Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thankfully, I'm feeling better again

I feel much better today than yesterday: a very few sneezing fits, but mostly back to normal, especially by comparison with yesterday. Now if I could just find the hours in the day to fit everything in --- there are a bunch of students who have to defend their theses over the next couple of weeks, and I have meetings galore with undergraduates who need to schedule their courses for next semester.
And in addition to all that, I have to meet with the rowers tomorrow evening, from 8pm to somewhere near --- or even after --- midnight, while they elect their new board. Ugh! Still, it's just once a year. And I don't teach the following morning until 9:30, and I've only two meetings scheduled before that, so I'll almost have time to drive home and sleep in between:-)

Yours, slam-jammed in the schedule,

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ugh, redux

I wondered about the synchronicity here. And so I went back to last year's postings, and found that March 30 last year was the day I came down with the ughs. I hope that this isn't going to be a perpetual calendar.

Yours, sniffuffering,


I'd sniff. But I can't. My nose is plugged, except when it's dripping. If it's allergies, they're as bad as I've ever had. If it's a cold or the flu, it's miserable, but at least it will go away in another two or three weeks.

Yours, ugh,


to my graduate student, who successfully defended a thesis this afternoon!

Yours, welcoming another all-but-Dr to the academic world,

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Rather a lovely birthday:-)

The day was rather lovely: in spite of yesterdays whining, it turned out that our neighbour gets the channel I was missing, and so I got to watch the boat race after all. And while I'd have preferred a different outcome, the first few minutes were exciting, and it was wonderful to see first class rowing on television for an extended period.
After the race was over, we drove down to Best Buy, where LOML bought me a piano --- of the electronic variety: a very nice feeling and sounding Casio. Not that I play -- I've always regretted the fact that my parents didn't push me to learn (they'd been forced to take piano lessons, so my generation was skipped) but we're planning for Boo and me to take lessons together. There's a teacher in town who apparently gives very good lessons for parent and child, and perhaps once we have a little more time this summer we can start. For now, she and her brother are getting tremendous joy from playing scales and more.

Yours, feeling noteworthy,

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Watching rowing

Two days when I would love to have watched rowing: today and tomorrow.
Today was the local team's annual regatta --- but we had strong thunderstorms come through the area. Tomorrow is the rather larger event -- the Boat Race (which requires no extra qualifiers, except, perhaps the year). Unfortunately, the owners of the rights to the race are greedy, and as such are unwilling to provide a live internet feed to the world. Instead, it is available on a channel I don't have access to.
Were it a Saturday race, I could go down to my local bar and ask them to play it, but since in this neck of the woods the bars are shut on Sundays, I'm out of luck.
And so, once again, I'm going to hope that my slow dsl connection stays connected for the span of the race (four or five years ago the connection died half an hour before the start of the race, and I spent two hours on the phone waiting for tech support to tell me how to fix it) and that I can at least listen with my ears and imagine with my eyes.

Yours, pissed off tremendously at the fact that I can't watch the race live,

Friday, March 27, 2009

New technology

I saw a TED talk today (online, of course --- there's no way I could ever afford the $6000 it costs to attend live!) which I've felt the need to share: it is a description and demonstration of a nascent technology, or rather a nascent convergence of existing technologies. All it needs is a bunch of databases to be built - Google, are you listening?

Watch this. If it doesn't have you saying "I want one of those!" I will be surprised.

Yours, thinking this is so cool it gives me chills,

Boo is going to be a blogger...

or a tweeter, or whatever follows that by the time she's old enough to participate.
We went to the local geology museum this afternoon: the Boo had a half-day at school, and Skibo gets off at midday anyway, and it was pouring with rain, so we decided an afternoon looking at minerals and fossils and the like would be fun.
And Boo surprised us: she brought along her journal and her coloured pens and promptly drew pictures of everything she saw -- from ripples of water flowing down the sloped driveway in the parking lot, to the fluorescing rocks in the UV blacklight room. It was as though she was taking pictures to share with everyone later --- only without a camera:-)

Yours, prepared to be a fossil when she discovers technology...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Happy Birthday, Uncle Paul

He would have been 96 today. Much missed, thirteen years on.

