Better Safe

I woke around dawn to the sound of heavy downpouring rain. After it kept up for a while, I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed, put on a pair of boxers, some sandals, and a baseball hat, and ran out to move the car up to the driveway. Xy tried to tell me it wasn’t necessary, but I’ve learned my lesson from last time. Of course, when I got back into bed, the rain seemed to taper off significantly, but hey — better safe than sorry, right?

Three or four hours later, when I went out the front door on my way to work, I discovered a huge tree limb had broken off the neighbor’s tree, a live oak, and landed in the street. This was no mere twig. It was massive enough to do serious damage. And it was in the exact spot where our car had been.

Twenty-Eight Months


Dear Persephone,

When I ask how old you are, you’ve learned to say “two and a quarter.” But I guess now you’ll have to learn to say “two and a third.”

We’ve taken you out of the daycare for the summer so you are spending a lot of time with your mother. She took you out to a friend’s cabin in the country. It was going to be a weekend trip but you ended up staying for a whole week because you were having so much fun. But whenever you stubbed your toe or scraped your knee you cried for Dada.

You’ve often shown a preference for me over your mother in moments of crisis. Your mother theorizes that this is the natural order of things, but I think it’s because we’ve bonded more closely over the last year. Your mother was working very hard at a school with extended hours. That meant that I got you ready in the morning and took you to daycare; I picked you up in the afternoon; usually I put you to bed as well. But after a month or so spending more time with your mother, you are starting to call for her rather than me.

We do still spend quality time together of course. A couple weeks ago I took you to City Park. We walked around Big Lake and you chased the ducks. When it started to rain we took refuge in the New Orleans Museum of Art. I was surprised to discover a temporary exhibit on dinosaurs was being installed. There was a huge T. Rex skeleton in the main atrium. You were quite frightened of it at first. I sensed that was because of the way it loomed overhead, so I took you up to the second level. When we looked down at the T. Rex from above it wasn’t nearly as frightening. Soon you pronounced the T. Rex as “happy” and said it was your “friend.”

(You understand happy is opposed to sad, but I suspect you also regard it as the opposite of dead. I tried to allay your fears about the T. Rex by explaining it was dead. No, you decided, it was happy. And you’ve made some other remarks along those lines.)

Later I learned the dinosaurs weren’t part of an exhibit at all. They were props for a film that was being shot there.

What else? Recently at bedtime you’ve been requesting the story of “Sephie and the flowers” — the mythological story of your namesake. That’s pretty cool.

Against my better judgment, we recently bought a small above-ground pool. When I assembled it I was astonished at how well you took to the role of helper, bringing me the pieces I needed. Now you’re swimming almost every day.

You are fully into the so-called terrible twos. You have temper fits and meltdowns on a fairly regular basis. We are learning how to deal with such behavior as best we can. A short time out often works wonders for your disposition.

But even with your bouts of ill humor, you are still generally adorable and a joy to be around.

Lessons Learned

A few weeks back I had a bit of an educational experience. I can’t get into specifics, but I’m wondering if I might be able to abstract the essence.

A party approached a group that I work with asking for our support on a particular initiative. This party has considerable power and influence, and our little group does not — or so I thought. I was under the impression that the party in question would ultimately get what they wanted, whether we supported them or not. I thought it would behoove us to support their initiative so that we could develop a friendly relationship and perhaps steer them in a mutually beneficial direction.

When we sat down to talk about it, they revealed that they had already approached some governmental authorities about the matter at hand. The governmental authorities had deferred to our little group. I was a bit surprised by this. Our group has been working for some while to advance our cause. Apparently along the way we have gained a smidgen of influence. In some small way, we have successfully inserted ourselves into the political process. I felt pretty good about that.

Back to the initiative in question, which we were being asked to support. Suddenly my realpolitik rationale for supporting the initiative had evaporated. I was still inclined to say yes. By virtue of my profession I’m oriented to helping people. I’m in the habit of saying yes. Of course, that was a qualified yes. It would have to be cleared with the rest of the group.

Over the next few days, I and others in the group heard from our friends in various branches of government. Many of them were not pleased with the idea that we would support this initiative. Some were quite passionate on this point. They felt it would be a big mistake. The authority who had initially deferred to us was still deferential: “If your group doesn’t have a problem with this, then we don’t have a problem either.” But there was clearly some concern, and these concerns were spelled out to me in detail.

