Friday, October 26, 2007

Haven't Done One Of These In A While, But Hey, It's Friday
(But Not A Not In The News Friday)


I just have a weakness for the fuzzy creature photos at Cute Overload. I think these are perfectly representative of the "Friday Feeling" (especially if, like me, you have to work).



Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why We Can't Forget September 11, 2001



Remember the people of September 11, 2001:
The ones who died, yes, because they had lives and potential.
People of all walks of life, all ages, all races, all political persuasions, all religions.
People who had spouses and children and family and friends.
Some were heroes, like the firefighters and police, decorated military and civilians. Some were heroes for their parenting or volunteer work. Some were heroes just for the way they lived their lives.
Everything they aspired to be was cut short that day.
And they deserve to be honored for their lives, not their deaths.

So we can't forget September 11, we can't pay enough tribute.
We can't give their families and friends their loved ones back.
But we can take one day to explore the memories of their lives.
And be grateful we still have ours and our spouses and our children.
And try to make the most of these lives we still have.

We can't go back to September 10, no matter how much some of us may want to.
It will never come again. We can just do our best today.
And try to make a better tomorrow.

Thanks for reading this.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Saturday, August 04, 2007

I Haven't Done One Of These In, Like, Forever!


This is how I feel this morning.
Sleepy, mellow...yet strangely content, in a way.
Thanks, Cute Overload!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Has It Really Been Almost A Month?

Geez, I'm sorry! I have been my usual state of busy and highly involved with our Due East webcomic but I still like to check in periodically and let everyone know how my family and I are doing.

Due East has been my artistic passion for the first half of this year, really. My wife and I co-write it and I pencil, ink and color it. It is a lot of work but it is really rewarding! The comic's main characters are a couple of multiracial sisters (Black, White and Chinese)

(Click on picture below to see it at full-size in another window)


The comic updates on Mondays and Fridays, although we will take breaks between "books" (we're on Book Three right now). I'm blessed to be able to do the artwork for this comic while on my job (I do phone tech support for a living) without it interfering with my work or irritating my coworkers or supervisors.

Also, my wife and I are still involved in First Light, a Christian band associated with our nondenominational church.

This summer, our kids have been going to a local summer camp during weekdays. They've enjoyed that. Summer camp sure is different now than when I was growing up. Now they have computers and go to the movies but they do go outside and play, go to the park, swimming, bowling and rollerskating/blading. I have to admit, even though it was kind of hard in those days to really get into archery and horseback riding and fishing, but it was still ended up being fun!

I have fond memories from childhood of going camping in groups of dads and sons from my folks' church. We'd wake up and the dads would cook sausage and eggs over a campfire at daybreak. We'd fish and hike and do all kinds of activities on the trip, including swimming in a lake, and come home hot, sweaty and exhausted -- but happy!

Because of my health issues, it makes it difficult for me to take my sons on an overnight or weekend camping trip, much as I would like to. Still, we do spend quality time together and go on drives and visit interesting places...and I do cook for them a lot, which they and I both enjoy.

Summer activities have changed but what really matters is that the boys are happy and are active, plus they still get quality time with their parents.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Independence Day!


I finally got a chance to sit down and blog, so here I am! It's a rainy July 4th, so most outdoor plans have been rained out. (sighs)

The picture above is my name tag from my 20 year high school reunion, which Angel and I attended a few weeks ago. It's my senior year picture in black and white. I was 17 when that picture was taken.

So, it was pretty nice to see some of the people I used to know and be friends with, have conversations with some folks that wouldn't have given me the time of day in high school, and to notice and chat with some people I probably ignored because of my own tunnel vision in those days. I had long, hilarious conversations with a friend I met back in probably second grade. He lived on my street. He was with a friend from the same street who I'd grown up around but hadn't particularly been friends with. We all got along great at the reunion and almost had each other rolling on the floor with laughter. That was great!

Others I had short but meaningful conversations with, finding out what professions we're all in now, how many kids we have and how old they are. Different people brought different perspectives and we seemed to remember each other in different lights, you might say. A lot more people remembered me than I thought would and many seemed to have generally positive memories of me. One person remembered me the way I thought I came across to most people, at least in my latter years in high school: "Stay away from me!" (not the way he phrased it, but close enough)

It was more fun earlier on in the event. No one had name tags at first, so we were all trying to match the faces of the people showing up with the teens we used to know (and be). Some were already drinking beer but no one was drunk, so it was a relaxed social atmosphere. One person even mistook Angel for one of her old friends...

The only other Black person there was a waitress, so I guess I can't blame them for assuming she was one of the former classmates. My class didn't have many Black students... Angel thought it was hilarious!

One former classmate told me he read this blog before coming to the reunion, since I put a link to it on Classmates.com, where I have a profile. We discussed one of the blog entries I did about the coming reunion as well as my work in ISAA. His wife was nice and had some funny stories to tell us.

There was a very good fajita dinner at the restaurant/pub where the event was held. I think everyone enjoyed that.

Some people did seem to only gravitate towards their old high school buds and no one else. That was predictable but annoyingly shallow to watch, since the point of the reunion was to see everyone. But some people have agendas now, just like they did then. I only had one friend who fell into that category, which genuinely surprised me, but I was otherwise enjoying myself so I didn't let it get to me.

Another former classmate humbled me. After learning I had two kids, he asked me for fatherly advice. He'd just gotten the good news he's going to be a first time dad later this year. I guess he's excited and felt a former classmate would be a trustworthy source-? I don't know...but I offered him suggestions that I thought would help him and his wife. Another classmate chimed in with additional good advice then kindly directed him back to actually pay attention to his wife (always a good idea when she's pregnant).

As the night went on, people got more drunk and harder to talk to, so Angel and I left. I felt I had accomplished what I went there to do. I was satisfied.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Saturday, June 09, 2007

High School Reunion Countdown!



One week and counting till my 20 year high school reunion. The anticipation is indeed building and I am looking forward to it! Everything is paid for so all we (me and Angel) have to do is show up.

140 people have said they'll attend. I don't know if 140 will actually show up but at least it should be a good turn out.

Some of my classmates have posted photos of themselves and their spouses on the evite.com site. It's going to be very unique to see them again. Some are already graying. Most of my classmates have kids and at least one of my classmates is a new grandmother already but I don't think she's attending.

It truly is strange to contemplate that it's been 20 years since I graduated. Remembering those times is such a distant memory. I can remember how I felt at my graduation...the New York City trip I took my senior year with my Journalism teacher. Most of rest of high school itself is an effort to remember, a blur I've probably spent more than a small effort to forget. But, for better or worse, it is a part of my history. I can't just completely ignore it since it did shape me into who I would eventually become today.

I know I wasn't very social in high school. There are a few friends that I have been able to reconnect with since then and we've become fairly close and respect each other. I think that's because we actually talked to each other (or in some cases, emailed) and got to know one another again (or in some cases, for the first time). That's just wasn't too easy in high school. A lot of that was because of the clique-ish-ness of high school. I despised the cliques and wanted nothing to do with them -- which, ironically, automatically made me part of the clique that despised cliques. (It can make your brain hurt...)

