Archive for January, 2010

Well, it’s a little more complicated…

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

I recorded “The Diary of Anne Frank” on the DVR in the main living room this last week. My thought was that I hadn’t seen it in a long time, and it might be worth watching before our spring trip to The Netherlands.

Little did I think of the fact that Big A might stumble on it and start watching it.


Here’s the rub with a nearly-10-year-old girl in this day and age…she has only read the “children’s book” version of the diary. She knew about Nazis and the hiding and stuff, she just didn’t really need to know much more than that. But this viewing of the first part of the movie raised a lot of questions in her head, because maybe things weren’t so great and hopeful after all. She asked P a bunch of questions, but she wants to see the rest of it, etc.

Here’s the thing…she is going to go to Anne Frank’s house in a few months. She’s also going to learn a ton of stuff about a lot of things that are just part of the history of central Europe. It ain’t all tulips. But, suddenly, I realized, what better of an introduction to some of those things than 1950s movies for a 10 year old? Yes, yes, it’s all sanitized and basic, but it sanitized and basic to almost the perfect pitch. There is a lot more too it, of course, but she doesn’t need it or want it much more than movie goers in 1959 America wanted it.

So we’ll watch it with her. It will scare her, shock her, make her sad…all the stuff the movies do…but if you or I watch it, you think, “Ummmm, it was worse than that.” She doesn’t need to know that right now. Just a couple of years she will read the source material for herself if she wants to read it.

This falls into that weird area of the fact we have to treat her a little more “mature” on some things because of the information age. I mean, when I was 10, it meant going to a encyclopedia published in 1970…she has the freaking internet. But the trick is to keep here satified that she is learning, without feeling like she has to go digging to the interenet for every piece of information out there. That might not make sense, but I hope it does.

As long as she’s got the 1950s model of basic knowlege about the world before about 1960, we’re good to go.

The secret life of a Nine-year-old girl

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Is pretty boring.

I am writing this from Big A’s computer because I have complete parental control. Do not arouse the wrath of the great and powerful Oz…er, dad.

No, nothing that dramatic at all. I just needed to do some simple maintenance and load a program on her computer. But I did do some digging around and some learning.

I feel like the mom putting clothes away in her kid’s dresser drawers…I mean, they made the mess, I am doing all the work, I own the stuff technically, so why not have an extra peek in the sock drawer of the computer.

What I have found is that she has no clue how programs work on a computer or how much she accidently downloads (all relatively harmless) and doesn’t block. She had 17 seperate copies of Explorer open and five RealTime movies, and she was wondering why her computer was slow and the battery runs out so fast. I think it’s time for THE talk. Yes, the dreaded, “How we safely deal with cache memory, pleasure and the internet.”

My little girl is getting so big.

I was seriously pleasantly surprised how well all the parental blocks and other gizmos held up, but also that she didn’t seem to trip any of them on purpose. And the ones she did trip over were all for less than five seconds advertising kid’s stuff at kids’ sites. Yawn. But in a very good way.

However, there was a part of me that realized she really does have to get computer lessons from me to realize how awesome this five-pound portible DVD player can be if she uses it correctly. Honestly, I think she just doesn’t understand it yet and she’s playing…which was the point of the starter laptop. No expectations.

But everytime I look at what she’s doing on it…I think there is a point that she has the VERY BASICS down to where we need to start taking it a little more seriously. It really isn’t a toy.

Best part…I am impressed with the computer. It should have everything ok to get her into high school for less than $700. It has no bells and whistles on the edge, but it has a bunch of bells and whistles that I don’t see changing anytime soon. The software is pretty basic Vista with all the upgrades that we can make Windows 7 if we ever need to do that. It’s thin on RAM, but it was never meant to be a gaming sysatem. Good battery life. Light and compacy. Definite A-.

P has the suped up version, so what will happen, if my plan works, Big A will get P’s for high school, and then we buy P a new one, and this one replaces the oldest bull in the coral. This will become my new junker laptop.

Overall, very thumbs up on my monthly snooping in the sock drawer. I even left cookies…just so she knows I was there.

Do not arouse the wrath of the great and powerful Oz.

Photo Business

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Screw the art stuff. Remember when you (maybe) got married and paid ungodly sums for those photos?

People still do that.

So in the last few weeks I’ve been fiddling with it. Not so much wedding photos, but how to make money off of photos. I’ve been a little surprised by the results. People want quality, control over the images, and ease of use. And cheaper is better.

I’ve got some more digging to do about some parts of the plan, but the bottom line is that I am surprisingly good at candid-shot photography and details; I am just verklumpt about what to do with the skill. However, I have been doing a lot of research, and it might not be as uphill as I thought.

