Theory and Practice


A dear friend of ours lost his father to cancer the other day. I did not now the father well but I liked what I knew of him. The form of his cancer was, sadly, undoubtedly fatal, claiming its victims within a year in most cases. On the one hand, this is a shockingly short and harsh window of survival. On the other hand, it to gives everyone a chance to say farewell, to close the books in proper fashion.

I haven’t had many close family members die. And I’m at that stage in my life when most of my contemporaries are still alive and kicking. I really can’t imagine how my friend and his family are feeling as they cope with this loss and my heart goes out to them.

Last year, a former colleague passed after struggling a with a deadly cancer for almost three years. My own grandmother died after more than a year; the week I spent with her and my grandfather, spelling my mother and uncles in helping to care for her, was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

I’m not good with death. The notion of dying scares me to near paralysis. And I’m never sure what to say when confronted with the imminent death of another. My paternal grandfather was a surgeon and oncologist and he stared into the truth of death every day. I do not know how he did that and I cannot imagine the reserves of strength he must have possessed to do that job.

To my friend and his family, I extend my condolences and best wishes. I know that this a sad time for them and I hope that they know that we are here for them. And I hope that they remember this: life goes on.

The Case of the Vanishing Car Part

This morning was like many we have these days. Get up, get dressed, get the kiddo dressed, rush through breakfast. And then one of us drives the kiddo up to day care.

Except this morning, that last part didn’t happen. Instead, K came back into the house and called up to me “I think someone stole the battery from our car.”

My first response: “Oh, you’ve got to be KIDDING ME!” She was not.

Looking under the hood, there’s a gap where the battery should be. Wires hang loosely down and the metal bracket that normally keeps the battery from escaping its mooring lays upon the tray the used to provide a platform for the squat box of electrical goodness. The battery is truly gone.

I can’t really say that I’m mad about this. The battery isn’t exactly new. If the subie hadn’t been hit-n-run’ed a couple of weeks ago, we might not even have noticed this theft for weeks or months, given our infrequent use of our second car. Frankly, we’ve been contemplating getting rid of the thing.

And I suspect that the perpetrator of this not-quite-heinous crime may have done the deed out of need. I may be romanticizing the theft of my own property, but I choose to believe that the battery was stolen by someone with no other recourse and with a real, genuine need to get somewhere. Perhaps this is reflection of the tough economic times. The car appears to be fine in every other way, so this may have just been an extreme method of jump-starting. Or maybe it’s just some asshole stealing stuff.

I suppose I should feel violated. I probably will feel put upon later when I have to go through some machinations to get a new battery into the car. I’ll be pissed when I have to shell out the bucks for the new battery. The closest I can come to ire is that fact the whoever did this has made it harder for us to take care of the kiddo, at least for a short period of time. And we’re not exactly rolling in it, either.

But really, I just have to laugh.

The Metamorphosis

Slowly, surely, I am undergoing a profound mutation. My old self is giving way to a new being, one that I could scarcely have imagined could ever exist. That which I knew and loved is now seen through a news lens. This is affecting my very core.

I am almost gone now. The iPhone has taken over.

I am a fairly late adopter of this marvelous device. I managed to resist the pressures both external and internal until December of last year. I really wanted an iPhone, but I was determined to wait until my current contract was up and I could get the new phone with a minimum of pain. And then the day arrived and my wife and I trucked on over to the Apple Store. And I swallowed the chrome and glass pill.

And the metamorphosis began.

The change started within minutes. After I got the phone, we headed up to the Body Shop, and while Karen purchased some smelly soap or something, I watched my Contacts list fill up from MobileMe. “Wow”, I thought. Painless and easy.

I sent my first email a few minutes later. And then browsed the Web. And checked a map. I barely remember the ride home.

In the intervening time, I have become completely dependent on my iPhone. I read my feeds, check my mail,, browse the Web. I twitter away at all hours of the day, write blog posts, and act “social” on Facebook.

I play games on my phone; Rolando is a fave. I have twittered the perils of our New’s Year Eve drive through a snowstorm live from the passenger seat of our Subaru. I’ve even used Brushes to take up painting. I even make phone calls with it. And I’ve started to write software for it.

