Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Anything Is a Good Hat

Like her dad, Julia likes a good hat, especially indoors. We agree that nothing beats a stocking cap worn all evening long. It is to your scalp what hot cocoa is to your stomach. Last night, as I was changing my socks, she grabbed a clean one and laid it over her head. She's done this dozens of times, but I still laughed and said, "Nice sock hat!" While she inspected the look in the mirror, I put the other one on my own head. She turned around, smile brightening at seeing me following her lead, and said, "Otha. Hat. Bofe!" She hadn't made that leap from "other" to "both" before, to my knowledge.

Linguistic capacities aside, what's really impressive to me is the range of things which she has worn like a hat, which includes:
  • stocking caps (mine and hers)
  • baseball hats (mine)
  • handkerchiefs
  • bibs
  • napkins
  • socks (hers and mine)
  • mittens (hers, mine, and her mom's)
  • Christmas wrapping paper
  • Valentine's Day wrapping paper
  • coloring books
  • unfolded maps
  • Tupperware bowls
  • her own pants
  • diapers (clean)
  • towels (bath and hand)
  • washcloths (dry and wet)
  • plastic buckets
  • the cat (with little luck)

Jobby Job Job

I've been meaning to write a bit more lately about life on the no-longer-so-new job, but I keep putting it off for Juliablogging. By way of punishing my readers for this omission, here's an article from Inside Higher Ed on the growth of quantitative-literacy programs, especially at liberal-arts colleges. Equipping all students to think with and about numbers, despite what the first blowhard commenter thinks, entails much more than just offering remedial math to English-lit majors. In combination with well-designed writing programs and other supracurricular initiatives, quantitative-literacy programs are reshaping the undergradute curriculum by integrating disparate skills and bodies of knowledge in ways that can make students into better thinkers.

My boosterism stems partly from my participation in Carleton's "QuIRK" ("Quantitative Inquiry, Reasoning, and Knowledge") committee (link may not work off campus), which gets an oblique mention in the article. Suffice to say that it's a hell of a lot of fun and very interesting to boot to participate in this and similar task forces at the college: we're doing some work that is often pioneering and always pedagogically valuable. Plus its an excuse to get free books!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Pushy Mirroring

Almost like a well-prepared interviewee, Julia has a penchant for mirroring you in certain ways - she'll cross her arms if yours are crossed, hold her chin if you're holding yours, and so forth ad mockeum. I say, "almost," though, because she'd much rather get you to look like her. This afternoon, as I reached down to pick her up, she pushed me away, fixed me with a glare I'm sure I'll be seeing a lot between now and 2022, and then carefully pulled each of my sweatshirt sleeves down to match hers - not too low to cover any part of the hand, not too high to leave the wrists exposed.

Hear This

With my appointment with the audiologist just a few days off now, I'm noticing more and more coverage of hearing-related news, like a new means, grounded in neuroscience research, for digitizing sound. The breakthrough may have all kinds of ramifications for hearing aids, cell phones, audio electronics, and other technologies. This bit is especially interesting, if unprovable:
[The] results also suggested that the acoustic structure of human speech mimics the natural sounds that the mammalian hearing system evolved to recognize before language existed. This is because both speech and natural sounds yield the same optimal code. For example, consonants are like "impact sounds"--sounds that might alert an animal to an approaching danger, such as footsteps or breaking twigs. Vowel sounds, on the other hand, are reflective of animal vocalizations.

Nerd Alert

It's uber-nerdy to point this out, but one of the cross-country skiing news sites held a contest to see who could correctly predict the most places in the Olympic XC races. I finished 21st, out of 103 entrants - in the uppermost quartile, but not exactly scorching the track. (On the other hand, the best North American finisher in the men's marathon yesterday finished 34th out of a registered 82 racers - meaning that I'm a better chooser of racers than he is a racer?)

