Feeling Mortal

•October 1, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I sometimes speak to friends and coworkers about a sense of mortality.  As we all get a bit older, those thoughts start creeping into the backs of out minds.  I don’t view it as a particularly macabre, I simply think it is just a natural progression.

Throughout our lives we always hear about it… so much so that it becomes just anther saying… or at least that was the case with me.

But as I get older, I certainly think about it more often… and it scares the hell out of me.  Not because of what you may think, but for a reason that I never imagined until I felt like it throat punched me one night.  The actual transition from life to death doesn’t really scare me.  I may live to be 100 years old, or I may die before I finish this post.  It is an unknown, and I am comfortable with that.

Mr. Blue Eyes

Mr. Blue Eyes

I am not particularly scared of the method either.  Yeah, burning to death or having something slowly kill me would suck for a while, but even that is temporary… doesn’t really freak me out.

The other night, I had been holding Jackson while he was in a laughing mood.  At five months old, it is really great to start hearing his giggles and get reactions as he builds up to the big number of just belting out the belly laugh.  After that, little B and I were doing the pre-sleep routine.  I go into his room with him and he picks out a book to read.  As a 23 months old, reading pretty much consists of pointing to the pictures and asking me what each one is… and then repeating it back with a sense of victory.

So we are sitting in his room on the floor and I look up at him as he reads ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, and it is absolutely one of the coolest moments in my life.  Here I am… sitting here watching our son read a book that was a favorite of mine as a kid… and I can practically see the wrinkles forming in his brain as he learns new things…

…and then I realize that one day it will be gone.

That is what scares me about mortality.  The fact that I will not get to be with my sons and wife.

My dad died when I was four years old.  I actually remember the police officer coming to tell my mom that he had been killed by a drunk driver while working… I can still see and hear it clearly.  Being so young, I never really thought about what was missing in my youth.  My dad had died, my mom raised three of us on her own, and that is simply how it was.

Really, Dad?

Really, Dad?

But he never got to see me read his favorite book.  He never saw me play a sport.  He never saw me really screw up and he never saw me fix myself.  He was never able to be my dad.

I do not feel like I missed any of the essentials growing up.  I just had a different experience than some… although many had one similar to mine.  And as an adult, I do not feel sad that I grew up without a father.  But as a father, I feel incredible sorrow for my dad not getting those moments with my older sister, myself, and my younger sister… who was born a little less than three months after he died.

So yeah, as cheesy as it sounds, I hug my kids a little closer each day… and I let them stay up a little later than what mommy would like sometimes.  I do it just because I am more aware that the time is finite… and I want as many of those minutes that I can get.

Selfish of me?  Perhaps.  But I’m okay with that.  One day, I hope that they will be happy about it too.

Making the Cut

•September 14, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So I have discovered a couple of things about our two year old (okay… almost two year old), and I am sure that they holds true for most children his age.

First, he is incredibly squirmy.  I am not talking about the ‘running around like a wild monkey on crack’ thing (although he has been known to do just that), and I am not talking about the ‘flop down on the floor roll around’ that is a trademark tantrum maneuver.  I am talking about trying to contain him and get him to be somewhat still.  I can get close, but every time I actually get close, his behavior is a lot like a jellyfish.  Slow, but never still and always moving at just the right time.

I have also noticed that his hair grows very quickly.  I like to believe that it is because he is getting great nutrition from his wonderful parents who are attending to all of his physical needs.  Of course, it could also be that he has the metabolism of a freakin’ hummingbird.

Giving me the stinker face

Giving me the stinker face

What those two things boil down to is that he needs frequent trimmings, and they are almost impossible to administer.  But back when the missus was in the hospital, I actually did the impossible.  I cut his hair.  I made a few mistakes, but it was not too bad… at least to me.  I figured that if his classmates weren’t old enough yet to make fun of him for having a bad haircut, then there was no harm… and no foul.

We like to give him that little boy haircut.  The chili-bowl style that looks like he should be helping a knight buckle on armor or polishing a sword.  We call it the ‘page’ or ‘squire’ look.  It has that innocent quality that is just plain cute.

Well, the wife and I sat him in the Bumbo and turned on Thomas and Friends to get his attention.  It worked.  He was very still and attentive to the television.  She went in for the kill on a bit of his hair, and was doing quite well.  Our other little secret is that I had a bowl of ice cream and whenever he needed to look a certain direction, I should give him a bite by holding the spoon over that way.

So everything is going well and we are just about done, but I am not happy with the back.  It looks a little ‘mullety’, so I am going to straighten it.

