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So Long, August

'Twas a good month, but holy cow was it busy. We finished the month with a bang at work, accepting nearly a quarter-million in grants and sending out proposals for more than $100k. This three-day weekend is much needed; I haven't had a day off (excepting weekends) in a very long time.

But workload aside, campus is abuzz right now with the arrival of the freshmen next week (some were briefly on campus a couple days ago) and of the new faculty this week. The mood is a happy one, and it's fun to be part of it.


I spent three hours this evening at a city council meeting, participating in and listening to a debate about - wait for it - road improvement. Yea, verily, I have become like unto a growne-up. After a lot of talk that was somehow both tedious and exciting, the council passed a measure advancing this particular project, which will be a great benefit to our "neighborhood."

That's Northfield Bit #1. Here's Northfield Bit #2, a truck I've seen all around town but only had the chance to photograph earlier this week:


Honestly, wouldn't it be easier just to buy a new outfit at Target?


Julia has had a few choice utterances lately. Easily the best was when, yesterday at dinner, after Genevieve rejected the delicious meatloaf everyone else was eating, Julia turned to her and said, "Eat it, Vivi! What's not to like?"

Indeed. If Mama cooked it, you can at least try it. (True to form, Viver only turned down the meatloaf until she was no longer starving, and then found the meatloaf delectable.)


A few minutes into my run tonight, I came around a corner and headed up a slight hill, going straight west, right into the setting sun, which chose exactly that moment to sink, sink, sink behind the hill west of town. Amazing: in five seconds of running, the sun set.

Jazz and Baseball

IM'ing with Matt today, we hit on a few parallels between two great American art forms, jazz and baseball. Viz.,

him: So much lore, an almost entirely oral history.

me: Both intrinsically tied to race, drugs, and the cult of the individual.
him: And both born before and survived the birth of the mass media age.
me: One was a bit more successful than the other at that, though.
me: Both are great American exports.
me: Both were Cold War weapons.
him: Both have taken root elsewhere.

A few more came to mind later. The lists of great practitioners in each field feature as many blacks as whites, with perhaps the former holding a slight edge in sheer accomplishment. Both place a premium on individualized accomplishment within a strictly limited domain of activity. Both are fun to watch live.

Others, anyone? 

She's Starting So Early, It's Scarry

In lieu of other blogging, here's Genevieve enjoying one of her favorite books.


Drummed Up

I'm just now getting to this great interview by Ethan Iverson (the pianist in The Bad Plus) of drummer Billy Hart; Iverson put it up on the occasion of Max Roach's death last week. Having been listening to Roach every day at work since he died (mostly the hits with Clifford Brown, but also the immortal Money Jungle with Ellington and Mingus), I found this a phenomenally insightful exchange:

Hart: For me, as a drummer, I feel that they are closer to the source rhythmically. What always happens is these cats bring back some sort of rhythmic truth just when it is getting too harmonic. That’s why New Orleans is important, because it is the closest port to the islands—that is where Jelly Roll Morton got the rhythms. When you think about Rollins, he’s from there, and he plays these rhythms. Coltrane doesn’t play those rhythms, but Theodore ["Sonny" Rollins] does. [Sings some of “St. Thomas.”] Rollins imposed so much of that in post-bop that it has become a part of the tradition. Next time you listen to Sonny again, notice how much of those island rhythms he plays. Also, Thelonious is an island name. I mean, it’s not Greek, is it? [Laughter.] Bemesha Swing. It’s rhythm. Rhythm is at least equal to hamony in the scheme of human evolution. It’s just that the European concept (since it was so devoid of rhythm) related harmony to emotion so clearly that it used to seem like the only way to do it. At this point, we know differently—obviously rhythm can give you that same emotional value.
Iverson: I think my profound attraction to jazz is that is the precise intersection of both values.
Hart: Right. That’s what jazz is. 

Late Summer Summary

Regarding the weekend, there's not much to add beyond what Shannon's already posted: great weather, fun with new friends, tons of time with the girls (even if Julia was a bit sick). I did chip in one little comment there, though, and I'd be remiss in my paternal duties if I didn't mention that my heart practically pops from my chest when I hear Genevieve chanting her new favorite word: "Dada Dada Dada!" On the way to the grocery store, she kept saying it as a question, and apparently waiting for me to say, "Yes, honey?" before saying it again and again and again. That won't get old for a long, long time.