Finally, when our group met and discussed the issue, our consensus was clear. We decided not to support the initiative. The reasons were various but above all there was a matter of long-standing principle which I’d neglected to consider. I had to backpedal a bit, since I had initially indicated that we could support the initiative, but it was not too difficult to explain our position to all interested parties.

So what did I learn after all of that? Clearly, it’s easier to stand by your principles if you’ve got solid footing. But it seems there’s something more. I guess I could put it like this: You can insert yourself into the political process, but the political process will also be inserted into you.

Xy Update

We’ve taken Persephone out of daycare for the summer. Xy’s finally having some time to bond with her, which is a refreshing change after this last school year.

Xy found a new job about a month ago. The bad news is it’s still classroom teaching. She’ll be teaching fourth-grade science and social studies at a small Catholic school on the West Bank. Remember it is the policy of this blog not mention our employers by name, so don’t ask. This represents a $20K pay cut but hopefully she will be happier or at least less miserable. While it’s been nice not to have to worry about money lately, I’ll take a happier spouse any day. A little belt-tightening won’t hurt us.

Xy says she’s going to look at the world through rose-colored lenses. Thus this picture:

Rose-Colored Lenses

In other Xy news, her rollergirl dreams seem to have run aground. She got a knee injury a couple months ago that prevented her from qualifying for the team or skating at all. As she’s healed up, though, she’s come to realize she can’t handle the time commitment. Most players practice at least twice a week, often three or four times, and then there are the bouts themselves. That’s a lot, but it’s what’s need to be competitive. She had a lot of fun but at this point it looks doubtful that “Smallpox” will ever make her debut.

Invalid Nodes, Etc.

My daughter and I enjoyed a fine outing to the park and museum Sunday, but when we came home the house was strangely quiet. No music playing in the living room. No music in the kitchen. Xy said it had stopped a couple hours earlier. I checked my computer, whence the music flows, and it was completely unresponsive. I powered down, but when I powered back up, the system didn’t start. The screen displayed a flashing folder icon, something I haven’t seen in many years — since before the advent of OS X, I’m thinking.

My exact words at that moment do not bear repeating.

After trying a couple tricks without success, I hunted down my Snow Leopard system disk and booted from that, then ran Disk First Aid. The hard drive was looking funky. I tried to repair the disk, and it made a few repairs, but after reporting an “invalid node structure” it crapped out and gave up. A second try yielded even quicker results: “invalid B-tree node size.” The program advised me to backup all data and reformat the drive.

Disk Utility Can't Repair This Disk

A stunned and sickened feeling descended over me as I contemplated the possibility of losing data. That 320 GB hard drive is chock full and has never been fully backed up. I didn’t think it was very important as I tend to put my most important files online in some form or another.

The big exception to that is my music collection. It has taken me years to assemble that, from diverse sources, and there are many tracks that are rare to the point of being literally irreplaceable. I could certainly never recreate that music library from scratch.

And yet, in a strange way, it felt like it could almost be liberating. Curating such a large collection (35K tracks at last count) has consumed a lot of time and attention over the years, especially if you are as anal as I am about meta-data. Occasionally that feels oppressive — as if the collection is managing me rather than the other way around.

Still I was in a state of shock. It occurred to me that I was experiencing the cyber equivalent of either a seizure or a stroke — I wasn’t sure which yet, but I was hoping for a seizure and a quick return to normal.

I called the good old Computer Shoppe, but they are on vacation until next week. The only other option I was aware of was the Apple Store, and I sure didn’t want to go there.

I shelled out a hundred bucks for DiskWarrior. The startup disk is in the mail, but I was able to use my downloaded copy on a laptop to fix my iMac’s hard drive. At first it seemed to work, but the drive continues to have problems, and even when fixed they seem to come back. Must be some bad sectors. I currently can boot up into safe mode only, otherwise I get the “Blue Screen of Death.” And I thought that only happened with Windows. Actually this particular manifestation isn’t even acknowledged by Apple for the Snow Leopard version of OS X. It’s supposed to be a “Gray Screen of Death.” Go figure.