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

A few snips…  a little movement by our kiddo… and out come the clippers.

So now, instead of having that cute little boy haircut, he looks like he should have a barcode tattoo on the base of his neck.  Good thing it’ll grow out quickly.

Maybe if I put some stuff in it...

Maybe if I put some stuff in it...

And you can bet money that when it does, we’ll be taking him to a professional to get it trimmed.

Assimilation

•June 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I think that I am going to just surrender to the Borg.

As I have said before, social networking can get confusing.  Add to that… email, a blog, different web based utilities, and a million different online resources, and there is a serious need for consolidation.

That is why I have made a decision to become a Googlite… Googlian… Googlitizen…  whatever.

My mail is already GMail and I use YouTube (another Google service) for my videos.  I have different Google Alerts set

Resistance is Futile

Resistance is Futile

up already and I use Google Maps and Language Tools like crazy.  My homepage is iGoogle, but I still need to do some porting over to Google Calendar and Google Docs.  I also need to spend some time updating and tweaking my Orkut page.

There are just too many useful tools available from them that I don’t want to spend time searching out…. and there are more in development.  Yeah, there are probably better versions of everything, but not all in one place.  My one holdout (for now) will be this WordPress blog.  I really do not care for the Blogger interface, so this is staying put for a while.

I really hope that Wave makes integrating all of these things fairly easy… I suppose that we’ll see.

So after I get my Google Voice invite, I will move my telephone number and I will start using Picasa Web albums for my online photo sharing.  As soon as XMarks is available for Chrome, I’ll probably switch over from Firefox… that is going to be a hard goodbye… espcially with tools like Weave hitting the world.  Okay, maybe I’ll hold off on Chrome until I get an Android phone.

Anyway, I am not going to abandon my other stuff, but I am not going to use any of them as primary either.

I wonder if I can get a cool Google Laser Eye with my machine head.

He’s that wrestler guy… right?

•June 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Yesterday after work, I decide that I am going to stop and pick up a couple of ingredients for dinner.  I am craving my ‘Super-Secret, Ultimately Awesome, Super Terrific, Amazing, Make You Wanna Call Your Momma,  Sloppy Joes’.  And by that, I am talking about a random recipe I found on AllRecipes.  It is good, but I go a tiny bit less on the ketchup and add about 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce. More importantly, it is really quick and really easy to make.

Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes

Where was I?  Oh yeah… the store.

So I grab my couple of things and head to an empty checkout lane. There are two young guys working there.  Both of these kids are probably about 16 or 17 years old.  One of the kids is working the register and the other is sacking groceries.  So they are talking about Micheal Jackson’s unexpected death and as a matter of courtesy, they include me in the conversation.

As I am paying and gathering my bags, I remark that it was not the best week to be a celebrity, since three have passed in the past couple of days.  (The following takes place over the course af about 20 – 30 seconds) The kid looks at me and says, “Three?”

Me – “Yeah, three”

Kid – “Who were they?”

At this point, I am thinking that the young man either lives under a rock or is messing with me.

Me – “Well, today, Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett.  Then a couple of days ago Ed McMahon died.”

Kid (blank stare) – “Ed McMahon?”

Me (blank stare back) – “Yeah.  He was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson for like 30 years…?”

Kid (still has that look like he has no idea what I am talking about) – “Oh.”

Ed McMahon

Ed McMahon

Now I am a little miffed.  Seriously?  This kid doesn’t know who Ed Freakin’ McMahon was?  Now I KNOW that he is jackin’ with me.  I look over at the other kid who is listening and he has that same look like he doesn’t know either.  It is now my mission to make sure that these two whippersnappers know exactly who Ed McMahon, an integral figure in American television history, is.

My brain starts churning. In all fairness, these kids were not yet born when Carson was on NBC, so I am searching for a more recent reference.  Then I get it, and as much as I hate to think that this is what an entire generation might remember McMahon for, I say it.

Me – “The old guy on the Cash4Gold.com commercials.”

Kid – “Oh!  Him!”

I see the light bulbs go off over their heads and they nod knowingly. So I have a sense of accomplishment.  As I start to turn to walk toward the exit, still with the look in his eye that he knows exactly who I am talking about…

Kid – “He’s that wrestler guy… right?”

I hung my head and just gave up.

Google Wave

•May 31, 2009 • 1 Comment

This could be a big deal.  When I say a big deal, I mean a HUGE change in how businesses and individuals go about using their computers and the web.

