Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Pi Day
March 14, 2019

Isaac’s Log—Stardate: 2019.73.

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Happy Pi Day!

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I woke up with a fever today, so this post will probably be pretty short—just a short little blurb-like sentences scattered haphazardly over a page, instead of real paragraphs—but I feel like it’s been such a long time since I last blogged that if I don’t write anything soon I might go crazy (not literally).

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A lot has happened in the past couple of months. First, some good news; my parents are back together again; within twenty weeks of their divorce, my parents reconciled, went pretty quickly from reconciled to tentatively together, and are now going to remarry again (Daddy proposed to Mommy last night). It’s been an intense few months, but on the whole I’m happy that things turned out for them, and I’m glad that they’ll both probably be happier now.

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We’re living at a higher elevation, so we’ve been snowed in multiple times in the past couple of months, I think the longest for about three days. We’re already over a week into Lent now (although I unfortunately missed the Ash Wednesday service, due to the aforementioned weather), with Easter just thirty-eight days away. Levi and I have spent a couple of weekends at Grandma and Papa’s; it’s great to get to spend more time with family, and it’s a lot easier for me to get to work from their house. We’ve been under the weather off and on for what feels like the last few weeks—one time I even had to bail out of a day at work, because my head was doing so badly I couldn’t really stand up for long periods—although I’ve also had a couple of really good days where my head felt really manageable, particularly since Dr. Thom gave me new exercises to do.

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Work has been pretty good overall; it’s definitely a learning curve, and I often make mistakes; but I really enjoying getting to find out more about pianos and how to maintain and restore them, acquiring new skills, and getting to see different projects take shape (the shop recently delivered a really beautiful grand piano, which I’d helped out with I think a plurality of the time I’d working there since I started). I don’t always have the greatest coordination, but so far I’ve only come close to having a pretty serious accident once (a note to fellow rookie piano people: when moving am upright piano onto a tilter, lift with your body from the sides of the piano, don’t do what I almost did and try to lift from the front of it), and my coworkers have been very encouraging and understanding (I often wear my sound cancelers most of the day when I’m working).

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While I’m on a musical topic, my brother and I recently downloaded a program called MuseScore, which is a free music notation program. Although I’ve composed songs since I was a kid, either by using a piano, a MIDI keyboard with GarageBand, or writing on paper, I’d never actually used software made specifically for score-writing, and it’s been a blast to learn how to use; it’s definitely something I should have looked into earlier, and I highly recommend it. Right now I’m working on a song that I’m calling Clockwork for now, which I’m writing in D and E minor.

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I had a kind of weird experience recently. My parents had left the house, and Levi and I were about to start playing Lego Harry Potter on the PlayStation. On a whim, I picked up Levi’s acoustic guitar, and started playing Hedwig’s Theme! I’ve never really practiced the guitar before, and I was really shocked; I found out that I could play a whole bunch of songs, even though I was only plucking out the melodies without the chords. I brought it up to my piano teacher, and apparently it’s something that kind of translates over when you learn music theory, with each guitar fret being a half step. It was a really fun discovery; and I’m hoping to get better at the guitar, particularly so that I can start actually start playing with chords.

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Mommy had her fortieth birthday twelve days ago; Stephie had been coordinating a surprise party for weeks, and everyone was in the know. Now, I was apparently born with pretty low deception, and I’m uncomfortable with telling even the most well-intentioned of white lies—I’m not, like, Thomas-Aquinas-level in my opposition to lying; I’d even go so far as to say that there are (hopefully rare) circumstances where lying is morally obligatory, such as protecting innocents from an immediate threat, but I believe that most lies are a misuse of a technically good power (which I think can apply to pretty much all sins anyway, like how murder is a misuse of the ability to kill)—but anyway, I was pretty paranoid about accidentally slipping up about knowing about the party, but somehow we all pulled it off without her even suspecting anything (in my case, I just almost completely avoided talking about Mommy’s birthday at all, which worked surprisingly well without arousing suspicion). The plan that Stephie worked out was that she and Mommy would go out for coffee, and then “stop by” her house to drop off a tool that Clay needed. So, while Stephie and Mommy were out, Grandma and Papa picked up Levi and I, so we could make it to the Tevebaughs’ before Stephie came by with Mommy. Most people hid their cars on the other side of the block (the only ones who didn’t were driving cars Mommy wouldn’t recognize); which was good, because a whole bunch of people came, more than I thought would be there at first: Papa Jeff and Ramona had come from the coast, Uncle Jim and Aunt Janet were there, Matt came a little later, Sandy and Katie were there with Tami, Grandma and Papa were there with me and my brother, and of course all four Tevebaughs were there. Mommy had a lot of presents, Clay made cake that we could have, and there was even a collage with pictures of Mommy from different stages of her life. On the whole, everything went perfectly; Mommy was really surprised (I was worried it would be too overwhelming, but fortunately it was a happy surprise for her), and I was really impressed that Stephie organized it so well.

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Daylight savings has started again, depriving everyone of an hour of sleep for the possibility of saving a little energy; I’ve already explained my negative opinion of DST before, so I won’t be redundant here, but I’m bringing it up now because there is some potentially good news on the horizon: Right now, lawmakers in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California are all considering bills that would keep their respective states and province on Pacific Daylight Time for good, so we’d never have to adjust our clocks forward or backward again. I’ve heard of a proposal for abandoning DST being shot down before because of economic concerns with being in a different time zone than neighbouring states, so I think we have a higher chance of finally abolishing Daylight Savings if we on the West Coast can coordinate together as a region to end the practice at the same time. I’m not expecting a miracle, there’s always hope.