Still, I’m able to boot into safe mode, which is better than nothing. I got a 1TB external hard drive, a LaCie d2 quadra, which arrived with lightning speed from Yesterday I was able to back up the problem drive using Time Machine. Over the Firewire 800 connection, it only took a couple hours or so to archive 300 GB.

So now I have a little peace of mind. I probably need to reformat the drive now and then restore my data from the backup. The prospect of which makes me only a little nervous.

Update: I did try reformatting the drive but it continued to have trouble. A few days after writing this, it seems to have died the death. The iMac is currently at the Computer Shoppe where I expect they’ll replace the drive unless they find something else amiss. I’d love to replace it myself but after reading up on the subject I decided that’s a little much for me.

Krewe of Dead Pelicans

Despite the fact that this event was promoted primarily through a social network site, and despite the fact that I’m supposedly “into” that sort of thing, I didn’t know anything about the Krewe of Dead Pelicans until we read the paper Saturday morning. We were planning to head to Julia Street that evening anyhow for a friend’s opening, so we decided to check it out. I didn’t think we would actually participate, silly me, until Xy and Persephone came downstairs dressed in the suggested outfits: blue shirts, black pants, boots. Xy gave Persephone’s Hello Kitty umbrella a special treatment and I grabbed by Geuxjira shrimper boots and we set off.

I think Persephone’s expression in this photo captured the mood perfectly: sad but determined.

Sad but Determined

As you might expect for a second line in the arts district, there were some spectacular costumes that made powerful visual statements.

For example, check out this Unhappy Mermaid:

BP Dead Pelicans Unhappy Mermaid

I can’t take credit for that shot. It’s by the indefatigable Infrogmation. Check out the complete set.

I wasn’t able to snap too many photos because I was too busy looking after a certain toddler who couldn’t quite keep up with the parade. I’d scoop her up and hurry forward, but not for long, because she demanded to be put down. She didn’t want to be carried, she wanted to march.

Second Lining

Seriously, she took to this like it was in her blood. She would not put that umbrella down, and she marched pretty much the whole way. I was very impressed.

Midway, we stopped to observe eleven minutes of silence for the eleven worker who were killed when the Deepwater Horizon blew. It was the first time I’d heard their names. I thought it was an appropriate observance, and one that resonated with me as I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of silence and stillness lately.

At about the five minute mark, Persephone asked me what happened to the music? She wanted to hear the band play. She wanted to second line. It’s almost as if she’s a native New Orleanian.

Vnad Ladlkj Faldkfj

Here’s a shot of the Times-Picayune, Section C, May 29, 2010.

Vnad Ladlkj Faldkfj


I still remember when I discovered the existence of typos and other such mistakes, at the tender age of eight or ten. I was so taken by the concept that mistakes could make their way into print that I began to collect them. I kept my clippings in a box for a black light bulb, which was labeled “Black Light Blub.” In fact, I think it was that “Blub” that first sparked my interest.

The collection is long gone, alas, but I still take a perverse delight in seeing mistakes in print. I’m sure this was an embarrassment to someone at the Times-Pic, but it provided me with a brief moment of amusement. So, thanks.

My Latest Crisis

Play Doh

Many people around the city are familiar with Grace Episcopal Church on Canal Street, as many community meetings are held there. Mid-City Neighborhood Organization meets there. Friends of Lafitte Corridor meets there. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been an especially frequent visitor over the last eight months, as my daughter has been enrolled in Grace Child Center.

We believe Grace has one of the best child care centers in New Orleans. We believe it’s an asset to the Mid-City neighborhood. They offer wholesome, organic, locally-grown, freshly-prepared, vegetarian meals. You can’t find that at too many places around town! They also offer bilingual education and serve a diverse population. We’ve been very happy to have our daughter there and foresaw she would attend for the next several years.

Therefore I was shocked and saddened to learn the diocese has ordered Grace Child Center to shut down at the end of this month. The reasons behind this are far from clear, but some concerned parents are currently organizing an effort to meet with the newly installed Bishop to see what can be done.

In the meantime we have done what everyone does these days — we’ve started a page on Facebook. If you use Facebook, please give it a “like” and show your support for Grace Child Center.

