Friday, July 31, 2009

Just days to go

This time eight days from now we'll be asleep in bed at the beach. I can't wait.

Yours, in anticipation of the sand,

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Finally managed to get to make pizza this evening -- the first time since July 4th, I believe. It was good, too. And LOML has a new favourite choice of toppings: tomato sauce, cheese and sauteed onions.

Yours, crustily,

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Still no pizza dough

but at least this afternoon I got a nap.

Tomorrow, perhaps, the dough will rise again.

Yours, too exhausted to write any more,

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Where's the bread?

Yet another day without baking. I'd intended to make dough for pizza today, to bake tomorrow: but the day got in the way, and we've been invited to friends for dinner tomorrow evening, so perhaps tomorrow afternoon I'll get to it.

Finally today we got a decent rainfall -- of course, it got the second half of the swimming lesson cancelled, but that's okay. The teacher -- who hadn't taught Boo and Skibo since last year -- was thrilled with their progress -- to the extent that she's scratching her head to come up with what to teach Boo that she hasn't already mastered.

As for me, I spent much of the day setting up a new tablet pc, running XP, and inventing new swear words to express my frustration: every time you turn around it needs to be rebooted: I have to log on as a privileged user every time I want to install something (instead of having a sudo-style solution, where I can grant myself temporary superuser privileges for the sole purpose of installing a piece of software). Still, the hardware seems nice, if a little slow (which could be that it's running XP, but could also be that it takes more to run the tablet screen than a regular laptop screen: I don't know). At some point I'd like to see what linux can do on the box. Soon.

Yours, XPeeved, but not too badly,

Monday, July 27, 2009

You are wronged, you are in the right. Now apologize

I was struck by Robin Wells' piece in the Huffington Post today, on the Skip Gates affair, that this is something that LOML and I are facing every day.

Wells makes the case that Gates missed the opportunity to be the bigger person, to sit down the police officer who he thought was mistreating him, to speak calmly instead of getting mad, to reason rather than argue, and to quietly explain instead of shouting.
Now, other than the fact that Gates was just back from a long trip, and may have had tiredness getting in the way, it reminded me of the conversations I have almost daily with Boo and Skibo, trying to persuade each of them that, yes, they may have been wronged by their sibling, but wouldn't it be better if they didn't escalate the situation? Wouldn't they like to be the better person for once, and be kind and nice in the face of sibling meanness?

It's not worked yet. And I can see why it didn't in Cambridge, Mass, a week or so ago.

And unfortunately, it seems to me that Obama's "come sit down and talk over a beer" has the risk of being as effective as our attempts to get Boo and Skibo to hug and make up.

Yours, hoping for reconciliation,

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Oh, what a lovely day

This was really a lovely day --- we started by going for our regular Sunday morning constitutional in the botanical gardens, early enough that the weather was reasonably only hot. Then at 1, when the pool opened, we we went swimming. I left after an hour, and went to the show for all of the art camp students from the past four weeks (including my origami class from this past week): I handed out a sheet of information about books and websites that I'd intended to give them on Friday and forgot --- and I got to tell their parents what a lovely job they'd all done.
Then on to our bookstore friends for a lovely late afternoon and dinner.

Just a perfectly lovely day. And now the children are asleep, and I have my choice between Miss Marple and Doctor Who.

Yours, opting for the mystery,

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Continuing the paean to their brilliance

Boo today decided that she'd learn to dive off the diving board. And did. Brilliantly. Beautifully, wonderfully, cleanly.
Skibo decided he'd try (at 4 years old) to do what his sister first tried weeks ago, and attempted to dive.
They are going to be amazing, both of them.
Oh, and LOML, with a new pair of googles, discovered a new found skill: swimming underwater!

Yours, proud of all three.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Swimming races

I'm still able to beat Boo in a swimming race. This is no small feat, the way she's developing as a swimmer. I think that the fact that my arms and legs are twice as long as hers probably give me a little bit of an advantage. This year.
I'm guessing that it will be less than a year before she can beat me -- her strokes are beautiful, and she seems tireless. A lovely swimmer. And Skibo's going to be coming up right behind her --- he's 21 months younger, but I think that he may be a better swimmer now than she was 12 months ago.

Yours, maintaining an edge for a few months....


