Sunday, August 29, 2010

3 Good Things (Sunday edition)

1.       Objectivist Round Up at EGO;
2.       Sunday morning bike rides especially when you can smell the hay-scented fern and feel the atmospheric herald of autumn’s arrival;
3.       Dr. Oz’s time-saving advice: “Floss only the teeth you want to keep.”

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Little Modern Art Humor

Guess the name of this red steel piece
 at the deCordova Sculpture Park.

No matter how much I dislike modern art, I find that I am always delighted to be in the beautiful outdoor sculpture park at the deCordova Museum in Lincoln.  My youngest and I spent several hours there yesterday, making a brief tour of the new art, revisting our old favorites, talking about what art is, and spending a long time under the trees reading our books. 

It was wonderful.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Amor Mundi

by Christina Rossetti, 1865

“Oh where are you going with your love-locks flowing
On the west wind blowing along this valley track?”
“The downhill path is easy, come with me an it please ye,
We shall escape the uphill by never turning back.”

So they two went together in glowing August weather,
The honey-breathing heather lay to their left and right;
And dear she was to dote on, her swift feet seemed to float on
The air like soft twin pigeons too sportive to alight.

“Oh what is that in heaven where gray cloud-flakes are seven,
Where blackest clouds hang riven just at the rainy skirt?”
“Oh that’s a meteor sent us, a message dumb, portentous,
An undeciphered solemn signal of help or hurt.”

“Oh what is that glides quickly where velvet flowers grow thickly,
Their scent comes rich and sickly?”—“A scaled and hooded worm.”
“Oh what’s that in the hollow, so pale I quake to follow?”
“Oh that’s a thin dead body which waits the eternal term.”

“Turn again, O my sweetest,—turn again, false and fleetest:
This beaten way thou beatest I fear is hell’s own track.”
“Nay, too steep for hill-mounting; nay, too late for cost-counting:
This downhill path is easy, but there’s no turning back.”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Park51: Not Just another Watering Hole

The name itself, Park51, conjures a place I’d like to go on a hot summer night and have a few drinks with some of my girlfriends. A place that would have zebra striped bathrobes hanging in the Spa massage rooms. A place where I could laugh and be loud, where I could move my body to the thumping beat of rock music as it flows out into the skies over New York City, and generally revel in life.
Sadly, it is not.
As a Muslim community center, Park51 would not only prohibit the serving of alcohol, but also the deep v-neck shirts that my large-breasted girlfriends may have chosen to wear out on a hot summer night would no doubt be considered haraam as would my inevitable use of colorful language. But for the thin line still protecting individual rights in this country, some who attend the planned mosque in the center might like to help my gay friends get stoned without benefit of smoking marijuana.
Far beyond my disappointment that Park51 is another shrine to mysticism rather than an upscale watering hole lies my concern that the metaphorical path to the watering hole, the Shari’a law the center will engender, is a threat to the very rights under which Park51 may be constructed.
Inasmuch as American Muslims are not radical Islamists practicing the barbaric hadd class of Shari’a as is practiced in some Islamic states (justice in the form of stoning, eye-for-an-eye, etc.), and consider themselves Americans first, Muslims second, Islam in America is just another religion which must properly be protected by the First Amendment including their right to build Muslim centers on property they own. Nonetheless, one need look no further than the recent South Park Mohammed cartoons uproar to see the threat of Islamists in this country attempting to force non-Muslims to observe Shari’a by clamoring, sometimes with threats of violence, about the offenses supposedly committed against them, their religion, and their prophet by those exercising their freedom of speech. Death threats were made to the South Park creators who intimated that Mohammed was in a bear suit as was a fatwa issued against the Seattle cartoonist who drew Mohammed as a spool of thread and called for Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.
The chilling effect of the Islamists’ rage (including riots, murders, and bombings outside the US) coupled with Muslim and non-Muslim calls for politically correct religious sensitivity notwithstanding, I am hesitant to use that same lack of sensitivity supplication regarding the disturbing siting of Park51.  It is the fundamental interpretation of Shari’a and the creeping expectations that non-Muslims should also submit to it which are in direct conflict with the laws of this country regarding individual rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.  This conflict is what must not be evaded, but addressed by our leaders and by all Americans, including Muslims.
Yes, I understand that it is the historic practice of the Islamic religion, as well as others, to build their houses of worship on top of conquered houses of worship and that the placement of the formerly named Cordoba House blocks from where their radical Islamic brethren murdered near 3000 innocent people in one deftly coordinated terrorist attack on the United States trumpets of that practice. I understand that in choosing the skyward reaching Twin Towers as their target, the radical Islamists were destroying symbols of western ideals, illustrating how symbolism is particularly important to them. I understand that very name of the Cordoba House honors the hundreds of years of Islamic conquest and superiority beginning in eighth century Spain. But whether or not Park51 turns out to be a temple of taqiyya (Islamic allowance for lying to advance the cause of Islam) in lower Manhattan for a radical Muslim recruitment center, it remains a symbol of concern. 
My question for those who enthusiastically support the construction of the mosque is not rhetorical: At what point does the explicit canonical militant advance of an ideology whose religious leaders do not recognize the separation of church and state become an existential threat to that very ideal, and in turn, to the secular country in which it uses that protected right to subvert the same of others? More succinctly: What happens when the laws protecting religious freedom become subservient to religious laws?
In addition to Nancy Pelosi’s admission of conspiratorial lunacy and our President’s unwarranted remarks about New York City Muslim center plans and the 9/11 “tragedy” at an Iftar dinner at the White House, I found this question and answer section of the Cordoba Initiative itself the most enlightening of all that I have read regarding the actual threat of constructing a Muslim center within the impact zone of 9/11. 
The title of the section, rather than asking a question, states:  “Imam Feisal has not condemned Hamas”
This is the proponents’ answer (as of August 20, 2010):

