Peace Like A River

It was a wide river, mistakable for a lake or even an ocean unless you'd been wading and knew its current. Somehow I'd crossed it... Now I saw the stream regrouped below, flowing on through what might've been vineyards, pastures, orhards... It flowed between and alongside the rivers of people; from here it was no more than a silver wire winding toward the city. - Leif Enger, Peace Like A River

Friday, February 28, 2003

traffic around here is funny. The worst time of the year is September, as people are back from summer vacation, and so aren't away on other vacations yet, and people are going back to school, so the roads are most clogged during that month. Friday mornings by contrast are usually fairly light. Don't know if people work other days of the week or what. But the funny thing is Friday afternoons are usually pretty slow. I don't know where they come from if they're not coming to work in the morning. Maybe it's people heading out of town, but I don't know where they're going in the winter. Hmm.

Had cell group last night, we're going through a study on Philip Yancey's book The Jesus I Never Knew. A unique part of it is there's a videotape with it, with segments about 10 minutes long each time, with clips from different movie interpretations of the Gospels. Ranging from Italian films to silent films, etc... Quite interesting book. Rhonda stayed home with John last night as Ramsey has started working at Walmart. When I got home John was still awake so he told me about his evening.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Pre-John, I thought Barney was a tad annoying. But I've since discovered that Barney has some great songs that teach good lessons. One of those is the Clean Up song, that makes cleaning up fun for kids. We'll sing that with John when it's time to put away toys. But he always pronounces it "Cwee Muck".

Yesterday Rhonda turned on the computer while I was at work, and John noticed and started saying "Daddy! check email!" He must have thought I was home because Rhonda is hardly ever on the computer. He likes to help me check email.

I'm getting old. I've noticed over the last year or so my eyesight has gotten a bit fuzzy. I have taken to using reading glasses for looking at smaller print and whatnot. And I must have inherited the Schultz back. My lower back has been sore lately. I suspect it's from the way I've been sleeping though, cuz the soreness is usally most acute in the morning after I get up.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

This morning as I was getting John out of the car at Sue's house, he was singing "The Farmer in the Dell". He likes music. When we went in the house, Sarah showed me a picture of her and Julia and John all dressed up in grown-up clothes. John has this huge grin on his face. Sue will give Rhonda the photo when she comes to get him today.

Last night I told him he could have a brownie for a snack, and that maybe we could watch some Dora, and he went off somewhere, and I didn't see him so went looking, and he was already in the darkened kitchen sitting in his chair waiting for me! He was anxious to have his treat and Dora!

He's picked up saying "thanks" lately.

His hair is getting rather long, so he'll have a haircut on Friday.

Rhonda ordered some new window blinds for our side door, the living room window, and downstairs. They arrived, so probably Ramsey will work to get them up.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

It's 65 degrees here! Well, ok, maybe not. I wish. Overnight was one of the coldest nights of the year. But, it's supposed to warm up to the mid-twenties by tomorrow. yay.

Rhonda made some brownies last night, and John just loves brownies. For a snack he asked "more brownie? more brownie?"

history nugget of the day:

In the 14th century, the Arsenal of the Republic of Venice sprawled across 80 acres and employed 16,000 men, yet Europe's largest industrial complex was a well-kept secret to all but a few. High-walled and constantly patrolled from 12 watchtowers, the Arsenal held the key to the Republic's phenomenal wealth and power--its mammoth shipyards.

Founded in 1104 and enlarged between the 14th and 16th centuries, the Arsenal (from the Arabic
"dar-sina'a," meaning "house of industry") guaranteed Venice's grip on a maritime empire stretching throughout the eastern Mediterranean. It was a state enterprise that kept potential rivals in check by building galleys to strict specifications and employing shipbuilders with unparalleled skills and speed.

The Arsenal held a storeroom with armor and saddles for thousands of soldiers, a foundry
for making cannon for the warships, and a magazine with arms for 800,000 men. Every two months Venice dispatched commercial fleets of 300 to 400 ships from the Arsenal. Each
ship weighed a hundred tons or more, such as the great galley ("galea grossa"), which was 135 feet long.

A grand triumphal archway, called the Porta Magna, was added as a pedestrian entrance to the
Arsenal in 1460. (The ships came and went through a waterway guarded by massive stone towers.) One of the earliest Renaissance works in the city, the Porta featured a statue of a winged lion, symbol of the Republic. Above the lion loomed a pediment surmounted by a statue of St. Justina by Girolamo Campagna (1549-1625), one of the city's great artists.

