Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Square one, or thereabouts

Last year I made my children cry by telling them I didn't want a birthday party. Apparently that's not allowed.

So this year I knew I'd have to do something. I'll be 40 on Friday and Bob'll be way older than that a week later, and we had a plan; a picnic with the neighbors. Sadly, we have no grill or yard in which to implement such a plan, but Bob solved that one by reminding me about the park up the mountain, which would do nicely.

So that was all set and I invited my favorite neighbors, who have kids and everything, and there was going to be a party.

Only now it turns out they can't make it, so I ask of you:

How far away from the actual birthdays can we have the event and/or what other sort of celebration can we hold that will satisfy my children and not be too much work for us?

Monday, June 29, 2009

In which Queen and the Village People assist me in exploring the generation gap with my children

So, it was a standard Monday morning. Julia was up and eating and chattering away, and Robin was sleeping. Aggressively.

Julia often asks me to look things up on YouTube so she can see the videos for songs she's heard from friends or learned at school. (One advantage of sending them to a semi-Montessori, kid-positive, friendly sort of school: When the English or music teachers need to teach the kids a song, they tend to pick things like the Beatles and Bob Marley.)

This morning, she asked me to look up two songs:

Running commentary as she watched:

It's a funny video. Look, there's an indio, a vaquero, a constructor, and that one...he looks like...I guess he's a rebelde. And that one is like...what's it called? A guy from la guerra. And that one, I don't know what he is. Oh! He's like a policía, because look [at the handcuffs], only he doesn't look like one.

Then she wanted to see this:

Robin was up by this time, and decided she didn't like the black and white leotard. I told her some rock stars like to dress in unusual ways, and naturally had to provide her with a handy example.

"Oh." she said. "My."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday joke, courtesy of Robin

A guy gets out of work and heads for home. He thinks to himself:

I could take a bus or a cab.
If I take a cab, there's no problem.
If I take a bus, one of two things could happen.

I could get a seat, or have to stand.
If I have to stand, there's no problem.
If I get a seat, one of two things could happen.

I could sit by myself or next to someone else.
If I sit by myself, there's no problem.
If I sit next to someone else, one of two things could happen.

I could sit next to a man or a woman.
If I sit next to a man, there's no problem.
If I sit next to a woman, one of two things could happen.

We could keep to ourselves or talk to each other.
If we keep to ourselves, there's no problem.
If we talk to each other, one of two things could happen.

We could either fall in love or not.
If not, there's no problem.
If we fall in love, one of two things could happen.

We could get married or not.
If not, there's no problem.
If we get married, one of two things could happen.

We could have children or not.
If not, there's no problem.
If we have children, one of two things could happen.

One of our children could grow up to be an architect or not.
If not, there's no problem.
If one of our children grows up to be an architect, one of two things could happen.

Our child could build us a house, or not.
If not, there's no problem.
If our child builds us a house, one of two things could happen.

The house could fall down, or not.
If not, there's no problem.
If the house falls down, one of two things could happen.

I could be inside and get killed, or not.
If not, there's no problem.
If I'm inside and get killed, one of two things could happen.

I could go to heaven or...
I'd better just get a cab.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Just desserts

So, I've cleaned the kitchen, including some spots I don't even usually get to see, done laundry, read 25% of a new book, made cake (and took some to a neighbor), ordered pizza, arranged for videos, and invited a friend over for each of the girls.

I don't know which part of that earned me the reward, but the game of the hour is "who can be the quietest for the longest."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fourth grade science homework: Invent a new form of energy

Robin's is hamster powered, but she insists that they are either to invent something completely new, or combine two existing forms of energy in a new way. Therefore, the kinetic energy of thousands of hamsters running on wheels is, on its own, inadmissible. She wants to use the movement of the wheels to generate friction and thereby heat, and use the heat as her energy source.

I simply can't endorse it. So inefficient.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dear Alan Alda, You're still in good health, right?

Back when I was aware of Ed McMahon (86), Farrah Fawcett (62) and Michael Jackson (50) on a day-to-day basis, the news that each of them would pass away shortly before I turned 40 would have sounded reasonable to me; being young and immortal at the time, the prospect of entering my own 40s would have to mean that everyone, particularly people who were already grown and famous, would be impossibly old by then as well.