Imam Feisal has always condemned terrorism (see his 1995 book “What’s Right With Islam is What’s Right with America” and his hundreds of speeches).  Hamas is both a political movement and a terrorist organization. Hamas commits atrocious acts of terror. Imam Feisal has forcefully and consistently condemned all forms of terrorism, including those committed by Hamas, as un-Islamic. In his book, he even went so far as to include a copy of the Fatwa issued after 9/11 by the most respected clerics of Egypt defining the 9/11 attack as an un-Islamic act of terror and giving permission to Muslims in the U.S. armed forces to fight against those who committed this act of terror. Imam Feisal included this in his book to prove that terrorism must be fought even if Muslims have to fight fellow Muslims to stop it.
In case you’ve missed the importance of what I have emphasized in the passage, it states that U.S. military personnel, who happen to be Muslim, were permitted by clerics in Egypt to pursue and defeat the terrorists responsible for the murder of near 3000 innocent people in the heart of New York City.
My imagining of Park51 being a fabulous New York City rooftop bar in a boutique hotel is just a little fantasy. The assertion made by the imam behind the construction of Park51—that Muslim members of our military require permission from clerics in order to fulfill their duties of protecting us from terrorists—is presented as a proud fact.
Think about what the presence, or absence, of such a proclamation means to the operational ability and success of our armed forces in defending us in this poorly defined war on terrorism.  Think about your son serving side by side with a Muslim who is torn between allegiance to his country and submission to his religion.  Think about the numerous acts of terrorism attempted and committed in the name of Islam and decide whether or not Islam is simply another religion to be protected proudly as a symbol of what makes America great.
Our elected leaders fall in two groups on this issue; both are wrong. Some turn a blind eye toward the evident connection between the Islamic religion and the Islamist political ideology of the dominance of Islamic law by practicing their own form of pre-Islamic dhimmitude on our behalf; others incorrectly identify the threat of Islam as being against the alleged Christian foundations of our country. The longer we go without identifying the actual danger—the threat to the protection of our individual rights—the further we are led down the path to the watering hole as it is being paved with our good intentions.  
I write this with the full knowledge that I may be labeled a bigot by some of my friends; however, I’d rather be called a bigot than be a coward for quietly allowing the service of what I see as a toxic cocktail muddling protected religious freedom with a dash of violent Islamists intolerance.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