Like many others' choices, my picks were led astray by the usually well-founded assumption that Norway wouldn't suck. Unfortunately, they most surely did. And in looking through the top 20 finishers, it appears that many people made their money on the sprint events, where the pool of legitimate competitors (and likely winners) is much smaller than in the distance events. I couldn't find anyone in the top 25 who correctly picked any of the podium places for yesterday's men's 50k skate race. These topics are worth discussing in my forthcoming Olympic recap...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

I'm Nome Idiot

Almost as often as Julia can make me feel entertained or awestruck by some new action, word, idea, she can make me feel stupid for totally not getting something that turns out to be clear as glass. Yesterday we were looking at a book of fairy tales. She abruptly closed it and walked purposefully away, saying, "Nome! Nome!" She was very adamant about it, and I felt bad because I had no idea what she meant, thinking, "What on earth does Alaska have to do with that book?" I even asked Julia's mom if she knew what "nome" was. Nope. Then, tonight, after resolving a different paternal-comprehension issue, I helped her put on her favorite hat, a rainbow striped, conical thing she calls "momo" ( = "rainbow"). When momo was properly on her head - standing straight up in a highly elfin way - she solved the mystery and administered a big dose of "duh" by saying, clearly and triumphantly, "Gnome! Gnome!"

Friday, February 24, 2006

Okpush Has It

Back in the dark days of house showings, last fall, we killed many an evening hour at the Barnes & Noble in our old neighborhood. One of Julia's favorite things there was a mammoth display of desk globes, which were fun to spin and name: "Dobe." Monday, intently studying her sippy, she realized (for the nth time) that the bespectacled octopus on the cup was holding a globe. Usually this elicts a giggle or just, "Dobe!" This time, though, she unleashed her first three-word sentence: "Dobe. Okpush has it." I just about choked on my cream cheese.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Putting My Best Foot in My Mouth

So today is notable, work-wise, for a kinda important meeting with several junior faculty to talk about their long-term research plans, where they might get external funding, etc. - the stuff that I should know about to work well with them. Leaving aside the fact that I'm writing this (brief!) post rather than working on my presentation, this morning I have - so far - spilled coffee on my white dress shirt and my tie and now, whilst digging in our files, gotten grease stains on my trousers. C.L.A.S.S.Y.

Christmas 1858

Yesterday, Julia counted up to four. Well, not really counted - recited the numbers and stabbed randomly at objects. Monday, in the span of about half an hour, she jumped from "counting" to five to counting to nine and then, after I helped with the last one, to ten. She just rattles 'em off: "One. Do. Tee. Foe. Yive. Yick. Yeve. Ate. Nine. Den." At this rate, she'll be "counting" to 1,858 on Christmas. I don't think that we have that many of anything in the house to count, except maybe rice. And I'm not going to let her count rice. Learning must take second place to tidiness.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


As far as Julia is concerned, there are only three kind of people who can do neat stuff with, say, knives and heavy objects on high shelves and dishwashers and hot water and ladders and fireplaces and toilets: Mama, Daddy, and Bigurls. It's not clear, yet, if she understands that she's on her way, like it or not, to being a bigurl. And as much as she'd love to be a bigurl and carry the kitchen knives around, she consistently rejects one particular bigurl activity: every time we ask if she wants to be a big girl and use her potty, she says surely, "No, no, no."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


One of Julia's funniest language tricks right now is repeating the last part of your sentence. She has a good knack for hearing the last unit - a single word, a useful phrase - and saying it back. Once, twice, threefourfive times. Tonight I asked her after the balked at coming over to her high chair, "You're hungry, aren't you?" She toddled up behind me and said, with exactly the same rhythm, "Arncha? Arncha? Arncha?" Yes, honey, I certainly am.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Brand Baby

After dinner tonight, Julia was a bit spent, so she asked to get back in her high chair to "cowoh." As I turned to get her much-chewed crayons, she named the specific coloring book she wanted: "Hewo Ditty. Hewo Ditty." It's her first brand! I'm so proud. I just hope that there's a phase or two of Pocky or even Sony before jumping up to Toyota.

