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Monday, October 31, 2005

Hallowe'en 

cowgirl at home cowgirl on the swings

As cute as she is in it, Celeste didn't end up wearing her cow costume for Hallowe'en, and she missed out on trick-or-treating. This morning, she ended up having her only nap of the day at about 8:15 a.m. and it lasted only an hour. By the time the city's official trick-or-treat timeslot (6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.) arrived, she was well on her way to bed.

That's not to say Celeste went without. On Tuesday last, her playgroup had a Hallowe'en party and she got to wear her suit then. And on Sunday evening, she wore her costume over to her two-year-old friend K---'s house to help K--- practice trick-or-treating: Celeste and K--- stayed on the porch with Evelin, G--- (K---'s mother), and me waited; K--- knocked on the door; D---, her father, opened the door with a bowl of goodies; and K--- said "Hi Daddy!"

Since Celeste was in bed before 7:00 p.m., and with more than two hours of trick-or-treating to go, Evelin and I tried to stay alert to the pitter-patter of little (and sometimes not-so-little) feet on the porch to head off any too loud door knocking or (even worse) doorbell ringing. We only had one doorbell incident, which Celeste thankfully slept through, but I did put a big piece of duct tape over the doorbell after that. Evelin headed off another (post-duct tape) by jumping off the couch and not quite shouting "don't ring the bell!" (We had the door open, so we could see people, but still some folk like to ring that doorbell.) When she got to the door with the candy the thwarted bell ringer said "I know what you were doing; you were trying to scare us!" Evelin assured him she just wanted to keep her sleeping baby asleep. I don't think he bought her story.

We had a lot of trick-or-treaters this year and, judging by the number of cars that were going the wrong way down our one-way street, I don't all that many of them were from the neighborhood. This lead to the annual "you're giving out too much candy" discussion. Evelin is a firm believer in kids having to say "Trick or Treat!" and "Thank you." She also wants them to be in costume, and not too much jostling in front of the candy bowl. And for all of this, she wants to give out only one piece of candy per kid. I'm much more in the two to three pieces of candy camp. And while I expect Celeste to say "Thank you" in such situations, I don't get too bent out of shape when I don't get one from a bunch of goblins or Power Rangers who are all hopped up on Pixie Stix.

About two-thirds of the way through the candy bowl (and about the same way through the night), Evelin and I decided to call my mother to get her retired fourth-grade teacher's perspective on the proper amount of candy to pass out. She said three to four pieces per kid at first, progressing to handfuls to try to get rid of it as the night goes on. I passed the phone to Evelin, feeling justified for my at least two pieces stance, but then my mother backtracked saying that she didn't give out very good candy. Given that we had miniature boxes of Junior Mints, she felt one of those alone was a good enough treat (and thus validating Evelin's perspective). Thankfully, we don't have to worry about this again for another 364 days.

Technoarti tags:

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Bargain Bob's Stroller City Redux 

Our basement is starting to look a bit like the stroller and stroller accessories equivalent of a used car lot. Way back when we were expecting Celeste, we made the traditional pre-registry trip to Babies ‘Я’ Us to test drive the various strollers. While we thought about somesort of big travel system stroller setup, we ended up going with the very sensible Baby Trend Snap 'n Go, which worked with our Graco SnugRide infant seat, and a Combi Soho sturdier-than-an-umbrella-stroller-but-still-compact stroller.

The tipping point was that Evelin would be able to lift both the Soho and the Snap 'n Go into the back of the T.R.U.C.K. by herself. The giant travel system things were too heavy for her to do that without some wrestling.

Fast forward a few months, and the Soho is proving fine to keep in the T.R.U.C.K. for use when going somewhere, but the mean sidewalks of our city really need something with more forgiving wheels. Enter the Baby Jogger II she found on craigslist. Ever since I brought it home back in July, the Baby Jogger has been Evelin and Celeste's standard ride.

Now, with number two on the way, Evelin is realizing we need a double jogger. Back to craigslist and Freecycle she goes and Sunday morning Celeste and I find ourselves on a little expedition to Burke, Virginia, to test drive a B.O.B. Duallie "sport utility stroller." Less than two hours later, we're home with another stroller (and rain guard), and Evelin is looking at some of the accessories available for the B.O.B. units ...

Technoarti tags:

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Asian Backstreet Boys 

This cracks me up.

(Via What Tian Has Learned and Andrew Sullivan)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Common Census 

I'm not sure what this project is likely to uncover, but since I like maps, I find it intrinsically interesting — The CommonCensus Map Project. The stated goal is:
... to show how the country is organized culturally, as opposed to traditional political boundaries. It shows how the country is divided into 'spheres of influence' between different cities at the national, regional, and local levels.
There also is a second project to map loyalty to different sports teams. The current MLB map shows, for instance, that Red Sox Nation is alive and strong throughout New England, as would be expected, as well as throughout Utah and bits of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, which is a little surprising as we don't even have a farm team out that way ...

