Saturday, August 29, 2009

Reinventing Haloween

Sidd was 26 months on his 1st halloween. He had rarely had candy and really had no clue what the evening's festivities were about. Paul at 3 was not much more clear on it. But they were a bit excited about getting out, and even at that age noticed the kids walking around in the evening with big smiles and bags or buckets with things in it.

At the 1st house we visited, Molly and I urged Sidd to extend a little bag we gave him. He looked very puzzled as a lady dropped 3 candies in, "oohing" and "aahing" at the site of the cute boys. He looked down at the candy, up at her, down again, paused, smiled, reached in, grabbed one of them, and triumphantly tossed it back in her platter. Afar as he was concerned, this was a fun new game.

The lady looked at Molly and I, thunderstruck. "My Lord, in 33 years, I have never had a child give me back candy! What a remarkable child!" Truth was he had no idea what to do, nor the signficance of these things being plopped into his bag.

So for 6 more houses, he came with great anticipation for the give /get game. And left the residents stupified at this toddler's behavior.

Paul was in deep observation of the colors, sounds, feels of the various Reese's, M&M's, and other candy wrappings.

US Athlete at Beijing Olympics... Teddy Bear... Out and About...
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2009 (click for larger image)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Important Travel Gear

Always interesting is what a child considers important to take on a trip, without guidance from an adult. For a long overdue visit back in March to his Uncle Geoji in Austin, here was the contents of Paul’s carry-on (he was, in his own words, “almost 7 years old” at the time):

  • Teddy, his confidant, don’t leave home without him

  • Light saber, never know when it will come in handy

  • Journal, to capture “mental pictures” as his teacher Mrs. H has asked for on many occasions

  • Pencil / coloring pack, to ensure the visualizations are vivid

  • 3 books to flip thru

Sidd followed suit in a somewhat expected, “monkey see, monkey do” fashion

Teddy is Ready to Go
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2009 (click for larger image)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

6 More Days to My Birthday

The CarTalk guys once mentioned a simple insight - when you are young you round up your age and look forward to the birthdays. "I am 4 and a half." Later in life, your approximate at best. "I am feeling great," may be the closest to a number that is mentioned. Sidd has been tracking his upcoming birthday the way that NORAD would track an ICBM coming in from Siberia. At his request, I created a simple chart in Excel about 100 days ago and routinely I hear him refer and say "43 more days, dad". Like a sales guy needing to keep in mind the number of selling days left.

Here was his early birthday party in Atlanta, blowing out the candles with Paul and his cousin Ava.

The countdown continues.

Birthday Hurricane
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2009 (click for larger image)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Volume vs. Value of Time

Ah when you're young you have more time that you know what to do with, you just don't track your precious wealth that closely, like a billionaire with 47 estates across 6 continents. Hey, there's more where it came from, right? you get older? Well, your awareness, appreciation, and value of those minutes and hours rises astronomically but your supply of it (usually) diminishes dramatically. There was a time you traded in weeks and months, and now your currency is hours and afternoons for the most part.

So is it the young age we look back to so endearingly, or perhaps the nutty array of free perks lavishly slathered upon us during that time? Someone to bathe me, feed me, drive me around, take my orders, stop conversation to hear me out? Wow, what would that cost to do tomorrow for a week?

Perhaps a greater awareness and appreciation of what one had in those faraway days would have made it that much more sublime, but the contrary may be true: that ignorance of so many things was the source of our bliss, eh?

Take off.... Airborne!
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2009 (click for larger image)

Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2009 (click for larger image)
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2009 (click for larger image)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Value of a Free Gesture

"This is the BEST airplane, dad!"

That was Paul's thundering proclamation as we left the cockpit of Delta 1059, preparing to depart for Seattle. As we had boarded, I realized the last time I had seen a cockpit was pre-9/11 - - it was a 747-400 Lufthansa back in early 1997, when Molly and I were returning from India. So I asked the flight attendant at the doorway.

"Sure but you should do it now. Just stand over here and have them go to the cockpit."
Molly watched the bags, and I followed the boys down the small hallway as this sounded like a photo in the making.

Before I arrived I heard the welcoming words, "Are you gentleman here to see us? Okay, older brother, why don't you sit over here." In one orchestrated move, the co-pilot glided out of his seat, found his hat and lightly placed it on Paul.

"You got a camera dad? This needs a shot, you know."

Just like that, Paul was living the dream, at the helm of a widebody jetliner; not one of those dismembered museum cockpits where you have to visualize the rest of the plane. This baby was getting fueled, loaded with food, & had the pusher truck waiting below. This was the real deal!

"Okay, let's let the little brother sit down." Sidd started twisting the control arm, and the co-pilot triggered a cockpit alarm. It did get Sidd's attention, and the #2 smiled, "Just messing with you, buddy".

The scene ended as quickly and politely as it started, "Okay guys, the captain has to fly this bird" and Sidd was eased out of the chair.

The cost: a little bit of time and effort from one quick minded flight attendant and two amenable pilots.
The value: two boys who are crazy about planes now in a surreal, happy delirium.

Thank you Delta.

