Archive for the 'Family' Category

What I learned from my Grandfather

Monday, July 19th, 2010

My Grandfather Newt died a year ago today and in some sort of divine happenstance, I literally just came across the notes I took before I said a few words about him at his memorial on the back of a sticky that had addresses for trophy places. I thought those notes were worth memorializing:

Ten things I learned from my grandfather:

  1. Always bring a joke: My grandfather always had a joke for whenever we got together. Some of them were corny; Some of them were hilarious. But it always set the right mood to have a joke to tell. Even when he had prostate cancer, he couldn’t help himself from humorously asking his doctor before deciding on whether to undergo radiation or chemo “Doesn’t radiation CAUSE cancer!?!”
  2. Learn from others: My grandfather was a big proponent of learning from others. He always wanted to share his knowledge and he always had questions for others when he met them. It didn’t matter if it was some engineering or technical question for someone like me or if it was a language question for my wife, he always wanted to learn more.
  3. There’s nothing wrong with a unique look: My grandfather spent most of his adult life with a curled mustache and a generally jovial look. He also had the sort of personality that no one would ever think to criticize his unique look. He had a quiet confidence and a light-hearted attitude that said, “This is what I want to look like, I think it’s fun and I even enjoy that you think it’s a bit odd.”
  4. There’s nothing wrong with a unique collection: My grandfather collected hats. LOTS of hats. I ended up with the bulk of them. I’ve got 58 brimmed hats and 117 baseball caps from his collection, which I’ve got mounted in a ring around the wall in my study. I’m missing another 57 that other family members took as their favorites to remember him by. Yes, you did the math right, 232 total hats in his collection. And it’s got everything from formal military hats, to dual beer-can drinking hats, to umbrella hats, to golf hats, to sports hats, to straw hats, to just about anything you could think of.
  5. Give your wife a caddy: My grandfather wasn’t very wealthy when he was young, but the company he, my grandmother and my uncle founded made him quite wealthy. He didn’t live a lavish life, but he always made sure my grandmother was very well taken care of, including the bright red Cadillac that she drives. Always take care of your wife.
  6. In-laws are family: My grandfather isn’t even my biological grandfather. My grandmother was married briefly to my biological grandfather and they had my dad before religious differences in the family split them up. But my grandfather was MY grandfather just as much as he was my Dad’s dad. We were no less family than his three biological children, so much so that when on a family reunion trip about 10 years ago, it was a surprise to my cousin that my Dad was not her dad’s full brother. That sort of “everyone’s family” attitude was obvious in how he treated everyone from my wife to my step-sister.
  7. There’s no such thing as a “step”: This is the other half of the previous one. My step-sister was not a “step” anything. She was another grand-daughter.
  8. The past is in the past: I can’t think of a time I heard my grandfather bring up something negative from the past. I also didn’t hear him endlessly relive some sort of glory days from the past. That was the past and he lived life moving forward. Right up until the day he died, he was always looking forward to the future and making the most of it.
  9. The head of the table is important: My grandfather’s humor was always a bit self-deprecating, so hopefully this joke he used to tell comes across right: “When I married your grandmother, I sat her down and said, ‘Look, I love you, but I’m the man of this family, so when it comes to any big decision, I have to make it. But since I love you, I’ll let you make all the little decisions.’ And you know what? In 60 years of marriage, there hasn’t been a big decision yet.” While he was never a man to lord his role over anyone, you knew who was the patriarch of the family and he took that responsibility (and yes, it’s a responsibility, not a privilege) seriously.
  10. Life is worth living: As I briefly mentioned earlier, my grandfather had prostate cancer about 10 years ago and the doctor honestly told him that it wasn’t very far along and it would probably take another 10 years to kill him. Considering he was already in his mid-70’s it might be wiser to just let it take its course because the treatment often takes more years off ones life than the cancer will. But there was no doubt in my grandfather’s mind that treatment was the way to go. Life was worth living and he’d fight on. That radiation treatment took a lot out of him, but he never lost his zest for life.

I miss you grandpa.

Father’s day column

Friday, June 15th, 2007

This is a hilarious column about how Dad’s get the shaft compared to Mom’s and mother’s day.

