out at the rain. I'm not sure if this is a normal or healthy response, but it's what happens. I feel good about that.

Throne of Blood also has one of the greatest death scenes in movie history. Toshiro Mifune gets talked about a lot, and for good reason. He could really just grab a scene and run with it. He knows when to shout and when to be silent, and when to flail at arrows in his chest. That is talent.

I do wonder, watching this, how people can romanticize the samurai. Their life seems pretty awful. I'd stick to being one of the rice farmers, making an honest living, not bothering anyone. Your job is to smile and nod at the crazy men hacking each other to pieces. And to grow rice. I get that.

A Sign That I'm In Spring Mode

This is what I spend my time online doing. I'm really ready for spring when I can only think of motorcycling and backpacking.

I won't bore everyone with all of my spring related shenanigans today, but it included finding motorcycle courses to get my certification renewed, planning a weekend trip to the North Cascades, figuring out motorcycle rentals, and checking out backpacking gear.

If spring doesn't come soon I'm going to cry like a baby. Which, take it from me, is frequent and loud.

I Challenge Spring To Arrive!

Of the strange and nerdy things I enjoy, weather is probably the one I least like to talk about. I'll go on about MST3K or Star Trek, and motorcycles can last me a weekend. But weather? It's an old man hobby. And, I'm ready to be an old man, I guess. I do have three weather apps for my itouch, which is three more than any man under seventy should have. There is nothing to be done about it, I'm a strange guy.

Seattle gives you plenty of opportunities to have fun with weather. It's a crazy town. Today it is almost fifty, but the wind chill brings it down to under forty. So it seems nice, until you get out in the wind. The best way to enjoy today is inside, with a big window. Contrary to the stereotype, it's often sunny here. It just comes in the form of sun breaks, and it often comes in the afternoon. The fog burns off, and the evening clouds haven't rolled in yet. You need to plan for the sun in Seattle. And when it does come out, the people come out. It's like some religious event, everyone smiles and prays to the sun. Like the Mayans, with less human sacrifice. (Some, of course. A sensible amount.) The seasonal events definitely get a good turnout. Early spring will bring the cherry blossoms, which always gets the Northwesterners out in droves.

I'm really excited about the spring. I have a billion little day trips planned, to the mountains and the sea. I really learned to appreciate where I live when I started going to the ocean and mountains more often. The springtime is perfect, too, with nicer weather but a pleasant chill in the air. You still get fog, which I love. I'm hoping to get some good trips to the North Cascades National Park. It should be pretty accessible in April, though I don't know if I'll make it during the spring break. At the end of March here in Washington it's still pretty cold; I'll have to wait for the early summer.

Viri is getting old enough to hike and camp with me. The spring should give us some opportunities to day hike around the Cascades. I can practice boring him with geology and weather! I'm well on my way to being the perfect fifties father. I just need to wear a sweater all of the time and smoke a pipe.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Viri Writes the Greatest Song Ever

All music can now cease. There is no need to ever write another verse, because Viri has now perfected the art of songwriting. While in the back of the car, driving around, he started singing a song about Thomas the Tank Engine. He doesn't remember any words, so he just makes stuff up. Today he sang:
Thomas the tank engine...Hippies are bad, hippies are not nice...Thomas the tank engine..

Thank you, and good night. Music is now done.

Sufi Poems: Four

Tonight I am crazy,
crazy with desire for You.
This impassioned heart of mine
overflows with longing for You

This is a line of poetry by the recently passed master of my order, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh. I'm venturing into the realm of arrogance, I know, but I'm going to make the effort to talk about the master's poem. I'll reiterate the warning I posted at the beginning of this project, that any mistakes and misunderstandings are solely my own, and don't reflect on my teachers or order.

This is one of my favorite of the master's lines, because it expresses the notion of longing that is often mentioned in Sufi poems. That longing, or desire for unity, has been referred to as the answer to the prayers of humanity. Meaning that the hopes and wishes we express, often limited to material needs or psychological issues, is answered with the desire to understand ultimate reality. This reality would open our minds to the truth of existence, and presumably the more mundane concerns would be set aside. Perhaps the solution would be obvious, or the issue would cease to have meaning at all.

