Sunday, January 29, 2006

Pulled in Different Directions

There's the possibility of getting pregnant this month with IVF, and all that would mean. There's the possibility of not getting pregnant this month, but pursuing more fertility options or adoption. And if we don't get pregnant this month, and say enough already, there's the possibility of keeping our lives roughly in the status quo, and the possibility of heading in a whole new direction. And there are seemingly endless possibilities as to the potential new directions.

(and no -- this is not how I look with a beard)

[update 4:35pm: breathe, relax, explain. It's just another month of uncertainty here, and every once in a while being stuck in neutral feels overwhelming, so we start revving our engines next to each other, which results in a feedback loop of us revving our engines even more and making even more noise, all the while wasting a lot of energy but not getting anyhere. I'm sure these posts are all too common around here. I know that waiting one more month will move us closer to resolving one of the above-mentioned possibilities, so I guess it's a matter of letting nature (and science) take its course. breathe, relax.]

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


This is the month -- the plan is to use the embryos we had frozen in June. Figure we should find out in about a month whether Kathy's pregnant (though as we found out the hard way last time, that's only the beginning), so wish us luck.

After giving it a lot of thought, I've decided not to pursue the business that's for sale. I looked at the income from the store and realized that I could either work ~70 hours a week for at least the next two years with minimal time off; or hire someone, which would result in making almost no money for roughly two years (after coming up with the money to purchase the store). A not insignificant factor was the blurb above -- even if I were inclined to work long hours or for very little money if it were just the two of us, if we're successful at our attempt at pregnancy, I would want to be able to see my child(ren) and to not be worried financially. The business likely will be sold before we'd know about our efforts at pregnancy, though if it's still on the market at that time, I may quickly revisit the issue. As suggested by my earlier post, one thing that wasn't a factor was Kathy -- she's been incredibly supportive of my looking into this opportunity. I think she might even be a bit more disappointed than I am that it doesn't seem to work for us.

Much as we love Junebug, she's recently entered a phase that's really starting to piss us off. Last week, for the first time since we renovated our kitchen, she figured out how to open the dog food drawer and help herself. We tried holding the door closed with bungee cords, but to no avail, so we've had to put the food back into a closet, which is something of a pain. Today I came home and found out that she's figured out how to open the pantry, and that she had attacked several open boxes of cereal and gotten the rawhides down off a shelf about as tall as she is long. Needless to say, her methods of opening the drawers and the pantry cause some damage to the doors, which makes us very unhappy (expletives omitted) given that we got very nice cabinetry when we renovated the kitchen less than two years ago! I think we'll be able to keep her out in the future, but I expect there to be some additional damage before she decides she can't get in.

Rather than bore any of you with a full review of Pratchett's latest Discworld novel (I've reviewed two of his others), I'll simply say that Pratchett fans will be delighted to see a new story about Sam Vimes and the Watch. The rest of you should avoid this book until you've read the many earlier books concerning Sam, many of which are better than this one, and all of which provide context. It's not a bad book -- there are the standard conversion of elements of our world to the Discworld equivalents (a new trend is taking place among the young dwarfs, consisting of them carrying additional battle axes, and other such war-based paraphenalia -- it's called "clang"). And Sam is one of my favorite characters out there. But where the story to Night Watch (the last Discworld story centered on Sam) sizzled, this one doesn't come together as well. As for the other recurring characters, sadly Lord Vetinari has nothing more than a cameo in this one, though Captain Carrot, Angua, Nobby and the rest of them are entertaining as always. Rating: 7/10

And if you can stand one more bearded photo, this one is right up there with Mr. Flu's:

Monday, January 23, 2006

If she hadn't...

The bad news was that Junebug got hurt. So she got staples in her leg to close up a wound, which meant we had to take her to the vet to get them removed (Kathy refused to take me up on my suggestion that I bring my staple remover home from work). And while we were there, the vet had time to give Junebug a full exam, and because it had been too long since her last exam, we went ahead with it. It turns out she tested positive for Lyme disease, so as of tonight she's on antibiotics. So in a way the accident was a good thing, because otherwise odds are we wouldn't have taken Junebug in until she'd shown symptoms of Lyme disease. And this'll get us to take Nora in for a checkup (very soon), because she's been in the same woods that Junie's been in.