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Well, that’s all I really have for now. Tomorrow, I’m supposed to play a game of Dungeons and Dragons with Levi and some of his friends online; I’ve only played the game, like, eight times before, and never with strangers, so it’ll be a new experience for me. I’m nervous, but I came up with what I think is a pretty funny idea for a character, and Levi helped me a lot with putting him together yesterday, so I think it should be fun. Tami’s birthday is this Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday, St. Joseph’s on Tuesday, and the Feast of the Annunciation will be on the 25th. I will turn 7,777 days old on the 29th, the day before Levi’s birthday—he’ll be turning eighteen this year, which seems kind of crazy to me, even though it makes perfect sense since I’m twenty-one now.

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Today’s Question: If you could change or add one law, what would it be?

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Today’s Joke: A new study recently found that humans actually eat more bananas that monkeys; which I guess makes sense, since I can’t remember the last time I ate a monkey.

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-Isaac““

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A Perfectionist’s Prayer
February 2, 2019

Praise be to You, Loving God!
You are all that I am, and all that I fail to be,
The Author of my life, and the Source of all good.
As I strive to become the person that You created me to be,
Help me never to find peace in my own perceived righteousness, nor to despair in my sins,
But always to seek solace in the infinite perfection that exists in You alone, my Creator and Guide.
Compassionate Father, quiet my anxieties.
Light of Humanity, direct my thoughts and actions.
Eternal Melody, give me the grace to recognize You in every joy and sorrow.
I give You thanks, Almighty One,
My God in harmony and in chaos,
My God in success and in failure.
In Your mercy, remember me at the end of my life,
That with the saints and angels I may praise You forever.
Amen.

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It goes without saying that I’m a person who tends to obsess a lot over details, whether the subject matter is religious or not. I’ve struggled a lot with scrupulosity to one degree or another in my life (although thankfully to a much lesser degree now than in the past), which is why I wrote this prayer today. I’m sharing it here with the hope that it will help other people with similar problems.
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Happy Candlemas!
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-Isaac““
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St. John Bosco
January 31, 2019

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“Do not put off till tomorrow the good you can do today. You may not have a tomorrow.”

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“Servite Domino in laetitia!”

(“Serve the Lord with gladness!”)

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-St. John Bosco

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Fun fact: While perhaps better known for his patronage of publishers and young people, John Bosco is also the patron saint of stage magicians.

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March for Life 2019
January 18, 2019

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marchforlife.org

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-Isaac““

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A Really Old Piano
January 15, 2019

Isaac’s Log—Stardate: 2019.15.
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So, I was at work yesterday afternoon, cutting old strings on a piano, so that it could be restrung; I’d never done this before, so it was a bit of a learning curve at first. You know the whole “can’t break a stick in a bundle” thing? Apparently, the same goes for piano wire; it’s kind of impossible to cut more than one string at a time. And, before you cut the strings, you have to relieve some of the tension by loosening their tuning pins, which you do by using a tuning hammer (which, despite its name, is actually a kind of socket wrench). I was a little intimidated initially, especially because sometimes the strings spark when they’re cut, and I was concerned at first about the wires popping up when I cut them (they didn’t; even though they have a lot of tension in them, I only really had to worry about my eyes getting poked when I helped take the strings out afterwards, during which I was very glad that I wear glasses). Eventually, though, I was able to get into a groove; and, by the end, I was able to cut them pretty quickly (at least compared to my very slow start)—however, it still took quite a while because, even though I wasn’t cutting the bass strings, there were three strings to each tenor and treble note. On the whole, though, it was a really fun process; I feel like I tend to be better at repetitive tasks in general, and the strings—although assumably no longer able to keep a tune—were still very musical, and often let out a final ping! as they were cut.
The piano was a Steinway grand; and, as I was cutting its strings, I noticed this decal on its soundboard:
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You can’t really tell in this picture, but it was encircled with various coats of arms and national seals.

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So, as you can see, I unfortunately didn’t get the best pictures, but the words say:
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STEINWAY & SONS
LONDON NEW YORK HAMBURG
MANUFACTURERS BY APPOINTMENT TO
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HIS MAJESTY WILLIAM II
German Emperor and King of Prussia
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HIS MAJESTY NICHOLAS II
Czar of Russia
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HIS MAJESTY ALFONSO XIII
King of Spain
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HIS MAJESTY FRANZ JOSEPH I
Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary
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HIS MAJESTY OSCAR II
King of Sweden
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HIS MAJESTY EDWARD VII
King of Great Britain and Emperor of India
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HIS MAJESTY UMBERTO I
King of Italy
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HIS MAJESTY ALBERT
King of Saxony
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HIS MAJ. MOUSAFFER-ED-DIN
Shah of Persia
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HIS MAJESTY ABDUL HAMID II
Sultan of Turkey
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AND OTHER DISTINGUISHED ROYALTIES.
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So, I’m thinking, wow, this is one really old piano; apparently older than World War I, since otherwise I don’t know why Steinway would advertise to Anglophones that they’d made pianos for the last kaiser. The soundboard looked like it was the original, but I assumed that most of the other parts had been replaced over time, since the piano was in really good condition. But, come to find out a little later (but before I had completely finished), all of its parts except the bass strings were original—so all of those strings I was cutting had apparently been in the piano for over a hundred years!
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Isn’t that crazy? I was pretty shocked; I thought it was really cool (awesome, in the full sense of the word), although I did feel a little bad as I continued to cut the strings, like I was undoing a bit of history; but I’m still glad that the piano is getting new strings, so that it can continue to make music for many more years. I think that the people who originally built the piano way back in the day would be happy to know that their piano still plays, and I think that it says a lot about them (as well as the people who took care of the piano so well) that their work has lasted this long; as far as legacies go, I think that is really amazing.
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Today’s Question: What something that you’re looking forward to in 2019?
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Today’s Joke: I just started my own business weighing miniatures; it’s a small scale operation. (Thank you to Levi for his help with wording this one).
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-Isaac““
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Christmas, New Year’s, and Loneliness
January 13, 2019

Isaac’s Log—Stardate: 2019.13.
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Happy (belated) New Year!
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Hi, it’s been a while.

