Tuesday, November 29, 2005

My Little Metabolist

When, just after a meal, you ask Julia what happened to her food, she pats her stomach and then says enthusiastically, "Engsy!" She says this because as we were finishing up Thanksgiving dinner, I told her that all her good food was now being turned into energy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Who the hell died and let this happen? A single-shot espresso maker called the Tassimo? I wish I had a veto to exercise. On the other hand, it's amusing to substitute my surname at various points in this copy:
TASSIMO is not just another coffee maker. It's a whole new way to prepare a variety of delicious hot drinks perfectly, in the comfort of your own home. And it's so simple.
With the TASSIMO machine and the TASSIMO Discs (T-DISCS) you can make the hot drink you want, when you want it. No fuss. No bother.
It's truly amazing. The same machine that makes a real espresso and freshly brewed filter coffee from some of your favorite U.S. and European brands, also makes real milk-based latte & cappuccino, cafe crema, tea, hot chocolate - something for everyone. Each cup is freshly brewed to celebrate its true character and gives you the taste you love, every time.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Julia Marches On

Julia learned to say six words today: "Bert," "Ernie," "draw," "Brea" (one of her cousins), "Bono" (actually, "Mono," from an iPod ad on the back of a magazine) and, best of all, "cuddle," which she pronounces "duddo." Not even the cold, half-defunct heart of our vice president could resist her shuffling up, saying, "Duddo, duddo," climbing onto your lap, and whisper-mumbling, "Yaya?" - her way of asking you to sing. Not that I'd let her get anywhere near that bastard. Anyhow, I doubt he would sing selections from the Radiohead songbook, as I am wont to do. "No Surprises" is a surprisingly good lullaby. Until the listening comprehension improves, at least.

On top of the linguistic and appellate accomplishments, she is also learning to revel in experimentation. This evening in her bath, she started dunking a little red bath-toy cup into the water, open end down, and then yanking it back out of the water so that the water inside came out in a pretty silver arc, all over her head, the tub wall, my arms, etc. The harder and faster she stabbed the cup into the water and pulled it back out, the higher and longer and wetter the arc. Good for ten minutes of fun.

Speaking of long times consumed in toddleriffic activity, yesterday evening she spent twenty minutes simply placing three rubber duckies in various spots and configurations in our basement: all three on one box, two on the TV and one on the floor; one on the books, one on her trike, one in her hand; et cetera almost literally ad infinitum. In textbook toddler-play fashion, she checked back with me every few minutes, but otherwise simply motored around the basement, getting her ducks in a row.

Playing for so long in the basement is a good thing because last week, the basement became a scary place after we had a plumber, Bob, come to do some work. His sawing at a pipe woke Julia up from a nap, and of course once awake she had to see what the $#@#$@ was going on. But just as we got to the basement stairs, the plumber surprisingly bounded up towards us. Bob slowed when he saw the baby, and even talked nicely and softly to her, but the whole rest of the time he was working down there, she was very alarmed by his presence and by the unprecedented noises he was making. She watched him drive off later on, but still, ever since, any movement toward the basement elicits the alarmed question, "Bop? Bop?" and we have to say again, "No, honey, Bob went home." Poor kid.

But, pathos aside, she's also mastering the art of the appeal. Lately when going to bed, she calls out for aid to everyone she can: Momma, Dadda, Boppa, Nonna, and even Ditty. Of the two people and one feline who can actually hear her plaints, only the cat seems likely to respond. Not that I wouldn't love to run in and spend a few more minutes with her.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


We have snow on the ground here in Minneapolis. Assuming that we will also have snow next month, this means that we'll have had snow in seven of the twelve months this year, thanks to some flurries on May Day. That's good climate!


From Daring Fireball, some reasons why I love my PowerBook.
The aluminum case of the 15-inch PowerBook G4 is largely unchanged since it debuted in September 2003, and appearance-wise, isn’t all that different from the titanium “TiBook” PowerBooks that ushered in the portable G4 era back in January 2001.1
It’s a design that has aged well. Handsome and austere, there are few visible elements on the PowerBook case that aren’t functional, with the notable and obvious exception of the light-up Apple logo adorning the back of the screen, which logo is emblematic of Apple’s post-millennial industrial design: its size, position, and luminance all seem spot-on perfect. It’s even worth noting that the logo is correctly oriented, considering that until the PowerBook G4, the Apple logos on the backs of PowerBook screens were oriented the wrong way, such that they looked “correct” when you, the user, sat in front of a closed PowerBook, but appeared upside down to anyone looking at the back of an open one.
Other than in the small-print legalese on the bottom of the case, the PowerBook does not say “Apple”. It isn’t necessary for Apple to heavy-handedly brand their case designs; the cases themselves — their shapes, their materials, their proportions, and of course the Apple logo — are the Apple brand.
There’s an extraordinary simplicity to the exteriors of all of Apple’s current portables. Viewed straight-on from any angle — top, front, side — the shape is a simple rectangle with round corners (a “roundrect” in QuickDraw parlance)... The edges are mostly the same on all four sides. There are a minimum of visible seams and no superfluous decorative elements.
Another reason why I love my computer: this evening, Julia walked up to the computer, on mom's lap, and touched the lit-up Apple on the case and said, "Appo?" That's my girl! Next stop...

