Life in Omaha (in Scottsdale)

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Monday, August 30, 2004

Sleep Depravation

Sleep Depravation

I now realize who Ciela is and why she is here. She’s under the employ of some military intelligence operation conducting some Abu Ghraib-style torturing. Sleep depravation, piercing blasts of noise, constant repetition of stimulus and response to the point of boredom and irritation, urinating...all designed to break me, reduce my sense of self, eliminate any resistance to manipulation.

She’s won.

I will give her anything she wants.

But she never asks for anything. Her demands are never articulated.

I’m broken for no reason.

Parenthood. Architect: Franz Kafka.

Friday, August 27, 2004

To Do Today

The list of things that need to be done.

Work

X Copy MWF syllabi
X Prepare course blogs
X Copy material for Contemporary Lit
scan and upload pdf files for Contemporary Lit
finish Contemporary Lit syllabi
finish Expository Lit syllabi
X charity donation for fire victims (very sad story)
start reading Russell Banks novel for review

Personal

X get cash for weekend
clean house (to some extent) before B and J and parents arrive

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Ciela does not sleep

How many works of classic literature must I read before I learn that hubris does not please the gods.

So after spouting off about how perfect our little baby is, and how wonderfully she slept, and that our little family is better than any other little family because we are well-read, common-sensical, and exceptionally well-suited to parenting, the wax started to melt and the feathers dissipated.

Last night, I finally went to bed about 3:30 am, my little splash thoroughly drowned out by the cries of a 4 day old child. The gods laughed while I wept.

Before last night, I thought it nearly infathomable that anyone could inadvertently kill a baby by shaking it out of frustration. When I read or heard about such incidents, I chalked it up to pathetic lack of education, calculated violence, or even mere evil.

Now, I realize that edge beyond reason is much closer than any of us like to think. Twice I had to leave the room in order to regroup. I can't imagine any scenario more frustrating than being put in charge of a helpless person, have that person in great distress and unable to communicate that distress. It takes away all your recourses to rational thinking. Indeed, I think that may be at the heart of the violent uprising that it occasionally leads to. When every turn of reason is frustrated by an unthinking, unrelenting, monolithic wall of screaming, we as humans seem programed to resort to our only other option: mindless fury.

Who knew parenting would have such a dark side so soon. Oh, I figured there would be the sadistic mind-games of adolescence, the devastating disappointment of the mid-adult years, the empty abandonment at the end of life. But I thought there would be endless amazement at her development as a newly sentient being; not amazement at her sheer endurance.

But then she finally ate, finally slept, the sun finally rose, and she looked calm in the morning light.

But untrustworthy.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Who I am

1984
George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four. You are the
classic warning against the threat of
totalitarianism. To you, politics and
philosophy are inseparable, auchtorities suck
and the reality might not exist outside our
imaginations.


Which literature classic are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Does this mean I'm not Gravity's Rainbow?

Ciela sleeps

Finally, we did a decent job last night. Really, Judy and Ciela did a decent job of sorting out the whole feeding and sleeping thing. C. nursed like she's been doing it all her life, and J orchestrated the whole thing while letting me sleep for almost the whole night. I think she's discovered that my help really doesn't help much when all C wants to do is eat.

Ciela made her first public appearance yesterday, debuting before our Bradley childbirthing class. We had the baby with two more classes to go. That may be why we had to improvise the last few bits of the birth. C was a big hit, and behaved herself for most of the half-hour show and tell. All the expected moms and dads were very curious about the birth and asked lots of questions. On the way home, we wondered if we made it sound good or bad.

Prospective Mom 1: So what were the contractions like?

Judy: It was the worst pain I've every felt.

Prospective Mom 2: !?

Judy: But it was completely worth it.

So many things said at the hospital about Judy and me and Ciela indicate that babies from unmedicated births have a better time of it. Of course, its one damn example (all Indians walk in a single file. At least the one I saw did), but the nurses were impressed with how easily and quickly she took to nursing. The pediatrician was impressed with how mobile she was on her stomach. The nurses commented on how well we worked together during the birth (not directly related to pain-killers, but certainly related to our training). And C had excellent scores on all the post-delivery checks.

