Current Posts

I Love Memes

My lovely wife tagged me with a meme:

5 things found in your bag:

1. A couple books (currently, this and this - the former about a tenth read, the latter about nine-tenths)

2. My thermos for tomorrow's coffee

3. My iPod, going back and forth to the office

4. A sketchpad

5. Breath mints

5 Favorite Things in Your Room

This is a tough one because "my room" is perhaps the least manly room, ever. Seriously. Apart from the two sets of pillows, you'd never look at the room and think a guy slept in it. And but so...

1. The stack of children's books under my bedstand - a sign that the girls hang out here every day, reading books on the bed

2. Stray toys - ditto

3. Some beaten-up magazines under Shannon's bedstand - ditto, but the girls love to look at the magazines even though, at this point, Julia's memorized every ad and photo

4. My "Shake Awake" alarm clock

5 Things You Have Always Wanted to Do

1. See my girls grow up to be happy women.

2. Ski the Vasaloppet in Sweden.

3. Bike the 21 switchbacks up l'Alpe d'Huez, the most famous climb in the Tour de France (le dopage optional).

4. Make an extended trip to Finland.

5. Write a science fiction novel.

5 Things You Are Currently Into

1. Genevieve

2. Julia

3. cross-country skiing

4. blogging and Web 2.0 foofaraw

5. work

She stole all my likely taggees, so I'm going to have to be the end of this particular chain. Sorry.


Washing her hands before breakfast on Tuesday - the day of her long-awaited preschool field trip to River Bend Nature Center - Julia blurted happily, "Tomorrow is my field trip day!"

Accustomed to her post-wakeup disorientation, I corrected her: "No, honey, it's today! Today is Tuesday - preschool day! The field trip is today!"

She scowled up at me. (The girl has a killer scowl: I pity the first boy/girlfriend to get pinned to the wall with that look. It's 100% from her mother.) "No, Daddy, the field trip is tomorrow. Today is Tues..." She trailed off, scrubbing at her hands.

I  jumped in again: "The field trip is today!"

More scowl as she finished rinsing her hands. "Daddy, you're wrong. Why did you say the field trip is tomorrow? It's today. Tuesday is today - preschool day, Daddy."

Bad News Tuesday

My blog friend Mnmom already posted on this, but it's so wrecked my day that I'm going to follow anyhow:

A Northfield woman was killed just before 7:30 this morning as she and her husband were out for a morning walk. Northfield Police Chief Mark Taylor said the couple was in the crosswalk when they were struck by a pickup truck. The driver of the truck, whose name hasn’t been released, was headed east on Jefferson and turned north onto Division after stopping at the stop sign. (From the Northfield News.)

A traffic fatality is always bad, of course, but in this case, two things make it even worse. First, I happen to know the driver; he works at Carleton in a role which has brought us into semi-frequent contact, and I've always been impressed by him.

Second, the intersection where this accident occurred (Google Map) has long been considered an accident waiting to happen: it's a four-way stop on two busy streets, one of which has a 55-mph speed limit, and is a main crossing point every morning and afternoon for kids going to the elementary and middle schools that sit just a few hundred yards away.

Anybody could see - many did see! - that this was a bad situation. In fact, the "Safe Routes to School" project which Northfield will start this summer with federal and state grant money is focused on trying to make this intersection safer. I'm on the steering commitee for the project, and it horrifies me to realize that we're already too late to save a life. We can't even say that the intersection was an accident waiting to happen.

(A concluding aside: I announced the Safe Routes grant back in March, and guess who made the first comment on that post? Mnmom. And what'd she say? "Can we please start with the Middle School and that horrendous intersection?")

Commuting, Northfield Style

Last week, I discovered - in an effort to avoid the heavy pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk between my bike rack and the street on which I usually start my ride home - a new commuting route between campus and home. About half of the distance runs through the Upper Arb, which is, I think, rather scenic.

