Tuesday, December 05, 2006

PBS Interactive

This is cool.

Nova is producing a documentary about the next generation of cars and YOU can help them develop the show. You can suggest who to interview, what to ask, and read the current script.

I never watch Nova but this makes me interested to catch this episode.


So Edie introduced me to this show "How I Met Your Mother," a sitcom about dating, etc. in New York. It's funny, but I often forget to watch it (like all this season).

But then I was flipping through TV Week and found a reference to a viral video marketing tactic that the show used which increased viewership by a million viewers -- more than 10 percent.

Here's a link to the video.

It's hilarious. I guess the premise is that one of the characters on the show is a Canadian who is trying to make it as a TV news reporter in New York. Well, this video is from her teeny bopper days in Canada and is called "Let's Go to the Mall."

If you, like me, went to a Canadian mall in the 1980s, you will enjoy it. My favorite part may just be the rhyme they make with "Tori."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mari's cute

I should probably have something more insightful to say, but Mari's been really cute lately. She's very expressive, moving her eyes around a lot without moving her head (like Susannah Hoffs of the Bangles in the Walk Like an Egyptian video -- you know). And she does the slow nod (in script format):

Do you want a piece of fruit?

Child tilts head up. Hold a beat. Another. Slowly, she
touches chin to chest. Beat. She looks up expectantly.

Also, she's got more hair now, and she's big enough that she's not always automatically crushed by Austin. In fact, she gives him these "hugs" that are essentially headlocks that drive him crazy.

Yep, Mari's cute.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Going vegetarian?

One thing I worry about with kids is that someone in the family is going to be a vegetarian. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course, but I don't want to have to conceive and prepare more than one meal for any one meal time. Call me lazy.

But it might happen. Because of Austin.

And not because he's squeamish -- it's because he's grossing me out. He asked Julie the other day if people ate cats. She told him no. He nodded and agreed that the fur would be awful in your mouth.

And then I roasted a chicken and he ate both drumsticks. And then gloated -- gloated! -- about it afterward: "I ate two chicken legs! The chicken has no legs! He has to bounce around on his belly! Bok bok bok!"

I felt a little ill.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

100th post! More funny kids!

Okay, Austin gets a lot of attention here because of the funny things he says.

Today we made a big deal about getting out of the house earlier so we could go vote. He got really excited and changed his clothes and put on his shoes and jacket much faster than usual. I told Austin that voting was secret so he was whispering, and then I showed him how I filled out the ballot and he helped me put it in the reader. As we left the building, he started to get mad. "We didn't go! We didn't go!"


"You said we were going to a boat and we didn't go!"

And this is classic: while putting on his shoes, Austin turned to me and said: "Daddy, is this a dream?"

What do you mean?

"If this was a dream, we'd still be sleeping, right?"

Right. No, Austin, this is not a dream.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

More Mari

It's been pointed out that Mari gets short shrift on this blog. She needs to talk more!

But she's still pretty funny to watch. She definitely knows what she wants and can be stubborn about putting her shoes or jacket on by herself. She also knows when she's tired.

Sometimes when we're reading to her, she'll just walk away. Once, I called out, where are you going? and she shouted back "I go to bed, Daddy!" Sure enough, she climbed upstairs, went into her room, climbed into the crib and lay down. Just had to throw a blanket on her.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Themed Halloween

Can you guess the theme?

"I am your father!"

"You're our only hope!"

Eyes design: Mari; Mouth: Austin; Carving: Jack

"I want my breakfast!"


I got Austin a Batman reader a while back. It tells the story of Bruce Wayne becoming orphaned, vowing to fight crime and then traveling the world learning crimefighting techniques.

The other day we were reading about Bruce going to Asia to study martial arts with Master Kirigi. For a month, Kirigi ignores Bruce. Then, realizing Bruce isn't going away, Kirigi teaches him the proper way to sweep a floor. A month later, Kirigi teaches Bruce the proper way to make rice. Bruce learns patience and earns the right to learn martial arts.

Austin interrupted me. "Can Bruce cook eggs?"

Um, yeah, he probably can. Why do you ask?

"Because if he can cook rice and cook eggs, he can make fried rice."

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Julia request more pictures. Here's some from apple picking a couple of weeks ago:


Holy moley, has it been that long?

I didn't post at all in September?

My excuse: I've been working at WGBH trying to hold down the fort in Maria's office while she's on maternity leave. The fruits of my labors are here: The Great Fever, Gold Rush, Test Tube Babies.

But funny things still go on, unreported.

Austin is now very bilingual, and has it sorted out enough that he can use either language with anybody. That is, instead of being upset when Julie asks him to speak Chinese, he's happy to teach her new words or correct her pronounciation. Similarly, instead of insisting that we (he and I) only speak Chinese when I pick him up from daycare, we sometimes have conversations in Chinese at home.

At Jenny's (the Chinese daycare), he's got two new friends his age so he's been a lot happier. I think they've been watching videos or at the least hearing stories of Supermonkey. That's what we used to have a book about when I was a kid. More properly, it's Journey to the West, aka Monkey, the folk tale about how a monk went to India in search of Buddhist scriptures. His companions include a mischievous monkey with magical powers and a man-pig, and they fight demons and ghosts along the way.

The three kids play this game all the time and Austin is always Monkey, Ray ray is the pigman and Isabel is a ghost. In fact, Jenny tells me that when Austin is at his other school, the other kids ask where "Ho ge" (monkey olderbrother) is.

