Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Purposeless Marriage

Hi, my name is Christopher[1] and I’m in a childless marriage. Please know it wasn’t the marriage we set out to have. When my wife and I first started dating and while we were engaged we talked quite extensively about having kids. We even had names picked out.[2] We were going to be parents.

After getting married, we decided that we wanted to just enjoy being husband and wife for a while. After all, we were both essentially babies at the time; I was only 22 and my beautiful bride turned 21 two days after we got married. We thought, “Let’s be young and just be newlyweds.” A few years into our marriage we decided to escape Minnesota for San Diego, but just for a couple of years, after which we’d settle down somewhere central to our families and have children.

Then something strange happened.

We turned 30. We’d been living in San Diego for well more than just a couple of years. And we’d been married for over 10 years. And we were both very happy with our careers. And loved our lives.

We both are very conservative when it comes to children. We realize that having children is a lifelong commitment, and a commitment greater than that of marriage – after all, you can’t divorce your children. To raise children well they have to be the center of your universe.

Given that, not only would having children completely turn our lives upside down, we weren’t sure that we wanted that responsibility. We had carved out a very good life for ourselves, and really didn’t want to give that life up. So, we got a dog and we called it a day.

Karin and I love each other as much now as the day we married, if not more. I think we have a very good marriage, and I believe most of our friends would attest to that as well. Sure, we have some things that need to be worked on, but what couple doesn’t? The fact is we’ve walked through this world together for the last 14+ years, through some fantastic times and some troubling times, and looking back we wouldn’t change a single thing.

At this point, the well-adjusted among you are probably wondering, “Why does he sound like he’s giving a testimony in front of an AA meeting, like he’s got something to be embarrassed about? Everything seems pretty normal to me.” It’s a great question.

Recently J, a friend of mine who also happens to be in a childless marriage, brought it to my attention there are some that believe marriage is for one purpose – making and raising babies. Of course, the main purpose of the diatribe that the author, Katherine Kersten, goes on is another attempt to convince the world of the evils of gay marriage. I’ll give Ms. Kersten credit for at least making an exemption for people that are old, or those that are unable to have children.

One point that Ms. Kersten does make is that a child has a better chance at being “well-adjusted” if the child has two parents in a loving marriage. I don’t think anyone would argue against that. And because I’m feeling beyond generous at the moment I’m even willing to temporarily concede the point that if the child has a father and a mother all the better.[3] But where Ms. Kersten loses me, and offends me to no end, is when she says the “purpose” for marriage is child rearing.

I’m left with the following question – now what do I do, Ms. Kersten? Do I divorce my wife, since clearly our marriage has been rendered moot? Should we have a child even though we don’t want to actually have one?

Please, Ms. Kersten, tell me – what do I do with my purposeless marriage?

Ms. Kersten, marriage isn’t just about having children. It’s about committing to another human being in front of friends, family and God, that you will always be there for that person for the rest of their natural born lives. It’s about saying, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Legally, it carries with it the rights to speak for ones spouse when they can’t speak for themselves, as well as coming with the responsibility to share what was accomplished during the marriage should things go horribly awry.

Or, put simply, in deference to you, Ms. Kersten, it’s about love.

[1]No, really, it is
[2]Chaela Wynn for a girl and Joshua Patrick for a boy
[3]I don’t for a second actually believe that. Two loving parents (of any gender) are the best any child could ask for. A very close second is a single parent who loves the child to death.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Friday Five

The Excuse

I had to work on Friday (again), so I just didn’t get a chance to peck one out.

The Week

This week found me in Tampa for a second week. As a result Karin came out to visit instead of me going home. He had a fantastic, if quick, weekend together. Saturday was off getting a really nice dinner at Malio’s. Sunday morning was brunch and then me doing laundry[1]. That night we went up to IBG to hang out with Michael and his family. The next morning she headed back to San Diego.

The rest of the week was pretty mundane. Work, dinner, sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The Restaurant

Karin and I had planned on going to Charley’s for dinner on Saturday. Alas, we couldn’t get in. After a little searching through Yelp, we settled on Malio’s, a steakhouse. Located in an office building, they’ve done a very nice job with the space they have. They also have a nice patio are that over looks the Tampa River.