The week is done. I'm exhausted, completely wiped, intellectually and physically.
I think that the origami camp participants had a great time this week -- many of them were trying to persuade me to run classes during the fall or the spring, which I'd certainly contemplate doing: once a week for an hour or so is rather less intimidating than three contact hours per day (plus setup) for a week.

But for now, it's done. And I'm glad. I'll go along on Sunday to meet-and-greet the students, and hear their parents talk about how impressed they are with the pieces the students folded (there will be a bunch of stuff on display) --- but that is it for the next few weeks. At least for that. There's still another eight days of classes to get through in the morning before life is free again.

Yours, semi-free,

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Four days down, one to go

Day four is done --- and I am ready for this hectic week to be over.
Today I let the students decide what they wanted to fold -- with the result that I was running around the room helping four or five different projects at once. Not so successful. But still, smiles all round on the students' faces.
Tomorrow, I'll only have eight --- and the one missing is the youngest student, who is one of the ones who needs the most help. As such it will end up being a little easier on me, I think.

Yours, updating on this for the penultimate time,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day three of the origami camp

We've met now for three days, and it has gone well. Now I just need to get through the remaining three days.
This will be easy, unless they decide that they all want to fold something harder than they are ready for -- and several of them have already indicated that they do want that. I guess that I'm going to have to keep all the hard diagram books away from them for the next two days...
Yours, trying to negotiate what they want and what they can do,

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day two

Art camp, day two. The participants are of diverse abilities, and this is going to make it difficult, especially on Thursday and Friday when my very talented assistant is going to be replaced with someone else -- someone who may or may not ever have folded a piece of paper.
Still, I will try my best. But I feel disinclined to try to teach it again. Perhaps by the end of the week I'll feel differently.

Yours, somewhat pessimistically,

Proposing, modestly

Since the figures in the Wall Street Journal show that upper incomes rose by much more than those for the rest of the country over the past five years: essentially, 50% growth for those at the top, 25% overall (including the growth at the top, so it averages out to much less for the lower percentiles): perhaps it is time to index the portion of income subject to payroll taxes to something other than inflation. Let's index it, say, to the 99.9th percentile of income. Or if you want to be incredibly generous to the rich, to the 99th percentile. That way, when the rich get richer and the rest get screwed, at least the contribution from the wealthy to social security will increase.

Yours, angling for an even better cutoff: 100th percentile,

Monday, July 20, 2009

First origami class of the summer camp

The first class is under my belt: I had nine students and one assistant, who, although she'd done little origami before, was quite capable of picking it up very quickly and assisting teaching the younger students.
Of the nine, two are perhaps a little weaker than the rest -- and they are probably the youngest too: the ages range from 7 to 12. Today they all made houses, benches doves, masu boxes and cranes: all relatively simple models, and in the case of the cranes, some assistance was required by some of them,
But by and large their abilities seem good, and I think that I can enjoy --- and get them to enjoy --- the week. At least they all left with big smiles on their faces this afternoon!

Yours, pleased with the day,

Amazing progress

Boo and Skibo have come such a long way in their diving and jumping, respectively, in just a day. Yesterday Skibo discovered he could jump of a diving board, and that he could do so with abandon. Boo discovered she could dive off the edge. And today they've taken their discoveries and swum with them. I can't wait to see what they do next:-)

Yours, on board,

Forty years ago today

I remember my father and mother getting me up at an ungodly hour of the day to watch the first moon landing. I was old enough that I remember it still, but young enough that the memories are faded, twisted, and could even have been constructed of whole cloth.
It was, nonetheless a tremendously exciting time --- I look back on it, and wonder what will inspire the children of today, or, indeed, what has inspired the children in the interim. It would be nice to think that there were similar watershed moments for other generations.

Yours, still breathless with wonder,

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Swimming, furniture and origami

Last week LOML and I found a rather nice patio table, at a very reasonable price, and we decided that, in the hope of making sure it lasts a little bit, we should coat it with an appropriate polyurethane varnish. So this morning, on the deck, we set to moving umbrellas (no direct sun) and sanding and painting with varnish. This evening it is dry to the touch, so perhaps in a day or two we can put another coat on.
Yesterday, LOML drove to town and picked up chairs for it as well: we've put two together so far -- out of eight -- and perhaps in the next day or three we'll do the rest.