The Arsenal was a crucial destination when King Henry III of France, a much-needed ally against
the Turks, paid a state visit in 1574. To demonstrate Venice's awesome maritime strength, city officials impressed Henry by showing him the bare keel of a ship being laid in the morning and bringing him back twelve hours later when it was launched as a full-rigged galley. King Henry was duly impressed, and the alliance was assured.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Last night there was an important business meeting at the church. The church is deciding what direction to take with the school, which is bursting at the seams. The church will decide if the school should become a separate entity, as a study showed the school could raise more money if it was not affiliated directly with the church. That was to have been voted on last night, but was postponed, as the board thought people wanted more time to think about that. So, the other big matter that was discussed last night was the vote on whether or not to purchase 40 acres of land in Andover for a site to build a new school. The contract for the land was contingent on the vote last night, so if the church voted no, or decided not to vote, there were other entities in line for the land, so I'm sure they voted. It sounds like a good property, Andover has it zoned for residential but wouldn't require any special permits to build a school. I think it necessary to buy the land, and go ahead with building a new school. The school is so overcrowded on the existing site, and there isn't a lot of room to build the space that is needed.

I dropped John and Rhonda and Macdonalds (known to John as Old Donalds) so he could play on the playset there. The meeting started at 6, but I left at 7:30 and they hadn't voted yet. There was lots of discussion. So, I'm not sure yet how that all turned out. There was a second item on the ballot too, that hadn't been talked about at all yet.

I gassed up the car and went through the car wash, so by the time I got to Macdonalds, John had been there for a couple hours already. But, he didn't mind a bit. Rhonda said he had been going strong the whole time. He absolutely loves it there.

He whimpered a bit when it was time to go, but not much. I think he knew he had gotten a treat with being there so long. Rhonda asked him to bring over his shoes, and he appeared to be distracted, but he brought them over after a short time. Then I said he could go up one more time and then he had to come over cuz it was time to go. And he went and when he came down the big slide he came right over. Good boy.

Before church yesterday morning, Rhonda went through the car wash again. John was scared a little bit again, but wanted to watch the water. One of the things it does is spray this pink gunk on the car, so in telling me about it, John has been saying "spray...swish swish!"

Haven't heard anything more on the trip to Russia...

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Just about time for John's Saturday nap. He had his usual active morning. This morning he did something he'll do from time to time. He was running around and around the dining table (sometimes he'll run around the kitchen or the living room) and saying "exercise...exercise". Yes, he was getting his exercise.

We went on a shopping run. We first stopped by the bread store. It is an outlet type store, where we get can get the same bread quite a bit cheaper. If you buy $6 worth, you get a freebie. Today's freebie was a loaf of English muffin toasting bread. Mmm, is that ever good.

Then, we went to the grocery store and filled up two grocery carts full. We were getting low on a lot of stuff. We picked up a rotissiere chicken for lunch, mesquite flavor. Oh boy, that was good too. Mmmm. John just loved it. He kept eating and eating, and asking for more.

We got what looks to be our INS approval in the mail yesterday. That was about the last thing we were waiting on. So, I suppose now Deb can officially go ahead with thinking about arranging our trip.

I sent a story to Cicada magazine, which is for teens. The story was originally written about a fifth grader, but I tweaked a couple things and boosted his age to eighth grade. I think it still works. They require their protagonists to be at least 14. I also sent an entry to a nonfiction writing contest for the Iowa Alumni Magazine. First prize is $500. I wrote about our first trip to go see John. It was about 2000 words in length (the limit they specified.)

John just came in. Ramsey must have put in the bed in the basement that we had in here, cuz John keeps wanting to do happy joy joy, and he says "see the bed?". I have to say, yeah, I don't see the bed anymore.

Friday, February 21, 2003

This morning as I was getting John dressed, he was happily shrieking and carrying on, and I asked him "Are you talking?" And he said "No, screaming". Oh, I stand corrected.

Here's some more info on Snezhanna. Deb faxed Rhonda the medical sheet. (That's how her name was spelled on the sheet, with two n's. A Ukranian patient where Rhonda works said the Sne- is pronounced like Snay.)

The sheet lists her birthday as September 1, 2001. Not sure how that would affect schools, as I think the cutoff is sometimes Sept 1. So, maybe I'd be less hesitant about changing her b-date to August 31. (if she was born earlier in the day, it would've been Aug 31 here anyway.)

