Ron Seybold's Sandbox

Creations, toys and games

In the afterglow of a return from Paige

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Saturday night was long and full of mercies. Little Paige Austin Milosevich, all of 13 weeks old, slept and ate and played in the care of us, her grandparents. We are playing at a layer of parenting we didn’t enjoy while Abby and I became a couple. Paige was not feeling well, congested and running a temperature this latest Saturday. We didn’t panic, but didn’t sleep very long at a stretch, either. When a tiny girl cries you do whatever you can to supply mercy and minister to her, even if it’s only to hold her and walk in the dark, whispering the names of zoo animals who are asleep at 4:40 in the morning.

The weekend was short and full of miracles. The tiny fingers with even smaller nails, grasping and flexing and not yet picking up todays or food. Most of the former was furry and soft, or spinning and colored like a carnival. Most of the latter — well, all of it — came from a bottle, warmed in a 2-minute heater and supplied as often as we could get her to drink it. The coos that come from her throat when she’s relaxing around a nipple, breathing a sigh of relief that we can both feel, grandparent and child alike.

Strong arms in the weekend wrapped around weak hearts, the heart of a baby thumping for comfort, the weak light of daybreak slipping hope and tender smiles under the bedroom shutters. We slept and walked and changed diapers and rocked her in broad arms, jiggling and bouncing the swaddled person who will become a teenaged siren, someone’s mate, a mother herself if she chooses that gift. She will walk her own nights then, following in our footsteps, maybe across a narrow strip of carpet between bed and dresser, doing an about-face and retracing a path that she, that we, have known before.

They are lessons of love we learn together, me and Abby and Paige. Me and my bride learn we can serve together, each calm and patient with the other, even in the dimmest part of our nights when fatigue sits in the small of our backs. Paige learns from us that her cries will bring response and respite. We all practice the sharing of smiles, the singing of songs, sending the signals of love.

It’s easier to care for an infant who is feeling well. I’m glad we had a few Saturday nights like that together before this more advanced class of compassion. We show our love for Paige, so anyone can see it. But Abby and I also demonstrate our devotion to each other and the promise of love that will outlive us in memories, bright acts that light up the cradling and walking through the dark.


Written by ronseybold

July 12, 2010 at 8:31 pm

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Searching for writing tools

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After doing a little work on the Monsignor Dad book this morning, I’ve been searching for new tools to write with on the iPad. Even before the UPS fella dropped off mine on Day One of release, I bought Apple’s Pages, and its been adequate. Reaching for a document that’s on the iPad is complex, though. I have SimpleNote loaded up — free, in a basic version — but haven’t written a word into it yet.

A major factor in choosing the best tool is Keyboard Dock compatibility. This spring I bought a raft of tools like this $75 hunk of plastic and metal that lets me write as if I was on my iMac. Some of the writing tools for the iPad, like Docs To Go, don’t support the arrow keys on the Keyboard. Not good. It’s clumsy to stay on the keyboard to write and then need to interact with the screen to move a cursor up, down or around.

Oddly enough, a simple WordPress blog might be one of the best ways to compose first drafts for journals. Yes, you need a connection to the Internet, so this wouldn’t be your choice to write on a train ride or in the park without 3G coverage. But as a working sandbox, a lot like this blog, once again gives the people something good for free

Written by ronseybold

July 3, 2010 at 9:44 am

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More than swine to avoid among season’s flus

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The Wall Street Journal has an article today that tells us H1N1 virusViralImmunity dread is not the only thing to avoid this coming flu season.

Along with the new H1N1 swine-flu virus, officials are keeping a close eye on some nasty seasonal strains. One is widely resistant to oseltamivir, the popular antiviral drug marketed as tamiflu. And an emerging variant of another virus known for hitting the elderly hard isn’t fully covered by this year’s seasonal flu vaccine.

“This season is going to be crazier than ever,” said William Schaffner, an infectious-disease expert at Vanderbilt University.

I started my novel Viral Times in the first years of this decade. I imagined a time when multiple virus outbreaks would be like chasing terrorist groups. Too much of it is coming true. Now it looks like even if H1N1 won’t threaten seniors, the flu shots being sold now will leave them at risk. I recommend Viral Immunity by J.E. Williams if you want to take a proactive, natural medicine approach to staying healthy.