What’s amazing to me about the iPhone just how much it has come to replace other devices that I used to consider must haves. My MacBook is still getting a decent amount of use but my patterns on it have changed. In some ways, this parallels the transition I made years ago when I started using notebooks instead of desktop systems as my primary machines.

But more than just changing existing patterns, the iPhone is causing me to create new ones. I’ve noticed that since this all started, I’ve started to spend much more time “connecting”. As I’ve said, I’ve started sending out tweets just about everyday, which I was never doing before the phone made it so easy to just peck out 140 characters whenever and wherever I happen to want to write something. I’ve also started to tie together the various threads of my virtual life, integrating twitter, my blog, facebook and other aspects of my life. I don’t think I would ever have done this (certainly not at the pace it’s happening) without a device like the iPhone in my pocket.

I am starting to feel a boost in creativity, too. The painting is one part of that. I’m also starting to feel an itch to create stuff for the iPhone. This is a very empowering aspect of the iPhone: it’s a device that you can not only use to perform tasks in your life, you can participate in creating the ecosystem of that device. This fact has been true for years in the general PC market and even in the mobile space. But I don’t think any device has inspired such feelings as this in so many before. Sure, the iFart app is no great work, but the fact that someone could build and contribute it is pretty amazing. The very triviality of such an app speaks volumes about how rich the iPhone platform can be. If people feel free to reel off apps with little or no “business value”, you know you’ve got legs! :)

Of course, there are competitors to the iPhone on the way. Palm and Google are working hard to catch up to Apple. And they’ll probably succeed along one dimension or another.

But none of these platforms is as likely to so profoundly change my life again.

A Rant About Someone Out There

Somewhere out in the world, the masshole who struck and damaged our innocently parked Forester is merrily going along. Despite the fact that their transport is now undoubtedly marked with flecks of gray paint, plastic, tire rubber and bits of sheet steel from the rear quarter of our beloved people-mover, this “person” couldn’t be bothered to stop and at least leave a note. All we got from them was:

  • A ruined tire
  • A crushed fender
  • A SIX HOUR LONG wait to be towed
  • A chance to pay our insurance deductible! Yippee!
  • A completely ruined day

It just amazes me awful people can be. Based on the damage, there is absolutely zero chance that whoever did this did not realize what happened. It would have taken an impact with some pretty good force to do this. So either this “human being” was scared and took off or they maliciously choose to ignore what they’d done. Either way, they fled and let us holding the bag.

So thanks, whoever you are, for your kind service. And I sincerely hope that someone out there will return the favor.

Adventures in Babysitting

So there, I am sitting on the couch, punching keys on the old MacBook. The kiddo is upstairs, gated into her room, but obviously not asleep (based on the occasional footsteps and bumping). But I’m not concerned, since I know she’ll pass out soon.

Then I hear a little sound. coughcough

I bound up the stairs, worried that perhaps my progeny is choking on a small toy or perhaps has strangled herself with the bed linens while trying to act out her fantasy of being a SCUBA diver.

And what do I find when I reach the room? My 2 year old standing at the gate across her threshold, slathered in Aquaphor. Oh my.

The kiddo is covered; her hands look like they’re in gooey mittens. She’s managed to smear the goop all over the gate and there’s some in her hair too. My wife has picked a perfect night to be out.

I grabbed the kiddo and rushed her across to the bathroom to assess the damage. Fortunately, it didn’t appear that she’d eaten any of the stuff and when I asked (fifteen or twenty times) she denied it. Ok, so she’s not going to keel over and I don’t have to call poison control. Whew!

Anyhow, we’re all cleaned up now and she’s finally asleep a mere three hours past bedtime. When I went to check on her a little while ago, she was sleeping on the floor, covered by a tiny quilt from her doll’s crib. And breathing like an angel.

So, What’s New?

Since my last post I have:

  • Become an iPhone addict
  • Become a Twitter addict (@stonehippo)
  • Become a Facebook addict
  • Become (more) of a TiVo addict
  • Become a total, smacked-out junky for the kid. I didn’t know that it’s was possible to constantly find some new and amazing about single human being every 5 minutes. Live and learn.

