Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Tracks (aka TrAXE)

Greetings and Happy Holidays to All!

Brent had an idea a few months back. He suggested that we do a Christmas album. He and I and his guitar teacher from Texas, Chase, all thought it was a good idea. We put together some tracks, brainstormed for some silly/cool names, and came up with this:

The Band is "Smells Okay to Me"
The Album is "Christmas TrAXE: A Bag Full of Carols"

And it is up on for anyone who wants to take a listen. We arranged them all ourselves, and all but one of them are "Public Domain", so you can download those. (It's all free!)

We hope you like it, and if you do, we'll be putting it out as a CD that you can order (details will follow, in plenty of time for NEXT Christmas).

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmouse Time is Here Again

So there we sat, two "Br"s and two "T"s, watching Arrested Development, when the dog (one of the "T"s) exploded.

This wasn't the "IED dog harness" type of explosion; this was the "Loony Tunes many-feet blur" type of explosion, and since we haven't clipped her toenails in a while, it took her some time to get enough traction on our hardwood floors to go after... Der Maus.

The mouse made it behind the hutch in the dining room just as I finished a spectacular super-sectional leap. I am not bragging. My leap was made even more spectacular in that I went from a supine position on the swivel chair to full ballet extension, paused the DVD, and landed in the entryway in one smooth movement. The smoothness was only slightly ruined by the Snoopy-dance I did on landing, but since it was less violent than the dog's explosion, and it allowed me to slide gracefully across the dining room in a manner envied by Brian Boitano, I will not feign humility.

Of course, with all of this grace and smoothness, the mouse saw us coming and made a break for the illusion of safety that is the Girl's Room. He dove under their dresser, and I snapped on the light, shouting for the "Br"s to bring me "a shoe or something smashy!" (Both arrived in seconds brandishing goofy looks, and not much else.)

As I excavated old socks, graded homework, karaoke CDs (dang, I could have done "The Middle" at Festivus!), flinging them every which way and barking strategic orders at the others, and trying to get the stupid dog to sniff where the mouse was, NOT the end of my finger. Brent stood in the hallway. "Hey, I see him... he's back behind the hutch!"

So we re-mobilized.

The hutch has a back panel that touches the floor, and Der Maus had foolishly pinned himself back there. If I had had an X-wing fighter, I could have flown it into the little Death Star trench formed by hutch and wall, and blown him away. I blocked my end with a spare cardboard box from the recycle pile, and hollered for backup at the other end, thinking to enact the trash compactor scene instead (still on the Star Wars references for those who are lost). But before one of my storm troopers could get there, Der Maus slipped around the end of the hutch, and disappeared under it.

Now armed with the sneakers of a Texan, the two "Br"s and I arrayed ourselves around the three exposed sides of the hutch. We took turns shouting out nose sightings in a bizarre, non-violent version of whack a mole. We were discussing our next move - something to do with the vacuum cleaner - when he bolted.

He was a scruffy little streak of dark brown. A teen aged girl, a dog, and two grown men chased it the 15 feet from the hutch to the stove without disturbing a single hair on his furry little body.

Once under the stove, Der Maus disappeared. We move the stove, and poked into its many dark crevasses, but to no avail.

Saddened, disheartened, and wretched, we left the dog on guard and went back to the important business we were about before our world was turned upside down.

Vengeance for this humiliation will... be... ours.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Let Me Be Clear

As hard as it is to believe, we are edging into the second year of Barack Obama's first term as President. And just as hard (for some) to believe, the world hasn't ended. But this decade is about to, and I thought I'd get a jump on some of the year end reflection.

About this time 10 years ago, my family was in England, waiting for the world to end because we were told that computers were too stupid to know the date. While it was a relief to wake up on January 1, 2000, and find that we were almost all still alive, some of us were a little disappointed because that meant living through the hangover from the 11 tequila jello-shooters from the night (and morning) before.

