Monday, February 28, 2011

Jon Stewart nails it

Jon Stewart has just nailed the anti-teacher bias of the current political discussion.  Brilliant.  Depressing as hell, but brilliant.
If you are in a region where you can watch it online, do.  It's worth it.  The Feb/28/2011 show, opening segment (or in more rational date societies, the 28/Feb/2011 show).

Yours, in praise of comedy, and satire, and rapier wit.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Arby's has an offensive ad

Arby's has an ad playing: it sings a nice message, that we are all the same, regardless of our differences, whether we be skiers or boarders, cat people or dog people, cowboys or city slickers, we all look the same in the nude.

And indeed we do.

But I suspect that a serious group of people might be offended by the ad: because its message is that we all like beef.  And this of course is not true!  Some of us, yours truly included, do indeed like beef.  But a significant portion of the populace do not.

Fortunately for Arby's, and I suspect that this was a part of their calculation, it doesn't matter what the non-beefeaters feel: they are unlikely to eat at a beef sandwich fast food restaurant in the first place!

Yours, offended by their willingness to offend the irrelevant,

Watching the oscars

I was struck by the fact that the film I most wanted to watch was the big winner.  I was impressed by the clips of some of the other winners, notably Christian Bale (and by his acceptance speech, which seemed particularly genuine -- and since he forgot his wife's name, potentially embarrassing for him) but nonetheless, as a non-movie-goer-in-general, the one I most want to go and see is The King's Speech.

On the other hand, I was equally struck by the fact that when they were announcing the nominees for best picture, they had video of all the pictures, but the voiceover was Colin Firth from The King's Speech.  It struck me as just a little unfair --- almost enough to root for another movie!

Yours, wishing congratulations to the winners,

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I appear to have been spared

It appears I have been spared the crud for another day.  An unpleasant-feeling night, but not half as bad as if I had been vomiting every couple of hours. 

Yours, hoping it stays away,

Friday, February 25, 2011

Oncoming crud

I'm not sure, but it feels tonight as though I'm finally coming down with the nasty 1-2 day stomach bug that afflicted Skibo, then Boo, then LOML last week. 
I hope not --- it looked awful --- but if so, hopefully it will be quick.

Yours, stomach a-churning,

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pot luck

One of the things about pot luck is that we never know who will turn up: tonight, many of our friends were sick, or had other obligations, so we had a much smaller group than usual: 10-15 people, including kids.
Normally, including kids would mean double counting them -- they can be so loud and boisterous that 5 kids feels like 10 people.  But today it was still nice outside, and they all ran around and played and played and played, making the potluck crowd seem even smaller!

Still, it meant that our friends could sit and chat longer, and even though LOML had to run off to give a program on herbs, I got to sit with friends and just hang out for a couple of hours.

Yours, having enjoyed a lovely relaxed evening,

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dinner guests!

It's hard to believe, but it had been 13 days since we'd had anybody over for dinner: we'd invited various people,  but they were out of town, or sick, or busy: I was beginning to think that there was some sort of "Beware this house" sign outside!
But finally tonight we had guests around again:  I made a garlic, ginger, mango and pineapple salsa to serve with tilapia, brown rice, and onions and bell peppers.  Quite delicious.

Yours, enjoying throwing food together, and having people over,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Politics in the US is depressing at the moment: it seems that half the country wants to stamp, hard, on teachers, and police, and firemen, and garbage men, and others who work damned hard to make our lives better.
And why?  It's not to balance a budget, it is to give yet more business tax breaks, more tax cuts to the wealthy.

Yours, gritting my teeth,

Monday, February 21, 2011


Boo and Skibo (or more precisely, primarily Skibo) have discovered the joy of science, experimental science.  Yesterday, and today, we sat down and read about some experiments to investigate acidity, surface tension and inertia.  This led to us some discussion of the science (rather minimal: after all, they are 6 and 8 years old!) followed by the experiments:
1) Place two pennies in shot glasses containing, respectively, Coke and diced tomatoes.  Compare what happens after ten minutes, an hour, a day.
2) Pour some milk into a deep plate: drop a couple of drops of green, red, blue and yellow food colouring in the middle of the plate, forming a little colour palette in the middle.  Next, dip a q-tip into the milk, so it is damp: pour a drop of dishwashing liquid onto the q-tip, then dip it back into the centre of the plate.
3) Place a wide tumbler three quarters full of water on a table (outside is *way* best here!) Put a pie plate on top, with the rim upwards, and place the tube from a used-up roll of toilet paper on the plate, and balance an egg on the top of the tube.  Figure out how to get the egg into the glass of water without touching anything but the pie plate.
Fantastic fun was had by all....