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Tomorrow starts the official end of Christmastide (unless your parish follows the Extraordinary Form, in which case you technically get to keep celebrating until Candlemas) and the start of Ordinary Time, so I thought now would be a probably good time for me to quit delaying my blog post about the holidays (hey, better really late than never). I don’t actually have a whole lot to say; and I theoretically need to make sure that I don’t expend too much of my energy today, so that my head is well enough for me to go to work tomorrow, so my descriptions will be pretty brief.
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First of all, Christmas. Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year; Christmas day itself can be pretty stressful, as most holidays are, but overall I enjoyed myself this time. My goal was not to go nonverbal like I did the year before, and I’m happy to report that I was able to talk for the entire day; I mean, not that I talked constantly (haha), but my voice always worked. We went to Mass the night before with Grandma, and again for the morning Mass the next day (we only went to the Christmas Eve service the year before, which upset me at the time, since I’m used to going to church on Christmas morning also; so I was really happy we were able to go this year). We opened our stockings at home; and, after church, we went to Grandma and Papa’s house to celebrate for the rest of the day there. It felt sad and really weird not having Daddy around (he’s still in Ukraine, although we’re planning on celebrating a late Christmas with him when he comes back to the States this week, which is why we’re leaving our Christmas decorations up a little while longer), but I guess that we made the best of it. I was given a lot of great and really thoughtful presents this year; I’d like to especially thank the Tevebaughs for all of their help getting us stockings (our others are still at the house on the coast), Uncle Andrew for all of his help with funding, Grandma and Papa for opening their house to us as always (and for the clothes and Studio Ghibli Blu-rays!), and Sandy for all of her hard work with Christmas dinner. So, a big thank you to everyone who helped make our Christmas. Also, thanks Levi for helping (actually, you basically did all of the work) hide Mommy’s presents from Grandma and Stephie until Christmas; it was fun getting to be a part of that.
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Two days after Christmas, we went over to the Tevebaugh’s; Nathan is really into Minecraft, and he’d invited Levi over to play with him. I’d never actually played the game before, but Clay offered to buy a copy of it for me, so the four of us ended up playing together. We were playing on survival mode, and at one point I ended up separated from the rest of the group at night, but I made a makeshift shelter / beacon out of mostly sand, and Clay was able to find me. I had a good deal of fun, and I’m looking forward to playing with everyone again.
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On December 30th, we started a sort of Christmas-themed Dungeons and Dragons campaign, with Levi running it and Tami, Katie, and I playing. Our characters had to infiltrate this party to recover a stolen artifact; we managed to get through the entire party in two sessions (the second took place during the following weekend), and it was super fun (possibly the most fun I’ve had playing Dungeons and Dragons). There ended up not being a lot of combat (which was fine with me; we only actually killed one NPC), and none of us were technically caught, although Levi later told us that there were several close calls. I’m really excited to find out what happens next in the story he’s making.

Later on the 30th, Mommy and Levi went to a Straight No Chaser concert, and I stayed with Grandpa and Papa and watched Secondhand Lions and the new Jumanji movie.
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We spent part of the night of New Year’s Eve at Grandma’s, but we went home before midnight; we didn’t see the ball in Times Square drop live, although I kind of found something I think like it being streamed on YouTube, and we “prayed in” the new year during our rosary. Since Daddy was in a different timezone, we wished him a happy new year at 2:00 PM our time, and he wished us a happy new year at 10:00 AM his time.

