Saturday, March 31, 2007

Women's Voices

As much as I love the web, there have always been aspects of this new world I abhor. It would have been overly idealistic to imagine a virtual human community without its ugly side. After all, we are still all humans, the only species that kills gratuitously, has "anger" issues, purposely hurts each other's feelings, and can't restrain our collective impulse to poison our common environment for purposes of strictly private greed.

Thus, I suppose it was inevitable that we would face something like the Kathy Sierra case. One of the San Francisco Chronicle's most gifted writers, Dan Fost, has been documenting this depressing story. His most recent piece sets the context.

It all boils down the vitriolic reaction from the male-dominated world of software engineers to the emergence of a woman's voice, one at least as passionate as her male colleagues, about the issues of how software is affecting real people in real time.

Strike that. Kathy is both more passionate and much more humanistic about subject this than any male writer I've come across.

So, what has she gotten in response to her passion? A poisonous stream of denunciations from anonymous males, outraged by her outspoken, articulate intervention in a play world they've considered their own domain.

This case has an affect beyond those immediately involved. That became clear to me this morning when I read the article by Joan Walsh, the editor of Salon.

Joan's usual incisive analysis carries the piece along until she inserts a jarring statement: "I've never admitted the toll our letters can sometimes take on women writers at Salon, myself included, because admitting it would be giving misogynist losers -- and these are the posters I'm talking about -- power."

I admit that this admission by Joan caught me by surprise. I've known her for years, read many of her articles, and was a colleague for two difficult years at Salon, before I resigned and moved on to ever greater difficulties.

I've always admired Joan as a strong woman writer. She calls herself "mouthy," but I would translate that as "fearless."

The point of this post is that we need voices like those of Kathy Sierra and Joan Walsh if the web is to ever reach its potential.

As for the "men" opposing them, let me issue this challenge: Come out from behind your shield of secrecy and reveal your identities. If you can't do this, and repeat your violent, hateful, sexist language under your real name, you are less than men.

You are what you consider a lesser type of being, i.e., pussies, aka, women. Isn't it interesting that the real women speak openly under their real names? Maybe this is what frightens these quasi-men the most, for they can only issue their loathsome threats from the dark caves of secrecy.

They remind me of the cowardly Osama bin-Laden, who gets sick every time he actually has to engage in a real battle, as opposed to issuing false fatwas and taking credit for the acts of others. (Thanks for this information, Lawrence Wright.)

To Kathy and Joan and all the other women speaking out on the web, I say, "Keep on!" There are many more of us who support you than the other type. They exist in the shadows. We exist in the open.

That's the difference. Never trust anyone who is afraid to tell you his real name, and never take his threats seriously, because he is a coward by nature. On the other hand, we live in a vicious era where the cowards (including the aforementioned bin-Laden, feel empowered.)

The web, and the real world, will eventually eliminate these scum. Meanwhile, no one can silence the rest of us.

p.s. I'm quite sure my grandson, James, agrees with me on this subject.


Friday, March 30, 2007

In Synch

(Note: this post will turn into a reflection on romance and sex after an important digression.)

I'm watching baseball on TV. It's exhibition baseball (A's vs. Giants) but the real thing will be here in a few days. With the arrival of my favorite sport season, life acquires a different rhythm, one familiar since my childhood long ago in the Midwest.

The seasons cycle by as they always have. Time either feels fast or slow, depending where you are, personally, in your own life cycle. My boyhood team, the Detroit Tigers, never won a pennant. In fact, in my lifetime, they've gone to the World Series only three times.

The first time I was 21, the next time I was 37. Those two times they won it all. The most recent time was last year. I was in New York with Julia as the Tigers eliminated their hated rivals, the New York Yankees, and preceded to the World Series, where they folded and lost in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

A couple blocks from my home is the site of the old baseball park (which is now Franklyn Square, where Aidan plays soccer every Saturday morning) for the minor league San Francisco Seals, the only team this city had until 1958, when the Giants shocked New York by moving here, as their hated rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, simultaneously relocated to L.A.

