Blowing & Drifting

Master of the (Town) House

I took a nap today, roundabout 90 minutes long. This is remarkable because I abhor napping even more than I hate sleeping. I literally cannot recall the last time I took a nap, though I'd guess it was when Julia was a newborn. Prior to that, I'll bet my previous nap had been my early childhood. I pretty much had to waive the moratorium, though: the cops caught me drowsing behind the wheel. Only it wasn't the fuzz, it was Shannon. And it wasn't behind the wheel, it was reading to Julia. And it wasn't drowsing, it was sleeping. So she recommended, much as the lawyer "recommends" copping a plea, that I catch forty winks while she took the girls to play group today. So I did, and lo and behold, I felt tons better.

As if that didn't prove who runs the show around here, Shannon later performed the most devilish bit of parenting ever. Even though Julia had had a truly epic dinner, she later claimed that she was "so hongry" after she sang her bedtime songs with Shannon. It was hard to tell if she really was hungry, or if she was trying to delay bedtime. Anyhow, Shannon said, "Honey, you can have some green beans if you're hungry. Do you want some green beans?" Julia pondered for a second, then replied, "Uh-huh." Choking back my laughter, I duly retrieved yesterday's left-over French cut string beans from the fridge, and Julia ate them cold, straight from the Tupperware. When they were gone, she drank about a quart of ice water and we headed up to bed. Lessons: Julia really was hungry, and Mama can always outsmart her.

Cul De Sacking

I didn't know this, but according to the New York freaking Times, Northfield is setting a national trend by severely restricting the construction of cul-de-sacs. Not only that, but the lead to this story in the Times' Real Estate section discusses a construction site that's literally around the corner from our place - we can hear the "dinosaur machines" (as Julia calls them) working all day.

Local pride notwithstanding, the article's also a good primer on the theory and practice of culs-de-sac (not "cul-de-sacs," NYT!) in contemporary urban design.

A Little Sleepy Eyes

A Little Sleepy Eyes
Genevieve was especially cute when sleeping the other day. There are lots more on Flickr.

A Major Accomplishment

In the annals of personal accomplishment, I am particularly proud of the fact that, tonight, I changed Genevieve's poopy diaper without waking her up. I accomplished the same feat with Julia almost exactly a year ago. No one said it could be done, but I did it.

Interface Design

At my last job, I had a few very productive chances to work with the folks responsible for IT design, from web pages and online "assets" like Flash presentations to new applications or interfaces on old ones. Every time I got to work with these guys, I came away more impressed by the care and skill they put into their work, and it got me to wondering about the rules and theory of interface design.

From browsing various design websites and blogs, I know it's a rich field - as it should be, given the billions of dollars in R&D and trillions of dollars in products at stake. Proof of this is this fascinating a post on a Microsoft Office interface-designer's blog about "Fitts' law," which, as applied to IT interfaces, governs the location and size of icons.

Among other things, the post implicitly demonstrates why the Mac OS X "Exposé" feature - which lets you use the four corners or the screen to do certain preset tasks, like view the desktop by moving every open window out of the way or launch the screensaver - is so effective. I love Exposé, and use it probably once every ten minutes. As part of a broader set of of Mac-specific features, Exposé shows that Apple (and its third-party developers) did their thinking before the designing and making. As they say, "it just works." 


Those Lutheran copycats over at St. Olaf have their own wind turbine up now, as documented in photos on Flickr and this blog and on St. Olaf's website (warning: out of date materials). The Olaf turbine is a monster, but it went up almost exactly two years after the other Northfield college put up its own turbine, the first "utility-grade" turbine put up by an American college. Carleton's machine is 230 feet tall to its hub, 360 feet to the top of its rotor sweep. That's tall, and quite beautiful. Whether or not the Olaf machine is bigger, the town now has a nicely symmetrical pair of turbines: the Olaf one on the west, the Carleton one on the east, both visible from many spots south of downtown, and each putting millions of kilowatts per year into the grid.

Character Actor

A list of roles assigned to me by the thespian/auteur, Julia:

Pterodactyl (over breakfast)
Bert (she was Ernie)
Elmo (she was Zoe)
Christopher Robin (she was Pooh Bear)

Playing these roles isn't demanding: I just have to respond to her repeated questions ("What's [her role] doing?" and "What's [my role] doing?") and to stand corrected when I accidentally forget what's going on and call her Julia when in fact she is someone else.


There's a lot not to like about the witching-hour nursing sessions, especially if you're the famished baby or the groggy mom, but I have found at least one redeeming feature: feeling what night is like again. In college and grad school, I had a deep intimacy with the 11 p.m. - 3 a.m. period of time, which I've lost in the past few years. But just the past few nights' worth of nursings have brought me back to an appreciation of the myriad sounds and limited sights of late nights and early mornings: the dim shapes of the trees outside, the flash of car headlights on the road, the ceaseless chirp of the crickets, the infrequent calls of night birds. It's wonderful - though, really, a long second place behind sleeping.


I went for a run yesterday in the Arb. It was a hard go, thanks to two weeks off when Genevieve arrived, but toward the end, something happened that made all the suffering worthwhile. Near the end of my route, I turn a dogleg corner that frames a stand of conifers and cuts down a big goldenrod-filled hillside. When I hit this spot, the trees and grasses positively erupted with at least twenty bright monarch butterflies. As I ran down the path, more and more joined the initial flight, until I was running in a cloud of fifty or so butterflies. It was so astounding that I had to stop to take it in. What a strange and wonderful experience.

