Friday, October 31, 2008

Frogs and fish

Skibo's class has been practicing the letter "f" this week -- and I had arranged to go in to give a demonstration of origami.
So I sat down and showed them how I fold a frog. And then I showed them how I fold a fish.
And then I did the classic origami story of the captain who wanted to go sailing, left his house (first intermediate fold), put on his hat (second fold), found his boat (third fold), and then had the wind and waves break off his bow, stern and sail --- only to open up the remaining piece of paper to expose all that was left: the captain's t-shirt (the final unfold).

It's a wonderful, easy, standard story, but I love telling it, especially to little children.

The demonstration went really well: my mother and LOML both came along to watch, and LOML later told me how wonderfully well I'd done (which is always nice to hear, even if it's not from an independent observer:-) This morning when I went to pick Skibo up from school his teacher asked if I'd come back and do another in December. Naturally, I said I'd love to!

Yours, loving the attention:-)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Boo and School

Boo and school redux: we got her first report card --- and she could get anything from a 1 to a 4. 1 is bad, she's not getting it, 3 is she's got it, 4 is she's exceeding expectations. So of course, what you expect is lots of 3's.
Except, the numbers are all tied to "expectations": can she count to 10? (Yes, she can count to much higher than that --- isn't that exceeding expectations????): can she recognize these words? (Yes, she can, and all the other words on the list for the next ten months --- again, isn't that exceeding expectations????) etc, etc, etc.

She had all 3's, with the exception of two fields: art and music. Those were filled in by different teachers. My read of this is that her teacher either that she's exceeding expectations on a whole bunch of criteria, or she doesn't care. Either way, we are, to put it mildly, upset.

It's conceiveable that I'm suffering from standard "my child is a genius" syndrome --- but I don't think so: we had Boo read all the words on the list she's supposed to know by the end of this year, and she got all but three or four of the fifty or sixty words. She counts like crazy, and gets the idea of the difference between reciting numbers and counting objects. And she's older than most of the rest of her class --- she ought to be a bit ahead at this stage, on average. What really pisses us off --- and my choice of language compared to my usual language on the blog might indicate my true feelings --- is that her teacher doesn't even seem to care enough to realise that Boo is exceeding expectations.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What to do now?

Boo came home from school yesterday, and quite quietly and calmly explained that she finds it frustrating that school is too easy.
And I don't blame her --- today they are (and I quote, praying that it is a typo) practicing saying the numbers from 1 to 10, and counting objects from 1 to 1.
This for a little girl who regularly sits and counts well into the hundreds. By fives. Who can do addition and subtraction.
And she can read --- so they are practicing recognizing letters.

We can't afford the cost of sending them back to the Montessori school, but it is looking more and more tempting to do so.

Yours, as frustrated as Boo is,

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yorkshire pudding

MrsMagpie was kind enough to post a recipe for scones, and one of her commenters mentioned an inability to make Yorkshire pudding. I don't have the recipe I use to hand right now --- it is at home, in my copy of Cooking with Julia and Jacques, by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin.
However, I can reveal the secret which transformed my Yorkshire puddings from flat lumps to beautifully risen, crispy rounds: in addition to baking in individual muffin pans, the key ingredients to success seem to be getting the temperature
high enough (making sure the pan is on the heavier side, that it is pre-heated in the oven for a few minutes) and using enough eggs.
Yup. As soon as I got the batter eggy enough, it worked. Prior to that, it flopped.
So now, if I recall correctly, I use about a cup of flour, a cup of milk, and five eggs. But check out J&J's wonderful cookbook for the recipe!

Yours, passing it on,

Monday, October 27, 2008

Other states have similar laws

I've now found several other states that have, or have recently had, similar laws on the books. As to whether they will be enforced, who knows.

I'd really like to see a court challenge to such a law.

Yours, feeling bolshie,

How long does it take to vote?

I'm curious what's going to happen here on Tuesday next week.
My state has a law that no voter may remain in the booth for more than 3 minutes: this goes back to the 50's or so, I believe, and was probably enacted as an attempt to disenfranchise some segment of the population (slow readers, less well educated, etc) which might catch more minorities than whites.
Although there was recently an attempt to strike the law, it failed, and so the law is still on the books. And if what I've been hearing is true, it is supposed to be enforced this year.