Written by ronseybold

September 11, 2009 at 11:08 am

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All a-Twitter here, with Facebook feedings

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Abby joined me in the social network revolution this morning. It was her choice, but once Oprah did a Twitter show (Ashton Kutcher brags about getting to 1 million followers faster than CNN) she decided to join up. I’m @ronseybold, she’s @abbylentz

Oh, it probably helps that she’s got her first iPhone today, too. Happy Birthday, sweetheart.

It’s hard to say if we’ll have both of us on Facebook. Feeding these maws, whether they’re blogs or the social nets, takes time. But it’s becoming so popular that it could pass for genuine social intercourse. It depends on how authentic you want your profile to look. Twitter is gaining ground on Facebook for members. Me, I’ve got my Twitter tweets updating to the Facebook page. The automation is bound to get better as these outlets get more popular.

There’s a Facebook virus out there, of course. You can’t create any biological organism without a risk of infection. Rub dirt in it. Privacy is so 20th Century.

Written by ronseybold

April 18, 2009 at 9:25 am

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Death’s exit moves a fella to do

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I just got news that a friend died, early at 63. Wirt Atmar was vital to the very end, a big part of a community of HP 3000 computer users. This fellow held aloft such a bright light for decades there. And like any death too soon, it makes me consider what I’ve done this week, and try to do more, believe more, love and enjoy more.

What’s too soon? Definitely any week where you’re still pushing out belief, research, teaching or passion. Wirt had all of these on offer this week. And now I regret never having visited him in his hometown of Las Cruces. A great reason to put more friends oton my travel list. So perhaps death can move a fellow to do more travel, more sharing, and keep fit to enjoy many more years.

All I can add is a moment of silence in memory of a good guy’s light winking out.

Written by ronseybold

February 5, 2009 at 9:27 am

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The last word about a First Amendment shirt

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As it turns out, sporting my Obama t-shirt at the early voting booth was illegal. In Texas it’s a misdemeanor to wear campaign clothing in the polling area. It took my friend and fellow workshop member Cindy Morgan to set me straight:

I worked as a Democratic election judge for several years and that jerk at your polling place was right.  We were specifically told to not allow into the polling place any signs, t-shirts, buttons, etc. that indicated voter preference.  As much as I love Obama, too, you committed a Class C Misdemeanor by wearing your Obama t-shirt to the polls.  Statute below.


Sec. 61.010.  WEARING NAME TAG OR BADGE IN POLLING PLACE.  (a)  Except as provided by Subsection (b), a person may not wear a badge, insignia, emblem, or other similar communicative device relating to a candidate, measure, or political party appearing on the ballot, or to the conduct of the election, in the polling place or within 100 feet of any outside door through which a voter may enter the building in which the polling place is located.

(b)  An election judge, an election clerk, a state or federal election inspector, a certified peace officer, or a special peace officer appointed for the polling place by the presiding judge shall wear while on duty in the area described by Subsection (a) a tag or official badge that indicates the person’s name and title or position.

(c)  A person commits an offense if the person violates Subsection (a). An offense under this subsection is a Class C misdemeanor.

See how easy that was? Admitting that you have been incorrect doesn’t hurt. It is a way to practice awareness. Besides, I have a much more partisan shirt I wore all the time over the last 72 hours of the campaign. It exhorts you to vote. Pretty important, considering that getting to 60 million votes is important to winning the Presidency.

Written by ronseybold

November 4, 2008 at 9:34 am

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Electioneering, or free speech?

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Electioneering, or Free Speech?

(For the legal word on what the shirt means in Texas, click here.)

It might be getting ugly out there in the balloting for President. A McCain supporter advised me today What Not to Wear. I showed up to vote in the least obvious Obama shirt that I own (the other says “Vote Nov. 4” in Democratic Blue, with Obama/Biden in yellow type), but the logo on my garment today was unmistakable. Especially to the fellow standing at the exit of the voting line at our local grocery, which doubles as an early Travis County voting location here in Texas. I made a point of talking with everyone who was working the election, judge, clerks, volunteers, all while wearing my shirt.

I thought of it like I was wearing a Spurs t-shirt to a basketball game in San Antonio. But when I pass my fellow citizen, he mutters something toward me that includes the word “shit.” I step a few paces along my way, then realize he must have been addressing me. Sure enough, I turn around and see him glaring at me.