Yammer, Memory

Shannon's blogged about it already, but Julia has what seems to me to be an awfully impressive memory - for a toddler as well as for a human. Maybe all kids, possessing minds as yet uncluttered with the trivia accumulated by growing up, have memories as good as hers; I'll test the hypothesis with Genevieve. Right now, though, I'm flabbergasted by it. Some of it is fairly routine - meaning, frequent, not necessarily common to all kids. For instance, Julia routinely fills in missing words in books we haven't read in weeks, or describes a very minute aspect of a picture she saw for five minutes in a store we visited two months ago. I suppose many of us can do that, if we try. It just doesn't seem like she's trying: the details are as immediate for her as the color of her bedroom walls. Perhaps more impressively, she accurately describes the food, toys, and activities at a birthday party we attended in March. And her encyclopedic retellings of what we did while running errands or at home during the thunderstorm can take longer than the events themselves, as she repeatedly loops back to bring in every detail she can.

And then there are the mindblowers. Today at library playtime, she asked for and directed the attendant to various toys with which I've never seen her play in the two months I've been going with her. And she was never wrong: if she said the "wed baw" was in that drawer, well, lady, keep hunting, because it was. And then there was the Wolvies Incident. The other day, we were talking about her cousin Gabe's dad. She asked me (rhetorically, I realized), "What's on Oncle Greg's shirt?" I said I didn't know. She said, "Wolvies." It's true: he was wearing a shirt with wolves on it the last time we saw him - at Christmas. I don't remember what I got for Christmas; she's commenting on people's attire. I'm amazed. Should I be?

Carpe Momento (Or Something)

I just finished an unexpected 45-minute soothing of Julia, in four parts. (Two attempts to sneak out were foiled by my creaky right knee, which alerted her to my exit; the third attempt succeeded but she woke up anyhow.) I don't know what, precisely, was wrong, but she heartbreakingly asked, when I went in the first time, "Daddy home? Mama home? Nonna here?" Clearly, she's still worried about just who is here at any given point in time. She eventually (seems to have) succumbed to sleep, at which point I did my own before-sleep things which I had planned to do 90 minutes ago.

This little episode, and the numerous immediate demands which Genevieve places on Shannon and me, reminds me of a hard-learned (but nonetheless forgotten) lesson from Julia's newborn days: If you have to do it, do it as soon as you can, because you might not get another chance today. This works equally well for the necessities like sleeping, eating, showering, working out, or changing clothes as for the luxuries, like trying to figure out just where you had to leave off reading that newspaper article.

12 Days X 2 Kids X 2 Parents

Yesterday was the day that Genevieve was supposed to enter the world via scheduled C-section. Of course, she chose to join us last Tuesday, so today marks my eleventh day as the father of two girls. So far, it's been fantastic, in exactly equal parts because Shannon's delivery and recovery have gone so well, because Julia has adapted so well to the newcomer, and because Gigi is so far (knocking on a whole sequoia) a fairly easy baby who eats, sleeps, and poops in ways that we can readily handle.

Beyond those high-level qualities of life, the past ten days have included some moments and phenomena worth remembering.

1. I'm elated that Shannon came through the delivery with so much strength and spirit. It's not just night-and-day comparison to Julia's delivery; it's day on Mercury/night on Pluto - or something like that. Suffice to say that it makes me happy that she has the energy, will, and time to sit and read magazines between feedings. (Genevieve's feedings, not Shannon's - the mother is eating pretty much all the time.)

2. I'd forgotten how funny and charming are newborns' sounds. Genevieve's repertoire includes a whole aviary's worth of squeaks, coos, and especially squawks, but she makes my favorite sound on waking up: a gurgle that's what a rolled R would be if the rolling occurred in your pharynx.

3. I'd also forgotten how quickly newborns change. Already, Genevieve can spend anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes in active wakefulness: studying a toy in her crib, looking over someone's face, turning toward a sound or bright light. None of that is remarkable, yet all of it is.

4. Julia has been a very good citizen about the gift-giving that accompanies a new baby's arrival. She likes to "help" open Genevieve's presents, exhibiting only the slightest jealousy over them, but she is unselfconsciously delighted to get presents of her own, from a new "silky" blanket from Grandpa to a little Tigger from my coworkers. 

5. Thursday and Friday, Julia probably spent a total of 90 minutes standing shin-deep in some big puddles at the neighborhood park. With her rain boots mostly keeping her dry below the knee, she gaily splashed the muddy water, found rocks in the submerged grass, tossed chunks of wood into the water, and generally enjoyed herself. When I told her that all her kicking was making "rivulets" across the path, she looked up at me and said, "'Rivu-ets.' Sounds like 'beavers.'" Okay, kid!

Disasters Tibial, Meteorological, and Technological

The general pleasantness of being home with the girls was tempered slightly but annoyingly on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday by three disasters.

Wednesday, I f#@#*ed up my shins with a little slip at the playground. I blogged it here already, but let me repeat my statement that it's not good to be able to see you own tibia and to add that I'm now experiencing two phantom sensations: 1) a drop of water (or blood) is rolling  over the lacerations, even though they are bone (ha!) dry; 2) the affected strips of flesh on my shins are somehow detached and, floating free of my legs, jiggle when I walk. Not pleasant.