Now, in my county, there are some sixteen or so races on a typical ballot (it varies by town within the county, and I haven't yet seen an official ballot for my location) plus one local and three state-wide referenda.

This works out to between six and seven votes per minute, or eight to ten seconds per vote.

Now, the referenda are likely to take significantly longer to read than some of the other questions, so I'd say this leaves an average of say, 6 seconds for such momentous decisions as "where do I touch this screen to vote for my choice for president".

If they do start throwing voters out after three minutes, my suspicion is that they're going to have riots on their hands!

Yours, prepared to be disenfranchised,

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Happy thanksgiving

Delayed edition.
We did our delayed version of Canadian Thanksgiving this evening, turkey and all, since my parents are here. And the best thing about it is that we get turkey and bean soup for dinner for at least one, and perhaps two nights coming up.
Ten of us for dinner, one turkey, and enough left overs for soup. What more could we ask for.

Yours, giving thanks, one more time,

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A recipe

A recipe. It's been a little while, but here's a recipe.

Take a boneless leg of lamb --- or take a bony one and debone it.
Rub the deboned side with curry powder, cover with a mix of chopped mango and dried apricot, and baby spinach: roll, tie and roast as one would a leg of lamb.
(We start at 450 F, and reduce to 325 after 20 minutes or so --- enough time to crispen the skin --- and turn regularly for about an hour and a half thereafter).
Remove, let sit long enough that the juices are reabsorbed into the meat, carve, and enjoy.

Yours, pleased with the result,

Friday, October 24, 2008

Eleven days to go

Eleven days, and we should have at least some idea of what the outcome is going to be. At the moment, the polls are looking favourable to the Obama campaign: and the news items seem even better: cases in point:
i) the McCain supporter in Pittsburgh who claimed she was mugged and mutilated by an Obama supporter now admits she did it to herself
ii) Sarah Palin condemns fruit fly research, suggest putting money into research that would combat autism: enterprising reporters point out results about proteins which affect autism come from, yes, fruit fly research
iii) Sarah Palin deposed (not in the French way) by Alaskan investigator in troopergate scandal

Back many years Pittsburgh had a rather incompetent band of criminally inclined people who were, let's say, not the swiftest crooks on the block. They became known as "The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight". I think that McCain is probably taking lessons.

Yours, counting the days... (it's 11...) .... and the hours (it's 264....)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

150 kiloclams

Let's see. $150,000 on prettifying up the "real American" candidate.
Of which about five kiloclams went on makeup, right?

Putting lipstick on a what?

Yours, disgusted, and I didn't even contribute any money to the NRC,

Update: Daily Kos had the perfect answer to the lipstick question here: "Putting Lipstick on a Pygmalion".
Absolutely. Flipping. Brilliant. (And no, I didn't mean flipping.)

Little things can really make my day

At work, parking is rather hard to find. Most days I try to get into work before 7:15 so that I can get a decent spot: and some mornings that takes quite a bit of determination and will-power.
But the good people in charge of parking have a regular lottery, and from amongst the thousands of us who pay for parking permits, they select a few who will get their own personal parking spot.
It's only for a couple of months or so, but it is still more than enough to put a warm glow on a chilly autumn day:-)

Yours, in place,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Parents arrived safe and sound

and I managed to negotiate Atlanta traffic to pick them up.
And the Atlanta airport didn't manage to lose their luggage: they merely mislaid it for half an hour.

But they're here, and the children were suitably excited to see them, and all is well.

Yours, settling down from hours on the road,

October Surprise

So it appears that terrorist groups are claiming that they want McCain elected, since he'll be hot-headed enough to help bankrupt the US, fiscally and morally.

But they're smart, and they know we're smart, so they must know we'd figure out that the best way to foil them would be to vote for Obama.

Except they know that we'll figure out that they're smart, so we should vote for McCain.

Except .... iterate ad infinitum.

