Thursday, December 31, 2009

Home again

Back in the house, after a day starting at 4:30 GMT and ending (travel-wise) at 9pm EST.  Although it was really lovely to visit relatives for the last two weeks, it is very nice to be home: I'm looking forward to a shower, and to our own bed, and to our kitchen, and of course, our friends who we've missed.
Much to miss on the flip side, of course: especially parents, siblings, nieces and nephews and cousins.

A new year starts here in a couple of hours: it started a few hours ago in Europe.  And so, to all, a very happy, productive and successful New Year!

Yours, looking back, looking forward,

I'm leaving, on a jet plane

Don't know when I'll be back again

Yours, hating to go, looking forward to being back.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

All good things must come to an end

and visiting family and friends is a good thing. Today is our last day here: this time tomorrow we'll be about to take off on the final leg of our flight home.  Four hours later, I hope, we'll be pulling up at the house.

It's been a lovely trip, but at the same time, we are ready to be home.  So, we're doing goodbyes, and getting ready for hellos.

Yours, missing people already, and looking forward to seeing those we've missed,

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Did I say weather permitting at some stage???

The theme of our trip seems to be that the weather has been stuck in non-permissive mode.
First, on arrival we had to travel a day early to avoid the snow, next: the snow avoids us, so the children don't get to enjoy it.  In Canterbury the rain puts a damper on the day.  Oh, it's true that the trip to Windsor was okay, although it would have been a lot nicer with blue skies all day instead of the dark clouds which came along.

But today was perhaps the least permissive.  We knew ahead of time that it was going to rain, and hard.  But we  decided that if we were going to go to London we had to do it today.  So, LOML was up in the middle of the night looking up train times, opening hours, etc, and we set off: along the way, our plans changed, making most of LOML's research irrelevant --- we went to the Science Museum instead of the National Gallery, for example --- and the weather really ruined much of the day.  But given the conditions and constraints, it went okay, and we had a pretty good time.

Next time, though, can I have the number to set the weather to "fine", please?

Yours, closer to dry now than a few hours ago,

Monday, December 28, 2009


Families are ties of blood.  Often.  But just as often, they can be tied by love.

We visited my cousin today: we've stayed in touch over the years, and when we are in the same country often try to get together for a visit.  Today was, however, the first time that I had seen him since he and his family started fostering children in difficulty, children in need.  And it reminded me very much of the seasonal message that is often so easy to forget: that peace and love and understanding of others is tremendously important.
We had a lovely time visiting, but perhaps the most memorable image was that of the smile on the face of a small child, a child I will never see again, and whose life will be briefly, but brightly illuminated by good people.  They will make a difference for now, for sure, and a difference, in the future, perhaps.  And I have no idea where they find the courage!

Yours, always in praise of those doing a good thing,

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Windsor Castle

After months of planning all the things that we want to do while we are here, and having many of the plans end up the way of mice in traps, it was nice to have another one go fairly well.
LOML and I took Boo and Skibo to see the castle today: Skibo in particular had been thrilled with the prospect of seeing knights in armour, swords, shields etc.  It was a lovely visit, a little chilly (which with small children who have refused to wear or let us bring along their hats and mittens can depress the mood slightly) but fun.  We spent a couple of hours going around the castle, especially the state apartments, drawings, and the dolls house --- needless to say, the dolls and their acoutrements were the biggest hit, although some of the paintings in the state apartments and the weaponry on display were a close second for the children.
And, of course, we got to ride on trains.  And I managed to mess up which coach we were on, so that we were unable to get out at our (short) station, and had to travel on (illegally) to the next station, and then call for a ride back home again!

There will be more on all of these things later --- but at the moment I have no way of connecting my laptop to the net, and so pictures, in particular, will have to wait.  More words will have to wait too, until I have a lap in a comfy chair in which to write:-)

Yours, tunelessly whistling "Oh, what a lovely day!"

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Foods I miss

There are various foods that I miss from England, interpreted in a broad sense: Marks and Spencer's mini pork pies, good sausages, real ale pulled from the keg.

Yours, salivating,

Happy Birthday Izzy!

Today was Izzy's birthday --- Happy Birthday, Izzy! --- the first time I've been able to help her celebrate it.  And so, I am,

Yours, wishing Izzy a happy birthday,

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day

My first Christmas with my family (other than LOML, Boo and Skibo) in probably 26 years: a lovely time had by all, presents galore for the children: lots of hits amongst the presents, very few meltdowns among the children or the adults.
I got to cook again --- turkey and roast potatoes with gravy: LOML cooked sprouts, and we rounded it out with carrots and parsnips.  Delicious.  Eleven people seated round the table, and almost every plate licked clean.

Now I think I need to assist in bedtime,
Yours, wishing the children could have gone to bed a couple of hours earlier,

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Here, it is still Christmas Eve for another few minutes.  Back in the US there would still be time for another few hours of shopping and last minute preparations.

LOML finished the final touches on gifts while I put the children to bed --- a couple of hours or more later than they should have, but after all it is Christmas Eve --- and perhaps if they go to bed late we can sleep in until at least five am!

Many things to write about which happened today, but without wireless and a laptop on which to write them, they may have to remain memories.

Yours, wishing everyone a lovely Christmas,

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Weather (not) permitting

Well, we went to Canterbury this morning: we caught the bus, a double-decker, both ways: this will, we suspect, turn out to be the highlight of the day (and perhaps the week) for the children.  They had tremendous fun sitting up top in the front row, swaying from side to side as the bus turned corners, lurching backwards and forwards as it started and stopped.

The cathedral was, as always, magnificent: we were only able to spend about an hour or so in there (small children and quiet spaces requiring good behaviour are only compatible for short periods of time) but it was delightful.  And Boo and Skibo were extraordinarily well behaved, especially during the turning of the page in memory of those killed in wars.

Unfortunately, as soon as we got outside, it started to drizzle: and when we passed through the gift shop/exit, it started to rain.  We hurriedly found a lovely cafe to sit in and have lunch (Pret, on a corner of Parade, near the cathedral: excellent coffee, fantastic fresh food).  Afterwards we had decided to see a few more interesting sights, but the skies opened.  It didn't pour, it drenched, a mixture of snow and a little sleet, temperature above freezing, but not by much.  We huddled in doorways for a few minutes, then finally braved the weather back to the bus station. 
Naturally, the sky cleared just as the bus drove off.  But that's okay.  It was a really lovely visit, weather notwithstanding.

Yours, drying off,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Canterbury tomorrow

Since the cousins will not be around tomorrow, we postponed today's planned outing to Canterbury until tomorrow so that Boo and Skibo could play with them today.  As LOML wanted to go off to look for Christmas presents, I stayed at the house with the four children: this gave me the fun of making bread with them (I am, after all, BreadBox, and am going through withdrawal symptoms).
After recent experiments with sourdough, and, of course, not having access to my tools or counterspace, I'm happy to say that the results were on the good side of dreadful.  Quite good, quite edible, and nothing to be ashamed of:-)

In the afternoon we took a walk down through village streets, across fields, and into a country churchyard.  Not sure that the children yet appreciate it, although I think that Boo realised that churches over here look rather different from their much more modern american counterparts.  Hardly surprising: the one we visited today dates back seven or eight hundred years: about twenty or thirty times as old as some of the ones around our town!

So, tomorrow to Canterbury --- on the bus, yet, for the children's enjoyment --- and then the next day, to visit my parents.  Too little, way too little time, but we will have fun with family.

Yours, enjoying being able to experience not-so-recent history again,

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cold, fun, soup, and the internet

A lovely day, today --- we went down to the sea front late this morning, so that that children could see the sea (far too cold to even put a toe in the water...) and took photographs of butchers shop windows, bakeries, etc --- all the things we don't see in the US to show to Boo and Skibo's classes next year (along with LOML's shot from yesterday --- a lone milkman-delivered milk bottle sitting on the step next door).

We had fun, but it was damp and chilly --- miserable weather: all the better for making soup with.  With having had Christmas dinner of turkey yesterday, we were set for turkey soup today: and it was good.  Between the nine of us, we polished off almost all of the soup I made: essentially, in two days we demolished an entire turkey!  (there's still a bit left for sandwiches, but mostly it's gone).

Tonight has been incredibly frustrating, internet-wise: our hotel is connected with some shady group (probably very big and powerful, so I won't name them) who don't like giving us consistent access to the interwebtubes.  And so I've taken to downloading blogs, reading them at my leisure, and waiting for yet another hour to get access to the net to post, read email, etc.

Still, internet notwithstanding, quite a nice day.  In the English sense of quite.

Yours, contemplating Canterbury tomorrow,

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I wish it could be Christmas every day....

Yesterday we saw Father Christmas on a float going down the street, and the loudspeakers were playing "I wish it could be Christmas every day".  I started singing along to Skibo, whose hand I was holding at the time.
With a very serious face, he turned to me, looked up at me, and explained "if it were Christmas every day, it wouldn't be special any more!"

Today, however, is Christmas: we've just finished a feast of ham, turkey, potatoes, sprouts, carrots, parsnips, gravy, Yorkshire pudding, peas, cauliflower, and probably a couple of other things that I've forgotten. 
The children have opened lots of little presents, making them happy beyond belief, and they are now playing on the floor with crayons, colouring books, games, etc.

We've celebrated today so that we get to have Christmas with LOML's half of the family, and then on Christmas Eve we travel to my parents to have Christmas with them.

