Monthly Archives: April 2007

kurt vonnegut, rip

One of my favorite authors in high school was Kurt Vonnegut, who passed away a couple of weeks back.  I’ve heard quite a few people say that he helped them make sense of an absurd world.

Kurt Vonnegut helped me embrace the absurdity in the world rather than make sense of it.  I think that’s an important lesson, because some things just don’t make much sense, do they?

This picture was lifted from the New York Times.

At one time I could claim to have read all of his published novels.  I can now claim to have read and forgotten much of what’s in his published novels, but think it’s time to dust some of them off and give them a try again.  I watched the film adaptation of his book Mother Night this past Friday – a fairly good film in its own right.  I cannot tell you whether it’s true to the book.  I enjoyed it for the same reason I remember enjoying the rest of his work – raucous comedy, unlikely people finding themselves in absurd situations, and a landscape thick with anti-heroes.  And always tenderness and an appreciation for human beings as wonderful and flawed creatures.

I had the good fortune to see him speak at the University of Washington about eleven or twelve years ago.  The first 30 minutes or so were a rambling series of stories, with no discernable relationship to one another.  Something about buying envelopes, having a secret crush on a local store clerk, and a bunch of other stuff I no longer remember.  Suddenly just as I thought he was going to either launch into another semi-coherent story, he tied everything up into a nice, neat package reminding us to do plenty of "farting around" (his words) and having fun, because that’s why we’re here.  Then he said "I’m outta here", and walked off.

By the way, the biggest laugh of the night was when Mr. Vonnegut talked about his eulogy for Isaac Asimov, his predecessor as President of the American Society of Humanists.  He cleared his throat and said solemnly "Isaac is in heaven now …".

If you’re interested, you can read some of Mr. Vonnegut’s columns in In These Times here.  The New York Times also has a nice index of Vonnegut writings, reviews, and resources here.

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our newly-minted green belt!

Last Friday, Kayla tested for her green belt in Taekwando.  As her chief instructor said, the tests are more a way for them to show what they know, as all students have been "checked off" on the belt criteria before the formal tests.  Still, it involves getting up and going through your forms, escapes, step spars, and sparring in front of a bunch of people, so we’re always impressed with the kids’ poise!

Naturally we’re proud of our daughter, because we know how hard she’s worked for this.  It’s really fun watching our kids set their sights on things and chase their dreams.  They have some help attaining their goals (as we all do), but they are the ones who really make things happen!

I took a bunch of pictures at the test.  In this first one, Kayla is going through her forms.

 

This one’s a bit blurrier, but Kris liked it ’cause Kayla looks BAD!

Here’s yet another of her going through her forms.

 

Here’s a shot of her doing step spars.

 

Probably the most harrowing part to watch is the sparring.  For green belt and above, this is part of the test.  The kids ‘free spar’ against people of different ages, sizes, and belt rank.  Kayla sparred with a blue belt, an adult yellow belt, and here against an advanced green belt (that’s two ranks above her).

And a last one of her sparring :

Today we got to watch Kayla receive her new belt, and certificate of promotion from her chief instructor.  She was positively beaming!

A key part of the whole experience is the high caliber of instructor.  They do a great job of challenging the kids, while keeping things positive and in perspective.


david halberstam, rip

Sad news today that journalist and author David Halberstam was killed in a car accident in the SF Bay Area.  I have enjoyed reading his work, and remember watching him interviewed by Charlie Rose on Election Night 2004, just after Kerry conceded the race to Bush.

Mr Halberstam wrote many fine books, among them several about how the brightest minds in the US were responsible for miring us in the Vietnam War.  In recent years he drew parallels between Vietnam and Iraq, most ominously between the government impulse to CYA (from msnbc.com) :

Speaking to a journalism conference last year in Tennessee, he said government criticism of news reporters in Iraq reminded him of the way he was treated while covering the war in Vietnam.

"The crueler the war gets, the crueler the attacks get on anybody who doesn’t salute or play the game," he said. "And then one day, the people who are doing the attacking look around and they’ve used up their credibility."

I mourn our gradual collective loss of intellectual curiosity.  Mr Halberstam communicated his very eloquently.


more pictures from the Seattle MS Walk

Wanted to share several more pictures of our MS Walk Team.  It includes pictures of some fellow walkers living with MS.

 


facing challenge with courage

Yesterday family and friends gathered at Husky Stadium, near the UW Seattle campus to participate in the MS Walk.  This is a 4 mile walk from the stadium to Gasworks Park (and back), to raise money for the MS Society.

Here’s a photo of our team, the Northlake Network for MS :

Of course there are some good reasons we’re all out there on a chilly spring northwest morning.  A year and a half ago, after experiencing numbness in her feet and issues with her balance, my mother was diagnosed with MS.  Late last year, my uncle was also diagnosed. 

We knew little about MS then, and only a little bit more now.  It can be difficult to diagnose definitively – sometimes people will experience symptoms for years before ‘really’ knowing.  This was our family’s experience.  I should ask my mom whether the diagnosis made her feel better or worse.  I’m not sure how I would feel.

MS is progressive, incurable (sometimes managable with treatment).  It is an autoimmune response in which the body attacks the myelin sheathing around the nerves.  Without myelin, the nerves cannot properly conduct the necessary signal – as an electrical cord would. The literature I’ve read says that there is no verified genetic link, although statistically  speaking there is a higher incidence within families.  Finally, the Pacific Northwest seems to have a higher incidence than just about any other place on earth.  Whether this is due to environmental factors, genetics, or unlikely coincidence is unclear.

There are many physical symptoms.  MS can also affect memory.  And as with any serious condition, people will process the emotional components differently.  It is a difficult disease to battle all around.

And this is one of the many reasons my mom is one of my heroes.  She’s faced MS with the same grace and courage she’s always had.  When you’re young, your parents seem infallable.  As you grow, you recognize them as real human beings, with flaws and fears of their own.  And through that process you come to realize the ways in which you’ll always look up to them.