Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Disheartened, heartened

American flagTwo posts that both capture some truth about the mixed feel of our current times -- brimming with hope for change and healing, painfully aware of the grim legacy of the last eight years, uncertain which to hold onto. Somehow, I'm happier to blog them together than separately.

First, from Rafe, a post titled How America discarded its moral compass, which tracks our increasing comfort with our national maltreatment of our detainees. It concludes,
It’s only now that I’m really seeing the degree to which the things that I really do cherish about America have been debased. Everybody knows that the government has abandoned the values of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence when it was expedient over the years, but it’s only in recent times that we see such widespread belief that it’s not even wrong to do so.
Then, from Bitch, Ph.D., a reaction to the nomination of Sotomayor for the Supreme Court and its reaffirmation of the American promise of possibility for all:
When the President, a Hawaiian-born black man from a broken home, nominates a Bronx-born Puerto Rican woman to the Supreme Court, you can't help but feel like maybe the Constitution and the Separation of Powers and Equality Under the Law and We the People and all that stuff really, actually, might be true.
Yeah, let's hope that some of that stuff might hold up after all . . .

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Quote of the day

True, we love life, not because we are used to living, but because we are used to loving. There is always some madness in love, but there is also always some reason in madness.
- Francesco Petrarch
(via whiskey river)

The beauty of space

Hubble shot = Helix NebulaFantastic shots from the Hubble, available as wallpaper. A mind-blowing array...

(via Medley)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Today's Twitter fave

Again from Hunter:
Yeah, um... when you're reduced to defending *slavery*, your talking-points canary is officially dead.
Spectacular metaphors for 400, Alex!

Better on my worst day...

I had my first stretch as a solo parent this week, with Spouse away for four days. When this first came up (it was a conference), I was a bit panicked by the mere prospect -- how would I do without somebody else to trade tasks with, somebody else to whip Speck off to a store while I crashed on the couch, would I have the energy to keep her entertained while maintaining my enthusiasm? In fact, none of that was really a problem, in part because we're pretty used to our routines, in part because Speck is quite fun and easy to play with at this point, and in part because she understands so much that it's easy to suggest little tasks for her to do while, say, one brushes one's teeth, or even to get her interested in watching or being part of the action.

jugglingHowever, this was a really crazy and tiring week anyway. But not the solo parenting -- it was a week of Too Many Things that would really have used a half dozen adults around to share the fun. Part of that is because Spouse and I are committeefolks, which means that we have election-related responsibilities, and Tuesday was an election. But that was just the start of it. (This may all be too boring for words, but I can tell that I need to vent it before I can subside into the coming weekend in peace.) Without stretching, I can list the following:
  1. Monday: (work morning, pick up baby at 1:30)
    • Lunch out with Speck, cut short by her need for a nap, which was going to conflict with the next planned errand. Go to Ward Leader's office (around 12 blocks away) after 3 for election materials, entertain Speck (grumpy!) while waiting for audience, trek back home again (with now-napping baby).
    • Wash and refill bottles and pack Speck up for staying overnight at her grandma's (clothes, meals, etc.); get her up from nap, fed, and to Gammy's (6 blocks away) by 5ish. whew!
    • Dinner (was tired of all the walking, so had sushi near Gammy's), then home, where plans for early bed were foiled by the need to post an election guide (this) to my local political website and by the desire to finish a nearly complete Letter to Speck (here) in honor of recent developments. Also, pull together materials for Election Day, make sure I've ordered coffee and donuts for election volunteers, have easel for hanging sample ballot near election site, etc.

  2. Tuesday: (off work for election)
    • Up at 5, dressed and out of house, quick stop by Gammy's (with extra breakfast, since hadn't packed a full jar, sigh) on way to Starbucks for coffee and donuts for crew; to election site to help with setting up machines, finding chairs that should have already been there for us, etc. Stay at election site, making sure we had enough folks working at all times, making small talk during long stretchs of low turnout, occasionally helping out when somebody took a break. Stayed until around 1, running on basically coffee and donuts.
    • Pick up Speck from Gammy's, take her home, nap with baby in afternoon, relatively uneventful baby time at home and playground for bulk of day, quick bath and bed.
    • Neighbor comes over to sit while I go back to election site to help break everything down, make sure that the voting machine receipts (duplicate copies) get handed out to the appropriate people (and copies filed in the Commissioners' box), confirm that somebody will take a copy to the Ward Leader and get other materials back to the City Commissioners' office that night.
    • Home around 8:45, after which I still have to have dinner, wash all the dishes and bottles from Speck's extended Gammy stay, fill new bottles and pack new meals for Wednesday, and then maybe get a few minutes to put my feet up and get online or watch TV. Somehow it was well after 11 (which is mighty late in Parent Time) before I headed to bed.

