Blowing & Drifting

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

Blowing & Drifting


I just uploaded three dozen new photos, mostly of the girls, to Flickr. I especially like this set.

No Snow, No Ski Racing

DSCF3432Things are dire all around the world's ski-racing scene. The first two events in the World Cup Tour de Ski, scheduled to be held in Nove Mesto, Czechoslovakia, on the 29th and 30th, were canceled for lack of snow. By ditching the prologue and a shortened pursuit race, the TdS  shrinks down to six stages over eight days, and becomes somewhat less friendly to sprinters, who were likely to do well in those initial, short-distance events. The three Scandinavian countries are sending typically strong teams. My picks:

1. Marit Bjorgen (Norway)
2. Virpi Kuitunen (Finland)
3. Kristina Smigun (Estonia)

1. Tobias Angerer (Germany)
2. Anders Sodergren (Sweden)
3. Axel Teichmann (Germany)

Here in the states, my dad reports that lack of snow in the Upper Peninsula, a.k.a. Big Snow Country, is jeopardizing the U.S. Nationals, to be held in Houghton, Michigan, in the first week of January. Looking at the finish-area webcam, you can see why. Of course, as I write this post, the nightly news is reporting "heavy snow" in the U.P. Here's hoping they get enough between now and New Year's Day to let them run one of the biggest elite-sports events in U.P. history.

Early Christmas

Tonight, we had early Christmas here in Northfield, in advance of our trip for the day itself to Moorhead. I have tons of photos to share (and not, I discovered in looking at my digital photo collection, just from this evening), but I only had time tonight to put up a few in the "Christmas 2006" set on Flickr. Julia, of course, has in heaven as she opened one present after another. I was pleased to see her glom onto one gift from Mom & Dad (a circus-animal play set), one from Grandma (Oscar the Grouch doll), and one from Grandpa (a set of toy tools). While she readily combined #2 and #3, she didn't get to play with #1 before bedtime. This led, naturally, to her plaintive call over the monitor: "Daddy, I'm wakin' up. I'm very ready to play with my circus. Please come in, Daddy! I'm wakin' up!" Tomorrow, my dear.

Blogging's going to be very light over the next week, owing to the festivities, but I plan to connive for any and all chance to post during our travels.


Not the strangest thing I've learned about the civil war in Iraq is that the current governor of Najaf province is a Finnish citizen named Asaad al-Taee. With his family, he fled from Iraq to Finland in 1993, after the Shi'ite uprising failed, but returned after the American invasion and was elected last year to run the province. How do you say "crazy" in Finnish? (it's hullu.)


Today's freezing rain - and the need to run some errands after work - forced me to break my streak of bike riding at 56 consecutive workdays - 112% of my goal. Until today, I hadn't driven to work since before Genevieve was born. The worst riding conditions were those of December 4, when it was -15 degrees with the windchill as I rode to work. Overall, I was pleased with how fun it was to bike to work. The 15 minutes of pedaling each day did wonders for my creaky knees, too: they don't pop and ache nearly as much as they did just before the streak. I look forward to beating this record in the New Year. Maybe we'll even get some snow to keep it interesting.


Thanks to the very catchy Justin Roberts song "Meltdown," the chorus of which is his shouting out the letters in the title word, Julia is very interested in spelling things. Or rather, she is very interested in hearing how things are spelled. I can always catch her flagging attention by simply spelling out a word that I'm saying. "It's T-I-M-E to T-A-K-E your B-A-T-H." More often than not, doing this will elicit a whole chain of half-curious, half-amused questions about orthography, each posed in her characteristic way: "What does 'Mama' spell? What does 'Daddy' spell? What does, uhm [look around the room for something else] 'cushion' spell?" I love that she has invented her own idiosyncratic but perfectly clear way to ask how to spell something.

Great Lines

This is the best line I've read in a blog in a while: "I often think that it's something I should do, and then decide that I have bigger fish to fry, so I go fry 'em."

