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.

La Chute

Over the weekend I came across this photograph by the French artist Denis Darzacq; it's part of a series called "La Chute," and all the shots in the series are equally bizarre and fantastic.


If you only do one thing online today, look at the whole set, and if you do another, read the great story on Darzacq and "La Chute" in the Guardian, and then maybe check out the Wikipedia entry about the "Falling Man" on 9/11, whom Darzacq's images evoke.

(Cross-posted from After School Snack, because I'm lazy like that.)

Hear Today, Gone Tomorrow

Saturday marked one year since I got my hearing aids. It was a melancholy anniversary, as you might expect given that the devices are often-annoying, expensive reminders of aging and decline. On the plus side, I can, you know, hear Shannon talk to me. I've become utterly dependent on them, which is, again, what you might expect. Not wearing them is like not wearing contact lenses, only there are no glasses to wear as a fallback. Without the devices in, I simply can't hear whole reaches of sound, including high-pitched sounds like female voices (not good in a house where just one-quarter of the humans are male) and some low-pitched sounds (forget listening to Mingus: his bass just vanishes).

With the devices in, the world is simply richer. There's a texture and quality to sound that I didn't even know I was missing, but which obviously is the norm. Popping the aids in each morning, the radio turns from a rising-and-falling buzz off in the distance into discrete sounds: interviewees talking, commercials blaring, music playing, public-radio announcers pleading. With the devices running, I misunderstand Julia not because I can't hear her, but because she's saying something crazy. Walking around with the aids in, people and cars actually approach me; they don't just emerge from a tear in the space-time continuum right next to me. Reality ain't what it used to be, but at least I have a better sense of it.

Good Reading

I've recently enjoyed some especially writing on the web, like these pieces:

1. Even - especially - if the strongest stimulant you've ever ingested is caffeine, read this amazing article in the Denver magazine Westword about some upper-crust morons' three-day binge on "Shabu," a pharmaceutically-pure kind of methamphetamine. The piece is exceptionally well written, and makes Shabu sound both alluring and repugnant. The tweakers sound merely repugnant. (Cross-posted on After School Snack.)

2. Writer Michael Lewis (Moneyball, et cetera) describes some nascent "stock markets in athletes," fascinating experiments in selling shares of professional athletes. A talented youngster might sell shares worth 20% of her future earnings to generate the capital needed to train, travel, and compete. On making it big, part of the star's earnings would be used as dividends to her investors. If her career tanks, well, then, see I thought it was initially hard to understand the idea Lewis describes, but after a while, it seems obvious, and I immediately wondered why you can't buy stock, in say, top-of-class MBA grads, or rising young math PhDs.

3. A British restaurant critic, writing in the Times of London, makes a hilarious and disgusting attempt to eat like a well-to-do Edwardian gentleman. (It's part of a BBC series on the Edwardians). His first day's dining:

  Breakfast: Porridge, sardines, curried eggs, grilled cutlets, coffee, hot chocolate, bread, butter, honey
  Lunch: Sauté of kidneys on toast, mashed potatoes, macaroni au gratin, rolled ox tongue
  Afternoon tea: Fruit cake, Madeira cake, hot potato cakes, coconut rocks, bread, toast, butter
  Dinner: Oyster patties, sirloin steak, braised celery, roast goose, potato scallops, vanilla soufflé.
(Link via the Spiral Staircase.)

Aprl Flickr

There are a bevy of new photos up on Flickr. I'll give you one try to guess the most common subjects.


Tonight, I took Julia to the first session of her "tumbling" class at the Northfield gymnastics center. Honestly, there's not much tumbling occurring, except inadvertently, but the kids have a fantastic time running around the gym and especially using some of the gymnastics equipment, like the trampolines. Julia attended the same class last fall, and took most of the time at each session and over the course of the weeks just getting used to being around other kids (often bigger, older, and faster). Not having mastered the two-feet-off-the-floor jump, she also couldn't really enjoy lots of the equipment. One of the best things in the gym is a deep pit filled with foam cubes. Lots of kids just throw themselves into it with great abandon, but last time around Julia could only really step off the edge, invariably catching her other foot and falling headfirst the two feet into the cubes. Not much fun.

