Well, I bet he won’t do that again!

John had a geography project that went with a report, preparing food from the country he chose. He picked Nigeria, and for the food he selected to make a pepper soup.

Well, he did very well with the whole thing until he got to the peppers. He was instructed to wash his hands well, because he was dealing with habeneros and another chili pepper. After he was done cutting them up, he rinsed his hands off, but did not wash them off, for Doug and I began to hear the sound of repeated screams coming from the bathroom.

At some point during the cooking process, he touched his face somewhere around his eyes, which left an extreme burning sensation first in his eyes, and then his forehead, and most of his face.

We advised him to begin rinsing his eyes out with running water, while we called the Aetna Nurse Answer line. While we were finding the number, the screaming subsided somewhat, but still continued.

The nurse on call explained that this happens all the time, and that the rinsing John was doing would work, even though it might take half an hour to complete.

She also informed me that many times, men have a similar problem with not washing their hands thorough or wearing gloves, and then “using the bathroom.” I’m sure you get the picture.

David’s K5 Graduation….

Monday, June 6, was David’s graduation. Doug took lots of pictures, so you’ll have check later for those. [Doug: They are in now.]

David’s class put on a play by Max Lucado called, “If Only I had a Green Nose.” David played the part of the carpenter named Eli. He did very well. I still need to check with one of the parents about getting a copy of the video he took of the whole program.


Once the play was over, the K5 class left to get their caps and gowns on. During the wait, the K4 came up and entertained with songs, memory verses and different things that they learned throughout the year.

Once the K5 class entered the gym and headed for the platform it happened, I got teary-eyed. I didn’t weep, but I was emotional. Thinking about how fast time will go before he’s actually walking the isle to get his diploma. (Thinking about that now, I’m nearly teary-eyed.)


Of course, while we were out at Friendly’s, Naomi couldn’t resist being entertaining as well:


(Click here, or right-click and save if the above video won’t play.)

David is so very excited about going to first grade. He had an awesome year in school. The only thing he didn’t like was nap time and he’s very glad that he will no longer have one in the other grades. We got a great picture of the Davids together. We are very thankful for his teacher, Sue Mullett, too for making David’s first experience in school so sweet.

The Geek Life Begins Early in the Wilcox Family

The other day, I came out of my room to find that Naomi was at the computer with her baby doll, taking the doll’s hand, and trying to “teach” the doll to use the mouse.

I went searching for the camera, and missed that shot, but when I came back I found Naomi had left her doll as the picture above shows.

Peter Jackson May Have Pulled It Off (Again)

For years, we waited in fear while director Peter Jackson worked on The Lord of the Rings movies. Those who so loved the books were not convinced, especially given the early press, that any director could possibly bring them to screen in a manner that would please diehard fans.

But he did it. We abandoned our idolatrous worship of George Lucas, and erected a new god in his place: Peter Jackson.

Nichelle and I have just watched the trailer for the upcoming King Kong remake, directed by Jackson, and believe that he may have done the impossible again: Making a good remake, and making a good film out of the King Kong story.

Life with an Anxiety Disorder

This is the post that I have put off writing for years, for one reason or another.

Let me begin by a disclaimer. An anxiety disorder does not mean that a person worries excessively about things, or, more specifically, the anxiety that an anxiety disorder causes is not the same as “real” worry.

Let me explain. When we moved a year and a half ago, we had a surprising amount of trouble with selling our house. We had buyers back out, we had a buyer who had no job, we lost bids on houses we were attempting to buy. That produced some “real” worry on my part.

For example, during the sale of the house, purchase of the new one, and the move, I must confess, there was a certain amount of real worry. There were dozens of details that had to work out perfectly. Nichelle had gotten sick in the last week before the move, and the packing was behind schedule, even though we’d been working on it for a year. After we moved, my anxiety disorder kicked into a higher gear for about three weeks, when there was no reason for “real” worry at all. Anxiety-disorder-caused worry simply does not feel the same.

Scripturally speaking, we are not to be worriers. Everything is in God’s hands, and part of the Christian life is to trust Him. It doesn’t mean nothing bad will ever happen to us, but that God gives us grace to deal with what comes, and we can depend on Him to provide that.