Anyway, they're looking for more data to improve all the maps, so if you haven't already done so, go and give the project a look-see; they especially need more data from more rural/exurban areas.

Technoarti tags:

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Not Sir Elton John 

Not Sir Elton John.

Tropical Storm Alpha 

It's not official yet, but 2005 seems likely to become the first hurricane season where we have to start using Greek letters to name Atlantic Basin storms.

This morning Tropical Depression #25 came into being, and the prediction is that it will reach tropical storm status — and thus earn a name instead of a number — by this afternoon. Since Wilma, currently the hurricane flitting over the Yucatán, is the last name on the official list for the Atlantic for this year, the naming convention switches over to the Greek alphabet for TD#25 and/or any subsequent storms that become tropical storms.

[ASIDE: The World Meteorological Organization has a really interesting fact sheet [PDF] on tropical cyclone names around the world.]

As it stands, with 21 named storms as of Wilma, 2005 is tied with 1933 as the busiest Atlantic hurricane season ever, and, with 12 hurricanes tied with 1969 for the most hurricanes on record. Half of those were graded as "intense hurricanes," including the most, fourth and sixth most intense ever in terms of lowest barometric pressure (Wilma, Rita and Katrina, respectively).

And that doesn't even include Hurricane Vince, which struck Portugal and Spain of all places.

The kicker is that we still have a few more weeks (until 30 November) for the end of hurricane season. Given how things have gone thus far, we could be looking at Hurricane Delta (or maybe Phi) churning through the Atlantic by Thanksgiving ...

UPDATE: (22 Oct. 2005, 18:19) It's official : TS Alpha is the 22nd named storm of the season ...

Technoarti tags:

Friday, October 21, 2005

Uisge Bheatha 

After a bad-weather, bad-traffic commute home (although I made it for the end of bathtime), I'm settling in for a nice tipple and enjoying the last of a Signatory 1998 Single Orkney Malt.

Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky Co. Ltd. is interesting in that they are a bottler, not a distiller*. They go round and buy up casks of spirit from distillers and then bottle it in their own way, often making for a different product than what the distiller yields.

This one next to me is bottle number 197 from casks numbers 164 and 165, distilled on 25 January 1988 at Scapa Distillery in Orkney and bottled at 86 proof after being "aged in oak wood not less that 9 years." It's fairly light, especially considering it's from the Islands and while there is a bit of the traditional Scapa peat to the taste, it's really mild. The one review of the Signatory bottling I found wasn't too complimentary; the Gordon & MacPhail bottling for the same year sounds a bit more expressive. My own impression of it lies somewhere between Serge's and Doug McIvor's (although McIvor wasn't tasting the Signatory). It's very drinkable and enjoyable, but it's not a top-rated whisky either ...

And thus ends tonight's delving into whisky criticism ... plus Evelin want's to go comment on Tiffanni's Golden Coiffure Awards.

* Actually, that's not quite right anymore. In 2002, just a few months before we visited, although I wouldn't claim a connection, Signatory acquired Erdadour, the wee-est (legal) distillery in Scotland.

Technoarti tags:

Thursday, October 20, 2005

One of Those Mornings ... 

... when, as you hit the snooze button for the third time, you can't figure out where that noise keeps coming from ...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

499 Minutes 

Earlier this summer when we changed over our house from no cable television/traditional phone line/dial up Internet access to subbasic cable/VoIP/cable modem, one question was would the basic 500-minute Vonage plan be enough talk time for us. Since when it comes to our cell plans, Evelin and I are Paygoists and never really need to worry about capped plan minutes, we didn't have a good feel for how much time we actually spend on the phone.

Last month was the first where we were fully transitioned off the landline and using only VoIP, but, because of Hurricane Katrina, we (mostly me) naturally went over that 500 minute cap. Today, I got our latest bill and we used <drumroll>...</drumroll> 499 minutes. That just makes me smile.

Technoarti tags:

Idiosyncrasy Meme Redux 

Revisiting that idiosyncrasy meme MC tagged me with, Evelin said she thought the ones I picked where kind of boring, so I'll stand by numbers 1, 3 and 4, but would replace 2 and 5 with:
  1. I can dish it out, but I can't take it
  2. I like seeing new things and going places, but I hate traveling (or at least the packing and getting out the door; once I'm where we're going I'm fine).
Technoarti tags:

Bird in the Office 

Well, that was interesting. Our MIS, R---, and were walking down the hall, when I saw something out of the corner of my eye in the server room — a bird flying from over by the tape backups into R---'s office.

At first I thought it was my imagination, so R--- and I walked into the room and sure enough there was a song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) trying to find a way out. Apparently, he'd found a hole next to the window air-conditioning unit ...