Captain Paul... Captain Sidd
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2009 (click for larger image)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Your Best Work is in Front of You

"Dad can you take a photo of my new truck?" Once that request comes in, I usually have 1 calendar day to document the concoction. Any longer? One of the two will say, "You missed it, dad. I broke it and I am making a plane" or some other creation.

I am always shocked at how they don't hang on to any new contraption for more than a couple of days. Even the ones they REALLY love. The urge to re-use the parts for something in their head is just too strong.

My only thought is this is in part self-confidence in one's work, combined with a great curiosity in what is around the corner and a firm believe that "my dreams are bigger than my memories."
Robot Shovel
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2009 (click for larger image)

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Where’s the Waterbed

There is something unnerving yet spell-binding about the non-complacency of people when they are drunk, particularly in a group.

Back in my East Lansing days, Mikey, Jim and I would occasionally sojourn up to the Windy City and stay at Grady’s palatial 3rd floor flat (we are talking 3,000 square feet, 4 BR, 4 bathrooms in an indestructible grand building). On one of those trips, we joined a Christmas party I remember well.

Two guys at the party who were proud of their wrestling pedigree (and a bit drunk) got into a well meaning wrestling match, feeling the need to represent their high school names (to the entertainment of a few others.) They slammed into Grady’s king sized waterbed at one point, creating a small rupture. Not a big tear, so not a big problem; literally a contained one, as the mattress sat in a liner that sat in a wooden frame. But 50+ lubricated onlookers simply could not ignore this. It needed a “NOW” answer.

  • “let’s just staple it, I mean, they do that for people”
  • “tape it to seal it up, then drain it”
  • “how about we connect a hose, and sit on it to make it go faster”
  • “you got any of that glue for flat tires? we can spray it on the hole”
  • “I say let’s drink now and do something about it tomorrow”

Someone did actually attach a hose to the mattress’ main drain hole, hang it out the window and let the water siphon out using gravity. A simple, dry answer, brilliant given the situation, but slow. Hard to demonstrate progress to all the people watching. Drunks want action, now.

After 10 minutes the hose had steadily drained perhaps 2 gallons of 1,000 out the window but the onlookers had drank another 25 beers and arrived at a clear conclusions: slow answers are not good enough. No way.

A “tiger team” of savants had a better idea: pass the mattress out one of the 3rd floor windows to the driveway below. It will: more visually show success; use the energy of at least 15 people; and “solve the problem” in a few minutes, right? A much better idea. Disregard the weight a king size waterbed, the collateral damage to the carpeting, the difficulty in just getting it out of the frame, or the cost of fixing vs replacing a king size mattress they were not paying for anyway. ACTION = SMART.

Even before the team of Einsteins had pulled the mattress out of the frame, Mikey in all his insouciance said, “hey mush head, let’s get a good view from the next window , this is amazing!” And it was. Weird visions came to mind: here were 15 people hell-bent on teaching a baby blob to walk. Initially, getting the mattress up and thru the window’s opening was tough going. But it became less resistant as it's own gravity drew it out into the frigid winter night, slithering out on its own weight.

Unfortunately, no one had “looked down” from the window for anything below. So it was with horror that we watched as this large creature hurtled downward, indiscriminately ripping out the power and telephone lines for the 1st and 2nd floor flats. At each level the mattress met with a burst of electricity as cables were ripped from the building. Building lights flashed dead on the 2nd, then the 1st floor. Finally, the mattress sprawled on the floor, a dead blobbish creature, while the electrical cables writhed around, momentarily arcing electricity and then going dead. (To make matters worse, the 2nd floor unit’s new owner had just moved in that day).

"Oh shit, you guys, oh shit" was the basic reaction three floors up.

People’s true character shines thru in times of conflict. And clearly, the party goers were seasoned pros. “Hide the evidence” was the call to action. "Hey let's just chop it up and throw it in the different dumpsters, all that's left is a bunch of water in the morning." Without any more discussion a dozen single minded partiers raced to the kitchen, then brandishing the knife of choice but without waiting to don coats for the numbing January air they thundered down the stairs, out to the alleyway and hacked the mattress and its patent-pending “wave-neutralizer” filler into pieces. It was a bizarre scene. At the time impressive for their speed and pragmatic approach. But now looking back it's more chilling memory. The tossed the mattress’s “remains” into dumpsters across the nearby buildings, and the came back in with proud grins for solving things so fast. And the water, well it blended into the snow and ice. What people don’t find cannot cause problems, right?

A few mins after the party has resumed a knock emerged from the door. Brian was summoned as one of the hosts, the music was muted. "Hi I just moved to the 2nd floor and my power just died - any idea why?" came the question from the new tenant. "Hmmm, gosh I wish I could help, would like you like to join us for some food or beer?" replied Brian in his trademark helpful manner. His gambit worked, the tenant declined as it was late for either but used the phone to contact CIPS.

I came away with two observations: perhaps what had transpired is a version of what must occur more often than we care to believe in terms of impatience and alcohol; in this case, the drunk cohort iterated two different solutions, from a better, slower one to a faster, much much dumber one.