Saturday, April 30, 2016


Luke & Dad's Ninth Year & Three Quarters


Hope you are having a great day. I just had to email because your son made my year (and possibly gave the funniest test answer in the past ten years of giving this reading test at River). Each May we give the QRI (reading assessment) and Luke ended up getting to a passage about Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the concept questions is, "What is racism?" Luke responded, "One sentence, that bastard Donald Trump." I, of course, gave him full credit. :)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Go Caps!

Cash & Luke's Seventh Year & a Half

Well Cash, you are famous. Mom took you to a caps game and your face wound up on a prominent blog about the Caps, RMND (Russian Machine Never Breaks)! Your enthusiasm was captured and remarked upon as being what's awesome about hockey!

Indeed, you are into hockey these days. You've been taking both skating and hockey lessons; your ability and patience with the process is very unWellerian.

When I was young, I fought any and every lesson of any and every kind -- I hated novelty and stepping out of my comfort zone. You follow your interests with enthusiasm with no fear. I admire how chill you are about your hobbies and you endure practices with ease. Its annoying.

As you can see from this blog, watching your favorite sport played professionally at such a high level motivates you. You are a wild and crazy fan! Take a look.

Much of the blog is hard to read, so I'll try and sum it up for you:
A Front Row Seat to Tom Wilson’s Melee Made One Kid a Caps Fan For Life (Photo) 
Wednesday night, the Capitals extended their latest winning streak to nine games and it appears they gave one tiny Caps fan a thrill of a lifetime in the process. During a first period melee which saw Tom Wilson get a double minor for roughing, the Caps and Sabres mucked it up near the glass. Check out the fantastic photos. Dude is so happy. That's what hockey is all about.
And from the comments:
devildoll:  Same, little dude. Same.
Sage Confucius:  The kid on the left in the first picture looks totally unimpressed. I'd rather sit next to the kids that is having fun. Rock on, little dude!
You remind me of your great grandfather Harry Deets Weller Jr. (who my dad, as guest blogger, covered in an earlier entry). Even after a devastating stroke, he would light up when in a crowd as if he was absorbing all the energy around him.

Watching you at these games, I see the same exact trait of parlaying and amplifying the energy around you. And its not just at Caps games, but also at the Denver Broncos games.

[Picture of Cash with random dude]

Invariably, you become the celebrity of our section at hockey and football games. Within a quarter or two, you are off sitting with rabid fans who have adopted you, or you wind up in a blog!



Monday, November 30, 2015

Fall 2015 Roundup

Top three household events this quarter:

1) Tippet the Parrot arrives!
2) Grangy's Birthday in Caneel Bay.
3) Churchill passes away. We miss him.

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:

1) These Boots are Made for Walking, Nancy Sinatra, (Released 1966)
2) Reality (feat. Janieck Devy), Lost Frequencies (Released 2015)
3) Return to Moon, EL VY (Released 2015)

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Luke & Dad's Ninth Year and a Half

You are in your final year of River School. Your mom has kicked ass as the Chairman of the Board and has been working hard to expand the River's influence. Simultaneously, we've been preparing you for the application process for your next phase of schooling.

Damn, this process is harder than applying to Duke in undergrad or Harvard Business School! Its every bit as selective and a lot more work. Its stressful for your parents, and we are stressing you out too!

However, one nice product of this effort is the essays Rachel wrote about you for the applications. Unlike your father, who is capable of wild fantasy and exaggeration, Rachel is unusually direct, honest and as result, really credible. She also is able to capture you at this moment of your life better than anyone.

So, rather than waste your time with me, I thought you should see what your mom wrote about you in the fall of 2015 ...

(By the way, don't tattle on me. She doesn't know I'm doing this!)

What is your child's attitude toward school?

Luke looks forward to each school day with a mixture of excitement and some small amount of apprehension. The River School is his second home, although he doesn’t quite realize it, and he feels confident and safe there. The excitement you can sense on our drive to school: he’s plotting how he will make his friends laugh and what he’ll contribute that day to the Falcon class’s ongoing project of the month, and what he’s going to talk to Mr. Leigh about in science. To succeed, however, Luke has had to learn to plan, to make lists, and to believe in process. These skills aren’t second nature, and the dose of apprehension comes in because every morning he’s also donning his school armor and preparing to do what doesn’t always come easily. But this apprehension has had its compensations. The flip side to having to find ways to cope with ADD, as Luke has had to from early on, is that Luke has a mental toughness and perseverance that was not as present when he was younger. Luke is friendly and seeks affection, but he is single-minded and determined. When he has an objective, academic or otherwise, he attains it.

How do you think your child is doing in school?

Luke is performing above average or on par in all subjects. Among his strengths is that he is a strong, voracious reader and an imaginative and comic writer. He chose a 500-plus page Skullduggery Pleasant series book for his book review earlier this year, despite his mother’s protestations that it would take forever, and delighted us by finishing it well before the deadline so he could get to work on the review. His reading comprehension is excellent, especially when he enjoys the topic, such as science, animals, history and, especially, fantasy fiction.

Luke excels in science, particularly life science and engineering science: circuitry, building, fluid dynamics (goo vs slime!), and anything involving rocketry or fire. Earlier this fall, he and his partner devised the only paper towel-roll and plastic-liter-bottle stomp rocket that reached the roof of The River School, and he is still proud of this accomplishment.

Luke likes math games and projects but doesn’t enjoy memorizing. He enjoys math insofar as it’s used in the service of a problem or a project.

He might be a little embarrassed to admit it, but Luke also loves being on stage, and his (obviously biased) parents think he’s a natural. At the River School, children act in the Spring Play starting in kindergarten, and Luke has always enjoyed the camaraderie and pomp and circumstance that go with the two months of rehearsal and the attention he gets when he’s hamming it up on stage. He’s spent three summers attending a “Shakespeare Sprite” camp, and he’s loved learning how to die on stage, how to sword fight, how to play up the slapstick side of Shakespeare, and he even got into the Elizabethan language after one of the cool, charismatic festival actors told him, “‘Prithee, peace’ means shutup! Say it like you’d say ‘shut up’ to your brother!”

What are your child's interests outside of school?

Luke's favorite activities are

drawing comics, scenes, and blueprints for machines and toys,
building anything,
inventing board games with his brother,
playing video games, especially with his friends, as well as programming in Minecraft,
reading science fiction and fantasy
practicing karate, and
playing guitar.

Among the activities that were initially parent-mandated but that Luke has come to enjoy through the years are karate, soccer, and music (first piano, now guitar). Luke is a blue-belt in karate and attends class twice a week. He's proud of each new belt he earns, and we have been delighted that karate has had the side benefits that “Mr. Ricky” promised us: it has increased his confidence and improved both his mental and physical discipline. Luke asked to play guitar after taking piano for a few years, and he has found his instrument. He likes getting his teacher to show him how to play simple versions of hit songs and movie soundtracks that he likes.

What are some of the qualities that you appreciate about your child?

Both of us read this question and said, “His imagination!” He loves imaginary worlds – from The Hobbit and Skullduggery Pleasant books to movies like Tron and video games like “Minecraft” – and he spends a lot of his free time incorporating them into his own games and comics. Luke really wants others to like what he likes, and as his social motivation has grown over the years, his enthusiasm for these pursuits has become infectious to his peers. Luke is a “maker” and has become a ringleader in the neighborhood who gets groups of kids to enter his imaginary world, plan adventures, and go on “missions” for his Pranksters Rule! Club. He’s also got his friends playing a game he made that he calls Galaxy Wars 8000, set in the future. It has levels and “bosses,” like video games, and role-playing, like “Dungeons and Dragons.” Each level is a picture he’s drawn, with challenges and probabilities infused into the story arc.

We also love that Luke is big-hearted, playful and has a strong sense of justice. He’s sensitive to others, and even though he can be silly and boisterous, he’s aware when a friend or an adult is feeling down and wants to make things right for them. We’ve been told that he is like “glue” in his class, helping others come together and find common ground. Luke has sometimes struggled, and he has a helping hand for anyone else who struggles.

