I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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For civilization to survive, man must remain civilized.

Rod Serling


<November 2018>




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First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 11/16/2018

Posts - 2532
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Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 1:17 AM Pacific

  10:00 PM

This is my maternal grandfather, known as Opa because he was German:

I don't know a lot about this portrait, other than it was done in 1956. I guess it's done in conté, a type of artist's crayon. I suspect that the portrait was done as a birthday gift by family or by colleagues.

Ever since I was quite young, people have told me that I look a lot like my Opa. For example, when I was 14, we visited one of my grandfather's friends, and the friend couldn't stop laughing at the resemblance. To my 14-year-old mind, looking like an old guy seemed literally impossible. I imagine that it's hard for people to see their resemblance to someone else; I have never really seen it. Still, my mother shared this belief, and a few years later, she took a photo of me next to the portrait so she could show distant relatives this supposed resemblance:

Ok. About a year ago, I watched a video by the artist Eric Chapman, a time-lapse of him doing a portrait:

While I watched the video, it occurred to me that this was something like my Opa's portrait. And this led to what might have been the most vain thing I've ever done: I contacted Eric and asked about having a portrait done that was complementary to my Opa's. Sure, no problem, he said, after he'd seen a photo of the original.

I got my daughter to take a series of photos, which I sent off to Eric. I had to make some decisions—size? show all the hair or not?—but those having been made, after a couple of weeks Eric was all done:

When I got the portrait, I had it framed, and now Opa and I occupy a wall together:

I had a funny moment when I finally saw the pieces side by side—I realized that I'm actually a year older in my portrait than he was in his. But no matter how old I get, I'll always think of him as the old guy.

My own kids seem to be ok with all this. In fact, my son mentioned that maybe he'd have a portrait done as well. People tell me that he resembles me, hmm.

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  10:51 PM

My grandson turned 2 today (April 12). We spent a long weekend with the family last week, so I got an opportunity to listen to his language development. I don’t know very much about stages of language development—as in, at what age a child typically grasps certain language structures—so I don’t where he fits into all this. But it’s astounding to me to see how quickly humans develop language facility, including some constructs that can be hard to explain to adults.

It’s pretty clear to me that he’s building up his vocabulary in chunks. The best example was probably please may i, which he’s quickly learned is a key to getting something he wants. But it also seems to me that he’s internalized certain structures and can create new sentences from those structures. Which of course is the coolest thing that we humans can do.

Anyway, here’s a sampling of what I was hearing, with a few jottings about why I found these particular utterances interesting. A couple of notes:
  • I’ve deliberately not capped or punctuated these in order to avoid making these look more developed than they are.
  • Opa is me (grandpa), and Oma is my wife (grandma).

i have it in my hand
Complete subject-verb-object sentence
Prepositional phrase (in my hand) used adverbially
Pronoun (it)

i want to go see my daddy
Modal verb (want) with infinitive (to go)
Possessive pronoun

this is a big pistachio
Demonstrative pronoun (this)
Understanding of antecedents (this == pistachio)
Attributive adjective

this is oma’s
Demonstrative pronoun (this)
Possessive with implied antecedent (namely, whatever this refers to)

i'm going to eat some banana
Progressive form for implied future (am going to)
Adjectival some with banana as a mass noun

opa take off your glasses
mommy sit down
i put on my shoes
Vocative (opa, mommy)
Phrasal verbs: take off (transitive), put on (transitive), sit down (intransitive)

there’s a tiny dog in the car
Expletive construction (there is)
Attribute adjective (tiny)
Adverbial prepositional phrase (in the car)

i don't want to wear my hat
i don't have a beard right now
Negation with modal (don’t want), with main verb (don’t have)
Temporal state (right now). This one seemed oddly prescient.

i want to go see uncle pete and aunt gretchen
Modal verb with infinitive
Compound object

please get out the balls and dump them
Compound imperative (with temporal order)[1]

please may i have some milk
mommy can I please have another pistachio please
Count versus mass nouns (compare banana earlier)
(He uses please may i as a stock phrase)

[1] We kept an ear out for a sentence with two independent clauses linked with and, but didn't hear one. He might be able to produce such a thing, but we don't know one way or the other.

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  12:06 PM

A day late, dang! This was 22 years ago yesterday:



  11:11 PM

Earlier this year, the Seattle P-I ran a piece about doctors who do housecalls. The featured patient was John Devine, my father-in-law. We found this amusing because John has a knack for attention.

Case in point. KING 5, one of our local TV stations, picked up the story and they sent a reporter to go tag along with Sarah Babineau as she made her rounds. The story aired today. And which patient was featured? Correct:

And this is exactly what you'd expect him to say:
If it weren't for Babineau, Devine wouldn't see a doctor as much as he should because he likes to stay right where he is.

