Friday, January 27, 2006

Historical Accuracy Is Highly Overrated

Or, as that Great Font of Parenting Wisdom, Ozzy Osborne once said:

"I love you kids more than life itself, but you're driving me fucking nuts."

Today, the Pony's entire grade wraps up their unit on the North American fur trade by staging a Rendezvous. The kids are to come dressed as voyageurs, and they will be eating traditional foods, playing traditional games, trading their pelts for supplies and some trinkets. Historical re-enactment as a teaching tool: both fun and educational.

Except the costume thing. The costume thing is totally out of control.

So, think about it. Voyageurs were (largely) French trappers and hunters, who had to keep everything they owned in a canoe that they had to be able to lift and portage over long distances. These were men who lived far from most other people, who probably didn't bathe or shave or cut their hair from one season to the next, who almost certainly never washed their clothing, who probably didn't have much of that anyway, who bedded and wedded the "local girls" and lived pretty darn primative lives. They wore broad sashes wrapped tightly around their bellies to prevent hernias, and tied strips of cloth below their knees to prevent blood clots or something. Practical, functional, and pretty much "make do."

BUT! They were French. So, that means that what they did wear was as fashionable as possible. The hernia cloths were striped, their hats were long stocking caps that dangled alongside their faces, anything that could be brightly colored was brightly colored.

So, apparently, it's incredibly important to have just the right sort of scruffy clothes to be a 6th grade voyageur, although the word has come down that you aren't supposed to have to buy anything.

Try and resolve that paradox! Especially at 10 minutes before school starts, when you already have a 17 minute commute to even get to school.

I don't know about your household, but we just don't have a whole lot of authentic 18th century wilderness clothing lying around the house. I mean, if they don't sell it at Target, why would we have it anyway? Right?

So, I found a hat that was gray knitted wool, with white snowflakes on it, with a white tassel that hung down the side. No good. All our other hats are basically head hugging, without even a tassel. Pony ended up upset, discouraged, unhappy and basically having sucked all the fun out of the project.

Never mind that we found an awesome hernia belt for her (with tassels!) Never mind that she had really cool knee ties, that had fringe on the ends! Never mind that she was going to be wearing her regular jacket over it all because fully half of the day was going to be spent outside. Never mind that she had felt guilty about buying the hernia belt and knee ties because they weren't supposed to buy anything.

Sometimes you just can't win, and then you just have to silently recite the parenting mantra:

"I love you more than life itself, but you're driving me fucking nuts!"

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Avast! Ye Scurvy Dogs! Prepare To Be Boarded!

It's the Dread Pirate Captain Bermondsey, and his First Mate, Pegleg Nutty. They are plotting their next nefarious mission, seeking to find kibble, fresh hay, and carrot and apple slices. I think Captain Bermondsey is whispering the secret coordinates of the treasure hoard to First Mate Nutty. Posted by Picasa

And Now, A Few Words About The Dog.

This, as you can see, is the world's cutest dog. He has picked up the bad habit of being territorial, so now he barks when anyone comes to the house. We need to go back to doggy school, where he is bound to be the teacher's pet. Posted by Picasa

In Which We Admire The Renovations To The Parlor

Here you can see the nifty handmade tile we found for the hearth, as well as the piled coals in the firebox. The fireplace is actually a gas burning insert, but it looks awfully good. We saw a bunch of flats for rent in London, and they all had this same kind of fireplace. Care to play Holmes and Watson anyone? Posted by Picasa

Here you can see the whole thing from an angle. We have removed the wallpaper in the room--although you can see a pinkish swatch which is still there. Isn't it cozy? Posted by Picasa

This is a picture of our darling new fireplace. You would not believe the brick monstrosity that was there before. The oak mantel is from circa 1902, and we bought it from a architectural salvage store. It just fits the room perfectly. Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 23, 2006

I'd Like An Order Of Bon Mots, Please

So. Rather late to the party, I am reading Jonathan Safran Foer's new book, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

I am in awe.

The writing is so imaginative. The narrator, Oskar Schell, has a voice that is thick with ideas. He imagines a skyscraper where the elevator stays in place and the building goes up and down. He imagines a system where a passing ambulance would be able to detect someone important to the patient inside and flash "DON'T WORRY. DON'T WORRY." But if it was serious, and the patient was at risk of dying, the sign would flash "GOODBYE. I LOVE YOU. GOODBYE. I LOVE YOU."

There is a phrase, a small throw-away line in the middle of a paragraph where Oskar is trying to reach something on a shelf that is too high. He pulls in a chair, but that's not high enough. So he goes to get his complete works of Shakespeare and I brought those over, four tragedies at a time, until I had a stack that was tall enough. I stood on all of that and it worked for a second. But then I had the tips of my fingers on the vase, and the tragedies started to wobble..."