What does this say about us as dogowners? We love our dogs, and want them to live a long healthy life, but we don't seem particularly inclined to do some the things that would help them achieve that long healthy life such as take them in for regular checkups -- our vet approach definitely seems more reactive than proactive. At the emergency clinic after the accident, we spent $250. Today's bill was $240, including checkup, shots, lab tests, heartworm medicine, and the follow-up antibiotics. The vet didn't even give the distemper shot today because he likes to space the shots out, so we're going again in 10 days or so, and that'll be an additional charge. He wanted to run an additional test for the Lyme disease that costs $120, to get a more specific read on it, but I didn't see the point in paying for that when the proper treatment is giving her the antibiotics (and he'll want to run that more expensive test in a few months regardless, to make sure she's all better). A liver enzyme turned up in the high normal and he wants to follow-up with that -- if it's still in the normal range, why?! I guess I can count on Nora's upcoming checkup running another ~$200, assuming nothing else turns up.

Even though I'm griping about the cost, I recognize that these expenses are, generally speaking, part of the commitment one makes as a pet owner. If I'm not willing to fork over the money for the annual checkups and immunizations, then I shouldn't be a pet owner. But there is a point where one needs to draw the line, isn't there?

Our dogs are over eight (we think Junebug is almost nine, but because we got her from the pound, we don't know for certain), so if we're good pet owners, vet expense will continue to rise over the next few years. It's somewhat callous to think in these terms, but I figure that a pet is somewhere between a family member and a piece of property you need to maintain (a computer?). At what point does one say it's not worth $x to upkeep the family pet, and it's time to get an "upgrade"? By the time they discovered my dog Rosie's cancer in 2000, it was inoperable (she died a month later), so I didn't have to make a tough decision about spending thousands of dollars for her care. But before we found out it was inoperable, I was definitely wondering how much I was willing to spend, and feeling guilty as Hell over the thought that perhaps I wouldn't "spare no expense" for her. When I read this article a couple of years ago, I realized that there really isn't a cap on such expenditures for those willing to spend it.

So I don't know where all this thinking leaves me, I only know that we'll likely need to make difficult decisions in the coming years. In the meantime, we're going to try to be more proactive about our dogs' care, particularly now that they're getting up in years.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Altered Carbon

A couple of years ago, a friend recommended this book as one he thought I might enjoy. Only after he reminded me of this recommendation a few months ago, however, did I take the time to copy it to my Wish List (it wasn't at my library), where it sat until Kathy got it for me for Christmas.

Authors generally have two main challenges -- to make the reader believe the characters, and to make her or him believe the plot. Science fiction adds a third challenge to the mix -- to make the reader believe the setting, a particularly difficult task when the setting is an alien world, or the distant future. Of course all authors must do this, but mainstream fiction does not demand as much out of the author's setting -- the author can assume its readership understands certain details of our common planet, and of the era in which the story is set. While not limited by the constraints of reality, the SF setting must create something out of whole cloth -- when the details are painted too broadly, the author risks coming across as cartoonish. Given the enormity of constructing a setting, much of science fiction consists of impressive constructs of setting, while the characters and plot get second-class status. When an author can present all three at high levels, those are the ones that keep me.

In Altered Carbon, Richard Morgan has constructed a universe set 500 years from now, rich with detail -- the detail of future technology and of the ethical issues that go with them. Imagine a world where a person's mind is stored (backed up?) in a piece of hardware ("stack") that's inserted just below the brain, and where one's stored mind can be placed in another body, cloned or synthetic, or run on a computer. One can even end up in someone else's body, if that other person isn't using it, for example, because s/he's serving a criminal sentence. Such is the case for Takeshi Kovacs, the narrator. He himself is a criminal from a distant planet, who's serving a 100-year sentence, but who has been hired by a wealthy 300-year-old from Earth to investigate tycoon's apparent suicide. The suicide (murder?) blew off the head, but the wealthy also back up their minds off-site, so the tycoon has been restored, but has no memory of the events subsequent to the backup. Got it so far?