Thursday, all that paled in comparison to a god-awful hailstorm that punctuated thirteen hours of rain. The good folks at have documented the storm with a giant set of pictures up on Flickr, but the Tassavas experienced it directly. The prelude was comparatively mild: Julia and I had to run back and forth to the car during a quick trip to Target. I got wet; she didn't. Then, driving over to the library downtown, the hail started, rather lightly. I pulled over, contemplating the decision to just go home, but concluded (egged on by my dear daughter yelling, "Drive to library, Daddy!" from the back seat) that I might as well go. How bad could it be? At this point, the low strings began an ominous crescendo.

Within minutes of arriving at the library, the weather sirens went off, and everyone in the building - about thirty people - was herded into the only secure shelter, a T-shaped hallway next to the bathrooms. I was a bit unsettled to see the real urgency and worry in the faces of the library staff. From there, we could hear the storm intensify and reach its peak with the hail. When the sirens finally ended, we went outside to discover that our three-month old Saturn Vue had been pretty badly hit: the front windshield was starred almost to the point of opacity, and the roof and hood were pitted with dozens of hand-sized dents. We fared better than others, though. Driving around town, I've seen numerous cars with windows knocked out (one minivan was missing its front and rear windows, the driver's side door window, and a window on the passenger side), and even a few houses with the telltale blue tarp over a smashed-out window or skylight. The Northfield police lost most of their cruisers, so they borrowed cars from the county sheriff, which lent an occupying-army flavor to the city. And the two car dealerships out on the highway both lost their entire inventories - every last car, wrecked.

The fun didn't stop there, though. Shannon, her mom, Genevieve, Julia, and I spent an hour on Thursday evening in our only secure room, an under-stairs closet, after the power went out and the sirens sounded again. Julia's frequently repeated account is accurate: "We had to go into closet several times with Nonna and Mama and baby Genevieve! Sang songs yike Yuckee Doodoh and Fwosty the Nowman. Siren so loud! Julia scared of thunder." It was kinda fun to see her face, literally lit up by a too-big flashlight, as she looked at us to see if we were scared.

Amidst all this excitement, I did manage to place a claim with our car insurance company and to get on the list at Enterprise for a rental car (thankfully covered by through our insurance policy). I picked up the car on Friday (thanks to my father-in-law, who shuttled me up to the office), but I have yet to hear when we can get the car fixed: with probably hundreds of damaged cars down here, every auto-body shop between Owatonna and Burnsville is going to be booked for weeks.

And thank god I did my telephoning on Thursday, because on Friday, we lost our phone and DSL internet all day when some dunce cut Northfield's fiber-optic line trunk line. Why this meant I also lost cell-phone service, I have no idea. Incommunicado all day, I spent my downtime reading two depressing articles on New Orleans' recovery from Katrina in the New Yorker and Fortune, and felt a tiny bit of kinship.

Blessedly, today was calm. We had phone and internet service in the house, and blue skies above. I hope it keeps up.

Catching Up

Genevieve - "Gigi" just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? - today lost her umbilical cord stump. She now officially has a belly button. In an effort to catch up, I gave up a bit of flesh, too. Chasing Julia around her favorite playground, I attempted a three-foot-high jump up onto a concrete platform. (Don't worry: Julia was taking the safer route, up the ramp.) I've made this jump dozens of times, always successfully - until today's last try. Let's just say I've never actually seen any of my bones before. Turns out, though, that a crew sock wadded up inside a toddler diaper, which is in turn fastened around your shin, makes a pretty good bandage.

If you dare, check out the photo of the post-E.R. situation (warning: gory).

Another Compare & Contrast Exercise

Shannon unearthed this second "which daughter's which?" exercise: Julia and Genevieve.

Udderly Humiliating

At long last, Julia has decided that "horseyback rides" are, in fact, cool things to do. I relish having her riding on my shoulders or back, perhaps because it's just so thoroughly paternal. Which makes it all the more humiliating when, after a ride this evening, she flopped off me, reached for the fly of my cargo shorts, and yelled, to her grandmother's towering amusement, "Horsey has an udder!"

More August Skiing

This is cool: rollerski racing on a rubber track in Norway and on a paved track in Anchorage. Next year, the individual and team sprint world championships will be held indoors, at the Sapporo Dome, albeit on snow.

New Photos

New evidence that Genevieve is my cutest second daughterNature or nurture: see if you can tell Daughter 1 from Daughter 2.

Birthday Off

Which daughter has the better birthday?

Julia, June 3

1808 - birth of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy

1811 - birth of Henry James, novelist

1861 - Stephen Douglas, U.S. politician, died.

1906 - birth of Josephine Baker, entertainer

1926 - birth of Allen Ginsberg, poet

1937 - The Duke of Windsor (formerly Edward VIII) married Wallis Simpson.

1965 - Maj. Edward White became the first U.S. astronaut to walk in space, during the Gemini 4 mission.

1989 - Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini died.

Genevieve, August 15

1057 - Macbeth, king of Scotland, was killed by Malcolm Canmore.

