Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Poem of the day


After a rain,
the weeds yield
to the gentlest tug,
bent grass blades
even the deep-rooted dock
& the brittle rhizomes
of brome grass:

they let go, they give up
their fistfuls of dirt after
a few hard shakes,

& for at least
one morning out of
all those that are left to me

it feels as if I am winning
this tug-of-war
with the earth.
- Dave Bonta
(@ via negativa)

Made me laugh, made me cry (and think)

For the laugh: this skewering of the Bride industry. Bring on the catty! And confusion of lackeys!
(via a guest blogger at dooce)

For the serious: Why I returned my iPad -- remembering the value of letting your mind wander...
(via rebecca's pocket)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Frustrated and helpless

I used to find myself furious and worried about a lot of things under the Bush Administration, but now I find the areas of continuity with the Obama era even more worrisome, because they indicate institutionalization of a bunch of things that are terrible for our nation, economy, character. It's starting to get me down, and maybe unloading some tabs will help...

Monday, June 28, 2010

To Speck at 28 months

Speck, sitting on some city steps in colorfun shortsWell, the changes since I last wrote seem more of degree than of kind, as you get more and more talkative, more imaginative, more dextrous in interacting with your world. You've gone from working the occasional puzzle, with help, to plunging ahead unaided (although still requiring an audience) through 48-piece jigsaw puzzles and 16-piece cube puzzles. Your small small animal toys (frogs have the fore right now) not only go to playgrounds, but visit a block-based Please Touch museum, have time-outs and repent their ways, and take turns in more elaborate scenarios. You went through a burst of singing all the time, including revealing that you knew the words to all three lullabyes that Mom sings to you (by singing along) and lots of songs that have come up in classes you've taken and elsewhere; these outbursts are less frequent now, but a window into how much you're storing up in your caches.

Speck helping Daddy do some baking, complete with aprons and measuring spoonsLinguistically, you also continue to blossom. You've gotten comfortable with counting into the higher ranges, although some of the special words between 11 and 20 can get dropped. You will speak into a telephone, although the conventions haven't penetrated, so the person on the other end of the line is treated to a non-sequitur rush of your thoughts of that instant, to confusing (and endearing) effect. You're also using a range of pronouns now (although not always as we might), you say your *full* name and can recite our address, and you have a host of favorite turns of phrase that capture your current interests: "somebody else's turn!" or "sort of nummy" or "that seems pretty fun." People can be quite amazed, when you finally get over your quiet/observant phase and let the narration and direction pour forth. Equally striking, during a recent car drive you started asking about all kinds of things in the passing scenery, critiquing the traffic conditions, and challenging nearby cars to race -- should be fun to see your engagement and curiosity continue to develop.

pansies in a purple double vaseLet's see... what else? You took a great interest in clocks during the last few months -- prompted, in part, by wanting to know when a parent would be coming to gather you up from other childcare -- to the point that I had to redraw a chalk clock that had proudly gone number-free for many years. There was also an odd period during the spring when you decided that you didn't like playgrounds, bringing a favorite set of outings and explorations to a halt. Luckily (in time for a major heat wave) you rediscovered the joys of such places, and now insist on going outside every day. You are also a great friend to all pansies, and would insist on picking some from every pot we passed; we made a deal to only pick closing-up flowers from other people's pots (and you quickly learned to tell those from the still-closed buds!), although you could take open ones from our own plants -- either way, you kept your vase full for as long as pansies were blooming.