Over the weekend, I realized the true implications of my discovery: but for some pavement at each end, I can ride off-road for most of the route between home and work. Mud! Puddles! Dirt! Trees! Animals! Rocks! I can avoid all the nutjob SUV drivers who barrel through the blind curves on my now-former route. I can see deer browsing in the morning light. I can whip around gravel corners on my way home. I can practice bunny-hopping over big roots - and bunnies. I can plummet along some of the same trails I skied all winter. And I can ride underneath at least a half-dozen big old oaks.

All of this makes my life a lot better - and it was already pretty good.

Below is a short tour (mixing photos taken on different days); you can also click here to see an annotated slideshow on Flickr or click here for a Gmaps Pedometer map of (most of) the route, which totals out at 1.96 miles, .78 miles in the Arb proper.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

God, this makes me happy. I feel like going out and riding it right now.


The hilariously spot-on "demotivator" posters and tchotchkes sold by Despair, Inc., have woven in and out of my life since someone - I'd guess this guy or this chick - put me on to them, back when we all worked at the same demotivating place. I remember deriving a lot of satisfaction from browsing the site's numerous cruel and funny products, though I never did buy anything.

More recently, the dean of the college at Carleton has been known to use this particularly brilliant poster in presentations on various new and/or brave initiatives, perfectly encapsulating his sardonically brilliant outlook. Sunday, the company and the products were ably written up by the Times' consumer-culture analyst, Rob Walker.

And then today I learned that a much-appreciated (can you say "loved" about someone you've never met?) got totally jobbed for a job at Carleton. This one's for you, Mnmom:


I offer it with my sympathies.

72 and Done

That was some weekend, folks - three straight days of dawn-to-dusk childcare. No help at all on two of those days, and minimal help on the third. No, you haven't accidentally jumped through a URL wormhole to the other Tassava blog - that's how it went down this weekend, what with Shannon attending a conference in the Cities on Friday and Saturday and then undertaking a literally once-a-year (or worse) personal-shopping trip today.

But my god, I had a good time with the littles. With a couple minuscule exceptions, the girls were wonderful from wakeup on Friday morning all the way through until bedtime tonight (and then re-bedtime, when Julia accidentally "teared off" part of her silky and called for me so loudly that she woke up her sister). We didn't do much worth describing, since we were housebound most of the time (= terrible weather + Shannon having the car), but we had a lot of fun playing, reading, having meals, and just plain hanging out. My favorite moment was actually several moments: the dozen times or so when Julia deflated a mounting Vivi tantrum by walking up to her and asking, "Vivi, can I give you a kiss? Can I give you a hug? Do you want to dance?" Each time, the Surly One responded, "Eee-hee" /kiss/ and "Eee-hee" /hug/ and "Eee-hee" /dance dance dance/. Damn cute.

In brief, I know that I've spent some good time with the the girls when I can answer "Yes" to the question, "Do I know them better now than I did yesterday?"

Now, though, I wish I had some Scotch to cap the weekend off right. Ah, well - next time.

Julia on Legumes

Sung to a tune of her own devising while I went to get her seconds at lunch:

"Peas are good

Peas are healthy

Peas are adventurous"

Internet Snax

This is why the internet exists: a tool that looks up the BIllboard #1 song on any day - your date of birth, your wedding day, et cetera.

  • Genevieve's birthday: "London Bridge" by Fergie
  • Julia's birthday: "Burn" by Usher
  • The day Shannon and I got married: "Waterfalls" by TLC
  • My birthday: "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" by Vicki Lawrence

This site is the internet equivalent of Doritos or, come to think of it, the average number one hit - tasty and almost meaningless.

Dusk Tasks

Due to some poor planning on my part, I had to return my beloved the College's Prius this evening, rather than tomorrow morning. This in turn meant I had to ride my bike home from campus at 9:00 p.m. I cut home through the Arb (more on biking there later),  which was actually rather fun to do in the dark: my headlight threw just enough light on the trail that I could avoid most of the rocks and roots - and all of the rabbits. (I did, however, accidentally ride right through a - hopefully unplanted - flowerbed that jumped out at me while I was still on the well-lit campus sidewalks. Oops.)