So, to all, I say,

Yours, wishing you a very happy Christmas today with us,

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Origami with my nephew

I was delighted this afternoon when Skibo asked me if I was going to make any origami for the Christmas tree --- I took his suggestion, and folded a Saar Star out of silver foil paper, watched by Skibo's cousin, my nephew (LOML's brother's son: does nephew transfer that way by marriage?) 
He was fascinated, so I folded him a T-rex, after which he asked for various other pieces: those I could recall how to fold (boats, birds, dolphins, roses) I folded for him: those I couldn't remember (cats, horses, etc) I put off until I can get access to diagrams.

His fascination was beautiful to watch: it wasn't just that he wanted me to fold something for him, he wanted to see me fold it for him.

Yours, inspiring the next generation of folders,

Friday, December 18, 2009


Snow!  At least, that was what the little ones exclaimed when they got up this morning.  There was nearly a dusting, a salt-and-pepper shaking of white on the ground outside.  But to Boo and Skibo, snow had fallen.
All around the area, folks were struggling with six to eight inches of snow, and in our little microclimate area, we had six to eight thousandths of a millimetre  Or thereabouts.
Most of the day was quite lovely: in particular, we took a walk to the local windmill, one of the sites we'd promised ourselves we would show the children.  And several times it looked like there was going to be a heavy snowfall, and the children ran outside to play in it for the few minutes that it lasted.

Unfortunately, the day ended with (probably overtired) children (in this case, especially Boo) trying to push buttons and push boundaries: it ended with tears, and with leaving Nana and Granddad's place earlier than we would have liked to head back to the hotel.  Not what we wanted to do, but sometimes we have to follow through on consequences for bad behaviour.
Hopefully after a good night's sleep, things will be better tomorrow.  Jetlag, begone!

Yours, catching up on the lag,

Thursday, December 17, 2009


We've arrived, and have visited my parents, and moved on, a day early.  The weather was threatening lots of snow, and so we decided we'd better travel before it knocked out the train service.  We've checked into the hotel, and enjoyed a lovely meal of fish and chips with Nanna and Grandad.
The children have, by and large, been very well behaved, and the trip was pleasant.  It all augers well: wish us luck!

Yours, on holiday,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

At the airport

Boo and Skibo are running around excitedly, LOML and I are taking tons of photographs documenting their first trip, and we've run into our friend, neighbour, and adopted auntie, who is on her way to the west coast.

All in all, pretty good so far:-)

Chapter 14 of Harry Potter is ready, and we board in a few minutes.

Yours, ready to read to them on the plane,


Having longed for for a long time, I finally gave in to temptation today: I persuaded LOML that we needed to buy an SLR digital camera.  And the great news is that we both love it.
So, in coming days, weeks and months, I'll try to take some good pictures (LOML too) and post them.
Yours, snappy,

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We're off tomorrow: Boo and Skibo get to fly, for the first time in memory/his life, respectively.
Wish us luck: we expect magnificent behaviour from them, and will be happy if it is pretty good (and if the other passengers don't want to rip us limb from limb!)

I've spent a while figuring out how to get dvds from my laptop (with small battery) to my tablet (with 10 hours, or so, of battery) so that the children can watch a couple of movies on the plane.  I think that I have it sorted out.

Sporadic posting to come, but hopefully some nice pictures:-)

Yours, excited,

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rest peaceful, Paul Samuelson

Many, many years ago, I studied A level economics from Paul Samuelson's textbook.  It was great: readable, with concise passages which summarised things, and expanded texts which explained the details: great figures, tables, and diagrams.

Much later, no longer a formal student of economics, but much more an informal student of the world, of politics, and yes, economics, I discovered how influential he had been outside of the influence of that text.  But Krugman says it better than I possibly could, so see his post today.

He was an old man, but many of his ideas and his writings are still fresh today.

Yours, in praise,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Parade party

The parade party went off today with only a single hitch.  Even the weather smiled on us --- the rain dried up an hour or so before the parade, and the sun even poked out from behind the clouds.
The one hitch: even though the weather had dried up, and even though the forecast had been steadily improving all morning, they cancelled the parade.  Too many of the floats were paper and cardboard glued together, in danger of falling apart from the damp.

In the end, the only vehicle in the parade was the pickup truck bringing Boo, Skibo, and a number of others back up to the house, everyone in the back waving and crying "Merry Christmas" at the top of their lungs.

We managed to have a lovely little party, nonetheless: we had somewhere between thirty and forty people (far fewer than if the parade had co-operated, of course), a nice mix, young, young at heart, but all happy and joyful.

And we've continued a good tradition of having a party on the day of the Christmas parade:-)

Yours, partied out,

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cats, catastrophes and aphorisms

The butler did it.

Or in this case, the cats and the dog.  In our house, the usual suspects.

Somewhere in the middle of the night, one of the cats knocked half of the pieces for the gingerbread house onto the floor.  The dog helped clean up some of the mess.  By chowing down on it.

So we're decorating gingerbread walls for the party.  Not a house, more modules for a mobile home.  Delicious, I am sure, but not structurally correct:-)

I'm remaining calm about this --- a task made rather easier for me, given that it was all LOML's hard work that got destroyed.  LOML, of course, is justifiably fuming at the pets.

And the aphorism?  "Don't rain on my parade!"  Unfortunately, the forecast right now is that it's going to rain our our little town's parade tomorrow: leading to the cancellation of the parade: so we will have to rely on our party to bring everybody's spirits back in the Christmassy direction.

Yours, about ready,

Friday, December 11, 2009

Festivals and parties

In our never-ending quest to introduce Boo and Skibo to aspects of cultures, ours and others, we celebrated the first night of Hannukah this evening.  Pot roast, latkes, roasted vegetables (the first two of which were lovely; the last, inedible), Hannukah gelt and dreidels for the children, plus some a gift for each of them and their friends.

Of course, what made it lovely was the inclusion of friends --- most especially, J, who came over, inquired what we were having for dinner, and in spite of the answer, decided to go to another friend's for dinner.  The fact that she could choose that path, knowing that we wouldn't be offended, was very nice.

Yours, rolling gimmel every time we do this,

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Almost done

Last exam given, most grading still to happen.
Goodbyes said to friends leaving town next week to look for a new place to live.
Preparations in place to travel soon.

All these are almost done.
Yours, in preparation to be fully done,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Such depressing news on health care

This is such a depressing day, politically.  On days like this, I wonder: is it better to stay and fight in such a socially backward place?  Or move to a civilized country like Canada or the UK?  We've made a life here, and we personally are only financially affected by the healthcare mess here: premiums jumping every year meaning that raises are smaller, and such raises as there are are cut into by increases in my share of the premium.
But this is small potatoes compared to the tens of millions who have no insurance, or whose employers don't provide insurance.  For them, today, my heart bleeds.  We have a solid majority in the house and senate, and we hold the presidency, and we can't pass an incredibly weak health care bill to ensure that everyone is insured?  This country, if you'll pardon the language, sucks.  Big time.

What this fight has done is to break my hope in the democratic party. I have no faith in the opposition: they are awful.  But the left is now worthless too.

Yours, disgusted enough to move to Tunbridge Wells,

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Reports on health care reform

This is depressing.  It appears that after months of argument, after concession after concession from the left, the public option has been pulled out of the senate version of the health care reform bill.

This is terrible.  This was the only thing in the bill which would work to pull costs down, to keep the health insurance industry from shafting society for another twenty years.

Yours, thinking feet need to be held to the fire,

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy anniversary, LOML!

Today is the anniversary of the day LOML and I went out together on a date, for sushi -- at a lovely family-style Korean restaurant.  We've been together ever since:-)

Yours, still in love, and loving every minute,

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The best Christmas pageant

This afternoon, LOML, Boo, Skibo and I headed around the corner and across the street, to the local theatre.  And not a movie theatre, a real stage.

We went to see a charming (all the more so for the fact that it was amateur) production of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever", a little comedy about how the bad kids from the wrong end of the block decide they want to be in the local Christmas play --- and how it changes them and the production for the better. 
The first half was a little slow --- the fault, I think, of the script rather than the production, but the pace picked up beautifully in the second half.  The star of the show was the elementary school child playing the role of Gladys Herdman, who raced around the stage, through the aisles, and stole the show, and hearts.

Beautifully done.

A trifle expensive, but beautifully done.

Yours, beginning to find some spirit,

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Mathematics competitions are, almost as a matter of necessity, a question of speed rather than of strength: of quickness, not endurance.  However, while this is still somewhat true of the one today, this one is also more than about how fast one can answer the questions, how many quick answers you can come up with.
The questions often have a reasonably simple solution, but it is rarely immediately obvious.  There are two six-question, three hour papers, worth a total of 120 points.  Of the students who take the exam across the nation, typically about half of them get zero.  And these are among the very best students at their institutions.
One of my students yesterday remarked at the end that this was the mathematics equivalent of running a marathon.  All of them looked completely drained by the end, but I don't think that a single one of them regretted getting involved.
This makes me happy:-)

Yours, done with the competition until next September rolls around,

Friday, December 4, 2009

Classes are done

Now that classes are over, it's just exams to go.  First, tomorrow: 10-6 for the big competition.  Then Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

And after exams, grading, and after grading (hopefully after grading!) the party for the Christmas Parade.  We've decided to keep the tradition going: we are going with more of a potluck than usual, since our normal partners in partyhosting are all busy: so it's bring a dish, if you like, and byo too.  But we're making the party happen:-)

Yours, wondering where I put the party spirit... ah, there it is:-)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

More googlewave

I spent a little more time trying to get googlewave to be useful, seeing if I could video chat with a friend this evening.  It refused to cooperate.  And I realised that it really needs to be used in conjunction with a chat window --- although one can use the wave windows in that sort of mode, my friend and I switched to google chat after a few minutes because its design worked better for the conversation mode we were in.
Google wave looks like it will end up being quite useful for editing collaborative work -- but the chat feature off to the side would really help.

