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My wife and I laid in bed late this morning, made love while the kids binged on Saturday morning television, had a lazy shower.

Then she baked bread with browned butter for the party at our friend’s place this evening, and my eldest son made chocolate chip cookie’s for his friend’s birthday party this afternoon, and I sauteed batches of mushrooms and sweet onions for another friend’s fiftieth birthday tomorrow.

I’m reducing the extra onions into soup as I write this. The house is full of astringent sweetness, and of C.D. Wright’s reflections on the nature of poetry, and of “Paloma” by MESTIS.

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By brother Nathan and his family have recently decided to move from Guelph to Manitoulin Island.  They bought some cottages on Dominion Bay, and they’ll be renting them to tourists during the summer.

Those of you who know me or who read this space regularly will be aware of how much Manitoulin Island means to me, and if you’d ever like to find out how beautiful the Island is for yourself, you can now do so at the hospitality of my family. There are three beautiful cottages just steps from the water, with access to lawn bowling and a tennis court, all within easy driving distance to the town of Mindemoya.

If you’re interested, you can find more information at www.dominionbaycottages.com. Nathan and his family would be glad to host you and your family this summer.

One of the most dangerous ideas afflicting our culture today is that of balance. We talk about balancing career and family, or having a balanced diet, or keeping a balanced perspective, but when we live like this, constantly afraid to do anything that might upset the carefully constructed balance of our lives, we also fail to believe and to do the things that are truly important. Living a balanced life permits no great loves, no great deeds, no great passions.

Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone should run out and throw themselves into some craziness or another just to add spice to their lives. What I’m suggesting is that we forgo a life of cautious balance in favour of the tension that lies between great and driving passions.

Let me be clear here. Being passionate in this way does not mean following your bliss. It does not mean dancing like no one is watching. It means loving things worth loving, and loving them so much that you are willing to do and to be and to sacrifice whatever they require of you. It means loving family and community, friendship and conviviality, justice and hospitality, mercy and forgiveness. It means loving them enough to do the things that bring them about.

Too many people stay with a spouse for fear of upsetting their lives. Too few stay because they have fostered a great and encompassing love.

Too many people have children to satisfy social expectations of what the family should look like. Too few have children because they love what the family can be.

Too many people volunteer their time out of duty. Too few volunteer their time because they love to see justice and mercy done.

Too many people are looking for balance. Too few are willing to live in the tension of great passion.

I’ve been messing around with LaTeX for some time now, but I was faced with a new challenge yesterday when I had to typeset a book of poetic conversation between two different authors. One poet’s work needed to be set on the left page and the other’s on the right. The solution seemed to be the eledpar package, which is an extension of the eledmac package. Eledmac allows users to create critical editions of a text, and eledpar allows for the creation of parallel texts, either in columns on a single page or on facing pages, just what I needed.

The initial document set-up wasn’t too difficult, and I soon had the text appearing where I wanted it, but then I ran into difficulty with the poetry itself.  For previous books I have been using specific packages to help me set poetry, whereas eledmac provides its own functions for setting poetry that are based on edstanza, some of which seem to conflict with the poetry packages I use.  The result was that I spent a fair bit of frustration time yesterday afternoon.

While I was engaged with that problem, my eldest son was at the other computer on Kahn Academy’s site working on some programming problems of his own.  He is learning to program in processing.js, which both fascinates and frustrates him in equal measure, much as LaTeX fascinates and frustrates me.

“Dad,” he said at one point, “the problem is that you can’t even make one mistake,” which hits on the frustration of programming exactly, even if it isn’t strictly true.  After all, the editor that he uses is pretty good at guessing where his errors are and telling him what he needs to do to fix his code, and ShareLaTeX, the online editor that I use, can compile anything but the most egregious errors.  His point, however, is absolutely accurate.  The frustration of programming, especially for someone like me, who is used to manipulating language with a fair degree of creativity and flexibility, is that one wrong line of code can break the whole thing.

If I miss a period in a short story, it will print just the same.  My reader might not even notice.  If I miss a comma, there could be some discussion about whether it needs to be included at all.  If I cut a sentence or even a paragraph more or less, everything will likely still read properly.  If I miss a single operand in my code, however, it may not compile, and if I’m not sure how to fix my error, it won’t be as easy as putting in a period.  I may need to go hunting through a manual or harass someone who knows better or post a question on Stack Exchange.  It could take me all afternoon, and the answer will probably be something depressingly simple.

My son’s problem was of exactly that kind.  He had forgotten to change his fill colour, so his new shape had blended into the background image and seemed not to have been rendered at all.  It took only a few seconds to fix, and then he said, “The good thing about computers is that you know if it’s right,” and this is true too.  The reward of programming is having it work and knowing that you got it right.

No matter how many times I revise a short story, I’m never quite sure I’ve got it right (in fact, with that sort of writing, I’m convinced that there’s no such thing as getting right), but I always know when the code compiles the way it should, and there is a unique satisfaction in this.  It’s not a satisfaction sufficient to make me program more seriously, but it was sufficient, at least at that moment, for me to share it with my son, a connection that I never expected, and I am starting to see why some people become addicted.

 

I am very excited to announce the addition of a new little guy named Jayden to our family. He is fifteen months old and the most charming little man imaginable, active and curious and happy and wonderful. We have spent the last few weeks getting to know him and his foster family, and he came to stay permanently at our house just this Sunday morning. Our boys are completely in love with him, feeding him his bottle and pushing him in his little blue car, and we are all of us delighting in having him in our home.

We are also deeply thankful to Jayden’s foster family, who have been truly remarkable throughout the entire process. Transitioning a child from one family to another is always full of indescribably complex and often contradictory emotions, joy and loss and hope and grief all together, but they received us with such graciousness and friendship, and we feel that our family has grown to include not only Jayden but his foster family as well.  We are grateful to them for everything.

Though we know that many of you will want to meet Jayden as soon as possible, it is important not to overwhelm him with unfamiliar people, so we would ask that you give him a few weeks to get used to his new surroundings, and that you give us a call before coming to visit.  We look forward to introducing him to you, and we are sure that you will fall in love with him as much as we have.