Sunday, May 31, 2009

Party time

We hosted a party this evening for our friend who lives down the street: a lovely, eclectic bunch of people, and it was a lovely time for everyone.
LOML and I prepared most of the food, but enough other people brought dishes that it felt shared, and more importantly, one of the guests brought his guitar, and those few remaining guests at the end joined in singing along to his playing.
Such a nice time!

Yours, partied out for a week or two,

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Annual traditions

I love the little traditions we are building as a family: today was the open day at the local fire-station: I've blogged about this before, I believe, and I probably will again. This year was much like earlier years (although last year they had a fantastic exhibit: an incident-center truck, with 360 degrees of mounted cameras giving a view of all around the truck, plus a bunch of communication equipment -- unfortunately they didn't have it here this year). One of the new features was a robot fire hydrant: or more precisely, a remote controlled fire hydrant, about 50% bigger than real life, with a top that lifted up to reveal remote controlled eyes, and a microphone and speakers so that the controller (preferably hidden to the children interacting with the toy wouldn't see him) could talk and listen.
Boo and Skibo figured out pretty quickly that it was a remote control toy, but even then they continued to interact for ages with it.
Other hits? Sparky, a dalmation (actually a human inside a dog costume), the emergency air ambulance helicopter, and the "can you knock down a tin can through a car tire with a fire hose".

Yours, thrilled that the community has these events,

Friday, May 29, 2009


This evening we went to the birthday party for one of LOML and my closer friends in town (whose daughter is one of Boo and Skibo's best friends too). A very pleasant evening (marred only slightly by the fact that the mosquitoes were out in force) of conversation, music, children playing,...
This was the third of four parties in a nine-day period. After that, I think that we're clear until perhaps the 4th of July!

Yours, almost partied out,

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Summer storms, when they are violent, vicious, yet tamed by being outside (and without the threat of tornados!) fill me simultaneously with thrills and dread. I love the flash of lightning, seemingly almost right next to the house, the sudden clap of thunder close enough that i jump both at the sight and the sound at once. Fortunately, the sounds haven't woken Boo and Skibo, who went to sleep early tonight for once. It would be unpleasant if they woke up and then refused to go back to sleep, especially since they haven't discovered the raw beauty of this sort of storm yet. But as yet, they sleep on.

Yours, enjoying the hairs raising on hte back of my neck...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Okay, now I've put the theme song into your head, and you know you won't get it out of your mind for days, let me just point out that we've been living with that for a day or two.
The children decided on Monday that they were going to dance round the kitchen, while I was cooking, and that they wanted to be dancing to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. So I played it on my music dongle, and then they wanted it again. And again, and again. And now they've decided that they want songs from the show at bedtime.
I've put my foot down, though. They can have slow, quiet, bedtimey songs from the movie at bedtime. But not Chitty Chitty Bang Bang itself.

Yours, resolute on Hushabye Mountain,

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I missed the date yesterday

but a belated happy birthday to Breadbox. No, not to me, but to my little rantings and ravings. Two years and counting, yeastandgluten has been around. And just like yeast and gluten, over time things have become a bit more elastic --- not so much about food, perhaps (and then, a lot of repeated ideas!), and more about children. Oh, and a smattering of political stuff thrown in. Occasional origami.

Yours, still enjoying it enough to try to keep posting,

Monday, May 25, 2009


We went swimming after the gathering alluded to earlier. For the first time this year, the outdoor swimming pool was open, and this year, rather than going along as guests each time, we decided to lease a membership for the summer. It's not cheap, almost as much for the summer months as the indoor pool is for the full year, but it is a nicer facility, and LOML and the kids love it. Today it was nice and quiet -- but I am sure that will change soon!

Yours, a sea otter in a previous life,

Food for thought

Every year, my colleague and I run an eight-week program, introducing extraordinarily bright undergraduates to the joys of research. Since the students are here in town for two major US holidays, we have a get-together, on July 4th at my house, and on Memorial Day at his place. This was our eighth annual Memorial Day gathering: a very pleasant time had by all --- I hope --- and much food consumed. For my contribution, I went with Euro-themes: two focaccia (rosemary and onion respectively), roulade au chocolat, and sausage rolls.
The students have all formed into groups now, and with luck, the food will inspire them to think deeply on their respective topics.