I took advantage of the good weather to go rollerskiing each afternoon, the only way to solve the problem posed by increasingly early dusks, which make it too dangerous to ski in the evening. Though fun and effective, both workouts were also a bit traumatic for me and the innocent grasshoppers I slaughtered. Big green, tiny black, or medium brown: they were all omnipresent on the roads and I left many, many of them squashed in my tracks. Hocus pocus, another dead locust.

One of the Few Times I Think Conservatism Is a Good Idea

Nicholas Kristof, in the Times, wrote the other day about how simply conserving energy is functionally equivalent to finding new sources of energy. A few eye-popping facts from his column: "James Woolsey, an energy expert and former director of the C.I.A., puts it this way: 'People have radically overestimated the sacrifice and dramatically underestimated the opportunity.' McKinsey & Company, the business consulting company, suggests embracing energy-saving measures that pay for themselves with at least a 10 percent rate of return. McKinsey says that if this approach — at no cost to economic growth — were put into effect worldwide, by 2020 the annual savings would be 1.5 times the current U.S. annual energy consumption."

Pie in the sky, I know, but it's better to have fruity confections there than more carbon dioxide.

Biggest Hit of the Summer

It was a gorgeous day here today. Out rollerskiing, though, I could tell that the air had that temporary-seeming warmth of late summer or early fall - holding heat for a few hours after noon, but then giving it up for a cool evening and night. There were even a few fallen, changed leaves to be seen.

Genevieve, though, thought today would be a great day to bring her summer to a peak by taking her first really unassisted steps today. She first toddled (I can say that now!) seven steps from the play table to me, then later took a half-dozen more steps while I held my hands out in front of her and, best of all, walked from me to Shannon after dinner. She probably would have been even more adventuresome, but Julia and I cheered so loudly after she took her first seven steps that we frightened her and made her cry. Oops. She has pretty good balance already, so I won't be surprised if she starts walking as the default mode of movement later this week. Go, Vivi, go!

Ski Racing in August

August seems to be the month when training for the winter's ski racing tips from building endurance to testing speed. It's the rare location that allows racers to actually try their skills on snow, but Australia is one of those places, and today the elite "Worldloppet" series of marathons began with the 42km Kangaroo Hoppet in Falls Creek, Australia. Typically dominated by members of Australia's small but good national ski team, the Hoppet this year halfway fulfilled that tradition. The women's 42km was hardly a race at all, as Katherine Calder steadily pulled away for a huge 15-minute win ahead of Esther Bottomley and Belinda Phillips. The men's race was far more competitive. German Thomas Freimuth used a big climb to ski out of a six-man pack and solo in for the win, about two minutes up on Aussie star Ben Sim. Minnesotan Adam Swank took third, having made the long trek from Duluth to try the race - and set himself up for a strong season on the domestic racing scene, or the overlapping international ski-marathon circuits, the Worldloppet and FIS Marathon Cup.


In Europe, the biggest - or at least most prominent - off-season test is the Saku Suverull, a rollerski event in Estonia. This year's competition included only rollerski races, unlike previous years' competitions, which mixed rollerskiing and footraces.

The Russians dominated the Suverull races, beginning with the opening sprints on Friday, August 7. In the opening women's sprint race, unknown 21-year-old Natalia Matveyeva set the fastest qualifying time, and then took the final by more than a second (a rather large gap) over two other Russians. Only two of the top ten women weren't Russian racers. The men's sprint final was won by Eldar Roenning, the Norwegian who has a long record of sprint success, just ahead of another accomplished sprinter, Thobias Fredriksson of Sweden, and another unknown youngster, Matias Strandvall of Finland.

The two-stage distance pursuit races on Saturday, 8/8, reversed the usual format for pursuits by beginning with freestyle races. In the women's 10km, Yulia Ivanova of Russia finished first, well ahead of countrywomen Evgenia Medvedeva and Natalya Korosteleva. In the men's 15km, Olympic champion Eugeni Dementiev took first, more than 15 seconds up on his closest pursuers, Russians Vassili Rotchev and Alexander Legkov and Estonian Aivar Rehemaa, the strongest native in the races. The men's 20km classical technique race saw Dementiev take an uncontested win, but the trio who started behind him raced hard for the other two podium spots. Rotchev used his superior sprinting ability to seal the silver, and Rehemaa delighted the Estonian crowd by holding off Legkov, but the three all crossed the finish line in exactly one second. The women's 12km classical race was equally exciting, though not contested to the line. Starting in third, Korosteleva quickly took the lead and pulled away from Ivanova, who skied solidly to take second. Medvedeva faded badly, however, falling to sixth at the finish and allowing Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland to close a big timegap and finish third.

