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February 29, 2004

Learning Curve

"OK, Will, now you hide and I'll try to find you."

"OK, Daddy!"

Gallop gallop gallop down the hall. I start counting.

"...9...10! Ready or not, here I come!"

Gallop gallop gallop back up the hall. He grabs me around the legs.

"You found me, Daddy!"

"Will, you're supposed to hide!"

Shannon decides to help teach Will how to play hide-and-seek as a hider. They hide together in the bathroom.

"Ready or not, here I come!"

From down the hall I hear, "Mommy, Daddy's looking for me. Mommy, we're in the bathroom." Shannon can barely contain herself from laughing. Stealth is not yet this child's forte.

We try again. They hide. "Ready or not, here I come!" I start wandering. "Where are you, Will!"

Loudly: "In the bathtub, Daddy!" Shannon collapses. Will beams.

We all want to be found. Some play harder to get than others.

February 21, 2004

An Alternative for Bush? Naaah.

This very interesting column at TechCentralStation writes about "ambivalent conservatives" who Just Really Don't Care Much about the gay marriage issue. In a nutshell (citing Virginia Postrel): if you're a young conservative in a major city, chances are good you have a gay acquaintance who's in a serious relationship, so your passion for defending "traditional" marriage won't be as strong.

It also suggests a (somewhat unlikely) alternative to my theory about why the President's been so cagey on the subject of gay marriage: on this subject he's genuinely an ambi-con.

The interesting question here is whether Bush would go for the "compromise" constitutional amendment Jonathan Rauch, a conservative supporter of gay marriage, advocates: writing the Defense of Marriage Act into the constitution as "Nothing in this Constitution requires any state or the federal government to recognize anything other than the union of one man and one woman as a marriage." Meaning that a state, either legislatively or judicially (based on the state's constitution alone), could enact gay marriage, but another state would not be forced to recognize it.

It's a very federalist solution, but it would make activists on both sides unhappy. And while young, hip urban conservatives may have gay friends and not really care about the issue, rural "heartland" conservatives prooooobably have a different perspective.

February 18, 2004

Missing My Focus

"Got it? Okay, let's begin."

Hazelrigg sensei clapped and rose from his knees. I blinked. What had he been demonstrating? Oh, right: shomenuchi ikkyo surariwaza. So why did I have no memory of the last two minutes?

Because my mind was far from the dojo. And it wasn't coming back. At the water break I begged off the rest of the aikido class.

I had to deliver some flyers for a Seven Nations concert to a college student who wasn't home yet, so I detoured to the Chapel Hill Borders. But I didn't want to be there. I wanted to be home.

With Will.

The last couple of weeks, he's been increasingly fragile. (Or, if you don't like kids, fussy. Or, if you love kids but are forced to live with them because they're yours, tantrum-prone if you're not careful.) Before aikido and going to the office, the litany's been the same: "Don't go, Daddy."

I can resist that just about one time per day. Gotta pay the bills. It's every time after when I'm stopped cold. Aikido attendance has suffered mightily since.

I don't want to spoil him. Neither is it guilt that keeps me at home more often than not. Half the problem is unrelated to parenting: late hours at the office, long drives from the office and to the dojo, early starting time for class. But the other half is simple: I love this child and don't see enough of him. Today I spent all of an hour and a half with him. Tomorrow I will blink and he will be asking for the car keys because he has a date.

There are things I can do to fulfill both heart's desires, for my child and to master aikido. I can go to bed earlier, get up earlier, go to work earlier, leave work earlier, spend more time with Will, go to aikido with a clearer conscience.

The steps are obvious. So why don't I take them?

Could Be Trouble

About an hour ago, I finished what I thought was a decaf, sugar-free latte. I just looked at the receipt: LATTE MEDIUM, EXTRA ITEM-ESPRESSO SHT, SOY. No mention of "decaf" there anywhere.