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The next day, we went to Mass in the morning for the Solemnity of Mary; and, in the afternoon, we went over to the Tevebaugh’s to watch Spiderman: Homecoming, which I’d never seen before. I thought it was pretty fun and well-acted (I actually didn’t know at the time that Tom Holland was British; the New York accent he does in the movie isn’t super thick or anything, but if someone had told me the actor who played Spiderman was actually from New York City I probably would’ve believed them), and I liked that it had a more interesting villain than most Marvel movies.
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On the 5th (the day after Grandpa Hauck turned 88), we had a really big storm come through our area; we ended up staying later than we intended at Grandma and Papa’s to watch Captain America: Civil War (which I also hadn’t seen before, at least not in full), and when we went to go home there were two downed trees on our road. The first one, which had fallen clear across both lanes, we were able to bypass after a while by taking a backroad; the second one, which was only a few driveways away from ours, completely blocked one lane, and had scattered a bunch of tree parts over the other, so Mommy and I had to get out of the car clear some of the debris before we could go around it. And, when we had finished and made it back to the car, it was 11:11 (“Picket fence”, my favourite!). Even though everything worked out okay, I still felt pretty bad afterwards, since I was the one that made such a big deal about getting home instead of turning around and staying at Grandma’s. It was a scary, windy trip; but, fortunately, Mommy’s a good driver, and we all made it home safely that night.
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The next morning, we went to church, and later we went to Simon’s second birthday party. As we were driving up to Stephie and Clay’s house, Levi realized that he had forgotten his medication; so he and Mommy went back to get it, while I went inside and let people know what was going on. Levi, Mommy, and I had gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate cupcakes that were made especially for us (since we couldn’t have the cake), Levi and Clay talked about video games and related subjects for over fifteen minutes, and it looked like Simon enjoyed the presents that we gave him. Weird, tangentially related fact: I can remember being younger than two pretty clearly, but strangely I can’t actually recall my second birthday. I guess some things are just more memorable than others when you’re a toddler, haha.
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Other than that, I don’t have a whole lot to report. I was under the weather for a while last month, but I’m better now; I’ve started my piano lessons again after a long holiday break, my brother and I were approved for food stamps, and overall I’m enjoying my new job. Papa has been driving me there and back on most days; last week was particularly exciting, because he drove me to my credit union afterwards so that I could deposit my first paycheck (yay!). Of course it wasn’t super big, since last month I ended up only working one day due to holidays and such, but it felt like a really big milestone for me. My head still gives me a lot of trouble (at this point I’d be happy with just a partial recovery from my concussion, where I can manage my pain but still get to do at least most of the things I want to in life), and I think I was sometimes a little worried that I might not ever really be able to work a job again (even a really part-time one), so I’m really happy and grateful to have been given this opportunity to learn such a cool trade. Although so far I’ve had to take a few days to recover every week after I work, I only seem to get shaky if I spend a lot of time doing tasks that require a lot of fine motor control (in particular, using a screwdriver); which I didn’t really expect, since I honestly thought that heavy lifting would give me more of a hard time (those cast iron piano plates are crazy heavy!). So far, I haven’t had any big accidents, but I did make a pretty big mess last Monday just a few minutes before I had to leave the shop. I was by myself, and working on cleaning out a loft area, when I slipped on a box where we store rail punchings. My first thought as I was falling was something along the lines of, “Oh dang! Don’thitmyheadagain, don’theadmyheadagian, Mom will kill me if I hit my head again!” Fortunately, I didn’t hit my head; unfortunately, I did manage to spill paper and card stock punchings everywhere (okay, slight hyperbole, but I’m not kidding, it was a huge mess). I started at first by cleaning them up and sorting them by colour, since that was the way they had been stored, but I ran out of time at the end, and cleaned up most of the other half all together in a plastic cup. Since there were still some left, I called and apologized before I left (my boss, David, was glad to hear that I wasn’t hurt). The whole episode was kind of ironic, since one of my main jobs is cleaning and tidying up the shop; the whole reason I slipped was because I was trying to clear space in the upstairs area by moving old piano hammers to the loft area further back, and I ended up just making a much bigger mess in the upstairs area.
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Weirdly, even though I’ve probably been interacting with more people lately than I have in some time, I’ve been feeling pretty lonely. Even when I’m happy a lot of the time, I still feel lonely; because, even though I put in a lot of effort trying to show my happiness when other people are happy and concern for when people are upset, it feels like people rarely ever actually share my joys or distresses. I honestly don’t think that this is really other people’s fault, because a lot of what makes me happy or upset other people either don’t notice (like a cool light pattern on the wall, which makes me happy, or the stench of a dog, which makes me grossed out), or aren’t technically real (like how the number four is blue, which is also my favourite colour, or the red lines I’ve “seen” pretty consistently since I was five that are connected to my OCD, which often stress me out). I know that a lot of the things that I find joyful or upsetting aren’t actually real, but they are real to me. A lot of the time, it feels like that I’m the only person I know who’s happy, which ironically makes me feel sad and lonely, especially since I’m apparently not very good at sharing my happiness with other people (although I do try). It seems like people are often just kind of bemused when I’m happy about something, and annoyed when I’m upset.
I know that loneliness isn’t unique to autistic people by any means, it’s probably kind of native to the human condition to one degree or another; and, if I stop and think, I realize that I don’t really have it that bad—I’m surrounded by people who love and support me (as you can probably extrapolate from reading the above paragraphs), many of whom share some of my interests, and I’m grateful for all of the accommodations people have made over the years for me. But I still wish I didn’t feel so alone, that I knew someone whom I could really understand and who could really understand me, someone whose reality was much more similar to mine. Someone who could share my joys without a lot of effort on their part, and be as upset by the things I find unsettling.
A lot of people have made a big deal about how autistics don’t empathize with people the same way neurotypicals do; I actually do feel what other people are feeling, sometimes very strongly so (to the point of sometimes having a hard time differentiating between my own emotions and those of others), even if I’m not always good at showing it, or understanding why they feel the way they do. So it’s kind of frustrating when people feel like autistics don’t really care when we don’t mirror their emotions perfectly, when the same people might not really make any effort to appreciate the things we enjoy or try to understand why we find some things disconcerting. But again, even when people do work hard to understand me, and can’t fully, it’s not really their fault, because we sort of live in dissimilar realities; we’re all human, and all inhabit the same universe, but we see, hear, and feel very different things. Maybe that’s why everyone can be a little lonely.
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Well, on that depressing note, that’s all I have for today. I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday, and that 2019 is going well for you so far.
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Today’s Question: Two questions, actually. First, how do you deal with loneliness? Secondly, on a (hopefully) more chipper note, how was your holiday season?
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Today’s Joke: Bilbo Baggins woke up suddenly one morning to “Don’t Stop Believing”; it was an unexpected Journey.
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-Isaac““
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21
December 20, 2018

It’s been a rough few months. October in particular was very stressful, and the whole month felt like one bad surprise after another for me (it was the kind of month that makes you want to run away from everything and get a job working on the railroad in the Netherlands; you know, just as one, nonspecific example), but I’ll only mention a few things. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged much about my personal life, so I’ll try to keep things concise.
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Uncle Andrew and his girlfriend, Deedra, weathered it through Hurricane Michael; it was one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the contiguous United States, and Andrew said that it was one of the scariest experiences of his life (and he was an EOD in Iraq). The aftermath was (and continues to be) really terrible, too; Andrew and Deedra’s neighbourhood was sadly really torn up, but fortunately their house wasn’t damaged, and neither was the building Andrew works in (he has a job at Tyndall Air Force Base). Andrew was one of the few people in his neighbourhood not to lose cell service (he has AT&T), so his phone was passed around a lot between his neighbours so that they could still communicate with family and friends after the storm.

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Fr. Jack Krall, 1936-2018.

