Blowing & Drifting

Cos-No-Politan

This only marks me as the biggest yokel east of the Cannon River, but I was thrilled when tonight's episode of 30 Rock opened with a scene in the plaza at Rockefeller Center where I sat and had lunch on the last day of my trip to New York last spring. I done been there!

The Shattered Banana

The last couple days of biking have been really cold, with wind chills of minus 4 F in the morning and the afternoon. Minus four, I learned yesterday, is cold enough to freeze the little plastic gate in the mouth of my bike lock; I had to break it and chip it out of my lock with a penknife. (Not quite having a stalled car with a hungry infant, but we all bear our crosses). Minus four was also cold enough to freeze the banana peel that's been lying in Prairie Street for weeks. When I rode over it yesterday morning, it shattered like a lightbulb - sorta the reverse of the high-school physics experiment where you use a frozen banana as a hammer.

Eventful Evening

Shannon's blogged a funny anecdote from this evening, so here are mine:

1. Nursing moms give up a lot. This is not news to anyone who's been or known one, but tonight exemplified this. Shannon made a delicious Thai curry, seen here in my bowl, waiting to be devoured. On tasting it, she decided that she'd better not eat it for dinner as it was beyond spicy and thus, probably upsetting to the little nursling's stomach. So she had something else, something somewhat less interesting. That is sacrifice.

2. Julia dug into the curry with aplomb, even though it truly was very strong and very spicy - delicious, but not necessarily toddler fare. When we asked if she liked it, she looked up and announced, "I do, I do like the curry!" I love that double-"I do" construction, her characteristic way of emphasizing just how strongly she feels. I mean, in addition to shrieking.

3. Before dinner, Julia and I somehow got to talking about what day it was, a favorite topic (partly, I think, because she likes figuring out which days are "Daddy go to work" days and which days are "weekends"). I told her it was Wednesday, and asked her what yesterday was. "Tuesday!" she said. "What day is tomorrow?" She didn't know, so I told her and asked, "What day comes after Thursday?" I could practically hear the cogs whirring as she tried to think of the answer, so I offered a hint: "Fffffrrrr..." She thought harder and then said, "For Daddy to stay home day!" I like it. From here on out, I'm replacing TGIF with TGIFDTSHD.

Can I Use this Excuse to Avoid Vacuuming?

Norwegian farmer "Håkon Robertsen has refused to tear down a condemned barn for fear of reprisals from 'little people' and is ready to sue local authorities to protect the building...  Robertsen would not go into detail about his experiences, but said he was convinced that to comply with the order would have serious consequences for his life and health. 'A while back I removed the top of the building and that is an experience I will not repeat,' he said, and points out that the barn is built on an old Viking site."

Think Snow

Lots of bumperstickers in the U.P. say that, and with good reason: the whole place's economy depends on getting snow early, often, and late. I was momentarily thrilled by our early-November snow here in NFLD, but that's all long gone, and right now we're getting a cold, pelting rain. It might turn to snow tomorrow, in which case maybe I will be able to ski in November. Those poor bastards on the cross-country World Cup circuit are running into the same trouble: lack of snow in central and southern Europe means they might have to switch venues from Italy to Norway for next weekend's races. It's an inconvenient truth that they'd trade down from pizza and espresso to herring and watery coffee.

Pictures

tassava7_2'Twas the month before Christmas, and all through the land, parents were trying to get their $#&#)%* kids to sit still for one @$)@#$& second so we can take one @$)@#$& decent picture.

Sometimes things turn out very well, as the Snarky Squab described the other day or as the photo above (taken by our friend, the supremely talented photographer who blogs here) shows.

Sometimes they don't, as this story and especially this photo - which no parent can not view - demonstrate. (Of the photo, I can say only that I laughed until I cried, clutching my matching Eeyore doll.)