Tomten Club

I remember The Tomten from my own childhood, so I was happy to see it in the library.Checking out the book for Julia wasn't my very best parenting idea. Even though she loves gnomes (having seen numerous specimens at her Grammy's apartment), she had an unequivocally negative reaction to the book when she looked at it by herself one day: "I do not like this book. No, no, no. I do not like it." Close, put back on shelf, never open again.

tomtesmall_textmediumAnd but so, the tomte book has a long history that runs all the way back to the 1880s, when two Swedes - a poet and a painter - collaborated to adapt folk stories about pastoral gnomes to a midwinter Christmas setting. (Of course, the Finns have their own equivalent, the tonttu or haltija. I'm sure he's the most taciturn of the bunch.)

En Vacance

This is the latest entry in my chain of posts - begun on Xferen last fall and on hiatus since about last spring - about how my new job is better than my old one. Oh, there are so many ways, but here's a recent example.

As those of us in my office discussed our holiday-vacation plans, it occurred to me that I really didn't have a count of the number of vacation days I had to use. I hoarded them all the way through 2006, then blew most of them on my paternity leave. So I called Human Resources to find out where - online? my paycheck? - I could find out how many vacation days I had left. Turns out that as an exempt employee ("exempt," as my boss always jokes, "from overtime pay"), I am responsible for calculating my own vacation hours based on the accrual rates available in the staff handbook and my own records of time off. In other words, there's no record. It's the honor system. If the work's getting done, and your boss is okay with your time off, you're clear.

I'll be out of the office during Christmas week.

Girls' Lives

Genevieve: She is drooling like a mad dog lately. When I took off her clothes last night, the front of her shirt was completely soaked, all the way down to her waistband, and her pants were pretty damp, too. The constantly-wet chin and lips only makes her grins more endearing, and the spittle makes for some interesting *pbbbbt* experiments in soundmaking.

Julia: As a winter aficionado, I'm happy that Julia likes to go out in the cold. A half-dozen times this winter, she's asked to go outside for a walk on a day that really calls more for tea on the sofa. Yesterday, for instance, she asked if we could go out just as the sun disappeared behind the ridge west of our place. We had a while till dinner, and some exercise is never bad, so we bundled ourselves up (a process which always includes her singing a few lines from "All Dressed Up," another classic Sesame Street song) and headed out into the snowless frostiness. In a half-hour, we didn't get much further than the corner, but Julia ran much of the way and spent about ten minutes climbing up and down a low stone wall, pretending to be Sebastian the Curious Kitten. At five to five, I told her we had to go back home for dinner, and she almost cried at the injustice of having to end her outdoor fun. Next winter - if Ukko sees fit to send a little snow - maybe she can actually spend some of her outdoor time on skis.

Kahvi in Finland

Nobody drinks more coffee than the Finns, so maybe my addiction is genetic. The Helsinki City Library recently posted a great article on the history of coffee drinking in Finland, which includes such information as "coffee consumption per capita in Finland [in 2004] was 11.99 kg, which is approximately 3.8 cups of coffee a day. In the same year, coffee consumption was 4.26 kg per person in the USA, 2.43 kg in the UK, 8.06 kg in Sweden and 3.36 kg in Japan."

That's a lot of joe. I wonder if this tradition from the nineteenth century survives: "In the archipelago and in North-Finland it was earlier usual to drink coffee with salt, or make coffee in sea water. Like that people drank less coffee than they otherwise would have done."

I hope not.

The Evening in Childrearing

Four months ago, taking care of both girls at the same time nearly brought me to tears - manly weepage composed of 2% tears and 98% testosterone, but tears nonetheless. Tonight, I didn't even really notice when I was simultaneously putting a post-bath diaper on Julia while also putting pajamas on Genevieve as she squalled with hunger and tiredness. After Shannon took Gigi for nursing and nighttime, I went to read bedtime stories to Julia.

After we read her two books, it took me about ten seconds to reshelve the books and turn down her covers. In that time, she staggered, in the way she does when she's all but asleep on her feet, across the room and fell headfirst into a basket of stuffed animals. When I went over to help her back to her feet, she looked up at me and said, apropos of nothing, "Daddy wearing his gasses! I yike Daddy's gasses more than Mama's gasses." "Why, honey?" "Because Daddy reads my bedtime stories with his gasses." As I laughed at this charming non sequitur, her consciousness kept streaming: "When I am getting ready for bed, Mama puts on her glasses in the meantime." I could only shake my head - how many 30-month old kids know how to use "meantime" properly? I only know the one, but she's a good one, just like her sister.