I mean, how can someone take such a marvelous metaphor, and just toss it off like that? I swear if I'd come up with that metaphor, I'd have bashed it into the ground, because when would I ever get another one that good?

But Jonathan Safran Foer can just treat it lightly, because he has so many more.

It's enough to discourage an aspiring writer.

But I'm USUALLY So Responsible!

I am playing hurt. It's sort of an occupational injury, except it's not my occupation to live on the computer. So I guess I have no work comp claim, and OSHA need not be notified. But I have the dreaded computer related condition:

I have Mouse Elbow.

It's kind of like Tennis Elbow, but less athletic. Actually, I blame it on Shockwave. Somehow I got onto these "search and click" games, where you get a limited amount of time to find items in a picture, or to find differences between pictures. So, as my eyes were busily scanning back and forth the screen, I held the mouse at the ready, to get the fastest response time and beat the game.

Now, I doubt there is anything in human developmental history that requires the constant tensing of the right hand, with the index finger slightly raised, the elbow out to the side. The muscles of the forearm are not designed to spend as much time in that position as the games require.

So, my arm hurts. It's hurt for about a week now. And it's not just that it's sore; I actually have less strength in my right hand. I've had to develop my non-dominant hand for all kinds of things, like unloading the dishwasher, lifting cases of soda, pulling up the covers when making the bed. I've even had to switch my mousing hand. I expect that if I don't aggravate it, it will eventually go away. So, I'm not playing any "search and click" computer games for a while.

Besides, I already won them all.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Creative Spelling

The Bunny is writing notes about things and leaving them around the house. Her language is very sophisticated, although her spelling remains creative.

The most recent note was to remind me to do something for her.

It said: "Remomber."

How They Break My Heart

Our Nice Neighbor recently lost her sister, and the matter came up with the kidlets. I had separate conversations with each of them, hoping to help them understand Nice Neighbor's unavailablity due to the sadness of her sister's passing.

Each one of them looked at me with tears welling up in her eyes, and said how sad she would be if anything happened to her sister "Because she's my best friend."

This is what I wished for them when they were mere infants--how lucky are we?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Is Irony Dead? Or, The USAToday-ification of America

Just so you don't think that I'm entirely disconnected from the world--I was reading the paper today. Well, not the NEWSpaper so much as the Sunday extras.

Okay, okay, I admit it! I started my morning with the trashy glossy USAWeekend insert. You know, the one with the Golden Globes as the cover story and the fake celebrity gossip questions on the first page. (Dear USAWeekend. I have always loved [insert name of celebrity with movie/tv series/release from rehab to promote] and I always thought he/she/it was never appreciated. Does he/she/it have a new movie coming out? When will we see a reunion of "Welcome Back Kotter?")

Hah! But that's not all they have. You thought this was just a trashy celebrity obsessed rag! But you are wrong! USAWeekend also covers medical breakthroughs (lose weight by eating less and exercising more!) AND Important Safety Information! (To avoid hotel theft: lock your door!)

Not only that, but they have an ENTIRE page--one with NO ADS AT ALL- devoted to SCIENCE! That's right--scientific developments are important to the USAWeekend audience. Just look at the headline today!

Newly Charted Territory: With the discovery of a new "planet" in our solar system, some people may wonder: Will this affect my horoscope?

That's right! With the recent discovery of a field of objects outside the bounds of Pluto's orbit, scientists are raising new questions about the nature of the solar system, and whether Taureans are REALLY ruled by Venus.

I'm predicting that the scientists at JPL are going to have to start reassigning computing time for this.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

NOW--I Am A Woman

So, I've finally done something that marks me as an official grown-up. Really-0, truly-o all the way adult.

I bought furniture.

That's right, I bought REAL furniture from a REAL furniture store. This means the kind of store where you don't buy it and take it home right away. A store where you have to evaluate floor samples and fabric swatches and then you have to imagine THIS sofa with THAT fabric and THAT wood but not in THIS size, more like THAT size, except that the back is lower. Or the seat is higher. Or something.

And Mr. Sweetie and I took home swatches and samples and catelogs and we laid out scale models of our room and the furniture on a grid and we compared colors in incandescent light and natural light and I had even decided what goddam FRINGE we wanted on the goddam accent pillows. Armed with all this we went in this morning to order:

A sofa;
Two chairs;
An ottoman;
A drop leaf table;
Two accent tables;
One floor lamp;
A pair of table lamps.

