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Showing posts from January, 2009

3 Good Things (wicked cold Saturday edition)

1. High R-value insulated windows. 2. Silk longjohns . 3. Super-efficient radiant heating . Sadly, I have none of these things. But I do have a Snuggie! I’m just not sure that’s a good thing.

Smart (or as we say in Boston, "Smaht")

I finally got Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? from the library and finished it last night. Coincidentally, I also started it last night. It's that thin. But, man! is it full of good, easily accessible information (the author states in his opening, A Note about Economics, that "No concept was included until it was declared to be clear and easy to understand" by his advisory group of students, business managers, and investors). The book starts with the amusing poem, Smart , by Shel Silverstein from Where the Sidewalk Ends . The seemingly clueless child who narrates the poem may be onto something here. Penny Candy gives some interesting lessons in the history of money, its debasement by governments looking to fund public projects, and the use and counterfeiting of fiat money more recently. The book, a revised edition of Precious Metals, Politics and Paper Money: Key to Understanding Inflation and Recession , written in 1978, was last revised by the author, Richard

3 Good Things (olfactory edition)

1. Babies’ heads. 2. A lover’s skin.* 3. Bacon cooking. *I just finished Twilight . ‘Nuff said.

Al Gore: The World Domination Tour

Al Gore is at it again . Only this time, the choir he’s preaching to is more inclined to help make his maniacal dreams a reality. We are here today to talk about how we as Americans and how the United States of America as part of the global community should address the dangerous and growing threat of the climate crisis. We have arrived at a moment of decision. Our home – Earth – is in grave danger. What is at risk of being destroyed is not the planet itself, of course, but the conditions that have made it hospitable for human beings. That sure does sound bad, huh? - the United States will regain its credibility and enter the Copenhagen treaty talks with a renewed authority to lead the world in shaping a fair and effective treaty. A fair, effective and balanced treaty will put in place the global architecture that will place the world –- at long last and in the nick of time – on a path toward solving the climate crisis and securing the future of human civilization. What Gore believe

Snow Dog.

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Here is our dog , Izzy, enjoying the great outdoors today. As you can plainly see, she loves the snow. This is a little game I like to call: Find the Pug. Oh, she’s in there. You just need to find the one spot in the yard where there is no snow. She will stand on any surface that is not covered by snow. She's not proud. After a solid three and a half minutes of play, here she is, reticent to go back in. A Pug is hardly a dog at all, but more of an adventure in “what the hell was that noise” for its humans. Speaking of show dogs (well I was thinking of them), the Westminster Kennel Club AKC Dog Show is coming up! I haven’t been this excited since the return of season 4 of Bones! And don’t worry if you can’t take in the show both nights. I’ll be sure to update you. I just love those crazy dogs!

Whose kid is it, anyway?

While I have been railing against the a burgeoning paternal government with each new policy and regulation designed for our own good, I recently got a shocking reminder of just how parental it had already become. In discussing vacation plans with a friend, she said that she couldn’t take her daughter out of school for vacation next year (5th grade) because the school wouldn’t allow it . What? Where do you live , I asked incredulously knowing full well where (in my own state), but trying to make a point. Apparently the school makes life very difficult for your child should you not choose that attendance at school, each and every day it is open, is in the best-interest of your child. From her school district: ATTENDANCE GUIDELINES The AnyTown School Committee and the Anytown Public Schools believe in the importance of regular attendance by all students. Students are expected to attend school 181 days since vacation periods are built into the yearlong school calendar. Except in c

This Day in History

In 1756, Mozart was born in Salzburg. In 1888, the National Geographic Society was formed In 1988, Andrew was born (those other two were just carriers).

3 Good Things (animal print edition)

[For instructions on how to make your own zebra print binder, go here .] 1. Zebra on the inside of my otherwise conservative eyeglasses makes me feel secretively saucy. 2. Outerwear accessories in leopard add a little zip to my step even on the grayest of winter days. (Did you know that collecting them is hereditary?) 3. A vinyl giraffe purse from the streets of NYC may scream, “That’s enough tacky now, lady!” to the rest of the world, but to me, it just purrs (or whatever quiet noise self-satisfied giraffes make).

Why is cheese delicious on Italian food?