The Morning in Childrearing

Genevieve woke up altogether too early this morning, so after she nursed and talked to herself for a while, I grudgingly took her downstairs, where we had a great time. She was propped up on a pillow so she could see her "baby gym" and me, but all she really wanted to do was flash her great little smile and make the most high-pitched sounds this side of echolocation. She does this thing now where she makes eye contact, smiles, and then turns her head coyly into her shoulder. It was wonderful.

After about a half hour of this, we heard her sister wake up. Julia was very content to stay in bed and sing - at very high volume - a selection of her favorite songs, including "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." This tune was sung in a variety of tempos, from Nat King Cole crooning to Anthony Kiedis sing-rapping. As if that weren't funny enough, she would, after ending each stanza, exclaim, "That was wonderful!" just like Bert does on one of her favorite Sesame Street songs, and then compliment Piggy, the stuffed animal she's borrowing from Genevieve ("until she is oh-der and can hode it by herself"): "Good job, Piggy! I yike how you danced!" Pause, then, "Twinkle, twinkle..."

It's hard to believe, but this was an even better way to start the day than a cup of coffee and the paper.

Sights Seen

Looking out the window this morning, I noticed some unusually large, broad-winged birds soaring above the park north of our place. Looking through the binoculars, I was surprised to see that they were a pair of bald eagles. Arid midwinter subdivisions aren't exactly bald-eagles usual or best habitat, but whatever. They gradually drifted off toward the Cannon River, which is (marginally) more appropriate. Quite a strange and impressive sight.

Midway at La Clusaz

Well, I was way off on my picks for the La Clusaz mass-start skating races today - not one of my picks for the podium spots wound up there. Surprisingly, Virpi Kuitunen won the women's 15km. She has superlative classical technique but had been viewed as lacking top-level skating abilities. No more. And her sprinter's kick came proved awfully handy in breaking clear of a large pack and winning by 0.30 seconds over another Finn, Riita Liisa Roponen. The emerging Italian star Adriana Follis took third, edging Katerina Neumannova - my pick for the overall win. The first five finishers crossed the line within two seconds of Kuitunen, the top ten within six seconds.

The pack was tight in the men's 30km, too. Ole Einar Bjørndalen, my pick to win after his dominating performance at Gëllivare and on the biathlon circuit, faded badly, ending up sixteenth. A late, futile attack by Swede Matthias Fredriksson broke up the field and sent Tobias Angerer (Germany) and Evgeni Dementiev and Alexander Legkov (both Russia) toward the line in a three-way sprint. The bull-necked Angerer - probably the best finisher in the World Cup - eked out the win, .6 up on Legkov and .8 on Dementiev (who had won a gold at Torino by emerging from a massive field sprint in the pursuit).

With Sunday's relays still to come, the two individual winners have already staked a big claim to the Tour de Ski, the next round of competition. Versatility in technique and distance will be critical, as the Tour includes eight races in ten days - three classic-style events ranging from less than 5km up to 15km/30km, four freestyle events ranging from 1km sprints to 10km/15km, and a combined-technique double pursuit. All but two events are mass or pursuit starts, pressure-filled affairs which put a premium on the steely nerves that Angerer and Kuitunen today demonstrated they have.

My revised picks for the relays:

Women's 4x5km Relay
1. Finland
2. Germany
3. Norway

Men's 4x10km Relay
1. Germany
2. Russia
3. Norway

Garbage In...

Shannon recently blogged about the forgetfulness and scatter-mindedeness brought on by being a mother, but being a father has done a number on me, too. Two nights ago, one of Genevieve's shoes went missing after her bath. Last night, after scouring (nearly) every place the @#$# shoe could have gone, I pulled up my shirtsleeves and actually dug through all the garbage in our dumpter, bag by bag, diaper by diaper. It was nearly as emetic as the previous Friday, but I didn't find the shoe. Then, at about ten p.m., it suddenly occurred to me that the shoe must have gotten tangled up in some pajamas I planned to put on Genevieve but instead put back in the dresser. Sure enough, the shoe was there in the clean, dry drawer.