Kovacs isn't just another criminal -- he's a former U.N. "envoy," someone capable of serving as a one-man army. "Former" because the U.N. had no more use for such individuals, and a criminal in part because there aren't many career options left open to former envoys. The premise evokes Escape from New York -- Kovacs will resume his sentence if he fails to solve the crime. In the course of the investigation, there are dozens of plot twists, examination of the social and ethical issues such a society faces (e.g., should Catholics, who oppose the use of the stacks to "resurrect" the dead, be brought back against their will in the course of a criminal investigation?), thoughtful discussions on the nature of power, and the musings of a revolutionary in the narrator's past. Kovacs also muses on his past as an envoy, regularly talking to his subconscious in the guise of a deceased envoy.

Given these elements to the story, I expected violence, but I have to say, I was somewhat surprised at just how violent it was (the ample amount of sex, however, didn't faze me as much). As I said above, the story is rich with detail; unfortunately, while Kovacs has a perfect memory, I don't, and there were a couple of times I drew a blank when an individual or seemingly minor event from 100+ pages earlier was referenced.

Still, I found myself fascinated with the depth of the setting -- Morgan has created a thoroughly captivating environment with an interesting narrator and other characters. I got a second Morgan book for Christmas, also centered on Kovacs, and I look forward to reading it soon.

Rating: 8/10.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Supreme Court Decisions -- Oregon Assisted Suicide Law and Medical Marijuana Decisions

Today the Supreme Court upheld Oregon's assisted suicide law, and I think it's pretty interesting how the judges voted (admittedly, I've only read some of the news articles and skimmed Scalia's dissent). At issue was then Attorney General Ashcroft's intrepretation of the federal Controlled Substances Act, a 1970 law used to prosecute drug abuse and trafficking. Ashcroft wanted to use the law to prosecute doctors who prescribed lethal overdoses under the Oregon law. By a 6-3 majority, the Supreme Court found that Ashcroft exceeded his authority under the act. From what I've read, I agree with the following:
Jonathan Adler, a constitutional law professor at Case Western University in Cleveland, said in a statement that today's decision "is important because it prevents a federal agency from intruding upon traditional state functions without express congressional authorization."
Professor Adler is saying the decision basically affirms a states' rights position. Generally, conservatives favor limiting federal authority, and a moderate conservative, Justice Kennedy, wrote today's decision. What's interesting is that the dissenters were the three most conservative justices, Scalia, Thomas and Roberts (admittedly, we don't know Roberts is conservative, though that that's my presumption until proven otherwise). Thomas, for example, dissented in the case last year that held that the federal government can prosecute medical marijuana use, even in states which allow its use. Interestingly, Scalia voted with the majority in that case, suggesting that he's not as much a proponent of states' rights as might be thought.

I don't find the liberal justices' changing perspective between the medical marijuana and assisted suicide decisions to be inconsistent. Last year's case involved an existing federal law that explicitly banned the usage that the state law permitted. Today's decision concerned a broad interpretation of an existing federal law -- the law was silent on the issue of assisted suicide, and on physicians prescribing drugs for that purpose. In other words, if one voted against the use of medical marijuana in the presence of a federal law with an explicit conflict, I don't see a problem with voting for physician assisted suicide given a federal law without an explicit conflict. Incidentally, O'Connor and Rehnquist joined Thomas in dissent in the medical marijuana case.

