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these fragments i have shored against my ruins

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Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
12:08 pm - gee, but it's hard when one lowers one's guard to the vultures

Am considerably less uncomfortable after shifting my wallet out of my back pocket(s).

Find myself very stressed these past couple of weeks.  No real reason for it, especially, beyond a vague sense of feeling disenfranchised, dispossessed, almost as if I continue to struggle and toil while those around me frolic on permanent paid vacations.  Simple weight-of-the-world-on-my-shoulders fatigue, probably.  (Speaking of paid vacations, IBM missed its Q3 financial targets by more than 8%, now plans a five-digit personnel cut, and will scrap its roadmap for one final(?) focus on a handful of technologies, to uncertain success. I do not regret my exit back in January.)  Cobbled together a not-too-shabby seminar on application security.  Plagued by unsettling woman-with-forked-tongue nightmares.  Taught myself to tie a bow-tie hours before my first officer role at the Caleb Butler Masonic Lodge.  Poor Ulrika scraped up her hands and knees at the bus stop yesterday (one's heart just aches seeing one's child(ren) in pain), but Lars has been running around the house repeatedly bellowing "Daddy, you have a scrotum, you have a scrotum," so I guess that sort of balances out.

        -- Dark Knight Returns (DVD).  Dilute compared to the comic, but the final fight is epic.
        -- Dracula Untold.  Disposable action-flick.  It's like Underworld with a thin(ner) script.
        -- Gone Girl.  Laci-Peterson-esque murder tale with Basic Instinct mixed in.  B-minus?
        -- The Lost Symbol.  Sensationalized, but there's a bunch of legitimate content here.
        -- Transformation.  Rai-Kirah Book #3.  Climax of the Demon War.  It sorta fizzles out.

Falling back to an enjoy-it-while-it's-still-here, resist-the-urge-to-save-it-up-and-never-use-it (wannabe) Zen state.  Uncorked a few of our 10-to-15-yr-old Napa wines (Cinq Cepages, Duckhorn, Franciscan), so as to avert spoilage, and have enjoyed the accompanying nostalgia.  Swapping out various disk-drives and peripherals as the old hardware goes bad, A-gets-B, B-gets-C, etc.  (Caused a difficult video-to-TV problem until I figured out vlc-wrapper -I ncurses.  Much better now.)  Took Dad to the Freemasons' open house (where he wowed the crowds with a series of deeply probing questions, some quite sarcastic, apples don't fall far from trees, blah blah blah) and serendipitiously came across a sharp-looking ring bearing emblems of the Scottish Rite.  Feels good to share and (further) explore those parts of my life, to hear news of a massive corporate acquisition whose details will keep me employed here for another 24-to-36 months, to periodically review my would-be condo buyer's (public) Facebook page to see when/how she is moving forward with the transaction.

So the trick might be simply assuming it will be 'all right.'  Not easy for me.  Will give it a shot.

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Sunday, October 12th, 2014
1:50 am - solve et coagula... a thing must be broken down before it can be built up

I am not too proud to say that I used 129-proof bourbon to keep a fire going this evening.

We have transitioned from Waxing Autumn (green with orange-red highlights) into Waning Autumn (partially-bare trees with scattered yellow-orange foliage).  Our townhouse is now under a tentative purchaser's agreement.  (This is not so strong as it could be, due to buyer-must-sell-her-home contingency, but, hey, any offer will do in the off-season.)  We tried our hands at a family Pictionary game.  (Lars is unexpectedly good at both drawing and guessing; his sister is perhaps too much of a perfectionist.)  I ventured just over the New Hampshire border to score a quantity of firewood (maybe one-third of a cord, for $70), and cannibalized two of my old(er) laptops so as to make (re)use of their disk drives and memory.  (Life's too short to keep using shoddy equipment.)  Have been making good use of the in-laws' wood stove this season;  though such contraptions have iffy repayment curves (7-to-20-yr breakeven with 133% efficiency), they are indisputably valuable.

        -- 24: Live Another Day.  Same old formula;  new(er) drone and action elements.
        -- Broadchurch.  Murder investigation in a small town.  Bit parts are what sell it.
        -- Good to Great.  "Be humble, hold strong opinions."  The rest is B-school fluff.
        -- Sin City II.  Very similar to the first in tone and content, but not quite so good.
        -- The Shield.  Typical corrupt-cop drama;  the psychological conflict is distinctive.

I received news last week of a high-school buddy's death by drowning.  Our graduating class seems particularly hard hit in this regard: Greg, Mike, and Sean lost in a fiery wreck months after commencement, Erin a vehicular homicide during her junior year in Vermont, Kerry a casualty of leukemia at age eighteen, Nicholas tying a noose, Randy killed via suspicious late-night acceleration into a copse of trees, John dispatched by oncoming train while running with his cross-country team on an especially-cold winter morning.  Makes you stop and think, about the transience of it all, the importance of savoring schoolhouse drives with your 6-yr-old daughter (Daddy, how is butter made, how are glass bottles made and recycled), the conscious choice to uncork and share your 2002 Cabernet rather than keeping it in a basement for eternity.  The necessity for being present.  The acknowledgement that this mind-blowing experiment we share is fragile, may not last.  Will not last.

My mornings (and heart rate) are better with decaf.  Talk about your existential metaphors.

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Saturday, October 4th, 2014
8:29 pm - i would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion

That first time of year when full dark precedes your homeward commute is... sobering.

Pretty much more of the same hereabouts.  We joined Clan Zimmerman at Hudson's Horseshoe Pub to celebrate Shawn's hundredth-beer festival (and enjoyed the wurst-schnitzel-spaetzel Oktoberfest sampler while so doing).  I met my old friend Ryan (no, not that Ryan) for lunch, and found him much changed, contemplative come-what-may humility wholly unlike his young(er) bravado and take-my-stick schoolboy swagger.  Would that the years worked such refinements on us all.  I earned a $50 credit for referring my coworker to Ting (resold-Sprint) cellular service;  I am steadily sharpening my fire-building technique (four crumpled paper scraps, five or six accordion-folded cardboard strips, ten or twelve palm-sized sticks and twigs);  I took the kids down to Petapawag Point, explored disused mill-buildings, railroad tracks, practiced stone-skipping down by the marshy grasses and riverside reeds.  My (cavernously-smart) Indian colleague shakes his head sideways to signify "yes," and, while I am acclimating to same, it still throws me for a loop.