That's Why

I still can't quite feel the tips of my fingers, 15 hours later: I biked to work this morning around 7:45. It was probably too cold to do so, as this chart shows: it was thirty below with the windchill. (The college weather site, from which I obtained this chart, is incredibly handy, though probably more so if you live in Northfield.)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Rules for Writing II

As I've said before, I love practical writing about writing, from Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" to Strunk & White. Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing is an excellent representative of the genre:
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

Unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison. But even if you’re good at it, you don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Julia discovered ice skating today: the world will never be the same. With Mama watching coverage of the Olympic figure skating, Julia starting doing pretty accurate mimicry of a skater's footwork: step-sliding each foot outward in turn while also advancing slowly across the room. She kept saying, "Yading!" but I only caught on after a minute or so. Perhaps to drive home the point, she also did "yins" that were really just her twirling in place for a few seconds - to the verge of tipping over in dizziness. In a hopeful development, she soon abandoned the in-place yading for yading sideways down the hall and back. She readily agreed with my assessment that she was now speed skating.

Wet That Be a Lesson to You

The weather was fine this morning when I biked in, but then it rained for a couple hours this afternoon, and when I left for home I discovered why it's a good idea to tie a plastic bag over your seat.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Good Stuff

My friend and co-blogger Elise has a great post up on her own blog about strange things to which children are exposed by their parents. Hers is the bizarro Bosch painting Garden of Earthly Delights, which hung over her crib. See and add to the comments f0r more...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sound Off

Sitting at my desk, I am within earshot of two different paper-shredding machines. One, a heavy-duty device, is in a closet which shares a wall with my office. When it's run, it sounds exactly like our garage-door opener at home - a dull, low throb that's I can feel in my gut. The other, lighter weight machine is across our office suite, and it sounds like someone crumpling a massive sheet of paper - a crunching, crinkling sound. Neither sound is very pleasant, but both are all the more annoying for their uncertain duration: they can just go on and on and on, or they can stop abruptly.


Julia's new new favorite game is "Topple." The instant I arrive home every day, she runs up for a kiss or hug or whatever and then races away to the sofa, yelling "Dopple! Dopple!" and pulling off as many of cushions and pillows as possible. When I catch up, I move one of the seat cushions off the sofa. She climbs up into the empty spot and, arms up over her head, throws herself down onto the remaining cushion. Over and over. Every day she seems to do it a little more vigorously. She insists that I say some made-up word that sounds like "Jaboosh!" every time she does it. I can't mix up the syllables or say another word, lest I get the infamous, "No, no, no." And if those weren't enough rules, she also gets to determine whether I should say it "youd" or "kwee-it." Once in a while, when she gets out of breath, she stops and tells me, "Daddy, dopple" and then I have to dopple, too, preferably yelling "jaboosh" as youdly as possible.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Tag, I'm It

Four jobs I've had:
1. Bag boy at the local IGA store in Hancock, Michigan. I think I've finally scrubbed the meat-and-ash smell off.
2. Student-worker assistant to the locksmith and carpenter at Macalester College. I had keys to every door on campus except the president's office. What was he keeping from me?
3. Low-level bureaucrat at online university. As much fun as the dentist's.
4. Adjunct history instructor at various colleges and universities. Engaging, rewarding, but always done alongside some other, more pressing job or task.

Four movies I can watch over and over:
1. Thin Red Line
2. Lost in Translation
3. Punch-Drunk Love
4. Hmmm...

Four places I've lived:
1. Hancock, Michigan
2. Ironwood, Michigan
3. Chicago, Illinois
4. Northfield, Minnesota

Four TV shows I love:
1. The Simpsons
2. Arrested Development
3. The Office (either flavor)
4. Curb Your Enthusiasm

Four places I've vacationed:
1. San Francisco, California
2. San Antonio, Texas
3. Two Harbors, Minnesota
4. Porcupine Mountains, Michigan

Four of my favorite dishes:
1. Pepperoni and tomato pizza
2. French fries
3. Root beer floats
4. Pasties ("pass-tees," not the other way)

Four sites I visit daily:
1. New York Times
2. Helsingin Sanomat
3. Fasterskier.com
4. Snarky Squab (which is how I got into this mess)

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. At home, playing with Julia
2. At the London Apple Store with a giant gift certificate
3. Torino
4. San Francisco

Four bloggers I am tagging:
1. Expatriate-izing
2. Driving Around
3. Questionable
4. Someone else I'll have to choose after broadening my personal-blog horizons - or maybe Shannon, and I'll post her list here?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Munch on This

We have on our fridge a little magnet of Edvard Munch's The Scream, and Julia's rather taken with it. I think it's the colors, which are as appealing to toddlers as they are hellish to adults, but it's also that the subject is as immediately comprehensible as a picture book. She walks up to it, taps the face a couple times, then turns to me and screeches as loud as she can. She's only partly Norwegian, but that part includes her lungs and larynx.

