and another three weeks go by

without any posts. let's see if i can fill in the gap...

on the 12th i took in the Cirque du Soleil show Varekai over in Redmond's Marymoor Park. that was a fun show, and the first time i can remember actually going out with both my sisters since my whole family spent the evening at a nightclub in Edmonds on Nichole's 21st birthday- ancient history. Loren was with us, and he really enjoyed it. the two of us met up with Nichole's family at their place before the show, and we all met Melissa at Red Robin in Bellevue, for a little pre-show dinner. the Sargent boys seemed pretty happy to see Loren, as it's been a while, and Loren always likes seeing his cousins. Cole was a bottomless well of hugs for Loren at dinner- much to Melissa's amusement. good times.

here's an excerpt from an email i wrote for a friend of mine who asked for a review:
great show. music was pretty good, if a little loud at times for that small a venue (they play live the whole show, backstage, except the vocalists, who are in costume and onstage) and the dancing/acrobatics/costuming/lights/etc. were all great. nothing i've seen before really compares with it for spectacle, it's not a circus in the Ringling Bros. model (but i knew that going in). basically, in this show, they blur the line between musical-theater style storytelling (it follows a theme and loose plot throughout the show, which you can basically follow though the lyrics aren't in English and there's not really dialogue), dance, and acrobatics.

there were times the show was flat hilarious- they break up the whole thing with some basically unrelated hijinks a couple times, which keeps it fresh, and it's fairly long, at maybe 2.5 hours. there's a pretty good intermission in the middle. they do some clowning around in the stands before the real show starts, while people are being seated. seems like they pretty much have it down to a fine art, and it's fun.

worth the money i spent. i got the best seats i could get 4 in a row of (maybe 15 rows back, toward center stage, in a tent that holds about 2,500 seats). most of the show wouldn't suffer much from being farther back, and to a certain extent they play to all areas of the crowd, on a circular stage in a circular tent in an amphitheater-style horseshoe arrangement of seats, but i'd definitely recommend getting as close to center stage as possible.

moving on the remainder of that weekend, i spent some time digging in my yard, doing chores, etc. i've been taking advantage of bouts of decent weather and free time to dig a french drain into my back yard, attempting to alleviate the drainage problem that's been plaguing me since i bought the place (almost six years now!). Loren spent the day on Saturday, and we caught up a little on our Star Trek DVDs, as usual (TNG flavor this time). i think it's definitely doing him some good to have things back to normal. he seems to be making an effort in school. he was definitely struggling in a bunch of classes at the beginning of this quarter, but he's addressed a lot of those problems and brought most of those grades up. i couldn't resist pressuring him a little when i saw things bottom out as low as they did, but he was receptive to what i had to say and responded, so i'm proud of him. he's still stinkin' up his language (writing) class though- that one's definitely going to take a significant effort to change.

Sunday the 14th was Mothers' Day. i got Loren over to his mom's before noon; i made the decision he'd be going. and i made it out to see Mom, which was nice. the other day when i was in Safeway i saw the biggest strawberries i've ever seen in my life, so i picked some up so's to not show up empty-handed. brought my camera with me, and Melissa was kinda enough to take this pic:

2006. - Dad, me and Mom on Mothers' Day

of course, Mom (or was it Dad?) was kind enough to turn the tables on Melissa and get this one:

as you can see, Melissa got a little sun that day. i gather she'd been helping Mom and Dad move a rediculously large pile of rocks out of the big ol' hole my dad put in the yard, widening their driveway. in my book, manual labor from the daughter beats strawberries from the supermarket by the son....but it wasn't a competition ;)

here's another email excerpt, from the following Tuesday, the 16th:
been diggin' a trench in the backyard. three trenches, unless you count this shape: |_| as one trench.... ran into a monster rock today. way too big to pick up- must weigh 180-200 pounds? buried a foot deep. managed to get it free and up out of the trench but it completely ruined my trench line, of course, and it was right in one of the corners (just missed it when i dug the perpendicular trench), so it actually ruined 2 lines. did me in for the day. yesterday i told my folks i was about 3/4 done with 2/3 of the digging (which is a slightly more descriptive way of saying "about half done") but today i'm more like 3/4 done with 2/3 + 1/3 done with the other 1/3, so now i guess i'm about 11/18 done. give or take a little. depends on how deep the whole thing ends up- and if i run into any more boulders. so far i've managed to miss all the concrete i buried last year, which is very very good. that would be a big pain to work through.

