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TremendouStorm 2007

It's coming!

tremendoustorm 11.07

On Wednesday, when I was up in the U.P., we were getting a relatively mild little "snow event" - strong winds, some precipitation, lots of blowing and drifting. So I'm ready. Maybe I can kick off December with some backyard skiing.

I plan to blog the the hell out of this storm, as I did the final big storm of last winter.

Convenience Store, Defined

Waiting to buy some water and soda at the Holiday Station Store here in Iron Mountain (city motto: "Our water makes calcium supplements superfluous!"), I saw the best-ever display of clearance items: a dozen encheapened 3-packs of Durex "Warming Pleasure" condoms and six boxes of 12-gauge shotgun shells, marked down from $12.99 to $8.99.

World Cup XC Skiing on ESPN!

In Minnesota! In 1985! Yea, verily, ESPN is better now.

Lenore Jauquet, 1925-2007

My grandma.

Cold Nights

It's a brisk 9 °F (-13 °C) in Iron Mountain tonight - cold enough that being outside kinda hurts. It's a good hurt, though.

The drive through Wisconsin brought back a lot of memories about how surpassingly weird that state is: too-small lettering on their roadsigns, hard liquor for sale in the gas stations, taverns whose front doors are practically on the shoulder of the roads, at least twenty dead deer, gorgeous tree-lined highways, gas a full forty cents higher than home, Packer logos everywhere. Quite a place, in short.

The U.P. is very upper peninsula, so far. I haven't seen much of it yet, but tomorrow I'll be venturing a few miles up the road to Channing for my grandmother's visitation, funeral, and burial. 

Iron Mountain

I'm off to Iron Mountain, Michigan, in a little while for my Grandma's funeral. I am not looking forward to all the driving there and back, but I am looking forward to seeing my mom and sister and niece as well as the rest of the family, many of whom I haven't seen in years. I'm actually driving up to the U.P. with two cousins, sisters, a recent college grad and an undergrad at the U. It'll be nice to have some conversation to make the long two-lane miles in northern Wisconsin speed by.

And I'm breathing a little easier after deciding to drive back on Thursday morning, rather than right away after the funeral on Wednesday evening. Nighttime driving in snowy conditions during deer season: not a good combination.


As I get set to leave, chronically late, for work today (after five days away from the office), I realize that things might not be the absolutely fantastical best for Shannon. Vivi is both teething and suffering with a cold (liquids dribbling from both mouth and nose!), Julia is currently prone to meltdowns over everything, Shannon has a pinched nerve in her neck, and tomorrow I'll be heading up to the U.P. on Tuesday, leaving her both partner-less and car-less for two full days. More, if it snows up there!

Ste. SAHM, no?


Getting back into the domestic swing of things is apparently very taxing for the kids! You'd think that somewhere in all those Parents magazines and What to Expect books, they would have mentioned somewhere that children seem to thrive on routine. 

Anyhow, the day was one of contrasts. Vivi mostly just puttered around, tired from the trip and weepy from teething. She did okay, all things considered, and if anything was even more kissy than usual. Julia had an insane meltdown in late afternoon as we tried to get ready to go out for a trike ride and then intermittently throughout the ride - about 90 minutes o' suffering, all together. 

Bookending that horror, though, she also had two incredible sessions of make-believe play, including a two-hour tea party for the Pooh friends (I was Pooh or Tigger, she was Rabbit) in the morning and, after dinner and seeing Shannon's Christmas decorating, a good half-hour of putting small toys out as her own Christmas decorations. Here are the visual aftermaths of all this serious play (click through to Flickr for annotated versions):

Pooh Friends Tea Party Holiday Decorations

Thanksgivinged Out

Boy, that was a hell of a holiday. The "takeaway," as they say, was that everyone had a lot of fun and ate very well. Things didn't start well: Julia first asked when we be done with the five-hour drive to Moorhead only four miles after we left our house in Northfield. She asked six times in two miles toward the end of the trip. Those backseat DVD players are looking better and better. As is pediatric Ambien: a little napping would have been nice for everyone.

