Eugene Cernan (1934-2017)

I think it was 1989, maybe early 1990, back in the Philippines. I was in 7th Grade. We went on a field trip to see the Ripley’s (of Believe It Or Not” fame) traveling show “World’s Firsts,” which was visiting Manila at the time. That day they had a guest speaker: Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan. (Some irony there, I suppose: that an exhibit about first things would feature the last person to have walked on the moon.)

I don’t remember much about the presentation; all I could think of was an Apollo documentary I had seen showing the EVA where Cernan and fellow astronaut Jack Shmitt had found orange-colored soil.

So when Q&A time came up, I bounded up to the mic (which I vividly recall gave me a strong static shock) and excitedly asked “Remember the orange soil? What was it? Was it radioactive? Was it some kind of ore?”

Cernan was extremely pleased by this. “Now this kid, this kid has done his homework,” he said, “We did find orange soil.” He went on to talk about iron oxide in the soil and volcanic activity, but the rest of the day my head was abuzz with praise from an astronaut who’d walked on the moon.

He died on January 16th, 2017, still the last man on the moon. We still have not returned. But I’ve done my homework.

Mossy

Mossy

Moss-covered rock on a trail in North Virginia, shot with an iPhone 5s on New Year’s Day in the midst of an unusually warm mid-winter.

2016 in Review

The year 2016 brought an epic blizzard and a wave of sad high-profile deaths, including John Glenn, Prince, Princess Leia, Kathy Selden, Admiral Ackbar, R2D2, Snape, The Goblin King, Reverend Book, Chekov 2.0, The Big Lebowski, Henry Warnimont, Willie Wonka, Joe Patroni, Ali, Alf, and democracy.

Snowman in necktie at US Capitol, Washington, DC #blizzard2016

But death aside, 2016 will forever be most notable for one birth: our son Ezra.

Baby Ezra

I turned forty. I also quit my last job and started a new one. In the week between jobs I hopped over to the Philippines to see my brother get married, and also do some diving. (Also got to ride a Boeing 787 for the first time and visit Tokyo for a night.)

Diving at Twin Rocks
Tokyo Sky Tree

Best selfie of the year: tie between Screen Door Ladybug and Tummy Time.

Ladybug on screen door
Tummy Time

And now, welcome to 2017: year of Running Man.

Christmas 2016

Some shots from Christmas with the in-laws, our son’s first Christmas and also his first long trip away from home.

New Jersey Turnpike rest stop family portrait
Baby Ezra
Ezra unwraps his first Christmas Present
Amy and Ezra

And here’s a video of Ezra laughing along with his grandpa saying composer names:

Very important lesson learned this trip: there is no baby changing station at the N Dupont Hwy Wawa in Wilmington, DE.

Dive Log: Twin Rocks, Anilao

Day trip with brother Francis to Anilao, scuba destination of our (and our parents’) youth. We dove out of Planet Dive, a resort in Anilao equipped for day trips, right off Twin Rocks, a relatively shallow and easy marine sanctuary accessible from the resort via shore entry.

Video recorded on a GoPro Hero4 Session with waterproof housing and hand strap mount. (The mount turned out to be terribly shaky and the housing clouded up at times, necessitating some post-processing and stabilization, hence the strange wobbly effects at some points in the video.)

Dive 101: Twin Rocks
Max depth: 60ft
Dive time: 55 mins
Air used: 200 bar

Shore entry means you literally walk into the sea, wearing full gear, then start swimming when it’s deep enough. Lots of scary looking sea urchins nestled in the rocks, though the dive center seems to have done a good job of keeping the immediate shore entry area urchin-free. On descent from the entry point is a sunken barge which serves as anchor for the dive buoy.

Diving at Twin Rocks

The Twin Rocks themselves are several meters north of this spot, a leisurely swim over scattered clusters of coral, harboring schools of fish and other diverse sea life. We met a friendly turtle and a shy mantis shrimp.

Twin Rocks, Anilao #scuba

Hour long dive, with nice shallow reef area for safety deco stop en route back to entry point. Lots of fish and coral but again, many urchins in the shallows.

Dive 102: Twin Rocks, but deeper
Max depth: 80 ft
Dive time: 55 mins
Air used: 200 bar

Second dive after lunch. Went a bit deeper after shore entry, going past the sunken barge down to 80 feet. Sea floor was barer, with only scattered clusters of coral dotting the sand. Saw a moray eel peeking out from under some coral, with a cleaner shrimp roaming around its head and ducking in and out of its mouth.

