I'm forever less and more (wonderbink) wrote,
I'm forever less and more

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Dad Turns 70 . . .

November 14, 2008 is my father's 70th birthday. So, here are 70 random things about my Dad, in no particular order.

1. He technically qualifies for Irish citizenship, since his mother was born in Ireland.
2. He has the same first name as his father, but a different middle name and thus is not a Jr.
3. He is basically the reason I grew up in Atlanta, because he was offered a job at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
4. He taught there for many years and has only recently retired.
5. His speciality was optics, initially lasers and later diffractive optics.
6. I'm one of the few people I know who get warm childhood fuzzies about lasers and lenses because of that.
7. He was using a laser as a pointer years before the things were small enough to fit in a pocket.
8. He did a replica of the sort of hazard symbol they put on lasers in red reflective tape on the side of our mailbox.
9. He did copper enameling as a hobby when I was younger.
10. He made a number of copper enamel pins for my mother, which she still wears.
11. He made a few for me, including one with a picture of my favorite teddy bear, Tommy.
12. I even recall one Fourth of July evening, when we had some kind of party with our neighbors and we were given pennies and enamel powder and did our own sloppy enameling on them, which Dad fired up in the kiln. I might still have mine somewhere.
13. He stopped at some point and only recently fired up the kiln to make my mother a pin in celebration of her retirement. It read: "Someday Is Now."
14. I honestly don't know why he stopped doing it. I'd assumed that the kiln had broken, but apparently that wasn't it.
15. He bought us an Apple II computer back when programs were stored on cassette tapes.
16. For a while, he imposed a rule that in order to have game-playing privileges on the computer, each month we had to write a program in BASIC that had as many lines of code as our age.
17. When I was at summer camp long enough to receive letters, my dad wrote me one that had the computer interrupting and making snarky comments in the middle of the letter. ("When Patrick plays Apple Panic, I think he's going to ruin my A key!")
18. Since Dad was already firmly rooted in Apple's core user base (the Apple core?), we were probably the first family on our block to get a Macintosh.
19. My Dad does NOT do Windows if he can possibly help it.
20. He reluctantly obtained a Windows PC in order to run a particular program (something to do with optical design) that had no Macintosh equivalent.
21. He confined it to the basement.
22. While most people of my generation seem to be saddled with parents who know little about computers, I have a dad who I lean on for tech support.
23. My dad will go to just about any length possible in order to make a bad pun. I will spare you examples. You're welcome.
24. My dad is very fond of chocolate. This is kind of an understatement.
25. He's also partial to really good scotch, but doesn't indulge in that nearly as often.
26. He did some acting when he was in college. The only role I know of by name was that he played Five Wits in Everyman.
27. He mentioned that he actually wrote a play once, about Diogenes (the guy wandering about with a lamp in search of an honest man) which apparently started with Diogenes ranting at the audience. I've never read it; I'd still be curious to.
28. There was a play he also said he'd like to write called Dialogues of the Apostles, which would be about the things the Apostles said when Jesus wasn't around to hear them.
29. He played chess when he was younger and was apparently very hard to beat.
30. He designed and built a play structure for our back yard that he built a small model of before constructing. We just called it "The Structure."
31. When the family has our annual Christmas Cookie Party, Dad designs the invitations. Initially he did it by hand, but tends to go digital these days.
32. Back when we had the Apple II, Dad wrote an entire program when he was home sick with a cold that did a low-rez picture of a jack-o-lantern face in orange on a black screen. The eyes moved back and forth and periodically the jagged corners would turn up in a smile. We put the TV set in the window and plugged the computer in next to it so it looked from the outside like a regular jack-o-lantern from a distance.
33. He taught me how to pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary, and we would pray it together at bedtime every night when I was a child.
34. I remember he explained what a 'trespass' was by using the example of when my younger brother had smacked me with the red plastic hammer.
35. He did a sabbatical in Arizona when I was in high school.
36. He couldn't cook worth a darn (still can't) so he lived on a lot of microwave dinners. (Back then, the dinners came on plastic plates that were durable enough to be re-used. We still have some of them.)
37. We went out to visit him when Halley's Comet was visible in the sky, and went out one morning to see it.
38. I remember he was calculating where it was supposed to be by stars and degrees and then I asked "say, isn't that it by the telephone pole on the horizon?"
39. He also spent some time in Oulo, Finland when the Internet was first dawning.
40. It was the days before AOL, so messages were shuttled back and forth between the academic accounts that he and my mother held.
41. At one point, they emailed each other between innings of the Braves game. I'm not entirely sure how he was watching it, but I do murkily recall that it was quite late his time.
42. While he reads quite a bit, he's not particularly crazy about science fiction.
43. He said that one of the things that put him off it was dealing with proto-fanboys who would buttonhole you and tell you about their brilliant ideas for science fiction stories.
44. He did rather enjoy Harry Potter, though.
45. And the Lord of the Rings.
46. He got along really well with Harlan Ellison when they met.
47. He was president of the Society of Photo-optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) for a time.
48. There were talks of a merger between SPIE and the Optical Society of America during my father's tenure, but it ultimately didn't happen.
49. We was (still is, I think) the editor of the SPIE scientific journal.
50. As a scientist, he has little tolerance for pseudoscientific bullcrap.
51. Once, when he used a spoon to dish out ice cream and my mom chided him for bending it in the process, my dad grinned and declared "My name . . . is Uri Geller!" He then screwed his eyebrows together and declared he would bend the spoon back with his mind.
52. My dad does weird stuff like this. My acquaintances who meet him in his more staid modes have a hard time believing this.
53. He does get a bit grumpy when the peers of his children attempt to get chummy with him.
54. would know--she calls him by his first name just to bug him.
55. Even my sisters-in-law don't do that, now that I think about it.
56. He was apparently quite short in high school and didn't hit his growth spurt until college, so when he went to his high school reunion, people had trouble recognizing him.
57. He's written and co-written a few textbooks on optics and lasers.
58. He even did the initial sketch of the cover design for one of his books, which was a pair of hands scribbling a diagram on the back of an envelope.
59. He had the dubious distinction of having that particular book pirated and sold in Hong Kong (I think it was.) Someone acquired and sent him a copy.
60. He's done a few Dad Lectures at my school--once when I was very young and once, I think, in high school physics.
61. I've also sat in on some of his college lectures when teacher workdays left me and my younger brother in my parents' proverbial laps.
62. From what I've seen, he's a very good teacher.
63. I occasionally leaned on him for help with my physics homework and he was very good at explaining concepts in a way I could grasp.
64. He encouraged me to write, and still does.
65. He once had me read the opening paragraph of a John Le Carre novel as an example of descriptive writing. I don't think I was even a teenager by that point.
66. He wasn't actually all that impressed by Neverwhere. (Sorry, Neil.)
67. He's become quite an avid photographer since digital cameras made it easier to shoot huge number of pictures without changing rolls every thirty-or-so shots.
68. Indeed after my nieces were born, he obtained the nickname "The GrandPaparazzi".
69. He actually shot the picture I'm using in the icon to this entry.
70. I love him very much.

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