Fall photos posted.
Yesterday, we stayed inside all day and played with toys.
Of the written works I’ve ingested in my life so far, the Tao Te Ching has resonated with me the most. It is the only text that has moved me to tears--the moment I realized, finally, someone had written words describing what I’d felt my entire life (but never been able to articulate).

The Tao Te Ching also presents my greatest internal struggle yet: How do I reconcile living like water with the belief that long-term aspirations are good?
This morning while walking to work through the beautiful, clear cold, I had yet another lesser revelation ("LERE"). I am a selfish person (that's not the revelation). Getting married and having children are the best things ever to happen to me. Those acts gave me someone to give to besides myself. Now I am selfish in support of my family, which is a much more forgivable iniquity.
I promise that Max really is learning to play the piano too, but sometimes the built-in features of the keyboard are just too tempting to pass up:


Notice the timely use of the pitch bend wheel, and the splashy drum solo at the end... (My apologies for the infrared, but I couldn't get the shot without it.)
Esmé-ness

On Sunday morning we had to take Esmé to the hospital to get an x-ray, because her pediatrician thought she may have broken her leg (a so-called “infant fracture”, which as I understand it is not uncommon). Turns out it’s only sprained, but the poor girl can’t walk right now and it just breaks your heart! She had tumbled off a chair in an attempt to grab something atop a desk, which was about two feet away. One of those things that can happen when you leave an 18-month old alone in a room for a minute...

It’s funny, though: this is yet another incidence when Rose and I see the amazing contrasts between our kids. They both came from us, but they couldn’t be more different. Max never got into trouble climbing on things, so of course Esmé is a climber. Max has no tolerance for pain (can’t deal with flu shots, for example), whereas Esmé seems to have a very high threshold (yikes). She just gives an angry glare at the doctor when she’s getting poked with a needle. Max has always seemed to be a problem solver, tending to work things out in his head. Early on, Esmé has shown a much stronger tenancy for drawing and fine motor skills.

Now the Christmas tree is up, and in all of his four years Max never really bothered the ornaments thereupon. This year, the bottom 24” is ornament-free because Esmé, oblivious to our scolding, simply will not leave them alone.

She’s her own girl, it’s so fun to watch. If I had to guess right now, I’d say she’s a smiling toughie, a sweetheart artist that you shouldn’t cross.

Say it along with me: “tsa-tsij!” (sausage!--the most articulate of her first words).
Tom Clyde (aka DemocratDad) has a thoughtful post about discussing death with young children without invoking religious references. I posted a comment, which I'll reproduce here:

My Grandfather, with whom I was very close, died when my son was just under two years old. Because we visit his grave regularly, talk about him and keep his picture up, we seem to have maintained my son's memory of him. It's wonderful that he still remembers him (however faintly), but because of our frequent discussion of someone who is no longer with us, we have touched on our first discussions of death with our son, who is now four years old.

The first time it came up, when he was closer to two, I naively told him that when people die, they go to the moon. Now that he's interested in the solar system, and understands what the moon is (and that we've been there), that little ruse is falling apart. It's time to be honest.

My wife and I have discussed this topic at length (along with religion), and while I do believe it's important to be truthful with children, I think that the specter of death (I mean, I'm afraid of it, aren't you, just a little?) is a bit heavy to deal with until you're significantly older. How old? I guess it depends on the person. For now, we just tell him (and our daughter, when she's old enough to ask) that when people leave this earth, we don't know where they go for sure. And we focus on the manner in which we *are* sure that they're with us: in memories.

For further investigation: Parenting Beyond Belief.
In Newsweek: Is Photography Dead?
Photography is finally escaping any dependence on what is in front of a lens, but it comes at the price of its special claim on a viewer's attention as "evidence" rooted in reality. As gallery material, photographs are now essentially no different from paintings concocted entirely from an artist's imagination, except that they lack painting's manual touch and surface variation. ... The next great photographers—if there are to be any—will have to find a way to reclaim photography's special link to reality. And they'll have to do it in a brand-new way.