On May 28th, Google unveiled their newest project: Google Wave.  The development team is led by two names you probably do not recognize.  They are Lars and Jens Rasmussen. However, it is entirely possible that you use another application of theirs on a near daily basis… a little thing called Google Maps.

Lars... on half of the Rasmussen duo

Lars... one half of the Rasmussen duo

In a nutshell, the development team asked themselves a seemingly simply question.  “What would email look like if it were invented today?”  The answer that they came up with is a total change in the way that we view messaging, content sharing, and collaboration.  To put it in such simple terms is almost a disservice to the concept that they have built their new flagship product around.

One great thing about the project is not only the revamped protocol and back-end technology, but the fact that is has an open source API.  What that means is that anyone can download a big part of the code and develop for the application.  Folks will be able to customize it and share their code among other people and organizations… for free.

The extensibility just makes it that much more competitive with Microsoft Exchange and Sharepoint, Novell Groupwise, IMB Lotus notes, and just about all other email and collaboration systems.

Of course, all of this is contingent upon Google Wave catching on with the public, which is not an easy task in any scenario.  Add to that the fact that people will need to re-think the way that information is shared and transmitted, and you have what is at the very least a very hard sell.

Techies and geeks like myself are usually pretty quick to jump on things like this, and oddly enough, the economy may play into the favor of the popularity of Wave.  Depending on the cost of the initial application, the prospect of businesses being able to develop and change the software at such a low cost will look very appealing to many corporations who are looking to cut costs in lean times.

Since everything is done within a browser, there are no fees for the software of each user.  As an example, if you use Microsoft outlook on your office PC, the company is paying Microsoft quite a bit of money for you to access your email.  If there are 1,000 people in your organization, then the costs add up quickly.  By eliminating those costs, your bottom line can be greatly improved.

As more people discover to value in other browsers, it is feasible that a business could load a user’s computer with a Linux operating system (such as Unbuntu, which is free and open source), load Firefox as the browser (free and open source), and use Wave as the primary communication application.  The only costs at that point are for the hardware and any professional support.

Wave Logo

Wave Logo

There are still some questions to be answered such as how SPAM will be addressed and exactly how the Wave protocol will interact with standard email systems, but the possibilities are pretty much infinite.  It will be very interesting to see how this progresses.

Once thing is for certain.  Google is the Field of Dreams for software and Internet companies… and if they build it, folks will come.

Although it is an hour and twenty minutes long, I encourage you to watch the video of the unveiling of Wave.  It will immediately change the way you look at the way you do your daily computing.

For additional information, a more complete explanation of Wave is located on Lars’ blog.  Mashable.com also has a great Wave Guide write-up.

Lars e Jens Rasmussen

I quit.

•May 29, 2009 • 1 Comment

No really, I have held off on saying anything, but after almost two months, I am getting a little more comfortable saying that I am a non-smoker.

My last cigarette was on April 2nd.

A few days earlier, a co-worker of mine sent me an email, the text of which follows:

From:    Mark
To:    <
A few of us>
Date:    03/27/2009 09:01 AM
Subject:    Hey boys and girls!

Just thought I would let you all know that I was diagnosed yesterday with some type of cancer. They are going to do a biopsy next week to determine how much and exactly what kind. Right now they know it is in both lungs and on my spine.

I really don’t feel too bad at the moment other than some shortness of breath. I feel better than I have in over 3 weeks. I just thought I would let you know.

Happy Trails,
Mark

So naturally, his situation was heavily on my mind.  Since I am a server admin at our company, and he ran the helpdesk, I talked to him many times a day for years. But even more than that, I spent many collective hours in the ‘smoke shack’ sharing stories with this guy.  Over the years, he and I talked about everything from our debauchery filled youth, to office politics, his wonderful new marriage, his great kids, my son, and countless other topics.

So that was the breaking point for me.  I should have quit years ago… in fact, I never should have started.  But like many other things, it is something that you never realize the gravity of until it hits you really close to home.  So as I was walking through the parking lot into the store on that Thursday, I simply decided that I would never have another cigarette.  I put that one out, tossed the butt it in the garbage, and haven’t had another.

I think that the physical pain would be immense, but the emotional guilt of putting my family through something like that because I just wanted to smoke, would be unbearable.

Mark died on April 19th.

Mark and his two brothers. He is the one on the left side of the frame.

Mark and his two brothers at a Buffet concert. He is the one on the left side of the frame.

He had gone for his biopsy, but there were complications.  They found blood clots in his lungs and air lifted him to a hospital.  One of the clots dislodged and he never made it.