Compare that to tonight's exuberant playing. Not only did Julia run around at top speed for most of our 45-minute session, but she was totally unperturbed by the other kids (even the weepy boy who cried every five minutes) and she used her jumping/hopping abilities to great effect on the trampolines and the pit. I eventually had to cut off the pit-jumping when my arms got too tired from lifting her up and out 30 or times. No problem! Back to the trampoline! And, hilariously, the whole time we were there, she pretended that she was Charlie Brown (whom she knows from a tape of the Christmas special and a few coloring books) and that was his friend, "Lions." She even bemoaned the fact that poor Sally (Charlie Brown's younger sister, of course) couldn't be there to share in the fun.

Banned of Dopers

The big news in the nordic skiing world is that the International Olympic Committee has handed down the harshest anti-doping penalties ever (well, except the punishments suffered by athletes who have died from doping). On Wednesday, the IOC hit six Austrian racers (two biathletes and four cross-country skiers) with permanent lifetime bans from all Olympic competitionand erased their 2006 Olympic records. In February 2006, at the height of the Torino Olympic games, the six had been caught in their team house with a near-industrial quantity of the equipment needed to dope blood with chemicals or blood products.

On its face, these sanctions aren't obviously worse than, say, stripping Johann Muhlegg of the three gold medals he won in cross-country races at the Salt Lake City games, at which he was found to have doped heavily. However, in this case none of the Austrian athletes were found to have actually doped - only to have "a stunning array of doping products [including] syringes, needles, blood bags, butterfly valves for intravenous use, bottles of saline and devices for measuring hemoglobin levels and determining blood groups, as well as the banned substances hCG and albumin."

Of the six banned athletes, only one did especially well at Torino (placing fourth in a biathlon race), though all have turned in good results in other venues. One, Johannes Eder, nearly won a bronze in a distance race at the recent Nordic Ski World Championships in Sapporo, Japan. However, penalties may still be forthcoming for Austria's best racer, Christian Hoffman, a freestyle-technique specialist who races sparingly but always - suspiciously - seems to be in the best possible form for World Championships and Olympic Games. At Torino, Hoffman suddenly left the team house just before the fateful police raid. Hoffman's case was referred to the International Ski Federation to "consider whether Mr Hoffman’s absence from the Torino Olympic Games constituted a violation of his obligation to provide accurate whereabouts information." This is not good for Hoffman. Put your euros on his abruptly retiring.

Beyond the decimating effect on the Austrian ski team, the IOC sanctions open the door to heavy punishment of even those who seem to be doping. In this case, given the "stunning array" of stuff the athletes possessed, it seems likely there were at least preparing to dope, if they had not already done so in some way that eluded testing. But at the same time, the sanctions - coming from the major international sporting organization and taking an especially draconian form - may permanently erase the "innocent until proven guilty" principle which is assumed to exist, if not actually operate, in the shadowy zone of doping violations. Though few would impugn an organization with the prestige and power of the IOC, its actions now may permit other organizations - say, the International Cycling Union, currently pursuing Floyd Landis for doping at the 2006 Tour de France - to harshly and permanently punish athletes for appearing to dope. The Austrians appeared pretty bad, what with the bloody bandages and used syringes. What's next, though? Bans for having too strong a kick at the end of a race where everyone else has been suffering? Bans for winning a grueling stage race that destroyed the world's elite? Bans for setting personal bests?

Round Prickly Things

The other day I was out for a walk with the girls. Pushing Genevieve in the stroller, I had ventured just far enough ahead of Julia to start being a little bit uncomfortable with the distance. As if on cue, Julia shrieked, "Yook, Daddy! A porky-pine!" Probably the only thing that kept me from crapping my pants was the centrifugal force generated by doing an instantaneous about-face with my body, my consciousness, and the stroller. It was a brilliant situation: I was fifty feet away from my daughter at the very moment she found one of the few wild animals that could do grievous harm to her and that - bonus! - she finds interesting to read and talk about. (Try explaining "quills" to a toddler: it's like conversational crack.)

So I started racing back to her, pushing the stroller as fast as its little wheels could turn, then realized within a step or two that there was no way she was anywhere near a porcupine. And of course, she wasn't. This is what she was looking at.