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Fr. Jack, one of the first Catholic priests I ever met (I think the third), and the one with whom I served the most often in my time as an altar server, died on October 16th. He had a stroke not long after his birthday exactly one week previous; it had been about a year since I last saw him, and I was really hoping to see him again before he died, but I guess that’s how life is sometimes. I’m definitely glad that I signed his birthday card, that’s for sure. We went to his funeral on October 31st (his little brother, Fr. Ken, officiated), which felt like kind of a fitting end to what had turned out to be a really cruddy month. Fr. Jack was very tall (I’m embarrassed to admit that one of my first thoughts I had after I heard he died was, “How are they going to get a casket long enough?”), but he had a very gentle spirit. He was kind and normally pretty cheerful (I really miss getting to hear him laugh at my jokes), but he wasn’t afraid to stand up for what was right, and I’m really thankful for him standing up for our little parish during tough times. He was pretty active until the end, and spent most of the fifteen years of his “retirement” as a priest still saying Mass at his parishes consistently and helping people in what ways he could. He was the last of the three priests our parish saw the most often during my childhood, so him dying really feels like the end of an era. I’m really glad to have known him, and am sad to see him go, but I’m happy that he’ll get to see his brother priests again.
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The “Unholy Trinity”, from left to right: Fr. Jack Krall, Fr. Pat Walsh, and Fr. Robert Palladino.

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The biggest unpleasant surprise in October for me personally was learning that my parents were divorcing. I was the last in my immediate family to know, and I’m not super socially aware to begin with, so for me the news felt like it came more or less totally out of left field (unlike my younger brother, who wasn’t really surprised; he’s autistic, too, but I guess he’s just better at picking up on this sort of thing). It hurt a lot finding out I was apparently unaware about something so big for so long, and that one of the few major constants in my life no longer existed. Although my parents didn’t intend for me to find out last, it still upsets me being the confused autistic guy who can’t “read between the lines” (whatever that means) and see stuff like this coming sooner. Although I suppose it’s more amicable as far as divorces go, one of the main reasons it’s happening isn’t something I can really empathize with at all, and it’s very sad knowing that things aren’t really ever going to be the way they were again.
Most of my extended family, even the ones we’re really close to, didn’t find out about the divorce until more recently; which is at least partially my fault. I thought that the paperwork for it would take a longer time to process, and at the time it seemed like we would be moving sooner (more on that later), so I requested not letting other people in the family know until after the move. This was for two reasons, one of which was selfish (not wanting to feel other people’s emotions in addition to my own), and the other more altruistic (wanting Daddy to still feel comfortable visiting before we had our own place); but, whatever the rationale, I realize now that this was a big mistake in retrospect, both because I’m scared that I’ve accidentally hurt other people by not letting them know sooner, and because I’m afraid that the stress of not discussing it much with anyone took quite a toll on Levi and Mommy. I didn’t really feel comfortable confiding in anyone about the divorce, because I felt it was pretty personal to my parents and I didn’t want to put them in a more uncomfortable situation; but (even though I didn’t actually say anything deceptive or untrue) not telling anybody about it for so long felt a lot like lying to me. People were told about it before we moved, but it was still after quite a while; so, to anyone reading this, I’m really sorry for my part in that, and I know that I really should’ve been emotionally mature enough to realize that keeping other people in the dark about the divorce would probably make them feel the same way I felt when I was the last in my family to find out about it (which, in my family’s defense, I can be hard to find the time to talk to in private, since I’m kind of in the bathroom a lot; like, seriously, if there’s some kind of “stats screen” in Heaven, with a pie chart showing how you spent your days on Earth, I’m genuinely curious what percentage of my life I’ve spent either in the bathroom or lying in bed waiting to fall asleep).
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November was a much better month for me, overall. One really positive surprise I had was being offered an apprenticeship at the piano shop I went to at my first Piano Technician’s Guild meeting. I was both really excited and really nervous when I received the email, and was concerned about the logistics of my having a job; but there aren’t really very many schools to learn piano technology west of the Mississippi, and it didn’t seem like I’d get this kind of huge opportunity more than once. And, on the whole, I think it’s really working out; I’m only part-time at the moment, and have started working there once a week. Overall, it seems that my head is holding up okay (right now, I’m only working about six hours each time); I haven’t had to lie down at all yet, although so far I’ve had to take it easy for a few days afterwards (my first day, I ended up with this weird thumb tremor that lasted for a few days, but I didn’t have the problem last time). My coworkers have been friendly and helpful, and I’m learning a lot about piano maintenance and restoration. So far, I’m both having fun and acquiring new skills, and I’ll even be earning some salary while I am. I’m really grateful for the support of my family, especially when it comes to driving me to work (thanks, Papa), helping me fill out tax and employment eligibility paperwork (thanks, Grandma), helping me use the printer at the library for said tax and employment eligibility paperwork (thanks, Mommy), and for making sure that I remember to bring food and other things I need (thanks to Grandma again).
So far, I seem to be best at more routine tasks (like stripping black keys, which I did last Monday), and have a harder time with both more open-ended jobs and things that require a lot of fine motor control (like numbering things and using a screwdriver, which I’m hoping I’ll get better at as time goes on). If I have detailed instructions I do pretty well, which is something I already knew about myself; if someone tells me how to make a sandwich, I’ll make a sandwich, but if someone tells me to make lunch, I’ll spend a lot of time wandering around in the kitchen trying to remember which step comes first (no one at work has told me to make sandwiches, that’s just an example).
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I turned twenty-one last week. I didn’t have a huge party or anything, and I didn’t blow out any candles, but Tami made gluten-free brownies for me, which were delicious. We went out to lunch with Daddy (before he went to the airport; he’s been doing a lot of traveling lately, mostly in Eastern Europe) at an old restaurant in town we used to always go to, and we had a barbecue at home at dinner. At the restaurant, Levi and I opened our presents (we always get a “brother gift” on each other’s birthdays) from Mommy and Daddy; mine was a really cool Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them book. Earlier in the week, I was given a kalimba by the Tevebaughs, and money from Sandy and Katie for my dues for the Piano Technician’s Guild. On the whole, it was a good birthday. Someone asked me about alcohol (twenty-one is youngest age someone can legally purchase alcohol in the United States), but I’d already decided a long time ago that I wouldn’t drink. Technically speaking, no amount of alcohol consumption is really healthy, and I don’t like the idea of not feeling totally in control (I deal with that enough already with my OCD, haha) or lowering my inhibitions; plus, with a history of alcoholism to one degree or another on both sides of my family, I’d really rather just not know what I’m missing out on. And, let’s be honest, the stuff doesn’t smell great. I’ll just be one of those boring people who doesn’t drink alcohol. Or coffee. Or soda. Or anything really bubbly if I can help it.

