Saturday, January 31, 2009

A successful party

A lovely party: from 5 to 7, since many of the people here have small children, which means that everyone left by 8, and the children were asleep by 9.
Most of the people we invited managed to come (at this time of year, and especially with people who have small children, any plans are tentative until one sees how the diseases are spreading!) and all who came seemed to have a lovely time.

The longevity noodles were long, so that we are all looking forwards to lots of good luck in the New (Chinese) Year.

So, to all, another Gung Hay Fat Choy,

Friday, January 30, 2009

The zodiac, done

I finished the dragon just now. This was the last piece needed: I've now got copies of the entire Chinese zodiac, all twelve pieces. Most were folded from Montroll's lovely book with that in the title: the children preferred Shafer's dragon to Montroll's, so I folded that instead, and I substituted a couple of other designs as well (probably because I'd folded them more often and made fewer mistakes in the process than in JM's models!)

Now we're just left with some cooking, cleaning, tidying, and setting up. So, in preparation, happy (fifth day of?) Chinese New Year! Gung Hay Fat Choy! Or Gung Shi Fa Tsai!

Yours, unresolved,

Absolute delight:-)

Boo and Skibo, racing around our house (we've an odd layout: it is possible to race figure eights through the rooms and corridors), lap after lap after lap. And I think to myself, "how delightful"....
And then I get to thinking about another house we nearly bought, and how life would have been different, who knows how, if we had bought it. And we might still have had children, but they would be different people. Of course, we wouldn't know how delightful Boo and Skibo would have been... but still, I'm glad that we have them.
They are an absolute delight. Relatively speaking, most of the time, as it were, so to speak, to coin a phrase.

Yours, speaking relatively,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ears, and sinus, throat and nose

Sung to the tune of "head and shoulders, knees and toes".

Augurs well for the party on Saturday.

Yours, sniffly,

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

They keep telling me

They keep telling me that, sometime soon, all our hard work at building our children's immune systems by putting up with them being sick for so long as little children will pay off: they will be healthy for ever after etc. etc. etc....

But to hear Skibo's cough this evening: of course, it doesn't start until he's already asleep, so I lie down with him, to keep him on his side for a bit: LOML takes Boo into our bed so that she can get some sleep too, so that Skibo's coughing doesn't keep her from getting to sleep...

Oh well. Only another two months or so of winter, and then we can get the spring coughs and colds.

Yours, (cough) miserable (cough),

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Morning music

Most mornings, the first thing I do when I get to work is walk over to the cafe to buy a coffee --- have to get those little grey cells to work --- and on the way, think quietly for a few minutes, and listen to music.
Today, on the way back, the random selection was Chris Rosser's David and Marie: a beautiful lyrical love song: voice and guitar only. And of course, is is my wont, I decided to share it with you.

Imagine my surprise, then, to discover that there is no youtube version of him singing it! The only video of him I could find was of an early draft of a new song
(worth listening to but not what I was looking for).

Unfortunately, all I could find was a 90 second clip of the music from the beginning of the song, at his website. The lyrics are there too: and rather than poach his lyrics by posting them here, I'll point you to them.

Yours, waxing lyrical,

Monday, January 26, 2009

Snow in Dubai?

Second time in recorded history?
Could this be the second coming? Of snow, that is.....

Yours, chilling in the heat,

Sunday, January 25, 2009


As an educator, it never ceases to thrill me when my own children, or their friends, exhibit that measure of curiosity that distinguishes the thinker from the rock. And today, although Boo and Skibo exhibited some, it was their (slightly older) friend M who was most excited.
"Breadbox" she said, "can you fold me a manatee?"
Unsure whether I could find a diagram, I demured, but allowed that there might be other things that I could fold should manatee be unforthcoming. I asked why, in particular she'd be so interested in a manatee, and she explained that she had been reading a book about them, and told me some fascinating facts (most of them accurate).
I found a diagram, and folded it for her --- and then a dolphin for Boo and a whale for Skibo (he wanted a Blue Whale, but the closest I could do was a Sperm Whale). And then we sat at my laptop to explore the manatee, including the fact that there are a couple of thousand in Florida (not the couple of million M had misread as the number in her book from the library), and that they have teeth which migrate from the back of the mouth to the front and then fall out.

