The Joy in Genetics

(This section on chicken genetics and behaviors is a continuation of ‘Fowl Dukkha Revealed.’) 

When I open the coop in the morning, Big Red Oedipus, the Auburn Rooster, hits the door ready to fight.  Puffed up to twice his size like a cloud of red fire, he makes a bee line for the pasture fence and squeezes his bulk, real and for show, through a tiny hole like a cartoon character, and he is gone.

The Rooster is quickly joined by an adolescent flock that is nearly half roosters. The plan for genetic dispersal has taken on a different approach due to the neighbor’s new rooster.

The Rooster is not so selfless. Due to predation and emergency sales, Big Red’s harem is below optimum level. For a happy, satisfied rooster, you have to have at least 12 hens. If you have at least 12 per rooster, you can (usually) keep more than one rooster with little fuss.

The rooster nearby has a weak, young crow; a little strangled. Based on this, Red knows that he can take this rooster. He is leading his adolescent chicks on a raid. The basic idea is that Red will be able to diversify his genetic contribution over a wider genetic base while also possibly providing his progeny a chance to begin their own flocks with outside material.

Really, he doesn’t care. He just has to kill this rooster.

I chase them back into the pasture with dirt clods in the branches of a nearby tree and mend the outer fence. The lesson of Animal Domestication is that you subvert natural behaviors for personal benefit.

Hatch D

Hatch D

This clutch of chicks represents the first blocks of a breed I am trying to create. As far as I can guess at this point, two are half Ancona (See my earlier blog-post where I wax poetic about this breed), two are Dark Cornish and the final three are Easter Eggers (which should lay blue to green eggs). Against the backdrop of an Auburn Java, any one of these could be the start of a new breed.

I know that this sounds like mad science, and at some level, it is. I have a lot of respect for a farmer named Joel Salatin. I had spent years studying breeds and picking the heritage breeds that would work best in the desert, when I happened across an article he wrote for a giveaway copy of Acres USA. In the article, he explains that breed maintenance is not nearly as important as genetic diversity. The breeds, when considered, developed in the places they were originally found for thousands of years of domestication. Until the breed standardization of the early 19th Century, farmers in an unbroken chain had simply been building their flocks, new hens added from whatever sources were available, and each breed was a genetic flock that streamlined for the environment it developed in.

This profoundly changed how I was looking at my desert chicken project. It is difficult to find birds that excel in this extreme subtropical desert environment, but they do exist. Most of them are egg breeds, the conservation of resources being a plus. An egger-breed won’t eat nearly as much as a meat breed because they are not putting on bulk. One of the breeds is legendary, the Lamona, and if anyone is breeding those, they are keeping their cards close to their vests. The next might as well be legendary for all the luck I have had in locating them, the Catalana.

“W.W.J.S.D.?” What Would Joel Salatin Do? © ….He’d make his own dang breed. To do that, I have heard that he mixes three different breeds, one of which is the Blue Andalusian. Since he does this in cycles, the industry cannot seem to keep up with his orders of 16,000 birds.

Strange that his actions would cause a threat to the continuance of a heritage breed.  He was seeking a replacement breed the last I heard.

My goal is an egger body shape, made large like an anti-bantam. Canny and quick, the bird has to be alert to predators while also being an active forager in a desert environment. I am also attempting to breed in a high disease tolerance, moderate egg production and and meaty carcass.

If I can give them plumage that looks like a smoky fire, all the better. So, I wonder what would happen if I took the hens from Hatch D and paired them against a Blue and White Polish?


The Marquis, Marquis Mark is a Blue and White Polish. #silkieville

The Marquis, Marquis Mark is a Blue and White Polish. #silkieville

I can see the farmer’s general acceptance of genetic modification because they have always done this on a much lower scale. Agriculture, itself, subverts the Natural Order for the sake of convenience. Changes are introduced which cause bounty or ruin, but the end result is something that can excel in the environment it is in, because any that couldn’t cut it have long since died off. Yet, the end result is still artificial because it is built upon human intervention and general maintenance.