What are some areas in which support may be needed?

The most significant challenge of Luke’s early years has been cutting out the “noise” so he can access his awesome mind. He’s distracted by an ambulance siren 5 miles away, laughter in the next room, his own impulse to get up and move around. Learning skills to help him pay attention – and accepting that he needs help (e.g., a tutor, medication, and early on, occupational therapy) – has been the struggle of his childhood. Yet each year has been better than the year before, and now Luke has the assurance that when you work on something, you can overcome it.

But Luke hasn’t done it alone, and support from school has been and will continue to be important. We’ve learned that contact with his teachers before problems arise is critical. As one example of support we might require next year, Luke is currently on an ADD medication that wears off at about 1 PM. As the afternoon workload in 4th grade increases, and as he grows, we can expect to need to adjust his medication. Having teachers fill out a short, standard survey once a week for a few weeks has been a good way to assess how things are going. We try to be respectful of teachers’ time and systematic and efficient about how we approach our support needs, such that we do not require more classroom or out-of-classroom time than other families.

And we’re quite open to suggestions. We have been upfront with teachers and friends about Luke’s ADD and what that means, and have come to feel that transparency and flexibility are a key component of the success he’s had.

What qualities about our School make it a good place for your child?

We want Luke to develop the mental, physical, and spiritual strength to find and pursue his passions. Great, innovative, and well-supported teachers are a critical part of that equation. Maret has the best teachers we have seen among area schools.

Beyond that, you are our first choice for Luke for many of the same reasons we have loved The River School: You try new things; you are not afraid to mess with the recipe; your teachers seem skilled, kind, and encouraged not to be complacent; and you foster thoughtful innovation.

The Case Institute comes to mind as an example of what makes Maret vibrant. The world changes, technology changes, our expectations of our kids change. In order to grow and improve, we think schools and teachers have to be open to change. And to do it well, they have to be systematic about it. Of all the schools we have encountered through our work with The River School or have visited over the last few years, Maret seems to best put into practice this principle.

We also think Luke will do well in Maret’s supportive, smaller-size classrooms and in your well-rounded program where he can develop his interest in science and computers as well as in performing and music.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Blanket Thief

Cash & Dad's Seventh Year and a Quarter

When I was little, an ragged orange “blanky” accompanied me to bed every night. This behavior has passed to you, stuffing unnecessary fabric into bed, and unsurprisingly you’ve added flare to the practice.

Putting you to sleep is a ritual of placing a series of not just one but eight blankets in specific order, exacting placement, on top of and tucked around a certain Prince Cash.

If the rite is not perfectly performed, its scrapped and restarted. Again and again, over and over, sometimes two, sometimes five times!

Why do Rachel and I put up with this egregious ending to every evening?


If this ritual is perfectly executed (with an additional 30 second back rub), we are rewarded with at least one child immediately off the playing field! You cocoon up and pass out.


Where for Luke sleep is a place to avoid, Blanketfest properly performed results in Cashy slipping quickly into coddled dreamland. We get peace.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Lately, however, this process has taken a dark turn. After your dream ship is well out to sea, I’ve been retiring to my own bed only to find …  my own blanket kidnapped.

You are a Blanket Thief!

Yes, embarrassingly, I still need a blanky. No, I have not matured emotionally beyond your seven years ... and you know it.

I must say, however, my taste in blankets is exquisite.

Only a sensibility refined over forty years of trial and error would sniff out my most recent treasure, a grey and white specimen made of the softest German wool imaginable that I found in Munich during Octoberfest. I take this masterpiece with me everywhere!

Apparently you've either inherited my taste in fabrics or more likely you've got a keen sense what is most cherished by me. Either way, swiping such treasures from me has proven irresistible to you, bringing purpose to your life.

Your diabolical thievery is usually uncovered when it hurts most, when I go to bed AFTER you are asleep. After pounding my fists into my matress, I'm always stuck facing the same tough decision: do I weather a night of fitful sleep because of my missing blanky or do I risk an infiltration into the devil's den?

Despite my training in the navy, my SEAL-like incursions into your room almost always fail. Luke and you are deep, but somehow keenly perceptive sleepers. No matter how careful I am, these adventures always end up with not just one startled kid, but two reanimated demons! Demons who relish a parent getting caught and who will never, ever go back to sleep!

Lately, I’ve taken a new approach to containing your thievery: mirror your dastardly behavior. I too have become a Blanket Thief! I’ve been celebrating the Capitals wonderful season with a sinfully comfy Caps blanket! Its your favorite.

Go Caps!



Monday, August 31, 2015

Summer 2015 Roundup

Top three household events this quarter:

1) Second, Telluride Summer!
2) Luke & Cash try skateboarding!
3) You guys rocked Theater in Colorado.

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:

1) Regret, New Order (Released 1993)
2) The Devil Went Down to Georgia (Released 1979)
3) Love on a Real Train, Tangerine Dream (Released 70s)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Screen Crack

Luke & Dad's Ninth Year

Due to the inefficiencies of cross Atlantic travel, today I find myself with free time and an ability to appreciate it. So, after visiting my company ElasticSearch, I’m in Amsterdam with a half day off!

This is very rare. When I traveling for work, I’m in such a hurry to get back to you kids that I pack my schedule sardine tight. I never make room to wander around and take in my surroundings.

One thing I’ve noticed today noodling around the canals of the city is that while there are lots of restaurants, coffee shops and bars, and no one seems to be on a computer. Go to any coffee shop in America and you’ll see blue-lit zombie faces in sheer silence. Quite the opposite here. Perhaps its the weed.

The lack of computers got me thinking about our own family struggles of late. You see, you guys friggin LOVE computers and video games. So much so it takes away from your desire to engage in other creative activities — one of your greatest strengths! Right now, every weekend, we allow you two kids a couple hours of “screen-time." The thing is, computers games are like drugs for you boys. You want it insatiably. Weekends have turned into a street-scrum for screen-crack.

I try to keep in mind that when printed books became widely available in the early 18th century, novels were vilified as a disease atrophying the minds of the populace. All those people sitting around doing nothing but staring into paper! Funny how, nowadays, reading has attained near godly status.

Will our opinion of computing follow the same path from suspicion to pariah to achievement?

Its clear that computing is entering a new phase, bifurcating into two very different use cases. The first is what I call Injected Computing where computers are infused further and further into our everyday lives. Phones, watches, thermostats, cars, oh my! Its what many call Internet of Things these days or “IoT” for short.

The second case is a sort of inside-out view of injected computing (or perhaps outside-in is more fitting) that I call Immersive Computing. Instead of computers being injected into our world, we humans are infused into and engulfed by the computer’s world, an environment otherwise known as virtual reality, or "VR." The first real mass market VR headsets, like Oculus Rift, are entering the market next year in 2016.

As you are aware, I’ve been playing a role in the development of virtual reality content and platform with my board memberships. So, I’m a believer in VR’s inevitability and potential. Hell, I’m super excited to take you and your brother to Reykjavik, Iceland later this summer to visit Hilmar at CCP Games!

Still, I have concerns, in part because simulated environments like video games constrain variables versus real life. Why else can you play soccer like Pele on Xbox after just a few minutes? Furthermore, the “risks” thrown at you are logic generated, not natural and therefore not nearly as wild.

Trust me, the real world behaves in unfathomable ways requiring amazing agility and adaptability from us living things. Its amazing our universe doesn’t just fall apart.

I worry that a life immersed in computing might not allow for the full symphony of human capability that is required to survive. Or, seen another way, what makes a pro sports player or a virtuoso violinist so delightfully impossible is the sheer number of variables they have harmonized for their art.

I say that, and yet, the largest growing “spectator sport” is folks watching other people play video games within online platforms like Amazon’s Twitch. Watching other people play video games through your computer, what?

That’s unfathomable to me. But then again, so is most consumer behavior on the Internet. I’m on the board of DuoLingo where 3 million people per day engage in language learning on their iPhones and Androids. I can’t fathom that either, but I invested.

