PAgent’s Progress

Words Are My Favorite Toys

June 24th, 2006

Appetite for Destruction

I’ve always had an unhealthy fascination with disasters. I suppose part of it could be a tendancy to dwell on the negative. I know that another part is my own need to consider worst-case-scenarios, as a prelude to preparing for them. Plus, I think it’s human nature to be attracted to destruction.

When I was in high school, the cold war had been raging for decades already. I lived in a region that included probably 5 of the top tier Soviet nuclear missile targets on the west coast. If someone ever pushed the big red button, we would be among the first to know.

I thought about it a lot.

And I was often frustrated with my peers, when they joked about ‘being vaporized’. I knew that the ones that got obliterated instantly would be the lucky ones. But the majority of the victims of a nuke strike would be blind and/or blistered, radiation-poisoned, hungry and thirsty, and there would be no help coming any time soon.

At one point I wrote an article for the school literary magazine on what a nuclear detonation in the Puget Sound area would really be like, drawing on source material like John Hersey’s Hiroshima for realistic details. It was not a tremendously popular article.

Well, the cold war is over. The Iron Curtain has been drawn back. My children don’t fear the Bomb the way I did when I was growing up. My rather unhealthy fascination with wholescale carnage has had to find another outlet.

Like GLOBAL catastrophe. Just watch this Japanese video depicting the impact of a good-sized asteroid with the Earth. Even though I can’t understand the narration, it gives me chills. And there ain’t no fallout shelter in the world that would do you any good in this particular worst-case-scenario.

June 24th, 2006

Need a Map for that Guilt Trip?

It’s a beautiful, sunny Saturday. There is actually a heat advisory in place for the area, as the temperature is supposed to hit 95 today. It’s actually forecast to be near 100 on Monday. Wow.

After the week we just had, the plan was to have a quiet, relaxing Saturday. Particularly as the wife woke up with a headache this morning. So, once the girl child was kicked out of bed, and the boy child was fed breakfast, I rather benevolently gave them the plans for the day:

“OK, we’re going to take it easy today. If you go outside, make sure you put on sunscreen. I’m going to work on the kitchen for a while, because it’s a disaster area. It would be nice if you guys could spend some time cleaning up your rooms. Other than that, I’m going to work on my bike a bit and go for a ride.”

The girl’s eyes light up.

“I’m going for a LONG ride. By myself.”

At this, her expression changes to one of sullen resentment, and she glares at me.


“Every time you get a chance to ride your bike you always ride by yourself! You never take us for bike rides!”

This is absolutely true. But you should know that this is the first time I’ve had a chance to do ANY riding, other than commuting to work, in a couple of months. Also, remember that this is the child that sprained her ankle this week, and so should not be pedalling anything for a while yet.

Although I routinely abandon my own needs and desires in favor of my children’s happiness (no, really, I do) in lots of ways large and small, this nevertheless triggers an instantaneous guilt trip. And resentment.

After all, I don’t ask for much. I want to be able to play my video games without them yelling advice in my ear, and I want to be able to go for the occasional bike ride. On roads. At speeds greater than 9 mph.

Also, I need to be doing these bike rides. I need to be pushing my endurance up and improving my conditioning. And I simply don’t get much aerobic workout keeping pace with my kids on the bike path. Going on long rides improves my health, improves my mental outlook, and in turn improves their lives in ways they can’t really grasp just yet.

So why do I still feel so guilty?