We've also reached some developmental milestones that sort of sneaked up on us. First, you are now potty-trained, after a 3-day marathon weekend with both parents at home, potties on every floor, and lots of celebratory dancing. Still a diaper for naps and overnight, but you're pretty reliable now in asking for the bathroom when you need it, whether we're at home or abroad, and we've even gotten over our own paranoia about leaving the house again. Less exciting, we've hit some major stretches of "terrible two" behavior, with your diet collapsing down back of Speck's head, with pipe curls! (maybe 75% PB&J sandwiches at times!), battles over getting dressed, procrastinative games at bedtime, and generally more flip-outs that seem immune to both time-outs and reason. Luckily, they seem to cycle off again before our heads explode, so we'll probably all weather the storms. You also had your first real illness right after your second birthday, with constant drippy nose and coughing -- befriending a penguin-shaped humidifier helped, as did a Feel Better Bear from the pharmacy which came with your ear-infection prescription. All that is well behind us now though.

On the up side, this period has seen you even more affectionate, with lots of games acting as excuses to climb into our laps or snuggle, or running away so you can tell Mom to "try not to cry" and then console her, and with most departures requiring a "hug-n-kiss" from both parents. Plus, we now make a family sandwich before you head up to bed, and you like to point out that you are the peanut butter and jelly. Indeed, little Pookster, you are the PB&J that tasties up our bread -- thanks for sticking with us!

Speck on Daddy's shoulders, looking back over her shoulder at our doorway

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Who to blame

Ampersand offers a nutshell take on recent financial indignities and the response of the American public to them. Sigh.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Three bits on children/childhood

  • A New York Times piece reports on the spreading school policy to discourage best friends at just about all ages. I understand teaching tolerance and coexistance in a variety of ways, but this seems like a really misguided effort that, at minimum, removes a bullwark against social insecurity and, at worst, deprives kids of the chance to learn the skills needed for relationship-building at any deeper level. As Medley says, another experiment with the re-engineering of childhood, effects unknown...

  • A convincing argument against agressive tickling play. The points made here seem obvious in retrospect, but it's easy to get taken in by giggles and forget about personal boundaries and power differentials...

  • A nice story: Dad lets 4-year-old play Grand Theft Auto, a game that encourages deranged violence, and the kid finds a way to be happy and helpful there instead. Yay!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Firing offenses

I'm with Digby on this one: McCrystal needs to go. Somebody who says that their biggest issue is with the "wimp in the Whitehouse" is somebody who can't be trusted to follow the chain of command.
I can't speak for anyone else, but my belief that he should fire McCrystal or at least accept his resignation (which is as far as he should go to appease the military) has nothing to do with any skepticism of the war. It has to do with respect for the constitutional requirement that the military be subordinate to the civilian executive. The military has been acting more and more as a rogue political faction with its own power base for quite some time. No president of either party should allow that (although it must be said that Bush's fetishizing of "the Generals on the ground" and The Man Called Petraeus has contributed greatly to this problem).

This isn't something to play with. Obama should accept his resignation.
The press will spin any decision as some kind of Democratic failing, so he might as well do the thing that is right on principle and shows some self-respect.
(via a Medley tweet)

Update: Well, he did it! That's heartening, although I don't expect things to change much as a result...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Quote of the day

But the mind always
wants more than it has -
one more bright day of sun,
one more clear night in bed
with the moon; one more hour
to get the words right; one
more chance for the heart in hiding
to emerge from its thicket
in dried grasses - as if this quiet day
with its tentative light weren't enough,
as if joy weren't strewn all around.
- Holly Hughes
Mind Wanting More
(via whiskey river)

Monday, June 21, 2010

...but they're *our* crooks!

No amount of violence, irresponsibility, and coverup can keep us from using Blackwater for military security. Of course, when there's another international incident, it will be all Who Could Have Foreseen?!? grrrr....

Father's Day tribute

A few shots of Speck having fun with Daddy in Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square. She got some spinning and other giggle-creation, in between bouts of hopping and bouncing around the stones... (photos actually from a warm spell in early May, so 26+ months)

giggles after a good spin

Speck covers her eyes while spinning over Dad's head

grins in Dad's arms

And this last one is a tribute to Dad's patience and creativity in making ever-new worlds for Speck's frogs (previously turtles or monkeys) to explore! More, more!

rubbery frogs in a bristle block palace

Friday, June 18, 2010

Spiffy bits

A bunch of things that have tickled or intrigued me over the last few days...
  • A neat historical fact: Martha's Vineyard was once home to an original deaf culture that was fully integrated into everyday life (and later contributed to the development of ASL). Amazing!