The poets often talk of madness, or being crazy. This seems to be the madness of saints, who see the truth of the world and are unable to be comprehended by those of us solely in the realm of material concerns. Seekers of enlightenment from Zen monks to St. John talk of madness, barely being able to function in the face of the overwhelming beauty of the real. People who achieve unity with God have perceptions and abilities that make others misunderstand, envy, or even fear them. Watching someone who can see glimpses of the future, or appear to have a communion with animals, I can guess that it's a bit shocking.

To me, the master's poem is saying that all of this is only to put your heart into longing for God. The intensity and madness is driving the Sufi to seek God with all of his or her heart, and that longing is the communion that we are seeking. I love the use of "tonight," bringing the purpose of the meditation the immediacy of the moment. Tonight stands for the moment, right now, when we should be in remembrance of Absolute Reality.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Vehicles Are More Than Baby Beds

I wrote before that I never got into cars. I always felt like they were for rednecks, so I didn't develop my interest. Once I sat down and started thinking about it, I wondered how I could find a vehicle that worked for me, and served a purpose not limited to allowing babies to nap while I sat in the front and waited for Jaime. This would still be the primary purpose, of course. Waiting for Jaime is my ultimate purpose, there is no doubt of that. I just wanted a car or truck that would also be fun for me, maybe allow me to indulge my tinkering urge.

I like a lot of the old cars, but I think I want a mid to late sixties truck. I like the Chevy and the Ford models of that era, they seem utilitarian and truck-like while still being comfortable, and theoretically allowing children to ride inside without the cops pulling me over as soon as the wheels turn. Despite my arguments, Jaime isn't buying the "carseat in a sidecar" idea that I have for a motorcycle. So, a truck it is.

I can't decide among the different models, and I suppose I need to learn more about them before I can really differentiate. Or maybe it'll just be a matter of taste. I saw a 68 Chevy for sale on the street, in really nice condition, and I had a flutter in my chest. It was love at first sight. Certainly, I had eaten a few donuts, thrown back a large coffee, so I wasn't in the best frame of mind. But I choose to think that the sugar and caffeine merely opened up my heart, lowered my puritanical inhibitions against full-sized pickups, and didn't unduly cloud my judgement. It really was love.

Now, I'm torn as to which direction to go. Do I get a nice one, enjoy it, build up my love, let it grow? Or do I go out on a limb, get a beater, and lovingly fix it up and restore it to its full potential? (Because, unlike people, you can change your truck into the truck of your dreams.)

My lack of money and time will dictate the answer to this, of course. And Jaime will tell me exactly what that lack of time and money means, with hard numbers. The dream of a nice truck, custom painted, will live with my dream of a Harley Rocker-C, perhaps in the future, perhaps just out of reach. But a fun dream, nonetheless.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Roman Orgy Festival!

Tomorrow is one of those odd holidays that I never got into. I love holidays. Actually, I love time off and food, which holidays normally provide. Valentine's Day never really provided me with much of either. I always have to work, except this year, since it's Saturday. And I get no food.

In Japan, Valentine's Day has become a day for women to give chocolate to men. I'm not sure how this came about, except that Japan is really weird and does odd things for no reason. This bizarre take on the holiday did provide me food, however, so I was not terribly upset. Of course, the joke is on me, since there is also a holiday on March 14th, where I am supposed to give women gifts three times the value of the chocolates I got for Valentine's Day. It's a scam, in other words. Thank you Japan. First tentacle porn, then this. I won't forget this soon.

The kids really get into Valentine's Day too. The girls at the daycare today were making cards, and playing "It's Valentine's Day!" games. (Viri: It's not Valentine's Day! That's tomorrow! In the morning! Tell 'em Papa!)(He's very literal.) Why does this appeal to kids? I guess they get candy, but they often get candy. And they aren't playing get candy games, it's all about the cards and the fun of the event. I usually don't understand the kids, granted, but this is more offbeat that the usual craziness.

