Monday, February 25, 2008

Poop

My middle son is very nearly successfully potty trained and with that in progress it has led to some truly charming moments at the Dayton residence. Take last night at bed time. He swore he had to use the potty, even though he had just been not five minutes previously. But my wife intervened and suggested that I take him in there again, and what do you know, he delivered the goods.

Dad: Well, whaddaya know... you proved me wrong Jack.

Jack: Yeah, I poop you wrong Daddy!

He-heh... poop jokes.... always funny.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Watched Pot

The other day I was getting ready to boil some water for dinner and I decided to prove the old axiom wrong. It’s said that a watched pot never boils and I am happy to report that all the old wives spinning that particular tale are decidedly wrong, and I have the spaghetti to prove it.

I started out with a couple quarts of cold water in our big stainless steel pot. I set it on the burner and turned it on, ready to walk away. As it turned out though, I was all ready to go with the rest of the preparations, and just then the old saying popped into my head. I decided to give it a go.

The first two minutes were all right. There’s nothing at all happening, but the thrill of the challenge was still fresh. Shortly after the two-minute mark I had to apply more concentration to keep my eyes on the pot. By minute seven I had exhausted nearly every possibility. I had been over all I know about the metallurgy involved in making a kitchen pot, examined all the interactions of light and water within its burnished confines, and wound up staring doggedly at the chrome knob in the center of the glass lid and making faces like a kid in front of a fun house mirror. Then… ever so slowly… the faint tickling sound started to grow and tiny bubbles formed on the bottom. From there it was a surprisingly long time until the water reached a full, rolling boil. Staring at that forest of bubbles on the bottom and willing one to break free was, in fact, much worse than staring at a still volume of cold water.

But at last the lid was jiggling happily over a full head of steam and it was time to put the pasta in. More importantly, I had single-handedly dispelled one of the longest standing myths of our time (Top that Myth Busters!) Wasted time you say? A foolish pursuit perhaps? Well, it’s something I proudly add to my list of esoteric accomplishments. Have you ever done it?

Another Day at the Grind

I live a charmed life. I went from being a carpenter who did a little sound work on the weekends, pursuing my expensive and time-consuming hobby. Over the last two years my hobby has become my primary occupation and now I just do a little carpentry on the side. (By the way, call me if you need any work done, things are pretty slow this month.) There was a point a couple years ago when I had four or five days of sound work in a row and said jokingly to my wife that I should quit building and do sound full time. She agreed, she thought I came home in a much better mood when I’d been doing sound.
Well, now instead of pulling wires or hanging drywall all day, I do shows.

I leave the house at all hours of the day and night, in all manner of weather, fair and foul. I drive uncounted miles to far-flung venues and carry 2800 pounds of gear to the stage. Usually I have to climb stairs with it; sometimes I have to shovel the stairs first. I sweat, always, the weather doesn’t matter. Then I get it all plugged in and run the show, two to three hours of set up time and an hour to twelve hours of show, followed by two more hours of loading out. It’s a period of intense concentration sandwiched between two periods of heavy lifting, then I drive home, still in a muck sweat and usually arrive in my driveway so stiff that I more or less fall out of my truck.

And yet, compared to the steady grind of construction work, I come home far happier and well adjusted. My favorite saying is that even a terrible day at a rock concert is better than a good day hanging drywall.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tax Time Haiku

For those of you who have not experienced the joy of boiling life's great questions, memorable events and great pontifications down to seventeen syllables, you need to look up the word Haiku. This year for Tax Time I have composed a pair, one for the woes of previous years, and one for the joys of this one.

Tax time aches my head
Uncle Sam is laughing hard
I could use some scotch

Child tax credits rule
Deductions with my wife's eyes
Refund on its way

Generally they are a little more ethereal than that to give your mind some working room to search for a deeper meaning. But this time I felt like being blunt. Maybe after the check shows up I'll re-write it to contrast the use of whiskey depending upon which direction the money flows.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Groaning Board

In literature, a great feast, a smorgasbord, is often described as a groaning board, a sideboard so heavy laden with good food that it groans under the weight. Every once in a while we like to pull one of these off, bury our guests under an avalanche of food and watch their eyes sparkle at the sight of it all.

