Monday, February 26, 2007

No Turning Back

This time, my daughter Julia is in major labor and there is no stopping.
Daniel will just be three weeks earlier than his due date. She has been in labor all afternoon. Her water was broken. She is fully dilated. She is in a lot of pain and very tired. As I recall, this is the usual baby stuff, but it makes me afraid to think about it much. This time, I sit here at home and wait. Viggo and Barbara are with Julia. She has just been given an epidural to ease her pain.

I'm going to go watch FutureWeapons on the Discovery Channel and I will hope that the sight of stuff getting shot and blown up can calm me down.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Google was named less than 10 years ago.



Main Entry: goo·gol Pronunciation: 'gü-"golFunction: nounEtymology: coined by Milton Sirotta b ab 1929 nephew of Edward Kasner died 1955 American mathematician: the figure 1 followed by 100 zeros equal to 10100

Thank you Mirriam Webster on-line for helping me to remember where Google probably got it's name. I learned about googols more than four decades ago, when the transistor was just beginning to be put down in multiples on a single piece of silicon.

A transistor roughly equals a one or a zero. It takes at least eight billion similar little on/off switches to create a single gigabyte that now comes on a key chain for less than $20. More than 5 billion key fobs of data are transmitted every year (ie more than 5 exabytes). Google has seriously targetted doing a searchable scan of every page of every book ever published (30 million plus books). I don't even need to do the math to know that a googol makes an exabyte look small and an exabyte can probably handle all 30 million books with plenty of room to spare.

So now that virtually every word ever written may soon be searchable, the question is this: What word shall we search for most fervently?

See John 1:1 for answer.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Fact is Stranger than Fiction

Fact really is much stranger than fiction.

I watched a man die a few days ago. I was looking out from the second floor of a building. He was on the ground not far away. I could not see his face. I watched as he was given artificial respiration. I watched as cardiac shock paddles caused his back to suddenly arch and propel him from the ground. I watched as the people giving emergency aid gradually gave up.

How many men have I read of dying, watched dying in films and movies, and imagined dying in daydreams or nightmares. Thousands and thousands. Yet in 56 years of real life, this is the only time I recall standing in the presence of someone dying. Even then, I was remote. I did not know the man. I could not hear his last words or know for sure when he had passed away. Nonetheless, the fact of his death seems more impactful than any fiction I can recall.

I once read that the majority of police officers never fire their gun in an actual conflict during their entire career. The ones in movies often shoot many times in the course of a week long investigation. Yet for those officers who must point their gun at a man and fire, the impact must be huge compared to the tiny spark we feel when it is a fiction.

Often when I have described my life, I have been quick to call it dull and quite average. Yet I have held each of my four children moments after watching them being born. I have helped police carry my father's lifeless body to a coroner's SUV. I have been trapped at night in a collapsed tent during a howling snowstorm at 10,000 feet, miles from any other humans. I have kissed and held the woman I love and would die for and hope to live with forever. I have showered with an axe murderer. I have contributed to technology that has changed the world. I have been caught between wooden pilings at the bottom of a lake while nearing the end of the air in my scuba tanks. I have stood at Mardi Gras, calling out for trinkets from the passing floats. I have sat in suicidal despair with a pistol barrel in my mouth, wishing I had the nerve to pull the trigger.
For every such thing that I have done, hundreds of real people, whom I know well, have done similar things or things even more intense. They have held a child as he died. They have fought off a madman lunging at them with a knife. They have watched a spouse swept from before them by a flood and drowned. They have actually pulled the trigger while the barrel was still in their mouth. They have been faithful to the same spouse for more than six decades. They have skiied off of cliffs. They have flown alone to Africa and walked its dusty roads.

Were we to see things rightly, perhaps we would realize that our lives are filled with love, pain, adventure, drama, joy, accomplishment. The dull hours that may tick by on any given day are actually a much needed respite from the intensity of those lives. There may be many dull moments, but I think that there are very few dull lives.

Fact really is much stranger than fiction.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Quote I Love

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." C. S. Lewis

Friday, February 09, 2007

How to Handle a Kid

I have a suspicion that at least a couple of my readers will soon say to themselves, “Hey, look, we have a kid, now what do we do?”

Good thing I am here to tell the story of how Barbara and I successfully raised our first baby, Julia! There was no one there to tell us what to do. We had to make it up as we went along.

The night Julia was born, we were way too hip to stay at the oppressive hospital institution. So around 10 at night, we drove home with our little girl. For some reason, Barbara was very tired and wanted to go straight to bed and sleep. The nurses had assured us that Julia would very likely sleep for hours and hours due to the stress of birth. However, Julia has always had her own agenda, and she had one that night.