Bad Parenting

I read a chilling blog post over at Laid-Off Dad yesterday. The nub:

Late in the afternoon, we called Perry's mom to confirm that I was on my way to pick Robert up. The usual chit-chat, how about this weather, and then an oh-by-the-way, the boys got into Perry's dad's collection of Leatherman tools and used the knife blades to slice up his weight-lifting bench. WHAT? Off I leapt, sprint-walking to their apartment, arms rigid, fists flexing, playing out confrontational conversations in my mind. Yes, I have sharp tools in the house. But they're in a latched tool box, on a shelf nine feet off the floor, in a room the kids aren't allowed to play in. What the fuck were they thinking?

This literally kept me awake last night. Read the comments to the post - what would you, fellow parent, do?

Carleton Then and Now

It's still and quiet around campus already. Since the College adheres to the World's Craziest Academic Calendar, students go home for the year before Thanksgiving and don't return until the new year. <old man voice>: "Must be nice!"</voice> Looking around the Colelge's website for a blurb on its history, I came across a great collection of paired photos showing various buildings in years gone by and (more or less) today. Here are photos of my office building, Laird Hall. The huge differences in the number and size of the trees in each before-and-after (especially this onel) makes me more hopeful that our little subdivision won't look quite so barren in a few years. Then again, I hope I'm not in the townhouse in sixty years.

Football Economics

I like the way economists think. As the success of Freakanomics suggests, they have an appealing (sometimes, appalling) way of turning an issue inside out. This essay by Kevin Hassett applies economic thinking to the National Football League in trying to figure out, among other things, why the Patriots are so good and the Redskins are so bad.

Football teams have a relatively simple economic problem to solve. They have to fill their rosters with players, and have to pay the entire collection of players an amount fixed by the league. They can add players in two main ways: sign veterans as free agents or hire new players out of college in a league-wide draft. Veteran free agents get a salary set in the free market. Most draftees receive a relatively lower salary set by collective bargaining. What they are paid depends on the round in which they are drafted. Economics has a very clear prediction for optimal team behavior. Firms should load up on draft picks, especially from the inexpensive late rounds. Every team has the same cumulative salary to pay, so, to outperform the other teams, you must receive higher value relative to salary from your players than your opponents receive from theirs. If, for example, you select a Pro Bowl (all-star) receiver in the fifth round of the draft, that player may well receive a salary one-tenth that of a veteran Pro Bowl receiver of roughly equal talent who has had his salary set on the market. So your team gets a huge surplus. It is nearly impossible to derive surplus from the veteran free-agent market, since you are paying market wages. While injuries and emergencies might require some veteran signing, the draft is the only place to build a winning team. So economics would predict that teams would uniformly put an enormous effort into perfecting their drafts, and avoid sinking excessive dollars into costly free agents. In fact, this model predicts very well the behavior of one team, the New England Patriots. Their head coach, Bill Belichick, who received his undergraduate degree in economics from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, has been an artist at squeezing value-added out of his draft picks, and has won three of the last five Super Bowls.

This is the antithesis of the spendthrift, vet-heavy Redskins. Read the whole article to see how Hassett critiques the team.

Google Mapspelling

Google Mapspelling

This is the silliest form of internet fun, but at GeoGreeting you can use "letters" found via Google Maps to write stuff such as the name of your blog or a note to your wife.

(This is my second straight Google Maps post. And I just finished a half hour with Google Reader, their RSS application. And I have my home and work Firefoxes set up to open on my personalized Google homepage. And I use Google Notifier to alert me to events on my Google Calendar. At least I don't have a gmail account. That would be too much.)

I'll Sharpen My Shovel

I'll Sharpen My Shovel

At "If I dig a very deep hole, where I go to stop?" (sic), you can use Google Maps to find the spot on the exactly other side of the planet from where you are. Here's where I'd emerge if I started digging in the street out front. Not good. The Southeast Indian Ridge isn't a very hospitable place for humans.

Strange Kids

And I don't mean exotic-breed goat babies. Putting Gigi to sleep for what felt like the millionth time this evening, I was padding over to the bassinet when she suddenly erupted in a real laugh - while staying dead asleep. In the half-lit room, I could see that she had a big grin on her little face, no doubt dreaming of endless milk and an easy-to-find thumb.