History of My Anxiety

In October of 1995, I awoke one morning in a state of what I can only describe as abject terror. I had never experienced anything like this before. Even worse, unlike some people who have panic attacks, this anxiety never went away. It was with me all day, every day, for every waking moment.

I could not figure out what was wrong. Despite knowing that many such things are caused by chemical imbalances within the brain, my self-diagnostic software was offline. I concluded that this must be some sort of spiritual attack.

As I look back now, I can see that I had fairly long periods of heightened anxiety about certain situations throughout my youth, probably starting at age 8 or 9; I will discuss that later.

I was in agony. I was able to work, operating WordSmith Digital Document Services full-time, although it was very difficult to concentrate. When I got home, I was exausted. I couldn’t eat much. I spent long hours on the phone, talking with my sisters Cindy and Fran. Of course, I also spent a lot of time talking to my wife, Nichelle. Fran fed me Scripture and we prayed often. Nothing seemed to work. Talking about how I felt and praying with my family helped sometimes, but nothing took away the almost always overwhelming, constant feeling of fear.

I remember a couple of things very clearly. I remember looking at Isaac, who was six months old at the time, and thinking, “I should be enjoying this time with my son, but I can’t.” I also remember once or twice, while transitioning into waking, the anxiety would not be present for just a second or two, and then it would come crashing down on me. Feeling normal for such a fleeting moment made everything worse.

Because I was not eating normally (I didn’t have food anxieties, but had little interest in food), I lost weight. It was ironic when people would comment on how much better I looked. It wasn’t worth the price.

Occasionally, I’d get bad advice from the uninformed. My friend Mark and I boiled this down to a simple message, “You don’t have enough faith.” (We continue to tease each other in that fashioin to this day.) Many people simply don’t view the mental health realm as being biologically based. Few people would say to someone with a broken arm or influenza, “Well, just keep praying.” Praying should definitely be part of any treatment, but broken bones need to be set, and the flu is a virus the body must fight off. I am not at all saying that prayer doesn’t work, but the fact is that, although He does miraculously heal people, God doesn’t want everyone healthy; there are lessons to be learned in our infirmities, and His plan for our life may involve suffering.

After nearly six months of this, my family’s practicality sunk in, and I went to see a doctor. I didn’t really trust the fields of psychology or psychiatry (although a psychopharmacologist would, in retrospect, have done me a world of good), but I agreed to go to an internal medicine specialist, Dr. Richard Lubens, who I knew had an excellent reputation for listening to his patients.

He said, “Ah, it sounds like you have a generalized anxiety disorder. We don’t know what causes them, but there are some treatments that work very well.” He chose an older medication, partly because of its well-established history, and probably partly because I was uninsured at the time and it was inexpensive, unlike many of the newer medications.

He put me on a small dosage of amitriptylene, which is an older, tricyclic medication. Within a week I was feeling vastly improved. A week later, as a follow-up, he increased the dosage slightly.

I was normal again. Even better than normal. For the first time in my life, the things which had caused my occasional anxiety as a child stopped bothering me. I had my life back. What a blessing!

But the story does not end there.

Note: This post will be expanded over the next few days, or perhaps longer.

Topics to come:

  • Anxiety “triggers”
  • My anxiety versus panic attacks
  • Reflections on anxiety/panic during childhood
  • Current status

Biblical Idiocy (A Lesson in Humility)

Last night I made a fool out of myself in church.

We were discussing an editorial (in response to one our staff had written) that urged us to take the more enlightened view that the Bible was meant to be reinterpreted and examined for the modern day. The editorial made the mistake of assuming that our views on homosexuality were based upon Old Testament Mosaic law. (For the record, the New Testament makes it clear that homosexuality is wrong. Read the book of Romans if you doubt.)

I pointed out that many people make the mistake that traditional Baptists, who believe the fundamentals of the faith, are often presumed to be dogmatically tied to the Mosaic Law, and that many such churches get into trouble when they argue God’s viewpoint specifically from an Old Testament view.

As an example, I mentioned that Mosaic Law prohibited wearing clothing made from more than one type of materials. Examine our shirt tags, and we would find our cotton-polyester blends were contrary to the Old Testament Law. Although Christ came to fulfill the Law, the New Testament makes it clear that we, as believers, are dead to it.