K--- was walking past and stopped to see the commotion; it didn't register that we were yelling for him to shut the door until the bird buzzed him on his way out to the hall and into K--- and A---'s office, where he was trapped when they shut the door on their way out.

I got an old T-shirt and R--- got a box and, after a fairly comic 10 minutes of climbing over/under desks and cubes and (the bird) smacking into windows, we finally got the shirt over him, his wings pined, and then shuttled him down the stairwell and outside.

Sure a song sparrow is no red-tailed hawk, but a sparrow inside is considered a bad omen, so I'm trying not to let that freak me out ...

(And thinking about birds, last week Evelin and Celeste were walking down by Northwest Branch when Evelin noticed an eagle or hawk of some sort flying toward them. Evelin is certain she saw the bird's talons in an outstretched position — and headed for Celeste — so she quickly flipped up the sun cover on the jogging stroller and the bird changed direction and flew away.)

Technoarti tags:

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Free Tree 

A few years ago, I came home from work to find a new maple in front of our house in the strip of land between the curb and the sidewalk As part of the environmental tradeoffs with the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project, several hundred trees had to be planted around the D.C. area in the Potomac Watershed; our town took a few hundred or so and planted them throughout the city, including in front of my house.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago: I saw a notice on the city listserv that the city had several trees free for the asking on a first-come, first-served basis. On the first day you could reserve a tree, Evelin called and today Celeste and I drove over to the public works yard and picked out a fairly rough looking crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) that is supposed to flower purple. (It's no flower fairy, but it is a free crape myrtle.)

Back around Labor Day Weekend, I'd cut down and pulled out the roots of a tall, thin evergreen that was listing significantly. For a while I'd thought it was my imagination, but looking back at pictures, it really was leaning a lot. It turns out the roots were all twisted instead of spreading out; maybe whoever planted it didn't remove the burlap or anything from the root ball.

That space, at the front corner of the house has some big azaleas in it (as well as our strawberry patch, but it needed a taller vertical element to replace the lost evergreen — enter the crape myrtle. Hopefully being in the ground and getting a lot of water will help the tree settle in and, in a year or few, we'll have some nice blooms.

Technoarti tags:

黄油条 Officially Named 太山 

美香 (Měi Xiāng) and 添添 (Tiān Tiān)'s little boy has a name: 太山 (Tài Shān), which means peaceful mountain. The vote wasn't even close — 88,245 votes for 太山. The runner up was 強強 (Qiáng Qiáng), which means strong, powerful, with 66,195 votes.

The name on the enclosure may be 太山, but he'll still be little 黄油条 to me ...

Technoarti tags:

Talking Back 

Celeste's proficiency with signs is exploding. Until yesterday, if you asked her about dogs, the would look around and make her little bark; now, if you mention dogs, she pats her leg to make the sign for DOG. For the longest time, MILK was her most frequent sign, but now she seems to be picking up and using signs every day: WATER, EAT, MORE, ALL DONE, CHEESE (although she also used that same hand motion for BANANA .. the main difference being the chanting of "nan-nan-nan-nan-a" when she wanted banana), PLANE, NAP/SLEEP, BOOK, UP, GORILLA (which she picked up from From Head to Toe), ...

She also still really likes the BABY sign, but I'm not sure she's 100% clear on the concept. She will sign BABY when she sees a baby in real life or in a picture, but when she looks at a picture of Evelin and me, she will say "mumumma" when I point at Evelin. When I point at me, she signs BABY. 1312-months old and she's already dissing me left and right.

The other new sign is NO. She is a pro at shaking her head NO if she doesn't want something. If she signs WATER but really means she wants some of my Diet Coke, she will shake her head NO as the cup approaches, waving it off with her hand if I get too close. Last night, we asked her if she wanted the purple pyjamas or the white ones: lots of NO shaking. (She hates putting on pyjamas.)

Technoarti tags:

Monday, October 17, 2005

Weekend in Review 

Beyond the tree trimming and jailhouse talk, the weekend was pretty sedate. On Friday night, we watched Kingdom of Heaven and ate pizza. Saturday, Evelin went to a children's clothing sale in University Park and picked up a coat and some other duds for Celeste; we followed that up with a trip to the Friends of the Takoma Park Maryland Library book sale. Evelin found a few things for herself and a couple of books for Celeste. All I ended up with was Beyond the Last Village by Alan Rabinowitz and A Dictionary of Named Effects and Laws in Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics by D.W.G. Ballantyne and D.R. Lovett.

On the way back from the library sale, we stopped at the local volunteer fire department for it's open house. Celeste was happy to get a balloon, but wasn't willing to give the stop-drop-roll drill a try. We ran into one of Celeste's friends there. K--- is about a year older than Celeste, and was much more into the big trucks than Celeste was. Plus, Celeste was moving into a pre-nap tired phase.