Turns out that's not the case at all.

Forty--as anyone who has attained the age can attest--is in fact surprisingly young, once you actually get there (week from tomorrow, thank you very much), and the adult stars of my youth are likewise, many of them, still entirely "too young to die" - except insofar as some of them still do.

Rest in peace, y'all.

He's a well respected man about town, doing the best things so conservatively

Margie the morning show DJ just happened to play The Kinks' A Well Respected Man right before reading off the headline news today.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sometimes change is good. Or would be, if there were any.

If you were charged with making a computer version of the game Operation, would you find it necessary to replicate the sound of the original game's buzzer when a player touches an edge?

I didn't think so.

I've always liked you.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Today in things you don't see every day

Natural-health folks visiting the shop to discuss solar power for the oh-so-environmentally-friendly retreat they're building ... and arriving in a Hummer.

In their defense, the vehicle belonged to their companion, not them. But I still get to tell the anecdote.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wow, that's one potent tummy virus

So, I haven't seen the girls for a week. I'm sitting there at work, an hour before quitting time, and I get a call from Julia, who says she's been kept home from school because of vomiting last night. And right then and there, over an hour before I even see her, I start feeling it myself. How suggestible am I?

Fortunately, I'm pretty sure mine is entirely sympathetic, and hers seems to have been of the 24-hour variety because the child has not stopped eating since she got home. She also jumped up every single step when we returned from borrowing something downstairs earlier, and she's currently blazing her Future Overlrod way through Green Eggs and Ham.

I did some preventative laundry this afternoon so if sheets are soiled tonight I'll have clean ones to put on the bed in the morning, but I purely hope they don't because the sheets currently on the bed haven't even been slept on yet.

Oh, and because I hope my child doesn't vomit. In my bed. That too.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Things that make me think of Dad

Happy father's day

Saturday, June 20, 2009

So, apropos of nothing or anything, but I just thought I'd point out

Most Costa Ricans:

A) Don't have lawns

B) Don't have lawn sprinklers

C) Were they in possession of A) A lawn and B) A lawn sprinkler, still wouldn't water said lawn two hours before it's due to pour buckets, as it does every day. And frequently floods, at that particular spot.

Carry on.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I left work two hours earlier than usual today; well before any rain would be falling anywhere in the area. I didn't even close my car windows while at work, because I knew for sure it wouldn't rain before I left. And it didn't.

But I still got a smattering of drops on the windshield at that one spot on the way home. Maybe they rented a microclimate.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Should I be taking this personally?

The rainy season is pretty predictable here, once it settles in.

Some days it doesn't really rain much, but most days it does, and on those days it pours buckets starting right around 2:00 - just in time for my drive home and kids getting out of school and all kinds of outdoor stuff.

In fact, I usually drive into the rain at about the same point in my homeward commute each day.

So how come today, when I worked two hours later than usual, it still started raining right at that spot?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Meta derivative

Crocs with sox
Girls in frox
Bagels with lox
Birds in flox

Plummeting stox
Paint-covered smox
Ears like Spox
Poetry that shox

(It's all Steve's fault. Or maybe Christina's.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Braking news

We went back to the mechanic this afternoon. He drove the car and couldn't really feel the steering issue either, but he agreed that the brakes could use some adjusting, and too look under the front end to see what he could see.

He did find a part (that I didn't know how to say in English at the time, and don't remember how to say in Spanish now) that was quite worn out on both sides, especially the left - which is also the side with a more pronounced lump in the steering. (It's there, I swear it's there. Just because nobody else could feel a thing...) The shop is supposed to call me once they find out how much the parts will cost - it's the part that shall not be named, a bushing and a couple additional things that connect to each, on each side. The labor should run something like $50.

He adjusted the rear brakes as much as he could (and we had them rotate the tires as long as they were all off the car at once). He said (and showed me) that we need to replace the shoes. That was done less than nine months ago, but they're worn out again (it's hilly country here), so replace them we must. He says that vulcanized ones will last longer, grab better and possibly even be cheaper, so we'll get those. However, for that he has to actually take the part in for...I dunno, vulcanizing I guess. So I'll take the car back on Friday and he can take his sweet time with it then. The brake work sounds like it's going to run about $60 all together, and they didn't charge me anything for what they did today, since I'll be back in a couple of days for the bigger job.