        -- Black Book.  A grittier European Shining Through.  Good, but slow, overlong.
        -- Fault in Our Stars.  Imagine Tyler Durden and Marla Singer as teens.  Hmm.
        -- Reign.  Mary Queen of Scots retold as Dawson's Creek teen drama.  Bad.
        -- Silicon Valley.  Hard dot-com-entrepreneur truths w. Office Space spin.  A-

Though security flaws like HeartBleed and ShellShock spin our workplace(s) into a frenzy, I can't help being a little grateful for the continued employment and visibility they afford.  I derive sidelong insights into the rat-race and interpersonal dynamics, the notion of "technical debt" (the gap between 'done correctly' and 'done quickly'), the peculiar info-hopscotch where Security Guy #1 quits a job after 9 months, his successor Security Guy #2 quits after 17 months, but their boss loudly sings their praises while courting you to become Security Guy #3, the careful-what-you-wish-for revelation of Management By Objective (e.g., you will be rewarded for starting X companies in Y years, so just launch any crazy old thing even if it tanks, you will be recognized for working 55-hour workweeks, regardless of what you accomplish), and, most recently, the notion of Close Enough, I don't know where Store P is but I know you'll find it if you get to Location Q, if I do A, I might get sufficiently close to Desired Product B, life lived in a series of complementary stair-steps.

And I don't even keep track of my banked time-off anymore.  I take that to be a good sign.

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Thursday, September 25th, 2014
11:46 pm - we are men of iron and mechanization, now... we are steam-engines and turbines

Was likened to Robert Mitchum (in appearance) by my Masonic colleagues.  Amusing.

Will open with a few words about technology.  As of this time of writing (2014), my household has been cable-TV-free and Microsoft-free for nearly two years.  I collect (well, scavenge) older-generation laptops (refurbished, broken-keys, dead-battery), for $200 or $300 each, install Linux (CentOS if they have the horsepower, Ubuntu/Mint otherwise), and connect them (wirelessly) to the various big-screen televisions adorning our residence.  I have a fourth laptop for general sysadmin usage (SSH-connection, invoking mplayer from the command-line), and keep the whole mess crudely synchronized with audiovisual media I, er, find lying around on the Web.  Netflix and Amazon Prime video-streaming fill out the remainder.  The whole tangle is a bit rickety, I'd like to ditch the Comcast (broadband-Internet) service for something more carrier-agnostic (like a FreedomPop 4G router), and I should eventually modernize to XBMC or similar... but, hey, I keep the entire family entertained for roughly a grand.  Probably we will have a laugh about this someday.

        -- Guardians of the Galaxy.  Fun but lightweight film.  Sets up the Thanos arc.
        -- Million Dollar Arm.  Baseball-cum-cricket-cum-Jerry-Maguire.  Pretty good.
        -- The November Man.  Basically a(nother) disavowed-007 film.  Unoriginal.
        -- The Other Woman.  Cameron Diaz's career is going (still further) downhill.

Though I harbor many persistent frustrations, the greater forward press is taking shape -- a highly-visible series of executive risk decisions ("should General Motors issue a recall, or eat the reparation cost(s)" stuff), a serendipitous opportunity to hire a former colleague, some growing fragments of 'personal brand' and reputation.  I attended Ulrika's gymnastics recital earlier this week(end), chuckling at her chatty social-butterfly behaviors.  (Quite the little performer, our girl.)  I did some tuxedo-shopping online, scoring a respectable shawl-lapel setup for $120.  I take short woodland walks at lunchtime, gathering twigs and kindling in preparation for cold(er) fireplace weather, and I find the activity to be most satisfying.  I realize that I am getting stodgier, set in my ways, secure in my favorite chair;  I peripherally witness time chipping away at us, elfin young things gone stout and matronly, raven-haired beauties now creased, hard-worn, world weary, familiar places changed, forgotten.  One hopes for something deep(er) and meaningful to endure.

I don't like 'settling for X.'  I don't like 'waiting for long-term X,' either.  Gotta work on that.

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Monday, September 15th, 2014
2:41 pm - unusual for the knight to take the king... the bishop has far greater talent for the endgame

Six Facebook users now have me blocked.  I guess that could be considered progress.

Can't help feeling a sense of opportunity-missed and/or time-is-running-out as September cools and darkens into change-your-wardrobe autumn.  Our townhouse has been on the market for a month now, and has had ten or twelve showings, but only one lowball-by-45K offer.  (One hopes we can do better, even if it means waiting till spring.)  We had Grandpa Howie in town for the weekend, and celebrated Lars' fourth birthday with carrot cake, rock-em sock-em robots, spicy Vietnamese food, a Duck Tour up and down the Charles River.  I did a few tradeoff calculations involving down-payment(s) versus points on a mortgage.  (My numbers are slightly off, due to less-property-tax-from-points and more-tax-credit-from-borrowing, but they're within a few hundred bucks total.)  I tried a case of Sam's Diet Cola, and found it better than I'd expected (like Diet Pepsi with less 'bite').  I caught the 2014 head-cold sinus plague, but killed it pretty much dead (in 5-6 days) by immediately giving in to 48 hrs' bed rest.

        -- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  Betrayal and war.  Sorta loses the magic.
        -- Hercules (2014).  Like a 90-minute D&D adventure.  It's really, really bad.
        -- Ray Donovan.  Hollywood cleaner-private-eye story.  Slight J.J. Gittes vibe.
        -- Revelation.  Rai-kirah Book #2.  New spin on 'demons' + their motivations.

Much as I initially griped and bellyached about chauffeuring my daughter to school as part of my 07:30 commute, I am truly coming to value our time together.  It's a nice way to start our morning(s), a sort of daily pulse-check;  Ulrika is inquisitive, poses innumerable how-are-glass-bottles-made questions, what-goes-into-that-landfill questions, amazes me with her reminds-me-of-X-two-years-ago recall.  Little pixie wore my jacket like a serape, stayed warm till the bus came, blew me a kiss from her window seat.  These are important points to keep in perspective, the realization that no price tag can be put on the things you would do for (or give to) your loved ones, that the annoyance(s) of town-to-town school drives and/or the frustration(s) of a dropped-and-cracked cell phone every three months are mere drops in the bucket against the companionship, devotion, happy middle years, and deeper meaning(s) you derive from the relationship, costs, crises, and setbacks notwithstanding.

