Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gritting my teeth

Our society really has some crazy mental blockages when it comes to physical integrity and what constitutes rape. I really can't improve on this explication at Feministe, which might have introduced the definitive simile to help the slow-witted with this one.

(via Medley)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Quote of the day

photo of redbud buds on a branch
All points are starting points.
- Hugh MacLeod
(gapingvoid online)
(via Nowthis)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Give a little, get a little

It's hard not to sympathize with this everybody's an idiot view of our multifaceted forced interactions living in a city. But I think it's better to turn it on its head. Ever been a pedestrian? then maybe you can be a bit forgiving when you're out driving, and let the frozen foot-commuter have right of way at an intersection (which, you know, he's supposed to have anyway). Ever driven in Philly streets? then maybe you can be a bit understanding, as a bike, of the visibility limitations where there aren't bike lanes, and of the frustrations that drivers feel watching you sail through red lights. Ever been stuck in any traffic situation not of your own making? then maybe you can lay off that horn or take a pass on flipping the bird -- there's almost always a reason for the tangle, and you're unlikely to help by getting steamed.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled mid-holiday rants.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The best of Christmas to you and yours

Here's a wonderful reflection on the wonder and layered memories of Christmas, something we can all hope to find at the turn of the year.
a candle in the darknessmay the smallest most tender
memories of Christmas
tie our hearts to both seen and unseen miracles.
Indeed. Here's wishing you whatever whiff of pine or line of song helps you find your way there.

(via A Mindful Life)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Quote of the day *

All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with;
all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong,
or deny to be possible.
- George Santayana,
philosopher (1863-1952)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

To Speck at 32ish months (written a bit late)

Speck in flowered tunic grinningThe last few months have seen the continued emergence of your independent self, more distinct in its tastes and more feisty in its demands. For the first time, you're willing to play by yourself for stretches of time; you'd still like a spectator, but you're willing to build structures for your frogs yourself and narrate their activities. You've also mastered a host of new skills, from jumping with two feet (still an iffy proposition) and pedaling your trike (a stretch) to blowing your nose (a fall cold made you a real expert). You can come along to a few restaurants and eat off the menu right with us, all nonchalant with your fork and cup. And you now lie next to your heap of sleep friends, rather than on top of them, and have even taken to using a pillow at night -- just like real folks! hah.

Your grasp of language also continues to deepen. Many times the awareness of this comes as a surprise to your parents, as you recite a stretch of a favorite book ("A cautionary tale in five chapters"), show interest in every occurrence of a particular word (e.g., pointing to every "up" on a page), or correct us when we deviate in the slightest way from the wording of a library book we've only had for a week or two. Other times, it seems a natural extension of your existing interests -- for example, you love to give naturalist lectures based on the book of North American birds (with special attention to the "gaberhorn" category that you invented), jumbling together facts and phrases from all kinds of sources. You're also starting to play with language a bit, making up your own exclamations ("seds!") and playing with nonsense sounds, much to your own amusement. You're also a sponge for idiom, and sometimes leave acquaintances agog when you come out with some ornamented turn of phrase they absolutely weren't expecting from a toddler. (Luckily, to date, nothing profane or embarrassing to parents, at least as far as we know.)

We've also really experienced some of the legendary "terrible two" behavior -- opposition, whining, biting. Amusingly, this sometimes comes with self-narration ("I'm falling to part!"), but it's often exhausting and frustrating to all concerned. Luckily, long stretches of grumpiness are usually interleaved with multiple days of basic cheeriness, giving us a reprieve and a chance to enjoy each other's company again. So I suspect we'll muddle through.

One source of some excitement this fall was your debut in nursery school. First our top preschool pushed us to start you earlier than we planned, and then our initial "warm-up" visits there left us with a bad feeling about its excessive structure (and/or waiting-around time). A panicked scramble landed us in a much mellower place, and you, for your part, seemed completely untraumatized by the prospect of going to school (perhaps due to much advance reading of "Llama Llama Misses Mama"?) -- you were excited by your new lunchbox, happy about the little games and rituals of the day, and even motivated to take your nap at school like the other kids (certainly a lot sooner than we had expected!). A lot of our insights into your day come from new games that the frogs play -- from circle time with the guitar guy, to nap time with blankies and teddy bears -- and from your pride in understanding more about the calendar and the days of the week. But you also call it your "fun class," so I guess it's a winner on the most important front of all.

So there you are! We're preparing for an exciting week of Christmas, with a heap of grandparents on hand, and the next time I write to you will be after you turn three! You're growing like a weed and getting busier every day, so I just hope we can keep up with you in the months ahead! Can't wait to find out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Post-racial THIS!

We surely don't live in 1960 anymore, but those who argue that America is in a post-racial era are self-deluded (and probably speaking from a position of oblivious privilege). Here are just a couple of examples of the way in which racist bias permeates our culture and constrains the options of minority individuals:
    graphic of interwoven black and white hands
  1. Cupcakes With a Side of Racism!

  2. Why Barack Won’t Get Angry
I look forward to a day when Otherness is not noteworthy, and when individual performance/behavior isn't appraised differently when given different racial or gender contexts. But that time has not yet come, and we've got some work to do.

Wow, this weekend was a busy one!

Score another one for lame-duck sanity. Amazing! I guess rich people must eat too, or the GOP would have found a principle on which to oppose this...

