January 1, 2008

What Gaiman Said

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

July 25, 2007

A Few Words about Harry Potter 7

J.K. Rowling is clearly not the most disciplined writer in the world, from a grammar and syntax perspective. But that doesn't matter.

Her supporting characters sometimes have uneven characterization, or at least are not fleshed out as much as some readers would prefer. But that doesn't matter.

She is absolutely gifted at plot. Her lead characters are three dimensional. And -- usually without beating you over the head with it -- she has a message.

The message is about love, in all its forms. Love of life. Love of family. Love of friends. Romantic love. And the message is about the responsibility goes with that love -- how love extracts a cost even as it enriches the soul, and how ultimately love and grief are intertwined.

Chapter 24 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the story of Harry Potter, and of Harry Potter, in its purest form.

And, at the end, Harry must make the greatest choice of them all -- as Dumbledore put it, between what is right and easy -- in a moment when fear and duty collide in his heart.

It's almost embarrassing to say (especially since my better half had a completely opposite reaction to the sixth book), but I think this book changed me in its reading. And, when Will is old enough, I'll be proud to share it with him.

September 21, 2006

Department of Not Terribly Reassuring Experiments

I've been quite busy and stressed, hence the radio silence.

This isn't helping, all right?

(Hat tip: Scott Jennings.)

June 19, 2006

Paging Lord Stanley

You know, I think I could get into this hockey thing.

May 25, 2006

Websnark on Fandom

This post is a year and a half old, but it's still genius: webcomics blogger Eric Burns snarks about Entitlement and the Modern Fandom. Substitute any band, TV show or perfume fan group -- yes, perfume fan groups exist, Shannon's a member of one -- for webcomics fan groups, and Burns's insights hold true about excessive identification, the dark side of online communities, and the relationship between creators and the most devoted fans. Warning: crude language.

May 22, 2006

Public Service Announcement

If you're not going over your credit card statements line-by-line, you should be. Last October, we found a couple of Amazon purchases we didn't make. So we changed our credit card number -- but not before someone used my contact info and the old number to pick up a web hosting agreement with Yahoo. It was only live for about five days before being cancelled. Hate to think what was done with that domain. And, of course, we missed it on the following month's statement.

We only found out about it when I received a "renewal notice" from perennial scam artists and FTC targets Domain Registry of America. "Hey!" I say to myself, "I never registered that!" So for possibly the first time in the "company's" existence, DRoA has done something beneficial. Totally by accident, of course.

March 19, 2006

An Entirely Weird Dream

I'm in a retail space -- a budget discount chain like Rose's, somewhere in the toy section. Several sections of shelving have been taken away, replaced by wooden pews. I'm in a middle one. Behind and in front of me are mid-level corporate and professional functionaries -- think of a Chamber of Commerce type of meeting. An international delegation is visiting among the pews of the discount department store, among the toys.

I'm supposed to give a report. In part, I'm drawing from a local business news weekly's article. I'm supposed to describe some consumer polling data. But I'm having real trouble pulling data out, being clear. I'm stumbling over words. There are agonizingly long pauses. People are getting more and more frustrated. It's all I can do to press on, but this is a self-made disaster.

I start reading favorable/unfavorables about the idea of trade with certain foreign countries. I'm still having trouble. The numbers are hideous -- something between eight and 20 percent favorable for one -- though they're different every time I look at the paragraph. The head of state of one of these countries is in the pews. He has an outburst. He's gravely insulted. He storms out. A break is called.

I'm seriously embarrassed. I ask the older woman next to me -- slightly dour and distant, 50s, overweightish, with some sort of accent -- whether she should give the report for me when we come back. She agrees tartly.

I hear the head of state ranting as he comes back through a double hinged metal door with a rounded-corner rectangular window about what an insult it is to be hearing information about his country this way. "It's like they're trying to brand us, to turn us into a brand!" His country is more than poll numbers! He's shaken, maybe a little humiliated.

I've got to apologize to this guy. I was only doing my job, albeit badly, but I was doing the talking when he got upset. I get out of my pew, and slowly, awkwardly move through the scattered crowd.

He's sitting in the floor next to a plastic wading pool which has been turned into a sandbox. There are a couple of children there, younger than my son. He's trying to have a conversation with them. He wants to make himself feel better. He wants to connect with these kids playing in a sandbox in the middle of the toy aisles alongside the pews in a cheap retail store where an international trade report is being given.

He's wearing some kind of turban or crown. He's bearded, with slightly pale skin. His sari-clad wife is hovering around him like an attaché, concerned for him but businesslike. He's wearing shirt sleeves and shorts and sneakers. He's in some kind of half-carapace thing that reminds me of an old toy suit of armor you'd place around an action figure. The legs of this -- thing -- he's wearing extend beyond his own sneakers. He has crutches.

I try to get around the cluttered people and children near him. "Your Excellency?" I bow. He struggles to his feet. "I don't know the procedure, the protocol, the title. I understand that I insulted you. I'm very sorry..."

"No, no, it's all right," he says. It's not. He tries to pretend that his honor is not besmirched, that he's not wounded or scared about how his country is being labeled by the world. If he admitted that I hurt him it would be further humiliation.

And I wake up.

Had to have been the Kung Pao Chicken Egg Roll.

March 13, 2006

Asymmetrical Aging

I'm pretty comfortable with the fact that I'm getting older. The only real annoyance I have is that my facial hair is completely grayed out, meaning that my youthful experimentation with a Van Dyke (that is, a goatee-with-the-mustache) will not be replicated until the rest of my hair catches up. (Shannon is of course relieved.)

What I can't figure out is why the hell my left eyebrow is so much grayer than my right!