There comes exhaustion from shouldering the burden.  But also a sort of coarse pride.

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Friday, September 5th, 2014
4:04 pm - i was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life

Public Service Announcement: Your Data is Not Safe in the Cloud.Collapse )

Slowly regaining some sort of autumnal battle rhythm.  (It probably says something about me that my blog constantly flip-flops between "overburdened, out of control" and "re-establishing normalcy.")  Ulrika started first grade this week.  She is quite the budding fashionista, with her white-striped dresses and bow-adorned headbands, and has taken to playing tag with a slightly-older boy at the bus stop.  (Daddy has mixed feelings on this last.)  I got my father an inkjet printer and a (second) laptop this year, running Ubuntu 14.  He has really taken to it, configuring network-services, lugging the machine to engineering conferences;  it's nice to see him digging into a 'hobby,' exploring new things.  I accidentally kicked one of my flaky office power-strips, torpedoing my CentOS server.  I brush my teeth with Listerine Zero, the purple stuff, and it works great, but, boy, does it leave an unpleasant metallic aftertaste.  I do not miss my crappy hourly-consultant medical insurance.  Nor my lack of vacation.

        -- Lilyhammer. Mafioso relocates to alpine Norway.  Satisfyingly off-the-wall.
        -- Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  Surprisingly good.  Sort of a heartbreaker.
        -- Star Trek:  Axanar.  War retrospective.  It'll be one helluva fan film, if made.
        -- Tell Me You Love Me.  A (much more) erotically explicit Sex in the City.  C+

Reading up on Fibonacci arcs (Fibonacci fans, Fibonacci surges) and observing the strange parallelism with (my) human life.  You try to 'time' your activities along various upswings -- don't sell your stocks during a downturn, or at least not near the very bottom, don't buy your house during a pricing peak, or at least not too close to the very top, don't uproot your kids from school in a disadvantageous or frequently-disruptive manner, don't take that $180K or $210K job offer if it will (further) threaten your quality of life, keep your residence pristine for showing but don't let it muck with your day-to-day routine either.  I perceive that my family has had little 'slack' or 'stability' these past 6-to-8 months, that this patriarch has somehow missed out on a 'restful summer,' that the current mix is not where it needs to be.  And I realize the latent selfishness beneath such observations.  So I must also fix on the closer-to-optimal end state, the ground gained via short-term instability.  A better balance must be reached.

These days, I identify with Freddie Trumper, Gen. Longstreet, Stannis Baratheon.  Hrmph.

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Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
6:08 pm - just because the asteroid killed the dinosaur doesn't mean the dinosaur can't acknowledge its beauty

My predecessor left me a couple of real shit-storms here.  Will take months to untangle.

Seems like the long(er) commute and/or the new-job grind have taken some of the 'fun' and 'slack' out of my day.  Or it could be I'm (hyper) focused on short-term subsistence and long(er)-term preparations to the point of excluding all else.  Either way, it is wearisome.  I burned out a(nother) WRT54G router;  we uncorked a 2004 Franciscan Cabernet (silky and fruity) and a 21-yr Balvenie Portwood (light, sweet, raisins, dates);  I was pleasantly surprised by a tube of C.O. Bigelow shaving cream (a 99% Proraso knockoff).  Trying to focus on the small comforts, hot coffee with cream, pine and grassy meadow fragrances, seeing the stars overhead with the top down on a cool clear night, that short, sweet heartache you get when your 6-yr-old daughter runs to catch you halfway down the driveway and says "Here, Daddy, I got you a breakfast bar."  I had a London tour guide once who would rhapsodize on how 'nice' everything was, her flat, her lunch, the weather.  Not a bad life-mindset to embrace.

        -- The Great Gatsby (2013).  Okay, but Romeo + Juliet did it better, and first.
        -- The Last Ship.  Feels like a crime procedural, or a US Navy advert.  Blah.
        -- The Strain28 Days Later with a dash of Blade II.  Gradually getting better.
        -- Truly, Madly, Deeply.  Rickman is what Swayze's Ghost tried to be.  Wow.

Now I will toss a few sentences at the notion of pacing, and sequence, and tempo.  A former supervisor and mentor contacted me, a few weeks back, trying to recruit me for some healthcare compliance job.  After some days' delay, it became clear that he was (not quite willingly) vacating the position, trying to dupe someone else into taking it so as to minimize awkward departure.  I observe this to be a subtle and distasteful waltz.  As is the idea of a "second chance," that house (lover) (stock-price) you had once within your grasp, but let slip away, that oh-so-rare window via which you might have it again.  (I sold a few thousand shares at Dow 17,040.  I may live to regret this, but somehow I don't think I will.)  The last enigmatic thread is engagement, when to switch on the nitrous and (hopefully) win the race, when to take the gingko biloba for that cognitive boost which only lasts for a few weeks (if at all), when to commit resources to do the $THING you feel is right, but which you can only do once.

Perhaps we need to settle for Good Enough.  Good For Now.  To try living in the now.

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Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
12:35 pm - what is a critic but one who reads quickly, arrogantly, but never wisely

Dr. Pepper Ten is sorta syrupy.  Slimy.  Like they over-adjusted from the diet formula.

Very busy this past week.  Transporting various housewares from Chelmsford to Pepperell.  (Two potential buyers have seen the place in its first four days on the market.)  Swung down to New York with family (Beacon Falls, a picturesque river-side mill city) to visit with my brother's longtime domestic partner and wish her well.  Narrowly dodged a residential fire.  (Our 75-yr-old neighbor set eggs to boiling on his stove, then forgot and promptly drove to his second home in Maine.  After hearing the oddly-quiet alarms beeping, and catching a whiff of the hot metallic 'smoke,' we called 911 and rustled up the neighbors.  I remain troubled by the number of residents who took no notice, or, worse, sat idly by, "waiting to see if the nighttime maintenance man's answering-service had an extra set of keys."  Grumble.)  I am grinding through a(nother) year's educational seminars for CISSP certification credit.  I am surprised and impressed by Gillette Edge gel.  I've been listening to the Grateful Dead, so as to broaden my artistic horizons, and they're 'decent,' good-time tunes, but not exceptional.