I'm channelling "the best known is never get involved in a land war in Asia".

Yours, with apologies to The Princess Bride,

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Parent coming to visit

My parents are coming to visit tomorrow --- so it will quite possibly be the case that I'll have less to say than usual. Or more, who knows.

Either way, I'll either say it or I won't.

Yours, in anticipation,

Monday, October 20, 2008

To Senator Obama

I'm sending wishes for a recovery, preferably speedy, for your grandmother --- I'd love to know that she can see you win next month, see you sworn in, and I'd be especially thrilled if you can say at the end of his second term how proud you are at all the good things that he's accomplished.

Yours, sending wishes,

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Age is not just a question of years

I was astounded this morning to discover that Colin Powell is less than a year younger than John McCain. It just served to remind me that age is a function of more than just years.
Of course, the same is true of experience.

Yours, youn in years, if not in age,

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Obama in St. Louis

See, who needs to hold a town hall meeting, when you can hold a city hall meeting? Or in this case, what appears to be a meeting of the entire city!

Yours, impressed with that turnout,

Friday, October 17, 2008

Renaming Boo

We may need to rename Boo. To Bow. As in, tying a bow. As in, she managed to tie a bow this afternoon --- after a little instruction --- perfectly! Over and over again. And she vowed that when Skibo's ready to learn, she'll work to teach him the same tricks:-)

Yours, as always, awfully proud of her,

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe the plumber

Joe the plumber (cf the debate last night: google him if you are still lost) somehow brought to my mind Jake Thackeray's brilliant "Sister Josephine":

Sister Josephine
(Jake Thackeray)

Oh Sister Josephine
What do all these Policemen mean
By coming to the convent in a grim limousine
After Sister Josephine

While you Sister Josephine
You sit with your boots up on the alter screen
You smoke one last cigar
What a funny nun you are

The Policemen say thet Josephine's a burglar in diguise
Big Bad Norman fifteen years on the run
The sisters disbelieve it "No that can't be Josephine"
Just think about her tenderness towards the younger nuns

Oh Sister Josephine
They're searching the chapel where you've been seen
The nooks and the crannies of the nun's canteen
After Sister Josephine

While you sister Josephine
You sip one farewell benedictine
Before your Au Revoir
A right funny nun you are

Admittedly her hands are big and hairy
And embellished with a curious tatoo
Admittedly her voice is on the deep side
And she seems to shave more often than the other sisters do

Oh Sister Josephine
Founder of the convent pontoon team
They're looking through your bundles of rare magazines
After Sister Josephine

While you sister Josephine
You give a goodbye sniff of benzedrine
To the convent budgerigar
A bloody funny nun you are

No longer will her snores ring through the chapel during prayers
Nor her lustful moanings fill the stilly night
No more empty bottles of alter wine come clunking from her cell
No longer will the cloister toilet seat stand upright

Oh Sister Josephine
Slipping through their fingers like vaseline
Leaving them to clutch your empty crinoline
After Sister Josephine

While you sister Josephine
Sprinting through the suburbs when last seen
Dressed only in your wimple and your rosary
A right funny nun you seem to be.

Yours, changing the subject,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Addicted to CNN's lines


My name is Breadbox.

I'm an addict.

I admit it.

I am addicted to CNN's lines. You know, the ones during the debates, the ones which show how each candidate is perceived by a select group of independent, undecided voters.

Yours, flat-lining,

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nothing left to do now

Nothing left to do now but count the votes.

No, not here in the US, in our northern neighbour, Canada.
They still vote on paper there, I believe.

Yours, waiting, breath a-bated,

Amazing pictures

These pictures are absolutely amazing: photos of the sun, in incredible detail.

Yours, astonished,

Monday, October 13, 2008

Congratulations to Paul Krugman!

One of my favourite columnists -- and definitely my favourite at the NY Times: two years running I've approved heartily of a Nobel prize choice (even if the Economics prize is sort-of-not-really-a-Nobel-prize).

Yours, cheering,

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, Canadian, that is!