I’ve always enjoyed a good gathering. The beer bashes of high school and college just don’t bring the satisfaction of an intimate gathering of family and friends. Getting the hang of pulling one off without being totally stressed out about all the details took several years of marriage to a good cook to perfect.

It used to be that we would plan for days. We would spend the whole day getting ready, cleaning and cooking and straightening things out. It was nice in that it got the house sparklingly clean on occasion, but somehow it just wasn’t worth all the fretting. We could pull off one heck of a gathering, but seldom enjoyed it and wound up totally spent afterward.

Lately we’ve come to terms with our life and have accepted that with three kids and two businesses to tend to, we’re just not going to keep the house spotless, or even manage to get it there for special events. We realized that we don’t care what our friends’ houses look like when we visit we’re there to see them, not their house. So now it’s, “Hey, glad you made it! Move some laundry, grab a chair!” I was so glad the day I realized that my friends’ warts-and-all mentality would easily extend to dinner parties and that I could just relax and enjoy the event myself.

There’s a second side to this particular dinner party. It started back in the fall when we bought a twenty-seven pound free range turkey. He was the smallest one we could get and with some difficulty we managed to get him squared away in the freezer to enjoy sometime this winter. The day finally came when we hauled him out again and began to defrost him. Unfortunately he took a while longer to warm up than we expected, being twice the size of the turkeys we usually encounter, and we had to postpone the glorious day of his roasting two times. But at last his icy middle warmed up and in the oven he went.

The pace of the day just idled along, I left to do some errands and later my wife took her turn, the kids played and ate lunch and napped. I had the marvelous experience of baking some dinner rolls with my daughter, which are destined to become a family tradition. Those in particular were a high point on a lot of levels. My father has baked bread recreationally for years and since his semi-retirement has taken it to a new level, dropping off still warm loaves to friends and family far and wide. My daughter has been baking with him and it was quite the experience to bake my first bread and have her giving me pointers all the while.

With a little tossing of stray objects behind couches and last minute washing up we were ready for our guests and still cruising along in second gear. Our kitchen filled up with guests, our counter top filled up to overflowing with food, and we all sat down to tuck in at the stroke of five thirty… right on schedule, HA!

Sitting in my kitchen, slightly overheated by all the cooking and continuing to be warmed by the breath and conversation of eight grownups and four short people was better than drugs. In the midst of my warm fuzzy I glanced over at the stove, its digital readouts declaring that all four corners were sporting hot elements. HE HE HE HE, it seemed to chuckle, self satisfied and relaxing after the big push. To be warm and happy and full, pour the coffee and settle in to some after dinner conversation while the grandparents keep the shorties occupied is the true mountain top experience of family life.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine To My Wife

Valentine To My Wife

I didn’t get anything for my wife this year. She doesn’t mind because it’s a slow month and she’d rather have electricity than roses. She’s the industrious sort, not that she’s without her romantic side. Lucky for me, my girl’s idea of a romantic getaway is to have the kids in bed by 8 pm and take a bottle of wine and some snacks to the back yard.

Something she’s wrestled with is the fact that she’s truly come into her own as an adult, and yet is a stay at home mom. Don’t get me the least bit wrong, she’s fiercely proud of the job and pursues it wholeheartedly. You wouldn’t believe the amount of reading and research she does. And on top of all she does, she still finds time to volunteer at church and extensively for Habitat for Humanity, as well as lend a hand to at least half a dozen other moms in the area and cook dinner for anybody that needs it.

So, while other people in their late twenties or early thirties are out conquering the world, she’s conquering our home and children and it makes my mind reel when I stop to take in all that she does. In addition to wrangling three of the brightest and most active (also cunning, michevious and persistant) children I know, she also manages to be the Queen of the following activities. P.S. No slight intended to our friends, they have brought forth quite a batch of exceptional young’uns.