  3. Wednesday: (work morning, pick up baby at 1:30)
    • First morning up with Speck solo; planned an evening bath rather than a morning shower, so rest of routine relatively easy. Speck a bit feisty and I a bit groggy means I tripped coming up the stairs with baby and bottle, but no dire injuries resulted. All dressed, fed, and ready to leave house a little ahead of usual schedule (no time allotment for Spouse's toilette, basically).
    • Afternoon mostly normal (fun lunch food experimentations), but needed to run to vet (8 blocks away) to pick up prescription for cat (just diagnosed) and then to pharmacy. Got tangled up between stupid pharmacist and over-busy vet staff, so Speck just rode around in a stroller for 1.5 hours while I shuttled back and forth between the two until everything sorted out (this is about needle guages! the mind reels). Intended trip to shady playground now starting at 5:30, so poor Speck only gets a little time on this and that before being pulled away (from chalks!! so cruel!) to head home (still, past usual bathtime). Superfast Speck dinner, bath, bed.
    • Usual evening routine for me of late dinner, followed by stream of obligatory bottle-cleaning, shot and special food for sick cat, looking at list of new foods that Speck might try the next day (but no lunch to pack! yay!), etc. No idea where the time went, but my planned relaxing bath started around 11:30, so I didn't exactly read a novel...

  4. Thursday (off all day):
    • (Now nonchalant about solo morning routine.) Have pediatrician appointment (11 blocks away) in morning for 15-month check-up and shots. It's at 10:45, which probably seemed like a great time three months ago, but now falls directly inside usual morning nap hour. Try for calming morning routine with no success, but instead Speck falls asleep in stroller at 10:30 while I'm picking up some milk on the way (because most of a gallon went off prematurely in our fridge! sigh). Check into peds without stowing stroller, am called while Speck still sleeping -- even though I told them she could use a little longer to sleep, they have me wake her at 11 to weigh and measure, but then of course we wait another half hour for the doctor. grump.
    • Lunch, semi-normal early afternoon, but Speck, weary from her traumas and probably responding to the two booster shots, crashes early for long nap. This has the benefit of making my other errand possible: trip to local market center (17 blocks away) to pick up our biweekly installment of farm-share produce (we already missed the first one due to logistics). Luckily we get there in time, all the produce (lettuces galore!) fits in the basket of the stroller, Speck seems spacy and transfixed by passing scene. We return home tired (and hot) but triumphant!
    • Made evening routine late again so that Speck could test out a new toy that seemed a good reward for a long day: this play sink. It was a huge hit -- I had to drag her away after half an hour (and despite the fact that she hadn't eaten dinner and was nearly asleep on her feet), soaked and happy. Good dinner (tasty new foods!), speed bath, in bed amazingly by usual time.
    • Wash, sort, pack lunches, do baby laundry, eat dinner. A few minutes online to update grandparents on latest Speck stats, a token TV show on the Tivo, and actually managed goal of heading up to bed before 10! Yay, I've made it! (Spouse arrives home very late at night and is there to respond to morning baby cries.)
For what it's worth, here I am at work a couple of hours after I intended to leave (and with the office closing early for the long weekend, no less!). Not interested in avoiding baby and Spouse, but just luxuriating in the absence of any structure or urgent obligations. Spouse has fetched Speck from Gammy's and is off entertaining her in some way, and I have only myself to answer to for whether I head right home, stop for lunch, or (as looks to be the winner) blow a couple of hours catching up on the last few days of Web activity. This is what represents decadence for a busy parent: not specifically being with or away from loved ones, or even of doing any particular thing (although that novel is looking good), but having no demands to fill, no structure to stick to, nothing expected. (To the degree that that circuit ever actually turns off . . .)

Have a great long weekend, all!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Twitter quote of the day

Just curious: how OFTEN does one have to read the deranged rantings of the ignorant in order to be sufficiently broad-minded?

And now for something completely different

Total silliness for the day after a dullish election day: the pig-based audiometer. Ridiculous (and, um, what on earth?!?.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

To Speck at 15 months

Wow! what an amazing few months it’s been since last I wrote. Your abilities to manipulate your world and interact with us have been exploding, with a heap of skills having emerged in just the first two weeks of May. Couldn’t possibly wait to write again.

ramblerFirst, some externalities. My mocking about your two teeth must have dented your pride, because very quickly after your first birthday you started building more, such that you now have eight fully emerged, including two molars. (Your stoicism while all that was going on makes me a bit nervous about your pain threshold, but that seems ok for now.) You’re still not walking, although your skill with the walker/push toys is way up; you can steer around objects, change course, and even navigate some irregular grassy zones. Also still not talking, no new words, but you’ve figured out that shaking your head means “no” (although, as with much of your communication, there are times when it means something else entirely). You’ve started doing a bit of climbing onto low ledges and furniture, but Mom’s initial panic at this has subsided a bit as you don’t seem singlemindedly driven to scale the heights. Yet, anyway.