So far, I was fine. Then I decied to add a second example. That’s where I proved that I needed a lesson in humility. I said (although I believe the Scripture’s pro-life teaching is clear), that the Mosaic law did not prohibit abortion, but instead provided a financial renumeration for the loss of an unborn baby.

My statement was based on Exodus 21:22-25, but I had goofed on the interpretation of it several years ago, and failed to notice my error successive rereading.

Fellow church member Gordon Wellman pointed out my mistake, for which I am grateful. I was really embarrassed. Here’s where I went wrong:

Exodus 21:22-25:

22If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
23And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,
24Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

What I got wrong was the meaning of so that her fruit depart from her. I had read it as meaning, “if the baby dies,” but the meaning is actually, “if the child is born [early].”

In that case, the woman’s husband, with the assitance of a judge, may impose a fine, but in addition to that, any harm that comes to the infant must be paid for using the classic “eye for an eye” rule.

No matter how much we study the Word of God, there is still more to learn. While preparing a Junior Church lesson last week, I noticed a description of David just after he was anointed to be the next king of Israel, when most consider (and teach) that he was merely a Shepherd boy, that indicates he was already well known as a warrior:

1 Samuel 16:18, emphasis mine:

18Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.

To be sure, his family didn’t seem to see or treat him that way. As the youngest of 8 brothers, David seems to have been branded as the baby–even by his father–long after he had proven himself to be more.

I suppose God’s lessons in humility would be less effective if administered in private.

“That was totally wicked!!!!!!!!” (Batman Begins Surprise)

John has been looking forward to seeing Batman Begins for a very long time, and planning on seeing it for his 17th birthday, which is today.

Doug and I first scared John into thinking he was in some serious trouble by calling him upstairs just before 11:00 p.m. last night. He was standing in front of Doug and I was off to the side. We made it seem that he’d done something wrong (but only for a minute, if it was that long).

What John did not know was that Doug had purchased the tickets for the midnight showing online and had the printout behind his back.

John looked very concerned, and after some dialog between us, Doug pulled the tickets out and John couldn’t believe that we were kidding.

Batman Begins was awesome! John and I went to see it together and I will have to say that it outdid the first two Batman movies. I can’t wait to go and see it again. I was planning on staying home with our kids so Doug could take a group of John’s friends to see it on Friday. Well, now I’m hoping to be there to see it with them. It’s too cool to pass up.

Ah, Batman Begins … another opening night showing. I can’t wait to see it again.

All I Want Is a Half-Decent Sombrero!

Sadly, last summer, my $12 sombrero ranchero purchased in Mexico in 2003, was accidentally squashed during our return from vacation in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. (If one is a cowboy, rather than a farmer, that same hat might be called a somebrero vaquero.)

Six months later even I, with my less-than-excellent fashion sense, had to admit that it was time to retire the hat, so I’ve switched to a Kronos-issued, “100 Quarters of Revenue Growth,” baseball cap.

Although a cowboy hat is certainly unusual in New England, there is nothing better for keeping the rain, snow, and sun off of one’s head. I find I can weather the most severe rainstorm without a jacket with the proper headwear, and a ball cap just doesn’t cut it. I’m also a bit picky about what type of hat I get. I don’t want one that is so fancy or obviously expensive that it will label me as an outsider during my trips to Mexico.

I’ve toyed around with purchasing a new hat online. Long-distance co-worker Ricardo Castillo, who works for Kronos in Cleburne, Texas, referred me to Cavenders, which seems to have a reasonable selection. I spent an hour searching for similar sites online, and found only one or two sites that fit into the “reasonable” category. Most had a truly horrible selection. Only one had affordable prices. My biggest letdown is that none of them seemed to include the traditional Mexican four feathers in the brim. Still, I should be able to remedy this by sending my wife to a craft store. (The feathers consist of one each of green, yellow, and red, plus one smaller, spotted one. I assume the colors are linked to the Mexican flag, although its major colors are green, white, and red, in that order. It may be the yellow feather is used to better contrast against the typically off-white color of the hat, or that it is easier to dye a feather yellow than bleach one to white. Maybe yellow has better color retention. Life is full of small mysteries. I did find this link about cross-cultural palettes.)

