Friday, December 16, 2011

An Authenticity Crisis

Today's lesson in not making assumptions ...

I stopped in to D.C. Sandwich to pick up two banh mí for lunch (one đậu hủ chay and one bì chay) and had a brief moment of concern when the order ticket was written with a note that looked (to my inexpert eye) like hangul at the bottom. Should I be concerned about the authenticity of the sandwiches? (And really, what does "authenticity" mean or matter when you're talking about a really tasty sandwich?)

I'd asked for no hot peppers on the banh mí, and from the context that would seem to explain the writing. However, I couldn't figure out what the characters were; 으아 was as close as I could get, but that makes no sense and there appeared to be another stroke or two in 아, like a poorly formed/out of proportion 감 or something. (Google Translate renders 으아 as "whoa" ... which I guess could mean "no jalapeños," but that would be some really odd diner slang. 오감 is "five senses," which would seem to be a request for more heat, not less.)

Flipping through a dictionary and Google Translate, I couldn't find any rendering of capsicum (고추류) or jalapeño (할라페뇨) or something similar in Korean that it might be the equivalent of hot pepper. Then I looked at Vietnamese words for hot peppers, wondering if it were a hangul rendering of a Vietnamese word, and came across ớt ... and then pretty quickly realized my mistake ... the first character wasn't 으 or 오 or 우 or anything similar, it was an underlined zero — 0 ớt.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Scottish Tian Tian

It's been seven years since I was a behavior watch volunteer at the zoo. I had to experience all the excitement surrounding the arrival (and departure) of 太山 — Tài Shān, fondly known as 黄油条 (buttersick) — over the fence as a regular visitor to the zoo instead of through the behavior watch camera lenses.

Despite not being there twice a month, I do pay attention when I see mentions of 美香 (Měi Xāng) and 添添 (Tiān Tiān). So imagine my surprise to get an email from Moray Firth Radio offering the chance to win a panda mask:
Celebrations are underway to welcome two very special giant pandas to Scotland... Tian Tian and Yang Guang or 'Sweetie' and 'Sunshine' are the first two giant pandas to live in the UK in 17 years. As part of the celebrations, we're looking for your ideas on what would make the ultimate Scottish welcome for Tian Tian and Yang Guang.
What‽ 添添 is going to leave D.C. to shack up with some other Ailuropoda melanoleuca?

Thankfully that turns out not to be the case. The Tian Tian who now calls Edinburgh her home (at least until 2021) is eight-year-old 甜甜 (Tián Tián) with a rising tone (2) instead of the level (1) tone in添添. Her partner is eight-year-old male 阳光 (Yáng Guāng). It does mean, however, that is going to need a disambiguation page soon.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Power's Out and Back

So Hurricane Irene blew through this weekend (just days after an earthquake, which added to the fun for the weather-phobic second grader). The biggest problem we had was a 23-hour power failure and about five bags of mostly sticks and twigs.

The girls were a little apprehensive trying to fall asleep without power on Sunday night (the power failure happened around 1:30 a.m. Saturday, while the girls were asleep — although Evelin and I were awake, watching the downed line melt the sidewalk —), but they were doing well ... until about 8:05 p.m. when the power flickered back on for about five minutes. Quinlan jumped up and started her "Disney Princess: Ultimate Song Collection", then hit pause to move her blanket and pillow to her preferred sleeping spot on the floor, head next to the air conditioning vent. Sadly, the power cut back off before she could hit play on the CD player, and Q — had to fall asleep without the dulcet tone of Belle and Cinderella.

Flash forward to about 11:30 p.m., and I sit straight up in bed; certain it is 8:something in the morning and we've all overslept. Turns out, no, we hadn't overslept the power had just come back on ... and we'd fallen asleep with most of the lights in our bedroom on. I got up, reset the clock and alarm, turned off the lights that had been inadvertently turned on downstairs, and then went back to sleep.

Flash forward to about 4:45 a.m. I had woken up about 20 minutes earlier and was downstairs making lunches, filling the dishwasher, and a few other chores that required electricity, when I heard Quinlan's princess CD start up. She wakes up early sometimes (and this was quite early, especially since school was cancelled for the day due to wide-spread power failures), but I wasn't going to try arguing with her about it ... and I was hoping she'd fall back asleep.