  • Roger Ebert gives a lyrical description of Twitter, the art being done there, the connections it forms around the world, how it won him over from critic to addict.

  • Rachel Maddow gives the alternative oil-disaster speech we all wish that Obama had given, including actual policy changes! Amen.

  • How could one ever explain the ending of DADT policy? Really, it's really not that hard, at least if you're in the habit of talking about differences among people as part of the spectrum of natural and behavioral variation among folks...

  • An entertaining art series from the New Yorker, in which the US map is scrambled to various effects.
    (via kottke)

  • Finally, I'm inspired by this piece of self-boosterism, but I also seem unlikely to actually compose my own equivalent. So I'll let her @$#! amazingness speak for me.
Have a great weekend, all, and a Happy Father's Day, if appropriate!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Health tip of the day: automobile care!

stethoscopeTrying to save a few pennies by filling your windshield washer reservoir with water instead of specialized wiper fluid? You're setting yourself up for Legionnaires' Disease and other infections that happily breed in all that stagnant water. It's just not worth it.

(via Follow Me Here)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More crappy news, various kinds

Oil gushing into the Gulf...On women, men, and roles thereof...On economic and planning tomfoolery...
  • Paul Krugman appears to be a lone voice in the wilderness these days, pointing out that faux fears about inflation are leading to foolhardy recommendations to trim stimulus spending and other measures that are needed to get us out of this economic mess. The illogic is truly befuddling -- more on the austerity craziness here.

  • Also in the crazy arithmetic department, the Conventional Wisdom that there won't be enough workers to support the elderly in a few years, whether via Social Security or whatever other tax-derived programs, can be shown to be baseless. Not that such frames are amenable to evidence...

  • Policy versus no policy as roulette wheels -- an inspired way to look at long-term risks that can't be exactly calculated. Ok, we don't know *precisely* how much the Earth will warm if we don't do anything about greenhouse gasses, but we know that the likely range is much higher than the likely range if we intervene. A graphic that conveys a lot.
Update: Should also include here these Things We Do To Ourselves...
  • Terrorists figure out how to get America to attack itself: leave harmless, "suspicious" bags around. I only wish it were the Onion, but it's clearly the sad fact. Every time I travel, I see how thoroughly the terrorists have "won"...

  • Bottled and Sold, a book about the bottled water industry, reveals yet again the stupidity that is our choosing (unregulated, often filthy) bottled water over (closely regulated, generally good) tap water, just because we're so susceptible to marketing/fads. Grrrrr!

  • We now schedule so many CT scans that they've become our major radiation exposure source, and may be adding up to a significant cancer risk for a portion of the US population. Apparently doctors never think to see how many of these things you've had -- keep track for yourself!!
    (via a Medley tweet)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Yeah, what *he* said...

I know I've been a bit cranky lately, but it's just rather distressing to see that even with Democratic control elites just aren't up to the task of governing this county in an adequate fashion. I didn't have high hopes for a great liberal revolution, but I did expect, well, better.
- Atrios

Groggy "Monday"

Had a fun long weekend in the woods, which managed to be restorative despite the busy presence of one toddler and one baby. Still, today is going mostly like this for me:

Speck asleep in the stroller at 27 months

Onward into regular life! With caffeine!

Quote of the day

To act on the light one has is almost the only way to more light.
- C.S.Lewis
(via the CSLewisDaily Twitter feed)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wait, Democrats can play offense?