Via Digg.
Photos added to Window Dressing series.
The entire 1982 Atari 2600 catalog is scanned and online at AtariAge. I wore this catalog out as a kid. The interesting thing about the 2600 was that the games were so simplistic that in order to really be transported by them, you had to use your imagination. The artists creating cover art during this time did a worthy job attempting to capture the feeling that the gameplay was supposed to give you (even if, as was the case many times, the actual game came up a bit short). My favorite artists are Steve Hendrickson, Cliff Spohn and Ralph McQuarrie (attribution not 100% certain), who designed the cover art for the 2600 version of Vanguard.

There is a good thread discussing the cover artists here.
A couple of good design links via Boing Boing: Retro-futuristic artwork; some images from Masquerade, The Amazing Camouflage Deceptions of World War II.

'For All Seasons', a small interactive animation at k10k, is simple and beautiful. I think I'll share it with my kids.
How do you teach your child to lose? You want them to enjoy winning, to develop confidence and have fun at what they do. But you don't want to encourage a false sense (and perhaps a psychological dependence on) winning. Because as they get older, sometimes they'll lose.

Maybe the old “it's not whether you win or lose” cliché is true: Play well, regardless of the outcome. Play well, and in the long run you'll always win, because the victory is internal.

Esmé *loves* sausage!

Photos added to Architectural and Window Dressing series.
Rose and I went to see Bruce Mau speak last night. Aside from the fact that he gave an inspiring, holistic, invigorating talk about the future of design (see Massive Change), he also had one of the most perfect PowerPoint presentations I've ever seen. The presentation:
  • Supplemented what he was presenting with carefully selected images and (occasionally) words
  • Did not take away from his presence as a speaker (in fact most of the time the audience was focused on Mau and not the giant screen)
  • Did not contain a single bullet point
The best way I can think to describe the slides is that they "weren't there"...as a member of the audience, you didn't think about or notice them apart from the speaker and his message.
I added a few photos to the 'Window Dressing' series.
After fifteen years of using a Nikon FG to make photographs like this, this, this and this (the best image I’ve ever made), I finally decided to buy a digital SLR with a decent lens. In the process of bringing myself into 2007 in order to make an educated purchase, I found Ken Rockwell’s technical musings particularly helpful. However, as sharp as his technical workups of digital cameras are, I find his theory of “modern exposure technique” quite troubling:
No longer does anyone need to worry about ISOs, apertures or shutter speeds; most cameras do this automatically. All you need to know is when to apply a little bit of correction to the camera's decisions, and you do this by looking at your LCD.

Modern exposure technique is optimizing the exposure compensation as needed, not setting exposure manually. The manual part is making the slight corrections to the automatic exposure, not setting apertures or shutter speeds as in the 1950s.

For as much as he evangelizes the artistic seed of good photography, making points like “Why Your Camera Does Not Matter”, he seems to completely miss the artistic function of photographic variables like ISO, aperture and shutter speed. All of these variables represent creative choices that a photographer must make. Speaking simplistically, ISO affects the negative’s level of grain/noise; aperture (my personal favorite) affects depth of field; shutter speed affects how motion and light are captured in the negative. I would also argue that it is next to impossible to manifest one's creative intent consistently with auto-focus enabled.

I suppose this type of thinking shouldn’t surprise me as popular photography has now completely made the jump from film to digital, with the primary image-viewing venue being the internet (as opposed to the physical gallery). This shortcut thinking evidences itself in the deluge over-saturated, cliché “wow” shots that are consistently so popular on sites like flickr. Good photography consists of more than just wow-shots.
What we discovered when we opened a strange drawer within a strange elephant at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center:


Special bonus--museum designed by rockstar architect Zaha Hadid (what this generally means is that you will find no right angles in the building).

Portrait time.

EsméMax

Boy riding fast in the night.

Max riding his bike at night.

End of warm days.

