Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We have been blessed with true genius in our family

Isabel, our three year-old, has been quite the artist as of late. She's still has some lessons to learn, like not to use glue to put her artwork on the refrigerator, but she's making great strides. An example:

(cue violins)
In this one, self described as "It's a hedgehog sitting in the sun."  One can feel the oppressive heat that the sun is pouring down upon the hapless hedgehog, who seems nonplussed, indeed, quite amused at the entire ordeal.  Or perhaps this is more of an observation of the Winter sun, vainly attempting to regain his prior Summer glory, impotent to the gentle insectivore. I look forward to further insight from this gentle and curious soul.  Perhaps an exploration of a second colored crayon? 
Sister Wendy

Monday, November 17, 2008

Boldness wins

This might not make sense, as some of the folks here know that I'm a really faithful Catholic (we do have six kids), but half of them aren't baptized. It's not that I haven't wanted them baptized as infants. I do. It's just complicated. I know, lame excuse. I'll get to it in a later post. Suffice to say, Jacob is seven and not baptized, and he wants to be baptized. He wants it in the worst way. Since he's past the magic number seven (the age of reason), he's not going to just be baptized, but he's going to be accepted into the Church in a full way. They call it the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA, also at Wikipedia). Of course, he's not an adult, so instead of calling it the Rite of Christian Initiation for Children, they call it the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults for Children. There are some things that the Church created beautiful names for (like theotokos) and then there are things like this.

Anyway, a couple of months ago we officially signed up in this parish and signed up for Religious Ed, including RCIA(C) for Jacob. He's the youngest one in the program I think. We went to an intro meeting, then completely forgot about the second. The third one we were late for, they had that one in the church and it was locked when we got there. So we missed out on everything. I had a schedule and noticed that they were having a Rite of Acceptance. It's the public introduction of the folks in RCIA to the parish, sort of a big deal. I knew it was on the calendar, I had wanted to call the church to say "Hey, we're still in this, don't forget us," but I let work get in the way. We showed up to Mass a minute late and the folks in the program were already lined up out the door. The program director walked right by me and didn't even recognize us. It was happening without us. It was just passing us by like we weren't part of the parade. I felt crushed. I didn't want Jacob to wait another year for this. I wanted it to be their fault (Why didn't they call this week? Why doesn't someone wave us over right now?). I felt intentionally left out (maybe they just didn't want to deal with us, we had missed 2/3rd of the meetings). I just wanted to slink away and be mad at what was going on, to be a righteous victim. I was already embarrassed that I hadn't had Jacob baptized yet. I'm a real Catholic, not just a "devout" Catholic, I don't want to be seen as someone on the outside. Like an adolescent, I was more concerned about appearances that I was about the task that needed to be done. I just stood there and stewed.
Kim had parked the van and had come in as the priest was handing around a microphone to all the folks, letting them be introduced. She noticed that the Bride's room was open and a table was set up therein. Ducking inside, she walked out with a name tag for Jacob. I felt mad. I kind of wanted to ruin their world by walking down there with my son, introducing him, and then showing them that I knew as much about that stinkin' rite as they did. I'd seen it a dozen times, I think I'd even done it as a sponsor a time or two. I told Joseph to "pin up" his brother, then I walked down there with my boy.
My heart was beating like I was racing Lance Armstrong. I smiled (probably smugly) at the coordinator as she (without much of a beat) smiled in return. I told her that we were ready and she told me to remind the priest that Jacob was a Catechumen (unbaptized), we were out of order. I spoke and told the parish that Jacob was our 4th of 6 kids, our second son, our record breaker, no one had had a second boy in a hundred years. The congregation laughed in approval. Jacob beamed. The rite went off without a hitch. You can read the general version here. There's a series of blessings read by the priest where the sponsor or parent then signs a cross over the catechumen's head, followed by their ears, eyes, lips, heart, shoulders, hands, and feet. After the first few, Jacob kept reaching out to embrace me. I had to tell him it wasn't over yet. Finally they released us to sit down. Jacob wrapped me up as much as a seven year old can, and we walked back to the rest of the family. They had a formal sending off halfway through the service as they went off for a class. I walked him over to make sure he was set up. I caught enough to see the light turn on in his eyes. Our kids are good classroom kids. They enjoy speaking up and sharing, and they aren't afraid to know the answer.
Teacher: Does anyone here know what Advent is?
Other kid: Even I don't know what that is.
Teacher: You set out a wreath, and you have candles...
(Teacher's daughter starts drawing an advent wreath on the chalkboard)
Jacob: Oh, so that's what it is. I know the song you're supposed to sing. O Come O Come Emmanuel...
Teacher: Do you know how many candles?
Jacob: Four.
Teacher's daughter: And the colors?
Jacob: Three purple and one pink!!! (almost shouting by now)

