Tuesday, December 19, 2006


After months of putting it off, I finally decided to sit down and figure this out. I had to, you see; it was sitting there in my Outlook box waiting to be solved, and I had to empty the box before leaving work for the year. Which is tomorrow.

What I found was that, no matter how proud of my MENSA sample test scores I may be, I am no genius. Think you are? Give it a go.

No, I won't post the answer. I looked all over the web for it to no avail, and you'll get no better. I will tell you this though: it takes me 15 clicks.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Over the last week, I've had the privilege of dining (that's right 'dining,' not eating) at two very fine restaurants.

Historically, I am not a great gastronome, no lover of fine food and drink. There have been many times I've wished I didn't have to eat at all, such a bother I've found it to be sometimes. But those times mostly come when I am bored with the (lack of) selection, or want to spend time spent cooking/eating/cleaning doing something else. But being a necessary thing, I learned to keep it simple and suck it up.

Simple is definitely not a word useful in describing my recent dining experiences. First, a holiday lunch at Maggiano's Little Italy brought a tilapia dish crusted with something light and toasty and textury. Side dishes and drinks were not as memorable, but the highlight of the meal was the cheesecake. The slice was a good three inches high and four inches wide at the round end. OMG, and the strawberry topping...I was a freak. Of course, cheesecake is one thing I'm always a freak for.

My second big deal was a birthday event for my wife and half of another couple at Laffrey's Steaks on the Hearth. Apparently some Detroit icon, this little place is deceiving in its size. The steak was probably the best I've ever had. This was just a steak, but the texture and juice and flavor (woody and smoky and red) still make me salivate to imagine. I also had a twice-baked potato (which I *must* learn how to make) and sauteed mushrooms with it. Okay, so this was a simple meal, but well worth both the drive and the price (which is saying something; plan $50/person) for any special event you can think of.

With the holidays afoot, there is lots more good eating in store for me in the next several days, but after that it's back to my old routine: looking forward to a weekly visit to Taco Bell for lunch, and the fanciest non-special-occasion dinner being baked mostaciolli, both of which are fine by me.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Don't Let Nobody Hold You Down

This is a post a long time in the making. [Disclaimer: this post discusses racism and prejudice. If it makes you uncomfortable, maybe you ought to read it anyway. In any case, it's my blog; there's a "Next Blog" button up there you can click of you want.]

For years, I've been an avid watcher and listener of anything dealing with the various prejudices of the world. Some I've been known to practice, even currently. I'm not always proud, but I'm always human. Not that prejudice is ever justified.

Racism, however, has always been of particular interest. The notion that some people are to be treated differently, particularly better or worse, than other people because of how they look was introduced to me at a young age. I made friends with a neighber named Joseph. I don't know how old I was; like most childhood memories I can scrape up I can't readily identify whether I was 4 or 8 or 12. But there I was, playing in the alley and the vacant lot where a house had burned a few years before with Joseph one day, and then shunning him the next. My dad had told me that I wasn't allowed to be his friend because he was black, and probably gave me some evidence this was a good idea, because I remember not arguing (that wasn't allowed anyway) and not feeling hurt the first time I purposely ignored my former playmate.

From there, I suppose it went the same way one would expect. We were a low- to mid-income white family in the inner city near a major industrial complex; maybe half the street was minority, black and Hispanic, and my dad was fraught with not only the preconcieved notions he'd grown up with, but what he saw around him. It was a time when crackhouses were popping up all around us. There were two on our street. Adolescents stood on the corner near the empty lot for hours at a time, then would lean into a car window, make some exchange, and walk away. Sometimes they got in. The lot was only three houses away from ours, so it freaked my parents out. The kids were always black and male. Then one day (I was still small enough to be inside the house playing, oblivious), someone came to the door knocking furiously. I only heard about it after he'd run off, but it was one of these kids from the corner. He told my mom to please let him in, that someone was trying to kill him. She didn't, and he ran off down the alley. She was visibly shaken; my dad was visibly furious when he got home.