Anyhow, before all that, I drove back to campus along its northeasterly edges, and caught a glimpse of the spectacular post-thunderstorm sunset.


Here in Northfield, clouds are our mountains.


Today, for the third time in a month, I used one of the College's new Prius cars to go to a meeting in the cities.


It's old news by now, but my god those cars are cool. I simply cannot get over the sensation of the future getting a bit more evenly distributed when I walk up to the door and the car unlocks itself merely by sensing the presence of the "key" in my pocket. Hitting the "Power" button to turn the car on - with the "key" still in my pocket? Also very cool. And of course there's the best feature of all - the display that shows how the electric motor and gas engine are cooperating, and the MPG readout that's consistently north of 50.


With too much to do at work, a lot to do at home, and a generalized paucity of discretionary time, I'd lately let my Google Reader RSS feed go to hell. Yesterday I cracked down, plowing through something like 1,700 items across 220-some subscriptions. The vast majority of the items were scanned and skipped, and quite a few subscriptions were killed off, so at the middle of the workday, I was looking at this Firefox window (click through for a full-size view):


That's 106 open tabs, baby. By the end of the day, after much CTRL-W'ing and a fair amount of printing and stapling, I was down to 12 open tabs, and my Reader queue was holding at 99. It's a strange job I have, that all this counts as productivity.

Disaster Waiting to Happen

So I'm at the bike rack last night, unlocking my bike for the ride home, fumblin with my keys and absently looking off down the sidewalk. I see a woman slowly and totteringly riding a cruiser-style bike and bearing a little boy in a baby-carrier on her back. On her back. Not in a seat of his own - on her back. And worst of all, neither one was wearing a helmet.


I'm not young, hip, or in control of enough discretionary income to really partake in the Threadless t-shirt thing, but I do love looking at the shirts they sell, which are designed by talented artists (professional and amateur) and then produced and sold by the company. This one, by Sam Schuna, made me laugh out loud.

Mole People

(I'd take a men's medium, if anyone has $20 to throw away.)

Best Google Ad Ever

I had to promote this from my Tumblr list, down at the right. It popped up yesterday in the list of ads alongside my Gmail messages:

Toenail Fungus Cure How to cure toenail fungs in 1 week

Written by a well known auther.

Boston Marathon

The 112th running of the Boston Marathon was held yesterday. The men's race was a tour de force by now four-time champ Robert K. Cheruiyot (Kenya), who attacked a small lead group midway through the race and held on for a big win. The women's race, on the other hand, came down to a literal sprint between two unheralded but tough-as-nails runners, Dire Tune (Kenya) and Alevtina Biktimirova (Russia). Watch it and see the closest finish in the history of the women's race.

110.3 Hours of Winter

On this what was a balmy spring day, with the sun shining through bright blue skies, it's worth finally looking back at my attempt to spend 150 hours outside between November 1 and April 1.

The short story is that I amassed 110.3 hours of outdoor time (73.5% of my goal), broken down like this:

150 Hours II

I'm happy with this, since these 143 discrete events include many memorable experiences: pulling Vivi and Julia through the Arb on their sled, racing in the City of Lakes Loppet, making snowmen with the girls, running through the dark subdivision on Christmas night, helping the girls make snow angels, commuting to school on numerous crystalline days (and more than one snowstorm), watching Vivi enjoy her first sled ride, and of course skiing a lot in the Arb. I hope I can make a run at this personal record next winter...

Adventures in Mishearing

This is incredible: a movie-musical song in the subcontinental language of Tamil, but subtitled in English according to what the original Tamil words sound like.

Just try to get "My loony bun is fine Benny Lava" out of your head.