Afterwards, they had a small reception (cake, punch, mixed nuts), and the kids of course flocked to where free cake was. One of the leaders for the adult program is a friend of mine (his wife still works at St. John's) and told me "You guys did great. When I saw you come down late, I was startled, but I thought, if anyone can wing it, it's Bull."
I didn't want to attract attention. I didn't want to be bold. I wanted to be a victim, a whining baby upset that the world doesn't revolve around him. Instead I needed to step forward for my son's sake. It's a legitimate question as to "Why is there such a rigamarole just to get a kid baptized? Can't they just do it?" I guess my only answer is that this is a big deal. A really big deal. This is grace stuff, God stuff. You don't just jump into that with a "Yeah, that sounds fun" level of initiative. You have to want it. You have to be ready to be bold for it.

Saturday - great day for the eldest boy

Yesterday was a great day for the older boy.  We had the Last Race, a crit that was almost a road race but was sort of a crit.  OK, see, a road race is out on the road.  You might go from point A to point B, or you might ride a circuit one or several times, but usually it's at least ten miles.  Maybe seven, but that's pushing it.  On the other side you have a crit race, where you have a short circuit, from one kilometer to maybe mile and change.  This course, out near Decatur, was two and a half miles.  We ran it as a crit, but we had a follow vehicle like a road race.  On top of it being the coldest day since last winter, there was a north wind of about thirty miles per hour.  It added up to feeling AMAZINGLY cold.  On the observation tower, I had to lean into the wind to keep myself from being blown over.  Joseph raced with the adults for one race and with the juniors for another.  He got 20th out of 23 finishers in the adult race and 6th out of 11 in the junior one.  Not bad at all.  Since I was officiating, we had to be there early.  It's about an hour's drive, we had to be there an hour early, and the first race was at 7, so I was dragging the kids up at 4 am.  Did I mention that Emily decided that she wanted to come?  She ended up sitting in the snack bar the whole time while we were freezing out on the track.  Afterwards, we're a few miles down the road when I get a call, Joseph left something.  So back we go.  Then we went into town and ate lunch.  After leaving there, Joseph can't find his sunglasses, so we go back to the restaurant.  It turns out they were in the van the whole time. The races ended at 12:15 and we didn't get home until three.  Then we ran over to Irving to check out the last leftovers from another bike team.  They were selling off some of their used equipment.  Joseph picked up a nice saddle for $30 (used, but new it's $150 - $200) and I got a really nice helmet for $30 (not used, still in the box, and worth $150 new).  As we were leaving, Joseph leans back in his seat with his eyes half-closed in the lazy afternoon sun and mentions, "this is probably the best day ever."  Nice.  Glad I could help offer that to you.  I encouraged him to find out what would be the best day ever for each of his siblings and try to help those days happen.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Got some new lights

