December 16, 2004

"I Wonder What Lachlan Could be Planning"

Our not-quite-3 year old son, Lachlan, has developed a remarkable ability to use computers. He figured out quite quickly all about what typing does and what pointing and clicking the mouse does (and for that matter how to drag), and yesterday initiated a chat with me that went something like this:

Him: asdfasqp20834ty:ISHFSDH
Me: Lachlan? Is that you on Mommy's computer?
Him: asdlfaot40y40ty

So here's today's exchange, this time between myself and Steph:

Steph: Er ... did you happen to put a book called "The Analysis of Rubber and Rubber Like Polymers" in a book cart at
Me: No. But what a great title.
Steph: I wonder what Lachlan could be planning ...
Me: heh - well, we could use new tires

No, there's no point to this post. I just thought it was funny. Between Aidan (the charismatic and passionate Dark Overlord) and Lachlan (the intelligent, ruthless and scheming power behind the throne), I think it's fair to say that Nathan's prediction about Aidan in the reviewing stands watching his Death Minions parade below him is coming closer to reality all the time....

Posted by Jeff at 11:31 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

October 31, 2004

Book of the Dead

Witches celebrate Halloween as Samhain. Samhain, pronounced SA-win or SA-vin, marks the end of harvests with the slaughter of livestock before Winter; the start of the Winter (and Dark) half of the year; and the time of completion, when plans begun in Spring are finished. It is a time of endings, and it is a festival of the dead, where we celebrate those who have gone before us.

This year, our family celebrates the lives of two relatives who passed this year.

Virgie May Walls (neé Medcalf), age 66, my aunt. One of the most musical of a musical family, Virgie was also athletic (she played basketball in high school, in fact) and loving, a most wonderful person.

Kathy Latham, age about 75, Stephanie's grandmother. Kathy was the only great-grandparent who survived long enough for our kids to meet her. We went to Alabama in the Spring, where her children, grand-children, and great grandchildren had all gathered for a week.

They are both missed.

Posted by Jeff at 12:29 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 13, 2004

The Essence of Children

Sgt. Mom puts children into words:
< blockquote>I had the experience of holding my baby daughter…my…own…baby… daughter… and immediately and violently falling into a sort of love— completely different from the way one falls in love with one’s intended, a deep and primal emotion. For your child, you will unhesitatingly put yourself between any danger around, and that child. To defend the safety of that child you will pick up any weapon available, and use it. To keep my child safe, I knew without the slightest doubt, that I would kill— anyone, and with anything at hand, no matter how up close and personal, with bare hands and slowly, if the threat to my daughter (my daughter!) were imminent. And afterwards, I would sleep like a babe myself, without a shred of regret, no bad dreams, even if I were left covered in the innards and gore of whoever had dared… dared… to attempt violence on my child. Actually, the depth of this conviction, the absolute certainty, that any threat to my daughter could only be carried out over my dead body, came as a bit of a shock to me… so very primal, so very basic… like an animal, ferocious in intensity.
I only have sons, but, yeah, it's like that.

Posted by Jeff at 11:57 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 24, 2004

Trophy Wife

At our last anniversary, I told the story of how Stephanie and I met, and of our courtship and marriage. Well, today it's our 12th anniversary, and I still cannot believe how lucky I am to have her.

A year ago, I was working in the job I had to take when the dot com bubble burst and my first company (which provided IT services to dot coms) collapsed. I was making half of what I had been before, our savings had been wiped out in the crash while I was looking for the next contract (that never came), and I was doing a lot of questioning of my goals in life - could I even achieve them? Could I make a company work? Stephanie has always stood by me - through far worse than that - and she came through yet again.

When the opportunity came to start a second company, it was a big risk. We were up to our full complement of four sons by then, and our youngest was only 8 months old. At the same time, it was far from clear last October that the market had really turned around. Starting a specialty IT company in a time of depressed corporate spending - it's only large organizations that need what we do - was hardly a given to succeed. If it failed, we would have nothing to fall back on. We even had to borrow money from Steph's parents to hold us over until the company would start getting paid on the contract. It was touch-and-go for months on end.

There were times when we had no money and frankly I was pretty close to giving up and taking a permanent job. Steph convinced me to keep going, and the company finally started getting paid - and then really took off. It was knowing that she was behind me that kept me going, and it was her encouragement that kept me heading in the right direction. Without that, my second company might well have gone the way of my first, leaving us still worse off.