        -- Grand Budapest Hotel.  Dilute Royal Tenenbaums char piece.  Not great.
        -- Outlander. English Patient meets Rob Roy.  A rich historical bodice-ripper.
        -- Transformation.  Demon-hunters, empires in turmoil.  Lush, romantic prose.
        -- Transformers IV.  The worst one yet.  Obviously sets up for a big sequel.

Seems like I am (we are) diving back into the not-so-fun regions of "adult responsibility."  I apportioned my new retirement portfolio (Contrafund and Low-Priced Stock as familiar mainstays, a (Fidelity) mid-cap and new (Spartan) small-cap, and 20% into a bond index, as concession to my greying life-station, gulp).  I indulged diversionary pit stops into Connecticut's Traveler Food & Books restaurant, and the recitation of "Viking stories" (Fenris Wolf, Mjolnir, Utgard-Loki) for my kids.   I am becoming a wise(r) old bird, or perhaps a wary grizzled wolf;  I choose my battles carefully, I take care never to spiral into a confrontation I can't justify financially or politically, and I stage many executive briefs and business decisions in terms of "risk tolerance."  I find that I enjoy the tangible benefits of working with my hands (painting the deck, affixing linoleum with molding brads), though I rarely work up the time or motivation for same.  And -- gods help me -- I recently heard the expression "[Relative] should experience XYZ while she can, because her options will diminish later" leave my mouth.

I'm not quite where I want to be.  But I can see pathways and resources to get there.

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Monday, August 11th, 2014
2:39 pm - now i am a spent firework... but at least i've been a firework

Sprayed down my car's interior with Febreeze.  Amazing what a difference that makes.

This late-summer stretch is proving to be a fun romp.  We painted, (re)carpeted, and similarly prepped the condo for sale.  We went peach-picking at the Nashoba Winery Orchard, which was lackluster, but crammed in a picnic and spirits-sampling while on site.  (Honorable mentions:  Elephant Heart (plum liqueur), Foggy Bog (their celebrated cranberry libation), Northern Comfort (maple-syrup-y cognac), and maybe their Stimulus small-batch whiskey, when it decides what it wants to be when it grows up someday.)  We uncorked a 2000 Opus One (which acquired a smooth silky texture and black-pepper-y undertone but lost much of its cherry-cassis fruit and tannic bite during 10+ yrs aging in my cellar), for accompaniment to mushroom steaks, and a 2005 Riesling (so honey-sweet it was almost like a Gewurtztraminer, or a tangy applesauce), which was pretty tasty with pork-chops.  I forcibly installed Ubuntu 14 onto my nearly-defunct MacBook;  I figured out how to add Windows TrueType fonts to Linux systems;  I am favorably impressed by my employer's 34% profit margin, which outstrips every other company in my twenty-year past.  I think it's a good sign, and I hope it lasts.

Back to the foodie theme for a(nother) moment.  August's high point was unquestionably the Formaggio Kitchen's cheese-cave tour (with accordant tastings).  Ryan, Stephanie and I swung down Cambridge way, where cheesemongers Rory Stamp and Tyler Tripp walked us through a series of controlled environments, food-wine pairings, and detailed lectures.  For posterity, I include the highlights here -- Comte Trois Sapins (4 mos., Jura, France), Comte Grand Cru (34 mos., also Jura), Llandaff (New Hampshire, done in the Welsh-farmer 'Caerphilly' style), Cabri D'Antan (goat, both fresh and aged, Poitou, France), Brebis Blanche (v. salty, sheep, upstate New York), Belvedere (cow/goat blend, Vermont), Valenĉay Affiné (goat, Loire Valley), Rupert (cow, Vermont), Boerenkaas Grand Cru (cow, Belgium), Brebis Abbaye de Belloc (firm sheep, Basque), and Bayley Hazen (a very 'fragrant' Vermont blue).  Condiments of note included bergamot preserves (w. sheep), raspberry compote (w. goat), raisins (w. strong blue), and sour cherries (w. firm sheep).  Though I wasn't quite so fond of the libations (chosen to blend, not overwhelm), their tart apple-y rose worked with nearly everything.

The rest is a memory-laden swath of reverie.  I retrieved a variety of 1980s media this past week, in an attempt to chase down recurring childhood-images:  an otherworldly wolf, shown in a photo-negative nether realm (The Phoenix, 1982), an Anne-Rice vintage vampire club (Nick Knight, 1989 predecessor to Forever Knight), a boy-prince using his candle-cast shadow to vanquish an Unseelie monster (the 1981 Faeries project).  Takes me back to a time when I want(ed) to live in a world of Bob Pepper and Jim Roslof artworks, a world where Fraggles and Skeskis lurked just beneath the surface, where your life-gem went red by age 18, but clear by 30, where sufficient speed can propel matter into the Eighth Dimension, where the Navigators fold space, where your toolkit includes Death Blossom and the Flux Capacitor, where outside his own kingdom every baron of Mongo becomes the hunted, where Moloko Plus makes you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence, where the Druid Council of Paranor preserves history and knowledge, where our moon is the head of a planet-eater voiced by Orson Welles, where nuking the place from orbit is the only way to be sure, and where, if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.

Small contingency caches of money, memories, material.  Guess I really am a hoarder.

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Friday, August 8th, 2014
11:15 pm - give me six hours to chop down a tree and i will spend the first four sharpening the axe

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Friday, August 1st, 2014
5:31 pm - only an hour after you die does your real face appear

Placebo or not, I find periodic infusions of coffee and cherries do seem to help with gout.

