Blowing & Drifting

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

Feet, Pedals, &c.

A city that outdistances man's walking powers is a trap for man. - Arnold Toynbee, historian (1889-1975)

Then you have Portland, Oregon, a medium-sized city where two people can comfortably survive without a car. (Let's see them try that with kids, though!)

Sky Blue Sky

I'm up way too late, having gotten happily mixed up in some heavy-duty website revisions (see the new home page). A minute ago, I looked away from the computer monitor and noted that it was inordinately bright outside. When I went closer to the window, I could see that the nearly-full moon was illuminating the cloud cover, making the sky glow a deep but unmistakable blue.

We don't get the midnight sun here in Northfield, but this is not a bad substitute.

Vivus grumpus

She no likey the formula.


Luckily, she likes to eat many more things than she turns down.

Get After It

Taking advantage of the unusual trifecta of early bedtimes for both girls, great weather, and a little bit of energy in my legs, I took to the roads for my longest rollerski of the summer so far - 80 minutes, covering 14.23 miles (22.91 km) at a pace of 10.59mph.

It was not a great workout, but it was fun, and it gives me the pretext to respond to a recent blog post by my friend Matt, newly bitten by the triathlon bug, about his motivation for getting back into the fitness swing of things.  With high school cross-country and track in our distant pasts and young daughters at home, we have some things in common, and we have some according overlap in our reasons for trying to get back into shape. The main thing that, as Matt might say, gets my arse outside to work out on a daily basis is just seeing my mileage and time pile up. It's a shallow impulse, but one that works quite well. I know that if I run or rollerski for an hour that I'll be able to book another 5 or 10 miles (respectively - even more when I count kilometers!) in my log. I'm also hoping that putting in some time now will mean that, when family schedules change a bit, I can run a long race or, even better, ski one. The Mora Vasaloppet is a near-term goal.

Slightly deeper, as motivations go, is the desire to be out in something like nature for a while. Until they hook me up with a MacBook at work, I have to stay pretty much in my office all day long. Getting out at night or on weekends to pound through the Arb or grunt up the rural hills is a refreshing change of scenery. Somewhere between the shallow and the sublime are the physical outcomes: it's nice not to be achy and tired after a day sitting at a desk (or rather, to be achy from a run, not from sitting down), and it's nice to feel my bike commute getting easier and easier from week to week as I get into shape.

Finally, it is very nice to think - okay, hope, right now - that when Julia sees me come back from a rollerski or hears Shannon and me talk about our runs, she (and eventually in her sister) is acquiring a sense that being active is a normal, fun part of life, on a par with eating good things and reading books and having parties - and of course, sleeping.

Happy Trails

Over at her blog, cross-country ski racer Laura Valaas recently posted a couple pictures of her new training grounds in Anchorage, Alaska, and asked rhetorically, "Can you even imagine a more enticing little trail to have at the end of your driveway?"

While her two shots did, indeed, show some enticing terrain, I can imagine some pretty enticing trails down here in the Lower 48.

Here is the best - and hardest - uphill on my rollerski route: just over a mile (1700 meters) long, it has an overall vertical rise of a hundred feet - half of which comes in the last quarter mile (about an 8% climb). That's the Carleton wind turbine off to the right. It's a great thing to aim for, though if I ever hit it while rollerskiing, it'll mean I plowed through a quarter-mile of cornfield.


And here is the 80-meter-long climb at the end of my favorite and most frequent run in the Upper Arb, at the northeast corner of the Alumni Field. At the top, it's a right turn onto a nice smooth downhill almost all the way home.

Eight Random Facts about Me

1. I still wear the same size everything that I did as a junior in high school.
2. Northfield is the furthest I've ever lived from one of the Great Lakes.
3. I can read quickly, but my handwriting is truly abysmal. These are related somehow.
4. The oldest friend with whom I keep in touch is a guy I met in ninth grade.
5. Through Google Reader, I subscribe to 175 RSS feeds, but I have no idea if this is a lot or a few.
6. The worst accident to ever happen to me was when I jumped/fell off the hood of a car. Yes, I was in high school; no, it wasn't a dare and I wasn't even slightly drunk.
7. My favorite drink is a cafe americano, hot (October-April) or iced (May-September).
8. Due to my older daughter's demands for such a scene, I need only about three seconds to draw a person in bed, sleeping. I need more time if the person is Bert or Ernie. I've not yet been asked to draw them both in the same bed.

Treat Patrol

At about ten thirty on each day this week, a couple people from the offices which are running various summer programs on campus have stopped in my office to hand out treats - cinnamon rolls on Tuesday, blueberry muffins on Wednesday. Work at Carleton is pretty good.

Holland Biking

My dad, newly returned from an extended sojourn with my sister and her family in the Netherlands, is posting some interesting stuff about the small but telling differences between life there and life here. With my growing concern with cycling and sustainable transportation, I was very interested in his post on the ubiquity of bikes - especially for kids who are getting to school. A few of us walked to my high school, many took buses of course, upperclassmen used cars, and basically nobody biked.  It looks to be a bit different here in Northfield, but I would not send my kid off to school on a bike or on foot, given the iffy or absent sidewalks, bike lanes, or trails.