About 10 years ago we saw the Supreme Court elect a President who rode to power on a promise to shrink government and usher in an age of prosperity. Slightly less than half of the U.S. population thought this was going to be great, and slightly less than half thought it would be awful. Who knew they'd both be right?

We came home to America only to find that the bubble of prosperity didn't apply to us, and while we tried to find our feet, we witnessed the most horrifying thing to happen to America in my lifetime. It changed us all, causing some of us to turn to religion and some to abandon it; it caused some of us to become more engaged and some to drop out in disgust. But as violent and frightening as it was for everyone, we have managed to pull through. I can't speak for everyone, but I feel like things are finally starting to settle down a bit.

And unlike any that came before (as I have said in other places) last year's election was the first that felt to me like a real choice: a choice between two candidates that I could live with. No one is ever "perfect", but finding even one realistic candidate has never happened to me before, let alone TWO! (Then the GOP nominated Sarah Palin and narrowed the field to one again.)

Since the election of Barack Obama, I have heard a lot of scary predictions from many of my friends about the horrors that would result.

Some feared that "the blacks" would run amok with a black President in charge; they predicted riots and race wars. That didn't happen, unless you count a Supreme Court nominee taking pride in her heritage as a "riot".

Some have proclaimed that our nation is about to become some combination of Socialist, Communist, AND Nationalist under this "radical" Democrat; and they've claimed to represent half the nation in this belief. Neither of those claims are true, unless you count a few thousand angry FOX viewers as "half the nation", and use their bumper sticker daffynitions of 20th Century ideology to guide your personal political analysis.

And best of all, while there haven't been any great, flashy hero moments in the past year, we have (mostly) weathered the economic fallout from the last decade without completely disintegrating... again, as many predicted we would. And I was really worried about that, because so little of our supposed "wealth" from the last decade was built on anything substantial. Housing bubbles, cooked books, "ponzi" schemes... who knew where it would end? But it looks like it will, finally.

There is a lot of work to be done. Nothing is perfect. But from where I sit, we're getting back on track. And I look forward to quarreling, quibbling, and empathizing with all of you over the coming ten years. I hope you'll be there to enjoy it, too.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lb4Lb#7: Wildflowers Are Petty Things

You probably don't think much about wildflowers. They're really just weeds, after all, and unless they're blooming, they don't have much to offer. But when they bloom...

In 1994, I already knew who Tom Petty was. The Traveling Wilburys and Full Moon Feverhad cemented him in a favored place near my tape deck, and even his Greatest Hitsalbum had impressed me. But I figured the Greatest Hits was an admission that he was done; Mr. Petty had decided to sit back on his laurels and take a well deserved basking.

Fast forward 15 years. I'm in the car with the iPod shuffling through my own greatest hits. I'm almost at the saturation point with most of the 600 or so songs on there. I've heard my recent favorites a million times, and the stuff I haven't heard before isn't making an impression as it floats by. I'm thinking, "It's time to wipe this thing and throw on something different."

Then I hear a simple strumming pattern. It's like the first drops of rain on a dusty windshield, when you're driving over to see your girlfriend at the end of a long week. It's like the first slug of beer after spending the day spreading gravel in Arizona. It's like seeing wildflowers blooming next to a field of scorched, brown grass.

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free
Petty has never been the strongest vocalist, or the deepest song-writer. He's not the "rockin-est" rocker, nor is he a very flashy guitarist. He's just that guy you know who breaks out the guitar at parties, and makes everyone feel good. He's that guy that girls don't think about dating because he's "just a good friend", but when they actually give him a chance, he turns out to be genuine and caring.

Wildflowers is built on that vibe. The title track is all about letting someone go where they want, while still hoping that means they'll want to go where you are. There's no pressure, but he lets you know what he wants out of the relationship. He wants to keep it simple, real, and easy.

Doing that, there's always the chance that she'll take you up on the offer and leave, but... why borrow trouble? Why worry that much? You only hurt yourself, after all.

