Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Normie doctor

Yo, Mauritius! Leave a comment. I'm curious about you.

At 3:21 AM I woke to the sound of my lovely wife already tending to my daughter, who had apparently just vomited. We hadn't known she was sick. It's my son who has the unexplained, harsh cough. For someone who had just thrown up, my daughter was remarkably cheerful. My lovely wife cleaned everything up and changed the girl's bed while dealing with a happy, chattering almost-three-year-old and a happy chattering almost-six-year-old. I don't know how many times she said "Don't step in it!" She fixed it all while I posted this and slathered my hands with Purell.

4:12 AM -- She just threw up again. Still very cheerful. I think I'll stay at the computer until things get quiet up there. Let us now praise my lovely wife.

So I went to the supposed Lyme-aware doctor that my chiropractor recommended, and he turned out to be a total normie. Mind you, he was pleasant and polite, kind and able to listen. But he wasn't able to understand. He kept saying that IgeneX (which I refer to in this blog as Quack Lab), has a bad reputation and their results should not be trusted, while those of Quest and LabCorp (which analyze the results using different criteria) should. This is as knee-jerk as the first Lyme doctor, who told me that the IgeneX results were the only ones worth looking at, and that Quest was useless. (But that first doctor, unfortunately, wanted another spinal tap, as a CYA manuever for himself).

Normie doctor was unimpressed when I said that my results from Quest were indeterminate (neither negative nor positive) in 2003 and 2004, and that IgeneX's analysis method, while different from the accepted one, is based on published medical literature. He was also unimpressed when I mentioned that I am now MORE seropositive than before the Flagyl, which is evidence that my body may be manufacturing more antibodies against the weakened organisms. I got the impression that this doctor goes with What Everyone Says, rather than thinking for himself. That's why I call him Normie doctor.

Like many doctors, he's probably just afraid of being sued. But I want a doctor who is interested in treating me, rather than one who just wants to protect himself. He did do one useful thing, which was to provide referrals to two infectious disease specialists. I've made an appointment with one, and left a voicemail with the other.

For someone who thinks IgeneX is worthless, he showed a lot of interest in getting copies of my lab results, mentioning it twice and requesting it again just before I left. I think he wants the results as a hedge against possible litigation. I politely said no.

Scott points out that IgeneX has been recertified by the state and the feds. The IgeneX CEO says:

A Letter from IGeneX Labs CEO, Nick Harris (CA)

I am pleased to announce that IGeneX, Inc. recently passed two inspections on September 7 and 8, 2005, for its biannual recertification from the State of California. A federal inspector also arrived simultaneously, indicating she was present due to the NY Times article August 23 which had made allegations against IGeneX laboratories. The inspection was intense, with a focus on the Western Blots which had been cited in the NY Times article.

The lab has been fully recertified, and the inspectors clearly saw the allegations were without merit.

Despite a volume of letters to the Times after the article by patients, groups, and doctors in support of IGeneX, nothing was printed by the Times.

IGenex thanks all the Lyme community for your support. Perhaps the Times will relent and print another piece on this issue.

Nick Harris
CEO, IGeneX Labs
Palo Alto, California

I'm mailing a copy of this to Dr. Normie. There's no signature, and the return address is the doctor's office. At the bottom of the letter, I wrote "To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Roof guitar

Back in the 1980s, my girlfriend had a guitar and encouraged me to learn it. I have an interest in music, and I sometimes thought I might be good at creating it1. But I have no musical ability.

Here's how I know... I used to go up on the roof of the apartment building, when I was in my guitar mania phase, and "jam." I tried out a few chords. But see, they were my own chords, not the chords other people play. I thought that one should be able to approach guitar playing the way one approaches self love: Just do whatever feels good, and something will come out.

The main thing was to play with energy, a driving rhythm. I broke several of her guitar strings over the course of a month or so.

I made up "songs" which were a series of "chords" strung together and played really, really hard. I never learned to pick, because it was too difficult.

Now, imagine that you had put a young Jimi Hendrix on the roof of a building with a guitar, before he'd ever learned anything about playing it. I think that over a few days or even a few hours, he'd figure the thing out, and some pretty sweet sounds would result.

I'm no Jimi Hendrix.

When it comes to guitar, I'm not even Richard Nixon, or Alan Greenspan. Or Koko the gorilla.

Or Teri Shiavo.

The neighbors knew this. See, I somehow thought that by being on the roof, the sound of my "playing" was vanishing up into the troposphere, unheard by those below.

But imagine having some jerk on your roof, clashing away at a guitar. You know how awful that would sound? My girlfriend was never around when I practiced on the roof, because I would go up there when she was gone, for lack of anything better to do. So she never told me.

In my usual style, I will find a way to criticize them despite the fact that I was the transgressor. This: They didn't have the courage to go up on the roof themselves and ask me to stop, or leave a note in the hall or on the roof or something like that. I think that they called the manager. He came over and told me no guitar playing was allowed on the roof. Not long after that, I went up on the roof to play again ("He can't be serious about that silly rule. And besides, no one can hear me."). That time, I heard a very loud and prolonged guttural moan of frustration coming up the central gap that all our bathroom windows vented into.

I don't think the moan came from Peeping Tom, the guy who'd moved in with the single mom right across from us. Her son, who was five or less, and who watched the A-Team on TV, once told my girlfriend: "War is good, because it gets rid of the bad people." Now you know why my kids don't watch TV.

I once caught Peeping Tom looking in disappointment at my tits. I lived in that place with my gf and her art school friend, a woman. I suppose that would make it like Three's Company, but I wasn't pretending to be gay. You know, I watched many episodes of that show in the '70s, and as a kid, I never caught on that Jack Ridder was supposed to be (or be pretending to be) gay. I did catch that he was crazy wild for Suzanne Sommers. But otherwise I just thought that he was pretending to be silly, or childish, and non-threatening.

