Blowing & Drifting

Forecast: Significant blowing and drifting, with the possibility of heavy accumulation in rural areas.

Blowing & Drifting

Hopeless but not serious here, there, and back here.

TremendouStormTM II Update 2

Ukko be praised, we really are getting some snow! At dinnertime tonight, the grass was showing through in our backyard and Ski Man's noggin had reappeared from his drifty home. By ten he was gone again, my ski tracks were mostly filled in, and our patio screen door was caked in ice and snow.

Downside: Shannon needs the car tomorrow, so I'll have to bike.

Verbal and Roly-Poler

Yesterday afternoon, as Julia ate her second afternoon snack (about 90 minutes before dinner), I said, "You're so hungry, you must be having a growth spurt!" She stopped crunching her hummus-covered rice cake to look up and ask, "What's spurt?" Before I could answer, she smiled her clever smile (made somewhat less clever by the rice-cake crumbs spilling out of her mouth) and said, "Spurt sounds like Bert! Spurt Bert!"

Tonight when I arrived home, Shannon told me that Genevieve had been successfully rolling from back to front all afternoon. I accordingly plopped her down on her back and waited not two minutes before she stuck her little legs straight up in the air, grabbed her toes to form a very tippy triangle, and then turned her hips so that she rolled right over onto her stomach - temporarily trapping one hand under her torso, but pleased with the new view. Julia and I clapped for her, and Julia called her "Roly-Poler."

Sapporo World Championships - Day 7

Yesterday, the women's individual-start skate race at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Sapporo adhered to its script, with the world's best skater, Katerina Neumannova, winning handily. Today, the men's race threw the script on a bonfire. A short but intense snowstorm struck just as the "red group" of high-seeded skiers was about to start, wreaking havoc among the favorites and putting the gold and silver medals around the necks of two utterly unexpected skiers. The win went to Lars Berger (Norway), a moonlighting biathlete, who had started in the first half of the  field - usually a no-man's-land of young, slow, inexperienced, and/or "exotic" skiers with no chance of placing. But Berger is a great skater - one of the fastest on the biathlon circuit - and he turned in the fastest splits at every time check. Finishing second, 35.8 seconds behind Berger, was Leanid Karneyenka (Belarus), an unknown's unknown who was the third man out of the starting gate and who had never before started a World Cup race. Only the bronze went to someone predictable: Tobias Angerer (Germany), who by dint of starting last fought through the end of the storm and into the clear for his crucial final lap. His last 1800 meters were substantially faster than either Berger or Karneyenka, putting him on the podium.

And while Angerer's performance is perhaps the race of the championships (on a par with Norwegian Frode Estil's winning silver medal in the men's pursuit at Torino after breaking a ski and a pole in a crash at the start), the best-race honorable mention should go to Canadian Brian McKeever, who is legally blind yet raced to 24th, the best North American result. The poor American showing led head coach Pete Vordenberg to mystifyingly decide to skip the men's relay in the hopes that the men can focus on the 50km mass-start race on the last day of the championships.

The U.S. is fielding a women's team (including great blogging skiers like Kikkan Randall on the scramble leg and Laura Valaas on the second leg) on Thursday in the 4x5km relay. The event is usually highly competitive and even cutthroat, since national pride, not individual results, are on the line. My picks, after seeing that Kuitunen is going to go for Finland and that Bjørgen's results are so bad that Norwegian coaches are publicly blaming each other for them:

women's 4x5km relay

1) Finland, 2) Sweden, 3) Norway

He Buzzes like a Fridge

The other week, I got my right hearing aid back from the hearing-aid gnomes. It's not working right (ha!). I've already had to have it looked at once, and those adjustments (too arcane to both describing) were partly successful. But yesterday and today, I've been noticing a strange and annoying phenomenon: anytime I'm near a fluorescent light - and especially when one is turned on or off in my presence - the right aid pops and hums, clearly picking up some sort of interference. It's de-light-ful! I can't wait to try to explain it to the audiologist and see her try to use her fancy computer program to make me feel less like a malfunctioning android.

TremendouStormTM II Update 1

As Rod Stewart sang when I was at a painfully formative age, "Oh, no! Not again! It hurts so good, I don't understand. Precipitation!" That last word might have been different, actually.

Anyhow, the disasterologists here in the Cities are again in full-blown ohmygod mode, predicting another giant storm. They hedge their bets carefully, always prefacing their comments with weasel-phrases like "according to the models" (why are they asking models about the weather? aren't their [the models'] heads down all the time, snorting cocaine and petting chihuahuas?), but when it comes right down to it, they're saying that we're all doomed... to get another six to twelve inches of snow between Wednesday and Friday.

Ukko, I await your command. My skis are waxed, and with unbelievable defiance, I flouted the townhouse association's rules by leaving them outside! At night! On the patio! Rebellion, thy name is me.

Libe Tribe

I didn't notice any naked undergrads on campus today, but in making a surgical strike on the oversized/folio stacks in the library, I did see what appeared to be an inordinately large number of students sleeping at desks, in easy chairs, on couches, and even at a tiny study carrel. From the way the faculty are taking days to return emails right now, I know that profs and students alike are really suffering, but honestly, sleeping in the library strikes me as somewhat beyond the pale. Next time I see some sophomore snoozing in the stacks, I may just drop a pile of books or steal his iPod or something. Purely to build character in the youth, of course.

Sapporo World Championships - Day 6

Well, the women's 10km individual-start skating race at Sapporo turned out just the way it was supposed to: Katerina Neumannova (Czech Republic) crushed the rest of the field. She started last, led from wire to wire, and won by 26 seconds. Olga Savialova (Russia) and Kristin Størmer Steira (Norway), who bracketed Neumannova's second place in the women's pursuit earlier this week, were her main competition in the 10km. Savialova raced intelligently, accelerating over the two-lap race to climb from fifth to third to second at the finish. On the other hand, Steira nearly blew up in her attempt to set fast splits, dropping from second at five km and third at 8.3 km to fourth at the finish, five seconds from bronze. Italian Arianna Follis, a rapidly improving racer, showed equal parts maturity and ability by steadily increasing her pace and rising from eleventh to fourth and then into third at the finish, earning her first-ever World Championship medal. Neumannova has already said that this championships and this season are her last, but she is going out on top.

Neumannova had been the favorite to win the 10km at Worlds since the season started, but the winner of the men's 15km, to be run on Wednesday. is far harder to predict, with a gigantic 121-man field (taking a full hour to start!) and a dozen or more possible winners. The three podium spots are unlikely to be separated by more than a few seconds. My picks (repeated from yesterday's post):

men's 15km (Wednesday, February 28)
1) Ole Einar Bjørndalen (Norway), 2) Alexander Legkov (Russia), 3) Sergej Shiriaev (Russia)

More Shirtlessness (Or Less)

Well, loyal readers, I think you will soon collect on my wager with the god of the sky. According to this map from Weather Underground (already no longer available online, sadly), north-central Rice County received between six and eight inches of snow over the weekend, about half what the disasterologists on the news predicted. My backyard sure didn't get that much accumulation, thanks to the blowing & drifting, but the wager clearly stipulated that Northfield was the category of analysis, so there you go.

Feburary 2007

If tomorrow evening isn't another labyrinth of crying it out, I'll make the video and post it tomorrow night. Or maybe I'll wait and see if we get a little bit more snow this week, as forecast by those schmooks who missed the last forecast. Stay tuned.