Yours, envisioning the use for breadmaking classes over the web,

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Colbert brilliance

Stephen Colbert just made an obvious, but brilliant point:"going into any war with a plan to leave is like going into a casino and saying I'm only going to lose a $100."
He goes on to suggest that one should go to a casino and gamble until one wins a jackpot.
This is, of course, Colbert's brilliance: to show the ridiculous nature of the world by suggesting that it is reasonable.

Yours, hoping the country can avoid gambler's ruin,

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Interesting new technology

I've been trying out googlewave this evening: chatting back and forth with a colleague, trying to figure out how to do some simple things.
So far, I am intrigued: the interface is far from intuitive so far (but that could just be because I am older than (young) dirt, and not used to these new-fangled mechanical gadgets.  Hey, kid, get off my lawn!) but I'm managing to figure out a couple of things.
Probably in a few months we'll all be using at least its simpler features, and musing about how wonderful it is.
I can certainly see using it with colleagues to think about mathematics.

Yours, reaching for that new-fangled pen and paper,

Monday, November 30, 2009

And another term comes to a close

I gave my last lecture in one of my courses this afternoon (they have an exam on their last day of class, Wednesday), and I've only got two more left in the other regular class I'm teaching.
The competition for which I train the team here is on Saturday --- we have one more preparation meeting for that.  So, this time five days from now I'll be completely done with everything except for final exams.

This has been a loooooooong term, feeling far longer than any before.  I'm looking forward to this break.

Yours, counting days, hours,...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's hard to get into the spirit

With our going away for much of next month, we've decided not to get a tree, not to put up decorations, not to get into the house-part of the holiday spirit.  And that,  I find, makes it harder to get into the non-house-part of the spirit too.
And now, it seems that our long tradition, with several other local friends, of having a joint party for the Christmas parade, is at risk of not happening this year.  It's not terrible, but it is a little sad.  There is still some hope, and it is possible that it may still happen.  We shall see.

Yours, wanting to feel more in the spirit,

Saturday, November 28, 2009

How soon they learn

Yesterday afternoon we went to the town square to look at the Christmas "tree".  (Christmas traffic cone, enlarged by a factor of 30, and coloured green, is more like it)   At one point she and Skibo and I were talking, and she came out with
"If Santa Claus isn't real, then who delivers all the presents?"
at which point Skibo, sitting on my lap, leaned over to her and whispered, too quietly for me to hear
"I think it is Mummy and Daddy!"
(at least, I think that is what he said).
I pointed out to Boo that that was a conundrum indeed, and that perhaps she could consider the fact that presents are indeed delivered, and she should draw some conclusions.  All in language more conducive to a conversation with an incredibly bright seven year old, of course.  She smiled happily and nodded.
A few hours later they each got to sit on Santa's lap after the tree-lighting ceremony.  While there, Boo noticed that Santa appeared to have a mustache underneath his fake beard.  On returning to me, she explained that she knew that this was just a fake Santa, because of the beard, and that she thought that he probably flew to the North Pole each night to let the real Santa know what all the children asked for for Christmas.

I thought this a delightful explanation:-)

Yours, keeping the legends alive,

Friday, November 27, 2009

Buy nothing day

I almost managed it.  The only thing that I bought was a couple of loaves of bread for dinner (I'm running behind on the baking schedule, as I am on the knife-sharpening schedule, as I am on the grading schedule, etc).
But we all managed not to go out at three in the morning to hit the post-Thanksgiving sales and do all of our Christmas shopping.
For which I am,

Thankfully, yours,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving thanks

We've given thanks, hopefully genuinely enough to be understood to be really meaning what we say!  My favourite thanks this evening were from young mister M, aged 5, who declared that he is thankful for carrots.

We feasted, roast beef, roast turkey, five or six different vegetable dishes, and have tons of leftovers.

And now it is back to a day-to-day basis.

Yours, giving thanks today, tomorrow, and every day,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I'm very thankful for tolerance --- I try to be tolerant of other people (and being somewhat unusual, I occasionally need that tolerance!)  And I try to encourage tolerance in others at all times.
Fortunately, in spite of living in a small southern town, most of the time we are surrounded by tolerant people, tolerance, and good will.

Yours, in the hope that this may long continue,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Smart children

There -- the "what I'm thankful for" is in the title.
This evening, Boo decided to take her Thanksgiving placemat, (hand-shaped cut-outs and foot-shaped cut-outs pasted onto a sheet of card stock, laminated: quite lovely) and write -- in cursive yet -- all the things that she is thankful for upon it.
It was quite lovely.
Skibo is reading away like crazy -- pretty much further along than Boo was a year ago, I think: and he's 21 months younger. 
Amazingly wonderful, both of them.
Yours, wondering how could I be more thankful for anything else,

Monday, November 23, 2009

A one-day week

As this week is Thanksgiving here in the US, and as we are off from Wednesday on, and as I don't teach in the mornings on Tuesdays, and as my afternoon class on Tuesdays is on a volunteer basis and the students told me none of them were coming tomorrow:

I am now officially on a six-day weekend.  And you know what?  I'm grateful!

Yours, thankfully,

Sunday, November 22, 2009


With living so far from where both LOML and I grew up, I'm particularly thankful that we occasionally get to see the childrens' grandparents.  It's not as often was we would like, but still, Boo and Skibo have spent more time with Grandma, Grandpa, Nana and Granddad than I ever did with my Grandma, and perhaps even more than I did with my Grandpa.  I'm very glad that we're going to be able to spend some time with each of them next month, provided life doesn't throw any obstacles in our way.
I'm also incredibly grateful that we have friends like K&K, who are willing and happy to be surrogate grandparents in Boo and Skibo's lives, to be amazed and delighted by them day by day, and to tell them how wonderful they are, to be believed in a different manner than Mummy and Daddy can be believed.

Yours, thanking a third time,

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Another thing that I am thankful for: my sense of humour, and other people's putting up with it.  I enjoy telling jokes, many of which are, unfortunately, awful: so when people find them funny nonetheless, it makes me happy.  Usually these days it is Boo and Skibo who are my audience -- what will I do when their senses of what is funny matures?

On a related note, I just watched the fifth of six episodes of the Monty Python documentary, having missed episodes 1-4.  It's been an absolutely brilliant, hilarious time watching it.

Yours, feeling pythonesque,

Friday, November 20, 2009


There are a bunch, indeed, a bundle, a whole huge pile of holidays celebrated by the US which are not celebrated in the rest of the World --- or are celebrated under a different name, on a different day, and with appropriate seriousness instead of barbecue.
Of the holidays that I get to enjoy and participate in now, the one that I think is the best is Thanksgiving.  It (and its Canadian version, by some accounts something of a predecessor, certainly in the calendar) is a wonderful day, a day to give thanks for all that is good in life, a day to contemplate how lovely, regardless of the difficulties of the daily grind, one's lot is.
And so, for the next few days, I am going to try to give a few thanks in advance of the day.
Tonight, I"m thankful for the love of LOML and Boo and Skibo, (even when the children sometimes have trouble showing it, it is only a few minutes before the love pops out its head again).  The fact that we are all basically healthy and happy, headstrong and sassy is good!

Yours, thanks the first,

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Children when I return

It always takes a few days for the family to settle back into the fact that I am home, after a trip, and today the children seemed like they were back to normal.  Now, by normal, I mean "usual behaviour" -- I'm not tying their behaviour down to any special social constructs.  After all, I like being able to describe them as "back to normal":-)

Yours, celebrating normality,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

RH Day

What a wonderful turnout!  I'm guessing about a hundred people came out for our local little celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Riemann Hypothesis! Admittedly, we had a bunch of faculty offer credit to students to attend the lectures, but still, a nice turnout!

Yours, all talked out,

Home again

Home again, home again, jiggety jog.  As my parents would say.

Back home, safe, sound, and happy to be with LOML, Boo and Skibo.

Yours, tripped out,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Airport wireless

It's quite a wonderful thing --- all three airports this trip (beginning, middle and end) have had free wireless available.  It's meant that I can update LOML on progress, and check email, etc. 
Quite lovely.

Yours, gratefully,

Our talks are over

Our talks are over --- good audiences, good attention, good questions, good interaction.  And now it's time to think about getting on a plane and going home, tomorrow early afternoon (local time).

And so tomorrow night I get to sleep back in my own bed, next to LOML, Love Of My Life, rather than in a lonely hotel room.

Yours, not counting the hours, just waiting until they are over,

Monday, November 16, 2009

Another difficulty with being away

is that I want to be home, with LOML and Boo and Skibo, able to give hugs and kisses and say "I love you" in person. 
Another 48 hours and I should be home, asleep, and worrying whether I have all my ducks in a row for Wednesday.

Yours, home and away?  I'll take home!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

One difficulty with being away

One minor difficulty with being away from home, especially three time zones west, is that blogging before bed is no longer enough.  Now I have to try to blog before 9pm as well so that the post goes up with the appropriate day!

Only three more days, and it's back to my time zone.

Yours, off-sync,

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Day one of the conference

The first day of the conference went well: our session was very well attended: about thirty people, which was about as much as the room would handle.  Other than some minor problems with computers (and since the conference is about computers, minor problems magnify immensely!) things went pretty smoothly.  Lots of compliments afterwards.
All in all, I'm enjoying the trip, except for the fact that our hotel is about half an hour's drive from the conference centre, and nowhere near anything else: as a consequence,  I will not get any time to be a happy tourist.  Oh well, that is not why I'm here.