I guess the main point I'm making is that we all got past that, to one degree or another, and have moved on with our lives. Now some of us are coming back together to learn about each other and be nostalgic for a weekend.

I'll let you know how things go.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Funniest Video I've Seen In A While: Happy Feet 300

Sunday, May 27, 2007

What's Been Going On



I will be very honest, my motivations have been on other creative interests recently. I love the IR Haven blog and I'm still behind everything that it stands for 150%.

In the last few months, however, while I've had a blast thinking up NITNF topics every week, it's also been the primary reason I've been posting to IR Haven at all. Sure, there have been other things I've posted about, mostly "real life" things, but they've been few and far between.

Recently, for Mother's Day, I was motivated to sing lead on a song, Brian Littrell's "You Keep Givin' Me." (video of Littrell's live performance below). That was a wonderful experience and I hope to keep singing lead. It brings out a different side of me, a different creativity I had almost forgotten (since I haven't sung lead in over 10 years). I never stopped performing on electric bass guitar and even started singing backing vocals with First Light, but lead is a different level. It's very scary but equally rewarding.



The other area of creativity I am actively involved in is drawing comics. I started drawing superhero comics when I was 10. I ended up creating a superhero team I called the AR-MEN (don't ask me what the "AR" stands for, I've had no idea for 28 years, it just worked). I built lives and careers and families for the characters and it became almost a generational superhero team.

It was always therapeutic. I started drawing mainly because I couldn't do sports well. I had terrible depth perception because of my nearsightedness and glasses really didn't compensate. And kids being kids, back then it was still cool to pick on kids for having glasses. I dealt with rejection like any kid, I avoided it like the plague and went and did something else: draw.

It became a ritual to go into a room and draw for hours. I'd listen to music and just pour my ideas onto paper with pencil. Never pen, never colors. When I had my major surgeries as a pre-teen, my art kept me sane in the hospital and at home recovering.

In fact, the intensity of what I was going through made for my writing change, it deepened my stories. Characters started going through some serious situations, not just "It's Captain X and his evil hordes attacking, prep the megaship for battle!" No, a teenage lead character had to deal with entrapment through pregnancy by an evil teen female. Did I mention I was 12 when I had the surgeries? And no, I was not seeing/dating anyone at that young of an age, I just had an overactive imagination.

The combination of drawing art and writing story were always releases for my emotions and my stress. I'm convinced the comics kept me stable in high school, because I was a real mess (hmmm, what teenager isn't at one point or another?) for so many reasons (most of which I can't go into, there just isn't room on the blog). I was even drawing the AR-MEN when I went to college and when I met and became friends with Angel. Angel inspired me to write an AR-MEN story about racism. I can truly say it was one of my best single issue stories and it took my writing style to another new level.

When I became a Christian in 1996, I tried to keep writing the AR-MEN comics but have one of the characters become a Christian and see where things went from there. It really didn't work. I felt that I did a good job with the Christian character but continuing to write superhero comics was problematic. Unless you want the most boring, overintellectualized superhero comics in the universe, you must have fighting in superhero stories. I decided that I needed to end the AR-MEN stories...and I did.

But just because you stop writing the stories, it doesn't mean the stories or the desire to creatively express goes away. An artist is always an artist, whether they like it or not. I had a breakthrough idea: As a Christian, I wanted to offer up my talents to the Lord and see what He would bless me with. And I didn't want to do it alone. I asked Angel if she would help me write a brand new non-superhero story that would somehow be Christian. I wanted us to write and create as a team.

We prayed together and we asked the Lord to bless us with the characters and the story and the ability to put it all together in a way that it would appeal to the average person, not just Christians, while still remaining strong in His message.

We had to wait a few years for everything to come together but it was so worth the wait! The first thing that developed was a really rough idea of the story premise and an idea for a short dream sequence. We also created a small list of main characters, a mixed-race family that went through a bitter separation and divorce.

The characters are: a Asian/Caucasian man, an African-American woman and their two daughters as well as one of the daughter's best friends, who happens to be a real Christian. The parents stay in touch to keep up with their children's lives and over six years, the parents' bitterness lessens and to their surprise, they fall in love again. So now the family has to try and undo the damage caused by six years of divorce and estrangement (the father and daughter moved away to Canada as part of a relocation by the father's job).

The next logical question for us as writers was "What part does the Christian friend play in all this and what will make this a Christian comic?" We had to wait for that answer, too. But what an answer we ended up getting!

The comic officially made it's debut in 2003 and we have been working hard at it ever since. It began as a comic strip, although probably more like Sunday comics size than the traditional 3 to 5 panel "gag at the end" strip you see in the daily newspapers. The first 38 strips comprised the initial story, what we ended up calling "Book One." That took the longest, almost four years. I got inspired to go ahead and go back to full-page comic book style instead of comic strip style. Book Two took 4 months to write and draw and is 22 pages. We're now working on Book Three.

Here are the characters:


We initially hosted it on Comic Genesis but I also recently mirrored it on Drunk Duck (DD for short, and don't let the name fool you, it's a neat community!). Both webhosts are free. I have been more impressed with DD because it has a great commenting and rating system and a good user interface for organizing your site plus an active and healthy forum area that encourages community communication. So I will give the link to our comic on DD, Due East starting at the very first strip. Click on the graphic below to start reading the comic (opens another browser window or tab)!



We put up a webpage for detailed backgrounds on the characters here and more detail on the background story here.

In conclusion, I just wanted to let you all know that I haven't forgotten IR Haven, I've just been in another creative vein right now. I will have inspiration for IR Haven, too, but I'm waiting on it. I don't want to put just anything online, I want to give my best!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Monday, May 21, 2007

No NINTF/S This Weekend


"I'm Sorry" pic

I'm sorry, with all the preparations that led up to Mother's Day (which went great! I'll write about it soon.), I just needed a week to take it easy and recuperate. All is well. NITNF will be back this Friday!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Not In The News Friday Saturday (NITNS):
Mother's Day Edition




NITNS will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

Tomorrow is Mother's Day -- and I have a lot planned! There's a big Mother's Day program at church that's done by the men (of all ages) of the church for the mothers. Normally, I assist with the music by playing electric bass but this year, I will actually be singing lead on one of the songs, in addition to playing bass on other songs. This has been both exciting and nerve-wracking at times. I also decided to ask my wife, whom I consider a vocal expert, to train me on this. I know it took some of the surprise out it but it also gave me the best chance of doing my very best. It also gave me a chance to serenade her privately, which I can verify she enjoyed...a lot! She's also been my cheering section and personal encouragement coach in this.