most evenings after work find me glued to the NBA playoffs this year; the postseason play's been as good as i've ever seen. i have to say the West has far out-excited the East. kinda rootin' for the Heat at this point, for no other reason than i'd like to see Gary Payton get a ring. i don't think Alonzo Mourning's got one either, so that'd be ok also. problem is, i kinda like the Pistons and they'll have to lose for the Heat to go to the finals....so be it i guess. none of their important guys are nearing the end of their careers. but in the West, the Suns are vying with the Mavericks for the conference title, and i think it's a toss-up who'll take it. i guess i'm sort of rooting for the Suns, to make it a Suns-Heat finals. if i had to put money on it, i'd bet on the Suns in that series, but still going to have to root for the Heat i guess. it all just gets so muddled when your team (the Sonics baby!) doesn't make the playoffs. maybe next year, if they're still in town. the ownership of the Sonics franchise (Howard Schultz of Starbuck's fame et al) want some serious remodeling done to the (recently!) remodeled Key Arena or they want to sell. they asked exactly $1M shy of the highest price ever paid for an NBA franchise....maybe they're somewhat willing to sell, if the price is right, but it doesn't ring convincingly that they just want to get out at any cost. we'll see. the team played well after the trade deadline, the new additions of Chris Wilcox & Earl Watkins especially. both guys stepped in and filled gaps in the team's arsenal, inside game and explosive play from the perimeter, respectively. but enough about the NBA, and back to filling in the remaining 12-day gap in this blog....

the next weekend (May 20-21) was the first weekend Loren spent at my place since all the BS that began in March. we watched a movie i've been waiting a while to watch with him, How'ls Moving Castle, which was every bit as good as i hoped it'd be. once again, Dad nailed Loren's taste to a T. really, that's not very impressive considering he's likely to enjoy anything that's really good- and many things which aren't so good. but he does seem particularly impressed by movies i'd judge be particularly well done.

the weather was nice, so i also enlisted his help with the French drain in the back yard, and he jumped into the task enthusiastically. sometimes hard work is fun- it's a matter of perspective, as with most things. he got out there and sweated behind a shovel and sorted out rocks from what we dug up.

we spent a little time playing ball, and some more time playing chess, and we even got in a game of poker- dealer's choice, like we always play. he sort of steadily lost for a while, but after about an hour of playing he won a couple good hands and got nearly even before losing interest in the game. i think we played for about an hour or so. good times, again.

here's a couple shots i took on Saturday the 20th:

one of a pair of European starling's that's taken up residence in the attic over the den:

not sure if this is the same bird or the other of the mating pair:

and one more, of my favorite strange bird:

i'd been carrying on an email conversation with my uncle Terry about philanthropy in general and Bill Gates' brand of it specifically. this is an excerpt from an email i wrote on the 21st:
Uncle Terry wrote, likely somewhat tongue in cheek, unless i miss my guess:
>Even if all of the richest people impoverished themselves, there would just be a never ending new supply of tragedies to remedied, and unending multitude of excruciatingly poor people forever. in line, always needing help just to get through each day.
this was my response:
i have to agree that the number of people sitting around waiting for (expecting!) the world to help them up seems to keep growing. and as i truly believe in the right of individuals to accumulate (or inherit, or otherwise possess) their fortunes, and to use or hoard them as they see fit, it follows that i can't stomach socialism in principle, let alone in practice. an even playing field (even a predominantly even one) is a difficult enough goal. so, myself, i'm left hoping the silver spoon crowd occasionally tosses a few bones to the little guys; i don't think compelling them to- or attempting to eliminate financial inequities in society in general- is the answer.

