Saturday, April 29, 2006

She's a Poet But

She doesn't know it. The other day Julia was playing with one of her teddy bears, Squeaky Ben, whom she inherited from her mom. When she told me to put "Keeky Ben" in my lap, I asked, "Remember when you called him Ackack Hen?" She looked at me funny, but then remembered that long-ago pronunciation (from mid-April) and started playing with it: "Ackack Hen! Acka Hen! Unka Hen! Uncle Den! Uncle Dan!" Uncle Dan really exists, so the transition was extra pleasing, meriting a few "Ackack Hen! Uncle Dan!" cycles and then, to cap it off, a shout-out to his better half, "Auntie Beth!"

I only hope this silliness means that the girl is going to love stupid rhymes as much as I do!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Next Time!

Julia doesn't exactly strike fear into anyone's hearts (unless you count the timid, long-tailed cat or her parents when she gags on a mouthful of pasta), but she's lately adopted a catchphrase that wouldn't be out of place in Julia: 35 Inches of Justice: "Next time!"

Really, it's not the words - which are squeaked out as"necks dyme!" in her tweety voice - that are so faux-frightening, but her ability to choose the right moment to use them. On Monday, our evening walk was interrupted by a frighteningly loud dumptruck, which caused her to climb up into my arms, cowering until it passed, but then to shriek, "Next time!" I mentally inserted, "You're not the boss of me!" because I knew that's what she meant.

Now the phrase has become a statement of dominance. Two nights ago, while I was hoisting her down from her changing table, she grabbed her little stuffed duckie by the bill and threw him, hard, down onto the floor: "Next time!" A few minutes later, she flung her stuffed cat - "Ditty," whom she loves terribly - down both flights of steps, coolly saying "Next time!" as he bounced down. And then this morning, after saying, "Bye-bye, Daddy!" while I was still eating my cereal, she reindicated her readiness for my departure by yelling, "Next time!" when I finally walked out, leaving her to her Mama.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Technological Fun

I have to unburden myself of some new technological tricks I'm enjoying. I know I'm pretty slow on the uptake here, but then none of those cheapskate bastards is paying me to be an early adopter.

First, Elise - in one of her last prepartum acts - send me the URL to Google Calendar, a not-yet-announced service from the company that will rule us all. I recommend it highly. After looking through the customarily well-done overview and seeing that it can handle iCal imports, I gave it a shot, setting up a private calendar for myself. Within a week, I had the calendar open all day at work and all night at home, proof positive of its grand and glorious utility. The "Quick Add" tool is genius. And since you can also create (a la Yahoo! Calendar, I hear) public calendars which can be shared with some or all of the rest of the world, I also created a calendar for the 2006-2007 World Cup cross-country skiing season (accessible here via an XML feed). Don't everyone click all at once. Nerdiness aside, this is a pretty cool bit of technology.

Second, also cool, and even older, is, which is hyped endlessly as a social-networking service like Flickr but has markedly fewer boobies. I'm not using it (, not a boobie) like that yet, but I did set up a web-side list of all the bookmarks I can't keep synched between my home Mac (running Safari mostly, but Explorer and Firefox for a few things) and work Gateway (mostly Firefox but also Explorer). Now I can get to my bookmarks from any internet-linked computer. That's the big plus for me, and the reason I'm Mr. A.P. Ostle about right now. A smaller plus is the tagging feature, which is pretty handy - though it could be easier to set up "bundles" of tagged sites. A big minus for me right now is the apparent inability to arrange tagged "posts" (i.e. bookmarks) in either true alphabetical order or in some other order I think is best. But that's a trifle right now. is otherwise highly recommended.

Third, my wife gave me an all-time great birthday present: the Complete New Yorker. It's very well done, and the collection is fantastic. I read a piece or two by John McPhee right away, we both read "Brokeback Mountain," tracked down the first post-9/11 cover, and now I'm wading through the entirety of "In Cold Blood," having just finally just seen Capote. It's going to be fun to read 80 years of excellent writing (and elitism!). The ads alone are entertaining and illuminating: the four 1965 issues in which "In Cold Blood" appeared (over hundreds of pages!) are full of ads for whiskey and gin (not vodka!) and silverware, of all things. Great fun to see. My only quibble is that it the application is very "heavy," eating up lots of processor power and virtual memory. But hell - that just means you can't do other stuff while reading the articles. No big whoop.