2008 was a strange year. Amazing highs, incredible lows, and creamy centers, too. And I can’t believe the first decade of the 21st Century is already 80% over. I spent the first 27 years of my life waiting with baited breath for the new Millennium. And now it’s 8 wacky years in.

I’m working on my New Decade’s Resolutions. I know we’re got some time until this one’s done, but it’s best to be prepared. I’ve got a few that I’m already pretty sure I want at the top of the list and I’m going to try to get a jump on them now:

  • Become a better father
  • Become a better husband
  • Become a genius inventor with super powers and a secret lair
  • Cook at home more
  • Get a new bike

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Everything Must Go.

We’re trying very hard to de-clutter. The house has been overrun by piles: books, toys, clothes, miscellaneous crap. We’ve got it all.

It’s time to let go of all of the books we’ll never read again, the clothes that don’t fit or can only be worn when no one else it looking (like my hole-y San Jose Shark Watch Tee), and generally just move the accumulated kipple to new homes or the recycling center.

And once it’s all gone, we’re going to work hard not to replace it. Our house just isn’t that big and every inch of clear, bare space is something to treasure. And I think K, Z and I are all fatigued by the mess.

It’s time for a fresh start. :)

Yes We Can.

It’s Election Night. And as I write this, the voting results point to a stunning fact: Barack Obama is the next President-Elect of the United States of America. And I don’t know what to say.

I want to laugh. I want to cry. I want to shout it to the rafters: BARACK OBAMA WILL BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT!!!

I wonder what tomorrow will be like.

This Is History.

My great-grandfather was born a slave. His son, my grandfather, went on to become a respected surgeon. His son, my father, has reached great heights of success as a journalist of international reknown. One constant in all of their lives has been a slow and painful progression, from a world where people of color were considered property in this country to a world where a black man is within hair’s-breadth of becoming the next President of the United States.

All of these men, my paternal forebears, experienced racism and prejudice on a scale I can barely conceive. Although I was born less than nine years after Dr. King made his iconic speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, but the time I came into the world things had already changed so much. And now we can stand and applaud Barack Obama as he accepts the nomination of the Democratic Party.

Simply awesome.

I can say that I would have been just as happy to see Hillary Clinton upon that stage. Her nomination would have been equally historic and possibly more meaningful, given the long-standing state of inequality experienced by women. I doubt that Hillary would have been as eloquent, as impassioned, as moving in her speech, but the significance of her success would have been just as great.

This is a stunning time to live in. It’s hard for me to express the joy I felt in watching Mr. Obama on that stage. The Amercia, and indeed the world, has entered dire straits indeed. The world we live in now is fraught with dangers of a scale unknown in human history. We face economic, military, environmental and social challenges that are literally unimaginable to those who came before us. And yet, watching this man, I can believe that we will prevail. And even prosper again.

Some of the hope surrounding Barack Obama is his aura, his charisma. He speaks as few orators have ever done. He stirs the emotions and brings us to our feet. But more that just his tone and tenor shines through. His message is equally powerful.

Barack Obama will be remembered, I hope, as the President who returned America to an age of responsibility. His message is one of maturity and adulthood. Of taking responsibility for ourselves and each other, because that is the right thing to do. Of finding a better path where strength and safety come from within and from without. Of working together to make this the best of all possible worlds.

That is the kind of world that I believe my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather wanted for me. I am honored to bear witness to this time.

Two Years

Today is birthday two for the kiddo.

It’s hard for me to process how much has happened in the last two years. We went from having a helpless baby to having a charming, intelligent, loud little person. And I am not entirely sure how it happened.

The weird sense of “parent time” has not faded. Two years is simultaneously a long time and no time at all. In some sense, watching the kiddo grow has been like watching a time-lapse recording. Everything moves really quickly, blurring by faster than the eye can follow. And yet you can feel that it’s really at lot of time compressed, sped up for dramatic effect.

I don’t know what the next year holds for our little family but it is certain to be interesting.


The kiddo got some nice gifts from friends and family (thanks, y’all!). And we also added three l’il turquoise guppies to the family roster. Unfortunately, “jer” (the kiddo named them: the other two as “jer-do” and “jer-dick”) didn’t last 24 hours. I have my suspicions about how it might have happened (I’m looking at you, jer-dick), but I can’t prove anything. Guppies are crafty like that.