She was already a fabulous cook when I met her and she’s been perfecting her craft steadily ever since. With the continued addition of short people to our roster, she’s constantly creating ever more interesting fare on an ever shrinking budget. We’re some lucky eaters at my house and I shake my head in disbelief when the short people turn up their noses and ask for peanut butter and jelly, but what do they know about good eats anyway, they haven’t been exposed to school lunch yet to have a real basis for comparison.

She’s steadily gaining on being an accomplished baker of bread. For those of you who don’t know is a completely different area of the kitchen arena from any other sort of baking. Persuading yeast to make sweet love to sugar and take some other ingredients along for the ride is high art, and when successfully done, makes those factory produced loaves on the shelves at the store seem like… I don’t know, the unloved bastard children of the bread world.

She knits. It started out as just a diversion, making a hat or scarf for a friend to keep her hands occupied on the couch at night. Lately she’s taken to making sweaters, child sized ones only at the moment, but they’re flying off her needles with a frequency that’s quite frankly astounding to me. She clicks away for a few nights and suddenly, pop, she’s holding up her latest creation for me to acknowledge its factor of cuteness. The scope of this feat is truly amazing. When you consider how cheap and flimsy factory made clothes are, and when I look at sweaters my kids wear that my mom made for my brother and I, I stand in awe of the simple act of tying knots in yarn and how the product is able to traverse generations. Those sweaters are going to be like little love telegrams from Grandma when they get passed on to our grandkids. Fortunately for them my wife also has a keen sense for design and they’re likely to still be fashionable by that time.

I won’t even get started on her wit. It’s quite possibly the sharpest thing in the known universe. Grizzled old men tremble at her approach, saucy youths find themselves put firmly in their places by her briefest utterance, and I get at least one good belly laugh from her commentary on a daily basis.

Those are just some of the big ones that I can think of at this late hour. Her love and generosity are seemingly without bounds. Her love of learning and questing for perfection make me want to better myself every time I see her at work. And it is work folks. I may do most of the heavy lifting around here, but every time I spend the day at home, alone, with the kids I’m whupped.

Now go hug your wife and tell her how amazing she is. And if you don’t have one yet, file this away so you know what to watch for. It’s easy to become blind to the brilliance that’s right in front of you every day.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hamming It Up

Hamming It Up

I’ve been into radio from some of my very earliest memories. I loved listening to the radio, there’s a picture of the budding sound guy at the tender age of one, in my walker with the cans on (headphones) listening to Linda Ronstadt. In elementary school I was given a pair of walkie talkies that saw heavy usage right up through high school. They had a range of about 200 feet, but we thought they were the greatest, and they were on the same frequency as my buddy’s, so then we had four! I craved a CB radio from the time I saw my first Dukes of Hazzard episode. The CB craze hadn’t even begun to die down yet at the time and there they were, tantalizingly perched on garage sale tables and in the Radio Shack catalog.

I finally got one and stuck it in my first car. Not knowing a thing about radio, I just happened to luck out that the antenna was a good match, and I could talk a long way with it, ten or twelve miles sometimes. About this time I started to hear about ham radio, but it seemed like rocket science and really expensive. A lot of mailing away for things an soldering, I wanted to talk!

Years and years went by and in my mid twenties I found myself married with children and my brother-in-law living in my basement. He happened to work at Radio Shack (affectionately known as Cell Phone Shack by then) and was buying a scanner a week at one point. He had set up quite the listening station and could hear every police and fire dispatch in western New York, as well as airports, delivery trucks, baby monitors, and not least of all hams.

It caught my interest, an arcane pastime with secrets to delve, formulas to work out, things to build that involved crawling up on the roof with string and wire, and again, not least of all, boxes with lights and buttons! He had plenty of contact with the local hams at the Shack and when they caught on that some young blood was interested, they persuaded us to study for our tests. A couple months later we had Technician class licenses from the FCC and we got on the air. KC2PNF (myself) and KC2PNN, his girlfriend got her ticket at the same time, KC2PNE and is loving it as well.