My gf and her roommate kept the bathroom window open so that the steam would vent out into the central gap. Everyone did, I suppose. But that gave Peeping Tom a chance to lie or squat by his front door and watch a titty show as my gf or her roommate showered. Yum. As I mentioned, once I bent down to pick up the soap and saw him looking back at me with a sour look on his face. I guess it was because I'm so flat.

I think it was someone else who released the Moan of Agony, because it didn't sound like Peeping Tom's voice, and the direction of origin was wrong. I think it was the aspiring chiropractor.

After the Moan of Agony, I suddenly realized that people did hear me and did not like it. I quickly slunk down into the apartment and put the guitar away, forever. My girlfriend was just coming home at that moment. "Were you singing?" she asked.


"Oh, because I thought I heard you singing at the end there. It sounded kind of feral."

"Nope, not me"

No, don't mention the GarageBand software.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Treaty of the Grinch

I have a treaty with the members of my family of origin: Don't buy me any Christmas or birthday presents, and I won't buy you any. It works really well, and saves me a lot of stress and hassle.

You should try it.

Yes, I do get birthday and Christmas presents for my kids and my lovely wife. But I try to make sure that the birthday one is 'more better' than the Christmas one.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


I'm thankful we don't have one.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Terrorist in love

My "terrorist" has been advising the supposed Russian "damsel." Please remember that "she" is an internet scam spammed out to millions of people in hopes of a few hits that can be conned for a few hundred dollars.

Here are the latest.


I am in the USA now on business, but I too come from
another country. I only wish to tell you that the USA
dream is an illusion, and you should perhaps seek to
improve your life in Russia.

However, if you wish to escape your current situation.
it would be better to go to a sheltering environment
rather than an inferno.


Ali Saed Bin Ali El-Hoorie

"She" replied...

Hello ! I am glad to see that you have decided to reply.I think I was right to choice your address ,it was my friend help she knows internet well,and she can use internet.I think that you are astonished to get my letter.I want you to know that I have only good intentions and I have not any secrets.The thing is that I will work in your country for three months or so and I would like to meet kind man to be my guide or just spend free time with.It is my first time I will be abroad and I think that I need to meet the man who can be so kind to introduce new country for me!I think that all men here in Russia are just drinkers or too rude to be good lovers.I don't want to live in Russia because I have not any chances here,it is hardly possible to explain from first time but I want you to know my plans.I will work in any shop, bar or restaurant. So I will have a simple work till I can improve my English. And I can chose any town of your area,agency only help me to get a visa and all travel documents and tickets.My best friend last year met the man from USA when she worked there for three months . She had two jobs. From morning till 4 pm she worked in amusement park and after it she worked as a waitress in some bar till midnight. She was very tired of course but made very good money there.I want to earn some money too because I want to give some presents to my sisters(I have two ones) and parents. It is special programm(name-work and travel) for young people who wants to work abroad and I think it is my chance ,I am lost here,and I think that I look pretty enough to find a better place .I want to repeat my friend way,it is only my chance to meet a nice know I am full of plans and different dreams and I want to share time with good man because I'm also full of love and tenderness,I know that I am not so beautiful like Hollywood Princess but I do hope to meet my Prince and I am sure he will be not be disappoined to meet me in the real life! Well,I will close this letter and I do hope to get your reply. I will leave russia in a few days or so (I can't tell you everything exactly right now) and I would like to be sure that I have the man who waits for me there and I a little afraid to stay alone there I have not any friends or relations . I will work all day and I want to find a man to spend my free time together and have nice time !if you have any interest to meet me I will be more than happy to meet you too. I think I am hot enough to be nice girl.I am not sure I can express all my feeling with my poor english but I think you understand! I will tell you all details about me and my life if you like my pictures and have interest to meet me! Now I write you from my personal mailbox, please use this address. Kiss you ,Elena (this is my name)!lena my short name! honey I think that I will be able to send next letter only on tuesday because I will be in the country to say good bye my grandmother!

This message included two pictures of a young woman apparently in Russia. I wanted to get away from the boilerplate script of the scammer, and sent this...


Truly, you are beautiful. But in my culture we don't
think of women as "hot." OK, maybe we think, but we
treat them with respect. You should treat yourself
respect too. I know that you do, I can tell, but
don't get seduced into this thing of needing a man so
much. It is true that a woman and a man form a
completion, but only under devout circumstances. I
never go to bars. You should very very cautious in
America. There are many bad things here. Yes I would
be happy to meet you if you do come out. I travel a
lot, in my line of work.


However, the response was pure boilerplate, a step in the script that clearly ignored Ali's prior message...

Hello dear, I am so glad to see your letter again,I think I am lucky girl to meet such man from first time and I will do my best to meet you in real life! you know I can work in any city of your area because it is free choice and agency only helps me to get only travel documents (visa)and ticket.and I do hope that we will like each other and now I have the destination. I do hope I have met right man! you know I am new here and I am afraid to make any mistake.I have one great lack,I am very impatience and sometimes I can act without thinking.Sometimes I think that my dream is getting for real and it is so badly to be disappoined later. I want you to know all small things about me because it mustn't be any misunderstandings between us. I want you to know that I am not angel and sometimes I can show my character.And I don't wait that you to be angel too,I just want to meet kind man . I am very kind and I can forgive almost all I can't forgive if my man sleep with different women, I don't know many nesseary words in english .I think you can read between lines. A little more about myslef! my favorite activite is swimming.I like to swim in the Swimming pool very much. Sometimes I think that I was the fish in past life.I wanted to be as swimm trainer but they told that I will have ugly body with too wide shoulders. I finished The Siberia State Univercity, trainers faculty as fitness trainer but I don't work on my profession, I used to sit at home to do all housework,helping my mom.I would like to have good job,I may work dancing teacher,or trainer of fitness,you know I have a certificate. I worked as a trainer a year ago . and I would like to do it again .you know how many more younger girls want to get this job too!Alot of competition here.I want to tell you about things I like: I like to make barbecue and I so much want to have my own home with fireplace. usually I make very tasty ones and in principle I like to cook and it is not problem for me to cook something tasty and I don't like to visit cafes and restorauns ,at first usually they can't cook weel(maybe only here) and second too high price. I like warm weather. and my great dream is to live somewhere on tropical island. Also I want tell you about my dislikes: I hate our long winters it seems to me they will never end. I hate lies and unfaithfulness. I hate evil people and politicans I think they like to play wars, I hate any wars. What I like in a man: faithfulness, honesty. He has to be open- minded and open-hearted, also easy-going. and much more important he is kind,kindness makes our world! are you kind????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? I think my man should be kind ,it is great feeling after love,only kind person may be happy,all rude people are unhappy. or must be.A few questions yet, do you have own home or live in flat?agency tells that I will have a room in nearest flat I will rent a room and they tell I will have roommate to share renta. but if we like each other may be is it possible to live together? I think we will enjoy life together.have you car?animals? I have drive licence but I am not sure it will work and I do hope you give me a few lessons,to be fair I have so many plans . I will leave my town today in a few hours,not on sunday like I thought and i think I will be not able to write to you still I am on the way to moscow.Please don't worry .When I am in moscow I will send you short letter to let you know that I am all right and they tell that it takes about two days to get all nesseary papers,please confirm your phone number and the name of airport I am afraid to make any mistake. and Please don't look at different girls.I am the best(joke). Well, I will close this letter I have a few a things to do before leaving. See you soon,Kiss Lena!

