Sunday, September 30, 2007

A retro Bread Box

No, not me. What I found in the local dollar store today. A steal at $7.50.
No, I didn't steal it. I bought it, though!

Yours, eponymously,

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Saturday night, recorded

Time was when I would have been sitting here, in front of the tv, waiting for the first new show of the season. Saturday Night Live was a great show, hilarious, before I used to watch it. When I started watching it, so I am told, it became insipid by comparison. And after watching it and laughing at it for years, each year thinking that it is less funny than the last, I think that I have figured it out. It used to be funny, it is funny, and it will be funny in the future.

And now, sitting here in front of the new season, it is pretty funny. At least the first sketch.

Even if I'm not recording it!

Yours, not in Kansas any more,


Unable to find paella rice (Bomba, from Spain, or a similar product from Mexico) we went with the next best thing -- arborio rice, which we always have on hand for making risotto.
I did a fairly traditional seafood/chicken/pork paella, that is to say, completely inauthentic. I put a heavy sear on a couple of thick pork chops, some strips of chicken breast, some andouille sausage (because in this enlightened time, in this enlightened place, chorizo is unobtainable... at least in the three stores we went to) and then sauteed an onion, some garlic, and some diced tomatoes.
Threw in some arborio rice, some stock, saffron, and at the end some shrimp and some squid.
LOML had always seemed uninterested in my making this --- and then on tasting it, had a change of opinion. A broad smile, accompanied by "Oh, my god, this is good.... I should have let you make this ten years ago..."

Perhaps I'll post a slightly more detailed recipe soon...
Yours, vindicated,

Friday, September 28, 2007

Batten down the hatches, we're in for the long haul

It seems that we are in for the long haul. LOML, and all the others working there, have decided to try to stick it out to the end of the academic year. We're hoping that things will settle down again to a regular routine, and at least in the short term it's going to mean more hours (and, we are promised, more money to make up for it!) for LOML. So instead of anticipating a few class periods off for preparation, extra classes await....
But the uncertainty seems to have been replaced by a hesitant assurance that things are going to work out. At least for the year.

Yours, hoping for an on-track mind,

Thursday, September 27, 2007

How long?

Yesterday, before we went to pick my parents up from the airport, I was prepping the kids for the fact that we were going to pick them up:
"Will it be long" asked Skibo.
"Yes", I replied, "About two hours".
"That's not long", was his response, "if you count it like this!"
And he held up two fingers to count two hours.....

Yours, counting on him,

Braised ribs

The traditional question asked of my parents: what do you want for dinner tonight? My father as always is of the opinion that baked beans on wholewheat toast makes a fine dinner. My mother thinks he is crazy.
We compromise: he can have baked beans tonight, we'll join him, but cook some things to go with it besides: so I marinated some country-style pork ribs in cider vinegar, grapefruit juice, lime, molasses, honey, mustard, soy, ginger and garlic. I'm not a 100% sure I can pick out every single flavour in the finished product, but it's good, so I keep using the recipe.
After marinating for a few hours (overnight would have been better, but I only had hours) I put them into a 350 oven, turned it down to 300 after half an hour, and cooked them covered for about two hours, then uncovered for a while.
Finally I took the ribs out of the marinade, and reduced it by about two thirds, then put the ribs back in.
Baked beans, broccoli, ribs. And wholewheat bread to go with it.
Plain. Simple. Plain and simply good.

Yours, been baked,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Parents arrive

My parents arrive.

The children play with their grandma and grandpa.
Grandpa and Grandma play with grandson and granddaughter.
Kids are too excited to sleep easily.
Other than that last point, life is good.

Yours, en famille,

Sporadic posting to come?

My parents fly in this afternoon, coming to visit for three weeks --- and so things are going to be even more hectic than they are usually. Consequently, posting may slow down even a little more than it has for the past week or so....

Yours, busily preparing,

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Update on things coming to a head

It seems that LOML's friend, colleague and erstwhile semi-boss at the school has decided to quit: the administration has not taken the highschool seriously, and it appears that last straws have been placed and camels' backs broken.
Whether LOML follows suit is yet to be determined: at the moment we are playing it day by day, and we'll be okay with whatever happens. Eventually.

Yours, in limbo,

Passing nice along

This is tough. Not such a surprise, of course.
But it is difficult to pick just seven people.
And especially to suggest by omission that others
are not nice: I most certainly do not mean that at all.

So I have chosen some people:
Cornish Dreamer
The Magpie Files
All of the above have had nice words for me or for others recently: and as far as I know, have not received the award already.... and if they have, then they get a chance to nominate some more people for this nice award.

Yours, trying to be nice in passing,

Monday, September 24, 2007

Trouble at 't mill

It seems that there may possibly be big changes ahead in our life. There has been tension under the surface with LOML's job, and it now appears that things have come to enough of a head that it may be time to move on. This may be the time at which to choose to leave a broken enterprise, rather than staying and trying to stand between the ship and the iceberg.
This will be a shame for many reasons, almost all of them good ones.

As for now, we may be hours or even minutes from knowing more.
Yours, in turmoil,

Sunday, September 23, 2007


The gentle Bob-Kat has kindly bestowed upon me an award: and it is a particularly nice one to be awarded too: the "Nice Matters" award: Bob-Kat, thank you! I'm very grateful to you!

I'm apparently now able to give this award to another seven people: this is going to take some thought, because there are a lot of bloggers around that I know, and the ones whose blogs I hang out on tend to be nice people in the first place.
Getting down to seven could be tough!
Anyway, keep an eye on this space --- I'll announce my choices in the next few days....