I used to sing a lot right before she and I met and even through the time we got married, but since settling down and work and the kids and then the non-profit organization, etc., I just lost some of my drive to sing. In the last few years, I have begun singing background vocals while bass-playing for our band, First Light, and that's been wonderful...but I'd been waiting for inspiration to sing lead again. Well, this year and this Mother's Day, I got inspired.

Anyway, even though our minivan has been on the fritz, I rented a car for the weekend from Enterprise (I love their service). After a bit of negotiations (who knew so much was involved in using a debit card?), I got a Kia Optima and it is niiiiice! So we will travel in style with no vehicular worries.

In addition, I will be home cooking for my lovely wife, the mother of my two wonderful boys, and I am happy to do it, too. And she is cool with this, which makes it all the better. I have something scrumptious planned -- mmmmmm!

I haven't left my mother or my mother-in-law out but I don't want to go into detail here, either. I'll just say that I love them very much and am grateful for them.

My mother has been a great influence on me my whole life. She made it a point to encourage me to feel good about myself growing up, especially when I had childhood bullies (who didn't have childhood bullies? I'm convinced even bullies have bullies!) She (and my father) tried hard to install Christian values in me while I was growing up and there has never been a doubt in my mind that she has loved me unconditionally every single day of my life. And she has spread that love to include my wife and children now...but I know she has that special personal love for me that a mother only has for her son.

And although I'm not always so good at expressing it, I have an intensely deep love and respect for my mother. Since I am so ridiculously busy at times, I try to show her what I've learned from my parents by being the best husband and father I can to my my wife and children. I know she sees this and is pleased by it.

Likewise, my mother-in-law is very special to me. She accepted me unconditionally from the first day I met her, before my wife and I even started dating. She has always believed in me and has made me feel like her son. I will always be grateful for that because, being in an interracial marriage, and with all the challenges we faced, her belief and love was a reassurance in those difficult times. She's a remarkable woman.

Family is so important. Really, though, for better or worse, sometimes family is all we have (in a non-spiritual sense). I know we all have difficulties sometimes and some relatives may be easier to get along with than others... Some family relationships unfortunately become unhealthy and for reasons of safety or sanity, sometimes it's best for some relatives not to be around each other. I understand that, but closer to home, I can say condidently that I love my wife dearly and passionately. Likewise, my children mean the world to me. And I love all of my blood relatives and in-laws (which I treat and consider the same as blood relatives). To me, that's all that matters.

Have a Happy Mother's Day!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Not In The News Friday Saturday (NITNS)



NITNS will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This week, I want to make some commentary on an article I ran across this morning. The article link is for a artistic display called "Half Asian" that ran from February 2, 2007 through March 27, 2007 in Oakland, California.

From their website, here is the synopsis of the project:

Aishman and Sloat met in Boston during graduate studies in the Tufts University/Boston Museum School program. They began the Half Asian project in 2001, interested in expressing the unique condition of being multi-racial Asian. Ben (Half-Taiwanese) and Steve (Half-Japanese) had shared experiences of being mistaken for a number of different races, for being assumed to not be Asian while in Asia, despite speaking the native language, and for being interested in creating a visual community of half-Asians where a physical community is not possible.

The first element of the Half Asian project is the Trilogy photographic series, where more than 100 people have been photographed. The project has since continued to involve more photographic series, as well as video works and multimedia installation pieces. Work from this project has been shown in galleries and museums on the East and West Coasts and has been reviewed in the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, and the New York Times.


Now, while I don't have any problems with exploring one's whole identity, I do have a problem with intentional segregation of your "halves" such as this project explores, tongue-in-cheek fashion or not. I was discussing this project with a friend who is part-Korean and that's when it dawned on me...

With my sons, I never think about their "Black Half" or "White Half" or their "Native American 1/16th" -- they are Black and White and Native American. They are the sum of their parts, they do not pick and choose what part they are today or tomorrow. It is the completeness -- the blend -- of all of these genetic traits and cultural heritage that makes them who they are and makes them special.

Identity is the sum of what makes you uniquely you.

Or to put it another way: racial segregation has always been bad and it always will be. Let's leave it in the past where it belongs.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Source: 'Half Asian' exhibit provokes questions about race

Source: halfasian.us

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Not In The News Friday Saturday (NITNS)



NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

I am still determined to crank out an NITN every week, whether Friday or Saturday! So, this week's story is kind of a continuation about my amazing kids. Yesterday, my oldest son was on the "old laptop" (Dell Latitude CP-i - circa 1997) which has Windows 2000 and somehow figured out how to record himself playing the recorder onto the laptop hard drive -- using Windows Media Player 9 and no microphone!

Now, what makes this pretty amazing and cool is that neither my wife nor I could figure out how he did it! We're the adults, after all, and I'm supposed to be the computer whiz of the family! Pretty amusing, actually.

And don't think I intend to leave out my youngest son. He quietly impresses by consistently being on the Honor Roll at school and never making less than a 90 on well, anything! He gets really upset at dropping from a grade of 99 to 97, like it's a major failure! I had to give a little perspective on that, like how many people would be very, very happy with a 97? Also, he's a gaming genius (both he and older brother are) on the Nintendo Gamecube or whatever he can wrap his brain around.

I could say so much more about my sons...but I'll leave that for future posts.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Saturday, April 21, 2007

My New "Toy"



As I wrote yesterday, I got a new laptop. This is the first brand new laptop I have ever bought. I went with a Dell because I know their workmanship and you can get some pretty good deals through Dell's website. I looked at this as an investment, so I went ahead and loaded up on the features I felt I'd use most, such as the processor (a 1.73 Ghz Intel duocore), ram (2 GB) and video ram (256MB NVidia GeForce Go 7300 Turbocache). It has an 80GB harddrive and the Windows Vista Premium operating system.

Once I got it out of the packaging and set up the AC adapter, it took me a few hours to configure it the way I like. I got rid of some softwares I felt were unnecessary or intrusive, like McAfee Security Center and Google Desktop. Once I tapped into my secure wireless network, I downloaded and installed software that I wanted such as Firefox, AVG Free Antivirus and Open Office 2.2.

Then there was the defragging. I thought that was going to take forever! But I had to do it, all the uninstalling and installing was really slowing down the laptop.

I was very impressed with the way Vista Premium looks! I know it's only doing things that Macs have been doing for years but I never thought I'd find a version of Internet Explorer that actually worked well and looks pretty good! I still have a preference for Mozilla Firefox but IE was working hard to get my attention.

Also, I was relieved that Microsoft still makes it possible to do just about everything four different ways in Windows. If the "new" way doesn't suit you, or you want to access an "old" tool, all you have to do is dig a little and you'll find it.

I still have more goodies to install and bookmarks to copy from Google Bookmarks, etc. but I am already very happy with my new toy.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Friday, April 20, 2007

Did I Mention I Have Incredible Kids?


My oldest son did something remarkable today. I had ordered a new laptop from Dell and it was scheduled to be delivered sometime today. I let my sons know about this before they went to school this morning.