So in comparing how the votes line up in the two cases:
  • Kennedy, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer -- the "explicitness" makes a difference in how the cases are decided.
  • O'Connor -- states' rights win in each case. In the earlier decision, she "would not have voted for the medical marijuana initiative" in California, but criticized the majority for stifling "an express choice by some States, concerned for the lives and liberties of their people, to regulate medical marijuana differently."
  • Scalia -- federal law triumphs each time, arguing that the federal laws were explicit each time. Scalia relies on the federal law's requirement that a prescription have "legitimate medical purpose," stating, "If the term 'legitimate medical purpose' has any meaning, it surely excludes the prescription of drugs to produce death."
  • Thomas -- For the medical marijuana law, against the assisted suicide law. This seems to be the most conflicting of the approaches, and I don't see how his positions in the cases can be reconciled.
  • Roberts, Rehnquist -- each only voted in one case.
FWIW, personally I favor both state laws. People should have more control over their own lives when not causing harm to others. I would have no trouble broadening the assisted suicide law, which requires a terminally ill patient who wants to end her/his life with a physician's help to get a certification from two doctors stating s/he is of sound mind and has fewer than six months to live. If the patient gets the certifications, a prescription for lethal drugs is then written by the doctor, and the patient administers the drugs to her/himself As far as I'm concerned, if someone is adjudged to be of sound mind (whatever that is!) and wants to commit suicide, that's good enough for me. I have trouble understanding why the state feels an obligation to keep a mentally competent person alive against his or her will.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Marriage Manifesto

Yesterday we received a letter from good friends of ours. I thought it worth sharing, as it's one of the more unique announcements I've received:

Marriage Manifesto

For over 10 years now, we've been in a relationship that belonged to only us. No government or 3rd parties were involved. Nothing has been wrong with our relationship that a government contract could fix. I've always thought that the question, "Why don't you get married?" was akin to "Why don't you turn in circles 3x before you lie down?"

Furthermore, we didn't want to join an institution that is denied to ~10% of our brothers and sisters. Though we have had the option of the marriage bonus in the past, it hasn't been nearly as large, nor has it occurred during a time of such wasteful and immoral use of taxpayers' money. Also, student loan debt acquired during marriage could be strapped onto a surviving spouse or divorcé, whereas pre-marital debts don't follow the spouse.

As many of you know, I've been struggling with unemployment for over 7 months. You may have heard me lament that my tuition tax credits are going to waste because I'm too poor to pay taxes. It occurred to me that I could not use my credits but anyone (well, one man) who married me could. I was worth $3000 to whoever married me by Dec. 31st. It was a tough choice. I looked at how bad I needed the $$ and how much I didn't want to join an unnecessary and discriminatory institution. I also considered how the governemnt would spend the $3000. We decided to approach it as one might the terrorists. Hit them where it hurts. $3000 for us is $3000 less for the war and corporate subsidies.

We want to let you know we were married Dec. 29th. We would have loved to have a party but time did not permit. Maybe we'll have a Marriage Bonus Party when the check comes in.

Love, C & M
Congratulations to C & M -- I hope they're happy with their decision!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

More Photoshop Beard Madness

Looks like CapFlu started a movement over at RateBeer -- here's a collage of what other folks did to my userpicture:

She's Ok Now, or Sometimes It's Necessary to Give away the Ending to Preserve the Reader's Peace of Mind

It's Kathy's boss' fault -- if he hadn't insisted on Kathy and him using free flights up to NYC, instead of taking the train, she'd have been home sooner. And if she'd been home sooner, then she'd have walked the dogs, because I'd walked them the past two nights. And if she walked them, Junebug wouldn't have run into the car, because she would have been on a leash. But of course that's all bullshit -- if I had kept Junebug on a leash myself, she wouldn't have chased after the cat, so Kathy and I wouldn't have been at an emergency vet clinic at 11:30 last night, even though I was coming down with a cold and wanted nothing better than to go to bed.

