Monday, November 30, 2009

And another term comes to a close

I gave my last lecture in one of my courses this afternoon (they have an exam on their last day of class, Wednesday), and I've only got two more left in the other regular class I'm teaching.
The competition for which I train the team here is on Saturday --- we have one more preparation meeting for that.  So, this time five days from now I'll be completely done with everything except for final exams.

This has been a loooooooong term, feeling far longer than any before.  I'm looking forward to this break.

Yours, counting days, hours,...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's hard to get into the spirit

With our going away for much of next month, we've decided not to get a tree, not to put up decorations, not to get into the house-part of the holiday spirit.  And that,  I find, makes it harder to get into the non-house-part of the spirit too.
And now, it seems that our long tradition, with several other local friends, of having a joint party for the Christmas parade, is at risk of not happening this year.  It's not terrible, but it is a little sad.  There is still some hope, and it is possible that it may still happen.  We shall see.

Yours, wanting to feel more in the spirit,

Saturday, November 28, 2009

How soon they learn

Yesterday afternoon we went to the town square to look at the Christmas "tree".  (Christmas traffic cone, enlarged by a factor of 30, and coloured green, is more like it)   At one point she and Skibo and I were talking, and she came out with
"If Santa Claus isn't real, then who delivers all the presents?"
at which point Skibo, sitting on my lap, leaned over to her and whispered, too quietly for me to hear
"I think it is Mummy and Daddy!"
(at least, I think that is what he said).
I pointed out to Boo that that was a conundrum indeed, and that perhaps she could consider the fact that presents are indeed delivered, and she should draw some conclusions.  All in language more conducive to a conversation with an incredibly bright seven year old, of course.  She smiled happily and nodded.
A few hours later they each got to sit on Santa's lap after the tree-lighting ceremony.  While there, Boo noticed that Santa appeared to have a mustache underneath his fake beard.  On returning to me, she explained that she knew that this was just a fake Santa, because of the beard, and that she thought that he probably flew to the North Pole each night to let the real Santa know what all the children asked for for Christmas.

I thought this a delightful explanation:-)

Yours, keeping the legends alive,

Friday, November 27, 2009

Buy nothing day

I almost managed it.  The only thing that I bought was a couple of loaves of bread for dinner (I'm running behind on the baking schedule, as I am on the knife-sharpening schedule, as I am on the grading schedule, etc).
But we all managed not to go out at three in the morning to hit the post-Thanksgiving sales and do all of our Christmas shopping.
For which I am,

Thankfully, yours,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving thanks

We've given thanks, hopefully genuinely enough to be understood to be really meaning what we say!  My favourite thanks this evening were from young mister M, aged 5, who declared that he is thankful for carrots.

We feasted, roast beef, roast turkey, five or six different vegetable dishes, and have tons of leftovers.

And now it is back to a day-to-day basis.

Yours, giving thanks today, tomorrow, and every day,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I'm very thankful for tolerance --- I try to be tolerant of other people (and being somewhat unusual, I occasionally need that tolerance!)  And I try to encourage tolerance in others at all times.
Fortunately, in spite of living in a small southern town, most of the time we are surrounded by tolerant people, tolerance, and good will.

Yours, in the hope that this may long continue,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Smart children

There -- the "what I'm thankful for" is in the title.
This evening, Boo decided to take her Thanksgiving placemat, (hand-shaped cut-outs and foot-shaped cut-outs pasted onto a sheet of card stock, laminated: quite lovely) and write -- in cursive yet -- all the things that she is thankful for upon it.
It was quite lovely.
Skibo is reading away like crazy -- pretty much further along than Boo was a year ago, I think: and he's 21 months younger. 
Amazingly wonderful, both of them.
Yours, wondering how could I be more thankful for anything else,

Monday, November 23, 2009

A one-day week

As this week is Thanksgiving here in the US, and as we are off from Wednesday on, and as I don't teach in the mornings on Tuesdays, and as my afternoon class on Tuesdays is on a volunteer basis and the students told me none of them were coming tomorrow:

I am now officially on a six-day weekend.  And you know what?  I'm grateful!