None of these things necessarily affected me directly, but they definitely convinced my dad that he was right. The n-word was frequently used. He once told me that even a white person can be a n-er, depending on how he or she conducts himself. Aha, I thought, it's not color that defines it...but no. Upon my realization, I was quickly reminded that *all* blacks qualify for the word. My dad's prejudices weren't just against blacks, though. He told Pollack jokes and raved about the communists and Japanese. I never heard anything about Jews, but that's probably only because we never knew anyone that defined themselves as such. As an older man now, probably less bitter at the world but just as confused about how to express it, he still carries his racism and predudices.

While none of this made sense to me growing up, I toed the line. I learned much later in life that nothing ever really satisfies my dad except his addictions, but that was beyond me as a teen. I told endless strings of racist jokes along with my adolescent buddies, and laughed, while never really believing in them. I'd had bad brushes with "bad" black people, but far more decent relationships with black coworkers, friends from school, and neighbors. I never told my dad about them. I also had a disproportionate amount of bad brushes with "bad" white people. Not only did it feel unnatural to be racist, it was statistically unfounded.

So after a time, I practiced racism, and other prejudices I'd learned, as most people practice any distasteful but socially expected thing. Alone, there was none. When someone mentioned it, either stranger or acquaintance, I pretended to think the same thing. In this way I know I perpetuated a greater amount of ignorance than I hope I ever encounter again. My racism, after a time, had become fixed. I didn't like it any more than a rock in my shoes, but when the shoes cannot be taken off and shaken out, you live with it. It changes the way you walk, the way you organize your life, the way you see the world. So it was with this. But truthfully, my own personal racism, with its meager roots, was the least of my issues growing up. Maybe that meant I never focused on it. Maybe it meant I valued friends, no matter what color, more than my dad's social ideals. I have never really tried to figure out how large a role it played in my formation.

After leaving home at age 16, I entered a new world, one I was not entirely ready for. It was filled with people who, generally speaking, had lots more money than my family could ever hope for. There was a greater variety of cultures, including several of the Eurasian types and different religions I'd never seen. The balance was way off in my opinion. What I was used to was maybe 50-60% black, 20-30% white, and the rest a mix of Hispanic cultures (you *never* confused the Puerto Ricans with the Mexicans; you'd likely get your ass kicked). And that was it. I was comfortable with that. At school, it was very different. There were virtually no Hispanics. There was a smaller concentration of black kids, but a majority of them were from affluent households, so they were different than the kids from back home, even though the two places were only 15 minutes' drive apart. There were American kids who'd grown up overseas, people who didn't speak English very well, and nearly everyone was unafraid. Culture shock was severe, but I began to adjust.

The turning point in my life, prejudiciously speaking, came with a showing of American Pictures. The opening idea was that every white person was racist, every man was sexist, every straight person was homophobic, every Christian hates Jews and Muslims...you get the idea. Of course this is shocking to a group of intelligent adults, and we were just a group of high school students. The presenter tapered off these generalizations, but stressed that deep down in the core of everyone's humanity, we really only understand other people like us, and therefore, we really only like *them*... not anyone else. Not anyone different. And so he began.

American Pictures was, as its name suggests, mostly a slide show. The guy basically hikes his way across some place and photographs it in all its glory and squalor. It doesn't sound tremendous, but they were pictures of poverty, abuse, injustice, preference. They showed things that soeciety hides. There were explanations with some of the pictures, or groups of pictures, that told the circumstances. There was music, I think. In the end, after what was probably two hours that seemed like an instant, I was changed. Probably an unintended (or otherwise, but it's inconsequential either way) side effect was that I was slightly ashamed to be white, male, not-dirt-poor, and Christian. These things I could reconcile right away--what I'd really learned was that, while I could not change who I was, I could change how I view and treat the world and all the other humans therein. And in this way, I can reinvent myself.

