Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Not much time to blog. I'll return to regular posts once we figure out more about amniocentesis.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Blogs of Dalmally

In homage to fellow friend and blogger Daniel, I'm picking a town in the U.K. to learn about.

I started with the birthplace of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. Prestatyn, Wales calls itself the "family fun centre of North Wales" where people go on vacation to build sandcastles and take donkeyrides. Definitely not equivalent to Wyoming.

Tony Blair himself is from Edinburgh and Durham, cities as understated as Texas.

Finally, I hit upon Dalmally, birthplace of former Labour Party leader John Smith. Despite my ignorance of British politics, it's a good excuse to learn more about "undiscovered Scotland."

There's something about ending a travel guide to a city with the sentence: "Most people en route from Tyndrum to Oban will probably pass by Dalmally without really noticing it, but like so many highland settlements it repays exploration."

I'm off to explore the blogs of Dalmally.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

better than duct tape

My new favorite adhesive is blue painter's tape. I didn't even know this stuff existed until four days ago. Since I'm prohibited from painting, my job is to put the tape up, stay far far away, and take the tape down the next day.

So far, so good. At least the guest room will be painted now before my mother-in-law comes to visit. The rest of the house is a lovely shade of primer-white, and it can stay that way for a while longer.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

kids and kidneys

I got a phone call this morning from a very pleasant RN to let me know that I'm scheduled for a level 4 ultrasound next Wednesday. "We don't want you to be worried," she said. So of course I start crying.

One of the baby's kidneys is swollen. The specialist will be able to find out more information. You know, if you search around on the net long enough, you can find just as much information to make an abnormality seem normal as to make you fear the worst.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Despite my attempts to refresh, reload, and resubmit, I'm having technical difficulties commenting on any blog. It's intensely frustrating to hold my tongue (hence this post), but it's also humbling to realize that in the grand scheme of things, the world is not any better or worse for a 66th comment here.

The baby is kicking furiously.

L only has a handful of words, mostly she uses "hi" and "down" (pointing to stairs). Though "mama" and "dada" are supposed to be among a child's early vocabulary, I'm more likely to hear a version of "door" or "milk" come out of her mouth than a reference to one of us. Sometimes I wonder if it's because we mostly give her what she wants that vocabulary hasn't come more readily. She has her own way of communicating and, for the most part, it works. Her latest strategy involves hitting to get our attention. It bothers me to no end. We say "no", even move her away from whatever we're doing, try to negatively reinforce the behavior by not giving her attention, but nothing is working so far.

I'll be patient. Some day the verification word will work, L will talk, and John will have a voice of his own. Until then, we'll resort to brute force.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

death penalty #5

I'm glad Canada is concerned over Afghan facing death for being a Christian. You should be, too.

Previous rantings on capital punishment: here, here, here and here.

single number

That's apparently the literal translation of "sudoku." Not to be confused with "sodoku," the form of ratbite fever occurring in the Far East [syn: spirillum fever].

The former is much more contagious.

Monday, March 20, 2006


In response to Mallory's question about landscaping...

The grading in our backyard looks better on paper than in practice. Because our houses are built sideways on a gradual slope, the rain has carved out neat little burrows under the fences to take the most direct route downhill. All the more reason for us to get something in our backyard before all our topsoil is washed away.

I think we're going to have to make a retaining wall on the high side and possibly a dry creek bed on the lower side to ease the water along the planned grading. Then again, maybe we should just put a slip 'n slide under our gutters. The little one would like it.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


I had an irrational fear of escalators when I was a kid. They sounded like "alligators", and I was afraid of heights. I didn't have many nightmares, but the two I remember involved falling off of escalators or my dad being surrounded by bears.

Today that fear became a little more rational. Stupid me: I thought Laura's a good walker, she can handle an escalator. Going up was fine. Going down was harder. I tried to position myself ahead of her to help brace her with both hands as she stepped on. Except that I forgot that escalators are MOVING stairs. One of my legs went further down the stairs than I intended; next thing I knew I was falling down. A pregnant woman afraid of heights falling down an escalator with a toddler. Great.

The little one managed to steady herself with no problem, I ended up with a scraped and bruised ankle, and the littlest-one-to-be had plenty of padding and no bumps.

Maybe I can cross rapids with a baby strapped to my chest, but escalators still scare me.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

15 seconds of fame

A few days ago my husband gets a call at work from a reporter at Money magazine. She wants to talk to him about his job and what it's like to be a relatively recent grad. Once he gets over the surprise, he's happy to answer her questions:

What do you do? Do you like your job? Is it stressful? What is the rest of the field like? Did you have a hard time finding a job? How do you think the job market is changing?