(via a Medley retweet)

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I look forward to seeing President Obama sign this one. Long overdue -- one form of sacrifice is enough for any American!

snippet of American flag

Update: worth watching the video here, which summarizes the history of DADT debate and gives some live reactions. Teary stuff.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Link dump: Parenting edition

This is several weeks of interesting links, in the short window of free time before my office party begins... enjoy!
  • Parents are trending away from picture books for children, rushing their preschoolers and kindergarteners into "chapter books" and other more text-reliant forms. This is a loss for booksellers and the world of talented illustrators, but also for children, who continue to benefit richly from the interpretive power of images as they learn to read and understand the world, well into their elementary school years. Plus, there are some favorites it would be tragic to stop revisiting...

  • Gordon of Real Live Preacher shares some insights into the need of couples to keep track of one another's needs, especially when the stresses of child-rearing are at their worst. Important advice.

  • Catherine of Her Bad Mother shares the Bad Mother Manifesto, a wonderful reflection of the doubts and convictions that guide anybody trying to parent in a thoughtful way. I especially like this part:
    I reject entirely the idea that there can be any community consensus about what – beyond the provision of love and care – constitutes a good mother. I reject entirely the idea that we can or should judge each other as mothers, beyond the obvious and most basic standards of care, and even then, I reject entirely the idea that any one of us is so perfect that she could throw the first stone without hesitation.
    Amen. We all have aspirations, and we all sometimes just have to Get Through the Day. Nobody's perfect.

  • Cory Doctorow gives a glimpse into his family life and offers suggestions on how to use the computer/Internet with children in ways that facilitation exploration and play, rather than becoming the mesmerizing Root of Evil that so many fear. It feels about right.

  • Here's an argument for raising your kids in the city rather than moving to the typical house in the suburbs, for a mix of reasons from the environmental to the feeling of community (yes, really!).

  • Bullying has gotten a lot of coverage recently, from schoolyard heckling to college suicides. The really amazing news is that preventing the crushing effects of being bullied takes only the tiniest intervention -- just one adult who believes and stands behind the bullied student. This could be you, saving a life!

  • Finally, in a wonderful counter to the frenzied concern of many parents with stuffing their young children full of letters and numbers, this essay: What Should a 4-Year-Old Know? Just as important are the tips to parents about what doesn't matter at all.
May all your hearths be warm, and all your holiday prospects cheery.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

So close...

I gotta say, this one is a nail-biter. I thought repeal of DADT was dead for some long time, now it seems possible, and yet.. and yet...

Here's hoping!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Farewell to fall (baby-blogging)

No snow in sight, but it's bitterly cold around Philadelphia and I'm already tired of winter. In a hopeless attempt to stave it off, here are a few last photos from a fall playground visit with Speck about 6 weeks ago (32mo old):

little girl in a colorful coat hanging from some fence rails
A first realization that fences can be good climbing fodder too!

toddler in colorful coat sitting in a pile of leaves
This year's best leaf-pile!

little girl in colorful dotted coat makes a wild face on hobby horseback
The rare playground hobby horse brings out Speck's wild side...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hear, hear!

military helmetAnd yet, one supposes that Washington will not hear... Thanks for trying, Holbrook, although your case might have been stronger made in person on the airwaves!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Too true...

Remind me again why Tom Tomorrow is funny?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Picking a hat

Sounds like Obama has come out as a pragmatist, once and for all. Sorry, progressives -- better luck with your next flag-bearer! (And when was that last one again?)

Monday, December 06, 2010

Link dump: Interesting and cheerful edition

cartoon guy with arms raised, saying w00t!Apparently my ability to blog is a bit broken. Or at least constipated, to judge from all the tabs I pile up with good intentions. Anyway, enough with the grumpy! Let's have some cheeful and interesting stuff from the last week or two!

Thursday, December 02, 2010


Bruce Schneier get to the essence of what frustrates me most about the TSA absurdities -- it's not the specific threat of humiliation while going through screening, it's the further evidence that our government is willing to vastly curtail our freedoms (and much of the way we visualize our way of life) in the name of defending us.
An empty Washington Monument would serve as a constant reminder to those on Capitol Hill that they are afraid of the terrorists and what they could do. They're afraid that by speaking honestly about the impossibility of attaining absolute security or the inevitability of terrorism -- or that some American ideals are worth maintaining even in the face of adversity -- they will be branded as "soft on terror." And they're afraid that Americans would vote them out of office if another attack occurred. Perhaps they're right, but what has happened to leaders who aren't afraid? What has happened to "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"?
Nobody's going to close the Washington Monument to make a point, but is it too much to hope that there's still time for sanity to return, and for discussions to get beyond the hysterical?

(via Medley)

Poem of the day

You Learn

After a while you learn the subtle difference
between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
and you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
and company doesn't mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
and presents aren't promises,
and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes open
with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
and you learn to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn
that even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure.
That you really are strong.
And you really do have worth.
And you learn. And learn.
With every good-bye you learn.
- Jorge Luis Borges Veronica Shoffstall
(via whiskey river)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

So much to do, say, think about!

Just have to post a couple of these recent Speck videos that I stayed up too late last night editing. A glimpse into the free-range narrator and explainer that she's turned into in the last couple of months.