Yours, away from home,

Friday, November 13, 2009

Travel days

Leaving at midday, getting into the town at midnight.  Draining.

Taking advantage of public wifi at airports?  Priceless.

Yours, on the ground,

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I've come to the conclusion that the biggest reason that I don't like to travel any more is that there never seems to be any good time to do so.  I'm desperately trying to finish typesetting my notes for tomorrow's class, and for their class on Monday, so that I can give all the notes out tomorrow --- and save my colleague who'll be teaching for me the pain of photocopying.
And I've got to photocopy a test for the other class for Monday, to save my other colleague similar pain.  At least I've decided on the test questions!

And on my return (sometime after 11pm on Tuesday) I get to sleep, teach a ton, and then give a seminar later that afternoon.  Which still needs to be written.  Or rather, which I still need to write.

Yours, knowing what I'm going to be doing in my copious free time while I'm away,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A moment of silence, please

A moment of silence, please, in remembrance.


Oh dear!

Or rather, that should be "Oh! Deer!"

This morning on the drive to work, not too long after daybreak, in the half light and the pouring rain, I was very glad to be driving at the speed limit.
A small deer jumped out in front of my car and ran across the road: I was able to slow down soon enough to avoid hitting it, and safely enough not to skid.  And fortunately there was nobody behind me either. 

Yours, relieved,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Countdown to travel

I realised a while back that I hadn't flown since I returned from the great white north two and a half years ago: and this Friday I travel to a conference on the west coast.  For some reason, I'm really not looking forward to the trip.  Perhaps it's just being away from the family for a few days, perhaps it is because security restrictions have just plain made flying unpleasant, who knows.  I don't think that I'm nervous about it, just that I don't want to go.

Oh well.

Yours, feet stuck firmly into mud,

Monday, November 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Boo!

Boo turns seven years old today!  Not such a little girl any longer: do I use a smiley or a frowny?

Yours, in celebration,

Sunday, November 8, 2009

How to live in the moment

How do we live in the moment?  And I refer specifically to the bombaloo moment, the moment at which all hell is breaking out all around, children are throwing things, attacting with small tools, fists and hands.  How do we survive, and allow our children to survive too, without beating their independence out of them?
How, how, how, do I persuade Skibo that violence is not an acceptable option?  When the thing I most want to do is to beat the impulse out of him?  Not only "how do I hold back?" for that, mostly, usually, I can do --- but how do I find an alternate strategy, a way to allow him to come to his senses, not to indulge in the impulse to throw, to hit, to kick?

Yours, feeling bombaloo still, while LOML puts them to bed,

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Kingly proclamations

Representative King proclaimed loudly on the House floor that all Americans have health care.

On other occasions, various speakers have proclaimed that Americans have the best health care in the world.

I'd like to put those two together into a single statement: "All Americans have the best health care in the world".  A statement that is blatantly, obviously, and demonstrably false.

For too many Americans, health care consists of dying.  Or waiting until they are sick enough that the emergency room will treat them before asking if they have insurance.  Or not buying some other necessity to pay an exorbitant health care bill, a bill with a bottom line 50%, 100% or 200% more expensive than the corresponding bottom line to an insured person.  Or, even if insured, facing "co-pays" in the hundreds, thousands, tens or occasionally even hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Yes, there are Americans with access to world class health care, just as there are individuals in most other developed nations with similar access.  The difference here, it seems to me, is that those with true, affordable access are in the upper echelon, those with some access, somewhat affordable gets us to about 80%, and then there's a huge segment of the "just don't get sick" population.

Civilized countries do not do this.  Let's become a civilized country!

Yours, unsatisfied with the compromise, but thinking it better than the status quo,

Friday, November 6, 2009


Finally, it appears that the children have started to recover.  Which means that they were both bouncing off the walls today!

Yours, relieved to have a light at the end of that particular tunnel,

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Origami at the school

This evening I spent a while at the kids' school: it was "parent power" night (i.e. the evening the school tries to get parents and kids to come to the school in the hopes of getting the mums and dads more involved in their children's education: a good thing, by and large) and the art teacher had asked me if I would help out.  Even though Boo and Skibo couldn't make it (nor, being at home looking after them, could LOML) I said I was happy to help out.

I was expecting ten or fifteen people per session, four fifteen minute sessions, and was nervous: I had been asked to teach some origami, and I didn't know what the skill set would be, how engaged the students (or their parents) would be, whether I could teach that many, etc.

The first session, there were about twenty people: it went quite well, and everyone successfully folded a simple house, then converted it to a piano (which I always call a bench now, since it looks more like that to everyone to whom I teach it).  The next session, three children, plus parents showed up, and I decided the initial rush was over.  Again success.

Boy, was I wrong about the initial rush!  The third session packed out: standing room only, probably between fifty and a hundred people in the room, and yet, amazingly, everyone was able to fold successfully: some on tables, some on laps, some standing up!

The final session was less crowded, but still twenty or more people.  And still successful.

Yours, glad about how the session went,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I'm very distressed by this.  And not least because it appears to be being negotiated in secret, is a draconian, authoritarian solution to a problem which is much less serious than the proposed solution, and smacks of something the Bush administration would have done.
Oh.  It is something the Bush administration did.  Exactly why is the Obama administration following on with this policy?

Yours, distressed,

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I just saw my first Christmas commercial of the year.  It's November 3rd.  This is just ridiculous!

Yours, driving a humbuggy,

Still two down

Two sick children still.  Boo's seeming on the mend, Skibo's relapsed: LOML took them both to see the doctor, and came back with ten days of antibiotics for Skibo --- he has a raging ear infection --- and reassured that Boo seems to be getting better.

LOML and I are still not showing symptoms, yet.

And today is election day, so I'm poring over returns on races from Maine, New Jersey and New York.

Yours, worried parent, electoral junkie,

Midnight apprehension

In the middle of the night, Boo, sleeping with me while LOML was sleeping with Skibo, woke to hear Skibo's awful coughing: she sagely informed me
I'm apprehensive about Skibo's coughing.
Apprehensive means I'm nervous.  I learned that from the Upside Down show. 
After another pause, she proceeded to tell me that she was apprehensive that LOML would get Skibo's cough. And then a pause.
I'm apprehensive that you'll get Skibo's cough.
Another pause.
I'm apprehensive that I'll get Skibo's cough.

I don't know which thrills me more: how wonderfully her sense of the language is developing, or how sensitive she is to others.

Yours, parentally proud,

Monday, November 2, 2009

Another day, two sick children

We thought that Skibo was better this morning: he was up and bouncy and alert and not coughing as I left for work.  Boo was still asleep, and we were expecting the worst.
For much of the day it held true, though Boo's fever dropped quite a bit by the end of the day: but then Skibo's cough came back, and stayed back.  So now we're snatching early sleep, in case one or other of us (probably LOML) ends up lying down next to Skibo to calm his cough.  Boo's in bed with us, which makes it not a bit easier to sleep.  But such is parenthood:-)

Yours, cursing the flying pigs,

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Two sick little bundles of misery

Skibo is sick.  Feverish, coughing up his little lungs, and miserable.  Boo is not as badly off, but this, I suspect is just indicative of her being a day or two behind him.  And of course, LOML and I are likely to fall victim too, I assume.
I'm hoping that it will be short, and that we will all recover quickly.

Yours, feeling sorry for the little ones,

Health care

I'm guessing that some version of expanded health care is going to pass this year: things look pretty good for it.  But I'm also suspecting that the insurance industry is -- right now -- playing Brer Rabbit: "Please don't set up a public option that nobody can buy into unless they don't have coverage!"  
What better way is there for them to divest themselves of the contracts to provide coverage to those who might actually need it: they can now jack up the prices on the expensive, so that they can't afford private coverage (or their employers can't) at which point they move from the bottom line of the WellpointBCBS folks to the insured by the grace of semi-decent legislation.

I want to see the next round of this legislation.  I want to see the insurance companies forced to get rid of exclusionary practices: I want to see them forced to compete, not to increase fees at rates that look like credit card companies...

I'd better stop --- or I'll be forced to write a post about credit card companies too.

Yours, seriously pissed at the industry, the legislation, etc.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Baking bread was made easier to schedule through the day --- but unfortunately it was because I didn't really go anywhere.  Skibo woke up with a fever: he'd been coughing yesterday, and today it was worse.  We're hoping that it is not the flu: the fever was high briefly, but dropped enough that we are only worried and concerned, for now.

I assume that if it is flu, swine or otherwise, the rest of us will come down with it. 

Yours, not looking forward to that,

Friday, October 30, 2009

What happens?

What happens if, in the next few weeks, there is no agreement on healthcare in the senate and the house?  If the filibuster holds?  Of more interest to me: if the bill is watered down enough, will the left in the house (or the senate) vote against the bill?  With almost every republican opposed, progressives could make it die.
Could we then bring up a new health bill next term, with single payer, or a medicare+5 solution?  Could it pass?  Could it be implemented even sooner than the five+ year plans currently on the table?

I'm beginning to think that if Lieberduck makes too much of a fuss about this bill we should just cut him off at the debate, switch to a new bill, write it for reconciliation, and be done with him.

Yours, Lieberdogged out,

Allsorts of Humbugs

After a week of baking inaction, as opposed to "in action", I finally pulled the starter from the fridge this morning.  And this afternoon I fed it --- it's recovering nicely, and tomorrow I can make bread.