Nearly two years later we’ve both upgraded to General class and are working on Extra (highest class with the most frequency privelages). The sky is the limit with this hobby, with everything from local, line-of-sight communications with VHF walkie talkies to world wide communication on the HF “low bands”, sattelite communications, microwaves, digital modes, amateur TV, the list goes on. There are antique gear enthusiasts who rebuild the great rigs of yester-year, guys that limit themselves to 5 watt “flea power” stations, guys that only do Morse Code, guys that operate HF from their cars, and even a few ladies that operate. With some borrowed equipment and scrounged savings we’re both making contacts across the country and around the world.

The really great part is that I can fit it into my busy life. My former hobby was doing sound for small concerts. Now that I’ve parlayed my expensive and time consuming hobby into a revenue stream for the family, I found myself looking for another expensive and time consuming hobby. Bass fishing was right out, don’t like boats, so was sculpture, just don’t have the chops. But with a ham radio on the dashboard of my truck, I can while away the many hours I spend on the road, talking to friends and making new acquaintances. Hurray for multi-tasking.

The real thrill though is sneaking out to my “shack” , the bench I have set up in my shop with my HF (High frequency, 1.8 MHz to 30 MHz) the one that let’s me talk around the world when conditions are right. I’d love to be one of these rich retired guys that just buys and sells stuff on eBay and talk on the radio all day. Or even to have a full afternoon to spin the dials and make contacts. But as it is, sometimes I get twenty or thirty minutes to “work the bands” and usually I can make a contact or two and it’s always thrilling.

For example, one day last week I had ten minutes in the morning and I spoke to a station in Lithuania on the 20 meter band like he was in the room. The next minute I was down on 40 meters and just barely made out a guy in Ohio. You never know what you’re going to get. Then there are special event stations, guys pile up trying to get in and make a contact so they can get a special card to commemorate whatever they’re commemorating. And then contest weekends when it’s just a free-for-all, stations all over the world clamoring to contact one another and score points. I’m fast turning into a contest junkie myself.

It’s not for everybody, even the ARRL website isn’t very welcoming to newbies, and that’s part of their job. Most hams find their way in from CB, or they work in communications or at least electronics. But if you find that you look at ham articles on line and you kind of speak the language, you should find a local club, study up a little and take the test. The FCC is practically giving away licenses these days and most hams are really glad to help out the noobs.

Here’s a few links to check out besides the ARRL (American Radio Relay League).
QRZ – www.qrz.com (QRZ is Morse Code short hand for “who are you”, there’s a lookup for finding out who’s behind the call sign. Also, practice tests for the FCC exams, a million links, articles and forums, even gear for sale.)
eHam – www.eham.net (more of same, but the best parts are the articles written by hams and open for comment.)

The learning curve is near vertical at first, but once you learn the jargon it gets a lot easier. So, 73 OM, I’m about to join the YL in the house. See you a little further on down the log.

(Translation: 73 is Morse Code short hand for goodbye it’s also an anagram--∑∑∑ ∑∑∑--, people working the voice modes just say 73 at the end of a QSO, conversation. OM is short hand for Old Man, which most hams are comfortable calling one another and being called, regardless of age. Ham’s wives are referred to as YLs (young ladies) And the FCC requires you to keep a log of all your contacts, not that anyone ever checks them. Instead of, “see you later” we say we hope to see you on our log sheet again.)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

I Want A Rope

There was a girl named Brenna Rose born some time ago who was pink and perfect, a happy little baby for the first year of her life. When she was about one she was diagnosed with severe brain damage and autism on top of that. If you’re not familiar with autism, it essentially severs the sufferer from contact with the world around them. Inside, they are still a thinking, feeling human being, but with little or no normal connection through their eyes, ears or voice. Depending on the severity, people may be able to do no more than gauge the sufferer’s approximate mood from their actions.