Dinner was a Trader Joe's special: chickpeas, spinach, and raisins in Trader Joe's Punjab Spinach Simmer Sauce over whole-wheat couscous with a dollop of Celeste's ΦΑΓΕ yoghurt. Pretty much everything except the olive oil and extra spinach came from Trader Joe's; I don't know why, it just worked out that way.

I had a lot of trouble sleeping Saturday night at least in part because I was wondering if the tree trimmers had damaged the roof at all. Since we moved in to the house, there has been this big dead limb hooked onto a live limb over the roof. I've tried a couple of times to dislodge it, and bits have broken off over the years, but the tree guys had better tools and the ability to get up to the limb to knock it down. Unfortunately, it did come down on the roof. There was big bang that give Evelin a start, but it didn't wake the napping Celeste. I didn't worry about it ... until I tried to get to sleep a bit past midnight. I ended up spending a lot of time reading that night.

Sunday morning, of course, Celeste wanted to get up early. After her breakfast and some playtime, I went into the attic to see how things looked from the inside ... there weren't any visible problems. As soon as Celeste went down for her nap, I went up to clean the gutters and to check things out on the outside ... once again, it was fine. There were some bits of sticks in the gutter and some detritus where the limb hit, but the roof and shingles were solid.

The rest of the day was a typical Sunday: farmers market, grocery store, forgetting to return the DVD on time, and big nap to try to make up for the previous evening. Dinner was roasted root vegetables (what with the cooler weather and the parsnips at the market and all), and Evelin made some pumpkin-gingerbread muffins.

It seemed like it'd be a calm night, but Celeste had other ideas: Around 9:27 p.m. she started wailing an inconsolable wail. I was no use to her. Evelin managed to calm her for a little while, but then the crying started again and came close to reaching tantrum levels. Finally, after a mini time out by herself in her crib, I went back in and somehow managed to soothe her. I gave her back one of the pacifiers she'd thrown everywhere, made sure she still had her blankie, and then told her I'd sit in the room with her. A little quiet singing, and she stopped the crying. (The same routine had not worked 10 minutes earlier.) I stayed with her for about 15 minutes (until 12:01 a.m.), and I'm not sure she was all the way asleep when I left the room, but she did sleep through until sometime around 6:20 a.m.

Leap? Teething? Upset stomach from the pumpkin muffins and/or the straight canned pumpkin? I don't know ... Evelin said she had some quiet time, but no nap, this morning, and was down for her afternoon nap a little before noon. We'll see what tonight brings.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Watch What I Say 

I have a co-worker with a 212-year-old who's been taught to respond to the question "Who's your daddy?" with "Milkman!"

Celeste isn't picking up things like that yet, but Evelin is reminding me I have to be careful with what I'm saying. Not that I'm spouting off like an aggrieved sailor, just I sometimes say things that strike me as quite funny but that might not really be things we'd want her picking up.

For example, this evening — I'm on the kitchen floor; Evelin and Celeste are in the diningroom. The safety gate that closes off the kitchen is in place. Evelin was encouraging Celeste to walk over to me, and she eventually did. I'm sticking my hands though the bars, which made Celeste laugh. I say: "Do you like visiting daddy in jail?"

I thought it was pretty funny; Evelin could imagine Celeste telling someone how much fun it is to visit daddy in jail. Which in and of itself is funny, too, but I could see how it might raise questions.

Only moderately connected are these two photos: Evelin didn't think it was so funny to show Celeste how to bang on the bars with a tin cup. I was just disappointed I couldn't get her to say "Attica! Attica!"

Attica! Attica! Attica! Attica!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Check It Off the List 

All summer I've been meaning to get someone out here to look at our oak trees — we have three, including a big twin-trunk one in the back. At C---'s recommendation, I checked the International Society of Arboriculture's search service and came up with a few names. It took me a while, but I finally set up an appointment for someone to come out ... they never showed.

Fast-forward to today. Celeste and I were both napping upstairs; Evelin was reading on the couch downstairs (or so she claims ... I suspect she might have been napping too). The doorbell rings. Celeste slept through it. I jumped straight up. I heard Evelin talking to someone, saying that she needed to talk to me.

I turned out some guys were doing tree work in the neighborhood, and wanted to know if we wanted an estimate. If they'd been selling encyclopedias or car-dent-repair services, I'd probably have said no, but I did need to get the trees checked, so the guy and I talked about what I wanted — diseased/dead bits out, no gratuitous thinning — and he gave me a price.