29 Degrees, with Occasional Flurries and a Chance of Streaking

While walking from the office to the car this afternoon, I was surprised to cross the path of a Carleton student skiing along through the fresh snow. Except for his boots, he was totally naked. He passed in front of me, skied all the way around the Bald Spot (the open area at the center of campus, not a euphemism for something), casually greeted some other students walking along the sidewalk, and then went past me again as he headed back to his dorm. He had some really good boots and skis (again, not a euphemism).

Sapporo World Championships - Preview of Days 6  & 7

Notwithstanding being run in the freestyle technique ("skating," which has only been widely used in open competition since the early 1980s - which ain't long when one of the biggest international races commemorates an event in 13th-century Norway), the distance races at the Nordic World Ski Championships on Tuesday and Wednesday are the last remnants of the traditional form of cross-country ski racing. Rather than sending the entire field off at once in a chaotic, exciting mass start, the women's 10km and men's 15km will see skiers start one at a time, thirty seconds apart, and then race not directly against one another, but against the clock.

In some ways, these kinds of races - which are still frequently run on the World Cup circuit, if only once at the World Championships and Olympics - are actually more exciting than that mass-start or sprint events. The spectating is more difficult and satisfying, for one thing. It's not enough just to see who is leading the pack, since there is no pack. Instead, following the race entails tracking the split times at each time check and comparing the splits to see who is gaining or losing time - cutting a deficit to faster racers or letting a gap grow. The racers know much of this information, but they learn it as they speed past a shouting coach, and then have to adjust on the fly. For another thing, individual-start racing is a purer test of fitness, insofar as it demands that the athlete balance precisely a pace that can be sustained and a pace that can win the race.
As the racing website Faster Skier puts it, "No more drafting with mad sprints to the finish line. Skiers with the highest MaxVO2, the most efficient technique will prevail." In short, the racing will be intense - but also abstract. And the courses themselves are the wild cards. So far, the distance races and sprints alike have been run in soft, mushy conditions that place a premium on power, rather than technique: a huge amount of energy has to be expended simply plowing through the snow. This will work against the injured (like Finland's Virpi Kuitunen, who has a bad back) and the pure technicians (Christian Hoffman of Austria, a freestyle specialist) but favor those with lots of power (Czech racer Katerina Neumannova) or experience in varied and terrible conditions, like the Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen. My picks:

women's 10km (Tuesday, February 27)
1) Katerina Neumannova (Czech Republic), 2) Virpi Kuitunen (Finland), 3) Valentina Shevchenko (Ukraine)

men's 15km (Wednesday, February 28)
1) Ole Einar Bjørndalen (Norway), 2) Alexander Legkov (Russia), 3) Sergej Shiriaev (Russia)


The other day, I was giving Genevieve a bath when I heard Julia come down the hall, dragging our old-school Fisher-Price goggle-eyed telephone. Half-turning from the tub, I saw that Julia was actually carrying the phone, and that she had the long pull-cord in her mouth. I laughed and asked, "Who are you calling?" She gave me a bored look, said, "No, I'm playing the saxophone," and walked back out, tinkling all the way.

TremendouStormTM Update 4, Plus Other Domesticana

It snowed on and off all day today, but it wasn't exactly a blizzard. The winds did create, just outside our patio door, a magnificent drift about ten feet long and three feet high. Ski Man is buried somewhere inside it.

The winds figuratively also blew Genevieve out of our bedroom and into the guest room, where she'll stay until an eventual move into the bedroom, currently solely inhabited by Julia, a.k.a. the Singer of the Loud Nighttime Songs. <fingers crossed> We'll see how this first shift goes. </fingers crossed> It's a bittersweet milestone, marking the fact that baby Gigi's already old enough to be elsewhere at night.

On the other hand, I know Shannon's happy to see impending end of the all-night milk bar (and the immediate end of waking at Gigi's every snuffle). With Gigi in her "own" room, we can also enjoy full use of ye olde master suite again. Among other things, this means that I don't have to get dressed for work in the kitchen anymore. It also means that we can use the shower at night. And this, combined with Gigi's improving ability to sleep through the night and with the nice snowfall, meant that I could go out and ski a bit tonight. I did about a dozen laps of our "backyard." I was out there for about 30 minutes, in which time I fell on my face twice, and encountered a tiny but surly black mouse. I've skied many a kilometer, on snow skis and roller skis, but never before come so close to creating roadkill.

Sapporo World Championships - Day 4

As expected, the women's pursuit at the Nordic Ski World Championships in Sapporo did not see a huge pack hang together until the final kilometers, though neither did it see the long successful escape that I hoped for. Rather, a half-dozen racers broke away early in the second leg of the race, run in the freestyle or skating technique, and created their own race-within-a-race for the medals (video). Kristin Størmer Steira (Norway) led for most of the last phase of the race, trying to use her climbing prowess to lose her pursuers, especially the Russian veteran Olga Savialova, who cannily drafted Steira for almost the entire second half of the race. Behind them and some fading frontrunners, Czech Katerina Neumannova steadily erased a five-second deficit. With 2500 meters to go, the Czech skier made contact with Steira and Savialova and the hanging-on German Evi Sachenbacher Stehle. Savialova immediately surged to the lead. Sachenbacher Stehle tried to follow, but the effort was too much, and she soon fell back to fourth, barely hanging on to the front trio and obviously tired. At the last time check, on a steep curving hill, Savialova was visibly stronger than her chasers, but could not escape on the subsequent descent. Steira tried to attack on the next small uphill, but Neumannova responded and stuck to Savialova when the Russian accelerated around the final corner and into the finishing straightaway. Neumannova tried to swing wide, replicating Axel Teichmann's successful gambit the day before. With power to spare, Savialova easily matched Neumannova's pace, maintaining her lead all the way to the line and taking the gold by a half-second. Steira was 2.1 seconds back in bronze, Sachenbacher Stehle a distant fourth. Neumannova is clearly on form to race well - and I think to win - in the 10km freestyle race on Tuesday. But Savialova will be a force in that race, too, having earned at Sapporo a championship to match the gold she won at the 2003 World Championships.

Beyond Savialova's return to form, the story of the day was Virpi Kuitunen's shocking withdrawal from the race. My pick for the silver medal, Kuitunen's DNF demonstrated that her bad back may plague her at these world championships and into the last phase of the World Cup season. A favorite for podium spots, if not gold medals, in all three remaining events, Kuitunen may now not be able to go at full power.

TremendouStormTM Update 3

Well, the storm is not quite living up to the hype, and I doubt I'll have to make good on my wager from Thursday, but we are getting some snow. The evening news even referenced this blog by name! I had to go over to St. Olaf for a conference this morning, and by the time I was ready to head home, the car was almost entirely covered in half-inch thick ice glaze. The ice and sleet thickened to snow by midafternoon, putting Ski Man in serious trouble. Watch the full slideshow to see how he got himself into this mess.

Ski Man - 8:09 pm, 2/24

Outhouse Racing (No, Really)

The Finns (and those hangers-on, the Estonians) have wife carrying, but by god, the U.P. has outhouse racing.

(Thanks, Dad!)

Sapporo World Championships - Day 3

The men's pursuit at the Nordic Ski World Championships (video) didn't come down to the mass sprint that it might have, but only because the brutal downhill corners of the course at Shirahatayama, outside Sapporo city, proved to demand more than many racers could provide. At the 25km mark, 20 racers were within fifteen seconds of first place, including American Kris Freeman - who, like many others, saw his chances for a podium spot vanish in a crash. Said Freeman, "I liked the course a lot but the downhills were a little ridiculous. For a mass start you don't need to do stuff like that; the first time down the classic course, there were literally sharp pole fragments raining out of the sky from the crashes. You just don't need that." Freeman nonetheless managed to finish 19th, suggesting he is prepared to race well in the 15km skating race later this week.