March 12, 2006

The Onion Killing Fields

First lawn-mowing of the year. Not because the grass was getting high, but becuase the wild onions in my yard (and my elderly neighbor's) were getting out of hand.

By the time I was done mowing, the stench of onion was nigh-overpowering.

January 15, 2006


Well, it's a good thing I didn't make a New Year's resolution to write more blog entries this year.

I actually mulled over setting one for about a week into January, but I just couldn't make up my mind. Every draft resolution was to accomplish something that I thought I ought to, but it didn't exactly follow my heart, if you follow the cliche.

So this is a resolution-free year. Instead, I'm just going to try harder -- to make my days a little more productive, my year a little more creative, and my free hours at home a little less beholden to mindless websurfing and gameplaying.

December ended better than expected, with a couple of concert experiences that recharged my emotional and mental batteries. Carbon Leaf played the Lincoln and owned the joint, playing a new song called "The War was in Color" which connected me with a grandfather I never knew. Strong stuff. A week later, Seven Nations finally returned to North Carolina with a rousing pub show at Tir na nOg -- a long-needed chance to throw my head back and sing at the top of my lungs.

After a number of months of being disconnected from live music, finding that communal experience again was beyond refreshing. But it's not something I need to resolve to continue. I just need to do it. That's how I'm going to try to handle 2006. It's not about making promises at the start of the year; it's about making a practice of the healthy, the productive, and the positive.

December 13, 2005

Still Alive


September 11, 2005

Forced Out of the Bunker

Um, hi.

The last few weeks have been an experience in concentrated sensory overload. I've been alternately tired, stressed, lonely, distracted and nostalgic. I've also had some moments of indescribable bliss. The only constant has been busy-ness (not business, although that's been a part of it). What's gone with that has been isolation. I haven't had sufficient focus to call old friends, write in this blog (or in any other format, for that matter), read, or keep up with any number of hobbies or interests that are very important to me.

I'm not a fan of blog-as-confessional, and I'm not trying to turn this one into a mere online diary. But if any of y'all are still out there, that's why I haven't been writing. And, since I'm trying to reassert control over my days and reconnect with the people, relationships and things that have defined me over the years, that's why I need to start it up again.

July 5, 2005

Picking Apart the WSJ on the Religious Left

As is frequently the case, Lex gets it:

From the headline -- "The Angry Left" -- to the punning kicker, Loconte manages to emulate all the sins of which conservative evangelicals so often accuse the mainstream news media. Most egregiously, he either displays ignorance of or deliberately ignores a clearly documented social message, drawn from both the teachings of Jesus and the Old Testament prophets, whose consequences in this country have as much of a history as the country itself.

"They're the furious faithful -- the growing number of religious liberals incensed by the political influence of Christian conservatives," he begins, as if this movement hadn't long predated right-wing Christianity's efforts to seize secular political power beginning in the late 1970s. Yo, Joe, Isaiah has been around a helluva lot longer than Jerry Falwell.

July 3, 2005

Observation from the Eno Festival

  • This was the first time in years Shannon and I made it to the Festival for the Eno. We used to be regulars when our dojo put on annual demonstrations. It absolutely hadn't changed: very laid back, very hippie. Sadly, also very white, considering the diversity of Durham.

  • A band I heard opening for Carbon Leaf and liked, Jump (nee Jump, Little Children), is putting on a quasi-farewell tour this year, so I made an effort to catch them at the Festival. I only got to hear three of their songs before Will ran out of gas. Hopefully I'll get to hear them again at the Lincoln this September -- there's something intriguing about their music that I haven't had the opportunity to explore yet. Their stuff is on the Apple Music Store -- for a taste of what I'm talking about, listen to the snippet of "Rains in Asia" on their last album, Between the Dim and the Dark.

  • "I have a weakness for belly dancers." -- U2's Bono

    Apparently my three year-old son shares that weakness. Should I be concerned?

June 25, 2005

A Deeply Affecting Story

One of the best things I've ever read. (Be warned, some heavy stuff here. Via RLP.)

Angels dancing on the head of a pin dissolve into nothingness at the bedside of a dying child.

When looking death in the face things get very real very quickly......

I'm twenty one and doing a stint as a chaplain's aide in a large gritty urban hospital.

June 11, 2005

Tweetsie. Yes, Tweetsie.

A quick note from the free terminal (An old school iMac! R0xx0rs!) at an independent coffeeshop on King Street in Boone. I'm decompressing from having taken Will on his first visit to Tweetsie Railroad. I lived near Boone (Newland) until I was ten years old. Thanks especially to my grandmother Myra, Tweetsie was an at-least annual rite of my childhood. I admit to having had more than a few sweet moments of nostalgia as I walked in front of the General Store and along the rail lines with my family in tow. It's been a very, very good day.

It didn't start off quite so well for Will. We came today because "Thomas the Tank Engine" was here as well, and Will is a fiend for his Thomas trains. We arrived at the themepark in the middle of pudding-thick fog, and as we swung into our parking space I saw "Thomas" up the hill. "Will! Hurry, look! It's Thomas!" Now, I'll update this entry with a photo when I have the time, but imagine a life size railroad train, bright blue, with a giant smiling moon-face plastered on the front. Barely emerging from the fog. Now imagine a three-year-old having only vaguely appreciated the fact that he would be seeing one of his toys blown up to life size.

The boy was a basket case for about 15 minutes. Especially when we got much closer to the train, and he became acquainted with the true volume level of steam engine whistles.

He recovered, and we had one of those happy nuclear family experiences that would likely nauseate many of my readers. Both of you. Fortunately, you are spared any further attempts at a coherent blog entry. In addition to our morning activities, I'm operating on about three hours sleep. For whatever reason, I could not sleep in the old mountain house in Newland -- it felt like I was being roasted from below in the bed while simultaneously shivering from the cold air above. Highly untenable. Absolutely not restful.