Yours, in memoriam,

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My student is heading to a conference this weekend, at which she may run into a friend of mine, and so today at a committee meeting I folded some little pieces of origami for said friend's young son.
I asked Skibo what he thought I should fold, and he suggested an elephant.... mainly, I suspect, because that was what I folded for his class on Monday. So I folded an elephant, and in addition my t-rex, kangaroo and palmetto tree designs. And then the colleague to my right asked if I could fold a penguin. Immediately I replied that I couldn't.
And almost as soon, I thought a little, and within seconds had a very simple (essentially seven folds -- one reverse fold, one crimp, and the rest just valley folds) penguin. And naturally, I immediately folded another to send with the other pieces. I've folded a few more to make sure that I remember it --- but really what I need to do is just photograph it. It's that simple.
A nice feeling. The model is simple enough that it can't be new -- but it's lovely to be able to invent it on the fly!

Yours, realising the benefits of 99% perspiration,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I'm a pen lover. I like beautiful writing instruments. They don't have to be pretty, they don't have to be expensive, but they have to write beautifully.
Unfortunately, champagne tastes and a budweiser budget lead to fewer choices. But fortunately, I have some nice inexpensive fountain pens, and most especially, a whole bunch of very cheap, and relatively nice disposable ones. Pilot makes a pen they call "Varsity", running $2-3 a pen: it writes smoothly, comes in a delightful range of colours, and is now available (in a more restricted range of colours) at Staples, one of the better local office supply stores.
But the delightful part about all of this is that a few days ago I walked into the back room: Boo ducked down so that I wouldn't see what she was doing. I persuaded her to let me see, and with some trepidation she pulled out one of my disposable pens: she was using it to do one of her drawings. I could be mad -- "That's one of my special pens!!!" but especially now they are available locally,
I had to smile.

The only downside is that I'm left handed, and she is not, so it is harder for me to demonstrate to her how to hold the pen at the appropriate angle to the paper. And so that is now LOML's job (who also likes appropriating my pens:-)

Yours, delighted that I've inspired a six year old to want to use a fountain pen,

Monday, March 23, 2009

A sea change

A sea change in Boo's reading: not only is she reading very fluently, pausing only occasionally to stumble on a word, or to sound out the letters, she's also choosing to read much more: almost every evening at bedtime she'll choose to read a book to Skibo and LOML or me --- and then on Saturday, when feeling miserable and unwell, she went and lay on her bed. I went into her room a few minutes later to discover that she was reading to herself, for pleasure:-)

Yours, reading the signs,

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Of course, as it always happens --- we get past the weekend of work, get through the planting and constructing etc of yesterday, and we all fall apart. Skibo's not too bad, though he's coughing a bit: LOML and I are worse off: LOML has a nasty cough, and I can feel flu-like symptoms coursing through my arms and legs: but Boo is worst off: she has the worst cough we've ever known her to have, a slight fever, etc etc etc. Definitely calling for a trip to the doctor's office tomorrow.

Fortunately, we've transferred the childrens' files to the local general practitioners down the street, so it's only a two minute drive instead of twenty. But her coughing is absolutely awful.

Yours, distressed,

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sixty people, a few hours

We went out today, sixty some people did, and transformed a space. We took a space that was essentially barren, and changed it into a garden. And it was almost all LOML's doing.
Now I lie a little: the space had grass growing on most of it: it had been set aside as a memorial garden, and LOML has taken charge of getting it from a barren grassed area to a true learning space, vital with vegetables, fruitful with flowers, heaped with herbs. And has also obtained enough grant funding to do things like buy wood for raised beds, soil, mulch and gravel to fill them, seeds to plant, and trellises for them to grow up.
But LOML is the one who went out there and arranged for sixty or more people to show up, to volunteer because their children were at the school too, to put their backs into a spade in the garden, to fill a wheelbarrow and fill a bed with gravel, to mulch an area that's going to be filled with flowers in the shades of a rainbow.
Here's to LOML!

