Tesla’s First Birthday

One year ago tonight, little miss Tesla Fae entered the world, and my life will never be the same.


There are dozens of events that can "change your life forever." The party you went to where you met the friends you spend the next few decades relying on. The job you took that defines the direction of the rest of your career. Meeting the amazing woman you're lucky enough to eventually marry. But all of these are events that mainly impact you and how you travel your own path.

Having a child is different. Suddenly, I'm not just responsible for myself. There's this whole new person in the world who wouldn't be here without me. And it's my job to help her make sense of all this craziness, and find her own path through the woods. It's exciting, and inspiring, and terrifying.

I feel like we lucked out with Tesla. She has been a source of pure joy, since the moment she was born. She's always happy, always inquisitive, and always an inspiration. Her bouts of anger only last a moment, and then she bounces back to the bright-eyed explorer we've come to know. As her mom said today, we're learning as much from Tesla as she's learning from us. She's already an amazing person, and I can't wait to see who she becomes.


With great children comes great responsibility. I know the most important responsibility I have in the coming years will be giving Tesla the support and guidance she'll need to become who and what she wants to be. I know I'll make mistakes, and I still have a lot of learning and becoming of my own to do. But I'd like to make a few promises to her (and any siblings she may later have), that I will always strive to uphold.

  • I promise to give you a stable, supportive childhood, so you'll always feel safe to explore the world around you, as well as the world within you. I will do everything I can to shield you from the kinds of insecurities that slowed me down, including working my hardest to shed the ones I still cling to, so you have as positive a role model as possible. And I will do everything I can to help you find and follow your own passions.

  • I promise to surround you with positive examples of relationships (both romantic and friendly), so that you will always recognize the right kinds of relationships to pursue on your own, and be able to avoid the other kind. I will love your mom the way I want your future spouse to love you, and I will teach you to be the kind of friend you'll want to find in others.

  • I promise to teach you all I know of the world. I'll teach you about people, so you can seek out the good ones and deal effectively with the rest. I'll teach you how to work hard and how to manage your money, so you'll never be dependent upon someone else to guide your fate. I'll teach you about beauty, and how to find it in the simplest things and in the unlikeliest places. And I'll teach you how to find other teachers along your road, who can show you wonders I haven't even dreamed of.

  • Most importantly, I will love you. Always and unconditionally. This doesn't mean we won't get annoyed with one another from time to time, or argue over bedtimes, curfew, or politics. But even at the worst of moments, I will love you more than I love life itself. And when I lose my final grasp on life itself, I will be happy knowing that a bit of me (hopefully the best bit) will live on in you.


Happy first birthday, Tesla! Thank you for everything you've taught me, so far. I can't wait to see you grow into the intelligent, loving, bad-ass, wonderful woman I know you are. I love you more than you will ever know!


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Mother’s Day Without Mom

It's been five months since my mom passed away. Part of me feels like it was just yesterday. Part of me feels like it's been an eternity.

While cleaning out her garage the other day, I ran across a folder in which she kept several hard-printed copies of the True Appreciation blog post I wrote about her back in 2005. I'm so glad I got a chance to make sure she knew exactly how much I appreciated her. I hope I live my life in a way that everyone I appreciate knows how much, but I doubt that's true. I get frustrated. I get distracted. I get lost in my own chaos sometimes. But when I think of my mom, I am inspired to make sure the people I love know how much better my life if because of them.

She was a giver. Everything she had (and everything she was) she gave to her children, her grandchildren, her husband, her friends and her community. She would get frustrated, angry, or hurt sometimes too. But she was always forgiving and loving above all else. People meant the world to her.

Thanks to FaceTime, she did get to see Tesla once. But she never got to meet her, never got to kiss and hug her like she was so looking forward to. And she never got to meet my brother's son Logan, or whatever little ones he and I have in our futures. She would be so happy about both of them. (Although probably a bit disappointed that Tesla still hasn't developed her mother's mono-dimple. Sorry, mom.)

I don't really know what I'm trying to say here. I guess just that I miss her. And that my world will never be the same without her in it. And, really, that my world will never BE without her in it. She is a part of me, in everything I am and everything I do.

I love you, Mom. I miss you.

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Chris’s 3 Rules of Dating

At BayCon, Chris revealed his three rules of dating, which contained enough insight and resonance that we later pressed him to post them for posterity. And after reviewing his expanded version, I have come to the conclusion that they're just as relevant to one's work life as one's love life.

Since I think these are pure brilliance and don't want anyone to miss them just because they're too lazy to follow a link, I'll reprint them here:

Chris's 3 Rules of Dating

I developed these some years back and several people asked me to write them down for them so here goes. Will they work for you? Maybe. I am reasonably confident that they worked for me given the beautiful, competent and intelligent woman I wound up marrying (see Poeso)!