I will, of course, have to fit it around going to Skibo's class Hallowe'en party in the morning, coming back here through football traffic (you haven't experienced football traffic until you've lived in a town which quadruples its population when the stadium is half full: and I mean that literally) and then going to a Hallowe'en birthday party for M, one of Boo and Skibo's best friends: then braving outgoing football traffic on the way back so that Boo and Skibo can trick or treat in the neighbourhood.

Even though it's the wrong season, I'm channelling Scrooge!

Yours, kneading to say "Bah! Humbug!"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Time is going too fast

I remember when I was a child, my mother and father would tell me how much faster time passes when you are older. I believed them, of course (don't all children believe what they are told by by their parents?) but at the same time, I didn't understand.

Now I understand. And even though I'm counting down the days until this semester is over, the grades are all in, and we can fly, I know that it will be here in a blink of an eye --- and there is much to be done in between.

Next semester, I hope, is going to be a rather quieter time. Until it happens, and I over-commit again.

Yours, remembering back to the endless summers,

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Getting warmed up, excited

We have already started discussing what we want to do while we are in the UK. The children have a book about dogs in artwork, based on paintings in the National Gallery, so one plan is to take them there and see if we can find all the paintings featured in Dogs' Night. They've also been crazy with excitement about castles recently, thanks to the Magic Treehouse series of childrens novels, and so a visit to Windsor is certainly in the offing.
I'd love to see Cambridge again -- but given how short our trip is, that seems to be less than likely to happen: we may just have to slum it and take a trip to Oxford instead (my cousin lives very near there, and we ought to visit).

Yours, beginning to be excited,

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

RH Day is just a few weeks away

I wonder if google will change their header to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the RIemann Hypothesis. One of the most (if not the most) important open problems in mathematics turns 150 next month.
On November 18th, mathematicians around the world (several, at least, and I suspect quite a few more) will turn out to talk to audiences local and global about this amazing problem. It is a strange and fascinating problem, taking a slew of completely different-looking forms, some of them relatively simple to state: (the number of primes up to n is relatively close to this simple function) or compact (the zeta function's non-trivial zeros have real part equal to 1/2) while other equivalent forms are, shall we say (even) less than transparent.
It has numerous consequences, so that theorems in number theory are often stated in the from "Unconditionally, this number is at most N, and if the Riemann Hypothesis is true, then it is at most M" (in which M is usually much smaller than N).
And of course, over the years, there has been progress, the proof of the Prime Number Theorem, the combinatorial proof of the same, bounds on what proportion of the roots can lie off the line 1/2+it. And even some claimed proofs, none of which have come close to being accepted by the mathematical community.

Anyway, it looks (for a mathematician, at least) as if this will be a fun birthday.
So, I'll sign this as.

Yours, hoping nobody solves the Riemann Hypothesis in the next few weeks,

Obligatory occasional technical post

STIX fonts will be ready in the fullness of time.

But time is beginning to look full.

Yours, wondering when DLMF's time will reach similar fullness,

Monday, October 26, 2009

More coincidences????

So now, facebook, where I am known by my actual factual name, B. Read Box, is suggesting friends for me. But the strange thing is, that unlike most of fb's suggestions, which fall into two categories, people I know in real life, or are at least friends of people I really know, and people about whom I know absolutely nothing, and appear to have no friends in common, now, there is a third category.
People are showing up as prospective friends, people with whom I have a distinct connection, but only through this blog.
So, if you get a strange facebook friend request, now you know why a stranger may be friending you. Facebook knows who you are.
And the really startling, disturbing thing? In a couple of instances, I was able to determine the real name of someone who consistently posts under a pseudonym, because I was invited to befriend both facebook accounts, the real name and the blogname. And the accounts were consecutive suggestions.

Yours, seriously disturbed by this,

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Going home

at least, for a short visit. We booked tickets today to head home. A week with LOML's parents', a week with mine.

Prohibitive cost, but it's important. This will be Skibo's first trip to the UK!
We're looking forward to spending lots of time with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Yours, ready to fly,

On becoming immune

You can tell that I have been in the country for a long time. I have begun to understand the language of football and baseball. And I find that I don't know a single name on one of the two teams vying for a spot in the "World" series. It's pretty strange to me that I haven't heard of a single one of them: usually, if a team is that good, at least one member of the team will have made it as a household name.

But no.

Yours, unknowingly,

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A math day

I supervise the local portion of math competitions on campus, and today was one such day. So I dutifully got to work at 8:15 on a Saturday morning, and watched the students struggle to try to answer questions. A fun time, even for the students, I think. There is something liberating for a very good student to take an exam which they know is going to be hard enough that the odds of getting a high score are slim.

And then my colleague D, visiting from out of state, and I sat down for several hours and played with polynomials. Fruitfully, I hope. There's a good chance that what we did this afternoon will lead to something worth doing.

Finally, pizza:-)
It had to come back to bread, to dough, to baking!

Yours, tempering the math with a little yeast,

Friday, October 23, 2009


I gather that there are groups on the net, on the web, on the intertubes, who decide to get together to fulfil personal goals. In particular, every November they get together to write for a month.
I promise that I'm not going to promise to join them. That's the best I can do, I assure you.

Yours, wondering what all the acronyms will stand for....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wash hands

Exhortations are all over: wash hands, wash hands, wash hands. And unlike the similar instruction to use antibacterial hand wash all the time (which annoys the heck out of me for two reasons: a) the flu is not bacterial and b) overuse of antibacterial products is training stronger bugs, not keeping us safer) I tend to think that the wash hands often is a good idea.

And of course, one should always use water at a hot temperature --- not enough to burn, but hot enough to encourage the universal solubility plus the (hopefully non-antibacterial) soap to wash off the nastiness. So, naturally enough, the hot water in the department is now not hot.
It's not luke warm. It's not even matthew, john or doubting thomas warm.
It's luke really cold. To be precise, I'd say, it's about 70 degrees. Fahrenheit.
If you let it run for long enough, that is. It starts out at about 50.

Yours, pouring cold water on this "handwashing" deal...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Evening/Morning baking

I think that I have figured out, even with the schedule I have at the moment, how to make bread during the week. Early in the morning, refresh the sourdough starter. Get in at 5:00 or 5:30, and get the starter, flour and water incorporated, and leave for the autolyse phase for half an hour, during which time I can work on dinner, play with the children, or whatever. After the autolyse, I knead the dough (adding salt, and enough extra water to get the dough to the wetness I want). Leave the dough to proof for a couple of hours, fold the dough a little to gently help develop the gluten, and after another half-hour to an hour's rest, shape.
Leave it to rise on the counter overnight (out kitchen is pretty cool), and with the oven timed to come on in time to preheat for a 6am bake, throw the loaves in the oven when I wake up.
Drink tea, wake up properly, and take the dough out of the oven.

Bingo. (not necessarily) easy midweek bread.

Yours, proofing like mad,

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Sometimes things happen together. An act of seemingly miraculous coincidences. And to the casual observer, it seems almost as if there must be some reason, some hidden cause, something special about the individual to whom the coincidences are happening.
Having just had a day rather like that, I want to remind you all that coincidences happen! And in fact, the biggest coincidence would be if there were no coincidences at all.

In mathematics this sort of thing abounds. For a start, randomness often surprises us with how structured it seems. For example, the classic "birthday paradox": if you have at least 23 people in a room (chosen randomly, say) then the odds are slightly better than even that two of them will share the same birthday. This result is easy to prove, but surprising to most people when they first see it --- 23 seems like a remarkably small number of people, given that there are 365 days in the year.

To take another example: you can never destroy all structure, no matter how hard you try: if you list the numbers from 0 to 100 in any order you like, you will always find either a subsequence of at least 11 of them in increasing order, or a subsequence of at least 11 of them in decreasing order. Not necessarily together, but... Why 11? It turns out that that is the best that you can do.

So, next time life hits you with a series of coincidences, don't assume that it is because you are somehow favoured, and don't go out and play the lottery because "good things come in threes". Far more often they come in twos or ones, and it's just that you notice the threes....

Yours, as it happens,

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bad parenting

I can't believe that I just did that.
I was halfway to work by the time that I realised that I had left without giving goodbyes, hugs and kisses, to Boo and Skibo. I feel awful.
The timing was just not quite right to be able to go back and make up for it: LOML would already have had them in the car and on their way to school.

Yours, just hoping that the children weren't too upset about it,

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lazy sunday afternoons

A lazy sunday all around --- we went to the botanical gardens, as is our tradition, for a walk, followed by a visit to the bookstore to buy more in the "Magic Treehouse" series of books: Boo and Skibo are totally enthralled by the adventures of Jack and Annie, and at a couple of bucks per volume, I'm more than happy to feed this addiction! (Even if, at $2 per copy, for short books, they are more expensive than many adult books!)

Naps in the afternoon, and then baking bread, roasting chicken and potatoes, and just hanging with friends for dinner.

Yours, in bliss,

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Turkey pot pie

Ah yes --- turkey pot pie, finishing the last of the soup from Thanksgiving's turkey. (That's Canadian Thanksgiving for those worrying about food safety.)
The best loaf, perhaps, that I've ever made.
And my potatoes.
What's not to like? (Except, of course, if the children are the ones deciding whether they like it!

But the grown ups certainly did:-)

Yours, stuffed,

Friday, October 16, 2009


Bats! So scary in our culture, so scary in our literature, our comics, our movies. And yet, find a bunch of little children who go out on the front porch, see a few bats swirling, and what do you have?

A tornado! Oh Wow! Look at all those birds -- they're like a tornado!