Good stuff. Or bad stuff. Depends on your outlook. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M - Th 11p / 10c Changefest '09 - Obama's Inaugural Speech Barack Obama Interview John McCain Interview Sarah Palin Video Funny Election Video

Crossing the Midline

Another free video from the wonderful Robert Krampf, science guy. In this video, Mr. Krampf shows us a simple activity designed to show how the halves of your brain work (or don’t) when you cross the imaginary midline of your body. It’s harder than it looks! Take a look at the original Laurel and Hardy Kneesy, Earsy, Nosey clip on you tube. And while you’re watching classic old movie clips, watch Who’s on First , just for fun.

It could be worse.

Recently, I changed my last name from a very common English one to a less common one of French heritage. Everyone knew how to spell and pronounce the English one; I just said it and - boom - it was recorded correctly. No fuss, no muss. This is not true with the French name which has been Anglicized three different ways. I must constantly go through the spelling of it, usually several times per conversation whenever I have to give my name over the phone. I try to point to cultural references (on the off chance that the operator is Canadian, that is) that might ease the spelling situation and shorten my time on the phone. Frankly, going into a fair amount of explanation with the sales associates has become a bit of a burden. At least I thought it was a burden, until I found this article which kind of puts things in perspective for me.

3 Good Things (clothing design edition)

1. I own three sewing machines. 2. I can follow directions (mostly I choose not to, but I can ). 3. Today, I found a Betty Draper-like dress pattern! Go me! Now if I could only find the right fabric….and then if I only had the right place to wear it. Bah. Mere details.

Going Green Tips #2 and #3

#2 Nag your parents. From Meet the Greens , “WGBH's online series The Greens gives kids a fun primer on sustainability and green living”, we discover ways to convince doubting parents of the righteousness of going green. #3 Scare your kids. Here is what the Green dudes report as “pretty cool” numbers ; they might as well call them Numbers of Shame and stop beating around the bush – that can’t be good for the bush, which is probably green. Not as scary as Professor Schpinkee’s Greenhouse Calculator (because no one gets to be as fat as a hog and blow up!), The Greens Carbon Calculator presents leading questions designed to make the respondent feel guilty about, if not despise his standard of living. I guess these guys didn’t get the “hope over fear ” message yet.

Are You Shovel-Ready?

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I thought this article (via AWAD ) regarding the origin of the term “shovel-ready” into the political lexicon was fun and informative. First, what does it mean? Executives at the company, then called Niagara-Mohawk Power, figured entrepreneurs would be more likely to develop the brownfields if they knew in advance that the sites already had electrical service and gas and sewer lines, as well as preliminary environmental permits. But they needed a catchy way of saying that. Now that we know what it means and how it’s used, we should be aware and ready to take advantage of our own shovel-ready opportunities. Once he establishes a solid infrastructure, each American, as protected by the First Amendment, has always had, and still retains, all the permission necessary to begin developing a better future no matter how polluted the site may seem. Too metaphorical? Combat bad ideas entrenched in our country with principled arguments. Well, that’s what I get out of it, anyway. I’ve got t

The Icing Capades

This is too wonderfully creative not to share. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. (via Cake Wrecks - a hilarious blog about all things cakey.) Update: I just found out that this is from a 1993 video called Opera Imaginaire in which twelve arias are animated. This one is done by Guionne Leroy and there is even one on the Lakme aria I posted about a few days ago.

3 Good Things (emergency edition)

For anyone who was as taken aback by the sheer volume of religious rhetoric in the inaugural address of Barack Obama, I share with you my emergency list of three good things: 1. The government moves slowly. 2. The First Amendment still holds. 3. Reality always prevails. Say it again if it helps.

3 Good Things (new beginnings edition)

1. Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson ; 2. Raising chickens in the backyard; 3. Washing machines (more of a necessary re-acquaintance than a new beginning).

All "eography"s sound alike

Insofar as two girls can reenact it, this is what you get at my house when you remind a child to do her GEOGRAPHY. (Is Vera Ellen really making that tap noise with her one foot? It boggles the mind.)