Now, I guess I have to be nice to everyone:-)

Yours, gratefully,


Well, it's been a long weekend -- thank goodness it's over, so I can get back to work and get some decent rest!
Yesterday and today we had birthday parties to go to: friends of Boo and Skibo turning 4 and 5 respectively. Attending birthday parties with small children is rather exhausting: they are small enough to still need attention at the party (Skibo in particular is always turning to me or LOML, throwing up his arms, and saying "Hold me! Hold me!" which we're doing less and less frequently now that he's hitting close to 40 pounds!)
While yesterday's party was at an indoor, but superheated, pool, this afternoon's bash was at the child's (parents') house. And the party was outside, from 1 to 3 pm. And the mercury hit 90 degrees F, which is something like "'kin' hot" in Celsius! Fortunately there were some trees, so there was some shade... Still, a very pleasant party, and the birthday boy ended up being the one to split open the pinata, which seemed appropriate!

And then we went out to B's (and his parents) for dinner: burgers and fries, home made, and delicious. And so now, stuffed and satisfied, children asleep, I'm sitting with laptop on lap, watching Corner Gas, and waiting to put the next few days bread in the oven.

So even though I'm still exhausted, I feel pretty good....

Yours, satisfied, but not smug,

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Heated swimming pool

We went to a birthday party for B today --- he turned 4, and they held his birthday party at the local recreation centre: a nice space, but it seemed like they were unready for the party. Firstly, there were several large exercise balls in a box in the room --- perfect for the kids to play with, run around after, etc. After five minutes, however, the staff came into the room and asked that we not play with them. I have no problem with the request, but they might have actually told us ahead of time, rather than disappointing the kids in the middle of their fun.
And then when it came time to swim, it took some arguing to get them to let us use the pool. Apparently someone had mis-set the thermostat for the kids pool, and instead of being 89 or 90 F, the temperature was 95: it is amazing what a difference 5 degrees can make to the way that the pool felt!

Still, if you are going to sweat, I guess that doing it in a swimming pool is the best place!

Yours, wet.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I ought to be happy

I made marinated shrimp this evening for supper, together with a lettuce salad with a marinated mushroom, artichoke hearts, peppers and nuts salad to go with it. Absolutely delicious --- except to Boo and Skibo.

They usually like shrimp: LOML's assessment was that it was because I marinated them: probably, this is the case, but it still didn't make me happy.

On the other hand, they both chose to eat large quantities of my wholewheat bread, downing it with great gusto, and it is full of good things like oatmeal, so I don't mind so much that they won't yet eat grown up food.

Yours, just minding a little,

The Jena six

I consider myself, usually, rather well informed. I try to keep up with the news, especially when it is of a political nature, or when it has a political dimension. But this issue of the "Jena six" blew in last week from, it appeared to me, nowhere.

It is clear that it didn't come from nowhere --- but it is equally clear that the mainstream media has been more interested in covering, say, the tribulations of Paris than the trials of Jena.

As near as I can follow, the events went roughly as follows: a young african american student at the school in Jena asked some caucasian students about sitting under a tree, a tree which the white students typically reserved for themselves. A little while later, days, not weeks, nooses appeared hanging from the tree. This sparked conflicts: for those not aware of the symbolism in the US, especially the deep South, of nooses hanging from trees, please, go read up on it.
A little while later there was a schoolyard brawl, which left a white boy unconscious, although he was up and about later in the day, and out partying that evening.

Six african american students were charged, five of them as adults: the five charged as adults were charged with attempted murder. One of them went to trial and was convicted. By an all white jury. Subsequently, an appeals court overturned the conviction, stating that he should not have been charged as an adult.

It feels like we are living back in the middle of the last century here. The biggest difference I see between this case and something in the 1950's is that in the 50's they would have had to rely on the Supreme Court to right the wrong: now this level of justice has filtered down to the appellate courts.

But where has the national media been on this issue? Covering Simpson, Hilton, Spears?

Update: see this article.

Yours, disgusted,

Memory problems?

Our illustrious president yesterday: “You know, you need to talk to economists. I think I got a B in Econ 101. I got an A, however, in keeping taxes low and being fiscally responsible with the people’s money.”
Apparently his memory is mistaken. Yale records indicate that he got a C- in his introductory economics course.

Yours, on the margins,

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Autographic humour

Self-writing jokes: they abound in the following news story: apparently male patients may one day be able to use stem cells generated from their testicles to repair various other organs, including heart, kidneys, or possibly even the brain.

Yours, counting the jokes,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Food to come

On the menu in the near future: things I really want to cook again, or try cooking for the first time:
- Paella: this is a dish I used to make often, but haven't for a while: the big problem with it is it is impossible to make (as far as I can tell) for just a couple of people. It's top of my list. It will happen, perhaps as soon as a week or so from now.
- Pork pies: I've mentioned this English specialty before: hot water crust, jellied filling, served cold, with cheese, a salad and a glass of beer, a lunch fit for a ploughman. Now, I don't exactly plough the fields, but I am pretty scattered, so perhaps that will suffice.
- Pate: a good honest French country pate, served with a crusty batard, a glass of wine: the French equivalent of the ploughman's lunch.
- Scotch eggs: I'm going to make these while my parents are here -- my father won't eat them, for health reasons, but my mother will.

Yours, hungry,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My own little corner of the world

While in Canada this past winter and spring I came to enjoy two rather quirky, lovely shows: one of them, about muslim Canadians and their interactions with their neighbours was far too edgy (i.e. tolerant) to make it on US television. The other one, however, has been picked up by WGN out of Chicago. The show is called Corner Gas and is about life in a small town in the middle of nowhere in Saskatchewan: it ought to appeal, I would think, to many midwestern prairie communities, and as such stands a chance of remaining available. I just noticed tonight that there are a bunch of episodes being played over the next few days: if you get WGN, do check out this show. It is an absolute quirk.

Yours, amused,

Mr Chairman, tear down that wall!

Oh! They did! Apparently the NY Times has decided that their "NYT select" feature, that is, restricting access to their opinion columns to paying customers, has not worked. And they've tanked the program!

I must admit, it took them longer to realise that this was a bad idea than I thought it would. After all, if you want to be the paper of record, the paper of influence, you need people reading, of all things, the op-ed pages! To restrict access to those seemed ridiculous. Their whole business model is based on them being the big hitter in newspapers of influence, and they take away half of that influence????
It was clear that things were changing back a few months ago, when they opened free access up to students, professors, and anyone else lucky enough to have a .edu account. The fact that it took another six months to finish off the program suggests to me that there are a lot of internet-unsavvy "professionals" working for the gray lady still.