In the last year she's had to put up with me commuting for two months, and off work for most of one; she's followed me to Chicago so I don't have to commute any more; she's put up with the vicissitudes of a contract that has ever changing goals, locations and end dates and which took months to start paying off; and she's been wonderful about it all.

All of that is on top of being my best friend and the wonderful mother and educator of our sons and a good cook and funny and sweet and .... Well, let's just say that if there's a competition for best wife, I win hands down.

I love you, honey.

Happy anniversary.

Posted by Jeff at 12:01 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)

May 09, 2004

The Sarcasm Comes Early (I Hope)

So Steph and I were talking to Griffin (age 3) about how big he was getting, and how one day he might have a baby of his own. Then he would be the Daddy.

I said, "And I'll be the Grandpa. I'll be the crotchety old man who makes your wife nervous."

"But we not going to be fwends," stated Griffin in an indignant - and almost pleading - voice.

Posted by Jeff at 10:17 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 28, 2004

Connor on the Aztecs

"They kept their cities very clean...except for the piles of skulls."

Posted by Jeff at 11:18 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 10, 2004

Oh, How Sweet - or Something

Griffin, my 3-year old, has a very sweet way of saying "I missed you" when after I've been travelling for a week, or have been at work for the day, or walked into another room for a minute. It's really adorable and touching.

Just now, he found a Lincoln Log he's been looking for. He said, "I missed you" in exactly the same tone of voice. Well, I guess I know where I stand, at least.

Posted by Jeff at 10:40 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 19, 2004

Sic Transit Gloria PowerBook

Steph had a glass of wine by the computer last night, reading email.

Enter Lachlan the Destructor, and his foot of doom (note: he's not much taller than the desk - this was quite a feat - never mind; that pun's even too bad for me to use).

Exit PowerBook.

I've done everything except take it apart case and all (which I would have done if the TSA hadn't taken my repair kit - the sixth time it went through security). I'll be getting a torx tonight and doing just that. If cleaning under the trackpad doesn't work (I've already cleaned what very little wine got into the guts), I'll be computerless while I'm here, and nearly so in Dallas since all the other systems are so old.

So, anyone want to contribute to the "give Jeff a replacement computer so he doesn't have to go back to his real-world hobbies" fund?

Posted by Jeff at 09:24 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

February 22, 2004

Yes, Daddy

One of the fun things about having kids, especially about having 4 kids, is that you get some very funny exchanges, such as today's:

Me: Aidan, are you done with your oatmeal?
Aidan [age 6, watching Scooby Doo]: Yes, Daddy.
Me: Clear your place, please.
Aidan: Yes, Daddy. [Takes bowl to kitchen. Opens cabinet with trash can. Puts bowl as close as possible to trashcan lip. Tips remaining cold oatmeal onto floor. Does not notice.]
Me: Aidan, when you are tipping something into the trash, you need to take the trashcan out of the cabinet so that you don't make a mess.
Aidan: Yes, Daddy.
Me: [after a pause] And you can take the paper towels and clean up the mess you made.
Aidan: Yes, Daddy. [cleans up mess]
Me: Do you want me to shut up and let you watch the show?
Aidan: Yes, Daddy.
Me: Can you be less condescending about it?
Aidan: Yes, Daddy.

Gotta love kids.

Posted by Jeff at 11:42 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

February 16, 2004

It was 2 Years Ago Today

Happy Birthday, Lachlan.

Posted by Jeff at 09:29 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

January 30, 2004

Resquiat in Pacem, Virginia Medcalf

My aunt, Virgie Medcalf, passed away this last weekend, of complications from a particularly aggressive cancer. I just found out this morning, and not long after I found out, read this. Virgie was that kind of person, selfless in the extreme, and generous and kind and funny. I will miss her.

I love my monkey tribe: it's produced some fine individuals.

Posted by Jeff at 10:44 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

September 25, 2003

On the Road Again

I have been blogging fairly lightly lately, and that may continue for a bit. I'm not actually taking time off - it's just that I've been incredibly busy. I am in the process of leaving my current job, and starting a contract in Virginia. As a result, I've been pretty busy with family and work and getting things ready to go. Blogging will pick back up once life settles down a bit again.

Posted by Jeff at 10:05 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

September 15, 2003

Too Much Information

I got a vasectomy last Friday, and wanted to share a few things I learned, that may not be obvious to those considering the procedure.

I will now pause so that everyone who really doesn't want to see this can whistle on by.