Of course, they weren't birds, even though a bunch of children (and I) thought that they were. LOML explained that they were bats, that they lived in a neighbour's chimney, and that every evening you could see them swirl and dive into their home.

Well, chastened and informed, I watched (as did the children without the chastening:-)) as many thousands of bats --- I'd guess three or four thousand bats --- flew clockwise then anti-clockwise patterns around the house with the chimney. Finally, and quite suddenly, they started diving into the chimney. The whole dive took several minutes, and every second, a slew of bats --- 5, 10, 15 --- flew into the chimney.

A spectacle unlike anything I've seen!

Yours, driven batty (of course:-)

World Bread Day

Today is a day to bake. And to share a loaf. But better yet, share a recipe: to paraphrase:
Give a man a loaf and you feed him for a day, but teach a man to bake a loaf and his house will smell great for life

Yours, always happy to share,

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day: thousands of bloggers have signed up to promise to post about the importance of this year's chosen topic: the perils we face with climate change.
Today there are dozens of things I'd rather talk about: tomorrow being World Bread Day (bake a loaf and share it), the boy in the balloon (or rather, the boy not in the balloon), the Louisiana (in)Justice of the Peace who refused a marriage license to an interracial couple. All interesting, important stories.

But the climate is changing: there is good reason to believe that what seem to us to be small changes in average temperature, one or two degrees, could lead to violent swings in the release of various greenhouse gases in from the Siberian tundra, to massive melting of the polar icecaps, and to disastrous changes in sea level. Even if the chances of those of us warning of this potential are low, it seems to me that the potential for disaster is high enough to make action imperative. Unfortunately, I'm not convinced that chance of disaster is small. The cost of inaction far outweighs the costs of acting.

Yours, one voice in many,

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Health care a possibility? or not?

The announcement by Senator Snowe that she'll support the Baucus bill is being hailed as a great thing. I'm not so sure, however: it could well be that she is trying to cement the bad things (as I see it) in the Baucus bill, by supporting now and threatening to withdraw the support later if the bill is improved.
Much depends on the compromises made now between the other four bills and this one. But it looks as if some bill may happen now.

Yours, fascinated by the games, wishing that they didn't need to be for real.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An interesting day

This morning the principal of Boo and Skibo's school held a meet-and-greet from 8 until 9: I went along, drank the coffee and ignored the doughnuts, and generally asked a lot of questions. At the end of the hour, we all stood to leave, and she asked if I would care to continue the discussions --- so we headed back to her office for another hour and a half of looking at the breakdown of statistics by grade level, seeing how good students and weak students were or were not being best served by the school, and discussing how the school was going to do in the future. A very interesting discussion indeed.
And following this, she introduced me to the art teacher, who is thrilled by the idea of having me help with a few art classes, mainly at the 3-6 grade levels, which is great, because those are levels where I've not made any connections. And she has a lot of ideas for combining origami with other art ideas too....

Yours, excited to be involved,

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Although we celebrated yesterday, today is Canadian Thanksgiving: may you all have lots to be thankful for.

Yours, in gratitude,

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lettuce and Peppers and Parsnips, oh my!

Happy (early) Thanksgiving to all my friends in Canada! We celebrated a day early, since Columbus day is not a holiday celebrated by the children's school, or by their soccer team, or the daisy girl scout troop, and so there's absolutely no time for a feast tomorrow.

In spite of this weekend being fall break for me, we were able to find a friend to come over and help celebrate thanksgiving: Boo and Skibo's friend M, and they went running around the garden playing, imagining, and having fun. LOML told them they could pick some lettuce and eat it if they wished: unfortunately this led to them thinking they could pick and eat some other food too.
One taste of jalapenos later (we think that it was jalapenos, not cayenne!) they all came running, screaming, into the kitchen, downing water like crazy. Mouths afire for a few minutes (M) to almost half an hour (Boo). Fortunately, they all recovered enough to be able to state some things that they were thankful for. This culminated with M, having been thankful for some relatively mundane but nice things, declaring that she is "thankful for parsnips".
She collapsed into helpless laughter, as did Boo and Skibo. Parsnips has become the laugh-trigger of the moment, it seems.

Yours, with plenty to be thankful for,

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Distance education

One of my professional interests, albeit a peripheral one, is distance education. I have been fascinated with the concept since I was a child, reading about Australian schools held over the radio.

Now, I am helping to build a classroom designed to make use of distance tech, video-conferencing and the like (helping the US to catch up to Australia, Canada, the UK, Germany, and much of the rest of the world). But today, I realised just how important words are to teaching at a distance: a friend made bread, based on a recipe I'd sent, and with me emailing advice occasionally. Apparently the bread turned out well, which is a good thing -- and means that at some level the lesson worked --- but there were clearly lots of problems.
And so I am reconsidering my ideas about distance ed: to take into account the small lessons I learned today. This is, of course, not very different from other lessons I learn on a daily basis, but it was quite striking to hear, at 5 or so, that the bread was expected to be a disaster, and then at 9 to hear that it had been quite edible.

So I'm left considering the question: "how do you encourage enthusiasm and a sense of possibility online?"

Yours, a-learning,

Need convincing we need to get out of Iraq? Afghanistan?

This shows why we need to figure out a way to use non-military means to solve all our -- and the world's -- problems.

Yours, immensely touched by this photograph,

Friday, October 9, 2009

Star wars: a new hope!

Given that NASA was so successful at hitting the moon today, the future of the strategic defense initiative is clear: we need to figure out how to move the moon into the path of incoming missiles so that it can absorb their impact for us...
Yours, wearing a Princess Leia pair of cinnamon roll earmuffs as I type this,


Okay, colour me stunned. I'm amazed --- not that I don't think that President Obama would one day be well worth Peace Prize, and not that I'm not delighted by the way that he's trying to get the US to rejoin the civilized world --- but on this I think perhaps that the Nobel Prize committee acted a little, well, precipitously.

Yours, thinking Arizona St. should have given the honorary degree, and the peace prize should have gone to someone else this time,

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I. M. Gelfand

RIP I. M. Gelfand.

One of the great quotes in relation to mathematics and the general populace:

“Mathematics is a way of thinking in everyday life,” Dr. Gelfand said in a 2003 interview with The New York Times. “It is important not to separate mathematics from life. You can explain fractions even to heavy drinkers. If you ask them, ‘Which is larger, 2/3 or 3/5?’ it is likely they will not know. But if you ask, ‘Which is better, two bottles of vodka for three people, or three bottles of vodka for five people?’ they will answer you immediately. They will say two for three, of course."

Yours, in celebration of a life,


Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Change happens. And today change happened. Specifically, I got home to discover that the children's bedroom was where LOML's and mine was, and ours was where theirs was.
And when change happens, the best thing to do is to adapt to it.

Yours, adapting nicely,

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A rare day: we'd expected that the children would have football practice (yes, that's soccer, in the non-civilized world) this evening -- there has been a regular schedule of TTh practices, and when we have "matches" that usually just replaces a practice. But this week there's only one match, on Thursday, so we assumed that there's be the regular practice.
LOML took the children down to the school at 6, while I ran to the grocery store to pick up some extra food, so that we could extend leftovers to friends. I was surprised a few minutes later to return and see LOML's car, and four children in the back garden instead of the regular two.
So we had an evening without an activity, a pleasant surprise, and a pleasant visit with people we hadn't seen much of recently: a chance to chat and catch up.

Yours, in favour of gentle, pleasant surprises,

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sing, sing a song...

Boo and Skibo have music classes at school: their music teacher seems sweet, and competent, but I have to question a few of her choices. One in particular, let's say.
This evening at dinner, both children were simultaneously singing a Hannah Montana song, interspersed, for no reason apparent to me, with the theme from
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
All the while, LOML and I were exhorting them to eat.

Yours, wondering when mealtimes get easier (and quieter) again,

Happy Birthday, Monty!

Python, that is!

You're still younger, and fresher, and more popular than me. And ever to remain so, I'm sure!

Yours, poohpoohing Australian table wines,

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New bicycles

We bought the children new bicycles this afternoon: we've been talking about doing so for a while, and despite the difficulty of taking two small children into the store to look at big purchases, they were (eventually) really well behaved.

And so we got a chance to watch them cycle again. Both bikes have training wheels on (Boo can ride perfectly well without them, but is unwilling to take them off --- I'll head out with a wrench sometime when she's not around and remove them. Skibo is primed to learn to ride without them too -- especially if his big sister is willing to help teach him.

Yours, with wheels turning,

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Sometimes a word can go astray. Sometimes a bit more. LOML just called through from the bedroom -- "Are you going to the kitchen any time soon?" was the message, but what I heard was rather different.
"If you get an invitation, will you dance in the nude?"

Yours, worrying about my hearing. Or my imagination.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Decline of the american empire

I'm delighted for Rio. Good luck to them! I'd have been happy for Chicago too, even if the US did have the Olympics back in '96. I'd have been delighted for Tokyo too. Madrid? Well, if they'd won it would sort have made a mockery of not giving to the US since they were here in '96.
What is this, now? Four of the five continents will have hosted the olympics? Let's hope that someday soon we'll get the other continent (I'm sure it must be tiny and insignificant) to host too.

In light, perhaps, of the news from Texas, the loss of the Olympics is unsurprising. After all, who'd want to send a cosmopolitan event to a country which includes Texas? Let's see: no, gays can't get married. That's bad enough.
But since gays can't get married, they can't get divorced? That sounds like one of those crazy ideas dreamed up at "Liberty" "University"'s "School" of "Law": "let's not let them get married, but if they are married and come here, let's not let them get divorced: that will give them an incentive not to get married in the first place!"