An hour or so later, he and the crew drove up and went to work. A few medium-sized limbs, a bunch of small things, and one very large limb later, they were done. They even cut down and chipped up the fig tree Evelin’s hated for years. (The stump remains, so I'll have to deal with that, or we see if it regrows in a way we can keep trimmed to bush sized.)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Idiosyncrasy Meme 

id•i•o•syn•cra•sy — a structural or behavioral characteristic peculiar to an individual or group. Write down five of your own idiosyncrasies, then if you wish, tag five people.

MC tagged me with this a few days ago, but it's taken me a little while to think about it...
  1. I can be amazingly unresiliant. In general, I am pretty good at 無為 (wu wei); however, at the same time, I can also be really stuck in my ways, pigheaded, and resistant to change, usually over things that are probably quite small and petty.
  2. I don't own many stocks, just a few that are part of my Roth IRA, but despite my small holdings I take voting my proxy very seriously ... and I get a bit of pleasure from voting in favor of stockholder initiatives that the company opposes, so long as they are promoting better corporate governance, human rights, or something else I agree with.
  3. Apple makes some fine tools for graphics, design, and video production (and, yes, Wintel machines can be buggy as hell), but I still have trouble thinking of Macs as computers. As Ratbert once said: "Don't lie to me Gustav ..." And, yes, I think iPods, for the most part, are overpriced fashion accessories; there are cheaper MP3 players out there that work just as well.
  4. I need to clean up as I cook or at least delay the start of the meal until the kitchen is close to being under control.
  5. I love dogs; I'd like to have a dog; but I keep avoiding the chance to get a dog.

Things I've Missed 

There are a few things I've meant to blog over the past month or so of 過労死 — giant squid on film, gator-eating snakes, and I'm sure other things I just can't think of right now.

Last night, Evelin reminded me that I never blogged about being awoken in the middle of the night by a potential intruder.

I don't remember exactly which night it was, maybe a Tuesday night, so I wasn't getting up early, but Evelin shook me awake around 2:00 a.m. saying she thought there was an animal either trying to get in or already in our bedroom. The nights have turned cooler and while I don't like having the windows open if it's raining, Evelin's been pretty insistent about having them open at night no matter what. But on the night in question there was no rain. There was, however, an odd noise just outside the window. Listening closely while trying to find my glasses, I figured there was something outside ... a raccoon (Procyon lotor) was in the cedar tree on a branch not too far from the window. It was too thin of a branch for the raccoon to come any closer to the house, and I wonder what it was doing there — maybe poaching eggs from a nest (although it seems late in the year for that) or going after some sleeping birds? I got a flashlight and kept the raccoon spotlighted until it got tired and decided to head down the tree. I then followed it with the light across the backyard and over the neighbor's fence.

100 Most Challenged Books Meme 

Meme from PoliBlog (via The Yin Blog): Which of the The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000 have you read?

#05 – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
#06 – Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
#07 – Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
#13 – The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
#18 – The Color Purple by Alice Walker
#22 – A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
#37 – The Handmaiden's Tale by Margaret Atwood
#39 – The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
#41 – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
#42 – Beloved by Toni Morrison
#47 – Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
#52 – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
#56 – James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
#57 – The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
#69 – Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
#70 – Lord of the Flies by William Golding
#71 – Native Son by Richard Wright
#84 – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
#85 – Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
#90 – Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman

Hurm, I'm not sure what that says about me, if anything. The list, compiled by the American Library Assocaition, is pretty interesting in the range of things challenged. The only one I think I could back a ban of is Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford; that guy freaks me out.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Dinosaurs and a Carousel 

Sure, as soon as I blog about the napping, Celeste decides to change things up (at least for one day). This morning, she slept in — until almost 7:30 a.m. — thus the morning nap didn't happen. When I got home around 12:30 p.m., Celeste had been asleep for about 90 minutes. She eventually woke around 1:10 p.m.

Since the 2:30 p.m. nap wasn't going to happen, Celeste and I decided to head down to the National Museum of Natural History to see what she though of dinosaurs. We were lucky and found a decent parking place near the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. Walking through the garden, the first thing to really catch her attention was Barry Flanagan's "Thinker on a Rock." I explained to her it was an allusion to Rodin's "Le Penseur" [Paris or Philadelphia], and she replied "Ga?"

The next big adventure was the security check to get into the museum but as soon as we cleared the magnetometers she was mesmerized — mostly by all the people to stare at.

In the Dinosaur Hall, much of her attention was on all the people, but she also spent a good bit of time staring at the Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops prorsus, and (in the Ancient Seas exhibit) Basilosaurus cetoides. We then wandered a bit further into the museum, taking in the "Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab" exhibit (Celeste liked some of the music playing; I guess I should dig up some of my bhangra CDs for her ...) and ending up at the back of the Hall of Mammals. This is what Celeste loved the most. She kept craning her neck from left to right and hopping in her stroller and/or my arms trying to take it all in ... and she gave the lion a big roar when she spied him. After a quick trip though the gift shop, where Celeste scored a copy of Giraffes and I picked up a sale copy of Kangaroos in Outback Australia, we headed back outside.