As my older kids became old enough to learn the game, by the late '80s, I transferred my baseball loyalty to their home team -- the San Francisco Giants. They've since gotten to the World Series twice, in 1989 and in 2002, but lost the championship both times.

None of the "experts" I've read predict the Giants can make it back there this year. Everybody says the Dodgers or the other National League team in California, the San Diego Padres, will win what is known as the N.L. West Division.

I'm using my badge as an official MLB blogger tonight to make a prediction: This is the Giants' year. I'm not being sentimental or hopeful. I'm using baseball logic. The Giants have a deadly (for their opponents) combination, youthful pitchers and experienced hitters, veteran pitchers and young hitters.

Their team is a model of balance -- lefties, righties, speed and power, good fielders and pinch hitters. They have several weapons no one else in their division can equal: a healthy Barry Bonds, who will probably hit 35 homeruns; two great pitchers, Barry Zito and Matt Cain, who should each win 15+ games; and a bunch of players I expect to make impressive comebacks late in their careers -- Matt Morris, Russ Ortiz, Ryan Klesko, Rich Aurelia; as well as a few stars likely to duplicate their recent successes -- Omar Vizquel, Dave Roberts, Pedro Feliz, Noah Lowry.

They've got two good catchers and a raft of young, talented relievers. And then they have the controversial veteran closer, Armando Benitez, who is highly motivated to turn last year's boos into this year's cheers.

They have a new coach, one of the best I've seen over the years, Bruce Bochy, formerly of Sad Diego.

Yep, I think this is the Giants' year. I'll probably show this blog to Larry Baer, in the Giants' front office. My sense is the Giants will win 95 and lose 67 and win the division by 3-5 games.

After that, it will be the veterans against the rest of the division-winning teams and the wild card entry. I like the Giants' chances there, too.


The couple in the photo at the top of this post swam along the coast of the bay where my office is yesterday. I watched them for a while. They were inseparable, let's call them by that quaint term, man and wife. It's taken me most of a lifetime to begin to understand relationships from a woman's point of view.

There's no doubt in my mind, now, that sexual attraction and coquettishness fool men. When men find a woman attractive, she is going to receive plenty of attention. And, if you think male attention is a nice thing (and many women do), luckily men's tastes run the gamut when it comes to women. Every size and shape and color has her devotees.

Men are hard wired for sex. Our excitement also is so visible: You can tell when a man is turned on. You also, as a woman, live your life through men's eyes. Our eyes are everywhere you go; it seems like you can never escape.

I remember being with a colleague (not a girlfriend) in Hawaii on business one time. She was an attractive young woman and when most of our work was done, we decided to see some of the sights on Oahu, which led us to visit a beach on the North Shore.

As she stripped off her shirt to reveal her bikini top, somebody nearby whistled. "Oh, please," she griped, angry at his attention.

We sat there on that beach and watched the surfers far offshore as the sun went down. It was mesmerizing. As the temperature dipped, she put her shirt back on, and we headed back to our hotel.

I've never forgotten her reaction on that beach to the unwanted compliment from an unknown man. And I've never known what to make of it.

When I was young, I now realize, I was a fairly attractive male, with a slim but athletic body that tanned easily, black hair, blue eyes, and an easy smile. I see myself now in my oldest son, now the age I was in 1972, when we were publishing the only three issues of SunDance Magazine on Fillmore Street.

One of my colleagues kidded me many years later that when I turned 25, I announced that I was a "quarter century old."

What an odd interpretation of time, I now see. Always obsessed with numbers and with the passing of time, always the older brother, colleague, the one breaking through barriers the others around me would soon be encountering.

A Baby Boomer at the front of our demographic curve. We're all bossy.


How can you tell, as you age, that you have met somebody that you can be with? Chemistry is still a factor, of course. Unless you both don't want to have sex anymore (it happens), your physical connection ought to be special. But I would wager that something else becomes even more important, and that is your conversation.

