Italic

Every December, I break out the Speedball italic nib and the Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay Red india ink. I tried a few too many inks until I found one that was Christmas red and sufficiently opaque.

Bombay red 2

My lettering isn’t great, but people give a fair amount of slack for hand-lettered gift tags.

Gift tag

Give it a try. You might have better lettering than I do. A bottle of ink is only $3 and will last a long time. I’ve probably had the nib and holder for a couple of decades. Nah, longer, they were pre-kids.

Letting Go

There is control and there is letting go of control. I remember a commute home on Richmond in Houston, where it took multiple cycles at each stoplight. A Bee Gees song I hated came on the radio, so I changed stations. It was on that station too. I changed stations again and the third station was playing the same damned song. I laughed, turned off the radio, and decided that life was too short to get worked up about traffic. Stop and smell the exhaust, there is always something to appreciate.

Notes on Visiting Washington, DC

If your walking shoes are a year and a half old and the cushioning is stomped flat, get new ones before you go. You’ll be doing a lot of walking on concrete and terrazzo. My feet hurt after the first day.

Allow a lot of time to get places on the Metro. We rented a house in upper northwest, so our route to The Mall was to drive about a mile, park three blocks from the Friendship Heights Metro station, walk there slowly (with boy and dog), change trains downtown, go another stop or two to some part of The Mall, then walk to a museum. This took almost exactly an hour.

A Metro map is essential, a Metro iPhone app is optional. I used find a metro dc, which was mostly useful for the list of outages. Unfortunately, they just say “elevator outage”, without mentioning whether it is the train/mezzanine or mezzanine/street elevator. You really do want a simple, free iPhone Metro map.

The best street map of the downtown area is the National Park Service map of the National Mall (pdf). This shows all the monuments, a generous amount of surrounding city, and the exact location of the Metro entrances. You’ll want a paper copy, so drop by the White House Visitor Center and grab one. I expect other NPS visitor centers have them. I got ours at the ranger station just southwest of the Washington Monument.

The only map I found that distinguishes between Metro escalators and elevator is the Smithsonian accessibility map (pdf) available from the Smithsonian page for visitors with disabilities.

At any Smithsonian museum, you’ll find a booklet that describes all of them. Donate $2 and get the booklet, because it has the floor plans and exhibits for all the museums. The Air and Space Museum has a bigger, more detailed floor plan at the info desk, so ask for one of those.

Mitsitam Café at the National Museum of the American Indian is the best meal on the mall. It costs about the same as the other museums, but it twice as good and four times as interesting. Though you can get a burger or chicken strips, you can also get bison, pheasant, planked salmon, and other native foods. I had seaweed and wild mushrooms, some great fry bread, and grilled game. It is even a pretty place, with a river-like fountain outside the window.

We checked several guidebooks out of the the library and the house we stayed in had even more, but we ended up almost always using Pauline Frommer’s Washington D.C..

Operation Beautiful

Two days ago, a student at my son’s high school committed suicide on the train tracks near our house. This is the fourth student suicide at that spot in six months. The Mercury-News article said it well, it “renewed a sense of shock and helplessness” in the community.

The Gunn students are shocked, but they are certainly not acting helpless. They continue to do smart things, reaching out, talking, trying to make Gunn a better place for teens. They did this after the first suicide and have not given up.

A new blog titled Henry M. Gunn Gives Me Hope appeared today, and already has dozens of posts. One is about Operation Beautiful, a project to put Post-It Notes with inspirational sayings all over campus.

After the first suicide, students organized ROCK (“Reach Out. Care. Know.”), with a ROCK Facebook group and “ROCK at Gunn” blog. ROCK is completely student-run, including a staffed spot at the Gunn Academic Center and a list of students who volunteer to be “rocks”. Other students are gearing up a second round of handpainted “Talk to me” T-shirts with the proceeds going to the Kara grief counseling center [additional coverage]. The student paper covered teen suicide along with ROCK and the professional counseling available.

The suicides are a sadness beyond words, but the response of the Gunn students is more than just a ray of hope. It is beautiful.

The Truth About Working at Home

Editorial Ass posts a conversation about becoming a full-time housewife.

RM: I hate this grocery store. It’s ALWAYS packed! I HATE it here. I want to move to a different neighborhood where you can go shopping after 5 pm or on weekends.

YT: I have an idea. How about I quit my job and become a housewife? Then I’ll have time during the day to go shopping when it’s not crowded.

