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August 21, 2010

Wall ride under the moon

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"Ridin' tonight? Meet at the bank at 10:30."

And it's on.

Tonight is when nobody has much need of the daddy. Goofing off with friends in the back streets of Harrisburg at midnight interferes with little other than reading and blogging. It's a time to be a kid again. I think the moon really follows you and your band of brothers wherever you go.

And now I sit here studying, gazing deep into this photo that captures Tim doing a wall ride under the moon.

What does it take to stick a wall ride? How does it feel? These things I know. Not saying I'm great at it or anything. But I know.

You can analyze it kinetically, speaking in terms of linear and centrifugal forces, angles and momentum, and the coefficient of friction between rubber and cement.

You can slice it up kinematically, speaking of the torque and power involved with hurling yourself on a bike toward a wall. Too soon and you fall sideways; too late and you plain rode your bike smack into a wall, you fool.

You can speak at length about how healthy or unhealthy it is for a group of grown men to be out on the streets late at night exploring the realities of gravity and man powered wheels.

You can enter in testosterone and the male psyche and debate whether wall rides are ultimately for good or evil. You can marvel at the gifts of the natural world and the precision geometry of our solar system and our bikes and our situation in relation to each other as friends and people of leisure who choose to spend time in this manner.

You can speak about the Hawthorne Effect and the fact that cameras are routinely brought along on the ride. You can conjure up stats and figures on fitness and well being, various costs, and relative risk.

Yet who can explain

...riding a bike

...on the wall

...under the moon?

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Hawthorne Effect named originally after Hawthorne Factory workers who improved output and appeared to act differently and try harder, just because they knew that they being watched.

August 17, 2010

August 12, 2010

School Like Cars

If there's any conversation in the public square that's more inflammatory than religion and politics, it's the topic of early childhood education. You'll find no subset of people, even within a church, having unity on the issue.

Except us homeschoolers, we ourselfes.

The topic comes up. A lot. My work environment lends itself to knee deep conversation. Just last week a patient gave me a 5-minute socialization lecture from the treatment table. When another patient brought it up this week, I tried to skirt the issue by telling her what school district we live in.

"Really? My daughter teaches there... Oh, why did you decide to do that?"

So suddenly I'm thrust back into the whole - we wanted to just try it and if the kids turn out weird and backwards it's because of us not the education and we love having the time with our children but that's not implying that regular school parents are crazy and hate their kids - thing.

Maybe I'm just not mature enough to take a deer in the headlights "good... good for you" auto-reply as sincere. Call me "sport" and give me two head taps. Maybe it's confidence. Despite my blogging tone, in real life, Amy and I are not terribly confident people.

At any rate, my final attempts at sidestepping the home school conversation include naming our home school (The Aptitude Academy of Mechanicsburg, a very private, selective institute) and creating new labels for home schooling itself (Domestic Education).

I'll let you know how it goes.

I really try, and even pray, to have neither pride nor shame in our decision. Amy and I continually take it seriously. Things may change. We're going to take it a year at a time, and I'm thankful that Amy wants to take this on for now. There are legitimately good reasons to home school. There are also a few good things the kids will miss out on. You can't have it both ways, right?

With only a year under our belt, we're both extremely satisfied with the decision. A year ago when I was asking respectable parents how they felt about their decision to send their kids to public- or private- or home school, each and every one of them told me the same thing. But then again, you will rarely hear a person go around admitting or even knowing they got a bad deal on a car. I wonder if the school thing is similar.

I'd prefer to not go there. It often seems like a lose-lose. We're homeschoolers. Whatever that says about us is true. I guess.

And then there's Debbie V and Steve A. I've been able to have this conversation with them and laugh about it. We all love our little pupils and want the best for them. We're able to do that without feeling all judgy. I walked away from that conversation without feeling like one of us was punched in the gut.

I know there are Debbie and Steves out there. But at work, I don't have the time or energy to risk it. For now, I'm keeping it nice and shallow at work, and diving deep at the Mechanicsburg Aptitude Academy.

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August 10, 2010

We Were There

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My kids, parents, and I were seven of the 40,000-some people attending last weekends National Truck Convention in Carlisle. The boys have been fascinated with monster trucks. Somebody gave us a cheesey Truck DVD from the 90's with a theme song full of some fine poetry:

What's scary but fun
and weighs more than one ton
it's a mighty mega monster truck

And I was interested too, for a few reasons.

Apparently for some people, a lot of people, trucks are a way of life. A way of horsepower and chrome, jean shorts and skull tattoos, shook me all night long and bob that head. The cylinders are high and the color most definitely not green. There's nothing about these people or this place that hints of gentleness.