Any other help or suggestions are more than welcome.

Good News, Bad News

So I says to Howie, I says, “Howie, the good news is they’ve installed that new toilet in the men’s room.”

As for the bad news, well, you really have to see it to appreciate it. Fortunately Howie took a picture.

New Library Toilet Installed!

Batchin’ It

For the last week Xy and Persephone have been out in the proverbial boonies, hanging with some friends at a remote cabin way out in the woods. It was originally going to be a three day trip, but they were enjoying themselves so much they extended their stay.

Meanwhile I’ve been “batchin’ it” here at home. Something about that phrase makes me uneasy — mainly the spelling. You pretty much have to spell it with a “t” even though there’s no “t” in “bachelor.” If you omit the “t” it sounds like a reference Johann Sebastian. If you’re playing an organ concerto in the baroque style you might be “Bachin’ it.” Include the “t” and it sounds better — batchin’ it — despite the implication that you’re running a series of jobs to completion without manual intervention. Nothing could be further from the truth.

No, I haven’t been frequenting strip clubs in their absence or anything of that nature. I’ve had no more excitement than taking in a couple movies and having dinner with a few friends. I’m extremely grateful for the latter — you know who you are — because Xy left me with nothing but spinach enchiladas and a rather bare cupboard.

Things have been even more banal of late as my sore throat came back yet again, with a little fever. I discovered my old doctor was taking my insurance again after dropping it back in 2008. So I made an appointment and now I’m taking a course of antibiotics and also some sort of nasal spray. I’d tried a couple different over-the-counter all-day anti-histamines but nothing seemed to stop the post-nasal drip, but I’m hopeful this spray is the silver bullet.

My girls are driving back today and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them. I get a little nervous when they’re on the road so I am hoping for their safe arrival.

Cinematic Weekend

My wife and daughter went out of town with some friends for the holiday weekend, leaving me here in New Orleans to fend for myself. After they left on Friday, it dawned on me that I had a perfect opportunity to go see a movie in a theater, something I’ve only done once since our daughter was born.

I checked the local listings to discover there was only one movie showing that I really wanted to see, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a Swedish-language film. (Swedish being the only language I can sort of speak, besides English.) It was showing at the newly redone Theatres at Canal Place. I could even eat dinner there. I called their “movie line” and confirmed it was showing that evening at 6:30 PM. But when I visited their website to buy a ticket — no dice. It wasn’t listed. So I called their “info line” and learned that the projector for that film was on the fritz. “It should be fixed by Tuesday.”


Of course they have other screens, with functioning projectors, which were showing Sex and the City 2 every forty minutes or so.

The only other theater in biking distance is The Prytania, which has Shrek 5 in six dimensions, or something like that. Ugh.

Why don’t we have more screens in Orleans Parish? Then I remembered the Zeitgeist. I ended up heading over there for an early showing of The Secret of Kells.

On Saturday, just for kicks, I checked the Theatres at Canal Place website again, and to my surprise The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was listed. I called and they confirmed the projector issues had been resolved — only the showing was sold out.

So I stayed at home and watched a movie on DVD.

Sunday I contemplated The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo again. There was an early show but that would conflict with the protest. The only other showing was at 6:30 PM. I checked the running time and discovered it was two and a half hours. That would cut into the new episode of Treme. Can’t catch a break.

But finally my luck turned. After the protest I learned that there would be no Treme that evening. So to make a long story short, I finally saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Sunday evening.

It was a good thriller. I enjoyed it. The Secret of Kells was enjoyable too, and very beautiful to look at. But ironically enough, the movie that made the biggest impression on me was the one I watched on DVD at home, alone, Saturday night — Last Year at Marienbad.

As for the Theatres at Canal Place, it’s very nice but I’m not sure what I think about their age limit. They only admit people 18 and older, no matter the movie. I’m sure that maintains the classy upscale atmosphere they’re aiming for, but it also means that there’s only one theater in Orleans Parish that I can take my daughter to once she’s old enough to actually behave herself in a theater, namely the Prytania. Well, there is also the Zeitgeist. But once again I have to wonder why we don’t have more viable screens around the city, and why no one has been able to engineer something like the old Movie Pitchers.