Recently at Lifehacker there was a post entitled Why Renting Might Be Better Than Buying a Home, which linked to a pair of articles at the Millionaire Mommy Next Door blog discussing the merits of *not* being a homeowner. I made a comment that the author of the articles appreciated, so I thought I’d reproduce it here:
I feel qualified to comment on this since (a) I happen to work in real estate investment & development, (b) I am a homeowner, and (c) I have been a renter in the past many times over.

Speaking as someone who invests in real estate to make a living, let me say that a personal residence is about the only type of real estate that I would *not* consider an investment. It's a place to live, and it's an emotional transaction. As such, it is a bad investment.

A house is something you dump money *into*. A real estate (or any other) investment is something you pull money *out of*. Please note the direction of the cash flow.

Not only have I observed this to be true in my own life/career, but this advice has been affirmed by several other (much older than me) investment mentors, and I'm talking about people who know how to make money here, people with net worth containing 8 and more digits.

In the past several years, many people have been fortunate to see the value of their homes appreciate rapidly, especially those living on coasts. The lucky ones monetized this before the trend reversed. There are many people still left holding hot potatoes, as we are now all reading in the news.

Home equity should not be a major piece of your net worth. If it is, you should consider some 'portfolio re-balancing.'

Although I am a strong proponent of renting, I will admit that there is a significant emotional satisfaction from owning. And that's my point: Buy a house because you want to buy a house, not because you think it's better financially than renting.

I am currently a homeowner (of a house I can easily afford--this is important), but I have always been a strong proponent of rental housing. Renters are sometimes considered second-class citizens in this country, and that is a real shame. A lease, although different than fee ownership, is still a bona fide interest in real estate. I would go so far as to say that renters-by-choice in the U.S. should be applauded in 2007 for being significantly more intelligent than their home-owning counterparts.
I’m not really a sports fan (in fact some people might think of me as the inverse of a sports fan), but it would be hard not to get excited about Manny Ramírez and Jake Westbrook’s sparring match in the sixth inning of last night’s Indians-Red Sox game (I was lucky enough to have some good seats). It reminded me of the bullfights in The Sun Also Rises.
If you don’t play the lottery, you are going to hell.

One of my prior bosses had a saying about the lottery: “Jason, it’s like buying life insurance. I play the lottery because if I don’t--and all these a.h.’s [he meant this endearingly] around here win without me--I’d kill myself.”

The last two office environments in which I’ve worked have had lottery pools, and it seems everyone participates except me. My lack of participation seems to baffle, and almost offend, those around me. They can’t seem to understand why I’d risk not sharing in that big (potential) payoff.

Odds vary among the high-payoff lotteries in this country, but a nice average probability to win is around 1 in 125,000,000. With a jackpot of $100 million, a single ticket’s expected value is about $0.74. If your ticket costs $2.00, the net value of this transaction is -$1.26 (note the minus sign). Using these odds and ticket prices, the lottery’s jackpot would need to rise to over $250 million before you have a net positive transaction value.

Therefore, if you’re given a choice between lighting $2.00 on fire and playing the lottery, it is indeed better to play the lottery. But I’d wager that buying a piece of pizza, for example, is a better use of the money.

The pressure to participate in intra-office lottery pools reminds me of the pressure exerted by religious folk ‘encouraging’ non-believers to believe. It’s a fear of hell thing, and a strikingly similar argument that goes something like this:
You should [play the lottery/convert to my religion] because it [only costs $2.00/only takes a prayer] and the consequences include [having to slog away at this job after your coworkers all retire to somewhere tropical/going to hell].

Playing the lottery is a small but losing transaction. Just like small wins add up over time to fatten your bank account, small loses repeated faithfully over time add up to drain it. Further, communal lottery pools are almost a form of harassment. Although on the surface they appear harmless enough, these pools are strikingly similar to being shaken down for protection money. Pay up, or you’ll work here forever.