Hence, my latte. Have a good rest-of-the-weekend.

June 5, 2005

Sorry I've been gone so long...

It's been a very stressful few weeks.

April 5, 2005

The Doherty Legacy

Via Ed Cone, here's Mickey McLean:

Say what you want about Matt Doherty, but he did recruit a talented group of kids to play at Carolina. And the fact that Roy Williams was able to mold them into National Champions in two short years is nothing short of amazing. But that really shouldn't surprise us since it was that formula—Doherty recruiting, Williams coaching—that led to much success for Kansas in the 1990s.

Roy Williams was thinking of Doherty during his post-game press conference:

You know, I did feel so badly for what happened a couple years ago. I felt badly for Matt Doherty. Let's not forget he's the guy who recruited most of these guys, with the exception for Marvin and Quentin. Jackie and Jawad and Melvin for sticking with it, after starting 8-20. To me it means more for those kids than it does anything that can be said about our program.

... But I also am going to sit back and understand that these guys, my assistants, this staff and the kids really bought into everything we tried to do. We're 33-4. Again, I feel for Matt Doherty, I really do. If Matt was right there, I would want him to know that this was special and I would give Matt Doherty a big hug. Matt Doherty needs to be back in coaching, too.

Raymond Felton even mentioned finally accepting some old advice from Doherty:

Felton shot only 31 percent from the floor last year, but he raised his shooting percentage to 46 percent this season after changing his shooting form by tucking his elbow closer to his body.

Felton said former North Carolina Matt Doherty suggested that he change his shot as a freshman with the Tar Heels, but Felton resisted the change. Tired of hearing about how he couldn't shoot, he decided to correct the mechanical flaw after the 2003-04 season.

Old habits are hard to break, so Felton began a regiment of 600 jump shots a day.

"I basically brought my elbow in to help make my shot more accurate," Felton said. "And, then it was a lot of repetition, getting a lot of shots up each and every day. I just continued to work hard at it."

Given the events and personalities involved, a Matt Doherty-coached 2004-05 Tar Heel team, successful or no, probably would not have won a national championship.

But it takes nothing away from Roy Williams's breathtaking success this year to point out that a Doherty-recruited team did.

April 4, 2005

Carolina Victory

There'll be a Carolina Victory,
When cross the field our foe has fled.
Cheer our team to victory,
For we are Tar Heels born and bred (Rah! Rah! Rah!)
Glory, Glory UNC,
Our hearts will live with thee.
Fight! Fight! Fight! for the blue and white
Are rolling to victory!


It's been a dramatic week for people concerned with issues of quality of life, freedom of choice, death with dignity, and reverence for life. The week's events -- the national spectacle of Terri Schiavo's death and the end of one of the most consequential papacies in history -- were brought home to me yesterday as I helped one of my oldest friends move some of his grandmother's things into the memory unit of an assisted living facility. Not long after Will was born, I bid final farewell to my own grandmother who also suffered from Alzheimer's. Last night was very familliar territory.

As I try to make sense of my own feelings upon once more seeing elderly people sitting blankly in visiting rooms and helping my friend figure out what few items would fit in his grandmother's new room (and appreciating the difficulty he faces the today, as she leaves the hospital but does not go home), I've found a couple of things that feel simultaneously true and contradictory.

On John Paul II:

The final legacy of this man will be the way he has died. The way he has fallen apart, disintegrated—physically, emotionally, mentally, embarrassingly—before the world, making a spectacle of himself.

Now [the documentary was filmed in 1999] he can barely say a word. He's drooling, the body is out of control, headed directly to the [final] moment, and still…he wants the world to see…[his] final encounter with the ultimate question.

For him I am sure this was the moment to embody everything he has said. [That] human life is worthwhile, no matter what—no matter how weak, no matter how insignificant it may look….To challenge the world, which is obsessed with image, with youth, with success, with power, with words. Forcing us to look at the aged, either in ourselves or in others. And in the end summing up his very first words to the world: "Be not afraid.” Be not afraid of even being afraid. The value of your life is worth infinity. It can not be destroyed by death.”

On the politics of Terri Schiavo:

The real lesson of the Schiavo case is not that we all need living wills; it is that our dignity does not reside in our will alone, and that it is foolish to believe that the competent person I am now can establish, in advance, how I should be cared for if I become incapacitated and incompetent. The real lesson is that we are not mere creatures of the will: We still possess dignity and rights even when our capacity to make free choices is gone; and we do not possess the right to demand that others treat us as less worthy of care than we really are.

There's some hemming and hawing later on — it's a tough decison, best not to have the state involved, etc. etc. — but Cohen's bottom line is clear: in order to avoid slippery slopes, we should insist on keeping anyone alive who's this side of irreversible brain death. It doesn't matter if you've made your wishes clear. You should not be allowed to control your own destiny. Period. ... If they won't even let me control my own destiny, why should I let them control anyone else's?

There's a lot more here to chew on than I've got time for on a lunch break. I'll likely come back to this soon. But I find myself simultaneously concerned over the choices that might or might not be available to me and my family at the end of my life, and genuinely, honestly inspired by the way John Paul II lived, and died, in the twilight of his calling -- not giving up, and blessing the people throughout his pain.

March 22, 2005

Just STOP It!

My favorite restaurants at Southpoint keep disappearing!

