In Recognition of Single Parents

I woke up today with a cold, a URI, the sniffles, maybe the flu, the crud, whatever you want to call it, I felt (and feel) horrible. It is the sort of day when I wanted to slide back under the covers and sleep until I feel better. It was also a day, though, when Matthew decided to wake up at 3:00am. It was also laundry day, and meals needed to be prepared, and electric trains needed to be repaired and then put away, and the house needed to be cleaned. Three years ago I wouldn’t have bothered. Now, I have little choice, as most of Matthew’s needs cannot wait on my health. Which brings me to a realization I have had time and again since Matthew was born: single parents have it tough. Tougher than I ever imagined, in spite of having been housemates with single moms a couple of times in my life.

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a random act of kindness

I had a bad day today. A bad day on top of a monumentally stressful week that included the loss of an old friend to a tragic illness and the loss of a new friend to a tragic misunderstanding. The kind of bad day that starts out when someone you really care about finds a little knife in your ribs and twists it around a bit; a day that continues with someone else threatening legal action against you; a day that then throws in a gastrointestinal illness to make doubly sure you can’t shrug any of it off. The kind of day where all you can do is escape.

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To Blog or Not To Blog

Back in the early 1990’s when the World Wide Web was new, before there were page spinners and WYSIWYG HTML editors and cascading style sheets, I learned HTML and crafted a personal web site. Most sites of that era fell into two categories: lists of links to other sites, and vehicles for personal self-aggrandizement. Mine fell into the latter category. Rare were the sites that actually provided a substantial amount of useful content.

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Feet of Clay

We all grow up with heroes, people whose accomplishments we admire, whose philosophies and ideals helped to shape our own. As time passes our social conscience develops, the historical record (or our awareness of it) becomes more detailed, and our perspectives change. Unless our role models are fictional, we are bound to discover that they have faults. Often these faults will take the form of attitudes and actions which we find disagreeable in our current social environment. This raises a vexing question: may we dismiss these actions and attitudes by recognizing that they might have been more socially acceptable in the historical context from which they were born? Or must we reevaluate the meaning these people might have for us, in light of the discovery of their shortcomings?

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The burglary occurred at the end of a long week. Any week with a biology midterm on Monday and a research paper due on Tuesday is likely to seem long, and it didn’t help that Melvyl had been down all afternoon on the day I had set aside to complete my research. “There’s always the weekend,” I had said to myself, and spent the time studying biology. But Saturday morning, as I stepped out of the shower and reached for my towel, a terrific cramp shot through the right side of my neck, down my shoulder, and into my arm. It wasn’t the first time I had experienced that pain; it seems to happen when I haven’t had enough sleep. If the past was any guide, it would last for days.

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University Haze

Life at UCSD seems calm compared to life at Caltech. The California Institute of Technology is famous for its pranks: students once surreptitiously altered cards that Ohio State football fans were to use during halftime at the Rose Bowl game to display the school logo — the altered cards spelled out “Caltech” instead. Another time, after an unpopular instructor had a student’s car towed from his reserved parking space, students sandblasted the parking lot overnight and repainted it — with that instructor’s space missing. Once an instructor returned from vacation to find his Volkswagen, in one piece and running, in his third-floor windowless office. The funniest prank I remember, however, wasn’t the work of Caltech students. It was performed by Mother Nature.

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Be Careful What You Wish For

Though I do not remember what the story was about, I can see the green cardboard binder I put it in. I can see my juvenile handwriting — tall and thin, with no slant — rendered in fat, dark, shiny pencil. I can see the paper: unbleached, brown, and grainy with thick, uneven blue lines. I can even see my small hands carefully printing the title on the binder, but I cannot read that title.

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Rely on Them

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. —Arthur C. Clarke

I believe in miracles. Not thunder-and-lightning, fire-from-the-sky, raise-the-dead type miracles, but miracles that happen everywhere, every day — miracles so commonplace we’re likely to dismiss them as merely “science,” “art,” or “nature.”

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An Interview on the First Day

Q: …

A: The same thing that is on everybody’’s mind: the war. I doubt if my thoughts are new or innovative—they are probably as old as war itself. I am aware that the situation is complex and that there are diverse points of view. I understand that there are many people with many interests at stake. I have trouble, however, seeing the issues as being important enough to warrant the terrible tragedies that war will cause. I find it disheartening that it seems so easy for people to dismiss those tragedies when they do not see themselves as being directly affected. Notice how little concern people express about the number of Iraqis—or even the number of our Middle Eastern allies—who are likely to die as a result of the war.

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Specialization is for Insects

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.    —RAH

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