Any set of rules/guidelines should be as succinct and unambiguous as possible which necesitates them being broadly worded. It also means that there are clarifications for specific points (in case you didn't catch the obvious intent) I have included a few. Finally, like Asimov's Laws of Robotics, these rules are in an order for a good reason...


Rule #1: Be comfortable with yourself! If you can't be comfortable with yourself then other probably can't be either. Being comfortable includes being comfortable around people you don't know or by yourself. Don't always rely on the opinions of others. In the end, it is your opinion of yourself that matters. Don't mistake Arrogance for Confidence. The Arrogant need other people to be wrong so that they can be right which builds in weakness. The Confident recognize that there are many viewpoints that can be right and refines their viewpoints by allowing them to be challenged.


Rule #2: Meet new people. There are many people in the world who can be "right" for you. The more people you interact with the more likely you are to meet one of them. Just because someone appears to be "right" doesn't mean that they are not already taken or will ever be emotionally available to you. Take heart, enjoy your time with them and LEARN what a "right" person looks like and looks for. The worst that can happen is you get a cool new friend and maybe learn something about yourself. Sometimes meeting new people means expanding upon the relationships you already have. "Friend of a friend" is more likely to have common interests and come to you "pre vetted" by the people you already trust. Make time for the people who make you feel good about yourself. Who knows, one of the cool friends you have may have been waiting for you to become "emotionally available" and you may not have noticed it. Either way, it helps with Rule #1.


Rule #3: Avoid worthless relationships! Admit it, everyone has gotten into or stayed in a relationship that is just not fulfilling and never will be. Sex, routine, emotional security, what ever the reason in the end all you are doing is keeping yourself from growing as a person. Either work to improve the relationship you are in or get out! Grow or leave. Harsh, but this is the biggest trap most people fall in to: staying in a dead end relationship because they lack the confidence to either make it work or end it. If you are not yet in a relationship, remember rule #1, enjoy being with yourself. You don't need to get hooked up just to validate your self image. Flirt, have fun, be daring, but don't date some one unless you see in them the qualities that make you say "wow, I'd be really happy to tell my friends I am dating this person"

Don’t Fear the OOP

I got an awesome email today from an old WebTV coworker's dad today.

Jos (pronounced "yose") was an amazing guy. One of those people you just couldn't be in a bad mood around, who was always creating these wacky side projects that were sometimes more successful than some of the company's main projects.

One of my favorite Jos projects was called Don't Fear the OOP. It's a brief, informative and highly entertaining tutorial on "why coding Java (or any other object-oriented programming) is just like writing a trashy Western novel." Each page was separated into three sections: explanation in normal English, using cheesy Western novel metaphors; pseudo-code that was still readable, but structured more like code; and actual Java code. Add in a bit of Jos-patented humor, and it really is a brilliant way of teaching object-oriented programming.

Sadly, Jos died not too long after completing the tutorial (and the WebScissors tool that I maintain on his family's behalf). Healthiest man I knew, and he died of a heart attach at his desk one day. Just like that. I suppose it's true what they say: "You get what everyone gets; you get a lifetime."

But Jos really did something with his. (Besides the obvious, of leaving behind scores of people who loved him dearly.) It's been... wow, has it really been almost a decade since we lost Jos? And yet his WebScissors tool is still getting a few thousand hits a day, and his Don't Fear the OOP tutorial is still out there on the web, helping people get friendly with Java.

Which brings us back to the letter. Jos's pops just forward this email that he got from a high school programming teacher (does it make me old that that's a foreign concept?) who stumbled upon Don't Fear the OOP and used it to great effect in his class.

Letter from a happy OOPer...

Love is in the air…

Two wedding announcements in one week.

Wedding #1 - The other day, my roommates let me know that they're going to be getting married next January. In Vegas. Cindy & Jason are my Lily & Marshall (for you How I Met Your Mother fans), so their getting married is no surprise. In fact, they pretty much act married already. But it'll be nice to see it made official.

Wedding #2 - Tonight, Fred & Malaya took me out to dinner. They got me a gift while they were in Athens, so we've been trying to schedule this dinner for a while now. But it turns out they had other motivation as well. They let me know that they've finally set a date, and will be getting married in September. And, since I'm the one who set them up... they asked me to marry them! Of course I said yes! I'm incredibly honored.

But, the real fun came later, when I called my mom. "You remember Malaya, that school teacher I dated that you really liked? Well, I'm marrying her. Yes, really. In September. No, I'm not lying. I'm marrying her to the guy I set her up with." Getting my mom's hopes up just to crash them back down is really much more fun than it should be. :-)
And any time you can get your own mother to call you a son of a bitch, that's just a bonus.