Coincidentally, the other day I also came across "6 Tips for Commuting to Work by Bike" on the Zen Habits blog. Not all of the tips are applicable to me (my ride's short enough that I don't have to worry about getting overheated and needing to shower or change), but the links at the bottom are great.

Land o' Lakes

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources publishes an interesting page of facts about Minnesota's lakes. The state actually has 11,842 lakes of 10 or more acres, not a mere ten thousand. Strangely enough, four counties don't have any natural lakes that big; two are in the southwest corner of the state, two in the southeast corner. Mud Lake is the most common name for a lake in the state. Red Lake is the biggest lake entirely within the state (451 square miles), but Lake Vermilion, up in the Arrowhead, has the most shoreline - 290 miles. A map shows how this can be.

Soft & Chewy

In a note taped over the change slot on the vending machine downstairs, someone in my building  asks for reimbursement on a brownie that she bought on June 21, 2007. According to the note, the brownie bore an expiration date of September 21, 2006. I know some people like crusty brownies, but that's the wrong way to make them.

Sultry, and Not in a Good Way

At three this afternoon, it was 87 degrees here, but with a 76 degree dew point (and 63% relative humidity), it felt like 98. At 4:30 p.m., with the same air temperature, 70% relative humidity and a dew point near 75 degrees, the heat index jumped to 104. 

1s and Js

Driving to her swim class this evening, Julia told me, "I'm making 1s and Js." At a stop sign, I turned around to see what she meant, and all she was doing was holding her face blank and blinking in a very exaggerated way - two fast blinks, a slow one, another slow one, three fast ones. "What do you mean, honey? I don't understand," I said. She just kept doing this blinking thing, and as I drove on, she repeated herself: "I'm making 1s and Js wif my eyes."

This goes right to the top of my list of "Weird Stuff My Kids Have Said."

June Weekends Are Great, Mostly

We had a lovely weekend, the high point being time spent with some friends - and their kids! - who were willing to come down to the exurbs for an afternoon. Good food and drink (especially drink) was had, laughs were laughed, the kids frolicked in whatever ways they could, a young mourning dove landed in Julia's sandbox. The usual, in other words.

If my weekend started with the bang of the great Bad Plus concert, it ended with the bang of a big Julian meltdown. Precipitated initially by her wasting the time needed to sing her usual songs with Mama, it went on for about half an hour (I know, not long in the grand scheme of things, or in her recent history) and included such lowlights as my scooping her up and madly sprinting past the room where Gigi was sleeping; roughly a zillion restatements of the fact that no, we weren't going to sing even one song; several bouts of vein-popping screaming by Julia; her tearing my shirt as she tried to pry me away from the door; her wiping her snotty nose on that shirt because there was no way in hell I was opening the door to get a mere Kleenex; and finally, a long wind-down that was cute, and a little bit psychotic.

First, she interrupted a massive crying fit by snatching a book from her shelf and going to her bed, announcing, "I need some quiet time to get myself under control." That lasted for about ten seconds, until I reiterated that even if she did get herself "under control," we still weren't singing songs. More weeping and a wordless collapse into my arms. She slowly calmed down, then suddenly sat up on my lap and said through her gasps, "But. That. Sign. Says. I. Get. Two. Songs." I was mystified, so I asked, trying not to laugh, "What sign, honey?" She pointed at a big decoration on her wall and repeated her gasping interpretation. I said, "No, honey, it actually says, 'Twinkle twinkle little star.' And we're not singing any songs." She leapt up, about to burst into tears again, but chose instead to sit down, grab a nearby book (a Christmas book she loves), and say, pathetically, "I will just read *gasp* dis book and den I will *gasp* be calmer and den I will *gasp* feel happy again." Here, I started to sniffle: that's a dagger in the heart. After a moment's silence, she decided instead to get in bed, where I read her a couple "poems" in a kid's magazine (she calls everything in the magazine a "poem," even the recipes that she loves most). When we finished, I reminded her that she had to apologize to Mama in the morning. She nodded and turned to me, saying earnestly, "I'm very sorry, Daddy." She gave me two kisses and a hug, then rolled over to go to sleep.

Downstairs, we listened over the baby monitor as she sang at least two dozen songs at the top of her lungs. She loves getting the last word.


I love the Flatiron Building at 5th and Broadway in New York: it's a brilliant and beautiful. I took this picture on a long walk in Manhattan last June; I walked a couple miles out of my way to see the building.


Kottke recently linked to a high-resolution picture of the building in 1910, when it was only eight years old. It's an engrossing photo with enough detail for a million questions. What did the advertised cigars cost? What's that guy with the ladder doing, just right of the building's prow?