3 Good Things (house edition)

Except for the knotty pine room (gag), I think this little…okay, I’ll use the word, postmodern home in Cambridge is very cool. I think I’ve seen it in DWELL magazine (personal favorite), in The Boston Globe, and somewhere else probably – but now it’s for sale. If I remember correctly, the owner/architects built their own house right behind it. Anyway, I really like the use of the translucent material for the wall, and old corrugated steel for the roof and siding. There is no way I could live that Spartan, but I do appreciate its design features. And here is one of my favorite local renovations . It started as a ranch with a walk-out basement, and became so much more. I love the series of photographs , particularly the before/after roll-overs. The residential use of commercial materials is always a plus, but the pièce de résistance is the courtyard. I love, love, love the idea of having an enclosed (or semi-enclosed) bit of outside, inside! It’s also funky to be able to see out of an

Cult of Snuggie!

Seriously, I just saw this commercial on TV and thought it was so goofy that I needed to find it on You Tube. Well, not only did I find it, but I found that I was not alone in my assessment of the advertising efforts. My question: why is the Mom nice and warm and the baby subject to the elements? My advice: if you see these folks at a sporting event - don't walk - run!

But can you dance to it?

Currently, there is a discussion on the Harry Binswanger List about music appreciation. Stephen (aka Mr. Music) and I have often discussed the relative importance of music in our lives as well. It has sparked some interesting conversations at home, and a discovery that my approach to music is much like my approach to the rest of life which can be summed up in one word: impatience. Lyrics are generally immediately accessible. I want to know what the song is trying to say and then I’ll decide if I like it. “What lyrics?” Stephen often asks as if his ears don’t even pick them up. The melody also has to be interesting. Not necessarily beautiful or wrenching, but something that piques my interest. This is not the same as challenging, because even though a challenge can sustain my interest, I don’t usually sit and study the music I’m listening to. It is usually incidental to whatever else I’m doing. Oddly, I can’t stand when the music is designed to be incidental, as in large pieces writ

Porphyria's Lover

by Robert Browning (1812–1889) THE rain set early in to-night, The sullen wind was soon awake, It tore the elm-tops down for spite, And did its worst to vex the lake: I listen'd with heart fit to break. When glided in Porphyria; straight She shut the cold out and the storm, And kneel'd and made the cheerless grate Blaze up, and all the cottage warm; Which done, she rose, and from her form Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl, And laid her soil'd gloves by, untied Her hat and let the damp hair fall, And, last, she sat down by my side And call'd me. When no voice replied, She put my arm about her waist, And made her smooth white shoulder bare, And all her yellow hair displaced, And, stooping, made my cheek lie there, And spread, o'er all, her yellow hair, Murmuring how she loved me—she Too weak, for all her heart's endeavour, To set its struggling passion free From pride, and vainer ties dissever, And give herself to me for ever. But pa

3 Good Things

1. “Fa-yeh” 2% Greek yogurt . Sure, it’s spelled FAGE, but that reminds me of a bacteriophage and that just clouds my enjoyment of its creamy deliciousness. 2. “You’re like my conscience, only better - I can see you.” My fifteen year-old describing one of our afterschool conversations. 3. Ramalama (Bang Bang) by Róisín Murphy (made popular in a “So You Think You Can Dance” routine I’ve been told. You can listen to 30 seconds on iTunes, but I have no idea how to link to it).

Wait Listed

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While I'm waiting for my boiler to heat up and push out enough hot water in order to keep up with the call of the thermostat (a 12 degree difference!), and waiting for the library to email me to let me know that my book, a Whatever Happened to Penny Candy , is in through the inter-library loan system, I've been inspired by all the list making going on around me lately. First: Cool beans. Real Simple , January 2009 issue, "The List Issue" gives us some cool lists, like 78 chairs under $100. Let me say, don't go looking for the plastic Eiffel chair (shown on left and on the cover page of the story) at Overstock for $90. I wasn't too surprised that this iconic Eames reproduction wasn't there; however, I was pleasantly surprised to find in a pair for $165 on the net . But before you jump on the deal, think about this: is the tres cool design worth the inordinate increase in static electricity shocks? For me, yes. For my youngest, no way. Also from Real Sim

“I’ve got you on camera. I’m watching you, boy.”

I had to link to (rather than embed) this video today. Apparently it was taken somewhere in Great Britain on the 3rd of January. What’s interesting about it is that the camera is trained on the police, not the crowd. The police are actively running away from the protestors whom we can guess, outnumber the police. In addition to the unusual imagery of the retreating police, we see various objects (sticks, perhaps from the protestors placards, and traffic cones) being thrown at and hitting the police as they retreat, and some type of escorts or handlers (signified as such by their orange vests) asking the protestors not to become too violent. The most unsettling thing about the video, however, is the audio. The protestors shouting, “Free, free Palestine” the apparent subject of their protest, are also taunting the police saying “Run you cowards”, and “Run you swine”. But the most chilling and revealing sound can be heard after the warning issued by the protestor with the camera

Stay Warm

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According to our "Classroom Thermometer" it’s -11° outside this morning! Okay, I reported it in degrees Celcius for effect, but it is 12°F. That’s cold. While I seriously doubt the claim of the title of the article, "How to Stay Warm While Still in Fashion " , I have to report that I am a recent fan of the blanket robe (I refuse to call it by its brand name). It's really, really cozy, if not conducive to traveling on the staircase or tap dancing (unless you want to reenact Happy Feet ). Today, this could be me - if my home decor were from Rent-A-Center (rather than IKEA), my hair dirty blond (rather than dirty black - more a state than a color, really), and my Dell silver and larger (rather than floppy-lidded and blue), that is! Basically, this is the snuggie I got for Christmas from my mother. And except for the name, I'm not ashamed to say I love it.

Stomp, Chug, Tap, Heel, Flap, Shuffle, Ball Change.

That's really all there is to it says this tap dancing guy. Well, why didn't you say so? If you can do this, you're already way more advanced than I am. But I'm working on it in my new dance studio - so watch out!

It's All About Mii

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I’d like you to meet my video game avatar Wii Fit family: The Mom (that’s me in all my constant sunglass wearing glory in the middle), and the rest of the crew. What’s interesting about this little display (other than the disruptive moiré pattern ) is how much my husband (right) and my son (2nd from left) look remarkably like their Wii folks (okay – it’s more accurate to say that their Mii’s look like them). Is that a figure of merit? To be able to be well represented by a limited amount of changeable cartoon characteristics? When one is playing Wii, it certainly is – especially for your opponents. (Or, in general, if it makes you look cooler than you really look.) While making her world of Mii friends, the youngest did not forget her littlest, hairiest friend... Izzy the Pug-Mii. And yes. People really do chuck their Wii-motes in all the excitement. Ask my mother (fortunately, there was no damage to the remote or the metal DDR pad into which it flew)! Update: Check out this P

Forms of Government

Maybe it's because my 10 year-old is now studying some forms of government as they existed in Ancient Greece. Or maybe it's because I'm tired of explaining to people that we don't actually have a democracy. In both cases, I found watching this video to be ten and a half well-spent minutes. (via Wealth is not the Problem )

Taps.

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No, this isn’t about the military dirge, I hope. To the uninitiated, this may look like an ordinary pair of black slip-ons with some shiny metal soles. To me it looks like a great big dancing adventure! Tonight, I begin tap dancing lessons. It’s only an 8-class session, to start, but I think it will be fun. Yes, as Danny Kaye says, the best things happen while you’re dancing. And if you can make clickety-clack noises while doing it, so much the better (I added that second part myself). Being completely enthralled when I watch all the old tap dance routines, I have noticed and noted that it seems impossible to be anything less than totally happy when tap dancing. Unfortunately, I think I began to endow my shoes with magical happy properties, for when I placed them on my feet, I began to – well, not exactly dance , more like – flail around. I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on myself as the last time I tapped with regularity, I was five. Still, I thought it would all come back to

The Medea Hypothesis

In yesterday’s The Boston Globe , writer Drake Bennett discusses the theory of paleontologist Peter Ward’s latest book: The Medea Hypothesis . The author posits the Medea hypothesis as the antithesis of the Gaia hypothesis (man as unnatural blight on the “hospitality” of Mother Earth) under which the last 30 years of environmentalism has flourished. That is to say, nature itself, is an anathema to life. I found the article quite interesting. “Ward is open to the criticism that he’s taken things too far; what’s important, he believes, is weaning people for the idea that the earth works better without us. Even if Medea is an incomplete framework for viewing the natural world, it introduces a hardheadedness into environmental debates often driven by an unexamined idealism about Mother Nature.” So far, I’m with the guy. But in the very next sentence, the article reveals a startling leap: “Ward himself believes that the only help for the planet over the long run is management by human b

Children as Mirrors

A recent exchange between my oldest and youngest children. 1: Well, that man was helpful. 3: Really? 1: Yeah, why? 3: Because when Mum* says that, she's being sarcastic. Ouch. Sarcasm: it's just not a good teaching tool. * 3 is quite the Anglophile and has begun to refer to me (both in writing and speech) as Mum. I fully expect her to don her wellies and go play in the garden before I have to call her in for tea.

