I am thankful for baby-smell, a daughter’s love, an oldest son’s helpfulness, and a wife that’s still here with us all.
As one looks deeply into their ancestral past, it is the future that you begin to see.
I’ve recently been somewhat engaged in the genealogical study of my mother’s father’s name, Gradin. I have discovered, for one, that genealogy is not for the timid nor uncommitted. It is some hard work to pull together records of naturalization with little reward. I have the benefit of an elder generation that did much of this work for me and wrote about it some decades ago. I am very happy that she put the time into this recollection, because this historical view into family would otherwise have been lost with her death in 1997.
What’s so important about our family trees? It’s a good question. Perhaps nothing, really. But for the soul, knowing your roots can be a heart-warming foray through an imagination of kinship and bonding. You’re connected to a bigger picture. And as I look at this bigger picture and explore the possible stories of people before me, I begin to wonder how my familial connections today will shape the young genealogical researcher of tomorrow. Just as I’m looking back at 1896 in Hemsö socken, Västernorrland at the marriage of my great-grandfather Olof Gradin to Clara Norberg, so too will some future generation look back at 1996 when Olaf Gradin married Amy Wilson. They’re going to try and imagine what primitive lives we lived and think of what it would have been like to know us. Were we loving, compassionate people? Hard workers? Were we full of life, family, and friends?
I hope that my history and my family’s history will be well-maintained for future generations to know where they came from. To understand what decisions in our lives led to the inevitable, and miraculous, creation of them.
I was named for my great-grandfather. I married my wife 100 years after him. Is it coincidence? Probably. But there is no end to my fascination that he would make the decision to emigrate to the United States and bring his family with him; where through a chain of random events, I stand here today living and breathing, and remembering him with honor and respect for my very existence in this world.
The founder of the Flobots, Johnny 5 builds a repertoire of songs that have a voice communicated through masked patriotism for a nation we do not know. I don’t do lyrics, so I’d need someone to help put together some potent rap-styled slander.
Zack de la Rocha
A current collaborating member, Zack de la Rocha, of One Day as a Lion. Zack has a well-known history of anger-infused music enraged by kick-your-pathetic-ass rock. Zack can excite things while still maintaining the credibility of legitimate hatred.
To balance out the party, Justin Timberlake can hang with us. This dude lives a life of fame and doesn’t take himself too seriously. Timberlake is good for comix relief while still cranking out albums that, while not necessarily my demographic, continue to amass the fans.
I got a Christmas card from the nice folks at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – the Climate Witness division. You may recall the article I wrote for them concerning the pitiful state of Lake Lanier (speaking of which, the scientific review of my story is now available). The card reminded me of the potential relevance of our recent confusing weather. Only one week before winter and the northeastern region of Georgia was coming in at highs of 70°F. Today marks the first official day of winter, but it actually arrived in a forced gust of cold wind yesterday. We went from muggy days in the high 60’s to the sudden shock of sub-freezing temperatures Sundays afternoon. By Monday morning, we were in the low 20’s and all remaining signs of water in the streets had frozen solid. There was as much as a 50° shift from last week to this in one day. Is this an aspect of climate change, or just a strange time in the history of our weather? We’re not supposed to realize climate change marked in the passage of a few days or even years, but I can’t help but notice things with a new perspective.
Anyway, I’m still not sitting around the house watching the weather channel, though it may sound like it at the moment. Regardless of the ridiculous weather, we have taken opportunities to enjoy the arrival of winter, officially. We spent most of the day at Stone Mountain yesterday in the Christmas Village. Despite the cold wind, a bundled family – and several hundred others – managed to persevere and blow a wad of money enjoying the spirit of the holiday. We took in the lights, sounds, and smells of sweets, a parade, and cheesy stage shows.
- Just noticed I’m eating at a place with an 84 health score. If I don’t twit in after lunch, I’m dead. #
- I have lived through lunch! Perhaps hot coffee will sterilize my bowels. #
- 70°F on Dec. 18th – this weather has sapped my energy completely. #
- Nothing beats blasting out your favorite tunes from high school on a long car ride. #
- Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty were an awesome duet. I can think of two of their songs together. #
- Family reunion party tonight with the in-laws. I ate until I felt ill. #
- A little girl last night said she wished *I* was her daddy. Awkward! #
- Going to Stone Mountain today to enjoy the last day of unseasonal weather. #
- So it wasn’t exactly a *warm* day… #
- It was 70° only a couple of days ago – now it’s near 20°F! #
- I think we’re going to get the Christmas tree up tonight! #
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Remarkably, the biggest change at the Gradin household is simply in our perception. There are all sorts of things that change when a new child is born into your family. Your free time dries up, your bank account empties, you become more selfless. But when you already have an older child, the thing we noticed was that the older child stopped being a baby in our eyes. I never realized how big he was – how big his hands were. It’s harder to carry him sleeping into his bed at night. This new addition, so small and defenseless, makes us realize in ways you can’t truly convey to anyone that she’s the only baby in the house. Perhaps Balthazar became “our first child.” Even though he’s only five years old, I sense that he’s more in charge of his destiny and in self discovery now. Sorscha, on the other hand, seems to have so much more malleable potential tied up in her.