In Case You Were Wondering

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Support Staff

No doubt, my mother would be pleased to discover that, at this time, I view my role in life as that of support staff.  Despite the fact that she was always the primary bread-winner in our family, has always worked, and taught me implicitly that one’s life is one’s own, she also impressed upon me that if I learned how to type well I would never be without a job.  She is a wise and practical woman. 
I learned to type in high school and paid my way through college and grad school (not typing, but still, the point remains a valid one). I suffered no fools, took no prisoners, and enjoyed my independence however briefly. Somewhere in there, I became “The Mom” and all that such an awesome responsibility entails.  I still, and will forever, wear my virtual “She Who Must Be Obeyed” tongue-in-cheek tiara proudly, but rather than being simply the Keeper of the 3 Ring Binders, I am the bringer of jollity, the external conscience, and the model of adult behavior for my children.  As the last, I am the example for implicit instruction of my children – a thought which frightens me, and them, only slightly. But whatever my errors in parenting may be, I know that I am excellent bearer, not necessarily of my biologically-derived title, but of the one I earned from the start: I am a kick-ass wife.

Now it may seem self-serving for me to say because I’m saying it about myself, but damn it—it’s true. Also, it might sound strange for the woman who is adverse to cooking, cleaning, ironing, generally waiting on people, and any of those domestic arts to tout her own wifeliness. (That’s actually a word – I know – I looked it up.) In fact, most people who know my husband in real life know that he would make a far better traditional wife than I do. But still, I manage to uphold my share of the relationship. Although I’ve tried before, without success, to explain what exactly my share might entail, the secret of my wifely excellence has something to do with the embodiment of an ideal.

Before you shoot coffee out of your nose, let me explain.  I don’t think I’m the cat’s ass (a curious idiom in that it’s used to denote superiority), particularly not in the fat pants, rather I have an exceedingly strong desire to embody my husband’s ideal wife: to be a reflection of his values. Happily, but not luckily, his values have nothing to do with cooking or cleaning, but require only that I am my happy, saucy, and very demanding self.  The secret is not in the sauce, which I’d guess he could probably do with less of, but in my demands.

I demand that he be honest with himself. That’s it. Oh. Except this: I will kick his ass until he discovers and understands the truth. While this extreme measure is required infrequently, it is sometimes a long and particularly unpleasant process. I am ruthless and relentless when I detect a suggestion of him veering from his values; I have a deep, personal incentive to do so. In one man, he embodies the heroic qualities I previously thought existed only in books. It is completely within my interest to take him to task when necessary. Knowing “when necessary” is a skill he has helped me to develop.

Sure. He is a far better thinker, writer, and producer than I am and has a far, far more benevolent nature than I do; but no one picks at the scabs of self-deceit or evasion when she sees them more relentlessly than I. And while I freely admit serious difficultly not so much in recognizing as in resolving my own contradictions, he mostly leaves me alone to wrestle with them.  I’d fault him for that, but I understand that we can’t all be so fantastically well-suited for the position of support staff. (That, and while I can learn, we agree that I am nearly un-instructable.)

My current job, as I see it, is to occasionally assist my husband in being the great man he is. So far, I’ve really enjoyed my position with the firm, and plan to continue indefinitely. As a bonus for my exemplary job performance, I get to begin and end my every day near him. You can’t beat those perks.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

No Column

Just The Crucible.  Find the Objectivist Round Up in it. Or is it 'at' it? Either way, it's only a click away. 


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rock, Brock, and Isabel

Although Sheila Bair, as chair of the US FDIC, may have recently taken a Greenspan-like turn for the worse, like Greenspan she produced some good material prior to that turn.   Perhaps her best contributions to the world of economic understanding are contained in two children’s books: Rock, Brock, and the Savings Shock and Isabel’s Car Wa$h.
I like both of these books. Through simple story examples, they explain how interest is compounded and how capital investments work, respectively.