Friday, February 03, 2006

It Might Be

Too cold and snowy to be riding your bike if
  • you have to share the lane with a sanding truck,
  • your eyelids frost over, or
  • you get a funny taste in your mouth and realize that it's snot, pouring out of your nose a la Ole Einar Bjorndalen.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

My Little Archimedes

During almost every bath, Julia attempts to lift herself up. She loops her arms under her legs, hands behind knees, and pulls up, groaning "Upp!" and looking at me with perplexed amusement. I can just see here cerebral gears turning as she thinks, "WTF? This works with the toy basket, books, and pillows. Even the cat! Why not now?"

When she gives up, after two attempts or ten, she tells me solemnly, "Heavy!" I'm like, "Right-o, Archimedes."

All Bark, Quite Right

Julia's obsession yesterday was bark, as in the covering of trees. One of her books includes a picture of tree bark, and she's eager to go experience some bark. As soon as it warms up, I told her, we'll go out and find a tree. This promise kicked off a whole discussion of the Great Bark Expedition. Pointing outside, "Out!" "That's right - the trees are outside." "Chree?" "The trees are outside, yes." "Bark. Chree." "Right - the bark is on the outside of the trees." "Wuf." "Bark is rough, yes." "Boot?" "Yes, you'll wear your boots." "Mitts?" "If it's cold, you'll have to wear your mittens." "Jackey?" "We'll all wear our jackets when we go out." Pause to do something else for five minutes, then repeat. I hope those pines outside live up to the hype! Nothing would be worse than being figuratively crushed by trees, except being literally crushed by them.

A Proposed Neologism

"Passwoops" is the sensation of error and mild annoyance you feel when you realize, just after hitting "return," that you entered your new password incorrectly. Again.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Yum, Yum

This article is highly edifying as to the topic of dark chocolate but makes me long for a bar of some 80% cacao junk and an extra-hot Americano pulled on a manual espresso machine. Preferably in SoMa, or Noe Valley. Or (branching out here) somewhere cooler than Park Slope. I'm ready to be fitted for my pretentiousness hat.

Four from College

1. This resonates with the sights seen through my office window:
College Freshman Cycles Rapidly Through Identities

2. I don't think I've ever seen a college with fewer smokers than Carleton, and I've spent quite a bit of time as a student, researcher, or employee at (let's see) eight different places. Here, it's unusual to see even one person smoking on the walk to the union, much less a group hanging out. It's not just the season, either: it's practically balmy here now, and as anyone who's worked in downtown Minneapolis can attest, the smoking doesn't stop when the snowing starts.

3. Perhaps along those lines, it's amusing to see the few conservatives in Northfield and/or at Carleton overzealously enact their beliefs. Today's example was a biggish pickup truck, parked prominently outside the union, with the Republican trifecta o' automotive adornments: an "Abortion Stops a Beating Heart" bumpersticker, one of the flag-patterned "Support Our Troops" ribbons, and a POW/MIA flag.

4. Definitely along those lines, campus mail today brought me a little form on which I can submit a prayer to the "Carleton Prayer Room." The form bore this disclaimer: "This is a Christian prayer room and we pray in Jesus' name. However, we will gladly help you regardless of whether or not you believe in God, Jesus, prayer, Allah, Buddha, karma, or anything else. This is not an attempt to convert you, judge you, push morals, or make you nicer." A fascinating bit of prose, no? I'm amused by the uneven list of things in which you can believe. What about evolution? the essential goodness of people? Antinomianism? Shiva? On the other hand, I'm worried about the list of things which "this is not" - especially the insinuation of the last item in the latter series. Are they saying I'm not nice enough already? That makes me mad enough to slash some truck tires.