Unbidden but Welcomed

Taking advantage of the ridiculously warm temperatures, Shannon and the girls came by my office today to drop off our family Christmas cards and some holiday cookies. On the way out, we crossed paths with Carol, a wonderful coworker who, several months ago, gave the girls a stuffed toy horse and a pair of books about a mischievous kitten named Sebastian. Carol had never met Shannon, Julia, or Genevieve, so I did the introductions. I wasn't even quite finished when Julia leaned toward Carol and blurted out, in her breathless, semi-stuttery way, "Tha-tha-thank you very mu-much, Carol, for the h-h-horsey and the Sepass-ssion books!" I was flabbergasted - my shy little toddler, on her own, not only remembering the gifts and the giver but summoning up the courage to thank the giver in such a polite way. It was one of those moments where I could see the kid grow up right in front of me.

Tour de Spill

Wending my way to work this morning, I wiped out in a big way. I was going pretty slow, trying to turn a downhill corner that looked wet but was actually icy. I landed on my butt and skidded six of ten feet. I wasn't hurt and my bike wasn't damaged. And the spill was almost worth it for being able to see the "what the hell?" look on the face of an SUV driver who came upon me lying there in the middle of the road.

Make No Small Plans

While one arm of the federal government is squandering blood and treasure in Iraq, another is attempting something more modest: cataloging every known species. From the National Science Foundation:
A flood of new information, from whole-genome sequences to detailed structural information to inventories of earth's biota, is transforming 21st century biology. Along with comparative data on morphology, fossils, development, behavior, and interactions of all forms of life on earth, these new data streams make even more critical the need for an organizing framework for information retrieval, analysis, and prediction. Phylogeny, the genealogical map for all lineages of life on earth, provides an overall framework to facilitate information retrieval and biological prediction. Currently, single investigators or small teams of researchers are studying the evolutionary pathways of heredity usually concentrating on phylogenetic groups of modest size. Assembly of a framework phylogeny, or Tree of Life, for all 1.7 million described species requires a greatly magnified effort by large teams working across institutions and disciplines. This is the overall goal of the Assembling the Tree of Life activity.

Nordic Racing

Wednesday's races at Cogne, Italy, confirmed that this World Cup cross-country season is going to be an odd one. Both races, run in the classical technique from an interval start, saw a repeat winner: sprinter Eldar Rønning (Norway) in the men's 15km and Finland's Virpi Kuitunen in the women's 10km. Rønning and Kuitunen had won at the same distances and in the same technique at Kuusamo, Finland, at the end of November. Ronning is a genuine revelation, having now established himself as a threat in both distance and sprint events. He's well clear of the second-place skiers in both the World Cup distance and overall rankings. Kuitunen has long been one of the better female racers, but this is the first time she has topped the women's World Cup overall rankings - a position she holds partly on the strength of her superb racing, especially in the classical technique, and partly because defending champion Marit Bjørgen of Norway is having a terrible season, finishing third in the 10km freestyle-technique race at Gällivare, Sweden, in early November, worrying about her fitness after finishing second in the 10km at Kuusamo and fading badly to 17th at Cogne. Bjørgen has even had bad results in the sprint races she had dominated in recent years, finishing third in the Kuusamo sprint behind Petra Madjic of Slovenia, an up-and-coming racer who stands third in the overall, and Kuitunen. (Norwegians took all three podium spots in the men's sprint at Kuusamo.) Bjørgen's bad form opens the gate to her perennial rivals, such as Kuitunen, Czech Katerina Neumannova (winner at Gällivare), and Estonian Kristina Smigun, who is perhaps the best distance racer in classical and freestyle techniques.

The weekend's races at La Clusaz, France, will be the last competitions before the intense Tour de Ski starts, two weeks from today. The men's 30km race is the first mass-start event of the year, and biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen, having won five straight biathlon races after a surprising and crushing victory in the 15km freestyle race at Gällivare, is readying himself for it. Bjørndalen hopes for a strong result - perhaps even a victory - to stake a claim for a spot on the Norwegian cross-country World Championships team. The women's 15km race is likely to reenact many of the results from Gällivare; Neumannova won at La Clusaz in 2004 and must be considered the favorite this year, while Smigun has had good results all season and Kuitunen needs to break through with a solid freestyle result. The relays at La Clusaz will probably feature the same teams that won the relays at Gällivare, although without Bjorgen - who anchored Norway to the win at Gällivare but is skipping La Clusaz - the Norwegian women will be lucky to finish in the top five.  The dark cloud of doping will hang over the La Clusaz races: two Austrians were detained at Cogne for possible doping violations.  