Sighing in relief, I told her, "Honey, that's a pine cone, not a porcupine." She giggled. "Daddy, what did I say?" I said, "You said 'porcupine.' This is a pine cone." She giggled again. "Dat's funny!"

Nature Lovin' and Hatin'

If we were any more on the edge of town, we'd have to plow the living room. From our yard, you can throw a stone into the massive, rolling cornfield to the south, and all you have to do to see an even bigger field is walk out the front door and look west. At the east end of our street, there's a small pond that's about 1/2 water, 1/4 reeds, 1/8 mud, and 1/8 trash right now; the association is getting together in a week or two to clean it up. The number of bird species you can see out any window must number in the teens, including aggressive starlings, outsized robins, darting chipping sparrows and chickadees, deafening killdeer, whispering mourning doves (which Julia charmingly calls "afternoon doves" and "night doves," depending on the time of day), quarrely red-winged blackbirds, the reddest cardinals I've ever seen, and the occasional hawk or eagle soaring over those cornfields.

There are some mysterious fauna afoot, too. In the pond, for instance, we sometimes see some sort of swimming mammal that's too sleek to be a beaver (and doesn't slap its tail), but far too large to be a weasel or fisher. It might be an otter, but otters are social and we haven't (yet) seen others. I'm putting my money on it being a muskrat, which are common to fresh water throughout Minnesota but which also built domed houses, which I haven't yet found.

While I solve that mystery, I'll be cleaning up the piles of shit left on the patio by some mysterious nocturnal creature. I first thought it was a dog, based on the kind and quantity of the poop, but yesterday's leavings were very un-doglike, and, like their precedents, left in a cramped corner of the patio - hardly a spot where any but the smallest dog would go to go. I need one of those motion-operated flash cameras that biologists use to spot, like, pumas and wolves. Or else a powerful flashlight and three cans of Red Bull: anti-scat all-nighter!

Northfield Springtime

Apart from last weekend's wind, spring has been fun so far. Julia spontaneously asked to go for a walk after dinner yesterday, which was a nice surprise and an excellent way to enjoy the post-rain air. Festively, the street running out to our place is presently lined with dozens of tiny flags, marking off measurements for an upcoming road-reconstruction project which promises to create bike and walking paths between our subdivision and the city proper: I can't imagine a better way to improve our side of town.

Not that the farms are going away - yet. The tractors are rumbling back and forth, and last Thursday a big tanker of anhydrous ammonia was parked along the road. Grow that corn! The manure spreaders are spreading manure, with all the olfactory surprises entailed. (Entrailed?)

And I sure can't complain about 60-degree morning weather, which is ideal for biking, even with a headwind. Getting a bit sweaty on the way back home each afternoon is more than balanced off by the two girls' greetings: Julia's shrieking and running around, Genevieve's big spitty grin. It's not a bad existence.


A three-day weekend is a good thing, notwithstanding spring gales, rainy Sunday afternoons, and a sick baby. I spent a ton of time with Genevieve, watching her scoot backwards and rotate this way and that. I have no idea how that kid has avoided getting a circular abrasion on her ample tummy, on which, almost literally, her world turns. Unfortunately, she was sad and weepy all weekend, possibly from teething or possibly from (*gulp*) an ear infection. Shannon will do the lord's work by taking her to the pediatrician tomorrow...

The high point of the weekend was taking Julia to the Northfield fire station for a kids' tour of the premises and the vehicles. She loved it, after her usual 20-minute period of defrosting, and even let me dress her in their kid-sized firefighting suit. I felt safer just looking at her, even if she did then call herself "Snozzle," after a pig firefighter in a Richard Scarry book.


Later that afternoon, she rode around in a cart at Menards and pretended to be a "firegirl." At one point, she gestured madly down the aisle and yelled, "Daddy, there's a fire that needs fighting!" I said, "Well, let's go put it out, firegirl!" She turned and looked at me: "No, Daddy. There's no such thing as a firegirl." How can that be, when I just got so badly burned?