Ali's writer has been busy, so almost three weeks have passed before I sent this yesterday...


Pardon me that I have been busy with my work. A big project. However, in my spare moments I have given thought to your most recent email. It is almost as if written to someone else, or something you had prepared to send to many. Doubts about your authenticity have occurred to me even in Friday prayers. This is pollution of my soul. I spoke to my imam, who counseled me to show charity, and allow you to demonstrate that you are a real person. I apologize for the offense of doing so, but in this wild modern world one never knows quite who to trust.

Yours from the base,


Friday, November 25, 2005


A couple of people, Lefty most recently, have said I must be very happy that my son (my kids) are so smart. Well, I am thankful for that, glad to have it be that way, One less thing to worry about. But the most important thing to me is that they be loving, good, caring people. That's what I'm happy about. And yes, certainly, they can be quite cantankerous, rascally, and mean when they're experimenting, but I've seen their true natures, and I'm pleased to report that most of the time, and at the most important times, they're really very empathetic, caring people. That's what I proud of. I knew they'd be smart. I'm so happy that they're kind.

And I do like to brag about their smarts.

For instance, yesterday my son decided to give me a math problem. He said, "Dad, what is the square root of 10 plus six?"

I said "Since I don't know what the square root of 10 is, I can't answer that." I thought he was just making up gobbledegook like kids will.

But my lovely wife said, "I think he means that the parentheses are around 10 plus six. So the answer would be four."

How smart is that, to invent a solvable problem that has an integer answer?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Bush drinking booze again

Saintperle points out that the White House has announced that Bush is back on the sauce:

He drank fermented mare's milk -- sometimes likened to a mix of warm beer and buttermilk...

Someone was asking me what I use to test my inhale volume. But I can't seem to find the question. At the ALS clinic they use a special device to measure Forced Vital Capacity (exhale). But at home I use the cheap little plastic spirometer they gave me, which measures inhale.

Happy Thanksgiving. It's nice to be here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


There was a guy I worked with when we were younger, who I was friends with. He's likable. We were both computer programmers, though he was better than me. We did system administration. The years went by and I continued to expand my programming skills. I went from job to job, always up into a better situation. He stayed at the same place, doing system administration. One time I tried to recruit him to work at my company. He said something that he'd said several times before: "You've always been better than me at marketing yourself." Over the years I have looked back and realized that he was less of a friend to me than I was to him. He played some political games against me with the boss, I now realize, and he also fed the peer group's doubts about me. Every now and then we run into him in public and he insists that we trade email addresses. He never sends me an email, and never replies to my email. I suspect that he's still a better programmer than I am, but I am proud of how far I've come. The last time we ran into him, he again suggested we trade email addresses. Mindful that he doesn't really mean it, I ignored it while the conversation went elsewhere. Then he used one of the crayons the kids were drawing with to write his email address on a napkin. I wrote him and he never replied. Every now and then I think of mailing him a real letter or an email that says: "I'm not just better at marketing myself."

Last night I asked my son, "What is three plus the square of two?" He thought for a while and said "Four." I said, "Well, that's the last part, but I asked you what three plus the square of two is." He said, "Oh! Seven." This morning I asked him, "What is 10 plus the square of three?" He said "Nineteen." Then I asked him, "What is two squared plus three squared?" He thought for 10 seconds and said "Thirteen." He's not quite six yet.

It's been awhile since my last update of quasi-scientific metrics. So here are today's results...

Left grip is 26 pounds (22, 22, 26), right grip is 74 pounds (72, 74, 67), left leg balance is 6.75 seconds, and inhale volume is 4200 mL.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

More positive

I had a dream last night that profoundly misjudged the true state of the art, for in this dream, mainstream rappers were frequently discussing their bisexuality. The rap I heard was a rejection of that, and by making reference to a cavity search, brought in the frequent rap theme of law enforcement:

Only the D.A.
gets in my A,
I'm saving myself for him.