"I specialize in inactivity," said Devine.
Once a ham, always a ham, I guess. :-)

[categories]   [tags] doctor, housecall, KING 5, news, TV


  07:45 AM

Last week, Sarah was accepted into a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. She took two classes (one after the other) this summer to fulfill a couple of requirements, which gave her -- actually, all of us -- an idea of what Sarah's schoolwork will be like for the next three years. A good sign was that she loved being back in school, and that the workload, while certainly intense, was not overwhelming, yay.

Of course, we already have a couple of college kids around here. I was talking to a colleague at work whose daughter was about to enter college, and whose son is a couple of years behind her. "Two at once!" he noted, which got me thinking. We have three at once at the moment, plus two more in the wings. Out of curiosity I charted out what us-and-college looked like for the foreseeable future. Here's a picture:

Interesting, eh? We get one year off between now (actually, between three years ago, when Zack started) and the year 2020. With, as you can see, some overlap. And this assumes that Zack does only one year of grad school, and Sabrina none, and that Sarah's girls go straight through four years of undergrad. And that I don't decide at some point in the next 12 years to enter a program.

Dang. Good thing that we're all in favor of higher-educatin' around here, coz obviously we're going to be involved in it for some time to come.


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  02:41 PM

Local and family interest. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran an article on Thursday about the new-old practice of house calls by physicians. The reporter followed Dr. Sarah Babineau around as she visited patients, many of them in facilities.

The story appeared below the fold on the front page of the Thursday edition. It focused on a particular patient, which turns out was my father-in-law, whom the article called "a small, spry man with a Scottish brogue and a mischievous smile." That would be him.

The print version was illustrated with a photo of the doctor visiting a patient. Here's a not-so-great scan of the photo:

This is not so surprising. Somehow John always manages to be the center of attention no matter where he ends up. :-)



  02:41 PM

Christmas is kind of complicated around here (four kids, three families), but dang, it's fun. There are up to four Christmases. The evening of the 23rd, there's the pajama exchange. On the morning of the 24th, gift exchange number one with Sarah's kids. In the evening of the 24th, gift exchange number two with my kids and Sarah's kids. Then the various kids go to their respective other families and have yet another gift exchange! All accompanied by staggering quantities of food, heavy on the sweets, omg.

Today, the 25th, is comparatively quiet around here. But to make up for that, we're having a white Christmas, at least up here in the Renton Highlands:

We were planning on heading out for a mini movie marathon, but the weather might turn that into a mini DVD marathon instead. That is, if we can take out noses out of many new books we seem to have acquired, including for me two new noun books:


... among others.

Or in my case, if I can stop playing with my newest toy, courtesy of Sarah:

Oh what fun.

Hope your holiday celebration(s) are enjoyable this year as well!

[1] This is a continuation of a booze-themed reading list, which started with And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails.

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  01:16 PM

We have a little whiteboard on one of our cupboards that was originally intended to be a place to write notes ("Dogs are fed") or stuff for the grocery list. However, it's turned primarily into a place where we scribble doggerel on familial themes. (Altho people are inclined to name anything with meter and rhyme a "poem," it seems a little grand to grace our efforts with that name.)

Limericks are the most popular, being a form that sometimes seems to write itself. Haiku has made an appearance. In one case, a "dogs are fed" message went up to the tune of "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean":

The doggies, they do like their feedings
The doggies, they do like their chow
But should you encounter their pleadings
Ignore them, I fed them just now.

No food, no food
They've snarfed up their breakfast and all the crumbs
No food, no food
At least until dinnertime comes.

We sometimes use unnamed forms, as in this excuse for not doing the dishes:

Against my best wishes
I left all the dishes
(Though I did have to empty the sink)

It's the girls' night for chores
Which of course each abhors
(Though it's good for the soul, parents think.)

Below which appeared in childish hand the comment "Nope."

At times the muse stays away, and at one point after a period of blankness on the board, someone posted the forlorn message "Poem goes here."

Not long ago, Sarah spotted in Poetry magazine a triolet by A. E. Stallings that delighted her, so she clipped it and taped it on the whiteboard:

Triolet on a Line Apocryphally Attributed to Martin Luther

Why should the Devil get all the good tunes
The booze and the neon and Saturday night,
The swaying in darkness, the lovers like spoons?
Why should the Devil get all the good tunes?
Does he hum them to while away sad afternoons
And the long, lonesome Sundays? Or sing them for spite?
Why should the Devil get all the good tunes
The booze and the neon and Saturday night?