Some of my favorite stories were his tales of bar fights from his younger years.  He never won, but the way he told it, he could get his ass kicked better than anyone this side of the Mississippi.  Once, during a brawl and after catching a pool stick to the skull, the cops found him in the freezer with his pocket knife drawn… ready to stick anyone coming through the door.

The funny thing is that he was really one of the most easy going guys you would ever know.  He played up a gruff personality at times, but he had tremendous love for his wife and family… and Jimmy Buffet.  He had a tattoo of a parrot on his shoulder and every time I would call him, I would have his Margaritaville ring tone stuck in my head for the remainder of the day.

Rest well Mark.  You were a good man and you earned it.

You will be missed.

Some Unexpected Aspects of Fatherhood

•May 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Today, I was standing at the customer service desk at the local super store.  I was there to return a pair of shoes that I had purchased for my oldest son.  It seems that he is going to take after me and his shoe size is going to match his age until he is sixteen.  So anyway, as I am standing there, looking at these small shoes… that light up (sans one… hence the return)… with little Thomas and Friends pictures… I realized that only a dad would be in that situation.

So that got me to thinking about some of the other things that are signs I am a father (aside from the two kids running around the house and the absence of rest).  It is actually kinda creepy how I can step back and take an inventory of the changes in my life without even having to try that hard.

DJ Lance

DJ Lance

For example, I noticed the other day that there were only 2 hours of time left on my DVR, so I cleaned it out.  Now, little masterpieces like Ken Burn’s: The War have been replaced by just about every episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Yo Gabba Gabba… the first of which is responsible for the Hot Dog song being stuck in my head for about 4 hours every day, and the second is just plain creepy.

Another indicator that my wife and I are parents is that we no longer pay attention to the time of day.  The reason for this is simple: we exist solely on the timing of biological functions.  Our newborn is tube fed for a while until we can get his cleft repaired, and the feedings need to happen every three hours.  Also, there are the meals and snacks for our 18 month old that need to be prepared.  This is all accomplished while negotiating the changing of diapers for two children, inhaling a meal for ourselves, a series of short naps, and the occasional bathroom break.  I have actually considered going to buy groceries just to find a restroom and take a leak without having to hurry.  Perhaps I just need a Mouskatool.

Those are a couple of flippant and funny things that I have noticed, but there are also the more serious aspects of being a father that enter into the equation.  Not long after little B was born, I went grocery shopping at a smaller market near our home.  As I walked in, I inadvertently strolled through the center of some sort of family altercation.  Not realizing why about 30 people were staring at me, I turned to look at the group that I had wandered through and saw the fear in one girl’s face.  Asking one of the other patrons what was going on, she said that it was a guy trying to get his kid from his ex-wife… and he had a gun.  Immediately, I was torn between standing there with everyone else… ready to help if needed, or getting the hell out of Dodge.  It took about 5 seconds for me to head to the back of the store to do my shopping and be closer to the emergency exit.  Not because I was in fear of being shot or whatever, but because I have a family… and I grew up without a dad.  Call me a coward if you want, but I am not going to voluntarily put my sons though that same thing.

Also, since I have become a dad, things have unexpectedly changed meanings.  Ten years ago, in the midst of some random breakup / makeup cycle, I would hear a song and it would immediately apply to my specific situation.  Then about a year ago I had my playlist on random and Time in a Bottle started playing… and all I could think of was my son.  Similarly, the band Creed is still responsible for spamming the radio stations with crappy songs that all sound the same, but I guess that Arms Wide Open is okay to listen to… as long as my friends don’t find out.

There are other little epiphanies that I encounter almost daily.  The practical aspects of parenthood are pretty evident. Things like insurance, finding an abundance of apple juice in my shopping cart rather than adult beverages, or even being able to drink an adult beverage for that matter.   One thing that I have learned is that a child’s temperature can go from 98.6 to 103 degrees in approximately ten seconds… and they can sustain self-inflicted wounds even more quickly.  The last thing that I would need to have happen is to be getting a buzz and have one of my sons crack their skull open while scaling the wall.  I don’t even want to imagine trying to explain that to an emergency room nurse with alchohol on my breath.  Better to just avoid it all together.

And even as I save this post, I am reminded that time is a valuable resource as a parent.  There are less than 1,000 words in this little diatribe, but between warming bottles, feeding, changing diapers, and soothing a crying baby, it took me the better part of three hours to get this completed.

And as I look over at the baby monitor to watch my son sleep, I realize that I wouldn’t change it for the world.

 
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