The incident happened last night while Junebug, Nora and I were all at the triangle down the street, a grass area where three roads intersect. At that time of night there's almost no traffic. Junebug was dropping a deuce when she spied a cat and took off after it as fast as she could. The cat crossed the street, Junebug crossed the street, and a car approached. The cat darted back into the street, right in front of the car, and Junebug was still in hot pursuit. I was frozen -- there was nothing I could say or do at that point that would make a difference, so I wished for one of two things. The first had no chance of happening -- Junebug wasn't going to have enough sense to stop and let the car pass. The second, however, did occur -- the car got to the collision point first, i.e., Junebug ran into the car, rather than the other way around. There was a thump followed by Junebug's piteous yelping. I called Junebug back into the triangle, and she lay still there for a while as the various people gathered around -- the driver, the woman on the cellphone in her front yard, and a few other neighbors. The neighbors hadn't seen the accident and assumed the worse, but because I knew she had run into the car, I was more optimistic. And after a few minutes, when I called her to get up, Junie was able to do so, although slowly. I thought she might just have been shaken up, as she moved fairly well all the way back to the house. But after Kathy came home about 15 minutes later, she noticed some blood on Junebug's underside. It turned out that there was an eraser-head sized hole on the inside of one of Junebug's hind legs, so away we went to the vet's. The vet cleaned the wound and put three staples into it, and told us that everything else seemed ok, other than some additional redness on her stomach from what the vet called "road rash."

We got back to the house and gave Junebug the first of her anti-inflammatories and antibiotics that she'll be on for a few days, and I headed to a restless night of fighting an incipient cold. This morning I got up early to go in for a four-hour conference call, then came home, both to care for Junebug and to try to get more sleep (no luck). On my way home, I thought about last night's events, and wondered whether I'll always be good about keeping Junebug on a leash in the future. Junebug seems happier off a leash -- she can play far more, and will often sprint back to the house. While crossing a street, at the moment I was thinking that I honestly couldn't make such an assurance, a squirrel playfully ran into the street, almost like it was challenging any dogs in the area to come chase it. If Junebug were with me right then, off leash, and had spotted the squirrel before I did, she almost certainly would have taken the squirrel up on its dare. It made me realize that even if I can't promise for 100% of the time, I do know that from here on out, it'll be the usual routine rather than the occasional one.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Checking off a Thing to Do Before I Die

I think it's good to have a list of things to do before one dies. For example, I would like to visit each continent at least once in my life. Thus far, sorry to say, I've only visited three -- North America, Europe, and Asia. Fortunately, there's still time.

Recently, however, I have started one activity I've never done, that has been available for me to undertake for roughly two decades. I have decided to grow a beard. I've always observed bald patches whenever I let a couple of days go by without shaving, so I feared how it would go, but so far the reception has been fairly positive. Kathy was somewhat alarmed at first, and for the first week, she found the growth scratchy on her face. Since then, however, the hair has softened and she's grown to like it, though lately her smiles when she looks my way sometimes make me feel like she's doing her damnedest to suppress a laugh.

I last shaved the Friday before Christmas, so it has accumulated about 2.5 weeks of growth. I have no idea whether I'll keep it, but I do plan to let it fill in. At that point, I'll post a pic, but in the meantime I figured I'd show you how I don't look. Here's my usual picture at RateBeer (taken in Rostock, Germany the summer of 2002):

And here's how my friend CapFlu, upon hearing that I was growing a beard, Photoshopped (I love verbing nouns) it:

I may end up looking just like Mr. Flu's artwork suggests, but I think I'm still a couple of weeks (and a tattoo) away.

Monday, January 09, 2006


Friday morning Kathy was using some moisturizing cream before getting dressed, and it got me thinking. There are moisturizers with cocoa butter, with olive oil, mango butter, and so on. It dawned on me that there really needs to be one with both chocolate and coffee -- I can hear the ad jingle now:
"Everybody's using a brand new cream now,
Come on baby, use the mocha lotion."
At least Kathy laughed.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


I've done one meme before, voluntarily just to try it. This, however, is the first time I've been tagged. At the outset, I have to note that the participants in this meme generally seem to be of a particular gender, or which I am not a member. I don't know if this makes my participation a good thing or a bad thing.

Remove the top blog from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom.