"Reading" a cookbook, with reference to cooking and... bug identification? heh.
This one is a bit long, but I couldn't really shave it more (although I did clip some digressions into another video). [from August, 30 months]

Playing with balloons, which apparently need "puffing" before they're ready for the public.
[from October, 32 months]

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Quote of the day

No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country.
- Alexis de Tocqueville,
statesman and historian (1805-1859)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

More TSA madness: Pre-holiday edition

pup asleep on face, airplane-styleLots of ongoing kerfluffle on the Interwebs about the TSA's porn-or-grope screening procedures. Here's a round-up of some of the more interesting bits:

Two thoughts on being tired

man asleep on arms at deskOne, a timeless LOL-cat that appears to be about Mondays and/or parenting.

Two, evidence that smart people sleep late -- does that mean that being forced into a morning schedule actually makes us (parents) dumber, as well as more tired? Inquiring minds...

(both via Medley)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Quote of the day

The task of genius, and man is nothing if not genius, is to keep the miracle alive, to live always in the miracle, to make the miracle more and more miraculous, to swear allegiance to nothing, but live only miraculously, think only miraculously, die miraculously.
- Henry Miller
(via whiskey river)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fight the power

Looks like there's a growing backlash against the new draconian TSA screening -- the porn-or-grope choice faced by air travelers. Some are planning to make a mess of holiday travel; others have found that passing out literature on the health risks while waiting in line can lead to enough opt-outs that the screeners give up and put everybody through ordinary metal detectors; and finally, one company, at least, is offering modesty pasties to protect one's private parts from photographic revelation (if you're willing to risk the radiation by going through the backscatter scanner). None of these enough to reform the system, but at least small strikes against arbitrary police power (well pilloried here) until we can register our protests with the Powers That Be...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Amusement of the day

golden crown
The Official Website of the British Monarchy.
Yes, they have a Twitter feed too...

So much frustration, so little time

That's right, it's time for a link dump from my Grumpy Tabs file...
  • Is science hard to communicate to the public, or does our society devalue intelligence and expertise to the point that people don't even *want* to hear about scientific findings?
    The problem isn't scientists learning how to tell cool stories, which is a skill of great value in any society because humans relate and learn through stories, but that America has raised generations of people to make fun of anyone who cares about shit enough to learn something complicated and be passionately engaged with their work, and marginalize and ignore what they have to say.
  • Social contract lying in ashes: what happens when we replace government protection of the common good (funded by -- gasp -- taxes) with privately paid services. Ludicrous versions of justice.

  • Rafe calls this Everything wrong with America in one article -- how, among other things, private prison interests are driving Arizona's draconian immigration policies.

  • Of course, Rafe left out the TSA:

    1. At increasing numbers of airports, you are now offered the choice between excessively detailed imaging and invasive pat-downs designed to make you stick with the imager, radiation or not. More on this stupidity here.
    2. In parallel with the Arizona case above, it turns out that these new machines were brought to bear more due to lobbying by manufacturers than because of any real belief that they'll make anybody safer.
    3. Despair, Inc., comes through with some pithy t-shirts to capture your travel experience, if this hasn't driven you from the air entirely.

  • Here's a little bit on military censorship of photos taken in the Mideast and elsewhere.

  • Speaking of the military, looks like the Democrats are throwing them overboard again, planning to abandon DADT in the lame-duck Congressional session.

  • Here's a little reminder that we don't live in a postfeminist era -- the language we use to describe men and women, even when giving a positive review, differs enough to create significantly different outcomes.

  • The Supreme Court may be poised to end class-action lawsuits, which would have a huge impact on the ability of average folks to protect themselves and the rest of us.

  • And finally, from the Department of Brash Hyprocricy, a freshman Republican who railed against healthcare reform complains at a month's delay in getting his own government healthcare. Poooor baby!

Monday, November 15, 2010


I think I'd be pretty happy if somebody wrote a retrospective like this of any endeavor I got involved with, wrinkle-bomb and all. Congrats to Josh and Talking Points Memo for spawning a really engrossing and fact-driven media enterprise, and for keeping the blogger-like feel while going Big. Ten years is amazing, dude!

Monday baby-blogging: Belated Halloween edition

Speck was a frog for Halloween this year -- she had the idea, and Mom and Dad assembled the craft components to make a costume. Amazingly, she not only sat for having her face painted green, but also kept the visor on her head for the entirety of festivities on two different evenings. Net win! (I apologize for the poor lighting of some of these pics.)

full-length shot of toddler dressed as a frog
Here's the full regalia...

close-up of green face and visor, Halloween costume in progress
Good-humored green-faced girl, just post-painting.

Halloween frog in park with Dad and teddybear
In Seger Park with Dad and teddybear...

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The emperor's new nonsense

It's one thing to dismiss the crazies as off the deep end, and it's another thing to fail to notice that they're coming into power. The New Yorker had a recent piece on how the GOP has moved gradually from isolating its wingers (the John Birchers et al.) to embracing them to a disturbing degree. I fear that this trend combines financial and racial insecurity with the widespread glorification of ignorance (or, at least, dismissal of expertise and evidence) that passes as populism these days. We dare not continue to ignore these folks or allow them to redefine history to fit their warped views...

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

And my eyes will barely stay open after working the polls...

I guess that the only upside of the resounding loss of the House is the ousting of most of the Blue Dog Democrats. I like Patrick Murphy, but I have to say that the bark of this group just gets tiresome; I hope that they recruit nobody going forward.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Stand up and be counted

Reminding all my readers, and especially those in Pennsylvania: be sure to vote today!!