I was concerned that it might be delivered while no one was home and that I'd have to contact them and re-schedule the delivery for some other day. And of course, they did come in the early afternoon, leaving a note that they'd tried to deliver the package.

Enter my oldest son. He sees the note when he and his brother get home, calls the shipping company and asks what it would take for the package to be re-delivered this afternoon. The shipping company asked him several questions, so he went over across the parking lot to the leasing office and asked them the questions. After getting the answers, he relayed that info to the shipping company over the phone.

They then asked him for the tracking number for this shipment, so he promptly called me on the cell phone to ask for the tracking number. As it happens, I had easy access to that information and relayed it to him, which he relayed to the shipping company. Somehow, he then arranged for the package to be delivered to the front office of the apartment complex and signed for by one of the staff. My son then proudly picked up the package and went back upstairs to the apartment with it.

I was supremely impressed at his initiative and his desire to help me get something that he knew is important to me. He showed a lot of love, intelligence, problem-solving and determination. It means a lot to me. I had to share it with my wife and she was equally amazed and proud.

Just some more positivity to share this Friday.

Best Wishes,
Allen
Not In The News Friday (NITNF)



NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This week, there's been plenty in the news. Plenty of horror with the Virginia Tech massacre and plenty of mourning. Today is actually a Day of Mourning. But I wasn't about to let that detract from NITNF. Instead, I'd like to offer one person's story of hope and triumph in the midst of a life-threatening illness. I don't know her personally but this story is truly inspiring. This is Kim's story.

Kim's Story
Originally written Saturday, August 12, 2006

Kim was diagnosed with a GBM in 2004. In her story, which she has titled, "An Unwelcome Stranger," she shares how she has coped with radiation and chemotherapy. She expresses her hope that her story can be a "light at the end of the tunnel" for others.

March 3, 2004 started out like any other day, but ended in a way that changed my life forever....

I was at work, like every Monday through Friday, and was sitting at my desk working on my computer. That was my last memory until waking up in the Emergency Room of a local hospital. I had no idea what was going on. I was terrified! A nurse or doctor told me that I had had a seizure at work and that I was at the Emergency Room. I thought I was hearing things. There must be a mistake...I've never had a seizure before and I had been feeling fine. My brain would not believe what my ears were hearing. I asked what time it was and when I was told it was 4:15 pm, I couldn't believe that either. Last time I remembered looking at the clock it was 1:00 pm and I had just got back to my desk from lunch. How could over three hours have passed! I couldn't accept what was being told to me. My head was spinning a mile and minute and I just couldn't comprehend what was being told to me. I have never been so scared in my whole life.

I asked if my boyfriend had been notified and they said that he was on his way. I was so relieved when he got there. I kept telling him that I wanted to go home and that they have the wrong person; that they somehow made a mistake. He told me so gently that they didn't make a mistake and that I did have a seizure. He said that my boss and some co-workers were sitting in the lobby of the Emergency Room and he had spoken with them. They came back to see me and from the looks on their faces, I knew that everything that was told to me was true...I really did have a seizure.

During the next few weeks, I underwent many tests to see if the doctors could figure out what caused my seizure. I was so hoping that it was just some sort of fluke that I had a seizure. I wasn't sick or having headaches or anything like that before the seizure, so I thought for sure that the doctors would not be able to find anything that caused it. Unfortunately they did find out what caused my seizure; a brain tumor. I was devastated. I had brain surgery almost immediately. Waiting for the results of the surgery was so agonizing.

About four days after surgery my surgeon called for me to come in. I knew right then that it was bad news. And I was right. He said I had a tumor; it was a GBM. He was holding my hand the whole time he was talking to me. I had him on one side of me and my boyfriend on the other side of me. The doctor said that I had to put my life on hold and spend every minute trying to get better.

I immediately started radiation; 33 treatments which took 6 1/2 weeks. Along with the radiation I took chemo pills too. I was extremely sick! I remember crying a lot saying that I was so sick and tired of being sick and tired. My boyfriend would never let me have negative thoughts and always told me not to give up hope and most importantly - told me that I was going to survive this. At that point in time I didn't believe him. I wasn't eating, or drinking, or doing much of anything but sleeping. My doctor said that was OK, that that is what my body needed. I slept 20 hours a day, I lost 30 lbs. and looked and felt like a rag.

I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel, but my boyfriend kept telling me that it was right there, that he could see it. He never once showed me how afraid he was. I continued with chemo even after radiation was done and went from taking pills every day to taking them less frequently. Slow, but steady, I started feeling better. I was able to stay awake more and able to eat; actually was getting my appetite back! I had many MRI's, still do, and every one of them since surgery has come back clear! I am so very fortunate. And I am so very fortunate that I had a person like my boyfriend in my corner. He is my number one supporter! He made me a believer! He also made me his wife!

It is now 28 months since my surgery and I am doing great! I am so very fortunate that I am doing so well and have no residual affects from all of this.

I've realized many things over the past couple of years. One of them, that life can change at the drop of a dime; that cancer doesn't only happen to "other" people; that this unwelcomed stranger can show up at any one's door at anytime. I've also realized how many people love me and care about me. It still amazes me. My co-workers brought dinners almost every night during my radiation. And everyone always sent cards, good wishes and prayers. My family and I have also grown closer together. I am finally back to feeling "normal" again. I still get tired some days, but other then that I feel good. I have been off of chemo since November, 2005 and life couldn't be sweeter.

So when you are in need of that light at the end of the tunnel, the same one that for awhile I couldn't see, just think about me and I can be that light for you.

I hope that everyone who reads this goes away with a smile on their face and hope in their heart.

Source: American Brain Tumor Association - Survivor Stories

Monday, April 16, 2007

Feeling A Bit Better...



If nothing else, I can say I got rest and spent some quality time with my family last weekend. Being sick also forced me (forced me, I tell you!) to take Friday and Saturday off from work. Several days, some antibiotics, narcotic cough syrup and many liquids later -- plus a healthy dose of TLC from my wife and kids -- and I am on the road to recovery.

I actually went to work today, which was an interesting experience. I woke up this morning just barely feverish -- with a temperature of 98.9 -- feeling icky and sore beyond belief. I finally got some relief from that after getting some ibuprofen on the way to work but still quite woozy and disoriented. After some prayer before starting, I managed to muddle my way through.

I have to take this medicine through tomorrow, then my brain should be able to focus better. Prayers and well-wishes are appreciated.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Friday, April 13, 2007

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This week...I'm pretty ill. I actually went to the doctor today because I'd been feverish for two days with what felt like a head cold. The doc explained that there's a bad bacterial infection going around and it's very infectious. Anyway, he prescribed antibiotics, cough medicine, rest and plenty of liquids.

So, peace out this weekend. I'll be back soon!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Not In The News Saturday Friday (NITNF)



NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

I'm going to have to start brainstorming on Thursdays because I am creatively dry these last few Fridays. After a good night's sleep, I can usually come up with something pretty decent. Here we go this week...