I walk back and ask him, “Excuse me, did you just say something to me?”

“You need to take that shit off,” he says, eyeing my shirt. “It’s illegal.”

“So do you think we should take it up with the election judge?” At this suggestion he grows quiet, but the glower is still on his face. “Because we can do that if you want.”

“It’s illegal,” he repeats to me, as certain as any Fox News huckster shouting down a TV guest. At this point his wife, who he’s been waiting for, walks past the two of us and mutters to him, “C’mon.”

He walks alongside his wife and I call out after him, “God bless you.” Because whatever we disagree on, it seems he needs a blessing today. Election turnout has been heavy, which has rarely been a good sign for Republican supporters in years past. His reply to my “God bless you,” muttered over his shoulder, freezes me a little.

“You don’t know enough about God to say that!” And at that, I repeat my blessing to him, a little louder. But I’m rattled, as if I am a Spurs fan wearing a jersey to Boston Garden for a Celtics game.

Our little exit poll exchange has nothing to do with the outcome here in Texas, and both of us probably know that. I live in the Blue Island (Travis County) of a Very Red State. This is no battleground; we haven’t seen either McCain or Obama since March here. No local TV ads, either, or even robo-calls. McCain wins Texas next month, barring a miracle. But both the McCain fellow and I get to have our say today.

And both of us get to wear our shirts, at least at this polling place. The Republicans are now working in battleground states to keep the shirts off the backs of voters, in violation of the First Amendment. But that’s an Amendment that’s been trampled for so long that even as a journalist, making my living for 25 years off that law, that I tire of defending it. We are already hearing about how McCain will lose this election because of the stock market crash, along with the claims of voter registration fraud via ACORN. There are even worse things being said about Obama — (Muslim, not native American, nonsense and slurs) by well-heeled media pros and rank amateurs, according to this month’s Harper’s magazine.

While my fellow citizen sidled away, his Harley-Davidson dress shirt ruffling off his 50-ish frame, I couldn’t help but think there will be some sore losers out there on Nov. 4. It is not electioneering to wear a t-shirt to the voting booth unless a judge tells you to take it off. There’s no state law that defines this, in Texas or anyplace else, yet.

But it could get ugly out there in the next two weeks. Early voting was up 50 percent on Opening Day yesterday in Travis County, a massive increase. Even the election judge at the grocery was boasting of the heavy turnout. That will mean a 75 percent turnout nationally, if the trend holds across the US.

Go vote, and wear whatever you want. But bring another shirt in the car, just in case the First Amendment is getting “shit” upon at your polling place. You might want to remember that everyone knows their own God well enough to offer a blessing, no matter what kind of shirt you display. As for me, I think the US Constitution is enough law to make everybody dump the foul speech — which will keep us all divided — away from the voting sites.

Written by ronseybold

October 21, 2008 at 9:32 am

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A fine caucus mess, thank you

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The evening offered us a few minutes of playing time on the professional’s election court. In the dark of the Texas March 4 night, we Democrats gathered at the Renaissance Retirement Home to help retire our despair about my country. Our country, with the hope of including everybody and ending this Red-Blue state disease. So all 454 of us milled around the high-end rest home in my neighborhood from 7 PM onward, learning what it’s like to participate in a caucus.

The whole process was already ridiculed in the media. Reporters who are more schooled in politics than I claimed the “Texas Two Step” was tough to comprehend, plus a way to put Obama ahead on delegates in a state where he’d likely lose.

Those two theories turned out to be true. It turned out to be even harder to get a warm place to caucus.

The Renaissance facility, which sprawls over a full three blocks, had been adequate for more minor elections. But in 2008 with two popular Democrats tussling in a very close match, both the building and its manager mocked the needs of politics. Few of us were sure of the process, and I felt an undercurrent of fear that one side, Hillary or Obama, would be harried into an unjust portion of the rest home to caucus. Three different people made announcements in the common area to explain the upcoming steps. None of them spoke loud enough to be heard by those on the edges of the common room. Worse, their messages were contradictory. Nobody sounded overwrought about the confusion.