But during the many hours they were awake, Julia and Genevieve had a great time, and so did their parents. The girls loved playing at their Nonna and Boppa's house, especially with their big-girl older cousins. Julia did a great job helping make the Thanksgiving feast - which continued through three meals. Julia taught herself to ride a cool old trike  without holding onto the handlebars. Vivi gamely tried to say just about any word we threw at her, including "animal," always flashing a little grin after humoring us. And overall the house was full of cheer and happiness.

On the day after Thanksgiving, though, I found out that my grandmother, who's been declining for a long time, finally died. She'd led a long and very full life. On Tuesday, I'll be heading up to the Upper Peninsula for the first time in years to attend the funeral.

"My Body Won't Sleep"

For the second straight night, Julia was too excited about tomorrow to fall asleep in anything like a timely manner. After listening to a half hour of delighted whooping and screeching, I went in to see what was going on. "Honey, what's wrong?" She looked at me wide-eyed and smiled shyly. "Why can't you go to sleep?" She shrugged: "I don't know, Daddy; my body won't sleep. I am too excited about... about... about Nonna and Boppa's house tomorrow!"


I was tagged by Jordan for this cool book meme, so here goes:

Total Number of Books?
Unknown, but I guesstimate about 1200. I have about 600 (mostly academic) books in
my office, and probably that many fiction and other books at home.

Last Book Read?
Richard Preston, The Wild Trees - a great subject (California redwoods, the biggest organisms on earth), terrible writing

Last Book Bought?
William Gibson, Spook Country - the sci-fi novelist's best novel yet, a smart thriller set in the present day

Five Meaningful Books?
Not knowing if they should be "meaningful" in a good way or a bad way, I decided just to annotate.
1. The Bible: Once I started really reading it, in college, I realized it didn't make a lick of sense.
2. Don DeLillo, White Noise: A favorite novel that's hilarious and very, very dark as well as extremely well written.
3. William Cronon, Changes in the Land: A history of New England's environment from about 1500 to 1800; Cronon dispells the notion that there is really any such thing as a "natural" environment and replaces it with a view of a world that has always been altered - for better and worse, to larger and smaller degrees - by humans.
4. Bruno Latour, Science in Action (and others): A heavy-duty piece of science studies, it's not too much fun to read but - as with the Cronon - Latour does an excellent job of showing how "nature" is so mixed up with "society" and with "technology" that attempts to distinguish among those categories almost inevitably leads to muddy thinking and bad action.
5. Edward Tufte, Envisioning Information: The classic guide (supplemented with Tufte's other books) to thinking and writing well.

Tag Others


This morning, Julia heard the word "brunt" on the radio and asked what it meant. I tried to explain it with a few examples - Vivi does the brunt of the diaper-wearing in our house, I do the brunt of the office work, Mama does the brunt of the cooking. She smiled her incredulous smile ("God, grownups are crazy!") while I talked, then tried it out with something like, "I am eating the brunt of my breakfast right now." I said that that was pretty much right, and asked if she could use it in another sentence. "No, I can't. I'm bored of that word."

Still Glad It's Not Me

Cross-posted from my Tumblog:

I just stopped in the College’s Mac lab: it’s a scene of devastation. The woman in front of me is sitting at one of the three iMac/scanner workstations, and she’s typing as fast as I’ve ever heard anyone go. A few moments ago, another student asked if she could use the scanner, and received the snarly reply, “No. I have a paper due in 20 minutes. Go find another lab.” Surrounding the surly woman are the remains of the night: a closed iBook, a beaten-up Domino’s pizza box, at least a dozen Wrigley’s Doublemint wrappers, a full 24-oz. Nalgene, an empty 20-oz. Mountain Dew, and three to-go coffee cups - small, medium, and oceanic. I’m glad my all-nighters are rare and child-related. 


Here it is Sunday, and the household's still not back on an even keel. I could make myself feel pretty self-important if I contemplated the fact that three days' absence wreaked such havoc on the womenfolk - but then I have to consider that two days' presence hasn't diminished the psychodrama which Shannon described last Friday. So my importance to the household? It's a wash.