This June is my 20 year high school reunion. Yep, I graduated with the Class of 1987. I was not enthusiastic about the 10 year reunion. We could afford to go but they wanted to hold it in a beer hall and that was, well, repulsive to me. So I passed on that opportunity, even though it meant not seeing my old friends and fellow classmates. I really wasn't ready, either.

A few years later, I tried to organize a "Millennium Reunion" for 2000. The idea failed miserably (apparently, a lot of the ones who did go to the 10 year reunion didn't want to be reminded of it a few years later) but it did give me a chance to change my feelings about contacting and meeting my old classmates.

In high school, I was fairly shy and reclusive. My passion at the time was journalism, but I was also very involved in drawing comic books and developing my interests in music. I didn't date and I was totally into heavy metal, death metal and black metal. And just to make life a little more interesting, I was the first student in my high school's history to do album reviews on such lively (or is that "deadly") music. It earned me the nickname "Satan," which I found hysterical at the time (I don't anymore).

By the time I was 16, I had my first electric bass guitar and amplifier, plus sound effects foot pedals for flanging, heavy metal distortion and digital delay. Interestingly enough, none of these effects are usually associated with electric bass guitar -- but you might say, I was inspired. I also had my first cheesy Casio synthesizer keyboard which also had a built-in cheesy drum machine (cheesy, that is, until pumped through digital delay effects).

My musical inspiration for electric bass was Steve Harris of Iron Maiden. Oddly enough, my vocal inspiration was Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Initially, I recorded just about everything I did on a little jambox with a tape recorder. By age 18, I would rent four-track recorders for more complex recordings that were closer to "real songs." It was a fun, crazy experimentation period in my life, although some of the songs would probably either bore you to tears (especially the bass only instrumentals, although they did help me learn quickly) or make your hair curl. I am sure I contributed to the growth of many of my parents gray hairs during that time period. A couple of years later, I would actually go into the studio to digitally record my first (and only) solo album titled Allen Steadham - Dreams & Wishes. It took 3 years to record, had 9 songs and was 44 minutes long.

Okay, 20 years have passed. Many of my classmates are either married or divorced, have children, etc. I can only imagine how much each of them may have changed with the experiences they've had over the last two decades. I know I have radically changed. Physically, I really haven't changed much (although I'll admit, I do miss some of my hair sometimes -- oh well)...but I have truly changed emotionally and spiritually. As you can see by the musical influences of my teen years, even though I was a part of a family that called itself Christian, nothing about my life reflected that...quite the opposite.

All I can say to that is I am so glad God intervened in my life and gave me the chance to turn things around.

So, I'm looking forward to the 20 year reunion. I didn't realize how many friends I had until the years passed and I thought about all the people I had individual good memories with and fun experiences. I had so many bad memories of high school as a result of my own angst, which didn't have much to do with any one person in particular, that I didn't think much on the good times. When I started to do that, it really lifted the dark "angst cloud" and helped me see that we were just a bunch of kids with no idea what we were doing. There's something strangely comforting in that concept.

Anyway, I have no idea what to expect from the reunion but my interactions with my classmates who are organizing it have been positive. It's still months away but I'll let you know how things go.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Saturday, March 31, 2007


Not In The News Friday (NITNF)

NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This is starting to turn into Not In The News Saturday...sigh. Anyway, today's is another personal story but I found it rather amusing. Last night, after I got home from work, we were watching the digital video recorder (DVR) together. Me, being "Chief Star Trek Geek" of the family and probably most of North Austin, we were watching a recorded episode of Voyager and then an episode of Enterprise.

During the Enterprise episode, one of the characters was visiting family and friends on another spaceship and one of his female childhood friends comes to visit him in his temporary guest quarters on the ship. My wife kind of rolled her eyes and said "Of course...the love interest...you've always got to have the love interest." And then my oldest son says, in the same tone of voice: "Always white and skinny" and then he walked off to do something else.

Did I mention he's 11 years old? My wife and tried really hard to contain our laughter. What better indictment of Hollywood than a pre-teen noticing the entertainment industry's standard of beauty and being irritated enough with it to walk out of the room?

I didn't see it as racist or reverse-sizist -- he just found the whole scenario predictable and, based on his expression, boring.

Poetic justice or an indication of the future? You be the judge.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)



NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This week, first of all, is a little late, but also it's about the story that wasn't. Let me explain. I was seriously considering putting a YouTube video of a sneak peak at an upcoming independent film about a Blasian (Black and Asian) couple and what they go through to have a relationship...but I thought better of it because (A) it was a little too er, steamy in one scene and (B) something just didn't feel right. So, when I discussed it with my wife, she had an insight that I hadn't considered, which is what I want to write about this week.

There have been, for better or worse, a string of IR-themed movies and shows over the last 20 years or so: Jungle Fever, Mississipi Masala, Guess Who (the mediocre remake of the 1962 classic "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner"), Monster's Ball, Hitch and several others I'm sure I'm not remembering at the moment. Each has covered different aspects of interracial relationships. Some have been biased (Jungle Fever, anyone?), many have been what I'll call defeatist -- the writers clearly want interracial relationships to work but they ultimately don't think they will (Mississippi Masala), and it's reflected in their story, and some have been pretty positive (Hitch).

Ultimately, though, it's 2007 now. Haven't we moved beyond the viewing interracial relationships under a microscope, like they're such an anomaly that we can't possibly understand? Fortunately, I think some moviemakers "get it" and we've had a lot of interracial relationships as part of recent movies that don't make any mention of race and there's no tension/struggle caused because of it ("Hitch" was that way). I think that's truly the way to go, because that's the way it's becoming in reality.

I mentioned to my wife that the movie I was going to use the clip from had some stereotypical bigots and she reminded me, there really are people who still feel that way and act that way...so it's not that far a stretch to see it in a film. But we (the viewing public) don't need our hands held and to be told how interracial relationships are good and racism is bad. We know these things and have our own opinions, whether we agree or disagree. It's time to just move on and have interracial relationships be shown relative to our (growing) number in the population (currently somewhere between 5% and 15% in the U.S., I believe, depending on what source you use -- it may be more, I don't know).

I wish I could say we've moved beyond that in terms of race representations in movies but Hollywood is still a bit mired in the quota system. Even so, at least actors don't really have to act stereotypical just to make it into a film like they did in the 1960s through the 1980s. For example, I loved "Sixteen Candles" (1984) but Gedde Watanabe was the epitome of the Asian stereotype -- an to make it worse, he was in an interracial romance with the "awkward tall, buxom white chick". And there was the whole "blaxploitation" era of the 1970s, etc.

There's obviously room for progress in film concerning interracial relationships but at least it's no longer being treated as a taboo like it once was. Little by little, things are improving and IRs are becoming more mainstream. It's very welcome and long overdue.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Friday, March 16, 2007

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)



NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This week, I'm going to tell you another story. You see, this weekend is Angel's and my 12th wedding anniversary. I've been in charge of planning things this year. Angel is the master planner of the last 2 or 3 years. She's done an excellent job but it was time for me to take a shot at it. So, budgeting with what we have, I decided on doing something more local this year but still fun.