VOTE, formatted like the love sculpture in PHiladelphia

Monday, November 01, 2010

Don't forget to vote tomorrow!

And if you need a reminder why, this video has it in a nutshell. The Republicans are counting on disheartened Democrats to stay home and give them another chance to gut the government and extend the recession, and we need to show up and keep them at bay!!

Rally to Restore Sanity

Looks like Stewart and Colbert did a good thing. The signs and faces are really great -- wish I could have managed to be there, but will console myself with successful Halloween on top of election calls and other stuff. Favorite slogan from the slideshow: "When income determines outcome, democracy dies." Update: worth quoting Jon Stewart's closing too...
''If we amplify everything, we hear nothing," he said, adding: "Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate."
Q: will sanity spread? (sigh.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Baby blogging: Visit to Cape Cod

Some pics from August, still in my processing hopper...

Speck sitting in a heap of balloons, while cousin S demonstrates a wiggly critter
Speck tries out being buried in balloons, while
cousin S. demonstrates the wiggly critter

Speck peers into a net while standing in the water in her pink ruffled bathing suit
Speck a bit skeptical about the contents of her crabbing net

grinning Speck and cousin S, together in an arm chair, with Zuzu pets in hand
The two cousins demonstrate big grins
(and silly motorized hamsters) -- 30 months and 6 years

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Autumn 'ku

autumn air . . .
the diminishing trail
of voices
Mary Davila
(from The Heron's Nest, Vol. XII:3)

Link dump II: Interesting, spiff, and/or silly

  • I agree that this seems inevitable in retrospect, but I still love it: Craig's List TV captures great stories around unusual trades... I suspect that those who have never used the service would be surprised at the humanity of the interactions it enables.

  • An interesting discussion of how blogging changes the way you write and think. Beyond that, it changes your views of what is possible, in writing, in dialogue, in changing the world. Worth a read even if you're barely a participant in the social Internet.
    (via Medley)

  • There are groups who perform Shakespeare with original pronunciation, which apparently both is fully comprehensible and restores many of the original rhymes. The sample clip reminds me most of what we'd consider some lower-class British pronunciation variant. I had no idea that we even knew how the English language sounded 400 years ago, so this boggles me on many levels.

  • This is a review of Social Network that made me want to see the movie -- not because I care about Facebook much at all, but because of the way the movie itself offers a variety of critiques not only of its subjects but of the larger social context in which they generated their empire.
    If they didn’t intend to make a movie that was interrogating toxic masculinity and its effect on women, they managed to make a movie where that theme is the main one that everyone who leaves the theater appears to be discussing. At a certain point, the thing that is most notable about "The Social Network" might just be the thing that the movie is about. Or at least one of the things.
    Worth reading the piece for its thoughts about movie- and TV makers, and what they're trying to make their audiences feel, as much as for anything about this film itself.

  • 7 Essential Skills You Didn't Learn in College -- a course guide for adult survival, including such overlooked necessities as Statistical Literacy and Waste Studies. Brilliant.
    (via kottke)

  • Inspired: an airbag equivalent for bicyclists that eliminates the choice between street safety and looking presentable for the rest of the day. The video with the crash dummy is really astounding.
    (via boing boing)

  • A cartoon that demonstrates the laws of physics in everyday life, especially when there's a small child in the picture. I laughed, I cried...
    (via kottke)

  • Fantastic: a Sesame Street video teaches kids to love their hair, even if it isn't straight and blonde. Something most caucasians rarely think about, and just about every little black girl has struggled with; such a simple idea to put this out there. Yay!
    (via Free Range Kids)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quote of the day

I wonder what younger people (teens) think about why the hell we went to war in Iraq. I lived through the whole nonsense as an adult and I still have no fucking idea.
- Atrios

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Link dump I: Crooks and politics

  • Mortgage foreclosures are a total mess, with people losing homes because they can't tell where to send their checks, random people making up reasons to foreclose, and banks suing one another over who screwed up most. This is not getting cleaned up soon.

  • Meanwhile, unemployment has been so bad for so long that we're learning to ignore it by means of a wealth of strategies. Unless we're directly affected, in which case we're pretty mad!

  • There's an air of desperation to this Sestak ad, but it's hard to deny that our current mess was created by the Republican right, and their attempts to reclaim power by blaming two years of Democratic action is laughable. Except for the short memories of voters, and all that anger...

  • The TSA now benches pilots who aren't willing to be imaged naked or patted down. But loss of all civil liberties doesn't mean the terrorists have won, right?

  • Update: I hate to omit Robert Reich's warning that we're turning into a plutocracy. Hard to argue with his line-up of facts!! (and really, we're lucky if it doesn't add up to revolution instead...)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Smoke and mirrors

tree of moneyAs though the generation of crappy mortgage loans and the foisting of their risk onto investment funds weren't crooked enough, banksters couldn't be bothered to keep records of their shenanigans, so nobody's sure who actually owns the loans on many homes faced with foreclosure. I agree with Digby that it's time for some jail terms and a lot fewer handouts to financial geniuses!!