1769 - birth of Napoleon Bonaparte, conquerer

 1771 - birth of Walter Scott, author

1879 - birth of Ethel Barrymore, actress

1887 - birth of Edna Ferber, author

1888 - birth of T. E. Lawrence, adventurer

1911 - Proctor & Gamble Company introduced Crisco vegetable shortening.

1912- birth of Julia Child, chef

1935 - Aviator Wiley Post and actor Will Rogers were killed in a plane crash.

1939 - The Wizard of Oz premiered in Hollywood.

1947 - The Indian Independence Bill created the two independent states of India and Pakistan.

1948 - South Korea became the Republic of Korea.

1969 - Woodstock Music and Art Fair opened at Max Yasgur's dairy farm in Bethel, New York.

2001 - Astronomers announced the discovery of the first solar system outside our own.

Hating on Onesies

I'll stop the non-stop daddyblogging soon, but first I must note that my hatred of the onesie has reemerged with the burning heat of a thousand suns. Those (two? three? four? more?) snaps at the bottom - hate 'em. I don't think I've ever snapped one together the right way in one try.

Home Again Home Again

The newest Tassava arrived home today at about noon. Genevieve is doing fine: although as her sister noted, she's "a wittle bit orange," she's also almost back to her birthweight and seems to be doing a good job with her nursing. Shannon, too, is doing well. With her pain largely under control, she's able to get around fairly well, and she has a good appetite. At the top of the grocery list are Hershey's bars and regular Coke.

Sisterly Kisses

Sisterly Kisses

Things are going smoothly on Day 3 of the Genevieve Era. The new one is nursing well, every two or three hours, and sleeping soundly the rest of the time. Shannon and I each got about six hours of sleep (in 90-minute chunks), which feels like a luxury on a par with a box of Godiva chocolates for dinner. I don't think Shannon slept that much after Julia's arrival for months and months. Shannon's milk has come in, which is just as it should be. All of the baby's vital signs are good, as well. (What would be a non-vital sign? Her knowledge of NFL quarterbacks? By all indications, it is quite poor.)

Julia had a rough night last night, for which Nonna had to pay the price and which meant we couldn't meet up with my dad, but she was in a great mood this morning when I brought her over to the "hopsital." As you can see, she really enjoyed seeing her sister. "Give that baby wittle hugs!" Now she's upstairs, catching up on her sleep.

Barring something unforeseen, Shannon and Genevieve will come home on Friday morning. It'll be an exciting weekend!

More on the name Genevieve.

The Very Busy Day

The Very Busy Day

As I write this post, just before running back to the hospital, Julia is upstairs in her bed, charmingly saying her new sister's name over and over.

It's been a whirlwind day. We headed to the hospital at about one a.m., On arrival, it was immediately clear that Shannon was well and truly in labor, so they called the C-section team and at just after three, we were in the operating room. Shannon was nervous, but ready to get things underway. After a few sickening sounds, we could hear Genevieve crying, even before she'd been pulled out. She only exercised her lungs more once she was out, and a half hour of the shrieking fantods left her spent for the rest of the day. Imagine - sleeping away your first day on the planet.

Once  checked out and cleaned up (she was covered in a stunning amount of vernix), they gave Genevieve to me, and she and I spent a wonderful hour or so alone in the recovery room, waiting for Shannon to get stitched up. Genevieve tried and halfway-succeeded in nursing when Shannon was finally wheeled in. Shortly afterwards, I headed home to be there when Julia woke up. Just to mess with us, our firstborn chose today of all days to sleep until nine, which is the latest she's ever slept. Once up, we headed off to the hospital, where she excitedly made her acquaintance with "baby sister" and wondering several times, "What's that baby cryin' about?" A bit of coaxing got Julia to try saying her baby sister's name, which she nailed immediately: "Genevieve!"

The rest of the morning and the early afternoon passed quickly in walks around the ward, visits with Newbabysister, and a couple snacks. Home for naps at three, we were back at the hospital at four thirty, where Shannon was coming out of her anaesthesia and feeling more than a bit worn out. Nonna and Boppa - Shannon's parents - had arrived while Julia and I were away, which made Julia "so so happy." Shannon reported that nursing was going well, which was an enormous relief after the difficulties we had with Julia. And Shannon also found out, to even more relief, that a funny bruise on Genevieve's forehead probably indicated that she was wedged into Shannon's pelvis in the same "posterior" position which had made Julia's delivery so arduous. The C-section was utterly vindicated.

After a quick dinner in the hospital cafeteria and a goodbye to Mama, Julia and I went back home for her bedtime routine. She's down now, so I'm heading back to the hospital for the night. I hope there's a little sleep in the offfing!



Genevieve Rose joined our family at 3:27 a.m. today. 7 pounds, one ounce and 19.75 inches long, she was very loud, but also healthy and hungry. Her mom did very well before, during, and after the C-section. A couple more pictures are here now; more will be coming soon. I love her already! 

(Unrelated historical aside - other August 15 birthdays include the Panama Canal [1914], Lawrence of Arabia [1888], and Napoleon Bonaparte [1769].)

The Midnight Ride of My Lovely Dear

The contractions are five minutes apart, so we're mobilizing. Much as I'd like to do so, I don't think I'll be liveblogging the delivery. If this is the real thing, pictures will be forthcoming soon!