Yours, in praise,

Friday, March 20, 2009

On bonuses

I've been hearing over the past few days that there are tax advantages to corporations to paying large parts of compensation as bonuses instead of salaries: so today I tried to find something out about this: it was not clear from the many pages I read why this would be: bonuses appear to be taxed (for the individual who earns them) at the same rate as income (or possibly higher): and I saw no suggestion of corporate tax breaks either.
So, this suggestion is probably bunk: but if there is a difference in the taxes paid by individuals or corporations when bonuses are paid, perhaps we should simplify things and have them treated the same: that is, bonuses should be viewed as income in the tax year they are paid, and should be liable to the same income/payroll/other taxes as other compensation.
The other obvious advantage of bonuses is that they can be used to make a base salary look lower. That is, to obfuscate. Just as stock options and other packages are used to make base salaries look lower, more reasonable, less outrageous. Case in point? Citi Bank's Vikram Pandit claiming that his salary a couple of years ago was under a million dollars, when in fact his compensation was more than ten times that amount.

When folks complain about the complexity of the tax code, call for a tax form that could be filled out on the back of a postcard, and then suggest that a flat tax is the necessary method to achieve that, I have some sympathy: simplifying the tax code is a great idea. But I am not convinced that the flat rate is the method to achieve this. After all, even if the tax is a flat rate, how many people will do the multiplication by hand and enter the figures. No, all once needs is a simple look-up table to return, given a taxable figure, the tax owed on the amount. The complications in the tax code are a result of deductions for this, allowances for that, and other special laws, rules, exemptions etc. Sure, the tax code could easily be simplified, but it can be maintained as a progressive code as well.

Yours, rambling through the tax fields,

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring break is almost over

Spring break is almost over --- one day left --- and since the children have been in school all week (except Monday) it's been essentially wasted. We have to get up as early in the morning as always, since Boo has to eat breakfast, get dressed, and be at school by 7:45.... she's 6, for goodness sake!
Still, it has been almost relaxing --- I've only been into work three of the four days, and I've been able to stay home while the plumbers come in and fix the sink.
We now have a newly re-glued sink (it had been threatening to come loose from the granite countertop) together with new faucet fixtures --- the old one started spraying randomly a year or more ago, but we couldn't bring ourselves to buy a new one. A couple of hundred bucks later, and we are thrilled with the result.

Yours, waiting for spring to start, even though the break is almost over,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Skibo's off to school

We signed Skibo up for kindergarten this morning:for the non-US based readers here, that's the class you go into once you are at least 5 at the beginning of the school year, which Skibo is, by about 5 days --- so he's going to be the youngest in his year (which is fortunate, as it will give the other children in his class time to catch up with him).
I felt this less as a sad time, less a time for crying about how quickly our children are growing up, and more a celebration: he's ready, let's give him the opportunity to learn!

The flip side of all of this is --- he's going to be five, of course he should be in school! And yet, universal kindergarten still seems unaccepted by a segment of the population, and indeed, I'm not sure that it is required for children once they reach age five. I really feel that he has blossomed in the past year --- he's been in a private preschool program, having tested out on the high end of entering what is called here "4K" --- and I know that his teachers are going to miss him (and everyone else: the children in his class are lovely). The idea that a child of that age is not ready to sponge up knowledge and understanding is ridiculous!

Yours, happy for Skibo,

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shocked, shocked

I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you, to discover that there was torture going on.
And now it has been confirmed by the ICRC, the international body charged with actually making sure that this sort of thing doesn't happen.

Now what?
Yours, not expecting any reasons to be given to future generations of US politicians to actually, you know, obey the law!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Naming and shaming

Bonuses are a way of life in some fields, it appears. Not in mine, and not, I suspect in the lives of many in this country.

But I recognise that bonuses are a way to reward excellent behaviour, and some companies insist that it's better to give a big, temporary reward instead of a smaller, but permanent raise. (As opposed to my field, where we didn't get raises this year, but that's another story).

Anyway, let's suppose that some people deserve bonuses under the current system in their industry. Let's make some of them justify what they did to deserve it --- or at least, make them think about it. Let's see a list, say, of all those whose bonuses exceeded, say the median income for a family of four. Or if you want to be nicer to those executives (the ones, it seems, who got AIG into the problems which are causing our economy to plummet) let's put a $100K limit: if you made more than that in bonuses last year, I'm inviting you to come forth and explain why it is that you deserve a bonus of this size.... just how is it that you helped your company, rather than leading it to disaster? Please! A hundred grand? Surely you can spend a few minutes justifying why you deserve a bonus of that much!