living on my quite meager (for this country) income, and struggling to maintain what most here would consider a very modest standard of living, and judging as i do the value of this standard not against a higher standard enjoyed (and often taken for granted) by the richest, but against the lower standard of those multitudes of excruciatingly poor, and feeling a certain degree of shame that i've not used my relatively fortunate position to do even what little i might to help out, i'm not sure i could live with myself if i was in Gates' position and still did nothing.

i'm fairly certain i could exist quite happily indefinitely on about twice the money i make now, adjusted periodically for inflation, and manage to provide for all my needs and many of my wants and still find something left over to spread around a bit. but sitting on tens of billions of dollars is another thing entirely. i'm absolutely certain i couldn't rationalize a purely selfish purpose for that kind of scratch.

what i can't decide is this: is it really possible to desire to help someone less fortunate than yourself for purely altruistic reasons, and not to some degree be motivated by guilt? or putting it another way: is it possible to believe you can and should help someone, without feeling that if you don't help them you've done something wrong? if it's not, and i kind of suspect it's not, than is there any true altruism? isn't everyone who "does the right thing" simply choosing to avoid feeling the shame of doing the wrong thing?

comments directed on that or any other thing can be directed to the email address indicated at the top of the page. forms in triplicate not required.

the next day, the 22nd, i went to traffic court to address two tickets. here's an excerpt from an email i wrote at the time about that:
went to traffic court today, and i'm once again convinced it pays to go put your $.02 in. i was sitting on $235 in traffic tickets, one for 51 mph in a 40 (my speedometer never exceeded 44, i was paying attention since i saw the cop and was pretty sure i was being clocked) and the other for not having a driver's side mirror on my truck. the mirror thing just got dropped since the cop didn't write anything up in his report about it- even though i was going to admit fault for that, and went to court with proof i fixed it. the speeding ticket was reduced to $85. it would've been nicer if the speeding ticket had been dropped and the mirror ticket reduced, but i'll just count myself lucky the other $150 is still in my pocket.

after going to court i went back to work. need to get my hours in order, been a little light on income lately.

on the 24th i got an email from a friend who turned me on to a new web-posted video by a group in Florida, who put out what i'd have to consider a perfect pop song called 'Stay'. here's a link to it: [aforementioned link]. give 'em a listen, it's good stuff.

on the 25th i got a card from my long-time very good friend Shaun, who's recently become a mother! i'm really happy for her, i know she'll be a great mom. Congratulations again Shaun!

this is from an email yesterday; my sister Nichole wrote in response to my troubleshooting a file attachment my aunt Carol sent:
>Lowell - how come you don't have a job in computer nerdy stuff? Or else as an editorial writer. They both seem suited to you.
this was my response:
at one point i was certainly well-qualified enough to have a job working in IT, but for the most part i'm viewed as unqualified at this point. it'd take a leap of faith on the part of a prospective employer to learn i'm actually pretty well qualified to do 90% of the things an IT guy takes care of, but i'm definitely not qualified for any of the higher level stuff, like database management, network administration, etc. not that i wouldn't be able to figure it out- just my skills aren't comparatively as good these days as they were when things weren't so specialized and businesses' computer networks weren't as complex. a couple years of school or half a dozen really good books might fix that, but you need money and time for school and study, and i don't have the money to get a degree. if i had the money though, i have to admit i'd prob'ly be able to make the time. doing just about anything with computers would beat the hell out of what i'm doing now.