I know your weakness, you've seen my dark side
The end of the rainbow is always a long ride
But don't be afraid anymore
It's only a broken heart
Only a Broken Heart
Yeah, he knows the risks. And he's not immune to that urge to control, either. This could have been an album full of passive-aggressive manipulation. Tom certainly knows the temptation.

It's good to be king and have your own world
It helps to make friends, its good to meet girls
A sweet little queen, who can't run away
It's good to be king, whatever it pays
It's Good to Be King
So we'll sit back, break out the guitar, and sing together. We'll hang out, and make ourselves easy to be around. Sometimes, you can't be king enough to shape those things that are larger than you, so you have to give in. Be easy. And do what you have to do.

And hey, now baby, what can I do?
What am I goin' to do but trust you?
The rest of my nights, the rest of my days
What can I do but love you?
House in the Woods
In 1994, the music scene turned on its head. All of the over-the-top extremes of the 80's metal bands and the effete and introspective self-loathing of the bubbling "alternative" scene collided, and the resulting cloud of ash that we called grunge erupted. It was cathartic, it was redemptive, it was purgative... but it was harsh and unflinching. The music, like the lyrics, explored the dark corners we had all been ignoring, and it changed the way we wrote and heard music.

Everything was about how angry and hurt everyone was. Grunge gave depth to punk, and balls to alternative; it pissed on shallowness of metal, and gave advanced music theory lessons to folk. It was a force of its own, all about denying anyone the opportunity to get close to you, because you knew they just wanted to rip you off.

It affected everything; lyrics, song-writing, form, production, sales, advertising. The flames swept through the music business, and the ashes settled on every genre. No one could sell a record without something "grunge" related - a flannel shirt, a curled fist, an angry riff.

In the midst of all of that, one quiet album pushed something beautiful up through the ashes, and those of us who noticed felt a little lighter for the experience.

Its time to move on, time to get going
What lies ahead I have no way of knowing
But under my feet, baby, grass is growing
Its time to move on, it s time to get going
Time To Move On
You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here. Petty knows his limits, and he knows not to expect too much. This makes his album a masterpiece of understatement, as well as an achievement. Not many people can pull off both.

Not many people can craft songs that still bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart when you recognize that simple strumming pattern. Especially not after hearing them for 15 years.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wanna Take Over the Government?

I have had an epiphany. I realized that I was wrong: we are NOT in the middle of a Revolution.

Revolutions are bloody, messy things that occur when the dissatisfied forcibly remove those at the "Top", and suddenly realize that it's much more fun to be a Revolutionary than it is to run a government. Revolutions are about what happens at the Top... and what we're doing right now is happening from the bottom-up. Sort of.

You see, this whole Internet fad seems to have taken a big leap forward the last couple of years. It's still full of cranks and flame-warriors... but instead of sniping at each other in newsgroup forums about which Star Trek was best, they are somehow beginning to work together to build Truly Useful Things. They've come up with a handful of simple ideas that have led to the creation of the world's largest encyclopedia, they've shaken the foundations of print media, and they've elected a U.S. President.

If you're not impressed yet, then check out this NPR story about some of the ideas that people are coming up with to handle all of the information being generated these days. Some ideas are of the "gee whiz" variety, but some are truly useful. Applications like Facebook and Twitter have been exploding the last couple of years, as most of you are well aware, while most of the innovations have had to do with new ways to shop or gossip, there are some gems out there - like - that have come up with ways to make a real impact on the lives of those who need help most.

And now it is the U.S. Government's turn. We are standing at the very beginning of the real change, but I think it is safe to call this new "Transparency" the Greatest Innovation in Government in the last century. Terms like "Transparency" and "Government 2.0" are, technically, buzzwords; but the substance behind them is that the Government is beginning to give information out to the Nerds of the world to make of it what they will.

A bunch of my friends have been skeptical of the impact that all of this will have. House Minority Leader John Boehner scoffs openly at the Obama Administration's efforts in his Freedom Project blog (ironic, since he is both blogging and Twittering). But notice that even his scoffing isn't about the use of the technology as much as it is a criticism of the Government's websites: "As with most things government tries to do, it turns out that private citizens and entrepreneurs can do it better." He is talking about the launch of the Government's website there, and the similarly addressed, which is run by a private firm, and has used the Government's data to create an even MORE Transparent site than the Government was able to create!