All we thought we needed to do was tell our salesperson what we wanted, and pick the color of leather for the ottoman and the color of the lampshades for the table lamps.

It still took better than THREE AND A HALF HOURS.

Oh my God! We had to pick the finish color of the legs of the chairs and the sofa. We had to pick the finish on the drop-leaf table. We had to pick the LEATHER, the NAIL HEADS and the WOOD FINISH on the otttoman. Who knew there were 4,256,385 different colors of leather? Who knew there were 185 different kinds of nail heads? Who knew that there were only 6 colors of wood finish and THAT was what we'd want more of?

So, we got it all ordered, and now we have to.....


About 3 months.

Before it arrives.

Dang I hate to wait. I'm more into instant gratification. It's kind of my deal.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Diplomacy is the art of getting what you want by making the other person think it's in his interest to do so.

The Bunny, to her grandmother, who has only broadcast television: no cable, no dish, no TiVo:

"Don't you ever wish you had more channels?"

A Random List of Things That Are Better In Theory Than In Practice

Diet Coke with lime

Victoria's Secret underwear

Aging gracefully

Lineless bifocals


Computers and the internet as productivity tools

Balancing career and family

Mouse poison



Tantric sex


Peanut butter Hersey's Kisses

Baker's Square bananas foster pie

Horseradish mayonnaise

Business travel

Frequent flyer miles

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Things It Is Entirely Usual To Hear At My House

"Hey, Daddy. Mama has a new funky purple purse!"

I Blame-a Myself, or, The Weather Report

It's been grey and cloudy here for about a month. A bit of snow before Christmas, so that was white, and there's been a tiny bit since then to freshen everything up, but for the most part, the clouds just hovered. Hovering, grey and heavy. Just hovering.

Of course I blame myself.

Just before Christmas I got a pair of prescription sunglasses.

I Am Not Either Contrarian!

We named our dog "Bermondsey." Actually, it's "Constable Windsor Bermondsey of the Back Yard," but when people ask his name, we just say "Bermondsey."

And we are invariably asked "What do you call him?"

I mean, it's not that complicated or long of a name. Bermondsey--like "burgandy," or "Germany," or "Chardonnay" or "Zinfandel." One accented syllable followed by two unaccented ones. It's a bloody anapestic foot--for those of you conversant with metrical terminology.

So, after six months of this, what do we do?

Of course. We give him a nickname...

...that's longer than his name.

So, if you happen to hear any of us call him "Bermonzini," be aware that that 's not what we really call him.

We really call him "The Great and Powerful Bermonzini."

We shortened it for you.

I Gotta Crow

I just have to post this, for the two people in the universe who don't already know this.

Last year, the Pony graduated from the lower school. Among the recognitions that are given at the graduation assembly is a writing award called "Now and Then." The entire fifth grade is given 40 minutes to write a poem. Those poems are reviewed by their homeroom teachers, and five are selected from each class.

The final ten are posted in a prominent location in the school, and the entire faculty votes on the best of them.

Last year, the Pony won. The winner's poem is read aloud at the graduation ceremony, and the winner receives one of the first copies of the year's literary compilation (every student selects one of their writings from the year and they are all printed.)

When the head of school announced the winner of the Now and Then, she just read the poem. And I had no idea that the Pony was even a finalist--she keeps secrets well. As the Head read the poem, I was getting all angry, because the subject was a snake, and I figured it was a boy who wrote it. As the poem progressed, I was thinking "Man, Pony writes that well! She's as good as that!" Then, the farther the poem went, the more I began to relax--it really was a good piece of writing. "Okay, then, whoever wrote that deserves the award."

Imagine my surprise and delight when the Pony's name was announced.

Later, we heard from her homeroom teachers that it was so notably better than any of the other pieces that they felt they only had one poem to submit. Apparently the faculty agreed.

And so, The Mistress Of All Evil presents:


Way down in a canyon deep,
A snake slowly creeps.
Without a hand, without a food,
For a baby mouse he looks.
Looking down, on the ground,
No prey today is found.
With teeth of pearl and eyes of gold,
Watch the snake's story unfold.
Rabbit napping, quietly sleeping,
In plain sight of the snake that's creeping.
Rabbit awakes, hops away,
The last the the prey Snake will see today.
The sun in high, Snake is looking,
"Dinner for one," snake is bboking.
THe sun is gone, has gone away.
Snake has found no food today.
Way down in the canyon deep,
Watch the snake that slowly creeps.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The New International Language

Back in the day, everyone who was educated studied Latin and Greek, because it was the common language of learning.

Later, French became the international language of diplomacy--and they are waiting for it to become that again. It's gonna be a looooooong wait, guys.