Blowing, If Not Drifting

It was crazy windy here today, with midafternoon gusts nearing 30 mph. The wind was so strong that fifty-pound objects (Julia's outdoor play table, loaded with sand) blew away, that our patio screen vibrated violently enough to jump its lock, and that our backyard maples bent about 30 degrees from vertical. And the wind used our bathroom vent stacks to play some funny tricks, like creating in-house breezes that rattled our closet doors all day or - in an even more poltergeisty vein - sloshing the water in the toilet bowl back and forth so loudly you could hear it anywhere in the house.


Midway through my first week as a 34-year-old, I realized that two-year-old Julia is exactly as far from the average 18-year-old freshman as I am.

Mr. Mom

I spent the day at home today, and I have to say that I found the day pretty easy and lots of fun. This was partly because both girls were great all day (no meltdowns, no missed naps, no delayed meals), partly because the beautiful invited us outside twice, and partly because my "regular" job has been unrelenting lately. Whatever the reason, I'll take it.

As Wordy as a Tomato

Some time ago, getting Julia out of her bath, I said she was "clean as a whistle." The phrase struck her fancy, and she started repeating it, and then modifying it in all sort of crazy ways. A few recent constructions:

Wet as a blueberry.
Smart as a tomato.
Soapy as broccoli.
Hungry as a book.
Silly as a diaper.


A few years ago, the New Yorker ran an article by the science writer Richard Preston in which he described the ongoing hunt for the largest trees in the world, redwoods which live in the rain forests of Northern California and which host bizarre ecosystems that have no link back to the ground, 300 feet below. The giant trees are so big, so tall, and so life-sustaining that whole other trees can live in the redwoods' crowns.

I blogged about the piece then, but couldn't link to it because the NYer didn't have the article online. But I just came across a companion article, running in the superb nature magazine Orion, in which Preston describes how two naturalists discovered what is probably the largest organism on the planet, a massive redwood they named the Lost Monarch. The tree is not only a giant in every sense; it grows in a "Grove of Titans" alongside a half-dozen other trees almost as big. The article's an excerpt from Preston's new book, The Wild Trees, which looks to be a fantastic look at one of the last remaining zones of discovery and at least implicitly a strong argument for conservation and natural beauty.

No Restroom for the Weary

There's only one men's room in my building, and it's quite the place. It's in the basement, so there's a certain dampness that is wholly unpleasant, not least for the way it attracts the silverfish. Nothing like watching a creepy-crawly climb the outside of the urinal next door. There's some sort of automated aerosol scent dispenser on the wall above the door, but it's always on the fritz, and so emits a freaky beep-beep every few seconds, day in and day out. Today, a new feature appeared: a creak in one of the door hinges that sounds exactly like whistle you whistle to get someone's attention. Both times I went into the restroom today, I glanced back when I heard this sound; neither time was anyone trying to get my attention.

It's almost enough to make a guy wish for some NASA diapers.

Let's Rock the (Town) House

Witold Rybczynski is one of those ubiquitous writers whose magazine work I always enjoy, but whose books I've never bothered to read. Judging by excerpts from his new book, Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville, in Slate, I'll have to read his new one. Today's excerpt is a thumbnail history of the ranch house, a.k.a. the rambler or California. They're common as trees, even in Minnesota where they're rather impractical to heat and cool, and Rybczynski helps show why. Even - or especially - if you loathe the way ramblers look, read the excerpt: it's wonderful.

I liked yesterday's excerpt even more. Purporting to be Rybczynski's explanation of nothing less than "why we live in houses," it's not far from it. What I found most interesting is how he places the lowly townhouse as the center of the history of Western house-living. Invented in the Netherlands in the 17th century, where it served as an expression of middle-classness, and spread in the 18th century to England, where it did the same thing and became the "rowhouse" that spread to the great colonial cities like New York and Philadelphia, the townhouse is still a common form of single-family housing, though not the preferred form of it here in the United States. Living as I do in an nondescript townhouse on a nondescript street in a nondescript subdivision east of town, I like to think that maybe I nonetheless have something in common with Vermeer. Beyond superb painting skills and an irresistible hauteur, I mean.