(via Eschaton)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Quote of the day

But we still find the world astounding, we can't get enough of it; even as it shrivels, even as its many lights flicker and are extinguished (the tigers, the leopard frogs, the plunging dolphin flukes), flicker and are extinguished, by us, by us, we gaze and gaze. Where do you draw the line, between love and greed? We never did know, we always wanted more. We want to take it all in, for one last time, we want to eat the world with our eyes.
- Margaret Atwood
(via whiskey river, celebrating 10 years of spiffiness)

Monday baby-blogging

Three out-takes from Speck's first visit to a county fair (for which we had to drive out to Reading, but it was totally worth it and we'll be there again next year). We saw animals, played carney games, and went on some rides, including Speck's choice of both bumper cars (a thrill for silly Mom) and a ferris wheel (sadly nerve-wracking for both Mom and Dad). Great fun all around.
(30 months)

Speck and Mom grinning on a classic carousel
Can't pass up a classic carousel.
(and look! the rare decent carousel photo!!)

Speck in a flowered dress, in front of a pen of pink piglets
Kid with piglets!
(sorry I missed the nose-petting moment...)

Mom with crazed look and Speck hanging on in a bumper car
It's possible that Mom had more fun on the bumper cars than Speck did,
although she claimed to have liked ramming the other cars...

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Mother Nature knows her stuff

a wolf tearing at an elk carcass in the snowWhen conservationists argued for the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park, I think they were concerned mostly with the fate of the wolves themselves, but they surely thought also of the burgeoning elk population in the park and the diseases to which it had become susceptible. Still, they must have been pleasantly surprised when the benefits trickled down to songbirds and the formation of ponds and rivers in the park. A reminder that ecosystems are closely interconnected, and, as the writer notes toward the end of the piece, a prod to further thought about how we might best deal with coming climate change.

(via Follow Me Here)

Friday, October 08, 2010

Oh, the cuteness!

Tiny bunnies move only their noses! tiny sniff... tiny sniff...
Le faint!

Two bits on Getting Things Done

Two interesting things have come across my desk this week in the realm of Finishing Things, both of which offer great tips for thinking about your goals and managing the tasks along the way.
  • Bre Pettis offers a manifesto from the Cult of Done, whose 13 pointed tenets include these winners:
    2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.

    4. Pretending you know what you're doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you're doing even if you don't and do it.

    10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
  • Finishing a Game, another post with lots of tips for thinking about projects, setting up collaborations, and actually bringing it all together.
    If you treat finishing like a skill, rather than simply a step in the process, you can acknowledge not only that it’s something you can get better at, but also what habits and thought processes get in your way.
Great stuff. Of course, I intended to post this yesterday, which just goes to show that I still have some work to do on my own skill at Finishing (or maybe that I prioritized work completion for a change)...

(first via Medley, 2nd via Rebecca's Pocket)

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Grading on a curve

stylized elephant and donkey, head to headI'm afraid that Josh has a point here. Getting rid of Santorum really mobilized PA voters, but now an even scarier guy, Toomey, is in the race and barely making waves in either the media coverage or the sense of widespread Democratic ennui. I know the Tea Partiers have been claiming the Crazy Right mantel, but that doesn't mean that these Club for Growth creeps should start being viewed as moderate!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Dynamics of group problem-solving

Couple of interesting things about this study of group intelligence:
  1. it is something other than a sum of the individuals that make up the group (seemingly having more to do with how well those people work together),
  2. the number of women in the group was linked to its problem-solving ability.
Another plug for the values of diversity, as well as the specific skills (whether inherent or socialized) of women in particular.

(via Medley)

Monday, October 04, 2010

The stuff of nightmares

A view of mechanically separated chicken, the predecessor of MacNuggets and their kin. Scary what has to be done to it to make it seem like food . . .
(via Medley)

Update: the original post is riddled with errors. The truth is probably disturbing enough.

Long overdue baby-blogging!

Has taken a couple of days' free time to process my backlog of photos (with videos still to come), but finally have uploaded some Speck cutenss from June through September, including her first County Fair, some travels domestic and foreign, and other general chaos. Anyway, will dole them out here over the next couple of weeks. First installment, Around-the-House Summer Silliness! (all from around 29 months)

Speck standing in a bucket full of bristle blocks
Buried in a bucket of bristle blocks!

Speck in a colorful shirt pushing her popper down the sidewalk
Taking Mr. Pop-pop for a walk

Speck pretending to nap with some stuffed animals under a quilt
Pretending to nap, all tucked in with fuzzy friends

Tune in next week for highlights from the Reading County fair!

Friday, October 01, 2010


Man, this story was a bummer, but how absolutely fantastic, heartwarming, tear-inducing to see this great response: It Gets Better. If only that kid could have heard them in time. Heck, the same is true for any kid who feels like the "only one" -- you probably aren't, and you'll find the others if you just give yourself time. There's a niche out there for you, and it just gets better.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Other people's business

photo of RahmI know that Chicago has had a Daley as mayor for 50 out of the last 60 years, so they're used to having autocrats in power. But still, would they be excited for Rahm Emanuel? Perhaps Chicago is more forgiving of personality (relative to prowess and policy) than some places...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Quote of the day

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
- Desmond Tutu,
clergyman (b. 1931)
(via A.W.A.D.)

With friends like these...

I know it must be hard to be a Democrat from some of the crazy more conservative states, but still, moves like this Landrieu hold make me grit my teeth . . .

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tenacious disaffection

I agree with Obama's call to stand up, and I want to encourage my local voters to turn out in November (especially to prevent a crazy man to the right of Santorum from becoming my state's US Senator!), but I also have sympathy for these views. I would never think of staying home on Election Day, because the differences do matter, but the amount of my personal funds and energy that are going into the political realm is decreasing. Other parts of my life have been neglected to some degree, and many of those offer much more reward for investment.

dragging donkey

It worries me that I feel this way. How much more so those who don't really see the differences?