The big lead group hardly shrank until the race entered the last 1200 meters, when six racers - including three Germans - got a four-second gap on the rest of the frontrunners. As that group approached the stadium, Alexander Legkov (Russia) dropped off the back and then, just after a shallow climb, Norwegian Petter Northug made a bizarre beginner's mistake - planting his pole inside his ski - and crashed headlong to the snow. He jumped up immediately, but the foursome - the trio of Germans, plus the Italian Pietro Piller Cottrer - was long gone, with Tobias Angerer in front by five meters. Rounding the final corner, Jens Filbrich fell back, leaving the race to just Angerer, Piller Cottrer, and Axel Teichmann, who stepped to the outside and surged to the front with his idiosyncratic short-poling stride. Teichmann was clear of Angerer almost instantly, and pulled away all the way to the line. Angerer took the silver, Piller Cottrer the bronze. Northug finished fifth, just behind Fillbrich, and then fell sobbing into the snow.

Sunday, the women race in their own pursuit event over the same treacherous course. Given the likelihood of even more numerous and significant crashes, the race could come down to a long solo breakaway for the win. My picks:

women's 7.5km+7.5km pursuit

1) Katerina Neumannova (Czech Republic), 2) Virpi Kuitunen (Finland), 3) Justyna Kowalczyk (Poland)

TremendouStormTM Update 2

At this early hour, it doesn't look much different outside than it did last night. There are still bare spots on the sidewalks, for snowing out loud. It's still too early in the "storm" to call it a bust (or a hoax by the weathermen), but we'll need to see ludicrous rates of snowfall for this to pan out. At least it's windy!

TremendouStormTM Update 1

I'm quaking in my longjohns and extra-thick socks! So far, we have received two ten-second lashes of ice pellets. Ski Man is not pleased.

Ski Man - 5

Oh, wait - a few hours ago we had a huge blast of lightning, of all things, and then a couple peals of thunder. I'm sorry, Ukko!

The National Weather Service report - why all caps, guys? - does frequently mention the alpha and omega of winter weather: blowing and drifting. I rest my blog. I'm going to use the internet to follow the live action in the cross-county world championships race being held in Sapporo in four minutes.

Sapporo World Championships - Day 2

If the opening individual sprints events at the Nordic World Ski Championships showed that Norway had great sprinters, Friday's team events demonstrated that other nations, including some surprising entrants, could field top-notch teams.

The men's final (YouTube) featured contenders such as Norway, Germany, and Italy as well as the Czech Republic and Canada, two teams with rising sprinters. At the last handoff, a whopping six teams were still in contention. (Pre-race favorites Norway were well behind after a terrible crash, and Sweden had crashed out of its semi-final.) Italy's Cristian Zorzi - "Zorro," a phenomenally fast and savvy pack racer - assumed the lead and controlled the pace by alternatingly accelerating and slowing. As the pack wound through the final curves before the stadium, Zorzi had cut the lead group to five - more racers than even the ultra-wide finishing track could accommodate. Only Russia's Vassili Rotchev, a deadly finisher, could match Zorzi's speed, and when the two men stretched for the win, not even the clock could tell them apart, giving them the same time down to the tenths of a second. A review of the finish-line photo showed that Zorro's left boot crossed first, giving Italy a surprising win. The Czech Republic's Dusan Kozisek won the race for the bronze medal by 1/10th of a second over Germany's Axel Teichmann. All told, the top five finished within one second  of Zorzi's time - an excellent sign that the championship's marquee race, the men's relay, will be an exciting event.

The women's final (clip of last leg), which included all of the powerhouse teams and all three medalists from yesterday's individual event, was a less competitive affair all the way through. The ten teams were winnowed down to four contenders by the first of five exchanges: Norway, Finland, Germany, and Sweden. By the final exchange, Sweden had fallen well behind Norway's Astrid Jacobsen (yesterday's individual-sprint gold medalist), who handed off to Marit Bjørgen. Leading Finland's Virpi Kuitunen and Germany's Claudia Künzel-Nystad out of the Sapporo Dome, Bjørgen used her customary jump-step climbing style to maintain a narrowing lead. As the course flattened and wound back toward the stadium, Kuitunen and Künzel-Nystad made their break, taking a clean line through a big S-curve to pass and brutally drop the Norwegian. Kuitunen's smooth skate stride kept her clearly ahead of the German all the way to the line, where she took the win by 7/10ths of a second. Bjørgen finished third, 3.1 seconds down - a respectable placing, but not one that will inspire confidence in her speed on a presumed anchor leg in the women's relay.

Though the team sprint events, in running well over 15 minutes, are considerable endurance tests, the true distance racing starts on Saturday with the men's pursuit, a still-novel contest in which athletes complete the first half of the race (15km for men, 7.5km for women) in the classical style, then switch skis and poles to race the second half in the freestyle technique. Owing to the way the change in technique equalizes the field, pursuits often come down to sprints among numerous racers. In fact, the last men's pursuit that did not end with a pack rushing to the line was the "pre-Worlds" race at Sapporo in March 2006. That race was won handily by Sweden's Mathias Fredriksson, ahead of Norway's wunderkinder Petter Northug (an exceptionally strong pursuit racer) and Swedish teammate Anders Södergren. I don't think Fredriksson will be back on the podium, but the other two will be:

men's 15km+15km pursuit

1) Tobias Angerer (Germany), 2) Anders Södergren (Sweden), 3) Petter Northug (Norway)


When I came home yesterday, I was informed that Julia was pretending to be Benny, the Grouchy Rat, a character in a Richard Scarry book Sesame Street video. All night long, she continued to be Benny. This morning, on rolling out of bed, the first thing she said to me was that she was Benny, the Sleepy Rat.

It's better than a mouse!

Oh, Snow!

Minnesota is atwitter with the Giant Huge Massive Unbelievable Storm that's due to start on Friday night. From the Strib on Thursday night:

Winter Storm Watch posted from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon for most of Minnesota. This could be the Big One, the first 12"+ snowfall since March 8-9, 1999, when 16" fell on the metro. Snow arrives after rush hour Friday evening, heaviest snows Friday night and Saturday, 10-12" possible by Sunday evening, potential for 15-18" in a few areas close to home

I'd love to get a good blizzard, but I doubt it'll live up to the hype. In fact, internet, I'll wager that this Big One won't be. If Northfield gets six or more inches of snow between noon Friday and noon Monday, I will cavort in my shorts (and shoes!) in whatever snow is piled up in our backyard. If I don't subsequently die of exposure (to the weather or to YouTube), I shall go skiing. Come on, Ukko - show me what you got!

Sapporo World Championships - Day 1

The first events in the Nordic World Ski Championships turned out just the way Norway likes it - with two golds. The men's and women's individual sprints, run in the classical or "diagonal" technique, clearly demonstrated which countries have the best sprint skiers in the world: Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The setting was, frankly, bizarre: the races started within the Sapporo Dome, went outdoors through a massive gate and through a long horseshoe-shaped route including two substantial climbs and descents as well as a series of sweeping corners, and then finished back inside the dome. Unlike most sprints, where the crowd is visible in the stadium if not all the way around the course, the sold-out crowd in the dome was mostly hidden in the shadows.