Part of the problem might be the same reason most people would be hesitant to buy shoes online. The buyer wants a hat that he knows will fit well and look good, and there is no substitute for being able to try the item on and handle the materials. So, clothing—especially certain items—purchased online would probably have a very high returned item ratio, and could, I surmise, dramatically harm the profit margin.

So, imagine my delight when, while we were up in Manchester, New Hampshire, I spotted a store, El Cowboy Pasedo, with two huge Mexican flags in the windows. After our bus visitation work, Nichelle and I eagerly entered the store.

Inside was a variety of Mexican clothing, including some very attractive sombreros.

I found an excellent hat nearly right away, confirming at least the size I need, and asked what it cost. (Hover over the text for translations.)

“Dos ciento.”

“¿Docientos dolares?” I asked, incredulously.

The sales clerk went on to explain that some of the hats were only $150.

I explained that the hats were indeed very beautiful, but that I was accustomed to spending only about $12 in Mexico, but that these were of finer quality. I would easily spend $25 or $50 on one like this, but that $150 to $200 was simply unaffordable.

The search continues….

IBM DeathStar / Down in the Dumps

I don’t usually write about my mood, but today I woke up feeling really down. Thankfully, I haven’t been sent into massive panic attacks over the issues described below. (One of the ironic points of living with an anxiety disorder and being a computer Geek is that a trigger point for my anxiety is problems with my own personal computer.) I am grateful that God convinced me to make a critical backup at just the right time, so everything important is intact and backed up.

It looks like I’m going to have to replace the old IBM drive on my primary computer. I noticed last night that it was an IBM DeskStar drive, which my friend Charlie Dunn said was so prone to failure they nicknamed them “DeathStars” when he was working in IT.

At first it looked like I had a problem with overheating—and that still may be the problem—although it seems to be getting worse. Last weekend Nichelle compalined that her e-mail was missing for a period of several months, but after rebooting the computer, everything was fine. I took the precaution of backing up our photos (most of which are already on CD as yet another backup), financials, and documents folders to a nonused partition on a drive I’d added in December.

A couple of days ago, I logged in to the computer and was notified that numerous updates were ready to be installed to Java and Windows XP. These updates had already been installed, and it was rather obvious what had happened—the primary drive, from which we have been booting for nearly all of the lifetime of the computer had disappeared, and the machine rebooted to an imperfect Windows setup on the second drive. (That setup was toasted, apparently, by a bad power supply, now replaced, that caused some data loss.)

Part of the time the IBM drive isn’t being recognized at all. After a certain amount of time—perhaps due to overheating, perhaps due to another type of drive failure, it won’t be recognized at all. Rebooting the system sometimes catches it and boots to the original drive, especially if the whole system has been off for a while. On a really hot day, or after a period of high disk activity, the drive will fail again and the system will reboot to the bad partition.

I’d like to try copying the image over to a new drive, using Ghost or whatever comes with the new drive (I’m leaning toward Seagate), as it would get me instantly up-and-running without having to reinstall. Of course, I do not have that much hope that the old drive will “hang in there” long enough for such a data-reading-intense operation to happen.

If that doesn’t work, I’m willing to bite the bullet and do a reinstall of XP Pro. However, there is a drive size limitation (I think it’s 120 GB) in the initial release of XP Pro (pre SP-1), which is what I have. Installing from an SP2 CD would be even sweeter, and less prone to failure than upgrading to SP2 from a previous version.

:: sigh ::

Editor’s note added June 13, 2005:

It looks like the drive is only flaking out when it overheats. I think it may fail soon, but letting it cool down with the machine off so far makes it recover. In the mean time, I’m keeping my data backed up daily, and when the drive does fail, I can boot to my “February” installation, and still run all my apps, so replacing the drive is now less urgent, and I can plan for this at my convenience.

Editor’s note added June 21, 2005:

No, it’s not necessarily related to overheating. Or, if it is, the drive is “overheating” at a temperature far below what its temperature sensor would indicate shoud be a problem.

Last night I was running at a reasonably cool 35 degrees C, when the whole things went kablooie. At first I had the usual trouble recognizing the drive. Then, when I finally got it to recognize, it was dog slow, and told me that Windows couldn’t boot because windows/system32/system was missing or corrupt. I had just finished backing up everyone’s e-mail, pictures, etc., except mine.