The Weirdgirl
It's Not All Mary Poppins
Lory's blog
aaron's blog

Select five people to play (entirely voluntary, of course)

Evo Morales
turd blossom
Adam Kidan
Michael Schiavo
Marcus Vick

What were you doing ten years ago?

In January 1996 I had just been dumped by my girlfriend of 10 months, a co-worker. I had switched jobs at my agency four months earlier, and was unhappy enough to make another switch three months later -- fortunately, the second switch took, and I remained at that division for nearly eight years. I was living in the basement in a four-person group house in North Arlington.

In the summer of 1996 I would take perhaps my greatest adventure, two weeks on my own in the Czech Republic, showing up unable to speak Czech or German, with no place to stay and no plans, only a return ticket and two guidebooks. It might not have been that big of a deal, but given my limited exposure to foreign travel at the time, it was big -- it opened up my eyes to at least some recognition of what I'd been missing, and I've been traveling lots ever since.

What were you doing one year ago?

Exactly one year ago I was finishing up an amazing two weeks in Costa Rica with Kathy's family, the first week spent volunteering on a collective farm, the second spent traveling around seeing a fraction of the beautiful sights this small country has to offer. Once I got back, everything was pretty much the same as things are now, except I wasn't as miserable in my job.

Five snacks you enjoy.

1. Cashews (they're even better when mixed with chocolate morsels)
2. Baby carrots
3. Bananas
4. Tortilla chips
5. M&Ms

Five songs to which you know all the lyrics.

1. Lengthwise by Phish
2. A New England by Billy Bragg
3. Absolutely Cuckoo by The Magnetic Fields
4. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed by the Allman Brothers
5. Happy Birthday

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire.

1. Travel
2. Travel
3. Travel
4. Travel
5. Travel

Five bad habits.

1. Bite my nails.
2. Cut my own hair -- when I'm at work!
3. Use sarcasm too much.
4. Fail to finish assigned tasks.

Five things you like doing.

1. Drinking good beer.
2. Travel
3. Hanging out with good friends.
4. Going to Soccer games (DC United and US Men's National Team)
5. Traveling with/to see good friends so we can go to soccer games and drink good beer.

Five things you would never wear or buy again.
Here's where that gender discrepancy really comes into play -- guys don't think about what they would or wouldn't wear again, so I'm surprised that I was able to come up with even one of those.

1. Any beer from Budweiser, Miller or Coors.
2. A concert ticket to see Jay Farrar/Son Volt.
3. My hair in a mullet (the old pictures of me with one may be the only thing about me that makes Kathy cringe).
4. A calendar at full-price (half price as of January 2).
5. Non-discounted sneakers (sneakers are sneakers are sneakers -- an outlet or clearance rack does the trick every time).

Five favorite toys.

1. My desktop computer
2. My jukebox
3. My camera
4. The laptop computer
5. Kathy's breasts (the subject is not "my" favorite toys, so please don't think that I'm asserting ownership here. Also please note that the answers contained here are not necessarily listed in order of preference)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Between Visits

One of the nice things about living in DC is that it's a destination, which means that friends are always swinging through here for work or leisure.

When I got back to work on Tuesday, I had a brief e-mail waiting for me --
From: Maria
To: Aaron
Subject: Happy New Year
Any chance you and Kathy can meet me for dinner on Thursday evening in DC?
Maria is a law school friend who still lives in Tallahassee, and was coming to town for a conference (at this point she's the only friend from law school that I still keep in touch with).

Last night she came over and we went out to our new favorite Thai place (conveniently located in walking distance to our house). We had a great time catching up -- it had been about four years since we'd seen each other. During the course of the evening, she related to Kathy one tidbit from law school that I'd forgotten about -- while we sat next to each other in Civil Procedure, I occupied my boredom by trying to list all the CDs in my collection. She thought I was nuts, and as I assured her last night, I still am (an assertion to which Kathy readily agreed).


I woke up this morning at 4:15 with Nora licking some part of her. After about ten minutes of trying to go back to sleep while listening to a small dog meticulously attempting to address whatever grooming inadequacy she was encountering, I gave up and went into another room to try to sleep. Sleep, however, had no interest in joining me, so here I am.