Wow…it’s slower than me on an uphill hike…

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

…but I took the revamped laptop out on a couple of “road tests” and I am liking it. It’s picking up all the WiFi and hotspots.

It’s funny, but I use the same thinking about my old cars…I’ve owned them and I know where the kinks are since they were new. But it’s weird to have a computer so slow. Not bad, just strange.

I was thinking about this as Apple just released th new iPad…do we need it? Does it really fit some niche that Apple is going to invent? Here is a nearly decade old Dell that I’d practically threw away, and I can’t figure out what anything new would do except for speed…but then I have other computers for that. It will be interesting. I just know it plays movies just fine, burns CDs, runs my GPS software, connects to the internet, and really is disposable at this point.

The iPad thingy will be interesting.

It may explode into a ball of flames, but…

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

For less than 50 bucks I got the old laptop working with a new battery and a new charger.

This has been like getting a Model T sputtering and driving with chicken wire. It’s the geek equivalant of being Dr. Frankenstein.

But I will be honest…to do it on the cheap, I bought some parts and pieces I don’t really trust. I have no reason to not trust them, exactly, but they just are eBay specials. And Dells have a history of running really, really hot.

But it works!!! I even watched a two-hour DVD last night on the new battery. Perfect.

This computer (I’m on it now) is a proven work horse in Europe and on the road. And, if it blows up in a flaming ball, it’s ok. So I sent my money on a new hard drive to start throwing photos onto. It’s not fancy, but when I get the camera and the computer and the hard drive talking together…everything but a studio on the road that doesn’t have a color-corrected screen.

Here’s the key…I paid waaaaaaaaay too much money for this particular laptop when I bought it. Let that be a lesson for people buying computers out there…wait until you really, really need to upgrade, and then only do it when you upgrade higher than your pay scale. My “main” laptop does backflips around this thing and laughs. In fact, it’s four years old and it can do backflips around most computers. This model is eight years old. About every four years, it’s suck it time.

However, I can hear the little fan kicking in and I feel it getting hot. She ain’t perfect but she’s my Model T of a road to the internet for now.

Caught in the act!

Monday, January 25th, 2010


Seriously…I busted Big A tonight and she cried and tantrumed about it…but the long arm of daddy law nailed her.

In a sorta-short story…Big A has been stretching the bounderies of her cell phone and text messaging. But she seems to have zero comprehension how much her daddy is tech savvy with these phones and is spying on her and what she does. Now, I don’t really mind if she screws up once in a while and breaks a curfew barrior or something, but she had better own up to that right away.

I’m like CSI: Daddy. I know. Better to say you screwed up and just admit it than come up with a series of half truths that are part of the cover up.

So her phone was all messed up tonight. And she said it was because she was just checking the time and something “happened.” Agent Daddy Moulder took one look at the phone and called bullshit. Then she whined and cried and insisted. Would of broke your heart other than the fact Agent Daddy Moulder was on the case (I know I am mixing TV shows is my metaphor…sue me.)

She is now completely caught that she was, under the covers, doing text messages with a friend, and the friend sent her a text message that had a virus. DOH! I know this. She knows this. But she keeps sticking to her story until: “I had to fiddle with the settings.”

Note to parents…perfect reason to watch every crime TV drama ever because it’s true…they crack.

So I go into a whole rant that she ruined the phone. Of course it’s not ruined. I’m just needling for more info. I even had P taking my bait. It didn’t last long…she came clean and I just reset the phone.

But I want her to have that shred of “oh, shit” in the back of her mind. I can keep track of things. No whining to me or crying or throwing a hissyfit. She has a lot, some might say “too much” wiggle room, but it’s really, really clear…don’t mess with me.

No soup for you! I took the phone away for the second time this month.

This time, it’s “indefinite.”

The thing is that Big A really might have had no problem if she had just said what happened in the first place. That’s the stuff that scares me…the cover-up lie. I just don’t like lies in general, but cover-up lies are the worst. We might have taken the phone away for the night and just kind of forgotten about it, but digging a deeper hole is verbotten around here.

Now she is miserable; which, you know what? Is good for a nine year old.

But my daddy part is kind of proud of the fact she got caught. Hard. I’m going to be a good dad for a teenage daughter someday. I have no problem letting her screw up or do whatever (I mean in reason, but you know what I mean), just don’t lie to me or break my rules. And always assume I am watching closely.

The fact is that I can’t always watch closely. I know it. The trick is seeing how long until she figures it out.

One word to her…

Sunday, January 24th, 2010


It’s not really funny, BUT….

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

On the news they described how a woman allegedly shot and killed her boyfriend. Police are still searching for her 24 hours later.