A delightful afternoon of education: I think that we all enjoyed, and learned. I certainly did.

Yours, becoming more educated day by day,

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Folding for the new year

As part of my preparations for the Chinese New Year, and for our party the children decided we need to throw for grownups, I'm folding various figures from the Chinese zodiac: so far, folding in a non-obvious order, I've folded the Ox, the Monkey, the Rabbit, the Horse, the Snake, the Rooster and the Dragon. Five more to go: some are better than others, some are easier to fold than others, and since they are all from the same book, by the same author, it is fascinating to watch the way his designs change, say, from the snake to the dragon, using the same basic beginning sequence.
I need to fold some things twice: in particular, in an attempt to insert cultural and social studies into their curriculum, LOML is teaching Boo's class about the Chinese New Year on Tuesday, and so is going to take the dragon in as a gift for the class. And it was one of the trickier ones to fold, too!

Yours, off to fold again,

Friday, January 23, 2009

Repetition and small children

It never ceases to amaze me how receptive small children are to repetition.
Not only are they receptive, they beg for it.

Today I went to Skibo's class again -- and for the fourth time in a row I told the story of the captain's T-shirt, the origami story I've told before. And the children were begging for it.

Yours, yours,

Thursday, January 22, 2009

One resolution gone, but not forgotten

I had resolved at some transition point a few weeks ago to fold on a daily basis with Boo and Skibo. Unfortunately that resolution appears to have bitten dust: I have not forgotten it, but it seems to be too difficult to maintain every day. But I have not forgotten it: I have to find a way to make sure that we do some every few days, a couple of times or more a week.
What has made it difficult this week is, of course, that it's January. And of course, Boo and Skibo are in school. This week it's Boo's turn: she's been feeling miserable for days now: three days in a row she hasn't wanted ice cream for dessert: this is a dead giveaway that she's feeling really bad...

I have also missed a couple of days, too, but am maintaining my folding level. Today, I folded a copy of Verdi's Vase (the diagram is easily found if you google it's name, plus "origami"): it looks complex at first sight, but it's not that difficult a model if you keep a cool head about it: and it is quite gorgeous as a finished model.

Yours, still planning to post pictures at some point....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


And today, we had bubbles. And toasts. And clinking of glasses.
Quite appropriate, since Obama apparently had Chief Justice Roberts over again to re-swear him in, just to mollify those who insisted that since the oath had been flubbed, POTUS was illegitimate. So we toasted a second oath (and privately swore other sorts of oaths at those who proclaimed the illegitimacy).

In time the celebrations will end. Perhaps tomorrow. But for now, we're still bubbly!

Yours, in re-celebration,


As a quasi-semi-somewhat-sort-of scientist, I have to say that one of the things that makes me happiest to see President Obama in place is that every major speech he gives, he seems to emphasize the fact that in his administration, science will be restored to its proper place in the world: namely, decisions about issues that are primarily scientific in nature will be considered from a primarily scientific viewpoint. After years upon years in which science played a tertiary, or worse, role to religion and politics, this is a very welcome change.

Yours, in anticipation of the reality based world reaffirmed,

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bishop Robinson on the Daily Show

Tonight, on the Daily Show: one of the best lines I've heard in ages:

Jon Stewart: "Sir, as a bishop, you are doubly handicapped, being able only to move diagonally..."

Biship Robinson: "Jon, you have to remember that there's a queen on the board as well!"

Brilliant! And Stewart's reaction showed it:-)

Yours, in inclusion,

Celebrating transitions

Many years ago, a professor of mine, a Hungarian, on hearing of the death of then Soviet leader Andropov, remarked that had there been fewer of us in the class, he would have brought Champagne. Andropov, of course, had been responsible for the repression of Hungary many decades earlier, and the fact that he was no longer in power made future changes in Hungary seem possible: in many ways it led to the changes that happened culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Tonight, Champagne was not possible. For a start, teaching undergraduates in this country, alcohol is an unmentionable: right up there with sex, underwear and politics. Secondly, teaching a non-politics course, politics is an unmentionable, right up there with underwear, sex and alcohol. And since I was teaching this evening, rather than at home, I'm having to postpone my transition celebration, but own personal inaugural ball, until tomorrow. And then LOML and I will don our finery, spin the disks, and trip the light fantastic.
Or at least sway to the music:-)

Yours, in postponed celebration,


We have a President again.