Yours, in freedom,

A teacher's delight

As I have mentioned before, I teach an origami class --- or more precisely, I lead an origami club at the Montessori school: it is lots of fun: there are a dozen students who have turned up so far, and potentially a few more. They are nice kids, polite, excited, happy and eager to learn origami.
And then there are delightful moments like yesterday: I took Boo and Skibo to gymnastics class, and they had just run out onto the floor to practice when there was a little tug at my elbow: I looked down, and there were two big eyes, and a quiet voice saying "You're my origami teacher!". She was just thrilled to see me there! I made sure I watched some of her routine on the bar, and at one point, her trainer came over to me and said "She is *so* glad that you were watching: she really wanted to know if her origami teacher was watching her!

Yours, pleased,


The autumn, or more correctly here, the fall, is the loveliest time of the year in the South Eastern part of the US (not Florida, that's a region unto itself). The temperatures begin to moderate: we've had lows in the high fifties the past few nights, which means that the house can get cool again without the use of air conditioners: the highs can still be pretty warm: next week they're forecasting highs of 87 --- but it doesn't get warm as early in the day, and the evenings cool off much faster.
We have a lovely deck on the back of our house, and at this time of year we love to eat outside: for a couple of months more, I hope, especially salads and food where the ambient temperature isn't going to ruin the food.
And although it isn't quite as stunning as the North East, the trees are about to start turning colour: the maples, especially, but also the dogwoods and some others give hues of burning red, deep purples, as well as browns, tans and yellows.
Around our house, in particular, there is something special: we have a number of fragrant tea olives: these have tiny little white flowers which appear at various times of the year: we seem to have some that flower in late September, and others that bloom in May too: anyway, in September we get a couple of weeks of beautifully, delicately scented environments. And as delicate as it is, it can carry for a good distance: fifty yards away, on the town square, there is still a hint of it carried on the breeze.

Yours, falling for the season to come,

Monday, September 17, 2007


Well, it had to happen. After all that relative anonymity of the internet, I got tagged. Fortunately, it is not like getting tagged by wildlife biologists --- no tranquilizer darts or anything like that!
No, I've been tagged by the gentle Gautami, of My Own Little Reading Room.

My reading: My reading has all but vanished in the past few years: since the children came on the scene (Boo in 02, Skibo in 04) I have found that reading for my own pleasure has become rarer and rarer. It may also have something to do with aging eyes: I now have to wear reading glasses for close work, and half of the time don't seem to have a pair handy!
That said, I still read stuff for work (and it may be terribly boring to many people, but I can find poetry in the way some people write about my subject!) Since there are lots of excellent books being written for a scientifically literate but non-professional audience these days, there are a number of good things to read in that realm too.
When I read other things, it is a mixture mainly of fiction (mysteries, thrillers, science fiction, and whatever category Harry Potter etc fall into), non-fiction political (mainly a leftwing perspective, so as not to elevate bloodpressure), and especially cookbooks. I love reading cookbooks: dipping into a recipe here and there, constructing it in my head. It will take me days, weeks or months to actually have the courage to try something new, sometimes, but I have lots of fun with it in my head first!

Total number of books owned:
I have no good idea. At least a thousand. Probably less than five thousand. All our bookshelves are at least triple stacked: we had about a thousand books when we moved here ten years ago, and have bought a lot since then. If I had to guess, I'd say perhaps three thousand. I've read about three quarters of them.

Last book bought:
I bought five at once:
- the Caleb Carr mystery The Italian Secretary, commissioned by the Conan Doyle estate.
- The Silver Palate Cookbook
- A bread book, a book on italian cooking and a book on how to make your own liqueurs. These were all bought at my local used bookstore, and hence were very reasonably priced.

Last book read:
The Golden Compass (aka The Northern Lights, a title which makes much more sense to me!) by Philip Pullman. For some reason, I am finding it much harder to get into the sequel, The Subtle Knife than I did the first book.
I'm currently reading The Subtle Knife, as well as several techical texts.

Five meaningful books:
as Gautami said, five is far too few for this category, so I will try to list five categories, and at least one (and not too many more) in each category. And by meaningful, I mean that these books were important in terms of how I became the person I became: your mileage may, of course, vary:-) My usage of importance here reflects the postmodernist view that a book can only be understood in the context of the reader, and it surprises me to find myself saying that!
1. For children and grownups, fiction: The Little Prince, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and Illusions, the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
2. For grownups, farce: Will Sharpe's books, John Irving's earlier books
3. For grownups, more serious fare: Godel, Escher, Bach, an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. These two books I read in the same month in 1981: and while I subsequently found lots to differ with, I still think that they are brilliant books. Often wrong, but still brilliant.
4. For the sheer beauty of the writing on a technical subject: Feynman's Lectures on Physics, Korner's Fourier Analysis and Conway's The Sensuous Quadratic Form.
5. Poetry, because I love to read it to the children: Eliot's much maligned but still lyrical Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (because the children ask for poems from it every night), Don Marquis' archy and mehitabel.

I'm tagging:
to my friends whom I have tagged, if you choose not to spend the time doing this, be assured I won't be insulted. To the friends I didn't name, please feel free to consider yourself tagged, and let me know you are doing it!
Cornish Dreamer
Written Inc.
The Magpie Files

All those tagged can tag 5 people each. Leave a comment on the tagees blog letting them know they have been tagged, and link from your blog to theirs so I can get nosy too!