The women's final (available in its entirety via Estonian TV) lacked Marit Bjørgen of Norway, who has been the dominant sprinter in the world for five years but who failed to advance from her semifinal. In Bjørgen's absence, the "large final" featured current world number-one Virpi Kuitunen (Finland), Slovene powerhouse Petra Majdic, Swedes Lina Andersson and Anna Dahlberg, and Norwegian Astrid Jacobsen, as well as unknown Japanese sprinter Madoka Natsumi. During their introductions, all of the women smiled easily, looking loose and excited. Majdic, probably the most physically imposing female racer on the World Cup circuit, blasted off the line in her typical fashion and led much of the race, including both steep uphills. Top sprinters often try to lead their races from wire to wire, but the strategy leads as often to a late fade as to a win. Today, Majdic escaped everyone but Jacobsen, who hovered in second place, just off the leader's right shoulder. Rounding the sweeping left-hand turn into the finish straightaway, Jacobsen put in a miraculous burst of double-poling to pull up alongside Majdic, whose turnover and power were obviously decreasing, and then pulled ahead at the only moment it mattered - at the line. Kuitunen, the pre-race favorite, almost edged Majdic as well, but settled for third. Jacobsen had never before won a World Cup-level race.

In the men's final (viewable online), Scandinavia again fared well. The six men in the final included Torino champion Bjørn Lind and two other Swedes (but not Thobias Fredriksson, a perennial medalist who peevishly left Sapporo when he was not selected to race in the sprints) as well as Norwegians Jens Arne Svartedal (the current leader of the World Cup sprint standings) and Eldar Rønning, and, wonderfully, Andy Newell of the USA. Unlike the female finalists, all the men appeared nervous and twitchy during their introductions. From the gun, the pack hung together tightly through the first big uphill, where Newell's skis started slipping badly. On the penultimate descent, the two Norwegians pushed to the front, effectively blockading the other four racers. Svartedal used the next uphill to edge ahead of his teammate with some spectacularly fast striding, then extended his lead to a crucial few meters. Rønning tried to swing wide to come alongside, but in so doing he allowed Mats Larsson of Sweden to take over second. At the line, Svartedal took the win clearly; Larsson held off Rønning for silver. Newell wound up a distant fifth, a position he chalked up to Nordic tactics: "I'm used to getting ganged-up on by the Swedes and Norwegians in the final heat so that wasn't new ... or a big problem, but I wish I could've been there at the [finish] line with them. I was just a few meters out, but..." .

Newell will race again on Friday in the team sprints, where he will be paired with Torin Koos, who today finished fifth in his quarterfinal. ("Fifth" was the position of the day for the U.S. racers: each finished in that spot in his or her respective last heat.) Koos and Newell will be long-shot possibilities for a medal in the team event. Americans Kikkan Randall and Laura Valaas both made it into the women's heats on the strength of very fast qualifying times, but neither survived her quarterfinal. Valaas and Randall will form the American team for Friday's team event, giving them another shot. My picks:

women's freestyle team sprint
1) Finland, 2)  Norway, 3) Italy

men's freestyle team sprint
1) Norway, 2) Russia, 3) Sweden

Parenting, n.

A sociobiological process designed to unequivocally demonstrate to the parent that the universe's preferred mode of humor is cruel irony:

  "Tonight, my parenting experiences including spending three hours reading Ferber on cultivating good sleep habits in your kids  - but also going upstairs twice to talk to Julia, who herself spent two hours singing and talking, unable to sleep, and who ended the evening with a meltdown, only falling asleep until two and a half hours after 'bedtime.'"

Rhyme All the Time

Last night, while Genevieve sat in the high chair and banged like a gonzo journalist on her "laptop," Julia and I engaged in a protracted session of her favorite word game, "What Sounds Like." It's pretty easy to play, really. She says, "What sounds like cat?" You say, "Bat." She might say, "What sounds like bat?" (the easy, early form of the game) or she might say, "What sounds like car?" (the harder, newer form). You respond, she asks, et cetera et cetera until the language-processing parts of your brain start smoldering.

This time, though, she threw something new into the game: nonsense. "What sounds like schmick?" she'd ask, putting a few more black beans on her fork. "Nick sounds like schmick," I'd say. This was harder because the adult mind - or at least mine - automatically runs towards rhymes that would be inappropriate to add to the game or her vocabulary. "What rhymes with crit?" (No, don't say the vulgar word for breast/the kind of small bird!) "What rhymes with sigger?" (Is she trying to peel back my white privilege, layer by layer?) "What rhymes with diamond?" (Errr...)

At least she punctuated this mentally taxing game with a few crazy sounds-likes of her own. "What sounds like banana thief [a character in a Richard Scarry book]?" As I groan out, "Uhh, banana thief sounds like cabana..." she cuts me off: "Thief sounds like teef [teeth]! Who is the teef thief?"

Sapporo World Championships - Sprints

The Nordic World Ski Championships start tomorrow in Sapporo, Japan. The first event - the individual classical-style sprints - begins at 5:30 p.m. in Japan (1:30 a.m. central time in the U.S.) The fields are massive, with 83 men and 71 women on the qualifying lists, including lots of "exotics" - skiers representing countries which don't typically send racers to events. There are, for instance, Portuguese, Romanian, Armenian, Lithuanian, Turkish, Korean, Irish, and Greek racers, as well as one each from Kenya and Brazil.

Needless to say, none of those racers will make it onto the podiums for either the men's 1400m race or the women's 1200m race. In addition to the Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, German, and Italian skiers who are good bets (and I do mean "bets" - the Europeans wager on both the men and the women!), six Americans are racing. With some good recent results, Kikkan Randall (Alaska) can be considered a long-shot for a medal in the women's event, but a top-10 finish is possible or even likely. Her teammate Laura Valaas (Washington) is competing in her first elite international event, but who knows? If she skis as well as she blogs, anything could happen. The four American men are led by Andrew Newell (Vermont)and Torin Koos (Washington), both of whom have had excellent results, including podium finishes, in recent World Cup races.  Those veterans are joined by Las Flora (Alaska) and Chris Cook (Wisconsin), who have some familiarity with this level of racing, if not (yet) the results.

According to Koos, "the Sapporo sprint course seems better than most. There’s 30 meters of elevation gain spread out over two climbs," meaning that neither raw climbing strength nor raw sprinting power will suffice to do well. Some combination of those attributes, plus the finesse needed to race in a pack and a good dose of luck to avoid being stabbed with a pole or knocked off course, will be key in both today's individual races and tomorrow's team sprints. Notably, the sprints will occur indoors, in the massive Sapporo Dome. Indeed, location is the biggest wild card for this event and for the World Championships as a whole, and could be an advantage for the Americans, Canadians, and I suppose the Brazilian. The World Cup usually entails racing in Europe among Europeans, but these worlds, occurring on what might be called neutral snow (or at least a place where jet lag and cultural discomfort should be equal), might be just the place to see some excellent North American results. My picks:

women's classical-style sprint

1) Virpi Kuitunen (FIN), 2)  Marit Bjørgen (NOR), 3) Petra Majdic (SLO)

men's classical-style sprint

1) Jens-Arne Svartedal (NOR), 2) Tor-Arne Hetland (NOR), 3)  Andrew Newell (USA)

Concentrating Face

I was trying to get Julia into her pajamas tonight, and after a few minutes of dancing around me, I said, "Honey, we need to put on your pajamas right now." She immediately came over, asking, "Daddy, are you happy?" I said that I was very happy to be with her, but that I was also impatient to get her pajamas on. She stuck her arms out so I could get her top on, said, "Daddy is happy and I am making a concentrating face!" and screwed her face into a hilariously exaggerated, brows-knitted mug to show she too was serious about getting her pajamas on.