Now Showing

Julia's afternoon nap ended when she was awakened by a sound outside. She staggered downstairs, groggy and grumpy, and lay down on the sofa, refusing my offer to get her a book and professing annoyance that I wouldn't stop the work I was doing on the computer to play with her.

A few minutes later, as I was winding up my task, she suddenly said, in an incredulous tone, "Daddy, I have a video playing in my mind!"

I laughed. "Which one, honey?"

"Charlie Brown's Christmas!"

"What part?"

"It just started!"

Can you remember a time when your ability to imagine or remember was novel?

Little Dipper

You can - that is, we can - get our girls to eat practically anything if you give them a complementary dip. (No, not their dad, smartass. A condiment-ish dip.) Vivi even deigned to eat carrots and asparagus the other day when she had some salsa into which she could dip it. But the best dipping she's done lately is the dipping that duplicates her Nonna's breakfasting habits: toast, spread with cheese, and immersed in milk. (Well, Nonna goes for toast in coffee, but still...) It's surprising enough that Vivi will now consume milk, so I'm happy to let her get it on her toast or through triple serving of cereal. 


Our Unevenly Distributed Future

I've had a line from the science-fiction/thriller writer William Gibson stuck in my head for days now, having been jarred loose from whatever neuron had encoded it last year: 

"The future is already here - it is just unevenly distributed."

This strikes me as a brilliant assessment of our world, with "brilliant" masking various missing modifiers such as pithy, insightful, cutting, and optimistic. I thought of it on Thursday when, driving back from a meeting in St. Paul across the frontier between the suburbs and the exurbs (a line you can pretty much see somewhere around Airlake Airport in Lakeville), I heard a story on NPR about the mounting pressure on many Asian and African governments to feed their populations even as rice gets too expensive to serve as the dietary staple. Uneven distribution, all right. This New York Times article is a good summary of this dismal phenomenon. - and a glimpse into the lives of those who have no grasp on the future, and nearly none on the present:

In Haiti, where three-quarters of the population earns less than $2 a day and one in five children is chronically malnourished, the one business booming amid all the gloom is the selling of patties made of mud, oil and sugar, typically consumed only by the most destitute.

Ugly Day on Campus

Today was perhaps the ugliest day I've ever experienced on campus. The on-and-off rain made everything sodden, but didn't wash away the lingering piles of grit and sand that accumulated over the winter. The gray sky was low, practically in the branches of the still-bare trees. And the fields to the east and north of campus were apparently being manured today, so the chill breeze carried that lovely scent in, but not away. There was something to assault every sense!


Perhaps you didn't notice the new item at the top of the right sidebar, but a friend from Chicago and I just started up a photo blog, "Urb/Exurb," in which we're taking turns posting shots of urban life (him) and exurban life (me). Some of the shots are responses to the previous shots, which lends a bit more interest to the enterprise. But - speaking for myself - I think his shots of Chicago and New York City are pretty damn good. Check out the blog at Urb/Exurb.

Watching Ethics

The other day I found a pretty nice men's watch in the Arb. A few lost-and-found ads haven't turned up a claimant. Internet, how hard do I have to search?

Nordic Skiing Nerdery - Now Audible

The outer limit of the media content universe has now been reached: Colin R., a friend from the Internet (or at least the part near Boston), and I have worked up a three-part podcast covering the 2007-2008 Cross-Country Skiing World Cup season. Head over to the Nordic Commentary Project to hear us misuse our microphones, display a disturbingly comprehensive (and yet surprisingly patchy) knowledge of an extremely obscure sport, and generally entertain ourselves. We talk about stuff like most/least disappointing skiers, best American skier, and racer most likely to be doping (part 1); best race and biggest surprise of the season, most and least liked trends (part 2); and predictions for the big 2008-2009 season, among other topics (part 3).

If things work out right, I'll be pushing some (all, if you're lucky) of my posting on cross-country skiing over to the NCP site.