There's no info on her till she is 6 months old, so Deb speculated she might have been with her birth mom till that point. In July 2002 she is listed as having pneumonia and a couple other things I don't recognize, and in Nov 2002 she is listed as having chicken pox and giardia.

In January of this year she is listed as being 17.6 lbs, and 28 inches. That's quite bigger than John was at that age.

Under development, it says appetite good, sleep calm, behavior active. She started to walk independantly at 14 months, she plays with toys, imitates careataker's actions, but not very active in speaking yet.

Some of the other things on there seem to be the usual Russian orphanage diagnoses, like perinatal encephalopathy, delayed development, etc... It does mention rickets and atopic dermatitis.

Given her name, and if we do get her, we've decided to go with the name Hanna, to keep that part of her name. Rhonda wanted to give her a middle name of Emily. (Not named for anyone, Rhonda just liked that name since she was little. named her dolls that, etc...)

(Oh, I did get the garage door fixed. The blinking light meant something was funny with the obstruction sensor, and I looked, and one of them was bent way down. Don't know if John pushed on it or what when they were out that day. I bent it back up and it worked fine again.)

Thursday, February 20, 2003

This morning as I was putting John into the car to take him over to Sue's he said "Daddy?" I said "yes, John?" and he said "I love Daddy". Awwwww. Sniff.

I took him to church last night to make the exchange. (I take him and stay for practice, and Rhonda goes home with him.) He likes the chance to play in the nursery a bit, and does not like having to go back home right away at all.

Our garage door opener seemed to go on the fritz yesterday. It opens fine, but when we push the button to close it, it blinks and reverses. The blinking usually means the obstruction sensor. So either it is out of alignment, or something is wrong with it. Anyone ever have that trouble and know how to fix it? If we push the button on the wall unit and hold it, the door will go down. But obviously it's a pain to have to get out of the car and close the door that way and go back out through the front door.

Rhonda and Deb thought that maybe one reason Snezhana was rather unhappy during the filming was that perhaps a man was doing the filming. (Deb asked if we noticed that she kept trying to head for the door.) That's not uncommon, for those kids to shy away from men, as they don't get to see men very often. (So I was always thankful that John took to me right away.) The first boy we saw in Astrakhan, Elias, cried when I held him, but was fine with Rhonda. Another couple we drove to the airport with in Moscow when we headed home with John, they had a girl, and she didn't want to be held by the dad at all, but was fine with mom. So, if that's how she is, will just take some time for her to get used to me.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Lately John has been saying "I know... (something)" a lot. Like "I know (how to push the button on the microwave)", etc... And I say yes, you know a lot of things. Speaking of microwaves, he likes to push the "Cup" button (which is set to warm up a cup of coffee or something) or the "Potato" button, which cooks a potato. He likes to say "push cup", or now "push potato". He loves to push buttons that make things start up, like the microwave or the dryer.

Before church on Sunday, Rhonda went through the car wash with John, and apparently the loud noise of the water whooshing against the windows scared him, cuz he started to cry. And he's been talking about it ever since. We'll ask him about the car wash, or he'll even bring it up by himself, and he'll say things like "car wash...water...noisy...scare you".

The nursery worker on Sunday said John was saying "mine mine". Yeah, he's kinda been in that stage. I asked him about it, and he said "mine mine..let go...can't have it", so he must have remembered squabbling about something!

Rhonda talked to Deb yesterday, and she had just gotten a video of a little girl in Russia, and Rhonda went over and picked it up. She was born Sept 8, 2001 (the day we left to go see John for the first time). Her name is Snezhana, which I think Deb said means "snow (snez) maiden (hana)". She is in Kostroma, which is NE of Moscow, so we'd have to drive there, about a 4 hour drive they said. (It would be fun to drive through the Russian countryside and see what it looks like, rather than fly over it at 30000 feet.) The video was taken in January, and she was already walking, (she was always holding on to a worker's finger though) and her legs looked fairly chunky, much more so than John looked when we first saw him (and John wasn't walking then either by a long shot). In the video she was looking around intently, but didn't want to play with the toys they gave her. Maybe it was a strange setting for her, just her in the room with someone filming etc... so she just studied it all, kind of cried or whimpered a couple times. The video clip was about 6 minutes. We only had 2 or 3 minutes of John.