Like a prize rose has to be grafted to a wild rose’s root, the genetic diversity comes from the pure breeds, the the evolution comes from the cross breeds. In the Monoculture of Big Ag, the entire system rests on a few specific strains on DNA, which is a dangerous thing to the survival of the whole. At this time, there is a need for people to maintain the heritage breeds in preparation for this eventuality, yet there is a place for mixing at the edges, too.

In Chile, there is a breed of chicken we call the Araucana or the South American Rumpless. They have cheek puffs and lay blue eggs due to a DNA rotovirus that happened early in the line’s establishment. This natural GMO founded the Ameraucana, and its DNA spreads out to Easter Eggers. They are also known to be quite docile, which is not exactly the mark of intelligence. Oddly, the cheek puffs are known to be a lethal gene that lowers the hatch rate significantly.

There is a legend among the Chilean farmers that raising and maintaining these birds is a punishment from the Gods for subverting the natural order. I like that, when the Divine takes an active interest in our stewardship of the environment.

Mankind has been rough on this planet. So many unique things have disappeared under our consuming grasp.

Moa Mock Hunt

When you’re talking about the largest bird in existence, it is really a toss-up between the Elephant Bird and the Moa.

The Elephant Bird was most likely the inspiration for Marco Polo’s Roc, it stood 10 feet tall (3M) and weighed 880 lbs. (400 kg). It had gone completely extinct in the 17th Century due to human encroachment (this time, the French), over-hunting and secondary disease brought by chickens that someone thought they might need in the land of Giant Chickens.

The other was the Moa, towering at 12-13 feet tall (3.6 m), but only weighed 550 lbs (230 kg). It once thrived in New Zealand in many varieties. There was actually a predator for these things, the massive Haast’s Eagle, the largest Eagle ever to have been known to exist. The Māori arrived in 1300 AD and the Moa population was extinct by 1400 AD, though still remembered in Māori legend.

It staggers the imagination to think that, with proper management of a uniqueness in the world, we might have been selling chicken thighs like sides of beef.

As always, some wiki:
Elephant Bird:
and the Blue Egg Laying Araucana:

For the wide diversity in the bird world, check out

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Fowl Dukkha Revealed

Despite my pain and musings on the divine, I am still just a simple farmer. If I wanted to pontificate at large on the nature of the Universe, I should have been a minister or a scientist, but there were hindrances to my development in either.

Now, as you have seen, I still dabble a little in the Bible, but I also dabble a lot in science. When you own chickens, you are partaking in one of Mankind’s oldest experiments, Animal Domestication: If I am nice to it, will it hold still enough for me to eat it? The history I have heard, they can trace the domestication of chicken to China about 3000 years ago. You’d think that it would have started sooner, but perhaps the dogs we had co-evolved with for 9000 years before that kept scaring them off.

When I first started talking chickens at people, they always seemed surprised that there was more than one type of chicken. Even people who kept chickens seemed to have limited knowledge. I once had an industrial farmer try to strike up a ‘heard you like chickens’ talk with me. ‘I had chickens. 40,000 of them,’ he said with pride. When I asked him what kinds, he seemed confused for a moment. “Dunno,” he said. “White Ones?” McDonald’s had needed a lot of eggs, and KFC a lot of chicken, and he had stepped up to the task, salting the farmland around him with liquid manure until the EPA had shut him down.

Despite the wide variety of chicken breeds, all chickens, with a few exceptions, are descendant from the Red Jungle fowl. There, literally, is one branch on the chicken tree. Now, this is not odd in domestication genetics. I remember reading that they had chased the Blue Eye gene back to one family, a generalized mutation. This would mean that all blue eyed people are related, like distant cousins, though thousands of generations removed. Not sure if that one is true, but it follows what I have learned on the farm.