The local neurologist talked to me on the phone yesterday, saying that the latest results from IgeneX show me more positive for Lyme than I was before the Flagyl. This is consistent with the reading I've done, which says that after the drug has weakened the organisms, your body's immune system is able to manufacture more antibodies against them. (Thanks, Scott!) The antibodies are what the tests look for, so you test more seropositive. The doc was kind of stunned to hear me, a patient, say this. He thinks I'm smart, and I like showing off for him. On the 28th, I have an appointment with a doctor who's known for dealing with Lyme. I'm willing to go for a course of treatment, if he comes up with one. My local neurologist is intrigued by the Lyme hypothesis and is willing to "try all the antibiotics." Lacking any other hope, this is a good idea. The good news is that my liver panel following the Flagyl came back normal, except for my bilirubin being high as usual. I will also ask the Lyme doctor to recommend yet another lab which can do the Lyme tests on my blood, just so that we have a second data set.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Jesus Chris

OK, I wrote the first couple of of pages of Jesus Chris. Here they are:

Penny and I live in an apartment looking down on the supermarket and its parking lot. You see people coming and going. You look down on women with no hair, or stubble, and scarves on their heads. These are the ones with cancer. You see other women stuffing food in their mouths, the ones who at home are on 'diets' and just need a little something, a cheat, when they go grocery shopping. You see men and women who hang their cigarette out of the car window, hoping that the smoke smell won't get in the car. You see the dad struggling with the car seat and then driving away, abandoning a big, poop-filled diaper in the parking space. Sometimes you see shoplifters. They'll slide the big pack of sirloin steak onto the ground, underneath their car, while they load the legitimate groceries. This is in case the store personnel, or the police, confront them: "Hey, I don't know where that came from! I must have parked right on it!" The last thing they do, as they back out, is pop a door and reach down and pick up the stolen item.

I see everything, all sorts of humanity, from up here. Penny teases me about it. "What are you, an angel, watching over them?" she said today when she came back from the bookstore, and caught me at the window.

"Dunno," I said. "I guess, people are interesting to me."

""I saw some of those vegetable crates by the dumpster, the ones you want to make furniture out of."

I was pysched. "Great! I'll go down and get them now. Maybe I can glue them up before I go to work."

The vegetable crates were like drawers, but made out of thin, disposable wood. I tore the front flap off of them and stacked some upside down on the others. This created larger spaces, shelves. It was like a book case. I applied the glue.

Penny came and admired them. "Nice," she said, "You're cheap."

"'Frugal', I like to say," I said.

By the time I got back from night editing at the campus paper, the glue looked dry. I picked the whole assembly up from the top and it held together. We had sex and the condom broke. It was like a cartoon equipment failure, saw-tooth ragged popped balloon edges.

"Oops!" Penny said.

"I should have known," I said. "I could tell something had changed."

"Happens all the time," she said, trying to sound casual and forgiving.

The next morning Penny went to work at the bookstore and I went to the paper to work on a story. There were more of those crazy notes in my mail slot. There are several pink slips for phone messages. The top one said:

"September 12, 1985

God called."

The box for "Callback requested" was checked. No phone number was given. The other four were similar, and I flipped through them and crumpled them into the trash.

"Still didn't see anyone, eh?" I said to the receptionist.

"Didn't see anyone," he affirmed.

This has been going on for months now. It's some kind of prank. The handwriting doesn't match anyone who works at the paper. And no matter how often I spy on the mail slot, or ask other people to keep an eye peeled for suspicious behavior, we've never caught the perpetrator.

It bugs me.

Then there are the letters. Usually it's biblical passages. The return address will be "Heaven" or "God" or "Love." Once it was "Within."

I sat down at one of the desks and inserted my floppy disk into the Kapro. I opened my story draft and started typing: "University policy prohibits employees from buying excess equipment from their own department, but the second-in-command at Campus Transportation in May purchased a car with a $3,000 blue book value -- for $1,000."

"Chris, line one!" the receptionist declared. I picked it up.

"Want a hot tip?" the voice said. It was a brother.

"Who's calling?" I said, annoyed. People who approach reporters with "hot tips" are usually worthless weirdos.

"God is love," he said. "Maybe you should put that in your next story."

Maybe this was the freak who'd been leaving me all the mystery messages? Some member of Campus Crusade for Christ?

"Maybe you can come down to the paper and explain it to me in person." I said. I wanted to have one of the photographers get a picture of this guy, to show to folks as a warning. And to ask if anyone had seen him on the premises.

"OK. See you soon," he said, and disconnected without talking about calendars. It almost seemed like a threat.

Then the really freaky thing happened. I went back to work on my story and the cursor was blinking at the end of "GOD IS LOVE."

I had no memory of typing any such thing. I wondered if I had somehow done it subconsciously during the call from the weirdo.

I held down the backspace key and the letters would not erase. I've fixed a lot of computer problems for people here at the paper, but this was not something I'd seen before. I started to worry, but then I realized that the keyboard was probably malfunctioning. The delete key was broken, or the whole keyboard.

The arrow keys worked, though, and when I used the delete key on my byline, it worked fine. I arrowed down to GOD IS LOVE and tried the delete key again. No luck.

"Jim! Come over here!" I said. Jim came over, amiable and stubbly, pug faced. "Ever seen this?" I said, pressing the delete key demonstrably. He rubbed his chin.


"Those words! The god part. It doesn't delete!"

He thought I was joking. "Boy, what are you smoking?" he said.

"I'm serious! Don't you see it?" I said.


"'GOD IS LOVE!' It says so, right there."

He still thought I was joking. "Well, if you say so, Jesus," he joked.

"No, really!" I protested. "Rachel! Get over here!"

She came over, and then a small crowd. None of them could see it. Then I began to wonder if I were having some kind of hallucination, a mental breakdown.

"All right! All right!" I said. "Get a photog in here."

Dave was drafted, and he was willing to take a picture of the screen. The paper pays for the film. I put my thumb on the edge of the screen so that the picture would be unique.

He developed it within 10 minutes and there it was in black and white, my thumb on a screen that said only:

University policy prohibits employees from buying excess equipment from their own department, but the second-in-command at Campus Transportation in May purchased a car with a $3,000 blue book value -- for $1,000.

Nothing about god.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


There's that site dedicated to ridicule of the mullet haircut and lifestyle, and one phrase I read in there a couple of years ago has stuck with me. It was a fictional profile of a mullet head who listed, among his favorite activities, "****ing ****es in the *****er." Now, I assumed that the *****er was the facility, and I think I've heard it used as such. But recently I realized that the *****er might instead be the orifice. That makes it less funny, but still notable. And I wondered if this is how linguistic drift happens, because someone such as myself gets something slightly wrong.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Evil laugh

I don't go on long laughing or crying jags thanks, I think, to the 10 mg of Namenda I take each night. But I do often have a wheezy, nerdy kind of laugh. Think Jerry Lewis, during the Lewis-Martin era. It's kind of a nasal chuckle, and it comes in response to stress, difficulty speaking due to my current cough and cold, or humor. It lasts about a second, though if I am self-conscious there might be two or three in a series, as I try to recover and be normal.