Giging It Up

Sunday, I took Genevieve in with me when Julia decided she was "wakin' up!" Sitting down next to Julia on the edge of her bed, I put Gigi on my lap so she could see her sister. Julia always makes Genevieve very happy, and this time she leaned as far toward Julia as possible, smiled her craziest grin, and then yelled delightedly, "Gaaaarrrrr!" Julia bounced happily, exclaiming, "She's talkin' to me! What did she say?" The precise meaning was obscure, but the gist of it was, "I love you, Julia!"

Skiing on This World and Another

The warm, dry winter has required a lot of snowmaking everywhere from Buck Hill in Burnsville, Minnesota, to Moena, Italy. According to this Strib article, snowmaking is an incredibly resource-intensive activity, requiring essentially unlimited water and electricity, so much so that some ski hills have their own lakes and powerplants. And snowmaking also sometimes requires radioactive bacteria. Really. In other words, it's neither natural nor nature-friendly. (A lot like that Hummer commercial where the family uses their red truck to retrieve a single massive snowball for the son's show-and-tell.) Coincidentally, one of my favorite magazine writers (slash bloggers), Clive Thompson, just pointed out a New York Times article on (rich and/or foolish) people who make or buy snowmaking equipment for their homes. (Speaking of Hummeristic resource use, check the photo from the article on his blog.)

As if personal snowmaking isn't weird enough, check out the advice a former astronaut has given NASA about the best way to get around on the moon:

Apollo 17 astronaut Harry Schmitt said that future inhabitants of the moonbase should be taught Nordic skiing to travel around the moon, where lower gravity means large distances can be covered with minimum effort. "If you've ever done cross-country skiing you know that on a level surface once you get a rhythm it is very easy to move quickly over large surfaces," said Schmitt, one of the last two men to set foot on the moon in 1972. "Of course on the moon you don't slide, you glide above the surface, but again you use the same kind of rhythm. There's nothing to restrict how far you eventually go or how fast you go, other than your own strength."

Well, that and the problem of how the hell to wax for lunar dust.

Funny Stuff

After her bath, Julia likes to run back and forth across her room while I try to get her into a diaper, apply some lotion to her scaly arms, and wrangle her pajamas over her arms and legs. She literally dances past my outstretched arms, enjoying being elusively naked. It's actually pretty funny and fun, and tonight she hilariously told me, at each stage of the process, that "Julia and Daddy are having a diaper fight! Julia and Daddy are having a lotion fight! Julia and Daddy are having a pajamas fight!"

Genevieve isn't coining names for parts of the day, but she has lately become utterly enamored of a little Leapfrog music toy.

Leapfrog See & Learn Piano

Banging on the keys elicits short songs, single notes, or the names of shapes and colors - all of which she finds hilarious and engrossing. And from our angle, sitting at the kitchen table while we eat and she plays, it looks like she's a journalist trying to meet her deadline. "Get away from my highchair! I'm trying to finish this goddamn story on wooden versus plastic toys! So help me god, if you interrupt me again, I'll spit up all over your shoes. And I might anyhow."


Changchun Distance Races

The freestyle distance races at Changchun saw the best racers reach the top step of each podium. In the women's 10km, the winner was almost a foregone conclusion, and indeed Katerina Neumannova, the best freestyle racer in the world, demolished the field. With every other racer on course before she started, Neumannova immediately began putting time into the field - a whopping ten seconds at the 1.9km time check. She cruised in to win by more than a minute - a massive gap rarely seen in the World Cup and unlikely to appear again in the 15km freestyle race at the World Championships on the 27th. Behind the Czech veteran, Frenchwoman Karine Phillippot took second and Kazakh racer Svetlana Malahova-Shishkina took third, just a few ticks of the clock ahead of a surprising Chinese racer, Yuanyuan Li, posting her country's best-ever World Cup result.

With its bigger and more experienced field, the men's race devolved to the expected duel between German Tobias Angerer and Frenchman Vincent Vittoz. Youngsters Sergej Shiriaev (Russia) and Petter Northug (Norway) were in the mix as well, but at the finish Angerer took first, nearly 10 seconds up on Vittoz, who had another two seconds over his teammate Emmanuel Jonnier, taking his second podium spot of the winter. Shiriaev ended up fourth, Northug fifth. The top ten was an exclusive group, with three Germans, two Russians, two Norwegians, two Frenchmen and, in tenth, American Kris Freeman, posting his best World Cup result in a long time and showing the form necessary to vie for a podium in the the 15km at Worlds on February 28.

Bon Mots

The evening with Julia had two verbal high points. First, expanding on the fact that she didn't want any Tabasco in her pasta sauce (I hadn't offered!), she said that she liked "some hot foods, like sauna machana." I had no idea what she meant, but as she kept repeating it, trying out different combinations of sounds, and then hit finally on "chana masala" - which we had for dinner several months ago. Second, when I asked her what she did at "toddler class" this morning, she fixed me with a tired look and said quietly, "I don't wanna talk about it." I guess that's better than, "Nothing," but not by much.

Genevieve did her best to keep up, but of course her utterances weren't exactly verbal. Still, she peaked when she noticed the cat sneak past. Being an inveterate lover of the cat, Gigi grinned her biggest grin and then exploded into a massive barking laugh that sounded a lot like Sabine's rather piercing meow - and which sent her scampering right back out of the bathroom.

More Nursery Skewl

Heaven forfend that this blog contain much more nursery-school commentary, but my friend Jordan - she of the best photo of the month - sent a link to a post on Babble about the depravity of preschool admissions in London, and I must blog it:

Would you schedule a C-section in order to ensure your child will get one of 5 slots a school offers newborns each month? Would you fill out preschool application forms with an epidural stuck in your back? Would you start calling preschools at 5 weeks pregnant (essentially, as soon as the stick turns blue)? Or phone your desired school twice a day, everyday, for six months? How about sending flowers each week until your child is accepted? Or refusing to leave the preschool building until your child is secured a spot?

(Alas, the full Wall Street Journal article is only available to subscribers - the Type A's who would probably go to those lengths to get their tykes into nursery school.)

Changchun Sprints

Racing in front of 5,000 spectators in Changchun, the Norwegian men's team dominated the 1300-meter classic sprints, putting five racers into the six-spot "large final" for the podium. Coming to the line after 2:30 of racing, the field had been reduced to three leaders, and from that group Ola Vigen Hattestad eked out the win by 2/10ths over Borre Næss and 3/10ths over Tor Arne Hetland. The win was Hattestad's first-ever World Cup gold. It's a mark of Norway's stature as a sprinting powerhouse that Hattestad's not even on the team for Worlds. With his 60 third-place points, Hetland narrowed his gap to Jens Arne Svartedal in the World Cup sprint rankings. Disappointingly, Americans Torin Koos and Andy Newell failed to qualify for the semifinals (though Newell's third-place time in his quarterfinal heat was faster than Hattestad's final-winning time!). Sweden, the other well-stocked men's sprint team, put one racer into the final (he finished last) and three into the small final, showing that they too are ready for the Worlds - though not quite as ready at Norway.