Who can you talk to? How can you find yourself so deeply into conversation with another that new ideas, new feelings are emerging? Maybe that is a rough description of intellectual love. If that happens, you may have met a soul mate. When you can add in the physical, even if it is not explosive at first, and the emotional, which is the trickiest of all connections, you have found love.

At least that's what I say.

Once you've found it, beware of casting it away. As the years pass, opportunities for these kinds of connections fade, for obvious reasons. We all, men and women, finally reach the stage where nobody notices us as we pass. No one turns around, no one whistles, no one even wants to see you take off your shirt, wherever you may be.

Yet we still need love, we still need connection. How do we find each other now?

I do not have any answers to that question. The answers are blowing in the wind, yet here, tonight, there is no wind. It is still, hot and expectant in this city. Questions hang in the air above us, but answers elude all but the angels.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Who Cares?

First, a confession. Ever since I learned a year ago last January in the parking lot on Pass Road in Biloxi that everyone's feelings are constantly shifting, soaring up, diving down, I've been searching for ways to honestly reflect how I am feeling, without becoming narcissistic, or overly self-focused.

So, this week has been rough on one level. Probably I hit a phase where I was overly sensitive, a condition I often saw in my mother when I was a boy. But, in my various interactions with friends, I somehow found myself feeling excluded, rejected in that way that is probably familiar to all of us.

It isn't only in love or sex that we can feel pushed away, of course, although for men, carrying the cultural burden of making the first move, that's how it often comes down for us with women -- or, I suppose, if we are gay, with men. In my case, if I flirt with somebody and she flirts back, it's pretty likely that sooner or later I will find a way to make my move.

If she is unresponsive for too long, my interest will tend to wane, and I will stop trying. But, if I am trying and she shuts me down entirely -- that is a true bummer.

Nowhere near as bad as when I was a raw teenager, of course, where rejection felt like a total obliteration of my identity. But, even at my age, it is a delicate matter to try and get closer to someone, even if I don't know where I want it to lead, only to hit that nasty old wall of resistance.

For the most part, I am thinking historically here, still trying to work out for myself my own life story. Up until a certain age, nobody ever really rejected me. After that point, a number of potential partners have, ultimately, including everyone I became involved with after my first marriage fell apart.

They have all left me, one way or another, except for one who has not yet fully had her chance to determine what she wants in respect to me, and I suspect we'll find that out later this year, somehow.

But, tonight I am thinking only of those who have rejected me: various special women in various degrees of intimacy when the crucial decision got made. This week, for whatever reason, probably due to the strange winds and the odd feeling in our air (now passed), I started feeling hypersensitive about these subjects.

I doubt many would label me a paranoid person, though I recall one counselor called me a "lovable neurotic." I can accept that. But I wonder about the "lovable" part. Am I, really?

We're coming up on what for me is an auspicious anniversary in a few days -- the breakup that tore my heart to pieces, and which also initiated this blog. It will be a year next Tuesday and I need to perform a ritual or two that day to mark the moment.

Meanwhile, as I've indicated, this past week brought nuanced experiences and communications from various quarters that helped stimulate one of those ineffably painful mood dips and all of a sudden, I felt unlovable.

This brings us back to the matter of Google's green dots. Probably feeling sorry for myself, I entered "unlovable" as my label.

Who should notice but the one who broke my heart a year ago. She sent me the first message I have heard from her in ages: "Who told you...that you're unlovable. Punch 'em in the nose and tell them it's special delivery from me."

That's what she is like, fierce in defense of her friends. With those few words, she reminded me that being loved is knowing somebody keeps you in your mind. She acts like a very tough woman much of the time, and as the above message shows, she can easily adopt a rather macho tone.

But her fierceness in defending her friends and her clients is one of her most special qualities and something I will never forget about her.

Tonight, she sent me that gift.