That's the setup!

A few weeks ago (possibly in September), Julie was getting ready for work and Austin was standing beside her so she took her brush and made a pass through his hair. And he shouted, "Don't brush my ho mao (monkey fur)!"

Sunday, August 20, 2006

New purchase: Grill

I'm on a roll, aren't I? I think I finally lost my entire readership by slacking off and suddenly I'm pumping lots of prose onto the Internets. Perhaps this proves how insular blogging is.

Anyway, we bought a new grill a few weeks ago and I'm pretty happy with it. Here it is; available only at Lowe's.

The point is not the grill, however, the point is the cooking! For a while, I've been thinking about posting more about food and cooking, especially easy/fast/healthy meals that children will eat in the hopes of encouraging my meager readership to send their own meal ideas.

Here are my meal priorities: Balanced (protein, carb, vegetable), trying to eat more fish and less meat (not for any particular reason, just that meat is easiest and thus if I don't plan vegetarian or fish meals ahead, it becomes all meat), not super expensive, relatively quick cooking time (although sometimes longer prep time if done the night before).

So, to inaugurate my cooking posts, here're some of the things I've cooked on the new grill:

A terrific salmon recipe that I got from Jeff (he got it from the Black Dog Cookbook). The key is the marinade and getting one (or two) of those 2-3lb boneless slabs of salmon from Costco:

Marinade for a big ol’ slab of salmon, marinate from 4 to 48 hours (overnight is good). Makes enough for two slabs. Can use plastic bags for the marinating and then put on the grill.

1 cup olive oil
½ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp chopped parsley
¼ cup basil
¼ cup fresh rosemary
8 garlic cloves
1 tbsp salt
2 tsps pepper

Jeff grills it over fire, i.e. top open. I kept opening and closing the top as I cooked. You'll have to flip the fish at least once and two spatulas are recommended. You can see it's done when the flesh is opaque and don't worry if the slab falls apart -- your guests will eat it so quickly no one will have noticed.

A great end of summer dish especially if you've been growing parsley, basil and rosemary in your garden. Serve with carbs (Julie made Near East couscous -- five minutes) and a salad.

Our kids love it.

I also did a beer can chicken. There are recipes for it all over the web. Read these two and you'll have the basic idea. This one takes longer and is a weekend meal -- a little over an hour on the grill. But the kids love it and it's a spectacle.

Serve it with bread and roasted peppers: quarter them (throw out the seeds, stems and ribs), toss them in olive oil and salt and then set them on the higher shelf for ten minutes and then turn them over for another ten (or just leave them).

Here's the hamburger recipe that I'm slowly refining. Measurements are approximate:

for 5-6 burgers
1 lb ground beef
1 egg
3/4 cup bread crumbs
half a well chopped onion
three tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

I read somewhere to jam your thumb into the middle of each patty so that it looks like a red blood platelet (it didn't mention platelets, that's my helpful and anti-appetizing addition!); then, when the burger shrinks a bit, it still looks like a patty and not a spheroid.

And to end (for now), I tried grilled pizza the other night. Again, read over a few recipes for the basic idea, which I'll now repeat.

Let your dough rise and then roll it out (I've been buying dough from Bertucci's lately). Brush (or dribble) olive oil on one side of the dough and put it on the hot grill, oiled side down. I did this once by putting the dough on a baking sheet and just flipping it out of the sheet; the other time, I tried to drape it down on the grill which stretched it out a bit but turned out fine.

Let the dough cook a few minutes, until the bottom is cooked and stiff. Then (got those two spatulas ready?), flip the dough back onto the baking sheet, cooked side down. On the "uncooked" top, lay down your ingredients -- sauce, previously cooked veggies, meats and cheese. My kids love carmelized onions, broccoli, mushroom and pepperoni (and I use spaghetti sauce from a jar and slice up mozzarella cheese -- not the super fresh kind, but the ones that come in solid balls).

Be prepared: it's not pizza as you know it, but a variation. A yummy variation!

Send meal ideas and recipes!


We've been married for five years!

It feels like it was yesterday; it also feels like it's been 10 years! I'm not sure what that means.

Anyway, on our anniversary, we took the kids to see the Pawtucket Red Sox. Fun! We saw a double steal, a grand slam and a great sliding catch. Actually, I think the sliding catch is the only thing Julie and I both saw -- she also saw a few more homers and some other shenanigans while I was chasing children.

In a previous post, I mentioned that Sarah has pictures of our wedding at her family's photo site.

Travel bargains

I love James Fallows -- he used to edit US News and World Report and contributes regularly to The Atlantic. This month's cover story on Al Qaeda was written by him.

I didn't read it.

There was also a "classic" piece in their series celebrating the history of The Atlantic in which Fallows writes about word processors. Kind of amusing.

What I love reading him for are his tech news and summaries that appear occasionally in the New York Times (often Sunday Business) or The Atlantic. He's obviously a computer geek, but he's a geek who has a proper job -- writing and researching -- that's not dissimilar to my job. So when he recommends a product or website, it usually has relevance and purpose and not just bells and whistles.

That's all to say that Kayak.com is the coolest travel search engine I've seen. Fallows recommended it (in a sidebar to his third contriubtion to this month's magazine) and I tried it in booking tickets to Charlie and Stacy's wedding. You do a quick search of multiple airlines and online sites, and then the left sidebar does a great job of narrowing your search.

