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Two Anecdotes, One Picture

I. Whenever I'm carrying her, Genevieve loves to attack and try to remove anything on my head: hat, sunglasses, eyeglasses, and especially those dastardly hearing aids. I almost dropped her the other day when she gouged at the left device and pushed it so far into the ear canal I couldn't dig it out. Painful, man.


II. Julia is very concerned, at each meal and snack, about her utensils. We habitually put out a fork and a spoon, no matter when we're eating, and invariably she'll scan her plate, determine that one or the other is superfluous, and pose a characteristic question, "What's for my spoon?" Tonight, I was hurrying a bit too much and accidentally put two forks next to her plate. She actually yelled in shock when she walked up and  saw them both there, then gave me the three-year-old's third degree: "Daddy, you gave me TWO forks! I don't need two forks! Why am I having two forks? I'm going to put one away!" Brandishing one fork in each hand, she marched over to the kitchen counter, chose the inferior one, put it on the corner, and marched back to her chair.


These quirks aside, the girls are increasingly able to share time and space. This shot, from a scene that lasted about ten minutes, makes me very happy:

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Target of Opportunity

At Target this evening, I encountered two oddities. First, everything I purchased was or was packaged in green: workout shorts, shampoo, diaper wipes, potato chips, dishwasher soap, and rechargeable batteries. Second, the batteries: a four-pack of AAs cost $11; a four-pack with a charger cost $10. Capitalism doesn't make sense to me.

PowerBaller

When I win the lottery, which could occur as early as Wednesday (should I remember to buy a ticket), I will blow big (but relatively small) chunks of dough on these two trips:


Epic Ascents I

September 14-23, 2007: 9 days and almost 500 miles of cycling through southeastern France, including the Tour de France climbs up the Cols du Glandon, du Télégraphe, du Galibier, and de la Madeleine as well as the 21 switchbacks of l'Alpe d'Huez. Imagine the ache in your legs. Imagine the great food in your belly.


March 4-10, 2008: A trip to ski-mad Norway for two big events: city-center sprints in Drammen on Wednesday, March 5, and then, on Saturday, the traditional marathon at Holmenkollen in Oslo. "Holmenkollen is one of the oldest races in the world.  This marathon (30km women, 50km men) takes place on a grueling 16.5km loop through the woods above town.  There are many, many hundred of km of ski trails so bring your skis and consider staying for the Birkiebeiner the following weekend... When you think of watching Holmenkollen picture Le Alpe Du Huez [sic] in the Tour De France – where the crowd makes a tunnel around the athletes as they churn past.  You are not only close you are a part of the event, a part of what makes Holmenkollen as cool as it is." And on top of that spectating spectacle, Norwegian skiing legend Vegard Ulvang is the tour guide - the equivalent of having Michael Jordan in your skybox at the NBA Finals - minus the surliness and gambling problems.

State of Nature

This was one of those great weekends that rewards Minnesotans for the vagaries of our four seasons. The temperatures were perfect, the humidity was low, bright sunshine dominated every day, we had little to do but go outside, and it seemed that nature was right on our doorstep.


Probably the best single part of the weekend was our family walk around the St. Olaf campus, which is, as Shannon said already, fantastically beautiful. Carleton pays the bills, but goodness gracious, those Lutherans can really set up an appealing campus. The wonderful Adirondack chairs! We're already planning to go back: grandparents, prepare yourselves.


Back at home, we were visited by a new neighbor, a lithe little ground squirrel that darts over our patio, pauses to assess opportunities for food, and then zooms off in another direction. It's a pretty cute animal, and apparently the inspiration for the U of M's Golden Gopher. It's somehow fitting that Goldie isn't actually a gopher.


Julia and I on Saturday and Julia, Genevieve, and I on Sunday also hit our favorite park. Both days, Julia ran a "race" that entailed about twenty circuits of a ladder/platform/ slide route; it did a great job of knocking her out for her nap. Sunday, Genevieve happily crawled all around the playground structure and even went down the slide with me - perhaps her first trip down a slide.


And each evening, I managed to get out into the excellent weather for workouts (3:21:33 altogether). Rollerskiing on Friday, I was accompanied by a red-tailed hawk that slowly tracked me for about five kilometers of my route before peeling off to find some mouse meat. Except for the raptor, I saw little on the roads except corn to the left of me and soybeans to the right of me. (Everybody must get grown!) But running in the Arb on Saturday, I saw a deer, scared up hundreds of locusts, and marveled at the oceans of shoulder-high black eyed susans. The daily, weekly, and monthly changes in the Arb are, honestly, exciting to experience. In May, a big chunk of my run crossed a restored prairie that was black and barren after a controlled burn. Saturday, that same path was almost a tunnel, with eight-foot grasses towering over me, and this overhead.