The weekly grind is slowly shifting.  I spend more of my time in the car (amidst bucolic farms, fields, and forests, but it's time wasted, all the same).  I keep to-do lists scribbled on scraps of paper when I feel overwhelm approaching.  I listen to old Howard Stern broadcasts in an attempt to lighten my workplace mood.  Have been wrestling with federated authenticators (LDAP, OpenAM) and monitoring tools (AlienVault, Nagios), collaborating with brainiac IT gurus (the 400-yr-old nosferatu who slumber in the basement, undisturbed, guarding the secrets of the universe), preparing for contract-to-fulltime conversion as my six-month gig comes to a close.  I enjoyed a(nother) Groton gathering (boating on Lost Lake) with some ex-coworkers and a high-quality quartet of single malts;  I put some nondescript black-and-grey seat covers on my Volvo so as to obscure the somewhat less-ritzy duct tape;  I resorted to 'Klingon swimming lessons' (I'm gonna catch you a little less, now a little less, now I didn't catch you so swim for your life) to assuage Ulrika's fear-of-submerging-face, and, whaddya know, they actually worked.

        -- Epic.  Same old eco-warrior kingdom of the faeries story.  Flashy, but drab.
        -- Low Winter Sun.  Crooked cop a la Insomnia, Wire.  Charged, suspenseful.
        -- LucyKill Bill meets Lawnmower Man.  ScarJo's acting chops are iffy here.
        -- The Rogue Prince.  A tale of Targaryen bastards, infighting, resentment.  C+

My grandfather-in-law passed away this week, just before his 99th birthday.  He was an avocado rancher, a Californian farming patriarch, something of a local legend.  He is survived by five children, eleven grandchildren, a bumper crop of great-grandkids.  Though I am relieved at the end to his suffering, it does stop you in your tracks, make you look at where you and your cohorts are headed (the divorcee(s) dipping into food stamps, the middle-manager(s) getting older and fatter, the pastry chef struggling to find meaning), what you might leave behind, what will be remembered.  I think of my brave little boy, curious, furious, a flamboyant performer, storyteller, gifted with a prodigious memory;  I think of my daughter's impish fascination with media, electronics, her daddy's Kurzweil SP-88;  I think of my sister's Swedish coworkers telling her "Sven is an old-fashioned name," the time I was nearly (but not quite) too squeamish to pull the brass stud from my roommate's pustulent cauliflower-swollen earlobe, the countless niggling concerns I am perpetually juggling in my head like misplaced car-keys.

And I am worrying about the future, a little.  But I'm trying to leave the wolf out the door.

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Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
3:27 pm - pulsanti operietur: to him who knocks it shall be opened

Dunkin Donuts has (re)released a Southwest Steak Burrito.  I'm doomed, I tell you.  Doomed.

Finishing the exodus-from-Chelmsford move.  (Carpet replacement is the last big task on the list.)  I have newfound appreciation for my convertible, which, in a pinch, doubles as a pseudo-pickup-truck.  I installed CentOS 7 on a couple of machines (it's decent, save for one or two font-corruption issues);  I have the (temporary) new residence set up entirely with wireless laptops (no cables, no towers);  I cobbled together a home printing solution with a 7-yr-old Samsung CLP300, a 5-yr-old Dell Inspiron Mini, 32-bit Ubuntu 14.04, and the open-source "foo2zjs" drivers.  I have improved my shaving technique (use good gel, cut against-the-grain, a little more gel, cut east-west cleanup).  I landed a name-your-own-price startup job offer (which I find flattering, but will probably decline).  I am whimsically eyeing a 450-sq-ft yurt on one-third of an acre abutting the East Cascade River (listed for $25K).  I have, like, twenty-five blueberry flavored NutriGrain bars stockpiled in my office, because no one else in my family will eat them.

        -- Havoc.  Faux-gangstas stray into barrio criminal life.  Quasi Boyz in da Hood.
        -- Hunger Games II.  Decent film adaptation.  Previous one was slightly better.
        -- Kings of Summer.  Modern Huckleberry Finn story with Ron-Swanson wit.  B+
        -- Love + Other Drugs.  Wicked Jerry Maguire pharma satire posing as rom-com.

A few words about 'fear' and 'compulsion' today.  I think back to my high-school graduation.  My classmates were celebratory, exuberant, looking forward to their great post-scholastic adventures, but I recall a vague sense of dread, this melodramatic don't-wanna-let-go Curt from American Graffiti malaise.  And, though (I like to think) I've grown somewhat in the intervening quarter-century, I have a lot of these little nagging concerns:  I can't discard this irksome excessively-grainy 4H pencil because I need to use it down to the nub, I feel guilty about the "third choice" items in my life (e.g., linguine with clam sauce, or my overstuffed Navajo-print easy chair), which I like just fine but never seem to enjoy because I like one or two other selections 'better,' I get bad-parent shivers when my little boy asks why I never go to the (swimming-teacher's) pool with him, when my daughter plinks out her piano lessons on an instrument with three broken keys, or asks me not to yell at her so much.  This stuff can drive you crazy.

Feeling a bit adrift.  Not grounded, maybe.  Gotta (re)establish some familiar comforting ties.

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Monday, July 14th, 2014
12:02 pm - the strongest of all warriors are these two: time and patience

New (interim) commute runs ~30 miles and 50+ minutes.  Trying to make the best of it.

Lots of hard labor with (relatively) little tangible output (as yet).  The packing and moving routine is getting old;  I am exhausted and parched much of the time, sore in my calves and quads, have this strange hot sandy feeling like my eyeballs are lightly roasting.  (Too much sun?)  I suppose this is what arid-climate farmers must feel like, pizza chefs, road-paving crews.  You resign yourself to an in-between state, living in a place that is neither "where you were" nor "where you're going."  At the same time, you realize how much one surrounds oneself with needlessly, just how little one truly requires to be "home," to be "happy."  I like D&D 5th Edition, but question the need for a new release (and expensive book-set) in light of its similarity to 2E/3E;  I was summoned for juror service (for the third or fourth time in my life), but was not (have never been) impaneled or seated;  I gave up on a handful of TV series which, in my opinion, ceased to satisfy months (seasons) ago.  Need to do more of that in other segments of my life.