Okay, trying not to sound like I'm on a soapbox (and lets face it, I didn't have to go through any pain worse than sleeping on a crappy fold-out couch). Just thoughts that came out from Ciela visiting our class and wanting to say that I think all three of us are incredibly happy that we went through this through the Bradley method. Thus endeth the testimony.

Monday, August 23, 2004

the pensive bathing ritual

the pensive bathing ritual

All very zen-like unti she gets too relaxed, and the water gets a little warmer.

Ciela conquers the flying dragons

Ciela conquers the flying dragons

And does her best Gary Hall, Jr. impersonation.

Judy takes obligatory phone call from Pres. Bush

Judy takes obligatory phone call from Pres. Bush

Ciela close up

Ciela close up

Ciela arrives

Thanks to all those who wrote or called and left messages. Everyone is still happy but getting tired as we try to adjust Ciela to how normal people sleep.

For everyone who's written, the name is pronounced: "see-ELL-ah"

The name means "heavens" or "skies" in Italian.

Parc is pronounced "Park" and it means "park" in French.

And the physical properties: 7 pounds 9 ounces. 20 inches long.

Very busy right now, but we'll try to get more pictures up soon. Right now, its back to trying to get a syllabus together. School starts next week and even my overactive imagination cannot conceive of how this will be done.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Ciela arrives

The kid can cry. As one can imagine, we spent the first night half-asleep and mostly awake as Ciela either insisted on nursing or crying. She would drift off for about 30 minutes before waking up again. And today, she's either been zonked out, or sounding her barbaric yawp.

Everyone's still fine. Our pediatrician was, of course, out of town, but her partner gave Ciela the thumbs up--impressed with her ability to vigorously raise her head from the prone position. We can stay another night, but the couch I have to sleep on was made, apparently, for newborn infants because it's only 30 inches long, so we most likely will be leaving for home tonight. We're still going to get a final hospital dinner before we head out.

Number of diapers changed: 8 (appx)

Percentage of times a health professional visits simultaneous with Judy taking a shower:100%

Ratio of blood loss to ice cream consumed by the mother (in cc's): 350

Ratio of major hospital stays for Judy to major reconstruction in same hospital: 1 to 1.

Decible level of Fender guitar amplifier, full volume at 10 inches away: 115

Decible level of Ciela Parc Hermanson, full cry at 10 inches away: 118

Number of pieces of luggage upon arrival (including duffel bag, cd player and snacks): 6

Number of pieces of luggage upon departure (estimated): 8 (plus one baby)

Top speed of wheel chair on the downhill run from room 4808 (second residence of CPH) to room 4826 (current residence of Juan Antonia Gonzalez, born 8/20/04 at 11:12 am): 16 Kmph.

Decibel level of Nurse Shelia discussing Maternity Ward protocol, full cry at 10 inches away: 110

Friday, August 20, 2004

Ciela arrives

Ciela arrives

After numerous false attempts, Ciela Parc Hermanson arrived happily and healthily at 1:07 pm this Friday, August 20th.

Judy went into labor about 1:00am. Finally woke me up around 4:00am. We trucked off to the hospital by 8:00am. By 1:00pm we decided to trick the child into arriving by telling her the Cubs were playing an afternoon game and, of course, first pitch was at 1:20. It worked.

Judy was every bit of amazing, doing the whole business without any drugs at all. Insert easy joke about Scott and drug abuse here.

Ciela was nice and pink and possessing a fair amount of hair. She's been nursing steadily for the last few hours. Everything and everyone seems happy and the world seems a little less dreadful.

Thank you to everyone who did so much to help us bring her here. We can never express how..., well, we can't express it.

Thanks,

We'll be home sometime soon, spending a day or two at Clarkson Hospital in Omaha.