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Yum!

Genevieve, 11-month-old food scientist, is using our test kitchen to invent new delicacies, such as a thick slice of swiss cheese dipped into cocoa powder. I think she just found my lunch for the next week.


(New Flickr photos from the weekend's fun, too.)

A Plea to Inventors

Someone out there, please invent a bottomless root beer float. It would have to be more or less stationary, though I'd be willing to work with a certain footage of hosing, but it the device would have to consist of a big mug into which vanilla ice cream and good root beer would automatically flow, maintaining a constant level of floatage and/or ensuring that the root beer and ice cream run out at the same time.


Thank you.

Crayoungest

On Thursday, Genevieve made her very first attempt to use a crayon. In true second-child style, this milestone entailed competition with her sister. Standing next to Julia at the easel, she picked up a discarded crayon, stared very intently at Julia for a few seconds, and tried to do what she saw Big Sister doing. She wound up with a web of very light blue lines on the paper. Then she tried to eat the crayon and I had to take it away.

Today while a friend visited, we recounted the words she's using right now: "Mama," "Dada," "num-num," "Boo-yuh" ("Julia"), and "alldy" ("all done"). Not a bad list: it gets things done.

College of the Twilight Zone

Campus is weird right now. I'm not sure if it's the summer heat, the fact that the ghosts of the regular student body have finally fled, a high number of vacation absences in the skeleton crew of staff and faculty, or something else, but it feels College of the Twilight Zone right now. I'm almost surprised to meet someone else as I pass through some of the bigger buildings or more out-of-the-way sidewalks.

The people I do encounter are often of un-Carleton character: lots of townies, taking advantage of the ever-running sprinklers,
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and an even bigger number of Japanese students, on campus for an intensive English-language course. Looking at them is, in some ways, like seeing the future, especially in re. clothing. Not to say that these visitors are more uniformly uniformed than the average Carl (or Northfield kid), but the differences can be striking. First and foremost, black and white are pretty much the prevailing colors: it's rare to see anything bright at all. The men look pretty much like American peers, in polo shirts and long baggy shorts, though many have marvelously crafted hair, and few seem to wear sunglasses. The women most frequently wear (faux?) retro t-shirts with skinny shin-length jeans or capris with multiple sets of ties along the leg, lending a kind of Western-fringe look to them. And most amazingly, the predominant hairstyle among the women is a ponytail drawn up on the left and slung forward over the shoulder. On my way home today, I passed two different trios of women, all of whom had their hair done that way. I haven't seen any cell phones, so I can't tell if they're all using thumb-sized Japanese devices that we won't see in the States for years.

Visitors aren't the only way that campus feels a bit off right now. Outside the student post office window are several U.S. Postal Service bins, each heaped with magazines that the p.o. won't forward to the student recipients. They're all free for the taking: have one copy or ten of last week's Economist or ESPN the Magazine. I passed on the former, but accepted the latter as a way to catch up on all the slang the kewl kidz (or their manipulators in the culture economy) are using. Unfortunately, all I learned was why Travis Pastrana matters. Some things, you can't unlearn.

Grant Fun

Believe it or not, grantwriting can be amusing, both intentionally and un-. First, the intentional.

My Nonprofit R&B Group's Set List
By Davin Stengel
"Let's Submit the Grant Application of Love"
"Your At-Risk Youth Outreach Program Makes Me Sweat"
"Ooh, Girl, Our Bylaws Don't Prohibit Your Involvement in My Daily Operations"
"I'll Make Love to Your Matching Funds"
"Tonite's the Nite We Update Our Mailing List"
"U Revised My Mission Statement"

Second, the unintentional: if you win a fellowship from the American Institute of Pakistan Studies, you can use the funds "for research on materials relating to the history and culture of Pakistan in any country EXCEPT Pakistan and the US." So that's an easy research project, then - you can work in neither the country you're studying, nor the country you're resident in. My friend Matt says, hilariously, "At the Pakistani Institute of American Studies, though, you're encouraged to study America's infrastructure and its weak points."

Le Dopage

I just settled into the sofa to watch the end of today's coverage of the Tour de France - the decisive climb up the Col d'Aubisque, a mythical spot in the annals of the Tour - when the crawl at the bottom of the screen said that Michael Rasmussen, who won the stage and sealed the maillot jaune, had been kicked out of the Tour and fired from his team over vague but damning doping concerns.