Yours, just astonished by the lengths folks go to be uninclusive.

Origami in the classroom again

A new term, both children in the same school -- Boo in first grade, Skibo in 5K, and I've told both their teachers that I would like to come in and do origami with their classes. (Actually, I have told the principal that I'd be happy to go into any class, and I have talked to a handful of other teachers too, but that is another matter).
Today I made my first visit: it happened to be to Skibo's class: he's in a rather large group this year (25 students!) which made me rather unsure about just going in and teaching five year olds to fold: I was, in retrospect, absolutely right: the class is still at the stage of learning to focus (which as we all know is difficult at that age) and it would take a long time to teach that many students with groups of three or four. I'll do it, but not for a few months yet, I think.

Boo's class is next week. Her class is much smaller, and older, and I suspect that it will be much less intimidating to me!

Yours, folding on one, raising on the other, for now.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Not to get snotty...

although I probably will, eventually. I'm sitting at home with a sniffle, masquerading as a child. Skibo awoke this morning to the sound of barking seals. Unfortunately, the sounds of barking seals were coming from Skibo. So we've kept him home today.
We're going to read, and colour, and maybe listen to some gentle music. And probably, after that's done, we'll end up with "Please may I have some TV?" I'll try to hold off until 9am.

Yours, sorry for the little guy,

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My recent experiments with sourdough

Some recent experiments.

Yours, taking a slash and bake approach,

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A cat flap

We've had excitement here this evening: a whole bunch of children and a somewhat smaller number of grownups over for dinner. A simple feast to celebrate the autumnal air: bangers and mash and baked beans. Delicious.
Unfortunately in the excitement of everyone leaving, the back door was left open for about ten minutes.

Now, our two cats are in the process of being switched from indoor to outdoor cats, but we haven't introduced them to the cat flap yet, or given them incentives to stick around and come back inside (you know, pieces of chicken, etc) and they were nowhere to be seen. We searched around the house for about quarter of an hour, calling, rattling cat food in a bowl, peering under trees and bushes, but they weren't to be found. Eventually, it being bedtime for little ones, we left the back door open a few inches and went to get the children ready. Two minutes later LOML walked into the kitchen, and there
they were, at eye level, staring back; sitting in the kitchen window -- on the inside of the screen -- insisting that no, they hadn't been outside at all, not no how, not no way, not never!

Yours, greatly relieved,

Monday, September 28, 2009

Momentary joys

I meant to mention this a few days ago when it happened: in all the battles over nighttime songs, books and poems, getting Boo and Skibo to sleep, there was one moment of magic for me: I was singing a song to Boo for the third time in the hope that this one would be the one that got her settled enough to fall asleep by herself, and halfway through "Make and Break Harbour" (Stan Rogers' beautiful ballad about a dying fishing village) she interrupted me to say "how do you you sing it like that?" I asked her what she meant, and she said "how do you sing it so beautifully?"

Yours, thinking that that one moment makes up for most of the others!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

How a Sunday should be....

Delightful friends, delicious food, another perfect way to end the weekend.
And so, on to another week.

Yours, preparing to face the day tomorrow,

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Making lasagna

Usually when I make lasagna -- the noodles, not the dish -- from scratch, I use a pasta rolling machine. It works wonderfully well, and is lots of fun, etc, but today I just didn't feel like dragging it out of the cupboard, finding the chopping board to clamp it to, etc.
So I picked up my french rolling pin and put my arms to work. Surprisingly easy! It was actually really easy to get the dough thinner by rolling than by machine. And now I don't think I'm going to make lasagna by machine again.

Yours, still intending to use the food processor though,

What a lovely day

The weather was lovely --- wet and miserable and quite autumnal. The family went on a trip to get autumnal pyjamas, and to look at garden sheds for LOML's school garden project, and to get food. We had lovely friends over, impromptu, as it were, for dinner --- home-made lasagna --- and just had a great time.

Yours, delighted with the day,

Friday, September 25, 2009

Senator Kyl won't get pregnant

No matter how hard I try, I just *can't* seem to get Senator Kyl (Arizona, Stupid) pregnant. And as a consequence, he's probably absolutely correct: he doesn't need his health insurance to cover him if he gets pregnant.

Well, Senator Kyl, this is to me, exactly the point. I'd like our society to say: everyone should have health care, and society should bear the burden of paying for it: this is a predictable societal cost, and it would be a good thing for us all if we keep our society healthy: we could curb the ridiculous excesses, which are fewer than the cable shows would have us believe: we could curb the excessive insurance costs, which are less burdensome than some would have us believe: we could even pay for more doctors to go through medical school, provided they are willing to work for health instead of wealth as a primary goal. But as a starting point, we can begin by insuring everyone.

Yours, shouting that we need health insurance for all,

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Technology fails me

Just spent several minutes typing something into a window, click to focus, and the window vanishes. Different program, a few minutes later, same sort of behaviour. Not what I expect, linux. Not what I expect.

Yours, not needing a computer to tell me it's time for bed.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Just when LOML and I were discussing how happy we are with the children's school, and how wonderful Boo and Skibo's teachers are, we get slapped, as they say, upside the head.
Skibo brings home his report card (this is from 5K kindergarten, mind) and has a tick on every box at "making satisfactory progress". Okay, that's fine: he's too young for them to see what he's actually doing. Except. Except. Except he's one tick back of that for "recognizing geometric shapes". Arrrrrrrgggghhhhh..... if there's one thing he's not having problems with, it's recognizing circles, squares,
rectangles and triangles. It's something he's been able to do for two years now, at least. It's something we've played with a lot, especially since I'm a frickin mathematician and I do lot's of origami with him and ask him things like "what shape is this?" to which the answer is "square" or whatever.

We have our parent-teacher conference tomorrow, and this will come up.
Yours, grrrrring.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumn is not just in the air

it is on the ground and running. Running water, that is.

Actually, up here, the water stopped running from the sky yesterday, but the scenes from Georgia in the Atlanta area are pretty amazing: floods everywhere, and water running over everything.

Canoes no longer optional, it seems.

I'd like to see a little more rain here --- not so much as to cause flooding, but I don't want another drought like we had until the spring here.

Yours, damply,

Monday, September 21, 2009

Another weekend bites the dust

It's how I count off time: this many days to a breath, a weekend, this many weekends since the beginning of the last block of monts, this many months until a break. This one, at least, was a nice one.

Yours, as ready as I'm going to be to count down to next weekend.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Roast pork

and roast potatoes, and stirfried vegetables. Delicious, delectable.
Maybe not so healthy, but that's what Sunday dinners are for:-)

Yours, pigged out,

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Beer tasting

We have a friend who has a beer tasting party every year on or about his birthday. And this year, as always, ten years in a row now, we went to the beer tasting. It was fun, pleasant people, nice conversations, good time all round. But by the end of the evening, after we'd sipped half an ounce or so of perhaps fifteen or twenty beers, I was left thinking that I'd only enjoyed perhaps one or two of them. For some reason this surprised me. Just like last year, and the year before.

Yours, less a fan of beer than I think,

Talk like a pirate day

We celebrated "Talk Like A Pirate Day" today --- we celebrated by telling Boo and Skibo it was TLAPD, to which Boo replied "Why?" I explained that some people a few years ago thought that it might be fun to have such a day. Boo replied "Why?" I explained some more. "Why?"

Yours, letting it drop,

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pumpkin shortage

Did you know that there's a pumpkin shortage? I hope that you are all conserving your pumpkins.....

Yours, sounding the warning,

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Not to harp on about this

but seriously, children, can't you go to sleep already?

At least this evening Skibo was asleep at the end of songs and poems: Boo took several attempts at persuasion before she finally went to lie down for the night.

Yours, ready for this behaviour to improve.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why can't they sleep at night?

No, I don't mean politicians and insurance executives: this time, I'm referring the children. Two little ones who are "afraid" to go to sleep by themselves this evening. So I'm sitting in the dark typing by the light of the laptop screen, waiting for the breathing to settle so I can re-emerge into the light.

Yours, in the dark about this one,

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A bolt from the blue

How lovely! A message from an old friend, one I'd not heard from in almost twenty years, saying hello!

Yours, loving catching up with old friends,

How can they sleep at night?

How can they live with themselves? How can they look themselves in the eye in the mirror and pretend to be human?

I'm referring to two parties to the current health care debate: republicans and insurance companies. In eight states, insurance companies can deny coverage to a victim of domestic violence: they are able to regard it as a pre-existing condition! This is disgusting. But more disgusting is that three years ago there was an attempt by Senator Patty Murray to change the law on this, but the bill died in committee, victim of a 10-10 vote. Those ten votes? All from one party.

Yours, so disgusted I could live in Tunbridge Wells,

Monday, September 14, 2009

First soccer game

(That's football, of course). Boo being 6 and Skibo be 4, they get to play on the same 6-and-under team: and there being ten players on their team, they split into two teams of five, playing three on the field, two off at any one time.
Today they played their first game against another side: it was a rather one-sided result, though they did manage to score one goal. Actually, although the score was about fifty to one, they played reasonably well --- it's just that at that age, having one or two children who are much better can enable a side to dominate. And that's precisely what happened.

Fortunately, neither Boo nor Skibo seems to be seriously scarred by the experience. LOML and I, on the other hand....

Yours, glad the kids had a ball,

Sunday, September 13, 2009


It's not quite cool enough yet -- but it is getting there. Autumn will be here soon (perhaps even by the equinox when it is officially supposed to begin).
And we had to be elsewhere for much of the afternoon -- a birthday party for one of Boo and Skibo's friends (whose parents are our friends too). So a dish that could be cooked in the oven while we partied made sense.
Stew, slow cooked, with beef, mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, onions, various herbs, and a nice healthy dose of guinness.