Carbon Neutral, Almost

With the gas tank under a quarter full, Shannon had to fill up today. In adding the charge into our checkbook, I looked for the last fill up, which turned out to be May 29 - twenty-six days ago. That's life in a small town: I've biked probably 90% of the workdays since that last fill up, and almost every place worth going is less than ten minutes away. Those Prius owners can enjoy their "mileage video games"; I'm going to see if we can delay our next fill up to August.

Bad Plus So Good

The Carleton Concert Hall was jammed - a few seats short of SRO, but no doubt a sellout - for the Bad Plus show last night, and the boys didn't disappoint, playing a long set that featured new and old, soft and loud, slow and fast, originals and covers. Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson, and Dave King were tight throughout, and the show really highlighted the interplay between Anderson on the bass and King on the drums.

The concert opened with a short but entertaining set by Forró for All, a six-piece band, led by New Yorker Rob Curto, that played forró, a genre of dance music from northeastern Brazil. The music, which you can sample on the website, was propulsive and fun, featuring a talented singer whose voice was often lost in the mix, two percussionists who used the usual kit plus triangles and an interesting Brazilian instrument halfway between a tambourine and a snare-drum head, and Curto's amazing accordion playing. He was spectacularly fast and precise, the true leader of the band. 

The Bad Plus came on quietly, opening with a new song called "People Like You" by Reid Anderson. Like many of Anderson's compositions, the song started slowly but, in patented TBP fashion, built to a big climax and then faded back away. It was a good way to kick off the show, and a good segue to the second tune, "Blue Candy," a Dave King song that focused initially on his heavy drumming. and Anderson's thrumming on the bass. With Iverson playing a simple piano figure, the song acquired a tension that did not so much break as dissipate into dissonance created by King scratching his cymbal with a drumstick.

After these two great new songs, the band launched into one of its greats, "Big Eater," off These Are the Vistas. Iverson rejuvenated the song with a new piano line, one which drew the song to a tumultuous conclusion quite different from the two preceding songs' ends. After that high point, the band continued with "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," their meditative or even tragic version of the Tears for Fears song. The tune pivoted on the misfit between Iverson's sure restatement of the melody on the piano and King's quicker drumming, then ended with a beautiful bass line.

With one of the obligatory covers out of the way, the band played two new Iverson compositions. "Who's He?" featured a wondrous piano part and, at the end, a big bass drum solo which lent the song the feel of "Physical Cities," the best song on the new album. The second Iverson song, "Old Money," was, he claimed, set in Duluth - a town from which apparently no members of the audience came, eliciting a bemused, "Okay then" from Iverson. The song itself was a study in tempo changes and offered each player a spot in the foreground. Iverson played some marvelous notes at the right end of the keyboard, and then Anderson did some truly incredible stuff with his bass. King's smashmouth drumming is best in concentrated doses, but I could listen to Anderson play all night. 

The seventh song was another King tune, a new one called "My Friend Metatron," about an evil-fighting archangel. Or robot, judging by the thudding rhythm provided by Anderson and especially the grinning King. Iverson played a strange but interesting piano line that seemed predicated on stutters and staccato. With more polish, all three of these new songs (and the two at the start of the set) will be great on the next TBP album.

After that, the band switched gears and played five straight songs from the new album. Anderson's "Giant" started with a phenomenal bass part that seemed to go as deep as the instrument could possibly allow. Anderson's playing was wonderfully prominent throughout, but Iverson's careful keyboard work and King's more subtle drumming propelled everyone to the top of the song, where the muscular playing was barely kept in control. It was a beautiful display of Anderson's composing and playing skills.

"Giant" seemed like the high point of the concert, and afterwards the group recovered with some less challenging fare. The next song, "1980 World Champion," is the latest in King's songs about a hard-working ski jumper named Jimmy Carter.  It's a good song, fun to see played, just like the next song, the band's cover of David Bowie's "Life on Mars." Their fine rendition which imbued the song with great uneasiness and ended with the drums threatening to crash through.

This perfectly prefigured the last song of the regular set, Anderson's masterpiece "Physical Cities," which was immediately obvious as the real climax of the evening. The trio expertly exploited the tune's cyclical structure, using Iverson's climbing figure to create great tension before finding cacophonous release in a series of enormous drum-bass breaks that required insanely tight playing between Anderson and King. "Physical Cities" is a great album track, and it was stupendous live. What can verge on merely repetitive when coming out of the stereo is energizing and searching when flowing off the stage. The demolition-site finish was perfect for both the song and the concert. (The obligatory encore was "Tom Sawyer," a decent rock song that is a decent jazz song but not nearly so strong as "Physical Cities" or the other new tunes.)

All in all, it was an excellent time. Kudos to Northfield's ArtOrg for arranging it, and to the band for playing a hell of a good show. 

It's Not the Heat

Today's was bad weather: a cool sauna.



I jogged through the misty evening last night for about an hour, getting very wet from the fog, rain, and tree-dripping but having a pretty good time. An hour's not a bad length of time to work out, really. By October or so, I hope I can get up to about two hours of running or, more likely, rollerskiing, though in the fall the limitation isn't fitness so much as daylight. 