I'm not sure Jaime and I ever got into this. I imagine gifts were exchanged, when we were young. We got together back when the concept of giving gifts had just been invented, so we may have tried it. I think I carved her a mammoth bone. The ice had just receded, love was in the air. I don't think we ever took it too seriously, though. I probably just tried to convince her that it was an occasion to get me food.

Tomorrow we will celebrate by going out with the kids, having some fun with our friends. I don't think it will be romantic, exactly, but it should be good fun. Since I'm off work, coincidentally, it'll be everything a holiday should be. I'll have Jaime make me something good to eat.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Discovery Park and Crazy Children

Herc, Sarah, the kids and I all braved the twisty turny way up to Discovery Park today for a little walk around. It's a massive park, over 500 acres, and it takes energy and time to really explore it. I didn't feel like we got very far today, with sleepy children and limited time, but it was still a nice walk and chat. Which has become the point of my Thursday park outings: to get a little exercise in the cold and chat a bit with my friends.

Arkaedi had us all up last night, so Viri was extra sleepy and extra strange. He was bordering on dazed, actually, and made me carry him periodically around the park. Arkaedi was sleepy and temperamental too, so I spent a few minutes carrying both of my kids. That's over fifty pounds of fuss. Not a task for the weak willed Papa. Or the Papa without biceps.

The kids both fell asleep the moment we left the park, and had a good nap. When Viri woke up, I discovered a fun fact about my boy: His Santa Claus is Gamera. I've mentioned before that he loves Gamera. Today, he was bothering his sister, and on a whim I told him to be good, because Gamera helps good boys and girls, not bad boys. He immediately stopped, and profusely apologized. "I'm nice! I'm nice!"

I don't know how to break it to him that Gamera doesn't bring him presents. At least the talk about the reality of Gamera will be easier. I can just show him the rubber suits.

It was a really perfect day today. We've had some great weather recently, especially on Thursdays. It makes me excited for the warmer weather. I'm hoping for a good spring and summer, since I have a lot of traveling and backpacking I want to do. Actually, between baseball season, the new MLS team, warm days and travel... I am looking forward to the spring more than I would have imagined. I hope we get days like we had today. It'll be a wonderful spring.

More pics here. The last of my winter photos, February or not, I'm starting a spring album.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Distillation of Desire (The Consuming Chapter)

I feel as though I fall between two extremes in most things. This is partly true, and partly the feeling you get from contemplating your place in the world, I think. I do tend towards a middle ground in my interactions, especially given the friends I have around me. I like people with strong opinions and fun lifestyles, and they often are extreme. Not jumping out of a helicopter in an ad for sports drink extreme, just... forceful. I'm coming to understand that one of the reasons I like these friends is that I am not really interested in very much. I have fun with a lot, and I can get interested in what my friends are doing out of a sense of community and shared adventure. But I wouldn't do a lot of it on my own.

I have spent a good chunk of my life searching for things to like. I looked around at what I considered intellectually appealing, and tried to participate. I chose music that was politically stimulating rather than enjoyable on a musical level. I followed writers and issues that seemed to make sense to my mind, and didn't concern myself with my heart. I wasn't interested in what I liked, but what I should like. When I was writing the little bio for this blog, I came to that dilemma. I like tea, and chocolate, and coffee. That was the glib response, the easy silly answer. But it didn't have any substance, because I was afraid to put down the substance. I was so worried about it that I couldn't even think of it. It's troublesome to me how often I've been glib because I didn't want to admit what I really wanted or cared about.

Of course, I didn't realize that I was doing this. I certainly didn't exclusively chose interests based on the intellect, either. Some things that were just fun intrigued me, such as MST3K or Godzilla. My science fiction interest seems pretty genuine. And I don't mean to imply this was a bad thing, either; intellectual stimulation is important, and I needed some of these interests to grow as a person. But acknowledging and accepting what was really fun for me and what wasn't is also a growth exercise, and I've been in the process of doing that for the past few years.