Earlier today, Julia was running down a wide aisle at Target when she abruptly glanced down and pulled up, tottering. I thought maybe she had stepped in someone's gum or some other sticky substance, but it turned out that she'd just noticed the reflections of the overhead lights in the shiny floor tiles, and was suddenly worried about stepping in the mysterious little pools of yellow. She walked the rest of the way to the check-out lanes with a stiff-legged gait and her eyes glued to the floor.

Gällivare: New Picks

The day's individual races at Gällivare were quite exciting, with Katerina Neumannova and Ole Einar Bjørndalen dominating the women's and men's races, respectively. I picked all three of women who made the 10km podium, but in the wrong order. Oops. Anyhow, in light of today's results and of the just-announced relay teams, I'm revising my picks for tomorrow's relays:

women's 4x5 km relay: 1. Germany 2. Russia 3. Norway I
men's 4x10 km relay: 1. Norway I 2. Germany 3. Russia

Playing to the Audience

Both girls are hamming it up these days, in their own distinctive ways. Genevieve's ceaseless attempts to compel her mouth to make sounds often end in a tiring but funny exchange of raspberries. She goes, "Pbbbthhh," the spit dribbles out on her chin, and then she opens her eyes reeeeeall wide, waiting for me to do the same thing back. The waiting is the hardest part, but once she hears that sounds she loves, she grins ear to ear. Julia, on the other hand, has added a new dadaist joke to her repertoire: she simply leans over toward one of us (usually Mom) and whispers, "Pepperoni." Apropos of nothing. Just "pepperoni."

I love those kids.

Gällivare

In advance of the World Cup races at Gällivare this weekend, there are some good things to read about the U.S. team, including an interview with the best men's skier, Kris Freeman (his training regime runs to about 85 hours of training per month, and one six-hour workout each week - and this is a guy who rarely places in the top 30 in a World Cup race), a report from the U.S. team's training site at Kiruna, Sweden (check the pictures) and an overview of how the Canadian and American teams stand to do this season. With a stronger record of recent accomplishment (seventh in the "Nation's Cup" rankings of national teams), Canada looks to be poised for the best results this season, though their two best skiers are not with the team this year. Beckie Scott retired and Sara Renner is pregnant, leaving Olympic sprint champion Chandra Crawford to lead the way for the women and Devon Kershaw and George Gray to pace the men. The U.S. has a relatively weaker team (17th in the Nation's Cup), but many American racers are seemingly prepared for high-level results. On the men's sprint squad, Andy Newell already has one top-ten finish this year, and Torin Koos and Chris Cook have also trained well. The men's distance team, led by Kris Freeman, needs to take a big stride forward in order to begin to score points consistently, but many members of the team could well do so, especially early in the season. (Sprinter Newell placed highly in an elite race last weekend.) The women's team is young and untested on the elite international scene, but Kikkan Randall did well in the sprint at Torino and in a late-season World Cup sprint.

With all that in mind, here are my picks for this weekend's races, based on what information is out there on who will be racing (and bearing in mind that I correctly picked just two of the twelve podium spots at Düsseldorf: the women's sprint winner (Bjorgen) and the show team in the women's team sprint (Finland) - a paltry 16%.

women's 10 km freestyle (interval start): 1. Marit Bjorgen (Norway) 2. Katerina Neumannova (Czech Republic) 3. Kristina Smigun (Estonia)
men's 15 km freestyle (interval start): 1. Ole Einar Bjørndalen (Norway) 2. Tobias Angerer (Germany) 3. Anders Södergren (Sweden)
women's 4x5 km relay

Cheap Humor

This is a cheap little joke, but I like it anyhow, as much for the ongoing wars on moisture and rubber-band balls as for the actual etymology of algebra:

Teacher Arrested
NEW YORK -- A public school teacher was arrested today at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of aruler, a protractor, a set square, a slide rule and a calculator. At a morning press conference, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-gebra Movement. He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction. "Al-gebra is a problem for us," Gonzales said. "They desire solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in search of absolute values. Even worse, they use secret code names like 'x' and 'y' and refer to themselves as 'unknowns'. We have determined they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country... When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction. He would have given us more fingers and toes." White House aides told reporters they could not recall a more intelligent or profound statement by the president.