Some time in the eighties a method called facilitated communication came into being. A facilitator would hold Brenna’s hand and help her to type on a large keyboard. Some suspected this method because the facilitator would be holding her hand and looking at the keyboard, and she would be looking randomly around the room. But she could answer questions that the facilitator could not have known the answer to, and thus the door was opened.

Now that her family could finally talk to her, and ask her how she felt and what she wanted, they were overjoyed. At the end of the session, they asked her if there was anything she wanted. She replied immediately, “A rope”. You can imagine their confused surprise, possibly thinking that she wanted to jump rope. But no, she wanted to hang herself. At the tender age of twelve she wanted to end her life, because no one really knew her or understood her.

Thankfully, with the help of facilitated communication, she found the connection she had been missing and has now developed into a happy, productive adult with an education and even a job. Even with the severe disability and massive challenge that her handicap and autism presented, she was able to work through the things that bothered her, and move on to developing as a person.

So, why do so many people walk around feeling miserable when there’s no real obstacle to them to work things out with someone. People, teenagers especially, feel that no one understands them, or knows what they’re going through. Well, nobody has a prayer of understanding you or knowing what’s going on if you don’t tell them.

If you’re thinking about a rope, or a handful of pills or some similar solution, stop, and go tell some one about it. If they don’t get it, tell someone else. The human experience in this life is so similar in so many respects, there’s somebody out there who knows exactly what you’re feeling, and many more who can at least understand it. A friend of mine lost a friend to suicide some years ago and the truly terrible thing about it was that no one even knew he was having a rough time. Any of his friends would have gone to great lengths to help him out, talk to him or get him some treatment. Instead he held his tongue and is no more.

And even if you’re not considering suicide, even if all it is, is that you feel awful sometimes, or all of the time. What’s the sense in saying you’re fine when you’re not. Obviously the check out girl at the grocery store doesn’t want to hear about it, but lots of other people ask, “How’s it goin” all the time, and might be surprised to hear a tale of woe, but would easily be able to identify with you. The only obstacle to your communication is yourself. You need no facilitator, you're capable.

I walked around for most of my life feeling misunderstood and keeping my grief to myself. My closest friends were all guys who could be a help sometimes, but it took meeting my wife before I finally had a true confidant. But even then there were things that were beyond her power to fix. I’m not ashamed to say I’ve been to a shrink, most of my friends have (the same guy actually) and most of them feel better. It takes some outside perspective to put you to rights sometimes.

So, don’t hang on to your misery. There’s this image of the long-suffering soul made popular in literature and movies. And while it’s true that adversity does push people to new levels and inspire artists to great works, these aren’t people who wallowed in it and clung to it. Don’t sit around and nurse your awful feelings. Like anything, if you feed them, they will grow. There’s a line from a Smashing Pumpkins song that always sticks in my mind, “Intoxicated with a madness, I’m in love with my sadness”. What the hell kind of existence is that. People go through rotten times all the time, but the objective ought to be to get past it, and you can’t always do it yourself.

Brenna is my friend’s kid sister. He speaks about her to schoolchildren and the effect is always stunning. My other friend with the suicide story does the same. Myself, I’ve lost a friend to suicide, and nearly lost my best friend that way. If you’ve got a similar experience you need to share it with people. Nobody ever taught my generation how to communicate with and support each other. As a result it took us well into our thirties to get the hang of it. Schools are finally starting to get into this, but it’s really up to people to foster these connections on their own. Share your experience, make your shoulder available.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Name Calling for Fun and Profit

Name Callling for Fun and Proffit

Growing up I had a pretty good image of myself. Until one day, in first grade I realized that there are cool kids and dorky kids, and I was way at the lower end of the dork spectrum. The ramifications of that still plague me to this day.

The biggest thing was the name calling. After about ten years of being verbally trod upon my fellow dorks and I came to a realization. We had pretty much been called everything in the book, and we were a lot smarter than the guys that wrote the book.