        -- Amazing Spider-Man II.  Cardboard villains, zero plot.  Franchise jumps the shark.
        -- Edge of TomorrowStarship Troopers meets Groundhog Day.  A decent, fun flick.
        -- Expendables II.  93 minutes of bullets, brawling + bad one-liners.  Arnie is funny.
        -- Halt + Catch Fire.  Thinly veiled 1983 Wozniak-Jobs parallel, Mad Men flavor.  A-
        -- Lamb.  Irreverent 'fifth gospel' per Jesus' best friend.  Clever Good Omens humor.

Miscellaneous (inter)personal observations.  Ulrika is now taking piano lessons, and delights in the treble/bass clef mnemonics "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge" and "Girls Bake Delicious Fudge Always."  Lars has developed an endearing fascination with Bob Dylan's "Mister Tambourine Man," most particularly the magic-trip lyrics, and asks me to play/sing it with him, which fills me with unexpected paternal pride.  I appreciate the meticulous, worrisome care exhibited by my new tattoo artist (vaguely John-Denver-turned-Spinal-Tap-bassist), who uses Mennen Speed Stick instead of watered-down Detol ("easier to wipe the stencil off if I screw up"), composes little nonsensical nursery-rhymes on the fly so as to get the runes in their correct order ("torch, line, chicken-foot, line").  Stands in stark contrast to my fellow Mason-officers, who are absentee stewards, go-with-the-flow single dads, noncommittal, terminally unfocused.  Do I harbor unrealistic expectations?  Am I blind to my own failings?  It takes all kinds.

I call it a win when I can fulfill three errands in a single trip.  Gotta savor those small victories.

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Sunday, July 6th, 2014
12:59 am - a flawed diamond is worth more than a flawless lump of coal

My old pal Jamie dredged up this piece of 1980s cinéma vérité.  Spielbergs we were not.

Though I dislike these periods of transition, the greater plan is now, truly, starting to take shape.  Ginger is packing up the house in preparation for listing, sale, and (same-corner-of-Massachusetts) relocation.  (I have been plotting out 15-to-20 mile compass arcs surrounding various locations, likely workplace(s), Masonic lodge(s), metropolitan amenities.)  We received some invaluable assistance beautifying the deck, stairs, and surrounding siding.  (Words cannot express my gratitude to Mom + Dad for same.)  I salvaged a handful of polo shirts from my (towering) French-Canadian uncle's wardrobe;  I was invited to join Caleb Butler's officer ranks (as 'alternate steward') for the 2014-2015 lineup;  I had four runic rows (including two Odin-stanzas and a medieval svefnthorn) added to my left armband (and can now confirm that elbow-crease needling trumps armpit-needling).  I overheard a whispered exchange between my children, during the course of which Lars snapped "That's a crazy idea."  These bits of hilarity keep me going.

        -- DominionProphecy angels, post-apocalyptic city, bad CGI, bad script.  Avoid it.
        -- Fall of Sam Axe.  Overly-campy Bruce Campbell.  The weak parts of Burn Notice.
        -- In Bruges.  Two hitmen in Belgium botch a job.  Black comedy, surprisingly deep.
        -- Killing Them Softly.  Two Eddie-Coyle era mob murders.  Pulp-Fiction-esque.  B+
        -- Princess and the Queen.  Targaryens kill Targaryens;  dragons as nuclear option.

I tried one final job interview with TJX (met with gaping "uhh..." responses every time I offered 'layered security' approaches or 'how do you handle risk' questions).  Soon after that, I was commissioned by my venture-capital buddies to assess the technical merits of a "cyber command" prototype.  (I found it quite challenging to diplomatically phrase 'empty framework,' 'pretty GUI atop nothing,' and 'tap-dancing showmanship.'  Probably this disqualified me from the juicy executive position linked to same.)  This leaves me with the full-time offer from Progress Software, which, when all's said and done, works out to be $10K or $20K more than even the big Boston hedge-fund.  I am, of course, gratified by this windfall, but it makes me think about other formative right-time-right-place junctures in my past:  the girl who mis-sent me a salacious text message, sparking a (fiery but short-lived) relationship, the dot-com manager who saw our common past employer and hired me simply "to steal talent from those guys."  Scott Adams (Dilbert creator) cites one of these events (a local editor's death and successor) as single-handedly fueling his success.  Could that be all there is to it?  Sobering.

I see how many people 'pose' and 'preen,' but do not 'know.'  It astounds me.  Disgusts me.

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Friday, June 27th, 2014
2:28 am - the sea is wet, the sun is warm, and the menagerie hates the mastiff

Useful travel tip:  tuck a handful of allergy-meds into the inner folds of your wallet, just in case.

Back from a four-day weekend along the California coast.  Highlights included a (Vanoni) family wedding, diversions to Malibu Beach and Ventura Harbor (boat-cruise tour), a day-trip up to the Ojai Valley to rendezvous with maternal relatives (one a fervent ornithologist), and the obligatory Disney stop (Little Mermaid, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Tours, Tow Mader teacup-rides, the cross-park train loop, a surprisingly-good musical revue).  Vacationing is an all-or-nothing deal for me;  I get fixated on the "blue time" (spent productively, doing, learning, seeing), and get really frustrated with "red time" (sitting, stalling, waiting).  Gotta find a way to deal with that.  I assembled (and put to good use) a four-step primer concerning emergency travel hygiene.

        -- Her.  Brilliant Electric Dreams treatise on technology, distance, relationships.  A+
        -- Kushiel's Chosen.  Courtesan-cum-spy intrigue;  slow, Guy-Gavriel-Kay romantic.
        -- Penny Dreadful.  An even-more-Gothic League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  A-/B+
        -- Stoker.  Hitchcock-suspense;  a family with murderous secrets.  Beautifully filmed.

Devoting much of my remaining time to various analyses.  (Control-freak habit.) I mapped out my recent job offers and tried to fit a cubic function curve to the compensation data.  I found a decent shaving-cream set (Aveeno, Pacific, Proraso), but decided against making the old-school safety razor switch.  I used a few resources (including to collate password-cracking (rainbow-table) times as justification for my newly-published corporate policy.  I was (unwittingly) helped by Google marketing (59 minutes after browsing for 'picture framing,' I received a LivingSocial coupon for just that).  I made out handsomely (via eBay) by simply waiting a few days ("okay, we'll pay for your postage").  All this newfangled technology might just pay off.