And but so, my sense of accomplishment was immediately diminished to baby-frog size by reading about some recent workouts by Kris Freeman, the top U.S. cross-country skier. In building up his capacity, Freeman is doing some "mega overdistance" workouts, such as a 200 mile bike ride that took ten and a half hours. Such a workout sounds both appalling and attractive - the former because my god, that's gotta hurt; the latter because my god, you could eat anything.


A few weeks ago, I blogged about the giant toad that was lurking outside our back door. Sunday, after a big overnight rainstorm, and again today, after another, we are suddenly under amphibian assault by hundreds of teensy-tiny frogs, no bigger than pencil erasers, clearly just hatched and on the move. This morning, there were literally dozens just outside the garage door, waiting to come on in. Some found their ways into the house, under the storm door or patio screen. On the way back from my run, I couldn't help but squash a few underfoot, they were still so numerous on the sidewalk along the pond.

It all sounds rather disturbing, and certainly is so to Shannon, but come on - aren't they kinda cute? 



I read and admire Laid-Off Dad, a blog which features some of the best writing I've seen on the web, and no shortage of smart and funny parenting anecdotes. In today's post on a fun day with his two boys he links to a fantastic photograph that simply must be seen to be believed.

Mac Daddy

I was up at Macalester College today for a meeting, and I marveled again at the rebirth of the alma mater. Over the 12 years since graduation, at least a half-dozen buildings have been substantially renovated or built from scratch, including the now several-years-old campus center, which is as plush and comfy as a good hotel. Well, maybe not that nice, but 2007 to the old student union's 1967. Even shoddy old Turck Hall has been revitalized; no word on what Fourth Turck is like these days.

Beyond being impressed by the fresh brick, shiny new windows, and lush landscaping, though, I was amazed at how small the campus feels. Carleton's isn't by any means a sprawling campus, but the Bald Spot seems like Central Park (New York's, not Northfield's) compared to the itsy-bitsy spot of grass framed by the chapel, the admin building, Old Main, and the new union.

More than all that, I was overwhelmed by a desire to bring the girls up to see campus, even if of course they would hardly care about it. Julia would like the new scenery, and the multicolored, kid-sized brontosaurus on Grand Avenue would be appealing to both of them. Perhaps some Saturday this summer...

From the Mouth of

Largely because I have a kid who says crazy stuff (and a pre-verbal kid who soon will), I love hearing about the crazy stuff kids say. This, from the inimitable Mimi Smartypants, is pretty good:
      3. After a dinner of buttered, Parmesaned noodles and a pint of blueberries, Nora said, "That was the best dinner ever. If I were an anaconda a wild pig would be the best dinner ever. Also I would not chew my food."


Reassuring advice from a news update I get every day:

Safety first: Planning is key to a good hike
A summer or fall hiking adventure does not have to result in injury, death or a costly search-and-recovery mission.

Father's Day

Quite a good Father's Day, frankly: playing in the sprinkler with Julia in the morning, opening gifts (including a mug with this photo on it!), a nice long workout while the girls napped, heading downtown for ice cream and some bookstore-browsing in the afternoon, lots of playtime with the girls before a delicious dinner, and a reasonably long evening. And while this doesn't sum up to a funny story like this one, I'm pretty happy with the day.

Flickr Photos

I just uploaded a few dozen new photos to Flickr, mostly from Julia's recent birthday.


Fables of the Reconstruction

The City of Northfield has begun a project to reconstruct Woodley Street, a main east-west route through the middle of town. Narrow, twisty, and lacking a shoulder, Woodley is also the only main route from our subdivision to town. When I have to bike along along Woodley, as I do every day I bike to work, I go as fast as I can until I can turn off onto another, safer road.

But improvements might be on the way. The city is soliciting public comments on the project, and here's mine:

I live a block off Woodley, near the eastern end of the construction zone, and I'm very excited by the plans for and goals of the project. My excitement stems from three sources.

First and perhaps foremost, improved biking/walking paths along Woodley will help knit my subdivision into the rest of the city. Right now, it's difficult and dangerous to get from our neighborhood into the rest of the city (i.e., west of Prairie) except by car. By providing easy and safe ways to walk and bike to the rest of town, the project will dramatically improve the livability of the subdivision.

Second, and relatedly, improving the bike access along Woodley will improve the commuting situation. I presently bike to work at Carleton, and the few hundred yards between Prairie and Heywood is always dicey, with those curves, bad road surfaces, poor shoulders, and speeding SUVs. Better bike connections to the city grid will thus make bike commuting more feasible for everyone in my subdivision - and feed into the city's (and citizenry's) interest in more sustainable development of the town.

