Hell yeah.

c and me

So there's this kid in our neighborhood. Let's call him C.

Here's what I've pieced together about C, both from talking to him and to our next-door neighbors, who know him pretty well:

--C is 12, and lives with his grandmother, because his mom is dead and his dad is "absent".

--His grandmother's ability to get around is extremely limited; as far as I can tell she doesn't have a car, either because she can't afford one or is not physically capable of driving or possibly both. (I've not actually seen her myself yet). Their church pretty much takes care of them.

--C doesn't relate very well to kids his own age. (Of course, at 12, who does?) He doesn't really seem to have any friends, though he is in Boy Scouts.

--In spite of all this, C is very friendly and polite. He's above average in his ability to initiate and carry out conversations with adults. He often will join us when we are walking Ollie (his house fronts on the park).

A couple of days ago, C was hanging out on our block as I was taking Ollie out. I said hello, and asked him what was up.

"I'm looking for someone to take me to get dinner."

"Oh," I said. Couldn't think of anything else.

He produced a handful of bills and a sheet of coupons for Church's. While the neighborhood right around our house and to the west is quite nice, the neighborhood along the main road to the east and north is not so good. Church's is about a mile up this road.

"I just don't want to get jacked for my chicken."

Well, I couldn't blame him for that. I'm not exactly small, but I wouldn't want to walk along that stretch by myself if I didn't have to. C is 12, and still on the happy side of puberty.

Needless to say, I ended up driving C up the road for some chicken.

This story isn't complete without mentioning that C is black and I am not. In a perfect world, this would be irrelevant to the story, but the fact is, when I drove up to the chicken joint with this kid, it was pretty obvious that he wasn't my son, brother, nephew, etc.

I drew some pretty hard stares, is what I'm saying. And I couldn't blame those guys, either. For minute, I thought one guy was going to come say something to me--I smiled directly at him and waved, and I guess that managed to convince him I wasn't up to anything creepy. Maybe.

It's terrifying how trusting children can be. I mean, I know that I'm a good person, but he doesn't. How could he?


the ghosts of the future

"You have to know, not fear, that some day you are going to die. Until you know that and embrace that, you are useless."

--Tyler Durden, in Chuck Palahnuik's Fight Club

The ghosts of the future are far more haunting than the ghosts of the past.

I'm realizing this these days. Regrets can be distracting, but fear can be utterly paralyzing. And at least we have a chance to learn from our regrets. To put them into perspective. Regrets may help you to do the right thing--next time. Fear keeps you from doing anything at all.

Nothing wastes your life like fear.

I fancy myself as someone who has taken some risks in his life. Maybe more than most. I haven't always done the safe or sensible thing. And more often than not, it's paid off. Still, I sometimes catch myself shrinking away from doing something I should do because I let myself get scared of how it might turn out.

Why? What is there to be scared of, really? No matter what decisions we make in life, the ultimate outcome is the same for everyone. I realize some--maybe even most--people would see this as a pretty bleak view of existence best suited to moody chain-smoking Frenchmen swilling absinthe. Maybe. But personally, I find great freedom in knowing that no matter what I do, I'm still going to die, eventually. And then it won't matter, anyway. It frees me up to screw up every now and then.

It's what we manage to get done in the meantime that counts, anyway. And if fear keeps you from doing anything, than life won't count for much at all.



The move seems to have gone off without any major hitches.

There have been about a million minor hitches, but seem to have weathered them all, so far. They include:

--A blown out tire on the rental truck...100 miles east of Tucson, which means about 100 miles from anyone that can help you...

--Hearing from my realtor while in Louisiana (of all places) that the piece of paper I thought would sign us up for flood insurrance did not, in fact, sign us up for flood insurrance.

--Having the our power cut off the day after closing because the people that were supposed to change the listing over to us did not do so. Which resulted in...

--Having to reschedule the cable hookup (which was originally scheduled during our blackout period which lasted most of yesterday).

--The cable guy noticing a gas leak (!) while working in the basement. (Thankfully, it was outside and promptly contained by the gas company.)

I think that's it. So far.

New job is cool, but overwhelming. I'm still getting used to the idea of actually commuting.

M is painting. A lot.

And I should probably go back to helping her...


the long summer is nearly over

On July 10, 1999, I set out from my hometown with a U-Haul and vague notion to become a scientist. I ended up in the Arizona desert. (Where else, right?)

On September 11, 2006, I will repeat this journey in reverse. I will be heading to parents' house on my way to a new job, a little beyond.

Seven years, two months, and a day.