We were heading back to the car (it was a bit after 3:00 p.m., and I had to move the T.R.U.C.K. by 4:00 p.m. because of rush hour parking restrictions), but then Celeste and I both heard the carousel. By the time we crossed the Mall, the carousel was going and Celeste and I watched it go 'round a few times. When it stopped, I asked Celeste if she wanted to ride it, and she seemed interested. Once we were aboard, it took a little while for Celeste to choose her horse; she picked a white one with a gold and blue saddle on the outside edge of the carousel. I sat her on it, and she grabbed the pole and then looked at me as if to say "now what." Soon there after, the bell rang and we were off. The first two or three trips around, she just stared forward with the wind blowing her hair back, then she turned and wanted me to pick her up. We spent the rest of the ride either switching to the horse in the middle course, back to the outside course horse, or being held. When we left, I told her to tell the horse thank you and goodbye and she spent most of the walk back across the Mall waving to the carousel.

When we got home, Celeste and I were reading Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs! and I'm not 100% certain, but I really think she was working hard at saying "ninnonoaha" and "dididinana" (dinosaurs).

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Discuss Amongst Yourselves ... 

Well, I guess that could have been much worse. As I mentioned yesterday, I don't do public speaking: I'm phobic, nervous, shy — however you want to characterize it, I don't do it. I probably should for personal and professional reasons, but I don't.

Which is why it was more than a bit odd to find myself sitting on stage at an Academy for Educational Development event this afternoon. A coworker had been asked to add his perspectives to the panel and in agreeing he asked me to come along too to offer an international perspective. P---, while not necessarily at home on panels like this, has theatre training and does some acting.

Me, the last time I did anything like this was my senior year in college, defending my undergraduate thesis and reading a letter from Jamin Raskin to the rally a group of us organized to protest David Duke (then making a bid for the U.S. Senate) speaking on campus at the invitation of the College Republicans. In both instances, things didn't go too well. At the rally, I slipped into a bit of a monotone and my voice trailed off as the letter went on; during the thesis defense, I started reading instead of explaining and my thesis director ended up cutting me off to help me get to my conclusion.

So, even though I am interested personally and professionally in what radio can do to aid development efforts, I was pretty torn about agreeing to join the panel. It took me about two days to convince myself, and after I agreed, I felt a bit sick.

This afternoon, when I arrived at AED and got the pretalk prep, I asked if I could have a vomit bucket for next to my seat on stage (I'd warned them that I was nervous and didn't really do these sorts of things). Everyone thought it a terribly funny/witty thing to ask for. I wasn't really joking.

The panel was set up so that I didn't have to have prepared remarks. Instead the authors of the book spoke first and then P--- and I responded. P--- agreed to take the microphone first and to basically lob the discussion over to me after that. As the speakers went through their points (and it was an interesting discussion about how effective radio can be at disseminating information and education to a wide group of people as part of aid/education/development activities), I was feeling pretty good about things. I was okay on stage, glancing around the audience. Making some quick notes about what was being said and lining that up with the information/ideas I'd jotted down while preparing for the event. But as the microphone passed to P---, the realization that I would be speaking came up pretty strongly. And, then, when he lobbed things over to me ...

Well, I didn't need the vomit bucket and it wasn't the spectacular failure that I probably feared, but I did sort of rush through my three or four points, reiterating what I thought was one of the most important issues (the importance of being as local as possible, including using local languages/dialects to the greatest extent possible), and then passed it back to the organizers.

During the Q&A portion, only one of the questions was directed at a specific individual, but I managed to add a few points as part of some of the answers. And there was only one total brain/tongue freeze moment when I stammered over a verb. (I think I was trying to say "link up" but it was coming out "look" or something and I ended up stammering over the word a few times before switching to "hook up.")

Afterward, the organizers all pointed out that I didn't need the bucket, and said that I did fine. I have some doubts, but it wasn't the horror show I feared, so maybe I'll be a little quicker to respond if I ever get another such invitation ... but I think I will demand that vomit bucket.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Tuesday Night Gerunds 

Catching ... up with Celeste (and making use of MC's gerunds meme)

Toddling ... This, of course is the big one. Celeste is getting much, much braver with turning away from the couch, ottoman, armoire, parent, etc., to walk across the room or even from room to room. Over the weekend, she spent a good 15 minutes just walking 3 meters from me to Evelin and back again, over and over again. There are times she needs encouragement and/or the promise of a hand just out of reach, but other times, she just up and goes — like the time I had my back to her and she set out from the livingroom couch, started toward me, stopped, turned, and headed to the gate that blocks the kitchen from the diningroom to see what Evelin was up to.

All in all, she's impressively steady, but she does tend to be either slow and determined or on a tear, which can sometimes end in a semi-controlled lunge toward Evelin or me. Of course all this walking leads to ...