Law Year

Wow: Ornette Coleman just won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for music. The prize is technically for last year's Sound Grammar (which I shamefully don't yet have), but more than that, the prize is a well-earned piece of recognition for a man who has done huge service for jazz specifically and for American music generally. (And as a saxophonist, I'll take him over either Parker or Coltrane.) I'll have to listen to his masterpiece "Law Years" tomorrow: it's beautiful, excruciating stuff.

Bang, Bang

Today, the weather was finally warm enough that I could (or had to) open my office window, rewarding me with a nice cool southerly breeze - and of course, the sound of students playing drums. Is there a more stereotypical liberal-arts-college sound than bongos playing nothing in particular?

In Which I Mix and Match Typos

From my online class:

Varies technologies haev ben common in war fair in the twentief century. Now adays, a country must fight opponits who are not tolerate of religion and who may be part of a minoritie. It is defiantly a different situation then before.

And the capper, a response to a question about how the Internet is reshaping American society: "The computer allowed for school work to be done more better."

I think I have the mo' better blues.

Weather Macalester

Yikes, but that was quite the fast and hectic weekend. Apparently turning 34 means life accelerates. I took in a Twins game today with my friend Kevin; the company was excellent but the Twins weren't (choking in the ninth and losing a winnable game). I'm not completely sure, but I think this was my first pleasure outing (i.e., not work, errands, etc.) that didn't occur at a naptime since well before Gigi's birth. Shannon's covered the important kid doings with a post on Gigi - who's astoundingly eight months old today! - so I'll duck out with a little Julia anecdote.

Though she's long been far too acutely aware of words and meanings, Julia has lately been very actively inserting herself into conversations, especially when anyone uses a buzzword (mad, jail, Ernie, video) or an unfamiliar word (go open a big dictionary and you'll find a couple, but probably not many more!).  Sussing out new words is easy for her: just use a similar-sounding word, and triangulate the right meaning from your auditors' reaction. F'instance: the other day Julia heard Shannon and me talking about the dismal weather. I said, "Well, the forecaster said there'd be snow all evening." Julia chirped, "Daddy, what did the Macalester say?"

The Littlest Fascinatist

Thanks to a long nap that ended just before I got home, Julia was in excellent fettle all evening long. The high point may have been when she was spinning around in circles, shouting, "I'm fascinated!" I stopped her by asking, "Do you know what 'fascinated' means, honey?" She said no, so I said something like, "'Fascinated' means 'interested.' Like I'm fascinated by you!" Her eyes lit up and she tore off down the hall, shouting, "I'm fascinated by myself!"

Bloggers Who Make Me Think

My friend Jordan has very kindly tagged me with the "Thinking Bloggers Award," after she received it from another blogger on the strength of her always-fascinating motherhood-and-Chicago blog, Wonderwheel. Thanks, Jordan! (Among other things, she tipped me to a bunch of new blogs to read.) You know how it goes with these things: now I have to pass the award on to five more bloggers. Thanks to Google Reader, I follow a truly sick number of blogs, but here I'm going to stick to more-or-less personal blogs written by people I know and like. (As it happens, all but one are written by women. Huh.)


1. My first nominee is Shannon, wife, mother, and blogger extraordinaire. Mama in Wonderland is always the first thing I read in my RSS queue, and not only because her posts often offer an update on the scene I'll find when I get home. With a complete lack of bias, I think she's also a stylish writer and a very insightful commentator on family life.

2. My second nominee is the Snarky Squab, a great friend whose blog mostly sticks to her adventures in parenting - when she isn't sticking it to bad movies. Nobody makes better or funnier use of All. Teh. Blog. Tropes. And of course the Squotient Triangulum (part I and part II) will change your life.

3. Nominee number three is Questionable, another old friend who keeps a great eponymous blog that ranges far and wide (almost as far and wide as she does: see her posts on Patagonia) and always presents her opinions and ideas in a very true-to-her-personality way. Once she finishes her dissertation, I'm sure the blog will get even better - no more posts about the horrors of dissertation writing.

4. My fourth nominee is the proprietor of two linked blogs, the Adventures of Reiji and the Adventures of Rie. A college friend whom I haven't seen since 1995, her blogs are nonetheless a wonderful way to keep up with her and (you saw this coming) her two kids, neither of whom I've ever met but both of whom I feel I know pretty well, thanks to her pithy and frequent posts.