Yours, as read.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A simple supper

A flask of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou
and to cease quoting Khayaam/Fitzgerald (a dreadful translation, apparently, but a lovely transliteration into poetry!) some cheese and sausage too: we'll have all that for supper and it will just have to do.
Actually, we are rather looking forward to it. We went to the Whole Foods yesterday afternoon after our bed-buying expedition: they are a more organic-friendly store than most grocery chains (and have a consequent nickname "whole paycheck") and I had not made it there since they opened a year or two ago. Somehow, driving 45 minutes to a grocery store seems like rather more than a weekly chore.
Especially with two small sprogs in tow. We ended up cutting the trip shorter than we might otherwise have done: the children were being good, but there is only so much good in a three or a four year old child, and we wanted to miss the eruption.
But we did take time to take in the cheese selection: quite a variety of cheeses not to be found in the regular stores around here: hence our plans for supper this evening.
Unfortunately the very reasonably priced, very nice looking block of Parmigiano Reggiano Stravecchio got left out for about 10 minutes after we got home. This wouldn't be a problem, were it not for the fact that a cat managed to jump up to the counter, rip the plastic wrapping it, and gouge most of it away: a huge crater in the block, the size of a small saucer. That darned cat!

But LOML and I have decided, together with our friends, B's parents, that one day soon we are going to get a babysitter, and go. Just us grownups. For a nice day out to the grocery store.

Yours, simply put,

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Pick up your bed and drive

My parents are coming to visit in a couple of weeks, for the first time in almost a year that either LOML's or mine have come over: and in the interim the sprogs have grown bigger, and we have moved rooms around, and there is now nowhere for visitors to stay.
And so today we went on a trek: to find temporary sleeping quarters for LOML and me to use while parents use our nice big comfortable bed. Our thought is to put a bed/sofa in the children's room, so we can use it to sit and read most of the time, and as emergency sleeping when needed.
The problem is that our house is a mishmash of post revolutionary style: there are parts of the house that we can easily date back to 1870, and for various historical, stylistic and other reasons, we believe that about a third of the structure dates back to 1820 or so. And the rest of the house was added on in 1914 and 1970.
As a result, there is no rhyme nor reason to our layout; and the room we'd like to put the sofa-bed into has a door which is only 28 inches wide. Apparently this means that our option is precisely a futon: it is the only sort of sofa-bed which we can find around here which will fit through the door.
Complicated up-and-downsides apart, we found a futon set we like, and are going to phone and order it tomorrow, so that we have time to make space for where it will sit before it gets delivered.
So we didn't actually drive the bed, it will get driven to us.

Yours, unsprung,

Friday, September 14, 2007


We got remnants today. Of Hurricane Humberto (I have to say, I pity the fool: imagine being a hurricane on the playground, and all the other little storms running about and teasing you about how your forecasters named you Humberto!)
And it was thrilling --- mainly because we got a quarter inch or more of much needed rain (the first in months: we are really dry, so dry that even CNN has noticed whenever we are threatened by a good drenching storm). Well, the rain was part of it: the other thrilling part was the four of us huddling in the interior bathroom as the tornado warning system siren wailed its earsplitting noise (we live yards away from the siren, which means we will never sleep through a warning!). It doesn't go off too often (since the detached the fire station warning siren from it) and we've not had a tornado touch down in the little town since we moved her ten years ago. With luck this will continue:-)

Strange the effect rain has on the psyche: LOML is uplifted, thinking of the garden (and not having to water it). I was lowered: not depressed, exactly, but not made joyful. I think that it was the darkness it dropped over the area. Boo and Skibo? Ran outside to run around in it, until the lightning!

Yours, in a flash

Sometimes I sit here

Sometimes I sit here, as I have at least a couple of times this week, and think:
"I have nothing at all to say", and even worse, "I have nothing at all to say that would be of interest to anyone reading this blog".

Well, on occasions like that I have to remind myself that I am writing this blog for myself, and not for those who read it: and if I write boring stuff that you don't want to read, that's okay: just don't read it!

Please don't get me wrong: I love the fact that there are people out there who visit me, and love even more the fact that some of you comment of your own accord! And so many of those who visit via other blogs ("Hi Michele!" [waves]) also contribute words of wisdom, not just words of hello!
But I am writing this for me, as an act of fun, an act of discipline, and an act of middle-aged rebellion:-) (It's cheaper than a sports car, and much less damaging to a marriage than having a lover!) Mainly the fun part, and a little bit of discipline: trying, for example to write something, no matter how trite, each day for a while.

Having just annoyed the hell out of everyone who visits, let me just say thanks, thanks, thanks for visiting anyway in spite of the trite, ignoring the boring, and for leaving words, often of wisdom!

Of course, I still have nothing to say today.

Yours, gratefully, if boringly,

And what does today hold?

Any more bad surprises on the horizon?

Yours, apprehensively,

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Add more to the list

It seems that Blackbird and Badger need adding to the list of Bad things happen to good bloggers too.

Yours, in sympathy,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


A hat-tip to Keith Olbermann this evening, who quoted H. L. Mencken: I couldn't resist posting it here too.

“When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack, or count himself lost. His one aim is to disarm suspicion, to arouse confidence in his orthodoxy, to avoid challenge. If he is a man of convictions, of enthusiasm, or self-respect, it is cruelly hard…

“The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even a mob with him by the force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second or third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

“The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

—H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

Yours, pre-impressed!

On beliefs

Religion is a personal thing. And living in the south in the US, and having "different" beliefs than the majority, I've grown used to keeping silent about what I believe, and more importantly, what I don't believe.

I started this post this evening thinking about how I understand the comfort that a belief in an afterlife gives us. Even without such a belief, I could smile at the thought that Wally is about to walk in on Susan, and she'll have the teapot on the stove, tea stewing just the way she always made it. It was always Red Rose tea.
Only in Canada, eh? Pity. There goes that thought.

Still, the thought did make me smile, and led me to thinking about how much joy Wally had lost from his life in the past few years -- the chance to walk in the woods listening to nature (he never could understand why someone would want to listen to a walkman when you could listen to the birds, and the wind in the trees, and the rustling of the leaves and....) -- his beloved Susan -- etc.
And while I am not happy for him now, perhaps I am comfortable for him.