Pay up, or you’ll go to hell.
My brother was kind enough to invite me to the OSU-Northwestern game (at OSU) on Saturday, and I have a couple observations: First, being in a contained crowd of 100,000 people is a bit intimidating. My architectural mind couldn't help but go through mental exiting capacity studies, and the sympathetic vibrations I felt as the crowd clapped in rhythm to the school song were the same type of vibrations that brought the Tacoma Narrows bridge down. My paranoid mind was sifting through crowd control techniques and scaling out the approximate size of a 767 using the tick marks on the field, as a precursor to guessing the damage that the stadium would take should the aircraft in question impact during the game (I figure about 30% loss).

The second observation I had, this being my first OSU home game, is that I like college football, at least in this environment, much more than professional football. It's nice to attend a game where the primary noise is the *crowd*, not the commercial, ad-driven hysteria that comes along with most professional sports.
Here's Max beating his dad at Battleship (we played the first two games with an 'open hand'). Now we're playing by the book, head to head, and Max gets it. And he doesn't like to lose. Ages 7 and up...ha!

Max beating daddy at Battleship.

Here's a small thing I've learned about adults and children: People who either (a) have never had children or (b) whose children are older (i.e., 10 and up) generally seem to have no clue what life is like with small children. Grandparents: you have forgotten. Parents of older children: you have forgotten. Don't give advice, don't act as if you understand.

Another thought: Young parents should only listen to the advice of other young parents--because nobody else knows. Mothers and fathers to be, don't listen to your parents. Listen to couples who have an 8-month old instead. The only people qualified to give this type of advice are those who are *currently* living with small children 24/7.
While taking various pictures around our house (of mom, dad, sister, trains, the wall, the carpet, etc.), Max (now 4 years, 2 months old) made these lovely, abstract color photos. At first, it was clearly unintentional, but then as we (and consequently he) recognized how beautiful they were, he started doing it on purpose.

Max's abstract photos.

I'm not sure exactly how he does it...something to do with getting very close to the subject, turning the flash on, and partially obscuring the lens with his finger or some other object. I've tried to replicate the effect, but so far he's the only one the seems to be able to make these images consistently.
Summer family fun photos.
She's been toddling short distances between various pieces of furniture for a few weeks now, but as of yesterday I think we can say that Esmé has officially started walking! (video link)

William Gibson's writing style makes every aspect of human experience a celebration of detail, nerve endings, critical thought, and trenchant observation. In his work, the gamut of emotional and physical states are treated with the profuse curiosity they deserve.

When I am reading Gibson's books I am more aware of the muscles in my body as I walk, more aware of the trappings and activities of those around me, more aware of the haphazard arrangement of debris in the curbs of the street, more aware of the invisible transmissions constantly surrounding us.

This feeling--the feeling of being overjoyed and overwhelmed with the details manifest in any imaginable activity (and non-activity)--is incredibly invigorating. It's something that I try to hang on to long after completing his books, but it inevitably fades a little.
Typically I have a strong dislike for bumper-stickers; even more so than "clever" t-shirts. However, today I spotted one that made me laugh (affixed, among a field of others, to what I think was a rusted-out light blue 1982 Toyota Corolla), and it stuck in my head:

Take one day at a time...unless they all attack at once.

Living in the moment isn't as easy as it sounds.
Fun: Roller coasters, rolling in wet sand on the beach, trashing the hotel room, Dance Dance Revolution, and then...Train-O-Rama!

Fun with trains and sand and roller-coasters.

Scraping vs. ‘Plunking’

Having finally come to a point in my life where I feel that I have control (and am relatively happy with the state of) my finances, some useful monetary analogies have grown up within my head. One of these is as follows:

Imagine a big soup pot. This is your potential net worth. Now picture a steady but slow stream (or drip drip drip, if you prefer) of thick, translucent red liquid pouring into the container from above. This is money--your income. To pay your expenses, you must dip a ladle down into the container and take some of the liquid out. If you have a net worth close to zero, you can imagine the sound of the ladle scraping bottom as you try to scoop up enough to pay for this month’s expenses. If you have a larger net worth, you can imagine the nice ‘plunk’ sound as the ladle goes deep into the plentiful liquid to easily pull out as much as is necessary.