Yours, loving the little experimenters,

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

to my mother and father, who have been married for 51 years today!
May there be many more:-)

Yours, amazed at the number!  Congratulations, Mum and Dad!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Finally, all are, it seems, back to normal

It appears that I may have dodged the viral bullet, and that LOML and Boo are over their recent miseries: and of course, Skibo's seemed clear for almost a week now.  It would be rather nice if we all stay healthy from now on.

Yours, just needing to make sure that I stay dodgy,

Little Mosque On The Prairie

Thursday night, the Daily Show featured a piece about how we need a Qu'osby Show, an Islamic version of the Cosby Show, to show that Muslims are people too, that the think, they feel, and that if we cut them, they do indeed bleed.
I was struck by two things about the piece: first that there was no mention of The Merchant Of Venice, and the speech to which I allude above: and second, that the brilliant Canadian show from a few years ago, Little Mosque On The Prairie, was not on the radar.

Unfortunately, when I checked on Netflix a little later, I discovered that it's not available.  A pity.  The show was very funny, and exactly what the Daily Show was looking for.

Yours, in tolerance,

Friday, February 18, 2011

Children better, LOML showing early signs of recovery

As I had hoped, the children are apparently pretty much completely better (indeed, Skibo has been since Sunday).  Boo threw up again late yesterday, but it appears that she's recovered.
LOML had a pretty unpleasant night of it last night, and a rather miserable morning, but it appears the worst is over.  I'm washing my hands every few minutes, in hope of staving off the savage beast: I figure if I can make it through the next few days, there's some hope of missing it entirely this round.

Yours, hoping that we can have a sick-free weekend,

Thursday, February 17, 2011

LOML next?

LOML just came through to tell me that the virus appears to have found its next victim.   I guess that just leaves me.  Perhaps a lost weekend is to come.

Yours, in (unwanted) anticipation,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Troubled by news

I'm in the process of interviewing candidates for a scholarship, a scholarship which expects students to be aware of current events, to take an interest, to debate, and consider, and suggest options.
Naturally, I've been asking probing questions about the situation in Egypt, Iran, Bahrain, etc: and I've been asking myself similar questions about where I stand.  Why am I so much more comfortable with the US putting pressure on Iran than on Bahrain?  Is there a political angle that trumps a moral angle?  Is there even a process whereby, say Mubarak, could have successfully walked the narrow line he tried to trace?   Between not stepping down and not shooting huge numbers of people?  Is there a process for Iran?  For Bahrain?

I have to say, I have been impressed by some of the students I've questioned (and unfortunately, less impressed by a small number of the others): they are thoughtful, are willing to say "I don't know", or "I haven't considered that: let me think for a minute", and to stand their ground.

Yours, enjoying thinking about issues outside my academic realm,

Boo better a bit

Boo is a bit better: she threw up last at 2-ish this afternoon, and so we're hoping she'll be completely better in a day or two.  And we're hoping that neither LOML nor I come down with it next --- although I'd say the odds are that we will.

Yours, sick of the sickness at this time of year,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Another sick child

After Skibo's bout with the norovirus this weekend (along with several of his classmates and friends) it was no surprise that Boo came down with the same thing tonight.  
Here's hoping it will be a one day thing as well.

Yours, tending as best as we can,

Monday, February 14, 2011

Where does the solar system end?

Where does the solar system end, and the rest of the universe begin?  And how big does a planet have to be to be a planet? 
Just a few years ago, Pluto had it's planetary status pulled by (earthbound) astronomers, on the grounds that it is too small to be considered as such: it is, instead, a planetoid.