But then the thoughts turned: Boo and Skibo both decided they needed to say the blessing at dinner. This was a surprise, as we don't say a blessing. And we didn't know they knew one either. But apparently, in two different classrooms they are teaching the same blessing at lunchtime: this looks more like school policy than an individual teacher's initiative. And it is one that we are not too comfortable with: we wish to talk to our children about spiritual issues, issues of faith and religion, on our own schedule, to help them come to terms with what they believe, rather than to have society force it down their throats.

LOML and I have similar beliefs: we don't talk about them much, because they are not that important a part of our lives: we place more importance on who and how we are in the world, how we treat others and the world, than on theological issues. I can talk only for myself, as a result, about why I believe or do not believe.

I think that it would be an act of supreme hubris for me to believe in a personal deity interested in my every action and my well being. And while I can conceive of a goodness-monitor deity, I don't see any evidence of a personal guardian angel in most lives around me --- it's the "would god permit misery" question. I see no evidence to believe. As far as which belief system to believe in, I see so many, all proclaiming loudly that they alone know the one true belief, that were I to want to believe, I think that I'd be swamped by options!
In short, in some ways I see religion, not as the opiate of the masses, but more like fast food: it is convenient, filling if not nourishing, you can easily get used to relying on it, but I don't see any real evidence for the good that it does.

Please understand that I do not object in the slightest to your beliefs, especially if your beliefs do not hurt me, do not affect me; I am even happy to discuss them with you, provided that you treat me and my beliefs, or lack of the, with the same respect I grant to yours. I'd rather you don't think of trying to convert me, and I'll try not to ask too many difficult questions of your beliefs: I don't want to challenge you unless you want your ideas challenged. But please, I'd rather talk to my children about these things before anyone else does.

Yours, in disbelief,

Goodbye Wally

I just got sad news about a friend of mine: back between my school years and going to college I spent a year in New Brunswick in Canada: while I was there I was pretty much adopted by friends of the family: Wally and Susan. They were almost like second parents, feeding me, taking me with them on trips to the lake, including me in their family.
Susan passed away about 18 months ago, and today I just heard that Wally died a couple of days ago. He wasn't old, still not quite 70, I think, but he'd been in bad health for a while.

When I met him, Wally was the head of the maintenance department at the local hospital: and a few weeks later, I ended up getting a job in his department: he was a good boss: he made people work hard, but he taught people well, and if you worked hard he praised you for it. I learned a lot from him, about all sorts of practical life issues.

When he became too senior for the hospital's liking, he was eased out to make way for cheaper, younger labour. He took a job in the forests, thinning silver birch, until a nasty accident a few years ago nearly felled him, and took away his livelihood: he was left almost blind, without a sense of balance, and unable to walk in his beloved outdoors.

Last year, his other great love was taken away too: Susan died, leaving him with just his children, particularly his daughter, to care for him. Which she did wonderfully.

I got a chance to talk to Wally and his daughter for a while in April: I am so glad that I got a chance to see him one last time: it was difficult to see him so changed from the hale and hearty outdoorsman he had been, but it was still good to see him.

Goodbye, old bear, I'll miss you.
Resquiat in pacem.

Yours, in memoriam,

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ugh. What an unpleasant few days for my friends

I hope that fate is soon going to stop beating my friends and blogfriends up.
It has been a rough few days: a couple of weeks ago, Kenju had bad news: a few days later, a friend here went through something similar (he too is undergoing a good recovery: better than might be expected). Burntofferings have gone through some extremely trying times. Then Bob-Kat had her bad news, a friend here in town's father died last weekend, and last but not least, Carmi's son has a nasty accident.
Okay fate. Quit it. Now. Please?

Yours, distressed,

Predicting the future: nightmares ahead

Friday night LOML and I went out to dinner -- an old friend, Sue, was in town, and her mother-in-law wanted to take us all out to dinner at a restaurant on the lake. As it turned out, this was a wonderfully nice thing for her to do, but I wish that she would have taken us to our favourite place, across the parking lot -- the food was not great, and the service was laughably bad.
We were seated quickly, and the view was nice: our waiter came over immediately, and asked us if we wanted to order drinks. No wine menu. It took him a minute or two to find one -- no problem there, but could you give us a minute to actually look at the wine menu (and the food menu too) before deciding? Perhaps bring us some water? Tell us the specials?
One of the specials apparently comes with ganache-y as a side: I am able to figure out what he means, but Sue misses it and asks: finally she gets that he is talking about gnocchi.
We order wine. He brings back an open bottle, and we are able to tell at a glance, almost instinctively, that this is not the one we ordered. Oh yes it is, he insists, pointing to the winery name on the label. Oh no, it isn't, we insist, pointing out that merlots are usually red, and like most chardonnays this is white.
He apologizes profusely, and heads back to the wine station, brings a bottle (unopened this time), shows the label and proceeds to not open it. He tries to open it, just can't quite figure out that the corkscrew needs to be further into the cork. A lot further in. LOML suggests that one of us can perhaps help, and in short order the cork is released.
The service was okay from this point on, not good, but not awful either. The food: mine was okay, LOML's was apparently awful: Sue took forever eating hers, and her mother-in-law proclaimed it wonderful. Of course, I am not sure that her MIL actually knows much about good food....
At least we had a very pleasant evening.

Anyway, I enjoy watching Doctor Who, and here they are showing new episodes on Friday nights -- but that's okay, since we have TiVo now: I recorded the new episode, so I could watch it Saturday evening instead. The kids have decided that they want LOML to read them to sleep, and I sit down to watch Doctor Who. However, as is often the case, Skibo is bored with the book LOML's reading to Boo, and wanders into the living room. He stands, transfixed, mouth agape. And another Doctor Who fan is born. I can see the nightmares now, and am ready for weeks ahead with him hiding behind the sofa during the scary parts!

This weekend was also the premiere of the new spinoff series Torchwood --- it was okay: the pacing worked, I liked the reappearance of Captain Jack Harkness from an earlier series of DW: I watched the episode twice, as there were a few things I missed first time round, and the second viewing certainly helped a bit. Not sure that it is going to work: we'll have to see. I'll give it a try for a few weeks, probably.