Finally, and to continue in this vein, improving the stretch of Woodley east of Prairie will be a boon to the many bikers, runners, walkers, and rollerskiers who use the Woodley St.-Kane Ave.-Wall St. loop for training. Looking out my back window on any decent day, I don't have to wait more than five minutes before seeing another person (or a group) go by on a workout. I can easily foresee heavier use of this loop if and when it's not so hazardous to get out to and then past the heaviest development, that of the area just east of the golf course along Woodley. Who knows but that the "Wind Turbine Loop" couldn't become a major destination for aerobic athletes?

In sum, I applaud the city's plans and I look forward to seeing them come to fruition. I will eagerly participate in additional citizen-centered planning.

Thank you.

June Swoon

In addition to the progressive health care, the excellent environment, the humane social policies, the cool flags, and the fantastic sporting culture, Scandinavia has good June weather:

Snow falling in central Sweden

Northfield Tunes

We're just back from the annual Justin Roberts concert sponsored by the Northfield Public Library. As it was last year, the show was excellent. Genevieve had a good time, despite being up one and then two and then nearly three hours past her bedtime: she spent a good chunk of time singing along with the other kids. Well, inasmuch as "Rahr rahr rahr rahr" is singing. Julia went right up front to sing and dance with the other kids, and spent a good fifteen minutes dancing maniacally. She was more subdued for the rest of the concert, but still sang along and was happy to see her friends. The whole freaking town was there.

And "Robbie" himself: what a showman. Almost all of his songs have associated gestures or movements or other ways for the kids to participate, and boy, do they. He even updated one of his best songs, about the nine planets, to reflect current astronomical knowledge. "Oh yes there's eight, eight, say it one more time..."

With the kids' music out of the way we can turn to the music for the grownups: the Bad Plus show on Friday, June 22. Campus - though empty of students - is well covered with posters for the show, and tickets are finally available at the Goodbye Blue Monday coffeehouse downtown. The show is getting some good press, including a story on a jazz website , and the new disk, PROG, is garnering more good reviews. I can't wait. I won't be singing along, though.

A Tuesday in June

It's the end of a subtly busy day. A long workshop this morning meant that my desk time was severely limited, engendering that sense of being just a tad behind. This afternoon, Minnesota Public Radio ran a story on my former employer; the reporter had interviewed me a few weeks ago and put a few scraps of what I said - though not my main point - into the story. So far, no flak, though I do look "devious," as a friend said, in my photo. Devious, or doped up on an extra-large iced coffee.

This evening, after a tumultuous few hours of wrestling with Genevieve (teething and overtired) and Julia (increasingly thrilled over and adept at her potty training), I went for a run in the Arb. Good weather, decent nutrition today, and energy from not having run yesterday turned it into my longest run since 1990, when I was running high school cross country. All told, it was 1:22 of constant motion over 13.5 km or 8.4 miles.  I ran near a big deer, over a six-inch length of dried snakeskin, under a blue heron in flight, and through a dark grove of pine trees. I think my knees are going to hurt a bit tomorrow, but it was worth it.


1. Reading a book to Julia last night, she noticed that two girls playing dress-up were wearing high heeled shoes. Dividing them up in her customary way, she said, "The brown hi-eels are for the daddy and the white hi-eels are for the mama." I replied, "Actually, honey, only women wear high-heeled shoes like these. They're like dresses, or skirts; men don't wear them." She paused a moment, then said, "Except men in Scotland." I was mystified, so she explained, "Men in Scotland wear kilts, Daddy." Assign responsibility for her knowing this to Richard Scarry: his kilt-wearing Scotty dogs have struck again.

2. Continuing her avid bathtime play with the little red cup, Genevieve is now giving drinks to the frog-faced loofah, to the tiny little teddy bear that she also plays with, and to her own reflection in the shiny cover to the overflow drain. This last one is troubling, she finds, because when she leans in to offer a sip, the reflected baby disappears. Back up a bit, she reappears. Lean in, she disappears. And on and on.

3. This evening, Julia and I were discussing how we bought our "new" car last spring around this time. My expert storytelling included the line, "We went to the car store to pick up our new car." She was silent for a second, then asked, "Was it in parts?" I didn't catch on, so I said, "No, it was all in one piece, so we could drive it home." "But Daddy you said 'pick it up.' It's too big to pick up!" Ding ding, the lightbulb goes on. "Oh, I said a funny thing, honey. That kind of 'pick up' just means 'to get,' like how we say we are going to 'pick up some groceries.' You can also 'pick up' particular small things, like toys." I was aware that this was a bad, bad explanation, so then I chirped, "Hey look at all the soccer players!"


It's finally playground season again in Northfield, and we have celebrated with a few solid trips to city parks in the last week. Julia had a great time at each place, and before too long, Genevieve will be able to join in some of the fun. (Knowing her, she'll love the slides as much as her sister feared them.)

I hope that Julia's greater physical dexterity, agility, and bravery will combine to make our playground-going easier. Last summer, it seemed like we were constantly going to a park that had equipment that was either too old (big, complicated, dangerous) for her or too young (small, easy, uninteresting) for her. This spring, she's already successfully ascended one of those metal ladder-arch structures, which was amazing and wonderful.