And so I did. What I found was that once I stopped laughing at the jokes, nobody told them anymore, not around me. I found that, while at one time one unchallenged slur in an overcrowded fast-food line would silently make everyone blame the single minority worker behind the counter for the delay in getting their nacho belgrande, any open disapproval of any mention of racism would quickly take on a life of its own through the others in line, and the slurer was forced to leave out of shame. What I found was that once I had been given proof of what I truly believed anyway, that I was no better (or worse) than any other person, that my worth was defined solely by the things I'm in control of, that, while perception is 90% of reality, I decide how people will view me based on my behavior, was that everyone else has exactly as much control as I do.

Maybe I'm an idealist, a Forrest Gump. I know the world is far from perfect; I don't expect it to ever be. I know there are cultures, even (especially?) in America, that I have no understanding of where prejudices and racism are part of everyday life. But while my understanding of the world is incomplete, I know that my experiences, even in their limited context, mean something. I might be a dreamer, but I am no fool.

Locally, Michigan residents had the chance to abolish affirmative action in government and things like public university admissions. It passed by just under 60%. I took my views to the polls with me and all that, but what really got my goat over the whole issue was the way the opponents of the measure marketed their wares. One such device was a flier that was put on my doorknob about three times. It showed a black and white picture of Martin Luther King, Jr. marching ahead of a group of people of mixed race. I thought that was nice, and if that's all it showed, I suppose the flier could have been for either side of the argument. Equality, civil rights, and all that. But above the picture, in bold letters, it said: Don't let nobody put you down.

At first I looked for quotation marks. Phrases like this aren't proper, so I naturally assumed this one had been spoken by someone like Rosa Parks, or maybe it was something like Malcom X's 'by any means necessary.' But there weren't any. Maybe this is racist the way the SAT is preferential to native English speakers, but the incorrectness of this bold slogan, "Don't let nobody put you down," struck me as inherently counterintuitive. I supposed maybe the fliers were intended for a majority black audience. But then I realized that is a racist thought by itself, because it assumes that blacks won't either understand or respond to the properly, grammatically formatted statement: "Don't let anyone hold you down." In the end I was sufficiently disgusted and threw the damned thing away, but the thought lingered, bitterly, in my head that by wording it in such a way that such thing would only perpetuate more ignorance, and possibly, more racism.

Here I cite a blog by a very old, dear friend of mine: The Minority Report . The author has given me a unique perspective on what it might feel like to be a real minority, not just a white kid in a mostly black school. Racism is not dead (also see here), and the only way we will truly defeat it is by not teaching it. Unfortunately, I think the only way to understand just how wrong it truly is is by becoming a victim. Fortunately or otherwise, that is very unlikely to happen to most (white) Americans. Hopefully though, the exposure of stories of extreme prejudice will help us open our eyes. And once our eyes are open, maybe we could all take the time to remove our shoes and shake out the stones.

Update: Would Tara Connor had been booted if she'd been black?

Update: By Any Means Necessary still fighting MCRI (January '07)

Update: U-M halts fight against Prop 2 (January '07)

Monday, December 11, 2006

This American Life

Every Friday at 1500 EST, I try to tune into my local public radio station (101.9, WDET-FM) and catch my favorite radio show, This American Life. I'm a closet fan. I don't know anyone else who listens to it--anyone else, really, who listens to public radio on a regular basis at all, except my sister. I'm not part of some Detroit cultural elite. I just love the show.

Maybe it's Ira Glass's voice. Maybe it's the short musical vignettes during and between acts. Maybe it's the humanity of the stories, the laying bare of those things which make normal people cringe or cry, or laugh out loud at inappropriate things. The show is definitly known for its unique human quality, and humanity is something that is definitely lacking in not only commercial radio (for which, I suppose, it must be praised, as this is precisely why many of us tune in [to tune out]) but open society in general.

Try it sometime. Walk into a drug store and start talking about feelings. Not yours, just in general. One of two things will happen. The stranger who is the cashier or pharmacy tech or stocker, or whomever, will either (1) look at you in disbelief, or at least discomfort, or possibly with contempt, and may or may not begin deriding or condescending you as oversensitive, liberal, homosexual, or something else...or (2) something will connect with the person, an event upon which you will be understood to be in a sort of temporary, two-person, micro-society. Secrecy is included in all such agreements, as all others outside this short-lived, newly formed organization will be assumed to immediately jump to all conclusions in (1) about both of you.

