Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I just voted online in the election of national Sierra Club board members. That organization is having a rip-roarin' internal dispute between the powers-that-be and an unusual coalition of vegans, animal-rights extremists, and anti-immigration types. There are a number of "petition candidates" in the running, some of whom are part of the coalition and some of whom are running to warn members against voting for the coalition. For instance, the Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Morris Dees, is a candidate. Dees isn't asking for any votes; he just wants S.C. members to vote against the anti-immigration people. The ballot contains an "urgent election notice" from the current board, indicating that certain nutjob organizations are intervening in the election. There are even some white supremecist organizations on the list. Boring old Randy voted for the establishment candidates.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

I suppose that most well-adjusted TV watchers are interested in who will be the next person fired on "The Apprentice" or who will be the next American Idol. Me, I'm more interested in who's gonna get whacked next week on "The Sopranos." The preview makes it appear as if one and perhaps two people meet their maker at the hands of members of Tony's small-f family. However, the previews for the show sometimes have midirected viewers into expecting things that never materialize.

The shot in the preview of Christopher firing a pistol with tears in his eyes suggests that Adriana is found out and eliminated. That would be a shame. I've actually grown fond of Adriana ever since the FBI started squeezing her. I wouldn't be surprised to see Chrissy dreaming that he was shooting Ade on Tony's orders. It seems to be dawning on him that her demeanor has changed and that she is strangely curious about his activities. Having him realize that his girlfriend is a rat and dealing with the angst and conflicted loyalties of the situation would make for a great Christopher storyline. OTOH, Drea de Matteo will star in the "Friends" spinoff, so Adriana may not be long for this world.

Johnny Sack is another prime candidate to take a dive in the death pool. He started an internal war in the Lupertazzi family by whacking Lorraine the loan shark last week and pissed off Tony by working with Feech on that deal to steal all the cars at the Jewish wedding. Tony didn't look happy when Feech let him know that Johnny was doing business with one of Tony's underlings without Tony's knowledge. Also, Johnny has made it clear that he hasn't forgotten how Tony stiffed him when he wanted to kill Carmine. Tony may want to launch a preemptive strike on Johnny. I dig Johnny Sack, so I hope he hangs around.

Uncle Junior's senility has got to have Tony concerned. Who knows what information he'll give up when he isn't lucid? And it was Junior who ordered the hit on Tony back in Season 1. However, he is still the titular boss of the family. If Junior is whacked, I hope he gets to sing first, like he did at the end of Season 3.

Finally, Paulie Walnuts spent a good part of Season 4 talking out of school with Johnny Sack. Also, Paulie and Chrissy have been at odds off and on since Paulie got out of jail. Either Tony or Christopher could whack Paulie. However, Paulie is dearly beloved among viewers of the show, so to whack him might invite noisy protests outside HBO headquarters.

And then there's A.J. Soprano. His conduct towards Carmela merits at least a mock execution. I think he's cruisin' for a bruisin' with Tony but is too stupid to realize it.

Monday, March 29, 2004

I went to see Older Son on Saturday with my mother and sister in tow. In the space of one month, he's gone from looking like an overgrown toddler to looking like a seven-year-old boy. Autistic kids are pretty utilitarian in their view of people, and my O.S. is no exception. He smiled and ran over to me when we arrived. I handed him a new toy bus, which immediately got his full attention. He then took my hand and said, "french fries!" when I asked what he wanted. No showing anybody around the place -- McDonald's beckoned. We had fun there, then went back to the dorm. O.S. was teary about going back, but he led me by the hand right back to his dorm area. He then requested a Blue's Clues video in his VCR. I noticed that the weekend trainer referred to him simply as "T" and not by his full name -- a sign to me that he's got everybody charmed. There must be an intangible charming quality that some people possess and most of us don't. I had a roommate in law school who got away with all manner of things, yet everybody loved the guy, including me. My O.S. has the same ability to charm that my old roommate has. Kind of scary when you think about it.

Friday, March 26, 2004

As part of my ongoing rebellion against my inherent wussiness, I walked across the street today and ate several pieces of sushi for lunch -- with chopsticks, no less. Mmm, raw eel! Next time I see my mother, I'll make sure to mention my sushi feast so I can hear all about intestinal parasites.

Recently I've had an urge to go diving again, maybe due to that silly Zen diving article. I doubt I'll be able to do that anytime soon, but it's sure nice to think about being 90 feet underwater, swimming with the marine life around some sunken bridge span.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Hooray! I got my vipassana meditation course in the mail today. It looks very good, and should make various relatives worry even more about this boy. Last night I chose to mediate on empathy as suggested in one of the Dalai Lama's books. It was actually kind of wrenching as I tried to imagine how some of my friends and family members must feel in the difficult situations they face. Next time I'll meditate about scuba diving or something else pleasant.