Instead of waiting for the GOP to find a way to spin repeal of healthcare reform as a positive idea (and define the fall media narrative), Democrats are actually getting out ahead on the issue, starting a nationwide advertising and event campaign to highlight benefits of the reform bill and challenge Republicans to defend their plan to take that all away. "A plan only insurance companies would love!" Go, DNC!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

High and low art

My day was just made by this architectural analysis of couch-cushion forts (a second page of critiques is also available).
photo of a kid peering out of a couch cushion fortDrawing from the saw-tooth roof structures of industrial Europe, the orthogonal volume cleverly employs a swing hinge access door, popularized by the mid-century modern masters
No really, worth reading all of them. Quite good fun.

(via boing boing)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Our brains as collaborators in care

Doctors are trying to figure out how to use the placebo effect to make medicine less costly and less dangerous, while potentially just as effective.
But according to advocates, there’s enough data for doctors to start thinking of the placebo effect not as the opposite of medicine, but as a tool they can use in an evidence-based, conscientious manner. Broadly speaking, it seems sensible to make every effort to enlist the body’s own ability to heal itself--which is what, at bottom, placebos seem to do. And as researchers examine it more closely, the placebo is having another effect as well: it is revealing a great deal about the subtle and unexpected influences that medical care, as opposed to the medicine itself, has on patients.
How to dispense "sugar pills" while continuing to uphold ethical guidelines and treating patients as collaborators is the question that still needs addressing. Will be interesting to see the (essentially sociology) experiments that are designed to address how to make this possible! Already, the insights into the substantial effects of good doctoring are powerful...

(via Follow Me Here)

Saturday, June 05, 2010


This story just blows my mind. So many ways it is wrong.
Still think that all your racist legislation isn't having any local effects, AZ?
(via a Medley tweet)

Update: a nice response from Roger Ebert to this same craziness.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Creeping crud

BP sign splattered with mud(?)I don't know which is worse, the complete ecological disaster that this gushing oil well has created -- the latest being that the oil stream is going to whip around Florida and poison the entire Atlantic coast -- or the completely half-assed, amoral approach that BP has taken to addressing it -- from doubling the mess with poisonous chemicals, to maximixing their profit by keeping most of their fleet busy doing something else, to prioritizing shareholder dividends over the welfare of the rest of the nation. (Plus sending their first responders to get liability releases and keep-quiet notices all over the coast.) Nobody winning here...

(first link via Medley tweet, last via Atrios)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Quote of the day

A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, Do it again; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough… It is possible that God says every morning, Do it again, to the sun; and every evening, Do it again, to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
– G. K. Chesterton
(via A Mindful Life)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Blatant baby-blogging

Because I have Recent Cute Photos, and because I'm feeling all proud at Speck's new prowess with things potty-related. Git yur dance on!

serious in her crib at 27 months
A serious face at 27 months.
(No flash means real coloration!)

grinning in crib with bears
Big grin with teddy bears
(beloved Tsah on right, and Feel Better Bear on left)

Tuesday of Too Many Tabs

Here's some neat stuff I've bumped into lately. Apologies where the referer has been lost...
  • A flight attendant and travel magician shows how to pack for a ten-day trip in a carry-on bag. Rolling your clothes achieves much more compaction than I would have thought possible.

  • InfoLadies of Bangladesh bring a host of instruction to rural villages, using Web-derived information to improve people's every day lives. Fantastic.

  • Hate being put on hold at customer service? A new company makes the call for you, and rings your phone when a live representative finally picks up.

  • Piling up physical clutter "for the kids"? Here's some advice to give up that collection in favor of real memories and a few choice items.
    (via a Medley tweet)

  • Finding your life mentally cluttered? Maybe you need to add in some uni-tasking practice to get an upper hand on your mental space at work and at home. We certainly seem to prefer busy-ness to mindfulness, and I think we might be surprised how satisfying the reverse can be...
    (via kottke)
Edit: More "decluttering" thoughts: Twelve things the world should toss out; from fine print to obsession with chastity, these seem like good dreams...