Thanks, Mom!

Giger

Her bevy of paternally-assigned nicknames (Gigi, Vivi, Viver, Giger ["JEEJ-uhr"]) is the least of Genevieve's charms right now. She is the smiliest baby who has ever carried half my genes into the future, for one thing. In this respect, she has her tastes: Julia going "naw naw naw" is a guaranteed smile-inducer, as are my giant goofy grins. And Mom, ever and anywhere. The dining-room light fixture is pretty cool, too. More and more frequently Gigi's smiles burst into little coos and warbles that already include two or three distinct sounds - and about an ounce of spit. As if emotion-based interaction weren't enough, she has also started to perform that miracle of miracles: getting herself to sleep after being put down awake. It's happened a few times now - just enough to be a phenomenon, but not so much to be a trend. It's also easier to tell when she's tired, even for me: she rubs her eyes now. Though only the left eye, and only with her left hand. Ambidexterity will come later, I'm sure.

Skiorrhea

Today, we're finally on the verge of the real start of the nordic skiing World Cup seasons: the first ski jumping and nordic combined competitions will take place in ten days at Kuusamo, Finland, and the cross-country racing gets underway in earnest with individual distance races and a relay at Gällivare, Sweden. Those XC events follow on the sprint events at staged at Düsseldorf, Germany, over the last weekend in October - a sort of prologue to the season.

For Americans, the most notable Düsseldorf result was Andy Newell's eighth place in the men's individual sprint, staged in the skating style. The podium places were dominated by the usual Swedish and Norwegian suspects. In the women's final, Natalia Mateeva (Russia) stormed into the early lead, with favorite Marit Bjorgen (Norway) looking typically clumsy on the outside. By the halfway point of the race, the Russian had a ten-meter lead on the rest of the field. But almost immediately after establishing that gap, she began fading. Though she's at best an awkward skater, Bjorgen has immense upper-body power, which she used to catch Mateeva on the course's only "hill" (a tiny bump about five strides long), then push past on the finish-line straightaway to take the win by 2/10ths of a second. Ella Gjømle (Norway) used her own light, flowing technique to take third. The men's individual final was even more Norsky:four Norwegians made the final, and shared the lead for virtually the entire race. Just before the last straightaway, a stumble sent one to the back, leaving Eldar Rønning, Øystein Pettersen, and Tor Arne Hetland to take the podium spots, just ahead of last year's World Cup overall winner, Tobias Angerer (Germany). Pettersen, a relative unknown, celebrated his 80 World Cup points by streaking the finishing straightaway after the racing ended the next day.

Sunday's team relay sprints were, as usual, rough-and-tumble affairs which featured plenty of jostling. The American men did not race, but the Sweden-Norway rivalry was in full force. The race was tightly bunched until midway through the penultimate leg, when Bjørn Lind, on Sweden I, pushed off the front. The field accordioned back together at the exchange for the anchor leg, at which point Tor Arne Hetland, racing for Norway I, took the lead. He held it for the first of the two final trips around the course, but just as the bell lap began, Peter Larsson - who had won the individual sprint at Dusseldorf for four consecutive years, until this one - blasted past, opening up a sizable gap into which Eldar Rønning, for Norway II, surged. From there, thogh, Larsson only extended his lead, taking the win by 2.6 seconds over Norway II. Italy I, anchored by Cristian Zorzi, won a three-way sprint for the show spot on the podium; a burned-up Hetland brought Norway I over in fourth. With Marit Bjorgen and Ella Gjømle paired in the women's sprint, Norway I correctly seemed to be the team to beat. The race was anyone's through the first few laps, but then Bjorgen put in an incredible surge over the hill on her penultimate lap to create some room. Gjømle held off the rest of the field and handed the lead back to Bjorgen for the anchor leg. Racing from the front, she only extended her lead, finishing 3.7 seconds ahead of Sweden I and ten seconds up on Finland II, which edged three other teams in a photo finish. Except for last year's Olympics, the Bjorgen-Gjømle team has won every team sprint in which they've competed, a streak they hope will hold up through the World Championship race in late February.