Try it in a bookstore, a place where culture (supposedly) lives a little more freely. At least in the large places (Borders, B&N), it's more allowable to open up, but you're still subject to some of the same labels. You can only go so far into why you think The Good Earth is worth the money and time. You cannot call it beautiful, not unless the person you happen to be speaking to shares this view (something you will only find out by baring your own opinion). You cannot say how Ellison affected your professional direction, or describe the excitement of Moby Dick on your kids' faces, without being viewed, at least by a majority, as some kind of...freak.

I don't mind being a literature freak. I don't mind that when I asked to borrow the BBC Pride & Prejudice DVD's from one coworker, another balked at my lack of manly qualities. It's part of who I am. I don't mind that I have no one to laugh with about Jonathan Goldstein's "If This Ark is a Rockin', Don't Come a Knockin'." But sometimes I'd like to. Sometimes, it would be nice.

So in the barren land of human life, a weekly dose of humanity is refreshing and welcome. Come next Friday at 3, count me in.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Madison McBurney

This morning there was a news item that I found as part of my morning start-the-computer-and-get-ready-for-the-day routine. The headline was "Dad charged with murder." I knew this would be a trigger for me. I'm a bit obsessive about fathering/child issues, as anyone who knows my well-worn soapbox can tell you, but I read it anyway.

Basically, this local guy got so frustrated with his 11-month old daughter that he threw her into her crib. I'll spare the details, but she died the next day. Her name was Madison McBurney.

This story is first and foremost a tragedy. Anytime a child is killed, especially as a result of abuse or neglect, it is tragic, and this is all the more horrifying because the parent is the perpetrator. This story, however, if it is unique at all, is only so by degrees.

Frustration with children is something every parent knows, especially new parents. No where in the "What to Expect" books does it tell you how to handle when your baby won't eat, won't sleep, won't stop crying, doesn't have a fever or some fluke ailment like the shaft of a pillow feather sticking him through his clothes, and the doctor says there's nothing wrong. No, only experience can teach you what to do then. Contrary to first instinct, it isn't nothing. While the only thing you may be able to do for the child is gently shush and soothe, and maybe run the bath if you've had enough sleep, your first priority is your own sanity.

We all hear jokes about it. "The reason God makes babies so cute is so you don't kill them when they're small," we say. A close friend came up with the gem of a phrase "they're treasures, let's bury them." We laugh at these things and understand them to characterize a universal rite of parenthood and a common thread that connects all parents, usually by grey hairs. Until recently, I was actually horrified by these sayings. They seemed to completely disregard the total awe and absolute love you experience at this precious time. I know now I was simply taking myself way too seriously, but certainly in the context of today's news, they are, once again, horrifying.

I know the frustration of the man who was Madison's dad. Right up to the moment when he lost track of that first priority, his was no different than the daily emotional toil of millions of moms and dads. I have felt it, and come right to the brink. I have held a screaming child and gazed out a second story window and imagined quiet, and hated myself for it. Of course, I was solidly met by reality. There would have been two landings that day if any. Brendan now is still the most frustrating child in our household, but he also has the biggest heart of anyone I know, including all the grandmothers and clergy I've ever met. I told the story of the window the first few times as self-therapy, seeking the validation of my fellow parents, who, while shocked, did not condemn me (bless them), and later as a funny story of real parenting frustration and reward. I also use it as a quiet lesson to myself about how love is tested and practiced, and in this context, it is one of the most valuable experiences I've had.

I have no intention of defending Madison's dad. In his own right, I'm sure he is aware of his mistake, although the consequences for it very likely escape him. In this respect, this is a much larger tragedy. A child is dead, but a family is destroyed. I resist the urge to comment on every story I read like this (see aforementioned soapbox), as they are certainly overnumerous, but this one nagged me as I tried to shake it off.