Since I'm apparently a big tech whore right now, I'd love to hear about other neat stuff that readers have recently discovered.

(Cross-posted on After School Snack.)

Tai Chi Army

Last week I commented on the pleasing weirdness of walking smack into a big group of students learning tai chi on one of the campus lawns. I was less pleased to encounter them today, though, because now they are all armed with yard-long wooden sticks. Who decided it was a good idea to provide weapons to an army of uncoordinated, hormonal college students?

Birth and Rebirth

It’s a time of great reflection in our household—well, in my mind anyway. First of all, it’s truly spring, and there’s nothing like the gradual-then-sudden emergence of green things in the yard to bring a sense of hope and optimism to pretty much everything. When I peek outside at the rhubarb and phlox sprouting behind our patio, I can’t help but picture summer afternoons playing on the grass with Julia (townhouse association be damned!) and June evenings sitting on the patio chairs watching the gigantic sky behind our house turn purple.

Last summer was my favorite time with Julia: we spent every day outside in our old neighborhood, alternating playtime in the backyard with jaunts to Sibley Park and Lake Hiawatha playground. Our best buddies Mathea (two months younger than Julia) and her mom Rachel, just down the street, were usually around, and the four of us went on stroller walks and out for breakfast at the coffee shop between our two houses and generally kept each other company. It was truly wonderful. This summer will be different in many ways, but I hope my memory serves me by helping me re-create some of last summer’s magic in our new home. After all, as I’ve mentioned before, this is my last summer alone with Julia before her baby sister joins the family.

But it’s not just spring. Some close friends of ours had their first baby last week--the first couple in our inner social circle to follow us into parenthood--and, especially with another birth of my own only four months away, this event has brought back many memories and emotions. First, there’s the long-awaited relief of, At last! Some of our friends will FINALLY truly understand what it’s like. You know what I mean, don’t you? When your very existence revolves around the life-or-death of hourly nursing, sleep training, and the call of the dreaded breast pump, and your old friends, the ones who don’t have babies yet, stare at you in bemusement and then sort of go on with their own lives without you? It’s nothing badly-intentioned, on either side; it’s just life, but it sure gets lonely after awhile. We have waited almost two years for friends to join us in new-parenthood—with its traumas AND its indescribable joys—and it is, in one way, a great relief to know that some finally have. (Welcome, baby Eleanor!)

But in another way, it’s sort of painful and anxiety-provoking too, because it brings back to mind the awful parts of our own childbirth/newborn-parenting experiences with Julia—things I don’t wish upon anyone. I’ve written about some of this before too, elsewhere. Some of you no doubt have heard about it ad nauseum. (Forgive me, but what good are horrific labor and postpartum stories if not in the triumphant repeated retelling after the fact?) You know: the 60 hours of back labor; the fourth-degree tear; the three ER visits within Julia’s first two weeks of life; the near-mythic postpartum constipation that, combined with the 40 internal stitches I harbored in my nether regions, felt worse than the childbirth itself. The no walking for 10 weeks; the nightly scream-fests (Julia, I mean, not us—though maybe that too) that lasted until 4 a.m. for weeks on end; the baby who nursed for 45 minutes each session, not 15 or 20 like all the books described, only to start up again 45 minutes after finishing the last time--and did this 24 hours a day, for months; the delirium of extreme sleep deprivation; the excruciatingly painful breast infection that just happened to be so rare that only one of my breastfeeding books even mentioned it, and that lasted FOUR WEEKS with no effective treatment. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Who is it that said a mother forgets these things? I haven’t, although I wish I could. I feel as though I still suffer some sort of mild post-traumatic stress disorder related to Julia’s birth, if not also the difficulties of parenting her during her first six months of life (after which she finally, at the very least, began to take some naps, brief and inconsistent as they were).