Yours, tearing up,

Goodnight, Horace

John Mortimer, creator of Horace Rumpole, Resquiat In Pace.

Yours, saddened by the loss, gladdened by the memories,


No. No Snow. So off to work I go. We'll just have to pick Boo up after her lunch at school (which starts at 10:45 and finishes at 11:15 am!)

Oh well. We'll get snow one day.

Yours, disappointed, at least in the weather,

Monday, January 19, 2009

About 15 hours from now

About 15 hours from now, the transition will be over, there will be an entirely new adminstration in town (with the exception of those remaining, primarily Gates, of course, but also, for example, all the Justice Department officials who were appointed under rather shady circumstances).

Dare I declare that "our long national nightmare is (almost) over"? I do hope so.

I don't ever recall seeing an inauguration as exciting, as covered, as electrifying as this one. Indeed, I can recall watching the coverage of celebrities going to the balls in the evening (who was going to which one, which songs were played, what the women wore) and some coverage of the speech -- but I don't ever remember a spectacle lasting several days!

And now they're predicting a chance of snow for tomorrow here -- and I'm hoping for a snow day, dreaming of a black-and-white inauguration:-)

Yours, electrified,

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I forgot to do any origami today.... either by myself or with the children. So it goes: a resolution unfilled. But I'll still try, I think, to keep it going as best I can.

Food-wise, today was successful: busy, but successful (which is why I did no origami!): we made ravioli, three types (red, green, white) which we filled, respectively, with a bolognese-type sauce, a chicken, spinach, pine nuts and balsamic vinegar filling, and a standard ricotta with spinach etc filling.
It turned out rather well (there were mini-orgasmic moans heard from some of our guests as they tucked in).

But I need to get back to folding. And photographing the folds too.

Yours, distracted by food,

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Stuck on pasta

We've eaten pasta (and leftovers) for most of the past week, in one form or another. And it's good, don't get me wrong. But we'd planned to make ravioli tomorrow (various different types, poached in broth, and served that way). Then Boo insisted that she wanted spaghetti for dinner tonight, and so our plans for something different went down the tubes. Oh well. Anything for a good dinner, and especially one which the children really want to eat:-)

Yours, en ennui,

Friday, January 16, 2009

Eighty seven hours to go

In a little more than three days, we'll finally have some sanity back in the executive branch. Perhaps also some good judgement, respect for the law and the constitution, and more.
Not that I expect all to be smooth sailing and perfection: I fully expect the economy in particular to be awful for a year or more to come, and the international situation still looks quite dreadful. But at least, I hope, there will be change, and the direction of said change will be positive.
I also expect to be mightily pissed off by Obama on many occasions: indeed, if he agreed with everything I think, he'd never survive in politics! Not in this country, anyway. But here's to hope, and to change, in the right direction.

Yours, counting the hours,

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Congratulations, Sully!

and thanks from a grateful news-viewing audience: that was an amazing crash-landing in the Hudson River! Only one passenger seriously injured, nobody else even hurt, everyone off the plane in minutes!

Yours, still in a state of "Wow!"

The noodles for the lasagna

were really easy to make: if you have a food processor and a pasta machine, they're nearly trivial: if you don't have a pasta roller, a rolling pin is lots of fun (in fact, half the time I make lasagna noodles I roll them out by hand anyway).

Here's the recipe for the pasta: note that I don't boil the noodles: I construct the pasta with the freshly rolled noodles, and they bake in the sauce in the oven.