Today comes news of two astronomers insisting that there is, in fact, a ninth planet: and it is large enough to be classified as such, being four times as big as Jupiter.  Its status as a planet would be confirmed easily then, if it can pass two tests --- first, and most obviously, if the astronomers can convince the rest of us that they are right, that it is exists: and secondly, if it is close enough to the sun to qualify for planetary proximity.

Yours, wishing Tyche good luck,

Happy Valentine's Day!

Yours, eschewing the game of "guess who",

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A family again

We're all together again, LOML and Boo having returned from their trip to Tennessee, having had a wonderful time. 

Yours, thinking that it's nice to have them home again,

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Having stayed

Having stayed here with Skibo, while LOML and Boo went up to the park, we made the best of it.  We rested, we slept, and we watched multiple episodes of Avatar, The Last Airbender.
Not a productive weekend, but it wasn't to be one, not with Skibo feeling sick.

Yours, relaxed,

Friday, February 11, 2011

Family expeditions

This weekend we were all going to go to a National Park a few hours from here: they run family oriented nature programs, and LOML's enjoyed some of their programs for educators in the past.
But today, the school phoned to say that he'd been throwing up (one of three students sent home today in his class for that reason!)  We waited a couple of hours to see if he got better -- he didn't -- and LOML left with Boo, while I stayed to be with him.
I'm hoping we might be able to drive up there tomorrow, if he stays clear through the night: the last time he threw up was before 6, so there's some hope.

Yours, feeling bad for the little fellow, and hoping he feels better tomorrow,


And just like that, he's gone!  After yesterday's promises, and promises unkept, who'd have thought that he'd be gone so quickly.

Congratulations, people of Egypt: now you have to stay vigilant, to keep democracy vibrant, to make sure it actually happens in the first place, and to keep it strong over time.

Yours, wishing the Egyptian public the very very  best,

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egypt teases

Or rather, their dictator toys with their emotions.  I was fully expecting him to step down, and then, at the last minute, apparently, he changed his mind.

I can't see how he hangs on for more than a few days --- or that today's decision will make things any easier for him.  But he's made his choice, and so we proceed to own more day of protests.

Yours, stunned that, after hours of reports that he was stepping down, he could get away with not doing so!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I know a little about research.  So does LOML.  We've been trained in our respective fields, and have learned how to find things out.

But I didn't expect this.  Skibo came home and told LOML that he needed to do some research on Abraham Lincoln; after setting him up on the web, LOML left him to his own devices for a few minutes, and came back to find him absorbed in watching a documentary about him!  He's already, at the age of six, developing research skills!

Yours, proud of my little researcher too,

Poetry in motion

Boo practised reading a poem this evening: her class has a poetry reading on Friday morning, and they've been told to practise ahead of time.

Boo chose her poem by herself, and did a lovely job of reading it: expressive, emotional, intense.  She's a natural.  And she's almost memorized the whole thing -- though I've suggested that she have a copy in front of her to look at if she needs to (since they are welcome to read rather than recite from memory).

I'm not surprised, though -- at two years old, she could recite The Night Before Christmas, word perfect, from memory!

Yours, proud of my little poetry fan,

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

That sinking feeling

An intentional double-entendre in the title: I taught students this evening how to do an open sink in origami (and how to do a double open sink too).  This came after showing them Robert Lang's amazing TED video, which left them oooohing and aaaahing in amazement. 

Then, after I got home, and helped LOML with the bedtime duties, I stepped onto the Wii, and found that --- only a couple of weeks in --- I had managed to meet my second two-week goal a good while early, and am now no longer classified as ultra-obese.  I'm now merely obscenely overweight.  A lovely sinking feeling!

Yours, dropping like a stone, and hoping in the next few months to drop a stone or two,

Monday, February 7, 2011

A new origami group

On Saturday, a friend and I had our first meeting of our new local origami group: we had four young people, aged 9-12 or so, turn up, together with one grandmother, young at heart, who wanted to fold with her grandson.
We're hoping that with time, and word of mouth, things will grow.  A little.
And that the young people who come along regularly will help teach the newcomers in the future.
For now, a good beginning, and even better, it started during the Asian New Year!