With the economy doing what it’s doing, and the fact that they just opened up the new digs, they’re offering some fantastic deals on their steaks. Karin and I both settled on the New York strip, Pittsburgh rare. While the steak was cooked perfectly, it wasn’t as tender as it should have been. The sides, however, did shine. Their au gratin potatoes (done up with crab meat) were out of this world, and the green beans were sautéed with bacon, almonds and pearl onions.

They also have an extensive wine list that features many affordable options as well as the $1,000 bottles.[2] Their drinks were well made; my Manhattan was near perfect, and Karin loved her lemon drop. Their bourbon selection was also pretty solid, which made a fantastic dessert for me.

The one thing that did drag down the experience was the service. While the waitress was pleasant, she wasn’t overly friendly nor attentive. We sat for a good half hour with empty plates and a waitress nowhere to be seen. Even after requesting our check and having it taken away from us, we still sat with empty plates in front of us. Anyone who knows me knows how rare this is for me – I only left about 15%.

The Exercise

<Insert clever excuse here>

The Travel Note

I’ve been very lucky over the past couple of years. Not once had I fallen ill or had need to go to a doctor or dentist. Well, until this past Thursday. I lost a filling in a tooth, which sent me off to the dentist.

I’m honestly not sure how I feel about a single payer system for healthcare[3], but I will say this much – getting my insurance flipped around for a single dental visit in Tampa was a pain. I had to add the Tampa dentist on as my primary, and come the beginning of December I have to switch it back to my San Diego dentist. It should be simpler than that.

The Five

I’m a simple man. I really am. I don’t need a lot out of life. Even when I order food and drink, I generally want simple. Here are the top five simple things I always have hard time getting.

  1. Water without ice. High near impossible. Even if I say, “water, no ice”, I’m getting ice at least 50% of the time.
  2. Whiskey without ice. Again - “<insert bourbon> with just a splash of water”. Way more often than not, ice in the glass. In fact, on Saturday night I ordered the same thing in two different bars and had to stop the bartender from pouring it on ice both times. The second bartender even had the gall to imply that it was my fault, forgetting the fact that at no time did I say “ice” or “rocks”.
  3. Black coffee. The number of times I’ve had this conversation is innumerable:
        Me: Black coffee, please.
        Server: Do you want cream or sugar?
        Me: No.
        Server: So, black?
        Me: <sigh>
  4. Anything without cheese. One of the little things I avoid (like it makes a huge difference) is cheese.
  5. Beer in a room temperature glass. This one really isn’t even worth the battle. Anyone who likes good beer knows it’s supposed to be served in a room temperature glass – especially bolder beers like IPA’s and stouts.

[1]Do I know how to show a girl a good time or what?
[2]Another of my biggest peeves is wine lists where you can’t find a bottle for under $80. I like wine just as much as the next guy. That doesn’t mean I feel the need to throw down a bill just for a bottle with dinner.
[3]I hope to do a blog posting on that later. We’ll see if it actually happens.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What is a Vet?

Every year for Veteran’s Day, an email list I subscribe to sends out the following email. It’s a great reminder of those who have served, and today I want to post that here.

Recently Karin and I were in Tampa, and we happened to be staying at the hotel they were holding the Marine Ball at, which is a celebration of the Marine Corp’s birthday, which is November 10th. There were Marines in full dress uniform, and women in very pretty dresses. There were also Marines in full dress uniform in wheel chairs and on crutches, a chilling reminder of the sacrifice they made and others are willing to make.

If you know a veteran or someone currently serving, thank them today. Politics or your thoughts about the wars we’re currently fighting or how we’re fighting them really don’t matter.

With that, here’s the essay from Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, USMC – What is a Vet?

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye.  Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg - or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul’s ally forged in the refinery of adversity.  Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem.  You can’t tell a vet just by looking.

What is a vet?

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn’t run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She or he—is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another—or didn’t come back AT ALL.

He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat—but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other’s backs.

He is the parade—riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean’s sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket—palsied now and aggravatingly slow—who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being—a person who offered some of his life’s most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say Thank You.  That’s all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.

Two little words that mean a lot, “THANK YOU.”

Remember November 11th is Veterans Day.

“It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.  It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.  It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.  It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.”

Monday, November 9, 2009

Friday Five

The Excuse

I was actually working Saturday, so I couldn’t get my brain to understand that Friday was Friday.

