Saturday, May 31, 2008

First corn of the summer

Not ours, unfortunately. But good nonetheless.
We're having friends over for dinner tomorrow, and I'm feeling completely uninspired about what to cook for them --- it's just friends with kids for dinner, not a dinner party, nothing special, but I'm still uninspired. However, in the store this morning, the corn looked reasonable, so I bought four ears, and this evening soaked it and grilled it until the husks were charred. We had leftover macaroni and cheese from a couple of nights ago, with grilled andouille sausage: lovely.

I can't believe we've not had fresh corn before now: I think it is partly because we planted a bunch of it, and we've been waiting (and waiting) for that to be ready: but it's still a few weeks to go, so we've gotten started without it:-)

Yours, feeling corny,

Friday, May 30, 2008

Last day of origami

Today was my last origami club meeting, probably ever. It seemed almost fitting that most of the students didn't show up (the running club had an ice-cream social, with which it was almost impossible to compete!) but most of the core group was there: it made for a nice, peaceful, successful club meeting. They were very grateful for the materials I brought for them to ensure that the club has a chance to continue in the new academic year --- I'll possibly turn up a couple of times to encourage them, to make sure that they are going, but essentially, I think that they can continue on their own.

Yours, feeling like a proud parent, even though they're not my kids,

I have my laptop back:-)

As of about 6 this evening, I have my laptop back! I've spent the time since then catching up on all the things that were inconvenient to do on my other machine over the past few days (and cooking, eating, listening to Boo read, and reading to both Boo and Skibo). Okay, it was a quiet couple of days!

Yours, relieved,

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Inspiring with origami

I showed some of my origami to a few students this afternoon -- and they came away impressed: one of them immediately (and successfully!) tried to deconstruct a few folds, and reconstruct them for herself. Quite amazing!

As a result, I think that we may get a mini origami club going during the summer program --- to make me miss the old club less:-)

Yours, folding them under my wings,

Not a fan

Well, more precisely, it's not that I am not a fan of something (melon, say) or someone (McCain, Clinton). No, it's that my computer's fan is broken. And so they are going to replace it. But every piece of replacement equipment they have in stock is "not a fan", and so I have to wait until DHL delivers the replacement to the computer repair centre.
I am hopeful that it will be in tomorrow --- though I have to leave by about 1 in order to get to the origami club in time: and since tomorrow is the final meeting before I teach at a different school, I'd like to be on time.

So I suspect I'll be working with this laptop for a few days more.

Yours, feeling dislocated,

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My old computer still works...

That's a relief: I took my current laptop in to support this morning (the fan is making a loud rattling sound, and doesn't seem to be cooling the machine properly --- so I'm hoping they'll replace the fan): and it took them all day to decided that it wasn't working right. The noise it was making was, admittedly, sporadic, so this is not so surprising.
As a consequence I'm using my old laptop, which I discovered works fine -- except for the fact that over the past couple of weeks, it has forgotten all my firefox settings: no more list of blogs, no more auto-sign-ins, no remembering who I am or how I got there, etc.

Still, I was able to remember enough to get here, and from here I can make it to some of the blogs I like....

Yours, only slightly lost,

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Skibo's un-birthday

Skibo's celebration of his birthday at the school was absolutely lovely. It was the first such ceremony I'd been able to attend, and I came away delighted with their traditions.
To start with, he got to pick two friends who would fetch a sun (a candle atop a stylistic sun) and sticks with the months written on them: his teacher handed him the sticks in turn, starting with his birth month (first making it clear to all that although it wasn't his birthday, we were going to help him celebrate, since his birthday takes place when school is not in session: she handled this aspect beautifully). Skibo placed the month sticks around the sun, and then picked up a globe, and placed it on the mat.
His teacher then proceeded to tell the class about him, what he had done in each of the years of his life, and for each year, he got to walk the globe that many times around the sun.

The ceremony ended with Skibo sitting on my lap, and all the children telling him what they'd like to give him (imaginary gifts), ranging from a red bicycle, transformers, and a bow and arrow, to "all the happiness", to "anything he wants"!

I came away really feeling good about the school, how they do things (for example, with twenty or so students in the class, they get to hear the months of the year recited many times throughout the year, and not always starting with January -- they really get a sense of January follows December in a circle, not just the linear version we teach as rhyme).

