Thursday, November 30, 2006

An Open Letter to Allison Aubrey

In response to

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 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.