It's a benign conversation mostly about how he's really happy doing what he does. In his recounting of the conversation to me, it was full of gentle disclaimers like "I can only speak for myself..."

At the end of the afternoon, as he's driving home he realizes that it's probably a good idea to check with someone first before talking to a national magazine about what it's like to work with your company. By the time he got home, the poor guy had convinced himself that he'd be fired. He overreacted, but when people lose their jobs over mentioning their employer in a blog, it's not unreasonable to be cautious.

In my school district, the initial training for all teachers included a 10-minute spiel "Why you should never trust anyone in the press and even be careful what you say to your neighbors." He didn't get that spiel. Though it's an internationally renowned company pretty important in its field, no one ever formally warned the employees about reporters, explained a protocol, etc. It's not as though he gave away any trade secrets or said anything but praise about his job. Still, he imagined everything he'd said in the worst possible context: "Employee from ACME says job market is radically changing."

He sent an embarrassed email to the external relations department and also one to the reporter asking that she not print anything until he got permission from the company. It all worked out in the end, of course. She said she understood and wasn't planning to use much of it in her story anyway, and no one in a black tie and sunglasses showed up at his office the next day dragging him off to be interrogated. At least he was able to laugh about the dumbfounded expression on his boss' face about the whole story. "You spoke to WHO? And you're worried about THAT?"

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's day!

I'll miss the parades and distinctively Irish pubs of St. Paul this year, but the green river in Chicago is probably the best midwest celebration of St. Patty's day.

I've rowed on this river numerous times, straight through downtown with the Sears tower looming over you. Even the residue of eerie green dye in a race just days after March 17 was a bit of an adventure. Felt a little like being in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Yes, she's still obsessed with shoes--especially heels.

The chiaroscuro is not in the picture but in the choice of content. Forgive my ups and downs in posting.

killing criminals

I must be morbid because this is something like my third or fourth post on this topic.

1. Moussaoui is still facing the death penalty, according to a ruling by his judge, Leonie Brinkema. There were some questions about whether or not that would still be an option given the snafu of a particular FAA lawyer. The case is now much weaker without the testimonies of seven witnesses, but the death penalty is still on the table.

2. Even if his blackened heart had pumped a bit longer, Milosevic was not facing the death penalty for his war crimes, by rules of The Hague Tribunal. Where no justice appeared to be served, Lawrence Douglas has a decent editorial arguing that history will not deem the Milosevic trial a failure.

3. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit alleging the drugs used in lethal injections may only paralyze an inmate rather than guarantee his or her painlessness. This is fallout from the Michael Morales case last month, which by the way is still in limbo.

4. California has yet another high profile lawsuit in progress, that of convicting members of a white supremicist prison gang, the Aryan Brotherhood. At question are 32 murders and attempted murders arranged by prisoners from within the prison, acting on other prisoners and people outside the prison system. So much for rehabilitation.

Four distinct cases. Four very different defendants (or groups) charged with everything from mass genocide to conspiracy to racketeering.

I'm not an advocate of the death penalty, but I didn't lose sleep when Timothy McVeigh was put to death for the Oklahoma City bombing. If it is not the place of a government or an international tribunal to play god and end the life of a human being, maybe justice simply isn't possible. Even with the death penalty as an option, I wonder if justice is served.

The U.S. certainly wants vengeance on someone for September 11. With Osama bin Laden nowhere in sight, the case against Moussaoui becomes laden with symbolism. Putting a man to death for the sake of "sending a message" is on par with the insurgents who hanged four men in Sadr City and pinned a note to their chests branding them traitors.

I recently read that in 1793, the National Convention voted 361-360 to use the death penalty against the King of France, who was deemed a threat to the state. That single vote sanctioning the use of the guillotine had a profound impact on history. Then again, other sources say the vote was 387-334. Either way, majority rule isn't the answer.

Monday, March 13, 2006


That's what the LA Times calls it: "Blunder by Prosecutor May Save Moussaoui's Life" (CNN article here)

A government lawyer knowingly violated the judge's order by emailing trial transcripts and coaching witnesses. This wasn't a mistake; it was malicious and unethical.

It's no wonder the Bush administration wants trials of terrorists clothed in secrecy, prisoners detained without having charges officially filed against them, and scores of documents reclassified as confidential. Funny that this is the same President who touts an era of "accountability" (see No Child Left Behind).