The downside of my process is that I steer away from things I really like. This really hit home with me when I was discussing old cars recently. My son loves cars and trucks and motorcycles. I never got really into them, because as a child I associated liking vehicles with being a redneck. All of my cousins fixed cars and talked about them, and I didn't want to be like them at all. Now I understand that I didn't want to be racist, drunk, and inclined to quote AC/DC. But I did want to be like them in one way: I wanted to play with vehicles. Some strange and stupid part of me didn't see open-mindedness and sobriety mixing in well with cars. I wish I had known better.

I feel like there should be a special support group for people who grow up in rural America. Some way for us to accept aspects of our culture and be at peace with ourselves. I developed this little exercise that opened my eyes to this. It's an exercise about things.

(One of my "falling in the middle" issues is the issue of things. I like things. I don't define myself by things, or go mad trying to get things, but I have fun with them, as the toys they are. I don't feel the need to apologize for my computer, neither do I feel the need to get a great one. I like my computer, it's functional, that's that.)

So, I thought, what do I want? What material things do I feel are really me, and what would I be without. I would want these things: A small house, with a basic house arrangement (ie normal kitchen stuff etc), a truck, a decent Mac, and a motorcycle. I would take my basic black clothing ensemble, a futon on tatami floor to sleep, and that would be good. I think these things get to the heart of who I am. They explain a lot about me. I want to find a way to get rid of everything that doesn't fit into these categories. I'm slowly freeing myself of my books, my records, and all of the other stuff. Not that it's bad, but just for the exercise of clarity. Because I think someone else will get better use out of it. What is really illuminating is what I left out of the above list. I don't care about my writing, my guitar. My books, what few I have left, I care even less to bring. If they are around, fine, but I wouldn't chose to bring them. That's the real value of that exercise, I think. What is extraneous to you, and what is essential to your material comfort or sanity.

I told a friend of mine a few years back that I am no longer going to be embarrassed to like the things I like. I'm going to publicly proclaim Willie Nelson the greatest musician of all time, and dress like Johnny Cash, complete with cowboy boots. I'm going to bother J incessantly for a motorcycle. I'm going to search online for a 1964 Ford truck. (70s Chevy also acceptable.)

I'm not sure how to get from here to there. It sounds so simple, but getting to the person I want to be from the person I am is a circuitous route. Maybe it shouldn't be, but it is. There is a lot to unlearning what you have learned. Maybe a big change, a move, will make the process easier. Starting a new life in a sense, with a renewed sense of who I am and what I want out of life. Remembering the lessons of my past, but unlearning what needs to be unlearned. Yoda would be proud!

PS. Apologies for both the length and the confessional nature of this. I didn't realize where it was going until it careened off the track. But, there you have it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wherever To Roam?

I have some ideas for a fun summer trip. This would be a trip by motorcycle, so there are several complex Jaime negotiations between here and there, but for the fun of it I have laid out several possible trips. I actually would most like to take a trip to Riverside, Iowa, future home of James T. Kirk, but I figure these slightly shorter trips might make sense for this year. Especially considering whatever bike I get will be a cheap and possibly less reliable one.

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This seems fun, especially incorporating Canada into the mix. (America Junior, as it is officially known in United Nations proceedings.) This would need to be a high summer trip, since I assume it'll be frigidly freezing cold.

I also like this one:
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It seems less adventurous, but also maybe more manageable. Still cold as a really cold donkey on Really Cold Donkey Day, of course, so it's another hot summer trip. Which is good, since I will need to camp to save money. If Jaime plans the financial portion, I may need to gather nuts and berries for food as well.

There is always an Oregon trip, too.
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I really like Oregon. It's kind of the Kentucky of the west, in both the good and bad ways. The people can be a little strange, and I imagine two motorcyclin' vegan bald guys (I'm planning on begging and cajoling Herc to come along) won't be changing their minds anytime soon. Especially if Herc is on a scooter and I'm on a little Honda 500. We'll look suspicious. We'll be suspicious, for that matter, though not for the reasons they probably imagine. We'll have to wear jackets with our spiritual paths printed on the back, then we'll really be suspicious! My favorite Oregon personal interaction: Jaime went into a motor lodge to ask if they had any vacancies, and the woman at the counter said "I don't have to to tell you that!" Well, no, I guess you don't. But why have a motor lodge at all? I could understand her concern if we had accosted her on the street. When you work behind the counter at a motor lodge, though, don't you get the vacancy question a lot? I have to assume.

