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Yeah, I like this new auto-gif feature.

We didn't miss the bus.

We didn’t miss the bus.

Happy Springtime from Fort Bubbles

Happy Springtime from Fort Bubbles

McLain had a creek-crossing triumph at Vogel State Park a couple of months ago, and I’m thrilled to say that this seminal moment in his childhood has inspired a full-length documentary.

I won’t play the role of spoiler, but I will provide a plot summary:
Boy meets perilous trek. Boy begins trek successfully. Boy falls, gets wet. Boy perseveres and grows up a little bit more.

Here’s the trailer. The film/home video will be released in full in a few days (after I get a chance to put it together).

McLain has earned new nicknames lately: Mayor and Guvna (you know, cockney, as in ‘ello guvna) are a couple of the most-used. He is 16 months old, and he’s now entering the play stage that involves moving figurines in and around human scenarios and structures. For example, loading up the plastic pirate ship one by one, and placing little guys and girls at desks in the Fisher-Price school house.

We simply call this type of play People, as we did when Jackie was in that stage. It’s like McLain is starting to understand the fun in simulating human activities. He also seems capable of focusing his attention; it now takes him about five minutes to make a substantial mess, rather than his minute-and-a-half average a couple of months ago.

I doubt that it’s coincidental that his language has started to flourish recently as he rules over the micro-societies in our house. He attempts, on request, to repeat word cominations like Brussels sprouts and basketball goal, but he probably has a working vocabulary of about 25 words at this point.

Here’s a short video of him dealing with a track obstruction on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe.

Note: Don’t miss the ineffective tap to Robah’s snout at the 0:08 mark.

Oh, this poor, woeful, neglected blog. In an effort to make up for some lost time with family documentation, I’ve listed some general updates about each of us in lists of five bullet points.


  • Katie has been traveling some lately, and works no less than 55-60 hours every week.
  • She continues to be an exceptional mother and wife.
  • Despite her demanding work and home life, she completed a full year of breastfeeding with Jackie and 11 months with McLain.
  • Her two primary college football teams (Georgia Tech and Clemson) are a combined 12-0, so she’s never a tad grumpy on Saturday evenings.
  • Nothing pleases me more than those not-so-rare occassions when Jackie and Katie are talking to each other and each of them reminds me so much of the other one.


  • Jackie can read every letter in the alphabet, even when presented in random order. And, she’s playing semi-organized soccer.
  • She chooses outfits for the day and dresses herself, often at an agonizingly slow pace.
  • She’s prone to spontaneous acts of sweetness, on a daily basis.
  • She is in a full-blown nurturing stage, although she would much rather look after her two baby dolls than the real 1-year-old who truly needs constant supervision.
  • She’s learned to appreciate “sad songs” at the age of two, but she’s not afraid to request “jams” if the music gets too down-tempo.


  • McLain can throw just about anything that fits his tiny grip 10 feet or more, with either arm.
  • He now stuffs food into his mouth as if he’s the underdog in a competitive eating event.
  • If you ask him what sound a <insert any animal here> makes, he always replies promptly with, “Pthffffttt”.
  • He’s goofy in the coolest way, and remains the smilingest kid I’ve seen. He’s serious with his drumming though.
  • All that smiling reveals a lot of gums and only three teeth.


  • When I stand from the sitting position, my right knee makes a noise that sounds like the action of a short zipper. It doesn’t hurt though.
  • I used to think I knew what it was like to be “busy”. I didn’t, but I hope that now I do.
  • Some of the things keeping me busy now will be either postponed or outright canceled during the Tar Heels five-month quest for 2011-12 basketball glory.
  • I’ll remember this past summer as a time when I thought a lot about two important people who died at the end of May.
  • Paradigm shift in our family’s music procurement and selection operation; iTunes and Amazon Cloud have been replaced with all Spotify all the time.


  • Baxter is still crazy after all these years.
  • The earthquake this summer scared him more than thunderstorms do, but not as much as lawn mowers.
  • When the high temperature started dipping below 80 degrees over the past month and a half, he started begging to be covered with a blanket.
  • He’s still the best jogging partner I’ve ever known.
  • I see some early signs of arthritis, but it’s no match for his high tolerance for pain. He was born to run.


  • Robah hangs in my home office when I’m there, and if he has indigestion he makes a “Ruhhh” sound that sounds just like Rick Ross.
  • He seems to be eating less, but hasn’t lost much weight. Not that he’s fat — just a little big-boned.
  • He now enjoys fetching about 75% as much as Bax, which is a whole lot.
  • He’s like my shadow when I’m home, and I love him for it.
  • McLain treats him like a bouncy castle. Robah tolerates it, and I love him for that too.

Note: Baby-related posts will resume in a few days. Here are some words about a whale of a book I read.

Last night I finally turned the last page of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I firmly believe that I was not ready to read this novel until now (at the age of 33), and when I read it again two or five or twenty years from now, I will probably believe that I was not ready to read this novel when I read it first in 2010.

It’s a novel about pain, mostly, and how we Americans and some Canadians experience it and deal with it. The pain that characters’ deal with in Infinite Jest is the pain that accompanies life – from the most superficial physical pain (and band-aids) to the most abysmal emotional pain (and suicide) and everything in between.

Parts of the nonlinear story are so ugly they are literally nauseating. It’s also a brilliant work of comedy. I might recommend it to three people I know, but no one else.

What qualifies the title as truth in advertising is that the novel could have been 3,000 pages, or pages, instead of a mere 1,079 pages. If anyone could have pulled it off, Wallace could have (he hanged himself in 2008). He had literary super powers.