I'm not going to sit back and coast.  I will continue to learn and grow.  But on my own terms.

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Wednesday, June 18th, 2014
2:53 pm - can wisdom be put in a silver rod? or love in a golden bowl?

OCD Tidbit #172:  I ration out my car's AC in twelve-minute bursts, so as to conserve fuel.

Fun protracted Father's Day celebration(s).  A steak-tip and burger barbecue, featuring Ryan's homemade dill-garlic and chive cheeses;  sushi and spirits with Mssrs. Dziengeleski and Luchini;  a gift-certificate to Bamboo (thanks, Mom and Dad) and a very tasty yuk-gae-jang soup from Arisu (thanks, Stephanie).  Took the extended family downtown to see Cirque du Soleil Amaluna (middle-of-the-road, better than Ovo or Totem, but not Quidam or Varekai, strong Tempest Caliban-Ferdinand-Miranda imagery).  It was the kids' first time.  (No fewer than four costumed performers stopped by to talk to them.  Their eyes-ablaze wonder was really something to behold.)  As if those weren't enough, I had my Masonic diploma framed (blue-silver), replenished my Ardbeg Uigeadail, and picked up a set of whiskey stones by way of impromptu self-gifts.  Having a damn good time in the here and now.

        -- Arrow.  More Dark Knight than Robin Hood.  Surprisingly grim.  Rates B-minus?
        -- Cirque du Soleil:  Worlds Away.  Clip show.  Good sampler of the Vegas acts.
        -- Don Jon.  Decent.  Less about 'porn,' more the idealized lifestyle, relationship(s).
        -- The Lords of Salem.  Lots of Blair Witch + Rosemary's Baby here.  Impressive.

Launching into a (small) number of do-it-yourself projects through these final few weeks of workplace-lull.  (One such effort involves next-direction strategy briefings and discussions with a couple of execs concerning "the [broader organizational] future of my role.")  I procured a 48" baker's rack for future 'mini-data-center' office computer shelving.  I tinkered with a handful of razor-and-cream combinations (to help my bumps/rash situation), and found a coconut/tea-tree blend that seems to do the job.  I brought my twelve-year-old (21", 600x800 only) Batesias television into the office, where it serves a bright/sharp third monitor.  I find myself clinging to these things, my creamy-crunchy Comte, fruity-peppery Miyagikyo, specialty shaving gel(s), and sundry other familiar tokens, as everything gets boxed up for the impending house sale, interim relocation, and ultimate relocation.

Lots of change.  A great many unknowns.  Important to stay centered in the midst of upheaval.

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Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
1:35 pm - perhaps to yield to happiness was to accept defeat, but it was a defeat better than many victories

Turns out the Game of Thrones DVD commentaries are... not very good.  (Disappointing.)

Gradually building a strong foundation for future endeavors and extensions.  Had a low-key celebration for Mom's birthday this year (kayaking, lobster rolls, sushi).  Got Gin Cirque du Soleil tickets and a new (gently-used) Samsung Galaxy S3 for her own 39th orbit round the sun.  Visited the Cathedral of the Pines (with a throng of hepcats and hot-rodders) to commemorate my brother's passing.  (I miss Torr terribly, but I see reminders of him everywhere, especially amidst the people and pursuits he loved.)  I picked up a bunch of mail-order Dorco razors (mostly satisfied with their ~85% of Gillette performance at ~40% of Gillette price).  I have averaged 41 hours per workweek since February, and hit an all-time high paycheck (day-job plus moonlighting) in early June.  I keep twenty-six pencils in a jar on my desk, and thirteen pairs of shoes in my closet.  (Seems a bit excessive.)

        -- 12 Yrs a Slave.  Poignant, but the best parts are the white plantation-owners.
        -- Crossbones.  Malkovich is predictably great as Blackbeard;  the rest is so-so.
        -- Hemlock Grove.  Strange Dark-Shadows-Twin-Peaks mashup.  Campy, rambles.
        -- Phantom.  Loose retread of K-129 sub incident.  This story has been overdone.
        -- The Last Stand.  Schwarzenegger's take on CopLand.  Decent action B-movie.
        -- X-Men:  Future Past.  Clever, innovative adaptation of the classic Sentinel arc.

Ulrika lost (yet) a(nother) tooth (getting a quasi-jack-o-lantern look), and Lars performed (received an award for) his gymnastics recital.  This is one of the most rewarding bits of parenthood, seeing (and (re)living) the first time he brandishes an athletic trophy skyward, the first time she finds a gold coin beneath her pillow, the first time(s) they jump and scream with excitement watching a film or play or stage-performance.  Something simple and powerful about cherishing the experience.  I know a thirtysomething colleague who lives his life in direct superficial obsessive opposition to this, only applies for executive titles, drinks 91-rated whiskey, eats Wagyu steaks.  Indeed, I was like this myself once.  But I'm not now.  Not depressed, not gone to seed, just muted somehow.  Like I don't care so much anymore, like the years have rubbed it out of me.  Maybe there's some hard-won wisdom there.

I am trying to be a 'better' person.  I am trying to lead a 'better' life.

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Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
2:29 pm - in the dark, the town is yours, and you are the town's; together you sleep like stones in the field

Sir Kevan's speech in defense of Tywin Lannister is one of my very favorite passages.

Perhaps what I once found "slow" and "boring" I now term "a difference in focus."  We had a delicious scallops-and-soft-shell-crabs celebration at Belle's Bistro for Ginger's 39th birthday.  We took the kids for a romp through the Carlisle State Forest, walked past a pair of wild lady-slippers, and, while returning on the Woodchuck Trail, found a set of car-keys lying in the dirt.  (Hard to know the right course of action here.  We left a couple of notes at path-intersections (incl. the parking lot) and brought the keys to the ice-cream stand.)  I tried to run Sprint's Android 4.4 update on my Galaxy S3, and nearly bricked it, but backed out (using TWRP recovery) and installed CyanogenMod 11.  The lady five doors down, who needed help after her 2013 fall, is now using a walker;  I am glad to see her getting around, but it strikes me as a sad peripheral reminder of time's passage and mortality.