In the three weeks between the Düsseldorf and Gällivare, the cross-country racers have completed some further training and competing, most notably over the weekend of November 10-12. The opening of the Norwegian elite racing circuit with the "Beitosprinten" events at Beitostølen featured some excellent racing. Ella Gjømle edged Marit Bjorgen to win the women's individual sprint (held in the classic style), but then Bjorgen showed her form by winning the 5k freestyle and 10km classic races on Saturday and Sunday, in both cases just ahead of the ageless Hilde Pedersen, who, though technically retired, is still beating the times of women 20 years younger than she. (Pedersen will un-retire to race at Gällivare). Jens Arne Svartedal won both the mens' sprint (in a photo finish with Eldar Rønning) and Sunday's 15km classical race, demonstrating a Bjorgen-like ability to win both long and short races. (After the sprints, both winners criticized the course as being too easy in that it permitted some racers to forego the diagonal stride for straight double-poling, a sort of privileging of raw power over skillful technique.) On Saturday, the field in the men's 10km freestyle race was utterly detroyed by Ole Einar Bjørndalen, the world's best biathlete, who took first by more than thirty seconds. Finishing there was another Norwegian biathete, Lars Berger; the best national-team cross-country racer was Tore Ruud Hofstad in fourth - behind the biathletes and a former national team member. For good measure, Bjørndalen won Sunday's biathlon event as well. Berger and Bjørndalen are racing cross-country to try and qualify for the Sapporo Worlds, where both men could stand a good chance of winning medals in any individual skating evnts and in the relay. Already, the Norwegian XC coach is considering having the two biathletes race at Gällivare. Having two superlatively fast skaters ready to race at Worlds would go a long way toward preventing an embarrassment like the the collapse suffered by the Norwegians at Torino. Of course, both men will also want to be sharp for the biathlon World Cup, so Gällivare will be crucial to demonstrating form that might not get tested on a cross-country course again for months.

Hand Me that Heart Wrench, Wouldja?

Julia had her first dentist's appointment today. She handled it with aplomb, letting the hygienist and the dentist both look (briefly!) in her mouth and pronounce her healthy. Sitting next to the chair during the exam, I was moved to see her touching her fingertips together (a classic sign that she's stressed) and rubbing her index finger and thumb together, as if she had an invisible silky. Getting three Pooh stickers, a new toothbrush (which we had to use in the bathroom at the dentist's office, so eager was she), and some cheap toys made it all easier.

I don't know if it was overtiredness, residual stress from the appointment, or garden-variety toddlerism, but the girl ended her day with a colossal post-bedtime meltdown. To prevent endless delays over selecting a "friend" for bed, we recently mandated that she choose a friend before getting into bed, then either keep that friend in bed or drop him over the side if she doesn't want him. No calling for Mama and Daddy to get a different friend! Tonight, for the first time in ages, she chose her beloved Pinky Bear. Ten minutes after I left, she started calling for me over the monitor, saying, "I want a fwiend in bed, Daddy!" Having already forgotten that she had a friend, and so, encouraged by Shannon, I trooped back up there. Turns out she just didn't want Pinky; she wanted "another fwiend, Daddy." But when I asked her whom she wanted, she would only say, maddeningly, "Yes." After five minutes of fruitless questions and answers, I gave up and left, precipitating an Exorcist-style howl of agony. I went straight downstairs, where I heard Genevieve crying on her monitor. Back upstairs I went, to find that Shannon had gone into Julia's room to try and calm her down. Fifteen minutes later, she came back, with Julia still screaming for "another fwiend" in the background. I handed Genevieve back to Shannon for her nighttime nursing and headed back downstairs, but took a detour to listen at Julia's door. Bad move, because then I had to listen to her blubbering pathetically, "Mama come in again! I need another fwiend! Yes, yes, yes. I need another fwiend! Mama come in! Mama come in! Yes, yes, yes. Julia will just wait wight here for Mama to come in. Yes, yes, yes. Julia will just wait wight here for Mama to come in. Yes, yes, yes." It was the saddest thing I'd ever witnessed, not even barring holding my cat while the vet put him to sleep. Crying a little bit myself, I went in, gave her a hug, and helped her over to the toy basket holding her fwiends. We were methodically picking through them, Julia still weeping and me still sniffling, when suddenly she looked at me and said clearly, "I don't want a fwiend in bed, Daddy." I asked, "Not even Pinky Bear?" She shook her head, marched back to her bed, threw Pinky on the floor, and climbed in, asking, "What Julia crying about, Daddy?" I told her I wasn't sure, tucked her in, and turned to leave. She was sleeping by the time I reached the door.