Of course, this means I need to find a date for the weddings. Preferably one who doesn't mind the idea of being the priest's date. :)

Now I need to figure out when Father's Day is, so I can go shopping for a new suit.

Adam’s Early Birthday Present

[I'll post a full report on ComicCon (which was awesome) later. But I wanted to get this bit up as soon as possible, for the obvious reasons.]

Adam, Joan and I were on our way to a panel, when we noticed that Adam was no longer with us. We hadn't lost him in the crowd. He was right there, two booths behind us, staring - transfixed - at a painting. I couldn't see the painting from where I was, but I have never seen Adam look at anything (besides Karla and the kids) with that much sheer adoration.

Later, Adam was talking about how much he would love to have that painting on his office wall, as inspiration. And how he wished he could actually afford something that expensive. So I suggested that instead of Adam waiting until he could save up $500 for the thing, we should just get 20 people to pitch in $25 each to get it for him as an early Birthday/Hanukkah present. Half a dozen people who were there with us at the moment said they'd be more than happy to pitch in, and I figured it would be easy to scrounge up the remainder, so I bought the painting and it is now hanging on Adam's wall.

Of course, now it's time to do what would normally have happened first. If you'd like to join us in getting this gorgeous painting for Adam for his early birthday present, send me your $25 (or however much you can comfortably afford) through PayPal, and we'll get a nice card for him later with everyone's signature on it.

After everything Adam has done for our fandom, it's the least we can do.

True Appreciation

As most of you know, I've spent the lion's share of my free time for the past few months organizing the charity fundraiser for the Serenity fan table at ComicCon, to benefit Equality Now. My journal-silence since the event is definitely not due to a lack of things to say. No, I'm still hard at work, tracking down all the prize winners, mailing out tons of packages, updating the website, and trying to make my living room look less like a shipping/receiving dock before Sarah gets here this weekend.

I can honestly say that I have not worked this hard on any personal project, ever before. It has been a hell of a ride, getting to know so many generous browncoats and fans, as well as a few of the Big Damn Heroes, and working my ass off to make sure we could raise as much as possible for Equality Now. It was a uniquely exhausting experience, but also one that was more personally fulfilling than anything I've done in the past ten years (except maybe Noelle & Lewis' wedding). Every day I go to work and slave away at the code mines, working on projects that I have varying degrees of faith in. But it really felt good to go back to my roots and get my hands dirty with some grass roots charity work, like my mother used to do. It was truly a labor of love.

I had a real sense of accomplishment on the drive back from ComicCon. And when I called Mandy at Equality Now to tell her that we had raised over $12,000 for them, the stunned silence was heart-warming. It wasn't just a drop in the bucket like the $2000 we raised for Red Cross at WonderCon - these folks were blown away by what we accomplished on their behalf, and were grateful beyond words. So regardless of any bits of drama that might have taken place at the con, or the bags under my eyes from so much hard work, I'm really glad that I volunteered to run this fundraiser!

But wait, it gets better! Now that I have the website (mostly) updated, including the amount we raised, someone posted a link to it on Whedonesque (a community blog for all-things-Joss). And who should respond but the Big Damn Hero himself!

Joss Whedon's comment on our Equality Now fundraiser!

There's no way I'm not weighing in on this one.

I am SO proud and grateful that this is where the energy of the Browncoats is going. Buffy and Angel fans have always distinguished themselves through their altruism, but this hits close to home in a way probably none of you know.

My mother started what I believe was the first high school chapter of Amnesty International. She was a history teacher, and started a feminism course as well (she also directed plays -- not so much the slacker). Probably her favorite student (and she had many that she loved) was Jessica Neuwirth. Jessica went on to work as a lawyer for Amnesty International and then started Equality Now, which used the Amnesty model to combat gender-based offenses. Jessica is as kind, intelligent and dedicated as anyone I've ever known (and would probably cringe to read any of this.) The idea that my work is on a wavelength with Equality Now's agenda is as gratifying as anything I could wish for. But for the fans to take an active role in helping out this under-recognized cause, and on such a grand scale... it means more than I can say. I have said, in point of fact, much more than I usually would in this forum, but I can't contain my appreciation. My mother would have been so pleased.

There are two ways to fight a battle like ours. One is to whisper in the ear of the masses, try subtly and gradually to change the gender expectations and mythic structures of our culture. That's me. The other is to step up and confront the thousands of atrocities that are taking place around the world on an immediate, one-by-one basis. That's a great deal harder, and that's Equality Now. It's not about politics; it's about basic human decency. And it's more important than... well, than that movie I keep telling everyone to see.