C'est incroyable. It's as if a quarterback, having just given thrown a long touchdown pass to give his team the lead midway through the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, is yanked from the game, fired by his team, and run on a rail out of town. The Tour has seen a lot of low points in the last nine years (as I described elsewhere), but this is by far the lowest. Rasmussen just crossed the finish line on the recap show, and the crowd's boos were audible. 


At least now we might get a clean champion - and a meaningful last few stages. Depending on how the Tour treats the removal (the official site still shows Rasmussen in yellow) by adjusting time bonuses for stage wins and such, we should see Alberto Contador in first, about two minutes up on Cadel Evans and three on Levi Leipheimer. Evans and Leipheimer are both good time-trialers, though probably not good enough to take that much time on Contador on Saturday.

On the other hand, an article in the International Herald Tribune today by Samuel Abt, the dean of cycling journalists, had this great quote from a French spectator: "It's not the riders I care about. It's the Tour de France. The riders come and go, the Tour is forever."

Photos

See Flickr for photos of Tassava-related activities, right up to yesterday. 

An Elm-Shaped Hole

Carleton's the kind of place where last week we received an email from Facilities about the imminent removal of a mammoth tree on the edge of the Bald Spot, the open space at the center of the main part of campus. It was infected with Dutch elm disease that resisted treatment and threatened other elms around campus. It's the titan at the center of this photo.

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A team of workers took it down on Monday. It was fitting that it took several men, a couple trucks, a lot of heavy equipment, and all day to cut the tree down.


Walking along the opposite side of the Bald Spot today, I was amazed to see the massive hole this trimming created.

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This stump - about four feet in diameter - is all that's left now, and I'm sure the stump-chippers are on the way. I counted rings for a few seconds, and got up to 60 without a problem, so I'll bet this tree was about half as old as the college.

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Tour de France

I blogged about the ongoing Tour de France over at After School Snack, and I'll follow up there soon with some commentary about today's penultimate mountain stage, but for now, after watching the recap of the incredible attacks today, two lists. (Combined, they have sixteen items; Wednesday's stage is no. 16.)


Why I Could Win the Tour de France

1. Belgian heritage (two words: Eddie Merckx).

2. Enjoy going uphill on skis, feet, bikes, etc.

3. Liver actually generates EPO naturally.

4. Always wear my helmet.

5. Bike every day already.

6. Have the brains but not the wallet needed to become a big-time gear junkie.

7. Would love to bike more than I do.


Why I Could Not Win the Tour de France

1. Finnish heritage (one word: hiihtoliitto)

2. Don't much like going downhill on a bike.

3. Have a kinda crummy bike.

4. Bad knees already.

5. Have never been overseas.

6. Would want to stop to eat in all the towns.

7. Would suffer a nervous breakdown if forced to ride through the insane mountaintop crowds

8. Possess absolutely normal physiology, and am kinda chunky for a bike racer.

9. Cannot ride a bike without holding on to the handlebars.

Gigiday

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Sleep's a zero-sum game with Genevieve, so after her mega-nap yesterday we should have expected her to wake up 4.5 hours early this morning. But we didn't, and were surprised when she woke up around 3:00 a.m., clearly ready to get this party started. Shannon took one for the team, taking Gigi downstairs for an hour of playing and nursing. Then the baby blessedly went back to slumberland for another 90 minutes, when I had to punch in.


Little did I know that this would kick off a great day of mostly one-on-one time with her. She was, honestly, delightful from the time I got her up until she went down for her morning nap: she relished every bite of her breakfast, she had a great time handing me books to read (well, to flip through, reading a few pages before the next book arrived), and she loved trading two balls back and forth. Soon after she woke up from that nap, Shannon and Julia headed off to the county fair, leaving G and me to our own devices. We played for a long time (with the Tour de France on in the background), did some chores (including vacuuming - which normally terrifies her but which today she tolerated), and had a good lunch. At the end of the lunch, after putting away a very healthy quantity of food, she leaned back, looked at me, and said, "Alldy" - "all done," the statement all three of us have been trying to get her to say for weeks. Just to test it out, I offered her a bite of each item, and she rejected them all. My little girl, using an more-or-less real word!


Soon after lunch, Mama and sister returned for their own lunches, which devolved for Julia into a minor meltdown. Witnessing this unpleasantness, Genevieve leaned out of my arms to put her head on Julia's shoulder, making her patented "mwah" sound. Julia deigned to accept a kiss, and it actually ended the fussiness.