Try it, you'll like it!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mari has two dads

Today, Austin said that he's going to get big and become a daddy.

Then he paused and announced, "and then Mari will have TWO daddies!"

Later, in the bath, he was crying and screaming and when I came in he complained that Mari was getting his hair wet and, in fact, she was calmly and quietly taking a cup and scooping water onto his head. I found this hilarious and had to leave so I didn't laugh out loud at him.

Cool link

Check this out: rooms painted with optical illusions.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Favorite food

Last post on Toronto:

Our current favorite Chinese restaurant is Skyland de Shanghai on Silver Star Blvd in Scarborough. Yummy soup dumplings, really nice breaded and fried ribs, and lots of other delicious dishes. Check it out.

Queen Street West

It's become a tradition of our visits to Toronto that my parents graciously watch the kids while Julie and I have a day of shopping and eating out downtown. We usually go down to Queen Street to see what's new in the stores. Last time Julie bought something from Annie Thompson and we went to dinner in Leslieville.

This time we went first to Caban, a lifestyle store from the Club Monaco empire. How to describe it? Club Monaco is like Banana Republic for hipsters. One of my great non-buying regrets involved Club Monaco and a pair of purple pants (the other one involves Miffy, the mouthless bunny). Caban, then, is like ... Pottery Barns crossed with Urban Outfitters without the kitsch.

Anyway, Caban is going out of business (which is why I didn't bother to link to it). on the day we were there, the store had just initiated a 30% clearance on everything and had been diverting all merchandise in Canada to the Queen Street outlet. Needless to say, we found some nice bargains. I think the coup was the $69 pants that were tagged $5 -- and then the cashier took another 30% off. Yes, $3.50 for pants. Yes, that's 95% off the original price. Crazy.

We then drove west past Bathurst and went to Kolkid, a fun store with toys, books and clothes for kids. Julie thinks it might be better next time to shop at the designer cooperatives just down the street. They're neat and it's fun to buy from the designer (Annie Thompson had come from the back of the shop to show Julie all the features on her skirt last time).

We also spent money at Morba, another lifestyle type place, but with more furnishings, including lots of Danish modern and other vintage pieces.

We looked but didn't buy at Timmie's Doggie Outfitters. The website as of now is not live, but the blog has some nice pictures.

Then it was time to eat. We decided to graze and sample a few places. First we had a beer and appetizers on back patio of Squirly's. I may have overdone it, because after that I wasn't hungry anymore.

But we went on to Banu, an Iranian place for some salad.

And then we got to Habitat. Habitat is an interesting restaurant where they served "kaisekis"; essentially tapas inspired by ... anything. You order 3, 5 or 7 kaisekis and they come out beautifully presented.

We had 5 of these bite sized tastes and Julie's first reaction was, "Is that all there is?" and then after the food was explained to us, her reaction was, "Do we have to eat all of it?"

Here's what we had, clockwise from the bottom: foie gras with white beans and fried onions; a sardine on gazpacho; frog legs wrapped in bacon; a ravioli with two sauces and potato foam; and, in that egg shell, an oyster with mushrooms. An experience!

We had told the waiter that I have a mango allergy; Julie wondered if we should have mentioned that she has an aversion to amphibians. (I have to admit, the legs were tasty although a bit fatty.)

That's it for our night out!

In Toronto, with kids

In Toronto, we went to a number of fun places with the kids.

One thing we can recommend is the Kidstown Public Wading Pool in L'Amoreaux Park, Scarborough. I'm not sure if it's worth an hour's drive, but it was definitely worth the ten minute drive from my parents' house. But to call it a Wading Pool is like calling the Hindenburg a balloon. There are all sort of mechanical devices filling with water and tipping over to splash kids, slides and sprayers to run through, and (Austin's favorite) whales to sit on and pump back and forth that will shoot water out their spouts at other people. Lots of lifeguards on duty, a hotdog stand just outside the gate and it costs $1 per child to get in (no charge for adults). Amazing.

Turns out there's also a nice water park in the Toronto Zoo now. This one has environmental themes as you see how water comes from rain, feeds wetlands, goes down rivers and into the oceans and the polar caps.

The Toronto Zoo is a great zoo and we saw lots of great animals, like rhinos, elephants, red warthogs, polar bears, and most amazingly, baby Sumatran tigers! Here's the zoo's tigercam!

We also visited the Chinese Lantern Festival at Ontario Place. This was pretty special: artists were brought to create light sculptures that illustrated either Chinese history and culture, or more modern designs, like Toronto's CN Tower, or dinosaurs. This is going on for a few more months; if you want a coupon, go to this site. More pictures on Flickr here.

Toronto in the summer is great for kid visitors and their parents.

Now Monthly! What we did on our vacation


Back from our trip to Toronto where we had so much fun that this post will read like bullet points.

In case you're wondering, it's about a 9-10 hour drive from Boston to Toronto if you go around the eastern end of Lake Ontario (i.e. Watertown, NY over the Thousand Islands Bridge to Kingston, ONT).

The first night, we stopped in East Syracuse. The next morning, we made a quick drive up to Canada, the last hour or so was spent with me nervously clutching my belly because I forgot to bring our passports. The border guard was nice and let us in with Driver's Licenses and the kids' insurance cards but reminded us to bring their birth certificates next time. Whew!