Despite the scoffing, it is this kind of competition to "do better" that makes Transparency so powerful. It turns out, a LOT of people are eager to "do better". A LOT of us don't want to rely on the slow moving Bureaucracy to do it for us. And now that the information is being made freely available, there's no telling where we're likely to go with it. And this is funny when you consider what the LAST "Great Innovation of Government" was.

That last Great Innovation happened 125 years ago, when a little known Republican "machine" politician named Chester Arthur was sworn in as U.S. President after the assassination of James Garfield. Arthur reformed the Civil Service and basically gave us the Bureaucracy that we all complain so much about these days. At the time, it was a huge improvement, bringing all of the shady deals and corruption of the system out into the light. Over time, many have learned to "work the system", and my generation saw the greatest growth in voter apathy in our nation's history.

But now Transparency promises to reveal the inner workings of the Bureaucracy in a way that will revolutionize (there's that word again) things as drastically as the Bureaucracy did at the turn of the last century. And there's no need to wait; this isn't a distant future we're talking about. Go check out, and get your representatives lastest thoughts. Or check out the White House blog, where you can find their latest websites and even access their raw data.

Or if you're not that savvy, just make sure that some of your friends are blogging about this stuff like Brian, Andrea, and Marvin are doing. You might be surprised at what you learn.

Of course, if you *want* to sit on your couch and gripe in front of the TV, that's still an option. Have a good time! We'll be over here, Revolutionizing the ways we run our Government.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fatman's Lament

Third Grade was a banner year of badness for me. I had a horrid teacher who enjoyed humiliating children who dared to be bored with her endless "letter packets", and the friends I had filled my head with dirty jokes.

"Rectum? Dang near killed 'em!"

"Ah, but one of these ladies is a Cannibal!"

"Ma'am, I'm just making sure there ain't no BEES in this one!"

Since all I was learning in the public school seemed to be things better left between the covers of "Totally Gross Jokes #37", my parents decided to send me to a private, Christian school.

Fourth Grade was considered an "adjustment year". Dad had graduated from teaching Grand Canyon College's teaching school with my teacher, and they attributed all of my behavior problems to a need for discipline after so much dismal failure from the public school teachers.

Fifth Grade marked a change, though. I was no longer the freakish, unknown entity (there were several, newer kids to take that title), and since that was the year we were allowed to start band, I began making friends who had a common, wholesome interest for a change.

Of course, life wasn't perfect. Because there was Todd.

Todd C. was an unusually tall, broad, and blond fifth grader. To my short, skinny eyes, he resembled a refrigerator, only one with a sneer and a unibrow where the freezer door should have been. For reasons lost in the mists of 1983, we took an instant dislike to each other. It didn't help that our names were so similar; teachers kept confusing us, and we were both offended by the confusion. We were also both offended that the other was offended... well, you get the idea.

Todd took to taunting me whenever he passed me outside of class; "Tad the Retard" was his favorite refrain. He occasionally varied that with some other rude word he had picked up somewhere, but my skin had been thickened in the Third Grade by all of those "Totally Gross" jokes, and he quickly learned that verbal sparring was usually going to favor my big mouth, and I was quick enough to dodge his lumbering paws.

Teachers tried to intervene, telling us both to cool it, and I remember complaining to my mother about it. "They keep trying to make us act like friends, but he's just a big, fat bully!" Mom tried to tell me that bullies are usually insecure, and just need friends. Sure he was new, but he seemed so large, impenetrably mean, and uninterested in being my friend. Plus, he was constantly surrounded by a gaggle of unapproachable football-throwing neandersmalls; so I took the less Christian, but more satisfying tactic of making Todd's life miserable.