And then, after both girls took good naps and enjoyed some snacks (the photo's from this part of the day), we headed out for a walk. Julia pushed a toy stroller carrying her suddenly-loved babydoll, "Chubby Cutes," and Genevieve, amazingly, pushed her own walker for almost of all one circumnavigation of our block. I had to carry her by the end, when her plump little legs finally gave out. From there, things went smoothly through dinner and bath to bedtime and the end of a wonderful day.

Saturd-oy

Thanks to her illness, poor Genevieve felt miserable all day, and was only in an okay mood after a mammoth 4.5-hour afternoon nap. Since Shannon was gone for a good chunk of the day, it was mostly up to me and Julia to try to help Gigi. Julia was, as usual, a great trouper, reading books and otherwise entertaining herself while I tried to placate, feed, soothe, or just comfort Genevieve. When Shannon got home, Julia described her sister's crying as "sad and boring," which cracked us both up with its accuracy and pithiness.


But then we broke the monotony by taking our bike and trailer downtown for a snack and an hour at the park. Julia''s ever-evolving physical abilities are a marvel to behold: today she hung without support from the jungle gym: an astounding advance. And she veritably scrambles up the climbing thingies, not even any longer pausing to crow about how she'd just done it "all by MYself."

Velvety Smooth

Today was a strange day. It started about this time last night, when Genevieve threw up and we had one of those horrible half-hours of frantic scrubbing, cleaning her up, and getting her weeping self back to bed.


Things were more or less okay in the morning before and after I left for work, but all afternoon I was the only person in the office, which always gives me a bad case of peopleshock when I have to interact with other humans. Around three, Shannon finally decided to bring an increasingly feverish Gigi to the clinic, an appointment which wound up taking two hours and kicked off an especially frantic dinner-and-bedtime routine. On the plus side, at dinner Julia recited a ten-line poem she memorized, and Gigi seemed okay (though tired and still sick) by six.


Once the girls were in bed, I headed out for a long run in the Arb. I took my usual long route, which is changing now almost day to day. I ran the same trails on Tuesday, but today long stretches were lined with hundred of delicate bright blue bellflowers. Toward the end of my session, I had a close-up encounter with a six-point buck - perhaps the same deer I encountered the other week. I could have almost touched him on the nose with the tip of my ski pole; I could see the individual strands of fuzz on his velvety antlers. He just stared at me and after I passed ambled across the trail and into the brush.

Tasty

A humdrum day ended here with a jaunt to the "Taste of Northfield," our town's pint-sized parallel to the Taste of Minneapolis or, good god, the Taste of Chicago. The event is a dozen or so food stands on one side of Bridge Square, a stage with some musical acts on the other side, and picnic tables around the fountain in between. We ate quite well for about eight bucks (U.S.), with Julia shaming her parents by choosing and devouring some vegetable curry while we ate less exotic and less healthy stuff. While we hung out afterwards with friends and acquaintances, Julia and her friend Lucy spent their time watching the water burbling in the fountain.

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It's cute, but it could be cuter: in a perfect illustration of toddlerhood, the two cuties are actually studying the zillion dead bugs floating in the water.


Genevieve could not be released from the confines of the stroller, since she would have used her mobility to find and eat cellophane, discarded cigarette butts, french fries, and other delicacies. So she hung out in her seat, people-watching (and dog-screeching) and (the photo below notwithstanding) apparently not at all unhappy to have eaten a homemade pasta-and-peas dish rather than a "brat burger" (thumbs down) or a shredded pork sandwich. Here she dimly regards the photographer.

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A Day on the Water

Today was an embarrassingly good day, for the reason that my "work" day consisted of a couple hours of work in the morning, then a long cruise around Lake Minnetonka to celebrate my division's fiscal year. (In brief, we raised more money for Carleton than ever before.) The weather was great, the food and drink was delicious, the company was excellent, and the lake scenery was wonderful.

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Literally the second I walked in the door when I got home after this exhausting day, Julia ran up and asked, "Daddy, was there a captain on the boat?" My answer elicited a couple more questions then, and a torrent of queries over dinner: "What was the captain's name? Did he have friends? Duzeehavegasseseon? What color was his hat? Were there waves on the water? What did you eat for lunch? What kind of fruit was in the fruit salad? Did you like the dessert?" I half expect to discover a highly-detailed essay entitled "How My Daddy Spent His Wednesday" under her pillow tomorrow morning.

Vivi on the Verge

Eleven-month-old Genevieve is thisclose to talking in a clearly meaningful way. For the past fortnight or so, she has added a new word-ish sound every few days. "Mama" was first, and she is more and more confident with "Dada," as well. (Tuesday night, riding in the back of the car, she called out "Dada!" over and over, pausing each time to see if I replied. "Yes, honey? Do you need something?" *long pause* "Dada!")