Slowly over the years, we dorks developed a game wherein we came up with ever more creative ways to deride each other. Spiteful at first, we were looking for an easy target for our football player induced rage. My close friends and I evolved it into a game where we rode each other even harder than our tormentors. No rules were ever laid out, it just happened. And the benefit was, we were sharing material and honing it to razor sharp perfection.

By tenth grade we found that we could really get under the skin of the bullies that loved to get our goats. Quite often we could get theirs instead, which would often lead to a more severe wedgie, but hey… we absorbed the abuse to our briefs and smirked while we picked up our spilled books at the knowledge that some day in the not too distant future we’d be putting our much maligned intellects to use, and the guys handing out the wedgies would be fat, bald alcoholic wife abusers stuck in the ruts of their miserable lives.

Touche!

By eleventh grade I found that not only could I strike back verbally while getting tossed in a dumpster, I could actually avert the attack altogether just by shouting down the aggressor with a few well chosen lines from my repertoire.

Sometime in college I was surprised to find myself largely unassailed and yet still playing the game. Surrounded by intelligent folks of like mind and experience, we continued to work on our material, much to the amusement of all. Many a happy moment was had at someone else’s expense, except it wasn’t really at their expense because they mostly had a good comeback to keep the good natured laughs going.

The only down side was when our venom spilled over on someone who had not yet developed the leathery hide required to participate in our twisted little pastime. A freshman or two definitely felt the sting and went away moping when they strayed too close to the mele. And once I totally scored a triple whammy, in-your-face, sent them packing point on a girl that was so good I almost called my buddies to tell them about it. Except that she was seven, the niece of a friend who was watching a movie at our place and floated out a perfect setup. She was reduced to tears and it took me weeks of apologizing before it was finally smoothed over. About that same time I had a friend who claimed he could make a complete stranger cry in six sentences or less. I believe him.

Despite the occasional collateral damage I think the game been more or less a good thing. I’m all but impervious to verbal abuse, ask anyone who knows me, I’m pretty much un-gettable. The interesting thing is that what started out as a totally degrading experience developed into a practice that armored me, and continues to sharpen my intellect and sense of humor as the years pass.

At the risk of setting off all the political correctness alarms, I’m just going to dive into this. Dorks growing up to be millionaires led to the advent of “geek sheik” with fashion statements like Drew Carey glasses and t-shirts that say I Heart Dorks. (My personal favorite is one that says “Classically Trained” with the Atari logo on it.) We geeks have turned the epithet around much the same way that the black community has pulled the teeth out of some of the racial epithets that have plagued them. It’s why gangstas call each other “nigga”. It pulls the teeth out of the serpent. “You can’t insult me with a term if it’s the term I use to call my friends.” (That one obviously isn’t totally de-fanged yet, just ask any white rapper if they use the term with impunity.)

So, watch how you deride people. If you’re in the habit of doing it maliciously (as opposed to jokingly, there’s a fine line there for most) you may find that what you’re really doing is creating a monster that will someday tongue lash you into submission and walk away, self esteem firmly re-established. And for any parents, keep in mind that while “Ignore The Bully” is still the time tested correct response, having a better response may lead to some damaged underpants in the short term, but if used properly the proverbial pen is certainly mightier than the sword.

The Meat You Eat

The Meat You Eat

I just finished up an article in the New York Times titled A Dying Breed about meat consumption. It was relatively free from the usual indignant hippie flavor that such articles have, but even with that small comfort, it was still mostly figures about how Americans eat more meat than anybody else and production figures and whatnot. There were a few things that jumped out at me though.

Let me preface this section by saying that I’m not a member of Green Peace, the Humane Society, a hippie, or a vegetarian. Not that any of those things are bad, I’m just not on any of those particular band wagons and may not be fully up to date on all the finer points of things that I’m going to be getting into here.