For my new-mother friend, I send out the strongest possible positive vibes: wishes for no nursing difficulties, for a colic-free newborn, for the rumored miracle of sleeping through the night at an early age (I’ve heard it can actually happen), for little pain and a quick recovery from the delivery, for an easy-temperament baby who naps well. Not to mention for an abundance of good ice cream, glossy magazines to peruse during all those feeding sessions, gifts of pre-made dinners and offers to do the dishes.

For me, I give thanks that, in addition to the memories of what was so hard, I also have the other memories, of course. Surely, you know: the miniscule newborn diapers the size of a mitten; the downy hair—three shades of gold, mixed like an abstract painting—on the top of Julia’s head; the tiny quilted jumpers and the socks like knitted thimbles; the outpouring of love and joy shown to us by our friends, family, and neighbors upon Julia’s arrival; the unbelievable wonder of having brought a new life into the world. Why else, after all, would I be preparing to do all this AGAIN in just a few short months? (Why, indeed?!)

So, renewal and reflection: the name of the game around here. Babies, buds, trees in bloom. As the good Minneapolis boys of local band Semisonic so eloquently put it, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Ain't it the truth!

Onward toward a lovely summer and another new baby. And in the meantime, happy spring, everyone!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Life in Northern Towns IV

Walking outside nowadays, during our damp and windy spring here in Northfield, I'm amazed by how much mud the world contains. I try to keep away from it, what with dress shoes and khakis and other accoutrements of adult life, but Julia loves it, kinda. She has to stop our walks (or dismount from her carries, more like it) to inspect loose clods of turf on the sidewalk, bike-tire ruts on the boulevard, brown puddles in the sidewalk cutouts. As she crouched today to cautiously check out a big chunk of mud in our path, I thought about the innumerable hours I spent in the dirt driveway of the farm in Ironwood, using sticks and a trowel to create channels, streams, dams, levees, and lakes. I was a one-kid Bureau of Reclamation, ruling a hundred square feet of springtime mud. I hope Julia enjoys the mud as much.

Help You

When Julia needs a hand with something - climbing a ladder at the playground, reaching a book on a high shelf, being carried downstairs, trying to pull my hammer off a counter onto her skull - she says, "Help you?" (or "Help you!" if she's in that kind of mood).

Last night, she woke up whimpering, which was out of character, so I went in to see if something was the matter. After a few minutes of rubbing her back, she had calmed down. Just as I was about to leave, she sneezed violently and started scrubbing at her face. In the half-light, I couldn't see exactly what she was doing, but then she reached her hand up toward me, saying quietly, "Help you?" I reached down to grab what she was offering, and found it was a giant wet booger. Of course, I took it, blew her nose, and then disinfected my hand with gasoline and a blowtorch.

She went right back to sleep.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Carleton in the Springtime

Campuses are usually most interesting and exciting in the fall, when a new academic year starts, but springtime isn't too bad. Herewith, a few recent sights that make it fun to walk around the quad:
1. A giant white tipi right in front of the 1890s observatory.
2. A half-dozen frisbees in mid-flight at any one time on the Bald Spot, with ten times that many students lolling on the grass, "studying."
3. Signs warning that the lawns have been treated with gluten. What? Gluten?
4. Students wearing flip-flops, shorts, and t-shirts no matter what, dammit, even if yesterday's balmy weather is in Illinois now and it's 40 degrees and windier than the first ten minutes of The Wizard of Oz.
5. Classes meeting outside all the time, whether at a dewy 8:30 a.m. or a humid 4:00 p.m.
6. Leaving a meeting and walking straight into a crowd of undergrads doing tai chi under the direction of Prof. Qiguang Zhao.
7. Faculty who wear crazy hats that make them look like Andean peasants, Australian ranchers, or Jack Abramoff.
8. Several gay couples - male and female - holding hands as they go to the student center. I don't know if it was "gay holding hands day" or what, but it's heartening to see.
9. Tangled mobs of bikes at every rack on campus.
10. The campus tabby cat, sleeping among the early-blooming flowers in the bed outside my window.