Afterward, I went to a fundraiser for the kids’ school and, of all things, played basketball! This is remarkable because for moths I have felt barely capable of standing up, heaving my growing potbelly into a vertical position. I loathe the physical decline that is my daily reality.

Tonight, I must say, some sort of muscle memory must have taken over because I suddenly was grabbing rebounds and making half-court passes that resulted in a number of assists. I only had the stamina to play for a few minutes in the kids v. parents fundraiser game, but I did not embarrass myself.

Such little encouragements make such a big difference. I know J is long lost from me, that she is determined to make sure I have "moved on" before she will feel safe enough to explore whatever new relationship is possible once every last bit of the former intimacy has been extinguished.

Meanwhile, other voices reach out for me. There are ups and there are downs. We all have our problems. People are on the move. Maybe in a month or two I will have somebody near me who actually likes to be there! That would be a change. I've been mostly alone for a long time now, and sometimes prone to false hopes, reaching out inappropriately to some who are in no position to handle the likes of me, and my baggage.

I continue to live alone, with no woman by my side. I do not know whether this is how the rest of my life will unfold, or if I will retreat back into the familiar pattern of having a special one with me all the time -- the model that J and I followed. But I know for sure, the scars from that experience are written all over my face.

I'm protective in ways I never was before. I have a very high barrier to entry for anyone to really get to know my kids. J's letter still hangs above Julia's bed. Nobody can possibly be let that far into this family until I am sure, very sure, that she is ready to share our reality here, with all of its complications and mundane, even boring routines, in a way that improves the situation.

I guess what I am saying is that I am first and foremost a father, a single father, and as much as I yearn for love, sex, and female companionship, I will turn away from all of that if it in any way threatens my sacred duty as a parent, and now also as a grandparent.

I know I made a major error with J, letting her way too far in way too fast. The next one, if there is to be one, will have to enter the family slowly, organically, and naturally.

Once burned, lesson learned.

It won't happen again.


Escape from conspiracy

I simply can't stand those idyllic, sterile images on yesterday's post when I opened up this blog this morning. For one thing, they are already staring back at me right outside the window. Sure, it's pretty here, but I don't need pretty.

Guess I need gritty. Thus, it was with gusto that we got burritos at our favorite local haunt last night. My sons just love this place, all three of them. My littlest daughter is off burritos right now, so I cooked her own favorite -- pasta.

It's springtime, and the big investigation of our mysterious water leak is wrapping up, apparently like many criminal investigations, inconclusively.

We may never know.

This may prove harder on my neighbor, who is detail-oriented, combative, and lawyerly; than on me -- disorganized, distracted, and disinclined to waste precious energy on fights of any kind.

I'm focused on the fight for my life itself. That's enough.

Spring is also science project time. Many years ago, when we were writing our textbook, Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets the Story, my colleague Dan Noyes and I advanced the hypothesis-driven method of journalism that we and many others preferred.

It's a tricky business, this hypothesis methodology. You've got to have some basic evidence that indicates some sort of pattern plus a suspicion, an instinct, a guess about what you'll find if you keep searching.

Your worldview deeply affects the process. This is why the endless battles over whether "the media" has an ingrained liberal bias, or conservative bias is both ludicrous and vitally important.

A conspiracy theory is not a hypothesis, and it can't really be investigated, which has frustrated many who wish reporters would try to substantiate their theories. My generation was frozen at the moment JFK was assassinated. We were shocked as if by a cattle prod.

When we awoke and recovered our senses, we started smelling a conspiracy. How could something like this have happened without a conspiracy? As years passed, even though no credible evidence emerged to substantiate any of the wilder theories, enough provocative details became public to keep the conspiracy fires burning.

Oliver Stone exploited this skillfully, imagining how the conspiracy might have unfolded in his movie, which has shaped subsequent generations' views about the event. That he patched in real footage, including the home movie footage that is the only known visual evidence of the shooting, made his docudrama feel more realistic than it was.