Lately my son has been imitating these laughs. This is stressful and funny, and so I laugh again, and he repeats me, which sets me off again. And so on. He doesn't seem malicious about it, but it feels like teasing.

It turns out he's objecting.

Friday morning I was wheeze-laughing and he imitated me from all the way in the other room. This makes me self-conscious and stressed, so I wheeze-laughed again. He imitated me several more times but thankfully I had the ability to keep a straight face and bellow that I didn't like being teased.

He called back "But I don't like that evil laugh."

My lovely wife and I both said it wasn't evil, and that I can't help it. Rather than coming back with offensive nonsense as so many five-year-olds including ours normally do, he asked what we meant.

We said that I couldn't help it. I said that it was the same problem that made me limp and that made me talk slowly.

My daughter was also listening to all this, so she heard the explanation too. The message I hope she got was: Yes Daddy is unusual in how he moves and talks and sounds, but there is an explanation, and we can accept it and move on.

My son will no doubt object more in the future and tease me more, because it is the duty of five-year-olds to complain especially hard about things which have already been explained to them as not being cause for complaint.

But I hope that he now has an explanation, and that he can understand that it's not "evil."

Friday, November 18, 2005

Jesus Chris

Reading books is OK, but I often think about how tedious it must be to write one. Especially a novel. You have this idea for a story, which is cool, but you have to go through it page by page mechanistically laying out all the details of the chronology. I just finished a science fiction book that is a case in point. Frederick Pohl is a very good sci fi writer (e.g. "Jem," "Gateway," "Beyond the Blue Event Horizon"), and I picked up his "The Siege of Eternity." Doing so violates my undeclared policy of reading only nonfiction, and as a result of this experience I think I'll resume that practice. The book was pretty blah. There's no doubt supposed to be a "wow" factor when you're done, but I'd feel more grateful to Pohl if he'd just say lay out the idea without fleshing it out.

I'd be so grateful if he, and most authors, just put the idea in a one-page treatment. Which is not to say that I could write a great novel, or that it doesn't require considerable skill. But I'd say that the main skill may lie in not realizing how boring the actual artifice is.

I often think up ideas for fiction in the shower. But I never do anything with them other than write a note. I must have 50 unfinished novels on my computer. I've learned from experience that I would need something so gripping, so delicious, so fun, that writing every page would be a delight.

I get that feeling from time to time, but after about a week of planning to start that book tomorrow, I get bored of the idea and shelve it.

Which is where you come in, dear reader. No, I'm not proposing to write a novel online, like they do in NaNoWriMo. Not exactly. I'm asking you to tell me if I should start to write a novel in this blog ... about Jesus Christ.

Now, I know that some of you are Christians, and that your religion is very important to you. And I don't want to offend, but frankly the energy for this project is generated by being that close to giving offense -- without actually doing so.

Having an audience helps generate writing, and having an audience that may want to slit your throat also does.

The basic idea for this one would be that some agnostic young guy who leads a student lifestyle, gets free furniture off the street, lives in sin with his girlfriend, etc., finds out, quite against his will, that the Christian god is very real, indeed all-powerful, and in charge. This guy, call him Chris, also finds out quite against his will, that he himself is Jesus Christ the son of god -- the second coming. Then he drives his girlfriend to the abortion clinic so that she can terminate her pregnancy. I don't foresee a crass story -- it's not a mockery in which he does everything in his power to infuriate the father god. He wrestles quite sincerely with the questions raised, and he tries to do good.

What do you think? Has this already been done many times and is now trite?

Thursday, November 17, 2005


I get the impression that our son's kindergarten teacher thinks we are overanxious, competitive parents who need to lower our expectations. The schools here are very good. Our son is doing great, and it's just such a wonderful thing for him. I have no complaints. But still, I think the kindergarten teacher thinks we have some expectation adjustment to do.

She's an excellent teacher, by reputation and by our own observation. But I think she's so experienced, and so battle-scarred that she's playing defense against us. She fears that we might be a Type she's encountered before.

There are plenty of bright kids in this school, and plenty of educated, articulate parents like us. So that's not the issue. The teacher is similarly articulate, bright, and dedicated.

In our first meeting, when I said how thankful I was that our son was having this experience, and praised the school and the teacher, she either did not respond at all, or changed the subject. Same in the second meeting. No, she's not cold, imperious or arrogant. She's a sensitive, slightly hippie type with a nasal piercing. Mellow, loving, smart and concerned.

Which is why it's odd that my praise rolls off her like water off of a duck. I now think that the issue is that she sees praise as control. It asserts that the parents' opinion matters, that she is to be judged based on our expectations. I think, psychologically, she's made the policy that she's not going to accept praise because she's not going to accept the idea that she's subject to evaluation by parents.

Once again, she's not cold and arrogant. Quite the opposite. But I think she thinks she's trying to help us come down off of our hyper state. For example, she's said more than once, "It's only three hours and twenty minutes." She's also said that parents who want enrichment beyond the kindergarten program can provide it.

She thinks we're trying to push our son. I unknowingly made a mistake when I used the phrase "Let's challenge him" in response to his statements that he's not learning anything and it all seems like play to him. The kindergarten teacher hates that word. I agreed, and gave my speech about not being into pushing the child to be a winner with a sick plan that leads from preschool to Yale: "Swimming, then violin, then gymnastics -- Give the kid a chance to stare at the ceiling!" But I think my speech fell on deaf ears. I think she thinks I'm a competitive dad.