I don't know why we wouldn't take her, so assuming all went according to plan, we'd probably bring her home. Our first trip could probably be mid-March, with the second trip some time in April. Ramsey said he might be able to get some still shots of the video tape, and I'll get those posted to the web site so you can see. Her hair was light colored, but real short, a lot like John's was when we got him.

We were briefly talking about names, and thought about maybe Hanna, to keep part of her name. I wonder if we'd end up nicknaming her "Sneezie"!

And, we got a mysterious email from Nick! Wow, that was a surprise! It seems the "s" in Pearsons will now mean 5 instead of 4!

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Just got John down for his Sunday nap. He got another scrape in the nursery this morning. He's had a few of those now. This time, apparently he was playing on a chair or something and fell over and bumped his nose, so it was bleeding for a little bit. He's got a little bruise on his nose, and it looks slightly swollen.

He's really been playing a lot lately with his LeapPad, and he's getting better at using it, meaning he can follow the instructions better, and touch the right numbers or whatever... Rhonda said first thing this morning when he got up he said "LeapPad!"

The church is wrapping up their annual missions conference today. The theme has been on urban ministries, particularly here in the Cities. It's been quite interesting, various people talking about all the different things going on in the metro area that we might not usually be aware of. There are many many different ethnic groups. Many refugees are settled here because this is seen to be a welcoming area. The Cities have the largest Somali population outside Africa, the largest Hmong population outside SE Asia, a rapidly growing Hispanic population, the largest urban Native American population outside cities in the Southwest, and so on and so on.

Friday, February 14, 2003

So last night we have our cell group over to our house. Some of the other men are in their 50s and 60s, and when they came in the house, John went up to them and said "Grandpa". Ha. He recognized that they were older than Daddy and so probably a Grandpa.

Afterwards when we were all having something to nibble on, John was just talking up a storm. Not sure of some of the things he was saying, but he was enjoying the attention.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Now, mind you, this obsession doesn't reach the levels of his obsession with elevators, but John has this thing about his toenails. If he has a hole in the toe of his sock, he will sit there and just obsess about it. I think at some point Rhonda must have said to him that if there is a hole in his sock it's because his nails are too long and are cutting into the sock, so they need to be clipped. Because, especially when we're changing his clothes on the changing table, he'll often fiddle with his toes/socks and say "nails". And I'll usually tell him, "you're nails are ok", and then he'll often say "no hole". He's funny.

A couple of accidents on the way in this morning, so southbound 35W was just crawling. Sigh. And the roads are fine. I'm sure just someone being stupid. Does insurance cover stupidity?

I've got one more story to finish up, and then I want to start in on writing a novel. Will probably start that in a couple months. I want to see what the experience is like. I've had the story in my head for awhile. It is entitled "The Circle", and was inspired by my study of Leviticus. So, it will be somewhat based on the Old Testament. At least, it should be fairly easy to spot some of the influences. It is about a small nation called Ethyria. As the story starts, it is invaded by a large neighboring empire. But, Ethyria has made a pact with another large power. The large power repels the invasion and becomes ensconced in Ethyria. It will turn out later that the magic users from this ally get their power from the lives of infants. (This power is analagous to the pagan nations Israel encountered and the child sacrifices their religion involved.) The protagonist, Pole (so named because he is tall and skinny and pale, like a fence pole) is born during this initial invasion. He is preserved by the intervention of the Lords of the Blessing (the evil side if called the Curse) and is raised by Shennem, who is the equivalent of a priest. Magic in the book comes from within, and can be used to heal. Pole is raised as an apprentice, and chapter 2 catches up with him 25 years later about to become a full-fledged member of that clergy-like class himself. So, the book mirrors the story of Israel, how they got mixed up in things they shouldn't have, and other themes in the OT.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Bedtime rituals: Last night John let me rock him for quite awhile. I still have my rocking chair in our bedroom, haven't bothered putting it back in my office, so we sat there, and covered up with his warm blanket, and we rocked and I sang some songs and told him the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I can't think of a time when he's sat still and let rock him that long. I think a tiny part of it though is it was a good bedtime delaying tactic. He's such a clever monkey, when it's time for bed, and we put him in his crib, suddenly he wants a drink of water, or another hug, or etc...