Amidst the stubbornness, meltdowns, cussedness, sulking, and general unpleasantness, though, Julia did come up with a great coinage today. She wanted to roughhouse with me, so she asked if she could "tackle" me - "you know, play a game of attackle." Who could say no? She and Vivi both enjoyed clambering all over me, getting "flings" into the air, tickling one and all, laughing like crazy. Good times.


The weather today aligned well with this blog's name, at least until noon or so. The light flurries this morning were as beautiful as weather ever is. Vivi had the right reaction when she ran to the patio door and laughed at the little whips of powder blowing across the concrete.

Probably more importantly, both girls seemed pretty happy to have me back at home, which was nice. Both slept in, and Vivi further celebrated by learning to say "owl" at the library this morning. Of course, when you ask her what an owl says, she makes the same raspberry sound that she make for all animals, furred or feathered.

Coffee Broke

My conference ended two hours early, so I have a few minutes to kill. Actually, a whole herd of minutes, which I'm systematically offing in a Starbucks in suburban Albany. The shop occupies the end of a strip mall full of high-end clothing and knick-knack shops; the parking lot is clogged with luxury cars. There's a constant stream of fur-coated, Gucci-bagged women to and from the counter. Quite in contrast, the other long-term occupants of the shop are a couple hipster student types, tapping away at their laptops, and an older guy who's alternately listening to a big old radio, reading a copy of today's New York Post, and falling asleep on his table. His fly's undone. I think it might be time for his caregiver to come and get him.

Another Reason to Hate Wednesday

An unfortunately-worded sign in a building at Siena College.

Good Thing, Too

Floored by the Wallpaper

You want crazy wallpaper, dear reader, Flickr gots crazy wallpaper. There's no way to avoid it.


Four Impressions of Out East

Minus: Driving is grueling out here. Between the blind intersections, the twisting hills, the utter lack of shoulders, the invisible micro-font street signs, and good lord the high speeds, I need a nap after the two-mile trip between campus and hotel.

Plus: On the other hand, they don't mess around with the bad-for-you food. The breakfast buffet today had a Dunkins-eque array of doughnuts - real ones, not little dinky ones. And the only protein at breakfast was the cream for the coffee. Perfect. Dinner tonight was another buffet, with three entree choices: chicken, sirloin, or fish. The steamed vegetables were for the vegetarians.

Minus: You don't have to walk far to get another cup of coffee, but so far it's uniformly swill. Can anyone make Green Mountain - the ubiquitous campus coffee - taste good?

Plus: The gas stations sell real beer.


Don't worry: I won't be touching this phone, much less calling you from it. (It's a "feature" of the bathroom in my hotel room.)


Here, Not There

Travel went well. There were no flight delays, I got a half-hour on the hotel's treadmill, and it seems early even though it's late, thanks to Eastern time. I still have no idea what Albany looks like, since I arrived in the dark, but that's for tomorrow. When I called home, Shannon asked Julia if she wanted to talk to me, and she peeped quite clearly in the background, "No thank you!" I think your travel gift just got downgraded, kiddo!

Alba Seeing You Later

To some chagrin, I'm off to Albany on Wednesday for a conference of grants-office personnel from around the country. The meeting will be immensely productive: I learned a huge amount from the 2005 iteration, when I was just four weeks into my job, so I expect to be more pro-ish now. Blogging may be light, though I'm going to try to get around that with various internettual tricks. Watch the "Tumblr Feed" at page right.

I have neither visited Albany nor learned much about it - until tomorrow and now, respectively. Wikipedia to the rescue!

Albany is the fourth oldest city (behind Santa Fe, St. Augustine, and Jamestown) and the second oldest state capital (behind Santa Fe) in the United States. The original native settlement in the area was called Penpotawotnot. Its colonial history began when Englishman Henry Hudson, exploring for the Dutch East India Company on the Halve Maen (or Half Moon), reached the area in 1609. In 1614, the Dutch company constructed Fort Nassau, its first fur trading post near present-day Albany and left Jacob Eelkens in charge. Commencement of the fur trade provoked hostility from the French colony in Canada and amongst the native tribes, who vied to control the trade. In 1624, Fort Orange was established in the area. Both forts were named in honor of the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau. Nearby areas were incorporated as the village of Beverwyck in 1652.

