My son Ethan and I have had the fun opportunity to write an essay together for The Town Crier. It’s called “Performing the Tale: On Telling Story as a Dungeon Master“, and it’s about how telling story as a Dungeon Master is different than telling story through a written form. Check it out.

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.

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 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.

My children have been leaning about their city and its environs as part of their homeschooling, so today we sat down with google maps to help them locate where they are in relation to the world. My hope was that that they would get a better sense of scale, of how big our city is in comparison with our county, our province, our country, our continent, and our world. We started at the broadest level and narrowed our scope, step by step, until we were at our street. Then I clicked on the street view to let them see their own house.

Up until that final click, they were interested and, I think, grasping the idea of scale that was the purpose of the exercize for me, but after that final click, they were beyond excited. The possibility of seeing an image of what had, until then, only been a map, of moving between map and image with a click, suddenly made everything real to them. From then on, nothing would do but that we had to follow along the streets on the map to find the houses of their friends, their church, their favourite stores, their parks, everything they could think of, to see it on the map. It was as if the idea of scale became concrete for them all at once, as if they could finally understand that the lines on the paper represented, not only the idea of things, but the actual places that they knew.

It was amazing, one of those moments that makes homeschooling my kids so wonderful.

I went to the market this morning and came home to a warm kitchen, which, considering the temperature outside and the lack of insulation in my house, was quite remarkable.   My wife was baking her favourite cold-rise sweet dinner rolls for the dinner we are attending tonight, and she was preparing our bread for the week also, a Swedish rye bread that she was trying for the first time.  My mother-in-law was in the kitchen too, simmering the stock for a chicken soup intended for our church’s soup luncheon tomorrow, so I put the groceries away amid the smells of rising dough and soup stock, and then I had the chance to add to them, beginning my own soup for tomorrow, potato and bacon and green onion and parmesan and cream cheese, and I put the pear pies in to bake, and I remembered, once again, that there is nothing like a warm kitchen in winter.