Before becoming a parent, most people imagine their future life with kids as one of endless patience, tireless playtime, and sweet, cuddly moments.

Every parent knows, however, that no matter how calm and reasonable you imagined your parenting to be,  nothing can prepare you for the constant fraying of nerves that a parent is subjected to.

I’m often amused when I talk to people who aren’t parents, and they say things like they’ll never snap at their kids because they remember how painful it was when their parents snapped at them. Yes. I used to think the same thing. Or that they’ll always make time to explain things and discuss whatever topic the kid finds interesting. Sure, in theory, but a kid asks questions faster than they can be answered, and their thinking is far from linear which is both delightful and incredibly frustrating at times.


Dad and me, circa 1971

Now, seven years into being a father, I see that no matter how much fun and how playful you imagine yourself to be before you become a parent, and despite the fact that playing with your kids is a great deal of fun, you still have to make time for it. Or I do anyway.

I have to consciously put down whatever project I’m working on, take a deep breath, and remind myself that my kids will not be this young for long. There will come a day in the not so distant future then they will not want to play and roll around on the floor with their dad, and so the time to be silly is now. The time to poke, tickle, chase, and play games with them is today.

And even then, Read More →

First one, and then the other

There are, generally speaking, two phases of life. How long each lasts varies on the individual and circumstance, but these two phases and the order in which they come are universal.

During the first phase, one longs for adventure. Predictability is boring, if not oppressive. During this phase the world, as it stands, seems like evidence that previous generations either lacked imagination, or were hopelessly incompetent.

The second phase is the opposite. Experience teaches you, one way or the other, that everything you have might be taken away from you at any time, for no good reason, forever. This is the stage were you’re smart enough to enjoy things you took for granted when you were young, like breakfast. Or going for a walk. Or merely having a reliably affable friend or family member.

At first things can’t change fast enough, and then things change too fast. We spend the first part of our lives looking for a fast forward button, and the second looking for a pause button.

It’s not as though one can’t oscillate a bit. At times when you’re young — if you’re lucky — you cherish the moment and wish things wouldn’t change too fast. And at times when you’re older you get restless or frustrated with aspects of your life, but in general once you enter the second stage you don’t go back.

Perhaps it’s as simple as being restless and greedy when you’re stupid enough to think that you have nothing to lose and are owed more than you’re getting. Read More →

No regrets, no reflection

Regret is a bad word, apparently. Many, many times, I’ve said said I regret something, and been reprimanded. People aren’t shy about telling you that you that they regret nothing. “No regrets!” they say. They sometimes qualify it by admitting they haven’t been angels but insist that regret is not part of their experience.

“I’ve made some mistakes, but I have no regrets.”

Apparently people associate regret with weakness, or being a failure. If I told someone, “I’m a failure” or “I’m too weak to live on this planet” then I would expect a reprimand followed by a little pep-talk, but to say that I regret something seems completely natural to me. It’s the absence of regret that worries me. If you truly have no regrets, then you’ve truly done no reflection about how your actions have impacted other people, or, for that matter, how you’ve suffered from some of your own actions.

I regret, for example, being overweight for the better part of two decades. I regret perhaps not all but much of the time I spent in relationships that I knew were doomed. I regret the time I spent running away from my passions instead of embracing them. I regret those things. I wish I’d acted differently, and, if I could do it all over again, I’d do things differently. That’s what regret means.

Another reaction I often get when expressing regret is that the mistakes I’ve made are all part of making me who I am today. And that’s fair enough, but I’m skeptical that who I am today is the best possible version of who I might be otherwise. Yes, my mistakes taught me lessons, and some of those lessons couldn’t be learned any other way. But I regret the things that I knew were bad ideas and did anyway. I regret the lessons I had to learn twice.

Here’s the deal

When I was 12 or so, much to my amazement, my dad decided to buy a motorcycle. Even better, it wasn’t a big Harley or a Goldwing — it was a little Kawasaki 100, a bike that wasn’t out of the question for me to ride. I must have sensed this, because I thought of it as mine, or at least partly mine, shortly after we got it.

It had been advertised in the local paper for $275. The address was in the older part of town. Not a particularly rough neighborhood, but not a nice one either. I remember driving up and seeing the bike for the first time.