Bruising ... Right now, she has matching bumps and slightly purple marks on each side of her forehead: one from a fall into a chair in the house yesterday, the other from a slow fall to the sidewalk this afternoon.

It comes with the territory and none of her falls have been too bad (although a few have been pretty spectacular). If she doesn't land on her face, we try to scoop her up quickly and confuse her with praise, but there are times that the tears take a bit longer to fade.

Scooting ... Despite the improved walking, Celeste still isn't too keen on pulling herself to a standing position much less figuring out how to get standing if she isn't near something that can help her get upright. So she still scoots her way across the room fairly often. The funniest, however, is when she tries to scoot up the stairs.

This afternoon, she did some practicing of trying to use her hands and feet to get up the stairs (she was already standing), but her usual MO is to scoot over to the stairs, get one foot onto the first step and then to try the scooting motion that usually propels her slowly across the floor. She's never made it up the stairs this way, although she has had one or two near falls when she's managed to get both feet on the step while her bottom remains on the floor.

Eating ... Last night, Celeste proved herself a pancake fiend. Evelin'd been talking about pancakes for a few days now and since the quickest meal on the week's menu was at least vaguely Indian, she wasn't interested. (She and Celeste had met friends at Udupi Palace for lunch.) So the pancake idea moved to the forefront of her mind.

At the aforementioned lunch, Evelin ordered a pea and onion uthappam for Celeste, but she wasn't too interested in it at the restaurant so Evelin brought it home. As part of her dinner, we tried it again and she liked it, although there were some bites where she focused on picking out the peas from the pancake.

[ASIDE: Although Celeste's food whims can change from day to day, I think part of wanting the uthappam for dinner but not lunch might have been due to seeing me sneaking a few bites. There are times it seems she views me as her official food taster; if I eat it and don't fall ill, it must not be poisoned and therefore Celeste wants to eat it too.]

The really funny bit, however, was when Evelin pulled out the blueberries for the pancakes. Celeste loves blueberries. She started the full body thump at the sight of them, so she got some and the pancakes got some.

While I kept her supply of blueberries current, Evelin started cooking the pancakes, and I got the first one off the griddle. Being a bit daring, I tried to eat it while sitting right next to Celeste. Evelin had given her a wooden spoon to play with and as soon as she saw I was eating whatever it was I had, she started trying to poke my pancake with the spoon. It was too hot (especially the blueberries) to just give her a bite, so I broke down some pieces for cooling and had another bite. That just offended Celeste. In the end, she had about two-thirds of my pancake. (Fortunately for all involved, more were forthcoming and a few were even left over to have on tap for future meals for Celeste.)

Teething ... It seems two of the first-year molars are in. The other two ... we're not to sure about. She was acting like her teeth were hurting her some last week, but as of today it looks only like it might be that fourth lower front tooth that might be (finally) coming in.

Napping ... After a few months of just one midday nap, Celeste seems to be cycling back to two naps per day. The downside is that the first nap is coming between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. (in part because she's been getting up early). The second nap is running later in the afternoon, sometimes coming dangerously late in the day. Twice now, I've had to wake her around 4:00 p.m. just to ensure we don't have too much slippage of her bedtime. With that late nap, she's tending to go down for the night some time between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. (before, she'd often be asleep by 6:30 p.m.), which means I'm much more likely to see her on my "normal" workdays.

Signing ... She's getting very good with some signs: MILK, BABY, WATER, MORE, CHEESE, BATH, UP (although that could just be a stretching of the arms and not a sign), NAP/SLEEP (we think), and, on a few occasions PLANE. I'm sure there are some others (she does parse several signs, such as EAT, that she doesn't use herself), but the WATER one has been pretty handy. (It took us a little while to catch on because she's sort of slapping her ear instead of making a W handshape near her mouth, but she's definitely asking for a drink.)

Brushing ... One last sign Celeste picked up very quickly is BRUSH TEETH, and she is very good about remembering to have them brushed. Last Thursday, we were about halfway through her bath when she stopped playing with some of her toys, looked at me, and started running her finger over her teeth. I'd forgotten about brushing her teeth, so she reminded me. Pretty clever this one is ...

I'm sure there's more, but it's after 10:00 p.m. and I'm zonked.

Brain Dump to Blog 

Just a quick brain dump. I really need to give Celeste a full third gerunds [ 1 | 2 ] entry, but the quick run down is toddling, eating, teething, sleeping/napping, bumping, and purring [WAV*].

I'm getting caught up with work, but have signed on to participate in a seminar panel tomorrow ... and I'm a bit terrified. I don't do public speaking, but the seminar topic is personally and professionally interesting and I might actually have something to contribute, so I agreed. Urgh.