I made plans for the kids to stay with relatives and for me and Angel to have a nice hotel somewhere near or around town. I went online looking for deals this week and I was actually disappointed with a couple of online services I'd used before but lo and behold, William Shatner did NOT disappoint!

I found Priceline.com had the best selection and deals for the price -- and that was even without using their "Name Your Own Price" roulette wheel! It took a little while but I found something perfectly appropriate in a nice area just north of Austin and within our budget. I secured the deal online and printed out the itinerary.

I work a half-day tomorrow and then we take the kids to the relatives, check into our hotel and have a nice dinner and relaxing evening. Sunday (March 18th) will actually be our wedding anniversary and we will pick up the kids in the evening.

I keep hearing more and more how staying married for 12 years is considered an unbelievable accomplishment in and of itself, nevermind being an interracial marriage, too! We've been through a lot over these years but we're still each other's best friend. We've learned to lean and depend on one another and we deeply, deeply love and respect one another. Although we don't know what tomorrow might bring, we want to spend the rest of our lives with each other, growing old together and we thank the Lord for each day we have.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Saturday, March 10, 2007

No NITNF This Week, But There Are Things Worth Blogging About...


...sorta.


My apologies. I just couldn't think up anything interesting this week for Not In The News Friday (NITNF). Yes, I could scour IMDB.com for some trivia or something but I like for NITNF to be inspired. If it's interesting to me, I can hope that it's interesting to you. By the same logic, if it's not interesting to me, how can I expect it to be interesting to you?

A lot has been going on in Real LifeTM. The van was in the shop from last Thursday through this Wednesday. And yet, we didn't miss one day of work and the kids never missed school. That's not to say it was a piece of cake, and I did way more walking than I should have (ended up with a low fever and leg cramps by Wednesday, my "overkill" day). The transmission place ended up having to replace the torque converter, some seals and the filters...and it still has a leak, just nowhere near the Niagara Falls it was last Thursday! I plan on taking it back on Wednesday, assuming it can hold out till then. It also seems to have sprung an oil leak (no fun). I blame the extreme cold weather we had last month but one way or the other, it will need to be fixed.

In the meantime, I've been working on my little laptop that I got for Christmas. It had been running very, very slow with Windows 2000. I eventually got frustrated and decided to just downgrade it to Windows 98SE (Second Edition), so I wiped the hard drive, only to find out my CDROM was not working well enough to install Windows (or any other operating system). This left me with a mini-dilemma...

Warning: your eyes may glaze over for a moment while technical details are explained. Do not worry, the effect is only temporary. Do not adjust your monitor. My laptop is a Dell Latitude CPi. It is truly a wonder of its time (1997), a lightweight, compact workhorse designed for business users. The laptop has a robust 266 Mhz processor, 64 MB of EDO RAM, a 3 GB hard drive and modular bay that supports floppy and cdrom modules (just not at the same time).

In the midst of my frustration over not having a working CDROM for the laptop, I looked at other options, including Linux distributions...except that most of those are installed via CD. I actually found some decent versions that I downloaded to my PC and created boot floppies for. The best was Blue Flops, a stable two-floppy distribution that includes the graphical web browser called Links. Once I connected my laptop to its port replicator (which has an ethernet port) and booted up this distribution and configured it for DHCP, I was able to cruise the web using Links (I had to take some time configuring the video driver settings in Blueflops then it worked beautifully). But that was the only thing I could get to work well, so I knew I needed a better solution.

I went to the local computer antique shops (Austin's "Goodwill Computer Works" and "Discount Electronics") but they didn't have what I needed, in terms of a CDROM or other upgrades (but man, if you need a Dell Latitude floppy drive, you'll have no problem getting a replacement!). Finally, my brother-in-law was able to give me a replacement CDROM for the laptop and it works brilliantly.

I spent all Thursday trying to make a dual-boot system (Windows 98SE and Linux). I went through over half a dozen distributions but they would all hang on the video driver (a 2 MB NeoMagic video card) and/or the ISA Soundblaster-compatible Crystal 4237B soundcard. By evening, I gave up on putting Linux on the laptop, reformatted the whole drive and put a clean install of Windows 2000 back on. I know...ironic, huh? But I'd like to think I set this version up pretty well.

Now, in all fairness to Linux distributions, I know there are real and working solutions for every single issue I faced. I know I could Google my way out of that box and make it all work...I simply have the patience of a Windows user and I admit it.

Putting on a clean install of the OS (Operating System) instead of just an upgrade helps. Then, I only put on the Windows service packs (and not the infinite Windows/MS Updates), run Firefox for the browser (instead of Internet Explorer) and put AVG Free on for security (antivirus). I have a wireless PCMCIA card and Windows 2000 (Win2K) found that no problem after I installed the Netgear software and drivers and I was able to connect to the internet wirelessly. I also picked up a 1GB flash drive to essentially add a Gig of space to my laptop's hard drive storage.

I did get one thing from Discount Electronics, a Dell laptop backpack. Now that I have the laptop the way I want it again, I may actually take it places (Whooooaa!) that have a wifi connection. The backpack looks brand new, is nicely cushioned, has plenty of space, pockets, etc. (I even tested it by fitting both the port replicator and the laptop inside it without any problems, although I won't be keeping the port replicator in it now that the wireless works) and I couldn't beat the price: $29!

I've imported all my bookmarks from Google bookmarks (I love that feature!) and customized my profile, browser theme and extensions. All I still need is word processing software and to upgrade my Windows Media Player (version 9 is the highest I can put on Win2K).

I already use Google Docs but there will be occasions when I need to write offline and I'd like the capability (sure, I could use Notepad but, please!) I like AbiWord for a standalone word processor. It essentially has all the features of MS Word and it's free! I really like Open Office but it's too bulky and memory intensive for my old laptop and really, all I'd really use is word processing anyway.

I do all of my chat in Firefox on Meebo.com and most of my email on Gmail, so those don't require any memory-intensive software.

As you can see, with the CDROM replaced and an actual OS on my "vintage laptop," I've been having a lot of fun with it!

And for those of you who have glazed -- SNAP OUT OF IT! THE BLOG ENTRY'S OVER!!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Friday, March 02, 2007

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)



NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

Now, sometimes it is true that real life is stranger than fiction! The following is a true story. Yesterday was one of my days off, and as I was driving my wife to work, our van started having trouble changing gears (it's an automatic transmission). This was especially troubling since we'd had the transmission replaced last year.

After I dropped off my wife, I called the transmission shop and asked if they could look at it. The owner said he could see it later in the morning. I had a doctor's appointment and a couple of errands to run anyway, so that was fine. By the time I was done with my appointment and errands, the van was almost undriveable, but I did get it to the shop. While I was waiting for it to be seen, I noticed it was leaking red transmission fluid. I let the owner know and when he took it around the the back, where the bays were, the van was leaking like a water hose! We both agreed it was definitely undriveable at that point.