I was keenly interested in motorcycles. Two older boys in my neighborhood had bikes like this one (better, actually, but you have to start somewhere) and I followed them around, peppering them with questions and hoping that they’d suffer temporary insanity and let me go for a ride.

I also knew my dad, and it wouldn’t be like him to say we were going to buy something and then change his mind. And so I’m sure it was obvious that I was excited, and I’m sure this fact wasn’t lost on the seller. Read More →


Months after the fact, here are the pictures I took this summer while in Halstatt, Austria. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. It’s a beautiful place. I was reluctant to leave and look forward to going back at some point.

Our hostel in Hallstatt, which suited us just fine Throughout the little town of Hallstatt, there are room and little cottages for rent Houses near our hostel Uncle Ben and Ellen checking out the high water after a day of rain One has to wonder if it's illegal not to have flower beds under your windows in Austria... One has to wonder if it's illegal not to have flower beds under your windows in Austria... The lake, which is COLD, but that didn't stop most of us from taking a dip or two A playground next to a crystal clear lake and surrounded by mountains -- what a great spot! A playground next to a crystal clear lake and surrounded by mountains -- what a great spot! Hallstatt lake Ben and Heather (Ben acting like it was colder than it really was) Ellen June discovers zip-lines... uh-oh The view from the little private balcony at our hostel Mom and dad, on the walk into town (that river was really moving after a previous day of rain) One of many quaint sights on the main street in Hallstatt Hallstatt Hallstatt lake Hallstatt What can I say -- she's got very sophisticated tastes Ellen, imitating a very old person The funicular that takes you from Hallstatt to the salt mines The funicular that takes you from Hallstatt to the salt mines (and back) The stunning view from the cafe near the salt mine Hallstatt, as seen from the cafe near the salt mine This trip was my introduction to the Ellen and Pampah take a break on the way up to tour the salt mine Ellen and Pampah on the way up to tour the salt mine June was too young for the salt mine tour so she stayed outside with me. She was thrilled. Many, many a school field trip is taken to the Hallstatt salt mine, apparently. Ahh, the Swiss Alps, I'd heard so much about you... A late lunch with possibly the best cafe view ever, anyway. And surprisingly affordable too. Food just tastes better when it's delivered by grandma Lisbeth takes a brisk dip in the lake Ellen and Uncle been do their best to destroy the playground equipment Ellen had a blast, in and out of the water June-bug, reacting to being told that it was nap time Hallstatt, as seen from the playground we frequented Dad at dinner, after a long day of playing tourist Mom at dinner, after a long day of playing tourist Hallstatt -- just as pretty as the postcards make it out to be Hallstatt Ellen at the Hallstatt Charnel House. She thought it was quite interesting. Hallstatt Charnel House Hallstatt Charnel House Hallstatt Charnel House Hallstatt Hallstatt Hallstatt Heather enjoys the view from the lake (but June slept through the entire boat ride) The mysterious castle opposite from Hallstatt... DSC_7880.JPG DSC_7882.JPG Hallstatt Hallstatt Hallstatt Hallstatt lake Ellen DSC_7917.JPG DSC_7919.JPG On the tram to the Headed to the Dachstein ice caves entering the Dachstein ice caves Dad and mom, inside the Dachstein ice caves Dachstein ice caves Dachstein ice caves Dachstein ice caves Ellen, at the tram stop at the top DSC_8025.JPG NOW we're in the mountains The alps DSC_8038.JPG DSC_8043.JPG The Hallstatt, seen from the Five Fingers lookout Lisbeth and Ellen, giving me a heart attack One of the five DSC_8091.JPG DSC_8097.JPG DSC_8101.JPG A nice little plank, in the event of suicide (or base jumping) Ellen decided she'd had enough walking on the way back. Good thing Auntie Heather has a strong back. Ellen decided she'd had enough walking on the way back. Good thing Auntie Heather has a strong back. DSC_8136.JPG DSC_8140.JPG Back on the valley floor, happy that I don't have to watch my girls defy gravity any longer. It's not easy being and aunt, but Auntie Heather doesn't seem to mind Apparently pulling old supports out of the water is not a big priority in Hallstatt DSC_8217.JPG Lunch on the waterfront DSC_8226.JPG DSC_8236.JPG DSC_8244.JPG DSC_8248.JPG Best location for a playground ever June couldn't get enough of the zip-line How can this girl not even be six years old yet? DSC_8271.JPG Ellen practicing her twirling Yes, women do sometimes dress this way in Austria. Even in 2014. Here's another reason it's good to travel with others -- let someone else carry your kids for once. Burning off excess energy, back in Prague, before our flight back to Copenhagen the next morning