OK, first, do not search Google for the terms "depilatory" and "scrotum." Especially not at work. You will learn way to much about lifestyle choices you likely have not made, since you are considering getting a vasectomy. Worse, this information will be useful. To summarize the useful bit: Nair works fine for this purpose, and if you are afraid of letting sharp blades anywhere near your genitals, it's a good choice. But it can give you a chemical burn, so be sure to rinse it off exactly when the directions recommend that you do so. Be thorough.

Do not mention the bit about Google searches while your doctor has sharp blades near your genitals. He will laugh. This is a bad thing.

Cauterization of the cut ends of the vas deferens produces a smell like burning plastic. That was odd.

They won't use stitches unless they have to make two separate incisions. This is a good thing, but it means that you need to be very sanitary until the hole closes up on its own. This takes about 24-48 hours. Sometimes a little longer.

If you send email to your team at the office, noting that you will be out Friday and for the weekend having and recovering from a minor surgery, you will be advised to walk slow and use ice packs. This is good advice, by the way. Everybody gets vasectomies done on Friday, apparently, and it generally takes over the weekend to be mostly recovered. If you don't feel like discussing it, send a more generic message than noted.

The ability to stand up and sit down without concentration is a great blessing.

Do not make a quip to your wife that this makes up for even one birth she's gone through. Just trust me on this one.

It's probably not as bad as you fear. It is as strange as you likely expect, though.

Posted by Jeff at 03:57 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

September 14, 2003

Not Dead Yet

I had minor surgery on Friday, and recovery has resulted in me being a bit more down and out than expected. Everything is OK, though, and I'll probably start posting again some time next week.

Posted by Jeff at 05:19 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 24, 2003

Love Story

In 1984, when I was in 9th grade at Del City High School, I was introduced by Ed Ashworth - my best friend - to Stephanie Starr, a new student who had just come back to the States from Germany a few months earlier. Withing a very short time, I was completely infatuated, and ended up blurting out my feelings in the usual embarrassing way that teenagers do, except that I left a note rather than saying what I felt.

Steph and I didn't talk much for the next year and a half. I scared her off.

In the Summer after our junior year, I read Richard Bach's A Bridge Across Forever, about love and predestination, and saw a lot of how I felt about Steph in the book. So I mailed a copy to her. We started dating a few months later.

At the end of high school, with Steph heading down to SMU and I to OU, we broke up. We kept in touch, though, mainly in long and frequently-angry conversations by telephone, combined with visits on as many weekends as we could manage.

We went to an INXS concert in the Spring of 1988 - and had a great time - and got back together. For the rest of our college careers, we maintained a long-distance relationship. At the end of college, I had a very bad personal time - I fell apart pretty completely. It was the most difficult time in my life mentally and emotionally, and frankly I was a class A jerk to everyone around me for a period of almost two years.

Everyone who knew us - and probably most especially Steph's parents and friends - made pretty clear to Stephanie that she should dump me, because I was beyond saving. Thankfully, she didn't dump me. She wouldn't even let me dump her when I was insane enough to try it. She never let me give up on myself.

On this day in 1992, Stephanie and I got married, in the back yard of her parents' house, in a small but very beautiful ceremony.

The music was lovely - perfomed by a live group with a harpsichord and a violin (Go For Baroque, I think they were called). Steph's cousin Jennifer, then 2, who was a flower girl, tried to jump in the pool when she was walking to the bower, and then turned all of the flower petals upside down as the ceremony was starting. Brittany, my neice and the other flower girl, was so nervous she just kept peeking out from behind Steph's skirts, looking for her Mom and Dad, I think.

We were married by Steph's uncle, who was so nervous that when it came time to ask for the rings, he got the order wrong. Theresa, Steph's Maid of Honor, tossed her flowers over her head to Peggy, the other Bridesmaid, and got the ring to Cary quickly, despite her confusion. Steph somehow didn't notice any of this, until she looked down and saw the wrong ring on my finger, at which point she burst out laughing, along with the rest of the wedding party. (Steph's Mom at this point was gripped by the fear that Steph was about to back out of the wedding.)

Somehow, we got through the rest of the ceremony. The reception was held at Pepperoni Grill, but we had to catch a plane, and weren't there long enough to actually, oh, eat or anything. (Nor did we get champagne - for some reason they gave us cider instead. The guests got champagne. Hmmph!)

We got to the Excalibur in Vegas after midnight to start our honeymoon. We had pizza and champagne - because that's all that the room service could deliver at that time of night, and we were starving. Pizza, it must be said, does not go with champagne.

Today, I have been married to Stephanie for 11 years. In that time, we've had 4 wonderful sons, and more love than I knew was possible on the day we married.