Update: more useful pushback here, including this:
I think progressives in general have to decide whether to work when the work is easy, or work when the work is hard. It was definitely comparatively easy to work for Obama two years ago, because there was idealism, hope, and a kind of certainty that if only we could elect him, then everything would change and it would somehow be easy, despite the campaign's best efforts to tell us that change is hard. It hasn't been easy, and now we're witnessing a population make the choice on whether to roll up their sleeves or sit on their hands.
I also think there was such relief to be rid of Bush (and to have avoided the bullet of McCain) that we wanted to bask for a while. But the opposition made sure we didn't get much to wallow in, and we can't let their obstructionism get the upper hand. Tally ho!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Link dump, several themes

I know that this stuff would be better in smaller installments, but the combination of general time-crunch with lingering jet-lag is totally killing my blogging time. Better a heap than never.

Grumpy news
  • U.S. Is Bankrupt and We Don't Even Know It whee

  • FBI probes were improper, Justice says -- surprise! the FBI used 9/11 as an excuse to add liberal activists to terrorist watch lists. How long ago do the 1960s feel now?? Civil disobediance still scares The Man inordinately...

  • Obama can learn from 'Godfather' -- being President should mean powers you can use. Of course, the author presumes that this oversight is accidental, rather than a fundamental feature of Obama's character; I think he likes to be a facilitator, not directly leverage action. Frustrating to watch!

  • The wrong way to answer Ms. Velma Hart -- more on the President's falling short

  • Do Not Pity the Democrats -- this takes the grim up a notch, pointing out that partisan politics are rather dwarfed by the growing and inappropriate power of corporations in modern America. A call to local organizing, whether for financial control, political reform, or just to put some counterweights out there against the monolithic oligarchy that is increasingly blind to the public at large.

  • In the nonpolitical realm, 'Halfalogue': Overheard cell-phone conversations are not only annoying but reduce our attention -- our ability to think and reason are actually more disrupted by half a conversation than by having both halves in our auditory space. Interesting.

  • Which is the gay one? My feeling about Don't Ask, Don't Tell in a nutshell!

Parenting bits
Silliness and thoughtfulness

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two amusing iPad bits

Two things that amused me today:
  1. An Etch-a-sketch case -- if only it interfaced with software! heh.

  2. We can benefit from these gizmos without even owning them: some restaurants are offering iPad wine menus to allow customers to research their offerings and make more informed choices.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Quote of the day

It's hard to remember that this day will never come again. That the time is now and the place is here and that there are no second chances at a single moment.
- Jeanette Winterson
(via whiskey river)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Vive la difference!

I sure wish more folks would think this way, that making up narratives about the Right Way to live, worship, parent, vote, etc., and then getting angry about people with Other Approaches is just a waste of energy, and we could all use a little more space to breathe. 'Cause we surely all could. And nobody lives their life just to spite somebody else.

(via Medley)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

[tap, tap] Is this thing on?

erasers arranged into neat rows and columns, for a colorful quilt effect

Caught in a whirlwind between two trips, a change of planned fall nursery schools, and replacement of family room floor and couches. All a bit much for my head, and hence for my blogging rate. Anyway, wanted to showcase these images that I loved from the aptly named and strangely addictive blog Things Organized Neatly. Good to exercise those visual muscles once in a while...

a neat abstract pattern of hinged wooden clothespins against a black background

(via kottke)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Can't leave you hangin'!

Headed off to let Speck meet her cousin for the first (real) time while galavanting at the grandparents' house. Here's a little video that captures her current level of enthusiasm and skill in climbing and sliding at the local playground...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My barbaric yawp

man asleep on arms at deskI appear to have fallen into a blogging hole. Rather, the last week sort of wrung me out, physically and mentally, in a variety of ways too pedestrian to be worth enumerating, and suddenly I have a lot of tabs and no sign of blogular life. (And might I just say that this gizmo is my new favorite thing, simultaneously inflicting order and enabling procrastination to heady degrees.) Anyway, here are some things of note...
  • Atrios notes a sensible policy that would help us through these challenging economic times, but probably won't even get discussed.

  • It's certainly not a good sign for the recovery when people cause riots just lining up for Secion 8 housing!

  • Here's a good point, about both current (infuriating) affairs and the weaknesses of the Democratic party.

  • Speaking of good points, pithily put, here's one about language and Othering (or the definition of normal).
    (via NowThis)

  • Here's a good essay: The Real Struggle Behind Climate Change: A War on Expertise
    As part of a more general assault on the very notion of expertise, the narrative starts with a truism that is actually true:

    "Not every smart person is wise..."

    only then extrapolates it, implicitly, to a blatant falsehood

    "all smartypants are unwise, all the time; and my uninformed opinion is equal to any expert testimony."
    Interesting points here about the culture of science that gets overlooked (e.g., ambitious post docs are always looking for holes in their elders' theories, in order to make names for themselves, yet the "critics" assume that everyone involved is a "sell-out" marching in lock-step)...