as far as writing goes, that would be a hell of a lot of fun, i think i'd really like it. i flatter myself to think i have a little talent with words- at least written ones- but i seriously doubt anyone would consider someone who finished high school with a 1.3 GPA (yes, i totally screwed off my senior year!) as qualified either; certainly in any kind of journalistic capacity or what-have-you. so again: school, to get a degree, to convince someone you're worth the risk. same problem.

but writing fiction or books- that's something else. anyone can do that if they can complete the work and take hundreds of rejection letters until someone bites. i keep thinking someday i'll write a book. i'm pretty sure i could finish at least one. in all my free time....

or maybe i'll just get some really good software and make a hell of an animated movie of my story. singlehandedly, since all my former co-consipirators have completely abandoned any and all creative endeavors.

or i could hit the lottery and start a recording studio; i'd be damn good at that, i know how to run everything and i have a good ear. i actually got trained for that, but i think there's a grand total of 20 people in the Pacific NW who hold actual jobs doing that. i bet more people actually make a living playing music than recording it.

which brings me to my first and greatest love: writing and playing music. i could just get all re-dedicated to finding yet another group, working really hard writing music the likes of which has never been heard, and have my name drop from the lips of enthralled masses worldwide, rabid fans flocking to hear these world-shaking sounds for themselves by the tens of thousands.

but in reality- and this information is real, taken from actual statistics in the music industry- for every 10 guys who pick up an instrument, 1 is actually talented. for every 10 talented guys, 1 is really talented. for every 100 of those really talented guys, 1 gets a record deal. for every 100 record deals, 1 record takes off, and for every 100 records that take off, 1 actually cements a guy's career. that makes it about 10,000,000:1 odds, and realistically, i missed the cut somewhere between the talented guys and the record deal. and i'm not getting any younger or better looking- a little long in the tooth to become a rock star. but never say never, i always say....you just never know. and there are other types of musicians than rock stars.

but there i go dreaming again. i'm allowed to do that in these brief pauses between the unending string of days through which i trudge doggedly, hour after spirit-crushing hour as a mindless automaton.

i'm like Salieri in the movie Amadeus: cursed with the ability to perceive and understand greatness, but lacking any for myself. it's a rather sad thing to expect from yourself, as i did from a very early age, that you'd do something the world would remember you for when you were gone, or at the very least to create something you judged important that would outlast you- to make a mark- and to be rapidly approaching middle age and realize anything you might claim to be proud of really doesn't amount to very much, even by your own standards.

and it's then that you really start to try to learn to be thankful for what you have rather than wanting what you don't.

me, i'm thankful for having a beautiful kid who's a really nice person (to his credit, not mine), with almost limitless potential if i'm any judge. he's still got all his opportunities ahead of him, and i suppose the most important thing i can be doing at the moment is preparing him to grab those chances and make the most of them.

and for our great family, who value me despite my insignificance on any larger scale.

and hey- you never know; once Loren's out in the world i'll have to focus on other things, and maybe i'll find a little greatness of my own.

so that pretty much brings us up to date. Loren was here Friday night, with his brother Phoenix in tow. Phoenix spent the night over here, and we watched another fun movie i've been waiting to see with Loren for a while, called Steamboy. score another one for the dad, they both liked it. they had a good time, and the next day we all went to see X-Men: The Last Stand. that was fun- i'm all for the blockbuster summer movies, the more the better. this one provided a couple shockers i wasn't expecting, which is always a plus, and they gave it a little gotcha at the end, just to keep the door open for more sequels. Hollywood does try to keep their options open on their successful franchises.

Loren left for his mom's after the movie, and i headed home to catch the Heat / Pistons game, #3 in the Eastern Conference finals. which brings us full circle, i believe.

spent a little time this morning brewing up another batch of my latest coffee pollutant, which i've yet to properly name. non-alcoholic, this time....i'm all out of Irish whiskey. doing a little laundry, getting ready to go out and scare up a little birthday largess for m'boy, and getting this blog up to date- which i've now done, so:

a good remainder of the weekend to all, and this blogger is taillights. PEACE :)

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