If you ask people, say, in their 20s today about the assassination, they think it was seen on television as it happened. But that is incorrect: there was no footage at all, and we never saw a thing until a decade later, when the somewhat graphic home movie of Kennedy's head exploding was finally first exhibited for the public.

The trouble with sticking to the facts is similar, whether you are a journalist, a lawyer, a cop, or a scientist. All you can do is stay alert and adjust your hypothesis in light of new evidence. You can't afford to get wedded to any one hypothesis until and unless the preponderance of evidence becomes overwhelming.

In the aftermath of 9/11, I was hired as an investigator by some of the victim's families, who believed the U.S. government had been at least negligent and possibly complicit in that tragedy. I still have large files on the case, and I read most credible books on thee topic, which means currently, The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright.

Wright is an interesting guy; his memoir of growing up in Dallas contains his vivid description of the almost palpable shared sense in that city in 1963 that something was going to happen. A collective sense something dreadfully exciting about to happen hung in the air.

His first reaction to the murder of the President, he writes, was relief. At last, something did, in fact, happen.

The horror off it sank in later.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Magic Valley Meditation

The artistry of logic -- that's my new name for the work software engineers do. Although I've always been curious about this work, I assumed for the longest time that the brilliant collection of nerds, geeks, misfits and math geniuses were a species apart, quite different from the likes of you and me.

Okay, from you.

So why am I now in this valley where the grass is always green, trash is never seen, and the only thing marring the otherwise immaculate sidewalks is the large and unsightly poop left by Canadian Geese who proliferate here?

Being Canadians, they know a good thing when they see it. Thus, they no longer bother to migrate with the seasons like the CG I knew in my boyhood, long ago in Michigan. They just honk their distinctive honk, adding their signature "eh?" like an exclamation point as they pretend to migrate above us.

But I know their secret. These entrepreneurial CGs simply fly over to the Land of Oz, otherwise known as Oracle, with its round glass towers just north of here. When they've sated themselves on the abundant food there, they "migrate" over to Electronic Arts Drive (I'm not kidding -- that's the name of that street), where another feast awaits them.

Sure, there are others moving through this suburban landscape. Rabbits. Crows. Seagulls. Here and there a squirrel and maybe even a chipmunk. After dark, when they think nobody will see, the deer sneak down here.

The only other hunter in my company, my buddy Kyle, and I have fantasized about bringing our guns down here. Have you ever tasted a wild goose? Venison?

It makes my mouth water, even though I realize this reveals me as a willing killer of animals (for food), which seems to be a politically incorrect way to be around here.

But, hey, it's only a fantasy. I doubt we'll ever carry it out. Meanwhile, our healthier colleagues like Pat, Dave and Kelsey, run at noon or after work. Kelsey says one of the hazards on her runs are the CG's; they have become so unafraid of humans that they'll suddenly step out right in front of her on the paths where she runs.

Reminds me of my students at Stanford, who complained that their two main hazards while biking around The Farm were (1) squirrels darting in front of their bikes; and (2) slow-moving old professors (the only bikers wearing helmets), upright and oblivious that at their modest rate of speed they represented a true hazard to the youthful crowds crisscrossing their way here and there, this way and that way, weaving in and out, going quickly along the path only they could see -- the path to a future.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bigger Stories

As much as I continue to blog about politics, my thoughts mainly return to the personal. David Talbot once told me he thought my main competence as a journalist was the political, and he was probably right, based on my published writings.

But this blog has been much more personal than political, and even though I am well aware of the rhetoric we all used to conflate them in an activist era now gone by, I think each deserves its proper consideration in our post-modern, discontinuous, multi-tasking lives here, on Bill Clinton's "bridge to the 21st century."

God, what a fucking brilliant politician that man was!

You might be forgiven for thinking, based on my earlier post today, that I oppose Hillary Clinton's bid for the Presidency, but that is far from the truth. For many years, I have been impressed by her ability to handle questions on an ad-hoc basis. In fact, in this way, she and her wayward husband are eerily similarly gifted.