All Trucked Up

If you've ever driven through the notorious "Marquette Interchange" near downtown Milwaukee, you have been on the edge of madness. Multi-tiered, spaghettistic madness. Well, thank god, they're rebuilding the interchange, spending $810 million and aiming to finish in 2008. The new interchange should be a big improvement over the current one, which is now almost 50 years old and carries twice the traffic it was intended to carry. The project website is pretty cool, as websites on heavy infrastructure go.

(Thanks to Dad, who drives through the interchange many times a week, for the tip.)

Monday, November 14, 2005

America in the Crapper

These days, surefire signs that American civilization is in irrevocable decline are a dime a dozen. Suspending habeas corpus, an unwinnable Asian land war, implicit use of torture to further political aims, rejection of science, et cetera ad nauseam.

Of all the signs, though, the existence of Skymall, the in-flight catalog chockablock with crap, is the most important proof of our imminent collapse in decadence, corruption, and ignominy. Viz.,
Truly, this is where consumerist capitalism goes to die.

The Messiah of Spoons?

My friend Matt over at After School Snack has created a niche for himself as a blog ranter par excellence, and this week, hating on the Walker Art Center's sculpture garden, he outdoes last week's rant against the First Ave. music club - which got some haters to hate. (See the comments.) Oh, it's good stuff.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Out East, Where the Livin's Diseasey

I just returned from a quick walk to the ShopRite grocery store near my hotel in Waterford, Connecticut. A) The in and out doors are reversed, so each is on the left as you approach. B) The checkout lanes have hand-sanitizer pumps at them for customers to use as they load the conveyor belt. C) My checker, an African-American woman named Jacoby, was wearing surgical gloves. So were the other checkers.

Is there something I don't know?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Taking All Offers

My blog is worth $2,822.70.
How much is your blog worth?

Deer Attack

Is it any coincidence that hunting season opens tomorrow?
Another deer has crashed into a Minnesota school -- this time in Litchfield, Minn... The deer crashed through a window at Lake Ripley Elementary around 3:30 yesterday afternoon... No one was hurt, and damage was minimal... Deer also have crashed recently into schools in Willmar and Mankato. Earlier this week, a buck tried to crash through a window at the state Capitol and ran past Governor Pawlenty.
Full story.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Olympics on the Way!

November 2, 2005, marks 100 days to the opening of the 20th Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. If nothing else, they'll help you make it through the February blahs. Of course, it would help if the Italians were, like, finished with the venues, but like their Olympic committee chairman says, Italy is "a last-minute country". Anyhow, I'm excited for the games, and I sure hope it snows!

Rules for Writing

I dunno how I got through a grad program in history without ever seeing Professor William B. Hesseltine's "Commandments" on Historical Writing, but god, are they good and smart, whether you're writing history or anything else - even blog posts!

One can here find a lengthened list of the commandments, by Horace Samuel Merrill of the History Department at the University of Maryland, but here are some samples:

1. Thou shalt not use the passive voice.
2. Thou shalt not use the present voice.
5. Thou shalt not quote anything thou canst say better thyself.
6. Thou shalt not quote to carry thy story.
12. Thou shalt not write the history of a wheat field regardless of how "naturally" it develops.
15. Thou shalt not mention secondary sources or writers in the main body of thy text.
18. Thou shalt not discuss thy methodology.
23. Thou shalt not use the rhetorical question to avoid an intelligent transition.
25.Thou shalt be neither a "no-er" nor a "not-er"--i.e., thou shalt avoid negations whenever possible.
26. Thou shalt never use THIS for THE, nor THE for A.

(Here is some background on the development and deployment of the commandments, including Hesseltine's original list.)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Race Ain't What It Seems

In this reflection on his blackness and whiteness and, apparently, yellowness, Brent Staples offers a short primer on American race relations - basically, white people slept with everyone they could - and on the genetic, if not quite yet (or ever) social, melting pot of American life. Fascinating stuff...


Julia was amazed by the spectacle of trick-or-treating. She didn't, herself, get dressed up or go out to beg for sweets, but she was a very interested observer. Every time the doorbell rang, she wheeled around and went straight to th door. And talk about a quick study! After a few times hearing the kids, all decked out, shouting "Trick or treat!" and getting what were clearly "nums," she started saying, "Thbta teet!" and pointing at the bowl Mom was carrying around. Alas - no Tootsie Rolls before bed.