I usually straighten up his crib and hang his Pooh quilt over the end of the bed, and put all his stuffed animals at the end, but lately, after we put him in his crib, he'll sit up and toss all the animals up to the head of his crib and then nestle himself down either on or amongst all his animals. Sometimes he'll count as he throws them up there, "one...two..." Funny.

When he's jumping in the office (still have the bed in there, haven't bothered putting it downstairs again) he likes when I turn on the computer, and he likes to help me check my email. He'll sit on my lap and when he sees the splash screen for Outlook come up he'll point and excitedly say "Email!" He knows the word from Elmo's World, cuz Elmo always gets an email on his computer.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Another chilly night, and will be chilly again today. How can Alaska be warmer than here?

When I dropped John off this morning, Sue said "How are you?" and John said "go play". Hmm, I can tell what he wanted to do!

We had nursery duty last night, and on the way home, we stopped at MacDonalds so John could play in the big tubey climbing thing they have there for kids. John just loves it. If we even drive by MacDonalds, he'll say "Donald!" and point, cuz he wants to go in. He's gotten quite good at climbing. He didn't use to be able to get all the way to the top, but now he can with ease.

It seems like in the last few weeks, or even days, John has been expressing more and more complicated thoughts, and stringing more words together. It's like watching his mind develop before our very eyes.

No word on adoption plans. It looks like all the fun in Iraq will start about the time we want to travel. Yay.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

Just got John down for his nap. He had a fun Saturday morning. Played with toys, read some books, sang lots of songs. We had fun acting out of the cat and mouse song. When the cat was sleeping, John told me to get down on the floor. We went outside for a bit, but temps were below 10 degrees, and rather windy, so it was quite chilly, and we didn't stay out long. When John jumps on the bed in the office, he likes to look at the "happy joy joy trees" in the backyard. Now, I think I'll play some Baldur's Gate II. I got it a year ago for Christmas, played it for awhile, and then didn't get back to till recently.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Man vs. Machine is over, it ended in a tie. Game 6 finished in a draw. Kasparov started out strong, playing his favorite defense with Black. It ended in rather strange fashion. Black looked to be in a strong position, but offered a draw. It was refused. A couple moves later, Deep Junior offered a draw, and Kasparov accepted. An exciting match. Kasparov can be proud. Against a machine that evaluate millions of positions quickly, Kasparov was only beaten once, and that was on a time pressure induced blunder. He held his own against the computer, and showed that he really is the best chess player of all time.
Yet another slow drive to work this morning. Some kind of accident on the right shoulder near County C, but traffic on southbound 35W was backed up all the way to 10. I don't know why it was so slow, though. By the time I went by the site, there were just a couple of vehicles along the side of the road, nothing blocking traffic. I don't get traffic. There isn't a stop sign or traffic light on 35W from here to Texas, so who is stopping? Just keep going people!!!

Last night there was a helium balloon in the house, don't know where it came from. But, John was having great fun with it. I'd pull it down for him and he'd let go of it and giggle when it floated up to the ceiling. Sometimes he'd take it and run to the kitchen and let it go in there, and he thought that was great fun as well.

Also, he got a little John Deere tractor from Joan and Glenn, and last night he was sitting on it, and propelling himself along, sort of duck walk style. The tractor is not very big at all compared to him, so it's amazing he could keep himself seated on the top of it and get himself moving on it.

He likes his LeapPad he got for Christmas. We've had his Thomas the Train one out for awhile, and last night I got out the Pooh book that Grandpa and Grandma got him as well. He's getting pretty good at using it.

One of the songs on his cds is about a cat stalking a mouse (the old gray cat is stalking....the little mouse is scampering...) and last night while he was jumping on the bed, he started singing that and acting it out (the cat slowly stalks, and then the mouse quickly scampers...he always laughs when we scamper around the house)

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Was quite a slow drive into work this morning. Traffic looked bad all over the place. The roads were a little slushy from the last night's snow, so that was part of it. Still.

John really likes the Journey to Ernie part of Sesame Street, and he'll count along with Big Bird when Ernie goes to hide. And, John will look away or cover his eyes when he's counting, like Big Bird does, so he doesn't peek. He's seen the segments enough now that he knows all the various places Big Bird goes to, like the color wheel, the dancing flamingos, the supermarket (John says "mess", because BB knocks over things), the martian (John says "yup yup yup uh-huh like the martian) the penguins (they go sliding down the ice so John says 'lipwees', which is how he says slippery)

history nugget of the day:

In 1685, France's King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, declaring that it was simply "too insulting to rule over heretics." Originally promulgated in 1598 to end the country's Wars of Religion between Catholic and Protestant, the Edict had legally recognized the minority Protestants (called Huguenots, from the German eidgenossen, meaning "confederate"), allowed them to hold secular office, and provided courts to guarantee justice.