Yours, celebrating a beginning,

100 days

One of Skibo's homework assignments this weekend was to get read for Day 100 at school: he was to collect 100 somethings together to take to school this morning.
After lots of back and forth (no, you can't take 100 dollar bills, no, you can't take 100 weapons, toy or not, no, you can't take 100 whatever-else-inappropriate-came-to-his-minds) he finally decided on 100 origami pianos.  This is a delightful little fold from Montroll's Easy Origami: book fold, book fold, unfold, cupboard fold, unfold, squash fold twice, plus a couple of shaping folds to make it three dimensional.
Boo, in a wonderful display of good-big-sisterliness offered to help him construct them, and shortly after declared she was going to teach LOML, and I jumped in to fold some, so, for the first time ever, the four of us were sitting doing origami together.
LOML rustled up a big posterboard, and glued them in place, a 10x10 checkerboard pattern of blue and yellow houses.  And this morning he took it in to the class.

Yours, loving the togetherness of the family helping him with the project,

Sunday, February 6, 2011


And the Steelers lose.  Oh well.

Yours, disappointed,

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A taste of India

I spent yesterday filling out visa stuff for my trip to India: and perhaps as a result, LOML decided we should have Indian cuisine this evening.  So, samosas it was, together with saag gosht, dal and rice.

Delicious, and filling.

Yours, preparing my palate,

Friday, February 4, 2011


I've not often had to apply for a visa: so many of the countries I visit, few as they are, have agreements with the US that I can turn up at the airport and expect to be let into the country.
A couple of times, I've had to apply: to Poland, for example, and Russia.  Today I applied for another: to India.  In a strange twist of fate, the country has farmed out its visa applications to a private company (presumably located somewhere to take advantage of foreign working conditions?)  I confidently expected that I'd be done with the application within an hour, and have it mailed off: instead I discovered that it would take over two hours to fill it all in, and I have yet to get my birth certificate notarized or staple the photos to the application.  On the good side, the amount that it cost me in wasted time was less than the application fee for the visa.
On the down side, though, the application fee for the visa is more than the value of the time to fill out the application, even if I start charging myself out at a very high rate!

Yours, feeling charged about the trip next month,

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The bed, it was, that broke

For some reason, the phrase in the title of this posting is stuck in my head.  I have a feeling that I read it somewhere, in a Thurber-esque story, or on a latter-day Twain's blog.  But the google doesn't find the phrase as is, and so I must be imagining it.

But there's a reason to imagine it.  We had a very successful potluck this evening, celebrating Chinese New Year: we made cold sesame noodles, pickled cucumber, and soy/garlic/ginger chicken.  Others brought fried rice, stir fried vegetables, and many other delicious dishes.

The children repaired to LOML and my bedroom after dinner, to watch TV away from the grownups.  And later, we discovered that somehow the head of the bed has been cracked, in a way that we don't see how to repair.  Such is life: and we can live with the damage for a few days: hopefully the company we bought the bed from can replace the piece at a reasonable cost.

Yours, thinking I should have entitled this post "And that's when the bed broke, as the actress said to the bishop",

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Troubling news

The news from Egypt has been troubling for a week or so now, but this evening's news, especially the late hours here, early morning hours there, have looked particularly dire.
And it seems that there is increased instability in other countries in the region, and worldwide, too.  I'm all for transitions to democracy, and for the rights of the people to demonstrate.  I just hope that the transitions can be carried out peacefully, and that the elections result in governments of goodwill to others.

Yours, unnerved,

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pinch and a punch, first of the month

Another month down, another two to go.  Still, if my real age is touching older, my Wii age today was quite a lot younger!  Shows how much Nintendo knows.
Still, I've been putting in a good amount of time exercising --- half an hour of free step with big arm swings today, even though I didn't get in until 9pm, and then sang songs and read poems to the children.  The discipline of entering things on the machine helps me keep to the schedule.

Skibo took a massive step today: he has been reading fluently for a while, and reading chapter books too, but he still didn't seem to be enjoying it very much.  However, this afternoon he turned down a chance to go over to his friend's house and play for an hour or two in order to finish the final chapter of his book!  Admittedly, part of the reason he did it was to be able to watch some television later, but still, he spent a quarter of an hour or more dedicatedly reading (still out loud, so I know this!) and even happily considered which chapter book he'll read next.  So many, many moments to be proud of him and of Boo these days!

Yours, punching to pinch fewer inches,