Long Live Spike.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

James Howard Kunstler on Linden Frederick

Orion > Orion Magazine > July | August 2004 > Linden Frederick | James Howard Kunstler

Kunstler wrote one of my favorite books, The Geography of Nowhere. That book is a scathing critique of the homogenous pile of refuse that is the urban/suburban/rural life in the United States. You've probably looked around your city and seen how difficult it was to find someplace that wasn't completely bereft of soul, artistry, and common humanity. And if you are lucky enough to find such a place, the cost of property is far, far out of your price range.

Here in Omaha, anyone with dollars and sense lives in the old neighborhood of Dundee, with a nice community center that has three of four excellent restaurants (depending on which one is switching owners), a great neighborhood bar, a mom and pop hardware store. A coffee shop. And nice old homes with front porches.

There's no way in hell we could live there.

Oak Park in Chicago was almost ideal. Although we lived in a smallish apartment on the edge of the village, we could still walk and bike to restaurants, stores, and the train. We rarely used our car during the week.

We left because the one condo we might have been able to afford was $125,000 for a very small, one bedroom.

In Louisville, its the Old Louisville area near Central Park, with the added insult of being expensive and a high-crime area.

And all of this is without even looking into school districts.

The gist of Kunstler's argument is that our town fathers are a bunch of greedy, short-sighted idiots that feed our basest desires. For all our country's economic wealth and parallel rhetoric of freedom, we have created a poor, imprisoned way of living. We are trapped figuratively in large mortgages and fear of difference, and trapped literally in gated communities, isolated suburbs and most ironically, in our engines of freedom, automobiles.

Edward Hopper captured the loneliness and isolation of the modern urban world in "Nighthawks." Frederick captures the wasteland of postmodern ex-urbia.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Change in Plans

I had a number of ideas I would write about today. There was the continuing search for the Great Omaha Northwest Passage that would allow me to ride from the house out to the rural west (10 miles, Cooper Village run). There was the realization that with another monster iStudioLink cable, I could play my guitar through GarageBand and then out through my amp, really annoying Judy. There was the interesting coincidence of reading an essay by Ian Frazier about the lack of "doing nothing" the day after I read an news article about time management and a professor who's written a book a year while teaching full-time.

I could have written about any of these things and still may, but not tonight.

Instead, I'll be discussing my beloved cat, Haley, who once again forced me to seek medical treatment for a bite wound. Haley hates, I mean HATES every single other cat put on this earth. I don't know what happened to her in that shelter, but she will take on any cat, any time, any place. And she's not mellowing with age. In her daily life, she's a bit slower, can't jump as high, and sleeps a lot more, (although its hard to tell with a cat). But put a cat anywhere within range, and she's a drunken sailor uncertain of his sexual orientation who just heard something about his mother. And since I never allow her to quite get at the offending feline, she takes a chunk out of me.

This is bite number three in our relationship. The first was on the calf. The second on the left hand. This third one, the right hand. The first one I intervened between Haley and a black stray that was sitting outside the screen door. Haley flipped off the stove and sunk her teeth into my calf before calming down. On the second one, I took Haley off her leash when she was tangled up outside. I didn't notice that our next door neighbor's kitten was in their backyard. Haley was off like a rocket. Before she made tender vittles out of little fluffy, I went for the scruff, Not quickly enough, however, and two bites came so quick I never even saw the second one. That bite was bad enough that I ended up in the hospital overnight fighting an infection.

Today, Haley was out front, munching on some grass. I occasionally let her out on the front porch because she likes it so much. Who should happen along, but a stray cat crossing the street. Haley set out, not quite as fast, but more like the heavyweight she is. A determined stalking straight toward the victim. I yelled, but her ears never even rotated back. I caught her about half way across the yard and this time was able to scruff her and carry her away. She was not pleased. A lot of yelling and hissing--which is not uncommon with Haley--but nothing too bad. However, it steadly increased until just before the front door when that coiled anger unleashed. She got her head far enough around and bam. Two punctures on either side of my index finger. After I dropped her, she went right inside the open door. Grumbling a bit, but not threatening at all.