I have learned a lot from Big Red Oed. When we hatched him from fertile eggs I picked up from Riverwalk Farm, I had asked for ‘whatever she had available’ so I figured that I was getting cross breeds. I was calling him a RIR mix, and when he was about two, it was confided that we were in possession of a rare Auburn Java.

The Java is not just a very old breed and the base root on many other breeds, but it is also the first breed developed in the US from Asian chickens of unknown origin off of an island in Java sometime before 1835. This was an odd time in the birding world as they had recently realized the the Great Auk had nearly died out. The Great Auk was an important food source around the Atlantic, a wild caught chicken dinner penguin that an old lady with a cane could run down. Eventually, demand for their feathers drove them to extinction. The very last recorded capture of a Great Auk tells us that the last of the might penguin hunters later clubbed the bird to death when they decided that it was a witch.  (

The Preservation movement started then, when people realized that uniqueness was leaving the world and that we were responsible. Being a more agricultural society then, it became the project of many farmers to identify their birds, record traits and trace shipment histories for the origins. The competition became fierce as the fairs had people for miles around trying to breed the most perfect genetic representation of a specimen.

The Java was first mentioned in print in 1835, providing the base stock for various mutations kindly referred to as breeds. Jersey Giant and the Plymouth Rock both hail from Java stock. The standard was set for breeds in 1883, covering Black, White and Mottled Javas. In 1910, the White was removed from the standard as being too similar to the White Plymouth Rock, and the line died out by the 50’s. I have heard one breeder claim that White was still possible in a proper mixing of genetics, with a yard full of white Javas, but I was never sure until Big Red Oed.

The Finest rooster in existence. This is the Auburn Java.

The Finest rooster in existence. This is the Auburn Java.

Auburn Java genetics is still present in the Black Java line and will occasionally produce a throwback. My rooster is a representative of a breed of chickens thought to have died out in the 1870’s after founding the Rhode Island Red breed. Throwback genetics can be odd, though. Despite his deep red plumage, he still throws chicks at a 50% ration to Black. With no Auburn Java females, there is nothing to strengthen the red in the offspring. About ten percent of the time, he’ll give a red offspring, the others get a mottled fire red and black that is just as stunning.

The problem is that, no matter how beautiful the bird, each of the breeds are a controlled evolutionary experiment from a specific time and place. Sometimes you can get that to work where you are, sometimes you win, when a thing out of place thrives where it is not supposed to, and sometimes that thing that you have placed in this environment cannot survive and it dies.

With my core flock, I don’t have to wonder if they can cut it in the desert, because I had a pretty heavy predation issue in this area, a few times. The main culprit were two packs of pet dogs, each lead by a little dog. In one case, it was a chihuahua and the other a shih-tzu. Each of the packs also had the big bruiser that can tear chain-link. The big guy would tear a hole and the little one would dive in and chase the chickens to the snarling jaws of the dogs sticking their heads through the hole.

An Auburn Java/Silkie Mix Rooster

An Auburn Java/Silkie Mix Rooster

You read that right. An Auburn Java-Silkie Rooster. Never saw them do it, but they apparently did quite regularly. The picture doesn’t do him justice. The darks are a smokey grey and the red flashed in the sun. His big red walnut comb looked like a fire hat, so we called him Fire Marshal Bill, or ‘Marshal’ for short. I was arranging hens to breed him against when I caught the dogs that killed them, which is how I know how the attack worked. At this point, I had lost 20 birds.

Yet the others survived, and this not only proved that they were the best choice for this environment, but we lost so many due to basic generational hierarchy. During a rather large, but controlled hatch, the Silkie who had disappeared for nearly a month returned from a secret nest in the undergrowth with 15 chicks. Our chicken math was thrown off kilter, and, as we tried to account for this many more birds, they began sleeping in the trees. Red was keeping the adolescent chicks out of the coop to maintain his genetic base. With in a week, the problem took care of itself.