3 eggs
2 cups bread flour
1/2 package of frozen spinach or so (10 oz package)
half teaspoon of salt

Cook the spinach as directed (I microwaved uncovered for 8 minutes, stirring
occasionally with a fork to break it up). Let it cool, and squeeze out as much
liquid as you can.
Place a cup and a half of flour in the food processor, together with the spinach,
and pulse several times until the spinach is broken up. Lightly beat the eggs in a
bowl, pour into the food processor tube while pulsing the flour and spinach.
Add enough flour, a spoonful at a time, that the dough comes together and is
moist still but not sticky. Pulse the dough for a minute or so until it forms an
elastic dough. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour or two.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces or so: roll each one out --- to the thinnest but one
setting on the pasta roller, or as thin as you can with a rolling pin (more fun, but
more work too). If necessary, cut the pieces of lasagna to the desired width.

Preheat the oven to 375.

Construct the lasagna as usual: layer of tomato and meat sauce, layer of pasta,
ricotta-egg-spinach-cheese mix, sauce, mozarella, pasta, r-e-s-c, sauce, pasta,
mozarella, etc until the pasta and the r-e-s-c mix is used up. Top with sauce,
sprinkle with mozarrella and some more parmesan.
Bake covered with foil for 10-15 minutes, and for 20 or so more uncovered.
Take out of the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes for the mixtures to set.
Cut and serve.

LOML has been ooohing and aaaahing about how good it was all day. We reheated the leftovers this evening for dinner, and it was very nearly as good the next day.

Yours, where noodles are concerned, in need of flattery,

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Spinach lasagna

I've been impressed by lasagna ever since I went to my undergraduate advisor's house for dinner, and his wife had cooked this strange exotic dish.

But now, more than 5 and three quarter years later (much more!) I have learned to cook, and have discovered that there are secrets to success. And when cooking lasagna, a key secret is that you don't have to make the pasta from scratch, but if you do, it tastes really good!

Tonight, for the first time, I made spinach pasta, which I subsequently rolled into lasagna noodles, layered with meat sauce and ricotta-etc-mix, baked, and enjoyed. Trust me, it is worth making the noodles by hand (well, with a food processor): they are tender and tangy, tasty and wonderful. All of us enjoyed them, except for our four year old guest (a friend of Boo and Skibo, and I suspect that the reason he wasn't a fan is that he was just not in the mood to eat....)

Yours, signing off tonight as the noodly-breadbox,

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

First origami class

The first class went well --- I combined a discussion of how to fold equilateral triangles in a couple of ways, with the mathematics of maximizing the size of the triangle you can get out of a square, with the folding of a crane: many of the students had little or no experience with origami, but they all seemed to enjoy it.

Folding with Boo and Skibo was largely a practice session on pleating, with the outcome being a not-very-convincing panda. Cute, but not great. I've decided to supplement the weekday folds from the calendar which I'm doing with them with folds from books on the weekend.

Anyway, I'm happy that the first classes of the season are over --- I'm always nervous about how things will go, what the dynamics will be like, etc.

Yours, relieved,

Monday, January 12, 2009

A boring day for origami

Today was a boring day as far as folding went --- after my trip last week I had to go in to work, and there were lots of things that needed to be dealt with. And this evening's folding with Boo and Skibo was rather toooooooo simple: precrease a square horizontally and vertically. Fold two sides in to the middle.
Turn over, fold the ends to the middle. Valley fold in half so that the first folds to the middle form wallet pockets. It's a wallet fold. I think that the description is almost enough to fold it. Try it, and convince me I'm right.

But a boring day for folding was a more interesting day for reading about origami: I'm preparing to teach tomorrow evening, and trying to figure out how much material will fit in a (nearly) three hour class. That and figuring out lots of deep stuff for the other (high level) course.

Yours, frantically reading,

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Today's folding

We caught up two days from last week today: Monday and Tuesday's models from the calendar make the head and front legs respectively of an elephant, so Boo, Skibo and I folded them together.
And Boo asked me to teach her to make my airplane, so I got some more practice folding that too.