It felt like the aftermath of a scene of domestic violence.

Haley: Ah, baby, I'm sorry.

Scott: *sob*

Haley: Aw baby, you know how I get when its like that. Why do you get in my way?

Scott: I know, I know, I'm sorry.

Haley: I love you, baby. It'll never happen again. I swear.

Then they grill me at the urgent care clinic. Asking me if there's anyplace I can stay? Are there kids or kittens involved? And yet I keep going back. Because I know she loves me. And I can change her.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Omaha Farmers Market

Omaha Farmers Market

The Omaha Farmers Market: where we spend nearly every saturday morning. (It's also a good--distant--shot of Judy at her near peak.) We started going to farmer's markets in Cincinnati at Findley Market--which, in fact, is not a true farmer's market because most of the stands are companies, not direct farmer to customer sales. But through Oak Park's really good market and Omaha's fabulous market (the farms are closer, and there are a lot more of them) we've learned to appreciate really good food. I'm carrying eggs, salad greens, fresh dill, cilantro, bread, corn, onions, zucchini, canteloupe, some beeswax lotion and a peach pie. I may or may not have had a cinnamon roll from the greek guy.

At Omaha's market, there are two certified organic farmers, and nearly all the others are pesticide free. The eggs are from free range chickens, the beef is from grass-fed cows, and should we ever buy pork (never, Jehovah, NEVER), the pigs are raised humanly, too.

Besides the benefits from eating food not doused in chemicals, there are economic and ethical benefits from the farmers' market. On a purely selfish stance, if you come later in the day, you can take advantage of farmers dumping off their very ripe stock. I've also brought home nice bouquets of flowers that were better sold at a discount than trucked home to the compost bin.

From a wider sociological view, its great to reward any farmer who won't bow down to the jackbooted tactics of Monsanto and other big ag companies. If I can put money in the hands of a local farmer trying to grow food in a rational, sensible, environmentally sound way, I'm emptying my pockets. The money stays in the region, and its just good for the soul to deal with people as individuals instead of the bitterly disillusioned checkout kids at Baker's.

For more information about Monsanto and just what bastards industrial agricultural seed companies can be, see Jeffery Smith's _Seeds of Deception_ and the potato section of Michael Pollan's _The Botany of Desire_.

Sailing

Sailing

Just in case any of you still wonder how cruel I can be... while Judy stayed home feeding and housing our pre-infant child (who doesn't glow in the womb for some reason. I guess my Greek DNA is no longer pure enough for phosphorus fetuses), I went sailing on Lake Manawa. What a complete and selfish ass.

That's not the boat I was on. They made me take out the scow--probably because I forgot to bring my money to the session. Chuck took me out on the S.S. Colander in a raging wind that blew at speeds of "I think I just felt something" to "dead, we're just dead."

But when the wind did kick up a bit, we managed to tool around the lake for about an hour. Sailing, like hiking or biking, is really the only enjoyable way to move from a to b. Quiet and on your own power.

(Olympic update: did the Greeks open the games by lighting up a giant joint?)

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Samuel Benzkofer has his own blog

Benzkofer

Pretty impressive for an infant who, while only able to mutter one, ONE!, sentence can type like a mother. Not necessarily his own, I mean. I don't know if his mother can type well at all. I mean both parents are journalistically trained. I suppose the genes are there.

Cell Phones

We're breaking down and buying a cell phone. Another small part of my world colonized. And in just the few hours we've spent on researching said phone has nearly convinced/frightened me into abandoning the project. The only thing that makes my health insurance less complex is that I have no real choice in the matter. I think we spent less time figuring out our taxes. (Are cell phones deductible if I call another professor and complain about work?) We are going with Virgin Mobile because, sadly, they are the hippest company and as I man about ready to become a father, I'm clinging desperately to anything that makes me seem a bit cooler.