The most charming thing she "says" so far is "mwah," which she'll do anytime she sees something she wants to kiss, hears someone giving or getting a kiss, or hears the word "kiss." These few "words" ain't much, of course, but just as I did when Julia was starting to talk, I am just bowled over by how personality emerges through even these shards of verbal expression. I can't wait to find out what she calls her sister.

Not Attired of the Question

Whenever she hears about someone whom she doesn't know, especially someone who is clearly an adult and/or somehow like Shannon or me, Julia asks a series of questions to get a general sense of the person (man/woman, parent/nonparent, name, and so forth) and then always follows up by asking, bizarrely and hilariously, "Do he have glasses on?" Actually, she says it all in one word-query: "Duzeehavegasseseon?"


Apart from the fact that Shannon and I both wear glasses (or contacts), I really don't know where Julia acquired this obsession with whether a person out there in the world does or does not wear glasses, or what her toddler brain does with the information. She doesn't seem either pleased or displeased to learn that John Doe or Jane Roe does or does not wear glasses, just satisfied to know. 

Working Out

I've been happy to be able to spend so much time outdoors so far this spring and summer. Though a lot of my outdoor time has been spent walking or playing with the girls, or commuting on my bike, virtually all my workout time has been spent in one of two places: the excellent rollerski loop on the roads near my house east of Northfield, or the wonderful trails of the Carleton Arb. Forthwith, a comparison.


In the Arb, I run or do a running version of "nordic walking"; on the rollerski route I either skate or double-pole. The Arb paths are rolling, curvy dirt paths which have numerous but not too-steep climbs; my favorite rollerski routes are on straight and level asphalt roads which ascend eight hills, three of which are rather steep (especially when descending them without brakes). Out in the savannah, prairie, and floodplain of the Arb, I see oak trees, grasses, and a few pines; on the farmland roads, I see corn, soybeans, ditch weeds, and more dandelions than I can shake a ski pole at. I share the Arb with lots of pheasant and other birds, a few squirrels and frogs, and the odd deer, while the ski route includes zillions of red-winged blackbirds as well as livestock like sheep, horses, and cows.

Human beings aren't absent in either place, though in the Arb I only rarely encounter anyone (usually a runner or walker, and pretty often townies smoking weed and fishing) and on the roads my fellow men are usually aboard cars, pickup trucks, the occasional lawnmower or tractor, and the rare bicycle. The jetsam I typically encounter in the Arb includes pinecones, fallen logs, animal tracks, mysterious numbered signs (actually points for the fantastic new "Interpretive Guide to the Arb", and a tick on my forearm. Out on the roads, I find stuff like empty Mountain Dew bottles, McDonalds wrappers, an empty pesticide container, and a rain-soaked copy of Hustler. The most imposing sights I've had have been a male pheasant, staring me down from his spot on a path in the Arb (I waited until he deigned to move), and the Carleton wind turbine, the majestic point around which my rollerski route seems to pivot.

Friendsday

One of the characteristics of my life as the breadwinning parent is that it's pretty rare  to be around Julia and Genevieve and other kids all at the same time. Obviously, it happens, but probably only as much over the course of several months as Shannon experiences in a week or two. When we had a big group of close friends, and their kids, over the other weekend, I got a glimpse of how the girls act in a group, but hardly enough to really study.


Today, though, I was able to see the girls in a big group, when some old family friends from the Cities came down with their three boys. In brief, it was fun and hilarious and confusing and fascinating. Genevieve is as watchful but insistent with others as she is by herself or just with Julia: she studied everything that was going on, but made sure to get the toy she really wanted. Properly, she groaned in annoyance when one of the boys took her ball, and then joyfully chomped on it when he was made to return it.


Julia was equally watchful, especially at first, and asked a zillion questions about the newcomers, but eventually warmed up to the visitors - especially the oldest and middle boys, whose ages bracket hers - and thoroughly enjoyed playing with them. From the younger boy, she learned how to go headfirst down the slide; from the older, that other kids, too, get wrapped up in mysterious imaginary play (in this case, scenes from the Backyardigans TV show). And she even felt comfortable enough with the boys' dad - a big guy of exactly the sort she usually avoids - to tell him all about her latest book-related hangup (a page in a new Pooh book which features clouds that look too much like scary masks). 


All in all, it was a ton of fun, and I was engrossed by watching the girls try to figure out how to interact with the boys.

Lady Liberty

Last weekend, Julia suddenly became enamored of the Statue of Liberty. A perplexing magazine cover raised some initial questions, and then coincidentally Julia noticed a poster featuring the Statue in a bookstore downtown. I looked up a picture of the actual Statue online, and that was the trigger for this.