When the land was taken by the English in 1664, the name was changed to Albany, in honor of the Duke of York and Albany, who later became King James II of England and James VII of Scotland. Duke of Albany was a Scottish title given since 1398, generally to a younger son of the King of Scots. The name is ultimately derived from Alba, the Gaelic name for Scotland.

Word of the Day

From skier Laura Valaas' blog comes this little vocabulary builder, quite apropos of the coming season:

Sastrugi are the snow dunes that get formed by the wind. The word comes from the Russian word zastrugi which does not have a singular version but us English speakers have latinized it to have the singular sastruga. They're like sand dunes but while sand dunes are perpendicular to the prevailing wind direction, the sastrugi ridges run parallel to the prevailing wind.

Superubiquitous Computing

One of my favorite writers, William Gibson, was interviewed for the 40th anniversary issue of Rolling Stone about his conception of the future. As a professional sci-fi writer, I suppose there's some warrant for this line of questioning, and some substance to his predictions.

What are the major challenges we face?

Let's go for global warming, peak oil and ubiquitous computing.

Ubiquitous computing?

Totally ubiquitous computing. One of the things our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish the digital from the real, the virtual from the real. In the future, that will become literally impossible. The distinction between cyberspace and that which isn't cyberspace is going to be unimaginable. When I wrote Neuromancer in 1984, cyberspace already existed for some people, but they didn't spend all their time there. So cyberspace was there, and we were here. Now cyberspace is here for a lot of us, and there has become any state of relative nonconnectivity. There is where they don't have Wi-Fi.

In a world of superubiquitous computing, you're not gonna know when you're on or when you're off. You're always going to be on, in some sort of blended-reality state. You only think about it when something goes wrong and it goes off. And then it's a drag.


That slightly tired joke about having to go back to work to get some rest has never rung truer than it does today. Any doubts I had that Shannon - and all full- or part-time SAHM/Fs - are superhuman were laid to rest today. I took care of one or both girls from 6 a.m. until about ten minutes ago, and I'm spent worse than a $5 bill in a dollar store. In an effort to get to bed at a reasonable hour tonight, I'll keep the daddy-blogging to a minimum with these two anecdotes.

1. Going to get Julia up from a nap when she started crying about a sore ear - first ear infection of the season! - I leaned in to check her temperature and inadvertently breathed on her. From her slough of despond, she said brightly, "Daddy, your breath is of something that does not smell too good!" Stupid Target and their irresistible lemon-pepper potato chips.

2. Picking Vivi up, I said, "Vivi, say, 'Up, Daddy!'" She dutifully bellowed, "Aaaahp!" I laughed and said, "Vivi, say, 'Up, Daddy!'" She dutifully said clearly, "Dada!" Try again: "Vivi, say, 'Up, Daddy!'" - "Aaaahp!" - "Vivi, say, 'Up, Daddy!'" - "Dada!" - and around and around. Vivi, say, "Daddy, two-word statements are beyond my powers right now, you nitwit."

One Year Ago

This was the scene in our backyard exactly one year ago today:

Sadly, the grass is still green out there today.

150 Hours of Winter

Since getting back into the physical-fitness swing of things on May, I've spent a lot of time outdoors. It's of course been a lot of fun to get back in some sort of shape, but it's also been fun to directly experience nature almost every day: pheasants are loud all spring, silent all summer and fall; south- and east-facing trees seem to change colors earlier; the prairie grasses in the Arb need only a month to grow back after a burn; rabbits seem to breed twice a year; soybeans turn green and then yellow-brown; 7:30 p.m. in November is psychologically much later than 7:30 p.m. in June...

With the onset of the harsh part of fall, and the imminent arrival of winter, I'm going to try to keep going outside by setting a public goal for myself: this winter - for my purposes, the 151 days between November 1, 2007, and March 31, 2008 - I want to spend at least 150 hours outside: just about an hour a day skiing, taking walks, commuting on my bike (15 minutes/day), playing outside with the girls, running, shoveling snow, looking at the stars - basically, just being out in the cold. The running tally is at the top of the right sidebar.