Women's 15km Freestyle (Mass Start)
1. Katerina Neumannova (CZE)
2. Kristina Smigun (EST)
3. Valentina Shevchenko (UKR)

Men's 30km Freestyle (Mass Start)
1. Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR)
2. Axel Teichmann (GER)
3. Vincent Vittoz (FRA)


I'll chalk it up to global warming: the skies above Northfield are still full of Canada geese. A month ago, I'd have said they were migrating, but it's late enough in the season that they're probably year-rounders. Walking across campus earlier today, a flock of several hundred flew overhead, honking so loudly that I couldn't hear my companion talking. Airborne geese make a beautifully dissonant sound, a natural analog to an Ornette Coleman solo.


Standing in the middle of the Carleton bookstore this morning, I was in the confluence of an old-school rendition of "Silver Bells" from my left and "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane from my right. San Francisco holiday values, I guess.

Early December Nordic Racing

The nordic skiing season in Europe is almost on hold for lack of snow - a situation which one Nordic meteorologist predicted may all but end skiing in Scandinavia by 2050. In the here and now, it's just messy. Last weekend's cross-country sprint and distance competitions in Italy were replaced by a pair of distance races this Wednesday. The weekend's jumping competition in the Czech Republic were cancelled outright, after the previous weekend's competition was moved from Trondheim to Lillehammer, Norway - where Swiss Simon Amman and Austrian teenager Gregor Schlierenzauer won.

Only biathlon seems to be surviving relatively unscathed, and then only by staging two back-to-back events at Hochfilzen, Austria: three sets of races originally scheduled there last weekend, and four sets of races that had been scheduled for snowless Orsblie, Slovakia, this week. So far, men's biathlon has been all Ole Einar Bjørndalen: in addition to a World Cup XC race at Gällivare, Bjørndalen has won all five of the individual races this season - including one while wearing a Speedo over his racing suit. On the women's side, a range of winners have emerged. At the opening biathlon competitions two weeks ago at Östersund, Sweden , Linda Grubben won the women's pursuit while two first time winners - Magdalena Gwizdon of Poland and Irina Malgina of Russia - won the women's sprint and individual races, respectively. The past weekend's races at Hochfilzen saw Andrea Henkel of Germany win the sprint and pursuit events, and the Russian relay teams take both the men's and the women's events. North American biathletes have been doing well.  Nina Kocher of Canada finished third and Lanny Barnes of the U.S. finished fifteenth in the women's individual race at Oestersund; American Tim Burke surpassed strong results at Oestersund  by finishing 10th in the sprint and 20th in the pursuit - and then racing hard on the scramble leg of the men's relay, tagging off in fifth position. Burke's skiing is as strong as almost anyone's on the circuit, so if his shooting improves, he may yet contend for a podium spot.

Meteorological troubles notwithstanding, the cross-country circuit resumes on Wednesday with rare mid-week distance races at Cogne/Val d'Aosta, Italy: 10km for women (down from a mass-start 15km), 15km for men (down from a mass-start 30km). Skied in the classical technique from an interval start, the races are the penultimate competitions before the Tour de Ski at the year's end; next weekend sees sprints and a mass-start skating race at La Clusaz, France. My picks for Cogne:

Women's 10km Classical Style
1. Kristina Smigun (EST)
2. Virpi Kuitunen (FIN)
3. Marit Bjørgen (NOR)

Men's 15km Classical Style
1. Eldar Rønning (NOR)
2. Odd-Bjørn Hjelmeset (NOR)
3. Vincent Vittoz (FRA)

See Over

See Over

This is one of Julia's favorite Christmas-tree "ormaments." I asked her the other day what it said, and she replied, "Julia!" I started to say, "That's right!" but she went on, "Put this on the twee and put on the twee many other ormaments, too."

I guess that's right enough. The extra part must be printed on the other side.


Light blogging this weekend, on account of the good old norovirus, which hit me on Friday and really hit me on Friday night.