Yours, thankfully,

Sunday, November 22, 2009


With living so far from where both LOML and I grew up, I'm particularly thankful that we occasionally get to see the childrens' grandparents.  It's not as often was we would like, but still, Boo and Skibo have spent more time with Grandma, Grandpa, Nana and Granddad than I ever did with my Grandma, and perhaps even more than I did with my Grandpa.  I'm very glad that we're going to be able to spend some time with each of them next month, provided life doesn't throw any obstacles in our way.
I'm also incredibly grateful that we have friends like K&K, who are willing and happy to be surrogate grandparents in Boo and Skibo's lives, to be amazed and delighted by them day by day, and to tell them how wonderful they are, to be believed in a different manner than Mummy and Daddy can be believed.

Yours, thanking a third time,

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Another thing that I am thankful for: my sense of humour, and other people's putting up with it.  I enjoy telling jokes, many of which are, unfortunately, awful: so when people find them funny nonetheless, it makes me happy.  Usually these days it is Boo and Skibo who are my audience -- what will I do when their senses of what is funny matures?

On a related note, I just watched the fifth of six episodes of the Monty Python documentary, having missed episodes 1-4.  It's been an absolutely brilliant, hilarious time watching it.

Yours, feeling pythonesque,

Friday, November 20, 2009


There are a bunch, indeed, a bundle, a whole huge pile of holidays celebrated by the US which are not celebrated in the rest of the World --- or are celebrated under a different name, on a different day, and with appropriate seriousness instead of barbecue.
Of the holidays that I get to enjoy and participate in now, the one that I think is the best is Thanksgiving.  It (and its Canadian version, by some accounts something of a predecessor, certainly in the calendar) is a wonderful day, a day to give thanks for all that is good in life, a day to contemplate how lovely, regardless of the difficulties of the daily grind, one's lot is.
And so, for the next few days, I am going to try to give a few thanks in advance of the day.
Tonight, I"m thankful for the love of LOML and Boo and Skibo, (even when the children sometimes have trouble showing it, it is only a few minutes before the love pops out its head again).  The fact that we are all basically healthy and happy, headstrong and sassy is good!

Yours, thanks the first,

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Children when I return

It always takes a few days for the family to settle back into the fact that I am home, after a trip, and today the children seemed like they were back to normal.  Now, by normal, I mean "usual behaviour" -- I'm not tying their behaviour down to any special social constructs.  After all, I like being able to describe them as "back to normal":-)

Yours, celebrating normality,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

RH Day

What a wonderful turnout!  I'm guessing about a hundred people came out for our local little celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Riemann Hypothesis! Admittedly, we had a bunch of faculty offer credit to students to attend the lectures, but still, a nice turnout!

Yours, all talked out,

Home again

Home again, home again, jiggety jog.  As my parents would say.

Back home, safe, sound, and happy to be with LOML, Boo and Skibo.

Yours, tripped out,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Airport wireless

It's quite a wonderful thing --- all three airports this trip (beginning, middle and end) have had free wireless available.  It's meant that I can update LOML on progress, and check email, etc. 
Quite lovely.

Yours, gratefully,

Our talks are over

Our talks are over --- good audiences, good attention, good questions, good interaction.  And now it's time to think about getting on a plane and going home, tomorrow early afternoon (local time).

And so tomorrow night I get to sleep back in my own bed, next to LOML, Love Of My Life, rather than in a lonely hotel room.

Yours, not counting the hours, just waiting until they are over,

Monday, November 16, 2009

Another difficulty with being away

is that I want to be home, with LOML and Boo and Skibo, able to give hugs and kisses and say "I love you" in person. 
Another 48 hours and I should be home, asleep, and worrying whether I have all my ducks in a row for Wednesday.

Yours, home and away?  I'll take home!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

One difficulty with being away

One minor difficulty with being away from home, especially three time zones west, is that blogging before bed is no longer enough.  Now I have to try to blog before 9pm as well so that the post goes up with the appropriate day!

Only three more days, and it's back to my time zone.

Yours, off-sync,

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Day one of the conference

The first day of the conference went well: our session was very well attended: about thirty people, which was about as much as the room would handle.  Other than some minor problems with computers (and since the conference is about computers, minor problems magnify immensely!) things went pretty smoothly.  Lots of compliments afterwards.
All in all, I'm enjoying the trip, except for the fact that our hotel is about half an hour's drive from the conference centre, and nowhere near anything else: as a consequence,  I will not get any time to be a happy tourist.  Oh well, that is not why I'm here.