So, while concerning, computation is our future. In the 1990s, Steve Jobs likened the computer to a “bicycle of the mind.” Just as a bicycle extends the human ability of self-transport, by limiting variables and focusing energy, modern technology is dedicated to extending the abilities of the human mind. Perhaps its that focus and channeling of energy in refined yet forceful ways that makes it so powerful. A further tool of human specialization.

So, like the novel, I think the path of computing might end well. And I realize, despite my fears, I should seize your interest and harness your passion somehow.

But how?

My challenge is figuring out how to capture and guide your passion all while knowing that I’m more likely to be horrified by the next great thing than pleased you might be a virtuoso.



Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Cash & Dad’s Seventh Year

The ending of River School kindergarten brings to a close a most storied Cashy scholastic experience, “Rest and Read.” As we all know, you are renowned, non-stop talker, thus R&R imposes an insidious restraint, the requirement to stay silent. You've used every weapon in your armory — screaming tempers, kitty eyes, prison escape, teacher strong-arming, hard nosed negotiation, school room mutiny — and still been trapped into R&R.

When you were younger, we spent many a morning consoling you, trying to ease your fear of the impending horror of R&R. The worst part was the pre-school whining.

Recently, however, something has changed.

Machismo has entered the scene. Acting like a baby is no longer acceptable, likely cascading from your older brother who no longer wants to hold my hand in front of his friends. These kids are becoming more aggressive, more boyish, more competitive and that has seeped into our household.

Whatever the case, I overheard this conversation this morning:

Cash:  “At Rest and Read yesterday, they got mad at me and I got sent to the principal’s office."

Luke:  “Wow. What did you do?"

Cash:  “I wouldn’t stop talking at Rest and Read!"

Luke:  “Like, right, I hated Rest and Read."

[Quick commentary here: The word “right” has entered school verbiage evolved from the British show, Monty Python, in the 1970s where, “Right!” was used to reinforce a notion just said that one wasn’t so sure of. The use case here has the same function, but as a prefix to, rather than following the sentence.]

Cash:  “Yeah, my teachers told me to be quiet! So, right, I told them to shut up!"

Luke:  “What did the principal say?"

Cash:  “Nancy said I had to be quiet. But I said no and took some candy."

Luke:  “You got candy?!?"

In other words, my two midgets are at the formative stages of thwarting authority. Ever since the beginning of time, young people say "NO!" to the older generation, to what's happening in the world. And, disconcertingly, I’ve discovered I am a cornerstone of the authoritative institution.

More specifically, I am no longer “Dad.”

I am “Harry."

I probably deserve this for continuing to call you “Cash Machine” despite many cease and desist demands. Nonetheless, I suspect this is a symbol, a rejection of my fatherhood.

I am the dad in Tugenev’s Fathers and Sons where the son, Barazov, turns to his conservative father and says,

"We base our conduct on what we recognize is useful. In these days, the most useful thing we can do is to repudiate, and so we repudiate. Everything."

The father asks, “Everything?"

The son replies, “Everything."

The father realizes his son repudiates him too, as father.

This sort of philosophy is called Nihilism. In Fathers and Sons, Barazov defines nihilism outright, “A nihilist is someone who bows to no authority, who accepts no principle at face value, no matter in how much respect that principle may be held.”

The rise of nihilism rose from many forces, but foremost were the horrors of world scale war and the advances of science. Both were collapsing traditional morals and values, showing them inert or just plain wrong. God, long regarded the source of absolutes, was “dead" concluded Nietzsche.

Nietzsche was the first to treat nihilsm as a serious philosophical matter though he was commonly misidentified as a nihilist himself. He meant “dead" in the sense that traditional religion no longer held sway over modern culture. In the absence of absolute values, a vacuum had been created and, for a time, it would seem that nothing existed, nothing was real.

For Nietzsche, though, this nothingness was temporary, a momentary void from which the more evolved human, the Übermensch, would birth something entirely new. He saw the collapse of absolute values as an opportunity for us to reexamine our fundamental truths, to retool our systems. Nietzsche also makes a point that the "overman" is not an end result for a person, but more the journey toward self-mastery.

In that light, I am pleased being called Harry.

If your self exploration means a rejection of authority, even to the base idea I am your father but instead just “Harry," I am ok with that. I see courage in the willingness to defy things, even the most scary like death. I do suspect there is self realization the other side.

I also feel no restraint in my willingness to defy the youth that will inherit the earth! Dropping you off at school in front of your friends, I’ll be in a bathrobe and flip flops with a final wave yelling, 

“I love you Cash Machine!"



P.S. I should point out that the term Übermensch was stolen by Hitler and the Nazi regime to describe their idea of a biologically superior Aryan or Germanic master race. Its another contortion by the Nazis. Nietzsche himself was critical of both antisemitism and German nationalism.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Spring 2015 Roundup

Top three household events this quarter:

1) Rachel assumes Chairmanship of River School!
2) You guys survive Rogan's skiing instruction in Telluride.
3) We acquire our first property in Colorado.

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:

1) Freewill, Rush, Permanent Waves (Released 1980)
2) Waves (Robin Schulz Remix), Mr Robz, Single (Released 2015)
3) A Girl Like You, Edwyn Collins, Gorgeous George (Released 1994)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Cash & Dad’s Sixth Year and a Quarter

World War II has become a fascination for you. The Pelican class at River School introduced the subject and you were consumed immediately.

I too was entranced with World War II early in life. I loved its weapons and warfare and it was not ancient history. Being brought up in the seventies, the war was a mere twenty years past. Today, college was twenty years ago for me. Ugh.

As computers evolved into gaming platforms, I started seeing the weapons I read so much about show up in video games. I thought that was so cool.

In your case, the opposite is true in that you are fascinated to see the weapons of your mobile games show up in historical reality. “You mean they really had these things?!” This strange reversal says a ton about our future.

As you learned more about World War II, you soon identified with the greatest victims of the war, culminating in this:

“Dad, I’m Jewish.”

My buddy Gregg Brown would be proud.

This plus your stated faith in Jesus, rising from a yet identified influence, and I see the wonderful choices of childhood unencumbered by the mutually exclusive. Life is a candy store for the young.

I parlayed your interest in World War II into board games that emulate the various struggles of WWII. Our favorite is called Memoir ’44. I also exposed you to an Apple iTV production of ten episodes showing rare video footage of World War II. I was hoping the videos would both add more depth the games and bring to bear some of the realities of what we were simulating.

Needless to say, the violence of all this is probably unhealthy. But, hell, I was watching Lord of the Rings with Luke when he was two. This stuff is just too good to hold back on.

In our very first Memoir '44 game I was in for a shock, however. Despite your religious convictions, you insisted on playing the German side on Sword Beach of D-Day. I had assumed you’d stick to the defense of your new tribe and side with the Allies.

Pondering this, I wondered if the videos had something to do with it. We had only seen the first two episodes, and in those the Germans pretty much kicked royal ass including the Blitzkrieg of Poland and France.

Could it be that your desire to win overcame any of your religious convictions?! Could you be that competitive, that shallow?!

I should pause here and admit that you carry a five-to-zero undefeated streak against me. So, to be fair, my worries about your competitiveness are on reflection and maybe the fermentation of sour grapes. By the way, I say a five-to-zero streak with a great deal of hesitation because of a scrap we held in the wintery Adriennes. I won decidedly only to realize my tank firepower should’ve been penalized -2 dice fighting out of forests (which was the core of my strategy). I disqualified myself. You counted it as win, which is questionable. Its more of a revoking of a win than a loss for me in my view.

Whatever. At this point I should also mention that the Wellers are not graceful at the deciding moment of competition. We are gleeful, gloating winners; we are downright ugly losers. (I should additionally note that Rachel, who considers herself more a Moore than Weller therefore immune, is indeed infected by this disease though with a style her own. Her celebration volume is an unWellerian quiet but betrayed by a shiningly jubilant face.)

However, you, Cash, are at an entirely different level and this says a lot given my legendary post game antics. A Cash victory is a frenzied jig followed by a sprint to the nearest ten human beings, friend or random stranger, to recount your victory. Defeats are crying tantrums, slamming of fists and the occasional destruction of a MacBook Pro.