The Week

I found myself in Tampa this week, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is usually a good chance to see friends. Of course, having said that, the only friend I generally tend to see out here is Michael – although that’s not bad because it usually involves a trip to the International Beer Garten. I was also staying in downtown, which is really just all commercial district. At some point I need to make it over to Ybor, which is the “fun” part of town.

The Exercise


The Restaurant

They serve food, well bar food and pizza, so I’m going to give props to the International Beer Garten. They have about 40 taps, and a huge bottle selection, meaning regardless of your taste in beer you’ll find something – unless of course you drink yellow fizzy stuff. When I was there on Wednesday they had a rep from Stone Brewery there, which was a tad weird – in Tampa meeting up with a rep for a San Diego brewer. Their food is normal bar food, although I’m here to tell you their pizza is out of this world after about 6 beers. It’s well north of Tampa, but worth the trip if you’re a beer geek.

The Travel Note

If you travel at all check out TripIt. It’s a fantastic service that tracks all your travel information. Uploading your trip is as easy as forwarding your confirmation email to I’ve found that it can read just about everything, and does a great job of collating data together. For our Australia trip I went San Diego to Tampa to Houston to Brisbane to Houston to Home, on two different airlines. TripIt was able to put everything together into one trip. If you’re willing to pay for the pro version, you’ll get text alerts 24 hours before your flight, 4 hours before your flight, and upon landing. It’s great being able to walk off the plane, open up my phone, and see the text with my gate information.

The Five

Karin asked me the other day how to send an email with a shortcut key. She’s pretty savvy, but, like most users I’d say, only knew about the normal ones (Ctl-C, Ctl-X, Ctl-V, Ctl-Z (undo), Ctl-Y (redo)). So here’s five shortcut keys on Windows everyone should know.

  1. Ctl-Enter – sends an email from Outlook.
  2. Windows Key-E – opens Explorer
  3. Windows Key-D – shows the desktop
  4. Windows Key-Arrow – In Windows 7 this moves a window around
    • Up arrow – Maximize
    • Down arrow – Restore or minimize
    • Left arrow – pin to left side of screen
    • Right arrow – pin to right side of screen
      • The left and right are especially nice if you need to see two windows easily on one screen
  5. Windows Key-R – brings up the Run menu (not really needed outside of Windows XP)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Zune and Xbox 360

One of my favorite features of the Zune software and an Xbox 360 is the ability to stream music from my PC to the Xbox. My favorite feature when it works.

Recently I upgraded to the Zune 4.0 software[1] and was unable to play my songs any longer. The issue was with the Zune Pass[2]. Fortunately, there is a reset tool that’s available to fix this. If you can’t play your music any longer on your Xbox, try this:

After running the tool, I opened up the Zune software, played a few songs, and gave it about 30 minutes to download whatever licenses it needed. After doing that, everything worked just fine.

[1] Software that puts iTunes to shame.
[2] A fantastic offering from Microsoft - $15/month for all the software you want, with the ability to download 10 DRM-free songs per month.

(The Sometimes) Friday Five

The Excuse

I’m typing this on Thursday but I’m no declaring victory quite yet…

The above was typed on 22Oct. I hadn’t quite finished up my posting, figuring I would get it posted when I got home. Well, when I got home the urge to install Windows 7 overtook me. I figured I’d finish/post it on Sunday. Then I realized on the plane that I didn’t have this posting on the newly installed OS. And then I came to find that much of my hardware wasn’t working correctly. So that took all my time earlier this week when I would have been finishing this and posting it.

The end result is I’ll be posting a two week update.

The Week

This week Last week was a bit of an odd one for me scheduling wise. Usually I’m gone for a collective 5 days, but this week it was just a quick two day trip to Boise, ID. This meant that I was able to spend Saturday (most of it) and Sunday doing what I love to do on fall weekends – sitting on my couch watching football. It was everything I thought it would be and more.

The one exception to my football watching was on Saturday when Karin, Donna and I went to see Toy Story 1 and 2 in 3D. I have to say that my first 3D experience since the 1980’s didn’t leave me with any greater “wow” feeling than it did 20+ years ago. It may just be me, but I have a pretty strong inclination that this will befall the same fate as it did before.

Being home on Monday night also meant being able to go out with friends to watch the game at San Diego Brewing. Little things like that are certainly what I miss the most while on the road. Unfortunately, of course, the game didn’t turn out quite the way I would have have liked. I may do a blog posting on the Chargers season (and future beyond that) later, but right now my emotions are still a bit raw.