It's hard to draw too many conclusions for the winter from the Suverull (or the Hoppet, for that matter), but the results do show who's at least maintaining fitness over the summer. Certainly, the Russians - who have lately suffered quite a few doping scandals in their cross-country ski teams - seem to be training well, and of course Roenning and Kowalczyk look to be strong enough to vie for World Cup wins again this season - and perhaps for World Cup titles. Then there are my two favorite countries to follow: Finland and Estonia. If Estonian Rehemaa really is capable of top-level results, he could be a new addition to the WC podiums - and perhaps even to a solid Estonian relay team. (Of course, I speculated about the same thing last year...) And then there's the young male Finnish sprinter Strandvall: Finland has never had a good men's sprinter, so it'd be fantastic if he could show at Kuusamo in December or Lahti in March.

Readers Are Leaders

The girls' combined age is only, what, 50 months or so, and yet already the bibliomania is in tsunami stage. We're practically bribing Julia to do something - anything! - besides sitting in this or that chair, "reading" books one at a time for minutes and (if she could) hours on end. And Viver: she already has a growing sit of favorite board books, along with a couple preferred big-kid books, and will happily sit in that floppily upright way babies have, paging through them and commenting with a "Eeeeek!" or "Mmmmmwhah!" on particularly good pictures.

And though I am of course pleased that my two little preliterates like "reading" so much, and I love seeing them sitting side by side, literally knee-deep in books, I also hope that they'll realize there are lots of other fun things to do. To which Julia would say, as she did the other day when I told her, a little too parentally, that she needs to make sure she uses her body during the day, not just her brain, "But Daddy, I do use my body when I'm reading! I put my books on my knees!"

I'm sure she read that somewhere.

The First Five Minutes

Perhaps because I was late getting home tonight (sorry, honey!), the first five minutes in the house were especially interesting as a snapshot of our family life nowadays. Shannon pretty much hightailed it upstairs when I came through the door, leaving me with the two girls. As I unpacked, VV came up to screech a greeting, then crawled all around the kitchen, dining room, and living room, pursuing the cat and stopping only to deliver her patented screech of delight - "Look, everyone! The cat is still here!" - or to kiss said cat with a loud "mmmmm-wah!" Amidst this interspecies lovefest, Julia sat in her booster seat at the kitchen table, doing watercolors in a Disney Princesses art pad and periodically demanding that I paint or that I change her murky brush water. Not a bad homecoming.


Friday is the 107th birthday of Jorge Luis Borges, the great Argentinian writer. Read my favorite of his works, a meditation on history, reality, and belief called "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius." (While you're at it, listen to some Guillermo Klein - a great current Argentinian jazz pianist and bandleader.)

Cool Running

This is getting to be a trend, but tonight's run was surreal, too. I ran a favorite route in the Lower Arb, one which mostly parallels the Cannon River. Unusually, I didn't see a single animal, and heard only some birds and the omnipresent crickets (who now never stop chirping, morning, noon, or night).

Instead of fauna, the main characteristic of the run was water. After umpteen days of rain, the Cannon was running very fast and high, so much so that there was a definite roar. At one spot on the trail where there is usually a gentle six-foot bank sloping down to the river, I found instead an eight-foot wide (but at most six-inch deep) stream flowing down out of the saturated marshes into the river. There was nothing to do but take a flying leap and run with a wet shoe. Further along the path, as it bent away from the river, the fog was thick enough that on my way home, I couldn't see the trees that I knew were six feet off the path. And though I never like running the long, grinding hill that punctuates this particular run, the incline and declines were especially bad today on account of the many deep channels cut by rain into the gravel path. At this rate, the Arb's going to dissolve.

Rained Out the Door

We're in our fourth straight day of appreciable rainfall today, which is - besides making the mushrooms sprout - turning the low spots into puddles and making the turf squishy as sponges. The fall term is well and truly on the way at the college: biking at at eight each morning, I have to weave my way through a long line of football players trooping toward the cafeteria with that intentional slothfulness of athletes facing two-a-day practices. 