I stumbled onto a coworker's blog the other day. I envy this guy's enthusiasm about reading and dissecting legal and philosophical writings. These days, I'm lucky if I can get throught the letters section of the "Atlantic Monthly" and can figure out whatever it is the letter-writers are talking about.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Last night I was unable to get my meditation thing going on, so I lay down on the floor and thought about the latest big-family politics in DW's extended family. However, I was soon mediating about meditation. Is there such a thing as meta-meditation?

In my ongoing search for sources of new-age-y enlightenment, I occasionally come across things that are novel and even silly. Here's something I got a chuckle out of:

"As Master Fwap notes, when you are under water in the ocean, you are in a place that still remains pure and clear. Water acts as a filter. The thoughts and impressions of the people across the globe are filtered out by the vast amounts of ocean water. As you dive deeper you notice that your mind becomes sharper. The thoughts of daily life recede, and a clarity replaces it. You can solve problems more readily, not by thinking hard about them, but by seeing into the essence of the issue, and intuiting the answer. You experience a deep peace and immediate sense of being awake and present."

I enjoy scuba diving, though I go infrequently. I agree that it is calming and peaceful underwater. However, the notion of underwater meditation strikes me as downright silly. I'm too busy checking my air supply, no-decompression limit, depth, and dive time; keeping track of direction and distance; looking after my buoyancy; and watching my dive buddy to clear out my brain and meditate. Also, were I to take sufficient time to get into the mediation zone, the nitrogen would build up in my tissues and I would run out of air. That wouldn't be too fun.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

My father died 27 years ago yesterday. I was thinking about my memories of him -- both positive and negative -- yesterday as I was jogging. My dad had a genius IQ, but refused to join MENSA. He considered it a snob organization. Dad was a reverse snob -- a snob about snobs. He was well-read, well-rounded man, with a large home library he had pretty much committed to memory. He was conversant in art, literature, history, and science. He was a scientist by profession (analytical chemist) and loved to ask questions. He had a smart-alecky, intellectual sense of humor which got passed down to yours truly. He was vaguely Christian, but I now suspect he was something of an agnostic, or maybe I'm just projecting. He had no use for organized religion and was excommunicated from the local Presbyterian Church when my mother became a Mormon. He was proud of being from Louisiana and the South. I remember having a rebel flag over our treehouse. However, he strongly favored the civil rights movement and Dr. King.

On the flipside, my father could never remember how old I was or what grade I was in. He wanted a son who could play football and other team sports; I had bad knees and loved swimming. He wanted a son who loved fishing, an activity that still bores me to tears. I was, however, willing to paddle the canoe while he fished, as I love paddling.

Anyhow, that was my dad.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

We visited Older Son yesterday at his new school. He looks fabulous after losing a few pounds due to dietary modifications (he was a little fat going in, so it's all good). We took him to McDonald's for fries and a coke, and he climbed to the top of the playland tubular thingy and all around it. This was a first and a big accomplishment for him. We took him back to the school, and he was brave until I turned the engine off and DW said the word "school." "SCHOOL!" he bellowed, then he started crying. He had pooped his pants at McDonald's, so his school trainer took him for a bath and a change while DW and I went to a big pow-wow with the behavioral staff. Older Son was brought over after his bath and was weepy for a few minutes. He said "bye bye car!" loudly, which made me feel sad and a little guilty. He got happy again when he saw his icon book and used it to ask for orange juice. I got him singing our version of the "Sopranos" theme song, which made DW cover her face in shame:

Randy: Woke up this mornin', got yourself a
Randy: Momma always said you'd be the chosen
Randy: You know you're one in a million, you've got to burn to shine,
You were born under a bad sign with a blue
Randy: In your eyes.

Whatever works.

The visit with OS was too short; I'll have to get back up there soon.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

We took our younger son to the Mississippi Gulf Coast today. The water was cold and it was windy, but he didn't care. He loves going to the beach, no matter how cold it is. He stood in the water and watched the foam and surf come ashore for over an hour. He was so blissful that he stiffened his whole body and jerked his arms around like a little robot. He reminded me of a mad Leonard Bernstein, directing the surf back and forth like an aquatic symphony orchestra. It was a totally ecstatic experience for Younger Son. I thought a little about how we adults seek ecstatic and/or spiritual experiences from gods, gurus, shamans, meditation, drugs, sex, and rock and roll. It sure would be nice to feel the joy and ecstasy that my boy felt watching the shiny gloss on the top of the surf before it turned to foam and came ashore.