Southpoint General Manager Rick Polley said the Q-Shack spot will be combined with the space vacated by Big Bowl Asian restaurant to accommodate the new restaurant. The two are adjacent to each other in the outdoor portion of the mall, near a large fountain and the movie theater. [...] That the mall asked Q-Shack to give up its space suggests a big deal and probably a big-name tenant, because the early closure of Q-Shack probably required a lease buyout.

Now I know Big Bowl's departure wasn't Southpoint's fault, but this is driving me crazygonuts! (To be fair, it's probably not making Southpoint management happy either. Those restaurant spaces are in a terrific location next to the fountain and cinema, and are the only spots where Southpoint's had trouble hanging onto restaurants -- in addition to Big Bowl and The Q-Shack, Bear Rock Cafe also came and went.)

February 7, 2005

This Blog

(Lunchblogging from Schlotsky's)

As my last entry suggested, I've not been my usual bubbly, effervescent, carbonated self in the last few days. Despite feeling a little more productive at work, and having gotten some writing-for-pleasure done yesterday, I'm stuck in a bit of a personal holding pattern. A couple of social outlets closed themselves off, and I've been remiss -- it's guilt, probably -- in reestablishing contacts with some people who have been, and are, very important to me, but with whom I've fallen down on the job post-parenthood.

But enough about me. Aside from the general funk, another thing that's been limiting my blogging has been a lack of direction for the blog. I've written some good things here, but essentially it's been a self-hosted LiveJournal. LiveJournals are cool, but they're -- of course -- personal. LiveJournal writing doesn't lend itself to outward, community-independent writing, the sort of writing that friends and strangers want to tune into or benefit from.

My friend Lex gets it, with a personal blog that regularly has something to say. 'Course, he's been "getting it" for a number of years, as he's helping to shake up the News and Record with its coming foray into "open source journalism". He's an example of, "it's not the tech you know, it's how you use the tech."

My friend Woody has a blog on the MT installation I administer, and he's taken me by surprise with the thoughtfulness of his posts, including a community attention-grabber and a harrowing discovery. He gets it too.

And I write unfocused rambles about kids, music and video games. I ought to be doing more.

I have a chance to think about this on Saturday with a decent-sized group of fellow travelers, most far more professional about it than I am. Although I'll primarily be there for work-related reasons, I'll be keeping my ear perked for other ideas that may affect this blog. Maybe I'll come up with a direction.

February 4, 2005


I've been pretty burned out, and a little down. I'll be resuming writing again soon. (Posted at lunch.)

December 21, 2004

A Guide to Coping with the Release of Book Six

CNN reports that the sixth Harry Potter book will be released this summer. Given my wife is somewhat rabid in her affections for the books, I feel I need to be preparing for a number of eventualities:

  • Harry and Hermione become an Item in the sixth book: Squealing, strutting, and cheering expected for one week, minimum. Coping mechanism: Time for a vacation -- one week, minimum.
  • Ron and Hermione become an Item: Disaster, abject despondency, rage, flying books, angst-ridden deliberation over whether to buy book seven. Coping mechanism: Time for a vacation -- one week, minimum. Bring the kid.
  • Romantic subplots unresolved: Second-best case scenario. Coping mechanism: Continue expectation that there will be much downtime for playing computer games while feverish speculation on book seven continues on the other household computer.
  • Hermione dies: Worst case scenario. Coping mechanism: Witness protection program.
  • Rumor successfully propagated that Harry and Draco become an Item: Best case scenario. Coping mechanism: Bring popcorn, and grin evilly as wife breathlessly reports the latest reaction from message boards and shocked, shocked local media.

December 19, 2004

Know Your Barbecue

A great resource for North Carolina barbecue aficionados, including both Eastern and Lexington styles...

November 19, 2004

Really. Bad. Week.

First, after taking a day off from work last Friday to take the family up the mountain to visit my grandmother and great aunt, I have to leave work early Monday because I'm feeling icky. A few hours later I've got a 102.5 degree fever, then later I'm worshipping porcelain. I only really started feeling close to normal this morning.

Then this afternoon I get a call from my wife, who's had a minor moment of contact between her bumper and a minivan.

Then we decide -- well, I decide -- to drown our sorrows at the Best Restaurant Ever.

It was gone.

The Southpoint Big Bowl was gone, an apparent victim of the chain's sale back to its founders.

I get really sick. Then our car insurance premiums are likely to go up. Then my favoritest restaurant ever disappears, without even saying goodbye. It's been a rough week.

But I'll be okay.

I'm sure of it.

November 3, 2004

Post mortem

I knew Monday that on Wednesday morning I would be waking into a different world. Didn't know how different, just that it would be different. The continuation of polarization and deadlock, a revolution, or the public legitimization of a contested direction.

What I was hoping for did not happen. And now I wonder how I fit in to the strange new place in which I will awaken.

Good night.

October 31, 2004

Blogging Vacation

I'll be back.

September 2, 2004

Return to the Department of Nonstandard Beverages

I now have another atrociously failed soda to add to my Windowsill of Shame in my office. Memo to the Mountain Dew guys: "pitch black" is a movie title, not an product name that entices me to purchase black-grape-flavored citrus soda that tastes as though it contains actual pitch.

Well, more than once, anyway.

Lunchblogging from Schlotzsky's...

...where a row of newly old-school iMacs sits before me. That keeps me coming back here, even though Schlotzsky's seems determined to turn itself into a Panera clone, right down to the "artisan breads."

Meanwhile, I lust over the new iMac, hitting two major sins by being covetous as well...

August 29, 2004

A Most Disturbing Night

I've had nightmares, and I've had nightmares. Last night, I got very little sleep because I repeatedly dreamed that I was back in college, taking a physics class, not remembering to turn in homework assignments, hopelessly behind and lost, doomed to fail.

Oh, and the class was taught by Bob Saget.