Yours, expecting great things,

Sunday, May 24, 2009

What to write about today? Macaroni in a four cheese sauce? Focaccia, topped with rosemary, or with roasted red onions and peppers? Or the fact that I folded another Robert Lang model?

Yours, accomplished, today,

Saturday, May 23, 2009

More origami

This afternoon, in what was a big step for me, I finished folding my first attempt at a Robert Lang piece from his "Origami Insects And Their Kin". This book has been the one volume in my collection by which I was completely intimidated. Every model in it is incomprehensibly complex, unbelievably difficult for a rank amateur like myself, and, put simply, hard.

So, having finished a first attempt at an Orb Weaver, a reasonably not-to-bad-at-all-first-attempt, an attempt which actually has eight legs, as it should, and a body which isn't completely unlike the picture in the book, I feel pretty darned pleased with myself.

Of course, LOML immediately said "what's that, a tick?"

Yours, unappreciated in my modest accomplishments here,

Friday, May 22, 2009

Time and space

Finally I created a little time and space in my life to fold again --- over the past two days I folded three different pieces. All designed by John Montroll, they were respectively an eagle (very nice, only moderate complexity), a frog with toes (out of 9 inch paper -- and it could easily have used paper twice the size!) and the butterfly from his "Birds and Bugs In Origami". This last piece I folded from a six inch square of origami paper, and for a first attempt it a) turned out pretty well, but b) the paper was far too small for a first attempt!
Once I figure out where the camera is I'll think about more photos.

Yours, hoping to fold some more this weekend,

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Congratulations to Skibo!

Skibo went through what appears (to an outsider) to be an American Tradition.
Graduation at every possible phase.
We had a school program tonight, at his preschool, at which each year, 2, 3 and 4 years old, sang some songs and performed. It was very sweet, culminating in his class singing the pledge of allegiance (to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, which really unfortunately emphasises how ugly the rhythm is with the "under god" abomination added to it: it really destroys the poetry of it).
It was a lovely, sweet event. But seriously, do we want to have "graduation" from pre-kindergarten?
Next week, it's time for Boo to graduate from post-pre-kindergarten, i.e. 5K.

Yours, in favour of ceremony, but not in favour of dilution,

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I knew when I sat down just now to write this piece that what I wanted to write seemed familiar. Sure enough, I checked yesterday's post, and there was exactly what I wanted to say. Except that now we've had the meeting, we are going to get (almost) the room we wanted, our arguments went through, and our boss got to shout at us about how betrayed he feels that he's been blind-sided by all of this. Leaving us, of course, feeling miserable.
Truth is, the boss is happy about the big grant, and will sell it up up the line to his boss and on up. Not one of us wanted to call his bluff-and-bluster and ask "should we just give the grant back?" But certainly I was thinking it....

Yours, annoyed, even though we got what we needed,

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A pleasant problem to have

Some colleagues and I have just created a problem: we have to find a classroom which we can recreate in a high-tech fashion, lots of tablet pcs, widescreen monitors, big screens at each end of the room, etc. And it is up to us to persuade the powers-that-be to donate a room to us. Said room will be used extensively for teaching in, so it's not like a room will disappear -- but it will require some rescheduling of classes in the fall. I think that we have manually figured out how to switch people/courses in and out of the room we want to adopt, which should make it an easier sell to the folks who have to redo the schedule.

Still, this is a very pleasant problem to have. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of new equipment to play with, and to learn how to teach with:-)

Yours, ready to play,

Monday, May 18, 2009

Happy Victoria Day

To all my friends in Canada, happy Victoria Day!!! Usually this holiday is easy for me to remember -- it usually coincides with Memorial Day here south of the border, but this year, we are celebrating next week.

Yours, unable to take off this holiday,

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The summer program begins

In just a few minutes I have to walk down the corridor, unlock the outer door, and welcome our participants in our summer research program. Much fun will, I hope, be had by all: our of our main goals is that the students discover whether or not they enjoy doing research, and so if they are having fun it is usually a good thing!
This will bring our total number of students up to 75 over the past eight years, if my count is correct. It really is nice to look back and think of all the people we've had come through, many of whom have now completed graduate degrees, and some of whom are already in tenure track jobs. What will this year's participants be like? We'll soon find out.