In advance of next week's business trip out east, I went to get a haircut yesterday. I love getting my hair cut (as previously noted in this blog here and here), and I love trying new barbershops, like this new joint.

There were about six barber chairs in the shop, but at least half were no longer mounted to the floor. The stock of hair-care products consisted entirely of dusty bottles of Suave. The sink had clearly not been scrubbed in a while. The reading material didn't include Playboy, the sine qua non of the old-school barbershop, it did include several well-worn issues of Maxim. From the moment I sat down and the barber cinched the apron a bit too tightly around my neck to the moment I got $6 change from my twenty, I spent maybe five minutes in the chair.

But the best part of the whole experience - I mean, besides a haircut that is really rather excellent - was the waste-disposal system: a shoebox-sized hole cut in the floor along the far wall, with two brooms standing nearby and a disturbingly large pile of human hair in front. The barber clearly just sweeps the trimmings into the basement - or should I say, the hair dungeon? God, I hope there's a lawn-and-leaf bag under that hole, not just an 12'x12' cellar, slowly filling with hair.

Big Blue Suit

Shannon recently blogged about a solution (so far) to the problem of VV's cold room: a big blue sleep sack that makes her look like Grimace, McDonald's now-defunct subtle warning against overconsumption of shakes. Vivi is adorable in the sack, and it keeps her nice and warm all night.

Naturally, given sibling-rivalry dynamics, Julia is a little bit envious of VV's big blue suit. Just as naturally, given her good nature, Julia is not at all malicious about it. Instead, she just cheerfully pretends to have a big blue suit, which I (and only I - Shannon's not included!) pretend to put on her before naps and bedtime. She stands up and stretches her arms over her head, I slide the pretend garment onto her, she wiggles her arms and legs into the right pretend spots, and then I zip the pretend zipper right up to her little pink chin.

Tonight, rushing to get her into bed before it was too late, I neglected all of this. Ten minutes later, she calls me over the monitor - "Daddy, you forgot to put on my big blue suit!" So I troop in and pretend to dress her in her imaginary outfit, right down to the cloud-cuckoo zipper. Three-year olds are weird

Gettin' Busy

I dunno when November became The Month for doing big social-web type stuff, but I am riding at least three such bandwagons. First, I make a point of posting to this blog every day, so I guess I can tick the NaBloWri/PoMo box (though I see that interpretations vary as to whether the "Mo" is Oct or Nov).

Second, a friend and I are writing a sci-fi novel in Google Docs, so we're covering NaNoWriMo, even if we're only trying to spit out 30,000 words by 11/30/07. No, you can't read it. Try William Gibson's latest instead.

Completing the trifecta, I'm also posting to DrawMo!, a drawing-a-month project modeled on NaNoWriMo. I'm sketching .500 right now. Here's my 11/3 drawing (click through to Flickr for the full-size image.)


Blogging Summarized and Predicted

"Every man's memory is his private literature."
  - Aldous Huxley, novelist (1894-1963)

Ask Me, Ask Me, Ask Me

The end of Daylight Saving Time went pretty well, all things considered. As expected, Vivi arose well before even the newly-early dawn. Let's say only that she went down for her morning nap just a few minutes after dawn. Beyond that, the time change made only for some tired girls and longer-than-usual spans of time between naps. Julia, trying - even if she doesn't know it - to master the skills needed to be reading by Christmas, spent much of the day quizzing me about the letters that make up various words. She was especially curious, naturally, about the first letter in various words. The learning sounded like this:

"Daddy, what letter starts with 'cake'?"

"Can you sound it out, honey? What letter sounds like cuh cuh cuh?"


"Oh, good guess. Sometimes Q does sound like cuh. What other letters do, too?"


"Yes, that's right! 'Cake" starts with C."

"Daddy, say, 'Julia, what letter does "cake" start with?'"

"Julia, what letter does 'cake' start with?"

"C! 'Cake' starts with C."