        -- Captain America II.  Better than I expected.  Big-data is evil.  Drones are evil.
        -- Dallas Buyers Club.  Very nearly a Philadelphia remake.  Big pharma is evil.
        -- Now You See Me.  Fun Keyser Soze re-do as magician-heist.  Flawed script.
        -- Transcendence.  Amazing AI-singularity nano-tech premise.  Its plot falls flat.

More tedious suburbanite minutiae.  I picked up a couple of old-style grainy mustards.  (One was adequate, but featureless;  the second, product of the Netherlands, was strong, vinegary, and delicious.)  The protective clear tape-strip was starting to peel off my office desk, so I removed it entirely, leaving a vaguely-unpleasant sticky residue right where my forearms and elbows rest.  Lars had his last day of preschool (for at least the summer) Monday, and is becoming a courageous life-explorer, ebullient, full of energy.  Ulrika is 'delicate' and 'refined' in all senses of the word (both good and bad), loves rainbows and unicorns, plans out how she and her school-friend(s) will play on any given afternoon.  I had a disturbing dream where one kid disappeared in a parking lot for an hour and was possibly 'mistreated.'  I took it into my head, during the other's illness, that she had leukemia.  These are in no way factual or rational beliefs -- and I recognize them as such -- but parental vigilance is not without its dark side(s).

I'll say this for the aging process.  I don't get angry or stifled about 'missing out' anymore.

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Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
1:35 pm - funny how falling feels like flying, for a little while

I estimate that switching (from Verizon) to Ting has saved me $600 over seven months.

Various adventures and contrasts as warm pseudo-summer days give way to crisp cool nights.  Joined some friends for a pontoon-boat cruise round Lost Lake (in Groton) with fruity cocktails, greasy Chinese food, highbrow alternative-energy discussions.  Spent Memorial Day weekend in coastal Maine, driving along the Acadian fingers, walking the stony bay shores and beaches, scouting out local eateries for future visitation (Chester Pike's, Christopher's on Eagle Hill, the Salt Box), introducing the family to fire-pits and s'mores.  I am reminded with each trip northward how much I love the sea, a lifelong passion, stronger than just about everything save for my children and my books.  Am sampling various Japanese spirits, Hibiki (astringent, highland floral-honey, odd bite on the back end), Nikka Taketsuru (doughy and malted, approaching barleywine or sake, citrus beneath), Yamazaki (unremarkable, a heavier Glenlivet).  I also finished my bottle of Tullamore Dew, but that was more of a mercy-killing.

        -- Cat's Cradle.  Apocalyptic superweapon, religious cult.  Not Kurt's best.
        -- Charlie Countryman.  Cliche hipster-sees-world.  An artsy Garden State.
        -- Noah.  Adds stone golems + self-doubting fanatic angle.  Above average.
        -- Of Human Bondage.  Bitter boy explores four unsatisfying social niches.
        -- The Sparrow.  Sci-fi retelling of Isaac Jogues' 1642 Jesuit mission.  A/A-

Retraining my attentions to include scholarship, not merely hedonism.  I attended a Littleton lecture on Canaanite archaeology and Semitic tradition (Ark-Tabernacle-Jerusalem stuff, comprehensive and gripping in its presentation);  I helped to (re)configure my father's aging computers into a workable Linux-Win-7 cluster;  I tried to help an unemployed colleague (who asked me for assistance) with his info-security publication, but gave up after the first six or seven "No, that's not right" and "No, I don't agree with that" and "No, that's not what I'm looking for" rebuttals.  Strange synergy with my current workplace situation, where attrition is starting to set in, one or two longtime employees leaving every few weeks.  On the one hand, this is 'good' for me (because it increases the odds that I will be converted to full-time hire following this contract's August conclusion).  On the other, it gives rise to some doubt(s), causes a rational observer to question what is causing the departures.  Trying to watch, learn, and strategize.

I err on the side of being unsure, holding back, not nailing holes in my walls.  Will adjust.

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Thursday, May 15th, 2014
5:07 pm - shake with your right hand, but hold a rock with your left

Sleeping with the window(s) open is glorious and refreshing.  I have missed it sorely.

The weekly regimen is somehow less demanding nowadays.  (I'm not complaining, mind you.)  I have abandoned several TV series which I no longer enjoyed (Community, Revolution, Vampire Diaries, spinoffs).  I dropped my cell-phone on pavement, shattering its screen, but successfully replaced it after some detailed component-level surgery.  (I have since ordered a spare, for use as parts, and/or maybe as a secondary family handset.)  I bought three pairs of khakis on eBay, averaging nine dollars apiece.  I bought a double-handful of generic Gillette razors (grey-market stuff, cosmetically identical, probably from imitator factories), and find them noticeably less smooth, but still acceptable.  I have been bitten by the tattoo bug in earnest, and am trying to self-moderate.  Seems like I'm playing a lot of paladins, lately, hardened warriors, religious zealots.  Just a phase, maybe.

        -- Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.  Teen lost in the woods;  v. Gerald's Game.
        -- Mysterious Egypt.  The first ~55% of this series is valuable docu-history.
        -- Philomena.  Ex-nun seeks the son she gave up.  Very Sophie's Choice.
        -- The Monuments Men.  Semi-farce.  Dirty Dozen meets Ocean's Eleven.
        -- Winter's Tale.  A Constantine-Golden-Compass wreck.  Ruins the book.

Am trying to spend more time in the company of my kids, to bear witness, to bask in the fullness of their life-experience(s) as they learn to ride their fixed-gear bicycles (little guy is a powerhouse), memorize the words to (and history behind) My Country 'Tis of Thee, the Star-Spangled Banner (Daddy, THIS SONG is about a SOLDIER FIGHT at a FORT CASTLE, Daddy THIS SONG has DIFFERENT WORDS in England because of a WAR).  Am also gaining an appreciation for the peculiar pie-slices we call personalities, Trivial Pursuit game-pieces with multi-colored wedges, this one prickly and unfriendly but perfect in a crisis, that one attentive but catty and cutting behind the scenes, this other one affectionate, but capricious, perpetually flitting on to the next pursuit, the next infatuation.  The ones you (think you) know will surprise you.  The ones you dislike will make redeeming gestures.

For years I have cared too much about what others think of me.  But I'm working on it.

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