This decorated the white board for a while until the morning when E got her braces off. That day, hopped up on coffee, I was re-reading the Stalling for the unpteenth time, a line popped into my head, and I dashed off (speed of which should be obvious) the following:

Triolet on a Visit to the Orthodontist

Now that young E has a mouth free of tin
The bands have been broken and she is now free
Her pearly-whites sparkle with every grin
Now that young E has a mouth free of tin
Let revelry, apples, and popcorn begin
Childhood is finished by dental decree
Now that young E has a mouth free of tin
The bands have been broken and she is now free.

As noted, poems these ain't. The real problem, tho, is that we never write anything down for the grocery list:

We once had a quite useful whiteboard
On which all our lists we could record ...


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  04:47 PM

Perhaps a deceptive title. I spoke with my son the other day, who's off at college studying that physics stuff. This quarter he's taking his required programming class, which is C++. (Is that really the best choice for a beginning programming class? Never mind, it's a rhetorical question.) For tools, they're using ... Visual Studio 2005! An unexpected familial connection. Zack being, you know, a 20-year-old guy, he immediately took an interest in pimping his IDE.

I had predicted that he'd find programming to be a lot of fun. He told me that after they got their first assignment, he went home and did it immediately. (Possibly a first.) So far, it seems, my prediction is proving true.

In other VS news, I'm going to be attending DevConnections in Las Vegas November 5-8. As always with these things, there are all sorts of conflicting sessions that it will be painful to choose among. But it all looks great, so I can't wait. Maybe I'll see you there!

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  09:11 PM

Sarah and I got married last Saturday. I'm a bit behind in reporting this. My excuse: I'm writing this from Maui, sitting in an 11th-story condo that overlooks the water.

Our plan was to have a low-key affair for the wedding. Sarah had proposed, for example, that there be six of us -- the two of us, her two kids, my two kids. I could understand the appeal of this plan, but I favored something attended by a few more folks. And soon enough various near and dear made it clear that they expected to be attending the wedding.

This is a second wedding for both of us, so we were comfortable in planning something that was particularly meaningful to us. As many people know, this is not how the wedding industry works; as someone observed, it's an industry where the customer is never right. Virtually anyone associated with the industry essentially tells you what you should do. So we stayed away from that as much as we could.

For example, gifts. We've got plenty of stuff. Indeed, after combining households, we have more than plenty. So Sarah's idea was this: rather than bringing gifts, people would bring a toast or a memory to share. At our age, it's not the stuff you have; it's the relationships you've wrought that mean the most, and those are the gifts we really care about.

In the end, our various friends and relations became quite involved in the celebration, in some cases by design, and in others by circumstances. For example, we couldn't decide what to do about an officiant. Neither of us has the remotest religious ties, and the idea of a JP seemed somewhat impersonal. The person who seemed most suited to the role was my friend Dennis, whose combination of whimsy and gravitas -- not to mention being one of our best friends -- seemed just right. Somewhat hesitantly we approached him on the matter, and no worries ... he was delighted with the idea. The fact that he had no specific legal qualification for the job was solved by a visit to the Interweb, and a week later Dennis was ordained. ("My mother would be so proud!" was his comment.)

Likewise with the photographer. Our friend Trish has recently been able to put to use the talents she honed in art school, for example by doing photo shoots for local bands. Would she agree ... ? Of course. The day of the wedding, we trussed ourselves up in finery. In what seemed like a few minutes, she shot a series of formal-style family wedding photos that are at least as good as any we would have gotten from anyone else. Probably better, since we all know Trish and she kept us laughing pretty much throughout. We keep looking at them and marveling.

We thought long and hard about catering. Our friend Blaise has been doing catering and would have been happy to help, but it seemed like an extraordinary amount of work to put a friend through. We also contemplated the "Costco Catering" option -- several hundred dollars at Costco plus some rented tableware. This was tempting, because we've attended receptions like this, and they are among the most enjoyable we've been at. (More than once the idea of a potluck reception came up -- and not just from me -- but Sarah said she drew the line at making our guests do all their own work. Heh.) In the end, we opted for a traditional caterer, an outfit located quite near to our venue. Our initial contacts with the caterer were a bit spotty -- they didn’t respond to email, it seemed -- but once we arranged a meeting and did some sampling, we were reassured by the menu and her familiarity with the drill and with our venue. In addition to the comestibles, the caterer also would provide important support roles. One was servers and a clean-up crew. Another was a professional bartender. This latter was a requirement for the venue (which belongs to the city) and for the one-day liability insurance policy that we were obliged to provide.

The rest came together pretty casually. We made our own invitations, which was a blast. Sarah got a dress for her and for her girls from the Internet. Zack and I spent a surprisingly fun afternoon kitting ourselves out in suits, shirts, and ties. Rather than decide on a look, Sarah decided that our "theme" would just be green -- everyone in the family would wear green somewhere, their choice. Sarah put together all the table decorations. We got a cake from a local grocery store. (Recommended, by the way: it was gorgeous.) We got some cases of wine from Trader Joe's. After a tour of local jewelry stores, we ended up getting our rings from a, um, reseller, and then had them inscribed with the date and a romantic note. For music, a couple of the teachers from where I take guitar lessons turned out to be old pros at doing weddings. And for dancing, a sound system and a dance mix that I had a terrific time putting together.