European Geography

Kinda fun, until you realize that you have no idea where Cologne is.

Taxy II

So I got to work today, fired up my computer, and went diligently to my work email right away. The subject line of the most recent message was something like "You Have Been Selected for an Audit." Eyes bug out, mouth dries instantly, hand gets a little shaky on the mouse. It is Tax Day, after all.

I check the "from" field - it's someone in the college's Business Office. Wha? Finally reading the message, I find it's pretty nondescript - they audited the last statement of my college credit card and found I didn't report a couple expense codes. Breathe a huge sigh of relief, take a drink of water, hope tomorrow I can save the panic attack for after 8:05 a.m.


A just-concluded two-part conversation with Julia.

"Daddy, I don't like when you call me 'Julia Charlotte.'"

Me: "Okay, honey, I won't call you that. Can I call you 'Buzzer'?" (This is an old, inexplicable nickname I've always had for her.)

Julia: "Yes, you can call me 'Buzzer.'"

Me: "Even when you're a teenager and listening to strange music with your friends and I yell, 'Buzzer, turn down that music!'?"

Julia: "Yes, that would be okay."

Later, she finds her mother. "Mama, I don't like it when Daddy calls me 'Julia Charlotte' and I won't like it when I'm a teenager and he calls me 'Buzzer.' It hurts my feelings."

Shannon: "Okay, honey. But you won't be a teenager for ten more years, so let's worry about it later."

Julia: "Okay, I will."

Taxy I

For Tax Day, something stolen from the snarksters at Someecards.


Julia, Talkist

I don't know if she's saying more great stuff lately or if I'm just hearing it, but Julia has had some great lines lately:

On leaving the "YMCA Healthy Kids Day" at the sprawling, jam-packed Northfield Middle School: "My, that was quite a middle school. Yes, that was soooome middle school."

On being able to play, last week, with the adorable five-year-old girl next door: "I'm so excited! It's the first day of Meg!"

After watching a Sesame Steet episode about penguins, she adopted a silly waddling walk and told me that no, she couldn't walk faster because she was "penguining along."

After crushing a few dozen ancient tree berries into the sidewalk on another recent walk, she said she'd made dinner for the birds, and they were having "squashed-berry pizza."

After reading the immortal Bread and Jam for Frances, she fixed on one character's dessert of "cup custard," asking, "What is custard?" I told her that it's like pudding. She said, "'Custard' sounds like 'cluster.' What's a cluster?" I told her that a cluster is a bunch or a group, adding, "A bunch of people all together is a cluster of people." She thought that over and responded, "Like a bunch of bananas." I said that was right. She clarified, always seeking the edges of the definition: "But you wouldn't say 'a cluster of bananas.'" I replied, "Well, you could say that, but most of the time people talk about bunches of bananas." Exit lexicographer; re-enter preschooler: "Not a crusterd of bananas! Ha ha ha ha! Crusterd!"

After helping her mom put a dangerous number of candles in my birthday cake, she eyed the box of matches and asked, "So when are we going to match the cake?"

Weekly Reader

I'm climbing on the bandwagon full of people who make a certain kind of post on certain days with this first "Weekly Reader" post - five things I've read on the web in the last week that I think are worth your time. The East Coast focus is accidental.

1. "The Boomtown Mirage," Samantha M. Shapiro; New York Times, April 6, 2008

   A finely-grained look at the boom-and-bust "town" of Maricopa, Arizona, which has risen and now fallen in just over ten years. The story is focused on a hard-luck guy who's in way over his head, partly because he got really eager to make a killing in real estate and partly because others were eager to make a killing on people like him. Samantha Shapiro's writing is wonderfully transparent.