Yours, with thrills, chills and dinner spills,

Remembering the past

Today, of course, is the anniversary of the planes flying into the twin towers, and the pentagon. I remember the horror of the day, the weeks and months following: the anger and sadness. And I remember discovering something about myself following that: I had forgotten how to deal with this sort of gash in the skin of daily life.
Growing up in the UK, we had to deal on a regular basis with terror inflicting itself into our world. Not just the pub and car bombings, though growing up near Windsor, a regular target, these were a big deal. But also the threats against Heathrow airport: I remember the week when we had to drive through a police/army cordon every day to get to school, having to get out, and having the car searched, guards looking under the car with mirrors on poles, for all the world like shrunken DDR dentists.

What I forgot was how I used to cope with horror: how to let it upset, distress and worry me, but how not to let it paralyze: how to learn to deal with the distress without letting fear take control. In short, how not to let the Bush league use the situation to their advantage.

Now, the US never had the "advantage" that the UK had: they had had only a few major incidents over the decades: Pearl Harbor, the Oklahoma bombing, perhaps the first World Trade Center bombing: these were not enough to inure the people, to let them learn that in spite of fear, life can go on: that one can be vigilant without being racist: etc.

But every time I start thinking this way, feeling vaguely superior because I know intellectually that fear need not paralyze me, I remember that it did paralyze me for days, weeks after the attacks.

And also, I remember that the UK is now essentially a land without privacy, and I am not happy about that. Although I hope that in the long run a land without privacy will eventually lead to a culture and a civilization which is more permissive of no-harm transgressions, I am not sure how long this will take, and whether the cost to pay now is too high.

I do want to emphasize: I don't want to minimize the tragedy of 9/11. But at the same time, I don't want to allow the tragedy to be taken over by anyone for their own political purposes.

Yours, in rumination. Like a cow.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Barking seals

Almost every parent knows what's coming next in this post. We now have two little barking seals. One of them, Boo, just wakes herself up with the coughing, and needs to sleep with us. And so we bring her into our room, where she can sleep better knowing we are there.
But Skibo wakes a little later -- I almost don't hear him, it's so quiet -- a rasping, difficult breathing that scares. And so I turn on the shower to hot, sit in the bathroom with him on my lap while the poor wee thing sits and tries to catch his breath. It's the croup -- and it's not cold enough outside to use the cold air trick: so moist air in the shower it has to be.
Eventually, I end up sleeping on Skibo's bed, with him in with Boo and LOML. The bed is uncomfortable for an adult, and the sleep is a long time coming for me, and punctuated by frequent near-waking moments.
I'm not worried for the children ---I know that while we are watching them they should be okay.... I hope.

Yours, in need of an earlier night tonight,

Sunday, September 9, 2007

More relaxing

More relaxing was required today. Last week was not a good one for LOML at work, and so we needed downtime, relaxation, recovery, so that next week can be faced fresh.
After videoconferencing with LOML's parents (which we do every Sunday morning) we went to the botanical gardens for a walk -- it is finally just unbearably hot enough to do that before midday, and it was a very pleasant morning, throwing leftover bread to the ducks and geese, exploring the trails, etc.
This afternoon I cooked a bolognese-ish style sauce for meals a couple of evenings this week, and cooked a roast chicken for dinner. The kids sat in front of the tv for a couple of hours, which usually would bother me, but they both have seal-barking coughs, and we didn't want them running around too much, so we chose the cheap way out.
I also spoke to my parents: it looks like they are going to come out to visit in a few weeks time, which will be wonderful (though we are probably going to have to spend a few dollars on a sofa-bed so LOML and I can sleep in with the sprogs while they are here!
All in all a nice weekend.

Yours, contented.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Relaxing morning

This morning was relaxing. We woke up without plans for the day, other than
not to venture out too far from the house before about noon (there was a football game going on down the road at 1pm, and that does tend to clog the arteries of the highway.

At 11 we walked up the street to the local cafe, where LOML and I had coffee, the kids had juice, and nobody ate much of the baked goods we ordered (they were, to a baker, less than inspiring).

This was followed by wandering to a nice little craft-y shop nearby: they sell lots of stamping tools, jewelery supplies, art supplies, etc: they are local, not a chain: and the owners are lovely people who actually work in the store every day, rather than just paying minimum wage and living of others labour.

Skibo ended up with a puzzle -- a nice one, in which the pieces don't come out! (this is definitely a plus --- no pieces to keep track of!) and Boo with a little furry soft puppet. She wanted a larger one, which was rather more expensive, a very nice Siamese cat about the size of a real cat --- we told her if she waited to next week and postponed getting a toy this week, she could have it then --- but she's not ready yet for delayed gratification! Since her birthday is coming up in November, we'll get it for her then:-)
The store owner told us, though, that one of her best friends also has her eye on it: and her birthday is the week before Boo's, so she will probably get it first: oh the subtle difficulties and problems these little people called children visit upon us.

Yours, relaxed-ish

making bread...

Skibo, the middle aged man

Skibo is beginning to lose his baby fat, to skinny up: to become a little boy, rather than a toddler. So it was a bit of a surprise this morning when I was beginning help him (more encourage than help) to get dressed: he put on his shorts, pulled them up, and I helped to do the button at the waist.
He complained: "the shorts are too tight" he said: he unbuttoned the shorts -- exclaimed "Aaaah" in a that's-better way, and sat on the sofa, looking for all the world like he ought to be overweight, middle aged, and popping a beer after dinner!

Yours, in amusement, and hopefully not premonition,

Friday, September 7, 2007

My first day of school!

My first day of school was today! Or more precisely, today was the day that I resumed running the origami club at the Montessori school. I had not put any effort into getting it advertised, and I knew some of the students from last year would be likely to have moved on --- I used to get about half a dozen students most weeks last year --- so I thought the turnout today would be small.
This, it turned out, would be a good thing: the school had shifted rooms around, and put me in a room with one small table and 4 chairs. I could get a couple more if needs warrent, but small would be good.