Now when introducing a new game, my newest innovation is to lose the first few games outright. That way, when you face defeat for the first time, you quickly apply ego-saving math, “yeah, but I’m still winning overall!” and I’m saved a few thousand dollars and infanticide.

All this because I introduced these games to you ... never let a good deed go unpunished. I sometimes wonder if I know what I’m doing.

But just when I despair, I get a text from your aunt Keara:



Saturday, February 28, 2015

Winter 2015 Roundup

Top three household events this quarter:

1) Sold the MacArthur house!
2) Rachel went to Barcelona.
3) Rachel's second River School Auction succeeded!

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Nuke 'Em

Luke & Dad's Eigth Year and a Half

We are wrapping up what has been a challenging 2014 for us Wellers. We didn't leap the hurdles with grace, but I’m proud we finished alive and kicking. Your mother was a hero of course.

We spent Christmas in the Dominican Republic with your favorite family, the Kramers. Dealing with the energy broiling out of you and your gang of Motts, Lars and Luke was as tolerable as staring into the sun. I wouldn’t have a it any other way I guess.

I made things worse by introducing a science fiction role-playing game from the eighties called Traveller. The game was a huge hit with your clan and in-between gaming sessions I was relentlessly pestered to return to the game. I reluctantly traded hours of peaceful lounging in the sun for the role of sole babysitter and “Gamemaster" to four hyperactive kids in a laser infused imaginary world. The other parents were delighted.

Gamemaster is a combination of referee and storyteller with god-like powers to facilitate the game and, like any god, stuck with his creation whether he likes it or not. I considered abusing my god-like powers to nuke your party of elves, aliens and cyborgs to set myself free.

My sense of fair play stopped me. I figured my created universe should be governed by laws and a good god would maintain those laws. In deism, god creates the universe and its laws like a programer scripting his code and pressing “enter” to set the universe in motion never to interfere again. If Traveler were a computer game, that’d be the right approach.

But immanentism seemed a better model for a live role playing game. Here, god creates the physical universe and laws but doesn't just stand outside them but is the driving force behind them. That sounded more like my role as Gamemaster ... if I was behaving.

But my ego demanded I was a god and should act like one. I shouldn’t be limited by constraints (even if I created them). I would be an interventionist god occasionally interfering with its predictable function. Miracles and royal disasters -- that’s more my style!

So, I'll nuke’em!

Or I'll take a more subtle approach. Taking a page from the Old Testament story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, I orchestrated a dilemma where you, Cash, the elfish and creatively named Elven, had to kill Luke, Android ST-10, or die yourself. ST-10 had been infected by an virus driving him to eliminate you.

This scenario smelled of Gamester interdiction and you eyed me as you lifted your blaster at your brother. I was appalled by your cold-bloodedness.

I had a revelation. Perhaps as Abraham lifted his knife, faith wasn’t what compelled him to sacrifice his son. When you aimed your blaster, I realized I wasn't testing you, but rather you testing me. Was Abraham testing his god?

Are you a god with empathy? Otherwise, you are no god at all.

Long dormant McAfee software saved the day.



Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Cash & Dad's Sixth Year and a Half

The infamous Cash Machine has a cult following at River School. Every time I drop you off, I am harrassed by one of your groupies — a parent, student, a teacher, administrator, whatever — and subjected to an enthusiastic retelling of your latest shenanigan.

Your superstar status is removed from the shy child of your yesteryear. Your former timidity rose from being youngest in your class, but it was misleading, concealing the free radical we experienced at home.

When I am introduced to a River School mom these days, the conversation typically goes something like this:

“Meet Harry Weller. He has two sons that go to River School."

River Mom: “Nice meeting you! Don’t you love that school! I have a daughter in the Pelican class."

Me: “I have a son in the Pelican class too. His name is Cash ..."

The River Mom’s eyes widen, her cheeks flush, she breathes as she says,

“YOU ... are CASH ... WELLER’S DAD ?!"

Me: “Uh, yes, I’m afraid so …"

I begin hearing pseudo-porno-pop in the back of my mind … Da Doom ta ta Mow Mow … Is this River Mom giving me me a saucy look?

The River Mom says, in a deeper, confirming voice:

“Yooou are Caaash Weller’s Dad …"

One thing I’ve learned about River School mom’s: they live vicariously through their daughters. And every Pelican girl has a crush on you to your great dismay.

So, you are a social creature like your grandfather Moore, a motormouth turbocharged by a wicked sense of humor and a competitive spirit stoked by your brother. You were just waiting to burst out, and once we got you properly aged for your class (just like your brother and me), it exploded forth. Boom!

Let me give you a couple further pieces of evidence. We recently flew on a United plane to Telluride and as you sat down you looked over to your seated neighbor and said,

“I talk a lot so you probably better just be OK with that."

Once in Telluride, Rachel took you on a horse ride and the guide noted as the horse started drinking water,

“He’s not drinking, he is drowning himself from the constant chatter!"

The flood of Cashy content isn’t just limited to speech, but comes forth also in writing. Unfortunately, some of your favorite subject come flying out too. Check out this note from XXXX:
I had the pleasure of sitting in the Pelicans today while they were creating short stories and illustrating. Well, Mrs. Petrillo gave them the starter “This is a…” and they had to draw a picture and write a story about anything they wanted. Cash decided to draw a picture of a toilet with some poop in it, then write a fascinating tale. It was hilarious. I died laughing.
I think he was expecting a reprimand, but I told him I have two boys and think poop is funny too. I also told him how much I liked his artwork and writing. He worked really hard spelling each word and used neat handwriting. He gave me a hug. Sweet Cash was so proud. Best day ever. Knew you would appreciate the humor in it, as well as the joy in seeing a child love to write (even if in a non-conventional way). :)
Hmmm. At least some good drawings came out of it.



Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fall 2014 Roundup

Top three household events this quarter:

1) Mommy conquers Breast Cancer.
2) We went to Caneel Bay for Thanksgiving!
3) Sailboat "Who Wander" enters our lives.

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:

1) Lessons, Rush, 2112 (Released 1976)
2) The Daydream, Tycho, Dive (Released 2011)
3) All Night, Damian Marley, Welcome to Jamrock (Released 2005)

Friday, October 31, 2014


Luke & Dad's Eighth Year and a Quarter

You've taught me how to make mushroom trees in Terrairea! While I am conflicted about your obsession with iWhatever video games — is playing with you is encouraging a bad habit or am I really trying to understand where future generations will spend their time and attribute value? — I still find making mushroom trees in what amounts to a 2D Minecraft is pretty cool.

Unlike the games of my age which generally involved jumping over things to get to the next level, your games have a large element of building. Virtual legos. Yes, its pretty awesome.

I do wonder if you are learning as much as you could be in these worlds. Learning is a risky business. When young, we experience a shattering number of failures because we simply can’t do that much. But we learn a massive amount. I probably had too much fun watching you learn to walk … and fail a hundred times!

Yet there is no learning without difficulty and failure. And if you want to keep on learning, you have to keep on risking failure all your life. Simple as that.

The constraints embedded in video games concerns me versus the lessons of the wild in the real world. I think I’ll write a future blog on that alone.

I suspect video games are as poisonous as restrictive, over protective parents however. We can make things far worse by making success too precious. Its a highly competitive age we live in and I find parents are way too concerned with perfection, or the illusion of it anyway.

I can imagine for a kid captured in a parental pressure cooker, a nice release would be a games of constrained risk, an area to build, and a place of relief … from us parents.

I know I need to chill if I want you to be a risk taker. Part of the beauty of failure is the fact that many mistakes lead to discovery. One of my favorite stories, however evolved to mythology it has become, is Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin.

In 1928, Fleming was looking for ways to destroy bacteria when, as a rather untidy lab technician, he left bacteria plates exposed to an open window when he went on holiday. Upon his return, Fleming found spots of mold growing in some of the plates and around those spots he found a ring where no bacteria was growing. Something was killing the bacteria!