Im in ur college raisin ur $$

My job can be somewhat opaque. If you're not satisfied with the summary ("I help raise money for the college"), you have to know quite a bit about how higher educational institutions operate in order to really understand just what I do.

But this might help: I spent many hours last spring working with others at Carleton to develop a rather sizable grant proposal to a particular funder, and then to arrange a site visit by the foundation's program officer. Though the outcome has been known on campus for a while, we were just cleared to announce the award: five million dollars. As a newbie to this business, I'm still a little bit agog at the sums.

Washington

I just put detergent in the dishwasher and set the timer to start in two hours. This will be the fourth night in five that we've had to run the dishwasher, which strikes me as staggering. Even earlier this year, when it was just three postnatal humans (two adults and a toddler) in the house, we could get away with running it every other day, or even less frequently. It's not like the baby is using a place setting at each meal, much less baking some sort of utensil-intensive pastry, and yet her mere presence has jumped the dish consumption up one notch.

But the real washing action is in the laundry room, where we (= Shannon, mostly) have to do at least one load every day - and many days, several loads. Here you can see the impact of the infant more clearly: soiled onesies, spat-upon shirts, used burp cloths, etc. But just the same, her clothes are really pretty tiny. I'm sure one of the front pockets in my jeans has almost as much fabric in it than one of her outfits. And it's not like her sister's wearing oversized sweatshirts or something. Even a big two-and-a-half-year-old doesn't wear clothes comparable in size to an adult's. What the heck does a family do when there are two adults and two teenagers? Do we have to get laundromat machines, or what?

Scandinavian Archeology

Other things that you can find in the ground in Scandinavia:

1. A mass grave in southern Finland, filled with deserters from the Finnish army in 1944, or maybe with nineteenth-century Russian soldiers, or maybe victims of a Civil War massacre.

2. Shards of Roman pottery, dated from 1 - 300 A.D., in an ancient gravesite in southwestern Sweden.

Winter Sun

Winter Sun

It's a beautiful day here. About it, my wife (sick with a stomach bug) said, "That sun is so annoying."

So Much for Fall

So Much for Fall

That's why I call this blog "Blowing & Drifting." When I got up to change Genevieve a few minute ago, it seemed rather bright outside, so I went to the window to see what was up. My jaw dropped: sometime between midnight and now, Northfield received at least three inches of heavy, wet snow. I don't think I've ever been more surprised at a first storm. At midafternoon on Wednesday, it was nearly 80 degrees; right now we have a 15-degree wind chill and, of course, piles and piles of snow. Surprise aside, I'm excited for winter to be here. As a once-popular political figure said, "Bring it on!"

Observations

Muggings

Strange: Though Nalgenes are the beverage container of choice, I also see a lot of students, and quite a few faculty and staff, carrying plain old kitchen coffee mugs around campus. At my 8:30 meeting this morning, I had a to-go cup of coffee from the snack bar, one prof had a travel mug, and three had ceramic coffee cups, still full of steaming hot coffee. I wonder if there's a discount I haven't heard about yet...

iOdd

Stranger: The iPod is as ubiquitous around Carleton as anywhere else in the Western world, but lately I've seen the kids wearing their earbuds in an odd way: with the little length-control slider right up under their chins, so the cord runs straight up, then bifurcates to go to each ear. It looks vaguely militaristic, for some reason.