Little pranks - nothing harmful or damaging - began happening to Todd. Things would disappear from his desk and show up somewhere embarrassing (like the girls' bathroom). Drawings of Todd with dragging knuckles or a finger in his nose would fall out of his books. And I swear I didn't start it, but whenever he came near the table of fools I sat with at lunch, we could be heard singing, to the tune of the Adam West/Burt Ward Batman theme:

"Fatman! Da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da: Fatman!"

My friend Tony, who seemed so quiet and reserved when I first met him, blossomed into a fine cartoonist later on, thanks to the practice he got from drawing Fatman(tm) comics. The misadventures of Fatman and his rotating cadre of idiotic (usually fatally) sidekicks became an instant underground hit.

I barely noticed that Todd had mostly begun to leave me alone. He would scowl and barrel past me and my lunatic fringes, only occasionally serenading me if I passed his group's game of football as I walked to the bandroom. One or two minutes of Todd singing "Tad is re-tard-ed!" seemed to justify weeks of serialized mischief on the cartoon pages, at least to my mind.

Sure, looking back, I can see that Todd had a pretty harsh year. The conflict was real, at first, but exaggerated in my immature brain. The damage we did to each other was (I hope) small; but it was only years later, when I was reliving all of the fun with Tony, that it occurred to me that I was... wrong.

I'd like to tell you there was some kind of satisfying climax to this conflict, but there never really was. Todd and I never fought... not with fists. Neither one of us attempted suicide, that I know of. There was no single moment when we said anything earth-shatteringly symbolic to each other. It was simply a matter of two idiot kids who didn't like each other jabbing each other with looks and catch-phrases, and wishing the other would drop dead.

So, if there's no point to this story, then why did I tell it? Well, I think maybe there's still something to be learned from this. A lot of my dear friends have made remarks about international issues that remind me quite a bit of the rift between Todd and Tad; one lumbering giant, and one self-important twat - neither one in the right. And yet, I'm supposed to be rooting for one of them to destroy the other just to prove that Evil shall not prevail!

I never destroyed my Big Enemy. Fatman never vanquished his nemesis, the Living Turd. We both imagined the other to be plotting something horrific for the other that never happened. And neither of us really got anything out of that ongoing conflict. I could have had all of my friends and their cartoons, and the laughs WITHOUT humiliating the other guy. He could have ended it all by simply ignoring me and my stupid jokes.

Instead, we made ourselves miserable, both feeling justified because the other was so... Evil.

Maybe we should have just sat down and talked... but we couldn't. We were young and stupid. (Update: we were both bullies.)

So what's YOUR excuse?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Letting Things Go

I haven't written anything new in a long, long time.

I was doing pretty well for a while there, but the last year brought some monumental changes to my life, and there has been a lot more happening that I didn't want to talk about than usual. Whenever I sit down any more, rather than a funny (in my opinion) story or cute kid adventure, I have felt more like ranting about politics or expressing something uncomfortable.

If you've been displeased with what I've written lately, just imagine all of the stuff that fell under the sword of the "delete" button, and count your blessings!

So, while I am not making any promises, I do want to try to set aside some time each day to write. When I have something I feel is worth sharing, I will. I'll try to avoid the politics (most of you don't understand what I'm talking about anyway - your words, not mine), and stick to what you and I both enjoy.

Fart jokes!

Until then....

Monday, January 26, 2009

Using Your Brain is Not a Team Sport

Okay, here's how this works: I look at patterns. I see stuff happening, and I tell you - all of my friends and companions - what I see coming. Then you get to behave in a mocking, name-calling, or patronizing manner until I turn out to be right...then, it all starts over again.

For example: 20 years ago, I was a Star Trek geek marveling at the cool tech that I saw coming (cell phones, laptops, CDs/mp3s, GPS, etc.) ... and I earned the scorn and derision of my peers and adults for believing that these things would eventually get here. Many wedgies - few dates. And yet, here we are approaching 2010, and a lot of the stuff I was mocked for believing in is being sold at WalMart for under $400. But I'm still considered a geek.