Yours, modestly proposing,

A day of folding, a day of children, a day of cooking

Today was rather wonderful fun: friends of ours (more strictly speaking, the daughter of friends of ours, with her family) were in town for a couple of days: their daughter is about four months younger than Boo, so we decided to have lunch at the local cafe, to eat, and then teach Boo's new friend some folds.
It was a huge hit, with the little girl picking things up wonderfully --- we ended up all going back to our house (since Boo and Skibo, being off school for the day had another play date lined up for the afternoon), where at least for a while we continued to fold.
And then children ran around the house. Like crazy! Annoyingly so at times, but tolerable because it was wonderful that they were getting their energy out that way.
I made bread, roast beef (following Cook's Country's recipe for top sirloin --- some chewy bits, but great flavour), potatoes (the regular ones were great: the fingerlings I was experimenting with were awful: gritty, nasty texture, and I wasn't a fan of the flavour: I'll have to investigate why) and other veggies.
And I put together stew for tomorrow, it being St Patrick's day (and our having our sink fixed in the morning meaning that cooking this afternoon if possible was far preferable to waiting until we have no sink for a couple of days!)

And so to bed.

Yours, worn out by the running,

Sunday, March 15, 2009

mastery of a subject

They (the infamous "they") say that in order to really master something you have to spend x000 hours studying it (I've seen figures for x ranging from 2 to 8): and that when you study that long your understanding of the subject changes.
However, I have a small problem with this (how, for example, do you define what "your subject is? knowledge? science? maths? toda flows?) even though I think that there is a lot of truth to it.
But as to the x000 hours, it is clear that the number of hours is large but arbitrary (and variable across individuals and across disciplines).
And now, I'm thinking I've crossed one of those arbitrary lines: I'm waking up thinking of potential origami folds: two days running --- and while neither of them has been fully formed folding sequences, they both have promise, and are waiting for me to figure out what my subconscious sees and my conscious mind cannot, yet.

Since I went through something rather similar when I was doing my Ph D a few years (okay, decades) back, I know now to pay attention to my subconscious: it may be wrong, but it could well be right too.

Yours, enjoying the creative process,

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Unfortunately, having figured out what seemed like a lovely folding sequence last week which ended up turning one big and one small square into a rather adequate kanga and roo (tucked into a little pocket) I took possession on Friday of a new (to me) book of diagrams: Engels Angelfish to Zen.
And so now I acknowledge that while I did indeed figure out how to fold my kangaroo independently, it is sufficiently close to his model, from twenty or more years earlier, that he definitely gets precedence:-) Plus, his has a roo folded to be poking its head out of the pocket -- all from a single sheet of paper, so he gets the extra cool factor win too.
Still, I'm pretty happy to be rediscovering designs from one of the greats.

Yours, unoriginally,

Pi day

Happy (US-system) pi day to everyone.

Of course, in the rest of the world, where we recognize dates as YY/MM/DD or DD/MM/YY (large to small or small to large) we suffer the fact that there is no 31st of April.

In related news, happy birthdays to a certain (or uncertain) A. Einstein, and to the web (turning 20 around now). And an early 15th birthday to a certain (much more certain) journal which I helped conceive 182 months ago, and which, after a shorter-than-nine-month-gestation, finally came into existence in April 1994. And which, by the way, is still going from strength to hulk-like strength!

Yours, playing the silicon-dating game,

Friday, March 13, 2009

An experiment

We took Boo and Skibo to a restaurant tonight. To a real restaurant, one with class, not just a pub-and-grille type place. More specifically, a really nice Japanese restaurant, the place LOML and I always go whenever we go out.
It was a marvellous evening: both children were very well behaved (although Skibo does have a difficulty keeping his voice down in the double-digit decibel range) and Boo in particular tried five different types of sushi (surprisingly, the one that she wasn't keen on was the unagi, barbecued eel, which is the only one which is cooked!) as well as gyoza, edamame and various types of tempura.
So we were well pleased all in all. It means that perhaps we can go out to dinner a little more often than we had been (at about once every two or three months the trips were a little too far apart) and in fact, the extra that it cost to order for the little ones too was less than we typically pay a babysitter for the evening!

Yours, planning to dine out on this story,

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A busy day, no time to think, let alone to blog.
Will add to this later if there's time.

Yours, rushed,

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

True selfishness

When I was small (well, smaller than I am now) I used to read voraciously: and one writer who had an influence on me for a while was Richard Bach. And hearing this evening of the increased interest in Ayn Rand and her character John Galt, I was reminded of something from one of Bach's books: he discussed the idea that
to be truly honest, one needs to acknowledge that anything you do is done for selfish reasons. You do it because you want to even if you do it to help someone else.
As a young person, this had a profound influence on me: it turned me to realise that I wanted to do things that helped people because I wanted to, not because it was something someone told me I ought to do. And when I do something to hurt someone, I need to accept responsibility.

What I took from it is so different from the Galtian philosophy that springs from the same ideas. So how do we teach children to choose to be helpful, because it is their own selfish nature that makes them want to be that way?

Yours, selfishly,

Kanga and roo, photos to come

This morning, in a committee meeting at which it was felt to be un-unacceptable for me to fold paper (in an attempt to fend off early-morning-onset narcolepsy), I folded a few more kangaroos. And in the process, I figured out how to make something approaching a pouch, and so this afternoon, I folded a big Kanga and a little Roo.
And once I download the pictures, you know I'll post them here.
Yours, Pooh-Pooh-ing any praise,

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


So there I was, discussing the alphabet with my children (as one does when they are small) and in particular, which letter they are studying this week. Skibo's letter is X, and as a consequence, his little baggie of examples of words starting with the letter was replaced by a little baggie with things ending in the letter.
So I made him a box, a fox and a T-Rex.
Anyway, Boo piped up with "We're studying K this week, so I need a kangaroo!"
And I took this as a challenge. I don't believe that I've seen a diagram for a kangaroo --- but I'm not sure --- and rather than search the appropriate databases I decided to see if I could design one. I won't claim to have been successful -- not yet: but a day later, I've put together a first attempt. I still need to work on the head, and the arms and ears could be longer, but for a first attempt I'm reasonably happy with this. For those in the know, I based the model on Austin from the Backyardigans:-)

Yours, rooing the day,

Monday, March 9, 2009

Todays menu worked

Despite Boo having booboos upon booboos, the fact that we were eating her choice for dinner (spaghetti, with a good but standard meat sauce) seemed to go down a treat. And since Skibo is in full on copy-his-sister mode, he ate even more than she did.

So, at least on one night, having the children participate in menu choices for the week, and listening to them, seems to have worked.

For the rest of the week, since we are having our sink repaired on Wednesday,
and it will be out of action for a couple of days or so, we're having takeout from the local Chinese restaurant on Wednesday, we'll take the kids to our favourite fancy restaurant for sushi, edamame, etc on Thursday, and we'll play Friday by ear.

Both little ones are excited about the prospect of a special dinner out at a fancy restaurant --- and I hope that they are willing to be good and enjoy it --- or we'll be signalling the waiter for a to-go box for the sushi:-)

Yours, with something to chew on,

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A day of simple pleasures

Like talking to parents (albeit over a minorly unsuccessful Skype video link: we ended up using the phone on speakerphone, and Skype for video): enjoying burgers (okay, I sauteed a bunch of vegetables to stuff inside to make them extra tasty and ensure that they stayed moist): and building origami models of non-Euclidean geometries. What more could a Breadbox ask?
Oh. Yes, making bread. I didn't make the buns for the burgers: they were a late modification to the menu. But I did put together a batch of bread with old dough, left with water and flour to regenerate, then kneaded with flour, salt and water as one would usually do. But I forgot the yeast, so the dough is going to take overnight to rise, and I'll bake it first thing in the morning:-) Hopefully, it will turn out okay --- I fully expect this to be the case, and a happy accident will turn into fresh bread Monday morning:-)

Yours, playing accidental baker,

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A meme

For years now I've been trying to start a meme. I thought that it was great, that it would catch on, that someone would use it. And it never did.
Perhaps now that Bob Herbert in the New York Times has referred to him this way, everyone will start calling him this: he referred to "W" as "George Herbert Hoover Bush". Go read the column: it's a good one. And next time you need to refer to the former Presidents Bush, consider "George Herbert Walker Bush, and his son, George Herbert Hoover Bush".