This is what I took away from Infinite Jest:

  • A need to read this novel again, if only for the unanswered philosophical questions and the sheer fun of reading Wallace’s prose.
  • 112 vocabulary words, not including medical terms, pharmaceutical terms, mathematical terms, and words I thought I knew but looked up there on the spot and realized I didn’t know exactly. The list also excludes some optics jargon and maybe a couple of Boston-area slang terms that I didn’t take the time to comprehend.
  • A spectator’s understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • A heightened awareness of solecisms, whether others’ or my own.
  • An enhanced appreciation for linguistics, and a broadened view of how the English language can be peppered, scattered, browned, chopped, diced, chunked, smothered, capped, and covered.
  • A diminished appreciation for film and movies.
  • A greater love for dogs.
  • A feeling that I am a good father, at least compared to the derelict dads in the novel.
  • A reminder that even a satirical prediction of technology one decade into the future can be utterly ridiculous. Maybe actual futurists deserve a little more credit for choosing such a dangerous career path.
  • A reminder of the plot of Hamlet.
  • A desire to play tennis again.
  • A discovery that an online book club is a great idea for the right novel, even if I only used it as a reference because I was a year late to the party. Thanks to Infinite Summer for providing a supplement to the text.
  • A new favorite fictional game: Eschaton.
  • A disdain for endnotes.
  • A reinforced belief that almost everyone deserves second, third, fourth, and fifth chances in life.
  • We have a way of making life complicated, don’t we?

It sure was good to have Steve Saville in Raleigh a couple of weeks ago. He caught a commuter flight from Orlando, where his latest project was based, to RDU that Saturday. Midday Sunday he hopped back in his rental Mazda crossover and headed for the airport.

Highlights of his visit included a second-round tourney win over LSU for Carolina, Jackie’s first encounter with a redheaded person, surf and turf that Katie prepared, and a couple of vintage Negativland tracks (for old time’s sake).

Katie and I have decided that Jackie’s first plane trip will involve heading to the Rockies this fall. We really appreciate Ali’s visit back in January and Steve’s visit in March.


Jackie Jones was born at 10:05 p.m. on December 23 by way of c-section. She weighed 10 lbs., 8 oz., and was 22 in. long at the time of birth. After holding her for the first time, I realized how futile it would have been to hold out longer for vaginal birth. Jackie was just too big to enter the world without some help from her doctor and surgical team.

Katie did extremely well with the c-section procedure, and continues to recover quickly. On top of that, Katie even complied whenever the nurses asked her to put down her Blackberry (it was a little touch-and-go at first). In all seriousness, my wife is a rock and I didn’t expect anything short of courage and grace from her before, during, and after delivery.


Cutting the cord.

Cutting the cord.

We should have known that Jackie would be a large newborn when one of the nurses on our floor guessed that Katie was carrying twins. I think that at least one-third of her wardrobe is already too small for her on day one. She’s going straight to 3-6 month-sized clothes.

Wow...10 lbs., 8 oz., 22 in.

Wow...10 lbs., 8 oz., 22 in.


Her long fingers were one of the first things that struck me when I held her for the first time.

Piano lessons in her future?

Of course, Katie and I are enamored with our baby girl. Based on her appearance during her first day ex utero, she has a Jeffcoats nose and a Watson chin. I wonder if other new parents have identified physical resemblances from their mothers’ side of the family before noticing characteristics from their fathers’ side. Regardless of who she resembles, her mother and I think she’s perfect.



I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit to the nurses, staff, and doctors at the REX Hospital Birth Center. They have really made us comfortable and confident as new parents during our first thirty-six hours under their watch. Most importantly, they delivered to us our daughter. We love her, love her, love her.


A couple of weeks ago Katie and I wrapped up our Preparing for Childbirth class, a six-session weekly meeting at REX Hospital in Raleigh. It’s hard to say exactly how valuable the class was, primarily because we missed half of the sessions. One of our absences was legit because we had to leave town on short notice. The other two absences were not legitimate, but we rationalized skipping class by working on other little baby-related projects around the house.

I like to think that Katie and I learned a lot of the material covered in class from the baby books that we’ve read over the past six months, so we really didn’t miss that much when we were absent. Of course, some of the parents-in-training went a little overboard with their questions and participation. I would even go so far as to say that the people in the class (Katie and me included) were a bit weird.

For example, on the second night of class, a guy who sat near us wore a t-shirt that grabbed my attention. A nebulous, abstract image on the center of the shirt was bordered by illegible text (in a gothic, thrash-metal-band-logo kind of font). I was fixated on the mysterious t-shirt for the first hour of class. Then we had a break, and I was able to get a closer look while the guy proudly described the shirt to another father-to-be. It turns out that the abstract image was a silk-screened representation of his unborn child. He had taken a still image from the 3-D ultrasound and printed a t-shirt. Upon closer examination, the cryptic text read, “DADDY’S LITTLE GUY.”

Depending on your personal taste and perspective, this guy is either the front runner for 2009 Father of the Year or he’s a bubble off plumb (as my father might say).

Overall, I would give the class a five out of ten on the valuable-knowledge-gained scale. It earned a much higher score on the new-parents-act-strangely index.

It’s official. After weeks of speculation, dream-state prognoses, and matching Katie’s pregnancy up against old wives’ tales, my hunch has been confirmed by her doctors at REX. We’re having a baby girl. She weighs about nine ounces right now. I’ll post more info and ultrasound images as soon as we get all moved in to our new digs on White Oak Road.

Big ups to Rich Jones for his help yesterday. He moved boxes with beastly strength, and packed the trucks like he was a Russian mathematician playing Tetris.

Image from Raleigh

Urban dirt-biking

I took this post-apocalyptic picture outside Jones Barber Shop in Raleigh last year.