Monday, January 31, 2011

Fun with origami

A lovely day today -- I visited Boo's class to teach them how to make cranes: a challenging, but not impossible task for second graders.  All of them did a good job, with some judicious help at the difficult parts.  I have a pre-folding sequence which is a little tedious, but gets them past the difficulty of the petal folds to obtain the bird base, which helps all those who don't have ADD to enjoy the experience.

And even better, one of Boo's best friends visited the class, and loved it so much that she's moving from the Montessori school (where she'd been having some issues) to Boo's class on Wednesday.

Yours, thinking this was an exciting day,

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Spring Cleaning? It's not even mid-winter yet!

We have a cleaner coming tomorrow: for the first time ever, we're springing for cleaning.  Consequently, the four of us (yes, even the children, to an extent) spent some hours this morning picking things up off floors, putting things away in drawers, and other novel activities.  We made a good start, one which we hope the professional will be able to build on, and show us how to keep in place once she gets us there.

After the cleaning, we celebrated by going for a bike ride: the first one as a family since the start of the year (and indeed, for me, the first one of the year).  Less than an hour, but not by much, and though it was the case that when you ride with Skibo much of the time is spent waiting for his little wheels to catch up, we did manage to get in a bit of good exercise.

Finally to the vets' house for dinner, along with several other mutual friends.  A lovely time had by all, good food, good company, and not too much wine for the designated driver.  Finally the kids are in bed, if not necessarily asleep, and the day can come to a close.

Yours, exhausted,

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Wii will get fit again

We all spent turns today with the Wii fit: putting in ten minutes until it was another's turn, waiting, occasionally playing games where two can join in at once. 

We'll have to keep at it, of course, but it is, so far, lots of fun.  And they seem to have designed the silly little incentives to keep going quite well. 

Yours, thinking so far that this has been a great purchase,

Friday, January 28, 2011

Wii age

We age.  We all age, even the young among us.  I turn thrumpty-sevix later this year, a milestone indeed.

But as surely as we age, so it seems, our wii age will bear no resemblance to reality.

We bought the Wii fit package today, a gift to the children for doing so well with their schoolwork.  The first thing that it does is to embarrass you: or rather me.  It says, roughly speaking "stand on me!", followed shortly thereafter by the equivalent of "ouch! get off!!!"   And then it estimates your "Wii age".  And the age is off, in a flattering way, by way more than a decade.

The Wii sports package also has an "estimate your Wii age" feature too: and on that I've gone from mid 70's to upper 20's over the past couple of weeks: neither end represents reality in how old I am, or even how old I feel.

But it does give me an incentive to get the estimated age down!  Or to keep it down!

Yours, occasionally wishing I could be my current Wii age again,

Thursday, January 27, 2011

So proud!

Boo and Skibo brought home their report cards this afternoon.  LOML and I are incredibly proud of how they are doing in school: both exceeding all expectations placed on them, it seems.  Both their teachers added glowing notes of praise to the checked boxes and raw scores, remarking on how smart, and pleasant our children are in the classroom.

Yours, in high praise of Boo and Skibo,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chapter 2

Another milestone.  Skibo announced that he's on chapter five of a Junie B. Jones book.   And that it's a chapter book.  And that some of the other children in his class are now on chapter books too.  But some of them are not.

The surprising shift is that suddenly he seems able to focus on multiple chapters, and more to the point, interested in doing so.  He even chose to read a chapter to me before bedtime!  Needless to say, LOML and I are thrilled by this development.

Yours, thinking that this is a huge step,

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I spent today's origami and math class talking about how to fold a sheet of paper into thirds, or fifths, or sevenths, etc, using Fujimoto's algorithm, and then getting them to fold four square twists, one each on the corner 2x2 squares of a 5x5 grid.  Lots of fun was had by all, and there was also much muttering and swearing under breath, trying to get all four twists to twist simultaneously.
All in all, it felt like a very successful class: we did some nice number theory, and some nice tesselations.

Yours, twisting again,

Monday, January 24, 2011


It's been weeks -- over a month, certainly, since I have made pizza.  I didn't make it in England --- I need my oven, my counters, my baking stones, my equipment, to really enjoy it.  (Not really true, but....)
And I'd forgotten how much fun it is to stretch out the dough, to make the sauce, to make roasted garlic infused olive oil, to smell the pies as they bake in the hot oven.

Yours, glad to be reminded,

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I'm off again

Not for a few weeks, but I'm registered for a conference.  No tickets yet, and I have to apply for a visa, but I'm going far afield.  Very very exciting....

Yours, looking forward to a trip to India,

Saturday, January 22, 2011

To MSNBC, and their new corporate parents

Since you have decided to can Keith Olbermann, I can now choose to not watch any news show on MSNBC or NBC or your other channels.  I will  continue to watch Rachel Maddow and Ed Schulz.  But any advertising eyes you were expecting from me on any other show?  Andrea "Mrs Ex-Fed Chief" Mitchell?  Luke "I'm like my dad, as far as the hubris goes, but without the talent" Russert?   Your other shows, they are dead to me.