If she didn't simply miskey the item at the register, but also made the drink wrong, I'll be staring at my bedroom ceiling at 3:00 AM, twitching.


"I'm troubled by what I've seen," Bush told reporters in his first public comments on the flood of City Hall weddings that have made San Francisco the focus of the gay marriage movement.

"I have consistently stated that I'll support (a) law to protect marriage between a man and a woman. And, obviously, these events are influencing my decision," Bush said during a picture-taking session with the president of Tunisia and after meeting with Catholic leaders at the White House.

As a self-proclaimed "uniter, not a divider," it looks like the President is playing this issue just about perfectly for the election.

There's no doubt that a major election-year cultural war over gay marriage is coming, thanks to the issue being forced in Massachusetts and San Francisco. According to the Reuters article, 51 percent of Americans favor an outright constitutional amendment recognizing marriage as only involving a man and woman. The Democratic party is divided (so what else is new?) between party activists in favor of gay rights and "heartland" voters who are much more culturally conservative (remember that President Clinton signed DOMA). Kerry has bobbed and weaved a little on the issue, but has made statements against gay marriage in the past.

Meanwhile, a few Log Cabin candidates in California notwithstanding, the Republican "base" and party leadership are remarkably unified on the issue, differing only slightly on the precise tool that should take out gay marriage.

Bush, in a feat of triangulation worthy of his predecessor, has been cagey about whether he would support a Federal Marriage Amendment. As the issue becomes hotter and hotter, and as lawsuits are filed by gay couples married in one jurisdiction or another, his hand will be "forced" by outside events, leading him to a decision which his culturally conservative supporters never doubted he'd make. Not a Pat Buchanan-like, scary culture warrior, but a reluctant defender of the family taking the only possible step.

It'll be interesting to see how, and whether, the Democrats will be able to counter.

February 16, 2004

A Tale of Two Waffle Houses

On our way to visit my family on Saturday, I decided that we would take Will to Waffle House. Here is what I miss about my childhood, a time when something like Waffle House could be the coolest... thing... ever!!! After a succession of blown errands and closed offices, though, Saturday breakfast was rapidly becoming Saturday brunch.

The first Waffle House we went to was a disaster. Possibly understaffed, one waitress was definitely having a bad day. She said as much when she sat us at our table, saying she was "trying to hold it together." This she failed to do -- we were forgotten for ten minutes, other people were waiting to be seated, other people weren't being served, there was confusion at the grill... and then someone dropped a glass and she stepped on the shattered pieces. She stumbled into the back room, after a moment someone came after her, then she came back, and inarticulately tried, repeatedly, to call out an order to the grill. For whatever reason, they weren't hearing her. Another ten minutes passed, and we left.

Will was still in good spirits, and was sufficiently excited about having been in a Waffle House, that we gave another one a try. This one was on the ball. We were served quickly, the staff doted on Will (who was excited about sitting at the counter!), the staff had great camaraderie. It was fun and social, the way an idealized neighborhood pub should be. With waffles instead of beer.

Will slept soundly on the drive to Kernersville. Meanwhile, Shannon and I were actually a little shaken after Waffle House I, despite the success of the sequel. I haven't seen many emotional meltdowns before, but when I have it's always been painful. I felt a little guilty about having left: Were we the last nail in the coffin before she got fired or fell further into despair? Or did we give her space to collect herself?

Obviously you can't bleed for every hurting person you meet. But I still find myself hoping this poor woman has found some relief.

Train Up a Child...

The next step: bagpipes.

February 1, 2004

Observations on a Halftime Show

(1) Talk about flag desecration -- Kid Rock in a giant poncho that looks like an American flag with a slot in the center.

(2) Further cultural conservative heartburn -- millions of red-blooded, God-fearin' American male sports fans watched Janet Jackson hoping for a little skin, and got men wearing corsets.

(3) Justin who?

A note for my friends who don't pay attention to "ball sports" -- I'm talking about the Super Bowl here.