Hatch D

Hatch D

This is the new batch.

On the next post, I’ll go into genetic plan breeding and interesting behaviors. Check out

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The Stoicism of Pain

“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca


(I have to admit that it does not appear that the young man at the bottom of the painting is not paying attention to Seneca‘s words. It is very odd, and I have never noticed it before.)

I also have to admit that I own a new yet good friend an apology. My friend Zanzibar has been a relentless source of inspiration and information for me for some little bit.  Providing an unending stream of news, philosophy, culture, he also dabbles in the strange alchemy known as tech, which is far beyond anything I can comprehend with the inadequate brain I have been given.

Professor Zanzibar is, among other things, a proponent of Stoicism, and as such, in a heart of trying to help, provided me upon request an article on the Stoic approach to pain. Though the message was sound, I could hear the tender youth in the writer’s ideals, and I immediately took offense not with the message, but the teacher.

“He gained his knowledge of Stoicism from Poison Oak?” I scoffed. “A bad case of Poison Oak can last 6 months. That is not long enough to know if your ideals hold in the face of unrelenting pain.”

Chronic pain teaches you a level of Stoicism that can that can lead to your destruction.

You start out complaining about it, to doctors or concerned friends. Chronic pain is a blight of Biblical proportions. Imagine the worst pain you have experienced, and now imagine that the searing, crushing, burning awful pain won’t go away. Eventually, the futility of wincing at the pain goes away. You plaster a rictus grin on your face and prepare to meet the day, if you can.

No one likes to be around negative people, so you begin to swallow the misery as best you can, holding out the hope that the next prescription or treatment will shut off your pain like a switch. When doctors confide in you that you have reached the limitations of their experience, you lose hope. When they begin to avoid your calls, you get scared.  When being treated as a junkie is a sign that someone hasn’t looked at your file can be maddening. When that person is quickly excused by someone who does know your file, and they speak in calm, soothing tones, you get scared all over again. All of this gets shoved in the bottle until you can barely keep the cork in.

Chronic pain is always there. If someone had shot you, people immediately show concern over your condition, but that level of concern is difficult for anyone to maintain. The first stage of Loss and Grief  when coming to terms with Chronic pain is Isolation, and the chronic nature of the pain seems to be what causes this. It’s like someone is on fire in your living room. Initially, you will exhaust your resources to try to put it out, but when the person is burning week after week, you stop inviting the flaming Burning Man to parties. Not that he would be able to accept the invitation. If the burning has subsided enough to meet the appointment, the sheer effort to stay upbeat in a ‘How you doing?’ world can exhaust him for days.

The LA Times, last year, printed an Op-Ed “How not to say the wrong thing” by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman. It is a good chart to keep on you in the event of a major disaster happening to someone you know. “It works in all kinds of crises — medical, legal, even existential. It’s the ‘Ring Theory’ of kvetching.” The idea would have saved Yôb’s friends a lot of grief. The idea is that, when faced with abject misery, your job is to comfort all the people closer to the situation than you are while sharing your concerns and your own issues with only the people further from the situation than you are. You know, like at Thanksgiving.

The problem is that, for most people, if I can’t bitch to you, what good are you? When the pain never goes away, there is never a chance for you to tell me how awful your day was and your concerns talk a second place because they cannot compare. Mitchell and Webb used comedy to illustrate this:


Your friend list decreases as people fall off. It seems that the only ones who stay are those that carry their own pain. The other centers of the Care Circles gravitate toward one another in an attempt to give the comfort they need as well. Just like the delivery drivers and waitresses of the world count among some of the best tipper, people who know pain are the only ones who can relate to each other.

The goal of the person with chronic conditions have to constantly remind themselves that, when a suggestion is given, it comes from a place of concern, and though the suggestion can be quickly dismissed, it must be done with a gracious attitude in recognition of the spirit in which it was given. Relentless pain can set off the animal centers of the brain as we attempt to fight or flee the affliction, and it takes a calm that can be hard to find to unlearn the language of Pain.