People came from all over to attend, which was very pleasing to us. I had cousins up from Mexico and from California. Sarah's sister came from the Bay Area and her brother came in from Beijing. My friend Steve, whom I've known since 3rd grade, came up from L.A. Michael B came from D.C. (Some friends of Sarah's had visited a month earlier from Philadelphia, partly with the idea that visiting us during a wedding weekend would mean they'd hardly talk to us. Good call, that.)

We settled for a schedule for the wedding. We'd do the ceremony early, at 5:15. Then people would eat and toast and dance and, you know, mingle.

Months and months of steady, though not frantic, planning, and finally the day arrived. We had the venue from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm; we could start setting up at 4:00. At our initial meeting, the caterer had asked if we could possibly start at 3:30 pm for all their setup, but no go. We got there on the dot of 4:00 and the dozen or so family members and friends ran around setting up tables and chairs, claiming space for a bar, and so on.

Around 4:15, Sarah said "Where's the caterer?" Excellent question. For all their insistence on getting there early, they seemed to be awful late. We stood out front, greeting people as they came in and looking hopefully at any vehicle that came into the parking lot. At about 4:30, it seemed evident that we had a runaway caterer. We were telling people this ("Ever been to a wedding where the caterer didn't show?") and without exception, every single person offered a solution -- "I'll get pizza!" "Is there a Subway around here"? and so on. This is a point at which you stop and you reflect on how wonderful your friends and family are.

Trish and Sarah's brother Bob were dispatched to the caterer's location nearby. As Bob recounts the story, the caterer was busily loading up for a job, and said "I'm really busy, but I can talk to you for 30 seconds." Bob says "You have a wedding tonight." Caterer: "Yes, the so-and-so wedding at 6:30." Bob says: "Sarah and Mike's wedding, 40 minutes ago." Bob said that she flushed bright red and he thought "we were going to lose her." But she recovered and after a call to Sarah, loaded Bob and Trish up with ice and glasses and some plates, and said she could be there by 6:30.

Back at the venue, Sarah said that we could change the schedule around. My friend Steve and some helpers took charge of the "bar" and got things set up. We went ahead with the ceremony.

All six of us went up to the front with and Sarah explained to the crowd that there had been a mixup and so the schedule would be slightly changed. We then proceeded. Dennis was great, just as we'd hoped, and we managed to not choke up and not giggle, though the latter was a close thing. Sarah then invited people to please, "Go be your own bartender!" and head to the bar. Steve and helpers were impromptu servers. Professional bartender, eh.

In the meantime, the caterer had arrived and was setting up food. She worked frantically while we had time to mingle. When the food was ready, people queued up and we were pretty much caught up with the schedule. We found out later that she had thought all along that we were Sunday. She insisted that there would be no charge, but that didn't seem very fair to us, since in the end we got pretty much what we had asked for and the food was fantastic.

While people ate, we started the toasting-and-memories. Sarah's father led things off. He's 82 and was a Shakespeare scholar in his day. He's got a noticable Scottish accent and a flair for the dramatic, and when he finished with a Scottish toast and a Shakespeare sonnet, it proved a hard act to follow. Nonetheless, people stood up one by one and shared their gift of memories and good wishes. My kids both stood and toasted, which made me all choked up. Some people had wonderfully prepared texts that they shared; others stood and recounted touching or amusing (or sometimes embarrassing) stories. We had toasts in Scots, Chinese, Spanish, and German. More than one person reminded me, directly and otherwise, of my good fortune in marrying Sarah. Which I heartily agree with.

Afterwards, we got the sound system going and people began dancing. I had the playlist on the laptop, so people would run over and pick songs they wanted. At one point, the Cha-Cha Slide (video) came on, which calls out the steps. Fortunately, Zack's girlfriend Melinda knew the song, so she led us all in the sliding, stamping, and jumping.

Time flew, of course, and at 9:15, our minder at the venue came and told me that we should think about cleaning up pretty soon. Not likely. But 20 minutes or so later, we did finally turn the lights back up and started clearing. At this point, in theory the caterer's staff would have leapt into action. But no one lost a beat -- the brooms came out, and the guests turned from dancing and chatting to clearing, sweeping, putting up the tables and chairs, and hauling leftovers to the cars. In 15 minutes the place was bare and clean. What more can you ask than friends who are sentimental when it's time to toast and practical when it's time to clean up?

So now we're in Hawaii, halfway through our honeymoon. Amazing place, this. More on that another time.

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