Within 15 minutes of the caucus start, the manager was sending more than 400 of us out into the parking lot to caucus. The needs of the Fire Marshall trumped the needs of the Two Step democracy. So scores of us went into a cooling Texas night with weather far better than that in Ohio, or even in the northern sections of our own state.

In time, the caucus attendees gathered on the driveway outside the rest home front entrance. Blocking a fire lane, but something the building manager could claim ignorance of. While we waited I got to know some neighbors. Precinct 328 isn’t all that big.

Two sets of plastic tables went up after a shift in voting rules. At first, it was, “you sign in, we elect a precinct chair, and then you express your preference for candidate.” Everybody groaned. So it became, “No, you sign in and express your preference. Then you can leave, and the combined group elects a chairman and secretary.” Nods of asset, amid cell phone calls to the family back to the house. “Honey, can you guys feed yourselves?” Or, “Tell the babysitter I’ll be home an hour later. I know, she’s got a chemistry test in the morning. Sorry.” And then shouted across the crowd from father to mother: “Be sure she practices her guitar,” and “How are you on your homework for tonight?”

All these families signed in first and “voted” for Obama — because we were segregated on one side of he driveway from the Hillary supporters. The votes got totalled and Obama carried the evening by a margin of 2:1.

Now more drama, to elect the precinct chair. Three nominees at first, two from the Obama camp. More on-the-fly decision about how to elect people among 300 or so remaining caucus members. “By acclamation” is decided, and so we shout out our preference when Joe McClain, Obama man, takes the chairman’s post. A suggestion floats: why not make the Hillary candidate the precinct secretary? Another hurrah to get on with the rest of the evening.

And it crosses my mind that Hillary might have to accept a secondary spot on the ticket, much as the caucus member did last night.

Now comes the results of the votes, which determine how many of the 63 precinct delegates are Obama’s and how many are Hillary’s. We must come up with 42 people who will attend the next caucus, on 7 AM on a lovely Saturday late in March. 61 people offer to sacrifice such a Saturday, with 13 more as alternates. We’re supposed to have one alternate for every delegate.

Delegates now must come out of the pool of people who have warm enough jackets to stand in the cold. Although we now only number about 100 or so, nobody at the rest home invites us inside. I suggest as a joke that a set of canopies over the Academy Sports store parking lot will do just as well next time. Maybe better, if we can get a band and roasted corn vendors on the site, too. But 90 minutes into our evening, a few big bags of Doritos and Hershey Kisses come out onto the Obama table. The snacks are at least some substitute for postponed suppers.

People nominate themselves by writing their name, address, phone and e-mail on blank sheets of paper, writing on the backs of one another in some cases. Pens run dry, others get offered. The light has failed — none outside of the narrow entrance to the rest home — and I hold a fellow’s cell phone with its screen turned on, so he can write down his nomination info.

At last, the final division. Who will commit firm to caucusing on the Saturday, and who is an alternate? I am invited to use my stage voice to project to the 70-plus, “If you’re really, really eager to be a candidate, line up on that side of the driveway. If you’re not so sure, line up on the other.” Delegates on the left, alternates on the right.

Finally, we count off on the left, to ensure we have 42 delegates. And I’ve been swept away by the emotion and hope and the faces of the “young, and young at heart,” as Obama says in his speeches. I am in the “really, really” line of delegates, and turn out to call out my number 26 as we count off.

Now I’ve done it, gone and participated in the electoral process, closer than ever. Not since stuffing envelopes for McGovern in 1972 have I dipped this deep into a messy system. And my time out in the dark last night might make as little difference as that envelope stuffing I did more than 35 years ago. I don’t expect much more out of this experience, except another round of stories about that upcoming Saturday. It’s unlikely I go to the statewide convention in June, mostly because I don’t have that day available. It will be enough for me to get to vote on 40 propositions in that long Saturday.

Will it matter much? Not in the end, considering that the media talk this morning is of superdelegates putting Obama or Hillary over the top. Texas was whisker-close, a massive tumble for a Hillary campaign here which had a 20-point lead in the state less than six weeks ago. Travis County went just as heavy for Obama as the 328th precinct. We always vote for the most liberal candidate. Yes, the L-word, that’s the majority of us.

Today I get a message from Obama’s campaign, telling me about The Math. Only 611 unpledged delegates are left up for grabs. One quarter of them go off the clock, so to speak, on April 22. Obama’s folks would like another $25 from me, please. Maybe not just now; there’s November to consider.