Repeat every three minutes all day.

Vivi has intermittently been saying "Up!" (more like "AAAAAAAHPPP!") when asking to be picked up or when aloft (even on a chair), but yesterday she started saying it every time her altitude changed, and today, she added a new bellowish tone that gets your attention. She's a peanut, but she's a loud peanut.

Flattery Will Get You 

Into my blog, Amazon. My eleven-letter first name has always caused trouble, but the truncation in's header is downright flattering:

Amazon header
Pray tell, why would Amazon need to recommend anything to the Son of God? Wouldn't He know He needed it? And why would He need to read, anyhow? Does omniscience not extend to modern media?


As I write, I'm trying to convince myself to retire early - really early - on account of general tiredness, a tough pair of workouts yesterday and today, Vivi's going back to an ultra-early wakeup, and the stupid shift off of Daylight Saving Time. Today was, in short, a long day, though also a good one. The high point came during a little pre-dinner jaunt on campus to inspect the new and mysterious art that's popping up here and there. Vivi was interested in this piece, lining the sidewalk along the north edge of the Bald Spot:


The colors were cool, but she liked it mostly because, bizarrely, a toy rabbit was impaled on a stake at the start (end?) of the row of pillars. Vivi was all like, "Mwah! Cool toy! I don't see any other doughfaced littles around, so it must be MINE!"


When she found that she would not be allowed to steal a toy deface the art, VV decided to make a few phone calls instead, using her P1neCNE - new from CNifer Technologies. Reception's poor, but if the battery dies, you're bound to find another one lying around somewhere.


For her part, Julia could not be deterred from zooming around on her big wheel, practicing foot-drag stops and right-angle turns. After spending about ten seconds looking at the unsettling tree sculpture, Julia turned away and told me, "Daddy, I'm not in the mood for sculptures today. I just want to ride my big wheel."

Buy Buy

It's Friday, the day of the week that practically screams "Buy, buy, buy!" to me. Was Freyja the goddess of commerce? (No, though possibly of wealth.) Is it the rhyme between "Fri" and "buy"? (Unlikely.) Do I get paid on Fridays? (About 20% of the time.) Am I activating memories of Friday-night trips as a child to the glowing KMart in Menominee, Michigan? (Maybe. I think I can taste the Icee.)

Anyhow, here are some purchases I (would) never regret:

1. A bar of dark chocolate

2. Prints of photos of the girls

3. A copy of the current Wired, Outside, or New Yorker

4. Any book by Sandra Boynton (for the girls, of course)

5. Any recording by Radiohead, the Bad Plus, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Wilco, or Charles Mingus (partial list)

6. A cup of black coffee

7. A new Mac laptop

8. Anything by Don DeLillo

9. A bottle of sparkling water

10. A picture postcard

Surly Thursday

Shannon called me at work around 3:40; Julia was just then starting her afternoon snack, a lollipop from her Halloween haul. When I got home at 4:15, Julia was just finishing it - or maybe she was getting next year's costume makeup ready. Hard to tell.


And but so, I soon took the girls outside for a little outing, during which Julia rode her lap around the block but was also as belligerent as she's ever been. I dunno the flavor of that lollipop (does anyone call them "suckers" anymore?), but I'm going to guess Rude Grape or Disagreeaberry. Maybe Sour Apple.

The bad attitude continued right on through bedtime, although honestly I found it more amusing than annoying. Certainly, I laughed my head off when, during bathtime, she responded to some innocuous request by scowling and saying, "Noooooo, Daddy. I won't do that. Why do you always say that, Daddy? Why do you? No! [pause] Daddy, what did you say that I didn't like?"

Mysterious Sculpture

One of my favorite things about working at Carleton (and there are lots) is that you can discover all kinds of neat stuff on any given errand. F'instance, on my way to return a library book today, I came across this amazing sculpture, installed in a tree behind my office building. Photos fail to do it justice - it's startling, out of place, a bit disturbing, and beautiful, hanging there in an evergreen.


There was no information posted about the piece, but I suspect this guy and his students. I've put up a few more shots on Flickr.

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