As the girls enjoy the playgrounds this year, I'll enjoy watching them and my fellow parents, who are at least as interesting as the kids. Metro Dad recently offered eight types of playground parents, such as
Species: Worrius Protectus
Signature Behavior: Standing within 12 inches of their child at all times!
Distinctive Markings: First aid kit fanny pack, anti-bacterial wipes, furrowed brow
Natural Enemies: Unsupervised children
Mating Call: "Wait for mommy! Don't climb that!"
The hoverer is usually a woman, most often the mother of an only child whom she protects like the last surviving member of the Hapsburg family. She's the one who is constantly worried that her child might fall down at any given moment and it's her responsibility to make sure that NEVER happens!  When the kid is climbing the jungle gym, she puts her hand on his behind.  When he's going down the slide, she's always right there to catch him at the bottom.  If he's on the swing, someone must be standing both in front of him AND behind him at all times.

I'd add a distinctive Northfield type:
Farmer off the Farm
Species:  Farmus Familius
Signature Behavior: scrubbing mud off the truck while the kids play, looking dimly at the other parents
Distinctive Markings: meshback hat worn authentically, not ironically; heavy, dirty boots; Carhartt pants
Natural Enemies: "city kids" and their parents
Mating Call: sound of extended-cab Ford F250 revving its engine
The Farmer off the Farm is usually a man, taking a break from seeding or fertilizing or whatever. He probably had to come into town to pick up a spare part for his tractor, and stopped off at the park on the way home so his three boys could clamber around the jungle gym. Each kid is far more daredevilish than any of the city kids, so there's plenty of faceplanting, running up the slide, throwing rocks at each other, and so forth. Through it all, the Farmer off the Farm sticks close to his truck, cleaning it up or just leaning against it, talking on his cell phone. Even farmers need cell phones! He doesn't interact with the other parents, and when it's time to go, he hops in the truck, turns on the engine, and honks the horn; the boys pile in, and they're roaring off before anyone's buckled in.

Thx, Mgr.

Blowing & Drifting is almost a year old already, so in an attempt to get my archives in order, I've set up a "redirect" to send readers from the regular front page to the page for a specific month. (If you're seeing this on the website, as versus via an RSS reader, you should have /06-2007 showing up at the end of the URL.) On the first of each month, I'll update the URL and archive the previous month's material. This all should be invisible to the reader; if you have troubles, let me know. Troubles, I mean, relating to the blog.

Polynesian Chickens

Last week, anthropologists announced discovering chicken bones in Chile which may indicate that Polynesians made it to the Americas at least a hundred years before Columbus. This kind of story is interesting at one level, but annoying at another. The endless quest to figure out who "found" America first - the Vikings? the Chinese? the Welsh?- is ultimately rather trivial. The Vikings' settlement collapsed; the Chinese probably never actually got to America, and almost certainly never settled here; the Welsh just wanted to fish; and the now apparently the Polynesians might've dropped off some fowl. Learning that other civilizations made it to North and South America after the land bridge but before Columbus is useful in the sense that it's always useful, or at least interesting, to have a better sense of history.

But on the other hand, history isn't the study of what happened so much as it is the study of why things happened, and what effects they had. In this case, the Vikings, Chinese, Welsh, and Polynesians matter far less than the Europeans. Only with and after Cristobal Colon did a dynamic relationship between the Americas and Europe - and soon, those regions plus Africa and, indirectly, Asia - exist, and transform all those places and the peoples within them. About the best you can say is what the Times says: "we get to marvel yet again at the thought of how far the Polynesians traveled and how well they knew their world. As Cook put it, 'It is extraordinary that the same nation should have spread themselves over all the isles in this vast ocean.'”

Knight Noise

With Carleton's graduation this weekend, the 2006-2007 academic year is well and truly over. With apologies to Don DeLillo:

The SUVs departed all afternoon, a long gleaming line that coursed out of campus. In single file they rolled under the college archway and moved away from the dormitories. The roofs of the SUVs were loaded down with carefully secured suitcases full of light and heavy clothing; with plastic bins of blankets, boots, and shoes, stationery and books, sheets, pillows, quilts; with rolled-up rugs and sleeping bags; with bicycles, skis, backpacks, flipflops and sandals, an occasional canoe. As the vehicles stopped and turned to head to the highway, students inside settled into the back seats, among the objects inside: the stereos, iPods, laptops; small refrigerators and microwaves; the cartons of CDs; the hairdryers and curling irons; the tennis rackets, soccer balls, hockey and lacrosse sticks, golf and ultimate frisbees; the controlled substances, the birth control pills and condoms; the junk food in half-empty bags--barbecue chips, nachos, mint-flavored Oreos, Tootie Fruities and Coco Roos, fruit snacks and cheese popcorn; the Charm Pops, the Andes mints.

Glad to See You, Too

The first thing Genevieve did today when I came home was raise her arms up, winglike, in the universal indication of needing to be picked up, and then plant a giant wet kiss on the tip of my nose.