But I fear, for Hillary's sake, that there are too many negatives arrayed against her. If I am right about this, feminists should finally have some ammunition to claim first place as America's most victimized, since Barack Obama will thereby be the next President.

I am saying that the time is right, historically, for a majority of my fellow citizens to vote a black man into the highest office in the land.

If true, maybe, just maybe, President Obama will usher in a new era, where anybody, male or female, gay or straight, of any mixture of race, nationality, ethnicity, color, size, religion, or appearance can win the right to be our country's face to the rest of the world.

Personally, I don't care who wins these elections as long as they watch Al Gore's documentary and commit themselves to a leading role in forging the global consensus necessary to save this planet for our children and grandchildren.

I know I will not live to see it, but I hope someday this society just collectively forgets about our differences and accepts the scientific evidence that we are 99.9% identical, based on DNA, and gets on with the true task at hand -- saving our planet.

In that spirit, I hereby dedicate this entry to my blog to the two people in the photo at the top -- my wonderful son Peter and his first nephew James. If you look closely at their body language, you will see the loving spirit that can bind us all one to the other, here and forever.

I am an old man now, and I feel my age. But, if I had another life, I would love to have a man like Peter for my father, and I also would love to have a child like James as my own.


Overlooked Story

Photo by Megan Kung*

Hillary Clinton made one of those campaign stops this past weekend that was intended to not draw any more attention to her campaign than necessary.

But my KeepMedia colleague, Megan Kung, was there at the Fairmount Hotel atop San Francisco's Nob Hill, with her camera, to capture the event.

As first reported by New America Media, reporters from at least two of San Francisco's Chinese-language publications, Sing Tao and World Journal, were barred by Hillary's team from covering her Februray 23 fundraiser in the city because they were deemed to be members of the "foreign" press.

This, appropriately, set off a brouhaha in the Asian-American community, which in turn prompted Hillary's quiet follow-up visit this past weekend.

"From the minute, she walked in the room," Megan reports, "She was apologizing, saying things like: 'You are certainly are not the foreign press...' and so on."

Meanwhile, ironically, this time a non-Asian reporter who tried to cover the event was prevented from entering by Hillary's palace guard.

Perhaps the gatekeepers considered him, by their standards, too non-foreign?


* Please contact Megan for permission to republish this image at

Martes 27 de marzo de 2007
Historia pasada por alto

Foto de Megan Kung*

Hillary Clinton hecha uno de ésos hace campaña las paradas este último fin de semana que fue pensado para no dibujar más atención a su campaña que necesaria.

Pero mi colega de KeepMedia, Megan Kung, estaba allí en el hotel de Fairmount encima de la colina de Nob de San Francisco, con su cámara fotográfica, capturar el acontecimiento.

Según lo primero divulgado por los nuevos medios de América, los reporteros por lo menos de dos de las publicaciones de la Chino-lengua de San Francisco, cantan Tao y el diario del mundo, fue barrado por el equipo de Hillary de la cubierta su fundraiser de Februray 23 en la ciudad porque los juzgaban ser miembros de la presión “extranjera”.

Esto, fijó apropiadamente de un brouhaha en la comunidad Asiático-Americana, que alternadamente incitó la visita reservada de la carta recordativa de Hillary este último fin de semana.

“A partir del minuto, ella caminó en el cuarto,” Megan divulga, “ella se disculpaba, decir cosas como: “Eres no eres ciertamente Foreign Press…” y así sucesivamente. “

Mientras tanto, irónico, este vez al protector del palacio de Hillary previno a un reportero no-Asiático que intentó cubrir el acontecimiento de entrar.

¿Quizás los porteros lo consideraban, por sus estándares, demasiado no-extranjeros?