2. "Candid Camera: Trove of Videos Vexes Wal-Mart," Gary McWilliams; Wall Street Journal, April 9, 2008

   For years, Wal-Mart used the same tiny film production company to record a huge variety of corporate goings-on, from high-level meetings and shareholder events to product presentations and regular old chitchat. In 2006, Wal-Mart fired the company, which nearly went out of business as a result. Wal-Mart didn't want to buy the collection of videos, so now the film company is selling the videos to researchers, journalists, and Wal-Mart haters. Bad move, Bentonville.

3. "The Duel," Hal Higdon, excerpted from Boston: A Century of Running by Hal Higdon (1995)

     The engrossing story of the 1982 Boston Marathon, an epic duel between Minnesotan Dick Beardsley and Bostonian Alberto Salazar. This You Tube video shows the sharp end of the race (and includes a horrible soundtrack).

4. "Starbucks and 'Laissez Faire'," David Boaz; Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2008 (and the Cato Institute)

     Starbucks won't print "laissez faire" on its personalized gift cards, apparently because the phrase is too political - although the company (or rather, its contractor) will print "Si, si puede" and "People Not Profits" on the cards. Though I think "laissez faire" is a silly slogan and a worse idea, Starbucks' double standard is rather mystifying.

5. "Trump Soho Is Not an Oxymoron," Michael Idov; New York Magazine, March 30, 2008.

     How Donald Trump and his cohort of shady operators managed to ram a monstrous "condominium hotel" into New York's Soho neightborhood. Wait till you read about their clever scheme to effectively sell each condo twice. Diabolical.

Suspending Disbelief (On a Rope of Human Hair)

Julia, in talking about a long-haired friend of hers: "She has a little bit more hair than me. What if she had hair down to her feet, Daddy?"

Me: "That would make it hard to walk; she'd probably trip a lot."

J: "What if this whole town was made of hair?"

Me: *silent flabbergastment*

J: "What if the moon was made of hair?"

Me: "Er, uh, well, uh... I guess we'd have to comb the moon."

J: "Comb the moon? That's impossible, Daddy!"

You got me.

XC Skiers Are Cool

Back in February and March, I got a little bit obsessed with the Vasaloppet ski race in Sweden, to the point I started tracking down the websites of various big-name racers to read about their preparations (or rather, to read the machine translations of their original postings about their preparations). When you want to follow international skiing, you have to cobble together your own ESPN. I even emailed a few of the big-name Vasaloppet racers, more to see if any would respond than for another reason. They all wrote back, in English, and said, basically, that they were happy to hear from North America.

Among the racers whom I contacted were Joergen and Anders Aukland, who compose the Xtrapersonell team and who, in March, took first and second in Vasaloppet. (Anders, the elder brother, subsequently won the FIS Marathon Cup, having placed first twice and second three times in the nine-race series.) When they did so well, I wrote again to say that I had enjoyed watching the race via the web and ask if they sold any team gear. I mean, everybody else wears clothing advertising pro teams, why not support an ultra-obscure professional ski-racing team?

Someone using the name Joergen (perhaps the racer himself, more likely a staffer borrowing his name for credibility) wrote right back to say that if I sent my postal address, they'd send me a hat. I thought, "Yeah, right," but sent the info anyhow. Here's what I got in the mail from Norway today:


Pretty, ain't it? Too bad there's not enough snow to really put it to good use right now.

Watch and Found

Running in the Carleton Arb last night, I found a rather nice men's watch - Skagen brand. If it's yours, look me up in the Northfield phone book and call to describe it and set up an exchange.

Up Already?

It's Saturday morning. I was up past 11 last night finishing my grading. Right now Vivi is starting her breakfast. This is not right. She'd better make up for this kind of nonsense to me later on.


This score seems low, but I fault the quiz, which neither credited me for the high number of Apple-oriented blogs and news sites I read nor gave me a pass on having to take the damn quiz on a Dell.
56%How Addicted to Apple Are You?

I'll retake the quiz on my new iPhone, just as soon as the iPhairy brings it over.