Despite my snarling like an animal in a trap, Professor Z quickly filled my request for an ancient layout program that I had used in school. It was free, it loaded quickly and, within moments, I was staring at Aldus Pagemaker, the root creation program of the printer in training in the early 90’s. Old feelings rushed back into my heart as I looked on a program I had not seen since my youth, and the creative fires kindled quickly.

Upon use, though, I discovered the bicycle’s truism only goes so far and, after 20 years, I no longer had any idea what to do with the program. He had snickered at my request for the program, and asked questions pertaining to why, exactly, I would request such a thing, but he had filled my request, and here I was like a fish on a bicycle.

The last Stage of Grief is one of acceptance, but the problem is that accepting chronic pain doesn’t make it go away. I have had to realize that, just as I have forgotten the program I could make dance 20 years ago, life and all of its experiences change you, molding you and shaping you into the creature that will hopefully survive the next crisis. Even pain can have a function in changing you, even as it wears you away.

The grinding of a polishing wheel wears down a hunk of rock to reveal the polished nature of the gem. I have heard people who do it speak of gem polishing like a sculptor will describe the raw stone intended for a statue. Its beautiful nature lies within, awaiting the will to free it, and while it may involve some polishing, it involves a lot more cutting, breaking and grinding to make a masterpiece. The key is that the grinding has to be guided so that it doesn’t take over completely.

It is in that spirit that I ask my friend to forgive me my brashness and thank you for your patience.

For more information on the Comfort Circle, see:

For the full story of what is going on with us:


The Wages of Sin

Sometimes, I think that, if I were to lose the Internet, it would not be such a big deal. I have this powerful window to look anywhere in the world and I don’t think I would miss it all that much.

I have made friends here, that is true, as well as learned things I did not know. At anytime, nearly any question can be answered, not always well, but answered. With its assistance, I am able to diagnose chickens, order pizza, send pictures of the kids to Mom and all the other social things I always forget about. It reminds me of birthdays I can never remember (It’s nothing personal. It’s Dyscalculia.), talk to people I have not seen in years and chat with people on the other side of this Great Ball of Dirt. It is an immense tool, and I would be at a severe loss without it.

It also has a Dark Side. In using the Internet for 14 years, I have seen and heard things I would have never imagined. Sometimes these tidbits are intended as a joke (remember Goatse?) and other times, you happen onto them when headed elsewhere.

Though unintended, that with should not be seen nor heard is seen or heard, and it leaves a blight on your soul. You can feel it there, like black tar, a sticky mess of awful that won’t go away. That it is there can cause soul-wearying pain.

In Philippians 4, Paul admonishes the first congregation in Europe, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:6-8) Give your worries to God, and you won’t have any time for impure thoughts. Keep in mind to be a Good Person always, and you’ll stay a good person.

Buddha also covers this in the Noble Eightfold Path, explaining how the Key to Life and the Cessation of Suffering (Dukkha) is to hold to a course of Right thinking and Right action, higher moral discipline which would lead to higher wisdom.

I recall a Christian Preacher describing television in the 1980’s as a ‘Spigot of Sin.’ Every time you turn it on, it spews filthy knowledge into your home. Murders, rapes, torture and kidnapping are all sprayed liberally in a bright colored stream all over your living room.

I have to admit that, at the time and with the programming we had available, his warnings seem overblown, but this Internet phenomenon has made it more apparent. Suddenly, I have access to any case file from any brutal crime, along with the thoughts of a serial killer as transcribed by Police soon after capture. Every story, new or old, is played up for optimum effect, to make it hurt and and make you ask ‘Why?’ Photos of things no one should see, the footage of crimes too brutal to imagine, all waiting for the click of the mouse.