Flash forward an hour to about 5:45 a.m., Quinlan comes downstairs weeping: "Daddy! I can't fall asleep ..." I told her that it was really early, but it was morning and she could be awake if she wanted. A very excited little girl then spent a good bit of time jumping around and bouncing off the walls — she still thought it was the beginning of the night ...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Conversations From the Backseat

This morning, on the way to the Girls Rock! DC camper showcase at the 9:30 Club ...
Celeste: Lightbulb!

Quinlan: Celeste. Why did you say "lightbulb"?

Celeste: I just say "lightbulb." You know, like when some people say "holy crap"? I say "lightbulb."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

When Theories Hit a Wall

literally ...

I went to tell Celeste good night tonight and ended up knocking over a bit of her furniture. Rewind (that's probably the best idea). After running tonight (and spending some time sitting around in the backyard cooling down), I went upstairs to tell the girls good night. While talking with Celeste, she mentioned that earlier in the week, she'd been spinning around in her room and it made the ceiling fan slow down.

Never being one to pass up the opportunity to explain a physics concept that I'm probably not 100% on top of, I decided it was a good opportunity to explain Einstein's theory of special relativity and how, if one rotates under a ceiling fan in the same direction as the fan then the blades will appear to slow down or, if the speed of rotation at the point of observation matches the speed or rotation, stand still.

To be completely fair, I didn't use the phrase "special relativity" or even "relativity" in the conversation and I may be misremembering or misunderstanding the concept. However, that's all moot because of what happened.

As I tried to explain to Celeste how movement of the observer could influence the perceived motion of the fan, spinning around in a circle, I got progressively dizzier and dozier until I found myself falling over and crashing into her dresser and toy chest.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Aging is a Mental Construct

Tonight Quinlan agreed to let us start reading the Chronicles of Narnia with her. She'd heard parts of the radio play version before, on a long car trip or two when we'd been reading the books with Celeste, but she was worried that the books would be too scary or something. Tonight, however, I started in with the first two chapters of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (yes, we’re sticking with the original publication order) and at first she wasn't paying too close of attention but as soon as Mr. Tumnus starts in with his confession of betraying Lucy, she was riveted.

Until that point, she was paying attention, but not really immersed in the story. This isn't atypical for her. She listens to a story, but is trying to put it into context within her mind and interrupting with lots of tangential observations.

Tonight, Quinn interrupted me when Mr. Tumnus was trying to determine where Lucy appeared from and wondering where the land of Spare Oom and the bright city of War Drobe are and he makes the comment "if only I had worked harder at geography when I was a little Faun, I should no doubt know all about those strange countries."

Quinlan wanted to know what he meant by "if only ..." and I told her that he was saying that you could only learn things when you were little. But I quickly noted that that was a silly idea that people can and do learn things when they’re 6 or when they're 100.

Which, of course, is when Quinlan's brain started churning.

Q: "Daddy? How old is Grandma Lu?"
C: "Grandma Lu is going to be 97 this year."*
Q: "That's crazy. Because Grandma Lu uses a wheelchair, and Ms. Susan doesn't need anything like that."
C: "Well, Ms. Susan isn’t anywhere near 100."
Q: "No! Not Ms. Susan [the neighbor who is helping watch her this summer], Ms. Susan the teacher [from nursery school/pre-K]! "
C: "Oh, that's right, she’s 103."
Q: "No, Daddy, 102."

Last fall, Ms. Susan had a bit of fun with her students (or at least with Quinlan) and confided that she was 102. She’s not. But you cannot convince Quinlan of that fact.

Eventually, we decided that Ms. Susan wasn't a spry 102-year-old because of the rabbit at school or because she worked with kids ... turns out she's just luckier than Grandma Lu.

*I simplify for the purposes of blogging; in fact, it took a moment to figure out which great-grandmother she meant — I should have known it was the only one who is still alive; and once that was settled I said 94, getting her age wrong by a few years.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Up Too Late

On the way to school this morning, I was telling the girls that I hadn’t had enough sleep the night before. I went out with some friends for a late 3D showing of Thor and didn't get home until about midnight, so only about five hours of sleep before the day started.

Celeste said that wasn't good because people need "seven or eight or nine or ten or eleven hours" of sleep. I agreed, but noted that as people age they generally need less sleep, although five hours still wasn't enough.

I also said that some people need more sleep than others, some people do fine with less sleep, and some people think they do fine with less sleep, but really need more sleep.

At which point, Quinlan pipes up: "That's me!"

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Celeste just work up crying because she dreamt that "someone cut down all of our curly tree," referring to our Harry Lauder's Walking Stick (Corylus avellana 'Contorta'), which she loves to play under, picking leaves for the fairies to use as dresses.

Fortunately, it was a fairly easy matter to let her look out our bedroom window and to see that the tree was fine — excepting a few places where someone's pulled off too many leaves.

Yesterday morning, Quinlan woke up screaming. When I went to comfort her, she kept pushing me away, saying she wanted Mumma instead. When I pointed out that Evelin had already gone to work, she cried harder for a little while and complained that I didn't feel as good as Mumma does.

Eventually she calmed down enough to tell me about the dream; I think, she wasn't entirely awake because her explanation seemed still "in the moment."

Apparently, there was a wolf-dog "over there" (pointing at the wall) that was going to bite her neck. My first attempt was to remind her of the very wolf-looking German shepherd dog we met at the farmers market a few weeks ago, but she wasn't looking to like this wolf-dog and she started crying some more.

I then told her that I wouldn't let the wolf-dog hurt her and that I would scare it away ... which, apparently, is why I am not as comforting for her as Evelin is. Quinlan shouted: "Mumma would cut it's head off with a knife!"

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Princesses in the Morning

I'm no monarchist by any means, but I am clued in to mass culture enough to know that the royal wedding was happening on Friday morning. So, when Quinlan woke up at 5:45 a.m., ready to go for the day, I decided to let her watch some of the pomp and circumstance.

Long ago, I lost the battle against Disney princesses a long time ago, unfortunately. It started when Celeste went to kindergarten, and in a way we thought her interest in Cinderella, et al., was good in that it was a socialization and acclimation to her peers sort of a thing. But Quinlan, oh Quinlan, really feel hard for the princesses at nursery school. I'd prefer they had stuck exclusively to Miyazaki's œuvre, much of which they do like, but since they haven't, we've tried to steer them towards the stronger characters — more Mulan and Pocahontas (despite the problems it has) than Snow White and Cinderella — with varying degrees of success/failure.

Despite my misgivings, I have tried to use real-life royals as examples of how princesses can differ from the Disney ideal. For example, when Celeste was in the nascent phase of refusing to wear pants, I tried showing her some pictures of Princesses Catharina-Amalia and Princess Alexia of the Netherlands and Princess Madeleine of Sweden to show her that real princesses can wear pants, even jeans. It didn't really work; she still likes to wear only dresses or skirts.

Despite not knowing a Mountbatten-Windsor from a Montblanc pen, Quinlan was fascinated with the pomp and the ceremony.

There were a lot of questions — I had a lot of trouble explaining primogeniture and why the Duke of Edinburgh isn't the King — but she was entranced by it. When I went to wake Celeste around 6:15 a.m. to see if she wanted to watch any of a royal wedding, she said "That's okay, but Quinlan probably will want to see it" ... and she was right.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Measure Both Ways

So the washer and dryer that came with the house have seen a lot over the years, especially since the kids arrived in 2004 and 2006, including nearly burning down the house and flooding the basement. But the time finally arrived to replace them both. Based on recent experiences of fellow HVL parents, we went with a front-loading washer and a matching dryer (both Kenmore units — a Model #79640272900 washer and a Model #79680272900 dryer), and they were delivered today.

All in all, it went smoothly. Since there wasn't anything complicated going on — just connect the hoses and plug in the machines — I handled the install. It went fine with just one little mistake (getting the hot and cold supplies backwards) that was easily corrected.

The place we had some unexpected difficulty was the delivery. I made sure to measure the doorway to the basement and to compare it with the size of the washer and dryer. I knew it would be tight, but thought we'd be good ... and we were once the screen door and the basement door were removed ... and with only a little scratching of the paint. (Always remember to measure two dimensions when comparing an appliance to the doorway.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Up Above the World So High ...

Quinlan had a rough time getting to sleep tonight. She started off the night being a bit goofy and playing around. She tried to dive on to her bed and misjudged things, hitting her face against the footboard and resulting in many tears.

After some bedtime stories and a little snuggling, she was supposed to get to sleep ... which isn't exactly what happened. Instead, she spent a bit of time crying and complaining. Evelin and I both tried to calm her down, but she was a bit irrational. First she was scared of the light, then scared of the dark. After a bit of discussion about how you can't have the light "in the middle" — you either have the light on or off, the same way you can only either be on a horse of off a horse — I tried raising her shade, figuring the outside light would be bright enough to not be dark without actually being light.

Despite it being a bit cloudy, Quinn was sure she could see a star, so she started singing:
Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like ... Hey! It does look like a diamond ...