Monday, September 21, 2009

This year’s addition to Tashlich

Our hearts and minds are each unique. Just as we each understand God differently and we each understand ourselves differently, we also each understand the rituals and purpose of the High Holidays differently. With conversation and with patience and respect for each other, those differences can give us strength.

We can reflect on three types of sins: sins against God, sins against ourselves, and sins against other people. God can forgive us our sins against God, and we can forgive our sins against ourselves. The hardest part of teshuvah, of repentance and change, is dealing with our sins against other people. That is why we are called to do Tashlich with other people, and why Tashlich is best done early during these Days of Repentance. We symbolically cast away our sins with other people to remind us that none of us is perfect, that we all must seek to change, that we all must seek forgiveness from others.

But the presence of other people should be a positive reminder as well, a reminder that other people can help us to change. We are members of a community, and we have an obligation not just to help others in our community but also to accept help from others. Our friends and family can forgive us if we let them, but they can also support us if we let them.

With that in mind, let us begin our casting away together:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Our first photos of Dobbie

Photos by Michael

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our first group encounter with a skunk

The skunks in our neighborhood have, for 10 years, sprayed anything and everything with complete abandon. They walk down the street spraying cars and houses. They don’t posture first, they don’t appear to have limited reserves, and they are clearly seeking revenge against the entirety of the animate and inanimate world. Luke was sprayed far too often, and we got used to washing him down in all sorts of weather.

So I was unhappy when, on our walk tonight, Dobbie and Lisa and I suddenly came upon a skunk in the grass right next to the sidewalk where we were walking, less than a foot away. Unhappy may not be quite the right word. More like enveloped in a sudden overwhelming sense of doom and despair and terror.

We ran away. And thankfully the skunk did not spray any of us. That’s how it should work, though it’s not how it has worked around here. I’m not sure Dobbie got a good sense of what I was so scared of, but if she decides that skunks are appropriate to run away from, it may save us many unpleasant nights in the future. But I wish I didn’t still feel so unsafe.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Our first full night of sleep

Just kidding. But uninterrupted all the way from 1:30 a.m. to 6:15 a.m. is a definite improvement. And she was willing to sleep in the upstairs hall (with our door open) without checking on us constantly.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Our first doorway gate

Until we’re sure that Dobbie won’t turn on the gas range again, we’ve installed a doorway gate (pet gate/child gate) to the kitchen to try to keep her out. I knew this day might come, and I know that we need to add at least one more at the bottom of the stairs, but I dreaded this day. I’ve always found doorway gates nearly impossible to open, confusing and constricting, and painfully ugly. And obviously necessary in some circumstances. The fact that they destroy the traffic flow of a home is the precise point of them and a huge deficit in a home.

Even with the extra-tall 36" gate, I’m not convinced that the gate will keep Dobbie out. We blocked off the kitchen with two dining room chairs last night, but she leaped over them. We blocked the staircase with chairs at the base and boxes on the steps, and she was up the stairs a few minutes after we went to bed. She opened the gate to the neighbor’s yard this morning as if she had been practicing.

We’re hoping that she’ll settle down, overcome her perfectly natural separation anxiety, and learn our expectations. The onus to teach her our expectations is on us, and that’s mostly psychological. But we also need to make sure that we can physically confine her to our property and confine her travels within our house.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A new dog, Dobbie

Her racing name in West Virginia was UMR Rochelle. She was born August 15, 2006, and arrived in Massachusetts on September 2. If everything goes well, she’ll be taking a little medical tourism trip to Hopkinton to be spayed in a week or so, and then she’ll come back here after she recovers. Right now she’s sacked out in the front hall.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A day making eye charts

The most familiar eye chart is the Snellen eye chart, and a few years ago I made a reproduction of it and a number of variants. Today I finally started redoing the charts using InDesign using fonts of the optotypes that I created myself following Snellen’s original principles of equal stroke and gap widths.

There are a lot of variables: letter design, letter spacing, line spacing, letter sizes, size labeling, bar colors, etc. The original Snellen eye chart was not entirely precise or consistent, and the typical medical eye chart is a rather mediocre reproduction. I’m sympathetic to the goal of clinical accuracy, but I really want to balance a few other goals: honoring the design archetype of the original Snellen eye chart, improving the precision and consistency of the chart, and simplifying production of the chart by reducing the traditional 11" x 22" chart down to 11" x 17" without making the chart look too crowded.

When I’m done, I’ll have many of the traditional charts—Snellen, tumbling E, Landolt C—as well as variants for non-Roman alphabets, abstract patterns, and more. Then I have to figure out what to do with all of them, aside from a short run book of the full set.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A day at the end of the Cape

Lisa and I went to Provincetown yesterday. The ferry only takes 90 minutes from Boston (though if you sleep for 20 minutes on the way over and 60 minutes on the way back, it feels even faster). I had been joking before the trip that we would see whales from the boat, since BHC also runs whale watches. We saw two, as it turns out, close enough to see their backs as well as their spouts. Humpbacks, probably.

Nature was on full display in the morning and evening: great blue herons flying in front of us, and a spectacular moonrise over the harbor with the huge full pale red moon slowly becoming a bright peach.

We spent the heart of the day trawling for art along the full length of Commercial Street (East End first, per Carl’s advice when we ran into him on Macmillan Wharf) with frequent breaks for people-watching. Some of the highlights:

Full-screenProvincetown Art Association & Museum’s small sculpture garden
Charles-Baltivik Gallery (paintings, metal sculptures)
Rice-Polak Gallery (kinetic sculptures, paintings)
Sarah Jessica Fine Arts (prints, etchings, glass, and ceramics)

as well as Impulse gallery with an impressive collection of art kaleidoscopes, a gallery of Philip James photographs which we could only peer into from outside, id with wonderful sculptures of human figures in motion, and more.

There were tons of fun shops as well, and more homemade ice cream than you could shake a stick at. We had an elegant lunch in the Waterford Inn and Cafe’s garden, and a stunning dinner at Victor’s. In a town with many great-looking restaurant options, I suspect the only reason we’ll ever try somewhere else for dinner is if we cannot get a table at Victor’s. Not worth missing the return ferry for, but, well, probably worth missing the return ferry for.

We had a good plan. Take the ferry to Provincetown, enjoy the end-of-summer weather and the simple joy of traveling light and letting the world surprise us. It really worked.