Sunday, January 04, 2004

Maybe it ain't 'cool,' but that don't stop me from being very proud and happy that the Mars rover dubbed 'Spirit' has made a successful landing and is sending back its first pictures. Coincidentally, yesterday two good pals of mine from high school dropped by for a nice visit, and one of these pals works for NASA. He's practically a genius (I remember him in high school chalk-boarding, on a lark after an off-hand comment of mine, an attempt to work out a vector-based model that would encompass Einsteinian and Newtonian physics). This pal raised two daughters on his own and never completed college. But he had the ganas to approach the guys at NASA with his humble hat in hand. My pal has 'spirit.' The guys at NASA recognized his talent and gave him a chance. The next Mars rover scheduled to land this month is called 'Opportunity.' Enough said.

You can say what you want about the things this country may be doing wrong, and the evil clatch of freaks who are now in power, and I would probably agree with you. But keep your filthy hands off of my Mars rovers or I will rip you a new one.

I actually have tears in my eyes. Probably I wouldn't, normally. But this is such a relief after the Japanese and British probes both went haywire. And my leg amd arm have been getting more feeble. And no diagnosis possible until next week probably. And for two days now a mild headache on the right side of my head where the main problem is. Tired yesterday. And two kids who are ... bless them ... just kids, and who don't take a break. The baby has a cough which wakes her up, which wakes up my wife. And yes my wife did take her to the pediatrician late last week and the baby is fine. And my son, sweet as he usually is, happens to be three soon-to-be-four, and all kids go through a phase when they are three of wanting and needing to fight and argue. He doesn't do it all the time but he's human and he does do it some of the time. Like today from 5:00 AM on ... wrangling and hassling my wife, who had a crying baby on one arm. And there I am lying in bed trying to cover my ears, thinking about my headache and my feeble leg and feeling guilty, wishing I would do more. Trying to stay mellow. Calm. Buddhist.

So just shy of 6:30 my wife and I agreed that I would get up, take a shower, and then ranch the kids while I made breakfast. Maybe my wife could nap then or after breakfast. In an attempt to get my son to stop making so much noise and disruption, I knelt by him and very calmly said:

"The Mars rover has landed."

That shut him up. We have been talking about this for seven months, and watching the NASA animation of the landing sequence weekly, sometimes daily. But there are few things that can de-crank a cranky 3-year-old, so I had to get my message across quickly before the default grumble resumed. I wanted to keep my tone of voice as gentle and soft as possible. Very tricky moment. Like handling nitroglycerine.

"And the pictures are going to be spectacular," I said, suddenly realizing I was riffing on 'Seinfeld.'

"But .. " I said, noticing that the baby was starting to cry about her diaper change, and wishing she wouldn't, because that made it necessary to raise my voice to be understood, which would make my son think I was shouting at him, which would make him start shouting back... "If you don't cooperate with your mommy ..." (baby screaming now, in cycles, so I raise my voice in a vain attempt to convey my message to the boy) "...and do what she says ... " (Waah! Wa-ahh!) "...I won't be able to show them to you until tomorrow. And I want to show them to you. So be good."

He is momentarily quiet, and I rush into the shower.

By the time I got into the shower the boy was already ranting again in full rebellion.

By the time I get out of the shower all is quiet and dark upstairs. Are they asleep? Does peace reign? From time to time we get small blessings. I question it not, and sneak down here to type this. I have always been a writer, and writing this blog gives me some peace. I do it for myself and my sense of calm. Secondarily, I am glad that some of you have been enjoying it.

Now to make breakfast.
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