Swimming was next on the agenda today: both Boo and Skibo were keen to jump off the diving board --- although Boo is not yet comfortable diving off it, and Skibo would only contemplate jumping if I was holding his hand as he went in. So over the course of half an hour or so (being pagans on Sunday means we can take advantage of otherwise-empty pool hours!) I worked with him, having him jump from the side holding my hand, then from the board holding my hand, then from the side without my holding him, until he was cheerfully running off the board and jumping in without me.
Boo learned how to dive quite nicely from a semi-kneeling, semi-standing position, turning nicely over an outstretched arm to slice into the water. She's up for another week's swimming lessons, which I hope will include some more diving instruction. Skibo's going to have to miss them, since he's having a week of pre-kindergarten camp/instruction/preschool. Still, they'll both have lessons the following week.

I'm due to teach origami camp starting tomorrow, for 3 hours a day for a week. I'm hoping it will go well, but as with all new classes, in a new environment, with students I've no clue about, I'm a bit nervous. But sure all will work out.

Yours, in the midst of everything,

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Blatant blog theft

I'm upset to hear that a friend of my had her blog stolen.
Someone had been taking her words and reposting them as their own.

Fortunately I am free from the possibility of this ever happening. For a start, my words are less theft-worthy than hers: and secondly, with ideas like mine, who would want to claim them?

Yours, happy the theft was noticed, and apparently thwarted,

Friday, July 17, 2009

Deja vu all over again

Yesterday, I complained, amongst other things, about Amazon's proprietary format. Today, in a somewhat related story....

Yours, prescient on very few things.... but on this one...


Resquiat in pace, yet again.
Another "icon" is gone.
Walter Cronkite, once the most-trusted person in the US, died at the age of 92 today. And while I'm sad for his family and friends, and even those who never knew him or met him, but grew up with him, at the same time, let's remember: he was in his nineties! He's had a fuller life than most! Let's not mourn: let's celebrate a life well lived.

Oh, and news programs, let's celebrate for just a day or five, please? Not like with MJ.

Yours, celebrating a life tonight,


When cooking potatoes, it is important to remember that they can taste good.
But also remember that there are occasions when they can taste great, even if one needs to use unhealthy quantities of fat.

LOML has been growing new potatoes, and they are wonderful just boiled, in their skins, with a little (okay, more than a little) (okay, quite a bit) (okay, just shut up already!) butter and some chopped mint.
When we don't have ample quantities of LOML's home grown potatoes, my favourite method for cooking them is to parboil them (actually, boil them well past par), squeeze them gently to lightly crush them, cut them into halves, quarters or eighths if they are big --- and leave whole if not too large --- and then skillet fry/bake in the oven in a shallow layer of peanut oil in the oven, turning occasionally.

The other methods of cooking potatoes -- mashed, scalloped, baked, twice-baked, thrice-baked, fried-mash, hash-browns, etc are all substandard by comparisons.
However much fat is used.

Yours, taterly,

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Microsoft's latest attempt at control

In a subtle attempt to ensure that physicists switch from Linux to something else, Microsoft has just released some old Feynman lectures: but they've done so using a proprietary platform, "silverlight": now, as a linux user, I can't run silverlight, but I can go to Novell's site and see if I can run their version, moonlight or some such name.
Unfortunately, Novell hasn't released their product for a modern platform (i.e. 64 bit) nor have they a version built for Fedora --- and so rather than go through the pain of figuring out how to install the program I'm giving up for now. Feynman will have to wait.
But this sort of "we own the content so we can make you use our software to look at it" really annoys me. It's why I object to Amazon's kindle format, to Apple's Itunes store (and if I had bought a Palm Pre in the past few weeks expecting to download songs from Itunes I'd be mad as hell today!) and to Microsoft Office's attitudes in the past.