Still, he thinks he's not learning. In fact, he's learning a great deal, and learning is best if it seems like play. No, he's not bored, and no, it's not that the school lacks content. But he is starting to show signs of behavioral problems stemming from his perception that he's not being challenged. Apparently he gets into her teaching materials and starts reading ahead to the end. He's trying to suck it all up at once, which is disruptive because the class should go through the materials together, at the planned pace.

He had disruptive behaviors at preschool, and that's because he was bored. My saying that annoyed the teachers there.

Here, he's finally in an enriching environment, and he's getting what he needs. I just want the teacher to make some small gesture towards Making It Hard, to fulfill the expectation that he seems to have developed. But I feel that her whole communication with us is geared around talking us down from the ledge. It's weird to be stereotyped by someone who has your respect and from whom you wouldn't expect it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Hack hack hack

Have had a persistent cough for about a week now. It started just when I got over the cold. Makes me physically miserable.

I just got my first hit from the island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

You just put your lips together and blow

I can't whistle anymore. It requires a rather subtle and strong use of lip and tongue muscles. Can't do it.

Monday, November 14, 2005


My lovely wife had a brilliant idea, a weekend getaway sans kids, and she organized everything, and arranged for a crew of relatives and friends to handle our kids in shifts. We were gone from Saturday morning until Sunday afternoon, and we stayed in a hotel, saw a movie (Good Night, and Good Luck), and ate out. It was a wonderful time. She even went and got me some Advil from the store when I had an attack of hysterical rectum. No, that's not a medical term, just one I made up to describe the severe, clenching pain that I sometimes get 'down there.' It started happening in 1998, but I still consider it a precursor to ALS. Yes, I have gone twice to proctologists, who see no problem. But that was the only dark cloud, and the wonderful thing is that we actually got to relate to each other, as grown-ups, without everything involving kids or the fear of kids. We got more sleep than we have in a long time. It was great. Let us all praise my lovely wife.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

ESL Calculus teacher

I'll be out of town today and tomorrow, so I may not post.

I like language, and have always been good at it. Not foreign languages per se, just language in general. In college, there was a lot of complaining about teaching assistants from other countries who couldn't speak English very well. It never bothered me. I remember that in one Calculus class, I was enthralled by how barely intelligible the T.A.'s words were. It was like a puzzle to me, and I loved it, because I always managed to understand what he was saying just in the nick of time. I sat there loving it, thinking how lucky I was to have this entertaining comprehension challenge every day. The other students in the class hated it, and cursed the T.A. bitterly afterwards. This came as a surprise to me.

Friday, November 11, 2005

A new tool

The medium is the message. Nowhere is that more true than with kids. You might be really desperate to get a point across to them in some crisis, trying to break through their thick, determined little skulls and implant the Truth. You might use ridicule, you might yell, you might be cold, dismissive, imperious, angry, impatient, interruptive.

You're toast. The only thing they pick up on in these situations (and I mean the only thing), is the method you used to get your point across. They Think: A new tool! I can't wait to try THAT out!. And when they do use it (usually on you), it doesn't matter if they're dead wrong, laughably wrong. They just wanted to use the new tool, whatever it is.

A long time ago I used to sometimes tell my son not to do something, because even though I had my backed turned, I could predict what he would do. "How did you know, Dad?" he'd ask. In jest, I'd reply: "Because I know everything."

Now this has become something he says at least once a day. He doesn't have to wash his hands, he knows his markers did not stain the wall, the cup on the edge of the table will not spill. How does he know? "I know everything."

Always try to be patient and calm with your kids. They'll pay back any errors you make many times.

No, I don't have any recent incidents to peg this on, but it's my wisdom, to you, for free. Unless you don't need it because you already know everything.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Last week my son and I read a kids' book to each other. We took turns in which he read five pages and I read two pages. He started the book, and I finished. There were 28 pages. How many turns reading did I have, and how many did my son have?

I was about to ask my son that question, when he asked me instead. I said "Get a piece of paper and a pencil." He did, and came back to the couch, saying "And Dad, don't help me."

I didn't. I didn't even watch. He scribbled for a while. I figured it out in my head, using a serious mathematical proof, plus algebra, that product of Middle Eastern Islamic scholarship. At first I thought it would be a two-variable problem, until I saw through that.

Then my son said the answer was that we each had four turns.

Exactly right.

My solution has two parts.

1. -- Equal number of turns.

Because he started and I finished, we had an equal number of alternating turns. If the number of turns was one each, the sequence would have looked like this, where S stands for a son turn and D stands for a Dad turn:


No matter how many turns there were, If he started and I finished, the number of alternating turns would be equal, even here:


So #S = #D.

I am sure that there is a mathematical name for this obvious principle. It may even be an axiom, but I don't know what it is. Help, anyone?

2. -- Algebra.

Let's call the number of turns T. Recall that #S = #D= T.

He read five pages per turn and I read two. There were 28 pages. So...

5T + 2T = 28.
7T = 28
T = 28/7
T = 4

I showed my son this solution, and I don't think he understood it. But I emphasized to him that his solution was perfect, and it had worked just right.

He explained his solution to me, and I understood that he had basically counted off the pages, making a mark on one piece of paper for him and one for me. That means that he kept a running total.

He gave me the piece of paper that showed how many I had read, and for two days I looked at it and thought that it was gobbledegook. It looked like he had scribbled numbers over numbers. Some numbers looked like letters. It made no sense. Then, yesterday, I figured it out.

If you refer to the image below, you'll see seven boxes, four with writing in them. What he did was write down the page numbers I had read. 6 and 7. Then 13 and 14. Then 20 and 21. Then 27 and 28.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005


We voted yesterday, while my son was at kindergarten and our daughter was not at preschool. She rode her tricycle to the polling place, while we walked. It wasn't easy for me to walk five blocks, but it was worth it. Things were simplified by a flier we got in the mail from Governor Hollywood. It was called "Arnold's Top Props." It said we should vote for all of the propositions, except for 79 and 80, which we should vote against. I had been planning to vote against all of the propositions including 79 and 80, but the flier prompted me to reconsider.