You’re a master of finger foods now, from Cheerios to cheesy pasta (sneakily laced with peas or carrots), and are good enough with a spoon that we sometimes let you work your way through most of a lunch of shepherd’s pie. (Usually at breakfast we’re too desperate to get out of the house, so you just get a few dips before Dad shovels the rest in.) We’re still exploring the list of foods that you might eat, so there’s lots of nibbles off of parental plates, to varying success.

EasterYou’re also master of your fingers in other ways. You’ve almost stopped playing with the shape-sorter, so completely have you mastered its small challenges. (Luckily Gammy has a more complicated one in reserve.) You stack blocks as high as yourself (over and over again compulsively). You’ve also figured out the motion of twisting your wrist for toys that require it, of holding a bottle or sippy cup and tilting it upward as needed, and you regularly disassemble pansies in a methodical way as you ride in your stroller. Plus you can put your finger into a finger puppet and dance it around!

So, that crazy two-week period! All of this, seemingly at once:
  • You learned to drink through a straw, pretty much on the first try. This saved a rather grumpy lunch, at the slight cost of Mom’s frozen and tired hand holding the glass of ice water for your explorations.

  • Shaking head to mean “no” arrived during this time. (Previously it had been reserved for rockin-out to music, or to enjoying the wind in your stroller. I don’t know how you came to give it meaning, or whether we just reacted as though it had some and you played along...)

  • You started to share, especially letting other kids on the playground borrow your green walker, although you of course want it back after a short stretch. Still, going from fear at their approach to rolling it toward them as an offering was a noteworthy evolution.

  • You first did an action that was clearly pretending – specifically, you held a big lego block up to your ear as if it were a telephone, and then gave it to me to continue the charade. (You have also been much amused when I mime feeding your bear with a spoon, although you haven’t yet gone that direction yourself.)

  • I had cut up some pieces of apple for you and you actually pointed to the rest of the apple instead – sure enough, you bit right in and ate most of it that way! We think that your enjoyment is a mix of food tastiness and teething relief, but it’s cute either way to watch you open wide and attack.... This also quickly generalized to bananas, making snack time a whole lot easier.

  • Most recently, you learned/decided to snuggle. You had always hugged Golden Bear, and then done some flirtatious demonstrations toward the dog’s bed or a pillow on the floor, but you only recently made the leap from that to actually hugging Mom or Dad (and especially to pointing to a book with a picture on the cover of a baby hugging her mommy, and then miming the same). I think we hadn’t realized how much we were looking forward to this – unlike the long vigil for the first smile – until it finally got here. Still enough of a rarity to be treasured. yay!
Wow, in the two days between writing and posting this, you took your first unsupported steps! I’m not sure you even realized it when you let go of your walker and just stood upright, rocking your hips a bit as though jammin’ to the music, and then took two steps toward me to be picked up. But your grandma and I sure noticed! Big things coming now!!

Also, had my first outing that felt like a shared parent-daughter time: we were just biding our time before meeting Gammy, but we ended up playing on a big cozy coffeehouse couch (wheee! fluffy cushions!), sharing some blueberry muffin, reading a book, and generally snuggling side by side. The time just flew. More and more, better and better!


Monday, May 18, 2009

Quote of the day

How much of the day are you aware - just basically aware of what life is presenting - rather than being lost in waking sleep, in being identified with whatever you're doing, almost as if you didn't exist?

To what extent do you blindly drift from one form of comfort to another, from one daydream or fantasy to another, from one secure place to another, in order to avoid the anxious quiver of discomfort or insecurity? How much of your energy is used to fortify a particular self-image, or to simply please others in order to gain approval, instead of devoting your energy to living a genuine life?
- Ezra Bayda
At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace within Everyday Chaos
(via whiskey river)

Still room to be boggled

I thought that the Bush Administration had already maxed my capacity for amazement and outrage, but these overtly religious military reports just blow my mind all over again. Bush is, I suppose, welcome to his feeling that he's on a Mission From God, but our government needs to keep a clearer head in its affairs!

Monday morning cuteness blogging

A smattering of the other pre-Easter pics of Speck, this time showing less glamor and more of her personality...

pin-up girl
"What, more photos?"

little smile

One of my favorites -- cute and mischevious in equal measures...

tiny grin
Obligatory grin shot!