Thank you to the tireless Browncoats and everyone who donated, bid or lifted a finger to raise this money, for making my work mean more than it ever did, even to me.

-joss.

As you can imagine, reading this totally made my day! (And got me a little misty-eyed, I must admit.) But like Joss, I have to give credit where credit is due. Without one very important person, volunteering to run a charity fundraiser never would have occurred to me, and I wouldn't have had any idea how to do it in the first place. That person is my mother: Shirl Markus.

When I was in Junior High, I told my mom that my friend Katy Surritt (my first crush, actually) was no longer at school, because she had been diagnosed with Leukemia. Several years before, my older brother's best friend had died of Leukemia, so this really caught my mom's attention. Immediately, she got in touch with Katy's mom Patty and began organizing a surprise party for Katy. A few weeks later, Katy was picked up in a limo and brought to a Lion's Hall packed with all her school friends that she hadn't seen in months.

But that was just the beginning. My mom has always been big on organizing charity drives. When my brother was in the military during the first Gulf War, she organized a mass-baking circle, and had at least one dozen cookies sent to every single sailor on my brother's ship. So she switched into high gear and started hitting up all sorts of local merchants and businesses for prize donations, and then blanketed the town with fliers and went door-to-door to every business in town, getting people to buy raffle tickets. Not long after, she had a nice fat check (in the neighborhood of $4,000, I think) for Katy and her family, to help defray the medical expenses, as well as a second, smaller-but-still-sizable check that was strictly to be used for going out and doing something fun.

I've learned a lot from my mom over the years. Chief among them is that when you see someone in need, you need to step up and do your part to help. She taught me everything I know about evangelizing Good Works, convincing people to part with their money for a worthy cause, and how the small sacrifices of many can add up to an amazingly beneficial outcome in the end. One of my favorite things about this whole experience is that it has reminded me just how proud I am (and have always been) of my mother, and how grateful I am to have her as a role model.

I love you, mom.


[By the way, Katy has been in 100% remission for close to two decades now, and is the proud mother of a beautiful, healthy baby girl. I'm convinced that she was just too damned stubborn to die. But I think it's safe to say that the love and support she got from my mom and the rest of the community as a result probably didn't hurt, either.]

It’s true. I can sleep through anything.

Thanks to growing up in a loud, obnoxious Italian family, I can pretty much sleep through anything. Talking, arguments, construction, alarm clocks, earthquakes... and even attacks by the Brides of Dracula.

Fennec and Rachel left this charming little snapshot for me on my own camera, as a gift. Ain't that sweet? hehehe

Ack. I had a great weekend, and am looking forward to repeating most of it next weekend. But my arms are starting to get sunburn-itchy, I'm desperately craving a shower to get the remnants of clay mud off of me, I've had The Hero of Canton running through my head all day (and no one else there had seen Firefly yet - this must be remedied!), and I'm far too tired to get anything done.

I had planned to get home relatively early this evening and catch up on emails and such. I'm up to two months behind on responding to some emails, and others are much more recent but also much more compelling of a prompt response. But any attempt to make a coherent thought tonight will be pointless. I just need to shower, apply lotion to my scratchy sunburnt skin, and give in to the Sandman.

I have the coolest friends

Sometimes I'm just amazed at the incredible things my friends are able to accomplish. This week, I'm particularly proud of my friend Alison Gianotto (also known as Snipe).

Alison is one of my "imaginary friends," in that I have never actually met her in person. We met online several years ago when I sent her an email asking about something or other that she had posted on her site, and we ended up geeking out about PHP and becoming friends. We often answer each other's questions when we get stuck on a bit of troublesome code, or need our latest masterpiece ripped to shreds by a second set of critical eyes.

One of the projects she started working on a few years ago, shortly after her cat was burnt alive by a neighborhood psycho, was an online database for pet abuse cases, called pet-abuse.com. When she started it, I thought it was a great idea, and a fantastic way of turning her grief into something useful. But I never thought it would be as successful as it has been.

Last week, her site was featured in a Sun-Sentinel article on the link between animal cruelty and later violence against humans (her bit is at the bottom), and later today she's going to be interviewed by Animal Radio (not sure when that will air).

What started out as a small local project has grown into an incredible prevention and educational resource that helps communities all over the country (and even internationally) to prevent similar cases, and bring the abusers to justice.

Keep kicking ass, Ms. Snipe!

MER and Dad

MER and DadThis is my dad, standing next to the engineering model of the MER Rover, which is currently crawling its way across Mars (the rover is, not the model). He's part of the program that got the rover working and up to Mars.

This is also the first time he's ever sent me pictures of himself at work. So consider this the modern equivalent of pinning something to the refrigerator. I'm so proud! :)