5. My last nominee is a pair that I always read in tandem: my dad's life-in-the-U.P. blog, Driving Around, and my sister's life-in-the-Netherlands blog, Expatriate-izing. Where else can you learn about population decline in the U.P. (dad) and the cognitive problems by Dutch compound words (sister)?

I left a few of my favorites off the list, but please don't feel slighted! I have to leave a few for others to nominate...

Eve of Destruction

Well, not quite destruction, except in the freshman-year-debate sense of "you start dying the moment you're born": tomorrow I turn 34 years old. It's a Friday the 13th birthday, like my first. Unlike my first, though, it won't be marked with a snowstorm.

Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that I share the day with some notables like Catherine de Medici (the 16th century queen of France), Guy Fawkes (the Catholic conspirator who attempted to blow up the English Parliament in 1605), Thomas Jefferson, F.W. Woolworth (the founder of the discount-store chain), "Bomber" Harris (the British officer who perfected the use of bombing to kill civilians during World War II), Samuel Beckett (the writer of Waiting for Godot, among other works), Madalyn Murray O'Hair (the American atheist leader), Seamus Heaney (the great contemporary Irish poet), and Garry Kasparov (the Russian chessmaster and democratic activist). That's a lot of writers and freethinkers...

April 13 isn't the death date of many notable people, though Picasso died a few days before I was born. Perhaps that's where I got my love of striped shirts.

From the Mouths of Babes

One of our favorite parenting writers, Catherine Newman, has a great little paragraph in her current column at Wondertime, a parenting site:

They sleep the sleep of submarines, sunk in the deep dark far beneath the morning. When you try to wake them — hauling them into your lap like dead weights and kissing their chilled cheeks — they will eventually send up a little periscope of wakefulness, a wrinkled brow or a grimace. They will float up, up, up through the murky depths and then their eyes will finally split open to fix on your face.

This resonates in part because Julia has been especially snuggly lately, hopping into my arms when she wakes up or, at Nonna's house for Easter, sitting in my lap reading books and whispering to me for fifteen minutes at a stretch. Tonight, as we were cleaning up some of her toys, she looked over at me, clad in my ratty after-work clothes, and said, "Daddy, your gray shirt is beautiful, and your gray pants are beautiful , and your gray socks are beautiful, and your red red shirt is beautiful, and your hair is beautiful, and your eyes are beautiful, and even your skin is beautiful!" It was all so sincere and so, so wrong, to any objective adult. But that's what's nice about kids: their version of reality is different and much, much better.

April Showers Bring Frozen Toes

A few shots from our "snow event."

5:00 p.m. on April 10

5:20 p.m. on April 10

6:00 p.m. on April 10

6:00 p.m. on April 10

6:00 p.m. on April 11

It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas

To paraphrase my old pal the Snarky Squab, it's snowing outside today. SNOWING. On the TENTH OF APRIL. I seriously need to move back to the U.P. (or at least to northern Minnesota). I can't take this teasing. I want snow all the time, October to April, not just little hints of it - and certainly not snow near my birthday, but not at Christmas!

Just Asleep

Long, but not that long, ago, Shannon and I lived in terror of waking Julia up, for she would often take forever to get back to sleep, whether awakened by a sound outside, a cough in the next room, her own tossing and turning, or less.

That's mostly changed now, thanks to the parents' best friend, growing up. A second ago, when I went to open her bedroom door, she woke up, looked at me, and whispered, "I was just asweep." Then she put her head back down, even as I adjusted her sheets, and went back to sweep.

Easter Kitties

We had a grand and wonderful Easter weekend, of which much more will be said (and shown) soon. But as I sit here burning the sixteenth hour of the day by grading a stack of papers for my U.S. history class, I have to comment on the weird, urinary symmetry of the weekend.