Maybe that's a good thing. If this story has any impact, let it cause other parents to examine their own reactions and reiterate that first priority during those moments of insanity. Let it, possibly, cause one man or woman to take a timeout, lock the bathroom door behind them and remember their child's smile through the tears, noise, vomit, and poop. Because these moments, the smiles and laughter, the finger paintings and stick-figured heads, the bedtime stories and goodnight kisses and hugs, are as real, and a more abundant part, of the parenting experience than anything that might frustrate us.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

I'm Rea-dy

Today I have an appointment to talk to my boss's boss regarding a promotion recommendation that was made last APRIL. He (or someone) has been dragging his feet and I've had nought but procrastination and pooh-poohing on management's part. This is the boss who is known to fire people who cross him; I'm staying positive. Let's just hope I don't end up getting wasted in the Goofy Goober or finding seaweed stuck to my upper lip later.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

An Open Letter to Allison Aubrey

In response to http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6556831

Dear Ms. Aubrey,

Regarding your NPR report called "Moms and Pros Tackle Head Lice," I was disappointed that, once again, dads were not mentioned as participants in common parenting issues.

I am a working father of three who has earned a few stripes of my own in the lice battle. Not only do the kids get nitpicked whenever there's a reported case in school, but my wife and I check each other just to be sure. I can handle a nit comb as well as any mom I've met. I know I'm not the only male parent who's on duty in this respect, not to mention countless others, including infant feeding, diaper changing, bath giving, potty training, homework helping, backpack checking, and dozens of other jobs to be done around a house with children.

As a reporter, I urge you not to forward the stereotype that many men suffer as parents: that they are uninterested, unskilled, and as a whole inept in the art of loving and caring for children.

Kindest Regards,


Heater Woes

The heater in my car is seriously pissing me off. First, it was working erratically. It was like a lottery, with a 30-40% chance of winning. On days that I'd lose, I'd have to scrape the window and run the car about 10 minutes before actually driving it. Warm air would lazily waft up the defroster vent and lightly graze the windshield creating a wavy ribbon of clarity, from which I could rub and warm a path to the center of my sightline and safely (somewhat) make it to work. Then, it stopped working altogether. I accepted this and made the window-rubbing routine a regular part of my morning.

An attempt at maintenance proved fruitless. I checked the relays, the breakers, and fuses; I dismantled the blower motor while laying upside-down on my back, feet in the air, on the half-reclined passenger seat; I jimmied a tool to remove the oval radio-heater cluster (why can't Ford just have screws like everyone else??) only to yank the guts out from behind the warm-cool control knob due to the insufficient length of the attached cable. I *think* the problem is the high-low knob, a four-way switch of some sorts, but darn if I can't pull the cluster far enough away from the dashboard to remove the mechanism. And how, then, will I be able to test it?

After several days of making peace with my car and the many processes necessary to make it happy, the heater started running again halfway into my morning commute today. It irked me in a big way. I have to give kudos to my father in law, who helped every way he could, including checking out the service manual from the library which included a picture of the official radio cluster removal tool that I managed to recreate from a clothes hanger.

No, I can't take it to the dealer. Who has that kind of money? But as winter moves on, I am sure I will be more and more willing to pay $200+ for a repair that might concievably cost me one day's lunch at Taco Bell if I could just figure out some minor details.

On another note, I have been on a string of futuristic conspiracy movies, and I'm not entirely happy with the catalog. I rented Aeon Flux and The Island, and I must say I'm not very impressed. The former, I'm sure, is a great animated series (as I understand its origin to be), but the big screen did not elevate it beyond two dimensions. The latter was better, deeper, but entirely too long. I was not surprised after watching it that the director is also responsible for the likes of The Rock and Armageddon. Maybe it makes me socially inept, but I really have no clue what anyone saw in these kitsch sensationalist over-dramas. But I digress. I'm sure there will be a few more movies of this genre before I'm done, just because I'm such a nerd, but I will relegate control of the DVD player tonight to my lovely wife, who has been hankering for some Pirates of the Caribbean 2. And who can blame her, really?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Today's Tangents

So there's a guy at work who's the most negative person I know. He just exudes this purplish-black energy, and it trails him wherever he goes like smoke. Or maybe it's negative in the sense that it sucks away positive energy, like a black hole. Whenever he talks, he juts his teeth out at you and forces his voice out, even when it's not loud. When he's pissed about something, everyone knows it. He's the elephant in the living room that everyone makes room for and nobody ever calls out.