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I made the torch, but she picked the book, used her stepstool from the bathroom as her pedestal, and pointed out that she was wearing good colors.

Good to Be Home

My first day back at home was a good one. Julia liked her present (a Sesame Street shirt), Genevieve was only shy in the morning (refusing to let me hold her for the first few minutes after she woke up), the girls and I did some shopping and hit a park, and things generally hummed along. I even got in a short run in the Arb, which was teeming with rabbits. Best of all, I got to sleep in my own bed and eat food prepared by my own wife: those two things alone should make a guy feel like life's complete.

Home Again Home Again

The flights to Minnesota went a lot more smoothly than the flights from Minnesota, so I got back home around eight tonight. I just missed seeing Julia before she went to bed, but thank god tomorrow is Saturday. Judging by Shannon's summary of the last couple days, nobody did any growing up while I was gone, though Genevieve apparently started to make a smooching sound when she wants kisses from her sister. I can't wait to see that!


I did make one last entry in that document linked to below...

Left on a Jet Plane

I'm away from my home computer, so I'm unable to post new content directly to Blowing & Drifting. Instead, please periodically check my Tumblr posts (at right) and this "published" Google Doc

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

Tomorrow morning, I am heading out to Richmond, Virginia, for an annual meeting of small-college grants officers. It's a pretty important event for people in my role at American liberal-arts colleges: a chance to share ideas, learn from one another, kvetch about the difficulties of the job, and generally form a community. (Apparently there is also a surfeit of eating and drinking.) This particular meeting is the outgrowth, as I understand it, of a longstanding and vibrant email discussion list from which I've gathered a good idea every week since I started my job at Carleton. Given all that, I'm looking forward to the meeting; I'll be better at my job for going.

If I'm looking forward to going, though, I'm not looking forward to being gone. For one thing, Shannon hasn't yet had to take care of both girls for an extended period of time, and though one of her best friends is coming to keep her company while I'm gone, it won't be the same as having me there. I know she'll handle everything with her usual aplomb, but I'd still rather be there. For another thing, I'll miss Shannon and the girls immensely: I haven't been away from Julia for this long since last June, when I traveled on business to New York, and I've never been away from Genevieve for longer than a workday. Nine hours, max! I'll miss Julia's wonderful routines, from calling for me every morning to reading her bedtime stories each night. (And will Shannon even remember how to give her a bath?!?!) Genevieve may not really notice that I'm gone, but I half expect that by the time I get back home, she'll be staggering around without assistance and asking, "Mo numnums, Mama!" I mean, I'm all for my girls growing up, but I'd sure like it if they only did it while I was around.

Naptime Cuddling

Naptime Cuddling
Yesterday, Big Sister wanted to have Little SIster on her lap while we read her naptime stories, and Genevieve actually liked it. (She's not actually sleeping here, just caught with her eyes closed.)

'A', You're Both Adorable 

At one point this evening, this video led to the incredible Web 2.0 scene of my three-year-old daughter watching the clip for the first time while sitting on the lap of my thirty-something wife, who probably remembers the skit from its original airing in the 1970s, when it was then a reworking of a song from 1948.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

I see all kinds of parallels between Shannon and Julia, most of them charming or adorable or helpful or just plain good. I think this is the first one I've captured in pixels.


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Shannon, relaxing on the patio with a book last fall. (That's Julia's Ernie doll on the table, not Shannon's.) 


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Julia, enjoying a magazine out on the patio this morning, before the heat took full hold on the day. (That's my iced coffee on the table, not hers.)

Nordic News

Though it's the height (or trough) of the off season, the cross-country ski world continues to churn. The Estonian star Kristina Smigun recently announced that she will take the entire 2007-2008 racing year off, resting and recharging for the 2008-2009 season, which will feature a World Championships (at Liberec, Czech Republic), and possibly the 2010 Winter Olympics. Frode Estil, the topflight Norwegian racer who retired at the end of the season, recently announced that he will, in fact, be racing this winter, albeit on the private "Team Fast," not the Norwegian national team. Estil, a long-distance specialist, dreams of winning the biggest race of them all, the 90km Vasaloppet in Sweden, to be held in March 2008.


Speaking of Sweden, the national team has been wracked with turmoil this spring and summer with changes. The team's head coach was essentially fired right after the season ended, one of its star women has indicated that she wants to ski instead for Germany, and now the Fredriksson brothers - sprinter Tobias and distance man Mathias - have both left the team to train on their own. None of this is good for the team, which seems always on the cusp of challenging Norway and Germany, but always falls back.