At work, we're building toward the usual fall peak, when we'll be sending out a few proposals a week for a couple months. My red pen will be well used. Shannon brought the girls up to campus at the end of the day, which was a wonderful surprise. There's nothing like holding your two kids to take the edge off the day.

After those same two girls were in bed, I headed out for one of the odder runs I've every taken. Within a minute of departing, a huge thunderclap sounded, and a few seconds later a picture-perfect lightning bolt struck a ridge off to the north. Instantly, a downpour started - but only on the other side of the street from the sidewalk where I was running. I'd barely had time to marvel at this meteorological strangeness before the rain crossed the street and hit me. I ran through this torrent for the next ten minutes, and then it petered out in a few peals of thunder. I was soaked and happy; running in 100% humidity sure beats running in 98% humidity.

RSS for the U.S.

Thanks to the wonders of Google Reader, I can use RSS feeds to follow a crapload of websites (okay, 149 - twenty-six fewer than in June). I can't imagine using the web without GReader in a permanent tab in my browser, and its utility is such that I almost won't bother reading a new website if it doesn't have an RSS feed that can hook into GReader.

This leads me to notice that RSS feeds seem to be far more common in the U.S. than elsewhere on the web. For instance, I try to follow nordic skiing news sites from Germany, Norway, Italy, and Sweden, but the sites never have RSS feeds, and thus I don't really bother with them too much. It's an odd aspect of web life that the lack of RSS feeds is a bigger impediment than the more obvious fact that the sites are written in German, Norwegian, Italian, and Swedish. A quick cut and paste to a translation website can usually give me an ugly but passable translation. 


Perhaps in conjunction with the experiment, the weekend saw some elite cyclists try out the Olympic road-race course, which starts in Beijing and runs for 174km (about seventy k shorter than the full Olympic race). Surprisingly, according to Velonews, "The riders said they were more affected by the 70 percent humidity and 86-degree temperatures. 'My lungs hurt to breathe, but it's not the dirtiest place I've raced,' [Australian racer Cadel] Evans said. 'Racing in an Italian city you get dirtier from diesel fumes. But it's the humidity here that surprised me, and the combination of pollution and humidity makes it a bit harder.' [Aussie Michael] Rogers said: 'I spend a fair bit of time near Milan so I'm used to riding with the pollution. It's also better at the finish line than at the start when we had to ride through the city. We're about 60 kilometers out of the city here but it's still relatively humid and hot, so it's tough conditions.'

Pie in the Skype

I use Skype to IM with certain people, so I was slightly annoyed last week when the application was unavailable, and moderately interested in the "why." Skype's originally an Estonian company, so I had fuzzy notions, informed by my ongoing reading of William Gibson's new novel, that somehow the Russians had taken it down. Anyhow, the truth's more prosaic, idiotic, and Redmondy:

On Thursday, 16th August 2007, the Skype peer-to-peer network became unstable and suffered a critical disruption. The disruption was triggered by a massive restart of our users’ computers across the globe within a very short timeframe as they re-booted after receiving a routine set of patches through Windows Update. The high number of restarts affected Skype’s network resources. This caused a flood of log-in requests, which, combined with the lack of peer-to-peer network resources, prompted a chain reaction that had a critical impact. Normally Skype’s peer-to-peer network has an inbuilt ability to self-heal, however, this event revealed a previously unseen software bug within the network resource allocation algorithm which prevented the self-healing function from working quickly. Regrettably, as a result of this disruption, Skype was unavailable to the majority of its users for approximately two days.

Between this event and the actual attack by Russia on Estonia's cyberinfrastructure earlier this year, one could sketch out a whole science-fiction novel.

I'm a Fungi!

Talk about your rainy spells, man. In southeastern Minnesota, five people died in flooding overnight, whole houses are floating away, and cars disappeared into mudslides.

Here in Northfield, it was just a gray, wet day. We've collected almost three inches in the last two days. About the only thing worth noting is that the wetness has caused an explosion of fungus in the Arb: running today, I saw hundreds of tiny little toadstools, often in big wheat-colored clusters; some mushrooms with caps as big as dinner plates; and, strangely, lots of things that looked just like loaves of bread - but had the familiar mushroom innards when squashed.