Older Son is adjusting well to his new school. We will see him Tuesday, when we go up there for a conference. I'm looking forward to seeing my boy again.

Friday, March 12, 2004

I read something on Lance the Leftist's blog yesterday that brought to mind my one and only motorcycling experience. It was in Utah on Easter weekend, in 1997. My wife's BIL (BIL1) is a huge motorcycling enthusiast. He wanted to take DW's 17 year old brother (BIL2) to the Little Sahara for the big Easter weekend. Even though Little Sahara is in Utah, Easter weekend sees thousands of bikers converge on the place to ride up and down a hill known as Sand Mountain. BIL2 wanted to stay in Logan and play video games, but he agreed to go to humor BIL1. DW suddenly chimed in and said that I ought to go too. I was a little reluctant at first, but BIL1 talked me into going along.

We got to Little Sahara and set up camp. The group next to us looked like, well, total white trash. As the evening wore on, they acted that way too. They "tested" their bikes all night long, and at one point were dangerously close to BIL2's tent. As I lay freezing in my sleeping bag (it started out that day in the 60s, but dropped into the 20s), I couldn't help but hear the very loud conversation going on in the camp next door. Every other word was an f-bomb, even when it made absolutely no sense. Cussing always has been a bad habit of mine, even when I was a very active LDS. The woman in their group showed up and started talking about doin' the nasty with various guys. The bikers next door at one point smoked a doobie 'round the campfire. They also tossed in the names of a few of their hometowns.

The next morning, BIL1 commented to me that the people in the next campsite must be from Colorado or something, but they probably weren't from Utah. No, I told him, they're from Cache Valley. Places like Newton, Hyrum, and Logan. BIL1 went over to talk to those guys. I was afraid there would be some type of confrontation, but BIL1 surprised me by complimenting their motorcycles. Those guys dug BIL1's old dirt bike, which evidently was a prized model. I came out of the tent and BIL1 introduced me as a big city lawyer. The biker dude asked what the hell I was doing out there, as I might wipe out, fall off the bike, and hurt my brain. We were yukking it up at that point, when BIL2 came out of his tent. "They don't even cuss right," he told me. Yes, I said, that's how I knew they were Mormons, or had been raised as Mormons. Too many cuss words used inappropriately is always a giveaway in that part of the country. I suppose Jack Mormons try a little too hard to differentiate themselves from their more observant neighbors.

Later on, just before we took off back to Logan, a couple of guys showed up on their Harleys and asked if they could park their hogs in our campsite. We said sure, and I watched the big bikes as my BILs rode around one last time (we only had two bikes, so one of us was always back at the camp). The Harley dudes came back after a while and were pissed off because there was sand and dirt on their bikes. I thought, "uh, you're in the EFFING DESERT! Of course there's dirt!"

Anyhow, that's my Utah motorcycling experience.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

We had a nice televisual feast on Sunday night. I put Younger Son to bed while DW watched her guilty pleasure -- "Charmed." I get a kick out of that show sometimes because it's so silly.

Then the big event -- "The Sopranos," season five, episode one. I enjoyed the show, but I thought they tried to cram too many plotlines into one episode. The opening was fabulous, however, and I loved the idea of a grizzly bear roaming around North Caldwell, New Jersey. Can you tell that David Chase and some of the other brains of this show worked on "Northern Exposure"? I thought Tony approaching Dr. Melfi for a date was a little jarring, but it gave her the opportunity to think about the morality of associating with a mob boss. I really look forward to what looks to be an upcoming civil war inside the Noo Yawk family, and Steve Buscemi makes his debut next week.

After "The Sopranos," we caught "Curb Your Enthusiasm" for the first time. I busted a gut laughing at one of the tackiest things I've ever seen on TV. Larry David's rabbi asked if he could invite a survivor to a shindig at Larry's. Larry called his Holocaust survivor friends to tell them that another survivor would be at his party. The rabbi brought a former contestant from "Survivor" to the party (Cody, I believe is his name). At dinner, the "Survivor" contestant and one of the Holocaust survivors had a shouting match about what was worse -- being on "Survivor" or being in a Nazi death camp. DW sat in stunned silence, but she managed to laugh later on as she caught the groove of the show. Only Larry David could get away with putting something that tacky on TV.