The first thing was about the proliferation of factory farms. That’s where the animals are kept in pens the whole time and fed the most fattening diet that can be contrived and loaded with hormones to make them grow and antibiotics to keep them form dying off. I’ll skip the environmental impact statement, it’s obvious, as is the humane society rant that always pops up. The thing about those farms is that the animals are fed grain and soy as opposed to grazing to get them to grow faster. That same grain would go a lot farther in feeding people if the people just ate it themselves. Getting calories out to a consumer by running them through a cow, pig, or chicken first is really kind of a luxury situation, especially since humans can get all the protein they need from a vegetarian diet.

The original source of those calories is somewhat of a hot topic as well. With alternative fuel production starting to ramp up, corn is in demand and the prices are rising accordingly. Get this… it’s actually becoming almost competitive for farmers to graze their animals. So with all these precious calories, poor penned up animals, and lakes of poo dotting the country side, the writer of the article sees that among those who partake of the luxury of eating meat, those who are willing to pay even more for free range meat are a pretty small group.

There’s just so many arguments against factory farms and for small independent farms. Factory farms developed because small farms couldn’t remain competitive. So now there’s these sprawling meat factories that nobody wants to live near, wrecking the ground water. What’s more, all the feed has to be trucked in, and all the meat trucked out, so there’s an additional layer of environmental harm. If ethanol takes off, the cows and the trucks they ride in will actually be competing for the same corn!

What if the small, local farm became viable again.

It would seem that loads of people would have to get on board for that to work. BUT!!! It’s really not that expensive. My family bought half a pig, a quarter of a cow, and an enormous free range turkey from local farmers this year. Only the bird was more expensive per pound, but at 29 pounds (he was the smallest one they had by the way) we’re going to be eating some fine turkey for quite a few meals. Yeah, so I’ve got a freezer full of free range meat, untainted by hormones, raised on food that it was meant to eat and be healthy on, and it all tastes way better than anything I’ve ever had from the store. And I’m not just talking about the smug factor (see: Prius owners) I’ve been completely ruined for store bought bacon by this stuff, I won’t even consider it.

So… what if the small local farm were viable again.

Families that operate farms gain independence and furnish jobs for their neighbors. Pollution is reduced because manure can be spread in sensible amounts on nearby fields, where the feed for the stock is grown. Trucking of feed is greatly reduced, trucking of product is greatly reduced. It’s win, win, win here. Rural America is busy growing corn for our gas tanks, and grass to fatten up healthy animals. Fresh, healthy, great tasting meat shows up at the store and everybody’s happy.

But, this is America and it’s the new millennium folks. People are actually talking seriously about “meat without feet”. Yeah, animal tissue grown in vats and then sliced or ground up. Appetizing huh? I’m all for progress, but couldn’t those people be busy figuring out how to do something that can’t already easily be done? Like quitting AOL or making income tax forms intelligible? Do we really need to relegate the practitioners of “the oldest profession” (I’ve been waiting years to use that in reference to farmers instead of prostitutes) to checking on vats of veal when they really ought to be out doing things to better their neighborhood and the condition of the stuff on our plates?

All I’m saying is if you could have really good tasting meat on your table, from animals fed stuff they were meant to eat and allowed to stretch their legs, and at the same time reduce pollution, and improve your local economy for only slightly more effort and actually sometimes less money wouldn’t you do it? I did, it was pretty easy, I feel pretty good, and it tasted wonderful with a little rice and broccoli.

By the way, it hasn’t come up yet, but I could really give a damn about cloned animals. Gardeners have been cloning plants since some ancient Sumerian first put flint blade to seed and the plant world has been none the worse for wear for it. But if it comes to meat-from-a-vat… I’m outta here. Seriously, you can bury me under what used to be a hay field somewhere cause that is just too weird.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Little Things

This one's about the "little things", not to be confused with my
"little people" whom I usually reference as my "short people" just to
keep things straight.