I love you, sweetie.

Happy anniversary.

Posted by Jeff at 12:19 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)

June 25, 2003

Off the Road

Steph has a good post on things we learned on our vacation. We had a good time. We actually got back Sunday night, but between the new Harry Potter book and catching up on sleep and really just being lazy, I've not gotten around to posting anything. In fact, I've only caught up with four blogs that I normally read, which is almost prerequisite for posting anyway, so it may be a few days before I get around to posting anything substantive.

Posted by Jeff at 10:14 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

June 20, 2003

On the Road

So far the trip has been going pretty well, with the kids proving much better than expected at long rides in the car. Our sanity is holding at about 75%, which is slightly above normal.

We spent Friday night, Saturday and Sunday with my parents in Mena, AR. Actually, they live outside of Yocana (pronounced YOCK-nee), which is outside of Ink, which is outside of Mena, population less than 6000. In other words, we were in the boonies. (There is a great story, by the way, to the name of Ink. When the town was first incorporating, and everyone was voting on what to call it, the librarian passed around ballots, and said "Please write in Ink." So the people wrote in "Ink" on the ballot.) We had a great time; my brother and his eldest daughter were there for Friday and Saturday, and we got to see my Uncle Ed and Aunt Verna and my Uncle Robert and Aunt Sylvia. The kids had a great time playing in the "yard" and down by the pond, and Connor is covered in chigger bites.

Monday was a long day, with a drive from Mena to Memphis, where we had a late lunch with Steph's high school friend Peggy, and then on to Huntsville. We spent part of Tuesday at the Space and Rocket Center. The kids loved the simulators and the rocket park. We could hardly get Aidan out of the Apollo simulator. It's odd, though, how some of the exhibits haven't been updated. Two of the exhibits mention the Challenger (including the landing simulator, ironically enough) as if it were still operational, and the women in space wall only goes up to 1994 or so. The other thing that surprised me was the amount of museum space dedicated to Redstone Arsenal's mission (missile design, specification and certification, as well as work with the Land Warrior project and UAV and UGV development). These were neat exhibits, but seemed out of place.

The Saturn V mounted on the ground, with its stages separated, is actually in fairly poor condition. It was awe inspiring to see a Saturn V mounted standing, though. I hadn't realized that there was another Saturn V remaining to mount, apart from the one already at Huntsville and the one at Kennedy, both of which are mounted horizontally.

We drove down late Tuesday to Montgomery - through no fewer than five rainstorms, some pounding so hard we had to pull over, and most hard enough that we could only drive very slowly. We went through Birmingham at rush hour and in a rainstorm. We had planned on stopping to see the parents of a good friend of ours, but decided to forego stopping just so we could get through the rainstorm faster.

We've been visiting with Steph's immediate and extended family here in Montgomery since yesterday, and will be here through Saturday morning. We'll drive back through Vicksburg, so that we can stop by the battlefields, and be back either late Sunday or some time Monday.

Posted by Jeff at 12:16 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 25, 2003

No Toast without a Fire

My lovely wife has a bit of an issue with toasters. When she was a teenager, she almost set her house on fire making toast in a toaster. Since then, she has made toast in the oven. And so, today, of course she caught the oven on fire. In honor of this occasion, I would like to present a parody of Bad Company's No Smoke Without a Fire:

No Toast without a Fire

Ooh, you like buttered toast in the oven
You can forget sometimes to take it out, ooh yeah
You come running just as fast as you can, but you've forgotten again, yeah

But you can do what you wanna do now, tell me what you wanna say
You can take what you wanna take, babe, take it all away

Oh, there's no toast without a fire, and there's no bread without a flame
Oh, there's no loaf without disaster, but I'll put it out again

Ooh, you've got a problem with burning bread
You just forget until it's blackened and dead, ooh yeah
You keep tellin' me the toast is alright
You disappear, and the oven comes alight

Just tell me what you wanna do now, now that the stoneware is gone is gone
It's your toast, you can do what you want, baby let me know


Please don't ask me why
'Cos I can't quite explain, I'm like a moth to your flame


Yeah, just tell me what you wanna do now, now that the stoneware is gone
It's your toast, you can do what you want, baby let me know, yeah

(chorus) - let's talk about it

(chorus repeats out)

Posted by Jeff at 10:42 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

April 23, 2003

Mental Image

What you have to do, see, is get the image in your head of this cute, blonde little two-year old watching a T-Rex ravage its prey and saying "Big giant rarr eat num-num."

I bet, though, with just a little work, I could get him to yell "Big giant rarr" whenever Rumsfeld comes on TV.