Camo

Strangest: I've seen again this fall a student who dresses entirely and constantly in camouflage: hat, jacket/shirt, and pants. Actually, not "entirely," I guess: he completes the look with some white running shoes. There aren't many places where an all-camo outfit is less useful, tactically, socially, or politically, than Carleton, yet there he is, speeding over to the libe in his uniform.

I'm in ur computer, usin ur bitz

I don't know how I could have missed out on the hilarious "I'm in ur base killin ur doods" meme, but I came across it in an election context today on Boing Boing today and it killed me. The political uses are the best, but the cold-footed parakeet is also damn funny.

Characters-istics

The tiny upside to Julia's recent illness was a close-up view of her sleeping habits: what she looks like, the sounds she makes, how she moves around. Saturday night, which I spent on the couch with her on my lap, I saw just how much she loves her "silky" blanket. As she nodded off (over and over, since she was also throwing up three times an hour), she would hunt around for her silky by patting her hand around her . On finding it, she'd select a small fold in the blanket, put her thumb and forefinger on opposite sites of that fold, and then rub those fingers slowly and softly together - the universal "got money?" gesture, but much sweeter and - when she was so sick - sadder. She's better today, and I like to think she's upstairs, rubbing her silky right now.

Politicking

Well, it's not quite the blues song that they can sing in Illinois, but I'm happy to report that Minnesota trended blue this year. Amy Klobuchar destroyed Mark Kennedy for the open U.S. Senate seat, most importantly. At this hour, Democrat Mike Hatch is in a dead heat with Republican Tim Pawlenty, so it's even money that we'll have a Democratic governor for the first time in a while.

Dems swept the other state offices, including secretary of state, which will matter in two years, when the GOP gears up for another season o' voter suppression. And while my current U.S. House district will continue to be represented by Republican John Kline (who demolished Coleen Rowley), my former district is sending Keith Ellison to Congress, the first Muslim elected to a national office, and at least I don't have to suffer Michelle Bachmann as my Congresswoman: she's my early choice for wingnuttiest rep in the next House.

Alas, I can't stay up later to see what happens with the governor, even though it appears that the purple district around Rochester is yet to report. Crossing my fingers and going to bed...

Roofies

Tomorrow - or maybe Wednesday - should be the end of the Great Post-Hail Roofing Project on our townhouse. The crew started at some indeterminate point last week. They put all kinds of materials up there on Monday, but there wasn't a lot of roofingesque noise until Thursday or so. Anyhow, it looks like they're on the verge of being done: our roof is shingled again, there are scraps of tar paper and shingle wrappers all over, and tonight our driveway had a big dumpster sitting in it. For me, the weirdest moment occurred this afternoon, when I walked upstairs, turned down the hall, and looked right into the face of one of the roofers, standing not ten feet away on the roof outside our guest-room window. He was exactly one week late to yell, "Trick or treat!"

NaMos

Before Saturday dissolved in toddler puke, I was keeping up with both of the "National XXing Months" in which I've chosen to participate. There's National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), and with this here post I've posted five times in November, putting me back on track. More ambitiously there's also National Drawing Month (DrawMo!). Needless to say, I've written a lot more blog posts in the past three years than I have drawn pictures since I was 12. Anyhow, you're welcome to see my sketches over on the DrawMo! blog.

Vomitorium

I hope I'm not jinxing the 4 hours and 12 minutes left in this weekend, but holy cow has this been a test. Much of the weekend was actually quite nice. Julia was in a fun, silly mood for long stretches on both Friday and Saturday nights, and Genevieve's cooing is reaching cuteness-crisis proportions.

But almost everything came apart around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, when Julia started a nine-hour puking spree. It started with her plaintively crying out,"What happened?", continued through our having to watch her erupt with truly staggering quantities of vomit, and wound slowly and sadly down with me holding her in my lap while she dozed but woke over and over to throw up again and again. Given these horrific conditions, she was a good trouper: despite the trauma of encountering the previously-unknown horror of vomiting, she was in a good mood almost all day on Sunday (excepting a puking coda during her nap) and she did a good job enjoying her recuperation, like watching her favorite video twice and having a popsicle for dinner. Here's hoping the bug skips the rest of us, and leaves Jujee alone, too.