While the column is entirely light hearted and not intended to be any treatise on being a good father, the comments on the article at got surprisingly nasty.  Comments about how “too bad you’re kids suck” or whining from fathers about what they did or didn’t get that just isn’t funny.  But one comment struck me as true, although way too negative for such a light-hearted column:

Dads are for giving not getting… I don’t need from the kids I give to the kids. Someday they’ll know this and appreciate it. Hallmark moments are for the ladies…

While I think mothers also get great joy in giving to their children and the “Hallmark moment” statement is over the top, I think it is very different for fathers than mothers.  For mothers, I think providing has a much more emotional aspect to it and a more protective manifestation.  For fathers, providing is much more material and concrete.  Men really do like to provide for the family.  I’ve found it to be true myself.  In fact, it’s surprised me just how important it is to me to be able to provide for my family and the offense I take when I find myself unable to provide or I get criticism of what I provide.  Said another way, I take great pride in it.

Before my favorite blog critics jump in and call me sexist, I’m not at all saying that a woman isn’t capable of materially providing for a family.  Nor am I saying that it is wrong for a woman to work or for her to make more than her husband.  Nor am I saying that it is intrinsically wrong for a man to stay home and take care of the kids.

What I am saying is that I think men are “wired” in such a way that they take great pleasure in providing both the material and moral foundation for their family.  When I think of what I most appreciate about my dad and what I goal for in being a dad it always comes back to the lessons I learned from him (moral foundation) and the sacrifices he made to make sure that I always had a roof over my head (material foundation) until I graduated from college, debt free I might add.  Those foundations made me into the man and father I am and I pray that I can continue good a father and husband for the rest of my days.

What do I want for father’s day?  I don’t want a gift or a bad golfer card (an aspect of the column I found particuarly funny), I want the satisfaction of watching my children play freely in the backyard knowing they are safe and provided for, knowing that I gave that to them.

3rd baby is baking

Monday, May 7th, 2007

Well, now that all the important parties know, I can make a blog announcement:

God has blessed my wife and I with another baby growing (as I like to call it “baking”) inside my wife.  We are of course praying that it is a healthy pregnancy, one that will result in a healthy baby born later this year.  The current due date is December 8th, but we’ll get refinement on that in a few months when we do an ultra sound.  While it doesn’t really matter, I’m praying for a December 12th birth, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Of course there is nothing wrong with a birthday of the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th either, nor any day in between for that matter.

Thanks be to God!


“Thanks for inviting me even though I’m obstinate”

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

That’s the comment I got from my brother’s girlfriend as they were leaving Andrew’s (my yougest) birthday party.  It was in response to my comment on my brother’s blog where I called women who refuse to talk their husband’s last name obstinate.

So now I feel obligated to explain/defend myself…

What may not have been clear in my comment was that I was not saying that all women should take the name of their spouse.  In fact, in numerous traditional societies it’s not even the convention for women to do so and I wouldn’t expect them to conform to our society’s conventions.

What I am saying is this: OUR society’s convention is for women to take their husband’s last name for very specific symbolic reasons.  It is a sign that the bride is no longer an immediate member of her parent’s family and now is part of a new family, a family made up of her, her husband and their future children.

Any woman who doesn’t agree with the above symbolism shouldn’t get married.

Is it true that the groom is doing the same thing in leaving his parent’s family?  Yes, it is.  And if we had a similar convention or if a couple wanted to create a convention that symbolized that, I’d fully expect the groom to support it.

But that’s not what is at issue here (the groom).  What is at issue is the disposition of the bride.  Is she really willing to make a sacrifice for her new husband?  I guess if perhaps (and I think this is fairly rare) the groom-to-be tells his fiancee that he doesn’t want her to take his name, then it wouldn’t be a case of obstinence.  Although I would still hope that she woud want to take the name anyway.

See, marriage takes a lot of compromise.  It takes BOTH spouses putting their marriage’s interests above their own.  A name is really a trivial thing in the big picture.  There will be times when both spouses will have to do far more.  If one of those two entering the marriage isn’t willing to do something as simple as change their name, then there is a problem.

And to be clear, I expect both spouses in a marriage to fully dedicate their lives to serving the other.  Marriage is a life of service to one another.  I expect men to give everything they have to their wives.  There have been numerous times when I have made it clear to friends of mine that I thought they weren’t honoring their wives by giving all of themselves.  I expect a great deal of husbands and expect them to make every sacrifice necessary to meet the needs of their wife and children.  I expect the same of wives, including the trivially small issue of being willing to give up their last name.