Yesterday afternoon, I came back from a meeting to find the following e-mail --
From: John
To: Aaron, Michael, Katy
Subject: Coming to DC!
As I have finally, mostly shaken this cold, I'm planning on driving down to DC tomorrow (Friday the 6th) and hopefully staying thru Monday or Tuesday. I have a friend who works for Booz Allen and was going to drop by his office on Monday and see about possibly Interning there next summer. Do any of you know anything about them?

What availability do you all have this weekend?
To which I responded --
They're a major consulting firm, but beyond that, I really don't know much about them.

So will we see you at all?
He came back with the following --
I was hoping to still crash at your place.
Is that still ok?

Call me
Maybe it's just me, but the two short-notice visits have a certain qualitative difference. Then again, this is John, someone who's always danced to the beat of a different bassoonist, and someone I've known since I was 7. To be fair, a couple of months ago he had asked about such a visit for sometime in January -- he's now in law school ("I told you I was going to law school." "You asked how I did on the LSAT -- I thought it had to do with you having worked for Kaplan."), and as the e-mail indicates, looking for an summer internship.

When I called him back he said that he had a backup. I told him that of course he was welcome, and that it was no big deal. After all, we live in DC, so we expect to have visitors.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Living in Interesting Times

One of the things that always gives me pause whenever I think of leaving my job, even though I'm presently unhappy with it (and have been for some time), is the question of what I'd do instead. We've talked of moving, but always the question is, what would we do when we got there? Last week, I learned of an opportunity to head off in a completely different direction, and to tackle a new challenge, running my own business. I would take a major pay cut, work almost double the hours I do now, and time off (and travel) would be non-existent for the immediate future. In exchange for that, I'd be owner of a business that has been rapidly expanding, we'd move to somewhere we'd like to be, and I would be my own boss in a field that holds personal interest.

I have initiated contact with the current owner, and am looking into this possibility. I may ultimately decide against the purchase, or someone else might outbid me, but I feel like I'd be kicking myself if I didn't at least investigate. Kathy has been very supportive -- indeed, she's encouraged me to pursue this.

2006 could be a very interesting year indeed.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole

Stephanie Doyon's Cedar Hole is a town where, "when a person rose above the lot, everyone else looked around and thought they were sinking. Balance had to be restored, and if fate didn't see to it, the citizens of Cedar Hole took it upon themselves to make sure that victory and defeat were served up in equal portions." Francis "Spud" Pinkham learns this lesson as well if not better than anyone. As the youngest of 10 children, and the only boy, he suffers at the hands of his nine tomboy sisters, most especially from their ringleader, Jackie, the oldest and biggest hellion of them all. But while he fears Jackie, he simply dislikes his classmate Robert Cutler. Robert is the town's golden boy, one who seems destined for greater things, but for whom Cedar Hole is nevertheless the center of the universe. It is his image against whom all others in town are compared and found lacking. Spud is able to get by in life, but with the constant lessons his sisters provide, he never becomes too comfortable -- imminent misfortune is always to be expected. When fortune finally seems to shine down on him when he's in his mid-30s, Francis cannot trust his luck, to his wife's and children's frustration.

Cedar Hole is a small town that's provincial in its outlook and unlike anywhere I've ever lived. At the same time, I can't help but feel that it conveys a genuine feel of small-town America. Doyon breathes life into the the stock characters, from the town's Chief Wiggum-like police officer, to the school's fourth-grade teacher; and into the petty disputes and personal relationships. Reading of Spud as a child and teen is a delight. As an adult, after he's been made small by the life he's lived, it's somewhat painful yet wholly captivating.

With most books, I get caught up in the plot and never stop until I reach the end. Here I was far more deliberate. At no point did I ever want to put the book away -- I just put it down for spells so I could savor it.

Rating: 9/10.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Years

A snowy evening in Connecticut left a blanket of snow for this morning.

The slate has been cleared, everything is fresh and ready to start anew.