Call Noah: His Boat's Ready

Shannon already blogged about the day's main event, a long trip up to Burnsville with the girls for VV's one-year portraits. All in all, it went well, even if Viver wasn't too into having a stranger repeatedly stun her with a sudden blinding flashes of light. Both girls had some good fun trooping around the mall, chowing down at the food court, and entertaining themselves, each other, and us for most of the to-and-from drives. Being one now, VV even sat in a forward-facing carseat, which she thought was pretty great. And Julia played a long, hilarious game of "Which do you like better?" with Mama (e.g., "Which do you like better: apples or bananas?" "I like them both the same, Mama!")

The worst part of the day, in fact, was the incessant rain, which sent the girls and me to Menards to use their indoor playground, soaked me to the skin when I went for a run during the girls' naps, and created near-zero visibility on the way home from the big photo appointment. But now the rain is just sound outside, and all's well.

Spaking Spankers

1. Genevieve is utterly enamored of Ten Minutes to Bedtime, a recently-acquired book (which, I just learned, has a great web complement). She'll leaf through it for some time, studying the very detailed pictures, she giggles every single time Shannon reads the things the baby hamster says, and when I call out "Ten minutes to bedtime!" - whether for fun or because it is, in fact, ten minutes to bedtime - she imitates the rise and fall with her own screeched, "Aaaaaah-AAAAH-aaah!" Very cute.

2. Julia ritually inquires each morning if she fell asleep easily the previous night by asking, "Did I fall asleep without a peep?" The answer varies. This morning, shooting me a sly grin, she changed things up and asked, "Did I fall asleep without e'er a peep?" I couldn't believe she was actually saying, "e'er," so I had her repeat herself, and then asked where on earth she learned the word "e'er." "From the nursery rhymes book, Daddy." Duh. I predict she post-literate Julia will fill many Mead notebooks with poems.

Racing Redenbacher

I risked the increasingly early dusk by going for a longish rollerski after Julia went to bed. I don't like being out on the roads in bad light, but I was jonesing for the hills on this particular route, so I put on my helmet and my silly vest with the bright blinking light on it and hit the pavement. The workout went very well, and in fact the only out-of-the-ordinary part of it was smelling popcorn everywhere, thanks to the wet air and the tasseled-out cornfields. I'm used to the odors of sweat, wet grass, manure, turkeys, and exhaust, but this was a new one.

Why Do I Look So Mad?

image, a civic blog here, is running this in its sidebar alongside "spots" for other local bloggers who are aggregated by the

On top of that, or in some other metaphorically directional relationship, the town paper published an embarrassingly long letter I wrote to the editor on a road project that will affect our "neighborhood" here between the golf course and the corn ethanol fields. If all politics are local, mine are stored in the garage: I want a better road so that it's safer to commute by bike into the rest of town and new paths so that Shannon can push our stroller on walks that actually leave our subdivision. Another Northfield blog, Locally Grown, just ran a good summary of the controversy over the project. Gripping stuff, I know. I'll post a quiz tomorrow.

Crate & Marvel

On short notice, I went up to Edina tonight to pick up a piece of furniture at Southdale. It was a rush-rush trip that started the second I left Julia's room, peaked when I rushed into Crate & Barrel six minutes before closing time (Jamie A. at the checkout counter wasn't too pleased to be bothered by the sweaty guy), and then wound down with a long drive back home in the dark, lighter of wallet but heavier of storage bench.

The whole way south, I thought about how strange the mall seemed. I can't even remember the last time I was in a mall (Mall of America? a year ago?), and despite being on the verge of shutting down for the night, it was a bit overwhelming: the lights, the giant signs, the flood of colors everywhere, the overlapping musical noise, the flow of teenagers between Caribou and the movie theaters... Thank goodness I managed to overcome my displacement enough to find my credit card.

Play Ball

I'm watching a pretty good championship ballgame on ESPN right now: there are two outs in the bottom of the last inning, and the home team is desperately trying to score a run to re-tie the game after the visitors scored one run in a bases-loaded situation in the top half of the inning. The twist is that it's the girl's' Little League World Series, which I'd never heard of before, much less watched on national TV. But the skills are pretty sharp (clutch hits, decent pitching, good fielding), the game's pretty good too, and some of the protective headgear (on batters and pitchers, not just catchers) is positively Hannibal Lecterian:


Babes' Mouths

To my extreme delight, Genevieve won't stop saying, "Dada Dada Dada" while looking at me beseechingly. It'd be nice if she'd say, "Mama" again, but I'll take it.