I have seen things that I would have never imagined on my own, and borrowed thoughts too twisted to imagine. In my eternal pursuit to understand why there is evil in the world, I learned that my questions were inadequate. When I gave up the chase, I only knew that there already existed one more step further into Awful that people can push. The deepest part of the abyss that I can observe is that, like it says in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. This awful destructive tendency of Man has gone on for time immemorial.

All action in our Universe begins with a thought. The Thought has been likened to the temptations of the Old Deceiver, who is cloaking soul-crushing sin in acceptable finery. In Buddhism, sometimes even to ponder is the first bad decision, not because thinking is wrong, but because a wrong thought or decision might be the first step toward torturous calamity.

Ignorance can be bliss, indeed. I don’t need to be constantly reminded of the Awful of Man as much as I have to keep working on my defense of the species. What Good is Man but the Good in him? What are the Right and Noble things in Mankind that justify a Love for them all?

This path is harder for the Irreligious, because there is no one to ask for immediate and all-encompassing forgiveness. The Irreligious Man carries his burden to the grave and, if there is something after, he might have to be called in question for his acts and thoughts. Whether or not there is a Here-After, I try to keep that burden as light as I can bear, while doing what I can to lighten it for others along the way.

In Numbers 32:23, Moses says, “But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” Everyone loves this verse. Like a creeping blob, Sin is rolling along, seeking whom it can devour. They put it on bumper stickers and intone it like a self-satisfied curse…. ‘Be ye warned… Your Sin shall find you out!’  Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of Men? Sin knows, and it is going to be on you like a spider monkey.

It is often forgotten that Moses was inciting the Children of Israel to to slaughter all the indigenous people of an entire nation. In this verse, the Sin was Mercy. (See Numbers 32: 20-22)

I can’t help but wonder if the Sunday School Teacher knew what she was doing when she insisted that we watch Ted Bundy’s final interview with James Dobson of ‘Focus on the Family.’ Here was a depraved man blaming his wretched crime spree on pornography, and hinting that he had asked Jesus for forgiveness.

The very idea of spending Eternity with such a fellow is enough to make anyone question their Religion.

In Philippians 4:9, Paul presents an answer. He was sitting in prison, most likely awaiting his execution, when the European Congregation contacted him to see if they were still on for the Revival. He thanks them for the concern and admonishes them, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Not W.W.J.D., but ‘What would Paul do?’ In avoiding the slings and arrows of Dukkha, it is helpful to have a hero to emulate, someone you can picture when you don’t know what to do, but I would recommend someone a little less misogynistic (1 Timothy 2:12), even if he did try to get Masters to be nicer to their Slaves (Ephesians 6:9).

Something to ponder while I review a proper Net Nanny.

Your Sin Will Find You Out.

Be sure.




Sci Fi Sexism

How does one address the rampant juvenile sexism in today’s Sci Fi crowd? We will never live in a world of Star Trek Miniskirt Uniforms with you snickering and making rude comments.

The answer, it appears, might be placement. I saw this masterful exchange earlier in the comment section of a young woman’s Cos-Play photo, and I applaud the artist!

(The names have been changed to protect the innocent… and the guilty.)


The Nature of Personhood

They become who you give them.

Agent Z

The development of a Tomboy.

“Can I wear a hat at the dinner table?”

“I’ll let you decide.”

My eldest had developed a game based around Gilligan’s Island, with elements of Swiss Family Robinson. All through the day, the house was different huts and she went out on at least three adventures outside.

She had decided that she was a female Gilligan but even she was unable to resist the power of a fedora.  Soon, Gilligan Girl took on a decidedly adventure hero role. I found this odd, because I had been working on a story like this but it ran out of steam.

In this version, it is supposed that, if Gilligan was usually the source of the group’s woe, where would they get with the opposite?  Her Gilligan had a bit of the salt to her, tends a ‘sea chest’ full of valuables, and is constantly on the look out for more.