* Entrar en contacto con por favor a Megan para que el permiso republique esta imagen en

Fijado por David Weir en 9:50

图片由甘恭*希拉莉竞选者站了一个周末,这是过去没有打算 得出任何战役比她要多注意. 但我的同事keepmedia、甘宫,在场fairmount旧金山饭店顶楼的长柄山 她镜头捕捉的事件. 作为新美国媒体首次报导,至少有两名记者从旧金山的中文刊物, 星岛和世界JOURNAL, 被禁止的希拉里的书,她从二月二十三日筹款队在该市被认为是因为他们 位"洋"新闻. 对此,适度,掀起一股brouhaha在亚裔社区这反过来促使希拉里的宁静后续访问这个过去周末. "从一刻,她走过的痕迹,"甘报道,"她道歉,说什么: '你是不是一定不外电::'等等. " 与此同时,讽刺 此时一名非亚裔记者欲采访报道,不能到了希拉里的王宫卫队. 也许他认为把关,其标准过于非外商? -30-请洽甘允许这种形象在mkung@keepmedia.com转载.

Monday, March 26, 2007


There's restlessness to the air tonight. The weather here is unsettled. As usual, the beginning of my workweek was intense. If weeks had an emotional cycle, Mondays often are times of uncertainty. By the end of the week, Fridays, I usually feel highly energized, engaged by my work, hopeful about the future.

But Mondays are times when problems can seem suddenly overwhelming, when my chosen path in life -- to swim uphill -- just requires more energy that I can muster.

At such times, my mind tends to revert to some very old patterns, most of them vaguely mathematical. My childhood propensity, whenever I felt anxious, to start doubling numbers (i.e., 1, 2, 4 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16384, 32768, 65536 -- that's usually as far as I could go at age 8 without hesitating), has recently returned to haunt me as I drive alone along the highway, much to my chagrin.

I thought I'd eliminated this particular ghost over a decade ago.

Usually, something in my universe is not quite right; otherwise my mind doesn't race away into this mathematical wasteland -- this hopeless attempt to control the uncontrollable. Someone or something I love is on the move; the center of balance has suddenly shifted.

What's disconcerting is how I know these things without knowing anything about the particulars of what is destabilizing my universe. Sometimes, I find out a detail that helps justify these distractions; other times, the person or factor responsible chooses to remain silent, leaving me to no choice but these crazy calculations, which never end and lead to no conclusion.

My dear genius Chinese friend who is a Japanese Literature major, and her companion invited me to a ramen restaurant in San Mateo tonight (Santa); and somehow we revealed these inner calculation nightmares to each other. She gave mine a name (Doubling) and then discussed hers. She squares numbers to rectify her proclivity, even after eight years in this country, to translate miles back to kilometers, and Fahrenheit back to Celsius.

After thinking it through, maybe I'll adopt her particular mathematical obsession in place of my own. I think I like hers better; it's more practical. Luckily, she may move here this summer, and if so, I extracted a promise that she will teach me, at long last, the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, crashing against which ended all notions that I might be a successful math major four decades ago.

Ramen took me back to Koenji, where I rather wish I was right now. The weather here is so unsettling; the skies are alternating dark and light; an uneasy wind blows. I wish I knew why I am so uncomfortable in my own skin tonight.

My Grandma believed she was psychic, and most of the rest of us reckoned she was. I have secretly always believed I am too, though I hate it, and don't want to be. I hate premonitions, even as I note them, silently, when they come to me, and recall them later when they turn out to be correct.

Not always are they real.


Fantasy Baseball is here and I feel such a relief! Now, I have a hobby to devote the great excesses of one part of my brain to, since no one pays me for that stuff, nor values it at all. But my dearly beloved Michigan Mafia obtained slugger Jason Bay, a couple good starters and a couple good relievers in the draft. I need to do some calculations (YES!) but I think we may well be better than we were last year.


...You've built a love but that love falls apart.
Your little piece of heaven turns too dark.

Listen to your heart
when he's calling for you.
Listen to your heart
there's nothing else you can do.
I don't know where you're going
and I don't know why,
but listen to your heart
before you tell him goodbye.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Defending the nest

During a nice visit with an old friend today, she told me she can't imagine how I make my life work as a parent. Most of the time, I don't think about it; there really is rarely time to just sit still and think too much about anything.