We had lunch at a nice restaurant overlooking the harbor at Gananoque. We ate at the pub and Julie had Thousand Island dressing on her salad in celebration of our drive so far. I had an Alexander Keith's IPA which was tasty. Ah, Canadian beer.

From Gananoque, we took a nice boat tour to see some of the islands (more than a thousand). We learned that a) ten minutes is about as much of a boat ride as Mari is interested in, b) islands are defined as having i) six square feet of area and ii) two trees, c) gosh darn it's a beautiful place. Lots of the little islands have been in the same family for a century and there are funny stories about some of the sale transactions involving bottles of rum and ridiculously little money. One of my favorite fun facts is that there is a church on one of the islands and you can bring your boat over on Sunday afternoon, anchor, and then sit and listen to the services from your own craft. Must be hard to get much into the collection plate!

That afternoon, we drove into Toronto. No hurricane, unlike last year. In fact, there was hardly a cloud in the sky the whole time we were in Canada. Beautiful!

Okay, next post!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Progress Report


So how are the kids?

Austin suddenly became potty trained. I wish I could explain it but it was really like a switch just turned on.

We've tried for months. I had him put on underwear months ago and he freaked out when he peed. We would make him sit on the potty all the time. Make him go naked in the backyard. Nothing worked.

Then, two weeks ago, I had him at home and he peed a few times in the yard, and then a couple times in the potty. And then I sent him to daycare in his pull-up and caught a plane to Baldwin and Sandy's wedding.

Julie reported that Austin suddenly started peeing in the potty (sitting, but still). And then when we thought he was taking a nap, we heard the sound of the toilet seat bang open and the pitter patter of little feet. He had just pooped in the toilet! It's amazing. He's totally motivated and great at it now.

Mari, meanwhile, is slowly getting more comprehensible in her speech. Instead of just singing phrases with vowels, she's making consonant sounds that match what we're saying.

And she loves to hang.

I may have mentioned this before, but at the playground I found out that she can hang from a bar for a long time -- 30 seconds I once timed her. As Julie and I got more excited about this, she started to do it more. It's really impressive.

At home, we have no bar but she'll go to the dining room table, put her fingers on the top and then curl up her legs and swing back and forth a few times before standing up again. She did this at a restaurant the other day and the other diners were amazed.

When she does this I call her "Hangtime." I think she's going to be a rock climber.

Monday, June 12, 2006

More genetics

So, at the Museum of Science, there was an annoucement that a live animal presentation would happen in five minutes.

We got down to the stage and were waiting, and then a lady comes out and brings a snake out of a pillow case -- a fairly long one (three or four feet?) -- and is telling us about snakes.

Austin was very excited and tugging on my arm. "Daddy, Daddy!" Yes? "What do snakes taste like when you eat them?"

Saturday, June 10, 2006


Wow, can't wait for the header on this one to hit the adbot!

Okay, do you believe that women and men, or boys and girls, are biologically different? Need the final nail in the coffin?

I'm driving home from the Museum of Science with the kids in the backseat and flipping through the radio, listening for 30 seconds and then scanning to the next station. I stop on "I Will Survive" and shortly hear a weird clicking sound. Mari is popping her tongue in time to the music and when I look back, she's waving her arms up and down, too, dancing in the carseat.

Google ads

You may have noticed that I've "sold out" and have a Google ad box floating above this post. This is my pathetic way to earn a few pennies per click, so feel free to just click on it randomly throughout your workday.

Strangely, the ad on it right now (June 10), correlated to all my posts up to now, is for "Bridezilla." Huh? Must be because I've written about... jumping on beds?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Book Review: Smart Moves for the Liberal Arts Grad

So as part of our fun packed Memorial Day weekend (yes, I'm still behind), we went to a party for Suzanne Greenwald, one of the authors of Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads. I haven't read the book through, but flipping around I find it extremely readable (they're mini-biographies, after all), and with lots of tips highlighted in the margins and at the end of each bio.

I also love the fact that there's a separate forward for parents that basically says, "Don't Panic!"

Good gift for recent grads, parents of recent grads, or people in college now. Probably not freshman, but maybe a junior who's decided to major in philosophy but doesn't know what that means for her future.

Oh, here's their website with profiles of the authors.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Like a dog

Lots to report but haven't had time to write, sorry.

The funniest thing that happened in the past couple weeks was when it was hot and we had the kiddie pool out in the backyard.

The kids were running around naked, getting in and out of the pool and then Mari suddenly stopped on the grass in front of me and I smelled something stinky. Yes, she had just pooped standing up.

Austin, horrified, kept yelling, "Mari just went poo poo -- like a dog!"

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Remember Lani Guinier? Clinton nominated her for AG but she had nanny problems -- hey she kind of jump started Caitlin Flanagan's career and this whole immigration mishegas!

Anyway, there's a nice interview with her here where she talks about why the American system of democracy is unfair and suppresses voting, and is generally demoralizing.

"We’re still operating with an eighteenth-century notion of democracy and with eighteenth-century technology in the twenty-first century." Lani Guinier

Monday, May 15, 2006


It's been raining here.

It's been raining for a week.

They say it's going to rain all this week.

I'm not talking about Seattle-esque misting every day. It's been pouring.

Thank goodness our basement is dry and we're fine, but people on the North Shore have rivers overflowing their banks and streets are flooded.