I was mistaken. I had five return from last year, and five more turn up for the first time! We had to move the club on short notice to the meeting room, which was set up for 12 chairs around a large table. Two more students would have been too many! And I am planning to try to persuade a few more students to come along!

They all did very well: we folded a classical fold: the Masu box, with lid and 2x2 divider in the box: and in 40 minutes they had all folded all three pieces: as they are mostly only about 9 or 10 years old, I think that this is really impressive!
And one somewhat older student came along and despite never having folded before did extremely well: I think that he will learn quickly and be a good assistant teacher for the club!

Yours, neatly creased,

Imaginary friends

My imaginary friends when I was small were the Waggywahs. My mother tells the story of how their name came to be as follows:
"When you were small, I really liked jaguars, especially the E-type. And every time we were out around town, and I saw one, I'd point and say 'Look, a jaguar!'"
Apparently I was fascinated with whatever it was my mother was pointing at -- and had no clue that it was a rather nice car. So I started seeing, and talking to and playing with, waggywahs too.

Boo has a whole family of friends: most especially Malady, but also her sisters/brothers/relatives/whatever Maggady, Claggady, Zaggady, Zueggedy, etc. She is fully aware that they are imaginary, and on occasion will describe them as such, and in a context which makes it clear that she knows what that means. At the same time, she will often claim they have been doing actual things. Occasionally they'll apparently tell her it is okay to do things that we tell her she is not allowed to do. This, of course, makes us cranky.

Skibo has his own private imaginary friend Dodo. We are pretty clear that his name is a corruption of the name of our dog Sojo (short for Sojourner, so not pronounced in any spanish Soho-type of way!) He has not yet told us much about Dodo, except when he wants something he always explains that Dodo does this, or has it, or is allowed it...

Quite fascinating for a realist to watch:-)

Yours, in friendship,

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Memories of first day of school

Various folks are propogating this meme, and now I've been sucked in too. I have only the invented memories that you get when your mother tells you stories over and over again: with the exception of the wrought iron fence, very tall surrounding the school. Of course, that fence was probably only 3 or 4 feet tall, but I was a little bit shorter then:-)

The supposed memories, which my mother swears are true are:
- wanting to play with my imaginary friends, the waggywahs
- being fearful of going into the school without my mother
-being asked how my first day was, and telling my mother that it was fine: and that I had sat next to a fat boy named Treasure. And from then on, Trevor's name was always Treasure.

Yours, imagining the memories,

p.s. Anyone care to see if the can guess the etymology of my imaginary friends names?

What I'm (going to be) listening to: poetry edition

With Boo and Skibo learning about space, I am pretty sure that they are going to learn the following little verse: she learned it last year, complete with a bunch of actions: putting on a helmet, blasting off, hands moving like rocket ships....

Space Trip

My space suit is on,
I'm ready for the trip.
Let's blast off in a rocket ship!

Ready for the countdown,
Engine is on.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1.....We're gone!

There goes Venus,
Now past Mars.
Dodging comets and shooting stars!

Landing on a planet,
Lots to do.
We'll be back in a light year or two!

Rozanne Williams

Yours, enchanted,

In, out, in, out

Is Larry Craig really doing the Hokie Cokie? Is that really what it's all about for him?

I admit to feeling sorry for him: there he is, happily in the closet, having to resort to soliciting anonymous encounters with others like himself, and he gets caught.
If he could have been happy in himself, in his body, in his sexuality, perhaps he could have been happy in his life. Instead, he's become the butt of a bunch of jokes -- some of them mine --- and will be miserable, probably for a long time to come.

It is harsh to wish someone ill because of their past actions, words, deeds, thoughts: and I am conflicted, because I do not wish to be or seem harsh: but his words and actions have hurt a great number of people, especially people who are like he seems to be: unwilling to divulge what to them seems an awful, terrible secret to an uncaring hateful world. But still, he has been one of the ones making that world uncaring and hateful.

Oh well, to paraphrase: detest the hatemongering, not the hatemongerers.

But I still don't know if he is planning to resign!

Yours, caring about those he has hurt,

One of those days

One of those days --- LOML had had a dreadful day, so I came home early to help look after the sprogs: and they were fine, really, but sometimes, somedays "fine" just doesn't cut it!
Raw nerves, and small child screeches to cut through the desired silence, even the acceptable dull roar, to find the senses and touch those nerves.
And it is still hotter than it needs to be: 95 as a high for the next few days. Still, Sen. Stevens (Nutcase, Alaska) has pronounced that the worst of global warming is now over, so I guess that we can all just relax and listen to the gurgling tubes that are the internet.

Yours, grumpy tonight,

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Boo and Skibo are studying space this semester at the Montessori school, and so we are doing what we can to encourage their interests in the stars, the planets and the sky in general. Boo is already asking for a telescope for her birthday -- we had been thinking for a while of getting one, though it may have to wait for Christmas so that it can be a joint gift instead of just hers -- however the other day in Target I noticed that they had a planetarium-in-a-box for twenty or thirty bucks, and decided it was time to try this out --- it's endorsed by the National Geographical Society, so it must be good, right?

Other than the fact that it needed 5 AAA batteries and all we had on hand were 30 AA batteries, so a trip to the gas station a block up the street was necessary, it worked. I won't say that it worked wonderfully well yet: the stars were a bit blurry, and the words were illegible for me. But at least it put the constellations up in the sky above us on the ceiling: and it comes with at 45 minute cd guided tour of the sky --- which we will listen to as soon as we can get the children ready for bed early enough -- or more likely once dark comes earlier in the evening!

Still, we are excited to show them how to find star constellations (and to tell them the myths behind the names!) and the planets!