Yours, in praise of Herbert,

Friday, March 6, 2009

Good bread

Good bread, today. Perhaps the best bread I've made.

I'd made pizza earlier this week, with old dough as part of the recipe. The pizza was pretty good, but not unusually so. I saved a ball of the dough, though, and this morning I soaked it in warm water with flour and then made a new batch of dough with it.
It got an extra long rise this afternoon (intentionally, since I was parsimonious on the yeast, and I knew that I'd be late) so when I got to bake it I was hoping for a good rise. The crumb was open, the texture elastic, the crust crisp and crunchy, but giving to the teeth, not hard. I can't wait to try it as toast in the morning.

Finally, a day when I feel that I have a bready post to put up!
Yours, rising to the occasion,

Making it through the week

It really wasn't a bad week, but at the same time, it was a week that left me saying this evening --- well, at least I made it through another one.

Today was a day of going to school: both Skibo's class, to read "Fox in socks" and "Wocket in my pocket" (can you guess which author they've focused on this week?) and then to Boo's class to teach origami. Both classes decided that I needed a mob-hug, which was, as always, an extremely nice perk.

This afternoon I was all set to put an origami piece in to an art exhibit (there's a natural reason why, but I'll leave that out) but discovered that for one reason or another I could flirt with deadlines and submit it Monday morning instead. Since it's a modular piece, I decided that that was the best way to handle it --- I could have rushed, but this way I can take my time over the weekend.

And so instead, I sat down with a colleague and talked about her grant proposal to use technology in innovative pedagogical ways -- a topic very dear to my heart -- and we brainstormed and came up with all sorts of wonderful ideas over the period of an hour that we talked (we'd planned ten minutes, but it just spread and spread and spread).

And so now I am brain dead, and ready for a recharge.

Yours, saying "good night after I blog about bread",

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A modest proposal for the health care industry

America has a so-so healthcare system. Or rather, it has three healthcare systems: one, for those with great insurance, is first rate: on a par with anything anywhere in the world. The other two, the ones that the vast majority of Americans have access to, are not so good.
The fortunate amongst us in the two latter categories have insurance. Unless self-employed, most people with insurance are covered by their employer, and the plan, while expensive (typically in the single thousands of dollars a year for employee costs) is merely relatively bad compared with, say, Canadian or European plans. The insurers negotiate with health providers, and typical costs for care are merely high, with the insured paying a substantial (5-20%, say) of the cost as a co-pay, deductible, or other charge.
The uninsured, on the other hand, are screwed. Completely. Not only do they not have an insurance company covering a substantial portion of the bill, but they face bills that have bottom lines two, three, five or ten times as high as the bottom line for an insured patient. Yes, a typical scenario, with completely made up figures, might go as follows:
Removal of thrumbical glands:
Platinum insurance: total bill: $1000. Covered costs: $1000.
Ordinary insurance: total bill: $1000. Covered costs: $600 ($200 deductible, and 75% coverage of the rest)
No insurance: total bill $9500. Covered costs: none. The uninsured patient is stuck with a huge bill. Because the care provider can.

Now, when I walk into a store to buy something, I understand that some few privileged customers get a discount: perhaps they are frequent shoppers, perhaps they have bought a customer loyalty card, perhaps they get a state discount, or are of retirement age. Typical discounts range in the 5-10% area.

So, here is a modest proposal. Care providers should be allowed to negotiate lower costs with buy-in-bulk plans: but they should only be allowed, say, a 25% range in which to negotiate: let's be generous to them: the lowest price they charge can't be less than %75 of the highest price they charge. If that's too mean of me, give me another range. But don't tell me that giving a 90% discount to an insured patient, or more stunningly, charging an uninsured patient 900% more, is reasonable, fair, or humane.