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Mommy, Levi, and I moved to our new house four days ago. It’s a little surreal for me, especially since it’s Ms. Theresa’s old house, where I spent a good deal of my time as a kid playing with Zack and Mary. Zack moved to the apartment just down the road from us, and he’ll be coming over at least once a week to do his laundry, so it’ll be good to get to see him more often. I also have my own room for the first time in about fourteen years; I was honestly really nervous about this, and I was worried I wouldn’t be there for Levi if he had a problem at night, but it turned out to be a smaller adjustment than I anticipated. I get to see my cat a lot more often, and I’m actually really grateful and relieved that I have my own space now after sharing a room with Levi’s dog for over four years (yuck). We actually lost power during our second night, due to the crazy storms that have been going through the West Coast, but power was restored by 9:00 the next day. Internet was installed this morning, and thus far it seems to be a little faster than at Grandma’s (our area unfortunately has really terrible and inconsistent Internet), which is great. We’re still spending a lot of time at Grandma and Papa’s house—so far Levi and I have come over every day. Ms. Theresa also went and bought us a Christmas tree before we moved in, so we were able to decorate it (although it felt pretty weird putting Christmas stuff up with just the three of us).
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Looking back, this hasn’t been one of the best years in my life; I technically moved three times, which is a lot even for someone who’s moved twenty-eight times in his life, my parents divorced, and I still haven’t recovered from my concussion as much as I would like (at this point I’m not even really hoping for a full recovery, I just want to get it the pain to the point where it’s manageable and I can still do most of the things that I want to do). On a positive note, I have a job now, I don’t have to share a room with a dog anymore, and Christmas is only five days away (although it sounds like Daddy unfortunately won’t be in the country on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day; which is really sad, and kind of makes this part of my life sound like the main conflict of a schmaltzy Hallmark movie, just probably without the happy ending). Mommy will be on her holiday break soon, which will last two weeks, and I’m hoping to go to the park and try out its new swings—provided there aren’t kids already using them; although I’m kind of short and apparently send off pretty strong “special person” vibes, I’d rather not take my chances scaring parents, or discouraging younger people from using the swings, because swing sets are one of the best inventions ever, and everyone should at least get to use them while they’re still small.
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Well, that’s all from me for now. Merry Christmas, or happy belated Hanukkah, or happy perfectly ordinary day for those without a holiday in December; and happy New Year!
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Today’s Question: Which is your favourite season? Mine is fall.
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Today’s Joke: A train driver falls asleep one day, and his train hits a man who’s trying to cross the tracks. The country the train driver lives in is super tough on crime, so the courts sentence him to death for murder. As he’s being taken in to be executed, the executioner asks him what he’d like for his last meal. Without blinking, the train driver says, “A banana.” The executioner shrugs, “Okay, that’s a little weird, but whatever, here’s your banana,” and then he straps him in the electric chair, switches it on… And nothing happens. According to the country’s laws, surviving an execution is seen as a sign of divine intervention, so the train driver is let go. A few years pass, and the train driver is doing pretty well for himself; he has a new job with a new train company, but old habits die hard, and one day he falls asleep again while driving his train, this time killing two people. He’s sent to be executed again, and the executioner says, “Oh, you again? Well, what will you be wanting this time?” And the guy says, “Two bananas.” He eats his bananas, and the exact same thing happens: He’s strapped into the chair, the executioner switches it on, nothing happens, and the guy walks. Just a few more months pass, and the train driver’s again brought in to be executed, this time apparently having killed three people. The executioner says, “Let me guess, three bananas?
“Why yes,” says the train driver, “How did you know?”
“Well, too bad, we’re all out of bananas; today you’re gonna fry.”
So, the executioner seats him in the chair without a last meal, straps him in, switches it on… And again, nothing happens. Flabbergasted, the train driver asks, “How come you’re still alive? I didn’t give you any bananas!”
And the train driver replies, “It wasn’t the bananas; I’m just a bad conductor.”
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-Isaac““
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St. Nicholas Day, 2018
December 6, 2018

 

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O good St. Nicholas, 

You who are the joy of children,

Put in my heart the spirit of childhood, 

Of which the gospel speaks, 

And teach me to sow happiness around me. 

You whose feast prepares us for Christmas, 

Open my faith to the mystery of God made man.

O good bishop and shepherd, 

Help me to find my place in the Church,

And inspire it to be faithful to the gospel.

O good Saint Nicholas,

Patron of children, sailors, and the helpless, 

Watch over those who pray to Jesus, 

Your Lord and theirs, 

As well as over those who humble themselves before you. 

Bring us all in reverence to the Holy Child of Bethlehem, 

In Whom true joy and peace are found. Amen.

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-A Prayer to St. Nicholas.

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Happy St. Nicholas day, everyone!

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-Isaac““

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Ralph Breaks the Internet Movie Review (Spoilers)
November 25, 2018

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I just came back a couple of hours ago from seeing Ralph Breaks the Internet, the long-awaited sequel to Disney’s 2012 film, Wreck-It Ralph (one of my favourite movies of all time); and, boy, what a ride it was! I was super excited to finally get to see this movie, which I’ve been waiting to watch since it was first announced over two years ago. I went and saw it this afternoon, shortly after Mass, with Papa, Mommy, and Levi (Papa drove, which he also did when we all went to see The Crimes of Grindelwald last week); we had prepared the night before by watching the original film, which I have on Blu-Ray (it was actually the only movie I brought with me when we went to stay at Grandma and Papa’s), and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to see the two movies back-to-back.