This morning, after leaving the system off overnight, I got the drive to be recognized by leaving it running for a few minutes, and everything seemed to be fine.

So heat may be playing a factor, but I think it’s time to just retire the drive.

I’m also looking at putting together a new system that would kick butt for as little as $500, but I also need to get this one back to a reliable state.

Editor’s note added June 27, 2005:

Wednesday night after church, I went out and grabbed a 120 GB Seagate Barricuda drive to replace the boot drive. On Wednesday, the IBM DeathStar drive seemed to fail completely, and I was looking at rebuilding my system.

On Thursday evening, I decided to give the IBM drive a few more tries, and got it to recognize at startup!

Hurriedly, I rebooted with the Seagate drive, hoping to be able to copy my IBM drive over to the Seagate drive, which would become the new boot drive, and save me from having to reinstall everything.

Seagate’s drive setup software is supposed to be easier to use than Western Digital’s. I actually didn”t find that to be the case. They both are about the same, but there were some nonintuitive points that I had to keep hitting the help file and documentation for. Once nice thing (which I did not need) is that Seagate lets you print installation instructions that are customized for what you’re actually doing.

It took hours for the drive to copy, mostly due to the read errors (all were being corrected, but it was having to perform each read multiple times) that SMART was reporting. Copying also appeared to be slow because of Seagate’s verification process, but getting an exact drive copy is far more important than getting a fast copy.

I only found three problems:

  1. Trying to access the System Restore tab crashed. It turned that is always caused by a drive copy process, and all I had to do to fix it was disable the System Restore service, then re-enable it.
  2. The next problem was a missing FrontPage icon (the link would work, but the icon itself was the default rectangle). It was looking for something under installs that clearly wasn’t around any more. I simply replaced the shortcuts with new ones.
  3. Lastly, the icons on my own logon are weird. Unless I run in 32-bit color mode, I get ugly 2d, 8-bit icons. It seems to happen only on my account. I find it disturbing, but it can’t be described as much more than a cosmetic issue. Some of the menu colors are off as well. Again, it’s no big deal, but it does bother me.

Other than that, the machine is working perfectly. My friend Phil Luchon came over and brough his machine. We played WarCraft and StarCraft. The Lego Star Wars game, which the kids play every moment we will allow (one hour on weekedays, 2 on weekends), which had been very prone to crashing and lockups, has not had a single failure in 3 days.

Everything involving disk access is much faster on the new drive: booting, loading big programs, virtual memory swapping, etc.

Early Memories of Our Children

Isaac:

I found this note in our cellar, originally from May 13, 1993:

Today Isaac was talking about Andrew (my newphew/his cousin) and asking, “Is he three?” while holding out three fingers. I said, “No, he’s thirteen.” Isaac immediately asked, “Where’s the thirteen finger?”

Isaac has a host of interesting things we could write about. He surprised us at 18 months by identifying and naming the letters “O” and “A” on his alphabet blocks. Before he was 2, he could name every letter of the alphabet, and recite them in rapid fashion if one pointed to a word. (He was at least 4 before he mastered the alphabet song.)

We tried to raise Isaac to be “weapons-free.” (We were naive parents.) At age 2, he ate his toast into the shape of a gun, and said, “Look, a toast gun. Bang!” After that we realized that there were just things, like playing army, that are normal for a boy’s development. David now has a huge arsenal of toy guns and swords. Naomi enjoys playing with them as well.

July 2, 2005 (in reference to sometime in 1995): This was what life was like with a newborn.

  • This morning I knocked a book off my nighttable—Nichelle thought I dropped Isaac.
  • A couple of days ago I brought some work home to do on my computer—I fell asleep at the computer, and didn’t wake up until midnight. Then I had to work until 2:00 a.m.!
  • One night I fell asleep when I was feeding Isaac.
  • Nichelle always wakes up, and can’t remember that she put Isaac to bed. She panics momentarily because she can’t find him.

David:

When David was somewhere around 4, he believe the opposite of incorrect was outcorrect.

John:

We adopted John when he was 10 years old. One of the things we really miss is that early childhood history. His sister has given us a few old photos, but there’s nothing to substitute for a decade of missing information. (Even his medical records were woefully incomplete.)