The women's sprints were wide open since few top-level sprinters made the trek to Changchun, preferring to rest their legs for the individual sprint events on the opening day of the World Championships next week. As such, it wasn't too surprising that three relatively unknown skiers wound up on the podium. Coming into the final straightaway, Russians Evgenia Shapovalova and Natalia Matveeva had a sizable lead. Shapovalova hawked for the win by 2/10ths of a second. Norwegian Guro Strom Solli took third, 2.5 seconds down to Shapovalova but 2/10ths up on German Nicole Fessel. Swedes Lina Andersson and Anna Dahlberg, among the most experienced sprinters in the field (and favorites to win the team sprint event at Sapporo), finished well back in fifth and sixth. American Kikkan Randall won the small final to finish seventh on the day, just ahead of surprising Chinese racer Man Dandan.

Like the sprints, the distance races on Friday feature small, relatively weak fields. In most races, the top 30 finishers earn World Cup points, but only 29 women are entered in the 10km freestyle (only 16 of whom aren't in the Chinese "national group"). No more than five are truly world-class racers, so it's Katerina Neumannova's race to lose. The men's race should be much more competitive, as the field includes some of the best freestyle racers, andbutI think young Russian speedster Sergej Shiriaev will take his first win. My picks:

women's 10km
1) Katerina Neumannova (Czech Republic), 2) Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle (Germany), 3) Evgenia Shapovalova (Russia)

men's 15km
1) Sergej Shiriaev (Russia), 2) Vincent Vittoz (France), 3) Tobias Angerer (Germany)

Nursing A Grudge against Nursery School

Okay, my recent post about getting Julia into nursery school here in Northfield pales in comparison to this great outright rant by Mr. Nice Guy about trying to get his kid into nursery school in Brooklyn. The application had all kinds of bizarre questions that seem more appropriate to, say, a college application:
"What concerns you most about your child? Where to begin! She's so short, it's totally weird. I mean she looks like a tiny little grown-up, but she's kind of a spaz. Like, enough with the pants-crapping already! She's had two years to figure out that poop stinks. Right? Also ... this is between you and me, but I am not entirely convinced she's mine."

Vacation in an Armed Camp?

We shouldn't be too surprised that the Nordics, living as they do in some of the freeest and most prosperous countries in the world, don't relish traveling to the U.S.:
The reason is not fear of terrorism but the long, slow and inquisitorial process that now greets arrivals, Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende reports. Danish travel bureau director Jan Lochard said the story was familiar: "People experience the USA as a difficult land to visit, and it is not very pleasant being met by armed guards, demands of photo and fingerprints and a barrage of questions."

China Syndrome

The World Cup cross-country ski races in Changchun, China, will be staged, strangely enough, on Thursday and Friday, rather than over the weekend, so as to create the longest-possible break before the World Championships start in Sapporo, Japan, next week.

By hosting a World Cup for the second straight year, Changchun is positioning itself as the center of cross-country skiing in China - a laughable statement now, but one which might matter in, say, five or ten years if the Chinese government decides to fund a crash program in nordic skiing. Changchun just hosted the Sixth Asian Winter Games (in which China won the most medals of every color, including several in cross-country skiing) and annually holds the Chinese Vasaloppet, the 50km counterpart to the bigger, longer race in Sweden (and two other Vasaloppets in Japan and Minnesota).

Given the difficulty of getting to China and the upcoming Worlds in Sapporo, the fields for Thursday's classical-technique sprints are very small. Only 35 women will compete (and fifteen are Chinese racers who are part of the "national group" that is permitted to start as a courtesy to each host nation but aren't likely to do well) and just 47 men. Few classical-technique specialists are racing on the women's side, so that podium should feature some unfamiliar faces. The entire Norwegian and Swedish sprint teams are due to compete in the men's races, though, so they should dominate. My picks:

women's sprint
1) Natalia Matveeva (Russia), 2) Kikkan Randall (USA); 3) Lina Andersson (Sweden)

men's sprint
1) Odd-Bjørn Hjelmeset (Norway), 2) Jens Arne Svartedal (Norway), 3) Andy Newell (USA) (Torin Koos of the USA will make the A or B final)

Carny Barker

Life with Genevieve has been lately dominated by the quotidian struggle to get her in a good sleeping routine and to introduce solid foods. ("Rice cereal, Gigi. Gigi, rice cereal.") Her ultra-sensitive stomach doesn't help on either count.

But yesterday afternoon was one of those miraculous interludes when you can see a personality emerge from the baby fat. When I came down the hall into the living room after getting home, she took a look at me and let out a short bark of laughter - pure delight. I was touched. Over the next couple hours, she laughed at lots of other amusing things: the cat, Mama, her sister, the cat, peek-a-boo, the cat, the toys on her exer-saucer (see above), shadows on the wall, the bathwater... She's a soft touch, that Gigi!

Davos Postmortem

World Cup cross-country racing is in the middle of a two-week hiatus while competition shifts from Europe to Asia, where the circuit will resume this weekend with distance races and sprints in Changchun, China, and then the World Championships in Sapporo, Japan, soon afterwards. The last races - men's and women's relays at Davos, Switzerland, on February 4 - were tightly contested, but only the women's race probably revealed anything about what will happen in the relays at Worlds.

The men's race was weakened by the absence of the top-level German and Russian racers, though the b-team from Russia made good. Starting his anchor leg in fifth place, more than 30 seconds off the lead, Sergej Shiriaev took off. Having turned in a phenomenal climb on the last stage of the Tour de Ski early last month, Shiriaev's speed was unquestionable, but the lead group of Italy, France, and the Czech Republic must have been surprised to see him bridge up - and all the more surprised when he had sufficient energy to win the finishing sprint, four-tenths of a second up on Italy and five-tenths up on France. (The Czech team finished 0.7 seconds out of first, and off the podium.) Ominously, Shiriaev started his leg about a second behind Petter Northug, Norway I's anchorman and the odds-on favorite to ski the last leg for Norway at the World Championships, but put a huge amount of time into Northug in cruising up to the leaders. If young-gun Petter can't keep up with Shiriaev, what'll happen when he's head-to-head with Legkov or Dementiev in a presumed sprint at Worlds?

On the women's side, the Swedish team dominated the event. Sweden has had a bad season so far, and the men's team is currently mired in strife between the athletes and coach over training, but the four women on the relay squad took no prisoners, leading the race at every exchange by the second. Charlotte Kalla, skiing the third leg, closed an eleven-second gap to Finland and then put more than thirty seconds into the Finns, knocking them out of the lead group and into an eventual third place. Kalla's leg was the fastest of the day by nearly ten seconds. Britta Norgren then outraced Norway's Marit Bjørgen over the five-kilometer anchor leg and took the win by a second. Italy finished in fourth, with emerging star Arianna Follis turning in the fastest anchor leg of the day. If the Swedes are indeed rounding into form, they will be contenders in the women's relay at Worlds, along with the perennial powers from Norway and the Finns, who raced in Davos without their ace, Virpi Kuitunen. On the other hand, the German and Russian teams performed quite poorly, boding badly for their chances at Worlds.

Run for Your Life!

Julia is upstairs, abed, getting herself wound down, and running through her usual litany of songs and chatter. Tonight's addition, borrowed from a Richard Scarry book, is a sudden screech of "Run for your life! Run for your life! Run for your life!"