And in the Czech Republic, preparations for those 2009 World Championships in Liberec are not on track, compelling planners to call for the installation of just-retired racer Katerina Neumannova as the head of the organizing committee. If Neumannova's half as good a manager as she was a racer, the 2009 event will be special indeed.

Short Post

Over at Laura Valaas' blog, she dropped this uncredited but great line: ""Everything always works out in the end. If it hasn't worked out, it's not the end." I like the sentiment and will use the line often.

Tumblng

At right, you'll see a feed for my "tumblelog" of short items posted throughout the day via the Tumblr service. I'd say that Faulkner would be proud, only he'd probably hate tumblelogs, since his steam-of-consciousness prose was the product of actual writing and revising, not throwing scraps of text onto the web.

Foxy

The Arb was preternaturally quiet tonight; I saw only two other people and few animals. Maybe everyone and everything thought it was too hot to be doing anything, but it was actually gorgeous, with moderating humidity and, as the sun set, declining temperatures. In fact, the day's heat probably was the cause of the quietude: as I neared home, I met a skinny fox, calmly trotting up the road in the other direction. He jumped into the ditch when a car came up on him from behind.

Photeaux

By popular (well, grandpaternal) demand, Flickr now has some new pictures to peruse.

Sloggy Run

After taking two much-needed days off and then just eating too much yesterday to run or rollerski, I hit the road again today for a relatively short and quick but turned-out-to-be-hard run. Breathing was fine despite relatively high temperatures, but I was surprised to see that my heart rate was very high throughout the run and to feel that my legs were heavy as heavy legs. I was heartened to imagine that I felt so sluggish from inactivity, not the fatigue that had been bone-deep on July 1.


Having gone out two days of the five so far this month, and facing a probable four-day break next week when I am at a meeting out east, I am still going to aim high and try to exceed my June totals by fifteen percent, meaning 22 workouts (probably impossible) that each average an hour and cover 7.8 miles (both possible, if not quite likely). All that might well turn out to be ridiculous, but it's been really nice lately to feel so healthy (if not quite yet "fit"), and I want to keep that up.

Secrets of my Success

Thinking, as I biked in to work this morning, about all the stuff I had to do today, I thought of a representation of the ways I have brought my career to its present towering heights. The blue-green area in the middle is the sweet spot, where all the magic happens.

Secrets of Success

Skiing in the Palms

On July 4, the International Olympic Committee met in Guatemala to choose the site of the 2014 Winter Games. After Salzburg, Austria, was knocked out in preliminary voting (presumably in some part due to the big doping scandal plaguing the Austrian biathlon and cross-country skiing teams), the final two sites were both unusual ones: Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Sochi, Russia. Swayed by the presence (and deep pockets) of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who made the trip to Guatemala City to lobby for the Russian site, voters ultimately selected Sochi, a city on the Black Sea which, though at the same latitude as Madison, Wisconsin, enjoys a near-tropical climate. (Imagine palm trees on Lake Mendota.)


Obviously, if hockey teams from Raleigh and Tampa Bay can win the Stanley Cup, Sochi can host all the indoor, ice-dependent events right in town. But where are they going to hold the outdoor, snow-dependent events? Up in the very high mountains just outside the city. The Caucasus are already home to one of Russia's biggest ski resorts, and Putin announced that the Russian government is going to pour $12 billion into the Sochi area, sparking a miniature boom in many of the companies which will undertake all the work - from building the nordic ski trails to, you know, finishing the electrical grid in Sochi.


At the end of this seven year plan, and probably after more corruption than a Republican lobbyist's cigar break, Sochi 2014 may offer the host country the chance to dominate a games to an extent unknown since Norway dominated at Lillehammer in 1994. At least the Sochi committee is keeping the stakes low, saying before the vote that the "hopes and dreams of Russian nation rest on IOC decision" and after that “this is one of the most important days in Russia’s history." 


(Cross-posted to After School Snack.)

Cogent Analysis

Building a Lego tower with Julia just now, we were discovering numerous non-Lego toys in the bin and listening to Genevieve protest her nap in the other room. Julia sighed and said, "I bet that Genevieve left all these toys in here. She sure doesn't want to take her nap today. That yittle Genevieve. She just does the things she wants to do!""

Independence Day

When in the course of human events, Independence Day falls in the middle of the week and becomes a mini-weekend, it's kinda cool. The weather was beautiful, everyone was happy, and by golly the country's 231 years old. We filled the day with an hour or so at the annual "Northfield Criterium" bicycle races, held on a tight loop around downtown, naps for three-quarters of it, and a nice party with some other families. In between, the girls chilled out with some books. Just like the founders intended.