August Ski Racing

Many of the world's best cross-country ski racers competed in the three-part Saku Suverull in Otepaa, Estonia, last weekend. An important off-season test for World Cup-level athletes, the Suverull includes a short rollerski prologue, a middle-distance running race, and a long-distance rollerski. Given the wide variety of rollerskis, the Suverull equalizes the field by giving every competitor a standard model. That oddity aside, Estonian, Finnish, and Russian skiers are always overrepresented in both the ranks and on the podium, and this year was no different.

Friday's prologue - 2.7km for both men and women - established starting positions for Saturday morning's footrace. Finland's Pirjo Manninen took the women's race, just under a second up on countrywomen Riita Lissa Roponen (formerly Lassila) and Aino Kaisa Saarinen and just over a second up on Kristina Smigun, the Estonian who has won the Soverull eight times, and every year since 2003. The men's prologue saw German Tobias Angerer, the defending World Cup overall champion, finish second, two seconds down to a surprise winner, Ilya Chernousov of Russia. Two other Russians, Vassili Rotchev and Evgeny Dementiev, finished the prologue in third and fourth.

Saturday morning's footraces, with racers starting according to the times in the skiing prologu,  shook out both fields. The women's 3km race turned into a three-way sprint narrowly won by Valentina Shevchenko (Ukraine) ahead of Smigun and Lada Nesterenko (Ukraine); this result put Smigun in excellent position for the evening's rollerski competition. The men's 6km footrace, too, was a pack affair, with five racers bunched at the halfway point. There, Rotchev and Lukas Bauer (Czech Republic) broke away. Rotchev edged Bauer - who had started the running in 55th place, most of the way down the field - by less than a second for the win and the leading position in the rollerski event. Almost half a minute back, Sergei Dolidowitsch (Belarus), Nikolai Pankratov (Russia), and Anders Södergren (Sweden) took third, fourth, and fifth.

The rollerski races on Saturday evening offered a confirmation in the women's results but a mild surprise in the men's. By the end of the first lap of the 12km women's race, Kristina Smigun had caught and dropped Valentina Shevchenko. Cruising in for the win, Smigun even stopped to talk to the crowd, ultimately winning by six seconds over Riita Lissa Roponen, who recovered from a poor run in the morning, and almost ten seconds over another Finn, Virpi Kuitunen. In the final standings, Shevchenko slid all the way to tenth.

On the men's side, the 47-second spread of the first eight starters quickly evaporated as a seven-man pack formed and stayed off the front. With just one kilometer to go in the 20km affair, Anders Soedergren of Sweden put in a big uphill surge reminscent of his failed attempts to break up the pack during the 50km at Torino. This time, the effort paid off in a one-second margin of victory. Behind him, a field sprint saw Rotchev take second and Angerer third; the top six all finished within four seconds. The big surprise was Estonian Inrek Tobreluts, who took sixth.

Any freestyle (roller)skiing event is weaker without top-notch skaters like Petter Northug and Marit Bjorgen from Norway, Vincent Vittoz of France, or Giorgio Di Centa of Italy, but the Soverull nonetheless indicates who's staying strong and who's getting stronger for the world championship season this winter. Who knows but that Tobreluts might form a surprisingly good relay team with fellow Estonians Andrus Veerpalu and Jaak Mae on the classic legs and Kaspar Kokk or Aivar Rehemaa on the other skate leg.

What to Expect When You Have Expectations

After an afternoon of intermittent but sorta-regular contractions, Shannon has bustling around the bedroom, assembling her hospital bag. Which means the baby may be coming soon, or not.

Either way, I'm reminded again of just how terrifying this waiting is, or seems like it should be. Back in my early 20s, I had a terrible time waiting for anything, from the El and the pizza man to results from my grad school applications. It's not like I got surly or superstitious or anything; I was just reduced by even the most banal wait to a twitching, twittering nervous bundle who could see quite clearly how this delay would mess up that appointment which would throw over those plans which would lead... Really, it was regret about things that hadn't yet happened. One year, I made a new year's resolution to be less affected by waiting, and it actually worked - in unison with the endless opportunities offered to this young, poor grad student in Chicago for responding with patience, if not calm. Shannon might even say that I might exhibit a bit too much equanimity nowadays. I'll admit that on occasion I do graze the line between patience and procrastination.

And but so, the same goes for this wait for the baby. As the partner who will not be laboring, and who stands to suffer no injury more severe than a badly-squeezed hand, and who can pretty much do his duty by just showing up and doing what I'm told, I have little to be nervous about. It's no use being worried about things over which I have no control, like the surgeon's skill or a birth defect, so those things are largely out of my mind. (Largely: the words "post-operative complications" keep running through my brain, for reasons my in-laws will recognize from personal experience.)

Just the same, I can readily imagine being the partner who does have to labor, and who thus might be reduced to a shrieking wreck by the mere wait for labor, much less the process itself. But I don't know any woman who has reacted that way. Fatalism, determination, preparedness, naivete - whatever the reason, those who do the delivering seem to be pretty well ready for the challenge. Certainly Shannon does: after a harrowing first labor, she'd have a warrant to be a blubbering fool as she approaches the end of this pregnancy. But she is actually the furthest thing from that state. She's calm, collected, and engaged. It's admirable and inspiring, and it makes me very hopeful that whether everything goes down tonight, next Monday, or the 25th, we will come out all right, and four.