Julia, on the other hand, accused me the other day of being "mischievous" when I said she'd have to wait her turn to have a book read to her. 


Doing some research for a proposal today, I came across a freshman seminar, to be taught this fall by one of the college's venerable historians, called "1989: The Year of Your Birth in History." I scoffed. 1989? The year of whose birth? Then I did the calculation and holy crap of course it's right. I remember 1989 primarily as the year I couldn't see Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing because no way no how was that going to play at a theater in the lily-white Copper Country. I made do by listening to Public Enemy's "Fight the Power," which starts, "1989 the number - another summer (get down)/Sound of the funky drummer/Music hittin' your heart cause I know you got soul." 

Kid Latin

Saturday, after the Great First Birthday Extravaganza, Julia was taking her bath and musing aloud about the various people who'd attended. In particular, she was interested in the fact that some people seemed to have names that either "a boy or a girl" could have, whereas others had names only a boy or a girl could have. Our married friends Kris and Kristi were right on the border between the two groups, but their "baby Anna" was firmly in the second group. "Can a boy be named 'Julia'?" she asked? "No," I said, "but a boy might be named 'Julius.'" She looked up at me for a second, thinking. "What about 'Genevieve'? Can a boy be named 'Genevivius'?" I was disappointed to tell her that no, in fact, he couldn't. At least not in our social stratum.

Seedy Behavior

Zooming over the roads this weekend on my rollerskis, I saw that many of the corn and soybean fields are now sporting bright signs advertising the seed companies whose products are growing therein: Pioneer Hi-Bred ("a Du Pont company") and Croplan Genetics (a division of Land o' Lakes, the big farm cooperative), as well as some others I didn't recognize. Checking those company websites, I see they both say, explicitly or implicitly, that they sell "plant genetics." Am I so old that I can remember when farmers bought seeds, not "genetics"? Anyhow, the signs weren't up two weeks ago, much less in the spring; I wonder if the seed genetics company reps wait to see if the plants come up well before sticking a sign in front of the field.


I've rarely been this tired on a Sunday night: the weekend's festivities, heat, and general business really took it out of me. But more than anything, I think I'm reveling in a weekend of really getting to know Genevieve better and better. 


I'm really getting smacked in the face with her personality (and sometimes literally) now that the one-year milestone is approaching, but even apart from that, there's just so much to her: her wry smile when she's being mischievous, the way she shakes her head very certainly when turning down a book or baked beans, the way she will never give me a kiss (but this afternoon gave me a long bear hug), the way her blonde hair sticks straight up from her head, how she starts bobbing up and down whenever she hears the word "dance," her undying love for the cat even though the cat clearly doesn't care for her in the least... I could go on, and tomorrow, I might.

No Time to Blog

There was no time to blog today because somebody had her first birthday party! She rather enjoyed her first cupcake.


The day's festivities went very well indeed.

Then things went to hell - kinda. A few hours after the tired sisters hit the hay, a giant thunderstorm forced us to drag them from their cozy beds and huddle in the closet for twenty minutes. Luckily, the worst weather we saw was heavy rain, and both of them went back to sleep as soon as we let them.

Sister Got Soul

Yesterday, Julia was playing with her "computer" (a defunct keyboard), and asked, "Daddy, what's this line for?" while running her finger over the row of function keys at the top of the keyboard. I said, "Those are special keys that can do certain things on a computer. They're called 'function keys.'" She looked over at me and said, "What's the funk?"

You're Reading the "Minnesota Blog of the Day"

I discovered this morning that City Pages named this humble blog the "Minnesota Blog of the Day" for August 8! Thanks, CP! Welcome, everyone and anyone who's here because of the link. I appreciate your visit.

(CP, if you're reading this, the mother of my children is a pretty good blogger, too.)

In Which I Worship Ornette Coleman

I love Ornette Coleman. Charlie Parker and John Coltrane are wonderful, of course, but I prefer Coleman's unremitting and rewarding sax style. "Song X"? Why not? "Street Woman"? Sweet, man. "Law Years"? All ears. "The Good Life"? Indeed. Free JazzScience Fiction Sessions? Skies of America? There's a few hours of your life well-spent. He's a great saxophonist, maybe the best.