Yours, like a pachyderm in flight,

Annual (american) football season

I rarely watch sports on television (rowing, when I can find it, since I used to row thrumptysevix years ago as an undergraduate). But this time of year, the playoffs happen in the National Football League, and as a once-Pittsburgher, if the Steelers are playing, I make an attempt to watch them.
Today we had television-less friends over: they are from Pittsburgh originally, and jumped at the chance to come and watch the game. They are good friends, and are wonderful with the children, so we were happy to host them.
And the team won too, so everyone left happy as well as full:-)

Yours, in season,

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A rediscovery

I rediscovered, or rather, I found, the paper plane that I made when my parents were visiting. It flew very well, and I was disappointed that I had lost it: it was more of a doodle than a design, but I wasn't able to recreate it.
Today I discovered it sitting in a partition in my computer bag, so I took it apart and deconstructed it so that I could fold it again. It is somewhat similar to the one I made a month ago, but a bit more subtle. And it flies even better -- as I recalled that the original did.
I've now tweaked it a bit further --- in a bit of real design rather than doodling, and it is even better still. Once I finally get the plane diagrammed (I'm about halfway through, thanks to the fact that much of it is similar to the one I did last month!) I may consider posting it.

I made several copies of it today: and this kept the children busy for ages --- flying them, then running for them, flying and running, flying and running.
Much fun:-)

Yours, in a mix of design and doodle,

Friday, January 9, 2009

Fold of the day

The fold of the day today is not mine.
I folded a paper plane for each of Boo and Skibo, at their requests.
No, the fold of the day is Boo's. She whispered to me that she had something she wanted to make for me, ran off and I heard nothing for a few minutes. Then a plane flew over my head and landed on the table --- to much giggling. She had folded it --- I asked her where she had learned to make it, and she replied "It's my invention!" She had taken the house fold I'd taught her last week, folded it in half, and folded down the sides as wings, and it actually flew quite well!

I'm thrilled, as you might imagine! And impressed:-)

Yours, so glad to be back,

Glad to be home

Not the most pleasant drives I've had. The roads were clear, the weather was wonderful, and the other drivers mostly courteous. But I felt tired today. I ended up taking about an hour and a half longer than I expected because I had to keep stopping to refresh myself.

Yours, glad to be back,

And so to home

Time to go downstairs, have a coffee, wish my hosts a very grateful farewell, and get on the road. 9 hours driving, or so, and home.

Yours, ready,

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Today I folded

a dinosaur for a three year old...
I was at lunch with a lot of people today, and mentioned to the person on my right that I was teaching folding --- and he seemed surprised and impressed when I said I had created a dinosaur fold. I tried to play it down, pointing out that it builds on other people building on other peoples designs, but still he was impressed.
So I whipped out a sheet of paper, tore a square, and folded there and then. The table gradually started looking until all eyes were on my hands. And the finished beast was passed around the table from hand to hand until everyone had had a chance to oooohhhh and aaaahhhhh over it.

Yours, vainly trying for modesty,

Math and music

A very pleasant day --- many former students around, all as thrilled to spend time with me as I was to spend time with them. Some of them are recent and green, and I can share advice: others are close to completion in subsequent programs, and are showing great confidence and promise.
Sigh. A good, even a great, sigh. Definitely a good one. It makes me happy to have played a part like that in so many lives:-)

And I met a potential new influencee: successful in his own right, very much so, he's gone back to study, and is appreciative of much more senior (academically speaking) people who will follow his progress. A bunch of us went to dinner, and it led to great conversations to be continued as he works out all the mathematics.

Yours, enjoying playing "Yoda for a day",

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Origami for the day

Since I'm still away from home, I'm forgiving myself the "fold something completely new" resolution --- but I did finish folding the last few dozen modules of an hyperbolic plane which I wanted to give to a colleague today: and in a couple of talks I just threw together a couple of rosebuds just because I could. Made of tiny paper. I've definitely figured this fold out for now. Now to try to attempt the "this will make you an origami-jedi, Luke" Rose fold....
On another day...

Yours, not really cheating on any resolutions yet,

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Origami and knitting books

One of the nice things about this conference are the exhibits of books etc --- and my luggage is now several volumes heavier: including a couple of books each on knitting (!) and origami. In fact, knitting interesting mathematical shapes is a growing field: the results provide nice, tactile examples of objects that are otherwise hard to even visualize!