There are many little images you can create from this analogy:
  • If you don’t have a budget, your soup pot has holes in the bottom of it
  • If you are deep in debt, you don’t even have a soup pot (you’re filling someone else’s)
  • If you avoid using the liquid faster than it drips in, soon you’ll have a nice deep pool
  • Find ways to make the liquid flow into the pot faster
  • From time to time, someone suddenly pours in a cup full (these are windfalls)
  • As your soup pot fills up, you are entitled to larger and larger pots (and consequently a larger ladle--the reward for your patience and discipline)
Probably the most important ‘lesson’ to be gleaned from the analogy is this: When you dip the ladle in to take what’s needed, there should be so much in the soup pot that you won’t be able to tell the difference before and after. That is, do not buy things unless you can afford them many, many times over. Do not scrape; ‘plunk’ instead.
I have always maintained a slight sense of internal pride regarding my attitude toward learning from others. Generally, over the course of my life, I have operated under the assumption that people whom are (a) significantly older than me, (b) experts in their field, or (c) more experienced than me should be given the benefit of the doubt that they know what they are doing. A logical consequence of this thinking is that I should attempt to learn from the way these individuals practice their chosen discipline.

Looking back over the various periods of failure, success and mediocrity in my life, I have come to realize that some of my most interesting accomplishments have come when I, at least temporarily, have backhanded this logic across the jaw ignored the best advice of my mentors. Of course, after a brief knockdown, the logic stands to its feet again and continues its influence.

The important thing to remember here is that these temporary interjections of rebellion are surrounded by longer periods of learning and quiet observation. The opportunity to break away from the established practices of mentors and do something (potentially) great is most ripe when you have gleaned from them much of what they have to offer.
A few months ago on a flight back to CLE from LAS, I was observing the land formations, the dry stream beds, the jutting of the rock in the desert, the occasional human intervention in the form of a farm stead or small town. I thought, 'these patterns are a part of me; I understand the natural way that things form.' I remember telling my wife about it at the time.

I continued the strain of thought to further articulate something I've always known, but do not acknowledge much (or enough), and something which forcibly rears its head into my consciousness from time to time:

There are strong analogs in the behavior of almost everything that exists. Nature behaves the way human economies do; traffic behaves the way water flows; social structures mimic various biological patterns; etc. There are nearly infinite examples.

I am a simple but happy person, and have been blessed with a wonderful life thus far. However, if there's one thing I can say that I'm honestly a bit disappointed about, it's that I've not even begun to effectively exploit this intuitive understanding.
The business world is to a noticeable degree self-reinforcing and has a tendency to be incestuous. On one hand, this can be a positive thing: profitable relationships are strengthened. However, it can also be dangerous. Paths become well worn which benefit individuals but act to the detriment of the sector, or the economy, as a whole. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. We fight each other, but we do not wish to conclusively win, because winning would mean and end to the war, and to our earnings, and thus we must ensure that the environment continues to foster the conflict.
As I read William Manchester’s A World Lit Only By Fire, two background thoughts continue to cycle through my mind:
  1. I am thankful, ever so thankful, not to have lived at any time in human history prior to now; and
  2. Those medieval and renaissance characters sure were a bunch of a**-holes...
On Thursday, June 21, Esmé Rose turned big-1, and on Monday, June 25, Maximilian turned big-4! Bless their souls, bless them for all the joy they bring to my life.

Esmé in traditional Korean dress.

On the train this morning, browsing through Google Reader headlines on my phone, I came across a post on ask.metafilter.com, and it riled me up so much I simply had to respond. Here is the original post:

I want to have value past my mundane existence: ... "Most people can't think, most of the remainder won't think, the small fraction who do think mostly can't do it very well. The extremely tiny fraction who think regularly, accurately, creatively, and without self-delusion – in the long run, these are the only people who count." How do I become one of those people who count?