What it lacks in real interest rates, the Rock and Brock tale makes up for in describing the relative cost of short-term spending vs. savings behavior.  It’s quite similar to One Grain of Rice in illlustrating exponential growth in an understandable way.  

But it’s Isabel who is a miniature capitalist hero. She wants to make money to buy something for herself, thinks hard about a way to do it, persuades her friends to invest in her efforts, does all the work – and does good work – and is successful both for herself and her investors. It is notable that Isabel’s well-planned and industrious efforts are almost sunk by her failing to account for taxes near the very end of the story; but like magic, she digs deep into her pockets and manages to find the cash.
Bair may top these winning, colorfully illustrated 32-pagers with her next book, Causes and Current State of the Financial Crisis: Testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, but I won’t hold my breath.  My economic understanding might always remain with the principles presented by Rock, Brock, and plucky Isabel.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Good Thing

This just made me smile.

Canon 7D vs. Barbie Video Girl from Brandon Bloch on Vimeo.

(via Qwertz0)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Window Washing

Upon entering our hotel room last weekend, we were surprised to find that the large, high-definition, flat panel television was not only on, but also displaying a nature scene from a fixed camera. Why it was on, we weren’t sure, but it was pretty and peaceful so we left it on.
While I appreciate natural beauty, after an initial inspection and immediate absorption, I don’t find nature scenes all that interesting to look at (picture Chevy Chase's Clark Griswold at the rim of the Grand Canyon), so I went about my unpacking business but did notice the conspicuous quiet of the nature program. To my delighted surprise, there was no eventual voice-over explaining how this was the pristine beach of such-and-such island, and these animals were endangered by man’s activities.
Instead, the scene changed to another fixed camera shot of kids shouting and people milling about around an oddly futuristic rectangular video billboard.  I watched this one carefully.  The billboard, in the middle of what appeared to be a strip of wet pavement, showed only a close-up rectangle of a female human face.  Then her eyes moved!  Then she smiled!  Then she opened her lips and blew water over all the delighted children!
Of course, if you’re familiar with Chicago’s Millennium Park Crown Fountain, you would not have been as impressed as I was.  Well, I was not familiar with it and was, in fact, completely impressed, and more importantly, I was compelled to watch more out of my high definition “window.” The fact that a city view was available out of my actual window if I chose to rotate my head 45° to the east could not entice me to look away from the Times Square scene as cars and people rushed about in vivid Technicolor.  There was something so much more colorful, more interesting, more real about the scene on the television that it excited and frightened me at the same time.