I was staggering tired after being awake for about 36 hours for the whole birth incident. I had spent most of that time standing next to the bed saying things like “good job, honey” or “you’re doing great”. Inside I was screaming, “What is going on!” and “I’m not ready for this!”. I really wasn’t ready. I had only held a baby once before in my life. About a year earlier I had been forced to hold my nephew Jonathan. It was 20 or 30 seconds of a strange combination of feeling awkward and terrified.

Now, with Barbara sawing logs in the next room, I found myself holding a tiny person who continually screamed at the top of her tiny lungs. Screamed, writhed, and generally let me know that she was very unhappy. We had read about 20 books on pregnancy and birth, but I don’t remember even a magazine article about what to do once the kid got out!

It may have been instinct that led me to cradle Julia tenderly and close, but mostly I remember I was afraid I would drop her. Walking the floor, back and forth, also seemed right because sitting still while someone screams in your ear is very difficult. Yes it was a tiny scream. Tiny, piercing, and persistent beyond all belief.

I walked and walked and wondered what happened once I finally became exhausted and collapsed. For the sake of variety I ventured into the living room which is two short steps down from the kitchen. It was then that I discovered that the bumping walk down the steps was somehow soothing to Julia. I headed over to the stair case and slowly plodded up and down the stairs, over and over again. I began to remember certain tortuous football drills I had endured. But the screaming paused!

I was a relatively healthy 32 year old man. In fact, I had been clean and sober for months in honor of this event! So I was able to walk up and down those stairs much longer than most people could imagine when they see me hobbling about with a cane now. In fact I honestly cannot remember ever stopping, although I must have. Every time I tried to stop, the screaming started again. After a while I peeped in on Barbara a time or too, but I sensed that she was very tired and perhaps wanted some time alone.

Somehow, after hours and hours of no sleep and intense anxiety about what to do next, I just kept doing whatever I had to do. I remember nothing of it. This proved to be an excellent pattern for child rearing. It is one that I know worked for us.

Hold the kid. Try to stay calm while the kid screams and writhes. Later, if you can get the kid to suck on a breast, do that! If the kid’s diaper seems extra squishy or smells fecal, peel it off the little butt, wipe, and put a clean one on. Continue this routine for days, weeks, and months. If the kid is willing to lay asleep in a cradle, let her sleep. Thankfully, after the first few weeks, Julia was able to sleep for almost 2 hours at a stretch before awakening screaming. As Barbara recovered her strength, we were able to take turns walking her around the rest of the time. Sometimes she slept as I held her. I learned to do a whole lot of things with just one hand.

If you start to have doubts that you will be able to endure, take a second to consider your 6 or 7 billion fellow human beings. In every case, someone found a way to cope with them. You will find a way also.

Little did we realize that those were the gloriously simple family times. Soon enough, our youngest, Samuel, lay howling in my arms while the other three kids busied themselves with dismantling every possession I held dear. By then I longed for the simplicity of a single screaming entity in my life.

May God bless little babies and the parents who care for them.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Pain and Pleasure

Every day I experience both pleasure and pain. Sometimes one dominates (usually pain), but I can't think of a time of any appreciable length (hours, days) where it was all pain or all pleasure.

The strange thing is that they are both so subjective that the only way we can communicate them to each other is to say things like "this really hurts" or "mmm good". We can smile or whimper. We can laugh or cry. But we really can't put our pain or pleasure on a scale and weigh them.

The last time I was in the emergency room strapped to a back board, they had a cute little sign that had 10 faces in a row that appeared to show mild discomfort all the way up to crying (screaming?). I was definitely in pain following a car crash. But I thought, how the heck do I know where I fit on the scale. Somehow, so long as I am not screaming and writhing I figure the pain must not really be all that bad. I just couldn't say I was a 8 or a 9 because I figured 10 must be something like having gas poured all over me and being lit on fire.

My knee pretty much hurts all day, every day. But if I am busy or amused, I don't really notice it. I began to suspect the pain was significant when it started waking me up out of a sound sleep and I had to roll around holding my knee for a while.

All the examples so far have been pretty much physical pain. Mental anguish is even tougher to judge.

Pain. We all have it. Only God knows how bad we have it. My neck and knee are both hurting tonight (some kind of muscle spasm in the neck). I also have a headache and twinges in my arthritic shoulders. If the pain gets a whole lot worse than this over the rest of my life, I will be very disappointed! At the same time, I am very glad that my ailments are as minor as they seem to be compared to the really nasty stuff. And this physical pain is kind of kiddie stuff compared to how it felt when I was extremely depressed years ago.

So I am willing to stick this out for the sake of serving God and my fellow humans. But I am really looking forward to the time when there will be no more crying and no more pain.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


OK. I know I am biased. But this movie that my son Sam made is amazing!

He did the whole thing: camera work, editing, acting, everything. He did it with a $100 point and shoot video camera and a laptop.

Check it out: