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,