Etymologies of the Nordic Nations: Finland

The name Suomi has uncertain origins but a strong candidate for a cognate is the Baltic word zeme meaning "ground, earth, country." In another approach, Finnish suo means "fen," which is one of the characteristic biotypes of Finland; it is thought that Finland might have been called Suomaa by the early Finns. In Finnish, suomaa means Fen Land (Land of the Fens). The exonym Finland has resemblance with e.g. the Scandinavian placenames Finnmark, Finnveden and Finnskogen and all are thought to be derived from finn, a Germanic word for nomadic "hunter-gatherers" (as opposed to sedentary farmers). How, why and when this designation would have started to mean the Finns in particular is largely unknown. Among the first written documents mentioning a "land of the Finns" are two rune stones. There is one in Söderby, Sweden, with the inscription finlont and one in Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea, with the inscription finlandi dating from the 11th century
(From Wikipedia)

Makes Sense, Really

Julia hardly ever refuses to eat a particular food, but last night she drew the line at tofu - which she loved to the point of obsession last year. She took a bite-sized piece from our stir fry, put it in her mouth, tried to chew, then spat it out carefully. "I don't like toe-food, Mama."

Etymologies of the Nordic Nations: Iceland

Duh: "From Icelandic Ísland - Iceland, from ís  ice + land land."


My posts about Iceland (just above) and about the cyclocross racer who fell into an icy lake (further below) remind me of an incident that happened in September 2001, while on a hiking trip in the U.P.'s Porcupine Mountains State Park. Around dusk, we'd set up camp at a site along the shore of Lake Superior (somewhere near Lone Rock on this map [pdf]).

By the time dinner ended, it was very dark, the kind of saturated blackness you can only find in the wilderness. Wearing my headlamp, I went over to the lake to rinse out the dishes. My first step onto the slippery rocks that compose the lakeshore there was a misstep, and I went right into the water, all the way. I may have bumped my head on the way down, because my headlamp flew off into the waves. I remember pulling myself up to all fours, not quite breathing but still holding onto one of the cooking pans, and turning to see the ghostly white-yellow light of the lamp under a foot of ice-cold water. I reached out and grabbed the lamp, put it back on my head, carefully stood up, and stepped back onto the shore.

I don't remember being cold at all, even crouching there and washing the dishes. After that chore was done, I dried out in front of the campfire, since the "travel light and fast" ethic of my fellow hikers meant I didn't have a change of clothes. The next day, we finished our hike and drove back to Chicago. The day after that, I tried to fly back home to Minneapolis, but during my ride to the airport, the Twin Towers were attacked and I was "ground stop"ped at Midway; I finally drove home on the thirtheenth in one of the last rental cars in Chicago, listening to Neal Conan on NPR interview, one after another, survivors and friends or relatives of the dead.

Etymologies of the Nordic Nations: Denmark

The etymology of Denmark (Danish: Danmark) is uncertain because there are so few old sources, and the experts have two interpretations of the name. Both groups say -mark is a wild forest (uninhabited territory or lawless no-man's land).
(From Wikipedia)

Not Celery

The Star Tribune journalizes  on a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscriber access only) on the compensation of college & university presidents. I'm not sure if it's a good or a bad thing that Carleton's president is the subject of the very first sentence in the Strib piece: "The yearly paycheck and benefits for Carleton College's president more than doubled in eight years, to $446,586." The comparisons to other presidents in the state are instructive: Bruininks at the U earns $537,821. On the other hand, the quote from anti-tax crusader David Strom ("To have a small college [Carleton] with 1,800 to 2,000 students paying its president almost half a million dollars seems out of line") is ridiculous: would he say that same thing about the well-compensated CEO of a small firm? I doubt it.

The article only hints at the national scene: "Carleton College President Robert Oden Jr.'s $446,586 total compensation ranked 115th out of 832 private colleges examined. And a number of colleges that might be considered comparable to Carleton -- such as Iowa's Grinnell College, Massachusetts' Williams College, and North Carolina's Davidson College -- pay their presidents more." Looking at the sources for the Strib article - a set of articles and tables published by the Chronicle of Higher Education - backs up that statement: Carleton's a middle-of-the-pack kind of institution when it comes to presidential compensation. After Roger H. Hull, the president at Union College (N.Y.), who earned $1,024,652 in 2004-2005, the compensation comes down around the Carleton level, with the rest of the presidents in the top ten earning from $593,548 (Frances D. Fergusson, Vassar College) to $473,415 (Larry P. Arnn, Hillsdale College - that bastion of libertarian higher ed). You have to go to a private university to earn the really big money: the tenth-ranked executive at a private university - John E. Sexton, New York University - earned $798,989; the number-one private university executive - Audrey K. Doberstein at Wilmington College (who? where?) pulled down $2,746,241.