RM: Let me tell you how that would work out. You wouldn’t make it to the store. You would blog, watch Netflix, and not wear any pants. That’s what would happen.

Glad to do my part, here at Netflix. The comments are fun, too, so head on over there.

Hmm, and I’ve been doing my own Fill-in-the-Gaps Project for a decade or so, maybe I should post some of the progress.

Underdog!

Tina made an Underdog costume for Loken. You can’t see the blue cape in the photo, but it is there. Loken is a little confused by having fabric on his legs, but he’s putting up with it. The “U” is carefully modeled on the cartoon Underdog. The one in the live-action movie looks different.

In this photo, we see that Underdog has just captured a criminal. There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here!

Loken as Underdog

The Merchants Are On Board

I just heard a commercial on KCBS from Shreve and Co., a San Francisco jeweler. There are three different people talking about shopping for wedding rings with their sweetie. The second voice is a woman who says, “Julie and I have been dreaming about this for years…” and the third is a man who says “Rick and I have been planning our ceremony, the reception, and, of course, looking at rings…”

To paraphrase Engine Charlie, “What’s good for jewelers is good for America.”

Favorite photo of Loken

This really isn’t going to turn into a 24/7 Loken blog, and it is not some conceptual art piece about cat pictures on blogs. Right now, Loken is a big change in our lives and pretty danged important to our son, so he is getting all the ink.

This is a photo that I keep mailing to people — Loken’s puppy raiser, the caretakers of Loken’s sire and mom, and so on. At some point, it makes more sense to post it.

There is a bit of trivia which makes this photo more fun for us. I’m the only one in our family who can raise a single eyebrow (either one), which somehow gets more attention that you think it would. As you can see, I can share the glare of the Klieg lights with Loken, who also raises one eyebrow.

This was taken on the patio of our CCI dorm room, the first afternoon that we took Loken back to our room. Click on the photo for the full-resolution version, or check out the original, uncropped photo. The full photo was projected as the “title slide” for our class graduation. Kevin was the first to notice that a picture of Loken was up on the wall.

Loken on the patio

At home with Loken

We took Loken to church today as our first public trip and he was a perfect gentleman. At the snack time after the service, Kevin and Loken sat together and people came by to be introduced. The church cat was playing behind us, but Loken didn’t even turn to look.

We have had a couple of training sessions with him, some Heel and Side along with some Get/Sit/Give retrieves with car keys, and showing off Lap and Visit for a neighbor. He is testing us, doing a sloppy heel or dropping the keys and not going back for them. It provides a good chance for both Tina and I to practice our handling and let Loken know he isn’t going to get away with sloppy work.

We took some time this afternoon for play in the back yard. The tennis ball was fun, but Loken really likes his Hol-ee Roller. He ran around playing with it for a while after each throw. He brought everything back to Kevin, even when someone else threw it.

Afterwards, Loken settled down to watch some TV with Kevin. That was Loken’s idea. He actually left his beloved dog bed to be close to Kevin.

Kevin and Loken watching TV

CCI Skilled Companion Loken!

At CCI Team Training on Saturday, they told us our pre-matches were final, so we can tell the world the name of our dog – Loken. We headed home immediately after and found that our internet connection was cut (“backhoe fade” as a friend told us), so this post is delayed.

We are very, very excited, but also very busy as we study and practice for our ADI public certification test. This will be a quick post with a couple of photos, since I need to be in class in five minutes.

Loken meeting Kevin for the first time:

Loken really enjoys laying in the sun. He was raised in Seattle, so maybe that has something to do with it.

And a few pictures of Loken as a puppy, one with his Puppy Raiser. Thank you, Allen.

Headed to CCI Team Training

CCI is Canine Companions for Independence and Team Training is where the team (recipient and handler) are trained to work with a service dog. The dogs are already trained, so we will spend two weeks learning.

We will be training for a Skilled Companion Dog for our older son. CCI calls this a Skilled Companion Team:

A three-part team including a child or adult with physical, developmental or emotional disabilities, a primary caretaker, and a Canine Companion who helps with physical tasks and creates a bond of companionship, affection and love.

My wife, my older son, and I will be in training for the next two weeks. We will live on campus in Santa Rosa, and our younger son will stay home, go to school, and live with friends for one week and have his grandparents as companions for the second week. He’s being great about this. We are going to have a wonderful new dog, and he knows that he has to make room for his brother to be the best friend. How amazing is that?