Today was our eleventh wedding anniversary. We wrote a new chapter in the book of anticlimaxes by exchanging no gifts and dining, with Julia and two $5-entree coupons, at the Northfield Applebees. Our waitress wore no flair, sadly, though she and others did do one of those obnoxious happy birthday songs for another customer. However, Julia loved their singing and clapping routine, all the geegaws on the walls, the frequent comings and goings of customers and employees, and the food, so all in all it was quite a nice time. If some jerk had told me, on August 13, 1995, that eleven years later I'd be having my anniversary dinner with Shannon at a rural Applebees and feeding one kid while another made ready her debut, I'd probably have lit out for Ostrobothnia. Which would have been quite stupid, because it's been a wonderful eleven years, and the next eleven promise to be even better.

Micropolitan Oases

The business-news site recently ranked more than 500 "micropolitan" communities - defined as "a county or cluster of counties that are economically dependent on a central city, town or village with 10,000 to 50,000 residents" - according to their overall quality of life. According to the site, "the study’s objective is to identify America’s most attractive micropolitan areas. It gives the highest marks to small, well-rounded communities where the economy is strong, traffic is light, the cost of living is moderate, adults are well-educated, and access to big-city attractions is reasonably good."

In the overall ranking, Bozeman, Montana, comes out at number 1. A good number of Minnesota micropoli appear in the top 100. Mankato leads at #16, followed by Marshall at #25, Owatonna at #28, Alexandria at #30, Bemidji at #32, Fairmont at #45, New Ulm at #46, Red Wing at #52, Willmar at #59, Faribault-Northfield at #63,  Brainerd at #69, Winona at #85, and Austin at #88. Houghton, Michigan, my sorta-hometown, comes in at #91, while two other U.P. burgs, Marquette and Iron Mountain, appear at #136 and #137.

Gitche Gumee Right Here

This week, the Strib is running a series on Minnesota's waters. Beginning with the premise that the state's lakes and rivers are endangered but also central to the state's self-image, the series promises to be interesting. I realized a few months ago that Northfield is the furthest I've ever lived from one of the lakes, so I'm eager to learn more about them. Today's set of opening articles focused on Lake Superior, the shoreline of which I love probably more than any other place I've ever visited, and were complemented by an intuition-defying map of the Great Lakes basin. Though the lakes collectively hold a fifth of the world's fresh water, their watershed is only about three times larger than the surface area of the five lakes themselves - a tiny area. Lake Superior itself is about two-thirds as large as its own watershed. Only one state - Michigan - is entirely within the basin; no more than slivers of six others are in the basin.  All that means that the lakes can't cleanse or refill themselves as rapidly as bodies of water with larger watersheds.


Walking or running in the Arb and rollerskiing over the roads near our house, I've become attuned to the various fauna that literally cross my path. The slow motion - relative to cars or bikes - lets me notice a lot of activity that I'd otherwise miss.

On our walk in the Arb on Wednesday, for instance, Julia and I surprised a fawn, which leapt up, no more than 10 feet from us, and bounded away to find its mother. Running in the more remote parts of the Arb, I encounter dozens of rabbits. The bigger ones - which are presumably older - usually freeze and then run a crazy zig-zag pattern away from me, down the path, before veering off into the tall grass. Smaller rabbits - which are presumably younger and less accustomed to getting the hell out - often run straight away from me, then make a single sharp turn into the grass. And tonight, I surprised a fox, which ran like hell straight down the path until it was far ahead of me, then *poof* disappeared into the brush.

Among the flying creatures, many birds make like the rabbits and fly, either straight or in curves, down the path ahead of me. Sometimes, as with killdeer on the roads, they're trying to lead me away from the nest or young. Othertimes, the bird just seems stupid: flying ten feet away, landing, realizing I'm still coming, flying another ten feet, landing, realizing I'm still coming... A few, usually very small, birds fly into the grass or up and over it, away from me. I've  seen a few hawks, mostly circling over the most open and short-grassed parts of the Arb, and one vulture, soaring far above one of the bigger rises in the Arb. I have seen lots of feathers, especially in the grassier areas: white ones, black ones, and some striped Cooper's hawk tailfeathers.

Then there are the grasshoppers, like this monster. As the summer's wound on, they've become more and more common, and I've squashed my fair share while rollerskiing over the nice, warm asphalt. More often than not, though, they sense me approaching and get away. One type - a dark brown or black one, maybe the twostriped grasshopper - always leaps up, soars ten feet down the trail or path, and then makes a beautiful hooking turn to land. This J-shaped flight seems to end with the hopper exactly perpendicular to its starting position. As I get closer, they jump again. Inevitably, some of the flights go awry, and having these things hit my legs isn't pleasant. They're big and well-fed. "Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, meine täättä hiiteen!"

Prepare to Stare

 What a fantastic drawing.

Holiday Vacation Time to Get Away

My sister's posts here and here on the summertime shutdown in the Netherlands and this article in the Times on Americans' reluctance to take vacations (who knew that the average American has 3.9 weeks of vacation per year?) brings to mind something that a faculty member at work said, semi-deprecatingly, about certain workaholic colleagues: "They think the College will have to shut down if they get a good night's sleep."