I did more research and decided to vote for 79 and 80. I took Governor Hollywood's mailer with me to the polls. It was a handy guide. Afterwards, I tossed it in the trash. I just woke up and looked at this morning's headlines. Perhaps there is some justice in the world:

Democrats sweep Virginia, New Jersey races - 48 minutes ago
Saddam's defense team boycotts trial over killings - 9 minutes ago
Voters reject Schwarzenegger reforms - 3 hours ago

What did anyone expect? Obviously, the Virginia and New Jersey races prove that Bush supporters didn't hack the secret, non-secure Diebold voting machines in 2004, because Democrats won this time, using those same machines. And it proves that Governor Hollywood is right that the state's political system needs to be rigged in favor of Republicans -- after all, look at the totally wrong outcome on the propositions we got using the current system. And it proves that some members of the Saddam defense team volunteered to be killed just so that they could void this trial.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


I was a very gullible child and this is still one of my major personality traits. When I was a child, my mother was (and remains) a master of constructing appropriately vague statements which mislead the gullible, usually into doing the proper thing. The UNICEF scam is an example.

We were given these little cardboard boxes that you'd fold into a tiny carrying case for the money. There was a slot for coins at the top. We were supposed to go out the day before Halloween and collect money for UNICEF. I was a curious child, and always wanted to know how things worked. So I asked how the money is taken out of the box. "We can't open the box," my mother said. She was, naturally, worried that after I collected the money from neighbors, that I would open it up and take a portion for myself. But I just wanted to know how the system worked. Based on what she said, I asked if the box had some way of sealing itself. "The only people who can open it are the UNICEF people," she said. "You mean, it won't come open once we put it together?" I asked, in my gullibility.

"We can't open the box," she said, knowing full well that her vague language would make me think it was impossible to open the box, while all she meant was that we mustn't open it.

She was a good person, well-intentioned, but she'd read a lot of child psychology books and had methods for guiding children: Never issue a prohibitive command, always seek to redirect, deflect or fatigue the child's wrongful impulses.

So I went out and cheerfully collected the UNICEF money. No one was mean to me. But at some point, maybe that day, or at some time after, I developed an attitude about the UNICEF thing. I felt used. I perceived that they were using my special status as a child to gather money. I didn't like it.

Years later, as a grown-up, I decided that it is wrong to enlist gullible kids to collect money for your cause. UNICEF is a good thing. Community service is a good thing. Involving kids in helping others is a good thing. But making kids feel used is not. Maybe it works great for you and your kids, but I hate the idea.


It came around to my son this year, and I didn't do anything to interfere. He was all set to go, but in the excitement of Halloween, neither my lovely wife nor I remembered the little cardboard box. This year, I gave a dollar to the one kid who offered me the UNICEF box. The expression on the kid's face was: Can you believe this sucker is giving me money that I'm just going to steal? I almost feel sorry for the guy.

The end of my only experience as a UNICEF dupe was that a boy at school told me he had stolen more than five dollars from the box. I told him that I knew very well that those boxes cannot be opened once they're built.

Monday, November 07, 2005

One penny each, two for four cents, five for a dollar

My son and a friend of his were trying to waylay pedestrians passing by our friends' house and sell them 'tie-dyed' pieces of facial tissue stained with green marker and water. The pricing was: one penny each, two for four cents, five for a dollar.

On the drive home, my son was totally impervious to the idea that you might buy five individually to escape the dramatic markup on volume. He was willing to admit that you might buy one for a penny, and then buy one more for a penny. But the idea that you might buy five in a row ran up against his rule. No, if you want five, you pay a dollar!

I remember being similarly impervious to market forces when I was his age, despite my own father trying to make the same point. To me then, and to my son now, it made sense that if you were getting more, you paid more. More for more. We didn't realize that people try to get the lowest unit price. Kids have their system, and their rules, and they want to have people follow the rules, even if it doesn't make economic sense.

The mom of the friend gave the pizza delivery guy, on top of his tip, an extra dollar to buy from them. He paid a dollar for one sheet.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

3 AM test flight

I woke up Saturday morning with one heck of a shoulder shoulder-neck muscle on the right side. I must have slept on it badly. It continues to hurt today, though it may be improving. Not sure.

When I wake up at 3 AM to use the bathroom, no matter how much I stagger and wobble as I walk, I take it as a reassuring thing. We're all at our most clumsy, our most impaired during the 3 AM bathroom run. And to me it's like a test flight, pushing the envelope and proving that there's still some capacity left in the machine. If I can stagger at 3 AM, it proves that I'll still be able to walk, in some fashion, for a little while yet.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Chess success I guess

Introducing chess to the kindergartners was a success, I guess. I doubt many of them will want to participate next time. But that may be a better thing. If I can work with a small group, they'll get more out of it and can teach the others if they become interested.

The chess presentation was at Choice Time, where the kids get to choose what to do. About half of the twenty kids claimed to know how to play chess, and they came over. I had the wall board, plus one set on the table. My objective was just to convey that chess is a game where each piece has its own special way of moving, and then let the kids suggest moves that could be made in a demonstration game.


They're five.

They showed interest and focus. But they're five. There was lots of happy chatter from the other kids who chose not to participate, and lots of happy chatter from our group too. I have trouble coping with noise, and my voice is kind of windy and mushy due to ALS. So I couldn't cut through the noise and modulate my voice to keep their attention like I would have been able to a year ago.

Some wanted to show me their bracelets that they'd made from macaroni, some wanted to say that their brother plays chess, some wanted to tell me that they know how to play chess but not how the pieces move, one girl explained castling, which was way in advance of what most of the kids knew, while everyone else was talking, including me, and one girl wanted to kiss my son on the cheek.

Fair enough.

At a certain point I sensed that I was losing them. This was when one boy was telling the other boy about a toy he had at home. I set up a game between two kids who did know how to play, hoping that the others would watch. They watched. With their hands. They're five, and they wanted to move the pieces, several at a time. Then the boys started chanting fun, slightly raunchy rhymes at each other, and using the pieces like dive bombers, to get a laugh.