Elite Skiing to Car Sales

Boy, if this doesn't exemplify the maxim, "The bigger you are, the harder you fall," I don't know what does:
Norwegian men’s head coach Krister Sorgaard shocked ski-Norway yesterday by quitting his position one year before his contract expires. He has taken a new job as daily leader for a car dealership.
This is crazy. Sorgaard wasn't long for coaching after the Norwegian fiasco at Torino, but still - imagine Bill Belichick quitting the Patriots to run a software startup, and you get a sense of the weirdness of it. I'll bet a few kroner that he's soon to be coaching one of the B- or C-level teams, like maybe Japan's or France's.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Gone with the Wind

I realize this topic has nothing to do with Julia, parenthood, nor anything particular to Christopher's blog, but someone has to give public voice to this burning question, so I'm going to post it anyway.

What is it with Northfield and wind? Is Northfield the windiest city in the U.S.? Or what??!

Listen, I grew up on the northern plains, so I know of which I speak. A newspaper columnist in my hometown once described the wind that whips across the prairie up there as being "like a blowtorch in the summer and a knife in the winter," and the simile was so perfectly apt that I have remembered it for twenty-some years. So I'm not easily impressed by wind. But Lordy, there have been more days (and nights) of window-rattling, tree-branch-whipping wind in the less than 4 months we've lived here than I remember in a good string of years past. It seems like every day Julia and I are fighting the gale-force winds at the new playground (newly nicknamed in our house as the Arctic Playground Where it is Always Twenty Below), hair permanently in our eyes and lips, or chasing her plastic balls across the grass behind our house before they disappear in the field past County Road 28, never to be seen again. Even in my exhausted, pregnant state, there have been several occasions lately where I have actually been unable to sleep because it is TOO NOISY OUTSIDE. Just yesterday our patio umbrella blew into someone else's yard, and two weekends ago we had to bungee-cord the patio chairs to the table to keep them grounded. If you dare open the living room windows, the sound of the vertical blinds clattering maniacally in their stack is enough to scare both the cat AND the baby nearly to death.

Is it like this all the time here? Or just in the winter/spring, i.e., since we've been here? Does anyone else who lives here notice this?! I don't know, but if they do, no one's talking. Northfieldians must be so used to it they don't even think to comment on it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Alarmist Parenting

It occurs to me that it says a lot about Julia's babyhood pattern of (non-)napping that, when she suddenly became drowsy and unresponsive today during the five-minute drive home from a morning full of errands and park-playing---head lolling onto the back of her carseat, arms going limp, eyelids fluttering as I talked to her when we rolled into the garage, speech flat and monosyllabic---that my first reaction was not, "Oh, my baby just fell asleep in the car after a busy morning and an exhausting weekend visiting relatives," but instead: "Oh my god, what's wrong with Julia--honey, are you all right? Are you all right? Are you all right? Are you all right??!"

Um, yeah--Julia has never, in my recollection, fallen asleep in the car other than, if we're lucky, for a short nap during multi-hour road trips (and sometimes not even then). If you haven't yet heard the story about how she once stayed awake for 16 hours straight when she was TEN WEEKS OLD, including all the way through a desperate drive around Minneapolis and St. Paul in a failed attempt to get her to nap---well, now you have.

So, maybe I was a little bit justified in my reaction?

Mama's a Psychologist, You Know

Julia has recently begun learning "feelings" words. Her first word in this category was "scared," or, rather, "dared!" Since she is going through that typical toddler phase of developing numerous idiosyncratic fears on a weekly, if not daily, basis (evening shadows, the Count from Sesame Street, clock faces, noisy trucks outside), it makes sense that she has learned the word "scared." However, soon after learning the word "scared," she overgeneralized, saying "dared!" when it was clear that she really meant "mad." You know: we'd tell her that her beloved yogurt was all gone, and she would screw up her face in a dissatisfied way, squirm in her highchair, and say, "Dared!" "I don't think you're scared, honey, I think you're MAD," we'd clarify. "Are you mad?"