Rob Walker is a great analyst of consumer culture; his "Consumed" column in the New York Times Magazine is always wonderful and his blog - Murketing - is almost too full of fascinating material about capitalism in America.

In a recent "Consumed," he wrote about QR codes, the new marks of the beast two-dimensional product-info symbols that are replacing the familiar UPCs. QR codes are currently less common in the U.S. than in Europe and Japan, but I can remember seeing them on electronics. The advantage over the old UPC is that 

the new generation of code can handle more information because it is arranged in a dot-matrix style that communicates with a scanner both horizontally and vertically — as opposed to the one-dimensional, linear manner of regular bar codes.

This is a neat little transom into the future, I think. Among other gee-whizzes, the QR codes can be read by the cameras in properly-equipped cell phones. The column also mentions a Swiss consultancy that lets you generate your own QR codes for any text, URL, phone number, or SMS. The fun's endless. (Notice the increasing complexity of the dot matrices.)


Favorite Tree

How can you not like someone - a liberal-arts grad and a world-class cross-country skier, at that - who posts a picture of her favorite tree, and invites others to post pictures of their favorite trees?

You can't, that's how.

Here's my favorite tree, which occupies the spot of space between Goodsell Observatory, Olin Hall, and Boliou Hall at Carleton College. It's a great tree.
Goodsell Oak

(THis is actually not my favorite tree, actually: my favorite is another oak, out in the savannah in the Lower Arb, but I don't have a picture of it, and I pass this tree every day.)

Weather Confusion

The combination of mid-April dates and cool-to-cold weather is throwing the undergrads for a loop, clothing-wise. Today I saw a guy wearing a heavy North Face parka and shorts. Last week I saw a woman in a miniskirt and Ugg boots. And during my run on Saturday, I saw a woman running in tights, a stocking cap, and a jogbra. Funnily enough, I myself was wearing two of those items.

Passing the Torch

From the Times today:

PARIS — China dubbed its Olympic torch relay the “Journey of Harmony,” a 21-nation promotional tour for the most expensive Games the world has seen and for a host nation eager to showcase its rising wealth and diplomatic clout... Passing through Paris under armed guard, the torch was extinguished several times, and police officers moved it aboard a bus to protect it as demonstrators swarmed the security detail. Chinese Olympic organizers abruptly canceled the last leg, as well as a stop at City Hall, where a banner proclaimed, “Paris Defends Human Rights Everywhere in the World.”

I love following the Olympics (though I think the Winter Games are far better than the Summer), so this torch controversy is pretty interesting as an attempt to politicize the games - or rather, to reveal their politicization. But for me, the alpha and omega of the current torch troubles is the modern origin of the torch relay: the 1936 Summer Games, which were staged, of course, in Berlin and used to glorify Hitler's Third Reich. The modern torch relay has been political from the first.


Yesterday and today added up to be a pretty ordinary weekend (more or less), but I'm somehow just suffused tonight with happiness about my two girls.

I think it's precisely that the weekend was so regular - rather than shining with some sort of a big breakthrough or being wrecked with a big crisis - that's making me feel this way. The last 48 hours were dense with the wonderfulness of two cute, charming, smart kids: their singing "Elmo's Song" in something like harmony, Julia helping Vivi go down a big (and scary) slide at the playground, Vivi then going down the same slide over and over for an hour, Vivi la-la'ing along to Dan Zanes tunes in the car, Julia pretending to be Vivi by doing a spot-on impersonation of her, Vivi expressing her worry about Shannon's mystery bruise by saying "Mama? Boo-boo?" and pointing in the general direction of Shannon's hurried departure, Julia making up hilarious (and well-rhymed) new verses to the "Knick, Knack, Paddy Whack (This Old Man)" song, the look of amazed delight on Vivi's face when the cat unexpectedly emerged from under the crib just before naptime, Julia repeatedly tearing down the hall in her tutu to leap into a pile of pillows, Vivi making little proto-syllable sounds right along with me as I read her favorite two books...