Yours, with plenty to give thanks for,

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A prize, a prize

a veritable prize! Well, perhaps not veritable, but a prize nonetheless.
The turtle touched a sentimental theme in the town (a long story, for some other day) and my cake won "Nearest to our heart".
A new prize, invented this year. Possibly equivalent to the kindergarten competition prize of "You entered, so you win a juice box and a pretzel".

Yours, winningly,

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chocolate turtle cake

The cake is now constructed. Rather than finding a recipe for an easy-to-carve cake, I went with a recipe I knew would taste good: Child and Pepin's roulade au chocolat base, stacked in two layers for the legs, and four layers for the head and body.
I'm very proud of the results, so far. I'm going to ice it in the morning: I almost wish I didn't need to -- and perhaps I don't: but it will probably look even better when I do.

Pictures to follow.

Yours, under construction,

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Doing the "viral" thing

This ad is brilliant. Spread the word!

Yours, virally,

How to say "no" to a request

First, don't say yes. No matter how many times they ask.

Now I have to figure out how to bake a cake in the shape of a turtle between 5pm Friday and 10am Saturday.....

Yours, panicked,

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

baking contest

There's a baking contest in town this weekend --- and they're lacking in entries. I got a personal request to participate, to help get the event to fly.
My problem with this is that the contest is based solely on appearance: taste doesn't matter: and there are no opportunities for savoury entries (bread's out, as are sausage rolls...) It seems that all they want are incredibly sugary cakes, decorated to the hilt.

If I were less busy Friday afternoon, I might still consider doing it --- but as it is, I think that I'll give it a miss this year.

Yours, unsavoury at best,

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Food porn

Or more properly, food preparation equipment porn.
Today I got my latest King Arthur catalogue (always a lovely event -- and it reminds me that I need to order another couple of pounds of yeast). Anyway, when I win the lottery (which will probably be at least a week or more after I start playing the lottery....) I definitely want one of their $10,000 outdoor pizza ovens. Until then, unfortunately, I'll just have to drool.

Yours, half baked at the idea,

I wonder

I wonder: if I supported McCain, whether his opening few minutes of the debate would have sounded coherent....

Yours, opposed,

Monday, October 6, 2008

Today's advertising

A couple of advertisements I noticed this evening, in quick succession.
Cargill advertising that they've "worked to develop more marbled cuts of pork" for barbecue fanatics: in other words, their working to undo all the years of developing "less fatty" pork. I say bring back the fat on the roasts as well: I miss a really juicy pork roast on occasion, and the "other white meat, without fat" that is all that one can buy in the store just doesn't cut it.
This was followed by an otherwise forgettable commercial, but for the fact that it used a cover of "Space Oddity" as its music. I loved the music. And I've no idea what they were advertising.

Yours, playing captive audience,

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Enemies one

The first Enemy, that is, the first episode of The Last Enemy, shown tonight on PBS' Masterpiece Contemporary was an interesting show. Full of holes, not yet "strangely compelling drama", but I think that it could get there.
To the extent that I think the government is unable to do what is depicted on the show, I suspect that the reason is one of technological shortfalls rather than anything else: at least in Britain, which by most accounts seems to have changed the furthest from "I'd never carry 'papers' the way they have to in France or Germany" to "It's okay with me if you track my every move on traffic-and-other-cameras".
The holes I saw most obviously were in the things relating to academics: for example, the idea that the Corporation would get the idea for his name "because he's big news in the International Mathematical Union" is almost vaguely plausible --- but the idea that he'd be short of a few bucks for research is ridiculous. There are plenty in the scientific community who find it difficult to get good research funding, but Fields medalists tend not to be amongst them, and with good reason!
The good stuff, the best moment? Stephen's rant in the cabinet meeting, in which he explains, stream of consciousness style, exactly how the TIA database owners already know more than an epsilon about you. Or me. Brilliantly done.
I'll probably watch to the series conclusion: I suspect I'll get more sucked into the story, and more willing to suspend belief: LOML probably won't watch another minute, having fallen asleep halfway through episode one.

Yours, in a mixture of realized fear and suspended belief,

Oooohhhhh --- coool

Masterpiece Contemporary: a mathematician returns to England to combat privacy infringements!