By the time the sun rose (at 7:20) on this fine winter's Saturday, I was not only awake, showered, and bundled up to the point of hyperthermia, but also in line at Northfield Nursery School for what might the most parental task I've ever done: registering Julia for preschool.

Registration started at 9:00, but ominously, the staff "opened the doors" at seven, so it was then that I rolled up clutching a too-small cup of coffee, the registration form ("***Children must be toilet trained before school starts***"), and a check for the nonrefundable $50 registration fee, which I'm considering an investment in potty training this summer. I was the tenth person to sign in; eight had signed in between 6:40 and 7:05, but the first two had put 5:45 and 6:10 down as their arrival times. Having sealed my place in line - and, given that there were 23 open spots in Julia's class, presumably sealed her registration - I joined the other early birds in a waiting area. I was the only guy, and one of only two people who were sitting alone. Clearly, the other moms saw this is a good chance to hang out without their children hanging around. A great deal of knitting occurred around me, and many more registrants (all women) arrived.

I leafed through a couple magazines and a book for the next hour. Just as I started to get restless, one of the nursery school staffers came through and announced that the registrar had just arrived, so they would be starting the registration process at eight, not nine. Why, I wondered immediately, didn't they just make the registrar roll in at seven, and skip all this foofaraw?

But we all queued up like good citizens and handed over our checks and forms. I got a little rush when the registrar said, "Okay, Julia's in!" All in all, it was a pretty easy way to initiate Julia's fourteen or eighteen continuous years of formal education. It's a bit ironic that her ability to actually start in the fall hinges entirely on her ability to pee in a toilet.

Chilly Reception

Daniel Engber, writing in Slate, argues that the wind chill ought to be discarded on the grounds that most people can gather all the weather data they need simply by looking outside and, somewhat more satisfyingly, that the wind chill is ultimately meaningless:

The language of "equivalent temperatures" creates a fundamental misconception about what wind chill really means. It doesn't tell you how cold your skin will get; that's determined by air temperature alone. Wind chill just tells you the rate at which your skin will reach the air temperature. If it were 35 degrees outside with a wind chill of 25, you might think you're in danger of getting frostbite. But your skin can freeze only if the air temperature is below freezing. At a real temperature of 35 degrees, you'll never get frostbite no matter how long you stand outside.

That's all very well and good, but Mr. Engber leaves out the important reason that we ought to keep the wind chill around: it helps those of us in the Upper Midwest feel like we're tougher than everyone but those poor suckers who live in Irkutsk.

Nightmare Is Right There

Much of the time Julia was at the birfday party last Sunday, she spent talking about "Nightmare," a cuddly-monster character in a Mercer Mayer book she read there. (That's him in the back, behind the boxes: he has a rainbow-striped belly.)
Mayer, _Something in the Attic_

The plot of the book is simple. A little girl thinks there's a monster in the attic above her room. When her parents tell her she's just hearing some mice, she goes up there with cowboy boots and a lasso, captures the monster, and drags him to her parents' room. But before her parents can see him, he escapes back to the attic. (That always happens to me, too.)

Now, just glancing at the book I was worried that she might find it frightening, but just like the Berenstain Bears Ghost of the Forest book which she committed to memory in less than a week, she found this one more curious and engrossing than frightening. Indeed, for the past few days, she's added "Nightmare" to her daily posse of invisible friends, and uttered all kinds of crazy sentences like, "Nightmare is sitting wif us having soup for dinner" or "Nightmare is so sweepy; he just wants to go to bed and go to sweep wif no calling for Daddy Nightmare."

Like a Briko S**thouse

Not a single member of my vast readership contributed so much as a penny toward my goggles fund; in fact, one reader crassly attempted to use my heartfelt, teary-eyed (from the wind) appeal for his own grandfatherly benefit. For shame!

However, what readers would not provide, eBay could, suckaz.


Behold: my new biking spex. Well, new to me. They're old school, but I know I'll like 'em, not least because I'll look just like Bjørn Dæhlie (at least in the eyebrowular region). And getting them for a few bucks, rather than $150, makes them all the sweeter. In fact, since the lenses are supposed to work best in low-light conditions, I might just wear them to bed tonight. They'll probably be only mildly uncomfortable and only slightly frighten Genevieve when I change her diaper, but they'll definitely show my skinflint readers who's boss around this blog.

End of an Era

End of an Era
Today's mail brought this new pair of Robeez for Julia. She was elated, not least because she picked them out by herself. (Well, Mama had to type the URL into Firefox and enter the credit card number.) She has excellent taste, no? Alas, this pair will be Julia's last: Robeez doesn't make anything bigger. At least she's going out with a great pair that, like all their precedents, she will wear to the point of falling apart.

Sunday Monday

I realized, midway through January, that I rarely see anyone here in Northfield who isn't a member of my immediate family or a coworker - a situation that's usually pretty much okay. Still, Sunday and Monday were a wonderful change.

On the former day, we headed up to the Cities for an early joint birthday party for Shannon and our friend Chad; he and his wife hosted the bash at their beautiful place in south Minneapolis. It was a great time, with lots of good food, many of my favorite people in the whole world, non-stop Wii action, and several cute babies. We sacrificed Julia's nap to our fun, but she had a great time, expertly modulating her activity from playing to reading books as she got tired. And she only said, "Want to go home now" about a thousand times in the car on the way back to Northfield. Genevieve played in an exersaucer for nearly an hour, which was remarkable, and let everyone admire her admirable cheeks.

Monday, it was back to work. But lo and behold, a meeting was canceled, and as I sat in my office during the hour when I would have been a-meeting, two more of my favorite people in the world dropped by, having taken an impromptu road trip to Northfield to see me. One is a friend from the Cities, the other a friend who recently moved to Chicago from the West Coast; both are great guys I hadn't seen in a long while. Thanks to the fortunate hole in my schedule, we were able to have lunch and coffee, talking about manly stuff like Virginia Woolf, index cards, the Bears' implosion, and why it was so freaking cold. We even quaffed a few beers, of the root sort. Not a bad way to start the week.

Cub Wonderland

Julia and I made an epic trip to Cub Foods on Saturday to do the month's grocery shopping. She was in peak form for almost the entire 120 minutes it took - hilarious, animated, cooperative, curious. The only trouble I had was keeping her from walking across other shoppers' paths. A few incidents stand out, though. At first, she sat in our cart, which provided an excellent vantage point from which to note such engrossing sights as a "[s]miling face" on a USDA Grade-A shield painted on the wall about a thousand feet away. Seeing the produce from just above the shelves was pretty cool, too. She was especially taken with the big display of red cabbage, aka "purple yettuce."

Soon enough, Julia got bored of riding in the cart, even though she was very helpful in choosing apples, potatoes, avocados, and other items and hurling them bruisingly into their bags. So I let her down, and she trooped along with me through the store. In the Hispanic-food aisle, she found a massive jar of mango slices in juice, and yelled delightedly, "Those are some funny pickles!" Seeing Elmo on an endcap inspired her to belt out "Elmo's Song" for aisle after aisle, modifying the song so that Daddy, Mama, Genevieve, Julia, Big Bird, Oscar, and a bunch of other fwiends were mentioned in addition to the Big Red One. In one aisle, she suddenly darted away from me, exclaiming, "I see Sesame Street! I see Sesame Street!" She was mildly disappointed when she realized that it was just a logo shaped like the familiar Sesame Street sign. Her mood improved shortly thereafter when, from the back of the store, she spied a small Cookie Monster balloon (noticing the trend yet?) all the way across the store near the checkout lanes.