And but so, I was elated to discover, on the MP-free jazz site Destination Out!, a tune with Charlie Haden on bass and Coleman playing trumpet. It's cracked, but it's very good.

Northfield's Finest

Our fair city's biweekly paper, the Northfield News, has been on a hot streak lately, reporting on the craziness that's engulfed the town this summer. Wednesday's paper had a low light, though, in the form of a vapid interview by the paper's sports editor with last' year's star male athlete at Northfield High. This was the first exchange in the interview, published smack in the middle of the front page of the sports section:

Q: "You were a three-sport athlete at NHS, which means you rarely ever got a day off from sports. Did it ever get to be too much?"

A: "No, not really, mostly because I didn't put a lot of effort into school. It was alright. [sic] I liked all my sports enough that, even in the rough times, it was alright to go to practice every day."

Inspiring. Truly, truly inspiring.

Things I Scared Today

1. My eldest daughter, but allegedly yelling Boo "right in my ear, Daddy!" when in fact I said it in a relatively normal way to my other daughter while we were upstairs and Julia was about twenty feet away.

2. My youngest daughter, but in a good way, by popping out from behind the bed to grab her and tickle her chubby tummy.

3. Another deer, lounging in the scrub along an Arb path.

4. Another runner, who had her head down when I zooomed up to her on a dark part of the trails. She shrieked, covered her mouth, and then giggled. I apologized.

Baby Einstein, Indeed

I''ve been hating on Baby Einstein for a long time, but I was actually kinda sad to read the news (like this story in Time) about a study by two language scientists that videos like BE's heavily marketed products are not only ineffective, but may actually be harmful to young kids:

With every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watched the videos. These products had the strongest detrimental effect on babies 8 to 16 months old, the age at which language skills are starting to form.


Maybe it's the weather, but today was a weird day, too. I went up to the U for a meeting, and thanks to the detours and closed exits, had to drive down Washington, perpendicular to the bridge. Just like with Ground Zero when I saw it last summer, the absence was powerful.

Back at home, it was apparently Toppling Toddler Day, with Vivi falling this way, that way, and always down. Julia was anything but physically adventurous at 11.8 months, so it's an adjustment for me to see Viver clambering up onto beds, tables, stairs, chairs, toilets, bathtub edges, et cetera - and to run to catch her as she pitches off of them. Back when Julia was a toddler - hell, now - you could leave her alone for a bit and expect on your return to only find her nearer whatever books were in the room. Not so with Genevieve! It'll be fun to see her push all the physical limits. I'm still wagering that she'll be walking by her birthday (nine days!).

Julia handled the chaos with aplomb, sitting quietly and reading a book or twenty. Today, she did something I hadn't seen before, setting the pillow from her bed against the wall on the other side of the room and sitting there to page through some Richard Scarry. If Levenger knew what's what, they'd get her on the mailing list for some "Tools for Serious Readers" right now. Homegirl needs a lap desk.

Literally over all this activity was some truly disgusting weather: low clouds, high humidity and very high dew points, still air. It's like someone's badly ventilated basement around here. The thick atmosphere must have muffled all sounds, because on my run I startled a pheasant and a deer, both of which leapt up from hiding spots a few feet from me.

Peeling Out

On my way back home during my workout this afternoon, I was fighting a headwind (and some thick air: ultra-high humidity made for terrible visibility) and going pretty slow. This gave me the dubious opportunity to study the flotsam and jetsam on the roads, including the ubiquitous roadkill, soda containers, and cigarette packs.

Today's weirdest find was a half-dozen blackened banana peels, evenly spaced from each other and all about a foot or to inside the white line. I wouldn't even have recognized them but for the bright-blue Chiquita stickers. Shannon proposed that they had been dropped by some cyclists on the way back into town. I suppose that's a good guess, though - six? where the riders on tandems with monkeys?

1 in 300,000,000

From the results given by a site that looks up information about a particular name:

According to the US Census Bureau°, 1.038% of US residents have the first name 'Christopher' and fewer than 0.001% have the surname 'Tassava'. The US has around 300 million residents, so we guesstimate there are 0 'Christopher Tassava's.