Lisbeth and the girls, freshly arrived and installed in our urban pad for the week An odd choice, I know, but this is my favorite building in Prague. It looks more like ship than a building. For an American that grew up in the American Southwest, apartment buildings like these are impressive, even though they're pretty run-of-the-mill for European cities. The view from one of the terraces in our apartment Aunt Beth sent two homemade dresses, which the girls wore quite happily June and Bonbon

This year, for the first time since moving to Europe, I am not traveling to the US for summer vacation. Instead we spend our vacation in Europe where we were joined for two weeks by my parents and my brother Ben and his wife Heather. We spent the first week in Prague, where we rented an apartment big enough for all eight of us.

Ellen and her grandfather bonded over several games of catch Ellen and her grandfather bonded over several games of catch Ellen and her grandfather bonded over several games of catch DSC_6179.JPG DSC_6183.JPG The start of many excursions into the heart of Prague

This was the first time any of us had been to Prague with the exception of Lisbeth who’d been there last at a teenager and didn’t remember much about it except that it left a positive impression. It’s a very pretty city Read More →


The Blue MosqueIt’s hard for me to believe, but it’s been almost twenty five years since my second attempt at college.

The first attempt was brief, in 1987, immediately after graduating college. In retrospect I simply had no motivation. I dropped out and took a number of strange jobs. Some were fun but there was nothing that I cared to make a career out of. And so, two years later, I was ready to go back, and this time I was motivated — knowing full-well what the alternatives looked like.

My second attempt was entirely different than the first. I learned a lot, and met a lot of interesting people. One of these people was Emrah, a fellow student in the Computer Science department at Highlands University in my hometown. Emrah and I became friends even though it was, at times, humbling to hang out with the guy. He despised programming and math but was unquestioningly better than I was at both of them. He often encouraged me to have fun with him instead of studying for exams, but then he’d ace the exams and I’d barely get by.

After graduating from college, Emrah alternatively lived in California and his native Istanbul, where I have long intended to visit him, especially after moving to Denmark (Istanbul is only a three and a half hour flight away.) I finally managed it over Easter. It had been sixteen years since I’d seen Emrah. A lot has changed, but I still enjoy his company a great deal.

The view from Emrah's apartment in Kadiköy, a suburb of Istanbul The Asian side of Istanbul, as seen from The two sides of Istanbul (Western on the left, Asian on the right) as seen from A tiny slice of Istanbul along the Bosphorus A tiny slice of Istanbul along the Bosphorus The newest part of the Istanbul metro (Marmaray tunnel, which goes under the Bosphorus) Read More →

So you think you can tell

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell, blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

- Pink Floyd — Wish You Were Here

When I was nine or ten, I became troubled by issues of perception. It started when our teacher had each of us tell the class our favorite color. To my amazement, the answers differed.

This bothered me. And conversations with my brother and parents did little to help. They seemed very comfortable with their choices for favorite color, and resisted my attempts to convert them to my favorite — green. They were amused by these attempts… but a touch dismissive too.

Then it hit me. We DID all like green. Of course we did. The problem was that we didn’t see colors the same way.

If, for example, my brother and I were looking at the same object, I might perceive the object as being green, but he might perceive it as being red. This is why we couldn’t agree that this object was the best possible color. Every time he saw something that I perceived as green, he saw red, and so he rejected “green” as his favorite color despite it’s clear superiority.

Likewise, when he pointed out an object that he perceived as green and said, “that’s my favorite color”, I would probably see it as yellow or something, and reject his choice even though we were in complete agreement. Green is the best color. Read More →

Five years of Ellen

Ellen turned five today, and I couldn't be more proud of the sweet, creative, and sensitive girl she's turning out to be

Two rays of sunshine

Two rays of sunshine on a cold, grey Sunday morning.

June EllenJune Ellen