I can see LOML and me sitting down in a few months, deciding where we can save, and how we can earn more, to send the children back to the Montessori school....

Yours, proud of Skibo,

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy (?) Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day here in the US: and people have been wishing each other "Happy Memorial Day" all day long. Seems a strange sentiment, for a day with such a sombre and solemn purpose: to remember those who died (I believe that it was originally intended to be those who had died in foreign wars, but here in the south it may have been combined with Confederate Memorial Day too).

Tomorrow is Skibo's birthday celebration (since his birthday will fall during the summer vacation, his class celebrates it before the end of the semester): and finally I'll get to attend one of these events. It's going to be a bit strange, though: it sounds like they'll all wish him a happy birthday (no presents, mind) and that will be weird, with his actually birthday more than a couple of months away!

Yours, confused, in advance,

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The surprising thing would be...

....if there were no coincidences at all....

I just discovered that I crowed a little early when I noted that I had over 700 posts. I just checked the dashboard, and compared it to the drafts I have sitting unpublished (just a handful: mainly some stories I have made up for Boo and Skibo which I need to write up/down) and discovered that I didn't, in fact, have over 700 posts. I had exactly 700 posts. How coincidental:-)

Yours, untroubled by coincidences

Happy blogiversary to me

A year ago I decided it might be fun to blog. And I did. And it was.
Over seven hundred posts and even more words later, it still is.

Yours, in celebration,

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Good news on the canape front

For those of us in the grocery-wilderness (read rural-ish south east US), there is good news on the canape front: Pepperidge Farms is now selling small puff pastry shells (24 to a box, which is just about how many I was able to construct at great expense of time from a similar sized box of puff pastry): finally, vol au vents are constructible as a quick and easy party canape!

Yours, puffed up,

Friday, May 23, 2008

An open letter to Mrs Clinton

Of course, I don't expect it to come to her attention, since I'm posting it, not sending to her...

Dear Mrs Clinton,
It is entirely possible that something awful could happen to a candidate: speaking as a voter who cast a ballot for Edwards early on, and is now supporting Obama, there are many of us who, in a repetition of such unhappy circumstances as you alluded to today with your RFK remarks, would be more than happy with the party choosing a candidate, possibly one not still in the race. I would, in particular, be quite comfortable under those circumstances to see a Gore/Edwards ticket.
Or, if you insist, perhaps a Gore/Clinton ticket. But after your remarks, I think that I would be very reluctant now to see you at the top of the ticket.

Yours, more than outraged with the way you put it, whatever you meant,

Thursday, May 22, 2008

McCain's Hagee problem

So McCain has renounced Hagee, insisting that he didn't know that Hagee was so full of stupid ideas as the past few weeks have shown to be the case.
I have a question: before you aggressively pursue the endorsement of a religious leader like Hagee or Parsley, wouldn't it be worthwhile to spend a little time finding out if they have said anything that oppo-research might jump on????

Yours, in be/a-musement,


"Boo, how was school today?"
"What did you do?"
"Magic E work"
"What's that?"
"We put down cards with letters on, and when we put an E at the end it makes the middle letter say its name."

What a lovely explanation!

Yours, enjoying every minute,


LOML planted some rose bushes earlier this spring: this is a shot after a spring rainfall a couple of weeks ago.

Yours, with growing admiration,

Centre Stage

cue the roses...

Yours, watching her in the limelight

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Best friends walking home

After the fire station community appreciation day...

Yours, in friendship,

Saying goodbye to the helicopter

at the fire station's community appreciation day...

Yours, appreciating the joy,

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Spending time with the children

This morning I spent a couple of hours at the school, in Boo and Skibo's classrooms: it was interesting in Boo's class to see the sorts of work she does -- the "short four chains" and "short three chains" especially: and watching her work with the manipulables was really interesting: it gives me an insight into how she is learning.
She also chose to read three little books to me (we've slipped up on her reading at home over the past couple of weeks): the first book she was a little hesitant, but as she regained confidence she got better and better and smoother and smoother.
Skibo was fun: he wanted me to read to him, so I did: a couple of long books: and halfway through the first one of his friends came over and kept giving shy sidelong glances as if he wanted to listen too: so I asked him if he wanted to sit down and join us, and he did.
Skibo also showed me some of his work, in particular the pink tower and the brown stairs: but he just wanted to show me the stuff, not actually sit down and show me the work he performed with the stuff!

Yours, booked for joy,

Monday, May 19, 2008

Let's not talk to our enemies

let's share lobbyists with them instead....

McCain is so certain that Bush is right, that talk leads to appeasement, which leads World War II, and therefore Obama is dangerous: yet he's now had five lobbyists resign their posts on his campaign in less than a couple of weeks: and the people that they were lobbying for were about as bad as the folks he insists we shouldn't talk to: so instead of cutting out the middle man, he things we should, together with our adversaries, hire the same middle men?

Yours, bemused,

Internet technologies

One interesting difference between Canada and the US (and there is a similar thing to be said about Australia compared with the US) is the way that the size of the country, the great distances, low density populations etc have given rise to a higher buy-in nationally for internet technologies --- especially with regard to government spending on infrastructure. As a result, these countries are far ahead of the US in some respects: especially in how they get used on a day-to-day basis.

I gave a presentation this evening on some technologies I worked with last year while I was in Nova Scotia: most of them were built on using the internet to build remote collaborations, conduct seminars and colloquia etc.
Or rather, I gave the presentation four times: once for a video taping, for posterity (*waves* "hello! posterity!") (which was awful, since I didn't have an audience) and then three more times for audiences of about twenty or thirty a time: it was fascinating the way that, although I had the same material prepared each time, the different interests of the audiences shaped the direction to the extent that in 90 minutes I gave three completely different presentations. A great deal of fun, and I think that most of the people in the audience got a lot out of it.

Still, I'd almost always rather give a presentation in person than over the net...

Yours, not keeping my distance,

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cats and rabbits

We were awakened last night, or rather early in the morning, by our cats. Twiglet had come in bearing a gift. A small, and no longer particularly alive, rabbit. Cassie, on the other hand, was bearing a smaller gift: the same species, perhaps even the same family, and very much a baby, and very much alive.
Much agonizing ensued about whether we could save the baby, what the right thing to do was. Given that the cats had already brought down the baby's mother or father, it seemed that keeping it here was, shall we say, inappropriate: and we couldn't think of anyone to take it. Finally we tried to release it in an appropriate place --- the end of the garden guarded by the mockingbirds, who delight in attacking our cats --- and keeping the cat flap locked tight for a few hours so the poor creature might have a hope of finding its home. We don't hold out much hope, but at least we tried to give it a fighting chance at a free life.

Yours, sorry for the lop-eared fellow.

Boo's recital

Boo and Skibo have been doing gymnastics almost their whole lives (in fact, Skibo's been attending since the week he was born, although he didn't actually get into a class until he was one): and they have performed in a show already.
But today was something rather more showily staged (I toyed with "professionally" or "classily" but neither adjective achieved the purpose I want). She's been taking ballet lessons for a year, and today was the big recital: she had one ballet number and one tap. First let me say, she did wonderfully well, including and especially the beautiful moment at the end of the ballet piece when all of the other dancers had left the stage and she had a fraction of a second just standing there in the spotlight: it was gorgeous (and a photo will follow soon).
Organizationally, however, we left dissatisfied. The show was supposed to start at 4, and we thought, including the intermission, we ought to be out by 6, and surely they'll have the little children's pieces first so that if need be, they can leave at the intermission. Not to be: ballet in the first half, tap in the second half.
Second, the show was nearly twenty-five minutes late in starting: we didn't even get to the intermission until almost five thirty! And Boo's tap number was the ninth piece in the second half, and I had a six thirty meeting to get to (fortunately only five minutes walk from the theatre). Keeping an eye on my watch, trying to determine whether Skibo wanted to come with me or stay with our friend L (LOML was sitting down at the front with Boo): in the end, they whipped through enough of the second half that I could stay for her performance, run out front of the theatre and jog over to my meeting just a couple of minutes late. All of the parents of the thirty or so small children were fuming, especially when the owner of the dance studio berated parents for leaving half way through the second half --- which I do understand: it is very rude and not done: but at the same time, there were those of us there with three and four and five year olds who had just sat through two and a half hours of waiting and dancing; far more than that age group can easily handle.

Boo and Skibo and LOML and L stayed for the whole of the show, then drove over to pick me up from my meeting . I would have driven separately had I realised just how long the show was going to last: but I didn't, and so I didn't.

Skibo was a trooper about the whole thing: by the end he was falling asleep on his feet: enough so that we almost couldn't go out for the promised post-performance pizza after all: LOML and I decided that it was important to try to do so, though, and the pizza feast was great. And we got to give Boo her special dinner out to celebrate her first ballet performance!

Yours, singing praises and kudos to Boo and to Skibo today,

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A modest proposal for the democrats

A suggestion: next time around, how about you get rid of caucuses: the fact that they can be spun as suggesting that those participating are worth less than those voting in a primary illustrates one of the problems.
Second, get rid of delegates entirely. Let's have an election. And lets make it unlike the presidential election: let's actually have the votes count, so that a vote in Iowa is worth the same as a vote in Idaho. If you want to continue staggering the elections so that we get an ongoing picture, so that candidates drop out, etc, that's fine. But let's actually count the popular vote. And most definitely don't adopt the Republican method of winner-takes-all in states --- it's hard to design a more disenfranchising "fair" system than that.
Why not stagger the elections so that there are about three primaries per week, each week for about four months. Enough concentration to keep the interest, and spread out to generate excitement in the race over a sustained period.

Yours, helpfully, I hope,

A friend back in town

So we were nice and busy for the day --- I went shopping this morning so that we could have steaks with a red wine reduction, made bread, etc: then we took a couple of hours out to go to the local geology museum, holding their annual "Museum Day". The couple who run the museum (curator and director of educational programs) have been friend of ours for years --- so we were disappointed to discover that they weren't there today: until we found out why, when disappointment turned to concern.
Apparently their little boy has been sick for several days, and today they ended up taking him to the emergency room with dehydration. We've talked to them -- the doctors are keeping him in overnight for observation, but expect things to be okay.

Good to have L back in town, even for just a couple of days (she's come down to watch Boo's dance recital tomorrow afternoon).

Yours, enjoying hosting a guest as always,

Friday, May 16, 2008

Field day

Of course, we forgot the camera in the shuffle.
I took the kids to school this morning, since LOML wanted to buy some manure to plant roses in this afternoon. We met up a little later at the school, LOML taking Skibo and me taking Boo, to go to their field day.
I expected that they would be active almost immediately: unfortunately (while it was tremendous fun for adults to watch) there were a bunch of older-kid events first, and I think that the children lost their patience and interest.
It may on occasion seem that I think that we have perfect children (heck, even I occasionally feel that way about them) but today was not one of those days for me. Boo, and subsequently Skibo, refused point blank to participate in most of the activities (things like running carrying a potato, egg-and-spoon-races, three legged races). All the other kids were having lots of fun, and ours were refusing to join in.

Now I worry about what it says about us as parents: are we doing something wrong? Or am I just creating worry about nothing?

Mind you (back to perfection here) when Skibo participated in the three legged race, he and the girl he was attached to did an absolutely amazing job. Perfect, you might say. And compared to the children attempting to drag each other by the leg, amazing....

Yours, shunning perfection for obstinance,

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Appeasement: noun: the act of ceding territory or ground in an attempt to maintain peace.

What part of this does pResident Bush fail to understand???? Talking is not an act of appeasement. Mind you, I'm impressed that Bush is prepared to go so hard after the pro-Nazi factions before World War II, given the recent documents that have come out showing exactly where his grandfather made much of the family fortune.

Yours, as ever where Bush is concerned, disgusted,

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Another day of fish and chips

The discussion turned last week to fish and chips, and how often I had made it for LOML's parents, and once since they left --- and our friends looked up and said "and we weren't invited why?" So this evening, after their children and Boo and Skibo returned from their gymnastics class, we had them over for fish and chips.

One of these days, though, I'm going to figure out how to buy just the right quantity of fish: it seems that I always over estimate....

Yours, reminded of Kenneth Williams in the Carry On films saying "Frying tonight",

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A stunning election result

No, not the one in West Virginia --- that was the expected outcome. Well done Hillary etc etc etc. Actually, I thought she'd win by a little less: it looks like she's getting 65% of the total (and that Edwards is getting about 7%!)
No, the stunning race was the one in Mississippi: the replacement for the representative promoted to the Senate: this district was overwhelmingly Republican, voting for George Bush by something like a 20% margin: and they just elected a Democrat. Congratulations, Travis Childers!

This makes three seats in a row that the Democrats have taken in special elections from the Republicans: (former Speaker) Hastert's seat in Illinois, the seat in rural Louisiana, and now this.

Yours, pleased,

Monday, May 12, 2008


We ate leftovers tonight. Except for the salad, of wonderful vegetables picked fresh from LOML's garden!

We had chicken soup with rice, cooked last week: good by itself, but better with fresh bread. Unfortunately, the most recent batch of bread was made a couple of days ago, and so it was less fresh than I'd like, so I cut some wafer-thin slices and toasted them under the broiler (that's "grill" to you folks back home) and made melba toast. We persuaded the children to eat the soup using the melba toast as edible spoons, and they both yummed it up.

For dessert, we had cake and chocolate roulade made for yesterday: and also, some of the lemon curd flavoured whipped cream which I had spooned into icecream sundae glasses and placed in the freezer: it made for a delicious, if rich, dessert.

A few days ago I caught part of a program about funky dessert chefs, who tried all sorts of weird things, especially with presentation. As a consequence, I'm now considering the following:
making melba toast from brioche: making frozen lemon-curd-flavoured whipped cream, and figuring out some way of making a fruit "caviar" so that I can spoon a little of the cream on the melba toast, sprinkle on a little fruit caviar and make a dessert bite. Any ideas gratefully accepted!

Yours, in invention mode,

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's day cake

The children chose the cake to make for mother's day today (here in the US it is always in mid-May): they elected for a white cake with a lemon curd cream and frozen raspberry filling. After some discussion about whether LOML or I would make it, we settled down to constructing it.
Lots of fun little things for the children to help out with: cutting out parchment paper circles to line the cake pans with, sifting the flour a couple of times, stirring some cream into the lemon curd to thin it before folding in the whipped cream, spreading the filling and placing the raspberries.
Of course, with dessert there's not the same need to give them ownership of the food: they like almost all desserts and will eat them until the cows come home. But still, it is lovely to see them develop a love of cooking!

Prior to the dessert, we had our traditional "special dinner" dinner: smoked salmon over linguini in a white wine, shallots, cream and dill sauce. And the children do love that dish too, so they both ate everything on their plates.

Yours, feeling foody,

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fire Stations

Our small town has an all-volunteer fire department, and every year around this time they have a "community appreciation" day: so this morning we made plans to head two blocks over and have the children enjoy the fire engines etc.
Our plans were brought forward by a few minutes when we heard the sound of a helicopter overhead, so we rushed out the door and were just in time to see it circle overhead a few times before landing in the field opposite the fire station.
It is always one of the highlights of these special days: they bring in a med-evac chopper, and let the children sit inside it (although not in the pilot's seat: apparently the last time they went to display the helicopter and let kids in the pilot's seat, it took ten minutes to flip all the switches back to the appropriate positions: and if those ten minutes are at the front end of an emergency call, that's a real problem!)
The other big hits were a mobile command centre, complete with a camera 40 feet in the air, so you could sit inside and watch everything around you, a very tall ladder truck, and most thrilling of all for the children, they had a hose set up so that they could squirt water at traffic cones and knock them down. The kids must have stood in line twenty times to do that, over and over again!

As a result, Boo and Skibo have been walking around all day saying "When I grow up, I'm going to be a firefighter"!

Yours, appreciating the day,

Friday, May 9, 2008

Why is it that

Why is it that, during this two week period, my off period, when I have nothing to do at work until my excessively busy period starts in a week's time, is turning out to be busier than I was before it started?
I think that once I get to the predictably busy period, I'm going to find that I can actually cope with it much better....

Yours, not coping today,

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Becoming unhinged

Not me, (well, not that I am aware of, anyway), the front door. The hinge came away from the door frame a couple of weeks ago, and so we had been reduced to using another, less convenient door (one result of which was that we have been coming and going through LOML and my bedroom, and that we have no bedside tables: don't ask).
Today, the contractors finally came over to fix it: they did what appears to be a great job: it involved reframing the door, and this time using three hinges rather than two.
Now we just need to persuade the children, especially Skibo, that doors are not for swinging on....

Yours, re-framing the issue,

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Boo passes her first test

Boo had an appointment this afternoon to be "tested". As best we can tell, this is a screening to identify at-risk children: but nobody told us anything other than that we needed to bring her in to be "tested".
The only question or task she couldn't deal with: "What date is your birthday?" And that is most likely because I am not sure that we have ever told her what date her birthday is yet! Certainly not more than a few times, anyway. On the other hand, a few weeks ago she made up her own song including our phone number, knows our address, city, state, etc.

She aced this one. Her very first test.

Yours, proud of her,

I'm an Obama supporter...

I'm definitely solidly in Obama's camp, and have been since Edwards dropped out: but what is happening in Lake County looks rather distressing: and listening on CNN to the mayor of Gary prevaricate about why it took so long to get any results in, I wanted to put my tin-foil hat on and become a Clinton support for a few minutes. He must have been asked a dozen times why the counting of the "early vote" delayed the release of the other votes --- and not once did he give a good answer.

Yours, suspicious,

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Clinton's speech

sounds almost nostalgic: "Didn't Chelsea do a great job?" and "I know a lot of people enjoyed seeing my husband again". I am sure that the vote in Indiana will be close once all the votes are counted: it's about 41,000 right now, with basically Lake County (as in Gary, Indiana) left to come in. Either way, it appears that Obama's margin, across the two states, will be close to 200,000: this just about erases her margin of victory in Pennsylvania.

As it is, she sounds a little down, now: please, let this be the beginning of the end, not just the end of the beginning, of the primaries.

Yours, regarding politics as the junk food of news,

Supremes to voters: nun of this, nun of that

Last month's Supreme Court decision on voters requiring government ID's has saved the country from massive voter fraud today: twelve elderly nuns, bent on voting in Indiana, were turned away from the polls.
Oh, and Senator Bayh managed to try to vote at the wrong location. Fortunately they turned him away rather than accusing him of fraud.

Yours, waiting for the screams of "anti catholic bias by Scalia",

Monday, May 5, 2008

Happy Cinco de Mayo

In our ongoing attempt to introduce the children to other foods, most especially by celebrating every festival possible, we had a Cinco de Mayo dinner. As friends of ours popped in for a visit ten minutes before dinner (and with my consitutional inability to cook the appropriate amount of food for the number of guests) we had six adults and four children for dinner: and the children begged to be allowed to eat on the deck, while we ate in the cooler dining room! Without children!
Simple food: fajitas (both beef and chicken) with home made guacamole, onions, bell peppers , sour cream, etc. I was shown how to make home made tortillas too: which tasted wonderful: I may have to buy a tortilla press and try them myself.

I've never been a big fan of Tex-Mex cuisine, so it surprised me how much I liked the food --- I marinated the flank steak in lime juice, cilantro, olive oil, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic for a couple of hours, and the chicken in lime juice, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper for a similar time. I was using recipes from The New Basics cookbook (from the Silver Palate people): it's one of my favourite cookbooks, and it came through once again.

Let's see: what is the next festival to celebrate?

Yours, in a festive mood,

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A tangled web

I reached for my toothbrush tonight, only to find that a spider had woven a web between the mirror, the wall, and my toothmug. I'd feel that this was a reflection on the frequency with which I brush my teeth, were it not for the fact that I had brushed them shortly after dinner this evening, a mere few hours earlier....

Although I had accidentally destroyed the web, I left the poor spider otherwise undisturbed: I'm generally a fan of house spiders, and with the bugs we see here in the SE US, we need all the help we can get!

Yours, still trying to brush the web off my hands,

Skibo's big feet

Boo (3) has just managed to grow his feet. To the same size as his big sister Boo's: currently a (US size, toddler range) 11.5. It is a weird feature (surely it can't be a bug) of the irrationality of shoe sizes over here that they start out at 1, proceed up to 13, and then return to 1 again, at the age of around 6. For some reason, there is then a distinction made between women's sizes and men's sizes. I'm not sure that the UK system as I recall it is any more rational (though perhaps the sizes of shoes more consistently matched the claimed sizes on the box). I have a sneaking suspicion that the continental system (as in Europe) is more rational, and therefore has absolutely no hope of ever catching on over here.