Driving to the playground today, one of Julia's favorite songs, "Brontosaurus Got a Sweet Tooth," started playing, and I playfully said to her, "You're a cutie brontosaurus." She retorted, "No - Julia a apatosaurus." Her dinosaur knowledge has already outstripped mine. I can't even say "gallimimus"; she can say it and identify it.


Last night Julia was toddling around in her mom's slippers, which she calls "flippers" and which she loves to wear despite the fact that they're twice the length of her feet. Inevitably, she falls down. Yesterday, when I heard her wipe out, I turned and saw, sticking out through the closet door, just her little toddler legs ending in the giant slippers and kicking wildly. Insulted by the fall, she yelled, "What ev'rybody do?"

Les Scandales

The Landis case is still too depressing and crazy for me to formulate any kind of comment, but if you're interested in the wider context of cycling, read this report on a bizarre lawsuit in Dallas between, as plaintiffs, Lance Armstrong and the company that managed his U.S. Postal/Discovery teams, and, as the defendant, a promotional company that refused to pay a $5 million bonus to Armstrong for winning the 2006 Tour - on the grounds that doping allegations had not yet been lifted. "Sordid" is the word that comes to mind to describe the behavior of everyone involved.

More on Bike Commuting

With the break in the heat, it's been easier than ever to bike back and forth to work. I've even found a new, better route with a shorter, sharper uphill on the morning ride it, which makes the whole trip easier. And the new route is much less windy, which means I can forgo getting a helmet like this one.

But I'm continually awed by the utter inability of many drivers to figure out what to do with me. So routine as to be unnoticed now are the SUV pilots who swing waaaaay out into the oncoming lane as they pass me, so unsure are they of their vehicles' dimensions. I don't mind the extra space, of course, but as true SUVists, the drivers are often going well over the speed limit and often make this maneuver even when traffic's coming right at them. Oddly, the drivers of juggernaut-sized pickup trucks usually don't move over at all, which has given me some wonderful opportunities to closely inspect their passenger-side mirrors.

Then there are the stop signs, which cause trouble in three ways. First, my fellow bicyclists almost never even pause for them, much less come to a more-or-less complete stop. Yesterday I was almost T-boned by an older (helmetless!) biker who zoomed through a stop sign on a side street and at the last second veered behind me. Second, and in consequence, drivers who see me stop are often confused as to just what I'm doing, and throw out the rules of stop-sign etiquette. If I have the right of way, they go when I go, and we do that awkward, stop-and-go thing. If they should go first, they wave me through. And then, third, there are drivers who pull up next to me at a stop sign - even when I've purposely put myself in the leftmost third of the lane, so nobody can really get around me. I've had cars pull up to my right and then turn left alongside me, cars on my right turn left in front of me as I try to go straight, and worst of all cars pull up on my left to attempt to turn left, to turn right, or to just go straight.

The lesson, I guess, is to keep one foot off of my pedals at all times - not for balancing, but for kicking a dent in some idiot's door.

That Guy

Lying on her changing table this morning, Julia look up at me with alarm, pointed to me, and said to herself, "That guy's going to work!" Then she pointed again and said, even more confusedly, "That guy's Daddy!" I'd love to know which neurons' firings made me look so exotic at that absolutely banal moment.


My favorite skier, Frode Estil, has his own website. This makes me very happy.

Relanguage This

Today's entry in the "Buzzword Compliant Dictionary" from

relanguage:  Term used by $300-an-hour consultants when $5 words, such as reword, rephrase or rewrite, would work just as well. "I think we can relanguage that to be more effective."

Making a Book by Its Cover

I'm not going to make any promises, but one thing I'd like to do here at Blowing & Drifting is to put up at least one post per week on some sort of occupation or avocation. Out there on the internet are hundreds of great articles, interviews, essays, or other pieces of writing by or at least about someone who has some sort of interesting job that's off to one side of the occupations which are either frequently written about (lawyers, politicians, pro athletes) or best-known to me (academics). I blogged one such piece, by a book designer, a while back on After School Snack.

Coincidentally enough, today I came across another piece about another book designer, Paul Buckley, who runs the design shop at Penguin. In part one of the interview, Buckley expounds on the differences (perhaps truisms to an insider, but fascinating to me) between art and design and rips on the trend toward giant type on the cover of books - a trend that I find as annoying as too-loud teevee commercials. In part two, Buckley talks about the ongoing redesigns of the Penguin Classics Deluxe editions - beautiful and even edgy new versions of the old yellow-and-black design I always liked. He tells a great story about the cover of the new edition of Lady Chatterly's Lover. Buckley also talks about his working process, which is both as straightforward and weird as you might expect. All in all, the interview is, like all the writing on work which I admire, a wonderful glimpse of how people go about finding work that won't make them nuts.

Dimplefingers, the Tiniest Mafiosi

After dinner tonight, Julia went outside to play with her "sand and water table," and the toys therein, including a little Lego figure who became the main object of play. Over and over, Julia would stick him in the sand side of the table, then dunk him in the water side, all the while saying in a low voice, "Yittle Yego man goink swimmink with the fishes in the big blue ocean." I half expect to wake up tonight with a toy horse's head on my pillow.

Julia Don't Like That Hair!

  • Too Combed
  • Hat Hair
  • Uncombed
  • Workout Hair

World Cup Nordic Skiing: Summer Update

Click through for full post.