They say it's going to be the worst water disaster since the Hurricane of 1938.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Recently Austin has done something really cute: he reads to Mari. He'll sit and read Brown Bear Brown Bear to her, or even a Chinese book we have about balloons. I especially like when he reads The Monster at the End of This Book because he doesn't know the words but just tells the story.

Some recent favorite books: Traction Man is Here! by Mini Grey; The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordecai Gerstein; and comic books (Justice League Unlimited and Bongo Comics [Simpsons characters] that we got for free on Free Comic Book Day {Saturday})

Mari still likes Each Peach Pear Pie and Dr Seuss' ABC.

Recent pix

At the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA:
Hand me down skis! Never too early.
Sitting on Steve's steps, waiting.
Found an Egg! The Easter hunt continues

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Boston traffic

From today's Boston Globe:

"It was an exhausting day and game, emotionally more than physically. At 3:30 p.m., a lineup was posted with Doug Mirabelli, acquired yesterday from the Padres, catching. By 3:45, Jason Varitek's name was in the lineup instead. Mirabelli's charter landed at Logan at 6:48, and his police escort arrived at the ballpark at 7, giving Mirabelli 12 minutes to collect his thoughts and get into uiform."

Twelve minutes from Logan to Fenway!? 720 seconds? Okay, he had a police escort, but still -- what route did he take!?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Behind on posts

I know I've been delinquent. I wish I could tell you we were on some fabulous trip or something but we weren't.

However, we did go back to the ol' neighborhood and took some pictures of the kids on a tree stump in the little park where we used to walk Boo:

Also, FYI, there are a couple new posts over on my "professional" blog. Plus one more coming soon, I think early May when a review gets published online. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

End of NPR

Well, I may be cutting back on listening soon. The other night I was making dinner and Austin said, "I don't want to go in a house with a fire." Okay, please don't, I told him. Then he said, "Killed?" and I realized that All Things Considered was reporting on Iraq, about a firefight at a house where a woman and child were killed.

It's gonna just be Car Talk and Wait Wait from now on.

And... on the subject of voices in our heads, check out this video which features the five most ubiquitous voice-over artists. Funny material they work with, too.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Comic pages

Is there any point in reading the Sunday comics anymore? I used to read the Calvin and Hobbes reprints with Austin but since the Globe stopped running them, there's nothing to read to him. No Peanuts, Family Circus is making all sorts of pop culture references these days, Get Fuzzy is clever but adult, Rose is Rose is still cloyingly sweet. Boondocks has gotten worse since Aaron Magruder spends all his time on his tv show.

But I still read the comics. In fact, there's one I read daily. Yep, that ol' standby, Doonesbury. I don't care for all of it, to be honest. Duke does nothing for me. The political stuff is depressing as much as anything. But Zonker's okay. And I love, love, love the BD storyline.

Remember BD? Never took off his helmet? Until a couple years ago, that is, when he was in Afghanistan and his leg was blown off, and the medics removed the helmet. What's great about the story is that BD has really come alive for me. He was always too conservative and shut off for me to relate to, but he's become quite sympathetic. Furthermore, his story gives Gary Trudeau a chance to show off his reporting and I'm learning a lot about amputees and vets from the strip (this is either a great compliment to him or further proof that I'm an idiot as well as an ignoramus).

Here's a collection of recent strips on BD.

They are linked from Weekend America, a PRI program that had an interview with the guy who talked to Trudeau about counseling and has since morphed into Elias, the Puerto Rican vet counselor who is my favorite new character in a long time. Here's the interview.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Reading; Greek myths

Here's a Slate article about the difference in what boys and girls like to read -- and why. Boys like to read about how things work -- for information -- and girls like to read about relationships -- for the story.

This explains Austin's obsessions with Richard Scarry's Postman Pig (apparently out of print -- there's a used copy on Amazon for $120!) and You Can Name 100 Trucks. As Emily Bazelon in her article whines, "But there's no story there!"

To be fair to him, Austin has recently really gotten into stories, especially stories about Greek myths and monsters, nursery tales and folk tales like Baba Yaga. What does this mean? Well, I should point out that he doesn't listen to the stories of the monsters so much as listen for information. He is memorizing what a Basilisk is, or who Medusa is. And he'll quiz me later. "Daddy, who killed Medusa?" Me: "Hercules?" Him: "No! It was Perseus!"

We're also kind of squeamish about reading him stories about beheadings and too much monster stuff because it freaks him out, but a few books tell the story vaguely enough that it's not that horrifying. Here are some suggestions of Greek stories appropriate for the 3 and under set:

Greece! Rome! Monsters! by John Harris has excellent pictures by Calef Brown. The text describes each creature and maybe a story about them in a breathless, supermarket tabloid way:
"every time Phineus started to eat, the Harpies would swoop down and, well, make a mess in his food. Result: a very skinny Phineus."
The back of the book has a pronounciation guide. There's a puzzle based on the artwork, too -- that's the one Austin is obsessed with and got us on this Greek kick. This is kind of encyclopedia style -- Austin looks up the monsters on his puzzle in the book. Bibliographic research! Iconography!

Greek Myths by Geraldine McCaughrean has very clear illustrations by Emma Chichester Clark. These are retellings of stories and Austin likes them as background, I think. He likes to hear more about the cyclops and Odysseus, for example.

And I just checked The One-Eyed Giant and Other Monsters from the Greek Myths out from the library. It looks to be similar to Greece! Rome! Monsters! with one or two pages on each creature with some story. The pictures are more representational and less fanciful and colorful than Calef Brown's.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Organic food

I don't always buy organic food for the family, with some exceptions. If the price difference isn't great, I'll get the organic, but it's not a rule even though I know it's better for us and the environment.