Then there's this one, probably the most conservative:
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I don't know when and if and how I'll pull all of this together, but I need to make it happen. One of the reasons I'm putting it down here is to make a mental picture of how much I really want to do it. My negotiations with Jaime will involve some give and take. I need to be sure of what I want and how much I'm willing to trade.

(I mentioned to J that I was willing to really sacrifice to make this trip happen. She said "You don't have anything I want." Sadly, it's true. I'm arguing from a position of weakness.)

I think my past few years of working with the kids, and spending a lot of time with that responsibility has made me want to just be on the road for a few weeks. I like the responsibility; I need it, honestly. I like to make the choice everyday, for myself. A big trip to clear my head, and cleanse the memory of Bastyr and J's program, would be good for me. I also hope to do a big backpacking trip back east, with my east coast friends. I may even make that happen before this one, who knows. But while I have a possibly willing two wheel companion and a slim chance of making this happen, I'm working on it too.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I Think It Is High Time I Rode (Like the Demon That Drives My Dreams)

I miss my motorcycle. I miss my little scooter. I miss anything that moves on two wheels. The old Suzuki I had in college is long gone, but I really wish I had held onto that bike. It was a great one, and I have the energy and motivation now to really fix it up. I also have the sense to ride it, which I didn't really have then. I even took advantage of the lack of helmet laws in Ohio, which was dumb. Helmets are good.

I have less love for my little 50cc scooter, and I don't really wish for that back. I'd happily trade it for a bigger scooter, however. I really like scooters, though, and in that hypothetical future where I can afford it, I will have a nice one.

My true love is for motorcycles. I dream of a nice Harley, especially a Softail. The hidden suspension just cheers me up every time I see it. There is even a Night Train model that is made by Harley. And I could, of course, sing the haunting John Carradine song from the "Red Zone Cuba" while I cruise the byways of the country.

I have a special place in my heart for the post-WWII cafe racers, as well.Not that I want to race up and down post war Europe, fun as that sounds. But the look of them, and the cobbled together feel...I like that a lot. They did run from town to town drinking coffee, which is great. I love that coffee became the drink of choice because riding and drinking alcohol was too dumb to contemplate. The original straight edge movement, in 1950's Europe. I'm as straight as the line dividing East and West Germany!

My efforts to convince Jaime of the utility of a motorcycle for me have ended in failure. I'm not giving up, however, and I plan to get my certification renewed in April. For a woman like J, a certification being unused will nag at her like a sore tooth. She'll want that piece of paper to realize its potential, and get me a bike. That's the plan.

The 20k for a Harley will wait...there are ways... lots of ways...


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Walk On, Arkaedi Sue

It also syncs up nicely to Monster X's "Take a Walk." But that's a little much for a little girl. These are not quite the first steps, but third or fourth steps, definitely.

If this looks good and works, expect a bunch more video posts in the future. I'm really excited to start putting these up, and in Elvis songs alone I have an entire documentary genre in my head. (That would be "Crazy Children and Elvis" for the film historians out there. Like Ken Burns' but with more wiggling and less still shots of Stonewall Jackson)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Monkeys Make Our Children Awesome

I often write about how kids are funny. They are. The sincerity and inexperience blend perfectly, and they make people laugh who pay any attention to them at all. Today I discovered the perfect straight man to the comedy child: the monkey.

Viri grabbed a plush monkey toy as he passed me, and nonchalantly began the greatest two minute run in history. I couldn't capture it fully, but I grabbed a pen and took notes. The rough highlights alone are a template to a brilliant comedy album.

Poor baby. Aw my monkey's hurt. I'm taking my monkey on the spaceship. Look at my monkey! Trying to escape... Go on, monkey. My monkey's trying to hold my hand. Why are you holding my hand monkey? Monkey no! Don't bonk my monkey.