Yours, in anticipation,

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Last day of freedom

Tomorrow we meet with the research students at the beginning of the eight week program. And so today was my last day of freedom.
Naturally, I filled it with books and origami and food.
We went to the bookstore first --- we had a meet & greet with friends who just returned from China having a adopted a baby girl, and needed to buy some gifts for them -- books, of course:-)
Next, our friends at the geology museum had their open day, and they had asked me if I would teach some simple dinosaur models. I've done this before for them, and was happy to help out, especially since it involved origami.
And finally, we had friends over for dinner --- a dozen people or so, half kids, half grown ups. We did the simple fare, burgers, dogs, corn, potatoes and salad. This led to a late night for everyone, especially the children. But it's okay: tomorrow's Sunday, and they can sleep in. Not that they will, but they can.

Yours, in anticipation of being busy,

Friday, May 15, 2009

Fin de vacation

Today, being the last day I have off -- barring Memorial Day and July 4th -- until we go to the beach in August -- I put to good vacation use.
This morning, LOML and I headed to Boo's school to put together some garden wagons for the memory garden at the school. Thanks to one of the staff members replacing tools we couldn't find in our own limited collection, the work went quickly, and we were able to get back home in time to take Skibo to his class at 8:45. And since it was my last day of freedom, I headed into his class with him, to demonstrate some origami to them for the last time.
An hour or so later, it was off to work, where I met with some international teachers I'd been working with this semester, sat down to my computer to update various bits of hardware and software, and finally got home again about 5pm.

If this is vacation, please, roll on the real work.
Yours, in need of a non-vac,

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hubris comes back

to bite me on the ....
Since I've had some moderate success over the past few days folding Montroll's dinosaurs, I decided I was going to throw caution to the winds, and attempt to fold a piece from Lang's nearly-all-insects. Specifically, I thought that I'd fold a spider.
Hubris, as in pride goeth before a fall -- I'm still failing miserably.

Soon, though. I'm going to do this. Fold *just one piece* in that book! I'm not having it taunting me any more!

On an unrelated note, the movie "Between the folds" is showing in Brooklyn and in Transylvania in June. If you are near either locale, make sure that you get a chance to attend the relevant festival and be amazed!

Yours, re-modestified,

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I've been folding John Montroll's "Prehistoric Origami" for some friends of mine: they are experts on all things dinosauric, and run the local geology museum. This evening we had them over for supper, and I showed them the pieces I had folded (and gave them to them to take with them): and in testament both to the ability of my friends, but also especially to the brilliance of Montroll's designs, they were able, on the spot, to identify each and every one of the models from their structural features! Without hesitation!

Yours, absolutely astounded:-)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Special days

Every once in a while, I discover that there is a reason to celebrate. You know, it's the 25th of December, and for some reason that's a special day, etc.
Well, today there are two reasons.

Happy Limerick Day!


Happy St. Pancras Day!

Now the former is because it is Edward Lear's birthday too, but the joy of the latter probably escapes anyone who's not hung out in London. St. Pancras station was (in the 70's) perhaps the grubbiest, nastiest, most unpleasant ex-railway station in existence. I gather that it is better now, but here's to the old ugliness!

Yours, in celebration,

Without a computer, I'm powerless

I'm without my laptop now for a day or so --- I'm getting a bigger hard drive installed --- which is going to leave me at my wits end for the evening. I guess I'd better get a life and find something new and different to do.
Or I guess I could just finish folding all of the dinosaurs in John Montroll's excellent Prehistoric Origami.

Yours, opting for the latter,

Monday, May 11, 2009

It's not flu

At least, the symptoms are not a good match.
But if they were, I'd be torn between being really worried and being really complacent.

Yours, sniff,

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mothers' Day

to all mothers, and from all of us who have or had mothers.
Strangely, a holiday which occurs in many different places, but not always on the same day (in fact, as far as I can tell, never on the same day, for example, in North America and Britain).

Yours, in praise of mothers everywhere,

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A food first for me

This morning I made coffee. Nothing remarkable there, grind some beans, throw them in the bodum, add a pinch of salt and boiling water, steep, pour, enjoy.
But this time, I roasted the beans myself, in a cast iron skillet on the stove top.
As a first attempt, it was fun, and the coffee tasted pretty good: it could have done with roasting a little longer, but for this first time I decided I'd rather have the coffee a little weak than have it over-roasted. I'll make it again tomorrow with a little more knowledge and experience, and make it better.