Endowment Fun(d)s

Even dying can be fun, if you have a sense of humor about what to do with your estate:

Thanks to David Hildebrand '62, Carleton has a slush fund that's worth its salt. Hildebrand, a statistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania who died in 1999, had a lively sense of humor and a generous nature, which was the impetus for the David K. Hildebrand Endowed Fund for Ice and Snow Removal—a slush fund, literally. His family and friends, who created the fund, say that he was fond of wordplay and often composed limericks to include on his statistics exams.

If I'm ever rich enough to consider such a thing, I'm going to saddle Macalester (and maybe Carleton) with some sort of ridiculous endowment fund like this. Perhaps a nordic-ski grooming fund, with reports due to the stewardship office within five days of the end of any snowstorm with accumulations greater than 8 inches. Yeah, that's it.

It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature

By the time you read this, I'll probably have been struck by lightning four times, because I have been playing Mother Nature like a ukulele. Wednesday, it was windy but clear when I biked to work and when I biked home; around noon it blew and rained hard enough that the backyard grass was still soaked at dinnertime.

Thursday morning, I biked again, despite ominous predictions of "explosive weather" on the radio and Shannon's eye-rolling at my certainty that it'd all pan out. It was gusty all day, but Northfield saw no rain or other inclemency. The headwind on the way home was harsh, but that's the point of low gears.

Thursday evening, feelin' it, I went for a run. Within ten minutes of starting, I felt a few sprinkles, and from the ridge at the east edge of the Arb I could see heavy rain to the west and the north. But the clouds rotated right around me, and never did open up - until literally the second I stopped running at our doorstep, whereupon giant summer raindrops fell for about five minutes.

Five chances of getting soaked, five escapes. Like I said, I'm due for something bad on Friday!

Think Snow

Now that it's June, we can reasonably assume we won't get any snow. (60 years ago, living through a giant late-May storm, we might have been overconfident.) As such, NOAA has released snowfall maps, like this one for Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

UP snow 2006-07

Just to do the math for you, 288 inches is 24 feet. Of snow. Much of that massive total came in one "snow event" in March, summarized on this map. Hancock, my hometown, is just north of the red-purple stripe running northeast up the Keweenaw Peninsula - right about where it says that 42 inches of snow fell in six days, and just north of a spot that received more than 60 inches! Five feet of snow in five days. As they say up there, "Holy wah."

This is where I think global warming is going to lead. Not just to higher average temperatures in every season, but toward more unpredictable weather: huge late-season snowfalls, unexpectedly early tornadoes, stronger and later hurricanes, and so forth. If we get a few May snowstorms here in the low-snow belt, I won't complain.

Brand Loyalty

Jogging through the subdivision on my ways to and from the Arb for my real run this evening, I was struck suddenly by the number of houses with garages that contained two or more vehicles of the same mark - sometimes, even the same model. One garage - the one in which the owners often sit at a patio table, watching TV and smoking - contains two identical Toyota Avalons, one silver and one blue. Down and across the street is a house with two Saabs, a station wagon and a sporty sedan; next door is a place with a Chevy Silverado pickup and a Chevy Suburban SUV. There's a house with two BMWs (and a junky-looking Oldsmobile) and a house with two Grand Caravan minivans. And just off my running path is a house with a three-car garage so full of stuff that the three Chevy Trailblazers - an old one, a new regular-sized one, and a new extended one - have to sit on the driveway, along with one ancient golden retriever.

Tour de Farce

The current spate of doping-related scandals in pro cycling offers up any number of things to be sad about (the waste of human vitality, the venality of the cheating racers and coaches, the spectre of incompetent testing), but for my euros, the news that Bjarne Riis will disappear from the Tour de France record books is (so far) the saddest: 

Bjarne Riis will disappear from official Tour de France publications. That's according to a report in The Guardian newspaper, where Tour organizer Christian Prudhomme said the Dane's name will not appear in official Tour record books following his recent confessions he used banned doping products to win the 1996 Tour. "Formally it's down to the (UCI) to disqualify him, but for us he can no longer be the winner and he has already been wiped from the road book [the official press guide] you will see at the start of the Tour," Prudhomme told reporter William Fotheringham. Riis became the first Tour winner to confess to using illegal performance-enhancing doping products. An existing eight-year statute of limitations will allow him to officially keep title, but Tour officials said they would not recognize the victory as legitimate. UCI officials publicly asked Riis to return the maillot jaune. In a May 25 press conference, Riis said: "My jersey is at home in a cardboard box. They are welcome to come and get it. I have my memories for myself." 

This is Stalinist, and ridiculous. Riis won the Tour, but now, having admitted cheating, will be excised from its history, unlike other winners who probably doped but haven't admitted it - or can't: is anyone moving to strip the '98 Tour title from Marco Pantani, who was known to have doped and in fact died from a cocaine overdose?

