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]