Well, sure enough, we clarified a little too well. These days when she clearly IS scared, she tends to blurt urgently, "Mad! Mad!" Usually this is when she is confronted with people she doesn't know. We just got back from a long weekend with my family over Easter, so Julia had a lot of opportunities to see new faces: strangers (albeit very nice, sweet ones) at her grandparents' church, extended family members she hasn't seen since she was an infant and whom she does not remember, neighborhood kids at the local park. "Mad!" she'd fret, sticking close to my or her father's leg and eyeing the interlopers nervously.

But then a new verbal tic developed. Somehow, sometime recently, Julia picked up the phrase "cry about it," which admittedly has the slight flavor of a taunt ("What, are you going to cry about it?") but which I know must have been spoken to her by one of us with gentleness and love--I swear, we do not ridicule our child for her feelings, ha ha. So she has been repeating that line now and then when upset, but in a not-quite-accurate way. "Cry about it," she'll say mildly when she wants to pet a distant doggie spied through the window, or when she anticipates running out of crackers. She doesn't actually cry, nor appear very sad. But anyway, over the weekend, when Julia was often nervous and timid while meeting new people, we taught her the word "shy," saying, "Are you feeling a little bit SHY, honey?" when she'd claim she was "mad." So naturally she turned that into "shy about it." Now that is her phrase of choice when she feels nervous, worried, or scared in new situations. "Shy about it!" she'll murmur distressedly when she sees the mail lady approaching our door or a neighbor outside on the sidewalk. "Shy about it!" It does have a nice ring to it, in its own toddleresque way, wouldn't you agree?

By the way, she is also working on the words "nervous" and "worried." Lest you get too concerned that we have a mini neurotic on our hands, let me assure you that Julia also knows, and uses, the word "happy." And she has the endearing habit of proclaiming appreciatively, upon stepping outside to play, "Nice day out!"

It's all good.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Finland Straps on the Skis

Inge Braten's success in coaching Sweden's cross-country ski teams to three golds at the Olympics (and numerous individual World Cup wins, including one each for Mathias Fredriksson and Anders Sodergren) has led Finland, the other Nordic nation with an underperforming cross-country program, to dip into the Norwegian coaching pool. Starting June 1, Magnar Dalen will be running the Finnish program, which has several good female skiers (including long-shot overall contender Virpi Kuitunen) but a dearth of elite-level men. Dalen ran the Swedish team from 1998-2002, during which span the Swede Per Elofsson won two World Cup overall titles.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Norway, How I Love Thee...

The more I learn about Norway, the more I love the place:
Some Norwegian skiers, angry when they encounter a snowmobile in the great outdoors, have lashed out at the motorized scooters, most of which are operated by the Red Cross.

First aid volunteers from the Red Cross say skiers have attacked them with ski poles and shovels as they've driven by.
How hard-core do you have to be in order to actually attack the Red Cross?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Department of Dubious Achievements

In other news, our baby has somehow (meaning, on her own, without purposeful parental aid) learned to recognize Target by sight, and to proclaim, "Target!" when she sees the familiar tan and red, just to prove it to you. She did this for the first time over a month ago, when we were driving past the Target store in our little town (not even on our way to Target, just passing by. Maybe she was trying to tell us to stop and snag some economy-sized bales of 80 diapers?). Since then she has also pulled the Target ad out of the Sunday newspaper and stated, "Target" while waving it around, and the other day she found a stray receipt on the floor, held it up, and (correctly) told me, "Target." She even knows what Target is for: The other day when I was lamenting to her that we still don't have any toddler rain boots for her to wear (her latest obsession), and that I would have to go shopping for some, she helpfully suggested, "Target." Ah. Sucked into modern American consumerism already. I wonder if it has anything to do with the five hundred or so trips to Target we seem to make every month??? Baby probably thinks Target is her second home.