When I went in to get Julia up this morning, I discovered that her covers were all askew - not just sleep-rumpled, but sideways on the bed. Before I could even try to use my befogged brain to figure out why, she blurted out excitedly, "Daddy, I fell out of bed this night! An' then I climbed back into my bed and put my covers back on!" The story checked out: she'd fallen out of her bed at some point overnight and then put herself back to bed. She seemed nonplussed unperturbed by the event, and skeptical of our reminders that she could call for us when things like this happen.

(8/5/07 9:40 PM - edited to reflect the, you know, actual definition of "nonplussed," as gently pointed out by the proprietor of Status Quon't.)

Incongruous and Odd

Today was a day of incongruities and oddities, to say the least. It's August, but the high temperature was only 67 degrees, at midnight, and it was hovered around 60 all afternoon. It was raining heavily when we all got up this morning, but all the automatic sprinklers were going full stream. Barry Bonds tied Hank Aaron's home run record, but Alex Rodriguez is already well ahead of the pace needed to eclipse Bonds as HR king. I took the girls to a great playground, but it was indoors, at a home-improvement center. Both girls slept in late, but also took good naps. Bush was in Minneapolis to visit the scene of the bridge collapse, but could only mutter promises that Baghdad and New Orleans tell us are hollow. Our anniversary isn't for another nine days, but I gave Shannon her present anyhow. It was a weekend, but I spent much of my free time working.


I was flattered to discover this morning that I accidentally inspired the creation of a new and funny list by Brendon Etter, playwright, actor, Carleton textbook manager, possessor of the excellentest email username ever ("better"), and blog comedian extraordinaire. A passing comment here led to this funny list, "What They Say to and about Guys with Big Feet." Nobody's ever said any of these things to me yet, not even #8, but I sure hope many of them have been said about me.

Sprawl Together Now

With Northfield in the middle of the long process of revising its municipal development strategy, this article in the American Prospect is especially useful as a critique of "conservative" attacks on smart growth or anti-sprawl ideas. (I use the sneer quotes because the conservatism is spoon-shallow: it's really just market fundamentalism in another guise.)

In the piece, reporter Ben Adler analyzes the arguments of two prominent sprawl advocates, Wendell Cox and Ron Utt, who claim, in brief, that since Americans often (claim to) enjoy living in low-density, oil-dependent 'burbs, we should not block the expansion of those 'burbs - or the entrenchment of the lifestyles (from long-distance single-occupancy commutes to sedentary recreation opportunities) they require and sustain.

In reacting, Adler's writing and thinking are both excellent, and nowhere more so than when he concludes, quoting a smart growth advocate, that it's really in restraining suburban sprawl, and in developing meaningful alternatives (high-density housing, mixed-use cities, transportation options that include walking, biking, and mass transit) that we as a society will really start offering consumer choice (that sine qua non of the market) and allow market forces such as prices and supply/demand to function.

Nothing to Say

I'm too tired by the coverage and contemplation of the bridge disaster in Minneapolis to say much except that I was very happy to come home and see all three of my girls tonight.

A Bridge Too Far

I'm still sitting here, aghast, watching the coverage of the freeway bridge collapse in Minneapolis. By now, the talking heads are repeating themselves every five minutes or so, but one of the two main bits of information - how many are dead - is out there and holding steady, tragically but also fortunately, at a relatively low number.

The other main bit of information - what caused this disaster - is still indeterminate. I thought it was telling that when a KARE-11 reporter interviewed someone with the bridge-repair contractor, a well-known Cities attorney was right there and did most of the talking. Nothing like entering evidence into the record right away, counsel. I hope that when the sun comes up, the death toll hasn't risen and that there's some sense of why and how this happened.


A few minutes ago, in the middle of dinner, someone knocked on the door. We naively thought that the "No Solicitors" sign on our door meant that it had to be a neighbor, so I went to see whom it was. Unfortunately, it was an honest-to-god door-to-door salesman wearing argyle sneakers and selling an all-in-one cleaning solution. When I told him that we were in the middle of dinner, he said, "My condolences," and continued his patter, which included saying that the cleaner was totally natural and proving this point by licking some of it off the spray-nozzle straw. That's when I said thanks and shut the door. Could he read the sign? Did he choose to ignore it?

Quotable Notable

So far this morning, Julia has had two good lines. First, when I was encouraging her to thank her mom for doing her a favor, she said grumpily, "I'm too busy talking to say thank you." A few minutes later, in a better mood, she was sprinting back and forth through the hallway and yelled, "I love to read and sleep and run!"

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