I asked the owner what it would cost to get it fixed. He quoted me $350 -- then he thought for a second, and he asked me if I did computer graphics. I said I worked with computers, yes. He told me he had a laptop that was giving him error messages and wouldn't let him install an external hard drive. He asked if I could maybe fix it for him. I said I probably could, then he showed me what he had. The laptop was 4 or 5 years old and was running Windows Millennium Edition (ME). It also had a Windows XP Home Edition upgrade CD. He also had a Buffalo 320 GB USB 2 external hard drive.

So we cut a deal: I would upgrade his laptop and get his external hard drive installed and he would fix the transmission. The only catch was that he needed the laptop ready by afternoon (it was about 10:00 am by this point). No problem. He even dropped me and the laptop off at home, where I wired it into my router and went to work.

It was easy enough to upgrade it to XP as a clean install, it just took a little while (the laptop had a 1 Ghz Intel processor and 128mb of RAM with a 15 GB hard drive). Once I got XP installed, I just hooked in the external hard drive through its included USB 2 cable to one of the USB ports on the laptop and XP recognized it and installed drivers immediately. I went ahead and installed the backup software from its CD.

The final steps were a pain, though. I had to defragment the hard drive because with all the upgrades, it was running very slow. Then I had to download and install Windows XP Service Pack 2. That seemed to take forever! But I was able to finish up, repack everything into their boxes and cases and get it to the owner when he arrived. He was happy (he needs it for this weekend) and said the van would be ready on Monday, no charge.

That was just the coolest feeling! And I couldn't help but feel like that was an opportunity that just dropped out of heaven -- so I had to thank the Lord for that. And then, one of my wife's female coworkers offered to pick her up and drop her off over the few days we are van-less -- and since they both work for the same temp agency, she'll take Angel to get her check and cash it today! And as for me, I rode the bus today, and I can do it tomorrow and Monday, if need be. The bus drops me off a couple of blocks from work -- and I have a friend at work who can drop me off in the evenings. And my kids' school is within one block of our apartment...

Really and truly, I feel blessed.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Friday, February 23, 2007

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)



NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This week, a little multimedia -- the trailer for the MAVIN Foundation's documentary Chasing Daybreak.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)



NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This week, in honor of Valentine's Day and interracial marriage in general, I am happy to present the Interracial Interchangeable Brides and Grooms wedding cake toppers from vibride.com

Source: Vibrides.com: Interacial Interchangeable Brides and Grooms

Friday, February 09, 2007

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)



NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This week, I happened upon an interesting book about being biracial by...someone who's biracial! I thought I'd share What Are You? by Pearl Gaskins

Here's a little about the author:

Pearl Gaskins is an award-winning journalist with 12 years of experience interviewing young people and writing about the issues that concern them--from prejudice and peer pressure to divorce and drug abuse. This is her first book.

The child of an interracial marriage--her mother is Japanese-American and her father is European-American--Ms. Gaskins created What Are You? as a forum for mixed-race young people to share their experiences, wisdom, and creativity. She also hopes the book will inform and enlighten current and future parents of mixed-race children, facilitate family dialogue about racial differences, and inspire readers of all backgrounds to reject race as a means of dividing and categorizing people.

Ms. Gaskins was raised in a military family and lived in many places. She spent her teenage years in Northern California, lived in Hawaii and New York, and now resides in the Chicago area. She has a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley and a master's in journalism from New York University. She has won three awards from the Educational Press Association of America for writing and editing magazine articles for young people.

In the early 80s, Ms. Gaskins participated in IPRIDE (Interracial Intercultural Pride), a social and support group for multiracial people and interracial families in Berkeley. She is a member of Hapa Issues Forum.


Source: WhatAreYou.com

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Not In The News Friday: Late Edition 4



NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

My apologies, yesterday was a rush of extreme business but I have not forgotten NITNF! And I did find something nice for you all.

This week I have to post a link instead of text. I want to honor the copyrights of the original site and its authors. Please do go and read a teen's perspective on Being Biracial by Shana L. Rosedale of New York.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Not In the News Friday (NITNF)



NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This week's focus will be on the amazingly talented interracial married couple known in music simply as Tuck and Patti!

Tuck Andress and Patti Cathcart - a couple that have been making music together for over 25 years and who released ten albums flavoured with jazz, pop, rhythm and blues, gospel, folk, rock and Brazilian genres since 1988 as a duo.

Patti hails from San Francisco and knew from the age of six that she wanted to be a singer. She started to sing in church, directed choirs by the age of 10 and received voice lessons in high school. As she was raised in the Bay Area in the 60s she was influenced by all the styles of music going on and places like The Fillmore were second home to her - even Bill Graham watched out for her. Patti jammed with hundreds of musicians during that time and learned how to improvise in any style. Some might remember that Patti was one of the founding members of Kingfish - featuring Bobby Weir, Matthew Kelly, Dave Torbert, Barry Flast among others.

In 1970 Tuck enrolled in Stanford where he would later major in music and played in several rock and jazz bands at the same time. He even went to Los Angeles to play in bands and took the guitar position for the Sonny and Cher TV show for some time - but decided to leave the L.A. scene before it could swallow him. Instead he headed to the Bay Area where he would play in top 40, soul and rock bands or practice and listen to music 8 to sometimes 14 hours a day.

In 1978 Tuck was playing in a band Patti came to audition for. Once they met they immediately knew they had found their musical soulmate (and partner in life). Since the band didn't happen Tuck and Patti decided to work as a duo and their instant success in the Bay Area proved that their formula that every song had to speak and be played from their hearts worked. Ten years later they would release their first CD "Tears of Joy" and the rest is history as they say. Tuck & Patti have become a well known act worldwide - especially in Europe and Japan.


Source: Tuck And Patti (Artist profile from Bay-Area-Bands.com)


Tuck and Patti's Official Website
(includes photos, links, blogs from Tuck and Patti and a very informative FAQ about the duo)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Being Together



The above picture is beautiful. With its lush scenery, amazing natural light and colors, it typifies what I find incredible about the beginning or the end of a day. And yet, it doesn't come close to how incredible it feels to wake up next to the same woman whom I've loved for nearly 15 years now. To know that she is the one I'm married to, committed to, who has given me two precious children and has dedicated herself to me for the rest of her life. To know that her feelings for me are as genuine, as powerful as my feelings for her. To know that, even though there will be different kinds of emotional, physical and spiritual trials in our relationship, we have pledged to make it through, with the help of the Lord.

I am truly grateful for the loved ones in my life and I never want to take them or their love for granted. I know that tomorrow is not promised, so I want to give my praises today. I'm proud of my wife and I'm proud of my family. This is our family, we made it together. We are interracial and we are also...completely normal.