Just to make sure I finish off the post with a bang, I’ll go through all the bogus reasons people will hit me with for why it is OK for a woman to insist on keeping her own name:

  • It will impact my professional career: Get used to it.  In every marriage one or both will have to make significant career sacrifices.
  • My family’s last name will die: It’s just a name.  You’re going to have to sacrifice more than that.
  • I think not doing it is an important statement for women’s rights: I’m glad to hear that a political movement is more important than your marriage.  I predict a marriage where you demonize your husband as a male pig every time a situation arrises that requires you compromise with your husband.
  • Why doesn’t he take my name?: Sounds great if you lived in a society that used that as their convention.  But you don’t and it would be just as stupid for a man in that society to question that convention as it is for you to be obstinate.
  • You just think women should submit to their husbands: You’re right.  I also think that husbands need to put their wife’s desires above their own.

Any questions?

My annual Beer

Thursday, January 4th, 2007

Not that this is a surprise to most, but I’m an odd guy to figure out.  A lot of people think I have a strong aversion to alcohol because I almost never drink it.  But that is definitely not the case.  Really there are three reasons I don’t drink much:

  1. I don’t like to drink when my wife can’t (and between pregnancies and breast feeding she hasn’t been able to drink for more than half of our marriage).
  2. I’m a busy guy with lots to do (and I don’t drink outside of social situations)
  3. (and this is the kicker) I’m quite the picky drinker.

See, I’m not interested in a Budwieser or other generic beers (the same applies to wines).  I generally want something really good.  So in most social situations I’m not interested in the alcohol being served.  The result is that if I drink a full six-pack of beer in a year its been a “heavy drinking” year.

As such, there is a growing tradition that on New Years day for me to drink “my annual beer”.  I actively go out ahead of time and find the beer that I want and buy a six-pack.  I’m a big fan of Porters and Stouts (and the occasional quality ale) to the point that last year’s selection, Guiness Draught, was a big disappointment because it is a wimpy watered down beer.

This year I chose Black Butte Porter.

Let me tell you, this is a great Porter.  For starters, it smells great.  I knew as soon as I opened the bottle (with my Cal fight song playing bottle opener) that I was going to enjoy it.  It’s smooth for a Porter with a great after-taste yet not lacking anything in flavor.

If you like either Porters or Stouts, you should give it a try.  Or the next time you come over, you could ask for one of the one’s I bought.  Usually the six-pack of the previous new-years is still has a couple left when the next new year comes around.

Yosemite Vacation photos

Thursday, January 4th, 2007

Other than the bowl game, I went to Yosemite over the Christmas break.  Go to to see some of the scenic pictures I took.

(Note to Brian: they include the pictures I took of you and Sarah)

Movie quotes of good “car incidents”

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

OK, I’m looking for some help here.  I’ve got a top-secret project right now that I could use some good audio clips from movies.  What I’m looking for is various “car incidents”.  You know, crashes, people yelling at/from cars, that type of stuff.

Can anybody think of some good lines from movies that come from “car incidents”?  Funny stuff is prefereable but anything is OK.  I’ve got a block and can’t think of anything.

And for those of you who are here for the Cal Bears coverage, there will be more coming tonight: A wrapup on my Holiday Bowl trip and post bowl game analysis.

A Bears game through the eyes of a 3 year old

Monday, September 11th, 2006

As most of my readers know, I take my two children (both boys 3 and 1 1/2) to the Bears games.  Some people think it must be really difficult but it’s really not.  There is so much excitement for them.  Other than occasionally having to get up to let them walk around, they’re no bother at all.

In fact, it’s a great joy to take them.  Everything is SO big to them.  Those steps inside the stadium up to the stands are their personal Mount Everest.  Plus, the public transportation that is a big hassle for you and I are the thrill of their trip (we had been in the stadium for less that a half hour when the older one was already asking for another bus ride… and don’t get me started about the potential BART rides).

Then, everything comes alive for them once the bands start to play.  They love the music and jump and clap their hands.  The whole experience is a big party to them.

Is it a bit long?  Yeah, it is.  Sitting there for 3+ hours is tough on them.  But if you take the time to walk them around (I highly recommend going up and down the stairs: you can catch a glimpse of the game while they get a vigorous workout) and to bounce them on your knee and hold them up high when there is a big play… all of these things make the game a joy to them.

So: bring your kids if you’ve got ‘em.  It doesn’t matter if they’re 3 months old or 30 years old, going to the Bears games is a great joy.

Camping and “The Kayak Incident”

Monday, August 14th, 2006

This past weekend we went camping up at Donner Lake (for those out of the area, it’s where the famed Donner Party ate themselves to death).  We hadn’t been out of the car for 90 seconds and the boys were covered head to toe in dirt.  Andrew’s first official act of the trip was to dump a shovel of fresh dirt on the newly unfolded and yet to be erected tent.