I didn't think there was anything weird on last night's pizza...

July 25, 2004

Jon Stewart Speaks for Me

The gay marriage issue, as encapsulated by The Daily Show. Liberal POV and RealPlayer required, as is sense of humor.

July 14, 2004

Door Number One...I Guess...Maybe

The serology results came back negative for all tick-borne diseases. Which leaves a meningitis-like disease as the most likely culprit after all. Charming, if not completely definitive.

July 12, 2004

Turning the Corner, I Hope

Well, I think my fever broke last night, as demonstrated by two sets of bedsheets soaked with sweat. Nasty way to wake up in the middle of the night, and to do it twice...

Thanks for the good thoughts, everyone.

July 10, 2004

Door Number One or Two

Well, the doc says, thanks to the symptoms and my low white blood count, that it's either a viral meningitis thing or, more likely, ehrlichiosis. Tick borne. Lovely.


OK, this fever truly sucks. Time to go to the doctor.

July 9, 2004

Real Live Preacher

It's not easy being what I'll appallingly simplify as a "liberal Christian." Mainline denominations are struggling because, when confronted by the contradictions and mysteries of the faith, many church member either tune out entirely (choosing another faith or permanently sleeping in on Sundays) or decide that there are no contradictions or mysteries, going fundamentalistic.

I was reading Bible stories from a picture book to Will last night: one of those that condensed Adam and Eve into one paragraph (stopping before they bit the apple, which was the whole point of the myth). Noah's Ark got one paragraph too, but this one included a line about God creating the rainbow to "promise he wouldn't destroy the world again." At that point I quit; time to find another set of Bible stories that are more appropriate for a two-year old!

Appropriateness is in the eye of the beholder, of course. And, honetly, I'm still trying to figure out what appropriateness is in my spiritual life. I have some decidedly unorthodox beliefs, and yet I believe each word of the Apostles' Creed. It's a struggle.

All this is a roundabout way of getting to how much I appreciate Real Live Preacher, a blog that my friend Lex referred me to months ago. Whenever I go there, I'm always impressed by this "liberal" Texas preacher who writes dramatized Bible stories where Jesus says the s-word, talks about real (and difficult) acts of ministering to people, and expounds on the joys of vacuuming a house with a shop-vac -- "The vacuum cleaner is okay for a speck of lint, a little dust, and the crumbs from your Hors D'Oeuvres. If you have ever found an entire sandwich under your couch, you might want to consider a shop-vac."

He's a quite gifted, affecting writer who doesn't let the things he's unsure of interfere with the things he's sure of -- at least most of the time.

Why we love to sail toward something that can never be found is one of life's great mysteries. It's the way we are made, I believe, and I take comfort in that.


February 18, 2004

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.

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.

January 28, 2004

Slip Slidin' Away

The main roads are apparently clear enough that, once my subdivision's looking better, I'll be able to go into work. That's good -- I need to get back into the routine and stop losing vacation days. On the other hand, cabin fever will continue to reign for Shannon and Will. I feel guilty about leaving her without backup today, but I gotta pay the bills.

January 27, 2004

House Arrest

Obviously, it could have been a lot worse. But Shannon, Will and I haven't left the house in three days thanks to the latest round of ice and snow. Make that four days for Shannon -- I was at least able to go to an aikido seminar Saturday -- and five days for Will, who stayed home from day care on Friday thanks to his 793rd ear infection.

I didn't think it was possible for a two year-old to go stir crazy, but it happened. I haven't seen so many wild emotional swings since high school drama club. We're going to try to bundle him up and show him this skating rink of a neighborhood -- safely, I hope -- and hopefully entertain him.

And ourselves. We're kind of stir crazy ourselves, and I keep watching my saved vacation days bursting into flames....

January 25, 2004

A Hiatus in my Hiatus

I would like to apologize to my loyal readers -- both of you -- for allowing life to get in the way of blogging. I have shirked my responsibilities to you, and feel horrible crashing waves of guilt for it.

December 31, 2003

Happy New Year

With little over an hour to go, I'm ready to close the books on 2003. It ended with a remarkably fussy child hastening our exit from a restaurant, and a welcome gathering of friends.

May 2004 bring you peace and your true heart's desire.


So after my heartfelt post about retiring the catchphrase "drank the Kool-Aid" after hearing a chilling NPR story about the Jonestown Massacre, I forgot myself and mentioned that some friends of mine had "drunk the Kool-Aid" for the TV series Firefly. And another friend of mine instantly called me on it. I didn't even know he read my blog. Just goes to show how time lessens the impact of memory, and how what you write can follow you anywhere...

November 15, 2003

Yet Another Personality Test

When your blog's been lying fallow for a while, an easy jumpstart is the traditional link to a personality test -- in this case, a sample "enneagram."

free enneagram test

October 13, 2003

G--D--- Spam

Some spammer is after my comments section. Leaving unfriendly links as well. Caveat lector.

September 30, 2003

Not Very "Braveheart"

Tonight, after Will was put to bed, I drove to Chapel Hill with flyers in hand for Thursday night's Seven Nations show. (Expect an entry sometime soon about this commonplace but somewhat odd concept of "street teaming" for a band.) Seven Nations is, as regular readers know, a Scottish/Celtic-influenced rock band for which I drank the Kool-Aid a long time ago.

As I stepped out of Pepper's Pizza, I saw an oddly-shaped red blur out of the corner of my eye.

Swoosh! It was a college kid, legs and arms pumping furiously, tearing down the sidewalk as though his landlord was chasing him with a grenade launcher. And he was wearing a red and black belted plaid -- the ancestor of the Scottish kilt, as anachronistically worn by Mel Gibson in Braveheart. This not being the time for the annual Franklin Street Halloween revelry, he seemed a tad out of place. (And he didn't look capable of cleaving Englishmen in two, either -- he was built for running, not Gibson-esque heroism.)