I accept that there will always be naysayers. "That'll always be too expensive." Or "There will never be a market for that." But I've been right often enough about the conclusions I draw from what I see going on in the world that it gets old. And the truly distressing thing to me is that the things I am predicting - things I hope will happen soon enough to make a difference - have been given some unfortunate political stigmas.

Now, for many of you, politics is just another team sport. You have your favorite team, and you tend to let your thinking drift along the direction that your "coaches" tell you it should drift. Anyone disagreeing with you is either biased or misinformed, because your team is the best. And Heaven Forbid that anyone imply that YOU are biased or misinformed, because then the blood will flow!

Well, I don't have a team. I'm not vain enough to think of myself as a "referee", even for the sake of this lame analogy; and really, I'm not even a fan of the sport. I don't really care what political labels you associate with various issues.

Instead, I look at patterns; I see which way the wind blows, and I see the shadows that indicate rocks under the water. When you ask me - either directly, or by making observations of your own in my "hearing" - I will gladly share my opinions with you. All I ask in return is that you accept that I'm not stumping an "agenda" or trying to give some meaningless victory to the "other team".

After 9/11, a lot of people asked me "Why do people hate Americans?" Maybe it was insensitive of me to do so, but I answered that question honestly: "We are seen as too fat, too arrogant, and too powerful. We bully the world into doing things our way, and leave them the scraps. Most people resent that, and some feel moved to blow themselves up to teach us a lesson."

The response I got was not what I expected. I hoped for at least, "Gosh, how can we show people we aren't all like that?" What I got was, "Why do YOU hate America?"

I'm still pretty ticked off by that reaction. It's that "shoot the messenger", "for us or against us" mentality that made the last 8 years a frustrating slog. And it was that mentality that turned me off to candidate after candidate, until I was left with the one that showed some faith in an America that could handle constructive criticism.

It was hard for me to decide to support Barack Obama - not because he was black, or because he was young, or because I disagreed with his ideas. It was hard because he is part of a particular "team", and I knew that supporting him would identify me with that team.

But in the end, it was more important to me to be true to the objective decision that I had to make. It was more important to ask hard questions of those who insist that they have a lock on common sense. I have found that those who bray the loudest about their common sense have trouble answering those questions. Here are a small handful of them:

Question 1: Why is it okay to spend a trillion dollars, taking money out of the pockets of good, hard-working Americans and saddling our children with a nearly insurmountable financial burden to send our troops to Iraq... but it's NOT okay to spend a trillion dollars, taking money out of the pockets of good, hard-working Americans and saddling our children with a nearly insurmountable financial burden to fix all of the stuff that's broken because the last administration was preoccupied with invading other countries?

Question 2: Why do you argue that I can't have electric cars or solar powered houses because "there isn't a market for it", even though there are apparently markets for:

*a tobacco industry that sells an otherwise useless weed to people who then die from the effects of using the product
*a food industry manufacturing nutrition-free crap that contributes directly to our growing heart problems, diabetes, and obesity?
*oh, and don't forget those low-mileage, high capacity SUVs and trucks that are used as commuter cars - there is apparently a market for those, too.

Question 3: Why are we "a Christian nation with Christian values" until someone points out that Jesus said the opposite of whatever argument you're making... and then suddenly you're an "independent pragmatist and non-religious free-thinker"?

Question 4: Can you tell me the difference between "creating a large bureaucracy to suck TAXES out of our pockets to pay for health care for poor people", and "creating a large bureaucracy to suck PREMIUMS out of our pockets to pay for health care for poor people... after paying for bonuses for corporate executives"? (Hint: both suck.)

I don't believe that any one person or group of people has all the right answers. I expect that the team I've given my support to this year will make some mistakes. When they do, I'll call them on it.

But the other team has had the ball since 1994, and the patterns they've created lead to some pretty unpleasant conclusions. Before you sneer at me and dismiss my opinions, I need you to recognize that I have a pretty good track record, and the patterns are there for everyone to see.