When the Sesame Street buzz faded, she began a long, relatively sedate, and thoroughly amazing period of pretending that she was walking around the store with various characters from her Richard Scarry books. She'd suddenly stop walking (or rather, stop goose-stepping, since that was her preferred gait for most of the time we were shopping), turn, and yell impatiently, "Postman Pig, huwwy up! We awe still shopping! C'mon, Postman Pig! Sergeant Murphy, whehw awe you? Daddy, Sergeant Murphy is at Cub with us ri'now. He's shopping for tacos." It was funny and absurd, but it was also the first time she has (in my company) let her imagination run so far, with no stuffed-animal analogues, no insisting "Daddy is Postman Pig and Julia is Sergeant Murphy!", no sitting down in a box that's suddenly a car. I loved it.

Genevieve is pretty chubby.

(How chubby is she?)

She's so chubby that, as I used one hand to hold her upright in the bathtub tonight, I noticed that five distinct rolls of belly fat were smooshing out around my fingers (and my thumb was lost in the chub in the underarmular/shouldular area).

My wife can really feed those babies!


Inspired by Jordan's use of YouTube, see how Julia's "fwiends" usually make the journey from upstairs to downstairs. (Sorry - there's no good sound.)


(No stuffed animals were harmed in the making of this video.)

Julia, Chanteuse

Julia, Chanteuse

Shannon has already described our crazily-busy weekend, so I'll compensate for making only one post today by making it a good one: Julia's oft-repeated song for her sister. (She's says, "That's the end" at the end, appropriately.)

Steepled in Thought

Yesterday, as I changed Julia's diaper, she occupied herself by attempting to match the fingers on one hand with the fingers on the other. To her considerable surprise, she succeeded, and said excitedly, "Yook, Daddy! My fingers are holding hands!" Later that day, she was trying to do it again, but this time she mismatched her hands. Looking confusedly through the web of fingers at me, she wiggled the two unmated fingers and asked, "Daddy, why don't those two fingers have friends?"

Unreal Estate

If it were two months later, I'd suspect a prank, but this seems authentic, and should make anyone this side of the homeless feel better about their own real-estate situations:

A flat roughly the size of a snooker table has gone on sale for £170,000 [about $335,000 US] in London's upmarket Chelsea. The former janitor's storeroom measures 11ft by 7ft and has a cupboard place for a shower and kitchenette area. Potential buyers can expect to fork out an extra £30,000 [about $59,000 US] to make the room habitable as there is no lighting and it is full of rubble.

Via Boing-Boing, which also has a plan for making the space "inhabitable" (by a human).

Davos Day

The day's two hilly distance races in Davos turned out quite differently. After starting slowly, Virpi Kuitunen (Finland) accelerated over the last three kilometers of the women's 10km to win by nearly 12 seconds over Olga Savialova (Russia), who had the best time at every split except the finish. In a duel for third, Marit Bjørgen (Norway) edged Katerina Neumannova (Czech Republic) by 0.6 seconds. The win pushes Kuitunen closer to clinching the World Cup overall title, as she is now more than 400 points clear of her nearest rival in the World Cup overall with eight races remaining.  And though Savialova, Bjørgen, and especially Neumannova are clearly in good form for the World Championships, the races there are Kuitunen's to lose. She could (and perhaps should) medal in every event, and anything short of three golds would be a disappointment.

The men's 15km race had an unprecedented result: a tie for first between Vincen Vittoz (France) and unknown Toni Livers (Switzerland), racing on home snow. Tight finishes are increasingly common in the mass-start events, but the "contre le montre" format of the individual-start events, in which racers leave at 30-second intervals and race more against the clock than each other, don't often lead to such tight finishes. But as Livers said, today he had "the perfect day" in his "home race." Skating specialist Christian Hoffman (Austria) finished third, indicating as usual good form just before Olympic and World Championship events. Vittoz's shared win put him in first place in teh WC distance rankings, ahead of Tobias Angerer (who did not race today) and Alexander Legkov (who had a horrifically bad race). American Kris Freeman finished fifteenth on the day, his best result in two seasons and a suggestion that he, too, is ready for the Worlds.

The Poor Man's Aztec Hot Chocolate

Weather this cold (right now, 0.8°F air, -9.6°F wind chill) makes me want to have hot chocolate running from the tap. That's impossible, so today, riffing on a much more chic recipe I found online, I made the poor man's Aztec hot chocolate: heat a mug of skim milk in the microwave, then add one packet of Swiss Miss (with marshmallows!), a generous sprinkling of cinnnamon, and an even more generous sprinkling of chili powder. Stir. Enjoy. Delicious.

The Family that Bathes Together...

Julia's favorite bath toys are a foam cut-out family, including the nuclear family, a dog, and a rocking horse. They float, they stick to the wet tub walls, they're dyed bright colors - they're perfect. Usually, she occupies her time in various bath-mat-centric activities: putting the various people to bed underneath the bath mat, pretending the dog is lost in the "weeds" of the bath mat, and so forth.

Tonight, she stopped her play to hold up each person, the dog, and the rocking horse, and name them: "Daddy's name is Daddy. Mama's name is just Mama. Sister's name is Julia. Baby sister's name is Genevieve. Doggy's name is Max [the same name as the dog of a family we know]. And kitty's name is... is... Bathmat."

Davos Skiing

The cross-country skiing World Cup season continues this weekend in Davos, Switzerland, with individual-start distance races in the freestyle technique on Saturday and relay races on Sunday.  Both events are critical in the run-up to the World Championships in Sapporo later this month.  The individual events are the last chance for many skiers to qualify for their nations' world-champs teams and to tune up for identical events at Sapporo. The relay races are important for that latter reason - an opportunity to try out likely teams and to see how a team matches up with its competition. All those matters aside, the proximity to Worlds (and Davos' extremely high altitude) means that some athletes won't race in Switzerland. German Tobias Angerer is skipping both events, for instance. On the other hand, some national teams will send more racers to Davos than they usually commit to an event. Three American women skiers are joining Kikkan Randall in Davos, both to test themselves at a World Cup and to fill out a relay team. My picks for the weekend's races:

women's 10km
1) Katerina Neumannova (Czech Republic), 2) Virpi Kuitunen (Finland), 3) Valentina Shevchenko (Ukraine)

men's 15km
1) Vincent Vittoz (France), 2) Christian Hoffman (Austria), 3) Petter Northug (Norway)

women's 4x5km relay (revised, 2/3/07)
1) Finland, 2) Russia, 3) Germany

men's 4x10km relay (revised, 2/3/07)
1) Norway, 2) France, 3) Russia

Senseless No More

Yesterday, my audiovisual deprivation finally ended: the day's mail brought me both new contact lenses and my right-side hearing aid. Huzzah! Long live peripheral vision and the ability to hear high-pitched sounds.


In administering any number of drugs (prescription and non-) to the girls, we've used many different syringes. The Baxa Exacta-Med (procured for free from the Village Pharmacy) is the best one.
Genevieve doesn't necessarily swallow all her antacid, but this makes it easy to draw out a milliliter and get it into her pink little mouth. Not coincidentally, this particular item is manufactured in Denmark. Well played, you crazy Danish medical-product makers. Well played.


Biking to work this morning, I saw for the umpteenth time numerous footprints in the still-unplowed bike lane and encountered a guy jogging slowly down the lane toward me. Why do people run in the road? The sidewalk is open and nearby. Do they like the frisson of oncoming traffic?