And here is my response:

The original quote is unbelievably arrogant, and full of conclusions that are difficult, if not impossible to support. How does the person quoted have *any* concept of how many individuals think, let alone the quality of their thinking? And then to make a sweeping value judgment: "...these are the only people that count." Unconscionable.

I'm surprised that so many people in this thread have allowed themselves to be intellectually sucker-punched into thinking that the original quote had any merit whatsoever. And I suspect that the more 'thinking' you do, the more you'll realize that 'being one of those people who count' really doesn't matter that much in this great cyclical organic existence of ours.
Yesterday, while building wooden train track #10,768 with Max on our living room rug, the little guy surprised me by counting to 33 in odd numbers: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, etc. I didn't even know he could do that! By around 3-1/2, and in the months approaching 4, Max was able to count to 100 and beyond, to 1,000 by hundreds, do addition and subtraction in his head up to around 12, hand-write several words (including his name of course), type even more words, phonetically read many short and medium length words, and sight read a larger list of words. He can finish the candy level of We Love Katamari by himself, he's a force to be reckoned with on the tricycle, he loves to romp, loves silly dance contests, and has been known to break into an impromptu chorus of 'I've Been Working On The Railroad' at any given moment. I look at the kid and constantly think: It must be a lot of fun to be Max.

Esmé is blossoming. In the past two months as she approaches one year old, her personality has really started to come out. She loves to be pushed around the neighborhood in her little plastic car (clapping enthusiastically as she goes), and she gives Max a run for his money in silly dance contests. She is so beautiful it's distracting...big eyes, curly hair (lots of it), enormous smile (it seems to have grown in the past month). She waves at nearly everything and everybody, with her delicate little fingertip-model-wave. Loves her big brother, loves to chase him and be chased by him; she crawls so quickly she looks like a little beetle scurrying. She's so sweet we call her Zen baby--she's not the intense micro-manager Max that is. She's sweet, that is, until you take away that toy she was playing with...
Recently, nearly two years after originally beginning play, and just shortly after the level cap was raised to 70 with the expansion, I reached level 60 in World of Warcraft. The real news here is that, as cheap as I am, someone figured out how to get me to pay $14.99 per month for something that I only play once or twice per week, at most...

The Alphabet Hundred.

The Alphabet Hundred, as referenced on 4/25.

Last night on the way home from Rose’s birthday dinner, and from visiting my new nephew (quite a full day), Esmé was sleeping, Max was looking out the window at the lights along the highway, and Rose and I were holding hands enjoying the peaceful drive.

About halfway home, we heard Max in the back seat talking to himself: “Eighty-one, eighty-two, eighty-three…eighty-eight, eighty-nine…Beedy.”

Eh?

He continued: “Beedy-one, beedy-two, beedy-three…beedy-eight, beedy-nine…Seedy.”

Huh?

It took us a few minutes, but we figured it out. He was counting by tens using the alphabet as a base: A0 (“A”-dee, not “eighty”), A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, A9, B0 (pronounced “BEE-dee”), B1 (“Beedee-one”), B2, B3… C0, C1, C2, C3, etc. He counted all the way from A0 to Z9 (“Zeedee-nine”), and then proclaimed, “I counted to alphabet-hundred!”

My inventive young man had actually counted to 261, in his own special way. Rose and I were absolutely cracking up the whole time he was doing this (once we realized what was going on, that is). Ah, the mind of a three-year old.
Now here’s what I call a good weekend: After taking Max to a friend’s fourth birthday party on Saturday morning, Rose and I decided to drive the kids around the perimeter of the Ravenna Arsenal, just to see how creepy and weird it is to have 20,000+ acres of semi-contaminated land fenced off in the middle of otherwise ordinary Ohio. I guess they used to make TNT and other munitions there, primarily during WWII. To put it in perspective, the Arsenal covers more land area than the nearby city of Akron (population: 210,000+). Afterwards, heavy fried food at a local pub.
Over the past few years I've come to realize what perhaps may be my Achilles heel: I have the ability to maintain composure and think clearly in situations of duress and high responsibility, but small annoyances can provide an extreme distraction to me and in fact have the potential to render me near-useless.