Yours, bean there, done that,

Friday, May 8, 2009


I just listened to an ad on television for a weight-loss meal plan (they deliver meals, you eat what they send you, and supposedly you lose weight). They advertise a lot, and I general try to tune out their message.
For some reason, this evening I actually heard what one of their spokesactors said: roughly, I was amazed by how the first meal tasted, and then "each meal tasted better than the next".
I've heard it many times, and ignored it each time. Perhaps that is what they are relying on. Can they really be telling us that each meal tastes worse than the one before?

Yours, not buying it,

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Does the President have a constitutional right to ask me to pray?

If so, does he have right to ask me to pray to a specific deity? Say the great flying spaghetti monster? If not, should he be expected to invite any other particular deity-worshippers to the White House? If he invites one group, shouldn't the devotees of his noodly greatness also expect an invite? Constitutionally speaking, that is.

Yours, experiencing constitutional indigestion,

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The effect of extensive practice

I've been doing origami, as I have probably said ad nauseum, for something more than thrumptysevix years now. But I've only been folding semi-seriously for about three or four years: and it is really showing in my ability to fold more complex models.
In the past two days I've attempted -- and to an extent succeeded -- in folding two of the magnificent John Montroll's four star models: his triceratops and stegasaurus from Prehistoric Origami. Now, especially in the case of the stegasaurus, I had to take a couple of shortcuts: but now I can anticipate whether the shortcut will destroy the model, or just make it rather less good.

On a different scale (especially, on a shorter time scale) I saw something similar in my recent course: one of the students had never folded before, but in spite of the size of his hands he was willing to try and willing to learn: he's now practicing blind-folding cranes from three-inch squares of paper, and this marks a huge improvement on his early work!

Yours, continuing the folding,

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

If a lawyer is disbarred...

If a lawyer is disbarred, is he still allowed to remain in his post as an appellate court judge?
Yours, just asking,

Dealing with a spectre

or a Specter.
I'm quite happy that the Democratic party seems to be waking up to the fact that Arlen Specter may not be quite the democrat he half-hinted-at, or that they half-expected.
On the good side, I'm tremendously happy that as a result, he won't keep his seniority. Perhaps the next time someone decides to "switch sides" they'll actually look like they support their new friends.

Yours, happy-ish if Specter decides to haunt the other side again,

I've spotted the substitution

Much folding, on a day without purpose. Other than getting my hair cut, and attending a multi-hour seminar (fortunately both [a] very interesting and [b] in an environment where I could fold instead of doodling) I did nothing.
The children were well behaved and quiet.
We had a rather enjoyable dinner party -- for which LOML cooked -- and after eating a good dinner, the children went to sleep very nicely.
Okay. Who took our world, and what is this simulacrum we're enjoying?


Monday, May 4, 2009

And the term is over

The lectures are over, the final work has been graded, the grades have been assigned, and even entered into the system. And so I took the day off. And rested, napped, lazily played, cooked, shopped, and generally had fun.
The next term doesn't begin until August.
Of course, that doesn't mean I have several months off. I have a full week left, a slightly quieter week next week, and then things get doubly busy until the one week off in August, when we go to the beach. Still, the vacation, i.e. today, was fun.

Yours, rested, briefly,

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The fin de semestre

Finally, the semester is over. I have entered my grades, and am sure that all of the students will be happy. And I was happy to enter them. Now it is time to get down to spring cleaning: I've cleaned out the bookcase next to the armchair which forms my office at home --- it was rather a mess --- and have replaced the origami books in some semblance of order. I had been taking some 40-50 books into the classroom every Tuesday, and bringing them home again after class. Finally, for a while, I'm free to just leave the ones I am not using at that moment in the bookcase!
Tomorrow, my office at work.

Yours, less encumbered,

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Terry Jones on barbarians

I've just run across Terry Jones' (of Monty Python fame) series on barbarians. Rather a nice job --- and a reminder of the fact that the MP crew have gone on to do amazing things other than comedy.
Apart, of course, from the fact that Jones disses mathematics as "makes you want to go for a curry and beer"....

Yours, barbaric,

Friday, May 1, 2009

The waiting is over:-)

And the waiting is over. I can breathe out and relax:-)

Yours, other-than-self-promoted,