Good News/Bad News

The bad news out of the cross-country ski world is that four athletes, including the formerly-rising Russian star Sergey Shiriaev, have received bans after getting caught doping last season. Shiriaev can't compete again until March 2009. The other three dopers were all from Kazakhstan, which raises some serious questions about what's been going on in that country, where budget problems, not to mention political strife, have diminished the quality of the skiers' results since their heyday immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

More positively, the ageless Italian racer Silvio Fauner has been named the head coach of that country's national team. Fauner had an illustrious career as a skier, the climax of which was outsprinting Bjorn Daehlie to win the 4x10km relay at the Lillehammer Olympic Games in 1994 - a stunning defeat for the host in the games' marquee event, and the signal that Italy had emerged into the top tier of ski powers. (And after "retiring," he raced ski marathons, amassing almost twenty top-10 finishes over the last five years.) Fauner replaces another member of the '94 relay team, Marco Albarello, who had recently been criticized by the skiers. Fauner can only hope to improve on Italy's mediocre performances last season. The Italian team finished sixth in the Nations' Cup standings (6100 points behind winner Norway and 1150 points behind fifth-placed Sweden); Italian racers rarely made the podium during the regular World Cup (one win for male sprinter Renato Pasini; a sprint win and a distance bronze for female racer Arianna Follis), and won only a gold and two bronzes at the World Championships.

I'm Genevieve, and I'll Be Your Server Tonight

Tonight, like most nights, Genevieve entertained herself in the bathtub by playing with a little red cup. Julia had, at the same age, loved the same cup, so it's a nice parallel. Tonight, though, Genevieve decided it would be fun to pretend to drink from it, so she held it up to her mouth and made her hilariously garbled, "Num num num" sound. I asked, "Can I have a drink, Gigi?" and immediately she held it up to my mouth, laughing at how silly that was. After a few minutes of this, Julia wandered into the bathroom, and Genevieve offered her a few sips; this got all the funnier when Julia made an exaggerated "sip sip sip" sound, playing right along. We called down to Mama, and when she came in, she was duly given a "yittle dwink" as well. This was the funniest of all, because Mama in the bathroom during a bath is nearly unprecedented, and giving her water? Forget about it.

Second in Line

Catherine Newman's new column addresses a subject I've been thinking a lot and worrying a little about recently: Gigi's second-ness. It's so far hard to see if she's being positively or negatively affected by being the second kid (for every sibling's birthday party she spends in a high chair, far from the action, there are ten meals she starts first because her baby tummy can't wait any longer), but I do feel a vague sense of hands-offedness with her. Will I spend even half as mnay hours with Gigi as she crawls around the living room or clambers around the playground equipment as I did with Julia? Probably not, because virtually every minute I'm spending with G. is also a minute spent with J. But on the other hand, it sure seems that Gigi is built on a different mental chassis: I looked up from the sink the other morning after realizing that I hadn't heard her in a few minutes, only to find her sitting in front of a basket of toys, calmly and methodically pulling a doll out onto her lap. It was hard, time-consuming, so she was concentrating.

North by Northeast


In Northfield, the clouds are our mountains.

Julia's Birthday Week by the Numbers

3: distinct gatherings to celebrate her birthday
9: days from the first event to the last one
25: attendees at the three events (12 at the first one, with her playgroup friends; 6 at the second with Grandma and her friend, and 7 at the third with Nonna and Boppa)
~10: times Julia productively used the potty over the weekend
~10 X 2: number of M&Ms she garnered for those uses
3: wheels on her Big Wheel
1.5: blocks she rode on that Big Wheel before encountering a "hill" too steep to climb
infinite: raindrops that fell on Saturday afternoon
infinite +1: times Julia snatched a new present away from Genevieve (minimum)
2: soccer nets she received from Mom and Dad
~50: goals she shot into those nets
1 bazillion: pictures of the Disney "Princesses" in the art kit she got from her cousins
10: minutes it took to figure out that the kit's big-girl paint required dampening with a wet brush
4: number of times she had to repeat "Richard Scarry don com" to her dad before he understood that she is a member of the Internet Generation (she picked up the "don com" by hearing "Sesame Street dot com" at the end of that show)
7: minimum number of hours of sleep deficit built up by Sunday night
6:45: bedtime on Sunday, June 3
3: years old as of June 3

Happy birthday, Bobo!

For Those About to Rock

ArtOrg has released more details on the upcoming Bad Plus show in Northfield: it's at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 22, at the Carleton Concert Hall. Apparently the Lutherans across the Cannon couldn't fit the jazz music into their schedule... No word yet on ticket prices or whether the dial goes to 11.

The Weekend

I'll have much more to say about the splendid birthday weekend tomorrow, after recovering a bit from that splendiferousness, but suffice now to say that any weekend is a good weekend in which the low point was an extremely fun and hilarious Sunday dinner on the patio. No ham was served, but the corn on the cob somehow elicited hamminess on the parts of the two children in attendance.

Julia: "I fink I have raspberry juice on my diaper."

Genevieve: "Raaawr! Raaawr! Raaawr!" then silence as she gnawed her cob.