Though the Gilligan Universe had expanded to include our dog, the other characters are strictly regulated.  The toddler has been assigned the role of Ginger (total, unashamed typecasting) and I have been awarded the position of Professor. “You’re Skipper,” she shouts happily to Momma as she returns from the store.

I could hear Skipper’s distressed flustering in the driveway, “Nooo! I’m not an old, fat man!” Momma is not a fan of the show, so she does not understand that, beneath that old, fat exterior lies the heart of a leader and that this is one of the highest honors a Gilligan’s Island fan can bestow on another human being.

Gilligan eventually relented to the Professor’s request, and Momma was redesignated as Maryann, which is exactly where Professor had always pictured her, too. (wink-wink)

Eventually, all good things must be peed upon.

Ginger is still wishing to be pampered, and is too prideful to admit that it is not working. She contained her mess to the top of a easily cleanable bin lid, but without a Skipper, Gilligan goes overboard trying to fill his shoes, shouting accusations and orders, leaving Ginger to flee, weeping in shame.

“There’s pee on it!” Gilligan declares in a high the highest state of Drama.

“Just put it in the hamper,” says Maryann. “I’ll take care of it later.”

“I can’t put a bin in the hamper!,” Gilligan shouts incredulously.

Professor just can’t stop laughing. When Skipper Gilligan Girl asks him what’s so funny, he says, “It always ends in someone getting pee on it.  You did it. I did it. All of my sisters did it. You clean it up and move on. You don’t make people feel bad about it.”

Professor rewarded the more mellow Gilligan with the secret art of Dowsing, using a piece of jewelry she had stashed in her sea chest. He then spent the rest of the evening refuting Gilligan’s successes, because that’s just what the Professor would do.

I barely nipped Gilligan’s warping into Link from the Legend of Zelda cartoon that Captain Lou would dress up like Mario to show on Fridays in the 80’s. (You remember, “Well, excuuuuuuse me, Princess.”) Confidence I will encourage, but sassing Momma is not tolerated.

Tomorrow, I think I’ll introduce her to Lara Croft.


The ‘Self’ will chose who it wants to be, but will still need help selecting the right path. With a proper model, the story can be warped to shape the need.

I have been using my children as an astrology experiment. I have noted their signs, and occasionally consult Linda Campbell’s Book of Sun Signs. I am not trying to mold events as much as have a road map for the person I am dealing with.  As an observational tool, it has been fairly accurate.

It has helped me not only understand others with the same sign, but also not eat my children.  Faced with little young people who, due to age and development, cannot understand the meaning of ‘why,’ you’re often times at a loss as to what your child was thinking about during the latest ecsapades.  The book isn’t as accurate as a robot schematic, but it has good suggestions. My little Scorpio loves learning things, is very loyal and also has little sympathy for weakness. My little Leo has been turning every cord into a microphone since she could walk, told her first truly funny joke at 2, and will sing at the top of her lungs during adult discussions, while playing an orange guitar, because she cannot stand to lose that spotlight for even one second.

Trying to see the world as a being that cannot ask ‘why’ can be freeing in times of sadness or stress, but it is a difficult state of mind to master. ‘Why’ is our first question, bawling at an unfair universe for not providing to your needs immediately. It is a difficult lesson to unlearn.

My role playing was never encouraged, and I ended up an introvert with social anxiety. I’ll let my daughter play whatever she wants, and maybe I can rebuild myself into the perfect supporting cast.

Your life ceases to be your own when you have children.  It is painful to cast off your ego for another, but when you are a parent, you learn on the fly and make it up as you go. We’re all playing the same game, just with different guidebooks.


We’re running a Fundraiser for my wife’s long recovery from brain surgery.  There is a Contest of two here:



There really was a time when I was the All American Boy. An overly-sheltered White boy from the suburbs of a major city in the Midwest. I have stood before a Congregation and announce my calling to the Ministry. I never played sports, for one reason or another, but my parents didn’t believe in snowblowers or gas powered lawnmowers (At least, not until I moved out), so I was in surprisingly good shape for someone who has seen every Gilligan’s Island episode.

