Category Archives: Life As We Know It

Stop making excuses

I was having a discussion with some of my kids tonight that turned into something rather more intense than I expected. Now that I’ve had some time to digest it, here’s what really bothered me: a lot of people* have little or no real connection to the causes they champion, yet are also willing to prescribe solutions to the problems they imagine those movements spring from.

It isn’t enough to say that you are in solidarity with a particular movement, nor enough to repeat (or reblog) a cause’s talking points. At the very least you must go and live, work, and play with that group. Simply hearing about it on the Internet or from your friends won’t give you anything resembling the full picture. This will take time. It will mean listening and building relationships with people. To put it bluntly, it will take dedication and a level of perseverance that will be uncomfortable.

If you aren’t willing to do this you’re giving little more than lip service to your chosen cause. This is no more effective than signing an online petition, telling the homeless person “I hope you find shelter tonight,” or a starving child “I’ll pray that you get a good meal.” These things do not make a difference. You’re just making yourself feel better about the fact that you can’t help because you are too young or too old, or have no time, no money, no car, a family to take care of, a job that’s too demanding, a fear of dealing with real people, a mental illness, or any other thing you’ve used to excuse yourself.

It’s time to stop blaming other people for not solving the problems of this world. If you won’t get involved in spite of all the good reasons you have for your inaction, then why should anyone else?

*This statement is not limited to any particular generation, or for that matter any other group.

A story about kittens

When I was a kid summer was a magical time. I can still remember looking forward to the bus ride home on the last day of school. The air was sweeter, the leaves greener, and everything was better because Summer Vacation had arrived.

One particularly magical summer came when I was about 10 years old. My brother, sister, and I discovered some kittens in our garage. We didn’t know where they came from but they were old enough to get around; we knew that if they were very young they wouldn’t have had their eyes open yet. There were five of them and we were sure that we could convince our parents that we could keep at least a few.

When we asked, I don’t really recall what the answer was. It must have been at least a conditional yes because we named each of them and even picked out a kitten that we could call our own. My brother picked out an orange bicolor and named him Tiger. I picked the solid black kitten with blue eyes and called her Midnight.

It wasn’t long before tragedy struck. The kittens, curious things that they are, were exploring the garage, climbing around to see what they could find. Midnight somehow fell into a drain pan with used motor oil in it and was thoroughly drenched with the stuff. I remember understanding that this was bad but didn’t really know how to help the poor thing. I remember trying to wash her and get as much oil out of her fur as I could, but it didn’t help. She died not long after. I was heartbroken.

The rest of the kittens, except Tiger, all left. Ultimately he stayed with us for many years. He was part of the family and treated us all pretty well (except for my dad). I never felt that he was very close with me, though. Perhaps I was hanging on to what might have been with Midnight.

When I moved out of the house I either wasn’t allowed to have a pet, or unable to support a pet, for quite a few years. It wasn’t until after Michelle and I married and moved to Wisconsin that another pet entered my life. One day at the mall she visited the pet store (long since closed at this point) and fell into a deep, mutual love with a Himalayan kitten there. It was so obvious that they were meant to be together that we agreed to bring him home a couple of days later. He was a big, fluffy ball of fur with striking blue eyes and a regal attitude that you couldn’t help but admire. Maximillian was with us for almost 16 years.

When Max left us, I was heartbroken again. He was one of the sweetest cats I had ever known. He nuzzled and purred his way into the heart of nearly every person he met, including mine. Michelle was clearly his favorite, though. She could just look at him and he’d start to purr.

Our house was lonely. Often we would walk into the house in the evening and hear Max’s familiar purring, even though he wasn’t there. Sometimes I’d even whisper a greeting before realizing the room was empty. We went seven months like this, through the end of winter into spring and summer, when it became clear that we were going to look for another feline friend.

The wife of one of my work colleagues volunteered at a local animal shelter. Michelle went to see if we could help by providing a foster home for some cats. It turned out they had a pair of tuxedo kittens thought to be about 8 weeks old that needed love and attention. These sisters were found on the street abandoned, sick, and hungry. Michelle’s protective instincts kicked in and she brought them home. She fought to keep the smaller, very ill one alive. At one point she resorted to force feeding the kitten with an eye dropper. We used a heating pad under a blanket to keep her warm 24/7. The larger kitten was also sick, though not lethargic. When Michelle wasn’t taking care of the smaller one, the larger was kneading her, purring and cooing at her, and snuggling up close.