Not realistic. I'm not coming back.

Yours, privately,

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Solar power

Here's an idea for the Obama campaign --- let's really push solar power. Let's really push developing affordable solar power: we've been investigating how much it would cost to install it for us, and it appears that it would be a figure
well into the (many) tens of thousands of dollar --- which of course we have lying around in pocket change (what is the dollar/pocket lint exchange rate today?)

But there is serious hope on the horizon. A couple of months ago, an Australian PhD student by the name of Nicole Kuepper won some well deserved accolades for her development of a much cheaper and less involved process to create solar cells. Her focus, laudably, is on how to bring inexpensive solar power to third world countries. But it seems likely that the techniques she's pioneering (described as "making solar cells from nail polish, an ink-jet printer and a pizza oven") could revolutionize the renewable energy industry.

Yours, ready to get baking,

Friday, October 3, 2008

What I hate about being sick

Well, there's lots to hate: but I especially detest the muzzy-headed-ness I get when I rush home from work, lie in bed the whole afternoon trying to get better, unable to actually get rested. And then a bone-chilling tiredness that will go away, probably in the morning, settles in for a nice visit.
I've got what LOML had on Tuesday, Boo had Tuesday night, and I'm fulling expecting Skibo to come down with in the next day or two.
The plus side of it all is that for both LOML and Boo it was over really quickly: a day for LOML, and a few hours for Boo.

Yours, self-quarantined,

Thursday, October 2, 2008


A big difference that I'm seeing in the debate tonight: when Biden turns to the camera to talk directly to it, it seems like a continuation of what he's saying: it seems like just a natural politician at work. But when Palin turns to talk to the camera there's a slight beat as she starts into the well rehearsed and very clearly prepared and memorized --- and very well delivered --- speech. But it certainly looks to me like she's spouting memorized speeches.

Yours, off the cuff,


Unsurprisingly, Governor Palin is far more together in the debate than she has appeared in recent interviews: but at the same time, I have to admit that she makes my skin crawl.

And I find it interesting that she's insisting on referring to Senator Obama as "Barack" every time she mentions him. It comes across to me as incredibly condescending: almost as though he's the family servant, and doesn't deserve a surname, let alone a title.

Yours, creeped out,

Warty Bliggens

Apparently Bill O'Really? is claiming that he is an existence proof for a deity.
I'd just like to suggest that this hubris is rather amusing: it reminds me of the wonderful little poem from Archy and Mehitabel

warty bliggens, the toad

By Don Marquis, in "archy and mehitabel," 1927

i met a toad
the other day by the name
of warty bliggens
he was sitting under
a toadstool
feeling contented
he explained that when the cosmos
was created
that toadstool was especially
planned for his personal
shelter from sun and rain
thought out and prepared
for him

do not tell me
said warty bliggens
that there is not a purpose
in the universe
the thought is blasphemy
a little more
conversation revealed
that warty bliggens
considers himself to be
the center of the same
the earth exists
to grow toadstools for him
to sit under
the sun to give him light
by day and the moon
and wheeling constellations
to make beautiful
the night for the sake of
warty bliggens

to what act of yours
do you impute
this interest on the part
of the creator
of the universe
i asked him
why is it that you
are so greatly favored

ask rather
said warty bliggens
what the universe
has done to deserve me
if i were a
human being i would
not laugh
too complacently
at poor warty bliggens
for similar
have only too often
lodged in the crinkles
of the human cerebrum


Yours, blemishes and all,

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Happy Banned Books Week

Here in the prototheocratic US, there are frequent, and usually unsuccessful, attempts on a small level to censor books. Other media are much more successfully censored --- for example, even though it is on cable, and not subject the broadcast media obscenity laws, The Daily Show will always bleep out obscenities. Compare this to the potty-mouthed-ness of television in some other countries (yes, I'm talking about you, UK!)
But typically books have led a more charmed life: at least, in the post-Lady Chatterly's Lover phase of things. Which leads me to the point of my post today: here is Tom Lehrer's Smut, written in celebration of the Supreme Court's decision in that case.

Yours, uncensored, except by myself,