Yours, steamed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Origami at the library

Yesterday I spent some time at the not-quite-nearest library (the main library for the county we live in, half an hour from the house, as opposed to the smaller branch two blocks from the house) showing a bunch of children how to do origami.
It was an interesting two hours: the students were of very very varied skill levels, especially their attention-paying skills. Halfway through the session I was convinced that it was going to be a disaster: there were eleven students, and I was torn from table to table, trying to maintain a semblance of order. But somehow I managed to steer things back to stability, and the librarian called for a snack break. Replenished, nourished, having eaten and drunk, the students settled down rather better, and I was able to finish on a whirl: after one of the students had claimed he "could fold cranes with his eyes shut", I decided to do just that. So for the final few minutes I demonstrated what I like to call blind-folding --- there was complete silence across the room, an awed hush, and as I finished, one of the more rambunctious boys let out a "Wow!"

Next week, the week long afternoon summer camp. Yesterday, multiplied by five. I wonder if I will survive.

Yours, wondering which day to save the blind-folding demonstration for...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A date!

We have an excuse. We went on a date --- and it was lovely: LOML had asked friends of ours to watch the children so that we could go to the big city, visit their tempting grocery-and-other-stores, and eat out other than at our fancy sushi place.
We had a lovely time: the restaurant, a lovely Indian place, was quite good (in the English sense of the phrase, which is high praise, not the US version, which is damning with faint praise) and we left full and happy.
Afterwards, we even managed to find a lovely patio table, something we've been looking for for months. Serendipity is wonderful!

And better still --- or as good --- the children behaved themselves, and may be invited back:-)

And that is why we didn't celebrate Bastille Day today.
Yours, in explanation and celebration,

Monday, July 13, 2009

Impressed by Boo

Boo and Skibo are both reading a lot (and he's where she was last year at this time, I'd say, which is quite something given that he's 9 months younger than she was at the same stage).
But it's Boo who's impressed me this evening: when we went to the bookstore yesterday, she picked up as her choice a book of scrambled words. And today she started working through the book, given a list of words on a page, finding their scrambled versions. She was brilliant at it --- which made all the more surprising the fact that the book claims to be for grades 2-5. And she's not yet entered first grade.

Yours, prdou,

Sunday, July 12, 2009

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Nothing to say today. Nothing.

Yours, empty,

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The kindness, not of strangers, but of friends

Yesterday, my car's engine started overheating, and so I dropped it off at our local mechanic (and, it needs always to be said, he's absolutely amazingly fantastic). Of course, since I dropped it off late in the afternoon, I knew he wouldn't be able to get to it until Monday, but that's okay.

Then this morning, LOML mentioned that one of the minivan's tires was looking rather low --- and so we decided that we couldn't drive that --- leaving us marooned. But fortunately, we have friends, and have been loaned a van for a couple of days. So thanks, JA! for asking your father, and thanks, JA! for lending us the van!

Yours, hoping that we can be as helpful to others as others are to us,

Friday, July 10, 2009

An ending

And so another year's research program is over -- at least the part where the students stay here and meet with us on a daily basis. They've all worked extremely hard and done very well, and I hope that in a year or so we'll have a two or three published papers come out of it.
We all had lunch today -- at a rather less fancy restaurant than dinner last night! -- then said our goodbyes. Always a little painful, but such is life. And there is a good chance that we'll meet up again in a few years, after they've gone through graduate school and they are professional academics themselves:-)

Yours, as mentor,

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Final Dinner

Or, the Last Supper, as it were. We persuaded the research students that for the last night they are all in town we ought to go out to a fancy restaurant for dinner. And of course, that meant we had to go to LOML and my favourite restaurant, the Japanese place on the lake.
It was, as ever, lovely. They seated the seventeen of us in their separate room, with what look like paper screens (actually rather sturdier plastic) affording us some privacy.
A very pleasant -- if a little pricey -- and delicious evening.

Yours, stuffed on sushi,

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I believe that the correct way to count dates is either SML or LMS.
Either way, the US version of middle-endinian is irrational in the extremes (or perhaps, in the middle).
As such, my preferred celebration of 12:34:56 7/8/9 will be the 7th of August, not the 8th of July.

Yours, big-endian, or is that small-endian,

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I'm struck, once again, by the resilience, fortitude, and just plain ability to ignore adversity of the British. I've mentioned before the different ways that the UK and the US responded to their respective acts of terrorism: but today I'd forgotten the date, until it appeared in an unrelated place, and I thought "Oh. July 7th". Most immediately I was struck by the fact that I'd seen no reminders in the US media, blogs, twit-head-streams, etc.
I checked the major newspapers: some of them appeared at first glance to have nothing: others had a small sub-head buried deep in their webpage mentioning that Prince Charles commiserated with families of victims at a memorial ceremony. But that was it. Four years on, it's not forgotten, but the nation has moved on.
Some day, we over here will react with the same sang froid. But not until we catch the Englishman's usual bloodly cold (bad translation intended).