An innocuous example: Stressful situation at work; suddenly something has come up; impossible deadline; how can we possibly get this thing done on time? No problem; let me handle it; I'll get it done with five minutes to spare; and I'll likely enjoy myself while doing it.

But if I have a pebble in my shoe or the mobile email feature of my cell phone isn't working all of the sudden, I'll obsess over this “defect in my system” until I can fix it, sometimes at the expense of more important things.

As a corollary to this, and a trait that is I suppose a good one: I love it when things work well; systems, tools, any sort of operation, and I'm pretty good at making things work well when I put my mind to it.
I suppose I believe something like this:

(1) Go for your dreams, because we're all dead after our sub-100 year stint on this planet. May as well make the most of it.

(2) But be practical while you're doing it, so you'll be able to sleep at night (and hopefully able to avoid living like a pauper in old age).

(3) At the same time, enjoy every moment, because you may be dead tomorrow.
Today, in the context of discussing being naughty or nice and how this can help a young one receive gifts from Santa Claus at Christmas, Max said, "Ya, I was good. Good equals zero pieces of naughty."

Can you tell we've been practicing math recently?
Esmé started crawling yesterday, on my birthday. What a nice gift.
Two weeks ago, Max deleted my save-game data for Shadow of the Colossus. I was making an espresso in the kitchen when I heard Rose gasp.

He’s three-and-a-half, and up until now his ability to navigate the PS2 menu system and control CDs/DVDs has been nothing but cute, if not mildly impressive for someone his age. Wake up call! The kid is suddenly able to do technological damage. Time to password protect the computer to prevent the inevitable "format c:" attempt, which at this rate cannot be more than 6-8 months away...
Seven years ago today Rose and I stood before a judge and several witnesses (accomplices?), where we both took a vow to stick together, for better or for worse. Later we got Chinese take-out, unplugged the phones, and flew to Italy the next day.

So far, so good!
Max (now 3 years, 7 months) wrote 'MARBLE' while writing George Rhodes a thank-you letter!

Max wrote 'marble'!

The rest of the story: Sometime around April 2006, while at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital visiting the newborn daughter of friends, Max discovered the work of George Rhoads. The sculpture on display there, 'Circus of the Spheres' (as we now know it), captivated Max's attention for about 45 minutes. We couldn't get the kid outta there.

About three months later, shortly after Esmé's birth, our DVR grabbed an older Mister Rogers episode featuring George Rhoads. Needless to say, that episode has been marked 'do not erase'. Max had suddenly developed a rapidly growing interest in 'ball machines', marbles, and all things related (probably the earliest manifestation of this interest was Max's fascination with the Animusic video 'Pipe Dream'). Multiple web searches ensued.

Next we discover that George Rhoads lives in Ithaca, our stomping grounds for 3+ years (and we didn't have a clue)! Rose quickly acquires the studio telephone number, makes a call, and presto, Max has a private tour of Mr. George Rhoads' studio scheduled, which serendipitously coincided with my attending the annual Cornell Real Estate Conference. What a wonderful time that was; Max just drank it in.

For Christmas 2006, Santa brought Max a Quercetti marble run (with auto-collecting marble-return elevator, thank-you), and the marble madness continues when he and I play video games like Ballance together.

Are marbles the new trains?

Movin' On Up.