I do like a small town.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Remember, folks, I'm the only one who's allowed to call the car that; from anyone else it would just sound snide.

I'm not sure whether to thank my car for waiting till payday, or roll my eyes and accept that this isn't the month I start building up the savings either.

You'll notice (since I'm pointing it out) that I haven't used the Car Trouble label once since I bought the Purple Hatchback of Loveliness (TM) almost exactly a year ago. This is not because the car has been maintenance- or repair-free, but simply because I have decided to like this car and be glad we found each other, and the things I do to it and for it are therefore not to be classified willy nilly as Car Trouble.

Nevertheless, it is a car that requires its fair share of attention, and its latest bid for such is a need to have both the brakes and the steering checked. Now, that makes the whole safety issue sound rather more dire than it is. The brakes need adjusting, yes, and that'll be done tomorrow, since the mechanic was all tied up with a more challenging case than mine* when I went in today. But the car still stops and everything. You just have to be a little more persuasive with the brake pedal than may be strictly ideal, especially for the first half mile in the mornings.

And the steering thing is subtle enough that the three people besides myself who have driven it recently haven't really even noticed it. So that maybe can wait another few weeks, especially if it turns out to be a Big Expensive Thing.

* And by "challenging" I mean that, while I stood and waited, and before we determined that coming back another day would benefit us all, the mechanic went from hanging from the Challenging car's suspension with his full weight and bouncing up and down, to looping a handful of rusty chains around said suspension and thence around a stationary portion of the lift, tying a knot in the chains, and then jacking the car up a few more notches on said lift. Whilst, and at the same time (and this was the part that stood out to me), keeping his hand on the (rusty) chains as the tension on them increased. For my part, I chose to wander back over to where Bob was sitting in my car, out of range of any chain-popping fun.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

House of cards

I had a second picture to post as well, but something's up that's not letting me, so here's the one for now:
Ah, there it is:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tuna a la Mode

Robin's been at a friend's house all day, so Julia and I watched a movie (again), played some cards, did a puzzle, and tried out a new scone recipe.

We struck a deal with Bob - scones in the afternoon in exchange for tuna cakes and mashed potatoes at supper time.

Plus a little entertainment in the form of Julia's impression of Edna Mode from The Incredibles.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Nobody would argue that it's not educational at least

Robin's class was asked to watch The Mission by their art teacher.

I was asked to watch that for school once, but not at age 10.

The moms of the other two fourth graders on our street were as taken aback as I was. We're not sure if it's part of an overarching curriculum--they do study history and all, and it's not like they're going to sugar coat the conquest or the fate of the indigenous people, particularly at this school--but I would have expected some sort of communication to the parents about the movie and the school's approach to discussing it, rather than just a verbal "we're supposed to watch this by next Thursday." It's possible that it was a solo decision by the art teacher, in which case this won't be the last we'll be hearing about it.

Either way, I went ahead and rented it this afternoon, sent Julia to the neighbor's house and had the other two fourth graders over. I read a plot synopsis online, because it's been years since I saw it myself.

It was actually a bit anticlimactic, and I mean that in a good way. For one thing, there was no Spanish audio track, so we had to watch it in English, which put it at a remove for two of the three girls. And then the Spanish subtitles were in a very formal, literary Spanish that they're not used to seeing, and weren't as large or readable as subtitles usually are here.

And, of course, there was the fact that I had three 10 year old girls (well, two tens and a nine) on a couch, and they spent a lot of the time sitting on each others' laps and being reminded of things from school and generally distracting each other.

In this case, I think that was a good thing. I skipped one murder because I didn't remember how explicit it might be, and then just drew their attention to the major plot points. I stopped it for good 25 minutes from the end (it's a very long movie) when I'm pretty sure the only thing remaining was the massacre of all the priests and most of the Guaranís. I told the girls how it ends, and they agreed that they didn't need to see that.