Yours, even more loaded down,

Monday, January 5, 2009

Yesterday's origami

Yesterday, after leaving the house for MD, I got about 3 minutes away before realizing that I had left behind my directions to B&C's house. Since this would not be a good start, I immediately phoned home. LOML brought the important sheet of paper out to the car, and whispered that Boo had something important to tell me.
And indeed she did! She whispered that she was teaching LOML and Skibo how to fold an origami house! And LOML says she was doing an excellent job with it too!

My folding? I folded a Kawasaki rosebud as a token for my hosts.

Yours, praising the budding children!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

In MD, near DC

I'm now, many hours driving later, in the DC area.
In the morning it's off to the hotel. For now, fun with
old friends and then to bed.

Yours, away,

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Folding with Boo

LOML took Skibo off to buy himself presents (keys and a padlock!) with his Christmas money, and I stayed at home with Boo. Other than spending a few minutes playing with her new Webkinz (TM) and their website --- not at all sure how I feel about that! --- we spent most of the couple of hours folding.

We didn't do the page-a-day folds: I want to do those with both of them: rather I let her pick some diagrams from Montroll's Easy Origami --- we had previously folded the house, and she chose to fold the piano, the fox's head and the oblong box. Curiously, each of these starts with folding the house, and so now she is a master at folding that!

Meanwhile, here's a picture of Boo folding a box last month.

Yours, loving it,

Friday, January 2, 2009

Folding the calendar

Day two.
Of course, this will fall apart next week, when I am not here to fold with the children. Then again, there are no folds for Saturday or Sunday --- ???? --- so perhaps I can fold all of next week's folds tomorrow, and we'll have an excess built up.
Today's diagram was for what they call a "cat boat": I've seen it described as "yellow bird" in a different orientation: it was rather simple to fold (instead of the reverse fold described in the diagram, I had them prefold a few extra creases and then it assembles itself naturally): then, placed on a table, if you blow gently into the sail portion of the model, it glides gently across the table.

Skibo seems also to be getting more of the idea of precision in folding: this is wonderful to see! My next goal is to get Boo reading some of the simpler diagrams by herself. And then for her to teach Skibo!

To give you an idea of how much fun this was, at one point Boo gleefully exclaimed "this is more fun than television!" Of course, twenty minutes later, they were again begging for television, but let's be grateful for small mercies!

Yours, keeping a resolution longer than most...

I hate travelling these days

I used to love to travel: back when we lived in a city with a major airport, and I could just hop to the airport and be off. I loved to fly, to travel light and easy.

Somehow that has all changed --- it could be the two hour drive to get to either of the major airports "near" here --- it could be all the extra security one has to go through, removing shoes, being limited to 3 oz of toothpaste, whatever.

And so now I choose instead to drive --- and I've been checking the weather reports for here and there, and fortunately it looks like the weather will behave. So now I feel all antsy for the next day and two nights, waiting to leave.

Yours, ready to just up and go,

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A weak start to an easy resolution

A weak start: my resolution to fold a model a day has started, and indeed I did
fold something: but it was one of the simplest folds around: a paper cup. More to the point, I have adjusted the resolution to include Boo and Skibo --- so they both folded paper cups too.
Boo has really suddenly gotten the hang of accuracy in folding, of placing points on lines precisely. It's another wonderful leap in her development.

Skibo's leap today -- or rather our seeing of his leap --- was that he can now trace words almost perfectly. At 4, of course his freehand is rather illegible --- you can make out which letter is which if you know what he's writing --- but his tracing of an adult's writing is superb! Not a surprise to see it happen --- after all we saw the same things with Boo --- but a delight nonetheless.

So, a happy start to the new year.
Yours, wishing all of you the best,

A New Year's party

without champagne... is like..

Best answers, please.

Now, do note that the party had lots of champagne, but that circumstances prevailed, and for various reasons I managed to miss the bubbly. And now, I'm sitting here, wishing everyone a happy new year. And not walking to the fridge, cracking a bottle, and catching up. The bubbly really isnt't the important thing...

Yours, bubble-free