  • Related (but funnier): If sports got reported like science... -- why do we presume it reasonable to require all sorts of esoteric knowledge in our recreation that we find unbearable in more serious matters?
Well, that clears things up a bit, and should be enough for everybody to chew on until I can get my act together a bit. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


The idea that going without traffic signals (or designing around them) actually makes intersections more efficient and less dangerous just blows my mind. Taking advantage of the power of human ability to negotiate such meetings with minimal signals and communications. Pretty neat.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Not what his family has planned

...but this seems the appropriate blogger memorial for Ted Stevens. After all, I heard about the plane crash via the Internet pipes...

Getting better all the time

When you hear somebody say that the recession is over, don't you believe it. More and more people are tightening their belts, and that's not good for our long-term prospects...

A willful return to the dark ages?

slice of chalkboard with mathematical equations written on itReally, I can't find anything funny about this level of misunderstanding, let alone the promulgation of ignorance as a way of life. We are fortunate to live in a time of remarkable scientific discovery, but we seem consitutionally incapable of allowing it to guide us toward a better life, whether it's effective public health interventions, acceptance of homosexual parents, or avoidance of climate disaster. Being unwilling to accept fundamental concepts of reality -- because you don't understand the difference between "relativity" and "relativism" or because gravity seems nonintuitive -- is a recipe for disaster for an individual, let alone a nation.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Terrible things, wonderful things

Terrible things
  • Handy tools for keeping track of your kids become deadly in the hands of abusive stalkers and spouses. A word to the wise.
    (via FreeRangeKids tweets)

  • I had this same response to the Michele Obama anti-obesity campaign -- can't you focus on fitness rather than further stigmatizing fat kids? jeez.
    (via Alas a Blog)

  • America would rather unravel its civilization than take a few extra tax %'s from those who are doing ok or spend money to perk the economy back up. What on earth?!
    (via Atrios)
Wonderful things
  • There's new evidence that there may have been no Big Bang, but rather that the universe has no beginning or end. Should be interesting to see how this is received both in the scientific community and as it impacts widespread humanistic philosophy.
    (via Follow Me Here)

  • Some scientists have managed to harness the powerful pattern-recognition abilities of the human brain to improve the performance of a protein-folding algorithm. Neat as a concept -- gaming as cloud computing -- and as an application where non-experts can contribute in a meaningful way.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Live and let live

Fareed Zakaria has this exactly right. And I think he was both brave and honorable in returning his award from the ADL, whose involvement in this entire issue is downright shameful.

Friday, August 06, 2010

A few cheerful bits for Friday

Just a few, to leaven the usual doom and gloom...
  • Billionaires Pledge To Spread the Wealth -- Warren Buffet induces a landslide of largesse among his peers.

  • National Night Out -- one kid recreates an environment for unstructured neighborhood play, reminding a lot of parents that the end of their yards isn't the end of the world (and making a couple of new friends along the way)!

  • It Made My Day -- folks sharing the little episodes along the way that brightened their day or gave them a laugh.
And, of course, nothing improves your day like a bear on your head!

Speck in stroller, grinning, with teddy bear lying on her head

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Another chink in the wall

wedding ringsIt seemed obvious to me that CA Prop. 8 was unconstitutional, but I wasn't sure that a court would be ready to spell that out. Let's hope this doesn't rush ahead to the Supreme Court, given its current creepy level of right-wing agenda. Still, hooray!!

Edit: seems right to add this bit of snark... Yep.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Exactly right

One of the most on-point things I've seen this year: Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work!
7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.

(via a Medley tweet)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Digital divide

a computer screen, blue with the word 'you' written on itI think that there's a new digital divide opening up, and it's not as simple as whether you know how to work your desktop computer -- it's about whether or not you realize that there's an immense and important social space out there. We often laugh about elderly Senators who don't know what email is (or who think of the Internet as a series of tubes), but really there's a mental shift that occurs between just shifting your phone calls into email and developing unique relationships entirely derived from online contact (or almost entirely conducted there).

This is different from the ubiquity of connection provided by constant messanging and the like, but related, in that it represents a change in our definition of friends and in our ways of building meaning, and also a shift from viewing a computer as a tool to seeing it as a transparent access to a separate set of spaces out there in the cloud. You either have a visceral understanding of this or you are missing a mode of awareness of the world.

(link via

Really, this quote applies to so many parts of government these days

...that I sort of hate to narrow it down:
'While we appreciate your desire to revise the statute to reflect your expansive vision of it, the fact is that we must work with the actual language of the statute, not the aspirational version' that [Agency] had provided."

Monday, August 02, 2010

Quote of the day

How strange it is. We have these deep terrible lingering fears about ourselves and the people we love. Yet we walk around, talk to people, eat and drink. We manage to function. The feelings are deep and real. Shouldn't they paralyze us? How is it we can survive them, at least for a little while? We drive a car, we teach a class. How is it no one sees how deeply afraid we were, last night, this morning? Is it something we all hide from each other, by mutual consent? Or do we share the same secret without knowing it? Wear the same disguise?
stone carved with a spiral
- Don DeLillo
sam & sara motel
(via whiskey river)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mr. Smith is a little pissed off

That is, Sen. Weiner takes his GOP colleagues to task for filibustering health aid to 9/11 responders.
Weiner attacked those who "stand up and say, 'Oh, if only we had a different process we'd vote yes.' You vote yes if you believe yes! You vote in favor of something if you believe it's the right thing! If you believe it's the wrong thing, you vote no!"