So I'm glad that's taken care of, and I'll be interested to see if it turns into any sort of a Thing once all the parents have rented it for and, presumably, watched it with their fourth, fifth and sixth graders.

Now we're going to kick back and start the weekend for real with a different sort of movie.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The crochet bug is back

One of the teachers at the girls' school is teaching some of the kids to crochet, so interest has revived.

Robin and I spent a good chunk of Tuesday evening untangling four skeins of yarn that had mingled, unsupervised, first in a large salad bowl and later on the floor, since last they held anyone's interest.

Robin picked the technique up quickly when I taught her back in January, and is clearly enjoying it now as well. Already this afternoon, she's made several inches of progress on the project she started at school.

Never one to be left out, Julia has started making a crochet chain. It's like twelve feet long, and she's decided she wants to make the longest one in the world. She got me to look up the world's record (cause you know there is one), and it turns out she only has 37.999 miles to go.

Of course, that's just the official record, dating back to 1986. It rather seems that there's a more recent, well-documented if unofficial chain measuring over 80 miles so, naturally, Julia has revised her goal to 1000 miles.


J: Right that it would be possible to make a [chain] that goes all the way around the world?

Me: Well, it would be possible to make a chain long enough to go around the world, but it wouldn't be possible to actually put it there.

J: Shoot.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Good thing the book I'm reading is good enough to keep me up till 10:00

I was in bed reading last night when I heard a noise from Robin's room. I was pretty sure she was already asleep, but sometimes she leaves things on the bed that later slide off, or the order imposed on the piles of stuff on the floor gives way and something shifts.

I almost ignored it, then I replayed the sound in my head a few times and realized I couldn't reconcile it with the usual sources of nighttime sounds.

I turned on the hall light and looked in. Robin was sleeping and most of the stuff lying around was about where it usually is. Then I heard something and looked down to see...

Maybe I should mention that we have something squeaky in the ceiling above the kitchen, along with a handy access hole.

The night before, the squeaking turned to scrabbling and I was concerned that maybe our one-time rodent visitor had somehow managed not only to find its way back in after we blocked that access hole (an unused drain pipe in the garage), but had also found its way upstairs (not that hard) and up into the ceiling (really a bit of a stretch) and was carousing with the usual squeaky-makers. I was half asleep at the time, and only got as far as hoping nothing died up there, because there is really no way to get it out if anything does.

ANYway, I saw a toy by the doorway move, so I knew there was somebody there, and when I looked closer, I realized it wasn't a toy at all, nor yet (fortunately) a rat, but in fact was the wing of a little bat. Well, actually it was more of a mid-sized bat, trying to figure out what to do next.

I went and took the pillowcase off my pillow and by the time I got back, it had scrabbled to the middle of the doorway, in a nice pillowcase-sized open space, so I laid the (Winnie the Pooh flannel) pillowcase over it and gently gathered up the edges.

I put it down outside and it scrabbled (I know I keep using that word, but if you've ever seen a bat walk, that's the only word for it; they're all feet and thumbs) under the balcony railing, sat for a second, and then flew away.

I know bats always look drunk when they fly, but this one really truly almost hit the power lines--twice--so I wonder if maybe it was new to the whole airborne thing and that's how it ended up taking the trapdoor in the floor ("ceiling" to you and me) rather than whatever their usual means of egress is. In any case, I suspect its parting thought was, "I'm never going through that door again."

Maybe we have bells up there too.

[Oh, and I would have taken a picture, but somebody has my camera. We'd better get a gecko picture out of it, is all I can say about that.]

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The old standby

it's one of those times
ever have a busy week
but nothing to tell?

Well, okay

Big Bang marathon
cat's exeunt fraught but complete
other homely tasks

Monday, June 08, 2009

New 'dos

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Four weeks

So, the cat got a few mentions, but she never actually made it into the sidebar profile text there, or the post labels or anything.

Given what we know about her--that I first got her 15 years ago and she'd had at least two litters by then--the vet figures she's maybe 18 years old.

When she was given back to me, she had infections that weren't healing, a really really bad smell, and some other conditions that don't even bear treating in a cat of her age and condition. There was no question of her lasting for a very long time, but I figured we might be able to keep her comfortable for a time yet. And we did, for four weeks.