Julia spent much of Friday's drive up to Nonna and Boppa's house worrying about their old, grouchy cat, Bea, who had bitten Julia last time we were up there. Bea is pretty much blind, and obviously worried about smells and sounds which she can't figure out, like little kids making sudden movements. Sure enough, not five minutes after setting Genevieve down on the floor to play with Julia and her two cousins, Bea came stalking over, interested in but alarmed by the commotion. She was on a direct line to Gigi, so I moved to get between them before Gigi grabbed a handful of tail and lost an eye. Bea snarled at me, flipped over so she could use her rear claws, and then pissed all over the carpet - for at least ten or fifteen seconds. When that was finished, I tried to pick her up and get her down to the basement, but instead had a dozen gashes cut and bitten into my hand - and a lot more stinky cat pee sprayed all over my pants and shirt (and boxers and undershirt...). The broom finally worked to get the poor cat down to the basement, where she resided for the rest of our stay. It wasn't a good scene, and clearly Bea was the worst for it - blind, angry, scared, and now probably scheduled for one-way visit with the vet.

The feline hijinks don't get worse, but they do get stranger. When we arrived back home early this afternoon, Shannon immediately discovered that our cat, Sabine, had pooped on the carpet in our living room - not from incontinence, but because the door to the room which contains her litter box had been shut, presumably for the entire time we were gone. (I think someone reflexively shut it as we were leaving the house on Friday, because the box was untouched.) The crap was desiccated and easy to clean up, but then we went searching for the place where Sabine peed - and we couldn't find it anywhere. Could she have held her pee for four days? If so, when's she going to go again? Right now, about eight hours after we got back, there's still just one smallish litter clump in her box.

Juila put it all in perspective as she ate her snack and listened to Shannon and me wonder about Sabine's situation: "Bea peed on de fwoor and on Daddy, but Sabine didn't pee anywhewe! How stwange!"



Now that those Norwegian copycats at St. Olaf have their own wind turbine, I've been semi-obsessed with finding spots around town where I can see both turbines. So far, I only know of one definite location where, looking west, you can see the Olaf turbine and, looking east, you can see the Carleton turbine: at the corner of College Street and E. 2nd Street, on the southern edge of the Carleton campus. Our turbine's blades are just barely visible beyond the trees at the end of 2nd; most of the Norsky turbine is visible behind Manitou Hill. They're identical machines, but ours is so much better - not only is it prettier, but it's firstier. Um yah yah!

Hasta la Vista

Right now, I'm lying on the floor in the upstairs office/playroom, monitoring the endless process of setting up my mother-in-law's new computer, an HP desktop running Windows Vista, purchased at Best Buy the other day for about $400. The last computer I set up out of the box was the Mac PowerBook on which I'm currently typing (and which I love inordinately), several years ago. Being a Mac running OS X, it was pretty damn easy to set up; I was up and on the (dial-up!) internet within a few minutes of plugging it in.

The opposite is true of this machine and Vista. I probably burned about five hours a few nights ago with the initial start up, which required me to boot the machine, then ignore it for at least an hour (maybe 90 minutes) while Windows arranged itself. A couple dialogs popped up for handling, and then the machine went back underground for another near-hour. After all that, I actually got to the desktop, and then lo and behold I was asked to register Vista, the computer, the copy of Norton anti-everything software, etc. etc. etc. And since the computer doesn't come with a wireless card installed (because I'm sure HP doesn't know any vendors who could arrange some bulk purchases of $25 network cards), I had to shut down the computer to haul it upstairs and hook it directly into my router.

So here I am, two hours into it, waiting for the registrations to process, for at least three multi-MB updates to download, for the computer to chug along. (MS Explorer is totally hung, and can't be killed despite the fact that it last responded about an hour ago.) I'm literally supine before the computer and before the awesome idiocy of Microsoft. The waiting isn't the hardest part, though. I'm using the time to cut away some of the underbrush, like stupid toolbars that are turned on automatically in the operating system and MS Explorer, or making the system look as much like her current machine as I can. (That computer runs Windows 98, so I'm not going to get too close.)

No, the worst thing is the ludicrous number of "Yes, Allow" dialogs that pop up in doing just about anything. In trying to download the vaunted "Google Pack" of software designed to make Wintel machines a little more friendly and safe, for instance, for instance, I've had to click at least two - oops, now three! - separate dialogs to allow downloading, to open the .exe file, and so on. Each time one of these things comes up, the screen blinks black, then comes back on with the dialog front and center. It's not at all unlike that hilarious Apple ad ("Security") where PC is asked, "Cancel or allow?" anytime he tries to do anything.