Yours, advocating even more strongly now for net neutrality.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Neither LOML nor I remember having sleepovers when we were children.  I can't recall a single time I slept at a friend's house until I was in college.  And yet our children, aged 8 and 6, seem to expect sleepovers every week.

Well, tonight, Skibo is off at his friend's house, and Boo has two of her friends (they are sisters) over.  I'm not sure how early they will get to sleep, but I guess that since it is a Friday night, it doesn't matter too much.

Mind you, if we've gone from sleepovers never, to sleepovers rarely, to sleepovers weekly, will Boo and Skibo's children expect sleepovers every night?

Yours, dreading the world that Boo and Skibo would end up in if that were the case,

Thursday, January 20, 2011

.Back to potlucks

We've started back the Thursday potluck tradition, and in doing so, christened the new (to us) table.  A lovely time, although fewer people came than usual.  Still, mac and cheese (recipe from the Vegetarian Epicure), pan fried gammon steaks, sauteed andoulli sausage, salad, etc made a feast for a small crowd.

Yours, enjoying the tradition,

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Stable Table

Today, we adopted, or perhaps more correctly, we gave a foster home to, a new table.  Or rather, an old table.
A friend of ours constructed the table out of floor boards he reclaimed from a dying house a few years ago: and now he has no room for it, so he offered it to us.  We agreed that we'd love to have it, but on condition that we are merely looking after it until he wants it back.

It's heavy.  And when I say "heavy", I mean "heavy".   We managed to wrestle it into the back of a pickup truck, and he drove it down the street to our house.
Unfortunately, about fifty yards from the house, the table started slipping, and in the middle of a crossroads, slipped right off the back of the truck!

It's a testament to the construction of the table that it basically caused no damage at all to it.  So now, we have a table worthy of throwing a big dinner party, and all we need is the event to throw for it. 
Tomorrow, the regular Thursday night potlucks continue, and we christen our new table.

Yours, stable,

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Boo drew and coloured a picture of me the other day.  It was the second in a series she had done, and as a consequence she originally titled it "Copy 1" (with the first being "Original 1") but subsequently renamed it "Original 2".
She really captured me: I have my hand over my face in an expression of despair at Skibo's behaviour, and you can see the misery, the defeat in my face.
One interesting feature that I had noticed, but never thought about, before was the relative size of feet and hands in her picture: my hands are huge, while my feet are tiny.  It just occurred to me that this reflects reality as seen by a child: their eyes are close to hand level, and so hands are big, whereas feet are relatively far away: consequently children draw hands as comparatively huge versus feet.

Yours, glad to have explained this anomaly,

Monday, January 17, 2011

How to handle one's children?

There's a way says a wise old man
A way known to every child
Since the whole rigmarole began.

Do I bribe them? I begged him answer
Do I threaten or cajole or plead?
Do I brood? or spank their ass in rancor?
Said he frowning, "No indeed!"

How to handle one's children,
Mark me well, I will tell you now
The way to handle one's children
Is to

(to be finished when we figure out a suitable 
pair of last lines).

Yours, with apologies to Lerner and Loewe,

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Origami and poetry

Today we did Christmas again --- for the final time until December, I think: we exchanged gifts with our good friend E, who is a surrogate aunt to Boo and Skibo, and a great friend to LOML and me.

She lives just down the street, and is recovering from a knee operation, so we took dinner down to her house, and had a lovely time visiting...  I received a particularly lovely and thoughtful gift, especially since she had  already given me a lovely warm sweater (which has had a lot of use this season already).  It's a book by Diane Ackerman entitled Origami Bridges, and it reflects beautifully my interests in the intersection of art and mathematics. 

Yours, looking forward to sitting down with a good book,

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Having heat again

Having heat again is a wonderful thing!  It means that we can lie in bed in the morning without shivering: it's easier to get up to boil the kettle for tea, and best of all, we don't have to all snuggle for warmth like a nest of hamsters.

Yours, no longer shivering,

Friday, January 14, 2011

Habemus estus!

No white smoke.  No new pope.  But we have heat again!  Now we just have to pay for it....

Yours, very warmly relieved,

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Another term begins

A day late, which didn't affect me at all, the new term began today.  I think  that this will be a fun session: the classes I am teaching are high-level, fascinating material, and I hope that my students will feel the same way.

And tomorrow, we get our heating fixed: at least that is the schedule.  With luck, by this time tomorrow we'll be basking in warmth!

Yours, shivering a little right now,

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Slowly melting

The sun has been out, and the temperature has been above freezing.  And so, at least in those areas of the world round here not shrouded in shadow, the ice and snow have been melting away.
The children are off school for one more day: they'll probably go back Friday morning (an early release day, so they'll only be there for half the day) and then Monday is Martin Luther King Day.  All in all, they've had a long time off!