I noticed the Michael Berube regularly posts the results of his weekly hockey game on his blog. Now, my ego is nowhere near as large as Berube's (though to be fair, he was an incredibly nice guy when I met him and had dinner with him (apologies for the gratuitous name dropping (actually, apologies for the whole self-centered phenomenon of this blog and for perpetuating the whole bloggin' nonesense))), but I feel his indulgence opens the door for me...

Our indoor soccer team got whipped last night to the point where I won't bother with the score. And we played against a pick-up team. I probably had one semi-decent quarter, but I do feel like Matt Clement out there. If I don't play above my head (well above my head) we won't win. Generally, I fail to be a better man than I am. The truth is, we don't really have a team, period. In the two years I've been with RGD, we only retain four of the original team I joined. Last night, we were able to field four players period. We picked up four other guys -- all offense, of course -- and that has been our MO for the whole session. In terms that mean anything to me, we have no organized defense. 2/3rds of the points scored last night were on 2 v 1, 3 v 2 and 2 v 0. And then there was the three pointer over my head while I was out somewhere near midfield playing offense. I slept until 9:00am this morning.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Ok, so I didn't do too bad. I'm in there with the virtuous pagans, the great philosophers and authors, unbaptised children, and others unfit to enter the kingdom of heaven: Caesar, Homer, Virgil, Socrates, and Aristotle. Not bad company, and I imagine the chess games are phenomenal.

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to the First Level of Hell - Limbo!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)High
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Moderate
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Moderate

Take the Dante's Inferno Test

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Monster iStudioLink

Penny for penny, the best accessory I've ever purchased for my mac was the Monster iStudioLink cable to plug my electric guitar into the computer. I've been playing until my fingers bleed. Well, no, actually I've been playing at night whenever I can find the time. But with the amazing effects that GarageBand has, I can process the notes through compression, phaser, distortion, and a whole bunch of other crap that I have no idea what it means but it sounds fricken' awesome. The only thing that doesn't rock exceptionally well is I have to play it through those tiny, tiny mac speakers instead of a big ol' amp. This prevents me from really annoying Judy.

Tonight, I was the Edge, playing U2 songs for about an hour. An added benefit to the software was the realization that the Edge really can't play guitar all that well. He's just got a lot of cool electronics. (I know plenty of people already knew this, but I'm really musically illiterate, so it takes me awhile.)

First of all, my apologies to all that received an email that inadvertently suggested that Spike was actually here. I should have predicted that sort of reaction with such a loaded subject line. Spike is still in residence at his previous home.

Baby names. Who knew that chosing a name would be the existential dilemma of all time for me. Far more fraught than the actual conception (which was a whole 'nother dilemma), bestowing a name on the child seems to possess far greater significance than merely bringing her to life. The physiological creation is nothing compared to the pure performative act of--burning bush-like--to decree that thou art "Hortence" and will be for all time immemorial. Sure, its easy for gods and kings to do this. They are equipped with divine sanction and can, literally, do no wrong. They are infallible in the same sense that umpires are infallible when calling balls and strikes. "They ain't nothing 'till I calls 'em." But mere parents. Fallible as certain presidents.

The nominative angst I'm feeling most definitely is entangled with the prospect of decades of wrong choices lying ahead of me. The nine months of pregnancy (or in our case, the year and a half of trying and failing) is a perpetual revelation of all the things that can go wrong and an endless list of tasks to try and prevent it. Not that I'm complaining, but the bulk of parenthood so far (and that's without an actual unattached child) has an aroma reminiscent of Homeland Security. Anytime I start feeling comfortable, somebody ups the terror alert another level--and like data that's years out of date, the warnings are predicated on such a statistical insignificance that acting on them is akin to staying away from the church bingo because Al Quaida was scouting casinos.

This is all to say that we've at least eliminated the names Osama and George (unless it's a boy).

Sunday, August 08, 2004

We had a full weekend. Friday, Nainsi had a cookout with us, D from Creighton and his wife M and their two daughters. J and S (also works at Creighton) and their daughter Z. And B who is a new prof at Creighton. Everyone seems to have girls, so I suppose we'll fit right in.