In addition to experiencing the Crown Fountain, we travelled through the canals of Venice in a gondola, down the Yangtze River in another boat, and stared at Chicago skyline reflected in Cloud Gate (another Millennium Park installation).  As I mentioned, Stephen was particularly fond of the penguins on some beach in Argentina.  We watched the dancing waters outside the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas and saw families sliding on the LED infused ice pavers at the Ice and Snow World in Harbin, China.  The scenes of beaches and waterfalls are too numerous to mention.  Although some shots were tighter than others, most were removed from the action.  All were fixed—as if you were staring out of a window.
I’ll admit it. I felt pretty relaxed as I let the fixed point scenes wash over me.
After the series of brief videos began to repeat (okay, twice), we got a little bored.  I don’t know what prompted Stephen to check what else was on the television, but I reacted with equal parts excitement and trepidation as he discovered what we were watching was only one of seven Window Channels available.
Feeling much like Dory in Finding Nemo when she sees the beautiful little light dangling in the deepwater environment, I couldn’t help but stare at the glowing box of five to eight minute long videos thinking, it’s so pretty. Unlike Dory, however, I understood that it very well may end up being the bioluminescent fishing lure of a metaphorical humpback angler fish!
So, what the hell is this thing we watched intently for what could seriously have been hours of our limited 24-hour stay? The simple, spa-like, relaxing, and somewhat haunting tech music I can hear in the background of its homepage as I write this solidifies my conflicted feelings about our latest fascinating discovery. The Window Channel claims uses in both the hospitality and health industries. I can completely see that: increasing the desire to travel and adding its calming nature scenes to healing therapies. The Window Channel’s tagline is ambient. scenic. television. experience life in . . . high definition. The irony is not lost on me; I was surprised soma didn’t appear somewhere in the unobtrusive titles!  Maybe it did and I was too mesmerized to notice.
Despite my seemingly inexplicable compulsion to extend passive viewing of the television when a fabulous bit of the world (for which we paid plenty to actually experience) was there for the taking in real life, I walked away with an overall positive feeling about the whole window washing experience. I really enjoyed the chance to see and hear, even remotely, the sights and sounds of some fascinating built environments that I had never even heard of, let alone experienced before! Of the few nature scenes that I particularly enjoyed, one was a small snowy stream in Alabama(!). Because I was hot and cranky earlier, as I sat in the plush environmentally controlled room focusing on the gurgling sounds of the cold, gentle stream rushing through the snowy woodlands, my attraction to it was obvious.
Now, as to Stephen’s fascination with the penguins, all he managed to maintain after my repeated requests to explain his attraction was, “they’re so cute.”  Frankly, I don't get it.

Just in time for National Relaxation Day, I advise you to look for a Window Channel, or demo, near you.

Friday, August 13, 2010

August Poetry Recitation

I’m happy to report (as promised) that our first official monthly Family Poetry Night was a great success. 
In July, each family member chose a poem to recite by heart in a month's time. Due to changing work schedules, last-minute baseball games, and other various summer fun, it ended up being close to five weeks – which was far too long according to the younger members of the family.  Not wanting to put it off any further, we recited them at 10:00 PM on Wednesday. As is my wont, I volunteered to go first (upon getting no other immediate volunteers).  This strategy has the advantage of not only getting it done first, but also of not having the added pressure of someone else being awesome right before you.  Oh yeah.  It’s also good to set an example for the children. That’s the most important part of going first.
Two terrific things were obvious to me during the course of the recitation: everyone enjoyed performing his own recitation and was clearly interested in the recitation of others.  As the official keeper of our many educational vacation 3 ring binders, I was glad to see that their earlier training had prepared my older children to be enthusiastic about any goofball plans I might come up with because they would, no doubt, learn something and enjoy it, damn it! (And while my language could use some work, I stand by the method.)
Another amazing fact that became quite clear is that the training my 12 year-old had done in her monthly recitations some time ago must have really helped her make some tremendous connections in her young brain.  While her poem had great meter and internal rhymes to assist in its storytelling-like recitation, she was by far the best presenter with one of the longest poems.  Because I did not stand up for my recitation, my son did not stand up for his (in case you were wondering, it’s better if the example you set is a good one), but the little one stood right up and recited beautifully and with tremendous enthusiasm.  She set the example for her sister and father. (For the record, Stephen would have stood up anyway as he has in the past when inspired to recite a poem like a Shakespearean actor – it’s what he does.)
Since my main objective is this exercise is to increase our opportunities to appreciate the clever, complex, and creative use of language as well as the inspirational ideas presented in good poetry, I may limit the choices to a list of suggested poems for the next recitation. This time, simply the choice of poem for recitation tells me a little something about its presenter: some through subject matter, some in level of difficulty, but each a little window into the way his mind approaches the poetry challenge. It was a decent foundation on which we can build.
Here were our choices in order of recitation:
The Coming American by Sam Walter Foss – Lynne
Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost – Andrew
The Embarrassing Episode of Little Miss Muffet  by Guy Wetmore Carryl – Victoria
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S.Eliot (first 36 lines) – Katy
I Knew a Woman by Theodore Roethke – Stephen
For September’s Family Poetry Night, we’re each going to try our hand at writing a sonnet.  While iambic pentameter is encouraged, only the rhyming scheme and fourteen line form are required.
This ought to be interesting.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Two More Little Things