Fleming worked hard on his mold, Penicillium notatum, and extracted mold juice he appropriately called penicillin. Ultimately, penicillin changed the history of infectious diseases. All because of a silly mistake!

Its funny how mistakes lead to curiosities, curiosities lead to interests, interests to passions, passions to constraints, constraints to solutions, solutions to knowledge. That entire path requires one to be compelled to take risk, to face failure and come out the other side.

The “compelled” part is the most important piece I think, not the risk-taking part. One is compelled to take risk, one is not just a risk-taker in a vacuum. I know that's true of me. I'm a wuss bag until I get an idea in my head. Then I am an unrelenting risk-taker.

So, this gets back to the identifying the things that compel you Luke. Right now its imaginary worlds that take many forms: role playing games, movies, video games, theater!

I’m trying my best to distinguish between what compels you and what might restrict you from taking real risk … including me!



Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Cash & Dad’s Sixth Year and a Quarter

Many experts say the most valuable skill a parent can bestow is a child's ability to fend for himself. Over protecting a child won't do him any favors. That assumes, of course, the children are the ones needing protecting.

Last week, you came downstairs naked, colored all over in yellow Crayola marker. Leaping to the rug towards Rachel, you crawled on all fours with a contorted face and growled to a wide-eyed Rachel, “I am an Alien! Give me cookies or die!"

Before Rachel grocked this scene from Calvin and Hobbes, you broke out of character screaming, “its itchy!” rolling around on a wool rug that is, indeed, itchy, and more so with every moment. The rug turned yellow as your skin turned irritated red. Poor rug.

In our house, everything but the kids requires protecting. We recently visited the Linehans in Philadelphia. Within five minutes of being in their house, you sent a piece of molding crashing down the stairs. I looked at my buddy Chip, shrugged, and said,

“He is the Destructor."

When I learned about entropy, the thermodynamic law behind the phrase “things fall apart,” I never expected the universe to conjure my son as its agent. Lately, I’m afraid to leave you alone in a room; you are a one man wrecking (Cash) machine.

You are not *trying* to break stuff. You are usually trying to make things. Unfortunately, the pieces you covet usually reside as a part of something else, say a piece of Luke’s lego X-Wing fighter. Other times, you break something as you figure out how it works ... by taking it apart. Regardless, your surroundings are yours for the disassembling.

You seem to believe the world revolves around you.

Come to think of it, everything in my experience suggests I am the absolute center of the universe too. What experience do you have that you are not the absolute center of?

The only thing I can really be sure of is that I exist. The sunburn I am suffering right now ensures this whether I like it or not. So, acting as the center of the universe is understandable. Everything else is either an unconscious interpretation imposed automagically by the brain, like sight, or arrived at through the observing conscious mind, like a decision.

Elightenment thinkers of the 17th and 18th centuries argued that the individual is the true measure of human value and each of us is entitled to act in our own best interests. So, as center of the universe, should I only act in my own self interest?

Well, sort of. If the self-centric conscious me concludes I can't survive without help, its within my self interest not to be selfish.

Maslov’s first layer of physiological needs include food, clothing and shelter, and today they are provided to me by collective human effort. Humans have scaled successfully due to group behavior, and philosophers from Aristotle to Hegel have emphasized that human beings are essentially social creatures. To them, the idea of an insolated individual was misleading.

Interestingly, the more successful a culture is at creating stable provision for core human needs, the more an individual has the freedom to think and act individually. Said another way, a strong society abstracts away the base needs and frees the individual from the lowest levels of Masvlov’s pyramid.

One of the ironies of this release is the emergence of freedom to question the very society that provides this agility. Our media and intellectuals exercise this freedom every day. In my view, this is healthy if the foundation itself is not forgotten. Like any abstraction, in its effectiveness, it can become invisible and thus unappreciated.

You might ask whether I worship the altar of the individual or the collective. In my mind, they are yin & yang, seemingly opposite forces that are complementary. I experience the world as the center of the universe, but my survival depends on collaboration with others. What ties these ideas together is an observation:

Splendor lies in a single idea created by a man.

The free, exploring mind of the individual is the most valuable thing in the world. A man's original idea is the atomic building block of creativity.

The group is powerful in its ability to piece together and and extend great ideas, but the group never invents the seed. That is the realm of a single mind. However, the collective is unequaled in its power to pull together, build upon and bring to life ideas.

So my son, while you experience yourself as center of the universe, respect the power of the group, and nourish your own ideas above all else. That way, you'll appreciate what you are destructing all the more.



Sunday, August 31, 2014

Summer 2014 Roundup

Summer Roundup

Top three household events this quarter:

1) Rachel got cancer and beat it.
2) Our first family trip to Telluride.
3) We hit Duck for the beach.

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:

1) Top Jimmy, Van Halen, 1984 (released 1984)
2) Flash Junk Mind, Milky Chance, Sadnecessary (released 2014)
3) Rebel Yell, Billy Idol, Rebel Yell (released 1983)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

God's Dice

Luke & Dad's Eighth Year

Rachel’s surgery and recovery have gone well and she is cancer-free. Hooray! We are one minor operation from putting this episode behind us.

Today we are in Telluride, Colorado enjoying some needed time off. Its funny, Rachel always blooms in the mountains. She looks fantastic as she returns to her pre-cancer fitness level. Yesterday, Rachel climbed a thirteen-er with little trouble. She has been impressive to say the least and we are are thrilled she is back in action. I love her very much.

The cancer experience has changed us in many ways. In particular, we find ourselves reflexively pursuing a question:  

What caused the cancer?

Rachel and I have taken different approaches to this mystery, one we know is ultimately unanswerable. Instead of looking backwards for clues, Rachel has peered forward, reviewing the most recent research and identifying the best practices to mitigate recurrence.

She has sharpened her exercise, sleeping, eating and drinking (very little alcohol) practices knowing her body will return the favor. It has. She has come to grips with never knowing the cause and is focused on influencing the future. As they say, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

Where Rachel has been productive, I’ve entangled myself in questions about the nature of “cause” itself. What is cause and does effect always follow it? Many believe things happen for a reason, that events are preordained from an initial set of conditions. Oddly, both theologians and scientists believe the universe plays a very deterministic role.

The scientific method is anchored on causality. If you understand the laws of nature and have sufficient facts, science plays the pool shark reliably predicting the outcomes of a succession of colliding celestial balls. As professor David Wong said, if you have all the preconditions right, “the rest is chemistry!"

This thinking was held until the middle of the twentieth century when researchers started studying subatomic phenomena. The findings in this area, known as Quantum Mechanics, revealed the basic laws of nature as fundamentally statistical, governed by chance. Yes, chance.

If this is unsettling, you are in good company. Einstein himself struggled with the idea that nature could, at its core, be probabilistic. The idea was intolerable to him until the end of his days. Yet, the seeds of this quantum reality were an extension of his own General Relativity Theory.

Early in his career, Einstein observed that light not only behaved like waves as was commonly accepted, but also like particles he called photons. It appeared that light was both wave and particle at the same time. Whether it conformed to wavelike or particulate behavior depended solely on how you studied it. He used photons to explain why atoms, when hit by light, absorbed discrete amounts of energy as if interacting with a particle.

What Einstein didn't foresee was this dual nature of photons would be applied to all physical nature, including matter! Yes, matter too behaved as both wave and particle. Einstein felt that treating matter like light was going too far, saying, "A good joke should not be repeated too often."

His discomfort rose out of the famous Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle that said the mere act of observing dual natured particles affected what one was observing -- you could not observe both the location and the momentum simultaneously, but rather one or the other. Whatever attribute you measured left the other to uncertainty.

Specifically, if you measured the location of a particle, by observation you could not measure its momentum with certainty. Visa-versa was also true. If you measured the momentum of a particle, the position of the particle is not knowable aside from a probability distribution.

The statistics don't just describe the reality; they are the reality. Barton Briggs was right when he said, "Logical deductions are just probabilistic relationships where the probabilities are really high."