As with any pet (and, in a perfect world, any human), it's all about quality of life, and for a while it looked like she might gain/maintain some of that, but today it became apparent that that was not the case. Fortunately, I'm still off work for a couple more days, so we can take her in tomorrow morning.

B'bye, li'kitty.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

I believe a medicinal Rock Ice is in order

So, this evening's culinary adventures included scones and sausage balls, as well as a lesson.

It seems cheese graters purchased in recent memory are actually sharp, whereas most of the graters of my previous acquaintance had been in their various families for generations. Seems a fresh, new grater is actually capable of going right through a thumbnail and into a thumb.


Friday, June 05, 2009

Is it any wonder the man stopped composing songs?

The Wiki page on Tom Lehrer says he lost interest in writing political satire back in the 60s.

Maybe he just ran out of material.

Remember this one?

Something about this post makes me think of it. Maybe it's the CNN "poll" (in the video at the link), which asks:

Are you concerned that President Obama seems compelled to continue to apologize for the United States wherever he travels?
I'd like to suggest a poll topic for next time: "Are you aware of the term 'leading question'?"

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Fifi's big adventure

So, we took the cat back to the vet yesterday, and she thanked us by exploring the neighborhood rooftops while we watched Lady Killers.

Once we realized she was gone, we paused the movie and hatched a variety of schemes, most of them involving me going out windows or stepping out onto roofs. (Rooves? No, I guess we'll stick with roofs.)

I did actually try the roof thing, but by then the cat had jumped down into someplace where she couldn't...well, we weren't sure, but we were pretty sure she was in the landlady's stairwell.

In the morning, we asked someone to look, but there were no cats in the stairwell. And then Bob walked into his place, and guess who was on the couch?

She's spent the day in recuperative slumber, and I'm hoping she'll be none the worse for wear once she's had some time to recover from the long jumps that we believe were involved.

In other news, I inadvertently opened up a second Gmail tab today, and the two tabs offered differing weather reports. I am so disillusioned.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


They went over so well the first time, we decided to do it again. This time, I hired a photographer.

Ken's pizza dough recipe has behaved well two times running, so it's been offered a long-term contract as the Official House Pizza Dough.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Reason #2 to love Costa Rica*

Costa Rica is a very small pond.

It's a wee little thing the size of West Virginia and with half the population of New York City, so events of note are small in scale.

That means that I got to see Sting and Mercedes Sosa (and, for that matter, the Harlem Globetrotters) in a "stadium" centered around a basketball court, not a football field. There's no such thing as bad seats in there.

It means I can reach either ocean in a few hours (I never do, but I can).

And it means that when our nascent quilting community manages to get a major quilt personality to come and give a workshop and exhibit some of her quilts, and one attends the reception, it's a cozy, friendly event spent largely chatting with the actual major quilt personality herself.

Alex Anderson and her husband are warm, charming, lovely people who are clearly thrilled to be in Costa Rica. I'm not going to be able to take her workshop tomorrow, but I'm so glad we went to the reception.

Those of you who went "SQUEEEEE!" yesterday, be sure to check out not just her website, but her new project with Ricky Tims, called The Quilt Show. I haven't explored it in depth yet, but it looks like there is a lot of free content, plus, for a fee, biweekly "TV" shows that you actually watch online.

Welcome to Costa Rica, Alex, and John, and thanks for coming!

* The second installment in an extremely intermittent series.

Monday, June 01, 2009

A potential case of CYA, or perhaps just Laundry Instructions: Fail

The Fancy Pants are 100% linen.

The settings on the iron go, approximately:

  • Nylon
  • Silk
  • Polyester
  • Rayon
  • Cotton Blends
  • Wool
  • Cotton
  • Really, Really Hot
  • Tongues of Flame
  • Linen

And yet the label in the Fancy Pants says "Warm Iron if Needed." I took the iron's word for it.

BTW, I'm ironing the Fancy Pants because we're going to a reception for Alex Anderson.


(All the quilters just went "SQUEEEEE!" and everybody else just went, "Huh?")

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