The trip, like I mentioned, was to Boise. I’ve mentioned many times before that I love Boise, and this trip helped solidify it. I described it to Abram earlier this week as “Burlington, only with a lot less hippies.” If I were to ever consider moving back to a small town that had seasons Boise would certainly be at the top of the list.

Speaking of small towns, one thing I don’t often think of is the price difference between a larger metropolis like San Diego and a much smaller one like Boise. On Wednesday night I took a trip to Famous Dave’s (have I mentioned I love Famous Dave’s?), settled in at the bar and was informed that it was happy hour and all drafts were $2. Not crap beers were $2 – all drafts. And they had about 15 to choose from, including a fantastic local IPA. $2 for a pint. You just don’t see that elsewhere. San Diego Brewing, for instance, will do $3.50 pints of their own brews, but not of others. At $2 a pint it becomes about on par (if not cheaper) than buying (good) beer in a store.

The trip also reminded me how much I miss fall. I miss the crisp air, leaves turning, and the memories that type of weather brings back. I have talked to more than a small handful of people who have moved away from San Diego because they miss the seasons, and I do understand that. San Diego doesn’t really have seasons. More of just a summer to spring and back again. I’ve had a couple of people try to convince me that the seasons are just more “subtle.” Nah – there just aren’t really seasons.

That was last week, when I thought I was in a small town. Boy was I wrong. This week I was in Altus, OK. If you’re not sure where Altus, OK is, well, you’re probably normal. But in case you’re curious, it’s in the middle of nowhere, or as Abram put it, it’s the city of Nowhere, in the county of Nowhere, in the state of Nowhere. You can see it on a map here.

Altus is a town of about 20,000 people, and was chosen by the Air Force for a base specifically because it’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s the training base for large aircraft.

Needless to say, I didn’t find very much to do during the week. In fact, when I asked my students about where to go for dinner I was met with a blank stare for a good 10 seconds until someone said, “Well, um, there’s an Applebees”. Not really the answer I was looking for. In any event, I did find a couple of places to eat, one which I really loved (see below), and another that was just OK.

One thing about travelling to more conservative states is the bizarre alcohol laws they have. Because I had a mini-fridge in my room I decided to stock it with a six pack. Stopped by a liquor store and found that they had no beer fridge. After settling on a six pack I asked the clerk if they had any cold beer. I was then informed that because they sold beer stronger than 3.2 they weren’t allowed to have cold beer. I also learned that if you buy 3.2 beer in a grocery or convenience store that it must be in a bag, but not in a liquor store. Really – who makes these laws, and what good do they think it does? Although Oklahoma does have a 21 and up law when it comes to sitting at the bar which I do appreciate.

The Exercise

Ron asked about this when I posted a picture of dinner to Facebook. Does working through a few ribs count?

But again – that was last week. This week I managed to get in a couple days worth of exercise. Journey of a thousand miles and all that…

The Restaurant

One restaurant that my students did recommend was Tommy Joe’s BBQ (not Tommy John’s, that’s something completely different). Apparently the story behind the restaurant is Tommy Joe had a trailer that he made and sold BBQ out of, before making enough money to buy up a building. I had a three-meat combo which included ribs, brisket and turkey. All of which were outstanding, even if the ribs were a bit too salty. The sauce they had was fantastic, with a heat that wasn’t overpowering but really built up to let you know that it’s there. Next time you’re in Altus, OK…..

The Travel Note

I guess you should be clear in the type of room you ask for. I apparently forgot to ask for the non-leaking room. When I was in Altus a pretty good storm came rolling through. I slept through the storm up to the point where I started getting splashed on. A leak had formed through the smoke detector in my room. I’m here to tell you that packing up your room at 2a to move to another room is not fun.

The Five

I’ve got travel on the brain lately, so here’s the five places I want to visit most:

  1. Japan – Anywhere in the Orient, really. The area, culture, history all fascinate me.
  2. Ireland – For obvious reasons.
  3. New Zealand – With a little luck we’ll be headed out there next year (if Karin says “yes”).
  4. Hawaii – Can’t figure out how we haven’t made it over there yet.
  5. Vancouver – I’m not sure how I’ve never managed to take the quick jaunt up there considering the number of times I’ve been to Seattle.