Saturday, I rode 51 miles along the Keystone trail. Before anyone gets the idea that I'm some kind of athlete, I nearly cried on the way back I was hurting so bad. I'm planning to ride in a Corporate cup in two weeks, so I wanted to be sure I could handle the distance (41 miles). I'll make it, but it probably won't be easy--more hills than yesterday.

After I sat at home and wept for a while, we hung out on the deck at Caffine Dreams, drinking coffee and smoothies. Rediculously nice weather in Omaha for August.

Today, Judy, finally given the green light to do some exercise again, took me out to Fontenelle Forest for a hike around the baordwalk path. Lots of trees, but no animals of the charismatic type. Still, I'm sure it was great for her to get out of the house and actually do something with her legs.

Nursery 2

The Crib

Where Spike will sleep amidst all those stuffed animals.

Nursery 3

Nursery 3

This is what Spike will see when she first gets home.

Nursery 1

Nursery 1

This is a view of the former white chair that had been in our family for decades it seems. Judy sewed a new slip cover for it. This may be the best view of the walls, that I spent all of 4th of July weekend painting while Judy went over to Nainsi's house and watched DVDs. Its a nice color wash with a tan base and then a creamy yellow ragged on (Thanks, TLC!)

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Remarkable how much of a day can be wasted just futzing around with a computer. So I have my new (well, slightly used) powerbook courtesy of the College. I've been trying to get it all broken in with my specs. Ironically, though I don't pay anything for the computer, I can now see a whole line of items--peripherals, software, furniture--that I want to make my new playtoy that much better.

I was probably better off with a legal pad and a pen. At least then, I actually wrote.

Grand total time spent working on the book today. O hours, 1 minute (I managed to create a new file for the introduction and copy over the latest draft).

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

First post on the new computer.

(rode 19 miles, Ponca Hills--Big Loop, Dodge Park variation. Saw two deer, a few turkeys and two boxers (fido kind, not Tyson kind)

Monday, August 02, 2004

Art and Meaning

Terry Gross interviewed the comedian Patton Something or other (Spence
on King of Queens) and he said that comedy and eroticism are
unarguable. That is if something is funny, or something turns you on,
that's the end of the discussion. One cannot argue that something
should be funny for an individual, nor can one convince a person to
find a person or activity seductive. They are binary--on or off.

I wonder if art works this way. Perhaps my students have been right
all along with art. It either engages you or doesn't. Ultimately,
that is the end of the discussion. Where we operate (as teachers)
comes well before the end of the discussion--or perhaps we are having a
discussion that they don't even know about. We want to know how the
art works. But isn't how it works evaluated by if it works? And if it
works is unarguable--"I really like Tom Clancy novels"--then what have
we been talking about.

I'm throwing this line out to try and figure out where are lands in our
understanding of the world. There are two clear ways we know the
world--narrative and data. Narrative of course is the province of most
of the humanities: English, History, Religion, etc. Data is the
province of the sciences. But where do we put such things as painting,
sculpture and music? Outside of say opera or explicitly narrative
artworks, these arts are very abstract. Although music has
mathematical characteristics, and much of the visual arts are
representational.

This all ties back into a sense of transcendence--if its not an
illusion, then surely art must have some universal, ahistorical
quality, irreducible to data or narrative.

(10 miles, Ponca Hills short loop, Florence Heights variation. Saw a flock of turkeys (~30) with a number of turkey chicks--turklets? giblets?)

Sunday, August 01, 2004


Click Here

House in Summer

House in Summer

And this is what the house looked like this morning, with the hibiscus, wild rose and black-eyed susans in bloom.

(rode 31 miles, Saturday, Keystone trail and Big Papio creek trail. Passed, then passed by, then carried young woman on mountain bike. Minor blow to my pride)

Winter of '04

This would be what the house looked like in January and February.
HouseWinterFront
Originally uploaded by shermans.

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