All posts by Greg Q

Truthiness in Parenting

There are hundreds, even thousands of things those parenting books don’t bother to tell you about. Enough to fill a few books with, to be sure. The books all cover the basics, the things you would expect to need to expect. Few of them have broken ground to cover that which is unspoken truth, those things that parents hear at playgrounds or parties, and knowingly nod their heads as if to say, “Yep, happens to us too, and no-one ever bothered to tell us about it.”

Driving at 75 mph on a one lane road in the middle of Idaho with lots of oncoming traffic trying to make your flight on time is a bad time to learn yet another unspoken truth: your child will throw his bottle in the car. When you least expect it. Do not swerve.

Some other truths include: don’t waste money on toys; a steel bowl, wooden spoon and a box will last any toddler months. And, if it is going to break, it will break while your child is touching it. Or, your child’s behavior will be inversely proportional to your vested interest in the gathering. I could go on, but I wouldn’t want to ruin my book deal.

No shit, Sherlock

Without doubt, I am no uber-geek, but I know enough to get by at most San Francisco cocktail parties. I do about 95% of my own IT, and run a pretty tight ship when it comes to security on our home network. So when my Internet connection simply disappeared last week, I assumed it was Comcast.

I quickly established that it wasn’t our connection, but my desktop machine had lost all connectivity. In fact, something had hijacked my TCP/IP settings, had an open connection constantly flowing data, and was actively keeping me from logging on to the Internet. Looked like a virus, smelled like a virus, acted like a virus, must be a virus.

I ran through all of the steps that MajorGeeks recommend for sniffing out malware, a process that required over five hours of active scanning with four different programs, and came up empty-handed. I have a friend who used to work for ZoneAlarm, and he ran me through a barrage of tests to sniff the thing out. Nada.

I gave up and took my machine to Cosmic Computer in SF. Good guys, and all they could figure out was that something was burrowed deep in the registry, and had taken over the TCP/IP. They couldn’t ferret it out, so they were going to simply save all my data and re-install Windows. Ouch. This meant I’d be spending a few days re-installing the rest of my programs, resetting passwords, reconfiguring user profiles, etc. Yuck.

But I’d have all my data.

And then my buddy who used to work at ZoneAlarm calls me to tell me that a recent Microsoft Windows update completely disabled ZoneAlarm, and cut off access to the Internet. To top it off, it was a bug he had pointed out to them while he worked there, and they’d left unchecked.

Armed with this knowledge, David at Cosmic simply forcibly re-set my TCP/IP registry, and I was back in business. As soon as I got home and ran ZoneAlarm, this idiotic window popped up:

No shit, Sherlock. It’s the perfect Catch 22: If I really need this notice I’ll never be able to see it. If their firewall wasn’t free I’d want my money back.

Of Puppies and Fairy Dust

Tomorrow marks one year since Tolstoy passed away. I am constantly amazed at how much I still miss the guy. When food hits the ground, I still immediately think, “Oh, Tol is going to love that.” When we get home from a trip, I still hesitate coming up the stairs, wondering how pissed he is going to be that we have been gone.

When he passed away, we had Toli cremated. A few weeks later, a little box arrived bearing his remains. Up until today, that box sat on a shelf in our hall closet. At first, I don’t think either of us had the emotional capacity to deal with actually opening it. Then we were too busy, then it was Christmas. Suddenly, it had been almost a year, and Ryder started asking very pointed questions.

Tolstoy being his normal crazy-ass self with a stick at Crissy Field

Michele had told Ryder that they came and took Tolstoy away, leaving it wide open from there. Ryder was as affected as any of us by Tol’s death, often carrying a picture of Tolstoy to the window and saying, “Come back! Come back!” Lately, he’s been telling us that he wants to fix Toli’s body, and wondering where it was.

We’ve been wanting to spread Tolstoy’s remains at some of his favorite spots: the Presidio, the disc golf course in Golden Gate Park, Chrissy Field, Ocean Beach, Kite Hill… But we didn’t want it to be something we did without Ryder. He obviously needed closure as well.

I floated the dilemma Joel’s way after our last round at Harding together, and his response was brilliant. Tell Ryder that they took Tolstoy’s body away, and sent back a box of fairy dust. And now that we had the fairy dust, we were going to sprinkle it over all of Tolstoy’s favorite places, so he could be there always.

Brilliant! I floated it by Michele, who took a couple of days to think on it, and we decided that it would be perfect. Once we had the chance to casually insert it into a conversation with Ryder, we got his complete buy-in. He wanted to go spread Toli’s fairy dust, of course! 

Toli being ever so patient with Ryder

In fact, Ryder thought we should make sure to save some of Toli’s fairy dust so we could take it up to Tahoe, because Tolstoy loved it so much up there. Again, brilliant!

Now, when Toli died we had been hesitant to do anything radical, like have him stuffed, or bury him in the back yard so that we could dig up his bones later. But we did ask the guy from the crematorium if he could save some bones for us. He said it was difficult because they grind everything up and fire it a couple of times, but he’d see what he could do.

Today was the first time I’d seen Tolstoy since they took him away. “Fairy dust” may have been a bit of a misnomer, given how little actual dust was in that box once we opened it. We all went to the Presidio and took one of the walks Tolstoy did over 1,500 times. Scattering some fairy dust here, some remains of bones there.

Ryder loved it. He had no preconceived notions of what fairy dust would look like, and was thrilled to finally have some of his own to bandy about. We threw it in root holes of trees, dug little shallow holes and sprinkled some in, and left odd bone remnants in weird places to torment other animals. Along the way, we managed to cull out a pretty good collection of whole bones – probably meditarsals. Maybe next year we’ll do an art project of Tol, about Tol.

For now, we’ve lots more fairy dust to spread, and numerous stops to make.

Letting Go of Star Wars

Originally published August 23rd, 2012

Long before my son was born I had a plan for sharing Star Wars with him. Before I had met his mother (aka The Love of My Life), I had a vision of how I would share the journey through that universe far, far away.

I pictured how much fun it would be to see my child marvel at the size of the Death Star. How shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, he would be when they found out that Darth Vader is really Luke’s father. I was looking forward to the apprehension in his eyes during the first bass-heavy footfalls of the approaching AT-AT walkers.

In short, I wanted him to experience Star Wars the way I had.  Maybe even to grow to resent George Lucas the way that I do.

This whole plan was ruined in pre-school, when some other parents deemed the Star Wars universe appropriate for their then-four-year old son. He inevitably came to school and told my son all about the amazing story he’d been turned-on to. So much for my plan.

In one short afternoon my son went from 0 – 60, learning everything about the Death Star, the death of Obi Wan, Luke’s lineage and more. It would be easy to blame all of this on the other boy, or his parents; or the baby sitter who eventually told him the whole trilogy, shot-by-shot. But the truth is unless I was willing to show my son Star Wars at age 3 (I was not), or lock him away in a cave until age 7 (an inviting but unrealistic plan) he was going to learn all about it.

I wrestled with that long and hard, trying to come to grips with the fact that my Star Wars is not my son’s Star Wars. That out there, somewhere in the future, is a sci-fi or fantasy epic that will resonate so deeply with him he will want to share it with his kids. Provided he still wants kids after seeing what a snot-nosed punk Luke turns out to be.