Older Son reportedly is doing very well in his new school. I spoke with the automation person up there yesterday. She's going to get Older Son to the computer lab now that I've told her what a powerful tool it is for him. Now I'm going to poke around a little and see if I can get some new computers donated to the place.

Friday, March 05, 2004

I really need to pay more attention to the local news. This morning I cut through the French Quarter to get to work. I saw two 20-somethings walking the street with a John Kerry sign. I waved politely and drove on. At noon, I jogged to the riverfront on my usual route. As I turned the corner at the Aquarium of the Americas, I saw an armed coast guard boat in the river and barricades in Woldenberg Park. People were streaming into the area. I asked what was up, and was told that John Kerry was speaking at 1:15. I'm a political junkie, so I briefly thought about hanging around, but I wanted to finish my jog and I've got too much work to do today.

I had a very nice mediation experience last night. I placed a tiny Buddha at eye level on the kids' table, surrounded by tiny paper prayer flags. They prayers are in Sanskrit, so I have no idea what they say. I then sat in the lotus position and focused my vision on the statue. I closed my eyes and drove out all thoughts except for a generalized feeling of compassion, which is what I had decided to meditate on. No great thoughts, just a kind of general notion. I stretched my back and neck, opened my rib cage, and did some deliberate breathing. Whenever my mind strayed, I opened my eyes and refocused on the little statue and prayer flags. I did all of this twice, and I felt very, very good afterwards. I could only describe it as a spiritual experience.

The last really spiritual experience I had at church (not direcly involving my own wife and kids, of course) was in the early 1990s. I was in an amazingly diverse little ward in the inner city. We had one fast and testimony meeting that blew away everybody who was there. We opened with "The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning" -- and we meant it. There was a series of deeply moving testimonies. I suppose that the heavy influence of the African-American church remained with many of the members of this ward when they became LDS, and they in turn influenced the white members of the ward. It was almost as if we were going to be translated like the proverbial City of Enoch. At one point, a black man walked in and sat for a minute, then went to the podium. He said that he was a Baptist and would remain that way, but that he was standing at the bus stop out front and felt a special spirit coming from our building. He felt compelled to come in and be a part of it. It was a truly amazing example of group spirituality.

I held onto that experience for years as I sat through countless boring meetings in which the right rote things were spouted over and over again with no passion of any kind. It's as if the Mormon Church institutionally has had an emotional lobotomy. Is that a consequence of correlation? Whatever, they've pretty much squeezed away spontaneous spirituality of the kind I experienced last night.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I don't see any banner ads atop my blog today. So I'll throw out a few words and see if they generate any ads. Sopranos. Six Feet Under. Tibet. Buddha. Zen. Yoga. Yogurt. Pizza. Capicola. My blog is naked without ads.

I saw our own Slidell High School on Fox News this morning. Some bats flew into the school gym during a basketball game, and somebody filmed the incident. Slidell is mostly Suburbia, USA, so we only make the news when something quirky happens.

Older Son is doing better in his new surroundings. I've already started my first little crusade up there. The kids have virtually no access to computers during the regular school year, yet the computer is my kid's most powerful learning tool. I'm already negotiating how and when to get him access. I'm even thinking of taking our newest PC up there and placing it in their computer lab, where access can be limited and the machine can be secured. DW and I use a laptop, and our really old Gateway machine will do for Younger Son, who isn't even on the computer yet.

Monday, March 01, 2004

I took a brief walk at noon today. I walked through the newly redone Piazza d'Italia, which is one of the few interesting outdoor spots in New Orleans. There's a colorful, faux-Roman columned wall, from which juts a marble fountain shaped like Italy. The New York Times once called it America's first postmodern ruin, and it long was a camping ground for homeless men. It's been cleaned up and repainted, and I hope people will return to eat their lunches there. Then I walked through Harrah's casino, with its Mardi Gras-themed interior. Some people think it's tacky, but I like the look of the place. I've spent about $1.25 there in the two or three years the casino has been open, but I do like walking there every now and again.

I was watching the news about Haiti this weekend and was reminded of something I've never really understood. What is it about Jean-Bertrand Aristide that has kept him so popular with the political left in this country? Yesterday John Kerry said that he would have used American military force to keep Aristide in power. Why? It seems to me that Aristide is no better and no worse than the thugs who started the current rebellion. He used terror tactics and rigged elections to keep his people in power, and the country is no better off than it was when he was elected. The United States shouldn't take sides between left-leaning thugs and right-leaning thugs when our vital interests aren't implicated, but we can take steps to ensure stability and humanitarian relief once a winner has emerged. In short, Bush got this one right.