A Few Minutes with Mingus

Tonight was quite a night, in many good ways. Julia and I went to the grocery store, where she carefully guided the kid-sized shopping cart up and down the aisles, and then to the town's gymnastics club, where we tried out their toddler class. Julia is usually pretty reluctant to participate in activities right away, but tonight, she almost literally jumped right in: running warm-ups with the other kids, letting me toss her into a pit full of foam cubes, hopping along a trampoline track, even swinging from the rings. She had a great time, and yet was a-okay with heading home early to have dinner.

As she was finishing her third apple of the meal, she heard me whistling a Charles Mingus tune and asked, "What Daddy singing?" I told her, "A jazz song. Do you want to hear it?" She bounced in her seat: "Yeah, Daddy!" I put on the CD and started my favorite Mingus song. "What dat song's name, Daddy?" she asked. "It's called 'Peggy's Blue Skylight,' honey." She looked over at me to see if I was joking. "Who Peggy?" I told her, "Peggy was just a woman in the song." I handed her the CD case so she could look at the picture of Mingus. "He played guitar!" I looked at the photo: "Actually, honey, that's a bass, but yeah, it looks like a big guitar." She studied the picture some more, holding the CD in one hand and a slice of apple in the other. "When do the words start, Daddy?" I chuckled. "This is a jazz song, honey, and lots of jazz songs don't have any words. You just listen to the song and the music helps you feel a certain way. How does this song make you feel?" She put the CD case down and looked at me, smiling: "Dis song makes me feel like concentrating on my apple!" I almost fell out of my chair laughing. Mingus could have used that as a song title.

Open Door Policy

It's late, and I ought to be asleep already, but I was just winding up some stuff and saw that, for the zillionth consecutive night, a neighbor across the street has  his garage door wide open and all the garage lights blazing. He comes and goes at odd hours, to be sure, and often keeps an upstairs light on all night, too, but just the same it's odd to see his domestic chattels illuminated at three in the morning.

One Last Thing on Biking

Okay, the biking stuff's getting tiresome, I know. But I have to share this quote, which I saw on on the Tweney Review  yesterday:

When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments.  Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man.  And (unlike subsequent inventions for man's convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became.  Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others.  Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle. 
     Elizabeth West, Hovel in the Hills

The First of November

It was a big evening around here, commensurate with the day and with my little Scotchy reward after the girls were in bed. First, Genevieve successfully held a pacifier in her mouth long enough to nod off. She woke up soon thereafter, but it's a start: maybe soon she won't have to nurse her way to oblivion every 120 minutes.

Second, and even more momentously, Julia used the potty. She'd just climbed into bed when she suddenly sat up, looked at me, and said, "Sit on potty chair, Daddy!" I whisked her into the bathroom, plopped her down on the potty chair, and lo and behold it happened. After winding things up, we placed a call to Nonna, to brag up the event, and made plans for a party to occur when training's over. Julia was very excited about the prospect of cupcakes, asking "What will the cupcakes taste like, Mama?" I think there should be both yellow and brown cupcakes, if you see what I mean.

Falling for It

It's well and truly autumn here. As I look out my window right now, just before heading home, I see leaves whipping off the branches and bundled-up students hustling past. This morning, the grounds crews put all the pieces of the skating rinks out on the Bald Spot, in expectation of colder temperatures. Biking home yesterday, I noticed for the first time that all my sightlines are better than they were this summer: the corn's been harvested, so I can see around the bend near our place, and the bare trees let me see all the way out to the wind turbine, east of campus. Empty branches mean leaf-filled gutters though; riding through leaves is noisy and fun but slow. But not as slow as the stiff headwind. How is it that I have a headwind in both the morning and the afternoon, even though I go in opposite directions? That seems like enough of a cosmic wrong that the universe ought to give me a newer, lighter bike.  And if not the universe, how about my wife? C'mon, it's a fraction of the cost of even a cheap used car!