What is different:

--I am now married to my favorite person in the world. Getting there was rough--in the intervening years, I had a string of relationships ranging from good to bad to downright destructive. The older I get, the more I realize how utterly ordinary this is--and probably necessary, too. On this front, I could not be happier than I am now.

--We have a dog. The significance of his presence in our lives became apparent to me when I realized the feature of the house that we decided to buy that cinched it for me was a dog door. I'm not kidding.

--I have a PhD. This is much less significant to me than I thought it would be seven years ago.

--I have more muscle mass, and less hair. I'm visibly older, but I also take much better care of myself. I feel better. I sleep better. I can run a 45-minute 10K on a good day. I've largely lost my taste for starch and sugar and cultivated one for vegetables and lean meat. I'm very much a work in progress on this front, and I always will be, but I can't complain about the directionality of changes.

--I've been to Europe 4 times. Canada 3. Mexico more times than I can remember. Seven years ago, I had been to Toronto for a day once.

--I've read at least 100 books since then, probably more. I might try to count them up as I unpack them on the other side. I actually have a pretty good memory for placing what I read at the point in my life that I read it.

--Strangely enough, my short-term memory isn't what it used to be. My wife points this out to me all the time. When I don't write out a shopping list, I usually regret it. I am especially bad at remembering appointments and other scheduled events. I don't think I've always been this way. But maybe I just don't remember that either.

Anyway, all of this is to say that things are changing, and fast. I do not expect to have much of an online presence until the end of the month. Until then,



are you tired of hearing about me moving yet?

I am.

But I've got bugger all else to write about, frankly.

When asking my father for advice about finding a lender, the first thing he said to me was something to the effect of, "Well, what you need to realize is that no matter who you pick, at some point they're going to piss you off."

So. True.

So basically mortgage brokers exist to request that documents be faxed to them. As far as I can tell. And never all at once. This signature here, don't forget about this, by the way what's you're checking account balance right now? How about now? How about now?

As though I've got nothing else to pay for in the next 10 days before closing, besides a U-Haul, motel rooms, and a hell of a lot of gas. As though I don't work during the day just like they do. As though I have unfettered access to a fax machine at any hour of the day. As though I don't get paid every two weeks like everybody else.

Seriously--these guys know more about my finances than I do. How is it that a $200 difference here or there two weeks out affects their decision to lend me...well, a lot more than $200???



tip for bloggers

If you want to find out how to get people to check your blog every day, check out my man Rob.


crocodile hunter, r.i.p.

Wow. So Steve Irwin is dead. That sucks. At least he got to go while doing what he loved. We should all be so lucky.


i need help

It's 2:30 on a Friday afternoon.

I'm waiting for a PDF to build for a paper I'm submitting revisions on, a piece of work that I've been plucking away at for nearly 2 years and I am so close to getting it published I can taste the ink. I can't wait to hit "submit" and be done with it.

I need to finish a poster and get it to the printer before I leave today.

In 2 hours, I am going to my own going-away party, after 7+ years in the same research group.

This time next Friday, I'll be cleaning out my desk.

The day after that, I will finish cleaning out my house.

Two days after that, me, my wife, and our dog will be off on a 2300-mile trek to a new job, a new house, a new life. I have about 800 things to do between now and then.

And all I can really think about is the fact that Georgia Tech kicks off against Notre Dame in 26 hours and 28 minutes.

so bad it's good

Saw a little movie called Snakes on a Plane last night. Perhaps you've heard of it. It's what the kids are into these days.

Snakes on a Plane is a brilliant allegory for contemporary America. Samuel L. Jackson's steely-eyed and determined character does what needs to be done. He speaks plainly, and without flourish. He approaches the menace of the snakes (on a plane) with a moral certitude and clarity of purpose that can remind us of no one but our own President, piloting the 747 of state to safety. The terrorist snakes are relentless in their violence. They cannot be appeased. They hate our freedom, damn it!

Just kidding. SOAP, however, is extremely awesome. It is a prime example of how anything worth doing is worth doing fully, completely, and without apology. In this case, making an over-the-top campy B horror flick. The cliched characters and situations are set up and knocked down like pins in a bowling alley, one right after the other. Very satisfying. The dialog is awful. The violence is cartoonish. The few attempts at character development are so awkward that it simply has to be intentional. Samuel L. Jackson actually yells, "I am tired of these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!"

Seriously--it's hillarious. I haven't had this much fun at the movies in a really, really long time. Probably not since the South Park movie came out. My only regret is that we saw an uncrowded matinee--we should have gotten tanked and seen it on opening night, in a theater full of people yelling at the screen. That would have been perfect.

On a related note, there's a great post and discussion over at Hairshirt today on the appreciation of truly shitty movies.