Yours, in astral projection,


Boo is taking dance classes this semester for the first time: and tonight, LOML needed to work on some stuff for tomorrow, so Skibo and I went with Boo to her class: unfortunately it is about a 25 minute drive each way, so there was lots of time for fussing back and forth between them in the back of the minivan (including on the way back actually stopping the vehicle and placing one of them in the miscreant relocation program -- seating them in a different row -- the first time I've actually had to do it: the threat is usually sufficient). Still we got there, and Boo got her tap shoes on (the first half is tap, the second half ballet). Now, Skibo was extremely keen to watch her dancing, but unfortunately the tap class was behind a closed door: however, after twenty minutes (and extremely good behaviour on his part!)
the class switched to ballet, and we were able to watch it for a few minutes.

It was wonderful to see -- and forgive the proud-parenthood-ness when I say that she was the only child in the class to get what the teacher was saying -- and she was one of the younger children too! She extended her wings to fly like an aeroplane, she jumped over boxes beautifully, and best of all, she leapt into a second position bent knee, feet turned out perfectly. Not a single other child managed it.

After the class the teacher came up and asked if Boo was my child --- and told me that she was wonderful, so smart and "I think I can teach her to be a wonderful dancer".

Yours, pleased as punch,

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Summer Joy

This picture evokes a memory --- of days gone by, when I felt like they do here! Another exciting thing to see just around the next corner....

Yours, remembering,

Scotch eggs, the recipe

I looked at several recipes --- Sam posted a link to Delia Smith's recipe, and it is a good one -- I increased the amount of sausage slightly, and I think that hers might be a little less meaty than I would like.
Here is what I used/did:

1 lb sausage (I used a local farm sausage that I like: spicy would work for me, but not for the children!)
6 eggs (I happened to have extra large)
Fresh or dried herbs to taste
Salt, pepper.
1 beaten egg

Mix the herbs and seasonings in with the sausage. Form six equal sized patties, each about 3 inches by 5 inches, oval-ish in shape.

I hardboiled the eggs per Delia Smith's directions, cooled and peeled them:
dusted them in flour, which I brushed off with my hands as much as possible.
I wrapped them in sausage: at this stage, I think the extra quantity of sausage I used made it much easier. To wrap with sausage, I sort of rolled the egg up in the patty, and sealed round the egg. Easier to try than to describe in words!

Then I lightly dusted the sausage with flour, brushed off excess, dipped into the beaten egg and then into breadcrumbs, and into hot oil. My oil was at the high end of the 350-375 range she suggests, and I'd probably take it at the low end next time.

The scotch eggs were done in well under six minutes, and were definitely more on the brown rather than golden brown side. But they were absolutely delicious.

Yours, stuffed,

A walk in the park

On Sunday afternoon, we all went to visit friends who live in the next town over: their DSL was playing up, and they had asked if I would look at it for them --- and their kids are just a little older than Boo and Skibo, and they get on well together, so it was a good chance for them to play.
Fixed the DSL problems just by showing up (I think that I just scared the network into submission!) I did unplug and replug one ethernet cable, just to check the connection, and everything worked. No idea what was wrong, but they seem happy!

Afterwards, after coffee, cake and conversation, we all went down to a nearby park,
and looked at some fountains, and walked by the lake. Very pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

Yours, reflecting,

Scotch eggs, the picture

Here, for the uninitiated, is what Scotch Eggs look like. I made no attempt to pretty up the picture, get rid of the breadcrumbs on the chopping board, whatever: I just snapped the shot.

Yours, hungry again,

Monday, September 3, 2007

White whole wheat flour, the third baking

I gave white whole wheat a second try last week --- with a sour dough recipe.
It was a bust. Not as good as the first batch.
So today, I ran a test: two ordinary batches of wholewheat bread: one with regular wholewheat flour, one with white wholewheat; a biga or poolish to start, molasses and oatmeal as additives, but other than that, yeast, flour, salt and water.
The breads were both good: they were both comparable. The flavours were good: the lift was slightly better in the white whole wheat, but it was a minor difference.
The colours of the loaves were slightly different, but it was far from being close to white bread: it was just a little lighter in colour than the full wholewheat loaf.

As a consequence, I'm probably not going to bother with while whole wheat flour: the children will eat brown bread, so even if it came in a lighter colour, it wouldn't matter: the flavour is not quite as complex and full: and the fibre content is lower by a little.

Please let me know if you find a recipe where this flour shines, and I'll try it again:
otherwise, I'll stick to my tried and true flours.

Yours, in conclusion,

Busted balloons

Well the balloons were a bust this weekend. The weather didn't cooperate on Friday evening, and Saturday morning we were too tired to get out to try to see them. Saturday afternoon we were busy, and had friends over for dinner in the evening, so that was out.
Sunday morning, we were up early, into the car at 7am, and in prime viewing position. Unfortunately, we were the only ones there. I still don't know what happened: the schedule on the web suggested that there would be lots of balloons in the air at that time, plus people gathering for other events, and there wasn't a person to be seen. Weird.

Oh well. Such is life.
Yours, disappointed,

Scotch eggs part 2

Okay: for the uninitiated, scotch eggs are a British (mainly English, I believe) delicacy. Hard boiled eggs, wrapped in sausage, coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried.
Before you make comments about "what's not to like, except for the clogged arteries" the oil is hot, so there is little absorbed into the food: the sausage is a thin coating, so the amount of meat in one scotch egg is about as much as in a single sausage: and lastly, fergoshdernsakes, everything in moderation!

I was inspired by Becks and Posh to consider making these: she had posted a picture, and then a recipe by Delia Smith.

Those of you who don't already understand, let me put it this way: this was the food I grew up on. Not every day, in fact, probably fewer than one scotch egg every three months on average. But often enough to know that this is fine food.
And these were... oh, let's leave it to the next post....

Yours, with mouth full,N.

Scotch eggs

More to be said soon.


Yours, liplickingly,

Saturday, September 1, 2007

No balloons yet

Unfortunately the weather is not cooperating: after weeks, months even, it seems, of days which begin and end with blue skies, we are finally facing leaden clouds, and lots of green, yellow and red on the weather map.
Apparently balloonists don't like to fly in thunderstorms. Who'd a thought it?
Anyway, we didn't get to see the balloons yesterday evening or this morning: perhaps tonight? Tomorrow? Monday?

Yours, suspended,