As I sit listening to old vinyl, reading online articles, husband working nearby (the only reason I would be listening to old vinyl), I was particularly amused by this little thing.  According to a bulleted item in today’s Jewish World Review, on this day in 1877, “Thomas A. Edison completed his first phonograph. The famed inventor provided John Kreusi with instructions on how to build the machine. Kreusi bet the inventor $2, predicting the machine would never work.”
Admittedly, after 133 years, we are transferring the phonograph records onto CDs.
Also today, but in 1851, Isaac Singer was granted a patent for his sewing machine. Aaah, but was he really the inventor?  Read more about the sewing machines wars, “patent trolls,” and property rights, here.

A Little Thing

Amy has this week's Objectivist Round Up.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Guns and Butter: the Weekend in Review

On Friday night, Stephen and I got up close and personal with one of the 100 million offspring of the mind of Mikhail Kalashnikov. With appropriate caution, determination, and earplugs, and despite my best efforts to retain the bragging rights I earned years ago at the ancient Lake Placid biathlon rifle range (5 out of 5 to Stephen’s 4 out of 5), Stephen proved to have a much better shot than I did.  And do you know what he got for his trouble? One big-ass, in-no-way-will-I-allow-recoil shoulder hickey.  But for the temporary loss of bragging rights and a tiny scar from the red-hot .22 brass casing that landed on – and stuck as it sizzled into – my forearm, I remained mostly unscathed by the shooting experience and look forward to improving my aim and recovering my title.
Saturday, after abandoning the seemingly hours-long, fruitless search of our 750 cubic foot walk-in sauna, I mean closet, for my Lorelai Gilmore-ish black patent croc leather, rounded-toe, single-buttoned loafer-look, relatively comfortable Bandolino high heels (they have since been found – I know, phew, huh?) to wear with my lovely black formal keyhole-back-closure dress from 15 years ago (yay – it fit – mostly), we finally made our way into Boston where we were overnight guests at the Liberty Hotel. I was hot. I was cranky. But after having such a wonderful time there with my friends, I knew the possibility to enjoy it with my husband was even greater. 
I was not disappointed.

We gawked at the city view from our room, flip-flopped our Scampo drinks (I had the St. Charles once again and learned from the bartender how to make it) right into one of the hotel’s few secret courtyards outfitted with CB2-meets-DWR outdoor furniture.  We enjoyed the warm afternoon in a cooler, quiet, idyllic setting surrounded by the stone walls of the old jail, a paragon of Granite Style architecture, and the newer brick tower where our room was located.  We sauntered back to our room to make a few quick costume changes. It was there I became almost as enamored of my own smoky shadowed, blue-eyed reflection as Stephen was of the penguins on TV (more on that later). And so we went from city casual to foodie formal as we prepared to dine at Clink., a second of the hotel’s excellent restaurants.
We shared the American charcuterie sampler—which should be called a The Lynne as my love of salty pork products is legendary and the country paté completely satisfied my recent hunger for corton, who knew?—and a bottle of Pinot Noir.  Our entrees of dry-aged sirloin and slow-poached lamb medallions were excellent, but the taste winners of the evening were the starter course items we each chose. Stephen ordered the tender braised goat dish which, unbelievable as it may seem, offered the warmest, essentially meatiest, most tender and delicious pieces of animal flesh I have had in a long time!  And I’m quite a carnivore.  I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that the broth in which the goat meat was served was divine (despite his stated desire, I seriously doubt that Stephen would bathe in it). It was the culinary surprise of the evening.
While our tongues and tastebuds were tickled by the goat, I’ll admit to you, as I gushed to the waitress, that the three perfectly cooked and seasoned sea scallops were by far the best scallops I have ever eaten!  I like the taste of scallops, but the texture is always somewhere on the chewy-slimy scale.  These were cooked beautifully, based on the fact that I have no recollection of the internal texture, but the completely perfect, ever-so-delicately crispy sear on the tops makes my mouth water even now just thinking about it.  Their taste perfection, no doubt owed more than a little to the lemon-thyme butter in which they were cooked and to the chef’s competence.