Delicious. And served with (relatively) fresh (and very good) bread.

Yours, dishing it up,

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Unruined dinner

It was a narrow miss. And it set dinner back a good half an hour.
I put on some brown rice for dinner, ran to the store, only to discover on my return that I'd left the rice boiling instead of simmering. I picked up the lid to stir and add some boiling water (in the hope of not ruining it), only to discover that the handle was metal (it was not the usual lid I use) and hot. And when dropped, shattered into thousands of small pieces, thankfully of safety glass rather than tiny daggers.
Mess though it was, and as annoying as it was, I managed to recover the dinner. Not brown rice, but basmati, and everything was a little later than intended, but it all worked out.

Yours, shattered,

Friday, September 11, 2009

Meeting the teacher

LOML and I had a parent-teacher conference this afternoon with Boo's teacher: she seems extremely good, very well aware of where Boo is (reading way beyond her level --- and way beyond the rest of her class, ahead of schedule in everything) and with lots of good ideas about how to gently stretch her further. She also doesn't seem hidebound by the standardized tests that she has to live with, and cares about making sure that all the children in her class learn as much as they can. We left very very impressed.
One of the things we had explained was something about the different levels of reading, and the way the tests are done (there are multiple tests of reading, and you can't skip levels and test several levels up: so on test day, Boo has to go through multiple tests and still not reach her level!)
On returning home, I started looking at the reading lists they have online for their accelerated reading program: we've got lots of books to keep her interested, I think, for at least the next little while. There were some surprises in the lists, mind you --- books rated easier than others, books rated harder.
Winnie the Pooh was around the same level as the first Harry Potter, which was a huge surprise to me. Bottom line, I think that Boo just breezes through most of the list in a few months time, level-wise, at least.

Yours, proud of my little one,

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Followup on yesterday

It appears that the UK Government has almost listened: it's not clear that it's an apology, but the PM released a letter calling the treatment of Alan Turing "appalling"

Actually, having just read this, it is clear (right at the bottom of the page) that it is actually an apology.

Yours, happy to see this,

It's not just a lack of civility

It's the lack of sense, the utter stupidity of it that gets to me.
I watched Obama's speech last night, was moderately impressed by his rhetoric, and less so by his moves to the right on policy, the fact that he's already given up so much to get to where we are, all to the resounding wall of "No!" from the GOP.

But the fact that Joe Wilson could shout out "Liar!" the way he did (and there are rumours that he twittered about his plans to do this ahead of time, making it premeditated incivility) and still be treated as a normal decent human being (in particular, by some in the news media) is incredible to me.

My favourite reaction to all over this (better even that Obama's professorial stare at him, and Pelosi's head-snapping double take) is the following image. Borrowed from elsewhere, and if it is your image, I apologise: let me know and I'll give you credit or take it down.

Yours, sick of the childishness,

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Turing, not redeemed, but to get apology?

Alan Turing, one of the most amazing individuals of the last century, partly responsible for breaking Enigma, inventor of much of the field of computer science, was hounded to death (at best) by an ungrateful British government, hounded because he was homosexual. His contributions to the world of thought, especially his "Turing Test", the concept of "Turing Machines", and his proof of the unsolvability of the "Halting Problem" live on. These topics are joys to teach.

And now, decades after his death, there may be some very small recompense. No, not recompense. An insufficient apology. Insufficient, perhaps, but necessary.

Yours, hoping that the UK government has the courage to do the right thing here,

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fired up about origami

Actually, at the moment, I'd describe it more as intrigued than fired up: but I've been told a few times in the past few weeks about precious metal clay sheets, a silver-and-binder product which can be folded, almost like paper, into various forms. One then fires it in a kiln, and out comes a silver, solid piece of origami.
The sheets are expensive enough that I'll think about this for a little while: but it seems like it would be fun to try. And I know people with kilns who could probably be talked into letting me fire them.

Unfortunately, the other similar products, gold, bronze and copper clays, don't come in a sheet form: I think that I'd most like to do some folding in bronze: not really sure why, just that it appeals more than the others. The bronze and copper products are rather new, so perhaps the sheet forms are round the corner.

At some point, once I have talked to some people with more experience in firing, I will probably give this a go. Not yet, but someday. Possibly even before the end of the year: I can imagine making little dolphin earrings as Christmas presents.

Yours, contemplating,

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day

Hmmm... I started out writing "yes, I spelled it that way", thought "that sounds familiar", and checked yesterday's post.
Oh well, so I repeat myself. Oh well, so I repeat myself.
We're a right to work state, which means that the state has the right to make us work even on Labor Day. And so we labour on.

In honor of labor day I returned home less than eight hours into the working day. Quite a pleasant change from normality on a Monday. I'd thought about possibly baking another batch of bread today, to make it four days in a row for the first time in ages, but didn't have the energy yesterday to get it started. It'll wait, and we have enough to last a day or two anyway.

In honour of the day, I listened to music while preparing lectures: I settled on Phil Ochs singing about Joe Hill, Joan Baez singing about Joe Hill, and then a mix of Ochs and Billy Bragg singing about unions and the working class.

Yours, celebrating in a right to work state,

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Last days of summer

Tomorrow is Labor Day (yes, I spelled it that way on purpose. It's a proper name, even if those who named it mis-spelled it.
It is the traditional day which marks the end of summer (just as last week's holiday does the same in the UK). As such, the outdoor pool closes for good tomorrow -- it's really been shut for a week, but they opened for today and tomorrow for one last fling.
We went to swim today, Boo and Skibo and me -- a lovely time --- and LOML will take them tomorrow, and I'll join them there as soon as I can. And next year, we are definitely going to rejoin the pool. It's been an absolute sanity saver this year, and probably will be for several years to come.

Oh, and the reason that I can't go out to the pool tomorrow when I want to? Well, let's just say that my state doesn't appreciate unions, and the idea of giving labour a day off is anathema to the spirit of most labourers here (silly, yes... but unfortunately true). As such, even though my university is a state institution, I don't get the day off.

Yours, labouring under several misapprehensions (not least that the state cares),

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gentle days

In the summer, everything is hectic and crazy. And the same is true of the other three seasons.

Except for a few weekends in the autumn (and actually, late summer) when the football season is on. Traffic is typically hectic for several hours, and they station off-duty policemen to make the lights work in favour of the fans and against everyone else: so on those days, we tend to make the days gentle ones.

We don't go out too far, we don't run around doing things, we just stay at home, mostly, and enjoy the day.

Today was one of those days. I liked it.

Yours, gently,

Friday, September 4, 2009

Breaking glass

We didn't go to the emergency room this evening. It wasn't a close call, fortunately.

Some years ago, when I was barely into double digits, I put my fist -- and my wrist -- through a piece of glass. My little sister rapidly switched from trying to wind me up (which had precipitated said breakage) to binding me up. We put a homemade tourniquet on my arm, bandaged it up, etc....
My parents, on their return a little later, drove me to the emergency room, where the professionals were very impressed with the care my sister had taken of me:
"is she a nurse?" they asked me. "No, she's eight." I replied.

Luckily, when Boo put her hand through a pane in the door to the deck this evening, she merely had a slight cut. But it took me back thrumptysevix years, which reminded me how lucky she was (and we were) this evening.

Yours, any way you slice it,

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Tomorrow I'll make a batch of sourdough pizza for dinner: and Sunday the second batch of sourdough. Since I'm new to this particular type of bread dough, I'm excited to see how it turns out: and sure that it will be edible even if it is not transformative.
Speaking of which, when I last described sourdough as not yet transformative (in another forum) I had all sorts of responses suggesting that I was expecting a chorus of angels, singing hosanna, or some similar response from the universe.

So let me be clear: I want a transformative experience from my bread (and from my sourdough). But I don't expect heavenly choirs to descend each time, or even ever!

Yours, (I kneaded to say that)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I stepped outside and found autumn

Suddenly, autumn is here. I stepped outside my building at work a few minutes ago, and it struck me. It's not the temperature: it's still going to get well into the eighties for a little while yet. But there was something intangible, not a smell, not a feeling, but a something barely detectable.
And I knew Autumn was about to hit us. Delightful!

Yours, falling for the season,

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A new month, and I forget to blog

As I was lying in bed, reading before sleep, I realised that I hadn't blogged. And so, what am I blogging about?
Not gmail collapsing.
Not the prospect of H1N1 taking down the world.
Not bread, and how wonderful it is.

No, I'm blogging about nearly forgetting (and then remembering in time) to blog.

Yours, self reverentially,

Monday, August 31, 2009

First attempt at sourdough

I ordered a sourdough crock and a sourdough starter this month from King Arthur Flour ([waves at PJ]) (my favourite place to order breadmaking supplies despite the fact that their flour is much more expensive than everyone else's) (and I'm still buying their flour).
Anyway, this weekend, having fed, nourished, divided and multiplied the starter, I made my first batches of bread with it. Being somewhat intimidated by the LaBrea bakery book (especially the baking schedules) and having fewer days to bake at this time of year than others, I went with the KA Baking recipe for Pain Levain. I made two batches, one made basically as suggested, the other with the addition of a little yeast at the appropriate time.
Not easy to distinguish between the two batches: both tasted good, both showed my inexperience at crumb-issues for sourdough, and both could have been better.

But by and large, fun to make, fun to bake, fun to eat. I'll keep the starter going and bake from it (when I have the time) for a little while yet.

Yours, reasonably happy,