I desperately wanted to be GI Joe. We took the ASVAB at my technical school, and I scored a 96%. This was not because I knew all the answers so much as I was a dyslexic Printer who sees forms differently than other people. I was always the ‘forms guy.’

The core blood of most Printworks in the 90’s was medical forms. The challenge was that Hospitals in the Northeast are old and well established. It was not uncommon that a form ordered in bulk in the 70’s had finally run out, and you’d get a rush order for the next box that would last for 20 years. There was also the chance that it was another Shop’s form, but it wasn’t going to be anymore.

No matter how intricate the form, I could have it reproduced in 20 minutes, down to the ‘mistyped’ form number signature, 3° skewed, that shops use to identify their work. I could have an original form in 15. This was on a CRT monitor using Aldus Pagemaker.

It was in this stage that it was finally discovered that I was dyslexic. Years of being labeled an underachiever in school, and it took a Printing Teacher looking at my notes to find out. To me, a form looks like a completely different creature than what you would see, and if I were asked to print a multiple choice ‘fill in the circle completely with a #2 pencil’ form, based on the answers I knew, I was able to match, with apparent great accuracy, the randomization of the rest of the form.

It was intentional, I assure you. The Army recruiters would tell a story about ‘some girl’ who had been ‘told the whole time that, on the ASVAB, when in doubt, put “C.”‘ So, test day comes and she put “C” for every answer, passed with an 86% and caused a massive scandal. So, we were told to do the best we could with what we knew but skip any of the ones that we weren’t sure about. We were then told to ‘Christmas Tree’ the rest. If it looked like it should have a dot in a specific space for proper dispersal, give it one.

Though I was obviously thrilled at achieving a grade that assured me of Officer’s Training, the Realist in me could admit quite frankly that I had only known half of the answers legitimately, and even some of those I changed when they didn’t look like it matched the randomization I had in my brain. Part of me wondered if that might not be the point, but I was 17 with an overdeveloped sense of guilt.

My original plan was to become Chesty Puller. The Recruiting Office was one of the few places that I was allowed to ‘hang out’ at as long as I liked. I was not only enamored with becoming a Marine, it also helped that the Marine Recruiting office was right across the street from Pizza King, which always had the coolest video games in their lobby, and both were on my walk home from the Library. My parents thought I was at the Recruiters a lot more than I was, and always willing to vouch for you if you at least stopped in to say, “Hello.”

In the end, I betrayed their kindness. The Army Recruiter swept in with a better story, assuring me that he would give me choices that the Marines could not. ‘Do you know that the Marines make you buy all of your uniforms? We give you the first set for free. Hell, you don’t get a decision on MOS in the Marines.’

Much later, I came to realize that this was because 17 year olds make bad decisions.

With GI Joe firmly in mind, I decided that my quickest path to the Green Berets was Infantry. Luckily, being the 90’s, this was not a deadly decision. Not so lucky was the fact that, prior to Afghanistan, they were still teaching Infantry the old-school way, with 30 miles road marches and 5+ mile runs.

It was during one of these 5 mile runs that both of my tibias (shin bones) broke. It was the beginning of the end.

I turned down 4 offers of Medical Discharge before I accepted the fifth. I had been holding out for an MOS change, but when you have been on crutches for a year and even Walter Reed Army Medical Center can’t put you back together, you get labeled a ‘Soldier Without Potential.’

It was good for me. If I had it to do over… I would have been a Marine.

Anon. Infantry Soldier jumps the rail at the Fort Benning Infantry Museum to pose with a display. 1995

Anon. Infantry Soldier jumps the rail at the Fort Benning Infantry Museum to pose with a display. 1995

I am pretty sure this is the only picture of my in Uniform. I am standing funny because I have left my crutches behind on the railing.