I start back teaching tomorrow, and am looking forward to it immensely, if with a little apprehension.

Yours, readying myself for the classes,

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Still snowed in

There's still lots of white stuff on the ground: a mix of snow and ice.  It's not clear when it's going to go, either --- the temperature is hovering aound freezing today, so we're perhaps going to get an extra snow day or two yet.

Yours, looking forward to it going so we can get a new heater put in....

Monday, January 10, 2011


Somewhere between 11pm and 2am, a good inch or more of snow fell.  And then back to sleep.  And at 7am, there is six inches of snow on the ground, with more to fall for the rest of the morning.  They are predicting wintery mix for all the afternoon, so who knows how it's going to look by this evening!

Yours, snuggled up with the family,

Sunday, January 9, 2011

No heated arguments here

As I walked in this afternoon when I arrived home, LOML asked if I wanted the bad new or the bad news.

It turns out that there is only bad news --- we are going to have to redo our heating and air conditioning system.  We are currently running two oil-filled radiators (in the UK sense of the word, not "radiant heat" in the electric coil sense) to heat the living room and the bedroom: the kids will snuggle with us while the temperature requires it.
Tonight it's supposed to snow, and snow hard, so the earliest we expect to be able to fix the system is several days.  These are the things that are sent to try us, right?

Yours, summoning the upbeat spirit that enabled people to survive the blitz.

p.s.  I don't mean to trivialize the blitz.  I mean to praise the upbeat spirit: and to summon similar strength in a much less challenging enviroment.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Preparing to leave in the moming

Given the weather situation, I'm planning on leaving early in the morning.  This puts an unfortunate kibosh on seeing all sorts of talks, and meeting with various people I wanted to see.
Fortunately, however, my favourite origami artist was able to come to dinner with me and various students and colleagues: we had a lovely evening discussing mathematics and physics, amongst other topics. 

But tomorrow, at 5, local time, I'll get up, and get out on the road as soon as I can.

Yours, thinking that "ugh!" is the proper descriptive term, at least for the future,

Friday, January 7, 2011

And the weather threatens

As always, it seems, when I go away it snows at home.  This time, I can do something about it.  I can leave the conference a day early --- very early Sunday morning, as it happens, and hopefully drive home ahead of the snow storm heading east.

Yours, wishing you to wish me luck,


I'm very proud this morning: I'm about to attend a series of talks put together by my first doctoral student: she's done a fantastic job of getting some top notch speakers to agree to give talks in the session.

Yours, glad to see her doing well,

Thursday, January 6, 2011


After driving several hours yesterday, getting checked in, etc, today I've been attending the conference.  Attending, as in talking to people, discussing ideas, and reconnecting with old friends.  Oh, and listening to some talks too.

Yours, finding it productive so far,

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Trying to post

I spent a good little while trying to post this: but it just kept spinning.
At last, it finally seems to want to let me post!

Yours, no longer frustrated,

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


I've never been one for drawing, or painting.  I stick, pretty much exclusively, to origami as my art form.
But this morning, as I lay sick in bed with two coughing children next to me, LOML suggested some assignments: the children should draw, or write about, some of the things they'd seen in England over the past couple of weeks, so that they could tell all their school friends about it. 
To jolly them on, I tried joining in.  I did a pencil sketch of the Castle, copied from a postcard we'd bought on our first visit there.  And if I say so myself, it's better than dreadful.  Not great -- straight lines wobble, and the perspective is awful: and vertical lines lean awfully.  But compared to what I usually produce, a work of near-genius!

Yours, worried now whether drawing a copy of a photograph is plagiarism...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Impeccable timing

Just as everyone seemed to be better, and a little before we were scheduled to go to a birthday party, Skibo managed to get sick again.  He threw up: so he and I stayed home while Boo and LOML went to the party.  And on returning from the party, Boo had started to cough as well.  Looks like nobody is going to be starting back at school tomorrow....

Yours, in the midst of the plague,

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Coughs and colds etc

Just in time for the new year: right on cue: Skibo has a horrible cough, dry and barky: I'm hoping it will loosen up soon, as a sign of getting better.  And I have an upset stomach.  Consequently, we had to miss out on visiting the vets: LOML and Boo went, while Skibo and I stayed home and dozed, drifted and watched a little TV.

Yours, hoping we all feel better soon,

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Watching Between The Folds

Santa brought the children a Wii for Christmas, and as a result, I can now watch streaming movies through Netflix.
As my first attempt to download a movie, I pulled Between The Folds, Vanessa Gould's fabulous documentary about origami, and Boo and I are watching it together: she's completely enthralled by it!  I explained to her that it was a documentary, and what a documentary is, and how it differs from fiction.  She quietly said that this was the best movie ever.

Yours, joyously,

Happy New Year!

Another year is over, and we are at the start of a new one.  Let's resolve to make it a good one in every way we can!

Yours, with steely resolve,