Einstein hated this. He famously said, "God does not place with dice." He believed that the uncertainties physicists like Neils Bohr seemed more and more willing to accept would, in time, be explained by deeper underlying theories. He rejected that the universe, at its core, was governed by chance and did away with causality. And he might well be proved right some day.

In my case, however, I take solace in chance underlying the universe. I don't want my free will to be a grand mirage resulting from a vast chain of cause and effect reaching back to the explosively colliding subatomic billiard balls of the big bang.

And, perhaps, just perhaps, Rachel's cancer too was just by chance. If so, I pray she never gets it again. She has worked hard to nudge the odds in her favor.



Monday, June 30, 2014

For the Birds

Cash & Dad's Sixth Year

The discovery of Rachel’s breast cancer came just two weeks ago. A routine mammogram raised read flags. Shortly thereafter, a talented radiologist, Dr. Linda Brem, probed deeply -- more than usual -- acting on a hunch. She discovered not just one but two cancers in Rachel’s right breast and an emerging spot in her left.

That discovery, born of an expert’s intuition, made Rachel’s path clear. The insides of Rachel’s breasts were to be removed in an operation known as a double mastectomy, a terribly invasive surgery. As horrible as that was, Dr. Brem’s correct diagnosis saved us from multiple cancer recurrences. We well could have taken a less invasive approach, one that missed other cancerous areas.

As I write this, Grandma and I are sitting in George Washington Hospital while your mom undergoes the surgery. The wait is torturous. World War II soldiers described sitting idle before the D-Day as hell before the firestorm. I get it. Its been four hours and we are still waiting word from Dr. Teal on Rachel's progress. God, I hope she is doing ok.

I can’t stop thinking about Rachel. She has feared cancer as long as I’ve known her. Its her worst nightmare come true. Over the last few days, she’s been asking herself over and over: How did this happen? What did she do to cause this? What could she have done to prevent it? Was it caused or determined?

She has researched, looked at genetic markers and so forth to see if she was somehow genetically predisposed. One thing is for sure in this day and age, we are at the very beginnings of understanding genetics. We see genes as individual components to be analyzed, like individual keys on a piano all laddered up in the double helix. If you have X gene in this location on the keyboard, you might have Y malady. Its a simple regression relating a disease to a specific gene.

This all seems too simple to me. Like keys on a piano, I bet groups of genes are somehow performed upon like music, in complex patterns with many genes working together producing life’s harmonies, and like music, somewhat ephemeral from the physical keys or genes themselves.

Consciousness is similar in that its clearly linked to the physical manifestation of the brain organ. You damage the brain, you change consciousness. Nonetheless, consciousness seems separate, ephemeral, emerged from the hardware but beyond it somehow.

But what do I know. I’m just worried about Rachel ...

So, Rachel’s initial surgery was successful and Dr. Teal doesn’t believe the cancer spread beyond where she treated Rachel. We won’t know for sure for a couple weeks, but Dr. Teel was very confident. Rachel now enters into the second phase of her surgery where they begin the reconstruction with Dr. Lambert. I'm thrilled though I know a long road is ahead.

Cancer is for the birds.

In all of this, Cash, you have been a rockstar. Since cancer's arrival in our family in mid-May, you sensed the tension and, unlike your father whose temper sharpens under duress, you've been a soft pillow emotionally for your mommy. You are frequently hugging her and you love "getting cozy" with her. You've eased her fear because she can't look at you without smiling.

I too have been delighted by you in a most unexpected way. You've become a studier of birds taken to calling yourself an ornithologist. I have no idea where the interest arose, but I know our Potomac house is a perfect perch. Luke bought a bird feeder from his allowance -- a contraption that thwarts the efforts of thieving squirrels -- plus the Potomac river below us attracts a great variety of birds both land-based and aquatic.

The fog of cancer is easily burned off by the sight of you running with a camera bigger than your head hanging from your neck to your knees as you chase, tripping all over, some poor sod red-headed woodpecker. The delight spreads to our neighborhood as well. An elderly gentleman in our neighborhood, Mr. XXXX, walks by our house interrupted one of your bird hunts to wish you happy birthday. He taught you this poem by A.A. Mine. Hearing you sing it makes us all forget about the cancer journey we will complete and defeat.
Now We Are Six
When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five, I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I'm as clever as clever,
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever. 


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Spring 2014 Roundup

Top three household events this quarter:

1) Moved to Potomac house!
2) Skiing in Aspen with the Magruders.
3) Memorial Day visit to Atlanta.

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:

1) Lonesome Dreams, Lord Huron, Lonesome Dreams (released 2012)
2) The Unforgettable Fire, U2, Unforgettable Fire (released 1984)
3) Nostrand, Ratatat, Classics (released 2006)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Luke & Dad’s Seventh Year and a Quarter

In close relationships, personal interplay often falls into patterns that become etched into stone. These grooves have surprising gravity veering one into repeated behavior you aim to steer clear of. You helplessly watch yourself slip down a worn path despite yourself.

My interactions with you are paved with a maze of these sticky behavior patterns. Let’s take mealtimes. For you, like me, eating is a chore — in my old age that might be changing — and, like me, you become agitated if you don’t eat enough protein. Thus, you avoid the distraction of supper only to turn into a Tasmanian Devil!

Fearful of emerging horns, I routinely find myself badgering you to eat, knowing full well how annoying it is, to avoid the transmogrification. Of course, I tell myself to let you be and allow you to starve. Why not batten down the hatches, let the storm pass and hope a new day of hunger will drive you to eat next time? Because I can’t fight the groove and I’m afraid of the monster, that’s why.

Another sequence we fall into rises from your aversion to transitions. You are homebody. Many a great plan has dissolved in the face of your resistance, only to replaced by another Lukanese complaint:

“I’m bored dad!”

What follows is a drawn out process of finding your shoes, administering said shoes, steering you to the car all while weathering withering protest! Of course, once we arrive at the destination and stay the course ... I can’t get you to leave.

A third pattern involves your distaste for sleep. Where Cash crashes in minutes, you fight tooth and nail to avoid the pillow. As I’ve covered in prior blogs, putting you to bed is a slog, containing you to bed is impossible, and your escapes show such creativity that I suspect the same imagination is painting the dark scary. I definitely made you watch Lord of the Rings too early in life. Or, perhaps like me, you just don’t want the party to end.

Anyway, the sleep issue is vexing because not only do you hate going to (or staying asleep), you also don’t like anyone else to sleep. I can’t count how many times I’m slipping into slumber only to lurch awake because your head pops into our bedroom. Even worse, you often wake at o’dark thirty and pitter-patter around the house turning me downright murderous.

Recently, instead of waking to shuffling around, I heard muffled speeches and cheers. What I learned then and there was that, unlike most of our family members, you had decrypted how to use our media controller (once known as a remote, soon to be our phones). The TV was on and you were lounging potato style.

Incredulous, it took me a moment to gather myself. I was interrupted as you looked over your shoulder and said, 

“Dad, you should be flippin houses.”

Armando Montelongo's infomercial was (pseudo) educating you on real estate.

“Dad, you could make thirty-five thousand dollars. Buy the book.”

This would be tolerable if Armando was the only screen-related problem in the house. Instead, screen devices -- any iPhone, iPad, iMac, iTV, iWhatever -- are the enablers of the most frustrating of all my behavioral Groundhog Day (see the movie) traps. If I leave any of device out of my sight for more than one second, the iWhatever disappears.

The cause for disappearances are never clear. My friends describe me as an absent-minded professor, which in operation means quite the opposite, but in either case I’m not paying much attention to my immediate surroundings and where I put things. I’ve adopted mechanisms, like designated areas for day-to-day items, hoping that habit will automatically put devices in the right resting places, areas I call “target spots”.

When things do go missing, I can never ascertain whether the cause is me or the infestation of Sneaky Screen Snatchers in our house. I have, in embarrassingly dramatic ways, wrongly accused members of the SSS of theft, only to discover an iWhatever in my pocket.

To make matter worse, the SSS is waging an intelligence war to uncover my target spots. If there is an iWhatever disappearance, I can never be sure whether poor iWhatever placement was the cause or whether a target area has been compromised.