Have a great weekend!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Friday, January 19, 2007

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)



NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This week, don't let the above picture fool you. Although the comic book character of Steel is pretty cool and was a great new character for DC Comics circa 1993 with "The Death of Superman" (which wasn't really the death of Superman, since he didn't stay dead...but hey, that worked for Spock, too). But you will see that the above graphic is indeed appropriate when I tell you the tale of "My Son's Epic Battle Against The Icy Stairs of Doom!"

Okay, maybe it wasn't exactly an "epic battle" worthy of the history books and song and legend but I do think it is a fitting finale to the Winter Storm Warning week. My sons got home from school yesterday and braved the Icy Stairs of Doom to get into our apartment. Aside from nearly slipping on one bit of see-through ice, they did fine. No injuries, no actual slips.

So my oldest son then took it upon himself to get my hammer, descend to the bottom of the stairs and proceed to demolish the remaining ice from each of the 16 stairs...until none remained.

My son is 11 years old. No one prompted him to do this. He just did it! I think he wanted to be rid of the ice and I think he really wanted to do something to protect the rest of us. Plus, while I imagine that it was hard (and messy), it was probably pretty fun to take a hammer to concrete and ice! So, both my wife and I thanked him for his valiant efforts.

That ice never stood a chance!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Back To A Semblance Of Normalcy



Yesterday, we were finally able to de-ice most of the van and drive it a bit. After about 90 minutes, we cleared the ice from windshield in the front, all the side windows, the tires and most of the back. It took one more round to free the remainder of the back window. I actually managed to scrape/cut my right hand on ice to create a minor ouch factor for the rest of the day. Anyway, we drove to the grocery store, where we ran into one of our bandmates, got some supplies and headed back.

Today, most of the school systems, including ours, opened a couple of hours late (to coincide with the ending of the Winter Storm Warning). I asked my wife to wait a couple of hours to go into work so we could make sure we got our kids down the Icy Stairs of Doom in one piece. After that, my wife dropped me off at work on the way to her job and all is well.

Things are still icy in places but it is manageable and most of Austin is trying to get back into the groove of things (ice...road...groove...Austin=music town -- er, nevermind).

Best Wishes,
Allen

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

More Pictures From Ice Central

Just a few more photos from around the neighborhood. Click on any of them to enlarge them to full-size.



A frozen flower garden, up close.



Same flower garden, but a wider view.



A nearby sidewalk, partially iced over.



The treacherous ice stairs. I'll be happy when these thaw (probably tomorrow).

Most everyone in our apartment complex stayed in today. Good for them!

Best Wishes,
Allen
Iced In, With A Side Of Snow



Everyone's still home, icebound. As you can see, my family is in good spirits (click on the above picture to enlarge it to full-size. And you can click on any of the pictures to enlarge them). When you see our van, below, you'll see why we've been in no rush to go anywhere.



This is the back windshield of the van. This is at least 1/4" thick ice. I put warm water on it this morning and it didn't even make a dent in it!



This is the front windshield, which got even more ice and sleet. The driver's side door lock was frozen as well.



Even the tires had a layer of ice!



If you click on this picture, you'll see a better view of the snow. We haven't really had any accumulations of snow but to get it at all in Austin is very rare, so we enjoy it when it happens.

Well, I said when I had some pictures, I'd share. These are from about one hour ago. Enjoy!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Monday, January 15, 2007

Having A Winter Blast



Well, as predicted, my wife stayed home from work today because of the winter-like weather. The bottom half of the stairs to our apartment were (and are) treacherous, to say the least, and our van is covered in about 1/4" of ice. We ran the engine for about 5 minutes today, just to keep the vehicle active and not too cold for too long, but we didn't drive anywhere. We couldn't have if we'd wanted to; the windshield wipers were frozen in place by the ice on both windshields.

We did take a walk together down to a nearby convenience store late in the afternoon. That was before the latest round of sleet happened. It was nice to get out for a little bit but we did have to be very careful. Most of the streets looked okay but parts of sidewalks and almost all the grass had a layer of ice over it. I feel bad for all the people who had car accidents or fell down or had other ice-related accidents today.

They say we could get 1" - 3" inches of snow overnight and another 1/4" to 1/2" of ice. It's a good thing I have some leave built up at work because I think I'll probably have to use some of it tomorrow. I love my job but I'm not going to endanger my life or my vehicle just to get there. We'll just have to see what happens.

We've been following the weather closely, since it's been slower to move through the area than expected. The Winter Weather Warning has been extended to Wednesday at noon now. Schools in the area have been closed, which was predictable.

I'll blog more when I know more. There really hasn't been that much to photograph yet but if we get snow accumulations, I'll be sure to snap some pix!

Best Wishes,
Allen
Nothing Like A Winter Weather Warning...



Well, this is Texas...and the weather is one of the least predictable things about this state, usually. Today, it's not that unpredictable. As you can see in the radar image, there's a hugs line of icy weather that's practically on top of us at the moment. With ice accumulations of 1/4" to 1/2" expected by morning and the fact that Central Texans do not know how to drive in these conditions (they can barely handle rain), I would say tomorrow will be a good day to stay indoors and play games, cook and watch movies...that is, assuming we have power.

I have Mondays off and the kids have the day off tomorrow for MLK Day. My wife would normally work but given the likely deteriorated road conditions, the job will probably understand if she plays it safe and stays home. We've had ice and even tidbits of snow, but this could be a storm the likes of which Austin hasn't seen in maybe 20 years! I'm not worried, really. We should be okay if we stay in and take it easy. I'm more concerned for those who brave the icy roads because, even if you're a great driver, someone else might not be.

Have a nice MLK Day and stay warm and safe, wherever you are!

Best Wishes,
Allen

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Saturday Sage Wisdom



I read this quote in an all-races forum and had to relay it here, for a couple of reasons:

One, because I liked it; and
Two, because whether you agree with it or not, there is an aspect to it that is true.

When you think about it no two people are alike so we are all from mixed marriages.


I know, I know, not everyone's parents were married when they were born, but the point is still a good one. And considering that there is no such thing as a person who is 100% any ethnicity or "race," we are all mixed somewhere in our DNA, even if it was 15 generations ago.

Best Wishes,
Allen

Friday, January 12, 2007

Not In The News Friday (NITNF)



NITNF will usually be a bit of trivia that I found interesting and thought you would like. It may be IR-related and it might not -- but should always be fun...or at least fascinating.

This week, we have a real treat: Japancast.net. This website is run by an interracial married couple, Paul (who is a White American) and Hitomi (who is Japanese). They are dedicated to teaching people the Japanese language and culture via their website and downloadable podcasts.

My wife has been very interested in all things Japanese, which is how she came across their site. I have found it a fascinating experience as well, although I'm not as fast at learning languages as I am at fixing computers...alas...but I am trying!

Back to Japancast.net: Their podcasts are both informative and fun. Their website also contains lots of trivia, pictures (they have some cute kids), videos, a blog and forum -- as well as the podcasts. Check them out today!



Best Wishes,
Allen