Bizarre: working out on Tuesday, my tired brain started sorting the Nordic countries into various configurations, according to geography, linguistics, historical relationships, skiing prowess, and so forth. Then lo and behold today Kottke blogged the same issue in a rather frighteningly comprehensive way.

What's Wrong?

INT: Small dining room - evening. MAN sits at his kitchen table, working on his laptop. Over a baby monitor comes a tiny, tinny voice calling, "Daddy coming!" He sighs, stands up, and heads upstairs.

INT: Dark nursery. A small GIRL is in a bed, calling urgently, "Daddy coming!" The man enters and goes to the bed.

MAN (firmly): "Honey, it's Daddy. What's wrong?"

GIRL (softly and naively): "What's wrong?"

MAN (firmly): "Yes, I came to see what's wrong."

GIRL (more strongly but still naively): "What's wrong?"

MAN (chuckling): "I'm asking you, honey, what's wrong?"

GIRL (curiously): "What's wrong?"

MAN (laughing quietly): "Right. Daddy's asking Julia, 'What's wrong?''"

GIRL (perplexed): "Daddy asking Julia, 'What's wrong?''"

MAN (laughing out loud): "Honey, you were peeping so I came to see if there is something you need?"

GIRL (more perplexed): "Julia peeping. What do you need?"

MAN (laughing harder): "Honey, do you need Daddy to do something?"

GIRL (definitively): "Daddy sing a song. 'Pinky Bears' Picnic.'"

The MAN sings this song, slowly and quietly.

MAN (firmly): "Now I need you to go to sleep like a big girl. Night-night."

GIRL (with relief): "Night-night."

INT: Small dining room - evening. MAN again sits at laptop. The only sound is  a quiet hum over the baby monitor.

YouTube, Dude!

I dunno if it's the weather or what, but in the past few days I've seen four or five groups of skateboarders in which one kid is filming the others as they do "tricks." (I use the quotes because from my observation, the trick is usually just falling down.) Where are all these lame videos going? Is there a big audience for clips of exurban 14-year olds sliding down railings?

A Great Day in Harlem

Now this is a gathering of talent: a photograph of dozens of jazz luminaries, all assembled one morning in Harlem in 1958.  I love the close-up of Monk, two years after Brilliant CornersMingus looks less genius-like than he would, even though he was then just a year from recording Ah Um. Where, I wonder, was Duke Ellington? Couldn't he take the "A" train that day?

(Via Kottke.)

Bumper Sticker of the Day

"If you're so Goth, where were you when we were sacking Byzantium?"


I love going to the barber's, especially when it's an old school shop like Bridge Square Barbers in Northfield. There's never a wait, and the vibe is very small-town 1950s, right down to the case full of Clubman brand "men's grooming products." The regular barber's a genial older guy, a lifelong Northfielder, who wears a funny maroon tunic and rocks the shears. For whatever reason, he thinks I work at St. Olaf, so he's always asking me if I know this guy or that "gal" there. I never do.

Today, though, we got to talking about having kids, and he mentioned that he and "the wife" had just had their fifth grandchild. "Boy or girl?" I asked. "Girl." "What's her name?" I asked. He stammered for a few seconds, then said, "Geez louise, you weren't supposed to ask me that. You know, I can't remember. Lise? Lisa? Something 'long those lines." I was awed. His grandpaternal ignorance perfectly complemented the napalmish aftershave he slapped on my shorn neck a few minutes later: two facets of the aloof, alcohol-scented 1950s father.

My experiences at Bridge Square Barbers contrast sharply with a first-time/last-time sort of episode I had at an erstwhile favorite barber shop in the Foshay Tower in Minneapolis. It's not family friendly, but if you want to read about it (and you don't, Mom), click here.


We're having a good summer thunderstorm here in Northfield, and while I welcome the chance to blunt our tropical humidity, I'm also annoyed at those damn clouds for waking Julia up - twice so far, and counting. Both times, she's gone back to sleep easily after I sang her a few songs (non-offspring are usually so repelled by my vocal stylings as to be unable to sleep for days).

The second anti-thunder intervention was the more elaborate. Going into her room, I told her that the thunder is just telling us that the rain is watering our plants so we don't have to water them tomorrow. "The thunder is sending rain to make our plants all green." She whispered sleepily, "Making pants all geen..." Then she asked me to sing a song, so I crooned the "Teddy Bear's Picnic" song (rewritten in our house to feature Pinky Bear, a beloved "friend"). Sensing me getting ready to leave, she whispered, "Hode my hand" and patted around to find my index finger, which she then held very gently for a few minutes before falling back to sleep. Rain, rain, go away, indeed.

The "Northfield" Entry in the Heat Index

The "Northfield" Entry in the Heat Index

It has been very hot here. The six horizontal axes read 68, 78, 87, 97, 107, and 116 degrees F.

(Graphic generated with the Carleton weather database.)

Baby Mummy

It's a marvel to me, how, every night, when I check on Julia before going to bed, she is wrapped up about nine different ways in her kid-sized blanket. There's not that much yellow gingham fabric, really, and yet it's twice around her body, three times around a leg, and wadded under an arm. But one foot is still bare and hanging over the edge of the bed.

Unrolling her, I'm always afraid I'll tug the wrong edge of the blanket too hard and send Julia spinning off the mattress. To which she'd probably respond with her current catchphrase, "What going on here?"

email: christopher at tassava dot com