I have no idea what was going on in his head, this all happened in a few short minutes as he paced around the room. Then he dropped the monkey toy and ran off.

I can't even pick my favorite from these lines. It's like trying to retell a Pryor joke. Every bit is gold, and the telling is such a crucial part of it. If I could master "Go on, monkey" in Viri's voice, there would be no need for me to ever tell a joke again. That would get laugh after laugh long after I was gone.

Don't bonk my monkey.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Magnuson Park Is Odd

Magnuson Park is one of the strangest I've ever visited. The entire place has the feel of an abandoned war zone, and with pretty good reason, as the whole area was a naval airfield for a bit. I'm really fond of it, especially in the winter when the stark, swampy area looks like the Ohio flood plains. It reminds me of chasing imaginary foes through brambles back in West By God, and that's always a good time. Especially when I watch Viri attacking enemies with his laser cannon in the same way. (He attacks bad robots, he says. And he doesn't shoot them, he "burls" them, which is the sound of said laser cannon.)(Incidentally, Penelope Burl is a great band name.)

Arkaedi Sue even enjoyed today, since she got to sit down on the rocks. She handed them to Viri as he threw them into the water. It was an impressive loading procedure, and I think the spirits of long buried submarines wold be proud. There are no bad robots in Lake Washington, certainly, thanks to these two. They make a good pair, and assuming some kind of Terminator-like apocalypse doesn't happen, and they don't actually need to attack bad robots with laser cannons, maybe they can put their skills to good work. I'm thinking brother sister baseball combo. (Which is another good band name.)

Probably the single greatest thing about Seattle (non-food and coffee division) is the availability of places like this. According to my quick internet research, parks like Magnuson and Discovery are exceptions, in places where large land development is more common than huge public spaces. We have partly the late growth of Seattle to thank for that; but a bit of it is the love of people in the Northwest for the environment around them. People wanted these places preserved, and so they are.

As I continue the winter trips to various parks, I'm keeping a bigger journey in the back of my mind. Ideally, I'd love to take a big motorcycle trip with Herc and Sarah, through the Cascades and into the eastern half of the state. I have never been east of the Cascades, which is silly. If I can't manage that, or if Jaime uses her hard veto power, then maybe another kind of trip could happen. I definitely want to see more of Washington while I have the time and energy. If I had money, I'd have the road trip trifecta. I'll have to settle with time and energy.

More fun pics as usual here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sufi Poems: Three

Today is another Rumi poem. A short one this time, in order to focus on the purpose of these entries and avoid too much intellectual wasting of time. A little is perhaps unavoidable, at least for me. Brevity is the soul of wit, the poets say.
All day and night, music,
a quiet, bright
reedsong. If it
fades, we fade.

I like this verse especially in reference to the business and wordiness of modern life. We are bombarded by noise, we inflict noise on ourselves and those around us. The fundamental reality escapes us, and we start to think the noise is reality. Rumi has such a perfect little caution for us, from centuries ago. Remember the quiet, bright reedsong. This is a subtle reference to the constant remembrance of God that all Sufis should be doing, and do when the noise doesn't make us forget. If we stop the remembrance, we stop truly being.

I honestly do have some intent to talk about poems other than Rumi... but boy is it difficult to pull myself away from the great saint himself. I'll make a genuine effort, I promise. I want to start on Sana'i, if I kind find some suitable translations. I even may get arrogant enough to post a poem of the master's, though I'm not sure when I'll dare that.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Golden Gardens in February

Continuing our travels through the beaches of Seattle, today we visited Golden Gardens. It's an amazing place, with some perfect views of the Olympics, and the kids really enjoy it. It's nearly intolerable in the summer, due to the explosion of hippies and other ne'er do wells that hang around. A drum circle is always happening, general mayhem and nastiness ensues. But in the fall and winter, it's perfect.

