Tuesday, November 29, 2005

#93 - Vote for Me!

UPDATE: Heh. I really need to do a better job of reading the fine print. I missed the deadline for nominations, so I'm out of the running. (Was never really in the running, truthfully.) Maybe next year. In the meantime, I'm still planning to vote. I'll browse through the finalists when they're announced and let you know whom I'm supporting.

Thought I'd try something different this year. Wizbang is hosting their third Weblog Awards, and the polling begins (hopefully!) this Thursday, December 1. They've created a few new categories this year, and one of them happens to be "Best Parenting Blog." I considered going for the humor category, but that's a pretty thick field, and some deeply talented (and probably deeply disturbed) folks are already nominated. Besides, The Inner Dad is all about being a Dad and enjoying the family experience. If I don't fit in this category, I don't fit.

I'm leaving the Woundup out of the running for the same reason I didn't try for the humor category. It is ostensibly a conservative blog, but I don't dedicate it enough to the political scene to be much of a candidate. There again, it's a deep field. Folks much smarter than I am are nominated and sure to capture the award.

I must say, though, that this is not about trying to win an actual award. That sort of thing is for the linkage sycophants who live or die by their ratings in the Ecosystem. (TTLB is updating their programming again, and you never heard such whining!) That's not what Inner Dad (or even the Woundup) is all about. I just feel there's a real niche for family-friendly blogs that has yet to be fully exploited, and I'd like Inner Dad to be there when it is. To put it another way: if you want to find a good conservative blog, you would have little trouble finding one. If you want to find a blog showing the humorous (yet family-friendly!) side of parenting, it gets a bit tougher. We need a bigger voice.

So, visit the polls when they open, and put in a good word for The Inner Dad. I know I can count on at least three or four votes out there! As soon as the polls are active, I'll change the image above to link directly to them.


Monday, November 28, 2005

#92 - If I've Been a Little Distracted Lately...

"So, how was the Sing-Along?" you ask. Here's the official word:

Heh. (Registration may be required)

Actually, despite what the OC Register's crack reporter says, there was actual music involved. We did have an actual chamber orchestra playing along, and an actual chorus belting out the actual selected choruses, and an actual audience (600 by the numbers) plugging along with us. I'm always a little nervous about being the lead-off soloist, but my nerves (and my gag reflex) behaved themselves and I was able to do a passable job. My wife and mother - who are, of course, decidedly unbiased - both tell me I did a terrific job. This also the Register fails to mention. (That I did a terrific job, not that my wife and mother are unbiased. Really not their job to report that. Some things are safely assumed.)

What the Register truly did not capture, though, was the scope of community response. A little history would be advisable here. Last year, for the inaugural Sing-Along, we had originally been scheduled to perform in the small theater at the Nixon Library. The Alliance had planned accordingly, and purposely went with a small chamber orchestra and smallish chorus for the performance. Through a scheduling glitch, however, we were moved at the last minute from the theater to the library's East Room, a re-creation of the White House East Room where many receptions and galas are held. We started with roughly the same seating that the theater would have accomodated, but ended up adding several rows of chairs before the performance due to community response. It was very heartening to think that so many of the community would be that interested in a Messiah Sing-Along, especially for a first-time event.

So, this year, the organizers planned a little larger. Added a few to the orchestra and chorus, and planned for more seating. The Nixon Library was more than happy to offer the East Room again, and we felt confident of having at least as many as showed up last year.

We were wrong.

About a half hour before the performance, we found ourselves being ousted from the anteroom that we had used as a warm-up room. They had already been snatching our extra chairs for the overflow, and finally had to open the divider to expand the room's capacity by a couple hundred more. So that 600 figure quoted by the paper really represents about a 33% increase in attendance from the previous year. If the trend continues next year, I have no idea where they'll put us. Can't really do a sing-along in the parking lot!

Whatever the history of "The Messiah" itself may be, as a work of music it's something that has always resonated with me. I can still remember Dad putting together a performance for church one year when I was a small lad. Mom was one of the soloists. I would sit in on some of the rehearsals where I was encouraged to sing along with the sopranos. Made me feel all grown up, that did. The piece has been a favorite of mine ever since. I still have Dad's (and Mom's) notes in the margins and throughout the score, and they are priceless to me as family history. Mom mentioned that it was heartening to see the old family score in use yesterday. Hopefully we'll be able to pass it along to future generations of Woodys (or Woodyettes) and keep the old book in play. Perhaps those kids will appreciate my notes in the margins.