I'm sinking into a whirling vortex of search and rescue, interrogation, and paranoid target area readjustment which in turn disrupts the habit forming necessary to prevent me from misplacing the iWhatever to begin with.

Along with the loss of my iWhatevers goes my mind.



Monday, March 31, 2014

Sore Winner

Cash & Dad’s Fifth Year and Three Quarters

I wish I could’ve seen it. For several years you were stuck on the sidelines watching your brother play soccer. Being too little to play left you competitively constipated.

With the starting whistle of your first “real” soccer match, you were a horse out of the gates. Pent up competitiveness rolled right over the opposing Maret Marauders. They never saw it coming. 

Score keeping is prohibited thanks to the numbing correctness of DC’s youth sports. I guess that’s why the Maret coach kept insisting the game was a "tie" after each River Rex goal, despite the mounting logjam of Rex goals (and rampant score tracking by players and parents alike).

The opposing coach’s bizarre scoring approach started grating on several parents, but your ever graceful mom and coach was tolerant. I would’ve pointed out that claiming a tie while getting your butt kicked is still score keeping ... with reality distortion. 

You felt the same way. By the tenth Rex goal, you’d had enough. You dropped to the ground smack in the middle of the field in an indignant tantrum about Maret “cheating”. Reminded of the practice of no score keeping, you pointed at the nets screaming about the goals you'd scored! The abstract idea of no scoring in a game whose sole goal is to score didn’t sit well with you. Most of the parents snickered and agreed. The whole no scoring thing is just weird. 

Perhaps its unhealthy, but pride swelled in my chest when Rachel told me. I fantasized running past the Maret coach and kicking the ball into the goal myself, hard, raising my hands in triumph screaming, "Goooaaaalll!" Fantasy is all I muster in this world of political correctness, but I suspect I'm not the only one.

So, your display of frustration resonates with me. Many institutions, from sports to schools, have damped competition to such a degree that it is actively discouraged, as if its a flaw. I get that balance is hugely important, but the pendulum feels like its swung too far. 

Perhaps its my history that shapes my intuition. Grangie tells a story about how I was an average student in elementary school until one day I learned that my friend, John Duncan, was getting straight “excellents” on his report card. Wham. My grades shot to perfection. Grangie says she unearthed, to her surprise, within her shy, skinny, under confident little boy was an intense little flame within. I was (and am) quietly but viciously competitive.

It makes we wonder. 

Its an accepted fact that elementary school boys lag girls in social, behavioral and academic skills. The gender gap has been growing over the years with boys lagging by 0.53 standard deviations by the end of fifth grade according to Third Way, a Washington research group. A lot is made of the gap between poor families and middle class families or the gap between black and white children, but this gap between girls and boys is considerably larger. 

Could it be that boys are wired for competition even at an early age? By making competition criminal, are we neutering a natural propellant for boys and learning? If competitiveness is woven into the fabric of being a male, and its treated negatively in our formulation of “social” or “behavioral” measurement, aren’t we instrumenting the system wrong? 

I think perhaps so … that is, until I arrive home at night to the war cries of sibling rivalry. 

How do I eradicate competition again?



Friday, February 28, 2014

Winter 2014 Roundup

Top three household events this quarter:

1) Sold the MacArthur house!
2) Rachel went to Barcelona.
3) Rachel's second River School Auction succeeded!

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:


Friday, January 31, 2014


Luke & Dad's Seventh Year and A Half

The crowd gasped as your fist bounced off the wooden board a fourth time. Your karate exhibition at the River School talent show had reached a crescendo but your partner Marlo Brown was failing you. The ferocity of your punches caused backed her off at the apex of your chop.

The pre-Christmas crowd, including Grandpa & Grandma Moore, was nervous on your behalf and screaming encouragement. One last time Marlow lifted the board. A tad too high. You reached out, lowered the board and steadied her. You gathered yourself, paused, and ...


The board cracked, resistance bowing to persistence. The audience erupted! You and Marlow then turned and bowed, the crowd responding loudly to your "never ever give up" moment. The event was a fine encapsulation of the first half of your school year.

As the youngest boy in the Osprey class, you are a bit green socially, physically and academically versus your classmates. Girls often mature ahead of males scholastically. Boys explode bodily at this age, every month making a huge difference. Being young puts you in catch up mode.

Your Weller family traits accentuate this. A thinness rises from my side of the gene pool, most particularly from Grangy. The good news is, combined with the height you've inherited from the Moores, you will be a looker. For now, you are handsome but thin.

You've also inherited my limited attention span on the uninteresting. Most school work falls into this category adding to the incline you face academically. To this day, I struggle with my attention span, but like you I've learned to cope. My parents eventually decided to hold me back one year allowing age to work in my favor instead of against me. It worked and I went from behind to ahead. We are contemplating the same move for you.

Part of our consideration is that you are acutely aware of being slightly behind your classmates. A socially perceptive creature, you are gifted at reading people. So, despite being very well liked, you sometimes struggle with your friends due to this sensitivity.

So we worry about your confidence. At home we see the stress and its heartbreaking to see. Nonetheless, we've tried not to become "the department of helping too much" thereby blunting your own ability to deal with adversity.

In fact, you have evolved an extremely heartening characteristic: Persistence -- with a capital "P".

You've powered forward closing the gap bit by bit. You haven't let your age or your inheritances hold you back. It hasn't been easy or graceful, but you've continued to run the marathon. Its paying off. Dig deep enough in the Luke psychy and you run into stone hard determination.

We are terribly proud of the way you keep chopping until the obstacles crack.



Tuesday, December 31, 2013

White Trucks

Cash & Dad's Fifth Year and a Half

Hey Cash, this is Gramps!

Your dad asked me to write this blog about Harry D. Weller, Jr., my father, your Dad’s Grandfather and hence your Great Grandfather. He was a remarkable man in many ways and your Dad thought you should know about him—and a bit about his wife, my mother.

My Dad was born in Lancaster, PA in 1913.  Lancaster is Pennsylvania Dutch Country, i.e. a lot of Amish and Mennonite folks. His mother’s mother was Mennonite. He was a great athlete and was very smart (like your Dad). His parents were high school teachers and his father was a legendary football coach—even when I was in high school (1957-59)!

He went to Franklin & Marshall College on an athletic scholarship (first in his family to go to college). He is listed as one of their most famous alumni. He wanted to be an archeologist because of his interest in history but did not think he could make a living—remember this was during the Depression. His first job was to manage a Firestone Tire store in Cleveland—that still exists. He moved the family to Hartford, Connecticut where we lived for 5 years. Then we moved to Buffalo, NY for 3 years. Following which we moved to Cleveland for 1 year when he joined the White Motor Company. At this time I was in 6th grade. After 1 year we moved to Bronxville, NY, a suburb of New York City. He was made District Manager of White for the Northeast Region. (BTW, Bronxville was the 7th school I attended by that time.) White made heavy duty trucks, the “tractor” part of Semis. They competed directly with Mack Trucks which you may know. Also they sold Freightliner trucks which White did not own and were even more expensive and customized. Ford, International Harvester and GM made less expensive and less customized trucks. It is important to note that in the 50’s and 60’s President Eisenhower started building the Interstate Highway System. This major infrastructure investment resulted in many things but an important one that it made the trucking industry highly competitive with the railroad industry, in fact more competitive for freight hauling.

After a few years he was promoted to Regional Manager for the Eastern half of the country. And between my Junior and Senior years in Bronxville High, he was promoted to be Vice President of Sales for the entire company and the family moved to Cleveland. I stayed in Bronxville for my Senior Year with a friend’s family. My friend, Bruce Beebe, is your father’s Godfather! (We are still in touch.) I was Co-Captain of the Bronxville Football Team so my moving where I did not know anyone would have been painful. My brother, Chuck and Sister Judy did move. He was in 9th grade and Judy 7th. Following high school I went to Denison in Ohio and following that went in the Navy, getting commissioned as an officer at Navy OCS. (Your Dad was commissioned as a Naval Officer upon graduating from Duke and their ROTC program.)