Yours, away from home,

Friday, November 13, 2009

Travel days

Leaving at midday, getting into the town at midnight.  Draining.

Taking advantage of public wifi at airports?  Priceless.

Yours, on the ground,

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I've come to the conclusion that the biggest reason that I don't like to travel any more is that there never seems to be any good time to do so.  I'm desperately trying to finish typesetting my notes for tomorrow's class, and for their class on Monday, so that I can give all the notes out tomorrow --- and save my colleague who'll be teaching for me the pain of photocopying.
And I've got to photocopy a test for the other class for Monday, to save my other colleague similar pain.  At least I've decided on the test questions!

And on my return (sometime after 11pm on Tuesday) I get to sleep, teach a ton, and then give a seminar later that afternoon.  Which still needs to be written.  Or rather, which I still need to write.

Yours, knowing what I'm going to be doing in my copious free time while I'm away,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A moment of silence, please

A moment of silence, please, in remembrance.


Oh dear!

Or rather, that should be "Oh! Deer!"

This morning on the drive to work, not too long after daybreak, in the half light and the pouring rain, I was very glad to be driving at the speed limit.
A small deer jumped out in front of my car and ran across the road: I was able to slow down soon enough to avoid hitting it, and safely enough not to skid.  And fortunately there was nobody behind me either. 

Yours, relieved,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Countdown to travel

I realised a while back that I hadn't flown since I returned from the great white north two and a half years ago: and this Friday I travel to a conference on the west coast.  For some reason, I'm really not looking forward to the trip.  Perhaps it's just being away from the family for a few days, perhaps it is because security restrictions have just plain made flying unpleasant, who knows.  I don't think that I'm nervous about it, just that I don't want to go.

Oh well.

Yours, feet stuck firmly into mud,

Monday, November 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Boo!

Boo turns seven years old today!  Not such a little girl any longer: do I use a smiley or a frowny?

Yours, in celebration,

Sunday, November 8, 2009

How to live in the moment

How do we live in the moment?  And I refer specifically to the bombaloo moment, the moment at which all hell is breaking out all around, children are throwing things, attacting with small tools, fists and hands.  How do we survive, and allow our children to survive too, without beating their independence out of them?
How, how, how, do I persuade Skibo that violence is not an acceptable option?  When the thing I most want to do is to beat the impulse out of him?  Not only "how do I hold back?" for that, mostly, usually, I can do --- but how do I find an alternate strategy, a way to allow him to come to his senses, not to indulge in the impulse to throw, to hit, to kick?

Yours, feeling bombaloo still, while LOML puts them to bed,

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Kingly proclamations

Representative King proclaimed loudly on the House floor that all Americans have health care.

On other occasions, various speakers have proclaimed that Americans have the best health care in the world.

I'd like to put those two together into a single statement: "All Americans have the best health care in the world".  A statement that is blatantly, obviously, and demonstrably false.

For too many Americans, health care consists of dying.  Or waiting until they are sick enough that the emergency room will treat them before asking if they have insurance.  Or not buying some other necessity to pay an exorbitant health care bill, a bill with a bottom line 50%, 100% or 200% more expensive than the corresponding bottom line to an insured person.  Or, even if insured, facing "co-pays" in the hundreds, thousands, tens or occasionally even hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Yes, there are Americans with access to world class health care, just as there are individuals in most other developed nations with similar access.  The difference here, it seems to me, is that those with true, affordable access are in the upper echelon, those with some access, somewhat affordable gets us to about 80%, and then there's a huge segment of the "just don't get sick" population.

Civilized countries do not do this.  Let's become a civilized country!

Yours, unsatisfied with the compromise, but thinking it better than the status quo,

Friday, November 6, 2009


Finally, it appears that the children have started to recover.  Which means that they were both bouncing off the walls today!

Yours, relieved to have a light at the end of that particular tunnel,

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Origami at the school

This evening I spent a while at the kids' school: it was "parent power" night (i.e. the evening the school tries to get parents and kids to come to the school in the hopes of getting the mums and dads more involved in their children's education: a good thing, by and large) and the art teacher had asked me if I would help out.  Even though Boo and Skibo couldn't make it (nor, being at home looking after them, could LOML) I said I was happy to help out.