But now, there is a new international language. No, it isn't English, and while international conversations have happened in C++, that's actually a rather limited language.

No, the new international language is.....Disney.

We spent some time this Christmas with my 6 year old niece from Japan. Her mother is Japanese, and her father is my brother-in-law, so she is exposed to both languages. In the US, however, she has to quickly pick up a lot of English, since none of us speak Japanese.

Fortunately, she watches the Disney Channel, even in Japan, and she could talk to the kidlets about that. "Kim Possible!" she cries, and friendship is immediate and fast.

There is a song from Kim Possible that the Niece wanted to sing with the Bunny and Pony. "Naka Mol Lap" she said, and the Pony simply couldn't translate.

"Naka Mol Lap. Naka Mol Lap!" Still no comprehension.

"You know--'yo, yo, yo?'"

"Oh. Naked Mole Rap!"

There is nothing funnier than a six year old Japanese girl rapping. Yo, yo, yo!

Digital Milestones

So, the Fabulous Babe's Christmas presents arrived yesterday. For the kidlets, there were gift cards for iTunes--The Pony's already loaded hers onto her account.

For me--a 4 CD set of FB selected tunes--Rockin' the MamaVan!!

I love love love it. All kinds of good music to play loudly--much of it older stuff that I actually once had on VINYL! (No, dearies--that was AFTER the dinosaurs died--they're what vinyl is made of. Yes, I am THAT OLD!)

But here's the deal--I now have MORE MUSIC THAN THE iPOD WILL HOLD!

I never thought I'd see that day. It's even all music that I like!

I love my iPod--the sprightly green Mini that I got last Valentine's day. But this Christmas, I had to (yes, it WAS TOO a necessity) do some shopping at the Apple store, and I managed to develop a lust for a new iPod.

Not even a Nano, which is what I thought I would have wanted. No, I want the full sized one, that can play video.

Which is entirely stupid, because I play my iPod WHILE DRIVING IN THE CAR! What the hell is the point of a VIDEO iPOD in the CAR?

Doesn't matter. I wanted it.

So, knowing my bad reaction to delayed gratification, I went back to the Apple store and played with the toys. I listened, and played, and watched videos...and after several hours, managed to assuage my acquisitive nature.

BUT NOW! I NEED more memory! Like 120 TIMES MORE MEMORY. Right? Because I don't have enough things on which to spend money I don't have. I must have more memory so I can buy more music PLUS TV SHOWS that I don't even watch when they are free! And MUSIC VIDEOS so I can WATCH THEM IN THE CAR. WHILE I AM DRIVING.

Addiction is such an ugly thing.

Fun With Dogs

JoMama called with this story about the Fabulous Babe, who is my fabulous sister.

FB was walking her dog, Otto von Biscuit--I know, GREAT dog name-- when it started to rain. It must have really rained hard, as they had to take shelter in a pet store. So, being Fabulous, FB began to shop. So did Otto.

Of course, being 3/4 Lhasa Apso, Otto has champagne tastes. They say you can predict a dog's personality from what role it was bred for. Lhasas apparently were bred to be worshipped. (This is true!) So, true to breed, Otto found a VERY expensive dog blanket. Something befitting his status, I guess.

So. He peed on it.

It's his now.

So, I'm looking for the "take away" from this story. Something that I can use when I want something.

(Mr. Sweetie interjects: "You have trouble getting what you want?!?!?!")

Well, whatever--I'm not going to start peeing on merchandise. At least not on purpose.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Physics for Dogs

The problem:

A fourteen pound dog, wearing a leather collar, clipped with a metal clasp and on a steel cable leash attached to a metal stake corkskrewed into the frozen ground--takes off across the yard after a rabbit.

The question:

What element breaks first?

The solution:

Ha! Trick question! The leash was clipped onto a metal ring which held the city license, the pet return information (for the microchip), the rabies tage AND the name plate with the dog's name, address and phone. All of which fell into the snow and buried themselves immediately. I managed to catch the dog in the neighbor's yard, and I found all but the rabies tag, which will certainly turn up in the spring thaw.

Happy New Year 2006!

Last year was a very good year for us. We did some fabulous things, we got some new stuff for the house, we upgraded into the digital media world in a big way, we were happy and healthy and played well together. My wish for 2006 is that it be as good.

Do I have some resolutions? Probably. Are they interesting to anyone else? Probably not.

All they have in common, though, is what E.M. Forester said was the purpose of life (in Howard's End): "Only connect." We need to connect to each other, and somehow, I want to do more of that. More art, more plays, more music, more blogging!