We always buy organic milk for the kids, though, since they drink a lot of it and we worry about the growth hormones. John also told us to get organic raisins because the chemicals used on grapes get concentrated when they are dried out.

In other words, I'm a cheap pragmatic about organic foods.

There was an article in the Boston Globe this Sunday about organics that may help me decide how to buy other foods. The Environmental Working Group has found that
"peaches, nectarines, berries, cherries, apples, pears, spinach, potatoes, bell peppers, celery, and imported grapes are consistently found to be the most laden with pesticide residue."
By the way, this is taking into account regular washing. At the other end of the scale are foods that have the last amount of contamination:
"asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapples, and sweet peas."
The other caution is that if you eat a lot of the same food -- broccoli every night, for example -- you may want to buy organic so that you are not building up particular contaminants in your body.

So there you go. Here's the EWG's Food News website. And here's the page that lists the foods that are most and least contaminated (with links to a wallet sized guide and an explanation of methodology).

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Children's Museum

This weekend we went to Boston's Children's Museum and met Ada, Pete and Elke there.

There's a great exhibit with airflow and plastic balls, and also a Blue Man Group exhibit where you can thunk versions of their crazy instruments.

The most photogenic exhibit, though, was the bubble room:

Austin got pretty good at making bubbles.

The girls had fun, too. Don't drink that water, though!

Austin even broke bubbles with his nose.

Here, Austin and Mari are asked who is in charge here. They answer, "The claw!"

Friday, March 03, 2006

Schoolhouse Rock in the Age of Terror

Funny political cartoon. Well, not hilarious, but really clever

Islamic Art

My friend Ladan co-curated an exhibition at the Sackler Museum at Harvard.

She's giving a gallery talk on Saturday March 11, at 10:30am. It's free. Anyone want to go?

Protective headgear

How much does Sara Ivry rock your world? Are you wearing a bike helmet? Put one on before you listen to her podcast interview of Balkan Beat Box, the guys opening for kosher rapper Matisyahu.

Small Beer Press extravaganza


I don't usually use full names here to protect the innocent, but these folks are not innocent:

Kelly Link and Gavin Grant's Small Beer Press is having a blowout sale for this month only.

Did you know Kelly has a new book out? Magic for Beginners.

They're also publishing the very well received Mothers and Other Monsters

In other news, I've been adding random bits to Kelly's Wikipedia Entry to amuse myself. Yes! I added that she went to Columbia. I'm restraining myself so the Wiki editors don't boot me off the system.

By the way, if you are too cheap to buy their books, you can get a Free e-book of her first collection of stories at their website. Make a Paypal donation while you're there, cheapo! There're also MP3s of a couple stories on that page.

Here's Kelly's latest story.

Cool! And in case you needed proof that we know Kelly, here's a photo from two and half years ago (!).

Austin and Hunter video

Hey! Ching just posted some video of Austin and his cousin Hunter from Christmas time.

Here it is on Google Video. I like the end where they're just sitting around waiting... for something...

Thanks, Ching!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Movie Review: Curious George

A couple of weeks ago we took Austin to see the new Curious George movie.

He liked it.

My opinion is that they spent a lot of time making George very cute and well animated and they cheaped out on the rest (including the story). The man in the yellow hat's nose was especially irritating to me.

Too much time was spent on the Man and his girlfriend and his job and all this random stuff and not enough on George having fun. The opening, with George in the jungle, and then the scene where he paints a lady's apartment are both excellent.

George was clearly modelled on human babies and Julie said she missed Mari during the movie.

One last thing: no longer is George unceremoniously ripped from his home and brought to "civilization" by the Man -- George's curiosity leads him onto the ship. Fine. But then the Man simply takes some African statues out of the jungle to display in his museum. Hello? That's also illegal, immoral and offensive.

I think Andrew should put out a State Department bulletin pointing out how egregious this is.

Anyway, bottom line is really, don't bother. To see George in action without the annoying Man, check out the Upside Down video on Jack Johnson's website.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sarah with pictures

Sarah came to visit the other night. She's finished her PhD and we had a lot of chit chat about various people in the field that I found fascinating but was maybe a little boring for Julie. We also talked about the whole parenting while teaching phenomenon and how difficult it is and how underappreciated it tends to be among hiring committees.

Anyway, Sarah looks terrific, and is expecting another boy this summer.

A few months ago she had sent me a neat link to her online photo albums. The neat thing is that there's an album of our wedding on there and it was a different perspective that I hadn't seen before.

Here Julie runs over before I have a chance to defile a pair of sheep. See? New perspective.

I'm sure she wouldn't mind, either, if you checked out the pictures of Jacob and Cisco.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Not Filene's

And to offset the item on Filene's, Baldwin sent me an article from the SF Chronicle on a group that has vowed not to buy anything new in 2006.

They call themselves the Compact. They have a blog, a Yahoo group and monthly meetings to reaffirm their commitment to the rule, which is to never buy anything new. "I didn't buy a pair of shoes today," said Compacter Shawn Rosenmoss, an engineer and a San Francisco resident of the Bernal Heights neighborhood. "They were basically a $300 pair of clodhoppers. But they were really nice and really comfortable, and I haven't bought new shoes for a while. But I didn't buy them. That's a big part of the Compact -- we show that we're not powerless over our purchasing."
They are free to buy as much as they want off of eBay, thrift stores and the like, however.