My Little Sweet Potato

As many of you know, Julia's been hyper-verbal from day one. She said "Mama"--and meant it--at eight months, uttered her first three-word sentence at 17 months when scamming for some more banana ("nana--mo--bite!"), and by 18 months, in the course of one day, I counted over 130 distinct words she had used. (Her baby book says most babies aged 18 months have about 12-20 words.) So her verbal output really shouldn't surprise me anymore. But yesterday at dinner she really cracked me up. Keep in mind also that in her 22 months, Julia has rarely refused a meal, or even any particular food, and that she adores vegetables and other healthy foods to such a degree that she has been known to ask to eat lima beans, chickpeas, and zucchini. Last night, I had made a vegetarian burrito concoction involving sweet potatoes, black beans, onions, garlic, and other cooked vegetables and spices--all of which she normally loves. I decided to give Julia a separate bowl of the burrito filling, with a tortilla on the side, thinking it would be easier for her to eat that way. She was happily scarfing down tortilla and fresh fruit when I set her bowl of sweet potatoes and black beans in front of her. To our complete surprise, Julia took one careful look into the bowl, and then said, clearly and sternly but also with an air of annoyed dismissiveness, "Vegetables. PUT IT AWAY."

Of course, in a prime example of bad-parent-behavior, we were overcome by hilarity. Yeah, that's right: TEACH your child to rudely refuse to eat her dinner by rewarding her with laughter.

Monday, April 10, 2006

If My Daughter Ran Your Coffeeshop

  1. You could not get a to-go cup, sorry. Only tiny purple plastic "teecubs."
  2. The muffins would look good, if a bit undersized. However, they would not be not muffins, Daddy, they would be apple bread.
  3. There wouldn't be any lame speciesist bans on animals: orangutans and dogs could sit right at the table; cats and ducks could sit on it. Depending on their size, bears can sit on a chair or on the table. People have to sit on the floor. The table's only two feet high, after all.
  4. Everyone would be required to occasionally (and chastely) kiss one another. Sometimes, if the cups rattle frightfully or if the need strikes her, you might have to give the manager a "duddo."
  5. If you asked for some coffee, she'd pour it right from the teapot into your mouth. The cups are for show, doncha know. Scalding injuries would be for wimps.
  6. Transubstantiation would be the name of the game. When you ask what's in the purple teapot, she would say, "Doffee." When she pours it into your mouth, and you say it's tasty, she would agree, curve-ball style: "Dasty! Ice cream dea."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Mama Musings

I'm off this week from my "second" job as a psychologist in solo private practice two evenings a week, which means that for a precious few days I have the luxury of being able to direct all my focus on caring for Julia, without also having to worry about returning client phone messages, fielding emergency calls and doctor consults, finding time during the day to shower and groom myself to an acceptable degree before I have to rush out the door when Christopher comes home to take over babycare, etc. While I am the first to argue that being home full-time with a baby (and doing a good job of it) is much harder than working outside the home---the fact alone that office workers generally get coffee breaks, adult companionship, lunch breaks that don't include also feeding someone else, and the freedom to use the toilet BY THEMSELVES pretty much says it all, in my view---being freed from the part-time job I do on top of chasing after Julia all day long feels like a dream. Not to mention how great it is, this week, to have a break from being gone until 10 p.m. those two evenings. Being pregnant, that schedule has felt pretty killer the last few months.

Anyway, being off this week has made me think about how little time I have left with Julia, alone. It is less than five months until baby #2 arrives. When I close my practice at the end of June, there will only be two months (hopefully!) when my attention can be focused on Julia alone. Not Julia and my work, nor Julia and the new baby. Just Julia. It's so bittersweet to really think about that, and let it sink in. It feels like she was just born, and at the same time it feels like in about another five seconds she'll be toddling off to kindergarten! Yikes.