Three hours after the start of dinner we were ready for another change: this time from foodie formal into we’re-really-too-old-for-this-hipster-bar-scene-but-what-the-hell-I-brought-the-shoes. Oh, yes! The
shoes finally went out to play and I’m happy to report that an earlier shared bottle of wine over dinner and a later shared bottle of champagne were no match for my perfected walk at 4.75”! We had reserved seating at the Alibi Lounge, the jam packed happening bar smartly located in the erstwhile drunk tank of the Charles St. jail, where we shared that bottle of champagne and a cheese plate (remember Mireille Guiliano says, “always, always, always with food”).  In addition to drinking lots and lots of water alongside the champagne, we had a lovely time relaxing on our outdoor couch, toasting to us, and catching snippets from the crush of twenty- and thirty-somethings smiling, chatting, and happily shuffling their way through the other patrons.

It’s true that hanging out in a crowded, drinking hot spot with tons of younger strangers is not something we value; in fact, it’s something we normally and, as luck would have it, easily avoid. But that night, surrounded by general revelry, we were celebrating living life on our own terms: being not only alive, but also aware, surrounded by modern furniture and old architecture, drinking champagne under the stars—together. Staying at a sumptuously appointed boutique hotel and taking advantage of all it had to offer, we made special efforts to enjoy the hell out of our extravagant arrangements.  However brief, those twenty-four hours will linger as a long-remembered adventure for two. And as Stephen is fond of saying, when you go to the well, drink deeply.

He was not disappointed. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What’s in a Name?

Apparently we should not have named one of our Rhode Island Reds after Olympic runner Jesse Owens. Lately, she’s been getting in touch with her “maleness”.
Much more interesting is lesbian activity between chickens. Not so violent as chicken heterosexuality, lesbianism in chickens results when the dominant hen mates with the attractive underling. We have observed some curious configurations in the field. The dominant chicken might mount "the bitch", (usually the same chicken gets this honor every time), while the other chickens circle quickly around, become rigid and stare intensely at the dominant chicken, acting as supports or balance points so that it will not topple over during "the act" (whatever that is for lesbian chickens...) You too may notice some rather organized lesbian activity in a flock comprised only of hens. This is normal. They're not really hurting each other, though at times it may appear so. Apparently they all find it entertaining.

You know, in case you were considering hosting a chicken movie night and were wondering what kind of things they like to watch.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Brass Tacks

This morning, as I was mulling over what to share about my absolutely incomparable and fabulous weekend and addressing how I must proceed from such a concentrated celebration of couplehood to assure a well-deserved repeat, I was thinking about using the expression, “Get down to brass tacks.” I found the origin of the expression (as reported by to be even more immediately compelling than my tales of guns and butter.  

Engage with the basic facts or realities.

The figurative expression 'getting down to brass tacks' isn't particularly old as phrases go. Its first known appearance, in the USA in 1863, was in the Texas newspaper The Tri-Weekly Telegraph:

"When you come down to 'brass tacks' - if we may be allowed the expression - everybody is governed by selfishness."

All of the other known early citations either originate in, or refer to, Texas. It is reasonable to assume that the phrase was coined there, in or about the 1860s.

What has been lost in the last 147 years is the ability to get down to brass tacks.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Go 'n' git it!