Baldwin also pointed out this Internet system of recycling called Freecycle.

I'd like to think we live like this most of the time. Certainly, when it comes to the kids' clothes and toys we're big on swapping and yard sales. But we do indulge every once in a while.

A recent indulgence came when Austin saw a Star Wars book called Galactic Crisis that looked nice. It was for early readers, but more importantly, I recognized the author so I bought it for him. Yes, it was written by Ryder Windham! Ryder and Ann are still in Providence and I went to a party at their house recently. They're still looking and doing great!

BTW, I have to admit to some confusion over what actually happened in the three Star Wars prequels and Galactic Crisis helped sort that out for me. Thanks, Ryder.


Filene's, the quintessential Boston department store is closing.

In the wrap up articles I've read, I was surprised to learn the origin of the name. The original owner was a man by the name of "Katz" and so he inverted the vowels in the word "Felines" for the name of his store.

Anyway, for anyone in Boston or near a Filene's, there's a feeding frenzy going on. I just bought a pair of Levi's jeans for $20 and a pair of Rockport shoes for under $50. Julie got a dress for $9.

The Chestnut Hill Mall store is picked pretty clean, but as of Saturday morning, the South Shore Mall store still had quite a large selection of clothes.

As Julie said, Filene's looks like Filene's Basement.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Go Bananas!

Here and Now, an NPR program originating from WBUR in Boston just aired an interview with John Soluri. It's here in Real Audio (scroll down, last item on today's program).

John is my brother-in-law, but more importantly, his book is all about bananas! Here are some random banana facts I find worth dropping into conversation:

- Bananas are the most consumed fresh fruit in the USA

- Bananas are the most eated imported food in America

- Virtually no one ate bananas in the US before the 20th century

- the average American eats 5 bananas a week

John's book, Banana Cultures, also looks at the environmental issues that came up when countries like Honduras shifted their agricultural resources to a single cash crop and how they were basically screwed by United Fruit Company (now known as Chiquita).

Listen to the interview!

Buy the book!

(I want to also point out that I suggested this media outlet for John. If you have an academic book coming out [hey, Liz], let me know and I will brainstorm up some publicity for you, too. But then you have to send me a copy of your book.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Recent pics

Austin working on his new puzzle from Da Gugu. He loves it and can name all the monsters: "Harpies -- they take your food," "Medusa -- if you look at her you turn to stone," "Cerberus -- he's a dog with three heads that eats bad people." I think it can be truthfully said that he has done the puzzle at least once every day since his birthday.

Here's Mari in costume for the pre-K production of Mamma Mia. She likes the costume but is not crazy about her props.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Friday, February 17, 2006

Book Review: Carry On, Jeeves

by P.G. Wodehouse
A few years ago, looking for something both substantial and light to read on a dig, I found a used copy of a P.G. Wodehouse collection at Avenue Victor Hugo bookstore (R.I.P. AVH). It was big, but after reading an appreciation of Wodehouse by Anthony Lane in the New Yorker, I gambled on it.

I loved it. Also, it was a big hit on the dig and got passed around quite a bit -- the book of the season, I might venture.

I had seen the BBC series Jeeves and Wooster with Fry and Laurie and particularly liked those stories so I recently bought Carry On, Jeeves. I understood this to be the first Jeeves collection (originally published 1925) but for the anally compiled chronological list, go Wiki.

In any case, the stories are substantially the same: a friend of Bertie Wooster's is in trouble, often involving impending matrimony and they come to him for help. As always, it is Jeeves who arranges a solution, often through a deus ex machina of a cousin in teh employ of the intended or some other lucky break. But the plot doesn't matter, the language is delicious. Individual sentences are hilarious. Phrases make you laugh out loud. They need to be read.

I intend to read all of them and as I do, I'll post little descriptions of them here with significant notes. For example, this collection includes the first meeting of Jeeves and Wooster "Jeeves Takes Charge" as well as a tale narrated by Jeeves (! not sure I liked it) "Bertie Changes His Mind."

Next up: The Inimitable Jeeves

Some Wodehouse links:

Hugh Laurie on Wodehouse

Which Wooster character are you?

Searchable Online texts of Wodehouse

Pretty complete site on Wodehouse and a good place to start or end

David Sedaris

I just finished reading James McManus' Positively Fifth Street, an account of his amazing run at the World Series of Poker (having entered using his advance for a magazine article on the event). McManus is clearly a smart guy and the book goes off in a hundred directions with literary figures and random facts thrown in. (Here's my review.)

One such fact is that one great poker player is Melissa Hayden, a book designer (and from here on I'm referencing pages 175-7). One of her works is Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. And McManus describes Sedaris as one of his former students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Apparently Sedaris originally enrolled to be a painter.

For a bookmaking class, Sedaris had to put together some text. Here's McManus:

The first book he worked on with me was Do You Know What Time It Is?, a wicked send-up of Raymond Carver... "Two miles outside of Selma, North Carolina," it began, "a ballpoint pen broke in Ted's mouth." Later, Ted dials 411 from his motel room to find out the time; his lover has been gone for a while.
"Sir," the woman said, "this is information. If you want the time I'll be happy to give you the number."
"I'm blind," Ted said.
"I said I'm blind and tired so could you please just tell me the time, I'd like to get this taken care of all in one call." He heard the woman ask someone the time. Ted had no idea what brought him to tell such a boldfaced lie. It was sort of exciting. The woman came back on the line and told him in a sympathetic way that it was 12:30.
"Is that at night or in the day?" Ted asked.
"AM. It's half past midnight, dear. It's dark outside."