Well, the Carroll-Merendino household is finally due for its regularly-scheduled 5-year computer upgrade. It's fun to look at specs:



    Old     New
Processor Intel Mobile Pentium 4 M 1.8 GHz     Intel Core2 Duo E6600 2.4 GHz Intel Core2 Quad Q6600 2.4 GHz (upgrade 9/13/11; net cost: $99-$45=$54)
Memory 512 MB DDR-266 SDRAM 2 GB 4 GB OCZ Gold DDR2-800 SDRAM (upgrade 1/7/09; cost: $50)
Graphics Mobility Radeon 7500 Radeon X1950XT 256 MB Radeon HD 4830 512 MB (upgrade 12/26/08; net cost: $125-$50=$75)
Hard Disk 60 GB 5,400-RPM 64 GB Samsung Solid State Boot Drive (added 10/5/11; cost $80) + 1 TB: 2x Maxtor 500 GB, 3.0 Gb/s, 7,200-RPM, 16 MB cache 3 TB: 2x Hitachi 1.5 TB, 6.0 Gb/s, 7,200 RPM, 64 MB Cache (upgrade 11/5/11; cost $138)
Optical DVD/CD-RW 20x DVD±RW Dual-Layer, LightScribe, LG 12x Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Burner with LightScribe (upgrade 10/12/11; cost: $80)
Motherboard Unknown Asus P5B-VM
Networking 802.11b & Ethernet 802.11n & Ethernet
Display 15" XGA LCD Dual Sony SDM-S73 17" SXGA (1280x1024) 16 ms TN panel LCDs, 2.6 MP Dual HP LP2465 24" WUXGA (1920x1200) 6 ms S-PVA panel LCDs, 4.6 MP (upgrade 01/13/10; cost: $400)
Case Laptop Thermaltake Lanbox 550W
OS XP Home Vista Home Premium 32-bit Windows 7 Professional 64-bit (upgrade 01/09/10; cost: $25)

A question was posed: Are people happier when they are "time-affluent" or "money-affluent"? My answer:

Ultimately, I believe everything, including happiness, comes from within, but is then influenced (dampened or reinforced) by things external. Related to this, I believe that the life we experience (all the things external) is more or less a result of our internal orientation.

Over time, people bring to themselves what they are.

I believe happiness is most reinforced by positive relationships with other people. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have loved ones close to us (spouse, children, friends, parents, siblings) have an easier time of it.

I also believe that a strong orientation toward internal happiness comes from a childhood full of mostly love, joy and fun. This builds confidence and enables people to stand on their own. I believe the strongest relationships are between people who are comfortable by themselves.

Relating this to work and money: Not having enough money to avoid "living paycheck to paycheck" will cause a lot of stress for anyone--internally happy or not. It's not so bad to work hard for money, even if it takes a lot of time, so long as your priorities remain correctly aligned (i.e., don't neglect yourself, your spouse, your children, your family, your friends). If you find yourself working 80 hours per week at a job you love, so be it. If you feel better working 3 days per week for less money, so be it. Happiness is equally possible in all situations. Again, it is not a product of your situation, it is only influenced by it.

A final thought* -- If you are not happy, in all likelihood it is largely because you are not living up to the internal expectations you have set for yourself.

(*Not in original post. Original post here.)

Max Holding Esmé.

Max Holding Esmé.

Time: Messy Is The New Neat.

I think there is some value to this article: If one is obsessed with neatness and organization, then tending to the "system" becomes the only thing that a person gets done. Overly-cumbersome organizational systems can be more harmful than zero organization.

That said, I am a firm believer that it is difficult for anyone to get a lot of simultaneous projects done without some sort of organizational/prioritization system. The key is that the system must be easy to maintain and it must fit your personal work style.
In the past I have always had a tradition of sitting down by myself for a few hours on New Year’s Day to think about my goals for the coming year, and to ponder a bit about the year just past.

Over the last few years I have become much better at articulating, tracking and revising my goals, as well as actually getting things done. As I was sitting down this morning, I enjoyed my mental trip back through the past year. However, as I was thinking ahead I realized that I was pretty much already working on most of what I would consider to be this year’s goals.

I suppose I’ve evolved into a believer that the New Year is no time to be coming up with resolutions. It’s so much better to be working on them already. Immensely more mental and spiritual peace comes when goals are treated as “working tools” that get updated, beat up, reviewed, checked-off, completed, canceled, etc., than as some sort of sacred idea that gets placed on a pedestal one time per year.