The only description they have is that she is 20-year-old Samoan, and 5-1, 375 pounds.

I’m not kidding. But the part that made me laugh was the pause of the news reader rust before he read it, and the fact that he hit the dump button about three times afterwards and then tried to recompose to give the weather. I mean, there is nothing funny about anyone killing anyone…but she is five-foot, one-inch and 375 pounds? And she got away? She has eluded police? Did she outrun them?


Why I bolted…

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

In May of 1996 I was enjoying a baseball game in the Kindome in the front row of the 300 level hanging over the field. I was reminded of this while watching a story of how two American roomates acted differently and one surivived unscathed, and the other is dead.

It’s not my best or most harrowing earthquake story…but hearing how others reacted, I can’t say I’d do anything different.

The earthquake was a 5.4 during the seventh inning. I ran. I just turned to Pilar and exclaimed, “Earthquake.” And I ran. I was out of there so fast the dang place hadn’t stopped moving before I was in a doorway. Everyone else was still trying to figure out the ocean-like ride they were on…not me…I ran straight to the entrance/exit.

(Now, as background, Pilar had never even been in an earthquake. At all.)

So I just ran away from my imminent bride and bolted. (This was less than a month before our wedding.)

But I keep hearing all these people say that those that froze in Haiti died. And I had been trained like Pavlov’s dog my whole life to seek a doorway. I remember thinking in a moment that I needed to be out of there…flight kicked in while skipping all the other synapses and neurons. It’s a weird thing to explain to someone.  

At the time, Pilar was pretty damned pissed off because I left her. Honestly, I would probably do the same thing again. My flight and fear was so great in the first second, I was gone.

But I think about that instance as I hear the survivor stories in Haiti…the way I did about them in Indonesia and China, et al.

But I know the flip side…during the 6.8 I got mesmerized watching the waves come down Fourth Avenue. Almost got me killed. But I remember how beautiful it was that the buckle of the street moved in waves, and I kind of forgot to move. (Some guy saved me…long story.) So I know that weird earthquake awe and freeze that happens. It is pretty cool when you are watching it like ocean waves. I stood there and could feel the chalk from the bricks that were going to collapse as it sprinkled my hair from above…and it still looked, well, cool.

My point is that I actually, dear wife, will always run now and forever and I know you have had ample warning to run, also. Duck and cover. Run. Hit a doorway. Just don’t get frozen.

Everyone has a completely different reaction to a crises depending on a huge amount of variables. That fascinates me.

Grandparents are funny things

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

When I was a kid, I had a very diverse relationship with my various grandparents…but the very cool thing was that I got to know them all pretty well over time.

My grandmothers are all still alive, but both of my grandfathers are dead now.

But I have learned things from being around all of them. Some good, some not-so-good, I suppose, but it was all very, very important. In some ways, as a collective, they had more of an influence on me over the first half (?!) of my life than my parents.

Which kind of leaves my parents in a funny place with Big A, because what I learned from their parents is stuff I actually learned to not let my parents repeat with Big A. Actually, sometime, there are great traits all through our family that are fine, but there are things that I know that I am very sensitive to when it comes to my daughter.

Big A, as the only grandchild so far, seems to have five generations of my observations about grandparents…but so do my parents — I have high expectations of them.

It was a funny ride through the holidays as all this joy and angst and emotion bumped and burped through various gatherings and parties, et al. I have three, er, maybe four (hold on) “rules” about how I expect everyone to act.

(1) Respect everyone else’s traditions and schedules. (2) Say what you mean and mean what you say. No time for nicie-nice. (3) Presents are overrated and should never be a sign or symbol of affection…and (4) I get pretty steamed over anyone showing lack of respect to anyone else and I’ll have no part in it, nor will my wife or daughter.

Here’s the problem with a 10-year-old…she can see it. I know. I saw it when I was a kid. Grandparents don’t see it very well, so I end up looking like the bad guy. It’s my lot as the dad who has observed five generations of these people over nearly 40 years…

But being a grandparent must be almost as hard, in many more abstract ways, than being a parent. P and I get final say with our kid and what we think is best for her. No one else. But here you have grandparents who think they have it all “correct” when really, you know how screwed up some things were with their parents and them…so I am constantly judging. I’m mean, grandpas and grandmas are kind of stuck in a shitty position: no real power, lots of opinions, and all the ego of wondering how your doing compared to how they did.

Glad the Holiday season is over. Back into the routine of after school stuff for Big A and writing. Finally not feeling sick for the first time in a month, and just using this week to get organized and transitioned back into going full-tilt until our family vacation around Easter (a holiday I will gladly be out of the country for with my wife and daughter).