No matter how many times I've sung it, or even rehearsed it, performing it always confirms my impressions that Handel was truly inspired while composing it. Yes, he borrowed heavily from some of his other works, but the effect of the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Taken together, and especially as a whole, it is a powerful representation of sacred prophecies. It has taught countless generations of believers about the birth and life of Christ in ways no mere pageant ever could. It has probably converted more than its share of seekers of truth along the way. The Spirit speaks through this work.

Assuming I'm asked back next year, I hope to see you there. Mrs. Woody and I will probably attend even if I'm not performing, because it's a good opportunity to expose our Woodyettes to something that is truly culturally significant. As they get older, I hope their still-developing tastes will continue to appreciate the beauties of the classical repertoire.

It can only help.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

#91 - Autumn in California

It's autumn here in the Golden State (so called) and my air conditioner is on the fritz. During the hottest part of August, the thing just sort of went belly up, and we had called out the friendly repair guy. Repair guys are always friendly when they know that you're so addicted to their product that you'll do anything, even listen to their not-too-subtle sales pitches, to make your unit functional again. Ours was no exception.

"Well, you know, this unit is a little on the old side, and it's really not big enough to handle your square footage. Now, really, you should probably replace this one with a more efficient unit. A little pricey, I'll admit, but then you should be trouble free for quite a few years. On the other hand, if money is tight (this said after seeing the look on my face) I can replace your puny condenser with this dual condenser."

My standard response to sales pitches is, "We'll have to wait and see how we do with taxes next year." This statement is always at least half true. Most major purchases generally require waiting to see whether we get money back from Uncle Sam. Uncle Arnold sometimes give us money back, too, but not as much as the Feds. In this case, it may well be a cold day in hellAnaheim before we buy another A/C unit. "We'll go with the condenser," I said.

Bottom line: it was still expensive. But, especially in August, it was worth it.

The problem with living in Southern California is that summer takes so long to go away. September never really cools down. Then we get that so-called "Indian summer" phenomenon that occurs in October and keeps the weather mildly warm for a week or two. No one calls it that, anymore. Too unPC, I guess. Anyway, it usually chills down on Halloween night so that we all freeze when we go trick-or-treating. Finally, in November, come the Santa Ana winds. These winds blow down from the northeast, and they are warm. So, ambient temps here for the last several days have been in the 80s. This means, of course, that my nifty new dual condenser in the air conditioner has likely exploded, or caused key moving parts to go on strike because they see themselves losing job security. Whatever the reason, my air conditioner is not working, and we are feeling it.

I'd like to call my friendly repair guy and have him come out and fix this thing. Allegedly it's still under warranty (assuming it's the condenser that's quit) and it shouldn't cost me an arm and better part of a leg to get it fixed. Unfortunately, this means digging through the various strata of paperwork in our soon-to-be-former office. Fans of the Move From Hades® will understand why this could be a problem. I may have to hire a professional spelunker to dive in there and locate the papers for me.

So, here we sit, one week away from Thanksgiving, sitting in front of our only fan like parched travellers in the Sahara. All appearances to the contrary, however, I'm really not complaining. For one thing, the extended warm weather is one of the charms of living in the Southland. I've spent limited amounts of time in areas where they have winter. I am not a cold-weather person. Cool, definitely. I can handle cool. Drop me down to around 50 degrees and I'm happy as a clam. Anything lower than that and I start to feel it. Especially now that I have mildly arthritic knees that act as a personal barometer. Also, people who live in wintery climes tend to brag about it in a manner reminiscent of the kid in the schoolyard who had bragging rights because he had a cast on his arm. I personally feel that these people get everything they deserve. Me? I still have happy memories of riding my bike in a mild rain on Christmas day when I was a kid, and being disappointed that Mom made me wear a windbreaker.

That's winter.

Friday, November 11, 2005

#90 - Happy (And I Mean That) Veterans Day!

Dad was a veteran.

Dad served in two branches of the service. He joined the Army as soon as he was barely legal, but WWII was already winding down. When the Korea "conflict" appeared, Dad re-enlisted, this time in the Air Force. He was a horn player, which meant serving in the band. He ended his tour of duty as a Tech Sgt. with commendations.

Dad never talked much about his experiences in the service. Perhaps his never having seen action somehow, in his mind, diminished the importance of his having served at all. Let's face it, military horn players don't see action unless they're stationed on an aircraft carrier. Wing-wipers don't serve on carriers.

Truth be told, however, I suspect the real reasons for Dad's reticence lie with the fact that, in his heart of hearts, Dad was a pacifist.

Now, you'd never have known that if you ever worked with him professionally. I used to think the stories he told us around the dinner table when I was young were just a load of hooey. The Old Man wants us to believe that he has his bosses so cowed that they pretty much let him get away with anything. Then I went to work there and had opportunity to chat with some of the subjects of Dad's stories. They were true. In fact, his nickname at work was "Mean Deane." He was in Contract Compliance for a goodly portion of his career. You didn't place significant purchase orders without going through him first. I joked with a few folks that Dad had two trash cans in his office. One labelled "Buyer Case Files," the other labelled "Buyers." Not many buyers laughed at that one.