Louis cared little for such guarantees. Instead, by revoking the Edict he sought to strengthen France's "One faith, One law, One King" policy. Louis also was influenced by his second wife, the pious Madame de Maintenon, who told him that God would forgive his promiscuity if he converted the Huguenots.

To force the Huguenots to convert to Catholicism, Louis unleashed the dragonnades, a form of persecution that billeted dragoons (soldiers) in the homes of the vastly outnumbered Huguenots. The notoriously undisciplined dragoons harassed their unwilling hosts with unpunished attacks against both person and property. Protestant churches were burned and razed, and unjust imprisonment for Huguenots was commonplace. The least fortunate were burned at the stake.

In response, the Huguenots fled France in astonishing numbers, though Louis tried to force them to stay and be converted by forbidding them to emigrate. Entire provinces were depopulated as more than 200,000 escaped to Switzerland, Germany, Holland, England, and the American colonies. While protected under the Edict, the Huguenots had flourished as artisans and craftsmen, and their flight drained France of its largest, most economically successful minority. Indeed, Louis had great difficulty financing his army after the enormous loss of Huguenot tax revenue.

Even worse, many of the Huguenot refugees were talented soldiers and armorers, and often they shared their skills with France's enemies. Historians estimate that more than 10,000 Huguenots fought against France in the Nine Years' War (1689-97), also known as King William's War.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Wow! Game 5 of Man vs. Machine is already over! It ended in a draw on the 19th move, after the game became a series of forced checks. Kasparov was playing white, and could not have expected this. Deep Junior's 10th move will be talked about for some time. The computer did 10..Bxh2+ (bishop takes white's king rook pawn, check) White then took the bishop, but then Black rushed that side, flushing the White King out of its castled spot, and it quickly became a draw, with an endless series of checks.

Quite a bold game for the computer, especially playing black. Its previous games as black didn't show this kind of prowess. The final game is on Friday. One wonders if Kasparov, who will be playing black, can be mentally ready, and not give in to this opponent who has no emotions. This was the situation against Deep Blue in 1997. It was tied going into the sixth and final game, Kasparov had black, and fell apart, in probably his worst loss ever.

Kasparov now has to win with black on Friday to win the match outright, something that will be very difficult to do. Tune in Friday!
Here's the latest report from your forward weather observer. It's about 6 degrees now, and looking out the window I see it has started to snow. Yay.

The last couple days John has been saying "I love..." something a lot. I love milk. I love books. I love trucks. He was just a jabberbox last night, maybe he's enjoying talking more and more and so just says all the words he knows.

If we're around the tv I'll sometimes let him listen to the Star Trek TNG theme, (the show starts at 7 on TNN). He loves it. In fact, last night he was even singing along with it! And he knew a lot of it, and was even doing to bum-bummmm at the end of some of the phrases. he's too funny.

Game 5 of Man vs. Machine today. I've always been of the opinion though that it's not that big a deal if a computer beats a human at chess, even at the grandmaster level. I
mean, chess is ideally suited for a computer. The rules are easily defined, and it can calculate so many positions, so quickly, that it shouldn't be a surprise if computers get good enough to beat the best humans.

I started in on the Martin Amis book. Wonderful stuff. Contains essays and crits on a whole range of stuff, going back to 1970, from It Takes A Village and Iron John to Austen and Dickens to Mailer and DeLillo. As with the best critiques, they aren't a synopsis of a work, but a fresh, engaging look at the subject matter, and Amis is so good at using language, and has that characteristic British (and Amis) wit. In an essay that decries an alarmist environmental work, he says "...the average Eskimo will spend all winter under the mosquito nets, playing host to successive bouts of malaria, ringworm, encephalitis and dengue fever."

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

As I was leaving this morning, John was having breakfast at the table in the kitchen, and Rhonda was reading to him, a book that he'd seen before. (It's easier to get him interested in unfamiliar books if she reads to him while he's eating, otherwise he tends not to want to sit still and look at books he hasn't seen before.) They got to a page where someone said "stop, boy, wait", and before Rhonda said that line John said "wait, wait, wait!" On the other side of the page, some boys were teasing another boy, and one boy was making a face, and John pointed at him and said "crying". Yeah, it looked like he was crying. He wanted to get in some happy joy joy before I left, but I said I had to go to work.