It's been an interesting day. I had lunch with an old friend with whom I could talk for hours. After lunch, my headache was gone, even though I sucked down Mountain Dew for most of it. One of our topics of discussion was careers.

This week at work I'm evaluating myself for our annual review period. I'm not very far off the mark I set so many months ago, except that I thought 120 hours of training by year's end was reasonable (I've done 36). But for some reason my sense of accomplishment flounders as I read some of my objectives and assessments. They just don't seem like they'll get me anywhere.

Last year at this time I was blossoming: learning new things every week, and practicing what I would eventually become the local expert at. This year I'm so underwhelmed it's annoying. I know my focus is elsewhere; I know my energy is different; I know my interests are not the same. But you know--my goals should not be any different now than they were then. Because guess what? I haven't done anything significant in the past 12 months. Maybe my own realization is what's got me down.

Maybe this is what I need: some slap in the face, some view from the mirror. what it'll get me is, so far, a mystery.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Tater Tomater

Today in the lunch line, I overheard a couple of conversations. I'm not much of an eavedropper, but when there are twenty people waiting to order their bacon cheeseburgers and Frostys, it's the best entertainment available. Especially when said twenty people are all within 8 inches of each other.

The minor conversation was between two women, middle-aged, discussing some younger woman in their office whose boyfriend is in Iraq. One said to the other that this young lady makes up things to be angry at him over so she doesn't worry so much. I thought that was tremendously sad. Here is the poor guy across the globe fighting and living in conditions unthinkable to typical Americans, and his girl is making up crap to hold against him just so she won't have to cry at night. I hope she gets dumped soon.

The other conversation was between an older man and woman near retirement age--or that age I think retirement is supposed to occur. That was their topic of discussion. The man was wearing a suit and tie, talking about how his brother bought a house last year for $510,000 that is now only valued at $420,000. The woman said her husband is a physician, and he cannot retire because they can't sell their house. Obviously, neither of these folks has never had to worry about clipping coupons or the price of a gallon of milk, at least not in decades. It was also clear that despite their economic positions in life, they were sweating bullets over money.

It got me thinking. I'm habitually worried about money to begin with. I don't make much and way too many of those dollars go out than stay in. I've never paid much attention to the economy; I've always had a steady income, meagerly middle-class though it may be, but now that I've begun aging out of my irresponsible youth I realize I don't have the luxury of ignorance much longer.

I'm worried about retirement; I don't know how long I will have to work, and I have absolutely no clue if or how I could ever save the requisite $2 million or whatever it is before I can expect to retire. I don't even know if I can keep my job that long.

I'm worried about my kids' college savings. I want them to succeed, like any parent, and I believe them to be truly unique individuals that can change the world given the chance. They'll never get close to that chance without formal education, and I can barely put money in a savings account, let alone save for three tuitions.

I worry about the value of my home. Our house is no crown jewel, but homeownership is still something to be proud of. Now, with the neighborhood going to hell and the schools a mess, I wonder if it's something we should forfeit for the chance to "trade up". Two weeks ago, I had the ironic satisfaction that we couldn't afford to move anyway, so the drop in housing prices was something we could ride out, at least as sellers. Now, I'm not so sure.

I worry about my health. Sure I worry about everyone else in the family's too, but ever since I broke my arm I have wondered what would have happened if it'd been more serious. The way my insurance is set up currently, it would be much preferable for me to die in a serious accident than come out disabled in any way. How would I provide for my family? Who would take care of them if I couldn't? And even if nothing bad happens to me, I'm already seeing the effects of three years out of my twenties. If I don't get on the stick, ten extra pounds will turn into God knows what. Will my health outlast my children's dependence on me?