I was expecting ten or fifteen people per session, four fifteen minute sessions, and was nervous: I had been asked to teach some origami, and I didn't know what the skill set would be, how engaged the students (or their parents) would be, whether I could teach that many, etc.

The first session, there were about twenty people: it went quite well, and everyone successfully folded a simple house, then converted it to a piano (which I always call a bench now, since it looks more like that to everyone to whom I teach it).  The next session, three children, plus parents showed up, and I decided the initial rush was over.  Again success.

Boy, was I wrong about the initial rush!  The third session packed out: standing room only, probably between fifty and a hundred people in the room, and yet, amazingly, everyone was able to fold successfully: some on tables, some on laps, some standing up!

The final session was less crowded, but still twenty or more people.  And still successful.

Yours, glad about how the session went,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I'm very distressed by this.  And not least because it appears to be being negotiated in secret, is a draconian, authoritarian solution to a problem which is much less serious than the proposed solution, and smacks of something the Bush administration would have done.
Oh.  It is something the Bush administration did.  Exactly why is the Obama administration following on with this policy?

Yours, distressed,

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I just saw my first Christmas commercial of the year.  It's November 3rd.  This is just ridiculous!

Yours, driving a humbuggy,

Still two down

Two sick children still.  Boo's seeming on the mend, Skibo's relapsed: LOML took them both to see the doctor, and came back with ten days of antibiotics for Skibo --- he has a raging ear infection --- and reassured that Boo seems to be getting better.

LOML and I are still not showing symptoms, yet.

And today is election day, so I'm poring over returns on races from Maine, New Jersey and New York.

Yours, worried parent, electoral junkie,

Midnight apprehension

In the middle of the night, Boo, sleeping with me while LOML was sleeping with Skibo, woke to hear Skibo's awful coughing: she sagely informed me
I'm apprehensive about Skibo's coughing.
Apprehensive means I'm nervous.  I learned that from the Upside Down show. 
After another pause, she proceeded to tell me that she was apprehensive that LOML would get Skibo's cough. And then a pause.
I'm apprehensive that you'll get Skibo's cough.
Another pause.
I'm apprehensive that I'll get Skibo's cough.

I don't know which thrills me more: how wonderfully her sense of the language is developing, or how sensitive she is to others.

Yours, parentally proud,

Monday, November 2, 2009

Another day, two sick children

We thought that Skibo was better this morning: he was up and bouncy and alert and not coughing as I left for work.  Boo was still asleep, and we were expecting the worst.
For much of the day it held true, though Boo's fever dropped quite a bit by the end of the day: but then Skibo's cough came back, and stayed back.  So now we're snatching early sleep, in case one or other of us (probably LOML) ends up lying down next to Skibo to calm his cough.  Boo's in bed with us, which makes it not a bit easier to sleep.  But such is parenthood:-)

Yours, cursing the flying pigs,

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Two sick little bundles of misery

Skibo is sick.  Feverish, coughing up his little lungs, and miserable.  Boo is not as badly off, but this, I suspect is just indicative of her being a day or two behind him.  And of course, LOML and I are likely to fall victim too, I assume.
I'm hoping that it will be short, and that we will all recover quickly.

Yours, feeling sorry for the little ones,

Health care

I'm guessing that some version of expanded health care is going to pass this year: things look pretty good for it.  But I'm also suspecting that the insurance industry is -- right now -- playing Brer Rabbit: "Please don't set up a public option that nobody can buy into unless they don't have coverage!"  
What better way is there for them to divest themselves of the contracts to provide coverage to those who might actually need it: they can now jack up the prices on the expensive, so that they can't afford private coverage (or their employers can't) at which point they move from the bottom line of the WellpointBCBS folks to the insured by the grace of semi-decent legislation.

I want to see the next round of this legislation.  I want to see the insurance companies forced to get rid of exclusionary practices: I want to see them forced to compete, not to increase fees at rates that look like credit card companies...

I'd better stop --- or I'll be forced to write a post about credit card companies too.

Yours, seriously pissed at the industry, the legislation, etc.