All in all it was a fun trip.  The lone tragedy of the trip was what will from here forward will be referred to as “The Kayak Incident”:

On Saturday we went to the “beach” on the lake and built “sand” castles.  Another one of the families who came up brought their colapsable kayaks (they fold down to be about a foot wide and four inches thick (but the full length)).  I’ve been trying to get Gregory more comfortable on the water in my multi-year project to get him sailing at a young age, so I decided to take him out in the Kayak.

So I start out in the Kayak with him in front of me repeatedly wailing “no, no, no…” and hope that he’ll calm down and see that there is nothing to worry about.  After about 5 minutes the wailing has reduced to a muttering and I’m getting hopeful.  After another 5 minutes of muttering I decide to head back because it’s clear that muttering was as close as we were going to get to enjoyment.

As soon as I turn around and he can see the beach, he got much more content.  You could tell he wanted to go back.  But, the waves from the stern were getting larger and some of them were swamping over the low stern of the kayak.  I paddled in as quick as I could and tried to get my weight forward in the kayak.

However, I was neither quick enough nor forward enough because about 10 yards from shore a wave swamped and capsized the boat.  As I fell into the water my first thought was “so much for Gregory ever going sailing” because I knew he was going to be in a panic.

I quickly stood up (the water was only 3 feet deep this close to shore) and grabbed Gregory who, as “luck” would have it, was trapped under the boat.  He was going ballistic.  I tried to comfort him and tell him it was OK, but to no avail.  The only solution to his problem was mommy, who was quickly on scene to assess the damage that her husband had inflicted on her son.

15 seconds later I was all alone, drenched and standing in the cold water with the upside down kayak.  All in a father’s day of work…

Advice to car makers: make a flexible sedan

Monday, July 17th, 2006

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time.  My wife and I own two cars, both sedans: A 1997 VW Jetta and a 2002 Honda Accord. The Accord is a much larger car than the Jetta and it has the fuel economy that a larger sedan would have (mid 20’s in the city, upper 20’s on the highway).  Similarly, the Jetta has the fuel economy that a smaller sedan would have (mid to upper 20’s in the city, just over 30 on the highway).  However, outside of the comfort of the Accord, the Jetta is a far more useful car.

See, I’m a big believer in making your car stretch to do as much as it can as opposed to getting a vehicle that is way beyond your needs.  The classic example of this is the big SUV.  The average SUV family I know has two kids, takes a family vacation a couple times a year, tows a light load a few times a year, goes skiing a handful of times and that’s about it.  Since they knew they wanted to have lots of space for the family vacation, wanted to be able to haul stuff and be able to go through the snow, they went out and bought a big SUV with 4-wheel drive.

Instead of going that route, I buy a sedan, put a trailer hitch on it, buy a set of chains and if necessary a rooftop luggage carrier.  When we bought property above 2000′ we were going to buy a 4-wheel drive sedan, but we sold the property before we bought the car and the 2-wheel drive Accord was eventually purchased.  Nevertheless, this strategy saves me a bunch of money at the purchase time, a ton of money each year in gas and frankly I get a better car for my day-to-day activities including being able to get in and out of most mall parking spots in one smooth action.

However, because of this strategy I really have to make the most (my wife would use the term abuse) of my cars.  All the stuff that most people do with their SUV’s, I’ve got to do with my sedans.  I make big runs to the dump, carry Christmas trees, tow boats, get bulk supplies at Home Depot (like for a new fence), pick up large items like cribs at BabiesRUs and all kinds of other things.  And the more I do this, the more I realize that my Jetta is a far more useful car than the Accord.

And the reasons are simple: interior design and rear suspension.  While there is not much advice I can give about rear suspension other than “make it stiffer” there are a TON of things I can comment on regarding interior car design that automakers routinely over look:

  1. Seats fold ALL the way down: Almost all sedans have these days have fold down seat but frankly many don’t do it well.  Many of them either only fold 80% down or the surface is elevated above the trunk floor surface.  The result is that there is not a long flat surface which hurts my ability to haul long items.
  2. Width of fold-down seat opening: Almost all sedans have the rear seats just in front of the rear wheels.  Therefore, when the seats are folded down, the opening through the trunk is inherently limited by the rear wheel wells.  While the ideal solution would be to limit the size of the wheel wells or widen the width of the car, this is an extraordinary change beyond the scope of the changes I’m suggesting.  The reality is that many car artificially limit the width of the opening with stupid cutout and the such.  This opening should be maximized in size!  Ideally I’d like a full 48″ so that I could put a sheet of plywood in the car, but a full 36″ is a requirement… one that the Accord doesn’t meet and the Jetta, even though it is a narrower car, does.
  3. Height of the fold-down seat opening: The fold down seat has another problem: the height.  Usually there is a structural bar running across the opening at the top.  This is obviously important for safety, particularly in a side impact.  However, everything that could be done to raise the bar and keep it high (many have a curve) all the way to the edges.  A full 18″ from edge to edge is ideal.  Although the Jetta has nearly 18″ in the center it’s only about 14″ at the edges and it is one of the weaker aspects of the car.  However, because of item #2, the Accord doesn’t even get a chance to redeam itself here.
  4. Width of trunk opening: A lot of sedans these days have angled the trunk door to be narrower at the bottom than at the top.  This is just about the worst thing that has happened to sedans from a flexibility standpoint.  This significantly reduces ones ability to get big square items in the trunk.  They’ll fit once inside, but they can’t get in the trunk because the corners won’t fit past the bottom of the trunk.  This is an area where the Jetta excels as it’s trunk door is completely vertical and is about the same width as the #2 so about anything that would slide in would barely fit inside.  The accord stinks in this regard.
  5. Height above bumper of trunk opening: This is the last of the 5 “bookshelves” criteria.  All of the metrics so far affect how big of a set of bookshelves one could get in their sedan.  The issue here is that the bottom of the trunk opening is several inches above the floor of the trunk.  The result is that you can get the bookshelves in the trunk and past the rear seat opening, but you reach a place where you can no longer push the bookshelves in because the top of the bookshelves hits the structural bar in #3 because it is at an angle and not flat on the floor.  The higher the bottom of the trunk is, the worse this problem is.  Both the Accord and the Jetta do OK in this regard but not perfect.  Overall my “test” is if you can fit a 3′ wide set of 6′ tall bookshelves in the trunk (with seat down) of your sedan, your in good shape.  My Jetta can, the Accord can not.
  6. Total Height of Trunk Opening: This is another area where the cars have gotten worse.  I call this the “TV” criteria.  TV’s tend to come in fairly cube shaped boxes (tube TV’s anyway) and so they’re tough to fit in cars.  The measurement that tends to be the deciding factor of whether they’ll fit is the distance from the bottom of the trunk opening to the front of the opening by the rear window.  The big thing that has made this worse is the increased roundness of the rear windows of cars.  If you open most trunks, you’ll notice that there is a large curvature to the trunk opening at the top by the rear window,  As such, there is actually MORE distance from the bottom of the openings than at the center.  In the Accord this curvature is a killer and I’ve had a number of items that wouldn’t fit but would have if the rear window had been closer to flat (thus removing the curvature at the trunk).  Again, I can actually fit a larger “TV box” in my Jetta than in the Accord despite the fact that it has a far larger trunk.  Incidentally, list items #4 and #5 also affect the “TV” criteria so improving in those areas will also help this test.
  7. Fold Down passenger seat: This is one that the car makers seem to be catching on to.  I often want to carry long poles and the such in my car.  If I can fit them between the two front seat, I can usually get a 10′ item in either of my cars.  However, if it is wider than that opening (about 4″) then I am out of luck.  By being able to fold the passenger seat down I get a bunch of extra space for long items.  Neither of my cars can do this.

In summary, a sedan can do a lot of things… IF it is properly designed for flexibility.  It’s amazing what I can get in my Jetta.  I’ve had NUMEROUS occasions where I’ve come out of Home Depot with a big load of wood and pulled the cart up to my Jetta to be met by a group of laughing people who want to see the spectacle of me failing to get it into my car.  15 minutes later when the car is full of 40 fence boards, 4 bags of concrete (put in the back seat area for balanced weight) and all the other lumber for my fence, the crowd’s taunting turns to awe.  The same has happened with the iritated worker at BabiesRUS who has hauled the rocking chair to my car who assumes he’s going to have to haul it back inside when it doesn’t fit.  (Side note: deboxing large items can substantially help them fit into a car.)

But sadly, more and more sedans are being designed for looking cool as opposed to being functional.  The result is that they’re horribly inefficient space wise.  The result of that is that fewer and fewer people are driving sedans and trading them in for fuel-hogs that they don’t need 99% of the time.