Yours, in a modest mood this evening,

State contracts

We're in crisis in the state right now. Our budgets are cut like crazy, and there are furloughs, threats of layoffs, worries galore.
And one of the biggest problems we face as a state institution is that there's a month or two where we essentially have no spending power --- all spending has to be completed by the end of the fiscal year (meaning purchases have to be completely done, delivered, etc), and new purchases can't be initiated until the following fiscal year.
And budgets can't be carried over, so every year there is a frenzy of trying to get orders in at the end of the fiscal year (in and of itself leading to frivolous spending, in my opinion).
And one of the hoops we have to go through is the following: the state contracts with various vendors for various products. And if, say, we wish to buy a widget-reductor, and there are widget-reductors on the state contract, we have to either (a) buy the state contracted widget-reductor, or, make a solid case that the state approved purchase isn't good for our purposes. For example, it weighs eight tonnes, but I want one that will fit in my shirt pocket. Without ripping it. Unfortunately, this leads to the need to spend hours poring over state-contract-vendors web sites, trying to find information. All in all, given that I have more than $50 to spend out, I've put less value in (in time spent searching) than I will get out... but it is incredibly frustrating.

The worst of it is that what I want is technology, and the state contracts typically run about two years behind the curve on what is out there.

Yours, grrrring,

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pizza night

With tonight being a gymnastics night, we made plans to have pizza this evening: home made pizza, of course (you do know me, don't you???)

Unfortunately, my 4pm skype appointment got pushed back and pushed back until past 5pm. Fortunately, I had gone to the store before work, and was able to run home as soon as the skyping was done.

And the skyping was successful: it was my first time giving a seminar (or a short version of a seminar) over the web: it went well, but I had the same sorts of disconnect problems that everyone has.

Yours, at a distance,

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Snow day redux

This morning we all slept in late: we had snow days all around, even though the snow was almost all gone. There was just enough water on the roads late last night that the cold snap would make black ice, and so the schools were closed until 10:20 or so.
As a consequence, my morning class was cancelled, and I was left with an evening class. Fortunately, with that being a once-a-week class, it wasn't cancelled.

And so, I taught my T-Rex model there. About ten students from the group chose to learn to fold it, and they all did a wonderful job! And I think that I can now say that my dinosaur is out in the wild:-)

Yours, almost caught up on sleep,

Monday, March 2, 2009


Boo lost her second tooth this evening. Unlike the first one, which she lost (literally) at the bakery, this one popped out while LOML was reading to the children to get them to sleep.
I'd never seen, as an adult, a child's tooth get to the stage of coming out: I finally understand the whole "tie a thread around it, tie it to a door, and slam it" idea: it went from wobbly to attached by a thread of flesh over a period of a few minutes, and then stayed attached --- much to Boo's consternation --- for several more hours. I tried to help, but she was insistent: no pulling, threading, or anything. I was very relieved when it came out: I was a little worried it might fall out overnight, and either vanish, or worse, get swallowed.

Anyway, it is out now, and I expect that the tooth fairy has already visited. Last time she brought a John Quincy Adams dollar, and I suspect this time it will be the same, even though Boo explained that one of her friends gets $5, $10, or sometimes even a webkin when her teeth fall out....

Yours, fighting inflation,

The weather behaved

Much to my surprise, the weather actually behaved rather nicely after all: the rain turned back to snow a few minutes after my last post, and the temperature dropped a little more, and so there was a lovely white blanket over our little town this morning. Pictures will follow when I get around to downloading them in a day or twelve.

As a consequence today was a surprising day off for everyone (down here in the south, 2-4 inches of snow means that only idiots try driving: it's not too bad to drive in except for the other idiots on the road!) so we had lots of time to have fun: the children hit me over and over again with snowballs --- fortunately, they don't throw hard yet! --- and after all the fun there was still time to throw together a batch of bread and a pot of chicken soup. Perfect food for the weather.

Yours, ever flaky,

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Stuffnfussn weather

Today, we get rain. Lots of rain, lots and lots of rain. That's okay, because we need lots of rain. And it's chilly, and miserable, and that's okay because they are predicting snow to come: and sure enough, about 5pm it starts to snow: big lovely fluffy wet flakes.
It's a little late in the day for the children to play outside for too long: they get a half an hour or so, but that's okay, because it's supposed to snow until about 5am, and school is cancelled for the morning, and they can play tomorrow.
Except, about 9pm the forecast changes, and the snow changes to drizzle, melting the snow. Apparently the temperature didn't drop: a change of just a degree or two from the forecast, and the snow is melting, the promise of tomorrow disappearing with it.

I don't mind so much for me. But I feel terribly for the children, who were so excited, and now it will go.

Yours, muttering bad words,