As he vanished in the distance, a small group of his apparent friends followed casually, calling after him to come back. None of them were dressed like ancient Highland warriors. When they walked past, I handed one of them a Seven Nations flyer: "I, uh, think your friend might like this band."

September 27, 2003

Miscellaneous Notes

Hi, Alex!
Had my first Blog Surprise the other night -- a friend of mine I see at Seven Nations concerts found my blog. Gasp! Someone outside my close circle of friends reads my deepest, darkest secrets! So much for writing about my hidden scandals -- who would ever have thought that just anyone could find your personal journal on the global Internet!

Belated Review Coming
It's taken me forever to finish the damn book, but I'll be posting a (mixed) review of Al Franken's latest book soon. The words "pot," "kettle," and "black" are likely to be used in some fashion -- but the book has some very redeeming qualities as well.

The Ineffective Bachelor
My in-laws took my wife and son away from me this weekend (to that ants' paradise, Beaufort, NC) and left me all alone. I have not written the Great American Novel. I have not (yet) had any palliative effect on our messy home. I have not had hundreds of scantily clad dancing girls visiting.

Instead I've attended an aikido seminar (managing to get whacked in the head by a guy's elbow, which was attached to an arm roughly as thick as a telephone pole), played computer games, and generally moped about missing my son, who I am convinced will have forgotten his father by the time they return Sunday.

August 19, 2003

Brief Observation from Work

A foil-wrapped pair of Pop-Tarts from a box of six at the grocery store is labeled, "DO NOT MICROWAVE."

The Pop-Tarts in the vending machine downstairs include microwaving instructions.


August 9, 2003

My Recent Absence from Blogging

I've been busy and tired. It happens.

Big Bowl's Fortune Cookie Company Has Simply Quit Trying

Today's fortune cookie from Big Bowl, otherwise one of the best Asian restaurants in which I've eaten:

You like Chinese food.

You can't even make it interesting by adding the obligatory " bed."

July 1, 2003

Department of Misplaced Optimism

...but one thing for sure is we are at the dawning of a new spiritual age of awareness and that complacency is fast becoming a thing of the past. ...So if ever you feel you can't go on, rest assured that you are not alone and that fast changes are arriving.

Seal, in the liner notes to his 1994 self-titled album

June 28, 2003


Our weekend thus far: Shannon was caught in paralyzing traffic on the way home from work Friday. Will would not go to sleep without a fight. Fatigue meant the cancellation of "relationship time" we both needed. Shannon awoke this morning rather sick. I had to miss the morning aikido class (for the fifth straight time!) to watch over Will at the doctor's. We left straight from there for her parents' lake house, whereupon we discovered that she was allergic to the prescribed medicine. We waited hours for a replacement prescription to be filled; in the meantime she took Benadryl to stave off the allergy symptoms, leaving her a drowsy ghost much of the day. On my way back from getting her new prescription, I came a little too close to the edge of the road, and my right rear-view mirror clipped a mailbox way too close to the edge of the road. When we finally left the lake house, my car key snapped. And when we finally got home, a message was waiting for us reminding us of a project for a best friend who's moving that we've missed a deadline on.

(pant pant pant)

Whoever gave us this weekend, we'd like to return it. It's not even Sunday yet, and I'm terrified of what that might bring.

June 24, 2003

I'm a Sucker

Shannon spent two successive nights up until 3:00 AM and finished the book on Sunday.

Last night I stayed up until 3:00 AM -- yes, reading Harry Potter as well.

Rowling has a damnable tendency to use chapter resolutions as jumping-off-points. After 2:00 I was desperate to find a stopping place, but no, she had to keep doing interesting s-word.

Speaking of interesting s-word, the Reduced Shakespeare Company did a hysterical two-minute abridgement of all the Great Books of Human Literature on last week's Weekend Edition Sunday on NPR. (There's no direct link; just scroll down the page.)

June 21, 2003

She's STILL Reading

It's 2 AM, and "just five chapters" of Harry Potter: The New Crack have become seven chapters and counting.

I made a suggestive...well, suggestion...and she said, "Trust me, you'd really rather I be thinking of you if we did that, wouldn't you?"

Thus put in my place, I'm going to sleep.

Big Plastic Glasses, Continued

She actually let me read the first chapter before she started.

Holy cow, does it start with a bang.

June 20, 2003

Big plastic glasses

Just got back from Barnes and Noble, where I picked up Shannon's ticket number so she'll be relatively early in line for her copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Which she's getting tonight. At midnight. In costume. Carrying a stuffed owl.

You may insert your own punch line.

I never saw so many kids of all ages and races wandering around with oversized black plastic "Harry" glasses (they were being handed out at the door). There was a sizable number of adults in pointy hats and scarves as well, and one cuuuute one year-old Asian girl in her mommy's arms, with a lightning bolt drawn on her forehead.

And then there was this really sleek twenty-something in a tank top with a Gryffyndor scarf around her neck -- oh, HI, Shannon! Um, put the paperweight down...



May 26, 2003


About to leave to take pictures at a school as the buses roll in. At 7:00. Oy.

May 12, 2003

Department of Nonstandard Beverages

This should
not be.

Pepsi Blue was, and is, an absolute debacle. There can be no excuse for a beverage which resembles windshield washer fluid actually tasting like windshield washer fluid, unless it is windshield washer fluid. I have not discounted the possibility. I keep an almost-full bottle of the stuff on my office windowsill as a personal object lesson. PepsiCo should have realized that the reason Mountain Dew Code Red worked is that (a) it kept the caffeinated geek target demographic nicely hydrated and (b) it did not taste like a--.