I’m doing my best to ensure that I don’t lose sight of the treasures still to come in our first-born while our attention is diverted to this little girl. It can be a struggle keeping up with everything at home while still making time for me and Balthazar to play the games we used to play. Easing that, he’s recently really gotten into board games. I can keep an eye (and ear) on Sorscha while we play board games without being too distracted to give him my attention. It’s also easier to allocate this time, as our outside time has been cut short for the coming winter.
This experience of having our second child – some 5 years apart from our first – has given us new wisdom that I feel one can only gain through life.
One cannot fully appreciate what happens to the being at the birth of your first child. You undergo a transformation unlike anything before or after that moment. I remember seeing a baby born vaginally when I was an adolescent, and the experience gave me some spine-tingling chills that hinted at this fact. When we had our first child, the internal shift from my awareness of self: man, husband, child, protector, supplier, etc., went spiraling around and may have momentarily just been forgotten. It didn’t matter anymore. The thing I remember most – and perhaps something that sums up a great deal of this feeling – is that I lost my sense of invulnerability. Perhaps it’s passed on to the next generation – much to a parent’s chagrin.
Now at the birth of our second child, we see the real development of our first. Less of the initial surge of fatherhood that fills you, though a new awareness of everything that can’t be ignored.
I really mean to say that there are some lessons in life that we’re taught, but can never be appreciated until experienced. You were told that you’d one day look back at your school days and realize you were having the time of your life. You’re told that a child will change you. I’ve heard that time flies as you get older. “One day you’ll understand…” All of these things go unheeded as our elders press them into our heads. Being at the crossroads of naivety and understanding, I want to impart a sort of enlightenment to those behind me on the path. But who am I kidding? I’m just saying the same thing…
The latest member of our family made her gooey entrance around noon today. She cleans up well, however. Balthazar is so happy to be a big brother, and Sorscha’s mother and I are, of course, completely in love with the new girl. She’s such a beautiful, healthy girl; I couldn’t ask for anything more. Mommy is doing very well after her surgery too. She’ll be getting up tomorrow to begin her walking recovery and we should be heading home in a few days.
Sorscha Valkyrie Gradin weighed in at 6lbs. 11oz. and measured 20.5″ in length. She’s capable of thawing icebergs with a look, but has used her powers for good to warm the heart of every soul she meets.
In nine days, we’ll be a family of four, having welcomed a new baby girl into the Gradin household on the 24th of this month…at 6:00am. That’s how we role. My wife likes to plan for the unplannable. However, she has made certain assurances for this life-event, and I have little doubt that this date and time are correct.
We’re all looking very much forward to meeting her. You might find yourself wondering what her name is going to be, but you will keep on doing so. So far, absolutely zero people in the known universe (besides Amy and I) are aware of her name. There’s a chance that an advanced race of telepaths may have already discovered our secret. It’s a game we played with Balthazar’s name as well. The reason is largely because we’re not interested in hearing anyone’s doubts, concerns, suggestions, or comments otherwise on our name choice(s). It’s hardest with family, which always has a certain lasting psychological and emotional consequence on the mind. While the name is very important, it is of little matter what that specific name is, really. Once a child’s name is set, it’s generally hard to imagine that child by any other name. That said, the name is nothing more than a parental choice – a right. It’s perhaps the first of many experiments that will imbue your legacy, because what are children if not the parents’ result from hypothesis and experiment.
No doubt many of you wait with bated breath. Still others dread the possibilities. Maybe in the end it will be no big surprise at all.
I am imagining a better WordPress. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the engine behind Gradin.com, as well as countless other blogs on the Interweb. I have been using WordPress for several years now and I really enjoy it. Its many features have grown, and grown on me. Now that I am expectant of the plugins and updates provided by WordPress and its community, I find myself wanting even more.
Upgrading to Web 2.5
The Web 2.0 movement brought, among many other ideals, the concept of a truly “communal” Internet. We saw the entrance of communities such as MySpace, Orkut, Friendster, and of course, the blog, emerge. I maintain a regular blog and dabble in these other Internet communities, but ultimately find that they are not my thing.
What MySpace, for instance, did for me was to create a social community of friends and people with related interests. It’s a great concept, if only simple. I encountered two main problems with these solutions – set aside your particular opinion about the communities. The first, and most immediate, problem I had was that the site distracted me and my potential audience from my own blog. The other problem, something that took a little longer to become apparent, was that I was stuck into a much larger community than I was really interested in becoming “buddies” with.