Shannon walked by as I was doing all this registroprocessuadownloadation, and asked whether I really had to do all of it. I said I felt I did because otherwise my mother-in-law would probably never use the computer: there's so much garbage in the way of just using it to do things. My mother-in-law is a bright woman, but not someone who likes computers or figuring them out: she just wants to check her email, surf the web a little bit, and play Solitaire. By launching an operating system that is so baroque as to be almost unusable unless you already know about it, Microsoft is making it essentially impossible for users like her to be users. It's not insanely great, just insane.

Barnum & Bailey

Actual conversation the other day:
Julia: "I'm Roger Rhino!"
Me: "C'mon, Roger, it's time to go wash your hands for dinner."
J: "Nooooooo, Daddy Rhino, it's my hooves."
M: "Okay, let's go wash your hooves."
(Walking to the bathroom) J: "Can rhinos ride tricycles?"
M: "I guess they could, but they'd have to be really big tricycles."
J: "Can rhinos ride unicycles [pronounced "YOOOOOOOOOON-ee-sykl"]?"
M: "Uhh, I guess they could, but it would have to be an enormous unicycle, and they'd probably only do it in the circus."
J: "Like elephants wif balls on their trunks or ladies standing on horses!"

Can't Spell "Misspent" without MSP

Maybe it was a hangover from Monday (wait - didn't I just start a post like this?), but today was pretty strange. It snowed, and I spent almost four hours waiting at MSP for a visitor to the College.

Airport people-watching is, of course, unparalleled, and today was no disappointment. I saw quite a few grown men picking their noses in public, urinals that flushed for 60 seconds, miles of white iPod headphone cord streaming from dozens of pairs of ears, several tearful reunions, a tall-and-short pair of cops that seemed straight out of Hollywood (Tally was easily 6'6" and maybe 180 pounds; Shorty was maybe 5'8" and probably outweighed his partner), more Blackberries than a northwoods glade in August, a big Craftsman tool chest riding Carousel 13 for half an hour, and a sk8tr boi with his board slung over his back and his right arm in a sling.

Monday, Monday

Perhaps it was a hangover from the gray weekend weather, but today I found myself more frequently annoyed than usual. My lunchtime Coke was warm, for instance. I forgot to drink my coffee. The hallway outside my office smelled exactly like pee after eating asparagus. (Having changed an asparagus-pee diaper on Sunday morning, I knew the aroma.) I had to use a website with such a bizarrely complex registration process that I was ultimately stranded without a registration at all. On entering the men's room, I stopped short after mistaking a brown lump of grassy mud on the floor for a mouse. I went to a 3:30 meeting, but when I got there discovered that it was supposed to happen at 3:30 on Tuesday. And I zipped my shirttail into my fly - twice.

Neither individually nor even collectively were these little bits of the day that annoying, but they did create a sense that the day was out of order. I hope Tuesday's back on kilter.

April Fools

I don't know why, but I really like April Fools' Day, and I wish that more people got into the spirit of a really good (that is, smart and not cruel) prank, like this one from National Public Radio about a plan to ban all but four ringtones in New York. (Be sure to listen to the interview and/or the ringtones themselves.)

Anyhow, I started the day off right by plotting with Julia to tell Shannon, who slept in, that she and I had eaten burritos and asparagus for breakfast. When Mama woke up, Julia executed the set-up perfectly, and then waited a professional-quality beat before yelling, "April fool!" At bath time, Julia got me by saying that no, we didn't have to wash her hair. When I looked quizzical, she said, "April fool, and we do have to wash the hair!" For her part, Shannon refused to prank the girlfriends she was meeting for coffee by telling them that she was pregnant. Wimp.

Mother Nature pranked Julia and I by enticing outside with a lull in the rain and wind, then hammering us with good gusts of near-frozen rain. Genevieve pranked everyone by appearing to be a chubby, lovable baby, but instead repeatedly turning into a ravenous, screaming hunger-monster. The ear-to-ear carrot made her rather cute, even as she roared.