They wanted to have fun.

Fair enough.

I'm making this sound like a disaster, when it wasn't. I introduced chess to them and showed them the pieces. Mission accomplished. The teacher invited me to keep coming back, but I'll want to talk to her about how to improve on the situation.

Friday, November 04, 2005


Thursday, November 03, 2005



Some time ago, in this house, you stood with me in the kitchen while I talked about the joy of raising kids. You said I'd "been a nightmare" to raise. From the expression on your face I knew that you weren't joking, though you may now claim that you were. I'm sorry you feel that way, and that you may resent me. However, while all kids are difficult, I was an ordinary kid, very easy in most important ways. I think your recollection is more a reflection of your own inner stresses and battles than my nature.


She wrote back:

It is a good thing that all dreams do not come true. As I remember, you were the easiest of the three to raise as not only were you the third, but also a boy. Practice is supposed to make perfect and, even if I wasn't by then, it made raising you easier. Not having been a boy or having been raised with a brother (I left home when my brother was three) I had no store of horror stories to prejudice my view of you.
It is possible, however to shape your dreams somewhat so--read what I have written, know that I tell you true that I love you and did not find you difficult to raise.

Your loving mother

I replied:

Thanks! But I wonder why you said it.

There was no reply to that. And we've seen and talked to her several times since then. It's not a huge looming issue. But as she rather cogently admitted last year: "I'm not very good at dealing with my feelings." The use of the word "dream" twice in her reply may indicate an attempt to portray my recollection as something I imagined. In this case her need to fabricate an ideal situation has run up against her actual conduct, and she's retreated into the maxim of: "If you can't say something nice. don't say anything at all."

She's a good person, and I love her. I guess we all have our quirks.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Traffic model

Imagine a computer model of a stream of cars on multilane highway or city street grid.
Arbitrary waypoint objectives are assigned to each vehicle at program start, and when each waypoint is attained.
Cars always move forward and never stop or reverse, but speed, turns, and lane changes are up to them.
Cars will not collide with other cars.
Traffic densities vary over time.
Cars have neural-net rules for speed and turns which are initially random, but which are genetically mixed in each generation.

Cars know these variables for themselves and others near to them:

gap ahead to next car
50% guess about the gap ahead of car ahead of themselves and others nearby
when last lane change or turn was, and the nature of it

Cars in this evolutionary environment are rewarded with offspring based on how efficiently they can get to their waypoints.

What will happen? I conjecture that the cars will exhibit behavior rather like those seen human traffic.

Most if all, it would be fun.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


I was in line at the supermarket a few months ago, buying tonic water with quinine, when someone larger and slightly taller than me bumped into me to place his stuff on the conveyor. It was his hairy arm that pushed against me. Then he moved back, dragging away a cart which had at first baffled me, until I stepped around it, briefly thinking dark thoughts about whoever might have abandoned it there. I had wondered: Was it the ladies in front of me? Then I placed my bottles from my hand cart onto the belt and forgot the matter. Momentarily the bumpy gent bumped me, and hauled away the cart. When he hauled away the cart he bumped me solidly again, this time with his backpack. When he reappeared I had not moved, and he stood within inches of me. I said "When I bump into people I generally apologize." I looked at his face. He had a short beard, and the slightly puffy features of a couch potato. "OK," he said, "and when I do that, I will." I guess he didn't like my attitude, so decided to pretend like it had never happened. But could he not have noticed? Maybe he has some neurological problem that interferes with his kinesthetic sense? But in that case he probably would be in the habit of apologizing immediately, even when he was not sure. Maybe he was feeling combative and upset over some stress in his life, and found the skinny guy with the gall to leave his cart in the way to be a convenient outlet? I'm inclined to believe that. When I got to my car and loaded the bottles in, I saw him emerge from the store, apparently speaking into some electronic device. He car was parked at the curb where parking was not allowed, with the hazard lights blinking. Maybe he was just in a hurry.

Another time in the same store, not sure if it was before my diagnosis, there this guy who, along with his lady companion, seemed to be on a stimulant, probably illegal, and kept crowding up right behind me as if hoping that would make the line go faster. I shifted my stance with a leg braced to the side, so that he'd have to climb up the leg to get into my ear. He practically did, and finally started saying insulting things directly to me, which I now no longer remember. I asked him why he was crowding me. He said something about it being due to me sticking my foot out. Then he referred to me as a piece of anatomy at the terminus of bowel function. I just looked at him. It's true he was shorter by a couple of inches, but he must have been able to tell I was no physical threat to him. "I'm sorry," he suddenly said. I was surprised. My strategy is the one found to be optimal in the prisoner's dilemma game. It's tit-for-tat, with the important proviso that your first move is cooperative. You could call it Golden Rule -- Once. So, to reward his diplomacy, I said, "Oh, uh, well I'm sorry, too."

"Asshole," he snickered at my back, as I walked away with my groceries.

A couple of months later, I was in a drug store buying batteries. I put my batteries down on the conveyer, behind the stuff of a young woman who had nice, back-laced leather boots on. I pondered telling her that I liked the boots, but then decided against it because it would probably creep her out. I picked up one of those rubbery separators and put it behind my things. A guy who I peripherally perceived as puffy and soft, with a short beard, came up and got into my personal space bubble. There was a foot and a half of space on the conveyer behind my batteries, but he used a case of Coke to shove the separator and the batteries forward. "There," he said in a mock sweet voice, "now there's room for everyone." It was delivered as if speaking to child. He put down the Coke, and the six-pack of beer. It was 10:30 in the morning, on a Thursday. When I didn't respond to the sortie, he took away "my" rubbery separator (thus removing the distinction between my purchases and his), and put it down behind his drinks. I'm pretty sure that there was another separator available. His gesture was some kind of primate dominance display. I pondered coming up with some kind of quip, but decided against it. I hoped that by my not responding, that he would continue with his day while simmering in the awareness his own foul mood.
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