I got a new set of lights this week. It's funded by good old VZdubya. They had given me a nice award for my volunteering to help with Hurricane Ike, redeemable as cash or as gift cards. So gave myself a $30 budget at Amazon and I wanted a new set of lights. $30 doesn't go too far, I wasn't expecting to get a new Minewt or anything. I just wanted either a decent headlight (I was hoping someone was moving something nice cheap) or a really nice taillight, or a half-decent safety headlight and a taillight. I almost got another Planet Bike Super Flash, but I thought I might be able to get something close to it and a decent safety headlight. I looked at a bunch of the combo packs. Most of the headlights are not really high-power, but they wouldn't hurt along with my existing headlights. I wanted something that would blink, or maybe something that would attach to my helmet.
Well, in the end, I fell for this set. The MSRP lists for $54 but Amazon had it for less than $40. Yeah, MSRP was probably too steep, but the taillight looked OK and the headlight was potentially a nice light. It's hard to tell what 180 lux is but it seems to be what their other lights do on a low setting. Again, comparing lights is hard to do from manufacturer, expecially without picures. I saw another manufacturer with a significantly stronger light bragging about 14 lux. There weren't any reviews of this item anywhere, but I decided to try it anyway. Incidently, you can find some rather unbiased reviews of lights here and here. Of course, neither really reviews the Vetta. So, how did it do?

1st, I was only really looking forward to the headlight, figuring that taillights are pretty much all the same, unless you get a Dinotte. But the taillight was nicer than I expected. This thing is pretty sizeable, taller than my Super Flash. It's set up to attach to my seat post like most others. That's another thing I like about my Super Flash. You can attach it to your seat stay or clip it on a saddle bag or a messenger bag. The Vetta taillight looks like it will be OK. It's not as bright as the Super Flash, but it has a steady beam, a blinking one, and a running one, where the three LED's blink sequentially. That's the one I think I'll use the most, I think it will catch someone's eye a bit more with the movement.

2nd, the headlight isn't set up like a headlight. It's a triangular flashlight with a handlebar base. You can pull it off and use it like a flashlight. There are others like this out there, but I didn't expect it out of this one.

3rd, when I first turned it on, I was a bit disappointed at how bright it wasn't. It's a one-watt bulb, so it's right on the border of being something that will let you ride fast with it down a busy street. It's not going to throw out light farther than what I already have. But then I noticed that it is noticeably brighter than some other safety headlights I've seen and used. It looks to be on par with the Niterider Ultrafazer Max or the Cateye EL 530. So for the cash, it's not bad at all. It's NOT a $450 HID or even a $50 LED. I would not recommend this as a first light, or an only light for someone commuting. If you are riding only suburban streets or slowly on a paved trail in a park though, it might do the trick.

4th, it doesn't come with a helmet mount. Bummer. It kind of looked like a helmet mount in the pictures on Amazon. No such luck. Another $14 and I can order one from Vetta but I may get a helmet mount for one of my other lights.

5th, it only has one setting, on. No low, no flash. Another bummer. I would have liked to have something that flashes to go along with my Minewt.

The Eddy's site is a bit misleading. Check out how bright the MiNewt looks there, and then check out how dim it looks on the trail at the second review site. I think I may just have to save my pennies for something spectacularly priced if I ever get into riding trails at night. All in all, I was a bit more impressed than I expected, but I was also holding out hope that it would be special. It is what it is.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Looks like Obama is going to win this one. Yuck. Not that I liked McCain any, but at least he wasn't intrinsically evil in a truly monstrous way. We need to pray hard and talk to our legislators about FOCA now.

And it's still Tuesday afternoon, but Ken Brimer will probably win as well. He's a local TX State Senator who opposed a 3-foot while passing a cyclist rule a couple of years ago. Actually, he's opposed it each time it comes up. Last year he proposed an amendment (that passed) that would have emasculated the bill, then he voted against it. Not on my Christmas Card list, and I can't vote against him as I'm in a different State Senate district.

NOTE: Ken Brimer lost. He was the only incumbent State Senator that lost his seat in TX. I'm kind of glad in that there's a higher chance that three-foot passing law will be passed. I don't wish him ill necessarily. Although Wendy Davis did make him out to be a scum bag with her negative ads. And his TV image of "I'm a really nice, confidant Texan" didn't jive with his continued attempts to have her thrown out for legal technicalities. Feh. I hope he has a long and happy retirement from public service. And never comes near me on my bike. I don't trust him.