Eventually the day came that we were to give them back to the shelter. Unfortunately our two older girls had bonded with the kittens, and Astrid and Zena stayed with us. Because they’re domestic short hairs, though, my allergies flare up pretty rapidly and I need to wash when I touch them. They’re both very friendly with me but quite definitely not my cats.

Not long after this Michelle was ready for a cat of her own, again. She found a Maine Coon breeder in a town about an hour away. She was adamant than she would not be able to have a Himalayan again, in part because she felt that she might end up comparing them to Max, which would be pretty unfair. Maine Coons seemed to have the right personality type, and as a bonus, they can get pretty big. You don’t have to worry too much about not seeing a 20 pound cat underfoot. And that’s how Sullivan came to be with us, about a year and a half after Astrid and Zena joined our family.

One thing about Sully that’s particularly noteworthy is that he’s very affectionate. Not long after he came home with us it was obvious that, except for the typical kitten rambunctiousness, he was right up with our beloved Max in that way. I’ve remarked several times that this was like being struck by lightning, and not only that, twice in the same spot. Even to this day he is clearly devoted to some degree to everyone in our family. He also has an impish sense of humor that comes out when you’re least expecting it.

Just like with Max, though, Sully has a favorite human. Michelle worked hard to bond with him from the moment he came home with us. He has grown closer to me than Max ever did. He even has a couple of routines, one when I get home from work and one at bed time, that he insists on doing with me nearly every day. Week by week they get a little more complex, and sometimes a little more silly. Even so, he rewards only Michelle with instant purring when she coos at him. At this point I started to long for a kitten I could call my own.

Imagine my surprise when, for Christmas 2015, Michelle gave me a card to redeem for a kitten from the same breeder that Sully came from. I was overjoyed! There are usually only a few litters available per year, so I knew I would have to wait. But, for the first time, I started hoping that the story I began with Midnight all of those years ago would finally have a chance to play out.

That dream finally materialized last weekend. To be honest I was hoping for a female kitten. I even had a name picked out months in advance. I’ve now got this gorgeous little boy, instead, so he doesn’t have a name yet (even after a week). I’m getting closer, though. I’m taking my time to get to know him a little better so I don’t end up giving him a name that doesn’t fit like “Killer” or “Spot” or “___ as a bag of rocks.”

One thing that I can say for sure is that lightning does apparently strike in the same place three times.

silver tabby kitten

Unnamed silver tabby Maine Coon, taken Saturday, June 3, 2017.


Still not dead

You know things are a little askew when you’ve updated WordPress twice since your last post, and it’s begging you for a third update. Don’t feel bad, though, because I have been spending what little precious time I have with family, and occasionally tinkering with music or playing BZFlag. None of my various Internet-based endeavors have gotten a lot of attention.

The only real change recently is that I’ve finally signed up for Twitter. It’s been at least a year since I considered it. Still working out what it means…

Vacation… ahhhhhhhh

Two separate mini-vacations in one week.

First up, Wisconsin Dells. We took a family trip with our good friends – that’s 7 girls total, no boys for those keeping score – to the Wilderness Territory resort. There are a bunch of indoor and outdoor waterparks there, and we made it a point to visit all of them. None was huge by amusement park standards, but taken as a whole there’s a lot of acreage devoted strictly to wading pools, wave pools, water slides, lazy rivers, and related things. Between us, I think we went down every slide in the place (both tube slides and body slides). Yep, one of those swim/eat/swim/eat/swim/sleep kind of days… two days in a row. We closed out the place at 10:00 p.m. each day.

After a couple of days of rest and recuperation, it was off to Chicago, this time without the kids. The four of us had tickets to see Blue Man Group at Briar Street Theater in Chicago. All I can say about it is this: the show is hugely entertaining. Even though I had seen much of the show on television before, there were new and downright wonderous elements that you can only experience in the theater. Audience participation is one thing that simply doesn’t translate well into video/recordings, and it’s a big part of the show. If you’ve never seen a Blue Man performance before, do it if you ever get the chance. I’m already thinking of going to another one.