At any rate, a lot of my thinking about my children has to do with, to
be brutally honest, dreading contact with them. This arises from my
deep desire to do right by them and raise them up properly so they
don't grow up to be the kind of people I would complain about. Also,
quite honestly, most of the time that I have to interact with them, I'm
wasted. Not drunk mind you, but just physically and mentally wasted.
I'm self employed, times two, and I work all kinds of ridiculous hours
and a regular sleep schedule is out of the question. Couple that with
the desire to make my wife happy by managing what I can of the house
work (not that I think it's women's work, she's just a stay-at-home mom
at the moment and that stuff falls mostly on her), and most of the
time that I'm not working, if I'm not a complete zombie, I'm washing
something. So with only a scant hour or two each day for the tall
people to regroup, I'm either struggling to wake up, or stay awake,
fighting hunger pains, trying to manage all the details of my work, and
then push all that stuff aside so I can make truck noises and perform
in highly coreographed renditions of Disney movies.


What I realize later on sometimes is what a lame dad I am when I
interact with my kids when I'm in that condition. But over the last
couple days my schedule has eased off a bit and I got to enjoy some
true quality time with the short ones. Not that I'm really a believer
in quality time, I believe that your kids just want you around, that's
what I wanted when I was little anyway.


I was blown away by my daughter's thirst for learning. We played a
game of school that started out with show and tell. After a detailed
exhibition of the myriad contents of her backpack I started coming up
with short "lessons" for my star pupil. In the history lesson I played
on her love of the American Girl books and got her to tell me all about
life in the pioneer days. Then we switched over to spelling and I'm
pretty sure she can spell better than a good many of the people I
exchange e-mail with. And during the math lesson, she even got through
zero sum problems and still remembered to raise her hand every time.
And I was treated to this wonderful show because, for once, I was able
to extricate myself from the director/actor role where she's the driver
and instead got into some play where we were both stimulated.


And just today, while my wife had her off somewhere, I was home alone
with my two boys, well rested and ready for action. My one year old
was a continuous display of developing language skills (spoken and
sign) that I usually don't experience. My wife deals with him so much
that her reactions to his communication are so much faster than mine
and I just miss what he's saying in the cacophony of our life. I
already knew him to be very engaging and interactive, his reaction to
any sort of attention at all could melt even the stoniest of people.
We both really enjoyed the interaction that we usually don't get.


And my two year old, who is really getting the hang of being two and
all of the trying behavior that's associated with that age, was a
perfect angel today. Probably it's just cabin fever. But without a
bossy older sister and a worn out mom in the picture, he finally had
some space and was just his nice, sweet self today. I was braced for
an onslaught of disobedience and prepared to have my requests ingnored
all day. But he, like myself, seemed to just want to chill out and
enjoy the decreased estrogen levels in the house. It goes back to that
"kids just wanting you around thing" I mentioned earlier. Once he
realized that I was there if he wanted me, he was perfectly happy to
just bop around and do his own thing and call me when he needed me. He
even went to the bathroom all by himself all day, which for you
non-parents is HUGE!


So, now that I've gotten my fill of gushing about my kids out of my
system let me get on to the real thing I wanted to write about. The
crushing pressure of everyday life demands such focus that a lot of
really nice details fly by without notice. Picture the difference
between driving on an interstate and being a passenger in the same car.
The driver can only remember the traffic and the passenger has seen
all the scenery.


Remembering back a week, I got a rare visit in with my old best friend
from my high school and college days. He's caught on that if he wants
to see me he needs to hire me, so occasionally I mix for his band or he
calls me up to install a ceiling fan or something. This time it was
the latter and while I stuck a 54 inch five blade to his living room
ceiling we got caught up. I realized later that I had been told that
he was persuing a degree that he had let lapse years ago and even
though he alluded to it several times, I failed to catch on and talk
about it. All of these incidents I've mentioned, the missed and the
caught, have me wanting to train myself to adjust my frame of mind more
often so I can experience these things I've been missing.


As you're driving down the interstate... switch seats occasionally.