As VP of Sales for White Motor White increased their share of the heavy duty truck market from 18% to 23%. Dad was eventually promoted to President of the White Motor Company and was a pretty important guy in Cleveland’s business community. An important element in Dad’s approach to sales was that he insisted that he find what trucking companies needed as distinct from many manufacturer’s approach at the time was that the sales operation should sell what the company made—period. As a side note, he became a member of the Pepper Pike Country Club, and exclusive club for top executives. I mention this because after a round of golf with my Dad and your Dad at the club I took a picture of both of them on the 18th green which turned out to have significant consequences because Reggie included in your Dad’s application to Duke and when your Dad attended a party for the new Duke freshman class the Admissions Director noted your Dad and said “so you are the golfer!” I’m certain that picture helped the Acceptance Committee remember your Dad and helped with his acceptance!

I think what your Dad wanted you guys to know is what happened to White Motor and my Dad. In 1966 President Kennedy moved to settle a major steel industry strike by making major industries to accept industry wide collective bargaining where unions would bargain with one of the companies and their contract would be what all other companies in that industry would have to accept. This applied to the automotive industry as it turned out. This created a problem for White because White was a much smaller company that the big automakers. The big three automakers could absorb the costs of the wage levels and importantly the work rules, whereas White could not and still make a profit. So the top management of the White Motor company sought a way to return to profitability and decided to get in the Agricultural Equipment business by buying small Ag companies that made certain devices, (tractors, combines, etc.) that when combined would make them a major Ag Equipment force to compete with Deere and others. Additionally, they started building an engine plant in Massillon, Ohio to make engines for both White and the Ag manufacturers. White Motor used Cummins Engines and were vulnerable should the Cummins Engines lose their competitive edge against other diesel engine manufactures. All these acquisitions and the engine plant caused two major problems. The least was that despite White buying a company that made diesel engines for ships, they never developed a competitive engine for trucks. The major, and eventually fatal issue was that to acquire those companies and build the plant, they took on a substantial amount of debt! When I was in Business School at Columbia White had no debt! But their buying spree and debt accumulation occurred after I got out of Columbia in 1968. A related problem to the debt which to this day I do not know how was overlooked was that unlike truck dealers, Ag dealers took their equipment on consignment, meaning they did not pay White until the equipment was sold. Truck dealers pay when they receive their trucks! This meant that White had to absorb the cost of the Ag dealer’s inventory which created a severe cash crunch for the White Motor Corporation. Recall, my father was the President of the White Truck Division. Because of this during a recession in the early 70’s White Motor Corporation was facing bankruptcy!

There was another company in Cleveland named White Consolidate. At that time an entirely different company that was what was called a “conglomerate,” that is they owned companies in many different industries. They made and imported White Sewing Machines, appliances that Sears put their name on, etc. The man who had built White Consolidated, Ed Reddig, wanted to buy White Motor and could afford to pay down their debt and restructure the company. He traveled with Dad around the company closing inefficient plans. And he wanted to reorganize the Ag operation---it turned out there was equipment still sitting on Ag dealers’ lots that could be over 3 years old! Unfortunately, a Federal Judge ruled in 1970 that White would be monopolistic if White Consolidated bought White Motor and thus killed the merger! Had that gone through my father would have been quite wealthy as most of his assets were in White stock. (The same judge, Batiste, ruled that students in Cleveland schools needed to be bussed to integrate the schools---and that destroyed the Cleveland School System which is still trying to recover.) White and their financiers then brought in “Bunkie” Knudson, son of a very famous man who mobilized US industry for WWII. “Bunkie” was a car guy who had been at GM and Ford. Dad and “Bunkie” clashed on several fronts, most important being that Dad was focused on selling highly customized fleets of trucks to operators and “Bunkie” had more of a “car dealer” mindset.” “Bunkie” fired Dad. Amusingly, when “Bunkie” joined White Motor he was proclaimed Cleveland’s “man of the year.” One year later he moved White Motor out of Cleveland to Greensboro, NC.

Ed Reddig then hired Dad to run the Hupp Company, which originally was an electric car company around 1910. When Dad became President of Hupp it was a mini conglomerate itself and he spent a good bit of his time weeding out non profitable elements. Reddig died before the terms that Reddig had offered Dad were completed and the new President of White did not honor all of Reddig’s commitments. After two or three years Dad retired. He did not handle retirement well unfortunately. After being extremely active and important, he told my sister that “Well, I guess now I’m just an old fart!” He suffered a stroke about 6 months later. He lived for about 3 or 4 years but his speech and walking were impaired, he was an invalid. That’s when I left Atlanta and came up to help my mother take care of him.

Couple other things I’ll mention. The year I was born (1941) he was club champion at the Canterbury Country Club in Cleveland. In the 80”s he was President of the Mayfield Country Club. He played Professional Football for one year in the 30’s. However Pro Football in the 30’s was infinitely different than now, he got $200 per game! Another thing to be aware of—Dad traveled all the time. The airplanes he traveled in were prop planes—jets had not been introduced yet. White’s corporate plane was a Beechcraft G18, a twin radial engine prop. Point here is that prop planes could not fly up over storms like jets—they had to fly in the clouds and in turbulence.



Saturday, November 30, 2013

Fall 2013 Roundup

Top three household events this quarter:

1) Rachel joined the board of River School!
2) Daddy went to Burning Man.
3) Thanksgiving Grand Junction visit.

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:

1) Pearl Necklace, ZZ Top, El Loco (Released 1981)
2) Default, Django Django, Django Django (Released 2012)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Orchid Mantis

Luke & Dad's Seventh Year and a Half

The fly infestation is my fault. Hoping to encourage your blooming interest in nature, I showed you a picture of the beautiful Orchid Mantis. The creature evolved alongside the pink orchid in Malaysia achieving stunning mimicry. Even its legs resemble flower petals.

I should’ve realized the image would lead beyond appreciation to an inevitable question: “Can we buy an orchid mantis?" With a sly wink to myself I said, “if they sell them!” believing no one sold such things.

Of course they frikken sell them. They sell everything online. What was I thinking? And, god knows, we can't just get one.

I am raising two baby Orchid Mantids, one in each of your rooms. They are each named after an Orc of the Tolkien kind (get it, Orc-id), but I don't like the joke so I never remember their names.

I now have a non-paying full-time job keeping the Orcs alive because you kids, shockingly, aren’t helping. It turns out, unlike puppies, the mantises themselves aren’t hard to raise when young. Its their food that's the problem.

I'm not a doctor because biology, in my mind, is the study of the phlegmy, fleshy, sticky stuff of life. Blood, saliva, puss, put a bullet in me. I'll take the logical cleanliness of a physical law, no matter how imaginary, above the wet, messy study of carbon-based lifeforms. Even being a businessman is cleaner.

But now I’m an expert at conjuring swarms of blue bottle flies, the bugs the mantis eat, out of homemade cultures of squirming, slimy larvae I mix in jars. Disgusting. Even worse is the logistics of getting flies to go where you want them to go. Coaxing the flies out of the culture jars and into the Mantis’ Hexadrome home has been a monumental disaster. You see, flies fly everywhere. Even they don't know where the are going. Everywhere but into the Hexadrome.

Now we have a fly infestation in our house. I spend a good part of everyday murdering piles of flies with a fly swatter. I regret, everyday, getting twelve foot ceilings. At night-time, the flies that escaped my scourge congregate around our bedroom reading lights as we settle down for the evening. Nothing is more irritating than random buzzing when trying to sleep. Imagine the withering looks I get.

I've developed wicked tricks to subdue the creatures to transport them more easily. Tossing the culture jar into the freezer is the most nefarious but efficacious. By chilling them, I effectively cast an Immobilize Spell by slowing their metabolic rate to, well, cold. I pour them into the Hexadrome before they reanimate.

This would be great if I didn’t pathologically forget about the jars once ensconced in the freezer. Chilling them slows them; freezing them kills them.

When I go to hell, I’m going to be attacked by legions of very frosty and flattened flies.