Overall, I really enjoyed Ralph Breaks the Internet, and I highly recommend going to see it (especially since it hasn’t quite made back its budget, although I expect it will in the coming weeks). It’s a sequel that’s not scared to do something different, while retaining its grounding in the original movie’s world and characters, and its animation is stellar (it’s incredible how much animation has progressed in just the six years that have past since the first film). I know that I’ll probably come up with better observations after I’ve let the movie stew in my brain for a few days; but, for now, here are my initial thoughts.

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SPOILERS FROM HERE ON.

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As I mentioned earlier this year, one of my biggest concerns for Ralph Breaks the Internet was that it would put too much narrative focus on characters from other Disney properties. Fortunately—despite trailers showcasing the Disney princesses, Marvel superheroes, and Star Wars stormtroopers—I think my fears were mostly unfounded, as these personages are mostly limited to fun cameos, gags, and Easter eggs; the film even features some memorable new characters (such as Taraji Henson’s Yesss, Bill Hader’s J. P. Spamley, and Gal Gadot’s Shank), but the story keeps Ralph and Vanellope’s relationship front and center, perhaps even more so than in the previous movie. Friendship is really the primary theme of Ralph Breaks the Internet, although it’s explored in a way that I think most “buddy movies” often don’t really attempt to. The movie shows Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship as being both fun and caring, while not shying away from depicting its more painful moments.

The film starts out as a relatively simple quest: The controls of Vanellope’s game, Sugar Rush, are broken, and she and Ralph have to set out to find a replacement part online before her citizens are left permanently gameless. By the time this initial conflict is resolved, however, a deeper one has emerged, in which Ralph must learn the difference between a healthy friendship, and unhealthy attachment—the former is altruistic, while the latter is, ultimately, egocentric. One scene that I think really illustrates this takes place after Ralph rescues Vanellope from her crash (that he inadvertently caused) in Slaughter Race: While Vanellope is still mostly unconscious, Ralph worries she might have died, and begs her to wake up, saying, “Come on, don’t leave me, kid!” (This line in particular kind of struck a chord with me, since my deepest phobia is kind of a specific fear of death—it’s not really thanatophobia, since I don’t really think I’m especially scared of being dead, or even necessarily dying—it’s the anxiety of everyone I know dying, and being left all by myself). I think the fact that this is literally one of the first things that come to Ralph’s mind shows that his focus in his friendship with Vanellope (at this point in the movie) is still too heavily focused on what she means to him, and what she adds to his life and self-esteem; he values her a lot for her companionship, but not enough as a person with her own needs, likes, and ambitions (and I don’t think that this is really out of character for him; since she’s the first real friend he’s ever actually had, it makes some sense to me that, over the years, he’s invested an unhealthy amount of his self-esteem in her opinion of him and how much time they spend together). I think that even recognizing that there’s a difference between a truly equal bond and more self-centered attachment is an important step for fostering healthy friendships, and seeing Ralph and Vanellope’s story unfold made me assess how I value my own relationships. To paraphrase 1 Corinthians 13, genuine love isn’t jealous or possessive, and this lesson is really at the crux of Ralph’s primary character development throughout the film.

Despite its title, Ralph Breaks the Internet is only about the Internet as much as the original Wreck-It Ralph was about video games; I think that the filmmakers did a good job making the Internet the setting for the story, while still ensuring that the story itself is less about the online world it takes place in, and more about the relationships between its characters. Even a brief scene where Ralph reads hurtful Internet comments about himself is played less as a serious critique on our use of digital media, and more in the context of Ralph’s self-esteem and character development.

Unlike its predecessor, the original Wreck-It Ralph, the movie doesn’t really have a villain; or rather (in a narrative move more commonly associated with Disney Animation’s sister studio, Pixar), Ralph is simultaneously both the protagonist and the villain, in the sense that most of the conflicts in the story are ultimately caused by him (which was somewhat similar to Ralph’s role in the first movie—what with him nearly getting his own game unplugged, and accidentally bringing in a Cy-Bug into Sugar Rush—albeit to a lesser degree, since King Candy had his own share in instigating conflicts). In the end, Ralph defeats his personal demons (literally), and Vanellope learns that she and Ralph can still be best friends even if their paths in life don’t always align (and whether or not they live in the same area). The film’s ending is bittersweet, although I think it is very well-executed. When the credits roll, both Ralph and Vanellope have grown as people, their friendship has grown stronger, and the story closes on a positive and hopeful note.

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Ralph Breaks the Internet is beautifully animated, with the scale and detail that’s put into its world being particularly noteworthy in my opinion; although I was actually a little more impressed with how far Disney Animation has come in the lighting department (especially having just seen the first Wreck-It Ralph), which I feel brought a certain vibrancy and energy to the whole movie. Though it definitely has its share of emotional moments (Vanellope throwing away the “You’re My Hero” heart she made for Ralph was a particularly heartbreaking one), the movie is also very comedic at times; I thought that a lot of the gags involving Ralph and Vanellope getting into trouble or just hanging out were really funny and cute, Vanellope’s song was pretty great (although her steering wheel song was really funny, too, haha), and I also liked the subplot with Fix-It Felix and Calhoun adopting the others racers from Sugar Rush. The only main criticism I have is that I thought that the “boss battle” against Ralph’s zombielike clones (and their subsequent King-Kongesque “ultimate form”) as a way of facing his insecurities was pretty goofy; but hey, it’s a cartoon that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it was definitely a unique way of showing Ralph’s inner conflict. I also feel that, although most of the Internet is painted in relatively broad strokes, a few of the more specific references to particular memes and such will probably make Ralph Breaks the Internet feel a lot more dated than its predecessor as the years go by. In contrast to Ralph Breaks the Internet, the original Wreck-It Ralph mostly eschewed “current” media and openly embraced nostalgia; by pulling more heavily from the zeitgeist of video game culture of the ’80s and ’90s, Wreck-It Ralph had an obvious advantage in knowing what references were worth making—if audiences understood nods to thirty-year-old games, then those games were obviously memorable. In the decades to come, we’ll probably have a better idea of what was really defining and memorable about the time period we’re currently living in, but I sincerely doubt that my generation will remember specific memes to the same extent and with the same fondness as Gen Xers remember, say, Pac-Man or The Oregon Trail; which makes me think that Wreck-It Ralph will probably age a little better than Ralph Breaks the Internet in the long run.