I sat in more than one meeting where Dad lambasted senior managers with more clout and seniority than he had. Dad could easily have coined the term "stuck on stupid" with certain executives that, in Dad's opinion, should have crawled back into the mud whence they sprang. He had no patience with or tolerance for stupidity. He was death to anyone found guilty of trying - even inadvertently - to defraud our customers.

Nor would you have seen Dad's pacifism if you saw him with cats. Dad was always a dog man himself, and cats were merely dog food. Worse than that, they were evil little pooping machines that saw Dad's lawn as their own personal litter box. Or were overly interested in the birds we kept in a poorly designed aviary in the backyard. That's when Dad got the air pistol. I'm not sure how many times he actually used it, since Dad was the world's greatest armchair everyman. Still, there were a few shell-shocked felines around the neighborhood before that pistol got retired.

Because Dad was such a gruff character, we kids also would have found the idea of his latent pacifism to be a colossal joke. Many's the time I muttered under my breath that I would never - EVER - become the kind of Dad I had. You already know the punch line of that joke.

It wasn't until Dad talked about gun control one day that I began to understand this side of him. I believe it was during the debates for the Brady bill that the subject arose. I was, by that time, a married adult beginning to build my own family. I was pretty firmly on the side of the Second Amendment, and was watching a snippet of a news item on the TV with Dad. I remember snorting a little and saying something about leaving the NRA alone, for Pete's sake. Dad cocked an eyebrow in my direction (this was his favorite method of communicating with us) and, without taking his eyes off the television, said, "Oh, I don't know. I'm about ready to believe that they need to get rid of the handguns."

That one statement caught me by surprise and caused me to reflect seriously on this man I thought I knew. I thought back through my childhood and found memory after memory where Dad chose to pacify rather than bully. These memories were out of place with my concept of Dad and everything I thought he represented. There was, for instance, the time that he and I were breaking in new hiking boots. We were planning to take a hike in the Sespe Creek area north of our home, and we decided to hike along old Los Angeles Avenue leading out toward Moorpark, years before Easy Street took over most of that real estate. It was definitely a rural area, and we lived right on the edge of it. As we hiked along the road, a bedraggled cat appeared out of nowhere, caterwauling at the top of its lungs, and moving in our direction. I wondered how Dad might react. He had a worried look on his face. This didn't square with my previous experiences at all; I fully expected Dad to find a big stick and turn the cat into Coyote Chow. Instead, he waited until the cat was close enough, got the toe of his boot under its belly and sent it sprawling back across the street into the brush. He knew what I was thinking, and explained to me that he was worried that the cat might be rabid. This was his way of making sure the cat was no immediate threat to us, and we continued our hike unmolested.

I also remembered a horn student of Dad's. This young man did not, unfortunately, have a lot of talent. Dad worked with him pretty faithfully for a number of months, but the progress he was expecting just wasn't there. This young man was in high school. As a senior, he had registered for the draft. He knew he would be drafted as the Vietnam War was still in full swing then. His plan was to apply for one of the bands so he wouldn't see action. Dad tried to help him understand that he would need much greater skills as a musician to be successful, and that failure to make it in the band would mean being sent wherever the military deemed necessary. Of course, the young man didn't make it. He was sent into combat and, if memory serves, died some months later. Dad was devastated. I'd never seen this side of Dad before, and, as I say, didn't square with how I perceived him.

As an adult looking back, and seeing Dad in that light, I began to realize that Dad really didn't want to hurt anyone. If he was crotchety with his kids or his associates, well, that was just his personality. After Dad died, his bishop told Mom that Dad was probably already auditing St. Peter's books. He had been serving as an auditor for the Stake when he passed away. There are reasons for his curmudgeonry, but they're not for this essay.

Dad helped me understand that some things are worth fighting for, and others can be accepted as a fact of life, even when we don't agree with them. He was a veteran of more conflicts than I ever hope to see in my life. Not necessarily the conflicts of war and terror, but the everyday conflicts that shape who we are and what we achieve. Dad's greatest achievement, then, was his own personal integrity. I can only hope that I find the means and inner strength to measure up to that. Someday.

Happy Veterans Day, Dad. We love you.

P.S. And a Happy Veterans Day to my son-in-law, who serves in the Air Force and provides a good living for my daughter and granddaughter. We love you, too!

#89 - Can't See Texas for the Woodys

Pursuant to this story over at the Woundup, I need to explain at a personal level just why California's current economy stinks.