But this was the first time in eight presidential elections I found a candidate with enough passion and intelligence and eloquence, and very little baggage, to spark a return to a level of hope. In my home the vote was split between the feminine and masculine candidates, but we will coalesce around the Democratic nominee. I hope that the passion of our caucus mess, stepping into something with that Two-Step, will show the rest of the country’s Democrats, and the undecideds, how to do the same.

More than ever, on this sunny day, I feel like I’ve backed a favorite team which lost a close game. The papers talk of McCain “clinching,” a verb I associate with basketball coverage and playoff races. Whatever it takes to keep people like me returning to the process, I suppose. The negative ads and messages are surely in the works, but on that chilly Texas night I was warmed up by hope of real change.

Written by ronseybold

October 5, 2008 at 12:19 am

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Never mind Gustav, Ike has spike

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Two weekends ago, we braced here for Hurricane Gustav — or to be more accurate, the influx of evacuees from that storm. Now the real deal is upon us here in Austin, as Hurricane Ike is about 12 hours away from landfall at one of our favorite spots, Galveston’s Seawall Boulevard.

Abby and I have spent many loving nights at the San Luis Resort and Hotel. Just across the street from that retreat, debris is being tossed into the air and onto the the boulevard this afternoon. They expect 110 MPH winds at landfall. Up here in Austin, it’s a beautiful day with 95 degree temperatures and light winds with scattered clouds. And no lines at the gas stations or Walmarts.

Like with Katrina three years ago, the local (Houston) newspaper storm blog is the best source of eyewitness details like giant balls of fire ants floating ashore, the mass exodus of mammoth cockroaches from the seawall beach, or BBQ parties on Postoffice Street in downtown Galveston with those riding out the storm and ignoring the mandatory evacuation orders. Those BOI — born on the island — say Ike looks tamer than Hurricane Alicia in 1983.

Hard to say now, but meteorology scientists are camped out in Brazoria County at shoreline to measure winds at the landfall site. “Landfall is not well understood,” one scientist said. They’ve brought three trucks of equipment and labs to study the calamity.

While I write here, the sky grows thick with clouds and the wind has turned to blow out of the north. Storm winds from that direction. We expect lots of rain and high winds. Tie down the lawn chairs and turn off the sprinklers.

Written by ronseybold

September 12, 2008 at 9:22 am

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He knew it right after the birthday song

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I sang for my brother Bob’s 50th birthday last month, a moment of tears and joy. My wife leaned over to me and said, “Out of everybody in this room, you have known him the longest.” A happy, proud moment indeed.

I thought of that moment with Bob once again today, while I listened to a podcast about The Last Lecture. The lecture performance by Randy Pausch, the professor dying of cancer, was immortalized by Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow. Zaslow wrote the column the day after the lecture, and within 24 hours, by way of, a million people had looked at the WSJ video of the lecure. A book followed, and the lecture has become viral in its Internet penetration (head to to get started). Here’s the lecture in its fullness if you haven’t caught the wave yet — entitled Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.

The Last Lecture Video

Zaslow talked with Tara Parker-Pope of the NY Times about the book that resulted from that column, the book Zaslow co-wrote with Randy as the professor was dying. Parker-Pope asked Zaslow in her blog Well how soon he knew that what he’d seen and written about was so special.

Right away, Zaslow said. He’d driven 300 miles to see the lecture, since his WSJ editors were a little leery of the $850 airline ticket the writer would’ve had to purchase. There were 400 people in the lecture hall at Carnegie Mellon, and “all of us had a feeling we were seeing something astonishing.” Randy delivered on the lecture on his wife’s birthday, and made it up to her in a grand gesture.

There’s the moment when he brings out the cake for his wife, for their last birthday together, and he asks us all to sing to her. I’ve never had an emotional Happy Birthday sung to equal that. And I think everyone in the room would agree.

Emotion rings in lots of songs delivered to people we love. It took Bob and I 50 years together to get that moment of my own tears. “And many happy returns of the day,” is the old saying attached to birthdays, a message that wishes for many more. I wish this for my brother and others I love so long.

Written by ronseybold

August 4, 2008 at 9:23 am

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