After all, isn't that what kids are for?

Posted by Steph at 09:13 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

The Griffin Dictionary

So here is the current list of words that Griffin (age 2 1/2) uses for things:

beep beep - a bird
big giant rarr - a dinosaur, rather than Don Rumsfeld
blue Stee - Blue's Clues, with Steve - NOT Joe
blue wo wo - Thomas the Tank Engine
chop - a potato or corn chip
deet dah - here I am; there it is
doey - Uncle Brian
doochee - Lachlan (younger brother)
doochee hide - I can't find whatever it is you're asking about
eat num num - any food
joo - juice
me - I want that
meow - a cat
mmmmmm, beep beep - a ride on the shoulders, while making car sounds
mmmm beep beep - a Magic Schoolbus video
mm beep beep - any vehicle
mod - generic parent; usually the father, though
moe - I would like more to drink, or eat, please. Context is everything, so don't get it wrong, 'kay?
moo - a cow
nee - I would like something to drink, or eat, please. Context is everything, so don't get it wrong, 'kay?
neek - a snake, or anything long and thin and flexible
ni' ni' - I want to go to bet
no - snow (also, no man, no ball, etc)
oh ee - OK
ree - broccoli
sheesh - sit with me
shop - a ship
shop moon - any mechanical thing that flies (apparently, all aircraft fly to the moon in Griffin's world)
show - a shoe
show me - I will show you
sky - the sun
star moon - any celestial body, except the sun or moon
tee - any dark drink ; tea, soda, etc.
up high - I want either a drink, or chocolate or berries or something else stored in the freezer
whee - spin me around
whee high - swing me from side to side as high as you can, except not too high because that can be scarey
woof - a dog
wo wo - a train

Posted by Jeff at 08:59 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 19, 2003


Aidan got glasses:

Posted by Steph at 05:37 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

April 16, 2003

Great Connor Quote

Read this, and you'll have a bit of an insight to me at age 7. Connor is a great kid.

Posted by Jeff at 11:54 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 31, 2003

Funny Boy

So, here's the conversation Aidan (5) and I had this morning:

(After determining that he wants cream cheese and bread for breakfast.)

Aidan: But, Mom, I'm too tired to stand up.

Me: Well then, why don't you go lie down on the couch?

Aidan: But I'm not allowed to eat in the living room.

Me: Hmmm. Well, I'll let you take your bread in there just this one time.

Aidan: (On his way out the door) Okay, but just this one time. If I ever catch you doing it again, you'll be in big trouble!

Posted by Steph at 09:57 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 25, 2003

The Eyes Have It

Yep, here we go. I took Aidan in for a checkup today, and guess what? He can read all the little pictures on the eye chart with his *right* eye, but not with his *left* eye. Well, I was waiting for this. Maybe he will like playing pirate with a patch on his eye. Ha ha.

All else is fine, though. And the Incredible Spotted Baby is back to normal, with no clue as to what made the spots. Maybe I should have connected them to see if they revealed a secret message ...

Posted by Steph at 06:13 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 13, 2003

More Wisdom From Connor

More wisdom from Connor, age 7. After watching Battlestar Galactica, Connor noted:

"Dad, if I were leader of some country, and I was under threat of attack, I'd at least put my forces on alert."

Posted by Jeff at 08:22 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 11, 2003

They're French!

Connor (age 7) was watching Kevin Branaugh's movie of Shakespeare's Henry V today, for the first time. During the scene at Agincourt, in the midst of the battle, Connor said: "They're not going to win. They're French!"

I guess I'm rubbing off on him...

Posted by Jeff at 05:03 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

February 24, 2003

Homeschooling - Poetry

Today Stephanie was teaching Connor (age 7) and Aidan (age 5) about poetry, and each of them decided to write a poem. Important background: we had quite the ice storm (especially for DFW) last night.

The Snowy White Day

by Connor Medcalf

The ground
Looks like an ice cake,
And it's as cold as a freezer.
It's just white, white, white, white.
And when I get back inside the house,
I can barely feel my fingers and my toes.


The Icy Squashed World Day

by Aidan Medcalf

Green grass green
And the rest of the ground
Is white white white ice ice white white.
Texas must be covered with snow and ice!
Canada must be snowing.
What if it's not?
If it's Winter in Canada,
I'd like to be there.
Or else, I'd jump on the world,
And have it squashed.
Ice, mice, rice.


Well, it already beats Amiri Baraka.

Posted by Jeff at 10:40 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)