My solution to these problems involves the maturation of Web 2.0 – perhaps to Web 2.5. I have heard of Web 3.0, but I don’t think the industry can make such a leap without some smaller steps in between. Web 2.5 allows the blog proprietor like myself to become part of these communities without stepping out of their home base.
The Case Study
My imagined solution looks simple at first glance. I maintain a blog. My friends maintain blogs and/or social networking profiles. I have other blogs/services out there to which I would like to drive attention. Now think of each of these things as containers to which I can subscribe, sometimes in a granular fashion. I build a collection of “friends,” “family,” and “interesting people” that I would like to have a reference to on my site. Today, you have blog rolls or even RSS feeds doing this. But what if you could access a container having someone’s profile and avatar, their blog articles, twitter feeds, and MySpace posts. From that container I can choose what I want to see, and how often I want to see it. Perhaps I just want digests. What’s more, the originator of that container can actually validate my request to subscribe to this data. They can also choose what they’ll allow me to see using templates (e.g. friends, family, co-workers), or define a custom rule just for me. The data continues to remain available through conventional means – say the RSS feed, a MySpace account, etc, but the personal container has controls.
I can extend it beyond the profile containers. Say you want to interact with your email or IM system through your blog. Think about having a single entry point to your personal web experience. The personal blog transforms into a personal dashboard with both public and private views. On the public side, you present your audience with your blog, some profile data, contact information, and perhaps a friend’s blog. Privately, you see your email, all your friends’ blogs, address book, and a calendar with your upcoming events.
There are ways to achieve most of this through conventional means, but there is no “solution” to it all. It takes a fundamental shift.
Back to WordPress
At the beginning of this post, I referred to my need for more in WordPress. WordPress utilizes a model of communal sharing already that leads me to believe that it is one of the strongest contenders to make my dream a reality. I’m jaded, of course, because I use WordPress a lot. However, I’ve also read about the WordPress.com Multi-User (MU) extension making its way to the public domain, BuddyPress. BuddyPress will make WordPress.com (and any other WP MU implementation) a community blog with integrated social networking a la MySpace. This is exactly what I’m talking about, if only on a very small scale. WordPress may have the framework to get where I want, but I still have to reach further for the over-arching API that allows WordPress to talk to social communities outside of itself. I believe WordPress has made the first move in my imagined Web 2.5.
In brief, I imagine the final solution as being a web service that handles a centralized API for the OpenSocial, or something similar should the industry choose a better standard. Blog systems such as WordPress would have to utilize plugins to communicate with the API, but MySpace, Orkut, LinkedIn, and others would fit into the picture by being a part of OpenSocial. The custom web service would handle the “mash-up” of these different systems into a personal container. And of course, the user would manage their own container; permissions and contents.
In the end, I’d have my blog, my friends, and my choice. Web 2.0 moves forward and brings together the biggest social community ever on the Internet. Our personal sites become personal dashboards and launch points to our other interests. I think the way to Web 2.5 is clear, and someone out there is surely already working on it. You heard it here, first!
Yesterday was Balthazar’s first day of school. It started early that morning and the whole family was up for the affair. We drove him in and walked him to his class. It’s one of those “big steps” in a child’s life. I am excited about the idea of him becoming independent and beginning his formal education. He’s growing up and I look forward to all the things we’ll do together in the years to come. Amy, on the other hand, has a distinctly different take on her little baby’s first steps in the big world. Her experience was miserable as a child, and didn’t apparently get much better in later years. She hated school, and she doesn’t want Balthazar to have a hard time either. Balthazar began his journey into the world with a brave heart. I was proud of him for being so courageous in the face of the unknown – I had very few worries.
After school, Balthazar was to take a bus over to his after-school care with some friends – apparently more like 20. We knew it was a lot to manage in one day, so we agreed to pick him up early from there. He barely managed to get out some vague details about his day before he passed out completely in his car seat. The guy was worn flat-out by his adventures. It turns out his day was a mixture of fear and fun. We weren’t able to convey the amount of time he’d spend at school, though technically it was less than what he spent in pre-K and after-school before. He got scared and cried a little bit early in the day. After some lunch and recess time, it sounded like he came to better terms with it.
As parents, we hate to know that our child was upset and afraid. You’re completely helpless when they’re away and having these feelings. I guess that’s what it is that parents really get upset over when their child gains some independence. You really feel the need to continue helping them and holding their hands when obstacles arrive, but you just have to let them make a go at it themselves. You do everything you can to ensure that they’re going to do good in the world and that they’ll have every manner of protection at their disposal, then you send them out the door to see how you did. It surprised me a lot that he had an emotional break-down at school. Not that that’s unordinary by any means, I just thought that he would have such a great time.
Today is Friday and he’s off on his second day at school. As a testament to his courage, he said yesterday that he wanted to go again. Even though there were some rough spots to contend with, Balthazar has stood back up to give it another try. I believe that he’ll have done much better this time, and he may even begin doing the things that we all loved at school; making friends.