Friday, May 15, 2009


All that torturing, that is, which increasingly appears to have been aimed more at finding (nonexistant) connections between Iraq and Al Qaida, or supporting the claims of WMDs, than at finding any critical/time-sensitive information...sorrow
More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Most great torturing nations have put the bulk of their energies into obtaining false confessions...

Edit: from Hunter's Twitter feed, my sentiments in a nutshell:
After eight long years, I am tired of begging for basic laws to be enforced. I'm tired of it being our job, and of it being partisan.
Amen. (sigh)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bad news, good news...

Bad news:
The first relocation of an entire population due to climate change -- and it's not that their island got flooded, but that salt water infiltrated their water supplies and soil to the degree that the land was unlivable. Another avenue of fun.

Good news:
A major health-care alliance pressures moderate Congressfolk from both parties to support inclusion of a public option in any healthcare reform. Keep up the good fight!

Laughed out loud:
Amazon reviews for a gallon of whole milk. Priceless creativity, these Internets...
(via kottke)

A hard way to come by perspective

Sometimes I am frustrated by the State of Affairs in our country, but when I see things like a nation that likes its girls/women better dead than literate, it's hard not to breathe a sigh of gratitude for being elsewhere. I certainly didn't choose where I was born, and clearly those girls didn't have much say either...

(via Sybil at Bitch, PhD)

Friday, May 08, 2009

Friday randomness

A bunch of links to stuff that I've accumulated lately.
  • More from the comeuppance department: Justice Scalia scoffs at calls for privacy protections until surprised by a dossier on himself, compiled by students from publically available sources.

  • Hilarious: the knee-jerk contrarian game, which consists of looking at the one-star ratings given to all-time classic books and music. Don't miss the extra examples in the comments (the grammatical critique of Whitman is my personal fave).
    (via kottke)

  • Hard to have kids in this modern age? Two views:

    1. Grandmas (or parents!) who take bath pics beware: you could be charged with child pornography.
      (via Atrios?)

    2. Parents who are nervous about kidnappers and the like: take solace in the fact that the world is no more dangerous than in your own childhood, despite the media hype. Balance caution against the value of independence...

  • Today's doubletalk: when the Chinese do it, it's torture; when we master the same techniques... oh, you know the story.
    (via Talking Points Memo)

cutie with chairs
And what's a random list without a random baby photo??
Have a good weekend, all!

Things you like to hear

money treeFrom the Twitter feed of a White House correspondent:
As overseer of stimulus money, Biden says he's trying to get money out the door by shedding red tape but not accountability.
That seems like the right combination. Keep on 'em, Joe!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A ray of hope

Looks like the Democrats are going to make Specter earn his stripes on their side of the aisle, giving him just under two years to prove himself worthy of full seniority...

(via Talking Points Memo)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Way to rain on my sunshine

The very thing I fear for my daughter, the assault of expectations and marketing, distilled into a grim and frightening montage. Effective, cautionary, depressing as hell.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Tuesday baby-blogging

Finally finished processing the fabulous shots we got from friend Kay at Easter (in response to Grandma's latest desire for costume portraits), so gotta post a couple more. She was so serious for much of the session that they have a very classical look to them, rather than our usual mischevious grinner...

Speck with bracelet
Easter Basket 1

Kewpie girl

Will pull out some with more color/smiles another time...

Monday, May 04, 2009

Quote of the day (snapshot of this modern life)

Have not settled on whether to call this weekend "unproductive" or "relaxing."
nowthis (Twitter feed)

From the department of holy crap (or just crap)

A variety of stories that have been piling up in my tabs...
  • Quite shocking, the NYTimes company might actually follow through on its threat to close the Boston Globe, although it may still just be trying to strong-arm a variety of its unions.
    (via Atrios)

  • Truly horrific: Elsevier actually publishes a fake journal so that a major pharmaceutical company can cite nonexistant research in support of its products. In how many ways is this wrong?!?
    (via NowThis, in a tweet)
    Update: they have a whole division dedicated to this sort of fake authenticity! ack!!

  • Republicans will blaim anything on a conspiracy. Sure, we liberals cooked up a pandemic as a plot to expand the reach of government...

  • Wonkette makes a good case for getting rid of the White House press corps, which seems to do more along the lines of gossip columns than breaking real news or analysis.
    (via Follow Me Here)

  • Jason Kottke has an interesting defense of Twitter, which really extends to all online networking and socializing -- that is, it is neither more nor less inane than in-person socializing, but people seem to expect More, somehow, from all the bells and whistles.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Quote of the day

Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.
- Rainer Maria Rilke
(via whiskey river)