* Okay, I can't let the soundfile go uncommented. Over the weekend, Evelin started asking Celeste about cat noises; figuring "meow" might be too difficult, she focused on purring. Celeste is now blowing a big raspberry when we ask what a cat says. The WAV doesn't quite do her justice (she was busy trying to play when I decided to try to record her), but it is pretty funny ... and, if you're in her line of spit, wet.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Rogue Recyclers Redux 

I heard back from the county about the rogue recyclers. It turns out there's been a change in subcontractors on top of the city handing off the responsibility for recycling to the county. Somewhere along the line the fact that part of my street is a Thursday pickup for trash and recycling while the rest (including my part) is a Friday pickup didn't make it all the way down the line. According to the e-mail I received today from the county:
Recently, there have been some personnel changes within Waste Management, the contractor responsible for collecting in this area is new. This has resulted in some of the Friday bins being collected on Thursday and the contractor did not realize that Longfellow Street was split between two collection days. The contractor has been notified of this unusual collection situation and the area will be closely monitored in the coming weeks to ensure that the recycling is collected on the designated collection days.
So I guess there's not much money to be made as a "freelance" recycler ...

One funny aside: I guess using a first initial with my name (T. Carter Ross) threw the person composing the reply e-mail because it was addressed to "Citizen Ross." I've had instances before where people think "Carter Ross" is my surname and they don't want to guess the sex of "T.", but this is the first time the appellation/title "Citizen" has been used to address me in that situation. It has a sort-of "soviet chic" feel to it ...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Olive Oil 

A bit of a realization last night: When I was kid vegetables pretty much always were accompanied with butter — peas, butter; (cooked) carrots, butter; broccoli, butter, uzw.. Nowadays, it seems, my favorite vegetable recipes involve tons of olive oil — φασολάκια, loubieh bi zayt, lima beans, uzw.. (The farmers market had fresh baby lima beans again ... they were so good.)

Part of the realization came because I finished up the big jar of Al Toor olive oil I bought a few months ago. There's a Palestinian grocery near my office that I always like to go to for olive oil; they generally have big tins of it from Greece, Spain, Jordan, Tunisia, and other places, and most of them have turned out to be pretty tasty. I don't know for sure why (I did have a bad experience with a Spanish olive oil once), but I tend to like the ones from the Levant best, so Mount of Olives has been my go-to place for olive oil for a while now.

The last time I was there, however, it seemed like they were cutting back on some of the variety of the oils, at least in terms of the big, 3+ liter containers I tend to buy. I ended up with a 3-liter glass bottle of Al Toor, a Jordanian olive oil that looked a bit green to my eye and that was packaged in a large glass jug instead of a tin.

I spent a bit of time poking though my other options — a few Spanish ones, a Greek brand in a can that looked like it'd been on the shelf for quite a while, smaller bottles that looked tasty, but very expensive compared to the price:volume of the big tins — so I eventually went with the Al Toor. When I got to the counter, the shopkeeper and another guy were conversing in Arabic. I put down my jug of oil and they started talking about it.

I don't speak Arabic, so the paranoid side of me started wondering if it was a bad oil or something. I smiled, they nodded and one of them picked up the jar and held it too the light. Some more words in Arabic were exchanged and they pronounced it a good oil.

We all then chatted in English a bit about my purchase. The shopkeeper inquired about my heritage that I would need so much olive oil; I explained that we ate olive oil pretty much every day and that such a bottle would only last two or three months in our house. (I seem to have not blogged this incident, so I can't check my estimate.) He said he and his family would go thorough such a bottle in about three weeks, largely because they would eat the oil with bread and za'atar almost nightly.

Given this, I shouldn't have been surprised when I went into the store today to find that the olive oil selection seemed even thinner than before. There were two small bottles of Al Toor, but I ended up with a 1.5 liter bottle of Nabulas brand olive oil. I don't know if it's from the West Bank or not (there's no indicator on the label, unless it's in the Arabic portion, which I haven't tried to puzzle out), but the shopkeeper insisted it was good oil, and he didn't steer me wrong last time.

[ASIDE: The preceding not withstanding, I am apparently not the only one consuming more olive oil these days. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Olive Oil Council, as well as the North American Olive Oil Association, the U.S. imported 12,071,925 gallons of edible olive oil in 1984, as of 2004, we were importing 71,324,150 gallons.]

Happy Ramadan

Since I was headed over to Mount of Olives, I figured I could stop at the Iranian place nearby for lunch or, failing that, maybe get a falafel from the Palestinian place next door or one from the Lebanese place up the street. But seeing the note on the door that the store would be closed each evening for the iftar, I remembered what that it was Ramadan and while I might not be a Muslim, it still seems like it would be awkward at best to go to a restaurant where many of the staff and regulars would be fasting. So, I picked up a sandwich from the deli instead.

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