Other Sedaris note: how weird is it that people are giving bad Amazon reviews to the French translation of "Me Talk Pretty" (Je Parler Francais) primarily because they didn't know it was in French? I believe this is the situation for which the word "doy" was invented. (Is there a french equivalent of "doy"? Perhaps "d'oy"?)


I just heard on NPR that Harry Wittington is getting better and is sorry for all the trouble that he caused Cheney and his family. He's sorry?

When is the government going to get its act together and torture an Iraqi insurgent into apologizing for the trouble he's caused America? Now that's the apology we're waiting for.

Really busted

Well, just got back from Millennium Park where a Boston cop -- not Animal Control -- gave me a $25 ticket for Boo being off leash.

I understand that the law is the law and it's true she was off leash, but I have never met anyone at Millennium Park in the mornings who didn't have a dog (except for this cop). In fact, Boo was off leash for two minutes, to get out of the car and into the park and poo and then I put her on leash, picked up her poo and this guy came over and gave me the ticket.

So I spent the next twenty minutes walking around the park warning other dog owners.

The other stupid thing is I heard on the radio that Mayor Menino is instituting a crackdown on minor violations to cut down on major crime. What kind of minor violations? Jaywalking. Jaywalking? Because you know that people who can't wait for the light are on their way to rob a bank.

This is the kind of fascistic randomness that affects mayors who have been in office too long. This is why most of New York hated Rudy Giuliani on September 10, 2001 -- enforcement of jaywalking laws and all.

But at least New York has dog runs! Where are dogs supposed to go in Boston?

One lady I talked to this morning said she heard that Roche Bros. is going to make a fenced in dog park from the skaiting rink down to Rte 109. If so, Roche Bros. would once again become my favorite supermarket.

Free Boo!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Free! and Busted!

We removed the gates from our house! We'll see how long that lasts, but so far no problems. The weird thing is that I still pause before going up the stairs and pause on the last step, expecting to have to move the gate.


I was out on Billings Field with Boo and the chuck-it and she was being very good when a guy came walking up to us. I had my suspicions, but I decided to play a little dumb and a little cool.

Sure enough, he said he was from Animal Control and that Boo had to be on a leash. But Boo was rubbing against him and he was petting her and being nice about it.

I leashed her and asked about the horse prints (!) on the field and he noticed them too and wasn't sure where they came from. He kept saying, "She's a good dog," and then we parted ways.

Phew. Gotta get her license renewal in the mail.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Here's a drawing by Mari:

Not bad, right? She's only 16 months old.

Here are some recent drawings by Austin, he's going to be three next week:

Now, I'm no PhD in Art History but I think these are pretty darn good!

Hey wait, I AM a PhD in Art History. I guess that means I'm right.

I take no credit, though -- Jenny at daycare is so good at teaching them language, manners, and skills like this. We really lucked out. Thanks, Jenny!


Here's a couple articles today about parenting by credit card:

This one says that parents are sometimes sublimating their anxiety by buying junk which is not that earth shattering but you really need to read some of the quotes. Disgusting. What's with the single 25 year old obsessed with baby stuff?

This one I quite like, about trying to have a birthday party without accumulating big plastic stuff. The solution? Book swap!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Some recent Austin doings: his first snowball fight happened on the way to Jenny's last Monday. He bunched up some snow and came charging after me.

And Mari: she's picking up words every day. "Hat" came recently and she was trying to say "lion" today. She loves spinning around in circles, and also holding things under her chin (like her socks, after pulling them off). Not sure what this means, but maybe she'll play the violin in a Sufi chamber music group.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Book review on other blog

Hey, I posted a book review on my "professional" blog, you know, the one I direct potential employers to so they don't have to read this drivel.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


I haven't checked these out yet, but I clipped the "Ask the Teacher" column from the Boston Globe (January 8, 2006) and Ellen Peterson ("the Teacher") mentioned a few websites that deal with learning the alphabet. Here they are:



The last one seems defunct. If anyone checks these out and has comments, I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

New Year's Eve

We celebrated New Year's Eve with Amy, Aaron and friends. It was also the penultimate night of Hannukah.

Here're some Babes 'n' Babies.

We stayed up until midnight, EST, and then crashed, even as some friends of Amy andAaron went out to another party.

New Year's Brunch

Well, I'm about two weeks behind on everything, so here are some pictures from New Year's Eve. For brunch, we went over to Scott and Andrea's place in Orinda. Edie had described it, quite properly, as a "compound," you know, the kind of place where you could establish a cult. This cult would no doubt surround Andrea, Scott's wife, who made the fluffiest pancakes I have ever had. Well married, Scott. (She's Canadian, of course.)

Here's Scott with his oldest son Ben.

Ben with his best friend Monique.
Here's Monique's dad Mike and Monique's sister whose name I've already forgotten (here I'm baiting Mike to stop lurking and comment. It's Sara, right? Or Sarah?).

All the kids. Maia is the only one who doesn't have sibling yet. Get cracking, Edie and Bill! (But then you'll have to change the name of your blog. May I suggest: "Penguel"?