And much like me, the patterns don't care what team you're on.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fashion (non) Sense

There is a little girl crying in the room above me because I won't let her go to First Grade looking like a refugee from Cyndi Lauper's closet.

Considering my own "fashion history", and my generally laissez faire attitude to childrens' sense of stylistic expression, this really shouldn't be an issue. I really, REALLY don't care what anyone wears, as a rule, as long as no one gets arrested. If it was really my call, I'd say "whatever" without blinking.

But I have learned that this is not acceptable.

See, I let it go when Boy#1 decided to wear a green cammo turtle neck and grey cammo pants... with a red sweater vest emblazoned with a dragon. I also let it go when Boy#2 wore an over-sized T-shirt tucked into his baseball pants... which were pulled up to his armpits, by the way. And I frequently let it go when the eldest (the Tween, the middle schooler) wears a t-shirt and jeans (the fashionable, butt-cleavage revealing jeans)... and my Air Force BDU cap.

And my lovely bride never fails to mock me for allowing this to happen.

I have fought the battle with her many times.

"They are covered, they are warm/cool enough for the season, and it's all clean."

"But they look like idiots."

"That's apparently okay with them."

"Then *I* look like an idiot for allowing them to look like idiots."

"But it's obviously *my* fault, because I dropped them off."

"Then YOU are an idiot!"

So, when Cyndi Lou Who came downstairs to tell me she's Good Enough to go to school, I told the little Goonie to go change. I realize that Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, but I would really like to have a chance to have a pleasant conversation with her mother after school that doesn't involve my lack of fashion sense.

Time After Time, I went back to check on her progress, and she was still wailing at the unfairness of the universe. Her True Colors (pink, green, orange, and yellow) still clash from her ruffled mini and her tights to her nauseatingly striped shirt.

Then, just when I think I'm going to have to Drive All Night just to win this argument, the lovely bride calls to caution me that it's FAR too cold for them to go out in anything less than full Antarctic gear. Which means the tights must go. Which news the little girl takes with nary a blink, and toddles off to change into jeans.


If God had meant for us to be naked, we'd have been born that way.
-Mark Twain

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Friends of Karen: What It's All About

If you've been reading my blog for very long, you might remember one post entitled A Friend Indeed. I changed the names, and waxed poetic about some details, but that is essentially the story of my college-era friend, Karen.

I met Karen in the GCC Concert Choir in 1990, and over the next couple of years, she became an important part of my circle of friends. Every group seems to have a center, and Karen was ours. We all took for granted that she was going to finish her degree and start helping people, while the rest of us tried to figure out our place in the world.

Unfortunately, Karen began to suffer from chronic fatigue, which turned out to be caused by something far more serious. By 1995 she was confined to her bed, and her condition has continued to deteriorate over the years. Her mother, Patsy, is a retired school teacher, and she has been taking care of Karen for the last 16 years.

Meanwhile, that circle of friends had dispersed, as such circles do, and all we could do from a distance was send cards at holidays and birthdays, and pray. Some of us can't even offer prayer. Kids, careers, and all the things that come along with a life seem to carry us away and we can't always keep up with our past. But that doesn't mean we don't care.

We've all been marveling about how the internet has changed in the last few years. Equipment prices have come down, technology has improved, and we've seen an explosion in sites like Facebook and YouTube that make it so easy to reconnect with old friends, and be involved in their lives again. Of all the people I have known who could benefit from being online, it is a crying shame that Karen has not been able to take advantage of all of this technology.

I've started the paperwork to form a charitable organization, and have set up a website (see below) for collecting donations. What I'd like to be able to do is collect enough to buy a computer for Karen, and find one of our friends in her area (the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area) to help set it up and make sure she has everything she needs to get online and communicate with us.

I don't expect everyone to chip in, but if you'd like to help, you can donate through the website at I've started a cause, "Friends of Karen", on Facebook to keep everyone posted on our progress and to discuss developments (such as, "What kind of computer should we get?").