January to December

Our dog Ellie sits beside the dragon statue at Irvington School after a heavy snowfall

I took the top picture of Ellie by the dragon statue at Irvington School this January after an unusually heavy snow, the bottom picture this morning in a more typical gentle rain shower. I’m deeply thankful for the year we’ve spent together and that she has been in good health (for her age). Longer walks have returned with cooler weather and new medicines, even if not quite as long as before. She walks more slowly and stiffly, gets out-of-breath much faster too, but still charms everyone she meets. You are my heart and my joy, pup, my heart and my joy.

Our dog Ellie sits beside the dragon statue at Irvington School during a gentle rain shower

Sun & Rain

The sun shines on leaves covered in large raindrops

After a heavy rain, the sun peeked out briefly early in our walk after Ellie and I left the dog park on this Thanksgiving morning. The rain returned for the next hour as we meandered around Irvington, but that’s OK, we both love the rain, and we both enjoyed the walk. Ellie made two passes by Steve’s house but he wasn’t there. She tried bolting up the stairs, presumably to ring the doorbell, but I made her move along.

21 Years

Our tortoiseshell cat Trixie sits at the top of the cat tree, framed by the arch behind her

After 21 years at the same company, the company I joined out of college, my luck ran out today and I got laid off. Not just me, but my entire engineering group. I’ve worked with some for most or even all of those 21 years, and we made a great team, so it was a heartbreaking day saying goodbye to such a good group of people. I had an inkling it was going to happen the night before when a meeting with the new management suddenly showed up on my calendar at 11:30 at night for the following morning. I was unable to sleep so eventually I apologized to Boo, curled up asleep in my lap, and got up and went downstairs and typed up a quick resume.

I haven’t written a resume in 21 years, but there was a position open in a different group that I thought I was a good fit for, so I brought my laptop to the meeting and the moment they announced we were all losing our jobs I uploaded the resume and applied for the new one. A handful of my friends are equally qualified and equally deserving, I hate that we’ll be in competition when we worked so well together for so long. My wife and I have plenty of savings and I have a decent amount of severance if I don’t get rehired, so I’m very fortunate to have some time to find a new job (although I desperately want to find one in the Portland metro area, it will break my heart if I have to leave).

I’m proud of the work we did, and all things considered even this bad news isn’t nearly as bad as what many people in the world face every day, day after day, and I’m very thankful for those 21 years and the team I got to work with. It’s been an emotional day, particularly since I got little sleep last night (I did end up getting an hour and a half after finishing my resume), goodbyes are never easy, and I’m physically and emotionally spent.

This picture of Trixie has nothing to do with today, but it makes me smile, and I need to smile. We were playing a game of string on a sunny afternoon a couple of weeks ago when I paused to take her picture, framed by the arch behind her, as she patiently waited for me to put down the camera and play with her once more.

A Cute Couple

My Tom Bihn ID messenger bag and Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 travel bag

In early August I started an 11-day trip, the longest I’ve ever taken, that included three cross-country flights (thankfully all non-stop) and a two-day drive. I started off flying to Baltimore to visit my brother’s family and help sort through my dad’s papers, then flew to Texas to help my mom finish packing for her move to Georgia where she’ll be near my sister, drove with my mom from Austin to Atlanta, then flew back home from Atlanta to Portland. I was going to constantly be on the move and didn’t want to risk lost luggage, and I also didn’t want to take up much room in the car, and I was going to be walking home from the train at the end of the trip, so I took just two bags, my Tom Bihn ID messenger bag that went under the plane seat, and my Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 travel bag that went in the overhead bin.

Inside the two bags were an array of smaller bags that kept me organized, most also from Tom Bihn. The big bags have o-rings inside for attaching key straps so my keys, a small flashlight, and a USB drive were easily found. I used one of my mesh organizer bags in the ID for cables, medicine, and food that I wanted on the flight, while the other in the Aeronaut held cables and other items I wouldn’t need until I landed. Travel stuff sacks held a raincoat (which didn’t get used) and my camera and lens (which did). My daily pills went in a clear organizer and smaller items went into the flat organizer pouches. The organizers worked well in the side pockets of the Aeronaut, making it easy to get to my 3-1-1 bag at the airport, and also provide easy access to food or medicine or cables without having to open the main compartment.

The Aeronaut I’ve used before, both while flying and driving, but it really shone on this trip. I used the backpack straps while moving through the airport, then neatly tucked them away for the plane rides and at my destination, but they were most handy when walking home from the train station. Rolling bags have their uses, but since the Aeronaut wasn’t heavy it was much nicer to just slip it onto my back. I’ve been surprised at how using the mesh packing cubes for clothes and the organizer bags for other items makes living out of a suitcase so much more enjoyable, everything stays organized and it was always easy to find what I wanted. Despite staying somewhere new about every other night, by the end of the trip everything was still in its place, which is not normal for me but will be from now on. The Aeronaut is well-built and I could have checked it if I needed to, but it was easy to carry and so easily fit in the overhead bins that it was never an issue.

The trip didn’t get off to the best start as I had a miserable headache the first morning, one of the worst in recent memory, but by evening medicine was keeping it at bay and it was never that severe again. It was a tiring but productive trip and I enjoyed getting to see most of my family, even a cousin and his son I hadn’t seen in years. Coming home I even got a cheap upgrade to first class, a welcome treat as I despise flying. While I’m never going to enjoy flying I am thankful that all the flights went off without issue, as did our drive, and I’m thankful for the little company that designs and makes the bags that I love so much (all a bit to my north in Seattle).

My Tom Bihn ID messenger bag and Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 travel bag along with all the other smaller Tom Bihn bags that went inside them


Our dog Ellie sits in front of a door labeled 'Women'

When I was growing up I began to struggle with the difference between how the Bible says women should be treated and the way they were treated. I was happy we weren’t following the Bible’s teachings, I felt women should be the equals of men, but how can you claim the Bible is the word of God and then choose to ignore the words? Were people created in God’s image or the other way around? The teachers I talked to never gave a convincing answer, mostly just that it was a cultural difference, but that didn’t make sense to me as it was a cultural difference back then too.

I started reading the Bible cover to cover and struggled with some of the old heroes of the Bible, some of whom seemed to me to be monsters, and sometimes God too. And then I got to Judges Chapter 4.

Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.
Judges 4:4

Wait. What?

According to Judges, Deborah was not just the person the people chose as judge, but also the person God chose as prophet. God tells Deborah he’s going to give Israel a great victory against their oppressors, so she tells her commander to gather his troops. Such is the commander’s faith in her and in God’s faith in her, and such is his fear of the fearsome chariots of the enemy, that he says he will go but only if she goes with him. She goes, and rout the enemy they do, not just in this battle but in others that follow. The book of Judges has many judges set as examples, some as good and some as bad, but Deborah is one of the greats.

So I began to wonder, why is her story forgotten, why did our religion choose sexism instead, to the harm of billions over thousands of years? And not just sexism, but racism, and homophobia, and on and on? I eventually decided the Bible was not the words of God but the words of men trying to understand the nature of God, and of themselves.

We need not be monsters. This is how Deborah’s story concludes:

Then the land had peace forty years.
Judges 5:31b

If you take the Bible at its word, two generations grow up in peace because of one woman, their judge and God’s prophet.

God took delight in her, pity we don’t.