Etymologies of the Nordic Nations: Sweden

Sweden was originally a plural form of Swede and is a so-called "back-formation", from Old English Sweoðeod, which meant "people of the Swedes" (Old Norse Svíþjóð, Latin Suetidi). This word is derived from Sweon/Sweonas (Old Norse Sviar, Latin Suiones). As the name for the country itself, Sweden is borrowed from Dutch Zweden, which is probably the dative case of Zwede. It appeared in Scots during the 17th century in forms such as Swethin and Swadne. Before this, Sweden was called Swedeland, and in Old English it was called Sweoland (see Svealand) or Sweorice (Old Norse Sviariki, which is an older form of the modern Swedish name for the country, Sverige).
(From Wikipedia)


Today is Sinterklaas in the Netherlands, home of my expatriate sister, brother-in-law, and new niece. In many ways, the holiday is a traditional gift-giving event linked (more or less loosely) to Christian traditions. And then, my friends, there's the blackface worn by Sinterklaas' helpers, "Black Peters" or Zwarte Pieten. "Tradition states that Sinterklaas' helpers are not black slaves, but have black faces from sliding down chimneys to deliver presents." Uh, sure. If you're a naughty kid, they kidnap you and take you back to Madrid - you know, the capital of the country which brutally ruled the Netherlands for 150 years, and a place where, historically, Moors - Muslims! - have featured prominently.

Etymologies of the Nordic Nations: Norway

Modern etymologists believe the country's name means "the northward route" (the way north), which in Old Norse would be nor veg or *norð vegr. The Old Norse name for Norway was Nóregr, in Anglo-Saxon Norþ weg, and in mediaeval Latin Northvegia. The present name of the Kingdom of Norway in Norwegian Nynorsk is "Kongeriket Noreg", which is only a couple of letters removed from the original "northern way"; "Nor(d)-(v)eg".However, some sources suggest Norway may be from Old Norse nor-ay "northern island."
(From Wikipedia)

No Light at the End of the Tunnel

God, I wish I could take photos like these shots of the Moscow subway. They're not so much hyperrealistic as they are so realistic that they look like CGI. Something about them - the way the lights shimmer, the severely restricted palette, the curving cables, and the darkness in the distance... The entrance to hell looks like this. (Via Table of Malcontents.)


In an IM today, my dad wrote, "It is quite a coincidence that both the son and son in law are riding bikes to work rather than BMWs." (My brother-in-law Dan, being domiciled with my newly postpartum sister and their "babytje" in the Netherlands, has to "cycle" everywhere.) I'd never noticed that before, but yes, it is rather strange. Between my household and theirs, we have four master's, two PhDs, and no luxury cars. Something's amiss.

Heated seats would have been nice today, especially as I headed to work this morning: the air temp was about 10 degrees, but the 15 mph wind - coming from the west, the direction in which I was traveling - made it seem like 15 below. On the plus side, today is my 44th consecutive workday of commuting by bike, putting me just six days away from my official goal of 50 workdays. On the plus-plus side, I didn't suffer the fate of this cyclocross racer, who fell through the ice on a lake during a race in Missouri this weekend, but climbed out of the water and won the race. That is hard core.

Like Christmas

Like Christmas
Okay, this morning's festivities made me feel bad for being such a Grinchy McScrooge yesterday. As Shannon wrote, Julia was and is totally in love with Christmas. Watching her and Shannon decorate the tree (even if it was plastic!) was wonderful - they both loved it so much.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot

<grinch>We had a magical evening here, kicking off the holiday season. I don't know what was the best part: almost dropping a toboggan on my head while I tried to lift the artificial-tree box down from the shelf in the garage; going up to comfort Genevieve after she slid sideways down the incline we've installed in her crib to forestall the nocturnal screamings; freezing my hands as I shaped the ice-cold metal underneath the plastic needles of the fake tree branches; running upstairs with ice water for Julia, suddenly sick with her zillionth cold since August; or fighting to get a mangled ornament away from the cat. </grinch>

And we don't even have any snow!