Next Summer Olympics?

If you enjoy dressage competitions, you might be interested in this short show. If you've ever given thought to why certain animals are better for domestication, you might be fascinated by this display. If you just like to watch fun animal videos from YouTube, you should definitely watch this tidbit. But can he do unsupported transit ? (via NoodleFood )

The Bane of My Existence

As all mothers know, socks are the bane of one’s household existence. Not the wearing of the items, which I highly recommend, at all times even, in our house especially, but rather the effort required to get them through the wear-wash-return cycle as a pair. In addition to the ubiquitous unsolved mystery of sock-eating dryers, in our house, we have a big industrial-sized bucket of dirty clothes into which mostly everything thrown down the laundry chute from the second floor drops. The problem is that only selective small items can be retrieved from the bucket. Some socks seem to commit sock-icide by flinging themselves out of the bucket and landing in no man’s land (on the filthy, uneven concrete of the basement floor behind the industrial-sized bucket). Even if I am lucky enough to get the socks into the wash as pairs, the transfer between laundering machines is fraught with the potential peril of single sock-loss. Then there is the sorting. Years ago I had adopted the “white socks

An Epidemic

Today's The Boston Globe carried the following headline: State readies campaign to curb obesity epidemic . The first three lines are priceless. Major restaurant chains in Massachusetts would be required to prominently post the calorie counts for all their offerings - at the counter or on the menu - under a far-reaching anti-obesity campaign that Governor Deval Patrick's administration is expected to announce today. The administration's battle against bulging waistlines also calls for public schools to measure the height and weight of first-, fourth-, seventh-, and 10th-graders and calculate whether a child is overweight. The finding would be sent home with students along with detailed advice on eating better and exercising more, with the goal of reducing the incidence of health conditions once almost unheard of in the young, including type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. But, alas, the fatuous program is not. In addition to the horror that is administrative costs of an

Going Green Tip #1

When lunching with friends and business clients alike, remember to show your environmental sensitivity. If you don't have the luxury of cloth napkins, save some paper by wiping your hands on your pants and your face on your sleeve!

Unsupported Transit

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What do the murder of a wife’s lover, Philip Glass, and The Matrix have in common? Eadweard Muybridge . Mr. Muybridge (1830 – 1904) is an interesting man who made great strides in stop-action photography and the study of animal locomotion in the late 19th century. He was a commercial photographer who is credited with providing proof for a bet made by Leland Stanford, then Governor of California and race horse owner, that during a gallop, horses actually have all four feet off of the ground at one point. In order to get this photographic evidence, Muybridge eventually developed the multiple-camera technique which predated celluloid filmstrips, but is actually still used in multiple angle shots used to slow down the action (a process now called “bullet time” – think The Matrix ). Perhaps you’ve seen this famous series of photographs and the proof they provide for “unsupported transit”. Perhaps you were lucky enough to have a zoetrope top when you were little. Or perhaps, in research

Three Books

I am currently reading the following three books: Mercy , by Jodi Picoult, The Alchemist , by Paulo Coelho, and The One Hundred , by Nina Garcia. While I have often heard of Jodi Picoult (pee-KOE), possibly because she has, like, a gazillion best sellers, I have never read anything by her. After finishing this book moments ago ( so - I was currently reading it this morning), I can say with some certainty, that I will not read anything else by her in the future. I don’t read a lot of best sellers so I don’t really know, but I suspect the sex scenes make sense, the character motivation is discernible, and there is someone you might like to see again in another novel at some point in most of them! Don’t look for that in Mercy . I read it for our neighborhood book club and as always, I’m glad I took the time to read it because it makes me have to define what I didn’t like about it. Mostly, I’m excited to discuss this question: Who is the most selfish character? The most selfless? You c