It is cold today, temps around 10. Drive in was quite slow, don't know what the holdup was, roads were just fine.

In the Man vs. Machine chess match, it is all tied after 4 games. A win apiece and two draws. The next game is tomorrow, with Kasparaov playing white. Kasparov has had the computer on the ropes early each time he's had white, so he's looking for a win here, and a draw in the sixth and final game on Friday to win the match.

In books, I just finished reading How To Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen. (You might remember him from the brouhaha he got himself into with Oprah and her Book Club.) This collection of essays was published in 2002. The theme, such as there is one, is about privacy and having a sense of aloneness in today's noisy culture. The essays have a bite and a wit to them reminiscent of Franzen's friend David Foster Wallace. Franzen is a writer of enormous talent. He has that gift that all great writers do. He takes a thought that may be just on the edge of your consciousness, you're not sure how to crystallize it, and Franzen puts into words exactly what needs to be said, and does it so eloquently you slap your forehead and say that's so simple, why didn't I think of that.

Norman Mailer said about Franzen "But there are more and more skilled novelists today. Their themes get smaller, for the most part, but their techniques and talents get more and more refined. Jonathan Franzen is the arch example. He could become a great writer, he's got the stuff. I don't know that he's willing to pay the price. Because with the talent he's got, he's like a certain kind of wealthy man: he's not going to try to become a billionaire. That describes most authors."

One little nugget from his famous Harper's essay. He got a letter from Don DeLillo, who said this:

"The writer leads, he doesn't follow. The dynamic lives in
the writer's mind, not in the size of the audience.

Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass
identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals."

I'm going to start in on a collection of essays by Martin Amis (son of Kingsley Amis, author of the wonderful Lucky Jim.) Also about to start in on a book by Louise Erdrich, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse.

On the personal writing front, I have three stories out collecting rejection slips. I've trunked another one for now, and am working on a fifth.

Monday, February 03, 2003

Walking, Driving, Slipping, Plowing In A Winter Wonderland. Well, winter continues to make up for lost time. We got somewhere between 6 and 8 inches of snow since yesterday. The main roads were plowed by this morning, and the freeway was fine, just very wet, but the drive in was much better than I thought. The side streets were still full of snow though, so getting around was a bit dicey. The front wheel drive helped, but I miss my 4 wheel drive. And, cold weather is headed our way again. This weekend could bring the coldest temps yet. And looking ahead, it means the church will be freezing. That building just doesn't get very warm, and when the front door is open, all that cold air goes straight in. Playing in the orchestra up there gets to be quite chilly, especially since we sit by a side exit and it is rather drafty. Oh well.

When I dropped John off this morning at Sue's, he said what sounded like "I like ducks", and then he said "noise". Who knows what he was thinking about.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

R.I.P, Columbia. The space shuttle disintegrated during reentry this morning, as part of its descent to land in Florida. No word on the cause. Some historical perspective, after the Challenger accident in 1986, it came to light that there had been an Air Force study done that concluded there was a 1 in 35 chance of the booster rocket failing. That study was disputed by others, but it was interesting to note at the time that Challenger was the 25th flight to date. While this Columbia accident didn't have anything to do with a booster rocket, this was the 107th space shuttle flight.

January has not been a good month for the space program. The Challenger accident happened January 28, 1986. The Apollo 1 accident that killed three astronauts happened January 27, 1967. And while this Columbia accident happened February 1, they are all remarkably close.

I was reading a bit with John this morning. I usually let him pick what he wants to read. He brought over his Moptop book, and as soon as I started reading he started making his roaring sound. I was pretty sure it had something to do with the book, cuz he'll do that, he always remembers things so well and will say things before you get to them. So sure enough, I got to the page where Moptop was down on all fours, and with his moppy hair he pretended to be a roaring lion.

Just before I put him down for his nap, we were in the living room. I was just laying on the floor. I had his music on like we usually do, and all of a sudden he came over and said help, help, and pulled me to my feet. And he said 'mikkis' (music) and then something, I couldn't quite figure out what it is, till I realized he was saying waltz. Then he said dance. He likes to be held, and we hold one hand out, and dance around the room. The music that started playing was a classical piece, and so he wanted to dance the waltz!