I feel thankful to even know such great and wonderful people, much less be their father


A partial list of items with which Vivi absconded today:

  • a magazine Julia was reading
  • an Elmo doll with which Julia was playing
  • her toothbrush
  • a cold, wet washcloth
  • multiple books Julia was reading
  • Julia's jacket
  • the tube of lotion I was supposed to be putting on her sister's arms
  • the coveted pink rubber duckie from the bathtub
  • Julia's sippy cup

Sure, it might seem that she's embarked on a life of crime, but really, you're quite safe unless you're her older sister.

Ice Out

Friday evening, I went for a short walk with the girls just before dinner. Down at the end of the block, the pond contained a few ducks and a small, thin floe of ice.


Less than three hours later, when I headed out for my run, the ice was gone.

This afternoon, only this little spot of snow - eight inches long, four inches wide, a quarter-inch deep - remained of the snow in our backyard.


Thirty minutes later, it was gone, too.

34 Going on 75

My birthday's coming, but I think I might be skipping a few decades and a generation or two. This afternoon, I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up not just one but two prescriptions for myself. I ended up in line behind an elderly couple who were arranging to rent a wheelchair, which took a little while. My eyes wandered. Were the hearing-aid batteries on sale? Nope; no need to buy any otherwise. Hey, candy! Smack in front of me was a big display of sweets in bright red and yellow two-for-a-dollar bags - the good old stuff, like cinnamon bears, circus peanuts, chocolate-covered cherries, sugared-jelly orange and cherry slices, lemon drops... I bought myself a bag of orange slices and a bag of cinnamon bears. Heaven stuck to your teeth. Unfortunately, the pharmacy was out of my mentholated nose drops, so I had to go home with only one prescription.

The Kids Know It's Spring

The last (?) snowstorm of the season came just as Carleton's spring break ended. The students - now finishing the first week of the last term of the year, which is commonly called the "death march" - aren't brooking any of this snow nonsense, though. Even the hipsters are rocking t-shirts, tank tops, shorts, skirts, and of course flipflops. Perfect for the puddles of icewater.

Work Is the Curse of the Blogging Class

These overtime weeks are getting annoying. They really cut into my fund of good cheer and my discretionary time. A guy can hardly blog! And it's unnatural, doing all manner of work at my home computer.

Luckily, working after hours is a bit easier to take when I can interrupt whatever I'm doing to do a little parenting. We're in the middle of our second try at getting the girls to sleep in the same room, and we're having some success so far. Which means that we're also having some failure. About half the time, Vivi is either awake or awakened when I smuggle Julia into her own bed, and consequently starts talking to Julia, or yelling for me, or generally displaying her disgust with the situation. Inevitably, Julia can't get to sleep, so I lead her over to the guest room, where she dutifully falls asleep.

A few hours later, after the Little is well and truly out, I move the Big back to her own bed. The 120 minutes of slumber has reduced Julia to a ragdoll, so I pick her up, folding her long, almost-four-year-old body in my arms, and walk the dozen steps between the rooms. She blinks sleepily at me (or at the light in the room down the hall), smacks her lips in that way sleepers do, and nestles deep into her bed as soon as I lay her down. It's very sweet. I realize, doing this short-haul route, that I really miss the girls at night. It's nice to see them even for a few seconds.

One View of the World

Saturday, trying to guide my charges out of Walgreens without inadvertent preschool shoplifting, I had to stop when Julia pulled forcefully against my hand, pointing at something on the shelf next to us. It was - of all things - a High School Musical-branded box of chocolates. I immediately thought that Julia's bionic nose had smelled the chocolate, and she was going to ask me about it. But no: instead, she caressed the front of the box, which showed headshots of the main stars (very roughly, this), and said in a low, the-world-is-wonderful voice, "Why does this box have princesses on it?"


This is the best Google service ever: Gmail Custom Time.

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