The round-up -- at Kelly's Reepicheep's Coracle.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Hollow That Follows

I am sad. Don’t worry, this isn’t a sorry-state-of-the-world, someone-died kind of real sad.  It’s simply a I-miss-Stars-Hollow kind of sad. It’s the same kind of sad I got when I reached the end of the seventh book of the Harry Potter series: a there-they-go – there-ain’t-no-more, empty kind of sad.
I think part of the sentimental attraction is warm promise of the opening sequence (2:08 m into episode). It’s the yellow-orange filter over the snippets of life in Stars Hollow combined with the song, “Where You Lead,” Carole King rerecorded with her daughter for the show that gets me. Every single time.
But appreciating the quick-tongued quirky characters on Gilmore Girls has always been something my oldest daughter and I have done together.  It was our standing Tuesday night date.  Since the series ended, we’ve re-watched the entire seven-season series during the summer—twice. To us, it’s that good. So with much sniffling and partial face rubbing to hide the tears we feel are foolish to shed over a television show, today we said goodbye to Rory and Lorelai as they said goodbye to each other at Luke’s over an early breakfast.
There is something about the mother-daughter relationship that draws us in. We don’t have as many “bits”, I’m not nearly as quick, funny, or flaky as Lorelai, and my daughter is not nearly as academically focused as Rory, but the way they push, pull, play with, and even yell at each other rings familiar. Sure, sometimes I’m the Rory and she’s the Lorelai, or I’m the Emily and she’s the Sookie, or we both think, Hey, I could be Paris! (My mother is totally Babette in loudness - I'm just sayin'.) No matter the character, we love them all and are sad to lose our periodic insight into the lives of those who seem like friends in that quintessentially autumnal New England fantasy town.
Until next summer.
When my daughter will be preparing to go off to college and the goodbyes will be that much harder.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Gone Dark

The city wide, sprinkled in lights before they all go dim.
Heights of pride, I’ll bathe it in, and in its memory, swim.
Some place near, an insidious power threatens my celebration,
Deepening fear, some horrific hour floods all with devastation.

A person weighs, making his bid’ll define the bed on which he lies.
Required maze, bureaucrats' diddle control decisions of our lives.
Collective sways, standing for little, distinguish not goal from gun,
Halcyon days, content to fiddle; extinguish lights one by one.

An identification, not oversimplification: We’ve been led into this void.
Unprincipled Mess gaming Founder’s Best—purposefully destroyed.
We explain, we appeal, we implore, and yet our fight still turns
On protecting Rights, or building anew where some such Light still burns.

When does it end, this sacrifice of men in the name of those unknown?
Forbidden fruits of ken rot on the stem while surrender is over sown.
For the common good is the hue and cry for gleaning the unearned.
Freedom to act, our stores once set by, its meaning now unlearned.

We are they for whom this last great hope must be saved.
We are they by whom this battle of Reason must be braved,
To keep at bay, this creeping decay, this abysmal wave’s mad surge.
As Dark falls, Civilization calls, sounding not like magnificat, but dirge.

Picture 1, from Ink48 rooftop bar, NYC; Picture 2, Detroit in Ruins, Time magazine.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Behold the Power of Girlfriends

Subject: I may not believe in God, but . . .

I do believe in Girlfriend Superpowers!

I put the pic of us at the Liberty Hotel onto my phone as my default picture. Last night I was stressing out a little because I had to give a presentation to a class of grad students, and I was nervous .......and then I caught sight of our six smiling faces/martini-holding hands, and I thought to myself:

"Girlfriend Superpowers - Activate!"
And then I was suddenly very calm and gave a really good presentation.
It's nice to know that there's good karma out there in the universe for me to call on when I need it. Your powers work even when you are unaware!
So thank you for being my friends.....

Anyone who can throw a Super Friends Justice League Wonder Twins reference into a quick and heartfelt email must be my friend.

And she is.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Welcome Home, Chum!

Say hello to our latest addition: Sharkbait-ooh-ha-ha (or as the rest of us call him, Chum).  Chum made his debut as the pet part of the bedroom decor of our 17 year-old today.

What a difference a flash makes.

For those of you keeping score, Chum joins, rather than replaces, Danny in our betta household.

3 Good Things (two subtle edition)

Two seconds travel on the Merritt Parkway and the tunnel turns from glowing orange to bewitching green.

Two black dots and funky flat-top flowers turn into bikini bottoms. (Sebastiano Ranchetti via Frog Blog)

Two sides meeting in a point rather than a curve and blue-hair punk turns into pensive pixie.