I also found it kind of interesting that Vanellope fulfilling her dreams by moving to a different game is seen as personal growth on her part, while in the first Wreck-It Ralph, “game-jumping” is primarily seen as negative (when Ralph abandons his game in search of a medal, he’s seen as irresponsible and selfish). I was sad that Vanellope moved away from Litwak’s Arcade, although I’m glad that she’s still staying in contact with Ralph (both through communicating online, and with Ralph apparently visiting every week or so); I also felt like her leaving raised a few unanswered questions—such as, with her gone, who will be the new President of Sugar Rush? Do the other racers even have a president anymore, or is it implied that they don’t really need anyone to keep them in line, since they’ve become better people under the tutelage of Felix and Calhoun? I’m a little disappointed that no one really talked about her being a president at all, but I guess that might’ve possibly confused audiences a bit with her interactions with the princesses.

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On the whole, I really enjoyed Ralph Breaks the Internet; it was great getting to see some of my favourite characters again, and I think it was worth the wait. Although the movie ends on a pretty complete note, I’m hoping that Disney will eventually come up with another amazing story for these characters, and they’ll create a third installment for the franchise; even if, judging by the gap between the first movie and its sequel, it’s some years from now.

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Today’s Question: What are some of your favourite movies that have come out this year?

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Today’s Joke: Here’s a joke that a Franciscan nun told me at church today: Why didn’t Noah do a whole lot of fishing while he was in the Ark?

He only had two worms.

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-Isaac““

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PS: Remember that NASA’s InSight lander will be arriving on Mars tomorrow, at around 8:00 PM / 20:00 UTC (which, for those of you like me in the Pacific Timezone, is at noon)!

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My Relatives Who Fought in World War I
November 21, 2018

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As most people reading this probably already know, last week—at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (November 11th, at 11:00)—was the centennial anniversary of the Armistice of Compiègne, which ended World War I. To commemorate this, I’m going to try to briefly tell the stories of two of my relatives who fought in the Great War, one from each side of my family: My great-great grandfather, Charles Boardman, and my great-great-great uncle, Benjamin Hugh Brandon .
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Charles Wilfred Boardman was born on April 21st, 1895, in British Columbia to Charles William Boardman and Mary Emily Woodhouse (who went by Emily). A printer and cartoonist by trade, at the age of twenty-two he enlisted in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force, which saw action in Belgium and France. After the war, back in Canada, he married Madge Agnes Clark (Wyatt Earp’s first cousin twice removed, but that’s a story for another time) in 1920. Three years later, he immigrated to the United States, hoping to land a job as a cartoonist for Walt Disney. However, as he was making his way south, he was offered a job at The Oregonian, and so ended up staying to work for the newspaper in Portland, Oregon, where he remained for the rest of his life. Shortly after arriving in Portland, his wife gave birth to Margaret Merle, the first of four daughters, who was followed by Dorothy Jane in 1925, Charlene Agnes in 1927, and Billie Anne (my maternal grandmother’s mother) in 1934.
Obviously, I never met Charles Boardman, although I’ve seen a photograph of him (which I unfortunately don’t currently have access to), as well as a couple of the cartoons he drew of his grandchildren; I’ve heard mostly positive things about him, other than an unproven (although apparently plausible enough to be passed on to multiple generations) family conspiracy that he fathered a son with a neighbour lady (he always wanted a son; hence my great-grandmother was named Billie). It’s kind of a weird thought that, since Charles Boardman’s original reason for leaving Canada was to become a cartoonist for Disney, had Walt Disney not founded his company in 1923, I (and many of my immediate ancestors) most likely wouldn’t exist.
Weird, slightly tangential genealogy fact: Charles Boardman had a brother, Albert, who (for reasons I’ve never found out) apparently had some kind of beef with his father, and changed his last name to Bowman (not a super original change in my opinion, but I guess maybe he wanted to keep his initials or something). I don’t currently know anything about his branch of the family, and I guess he didn’t have a whole lot of contact with his brother after the fallout with their father, but assumably I have Bowman cousins somewhere.
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Benjamin Hugh Brandon, also known as Hugh Ben, was born on August 30th, 1887, in Estill Springs, Tennessee to John Logan Brandon and Sarah Elizabeth Blackwood. During World War I, he fought at the Battle of the Argonne Forest, where he was the lone survivor of a German gas attack. He took his survival as a sign from God, and so dedicated his life to serving Him. At the time, he only had a 5th grade education; so, after he returned home, he finished high school in his late twenties, and went on to get his Masters of Divinity degree at the Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee. He married Carrie Priscilla Watson in 1919, with whom he had three children. His sister, Minnie Brandon, unfortunately died in the influenza (“Spanish flu”) pandemic of 1918, but he went on to live to the age of 88. A pastor, he officiated at the wedding of my paternal grandparents, and even lived long enough to baptize my uncle. Hugh Ben passed away on September 23rd, 1975, in Pulaski, Tennessee, and he’s buried at the Franklin Memorial Gardens in Winchester, Tennessee.
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That’s all for now; to all who are reading this, Happy Thanksgiving Eve!
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-Isaac““
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Today’s Question: What are some of your family’s Thanksgiving traditions? Every year, my family gets together, eats a turkey dinner, and watches A Muppet Christmas Carol (Like probably many Americans, Thanksgiving kind of marks the “official” start of Christmas season for us).
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Today’s Joke: Every single morning I get hit by the same bike; it’s a vicious cycle.
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