The worst thing about vacations is that they have to end. It’s back to work tomorrow. I’m not too proud to beg for your pity. 😉

Computers suck, redux

This poem was written on May 11, 2006. Sadly, i haven’t actually been able to share any of the new music that floats around in my head since… but i was recently inspired by someone, and have taken the keyboard out again. (You know who you are… thank you again!)

Anyway… original post follows. I’m preserving it from oblivion, because it reminds me of who I was on that date. Today looks a little brighter, by comparison.

Computers suck.

You know, like a vacuum. Which is where I feel like I’ve been, in a vacuum.


This is the sound
of my head hitting
the wall.


And again.

… and again.

Fifteen days ago I tried to upgrade
one of my computers.
It died.
I was sad.

I spent every
resurrecting the stupid thing.

When it lived again,
I cried with joy.

And then, another computer
decided that THIS TOO
was the time to get cranky.
Oh no, it didn’t crash.
It just decided to make life
for Michelle.

Not me.



Spent money getting a happy,
big, new, fast, quiet disk.
Spent a day getting it into one computer,
whose drive I stole for the cranky one.
Spent a day getting the cranky one installed
and another day getting things back to
How They Should Be.

And then, the first computer…
yes, the one mentioned at the beginning…


There I go again.

I stayed up all night
and got a few hours of sleep
and worked on it all day.

And it LIVES!

And I can go on with my life.

And extract these things from my head
and share them, again.

and this makes me


Happy Christmas

The holidays are past, finally. Don’t get me wrong – I love Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the advent of a new year. It’s just insanely busy around here. You probably know the drill. Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway), that leaves precious little time for blogging.

Of note is the fact that our new living room furniture arrived on Tuesday evening. Whilst cleaning the carpets I noticed several problems with the old sofa and decided it was time to retire the old girl. Michelle didn’t argue, so we spent the better part of a Saturday afternoon looking for something. After we got an idea of what we wanted, I decided I had to model the living room and our proposed changes, because we didn’t really know if the new pieces would fit. Enter Google Sketchup; in the space of hours over a couple of days I built a rudimentary 3D model of the major features of the room plus most of the furniture we had planned to keep. It turned out to be a good thing because one of the things we were looking at was a sofa and love seat combo… and the love seat was simply too big for the space available.

Lots more happened but I’m quite out of time at the moment. It seems that I’ve never mentioned some of the toys that have consumed my limited attention span lately (MythTV/iPod rescued!/DS Lite) but I promise, I’ll get an update about some of these soon. Four months is way too long…

R.I.P. Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin, best known as television’s Crocodile Hunter, has died after being struck by a stingray barb, according to The Age.

Our heart goes out to his wife and family.

UPDATE: The Daily Telegraph has more, describing it as a freak accident.

MORE: ABC and ninemsn.

[The ninemsn article has been updated with more details.]

My reading over at Marine Medic suggests that a stingray strike through the heart is a rare occurrence.

Server crash

After running for several months without incident (not counting the time one of the kids pushed the power button and put it to sleep), the rev A iMac that runs this site decided it was unhappy. I have no idea why. It just stopped. Sure, the mouse moved and everything, but nothing responded. An animated icon was suspended in the middle of a movement. “Nothing to do but pull the plug,” I thought, so that’s what I did.

As a result of all of this, of course, I’ve reviewed several of the logs with a more keen eye than usual. Apparently it doesn’t take long for the hackers to notice. I’ve got some security changes to make. But don’t worry – you won’t feel a thing, I promise.

You can tune a piano…

But if you let me play that piano, it’s unlikely you’ll recognize that fact. (What, you expected me to say something about a certain tasty canned fish?)

I’ve been tinkering with Garage Band some more since my Retrocaptive entry back in 2005. I’ve also played with Logic Express a bit, and oh, what a difference! Anyway, at least for the time being I’m including links to the latest tunes I’ve put up over on iCompositions (you can find them on the left under My Music). Is it because they’re awesome tunes? No, but I really would like to hear your critical opinion, if you have one. Yes, even if you don’t like it.Thanks in advance!