Yours, humming Fats Waller,

Saturday, May 3, 2008


And an addendum to the spaghetti post from below: we also had a salad consisting largely of heirloom varieties of lettuce grown by LOML in our garden. Absolutely delicious. And garlic bread made with roasted garlic, butter and various herbs: on my bread. Our guests were in rapture about it all....
Yours, simply,

More floods

My friend Awareness tells me, photographically and with words, that there is more flooding: this time in New Brunswick, the province I once called home, and in many ways would like to call home again.
Fredericton has been under water: the bridges across the St John river only barely clearing the water level.
It would appear that Woodstock has also seen a bit of flooding: Water St, where I spent a lot of time, has been closed: but much of the town is well above river level, and hence less vulnerable.

Yours, sending my thoughts out to all suffering from the rising waters,


One thing that I find really hard to find here is really good spaghetti: I enjoy making my own pasta, and am reasonably good at linguini, fettuccini, lasagna, etc: but round noodles are beyond the province of the home cook.
And a good spaghetti holds a bite to it when cooked al dente that the flat pastas don't: and it makes all the difference to a spaghetti bolognese, even to the fact version that I make.

Fortunately we have friends who visit the big city every once in a while, and on a recent trip they mentioned they were going to go to Trader Joe's: and asked if there was anything we wanted. Well, I asked her to pick up some long spaghetti if she saw any --- I remember growing up with noodles about twice the length that you find here in the regular pasta section of the grocery store, and haven't been able to find them anywhere.
Anyway, she brought some, and today, to say thankyou, cooked some of them up with a meat-and-tomato sauce. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

And we were able to demonstrate to Boo and Skibo the joy of twirling noodles onto a fork --- with a really long noodle!

Yours, learning to use my noodle,

Friday, May 2, 2008

Abstract and concrete

The New York Times, often the least un-bad of the bad lot that is the press in this country, had an interesting article on pedagogy in mathematics this week.

They reported on a finding that students at the university level learn better in an abstract setting than in a setting where they are taught using concrete examples and are expected to understand the abstract as a unifying them of the specific examples.

I have to say that I am not surprised: I have always found that I need lots of examples in order to start forming a general conclusion (often lots more than one might imagine necessary) and I can imagine that the study might have used far too few examples prior to testing.

Of course, it is an open question how much influence the research will have: after all, it is just one data point, and there are lots of schools of pedagogy which insist on teaching the concrete and encouraging the students to develop to the general: which the research suggests is an inferior technique.

Even more worrying: the article suggests that students are better off studing the abstract than studying the concrete and then studying the abstract: this is somewhat more surprising, unless the concrete examples are (as sometimes happens) chosen to be rather too baby-ish for students.

Yours, in the abstract,

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Stuck at work again

Once again, stuck at work until 9:30 (and actually, stuck here doing stuff after that, so I won't get home in all likelihood until 11). This time at least the wireless internet connection is behaving itself. And after this evening, there are no more evenings due until the 18th and 19th of the month.

Yours, still at it this evening,

More on ids

~A~ has pointed out below that the Indiana government provides id cards for those who need them: not only that, but free.
Of course, this is true. And most states either provide such non-driving version of a driver's license for free or for a small cost: if I recall correctly, in Georgia it was $10 a decade ago.
However, I maintain that there is a cost involved in terms of time and travel in getting such an ID: the effect of the Indiana law is to place a much more significant pre-voting hurdle on those who don't have a driver's license than on those who do. Of course, it is purely coincidence that those who face that burden (the elderly, the very poor) tend to support the party which was not pushing the voter ID law.

I think that my point remains valid: I think that a big part of voter registration drives in Indiana should revolve around getting people the ID they need as well as getting them registered. And Obama should be making a lot of noise about this this week, being out front on this issue.

Oh, and the shrieking sound I referred to above is the sound of the libertarians when they realise that the US has become a "May I see your papers, please" society.

Yours, in clarification,