Moray eel and cleaner shrimp (GoPro screenshot)

Up at the Rocks I tried leaving my GoPro alone on the coral for a few minutes, so that fish normally fleeing my presence returned to the reef, schooling around the camera unconcerned. Got a good silhouetted scuba self-portrait, and an inquisitive red snapper came close to the camera three times, possibly trying to intimidate the GoPro away from its reef.

Inquisitive Red Snapper (GoPro screenshot)

Overall, a nice pair of dives, and the resort day trip package included lunch and decent dive shop service. Extremely grateful to my brother for taking time out of his day for the trip.

Halloween 2016

For Halloween we were a Star Trek family, with me and Amy in our Original Series red shirts and Ezra representing the Next Generation.

Original Series and Next Generation

Last year’s creeper head mask served as a front walk jack-o-lantern and candy table for the trick-or-treaters — of whom there were far fewer than last year, probably since Halloween fell on a Monday. Interestingly there were zero presidential candidate costumes despite it being close to election. Also zero Princess Elsas. Lots of Supermen, Batmen, and Ninja Turtles, of course. Two Kylo Rens, more Darth Vaders.

Creeper Head Mask

I just realized that in a couple more Halloweens I’ll actually have a son to take around the neighborhood, too.

Forty

At some point in October I turned forty, a milestone I commemorated with all the pomp and circumstance of numbers flipping on a clock — that is to say, I had an uneventful birthday that consisted of mostly work. (We did go to an Irish pub for a delayed celebratory brunch that Saturday.)

Self-portrait on Metro Thirty.jpg

I snapped a contemplative self-portrait on Metro, then realized later that I had taken exactly the same photo of myself ten years ago when I turned thirty. At the time I was on the cusp of several life changes: about to get married, get a new job, and move into a new apartment. Ten years later we’re still happily married and have our new son, plus much else to be grateful for.

More transitions are coming, and I often struggle to keep up with work and child and house and life in general. In all things I must remember to find sustenance in the grace of Him who has brought me this far — sometimes easy to forget in this domestic whirlwind.

Baby Ezra Update, 3 Months

At the grand old age of three and a half months, Ezra is now able to smile and laugh, roll onto his side, recognize faces, vocalize, deliberately grasp things, feel textures, follow movement with his eyes, hold his head up unaided for minutes at a time, and even occasionally sleep through the night.

Gang's all here

It’s been wondrous to watch his rapid physical and cognitive development, especially the changes in his personality as his sensory awareness opens up and he goes wide-eyed (or open-mouthed) at new things he can see and hear and touch and feel and taste.

Baby Ezra, 7 weeks 5 days

And it truly is heartwarming to see our kid smile and laugh just at the sight of me. (Or maybe it should be puzzling because he seems to find something about me really amusing.)

Animated GIF of Baby Ezra smiling

Meanwhile we’re learning to speak Baby while transitioning him to grownup human languages. He really does have specific sounds for his various simple needs: hunger, diaper, fatigue, frustration. I speak to him in English and Tagalog, of course, but I’m injecting a few other languages: singing German and Irish songs as lullabies, and blessing his sneezes in French.

Tummy Time

At about 13 lbs and 2 ft he’s slightly-low-average weight but also extremely tall for his age, with most of that height in his legs. As he approaches the size thresholds for his bassinet and car seat I’m already picturing a six foot teenager around our house in the 2030s.

Baby Ezra and Martha #cat

There are still sleepless nights, especially as he transitions from bassinet to crib, goes through sleep disturbances affected by his increased sensory awareness, and suffers his first colds and allergies, but the truly hardest days of newborn life are behind us. Still, further challenges lie ahead: crawling, teething, solid foods, walking, potty training, college.

Ezra en route

I think fatherhood most profoundly sank in for me a few weeks ago when I picked him up from daycare and said, “Hi, I’m Ezra’s father.” With those words came a rush of thoughts and emotions: from impressions of the sacramental importance of parenthood as theological ministry, to various realizations about my own parents, to “Hey I should learn to say ‘I am your father’ in a Darth Vader voice by the time he’s old enough to watch Star Wars.”