Yours, thinking we need a little more sang froid over here sometimes,

Monday, July 6, 2009

A holiday

Since July 4th was a Saturday this year, my institution nominated the following Monday as the "holiday" to be taken in lieu. Which meant that I was going to have to take today off, and teach on Saturday to make up for the missed day.
Well, my students all thought this silly, so I spend the holiday teaching instead.
I'd rather have all of next weekend to myself, thank you.

But we did manage to go swimming in the afternoon, without any thunder to force us out of the pool for half an hour. LOML had taken the kids a lot last week, but this was my first time to go in about two weeks, so it was wonderful.

Yours, swimmingly,

Sunday, July 5, 2009

How long does a blog last?

Having been writing now for a year or two, and having seen others similarly expressive for a while, then choose to stop writing, I'm taken to wondering: how long does a blog last?
How long before an early post is never again looked at, never?
How long after the last post before the whole thing disappears?
How long, after you post, before you are forgotten?

Yours, just wondering,

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Bash #8

The party's over: the guests have all gone, and LOML is putting the children to bed. I've walked the dog up to the square and back, and am about to collapse -- as is usual after this bash.
We have a major party every year on the 4th of July: this is our eighth annual such bash, one for each year we've had undergraduate students learning how to do research. We figured that first year that we'd an obligation to make the students feel at home, so we would throw a Memorial Day party, and then for much the same reasons, we'd throw a party for the 4th of July too. And both traditions have stuck.

Now, if LOML and I could just learn how to throw a minimalist party....

Yours, maximalistly speaking,

Friday, July 3, 2009

Lots of fun, but little cooking

Today we were entertaining a friend of mine, visiting from far away --- last night we went to dinner (of course, at our only restaurant worth patronising) and had a lovely meal, just LOML, the children, my visitor and me. The children were incredibly well behaved, which was very nice, and they ate a good amount of sushi and sashimi.
Today, the students and I took our guest out for lunch and dinner: much less impressive, but great fun nonetheless. And then this afternoon, after commiserating about the loss (Murray, at tennis) we laughed at the spectacle of Palin attempting to spin resignation as a step forward.

As for cooking for tomorrow, right now, that looks like that's for tomorrow.

Yours, in postponement,

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Back to basics

Rolling out puff pastry (for sausage rolls).
Slicing ginger and garlic, to simmer in vinegar, sugar, molasses, etc, to make a barbecue sauce: tomorrow, marinating ribs and wings in the sauce.
Preparing a poolish for the breads I'm going to make (probably breads, foccacia,

All things that can be done a day or two ahead, to help mitigate the fact that I'm in the middle of a couple of the busiest weeks I've ever experienced, and am planning to host our big annual July 4th party in two days. Fortunately LOML is, as always, being wonderful, especially by preparing all sorts of amazing desserts, salads and salsas.

Yours, in preparation,

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pushing out Lieberman

Joe Lieberman has "caucused" with the Democrats now for a couple of years --- and he seems incredibly uncomfortable doing so, particularly on the issue of health care.
Now with Al Franken giving the Democrats the supposed "filibuster-proof" 60 votes in the senate, I think that it is time for the Democrats to recognize that a) they don't have a filibuster proof majority, nor will they with these numbers while Lieberman, and others, are part of that majority and b) that they'd be better off without the commentators suggesting that they have said majority.

As such, I think that it's time to push Lieberman out of the caucus. Recognize that he's not aligned on the issues, and as such shouldn't be allowed to align where other things (like committee assignments) are concerned.

And then all they have to do is fight like they actually care on the important issues.

Yours, giving advice sure to be ignored,

Happy Post-Dominion Day!

Once, even in living memory (even, apparently, mine!) this would have been Dominion Day. But instead, I'll just wish all my northern friends and fellow citizens, a very happy Canada Day!

Yours, Maple Leafily,