Probably the most thoughtful moments in my day are those spent writing to this blog. Tonight, if I were to answer my friend's question truthfully, I would have to say that my life isn't working, as a parent. I try, but often things overwhelm me.

This weekend my quasi-teenager got ripped off by a scam-artist in the online game he and his friends love to play. He had been so excited for days as he described to his younger brother (a slightly more skeptcal sort) how his new collection of weapons and tools and "money" in the game, which he had labored for weeks to build, would allow him to play the game at an ever-higher level, and succeed in new ways.

In the past, his collection was essentially destroyed by a scammer, so in recent weeks, he has tried to be especially careful. But yesterday, at a friend's house, he got entrapped and stripped of all of his "wealth."

He kept a game face on while we were there, but once we left, I saw he was sobbing quietly in the car. I reminded him that we both know how dangerous playing this game can be, and that I was proud of him for keeping up his efforts to improve at it, even after his earlier disastrous episode.

Then, I took a breath and told him that because of several important errands he'd performed for me recently, I would front him the real money he needed to recover from yesterday's scam.

He brightened and was so grateful and soon was excitedly conspiring with his brother about he would rebuild his character's wealth so he could once again venture into the imaginary world and attempt to improve. By last night they had charged ~$26+ to my credit card and were thrilled that his account was more than back to full strength.

Tonight, when I brought him to my house for dinner, he told me about an offer someone had made to him this afternoon that he wanted to follow up on. "It will take ten minutes, max," he assured me. (This, because I had insisted there was to be no computer gaming this evening.)

As he used my computer to contact the guy who made the offer, I was preparing dinner, running the dishwasher, doing a load of laundry, and making the kids' lunches for tomorrow. Just a typical Sunday night.

The rest of us sat down to dinner but he stayed in my room, finishing up on the deal. Suddenly, we heard a shriek, followed by loud tears as my red-faced son came shuddering out of my room. He had been double-scammed: two people had trapped him and stolen all of his "money."

I erupted like a volcano. Most of the time, I can remain calm. But this was too much. We had gone up and down emotionally as a family so much over this scamming business. I raged around the house like a madman, screaming and swearing and denouncing the rip-off artists who had treated my sweet son in this despicable way. I'm sure the combined sounds of my rage, his wails, and the cries from his sister and brother, horrified at seeing both of us fall apart, shook anyone within hearing distance to his or her core.

I doubt my neighbor will meet my eyes for months, for example. She probably thinks I'm insane.

Once we had all calmed down, and gotten the rotten bile of disappointment out of our systems, we dried our tears and embraced and comforted one another.

We had a discussion about the kinds of values we as a family try to hold to, and how hard that is when others take advantage of us, steal from us, and smash our hopes.
We ended up agreeing that we'd all gotten something positive out of this disaster, though it would be hard to put a name on it. The kids went on with their evening rituals; hours later, I am awash with self-loathing.

How could I have neglected to pay closer attention when my sweet boy told me about this "deal" that would take only a few minutes? Why couldn't I control my rage when our collective worst fears came true, and he lost everything he had so carefully built up (the estimate of his loss in real money is ~$30+).

I hugged him repeatedly, he told me he loves me, and we agreed we will need to seriously reconsider whether this is game that he is even ready to play in the future. He's fine, I think, and quite sleepy now.

This will be one of the nights I do not sleep well.

Indeed, the correct answer to my friend's question about how I make my life work is I don't. I don't make it work. It goes okay for a while and then I break, and I fail. The exhaustion I feel tonight is that of a man who tried and failed. It is inexcuable to allow your kids to see you so out of control.

Yet, I have always possessed this fury, rarely unleashed except in this precise set of circumstances -- where somebody hurts one of my kids or a person I love. My ferocity at these moments truly scares me.

All I'm left with is the emptiness of regret.