The dogs really are wonderful. Here is a photo from our interview. The trainer is in the wheelchair and the dog is quiet and attentive, waiting for the next command. My audition was with this dog, and he was a joy. I told him “let’s go” and he walked with me, keeping light contact with my leg to stay close.

CCI trainer and service dog in training

Our son is developmentally delayed but doesn’t have major physical handicaps, so some friends have (reasonably) asked what a service dog can do for him. I think that is best answered by this video of Cole and Skilled Companion Ilia. Watch how Ilia puts her head on him (the “visit” command), how he holds the leash for security in physical therapy, and how Ilia is so careful to be close but not in the way in the solo dog walk. Warning: have a hankie ready.

Video of Cole and Skilled Companion Ilia (YouTube, 3:24)

If you are curious how a Service Dog can help, as opposed to a Skilled Companion Dog, read about Thida Cornes and her magical dog Hermione.

For a taste of Team Training, read Thida’s My Hermione matching story. I expect I’ll be a bit busy to liveblog our training.

This is a big commitment. We will be helping our son bond with the dog (we are not the dog’s best friend, he is). We’ll have a big friendly dog in our family for years. We will have epic levels of dog hair (one friend estimates that 60-80% of their food intake goes directly to hair production). We will be maintaining the training and teaching new commands. We will be re-tested yearly to retain our ADI certification. The dog will go to work with one of us every day — CCI rules don’t allow the dog to be alone for more than four hours. It should also be loads of fun. I’m already checking out dog-friendly trails in the area.

wunder@best.com is Dead, Long Live wunderwood.org

Verio killed off my wunder@best.com address without warning, so I’ve spent a few days getting mail working on wunderwood.org with the friendly but not always effective tech support at Verio. There is no forwarding, sigh, but you can send mail to the same username @wunderwood.org and you’ll get me. The rest of the family now has their own mailboxes there, no more party line e-mail.

I’m sad to lose the wunder@best.com address. It was my internet identity for a really long time, maybe fifteen years. It certainly goes back to pre-web, dialup internet. I had a shell account, and if you know what that is, you know your DCE’s from your DTE’s, I bet.

“wunder” is a lot older than wunder@best.com. My OS/370 batch processing account at Rice in Fall 1975 was WUNDERW and I switched it to WUNDER the next year. At The Rice Thresher, photo credits were first initial plus last name in all lower case. The period and space slowly disappeared (through the magic of kerning) over several issues to become “wunderwood” (thanks Mark). Both wunder and wunderwood live on at wunderwood.org.

wunder@best.com will bounce. Sorry about that, I can’t fix it. I own the new domain, so that will continue to work for a long time.

Best Internet Communication was a great provider, Mac-savvy, local, and even profitable. Check out the history at the link above for a taste of early ISPs.

After a couple of acquisitions, my old account is now with NTT/Verio. I need to have a chat with an account rep there, because their price list shows my account at $15/month and I’m paying $24.95. The joys of a grandfathered account.

Doing Math for Money

My son has been doing worksheets for the final 7th grade math test, and, almost as a joke, we offered him fifty cents for each problem he finished. He immediately finished 36 problems in about ten minutes. We don’t do “dollars for A’s” or any other sort of direct rewards for grades, so this was a new experience for him.

Of course we teased him that he’d really spent two hours whining about it and ten minutes working, and he fully realized that he was doing it for the money.

A bit later, at bedtime, it hit him, “You guys do math at work and get paid!”

I explained that a lot of the math I do was far more boring than reducing quadratic equations to standard form. My “math” tends to be adding up the search page result clicks from varying sources, divide by the total search attempts, express as a percentage, and repeat for the next day. Whee!

My So-Called Life, A Dozen Years Later

Last week our family watched (on VHS!) the pilot for My So-Called Life, the 1994 TV series. Most of it went over our twelve-year-old son’s head, but I was blown away. Even though I’ve seen a lot of the episodes multiple times on MTV marathons and I knew the acting was excellent, I was just amazed at the screenwriting. It is fluid, natural, wonderfully paced, visual, and the voiceovers even fit. There is a dinner scene where four people have four agendas, and they are all talking past each other. There is a montage of a single school day, with the teacher asking a question “What is the purpose of plasma?” followed by an answer “Because it is written in the first person” from the next class. Angela gives an honest response to The Diary of Anne Frank then realizes she has just sounded completely shallow in front of the whole class.

The whole thing should just collapse under the weight of the craft (Citizen Kane just about does that), but it soars.

Why? Because it is true to high school life. It is proof that at least one person grew up and did not forget what it was like and wrote it down.