Friday, December 31, 2010


We were struck this afternoon by the contrasts between JFK and LHR.  On arrival two weeks ago at Heathrow, we were met by helpful, smiling faces, who ushered through a clearly exhausted family with small-ish children through the immigration line.  The luggage trolleys were free, and the airport seemed bright and clean.  This morning, the security folks were cheerful, and helpful, and nice.
Arriving at JFK we saw lots of helpful signs about how serious security was, which seemed mainly to serve to highlight how cheerless the staff were: from the unsmiling face looking at our passports, to the barking I received from the scanning staff because I dared put my shoes and computer bag into boxes instead of directly onto the belt: to the drab, whitewashed walls of the tunnels we went through.  And the luggage carts?  Five dollars each to rent! 

Yours, thinking that as far as airports go, the UK came out looking pretty good to us on this trip,

Back home

Up at 5am, GMT, at the airport by 6:40, on a plane to JFK, and then after a second plane, and a long drive, we were home.  The pets are all well, which is a relief, and lovely friends have cleaned up the kitchen and a couple of other rooms: what a pleasant surprise!
I've gone to the store, we're ready for New Year, Skibo's asleep (and seeming much better) and Boo is about to brush her teeth and get to bed.  I doubt any of us will stay up till midnight.

The trip was strained: Skibo threw up at Heathrow as we were checking in our luggage: and Boo seems to have come down with perhaps an ear infection today (she was complaining of her ears hurting as we descended each time).
Hopefully they'll both get a good nights sleep and be better in the morning.  In the New Year.

Yours, wishing everyone a very happy New Year (since it already is, GMT!)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Our last day in England

Our last day in England, and for the second day, Skibo has been sick with fever: hopefully he'll be able to travel tomorrow!
We'll miss everyone over here, but we're all looking forward to getting home as well, to see pets and friends and the house.  And the shower!

Yours, planning on an early night before we leave before dawn,

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Finally, bread again

It's been weeks: I'd intended to make bread while we visited LOML's parents, but didn't get to it, and it looked almost as though I wouldn't make it visiting my parents either: but I finally made some today: a nice wholemeal/bread flour mix with molasses.  All agreed that it was delicious!

Yours, happy to knead again,

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An eye on London

We made it to the National Gallery this morning, finally: we'd tried to go last year, but didn't make it.  Our big reason for going was that the children have a book they love: "Dogs' Night Out", about dogs in paintings there which switch places and cause much consternation: it was lovely to give them a chance to see the original pieces of art around which the story was based.

Afterwards, after lunch, we took a rather disappointing big bus tour, and hurried off that to the Eye -- the massive almost-Ferris wheel across from the Houses of Parliament: neither LOML nor I was particularly interested, but the children begged and pleaded, so we shelled out for tickets: and were extremely pleasantly amazed: it started with a incredibly surprisingly impressive "4D" movie (actually 3D plus some special physical effects): well worth the few minutes it lasted!

The Eye itself had a long queue, but it moved very quickly, and we were on in well under a half an hour: and the view from the module as we slowly rose, turned round and went down again, was fantastic: it was just turning from dusk to dark, and so various features like Big Ben were lighted up, and it was quite beautiful.

Yours, very happy to be so pleasantly surprised,

Monday, December 27, 2010

Castles again!

At the very end of our castle tour on Friday, we discovered that the audio tours were free.  We'd not realised this before, and had chosen not to investigate them (I used to actually work renting them out, and hadn't thought them worth the couple of quid they cost back thrumpty sevix years ago).
However, we went round the castle again today, and this time, all four of us had our own personal guided tours. The adult tours were good, competent, and much better than all that time ago, but the kids' version sounded amazing!  Boo and Skibo kept bursting out with laughter at the tour, and they were kept infinitely more engaged than they had been last time.  It really made for a lovely, lovely visit.

Yours, now regretting not having used the guides for the previous two tours,

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day

Boxing day is essentially an irrelevant holiday in the US (as is St Stephen an irrelevant saint).
So, it's always nice to come back to the UK to discover people celebrating Boxing Day, even if it is just by going out to the sales.

But for us, Boxing Day is far more important: for it is I's birthday!  Happy birthday to my lovely niece!

Yours, in birthday celebration!

Saturday, December 25, 2010


And of course, my sign off on the last post was not what I meant to say.

Yours, saying "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Happy Christmas!

Or as we'd say it in the States:  "Merry Christmas!"

And to all a good night.  And a happy new year too!

Yours, celebrating,

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Castle

A lovely day spent on the train, travelling to the castle, touring round the castle,
and then going shopping for last minute items for Christmas.

We did cause the wardens a lot of grief by asking them what the word
was for arrow slits.  Quite amusing to see their distress at being just as
unable to recall the word as LOML and I were!

Yours, challenging even strangers on words,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thanks, Uncle S!

We had asked LOML's brother to give us a ride to the station this morning: he said he was happy to do so: so at 10am he came over to the flat where we were staying, picked us up, and drove off.
A minute or so in, he asked us if we'd already booked our tickets --- "No", we replied.  About two minutes later  I looked at LOML, who shrugged, and asked him "Where are we going?"  He replied that he was taking us the whole way by car.
Since we had a ton of luggage, and would have had to take three trains, we were very grateful.  So, tonight, I am signing off:

Yours, in gratitude to Uncle S,

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Freaking out the nation

LOML and I have been practising freaking out the entire population here: we walk down the road, smiling at people and saying hello.  It's rather amusing watching faces go from shocked horror to a gentle smile, to a broad grin, as they return a "Good morning!" or "Merry Christmas" to us.

Yours, delighted at the reactions,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

English drivers

Watching English drivers makes me worried: the roads are so narrow, even taking the size of the cars into account, and they tend to drive so quickly.  It's not how I recall it when I was growing up -- this could just be a measure of oncoming old-age, or a reflection of reality.  Not really sure which.

Yours, nervous,

Monday, December 20, 2010

More snow

We made it back to the flat this evening ahead of (much of) another bout of snow.  LOML's brother drove us to the flat, and we pushed his car in spots to make up for a lack of traction uphill.
But we're back again.   Hopeful that the weather will break soon, and stay clear for the train trip back west from here.  We shall see.

Yours, keeping a weather eye on, well, the weather,

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sleepy little children

Our decision was made for us last night by the fact that Skibo went to sleep on the floor well before we were going to try to walk home, and Boo was in no frame of mind to walk a couple of miles through snow.

We made up for it this afternoon by walking back to the flat and then back again to the house.  Through the snow.  Up hill both ways, as they say.  Actually, one way was mostly downhill, but we took a detour to go to the store, so that way actually took longer than the return journey.

Fortunately this evening the snow was melted enough that we were able to get a taxi, for about as much as, or perhaps just a little more than, the bus would cost.

So now we are snuggled up in the flat, trying to persuade children to go to sleep (LOML and me) or trying to be as obnoxious and annoying as possible to parents (Boo and especially Skibo).

Yours, (twenty minutes later) finding the little ones particularly irksome right now,

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Something on the ground

It's white.  It's cold.  It's soft and fluffy, or, where people have walked on it, hard and crunchy.  It's 4-6 inches of snow which fell this afternoon.
Absolutely beautiful, and somewhat inconveniencing: but it certainly makes me very glad that we got the train here yesterday rather than today.  We've spent a lovely day with Nanna and Grandad, mainly in the house, with a couple of short treks outside this afternoon during the brief blizzard.  We are now wondering whether to sleep on their floor, or walk back in the snow to the flat we have rented.

Yours, snowed under by the decisions we have to make:-)

Friday, December 17, 2010


There's something in the air tonight.  Or rather last night.  Three flakes of snow.  It caused tremendous excitement for all, except for Boo, who was alternating between being already asleep and feeling awful because of a tummy bug.  I'm hoping that after a good night's sleep she will feel much better.
Today we'll travel, a day early, to avoid the Snow! that is being forecast for tomorrow: last year the snow played havoc with the trains, and so going a day early seems prudent.

Yours, snow joke,

Thursday, December 16, 2010

And we're there

Or rather, I suppose, we are here.
Safe and sound and on the ground.

Yours, enjoying seeing far-off family again,

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


And we're (almost) off!

Yours, (soon to be) in transit,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A lovely program of rewrites

We went to the first-and-second-grade's Christmas program this evening.  A lovely time: the children were all wonderful and mostly in key.  I'm a little disturbed to hear that the principal instruction from the teachers is to "sing quietly" (and no, it's not just my children I'm hearing that from). 
But it was lovely.  It's becoming a tradition now: listen to the holiday songs, then fly.  The downside today was that most of the songs were rewrites of non-holiday nursery rhymes.  It's not clear how they are better than standards, and it is very clear how they are worse.  Oh well.  It was a lovely evening in spite of this!

Yours, wishing the songs could have had their original lyrics....

Monday, December 13, 2010

Grading? Check

Letters written?  Check.  Well, some of them, anyway: more to do tomorrow.
Almost time to consider the holiday break begun.
Tomorrow, time to go to Skibo's class and teach them how to make origami penguins!
Then the children's Christmas program in the evening.

Yours, in the holiday mood,

Sunday, December 12, 2010


The parade was a success --- the early rain tapered off, and we were tempted by promises of flurries for a little while, then it just turned cold and Decembry.
Fewer people at the parade party this year than sometimes: perhaps fifty or sixty, well down from the turnout a couple of years ago.  But those that made it had a good time, and good food and drink.

Yours, post parade,

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday spent shopping...

In preparation for the annual Christmas parade party, which we are co-hosting, Boo and I spent a couple of hours going round stores getting supplies.
I'm making roulade au chocolat, sausage rolls, and, of course, eggnog.  LOML's making various cupcakes, a crustless cheesecake, and spanakopita. That, together with what everyone else brings, should make for a parade feast....

Yours, preparing,

Friday, December 10, 2010

Raising a glass

I'm reminded by Rachel Maddow that this week it is 77 years since the repeal of prohibition.  So, in celebration of the sober realisation that sobriety can't be forced on a population, I'm signing this:

Yours, toasting,

Another committee, another fascinating meeting

This afternoon I spent another two hours in a committee meeting -- this time related to curricular aspects of honors courses --- which was a fascinating use of my time.  It did mean that I'm not yet finished grading, but....
At least my free-er time is visible in the future: the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train: it's an airport.

Yours, anticipating travel,

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Of course, I forgot

Of course I forgot... about committee meetings.  Computer committee meeting today --- fascinating stuff, arcane, detailed, and sometimes mysterious.  Also frustrating at times.  I'm not on the committee, but was filling in for our member and alternate, and enjoyed it, even though it's two hours of my life I'll never get back.

Yours, in agreement with the motion,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

exams and letters of reference, oh my!

Final exam tomorrow: then I'm left with grading, and with writing letters of reference.  No more duties at work until the new year!

Yours, ready for the break,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

Fifteen years ago, LOML and I went for sushi together at a lovely little family owned Korean restaurant.  Our first date: we've been together ever since.

Happy anniversary, my love!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Harmonious joy

A lovely moment this evening: Boo and Skibo were sitting singing with a friend of theirs: mangled small children songs, made to fit seasonal lyrics.  But the beautiful thing about it was that there were times when Skibo and friend would stray off-key, and I could almost hear Boo's voice pulling them back into tune.  She has a lovely voice, and is willing to stick with the tune she needs to hear, and sing firmly enough to pull others back.

Yours, thinking that this is a good trait, and a good metaphor for life,

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mushroom risotto

Today I made a mushroom risotto, to go with pan seared pork chops and green beans.  Despite LOML's initial reservations, it was a huge hit.

Saute a small onion over medium high heat in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until translucent.  Stir in a cup of arborio rice, and keep stirring for 4-5 minutes.  Over a few minutes, stirring constantly, add a cup of dry white wine.  Still stirring constantly, slowly add enough heated stock so that when it is all absorbed, the rice is al dente.  Add the liquid a half-cup or less at a time, and stir until it's absorbed.  You may need as much as four cups of liquid total.

While you are doing this, have someone (very) coarsely chop a mix of mushrooms, a melange des champignons.   I used oyster, crimini, and portabello mushrooms.  Reconstitute a few dried porcini mushrooms in a  little hot water.  Saute the fresh mushrooms in a little olive oil, and set aside.  Take out the reconstituted porcini mushrooms, reserve the top two thirds of the liquid and discard the rest (it will be gritty).  Using a stick
blender, blend the porcini in the reserved liquid: add it to the risotto.  Stir in the sauteed mushrooms.  Season well, with salt and pepper.  Quite delicious.

Yours, stirred to write,

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Every year, for the past decade, I've spent the first Saturday in December on campus, and today was no different. 
The reason for this is the Putnam math competition: a ridiculously hard contest, taken by the best few undergraduates at institutions around the country (and in Canada and a few other places).  Typically, the median score is near 0/120 -- that is, of those top undergraduates, about half of them fail to score any points.  That's how hard it is.
I'm pleased with my turnout this year: 13 students, more than I've ever had take it before: and of those, I hope that more than half will get positive score, meaning that we beat the median.
I had fun during the contest: I've never taken it myself (I wasn't aware of it as an undergrad, and here is no facility for anyone beyond that level to take it) but I think that I know how to do about 75% of the questions. It always makes me happy to figure things out in real time, without the pressure that the contestants are under....

Yours, hoping my students did well,

Friday, December 3, 2010

Final day!

I gave my last lectures of the semester today.  Now it's just exams, and I'm done until January.

Yours, still ready to be done!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Two days to go

to the end of the teaching part of the semester.  It's been a long one.

Yours, ready for a break!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Hannukah to all

We try to celebrate all sorts of holidays in our family, whether or not we are members of the faith involved.  And so, this evening, we wish you all a happy Hannukah, beginning at sundown today.

Skibo lit the Shamus candle, and then the first of the remaining eight candles in the Menorah.

Yours, in celebration of the faiths of others,

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

99 letters of reference to write

99 letters to go,
Write one, send it, cross that name out,
only 99 letters of reference to write.

At least that is how it feels today.  Every time I get another two letters done, two more people ask me to write on their behalf.

Yours, wishing I thought less of more people, sometimes,

Monday, November 29, 2010

And we're booked

to travel again. 

Now I just need to get the rest of my duties done over the next little while.
Focus, Breadbox, focus!

Yours, needing the focus,

Sunday, November 28, 2010

There's no place like home

(for the holidays).
Thanksgiving is over, and that, of course, means that the Christmas season has begun.  I've probably heard "There's No Place Like Home For The Holidays" a dozen times already, and it has been running through my head this evening.
Another post-Thanksgiving tradition here is the regular playing of The Wizard of Oz: this year the children have really taken to the movie, and have watched it twice already.  And of course, the final message of the movie is "There's No Place Like Home".
Fittingly, we are trying to figure out our plans for visiting home soon, so that Boo and Skibo can spend time with grandparents, uncles, aunt and cousins.

Yours, with the song stuck in my head,

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Stomach flu

I'm assuming, based on the fact that thanksgiving dinner tasted really good, and none of our guests appear to have suffered similarly, that I have come down with a virus.   Be it as it may, though, I've spent the past day or so suffering from a nasty stomach bug.

Yours, hoping that what seems like a slight respite is actually more permanent,

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's beginning to look a little like Christmas

Today was the annual Christmas tree lighting on the square: a good turn out: hundreds of people; lots of folks from town singing, playing instruments; a visit from Santa.
The organizer this year did a great job of persuading local people to bake and donate cookies: several hundred cookies, it seemed: and the local insurance agent provided hot cider for all.

Yours, playing traditional carols,

Thursday, November 25, 2010

So much to be grateful for...

In particular, LOML, Boo and Skibo!  And all the rest of our family, extended family and friends!
And the town we live in!
Happy Thanksgiving (US) to everyone!

Yours, wanting to say that if you are reading this, consider yourself thanked!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I shouldn't have gloated

Sure enough, no sooner was I gloating about how I'd fixed computers than the cordless telephone decided it was time to die.  Of course, it's not that much of a computer system, but....

Yours, jinxing myself,

Old hard drive, new hard drive, waiting on a hard drive

Monday I transplanted an old hard drive (from the laptop whose graphics card died a month ago) into my new laptop.  It will work until I get the replacement hard drive delivered.  Yesterday I went to best buy and purchased a new hard drive for my desktop machine at home, and this morning I installed fedora on it.  Several hours, much of which was spent trying to set gcompris up so that both children log in on the same database, as different users (not as intuitive a setup process as I had hoped, but it seems to work now).
So, I'm not saying my computer problems are over, but at least the current ones seem to be solved.

Yours, whistling a happy Wednesday tune,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Career Day

The children had career day at school today, and since I don't teach on Tuesdays, I decided that I would go in: I had a marvelous time, telling nine different classes about what I do.
Of course, I didn't spend so much time on what I do as a mathematician: rather I focused on what I do as an origamist!  Lots of very attentive children, including one who proclaimed me a magician because of how I could transform the paper.

Yours, careering

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

Except that today is not raining, and I'm not particularly unfond of Mondays.  Sometimes they can be detestable, but not as a general rule.
No, it's definitely computers getting me down right now.  Trying to figure out how to fix at least two computers so that I can get my work life back in gear.  Grrrr.

Yours, frustrated.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Back home for a while now

Absolutely exhausted, but home for a little while now.  I had the energy left to make bread and hummus when I got in this afternoon, then we took the children to a birthday party --- lots of fun (and Happy Birthday, Miss M!).
On returning home, however, I suddenly feel the need to collapse.  And so, on the way to bed, I'm writing this.

Yours, collapsing,

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mathematics and some poetry

An interesting day of talks, in an interesting city.

Yours, listening, and participating,

Friday, November 19, 2010

And another one bites the dust

And another one's gone.  My desktop machine at home had a catastrophic hard drive failure while I was gone.
Computers and me?  Grrrr.

Yours, not on speaking terms with computers right now,

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nice to be home...

It's very nice to be home, for a whole day.  And after I get back on the weekend, there's no more work travel until January, I believe.

Yours, ready to settle my feet again.

Back, safe and sound

Back home, safe and sound, after a long drive today.  Now I just need to get some things sorted out, and teach a couple of classes, and then it's off to the next conference.  And that's just for a couple of days.  Then I'm good until January.

Yours, looking forward to not traveling again for a few weeks,

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Oh no. Not another hard drive failure!

It appears that my hard drive is going again.  86 bad sectors.  Not a good advertisement for seagate drives, it appears.

Yours, getting ever more frustrated with the new machine that never meets its specs.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Me, that is.  And also others.
Idiocy on my part?  Forgetting my power brick at the conference.  A forgiveable (and as it turns out, fixable, by running for a bus, sprinting up the stairs, and finding the power brick ten minutes before the room was deconstructed by tech guys) mistake.  The bigger mistake?  The organizers of the conference decided in their infinite wisdom that the laptops they were letting people use should be collected prior to the open session where we were going to get people playing around with software.
Oh well. Tant pis.  We'll submit a suggestion to next year's conference to do things in a more ---- organized ---- fashion.

Yours, glad to have got my power brick back,

Monday, November 15, 2010

Swagless year

One of the nice things about attending a computer conference is the "swag" -- the little giveaways that are going to be good to bring home for the children, or for LOML, or for me.  But this year, in an indication that the recession, while over, perhaps, is still leaving an influence, the swag was sparse.  I guess I'd better get out and jump start the economy by buying some gifts to take home for the children.

Yours, disappointed,

Off to lunch between sessions

Things have been going well: lots of interested and engaged folks at this morning's session, and they seem to be planning to come back for the evening.

Yours, focused on the sessions,

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cafe society

One of my favourite places here is Cafe du Monde: it's a huge, almost cavernous space, semi-outside, and almost always packed.  They have a menu which has very few options: essentially, just cafe au lait and beignets: as a consequence, although they are packed, the turnover is so fast that you don't have to wait long for a table, at least at this time of year.
This morning our first session wasn't until 10:30, so we went there for breakfast, had a lovely morning, discussed and planned the session.

Yours, preferring to be caffeinated before talking,

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Talks and social events

The conference I'm attending has an education section, in which we are giving six separate 90 minute talks over the next few days: the first one, today, went very well: well over twenty participants (about what we wanted) forming and engaged, interested and enthusiastic audience.

And later, we went to the local aquarium for a social gathering, good food, and too-expensive wine. Lots of very interesting people to talk to, new connections to make.

Yours, having enjoyed, all in all, a very productive-feeling day,

Friday, November 12, 2010

NOLA, here I am!

Arrived in NOLA safe and sound, and got checked into the hotel.  Now to bed, to be prepared for our first talk tomorrow.

Yours, tired after a long drive,

NOLA, here I come

Off on a trip!

Yours, about to drive 9+ hours,

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A well-run meeting

At 3:30 this afternoon I went to a committee meeting.  I was not looking forward to this meeting; the reminder from the secretary of the committee had attached two files: one an agenda, the other 200 pages of supporting materials.  And it exhorted us to "come prepared to stay a while".
I fully expected to be there until 6pm or later, but thanks to a committee chair who knows how to run a meeting, I was out, across campus, and home by 5:30!

Yours, in praise of this skill, and wishing more people possessed it!

In remembrance

A moment of silence.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Anticipation of the trip

I haven't been back to New Orleans since early 2005 --- before Katrina hit.  It will be interesting to see how  it has changed since then: although I probably won't get a chance (or make a chance) to get out of downtown, I imagine there will still be scars.
I'm looking forward to the trip, and also to another trip there in January.

Yours,  in anticipation,

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy Birthday, Boo!

Have a lovely 8th birthday, Boo!

Yours, with love,

Monday, November 8, 2010

Frantically trying to get everything done

I leave on Friday for a conference, and so I am frantically trying to get everything in place before I leave.  Thanks to one of our graduate students, my undergraduate course is covered.  I've yet to prepare the exam she'll give them one of the two days I'll miss.  I've got to rent a car, work on my presentation, and get lots of other administrative stuff out of the way.

Yours, hating this aspect of leaving for conferences.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A lovely party

Boo recovered overnight, and so we went ahead with our plans for the party.
We baked cakes galore, and sausage rolls, and pizzas, and served up vegetables and chips and dip.
And by the time the party was over, first, and most importantly, Boo had had a good time.
Secondly, LOML and I both decided that this was one of the most fun parties we'd ever thrown.

Yours, already planning the next party... let's see...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Poor Boo

One day before her birthday party, and two more before her actual birthday, Boo has come down with a fever.  Not bad enough to cancel her party yet, but if she's any worse in the morning, we'll probably have to make that decision.  Hopefully she'll be feeling much better by then, and it won't be an issue.

Yours, already feeling sorry for her,

Friday, November 5, 2010

Another mathematical death

It's almost legend in mathematical circles.  A movie which spends a significant amount of time in the opening scenes showing a mathematical proof, crystal clear to those who understand it, opaque to some mathematicians,  less transparent to the rest of the world, of the "snake lemma".  Presenting an essentially complete, correct, proof.  All to set up the fact that the lead character is a brilliant, if abrasive mathematician.  And she's a she --- rare in mathematics when the movie was made.
The movie was "It's My Turn", an otherwise forgettable comedy, starring Jill Clayburgh, Michael Douglas and Charles Grodin, amongst others.  Jill Clayburgh has apparently died, and although she wasn't a mathematician in reality, she did a good job of portraying one on the screen.

Yours, in celebration of a role, and a actress who played it,

Happy Anniversary, LOML1

Six years and counting!

Yours, just wanting to say I love you,

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Another hectic day

We hosted the weekly potluck this evening --- unfortunately we realised rather late that this was also the evening for 'parent power' at the children's school, meaning mainly that we parents had to show up.  Fortunately one of our friends was able to come over a few minutes early and welcome everyone, offer wine or beer or lighter drinks, and generally act as host.
And of course, the evening was lovely.

Yours, enjoying the community spirit,

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sad news about a friend

My old friend John Selfridge has apparently passed on.  I hadn't seen him in several years, and for most of the past decade he'd been suffering badly from various mental deteriorations, but it is still very sad news.

Yours, saddened again,

New machine is running again

All day effort, but finally I am back on the new machine.  Hope that it lasts longer between crashes this time....
Yours, feeling at home again,

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Not a good day.  Even if we did take the children to participate in the civic process of voting.
Unfortunately, a lot of very good candidates lost today, state-wide and nation-wide, to a bunch of people who seem incapable of taking serious ideas seriously.

Yours, wondering how much of the rubbish some of these people spout they actually believe,

Monday, November 1, 2010

A day off

A rather lovely day off today, with activities including a bicycle ride with the children, a trip to the bookstore, and a lovely dinner with friends.  Sometimes, a day off can be just what a body needs to recuperate.

Yours, relaxed,

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The big, bad wolf

Before trick-or-treating (and even before trunk-or-treating, which was, surprisingly, quite fun) we took the kids to a play: The Trial of the Big Bad Wolf.  It's a dramatic retelling of the classic tale of the three little pigs, with the jury pressganged into playing out the pigs', and then the wolf's sides of the story. 

A fun time for us all.  And I like the fact that once or twice a year we walk down to the local theatre, of the stage variety, and watch people act out parts.

Yours, hoping to get a chance to watch Boo and Skibo act on the same stage next summer,


Boo was a ladybug fairy (what we would call a ladybird fairy in the UK): Skibo was Obiwan Kenobi -- the young Obiwan, replete with lightsaber.

LOML and I were parental units tagging along, watching over them like hawks.  Several pounds of candy collected, we returned home to bounce off the walls. 

Yours, hoping the sugar helps them sleep,

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Do you hate it when you speak too soon?

I planned to spend today rebuilding linux on my new laptop.  I had to be at work to supervise a contest, and figured that that would be a good time to install my OS.

Unfortunately, I hit an unexpected snafu: I couldn't connect to the ethernet.  I spent an hour or so trying to figure it out, trying this, trying that, etc.  No success.  And since Fedora releases their next release on Tuesday, I'm going to take my time coming to terms with it.

Yours, severely pissed off nonetheless,

Friday, October 29, 2010

When you play a country music song

backwards, you get your car back, you get your computer back,.....

Yours, happy that the day has played some country music backwards for me today,

Thursday, October 28, 2010

No car yet

No car, and still no new hard drive. 

Yours, missing my technology,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The fourth and final window in my car now refuses to wind up or down.
The other three had broken down over the past couple of years or so, but the driver's side window still worked.  Until last night --- and what is worse, it was open and refused to close. And Murphy being Murphy, of course we had heavy thunderstorms all night.

Yours, hoping that the garbage back taped over thew window kept out some of the rain,

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ten score days and eight years ago

I quit smoking 200 days ago, plus eight years.  And why mention it today?  It's the day that Boo was due to be born.
Yours, wishing Boo a happy due-day-versary!

Advertising a course

I"m offering a course for honors students next semester, and the honors college put together a poster presentation session this afternoon so that all eighteen or course could be advertised together.  I was very impressed with the students who showed up and showed interest:: they asked good questions, and seemed unscared by what could potentially be scary mathematics. 
It appears that any concerns that I had that I might not have enough students are unfounded.  Now the question appears possibly to be this; how many students am I going to have to turn away?

Yours, excited, and a little nervous,

The dog ate my homework

Actually, it wasn't my homework, it was a library book.  And it was Skibo's alrhough for complictated reasons he took it out on my library card.  And while Mustard didn't exactly eat it, she did gnaw away a good portion of the lower end of the spine.
As such, I'm going to have to buy the library system a new copy of it.

Yours, not amused,

Monday, October 25, 2010

Seagate, let me sing your praises

Since your drive managed to last at least a month, it had to be shipped back to you rather than to the vendor: and although the shipping service tells us it was delivered to you on Thursday last, you are still not aware that it has arrived.  And since you won't ship a replacement until you get the damaged drive back, you're leaving me waiting and waiting.
Now, will it take longer to get the new drive than the old one lasted?

Yours, thinking how much easier it would have been if the drive had died after two weeks instead.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Oh joy, oh bliss, bestill my beating computer

One thing is clear.  Let me nowhere near your computer.  Not until I am cleared of all influence.
I've just killed my second machine in ten days: this time, I suspect, a three year old graphics card --- not a particular surprise that it should die after that length of time, but annoying none the less: especially with my new main machine out of action for at least a few more days.

Yours, severely pissed off at computers right now,


Having enjoyed Benedict Cumberpatch's performance as a brilliant mathematician fighting an all intrusive state, I was looking forward to his performance as Sherlock Holmes in a modern setting.
From the very start, I was not disappointed: the dialogue was funny, gently so, in keeping with Holmes-and-Watsonian banter: the assumption by Mrs Hudson that they were gay being a particularly delightful touch.  I have some niggling little annoyances, but by and large, I thought it a brilliant piece.  I'm really looking forward to the second episode of the series.

Yours, thinking that Cumberpatch is going to redefine Holmes, in much the same way that Jeremy Brett did,

Playing Possum

Revisiting the whole possum magic/possum tragic series of events, it turns out that the series is (at least) a trilogy.  LOML now informs me that it appears said possum was not "sad" possum at all, but merely playing possum.  And has vanished off in the way that possums do.

Yours, happy to hear this,

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Quiet day by myself

LOML is off at Brownie Camp with Boo, Skibo is still over at a sleepover, and I'm having a lovely quiet day.  Get up late, walk the dogs, do a few dishes, and then fold a little.

Yours, relaxed,

Friday, October 22, 2010

Possum tragic

I am informed by LOML that one day recently, it appears that possum magic has become possum tragic.
It appears that one of Monty and Mustard may have lived up to their instincts, and said possum is now dead possum.

Yours, a little saddened by this turn of events,

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A marvellous time!

In a reprise of the Gathering for Gardner, all around the world yesterday (and this weekend) there were events in honour of the late Martin Gardner's 96th birthday.  I went today to one such event, and enjoyed great conversation and company, incredible hospitality, marvellous food and drink (very little of the latter for me, since I had to drive a fair way home after the event), and great entertainment, largely from magicians.

Yours, hoping every event was as much fun as the one I went to,

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Another lovely date

In US format, middle-endian, 10/20/10: in little-endian 20/10/10, in big-endian, 10/10/20: either way, the middle is the sum, or one end is the sum of the other terms.
Yours, knowing it is meaningless, but enjoying it nonetheless,

Long days, made longer

Long days, made longer by the addition of committee meetings, long discussions with colleagues, and the beginning of advising season.  In addition, I'm making plans to travel to a Celebration of Mind tomorrow, in honour of the late Martin Gardner's 96th birthday, so I'm having to get done today some of what would usually be done tomorrow.

Yours, feeling rushed,

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Possum Magic

We've been visited, as I may have mentioned, by a possum.  Not once, not twice, but multiple times.  I thought that I would post a picture of said visitor, from the first occasion, when we found it in our recycling bin outside the house, trapped.

Yours, noting that the title refers not to this possum, but to the title of a wonderful Mem Fox children's book,

Monday, October 18, 2010


The latest addition to the household.

Yours, introducing Mustard,

Merlin is off to a new home

Merlin, our larger cat, or rather the larger cat who used to visit us occasionally, has a new home.  He's been living outside by choice for a couple of months now --- he was taken in by a family a mile or so away for a part of that, but they couldn't keep him.
Anyway, a nice couple have decided that they love him, and took him to the vets: so, now we know he is well, and being looked after.  If they let him in and out, perhaps he'll even come visit once in a while.

Yours, relieved he'll be well looked after,

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Apple sauce

Skibo had a bunch of books to read over the past few days, and he's gotten behind schedule.  So this morning I sat down with him and tried to get him to read through them.  We managed a couple of them, in particular, one called Apples to Apple sauce.  He was thrilled by the description of peeling, chopping and cooking apples, so this afternoon we went to the store, bought apples and lemons, and came home to cook up a batch.
I peeled the apples, he pressed down on the corer, and then chopped the segments into smaller pieces (all the while with my watchful, and very nervous, eye on the very sharp knife he was holding).
The apple sauce was very good, I'm told (not being a fan myself).

Yours, having fun teaching him to cook,

New bicycle

I've been thinking about buying a new bicycle for a while now -- the old one is perfectly serviceable, if you know how to service it -- but I don't, by and large.
The silliest little annoying detail is the fact that it was made (nearly twenty years ago!) back when most bikes still used presta valves, and the wheels are a slightly odd dimension, so it's apparently non-trivial to replace with Schrader valves instead.  And all pumps these days are made for Schrader valves, and I am forever misplacing the tiny adapter.
Anyway, this afternoon I bought a new bike, a hybrid (i.e. not a racing bike, not a mountain bike, but half way between: straight handlebars, narrow tires).  Now to find a time to try it out: perhaps tomorrow  afternoon, or Tuesday morning, weather permitting.

Yours, looking forward to cycling again,

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Peaceful mornings

A nice lie in this morning, peacefully waking late: thanks at least in part to the fact that Skibo was away on a sleepover.  How nice on a Saturday morning not to be woken by a six year old boy jumping onto the bed.

Yours, sleepy-eyed even still,

Friday, October 15, 2010

An interesting afternoon

I spent an interesting afternoon discussing potential new courses: spies and spy novels; the death of privacy; Hamlet from all sorts of perspectives; and a bunch of others.  I'm considering adding a few to the list in the future: mathematical card tricks; mathematics and poetry; and my favourite, the science of cooking.
What a joy to be able to get together with a group considering offering off-the-wall, yet intellectually stimulating, material.

Yours, on the wagon with being off the wall,

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Failure rates

Equipment fails in an interesting fashion.  There's a binary nature: it either fails immediately or very early in its life, or it lasts as long as is expected.
My new laptop, just a couple of months old, is a perfect example of this: we installed extra RAM very early, and it was faulty, so we had to wait for a replacement.  Then we put in a larger hard-drive, since I choose to dual-boot: this was fine, for over a month.  And this morning, it failed.  Died a death, it did.  The machine won't boot from the hard drive, and booting with a rescue disk shows no drive connected to the machine.
Fortunately, I'd only made it my machine for regular use a week or so ago, so even though it is not properly backed up, the lost material is minimal. 
It is helping me appreciate my three year old machine more, though.

Yours, annoyed, but living with it,

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


All miners are up.  All rescue workers are up.  An amazing 24 hours or so of exciting, international rescue.
Way to go, Chile.

Yours, in celebration,

One miner left

There is just one miner left to bring up: and then either five or six more rescuers (I hope that they continue live coverage of the rescuers coming up --- it will seem quite unfair if they do not!)
This really has been an amazing event to watch: I spent much of the day flipping between work and watching the rescue.  I can't believe how smoothly it has all gone so far, so well, so quickly, and more than a couple of months ahead of the original schedule!

Yours, just a few more to bring up,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I have been watching the coverage of the attempts to bring up the Chilean miners: what a heartwarming, tear-bringing sight it has been.   I can't believe we're going to get to see all the miners reunite with their families, let alone the amazing shot from inside the mine!   I have to sleep, of course, but tomorrow I can imagine that I'll be glued to the net for the continuation of the rescues.

Yours, keeping my fingers crossed for the miners,

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

To everyone who has a connection to Canada, Happy Thanksgiving!!!!
Of course, here in the US, where it's Columbus Day, I am still at work.

Yours, wondering who would choose not to have a connection to Canada,

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sleep in until when????

Every Sunday, it is my wont to listen to the sunday puzzle segment with Will Shortz on NPR.  This week was no exception.  It was still my intention: but I was foiled by the fact that, without family running around, left, right, back and forth, I slept in past nine in the morning: a time I've not slept past in months, perhaps years.

And after that, I still managed to clean most of the kitchen before LOML and the kids returned, and make bread, and pizza dough!  What a lovely way to spend the day.

Yours, relaxed still,


The nice thing about today's date is that it doesn't matter whether you are big-endian, little-endian, or even, as in the US, middle-endian (and how did that ever come to be the convention?), the date is still the same. So, happy day of universal agreement!

Yours, realizing that there are many exceptions, given that there are lots of other calendars in use around the world,

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Brownies, Cubs, and Quiet

A rushed morning today, as I had to co-ordinate getting Boo and her friend M to brownies, or rather to the parking lot where the troop was gathering to go help at a soup kitchen.  LOML and Skibo had gone off to cub scout camp last night, and after Boo and M were done, I drove them over there too.
The town was crazy busy, hundreds, thousands perhaps of people gathering for the annual Fall Harvest Festival. So, rather than going out and doing something, I just had a very nice quiet afternoon to myself, at leftovers for dinner, and basically just enjoyed the unusual solitude.

Yours, peacefully

Friday, October 8, 2010

More possums

The title of this post notwithstanding, I don't actually believe that more possums have been involved.  In fact, I believe we've seen exactly two possums this week.  The one in the recycling bin, and the one who came in the window.
Three times.
Once yesterday, and then this evening there she was again, surrounded by barking mad dogs.   I took the dogs out of the room, and managed to shoo her out of the window again.
Relieved, I went back to putting Boo and her friend (here for a sleepover while LOML and Skibo are camping with the cub scouts) to bed.  
A few minutes later, when I went through to that room again, I saw a scurrying little creature, and hear a little pattering.  Sure enough, she was back in the house again.  This time I had to chase her around, blocking her way with a broom, a door, a foot a couple of times, until finally she headed out the door I'd left open for her exit.

I'm not sure why we're being so blessed with possum visits today.  And I'd rather they didn't come back, at least not in the house.

Yours, noticing that none of them have "played possum" at all.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Possum Magnet

We're big fans of lots of childrens' authors: one in particular who has written many wonderful books is Mem Fox.  One of our favourites, and one that resonates especially for us, is Koala Lou: about a young koala who thinks that her mother is too busy to love her any more: she decides to enter the bush olympics, but fails to win, but in the end discovers that her mother does love her anyway.  We've adopted the tag line for our own:
"I do love you, Boo, I always have and I always will"
is a frequent line from our mouths (and similarly for Skibo).
Another of her books that we really love is Possum Magic, all about a young possum, turned invisible by her grandmother, and their quest (via traditional Aussie food like lamingtons, pavlova and vegemite) to undo the spell.  
This was all brought to mind by the fact that this week we've had two (different, I believe) possums turn up: one in a recycling bin outside, the other inside the house, having come in an open window (a window ten feet above the ground, but with ample climbing surfaces nearby). The first I released by the side of the house, the second LOML and I managed to persuade to scuttle back out the window.
Not believing in magic, I am assuming we have some other attractive qualities, probably not including two dogs and two cats.

Yours, in the role of possum magnet,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


LOML made calzones this evening: I'd made pizza dough for last night, and we had fewer guests than we might have fed, so put the extra dough in the fridge.  Now LOML and I thought that they tasted delicious (although I did the standard stupid trick of filling mine twice as full as I should!) but unfortunately the children decided to be unwilling to try them with an open mind.

So, given children's reluctance, and adult enjoyment, I'd say that we'll try them again, but it won't be any time soon.

Yours, wondering what the kids might have found not to like....

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


As part of the fiscal woes we're going through, the institution is restructuring, asking all departments to consider ways to save money, productive places to invest our energies in for the future, and how to get there from here.
Today we had our meeting with the vice presidents to give them our views, and a meeting scheduled for 90 minutes lasted at least two hours.   I had to leave at that point, so I'm not sure how much longer it lasted.

However, I have to say that I came away relatively impressed with the whole process, which I had not expected to happen.   Hopefully, the outcomes will reflect a similarly positive outcome.

Yours, in transition,

Monday, October 4, 2010

New laptop

I've made the transition from my old laptop to my new one.  I spent several hours this morning backing up my old machine, then several hours this afternoon restoring the data to the new one.
As of now, most things are working after a fashion.  And it's very nice to have a good battery again --- the old one would only hold about an hour's charge.

Yours, dealing with change, and dealing with it well (if slowly)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie!

The weather has taken an autumnal turn, at last, and so my food thoughts turn to comforting cuisine.  LOML expressed an interest in having chicken pot pie tonight, so I threw one together.  Just threw it together, yes.
I'd made chicken soup for yesterday, but we ended up going over to a lovely party with the vets, and so the soup was ready for today.  I scooped out a little of the liquid, and a lot of the vegetables and chicken, and mixed it with a little cream: ladled it into a pastry-lined pie plate, topped with more pastry, and baked it until it was delicious.
I used to be very afraid of pastry: but a combination of technique and recipe has changed that.  I use the pastry recipe from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, with the following technique:
Cut the butter sticks into three slices lengthwise, and cut each strip into three lengthwise, then cut along the strips so the butter is in cubes about the size of a pea.  Put the flour into a ziplock bag, put the butter in, and shake to distribute evenly.  Put the bag in the freezer for at least an hour, together with the bowl, blade and top of the food processor.
Now follow the directions to make the pastry (pulse a couple of times, add the ice water, pulsing, turn out onto plastic wrap, form into a ball, and refrigerate).
Since making pastry this way, I've not had a bad batch.
And this pie was no different either.  Just plain spectacular.

Yours, in favour of a chicken in every pot (pie)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Off to put up a poster at the cafe

We're off to the cafe for breakfast, the children and me.  LOML's helping out at the vets' clinic for the morning, so I'm taking the kids to eat, then we'll go to the library and get some books.  We've taken Monty and Mustard for a walk: we're going to have to shut Mustard up in the bathroom while we're gone, I think: she's a bit of an escape artist, having figured out how to unlock the cat flap and get out of it.  I've rescued her from the front garden several times already.
I'm going to put a "Found: Dog" poster up at the cafe: perhaps her owners are missing her....

Yours, perceiving the adoption happening minute by minute

Friday, October 1, 2010


The new dog, she, it turns out, is now named Mustard.  I realised that she looked just like the dog of the same name in our illustrated copy of Ogden Nash's "Custard the Dragon", and hence the name stuck.  LOML's going to make posters with her picture and place them around the neighbourhood: until then, we're making her welcome.

Yours, knowing that now we've named her.....

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A new dog

Just as we were getting used to being a one-dog family, another stray trots into our life.
Haven't decided on a name yet.  He or she is very friendly, a mutt, small, with a damaged leg.

Yours, hoping we can find his owner,

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Back in the classroom

Boo's teacher last year, albeit with a post-marriage change of name, is now teaching Skibo.  As such, it was easy to organise an early origami visit to the class: I visited yesterday for a little over an hour, telling them Michael LaFosse's lovely little penguin and iceberg story, teaching them to fold the traditional peace dove, and then finishing, as is the constant request, with the story of the Captain's T-shirt.
I felt a little rushed this time: sixteen students, in groups of four, with a story first and another after, plus transitions, filled, and indeed slightly exceeded the time allotted.  But that was okay with the class, and the session was fun, and enjoyed by all.

Yours, loving the excitement in the first graders' eyes as they learn to fold,

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


We made burgers this evening.  First time in ages; the children have been resistant to the idea, for some reason.  But tonight, they both agreed that that would be an acceptable meal, so Boo and I headed to the grocery store.
She suggested having bacon on the side (so the rest of us could have bacon on the burgers!) and was happy with the idea of cheese on the top.  We figured out what else to have with them, finished our shopping and headed home.

As a pleasant surprise, we had four other guests for dinner (which necessitated another trip to the store to get more ground beef): a fantastic time was had by all, and everyone, children included, enjoyed the burgers. 

Yours, ham(burger)ing it up,

Monday, September 27, 2010

You have eight new positions!

Here are the people who are going to fill them.

Our department was informed today that we will have eight new faculty members next year.  However, this was achieved by passing on to us some (fairly closely related) faculty members from another department which is shuffling off its mortal coil, a victim of state funds withdrawn, and for historical reasons, not fundable from increases in student fees.

It's clear that this is the best solution for the institution, and we're all going to do what we can to make the newcomers welcome.  But at the same time, it's going to cause stress and strain, and all sorts of forseeable administrative snafus.  Since we can forsee them, perhaps we can also forestall them.

Yours, knowing that this is one of the reasons I don't want to be an administrator,

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bike rodeo

We went to the bike rodeo this afternoon: the event, organized by Skibo's cub scout troop, promised a great time for all.
Unfortunately, to begin with, the weather showed as much co-operative spirit as Senator DeMint.  Secondly, when we arrived, there were no girls there other than Boo, who took this to mean that girls were unwelcome, and promptly had a mini-meltdown.
Eventually things picked up, and children started to have fun.  But the folks organizing the event had failed to figure out how to have adults leading and guiding the children cycling, and there were a few minor accidents.  After one, involving Skibo and a ramp, and what could have been a nasty fall but wasn't, we decided to leave and snuggle inside at home instead.

Yours, having learned some lessons about organizing an event by watching this,

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A good deed

I did something good today: I persuaded friends to bring their children and mine to a big paved area, so that their kids could practice riding bikes.  Their children are nine and three months younger than Boo and Skibo, respectively, and the four are best of friends.  Unfortunately their experiences riding bikes had had a few bumps, and they'd become scared.  But riding with Boo and Skibo seems to have turned them around, and by the end of the morning, both of them were riding away, almost fearless.
I feel very good about having helped them:-)

Yours, knowing that with bicycles, what goes around comes around,

Friday, September 24, 2010

Heading west, into the moonset

As I drove to work this morning, running a few minutes later than I had intended, sun attempting to rise behind me, the road kept turning, then returning, heading west.  And every time it turned west again, the moon sat, shining through an avenue of trees, beaconing me towards the moonset.
I don't usually notice the moon in daylight, for obvious reasons.  These last two mornings have been beautiful!

Yours, thrilled at the sights,

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Moon over Parador

To make up for missing last night's rising moon, I accidentally caught it setting at sunrise this morning, caught in the branches of a next-door tree.  At that time of day it appeared almost yellow-orange; and there was just time to rouse the children and LOML to run across the street for a clearer view.
Absolutely beautiful!

Yours, appreciating the setting,

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Missed the moon at sunset

I had intended to see the rising of the moon tonight, at sunset.  Unfortunately, as so often happens around here, life intrudes on plans, and intentions are forgotten until too late.
While doing poems and songs with the children, though, I caught sight of the moon, huge and bright, framed by puffy clouds --- absolutely gorgeous.   I tried to take some photos of it a little later, without success.  Apparently that is one thing that our DSLR camera just isn't as good at.  Not to be a bad workman, or anything...

Yours, with a lunar inclination,

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pizza again

We're trying to make menus at the beginning of the week and stick to them, at least partially.  Tuesdays being my quiet day, we had pizza tonight.  I managed to make three different batches of dough: one for pizza, one for bread, one for sourdough.  I didn't get around to cooking dinner for tomorrow, or Thursday, but that's okay....

Yours, on food,

Monday, September 20, 2010

JImmy Carter

Our former president can be hilarious.  Tonight on Jon Stewart he was describing how he is not completely compatible with the tea party: citing the fact that he's never engaged in witchcraft, and that as a young man, he was not totally opposed to mas...... before being cut off by his host.


Yours, with ever strong respect for the former president,

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Skibo at the computer

He informed the rest of us that we wasn't joining us on our weekly shopping trip: he said
"I'm not going shopping, I'm staying here and figureouting my password".
(We log him in so that he doesn't have unfettered access --- and this is a source of continued frustration to him!)

Yours, amused by the construction, but bringing him along anyway,

Saturday, September 18, 2010


The local sports team is now no longer undefeated for the season.  This means that we can all settle down and get back to work without worrying if we were going to do better than everyone predicted.
Admittedly, it was a difficult loss, in overtime, that could quite easily have been a win. 

Yours, tasting sour grapes,

Friday, September 17, 2010

Navel gazing

We're undergoing a serious review at work: the budget cuts over the past few years have been incredibly severe, and the only end in sight is the fact that it will be tough to cut below zero.  Consequently we are undergoing a self-study, every department, college, centre or school asked to examine all aspects of their program: strengths, weaknesses, possibilities, cuts.
It's led to some interesting discussions, and some of the navel gazing may actually lead to some positive outcomes, but in terms of the number of hours put in, it's clear that one way to be more efficient might perhaps to be to eliminate requests for navel gazing.

Yours, self reverentially (aren't all departments like that?)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Potluck, but not yet

We're going to have a regular potluck with a bunch of friends: every Thursday evening, rotating whose house it meets at.  Tonight we started, here, but without the potluck aspect.
A lovely, gentle time --- for the grownups.  And for the children, well there were occasional moments of non-gentleness, but by and large they had a good time too.  And we met new friends!

Yours, lucky, without pot

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A delightful evening with the vets

Our friends who run the local veterinary clinic had us over to dinner this evening, and a lovely time was had by all: delicious food, great company.  And the kids didn't object  too strongly to the fact that the pool was covered....

A lovely evening!

Yours, celebrating friends,

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Children reading

I am, of course, inordinately (and I think, justifiably) proud of our children: and especially of their reading.  Boo is reading 2-3 grades above level, and Skibo is catching up incredibly quickly: he's way ahead of where she was at his age.
But tonight, I was stunned by Skibo's reading: not that he could read the words, not that he was fluent, but that at the age of only-just-six, he was imbuing the text with emotion and meaning: using inflection and emphasis like a pro!

Way to go, Skibo!

Yours, prouder than a proud parent,


As a birthday present, LOML wanted -- and received -- a yoghurt maker.  And so this led naturally to a couple of other presents: yoghurt cookbooks.  One arrived last week, having just reappeared in print in the UK (and yet to reappear here -- so I had it shipped from over there).
I made meatballs in an onion, yoghurt and spices sauce: a huge hit all around (no, the kids didn't eat it --- we gave up and gave them separate meals).  It will be made again!  So, let me recommend The Yogurt Cookbook, by Arto Der Haroutunian, recently republished.  A lovely book!

Yours, saucily,

Monday, September 13, 2010

Skibo is a cub

And we went to his first meeting this evening.  He's thrilled to be involved, and especially excited about the prospect of being able to fire bows and arrows and bb guns.
LOML and I are less than thrilled about that particular aspect of scouting, although it does seem that it is better for him to get exposure in a carefully supervised, controlled environment, than to have a friend show him his bb gun.

Yours, trying to dampen my rampant weaponophobia,

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Family First

This morning, for the first time ever, the four of us went for a bike ride.  Not a long one, not particularly challenging, certainly not the tour de france.  There's time for that next month.
But it was a delightful gentle roll around the neighbourhoods, up and down some small hills, past neighbours houses, saying hello to a few people.
Just a delightful time!

Yours, rolling

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Icecream sat forgotten on the table.  Children ran through the house shouting!
Skibo held his fist tightly clenched!  His tooth has come out, his tooth has come out!

He only noticed that it was loose a couple of days ago, and it loosened very quickly, and fell out this evening.  Quite the reverse of Boo's experiences with loose teeth, where we wonder by the time that third of fourth month rolls around whether it is ever going to fall out.

So, Skibo's finally started to lose teeth!

Yours, searching around for suitable tooth-fairy-gelt,

Momentous moments

Boo and Skibo just took an extra step towards independence.  With LOML and my blessings, they walked down to the cafe by themselves, bought cinnamon buns, and came back.
Granted, it's 100 yards, on the same side of the street, no crossing other roads, but still, it's a big step.

Yours, finding it difficult to let go,

The burning question of the day

Here is the best take I've seen yet on the whole issue.

Yours, happily sharing someone else's brilliance,

Friday, September 10, 2010

New laptop

I finally have my hands on my new laptop, bigger hard drive installed.  I had asked for a souped up model, but somehow in the ordering process my requests got ignored, so we've been doing what we can to retrofit it: can't do anything about the screen, or the chipset, but we'll put extra RAM into it on Monday, and call it done.
Consequently I spent much of the afternoon installing fedora on it: taking time to try to do it right.  Then I have to figure out the best way to transfer all my stuff from the old laptop....

Yours, happily tinkering again,

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Happy Anniversary to F&F

Happy anniversary to my great friends F&F, who were married twenty one years ago!  I'm so glad I was a part of you day then, and wish you many more annversaries to come!

Yours, in celebration!

Goodbye Bella

We only had her for 9 months, but today we said goodbye to Bella, beloved golden retriever.  Runaway, bread snatcher, and difficult in so many other ways, but loved deeply, and loved well.  Unfortunately, the lymphoma was progressing incredibly rapidly, and this was the kindest thing to do.

We hope that we gave her a good home for those few months she was with us.

Yours, wishing her goodbye,

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hump day

Wednesdays are my really busy days:  classes at 8, 12-ish and 3:30, plus committee meetings (usually at least two, often more) and meetings with students.  All tucked into a tight 10 hour window.  But at least when the day is done, it's done.

Yours, over the hump for this week,

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

To make up for Labor Day

To help me resent yesterday a little less, I have taken today off.  Or rather, I'm not going in to work today.  I will, of course, put in a few hours work at home -- I do that every day, because my work is something I do for fun.
But I am staying home.  I plan to cook, to cook, and cook some more.  And perhaps relax a little.

Yours, labouring under no illusions,

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

In the US, Labor Day (yes, they spell it that way) is a big deal: the holiday marking the end of summer, and the beginning of the coming school year.
It commemorates events which led, amongst other things, to the adoption of the five day work week, and consequently, the weekend.  A great thing to celebrate.
And here in the deep south, they commemorate it by having us work.

Yours, spending a federal holiday the way that I usually do,

Sunday, September 5, 2010

On bikes, redux

As we had intended (although a little later in the morning, perhaps) we headed off to the evil megastore and bought LOML a new bike: we would have bought it yesterday, but there wasn't enough room in the van, so this morning we made sure there was space, and headed off.
From there we went to the botanical gardens -- or more precisely, to the very large parking lot, where the children could cycle to their hearts' content. 
LOML thinks the new bike is fantastic, and Boo is doing amazingly well, cycling back and forth at high speed, in full control of her bike.  But today, I want to sing Skibo's praise -- a couple of days ago, for the first time, he rode without stabilizers.  Yesterday he did okay.  Today, he was incredible!
He rode like crazy; he learned to turn left and right in big circles, he learned to slow down, and turn in small circles, and best of all, he learned to start cycling from a full stop: it took Boo a good week or more to get that!

So, I'll sign off tonight as follows;
Yours, in praise of Skibo,

Boo and Skibo on bikes

We went to the library, partly because LOML and Boo and Skibo wanted to get books out --- but perhaps more because we wanted the children to get a chance to ride their bicycles.
Unfortunately, Skibo still needs a little more practice in a big parking lot with lots of space to weave and wander:  Sunday morning, perhaps, we will find a good space and give him lots of time to learn.

Yours, thinking of Buffy Ste Marie's "The Circle Game",

Saturday, September 4, 2010


I'm confused.  I have comment moderation switched on, and so I see all the attempts to make inappropriate comments here before they appear --- or rather, before I delete them. 
And I understand that there are deterministic algorithms that the spammers use to decide which post to attempt to post a spam comment to.

But really, is cats, catastrophes and aphorisms really that enticing a piece for a spammer?  Enticing enough that three quarters of the spam comments want to link here?

Yours, confused, bemused, and a little amused,

Friday, September 3, 2010

Barking mad

Monty, (perhaps responding to Bella's illness?) has decided that it is time to go barking mad.  Especially at bedtime.  He takes up positions around the house, and opens his mouth and shouts.  It's incredibly frustrating, to hear the barking just as one child or the other is about to think about dropping off to sleep.... and to know that this will keep them awake another five, ten, even sixty minutes.

Yours, seriously considering a muzzle,

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Here in the south, we are a land of infinite wisdom.  And in their infinite wisdom, the state has decided that we state employees don't need federal holidays.  I have to admit that this rather unusual approach by the state doesn't bother me much for quite a lot of the year, especially those days when it's not a federal holiday.
But when we are approaching  a holiday, say Labor Day, and I see all my friends and colleagues elsewhere discussing this that or other plans for Monday, I tend to get jealous. 

Yours, grateful that when they give us the fourth of July off they usually only make us work one Saturday to make up for it,

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Back in Britain, training wheels are called stabilizers --- or is it vice versa?
Whichever it is, Skibo is showing his heels again: this time on his bike.  Today he learned to ride without stabilizers --- he's really been ready for a good while,  but it's been so hot and humid it's been hard to get out there and have him ride.  But today, while hot still, it was less humid.  And he's doing marvellously well!

Yours, proudly parental,

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Plans coming together

I'm thinking of a new course --- on the great and lesser problems of mathematics: and after lots of discussions, it looks like the course will happen: I've settled of seven or eight books for the students to read, I'm thinking of potential topics for them to write about, and am looking forward to running it.

Yours, contemplating grading essays for a change,

Monday, August 30, 2010


It's not looking good for Bella -- her back is looking worse, and the sores are spreading over her body.  She still doesn't appear to be in pain, but it is very sad to see.

Yours, in that permanent anticipation which hurts so much,

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cooking again, or is it still?

We're helping our vet friends, E&S celebrate S's (Friday) birthday this afternoon.  So we're making a few things to take over --- LOML made my coleslaw recipe yesterday, and I'm braising ribs again, and making The Vegetarian Epicure's mac and cheese.  And LOML's made chocolate cake.

Yours, wondering whether this counts as "still cooking" or "cooking again",

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bad news about Bella

We learned this morning some sad news: our golden retriever, who we adopted as a stray in January, has malignant lymphoma.  We're not sure what the prognosis is other than bad.  It could take weeks, or months, or years.  At the moment, she's not in any pain as far as we can tell: and while we can easily keep her comfortable and happy, we will do so.  But it's not the sort of thing where we can really do very much more than that, which means we will have a few difficult times in the foreseeable future. 
At the moment, she still seems playful and energetic, running for balls, and jumping on the counter to try to grab food (I wish she'd stop that part!) and we're hoping this will continue as long as possible.

Yours, saddened,

Friday, August 27, 2010

August Birthdays

There really are a huge number of people in our circle who have August birthdays: in addition to LOML, my mum and dad, Skibo, of course: at the party tonight we sang a joint happy birthday to five people present, and half an hour later another arrived.  Then on Sunday we are visiting our friends S&E, the vets, to help celebrate S's birthday today.

Yours, helping make every birthday count, I hope,

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Preparing for a party

Since Skibo didn't have a real birthday party a couple of weeks ago, when we were at the beach, we're throwing him a party tomorrow.  We're combining it with celebrations of two friends, K & B, who apparently were born a day apart -- not just in dates in the year, but in the same year as well.

Since it is a week day, and a teaching day, I've tried to get some things prepared in advance: pizza dough, ribs and wings marinating, for example.
I'll still have to fly around the kitchen in the afternoon, but it will be possible, instead of crazy.

Yours, always choosing possible over crazy, except when not,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hump day

Sometimes Wednesdays are called "hump day".  The day at the middle of the week, after which it is all downhill.  And that is how today felt.  One week into classes, and I'm already asking how many weeks it is until the end of the semester. 
I am, at least, enjoying the students in my classes -- they seem engaged and bright, and interested. But still, I'm exhausted. 
Yours, figuring it's probably early-onset old-age syndrome...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Can we ridicule the country we choose to live in?
If it is the US, then the answer, unfortunately, is "yes, all to easily".
Assuming that this report at Salon is correct, there is a school district that is now requiring its students to bring supplies to school.  And when I say supplies, I don't mean number 2 pencils.  No, I mean supplies to deal with a different sort of number two: I mean toilet paper.
We've brought fifty pounds per child of supplies to school here further east --- dry erase markers, reams and reams of paper, folders, scissors, glue, etc.  But we've never been asked to supply such essential items before.
I could have understood if this was Texas, perhaps.  Alabama, well maybe.  But....

Yours, hoping this is a hoax, but fearing that it is actually Hawaii, of all places,

Monday, August 23, 2010

Contemplating a course

I'm contemplating putting together a new course here, a course for the brightest, most engaged students on campus: it will focus on the great problems of mathematics, but those which have been solved, and those which remain open.

In addition to the great problems, I will probably include about half as much material again on those problems less great, but which the students can really fully comprehend, get their teeth stuck into, and while not solving, at least develop a more visceral understanding.

That's the upside.  The downside, of course, is the extra work it will entail.

Yours, likely to decide to do the course anyway,

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back in the swing

Weekends become precious once again, as the semester is back in full swing.
Today, LOML and the kids are off to continue their movie-going summer: the sequel to Nanny McPhee --- hopefully, they will enjoy it.
Me, I plan a gentle, relaxing afternoon in the kitchen: making two batches of bread, one in the mixer, one by hand, in parallel, to compare the differences in flavour and texture.  Science, and food, in one fell swoop. 

Yours, wondering what could be better,

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Everything went swimmingly

The waves this year, at this beach, were stronger than previous years, previous beaches.  And the children, while swimming better than ever before, were also less afraid, less cautious.... this of course made LOML and me more nervous than ever.
But we dealt with our nerves, calmed our fears, and made sure not to show them to the children.  And their joy shone through it all!

Yours, pleased with how they love the water,

Friday, August 20, 2010

Another sunset picture

Yours, letting you know that this image makes me happy!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A sunset from last week

We saw some lovely sunsets last week.   LOML and I caught a few moments of a few of them.  Here's one.....

Yours, wondering if you remembered how much I like sunsets....

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A new academic year begins

So I wish to pass on lots of luck to all students beginning today.  May my explanations be crystal clear, yet memorable, my assignments on the light side of odious, yet pedagogical enough that you learn from them, and my examinations fair, yet do-able!

Yours, hoping the students help out with their end of the bargain,

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Last day of temporary sanity

Tomorrow we start the new semester.  Today is my last quiet day of sanity.
Or in reality, battling the new version of blackboard, trying to get my computer set up the way I want it (despite the fact that in a couple of weeks I should have my hands on the new laptop which has only been in the department since June).
But still, compared with tomorrow, I can sign off as
Yours, temporarily sane,

Monday, August 16, 2010

It's come down to this

In the interests of parental sanity, and with new semesters of learning looming up in front of us, we're letting Boo read Skibo to sleep.  And then she gets permission, after reading to him, to read another chapter to herself before her light goes off.

It's one way to get her to do her reading homework,  I guess, although Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is probably a couple of years ahead of her current reading homework level --- not that anyone will object, I am sure!

Yours, proud of my children,

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Spanish tonight

Back home, cookbooks and pots and pans, oven and ingredients, inspiration and friends.  We're having our friends K & K over this evening, and we're trying more recipes from The New Spanish Table: pork shoulder braised in wine and dried fruit, rustic smoky mashed potatoes, and spinach with raisins and pine nuts.  We're trying to be creative in this fashion at least once a week: and fortunately our friends seem to be more than willing to act as guinea pigs:-)

Yours, inspired,

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Driven with success

We drove home successfully, and are now back at the house.  The children are (I hope) asleep, and I am heading in that direction myself shortly. 
With stops it took close to eight hours to get back (we were slowed rather substantially as well by the traffic much of the way): this included looking for a particular fast food joint in an area where there were 11 highway exits without that particular chain.  We finally realised that we could look for the closest such restaurant with the GPS and took a ten minute detour to get there.

The highlight of the day, though, was walking out along the pier at the beach before leaving: well worth the dollar each it cost us for the privilege.  We got to see some fishermen handling live shrimp: I had no idea what they looked like live: not curled up at all, and incredibly agile, jumping five to ten inches in the air.

Yours, naming one of the shrimp "Jehosophat",

Friday, August 13, 2010

The final full day

Today we had our final full day at the beach: as always this signalled the time to start packing up, cleaning up and clearing out.  We went out to dinner at a diner a few miles from the beach: the number of cars outside augured well, but the food was somewhat ordinary.  And we waited twenty minutes to get seated and another fifteen before the food arrived.  Rather disappointing (especially, I suspect, to LOML, who ended up being sick rather later, which we suspect may have been the result of the shrimp at dinner).

Yours, packing it in,

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Connection issues

Connections have been poor at the beach (but better than nothing, which is what I expected.
Today we continued celebrating Skibo's birthday, this time with a trip to the local planetarium.  Poor interpretation, but great exhibits, and even more surprising, free.  Of course, we spent a fair few dollars in the gift shop, and also donated a lot of change (they had a wonderful "investigate the gravity well as your coin circles the hole" display which happily swallowed all denominations of coins!) so we hope that we treated them fairly. 
Later LOML and I had a lovely time as J watched the children and we went out for a nice romantic dinner together: overlooking a creek, we ate an appetizer of tuna tartar drizzled with a sriracha mayonnaise dressing (delicious!) followed by plates of (rather more ordinary) fried shrimp, scallops, catfish and stuffed crab.

Yours, enjoying the final few days,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A lovely day

We celebrated Skibo's birthday today, and had a lovely time: we opened presents, swam, played mini-golf, went for ice cream, pizza, and cake, and swam again.  Just a lovely day, and so nice to be able to help him be six years old!

Yours, making memories,

Happy Birthday, Skibo!

Skibo turns a year older today.  Let's hope that over the coming year he becomes even smarter, even more handsome, and a little better behaved.  Not necessarily in that order!

Yours, celebrating wildness, wishing it would tame,

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New moon

I always hope that it's going to be a full moon while we are at the beach, and, of course, this changes from year to year: we're always there for essentially the same dates, so it is quite predictable: and this year, I knew well in advance that it would be two weeks out of sync.  Yesterday was the new moon, so perhaps this evening, if I am lucky, I can try to catch a sliver of crescent.   Perhaps I'll set the tripod up on the deck and try to take a slow shot of the sky, weather permitting.

Yours, a couple of days shy of waxing lyrical,

Hotter than before

We took a walk this afternoon, down to the end of the street (perhaps a couple of hundred yards at most) and then 12 shortish blocks along the main road, to the little stores on the island.  What a mistake!  It was hot enough that as soon as we got there, I turned right around and walked back to get the car so that the children wouldn't have to walk back.  It wasn't a long walk --- under fifteen minutes at an adult pace, twenty with children dragging, but in full sun, and high humidity, in retrospect it was not the thing to do.

Yours, driven with a purpose, in this instance!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Mum!

Many happy returns, Grandma!  (Mum to me!)

Yours, with love,

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What a lovely place!

We're at the beach, and the house is beautiful!  What a lovely place!
And the beach is wonderful too....   Looking forward to the week,

Yours, waving,

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Off to the beach in the morning

And so to bed, to get a good night's sleep first....

Yours, zzzzz,

Friday, August 6, 2010

At last, I'm done!

And now that I am home, I'm done for the next week!  We're off to the beach, going to enjoy finding out about a new beach town, exploring all that there is to do there, swimming, a planetarium, cooking, and, of course, celebrating Skibo's birthday!

Yours, counting down,

Happy Birthday Dad!

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!  (Dad to me).

Yours, with love,

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Driving Rain

Or rather, driving in the rain.  For hours, through torrential downpour.
It added a good couple of hours to the trip.  But I made it home, safe and sound, thank goodness!

Yours, dripping,

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Talks done, panel done, time to enjoy myself

No, wait, I have to drive home tomorrow, almost nine hours.
Time to get some sleep!

Yours, on a driven schedule,

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's terrible of me

I am away on LOML's birthday.  And so, I have to say at a distance, Happy Birthday to you, my Love!

Yours, with love,

Monday, August 2, 2010

A long drive later

I arrived last night, spent a lovely evening (until well into the early hours of the morning) with friends I've not seen in ten years, including having the police come by and explain that the music was way too loud!) Today I wandered, got checked in, and had dinner with friends I've not seen in five years --- and then walked home, a good brisk walk for 60 minutes.  I've definitely got some exercise in today:-)

Yours, enjoying my old neighbourhoods immensely,

Sunday, August 1, 2010

And I'm off

In about half an hour or so, I will be on the road.  Heading north for a few days, to proselytize about mathematics and computers.

Yours, on the road,

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Poor players

All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.
Or, in the case of North Korea, all the world's a field, and and all the football
players merely peons.  And apparently, their god-like ruler didn't take kindly to their achievements in South Africa last month.

Yours, in heartfelt sympathy,

strange laws

Having grown up in the UK, I have always found the US and Canadian laws regarding alcohol rather amusing.  Except, of course, when they apply to me.  It is a pain in the neck having to remember to buy wine on Saturday if I'm having guests over on Sunday, for example.
Anyway, Pennsylvania has amongst the strangest laws in the country.  Four days before prohibition was repealed in the 30's, the state created the Liquor Control Board, with an explicit aim to make it as expensive and inconvenient as possible to drink alcohol.  It's still in place.  You can buy a six-pack of beer from a bar, but to buy wine or spirits, you have to go to a state-run store.  And, of course, never on a Sunday!  (Actually, I just checked that fact, and it's false: 12-5pm on Sundays in a few stores, but most are closed)

But still, times change, and things become more rational.  And Pennsylvania continues to confound.  They've just made it possible to buy wine in a handful of grocery stores, but the method that they've chosen boggles the mind!

Yours, completely bamfoozled by the concept that someone somewhere could possibly think that this was a good idea,

Friday, July 30, 2010

From The Spanish Table

On Wednesday, I cooked a recipe from The Spanish Table, one of our new cookbooks: I went with roasted potatoes with piquante tomato sauce and an allioli (to which I added some Dijon mustard), together with my standard breaded chicken and vegetables.
It tasted so good, and there was so much allioli and tomato sauce left that last night I made pizza, topping it with the tomato sauce, and serving the allioli on the side to dip the pizza in.  It was transformational.  That good.  Hyperbole, and in italics, yet.
Tonight, we're going to see if we can tempt K&K to come over for dinner, with pork chops on the menu: served, as it happens, with piquante tomato sauce and Dijon allioli. 

Yours, happy with the way the first recipe from the cookbook turned out, and excited to try more,

Thursday, July 29, 2010

So hot

Still so hot here, still so hot.  When it's this hot, at 11pm at night, who can think of anything else to say?

Yours, aswelter,

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A wonderful pair of tongue twisters

Last night on Colbert, I heard a wonderful tongue twister, recited jointly by Kevin Kline and Stephen Colbert.
Oh what a to-do to die today at a minute or two to two,
A thing distinctly hard to say but harder still to do,
And they’ll beat a tattoo at twenty to two, a rat-a-tat-tat, a tat-a-tat-too,
And the dragon will come when he hears the drum,
At a minute or two to two today, at a minute or two to two.

Looking this up afterwards, I also found this one, whch I like also:

Amidst the mists and fiercest frosts with barest wrists and stoutest boasts,
he thrusts his fists against the post and still insists he sees the ghost.

They bring back memories of warmups before rehearsals.
Yours, twisted, tongue-wise


Relative to my post earlier, I should also add that the fact that I've got lots done, in spite of having a five hour schedule in the classroom every day, strikes me as quite unbelievable.  But it's true, I tell you, true!

Yours, honestly!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Preparing for presentations

Occasionally I am a procrastinator.  I admit it.  The fact that it is even describable tongue in cheek as "occasionally" I owe to my parents, especially my father, for persuading me gently but firmly, and with great effort on his part, to get homework done when I was younger.  (Thanks, Dad!)
But still, sometimes, I wait until the work left can expand to exceed the time available.  Fortunately, for next week's talks, I may have hit the timing on the nose.  I am finally feeling like I have nearly enough time to be prepared for my talk -- if I have just a few more weeks to work on it! 
I'll be ready.  One way or another.

Yours, having only procrastinated a little over the past couple of days,

Monday, July 26, 2010

Heat and sleep

Whether it was the heat, the fan on medium instead of high (which I eventually turned off: it kept intruding into unpleasant half-dreams), or whether it was the fact that the children both decided they needed to sleep with us last night, sleep didn't go well yesterday.
And tonight, planning to get an early night, I check the weather and see that it is supposed to be stormy until midnight.  Which means that Bella will be attempting to get into bed with us instead.  Ugh.

Yours, looking forward to rather cooler weather next week in Pittsburgh,

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Another sad death

I used to enjoy watching snooker many years ago when I lived in the UK: unfortunately pool is a poor substitute for the subtlety of snooker (and it annoys the heck out of me when they use the term "billiards" to refer to it --- billiards is a far more interesting game than pool).
And in the seventies or early eighties, I remember a whirlwind of a player, not always winning, but always a showman, always entertaining.  Alex "Hurricane" Higgins was a joy to watch.
Unfortunately he was also a heavy smoker, and he died this week of a battle with throat cancer.  He was only 61.

Yours, in memoriam,

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A lovely time at the lake

LOML, Boo and Skibo have been planning to go camping at the lake with our friends for a while --- I had thought that I might not go with them, not liking camping very much.
However, I decided this weekend that I'd go with them, at least for the first night: as hot as it was (and it was hot!) I felt bad that I've not camped out with them at all.  The sleeping in the tent itself was not great, but I managed okay.  The rest of the trip was lovely --- swimming in the lake, sitting at a picnic table talking to lovely people, generally having a lovely relaxed time.
So, here's a word of thanks to E&S for inviting us along and including us in the fun!

Yours, really glad that I went,

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sad news today

I've been a huge fan of NPR's political analyst, Daniel Schorr, who regularly appeared on Scott Simon's program, Weekend Edition Saturday.  He always approached his analysis with wit and humour, and when appropriate, sober reflection.
This afternoon, I saw the announcement that he has died, at the no-longer-tender age of 93. 

Yours, thanking him for the commentaries,

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A new toy

I'm taking a trip in a week or two, driving, and the city I'm visiting is rather convoluted.  So I've bought a toy: a portable GPS for the trip.  It's due to arrive tomorrow, and I'm rather looking forward to playing with it.

One thing LOML and I used to do before the children came on the scene was to drive randomly around the area, exploring.  I enjoy doing this, but only when I have a map, and know that if necessary I can find my way out of being lost.  This will open that possibility back up for us!

Yours, in high anticipation,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I have to say, I am increasingly uncomfortable with the fact that the Republican senator I agree with least infrequently (I hesitate to say most often) is Lindsay Graham.  Why, I remember him from the days when he was one of the worst of the worst, managing the impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives way back when.
He's become slightly more sane, perhaps, but his party has slid relentlessly, not to the right, but to the ridiculous.

Yours, troubled,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Breakfast for dinner

The crumpets were such a hit with the children on Sunday morning that I thought we'd eat breakfast this evening: I threw together a batch of batter for crumpets when I got home, and cooked them on skillet, together with bacon and scrambled eggs.  The kids loved it.
LOML and I enjoyed it too: occasionally it's okay to just eat breakfast in the evening.

Yours, not suffering time lag at all,

Monday, July 19, 2010

A nice compliment today

Last year, a colleague and I presented several hours of workshops on using some software packages.  And today, I heard from the person that is running the same program for this year's conference that one of the big selling points in persuading her to run the program was "it'll be easy: just get the two of them to do the same thing again: they were a big hit"!

A nice compliment.  We're doing it again in November.

Yours, planning a repeat performance,

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sharp knives

I sharpened our knives yesterday ---  I try to do this every few months, and I believe that the last time I did so was about four or five months back, so they were due for honing.
I use a nice piece of equipment which my parents got LOML and me as a wedding present: and it does a consistent and nice job, leaving a good sharp blade without removing too much steel.
So now, we have nice sharp knives again for the next little while.

Yours, always happy to hone for friends too,

New food

At the suggestion of a couple of friends, we've added a few new cookbooks to our collection: specifically books on the cuisines of Turkey, Georgia (ex USSR), Spain, India and the Sichuan province of China.
We have decided to try once a week or so to make dishes from one of these books, and picked Turkey to begin with.  So this evening we had a dinner party, serving eggplant pilaf, filo with a spinach filling, and white bean with red onion salad.  It was delicious, and hopefully we will have the energy to continue experimenting weekly for a while.
The other culinary note today was that I made crumpets again, for the first time in several years --- quite successfully: in particular, Skibo and Boo both wanted more, and Skibo asked if I could make them again tomorrow morning.  I promised him that I'd make them again sometime soon, but not tomorrow.

Yours, having fun in the kitchen,

Saturday, July 17, 2010

fish cakes, and zucchini pancakes

This evening I made fish cakes, with leftover wild salmon from last night, and LOML made wonderful zucchini pancakes, from zucchini grown by our friends (we'd have used our own, except that Bella has eaten all of ours).  Delicious, comforting food. 
Would that the children had eaten it.  Boo fell asleep a half an hour or more before dinner (and is still asleep hours later), and Skibo took a few bites but refused to like it.

Yours, so looking forward to the children discovering real food,

Friday, July 16, 2010

Congratulations to two students

My high school student, working with me for the summer, gave a lovely poster presentation this afternoon!  She has done a great job for the past seven weeks, and I hope that she will continue the great work.
Following the poster session, one of my former students finished her Masters degree with a masterful presentation on coding theory.  Here's hoping that she continues on soon to a PhD!

Yours, proud of my former and current students,

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 12 of boot camp

We've put the students through twelve days so far of boot camp: we're about half way through the course, and at a couple of  hours of lectures per day, plus another couple of hours or more of student presentations of homework, we're exhausted.  All of us, faculty included!

But, as tiring as this course can be, it is probably the best thing I ever teach, both for the fun it is to teach it, and for the impact it has on the students.

Yours, prepared for tomorrow's lecture,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Good luck with the recovery

I may detest Dick Cheney's politics, his ideas, his influence on American politics and daily life.  But I wish him well recovering from his latest heart treatments.  And a long recovery, with a doctor enforced separation from all things political.

Yours, in a spirit of bipartisanship, I'll wish that everyone in the country had the same access to this level of healthcare,