California, of course, is one of those states that continually makes money hand over fist. No matter how hard we try to create deficit budgets (or, more accurately, no budgets) every year, the state continues to rake in the tax revenues. Most of that, of course, comes from the obscenely high taxes most businesses have to pay in this state in order to do business.

It's the classic domino effect: higher costs of business drive local prices up, which means that more and more people have to work in order to maintain the state's revenue projections, and housing costs keep going through the roof, which means that your average household requires two (or more!) incomes just to break even, assuming you want to live in a house that has indoor plumbing. Welcome to California. No bankruptcies allowed.

California politicians tend not to get this because - try to keep up here - most of them tend to be rich. It's really through no fault of their own, mind you, because if we assume that our elected officials manage their own finances the way they manage state money, they'd all be first in line to file for bankruptcy even if you could file for bankruptcy, which you can't. Not you, anyway. Businesses can file all they want.

So. How does this affect me? Well, my family has lived in Southern California for decades. We're talking about two and a half generations, minimum, of Woodys living here in the Southland. Both of my parents came to California as youngsters. We Woody kids were all born and raised here, and those of us who have married have brought our children into the world within shouting distance of the old homestead.

But in the past several years, change has altered the geographical makeup of the family. My grown daughter now lives in Maryland. No real surprise, since her Air Force hubby works in Washington, D.C. They're already dreaming of coming back to California. My son lives in Minnesota, but that's mostly because his Mom remarried and her hubby comes from that neck of the woods.

Then Mom got married. She met a very nice man named Bob. (Men in stories are always named Bob. Not sure why that is, but I think it's Bill Cosby's fault.) Bob had retired, which in his case means no longer making money doing what he loves best, which is photography. Bob is one of those who would find a way to be the photographer at his own funeral. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Anyway, Mom married him. In so doing, she also married into Texas, which is where Bob bought his retirement home. It's a little on the snug side, but he was able to pay for it with what he cleared on the sale of his California home. Apparently housing is quite reasonable in Texas. Which I believe also accounts for the imminent treason of my baby sister. They've been living for a while now in a nice house in California, a house they can no longer really afford to live in. They've bought a home in Texas just recently. A home quite close to Mom. And Bob. And all the friends that used to live in California close to Mom and Bob who now live close together in Texas. Not that there's anything wrong with that, either.

Me? I'm pretty much glued to California and my 21 year pension. It'll be a lot closer to 35 years by the time I can retire safely (meaning the kids are grown to the point of self-sufficiency). Plus, we both still have family in the area. I still have a few siblings left, and Mrs. Woody has a sister and her Mom here. So don't look for Woody to be renting a moving van anytime soon.

Maybe I can sell some stocks to buy train tickets out to Texas. If I don't go bankrupt first, that is.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

#88 - Daddy Does a Field Trip

Yesterday was an interesting day for the ol' Woodster. I got to spend a couple of hours briefing my Big Boss (the one a level up from my direct boss) during our monthly Team Review, and learned (the hard way) the meaning of the phrase "manage your customers." Then I attempted to prevent one of my coders from permanently damaging our security protocols on our production server.

Then I got to take the Woodyettes on a field trip.

We went to Rancho Los Alamitos in Long Beach so the kids in our homeschool group (and, apparently, several other invited families) could tour a historical rancho that was one of the primary landmarks in this part of the basin well over a hundred years ago. It was a fascinating snapshot in history, and parts of the rancho are still functioning, if mostly for show.

The girls even dressed for the part. They both based their costume on Josefina, one of the American Girls characters, who might have lived on a rancho very much like this one. Of course, one of my youngsters is very blonde, but she put her hair in a Josefina-like pony tail. So if you squinted, you might overlook her Swedish heritage.

The layout and background history of the rancho were fascinating enough to hold Daddy's interest, while there were enough animals kept in the barns and stables to hold the girls' attention. Our tour guide was highly knowledgeable and provided me with some background on native tribal distribution in this area that I did not know before.

My Jelly Woodyette has a wonderful ability to instantly transport herself to any time and place as if she herself were a character in a book of her own writing. In this case, she immediately identified herself with one of the daughters who lived on the rancho a hundred years ago and was able to pretend that the house and its grounds were hers. The younger one might have joined in, but she took a tumble on some asphalt (of somewhat more recent design) and skinned her little knee. So Daddy couldn't take photos for at least a portion of the tour. Had my hands (and arms) full.

Still, the girls had a wonderful time overall. Entirely on their own, they chose to write or illustrate a report on their experiences. Doodle asked me to post hers on her blog which I have done here. School work, it seems, is easy if you don't realize it's work. Maybe I can use that to psyche myself out at work next week.

Or maybe not.