Truck People

We drug ourselves across about three miles of people's precious babies all lined up for ogling, professional looking vendors, and guys sitting behind random hunks of dirty metal laying in the grass. I swear that someone knows what those hunks of metal are for.

Iturned quickly and caught this one in the act
of transforming.

Struggling to be in the present, I wondered what the huge inflatable bottle of Armour All says? The series of mud flaps and running boards with the silhouette of two busty ladies sitting back to back? All the massive and/or tricked-out machines were too much to recon. Some of them, the monster trucks, so terrible and awesome that we shout and pump our fists at the exercise of their mighty tires of destruction, chewing on the multitudes of yester years practical A to B autos.

Are the monsters entertaining monsters? Being that some 92% of people on earth have no vehicle? Considering the large scale compromises we make in order to fuel the machines we do have? There's nothing impressive about a 98 Ford Tempo. Or is there?

I'm sure someone has written about monster trucks and monster truck people and Jesus. I can't. I'm not even trying to figure out what it all means. There are a lot worse hobbies, I think. Of course it's not just the truck people who are maybe a little shy on perspective. While we all live in a house full of malnourishment and illness, Americans are off in our little corner room having eating competitions and academic debates over the merits of chicken versus beef for "ripped" abs.

Creepy interior skull for resting your left
elbow. What does it mean?

I'm pretty sure that Jesus would care about the truck people. No matter what I want to think about them, I can say that they were polite and inclusive each time we had a personal encounter. The guys eating lunch beside us at the picnic tables. The teenagers who moved over and encouraged the brothers to see the Jeeps do their thing on the big boulders. The vendors passing out freebies. The truck people watching four children try and fail at their fathers pleas to not touch the trucks.

The truck people were kind. They allow outsiders in, no nagging or questions asked. My family, from Dad to Maggs, had a nice time doing something together.

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August 02, 2010

How it looks is how it is

The neighbors across the street have sold their home. They were good folks. They allegedly liked it here. But they found their hideaway in the woods that cuts his daily commute in half.

I watched realtors and prospective buyers pull in and out of their driveway for about four months. Who would it be? How will the neighborhood adjust? Of course one can pray about such things.

Lord don't let it be a couple of sloppy cousin Eddies.

And Lord please place around us a hedge of protection from anal don't let your bike tires or basketballs roll into our precious fescue neatnicks.

And Lord, we just ask that any new neighbors have less than two cats. And no Jack Russels. Lord you know that our two JRs are enough around here.

Lord don't let them be rocking the party eight days a week twenty somethings. Not too old and stodgy, dinner at 4:30 then Jeopardy and quiet in bed, either.

Lord let them be a couple of generous with their pick-up truck, kid loving thirty-something, slightly but not too progressive genuine Christians. And the husband enjoys playing sports and mountain biking. Wait, that's my friends.

Didn't Jesus interject the term neighbor when making some of his most difficult points? Do you remember that time when he was put on the spot and shook everything in existence down to commandments 1a and 1b? That was awesome. But do you you think "love your neighbor as yourself," means, like, your neighbor?

Oh Lord, who is my neighbor?

I imagine most new neighbor concerns tend to be nonconcerns. The realtor and potential buyers are most certainly looking back over here, loving or not loving us.

Market value is surely the largest new neighbor filter. It's highly unlikely that someone very socioeconomically above or below will even get the chance to stand and behold the circus that is our home. But for those who have personally seen how it looks around here...well that's how it is.

Does "curb appeal" involve various balls and climby things and toy trucks and a 4-foot high bike jump? Is this a boatload of evidence for noise and nonsense or family friendliness? In addition to our four children, neighborhood kids C, L, and K are here a lot of the time. Some combination of a few highschool guys who train with me, some family young and old, a few friends, and their children are here about two or three days per week.

Then you have the sporadic picnics, Bible studies, and other gatherings culminating in early October:

For better or worse, our family and friends and the amount of junk the kids drag out into the front yard that day does effect the buying and selling next door. Amy and I try to keep some semblance of order. Tending to yard work is like spiritual exercise for me. Well, at least a few hours of it. And we try not to let the sun go down on the flotsam and jetsum of the day. Every dusk has all of us dragging odd combinations of shirts and mismatching sandals, tadpole buckets and bug jars, trucks and shovels and miscellaneous swords and bats back into the garage for their nights respite.

And we love it. We're thankful, tired, and prefer it no other way. Pretending to be all cute and quaint would be terribly hard.

Lord help us to please and build up our neighbors, for their own good and for your glory. Even the poor souls who live across the street.