DSCF5804

Papa-razzi

I am plagued by the worry that I don't do as much with/for/to/alongside Genevieve as I did with/for/to/alongside Julia at this age. In categorizing some of our digital photos of the two girls, I decided to try to figure it out by dividing the number of shots of each kid we have in iPhoto (these shots being the "keepers"; countless others have gone to the trash) by the number of days since their respective births.


The result, which represents the number of photos we've taken of them per day, comes out to be freakishly the same: 1.67 p/d for Julia, 1.65 p/d for Genevieve. (I'd wager the two-hundredths difference can be explained by the fact that Julia has had three birthdays recorded, while Gigi's still working toward #1.) It's empirical evidence that I love them both the same exact amount. At least insofar as taking too damn many pictures = love.

Holy Zoe!

As Shannon's already written, today was the day that we decided to say Julia is potty trained. She's had no serious accidents (though as Julia would remind me, repeating a line from a song on an Elmo potty-training video, "Accidents happen!"), she's using the potty chair in all the ways it's supposed to be used, and more than anything, she is acutely and cutely aware of what needs to be done and when. I'm really amazed. Monday night, she even interrupted her swimming class to tell me that she had to go, and then was able to wait until we reached the bathroom.


And but so, today was the day that our big girl - I always think I sound condescending when I say it, but it's just so true - received the Zoe doll which has been promised to her forever, which has been wrapped in a bag in my closet since March, and which we even pretended was asking about Julia's potty-training progress. (Until this weekend, she was very sad to hear every day that no, Julia hadn't used the potty.) When I brought the doll down to Julia and gave it to her, she was as happy as I've ever seen her. She ran around the living room, clutching "my Zoe" and shrieking with delight. It was so clearly just elation embodied that Genevieve, normally a bit shy of sisters making loud noises, laughed. Honestly, it was just wonderful. Julia said it best (in her guilelessly self-assured way), "I am so proud of myself!"

Heavy Weather

Northfield got hammered with another big storm today, complete with heavy winds and a ten-minute hailstorm. I managed to get the car (and some flowers) in before they were damaged, but again I wonder why Northfield seems to come in for so much weird weather. I have experienced more "oh my god" level hailstorms since moving here less than two years than I did in the rest of my life to that point.

Sibling Lovingly

Boy, if this column by Catherine Newman on sibling love and interconnectedness doesn't cause some embers to glow within your cold, cold heart, you are frostier than this month's Blizzard at your local Dairy Queen. Okay, maybe it's not quite that good, but still. The column resonated with me. Twice this weekend, Julia was allowed (as potty-training reward) to watch her treasured Sesame Street video, and both times, Genevieve crawled right over and sat next to her to watch the mystifying scenes on the mystery device.

iPhone, Here iCome!

How I shall get myself an iPhone. (Cross-linked from After School Snack.)


Welcome to the New Blowing & Drifting

It's been almost a year since I started Blowing & Drifting with this post on July 17, 2006. Since then, I have posted 557 times, an average of 1.6 each day. Obviously, I enjoy blogging.


I did get a little tired of looking at the old design, as nice as it was, so I'm here kicking off the (more or less) second year of Blowing & Drifting with a new design. I hope you like it. Please let me know in the comments if something seems broken, or if you have any ideas for improvements. (RSS subscribers - click through to see the new layout.)


Thanks for reading.


July, July

With a kid whose name derives from the same source as the name of the month, I've grown to like this new month. Paired with the last day of June, the first day of July was one of breakthrough. The biggest deal, of course, what that - after much (literal) crying, gnashing of teeth, and tearing of hair - Julia finally used the potty chair for both intended purposes. I won't go into the details that will embarrass her in three, thirteen, or twenty-three years, but suffice to say that as proud as were her parents , she was still more. (Okay, one detail: on finally going, she exclaimed, "My, that was a strange sound I made!" Indeed. Honey, you've identified the secret of entertaining 75% of the men you'll ever meet, and a good percentage of the women.)


Nothing can really compare to that scatological high point, but I took advantage of the girls' early bedtimes to run my favorite long route in the Arb. It was my seventh workout in eight days, and I could feel it in my dead, dead, dead legs. But there were distractions aplenty: beautiful weather, the full florescence of the prairie, cool glades in the woods, a three-member raccoon family, and, most amazingly, a nearly nose-to-nose encounter with a deer. We weren't more than six feet apart when we surprised one another. I'm sure I haven't been closer to a (live) deer since an elementary-school field trip to Jim Peck's wildlife park


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