In this season, the key is to be thankful, and I'm trying to remember that. But for now, the balance between staying positive, laughing with and kissing the kids, going out occasionally for nice dinners, getting Nancy that thing she really wants for her birthday; and taking care of business: making an extra house payment, saving for tuition, paring back at Christmas time, and generally staying way way in the black....is eluding me. At least through December, I will err on the side of thankfulness and carefully measured denial. But after that, I somehow have to try again to cope with it all without making plans that begin by upping my life insurance.

Friday, November 17, 2006


I'm in a state of unrest today. Even though I've upped my water intake and paid more attention to my health, I can still feel a drop in basic health. Maybe I'm fighting something. Maybe it's because I haven't stopped in 7+ days and have many more busy ones to go before next Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when, despite the holiday, no one sits still and relaxes.

I don't want to do any GC injections today, or mass spec runs, or IR scans. I eyeball the dismal morning through the window and dread walking out there to the LN2. Even though I was all abuzz earlier in the week about what I needed to get done, none of it is of any interest now. I feel sedentary and restless at once. I feel disturbed. What I really want to do is write.

Not that I have some great thing I have to get out, or something to get off my chest, but I feel the need to express today and see what comes of it. Most of the days I'm here, I enjoy my job. It's interesting and rewarding, I work with smart, professional people who not only care about their work but are genuinely decent and friendly. But today I'd rather be alone with the keyboard.

I need to be careful at times like this. I tend to isolate, then forget about creating, then chaos ensues. It's a fine line with me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


There are some days when I am moved more than normal to show love to my children. This never implies that there are days I am not moved to show them love; rather, only that most days I only bother them so much with requests for hugs and kisses and questions about their days at school and the like. Other days, I am much more excessive with my affection.

Today will be one such day.

Usually these days are brought on by a sad story that forces me to appreciate the presence and health of my children regardless of everything else in the world that is wrong. Today isn't much different. In my search for worthwhile men's/father's interests and resources, I came across a blog called Total Depravity. Via this blog, I was led to another in which I found the story of how the author's firstborn, a girl, died. The link is here. Be warned--this will wrench you and make you cry. Save time afterward for grief, and probably a good deal of pouring an overgenerous amount of attention onto your kids.

So today I will go home and pour my love onto those three little beasties, knowing full well that within 24 hours or less one or more of them will very likely yell at, lie to, disrespect, mutteringly curse, or otherwise defame me and/or their mother. I will do this for its own sake, because, in spite of everything else these children may be, they are still my beautiful, precious, Divine gifts, and deserve to be treated as such. Even when they pour juice over their shoulder behind their seat in the truck when they think they aren't being watched.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Twelve Steps of Prosecution

This really irks my ire:

Full text follows:

* * * * *
A 12-step apology leads to a guilty plea
POSTED: 1:19 p.m. EST, November 14, 2006

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (AP) -- A man who sexually assaulted a fellow University of Virginia student in 1984 and then apologized to her two decades later as part of the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous program pleaded guilty to the crime Tuesday.

"This began as an effort to make amends," William Beebe said in a statement outside of court. "Twenty-two years ago I harmed another person and I have tried to set that right."

Beebe, 41, of Las Vegas, Nevada, entered his plea in Charlottesville Circuit Court to one count of aggravated sexual battery for assaulting Liz Seccuro during a party at a fraternity house.

Under AA's ninth step, alcoholics are advised to make amends to those they've harmed. Last year, Beebe -- a member of AA -- decided to write Seccuro a letter to make amends for assaulting her.

Seccuro, 39 and living in Greenwich, Connecticut, said Beebe's letter reopened old wounds when it arrived in September 2005. She eventually replied to his letter and the two entered into a two-month e-mail correspondence.

In their e-mails, which Seccuro provided to The Associated Press, Beebe told Seccuro he had long been haunted by what he had done, and wanted to atone for having harmed her.

But Seccuro became upset when his account did not match with her memory of the assault, which she describes as violent and savage. She was 17 years old and still a virgin when Beebe attacked her, she said.