She's such a big girl already, and suddenly. Her hair is past her shoulders in the back (alas, she still has the total baby-mullet she's had since she was a newbie) and she's getting her first haircut in a few days. She says "Please, Daddy" when she wants more supper, and sometimes even unprompted. She practices sitting on her potty chair and emphatically states, "Wash hands!" when she gets up (even though she's fully clothed and hasn't done anything). She can say "A, B, C, D" and count to ten, if you count "1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 10" as counting to ten (which we do). She can say "watermelon" and "brontosaurus" and identifies correctly three kinds of birds that come to our feeder. When I tell her she's a big girl, half the time she seems pleased and half the time she says, "Baby Julia!" This morning she then added, "Mama's!" just for good measure. I told her, "Yes, honey, you'll always be my baby!" and could not believe it when I realized that it was only a year ago that she had just begun to crawl.

Truly, I am turning into one of those balls of sentimentality all mothers seem to turn into once they've become, well....mothers. Any of you not parents yet, everything you've heard is true. It really does go by in the blink of an eye, even when in the beginning you have the hardest, non-napping, constant-nursing baby in the entire universe and you don't sleep more than an hour at a stretch for seven months straight and you truly think you're going to die because of it. It still goes by in the blink of an eye. I'll have to remind myself of that in about five months, when nights now spent sleeping turn into nights spent nursing once again. Right?

Now I'd better stop emoting before Christopher makes me get my OWN "mommy-blog."

Batting Average

Via a fascinating post on sports records at Political Animal (of all places), I came across this engrossing Wikipedia article on batting averages in cricket and baseball. I'm going to have to read up on cricket tonight, as I know nothing about the game (despite Bob Harris' constant commentary on it), but despite that ignorance, I thought this was a great bit of trivia:
Henry Chadwick, an English statistician raised on cricket, was an influential figure in the early history of baseball. In the late 19th century he adapted the concept behind the cricket batting average to devise a similar statistic for baseball. Rather than take the naive approach and simply copy cricket's formulation of runs scored divided by outs, he realised that hits divided by at bats would provide a better measure of individual batting ability. This is because of an intrinsic difference between the two sports; scoring runs in cricket is dependent almost only on one's own batting skill, whereas in baseball it is largely dependent on having other good hitters in your team. Chadwick noted that hits are independent of team mates' skills, so used this as the basis for the baseball batting average. His reason for using at bats rather than outs is less obvious, but it leads to the intuitive idea of the batting average being a percentage reflecting how often a batter gets on base, whereas hits divided by outs is not as simple to interpret in real terms.
The historical connection between cricket and baseball is neat: unexpected links are the historian's manna. Beyond that, though, I'm impressed by Chadwick's careful and influential consideration of the differences between accomplishments in the two games. The timing of his innovations is the best part, though. He - and cricket and baseball - were active participants in the 19th-century "statistical revolution" pioneered by luminaries like Francis Galton and Karl Pearson. Now, if only I knew a chi square from Red Square, I could do something with this knowledge.

Monday, April 03, 2006

32 Going on 65

My birthday's next week, on a full moon no less, but I feel like today's really the time-marches-on milestone. In abdicating their responsibility to ensure that I age with no diminishment of my near-superhuman physical and mental powers, my genes have endowed me with "cookie bite" hearing loss. This means that I can't very well hear sounds at high and low frequencies - like, say, women's voices. I will refrain from making any jokes about this situation vis a vis my wife, as any humorous possibilities or practical advantages have long since disappeared.

And but so, all of this necessitates compromising my striking good looks and burgeoning bank account by dropping a shit-ton of cash on two "hearing instruments" very much like these. Why all hearing aids look vaguely like infant mice, I don't know. It might just be me. On the other hand, the second man to walk on the moon wears them, so they must be good. On the other other hand, he lost his hearing from flying to the moon. On the other3 hand, the hearing aid manufacturer sponsors one of the strongest bike-racing teams in the world. The team is led by Floyd Landis, who can not only effortlessly stand at a 45-degree angle but is numbered among the favorites to win this year's Tour de France, the first in the post-Armstrong era.

Now, I have to go hone my repertoire of hearing-loss jokes and gags, as I have only 14 hours to go before I can no longer cup my hand to my ear and go, "Eh? What's that, sonny?"

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!

NASCAR can suck it: the Scandinavians race reindeer while wearing skis and goading the reindeer to speeds of about 30 mph. Reindeer are little, but they have horns.