"It is a shame! A shame," he exclaimed.
Really worth watching the video -- genuine righteous anger seems in short supply in these crazy times of kibuki partisan bickering, and it does the heart good.

Friday baby-blogging: boot camp for toddlers

"Hit that playground, yes we can! Take the kids on, man-on-man. Climb the slide and push the swing; we can do most anything! Sound off.... get wet.... 1-2-3-4: play now, some more!!"

Speck climbs a playground ladder up to the top of a favorite slide
Up that ladder, up, up!

Speck stretches to step onto a stump in our neighborhood
Across the moat, stretch, jump!

Speck performs the obligatory bar-hang before going down a slide; Tsah lies waiting her turn
Hang from that bar! now give me pull-ups!
(what, no? ok then, down you go!)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A small blow for sanity

Well! unexpected good thing of the week: disparity in drug sentencing reduced. Not sure what the rationale is for keeping the remining differential, but every little bit helps...

(via a tweet from FreeRangeKids)

It's hard to sustain activism

I agree with Matthew Yglesias that progressive activists are depressed -- not so much in terms of literal mood, but in terms of the sense of hope that anything can be accomplished. The Obama record has been mixed and on many fronts disappointing, and onetime (or potential) activists are simply redirecting their energies into parts of their lives more likely to reward the investment. Perhaps large-scale movements inevitably run out of steam after a few years, and perhaps the absence of Bush-fueled rage has speeded that deflation, but I think that there are still a lot of folks who would get back in the trenches if something made them think it would make a difference. There's just not a lot of tangible evidence out there to encourage them...

sad donkey

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wednesday link roundup: Bits related to kids and parenting

  • This is a sad tribute to the state of modern America: Why I Didn't Help a Lost Girl. I suspect that fear of being branded a pervert probably keeps all sorts of men, parents or otherwise, from having meaningful interactions with the kids in their communities.

  • The same sentiment is captured by this comic routine.

  • Also bucking the received wisdom, 'Don't Talk to Strangers' is Dangerous Advice. It's more important to learn whom to avoid and whom to run toward in an emergency!

  • From the Department of Snark comes this advice column exchange in which a single friend suspects that her stay-at-home-mom friend is just lounging around all day doing nothing. I have to say that I thought that the columnist's tone was not entirely out of line, although I will also admit that no amount of warning could have prepared me for how entirely a baby or small child can absorb all available time and energy from its caretakers.

  • On the sublime parental artistry front, I offer this blog of baby daydreams as imagined (and made real) by the mother of a newborn; it's the cutest! But man! in those early days, nobody in my household was functional enough to even consider such an enterprise!

  • And finally, from the Department of Entertaining Toddlers and Their Parents Too: Sesame Street makes a segment based on Mad Men. So right and so wrong...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Taking charge of your response

I think this talk is one of the most inspiring things I've seen lately. One woman's ability to make overcoming her injury into a role-playing game, involving her friends and relatives, is a testament to mind over matter (or, you know, mind over brainmatter), and to old-fashioned community-supported cures over modern medicine. And, you know, just a brilliant way to make lemonade.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Secret language

I love this article about the private language developed by couples over time. My spouse and I already have a wealth of inside jokes and references and figure that by the time we've been married 25 years, we'll be completely incomprehensible to others. Of course, with kids around, it only gets worse, as all their favorite books, zany mishaps, and malaprops become incorporated into family lore. Hopefully detangling the content from the insider hugging will become part of a future lesson in Knowing Your Audience, but it's possible we'll just become more and more eccentric . . .

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Economic policies that might surprise you

money growing on a tree
  • Raising the retirement age gets a lot of discussion right now, and Ezra Klein notes that life expectancy has been going up for high wage earners but not so much for those at the bottom of the spectrum. Another policy that bludgeons the already overworked and underpaid.

  • From the Department of Republican hypocrisy, a chart that compares the long-term effects of the estate-tax cuts (that they love) with those of the unemployment benefits (that they hate). Guess which one really screws the deficit??
    (via rebecca's pocket)

  • I hope that a special place in hell is reserved for people with job openings saying that the unemployed need not apply. That should really pull the economy out of its current hole!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Quote of the day

One moment it was there, another moment it is gone. One moment we are here, and another moment we have gone. And for this simple moment, how much fuss we make! How much violence, ambition, struggle, conflict, anger, hatred, just for this small moment! Just waiting for the train in a waiting room in a station, and creating so much fuss: fighting, hurting each other, trying to possess, trying to boss, trying to dominate - all the politics. And then the train comes and you are gone forever.
- Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
(via whiskey river)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sometimes graphs can be encouraging!

Hard to remember that, in light of all the grim economic news lately, but there are things that appear to be trending in the right direction worldwide, even if the US isn't exactly leading the way...


Everybody needs friends (Monday baby-blogging)

Speck sleeps on top of a heap of stuffed animals, most of which she never plays with at any other time (although the oldest got some carry-around time in early days). Here she demonstrates her ability to hold them all in her arms at once, tucking the droopers back in like a mother hen...

little girl, gritting her teeth as she squeezes her half-dozen or so sleeping toys
Quick! take the picture while I have them! (27+ months)

close-up of the armload of stuffed animals
A close-up of the pile. From top: Feel-Better Bear, Oscelot (just foot visible) Stubby Bear (originally intended as a back-up for primary bear), Tsah, two elephants on left, mouse nose barely visible in lower-right. (Red bird not visible here, but glimpsed at left above.)