Some Ingredients Not Included

Aldi is a place to find many wonderful and oft unusual items. Knock-off Cinnamon Toast Crunch is a good sign; I'm the kind of guy who isn't picky about the name on the box so long as there's the requisite amount of sugar-per-serving.

DIY almond bark... That's a step farther down the dark alley. It's not like Aldi is Ikea--I expect my plastic-wrapped chocolate to be pre-assembled, even at a quirky discount chain like Aldi.

What separates my encounter with the almond bark construction kit from my other Aldi encounters is that there didn't seem to be any almonds in the package--neither slivered, nor sliced. It was, so far as I can tell, a package of baking chocolate with carefully-targeted packaging, expertly placed among holiday decorating and baking paraphernalia to attract unsuspecting novice almond-bark-makers.
I don't know if that's brilliant or diabolical.

The Trial of Henry Devereaux, part the 1st

You should call Henry.”
The headlights started dimming at 11PM; about 5 miles from home, but only half a mile from Randy's. Randy is a BMW touring bike owner, a close friend, and while he doesn't always have space in his driveway he's usually willing to move one of his kids' cars to give you a spot to park for the night.
I was stopped at a light when I noticed the flashing “something's wrong, knucklehead” indicator, and I went through the list of known electrical issues that could cause a dimming headlight. Starter-switch corrosion is a known issue (the starter switch also contains a normally-closed headlight switch, hitting the starter kills the headlights so there's more juice for starting), so I thumbed that gently a few times to see if it was just a bad contact: no joy. The stoplight was going to turn green soon and in a panic I wiggled the kill-switch, hoping it was a bad contact there. I over-enthusiastically killed the engine (along with any hope I had of a restful sleep that night.) When it was clear there wasn't enough juice to turn the engine over, I pushed the bike onto the sidewalk and ran a more thorough check of vital systems: the hissing battery was basically all I needed to give up hope of getting the bike started again. I called Randy and rolled up to his driveway at 11:23.

Randy had a beer ready as I stripped off the riding leathers, and asked all the pertinent I-own-a-motorcycle questions about switches and components. We stared at the bike for another five minutes before he scratched his head and invoked the name of Henry Devereaux. 

Untitled 7-2014

I saw a face in an open window
She looked back with strained compassion
"Are you really so much like me?" I asked
She did not give an answer

I walked on, then,  and left her
The one whose face I recognized
But did not expect to see again

Some years later, I passed that way
Saw the same window, still open,
Though perhaps the house was different
The face I saw in that open window
Was as much a reflection as ever


Life is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. What is going on, what is growing and resting and straining, is so much more than we can ever know  and even that is only one face of life, one side of a door.
Life contains so much, and is yet itself wrapped up in much more. Frankly, thinking of an unknowable and unchangeable future simultaneously bores and frustrates me. My devotion to the ideal of free will, however, leaves me with a stark reflection at the end of 32 years: so little in our lives is freely chosen, and that which is inside the sphere of "choice" is usually not what you think it is. Children, for example, are often lumped into "chosen" or "a surprise." Yet despite willfully pursuing pregnancy, my wife and I felt very little sense of control over any of the things that happened in the last year. Now that we have our baby, the baby we "chose" to have, I can't help wondering if anything would have been at all different with a "surprise" baby, a scenario several friends are facing.
Looking into the eyes of my newborn daughter, I am beginning to understand that in many parts of lifenot all, but manythe choice is not what (or even whom) but how. Is it even fair to say that my wife and I chose each other? Whatever your take on that, we (eventually) chose to welcome each other into a new lifefurther up, further in.

I did not choose my daughter, but I have chosen to welcome her into my life, and I must welcome her again each day. Pooping, screaming, vomiting, and smiling. In time, she will welcome us into her life (or not) in a different way. Our life: beginning, continuing, day by day, together.

Sepulveda Vista Point

There are nice parks on the hills south of UCI's campus (heading toward the high-priced zipcodes of Newport Beach coastal canyon condo complexes) that give an amazing lookout over all the rest of Orange County. Most of them close at 6PM or "dusk", and the one I rode up to yesterday was already closed at 5:30.
I find this baffling, since the sunsets from such a vantage are really very lovely. I suppose the residents of Turtle Ridge and Summit Park want to maintain their exclusive ownership of the sunset views?
Or, perhaps yesterday's early closing was an isolated incident, simply because the city employee responsible for locking the gates was in a hurry to get home and watch the Grammy Red Carpet coverage...

I'm on PM shifts this week so it'll be a while before I can get up there around sunset again, but we must find a way.

Chapter 2015

This is not a blog
about a motorcycle
but what if it were?

I've been unsure of how to write on this thing for quite some time now.

I've missed writing, even if I can't remember what structure or schedule produced that writing back when it was frequent. Plenty of drafts are buried in this thing, half-finished ideas prompted by news stories, happenstance in my wanderings, or just reflection on things I've seen or heard. None of them made it beyond outline or first paragraph, though; I stall haven't figured out why, but I don't have to know why to know that I can change it.

"I don't have anything to write about anymore!" is always a lie. I don't know what I'm going to be writing, exactly, but I need to write, so here it is.


...Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything—God and our friends and ourselves included—as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.

from Mere Christianity, Part 51

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins 2001) 118.