Having actually tasted the vile Pepsi Blue, I now have an irrational compulsion to try every other Weird Variant Carbonated Beverage to see if it can get any worse. I can report that 7-Up's new "Remix" with citrus flavors merely tastes odd and sugary, like transparent cotton candy. Mountain Dew's new orange "Live Wire" soda tastes like -- orange soda -- with maybe a hint of Mountain Dewishness in the background.

I'm a meat and potatoes guy. I like my lawns grassy, clean and devoid of pampas grass. I like my clothes simple and my entertainment as David Lynch-free as possible. I really ought to work on that, and develop more sophisticated tastes.

But is it too much to ask for a 7-Up to taste like, well, 7-Up?

April 15, 2003

There ought to be a word...

...for that odd sensation when you've misplaced a drink, and can't objectively remember whether you actually might have finished it, but you just have this unfinished feeling that comes to sweet resolution when you find the glass, two-thirds empty, just as you (now) remembered it.

April 7, 2003

My Last Word on Doherty

An April 6 Associated Press story by David Droschak included two very interesting statements by sports information director Steve Kirschner:

  • Kirschner said that Dick Baddour would give Doherty a recommendation for another coaching position. Droschak wrote, "'Mr. Baddour would say positive things about Matt,' Kirschner said. 'But that doesn't change the fact that a change was needed here. Mr. Baddour believes Matt will coach again and be successful.'"

If Matt Doherty's behavior was so abusive as has been rumored, how could Baddour be so irresponsible as to set him upon another unsuspecting school?

If Matt Doherty's leadership and character were as lacking as Baddour, and especially Chancellor Moeser, claimed during the April 1 press conference, how could Baddour believe that Doherty has a hope of success?

  • Kirschner called Matt Doherty's retention of his own staff rather than Guthridge's "a barrier" which "disappointed" former and current players.

This acknowledgement, along with statements since made by Doherty and other sources connected to the basketball program, suggests that Doherty's greatest sin wasn't his temper or his admitted errors in judgment (which Baddour admitted at the press conference Doherty had "some success" in overcoming). Instead, it's likely that Doherty didn't sufficiently massage his relationships with the UNC power brokers, leaving him vulnerable when player relationship issues developed.

This itself is a legitimate problem for an athletic director to address. But so serious that it required a forced resignation? Under the cover of a press conference that bordered on character assassination?

It certainly seems that the "culture of athletics" which Faculty Council chairperson Sue Estroff claimed Baddour is defending (DTH, April 3) has changed dramatically since I was a student. If Estroff thinks this culture's worth defending, then clearly there's more housecleaning in order at UNC.

April 4, 2003

Department of Inappropriate Analogies

From the Chicago Sun-Times's Greg Couch, in defense of Matt Doherty:

Former DePaul coach Pat Kennedy, now at Montana, is in line to become head of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, which met Thursday in New Orleans before the Final Four.

''This one incident has really hit a nerve,'' he said. ''A guy or a group that's not playing a lot is going to have a lot to bitch about. Coaches have to yell at players, but if our administration is not on the same page we are, then we've got a lot of problems.

''Bobby Knight used to put a kid in the defensive stance and tell him to slide sideline to sideline. Let's say it took 10.5 seconds. Then, he would have the kid get in the same stance, and you'd think he would do it slower now because he's tired, right? Well, Bobby would stand right behind him and yell in the kid's ear, and he would take off like a bat out of hell.''

Here's some advice, Pat: Don't use Knight to further your point. Apparently, though, coaches now will be afraid to yell.

Can't say that having Kennedy in your corner is a ringing endorsement, either.

I think Greg Couch is putting too much on the players, though. If a Roy Williams or Larry Brown comes in -- a coach with clout, a better hire than Baddour deserves -- then there's no question that that coach, and not the players, will be in charge.

Players are always going to want more say-so. Any true competitor, whether in athletics or in the workplace, wants more autonomy and influence. It's a coach's -- and further up, an AD or chancellor's -- responsibility to draw the line.

I don't think the problem is with the players. The problem is with how the situation was managed by a certain athletic director.

April 2, 2003

I Just Don't Know

Ned Barnett's column in the Raleigh News and Observer (link will be dead about a week after I post this):

It could be that in expelling Doherty -- a favored player who couldn't fit as a coach -- Carolina basketball is returning to its historical path.

Or this may be just the first turn of many for a program that no longer knows its way.

I have no clue. It just hurts to see my alma mater in such disarray. And I have no idea whether Coach Doherty's situation could have been straightened out. Some commentators have said that the fact that Doherty is gone proves that there were unsolvable problems. Maybe, but how do you apportion the blame? What's Baddour's share? Doherty's? The players'? The media's? The boosters'? Is Doherty's departure the bed he made for himself, or is he a sacrificial lamb?

We won't know the answers to these questions for some time. And as much as I hoped Baddour or Moeser would slip during the press conference and reveal the smoking gun that would clarify exactly what was happening, they didn't. (Which was probably a good thing for Doherty, the players, and the University, when you get right down to it. Employee and student privacy laws likely mean that the University would have been in serious trouble if they answered all of the reporters' -- and my -- questions.)

It's the not-knowing that hurts. Not that I have a right to know, of course.

When I got home from work yesterday, as I expected, Shannon had taken down the UNC flag hanging at our door. I don't blame her.

This morning, she was talking about Will going to Appalachian State instead of Carolina.

OK, now that's scary.