Today was another nice day, nearing sixty, and Viri was too tempted to just run into the water and get wet. His feet did get a little wet, and he was not happy about that. I get odd looks from other parents here in Seattle when I deal with Viri and his antics. I let him do a lot, and have high expectations of him. Part of the totality of enjoying these things, to me, is the process of learning to be social. The park is fun, and playing in the water is fun, but one thing you learn is that sometimes that means wet feet and other problems. If Viri doesn't get really hurt, I want him to experience the water and learn that getting wet in February, even a warm one, isn't so nice. I feel like I get two reactions to this: One is the chiding, "Why did you let him get wet?" parent. The other is the "It's just wet feet, don't make him feel bad" parent. Once again I have the impression I am in the middle of two extremes. I'm fine with his wet feet, but I'm going to explain it to him. He doesn't need to turn in a report or anything, but why not learn the lesson in front of him? I expect a lot of Taviri, and I know that. I also love him a lot, and he knows both of these things well, at the age of three.

This is another reason for the beach in winter: I can be alone with the kids, and work on these lessons before the extreme factions get their two cents in. They'll have plenty of time for that during his education. This is the time to build that foundation, so the education doesn't undo him.

Arkaedi enjoyed the beach, but she is mad that she gets stuck in Papa's arms all morning. I let her down, and she gets upset because it's dirty. I pick her up, and she wants to walk. For a one year old, it's a no win. She did get to ride in the swings, so that was fun. Another nice thing about Golden Gardens, the playground is right on the beach, so the kids can go back and forth. Assuming, of course, that the gaggle of hippies are in Lodi, or wherever the hippies around here go in the winter. Maybe they just dig into the ground and cover themselves in leaves. I'm really not up on the habits of hippies.

I'm not sure where I rank Golden Gardens in the scheme of Seattle parks. Definitely one of the nicer ones, but the crowds and traffic are distracting. Maybe somewhere in the top ten. I need to sit down and really work out a clear picture of my favorites. For one, it'd make choosing a place to go with the kids easier.

More fun photos here!

Monday, February 2, 2009

I Dare You To Do Better

That's just what I would say to the director after showing him the last movie.

McCoy with a flask, Kirk fighting, Sulu doing some space sword fighting... I think this will be pretty awesome.

At 16 seconds, there is a shot of the new Enterprise. Doesn't look CGI'd all to hell. I like it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Sunday at Carkeek Park

We had an amazing day today, including a fun finale at the Super Bowl Party with dirty diapers. No one pooped on Herc and Sarah's floor, so it was a moral victory. Earlier in the day we traveled down to one of my favorite places in Seattle, Carkeek Park.

I have actually had arguments with people in Seattle about the value of the beach in winter. Amazingly, some people save the beach for a sunny July day, and skip it most of the year. I am astounded by this, for multiple reasons. First, the beach is fun. This week I've seen seals, watched the sea birds dive, and gotten spectacular views. I don't need a warm day. And second, we get so few warm days, you're missing out on the natural beauty of the area during a huge chunk of the year. I never get those people who don't take advantage of opportunities to do things when they can. I want to see and do everything I can, and I race around trying to see and do it before I miss it. Who knows what will happen in the months and years to come? If I have a few hours, my family and I are going to be outside having fun.
Today was a bit chilly, which me and Arkaedi loved. Viri and Mama had limited patience for the wind off the water. The trains cheered him up a good bit though. So, all in all a successful day. Parks, football, food and friends. (What's a synonym for parks that begins with and F sound, to make that sound better? I'm going to make one up. Photosynthesisplace.) It's odd that it often seems so chilly here, when it isn't that cold. It was in the 30s, even low 40s today. It definitely felt colder than that. Viri: "The cars are cold."

Days like this remind me once again that so many things in life are what you make of it. Sure, bad breaks and good breaks come and go, but the set up and preparation is so important. I'm a person who needs beautiful things around me, nature and friends and family. There don't have to be seals, but seals are nice too. I structure my life in order to have these things, and therefore I'm mostly a pretty happy guy, even though I'm broke and balding. (Really balding. Troy Polamalu could make 4,364 heads of Ryan hair from his.) We're really up in the air about what to do next with out lives, where to live and how to make enough to pay bills. But today showed me what I will need, wherever I end up. Friends, football, photosynthesisplace, and food.