In December, Seccuro called Charlottesville police to report what had happened. As there is no statute of limitations on felonies in Virginia, Beebe was arrested in Las Vegas and extradited to Virginia.

Beebe had been scheduled to face trial November 27 on charges of rape and object sexual penetration. He could have faced life in prison if convicted of those charges.

Prosecutor Claude Worrell told the court that one of the main reasons his office agreed to a plea is because the investigation revealed that more than one person may have assaulted Seccuro.

Under the agreement, the state recommended that Beebe serve two years in prison. Formal sentencing is set for March 15. Beebe will remain free on bond until then.

During his court appearance Tuesday, Beebe glanced at Seccuro often, his expression almost serene. Seccuro -- flanked by her former sorority sisters and husband -- stared straight ahead, avoiding his gaze.

When Beebe entered his plea -- "guilty as charged" -- Seccuro bowed her head and wiped away tears.

Outside of court Tuesday, Seccuro said tearfully, "I think that the idea of closure for any victim of a sexual assault is not reality. There is never closure.

Seccuro went public with her name and story, hoping to inspire other sexual assault survivors to seek help. She launched a donor fund called STARS -- Sisters Together Assisting Rape Survivors -- to raise money for programs helping rape victims and their families.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. [sorry, AP]
* * * * *

First, two points:
1) William Beebe did the right thing by apologizing for his actions and taking responsibility, and
2) Liz Seccuro had every right to take William Beebe to court and seek prosecution.

But this situation is sad. Making every effort toward sensitivity, I can't understand why Mrs. Seccuro would prosecute Mr. Beebe after 21 years because he tried to make amends. Let's clarify: I understand fully why Mrs. Seccuro would prosecute Mr. Beebe. But why *only* after he tried to do the right thing?

I suppose Mr. Beebe should have left his apology at that, rather than try and argue with his victim about the details. Some would say it was stupid of him to even come clean in the first place; I'm not in that camp. It takes a lot of courage to admit you've done wrong, especially if such an admission has legal ramifications. As a person with problems of my own, and plenty of my own skeletons, I can respect that.

I suppose Mrs. Seccuro could have pressed charges in 1984. But I will never experience the fear of rape, so I can only give her the benefit of the doubt. It takes a lot of courage to go public with such a violation, to tell the world you were raped, with the implications that come with not having pursued it. As a person who has lived with shame and cowered in fear of exposure, I can respect that.

But this story still unsettles me. My comments will end, though, by putting myself in neither Mrs. Seccuro's nor Mr. Beebe's shoes, but those of Mr. Seccuro. How would I feel knowing my wife's first sexual encounter had been rape? Knowing that the woman I loved had been violated so? What were his thoughts when he found out? What if he didn't know before the rest of us? I imagine how this man must feel, and I am left somewhat, but not completely, satisfied with the results.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A Gift to Myself

I decided a while back I needed a blog. It's a valid question, why would anyone *need* a blog? Everyone has their own reasons, I suppose, given by how many blogs are out there on the web these days. Mine are fairly simple. The everyday tangents of my life are important to me; they characterize who I am and the changes that effect themselves on that person in small ways. My thoughts are fleeting. My creativity is amoebic, prolific at times and doornailish at others.

I think these things are worth preserving, even for the relatively short life of a web log, at least for myself.

This is a new venture for me. I do not share myself. I do not expose myself. My thoughts are private and I keep them in dark places where no one can see, where no one can criticize. So I have to unlearn isolation.

I will share with friends and family, eventually my children. Strangers may run across it. There's a high potential that I'll embarrass myself along the way. There's even a chance someone will read something they don't like, and then hold it against me. Such is life. Every day I get out of bed and walk out of the house, I run the risk of offending, surprising, hurting and loving. It will happen to you, too. I'd like to write a clever disclaimer, but all it will say is I am what I am. Accept me as-is, or else don't beat me up when you realize you've made a mistake. I certainly won't hold it against you when you walk away.

Intros are are intros do, and such is mine. Welcome to my Daily Tangent.