April 1, 2003

Sick to my stomach -- REPORT: Doherty Out as Head Coach

If true -- and at the time I write this, nothing's been officially confirmed -- then either (1) Matt Doherty is the second coming of Bobby Knight or (2) Dick Baddour's travesty of an athletic directorship has needlessly cost UNC a coach who, while imperfect, was heading in the right direction.

Either prospect has me wanting to take my old UNC Marching Tar Heels jacket out of the closet and ship it back. My love affair with college athletics had cooled a bit since my days of playing in the band and being immersed in the culture. This news has just about killed it, at least as far as basketball's concerned.

March 11, 2003

Grammar Grudge

I can't stand it when people write "per say." Hate, hate, hate it. Makes me want to claw my eyes out.

March 3, 2003

Simply gorgeous

Amazingly beautiful microscopic pictures of snowflakes. Here's a small teaser -- it's the close-ups that are mesmerizingly beautiful. Take a bunch of these, string them together as a screen saver, and you'd have a bloody nifty meditation tool. Nature is wonderfully made.

February 16, 2003

Sorry for the lack of entries

Sick babies and long hours at work tend to disrupt blogging.

January 24, 2003

With no trace of irony

There is something indescribably cute about a Catholic church-sponsored spaghetti dinner fundraiser during which, at the end of the gym where the kiddie's dance floor is set up, a group of fifth-graders are dressed as the Village People and leading the other kids in "YMCA." In total innocence.

January 19, 2003

It's here! It's here!

Big Bowl at The Streets at Southpoint in Durham finally opened, after taunting us for months with boarded-up windows cheerfully promising that it was coming. Shannon and I ate there with her sister last night. Oh, blessed stir-fry bar and potstickers. Oh, blessed chocolate fudge brownie and ice cream as large as your head. It was just as good as we remembered from eating there with Jay, Jewel and Paul in Reston, VA.

You. Must. Eat. Here. Soon.

December 31, 2002


A beautiful, witty, intelligent, adorable wife. A son who delights me. Parents, a brother, and an extended family -- laws and in-laws -- who make me stronger. Friends who challenge me, confide in me, advise me, tease me, and keep me moving forward -- including two in particular who have changed my life as only family can.

I don't often talk about my faith, because I have so many questions about it and am shy of offending my friends of different (or no) faiths. But I am so deeply grateful to God for allowing me -- somehow -- to muddle through one of the more awkward adolescences and young adulthoods ever, to be surrounded by these wonderful people.

My prayer for 2003 is that they all be protected, nurtured and strengthened, and that the New Year brings them opportunity, love and peace.

December 13, 2002

Because sometimes you need them...

look! cute little kittens! blogjam random kitten generator

December 10, 2002

And now I'm back!

Immediately following the restoration of the furnace ...

... less than 18 hours later ...

... the Ice Storm of the Century took out our power, along with nine tenths of Durham.

We slept in our own bed once in the last 13 days. But our long national nightmare is over.


(knock wood)

December 4, 2002

Sorry I've been away

Sick baby.

Thanksgiving holiday.

Furnace spewing carbon monoxide.

Refugee status. (Thank God for our neighbors John and Lorie.)

It's been a trying few weeks!

November 6, 2002

Washington? Um, OK...

Vastly overstated.

October 16, 2002


Obviously, parenthood means a lack of sleep. It's a simple equation, no ambiguity.

The Guilty Party

But when your own son, not yet one year old, enlists allies in ensuring a sleepless night, and what's more arranges for that ally to do his dirty work for him while he sleeps through the night -- then you realize that you are already -- not during his teenage years but already -- behind the eight ball.

Sebastian, an extraordinarily affectionate Tonkinese cat, did his master's bidding and claimed my ankles as the optimum place to sleep on a chilly night. And woke me at midnight, and 1:00, and 2:00....

October 11, 2002

"Superman" and schools

Three years ago, I started working as a communications administrator for a large school system. Early on, I wrote this essay in an effort to articulate why education matters so much to me.

(This'll probably be the last time I write much about education here -- I don't want my opinions confused with my employer's, and a communications staffer is always on the clock.)

Continue reading ""Superman" and schools" »

September 20, 2002

The Ants of Beaufort

A few of weeks ago, Shannon, Will and I drove down to the coastal town of Beaufort, NC to spend the weekend with my in-laws. We had a good time, although the Weather Gods decided that it was time for a weekend-long monsoon to slightly alleviate the months-long drought North Carolina's facing.

Early on, Shannon's parents complained bitterly about ants. There did seem to be a few crawling around the house. I got a little more concerned when they showed me a political cartoon in their local newspaper featuring swarms of ants and a pelican thinking, "We must be living on a giant anthill."

You're so right, Mr. Pelican.

We got there Friday night. On Saturday, after a night of torrential rain, the Ants of Beaufort abandoned their flooded homes for the interior of our car. All of them.

We engaged in chemical warfare with the beasties, which at least cut down on the number of ants crawling across our seats. But during the four-hour drive back I was constantly sweeping ants -- real and hallucinated -- off of me.

A couple of days later, after the ants had subsided, I took the car to the shop to have its heater core looked at, which requires a mechanic to get under the dashboard.

The next day, my office phone rang. "Mr. Sudderth? There's a problem." The counter guy patiently explained to me that they hadn't been able to isolate the source of the trouble, and would be very pleased to continue working on the car once I deal with the thriving ant colony in the mechanic's way.

The ants hadn't gone away, they'd just gotten comfortable -- under the dash, under the floor mat. The mechanic, who even now must be receiving therapy after an incident out of Stephen King, took off a panel and was engulfed.

It's now a few weeks later and I haven't seen an ant in the car in days. But I'm still afraid to take the car back in. I've done the poor guy enough damage.