Sunday, March 12, 2006

common disaster

A great Cowboy Junkies song. A terrible news item when it involves tornadoes near your family.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

cold day

A war criminal dies and it snows in Southern California.

Another bitter piece of news from today is the discovery of Tom Fox's slain and tortured body. I'll spare my reaction because I think we all feel the same way.

Yet I want to ask: Can you fathom believing so strongly in a cause that you are willing to risk your life?

I can't. I try, but the cynicism in me creeps out, and I question how a half-dozen people can make enough difference with their physical presence to try to influence this monstrosity of a war. I can understand being outraged by injustice. I understand wanting to make a difference and to do something important and meaningful. I think I can even fathom bravery and courage and risking your life. But I can't wrap my mind around why Christians and other advocates of peace put their lives in such jeopardy to fly to a wartorn country like Iraq or Sudan in the hopes of what--making a statement? providing someone with solace or hope? offering your labor to rebuild a country that is falling apart?

Shortly before his kidnapping, Fox wrote these words to explain why he and the Christian Peacemaker Teams were in Iraq. I think he deserves the last word: "We are here to root out all aspects of dehumanization that exists within us. We are here to stand with those being dehumanized by oppressors and stand firm against that dehumanization," he wrote.

Friday, March 10, 2006



Thursday, March 09, 2006

life without work

Despite hundreds of errands and many little projects, I feel like I'm spinning my wheels and not getting traction when I'm not working. It is good to know that this is just a vacation, and I will be back contributing to society soon. On the flip side, the beauty of year-round school is getting a break when you need it.

For the next few weeks, I'm soaking up the family time and going through a little self-discovery, too. Today I learned that I can no longer touch my toes.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


...are beautiful and apparently deadly trees. I'm giving myself a crash course in landscaping so that we can have more than just a pile of dirt in our backyard come summer. In the process, I'm learning about native flora and fauna.

You see more eucalyptus trees than palms where we live. The trees were brought from Australia and introduced as a source of lumber for ship-building. Though useful for a time and lovely, the trees are like giant Roman candles waiting to explode in the fire season. The bark and leaves have a disproportionately high oil content that makes them especially flammable. Not the best type of tree for a region with notoriously widespread forest fires.

I think I'll pass on a eucalyptus for our yard.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

the house of worship and all-you-can-eat buffets

I know a guy who teaches comparative religions at UC-Riverside. One of his students approached him after class to tell him about a local Buddhist temple. As they were talking, the student corrected him--no, not that Buddhist temple, the other one on Magnolia.

Apparently he was referring to the "Dragon House," a Chinese restaurant with gold lions out front.

Monday, March 06, 2006

gender doesn't matter

We're having a boy! Yeah!

Sunday, March 05, 2006


This is my husband's elegant word to describe the Oscars. I rolled my eyes, but looking at this picture from the Academy Awards' website, maybe he's closer than I thought.

I don't really mind that the awards are essentially fruit-basket corruptions of Hollywood opinion rather than a legitimate recognition of the finest made films. Instead I'm just apathetic. I haven't watched them since Jack Palance did a one-armed pushup and Silence of the Lambs won, but maybe Jon Stewart will persuade me to tune it, at least for the first ten minutes.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

the happy update

  • All are healthy in the house. --> Kissing is back!

  • Ultrasound on Monday morning --> a name for Baby X

  • I get to keep my job next year --> I'll have much-needed insurance for the summer

  • School went off-track --> time to get caught up for next trimester

  • The rain stopped --> I'm going for a walk.

  • It's Saturday --> what's not to love?

p.s. Why was there never a Little Miss Happy? Maybe they thought it would be too boring--the same way no one ever reads Dante's Paradiso....

Thursday, March 02, 2006

swing low

The best part of teaching--besides the whole inspiring young people thing--is coming to a new discovery about something familiar. Just as you see the world differently as a parent, you see concepts differently when you have to teach them.

For example, Allen Ginsberg's "America" is all well and good. As a teenager, I found it, I read it, I thought it was interesting, I moved on. As a teacher of American Literature, I loved that poem. I sought it out as a different perspective from our slightly stodgy textbook, and I debated briefly about whether or not I should say "go fuck yourself with your atom bomb" in front of a class before I was tenured.* But the true epiphany came with the discomforting irony of canonizing something that was so fundamentally anti-establishment. I mean, I might as well assign two chapters of "On the Road" and flunk a student for putting off the reading until the next day.

Or Newton's First Law of Motion. It's one thing to learn, memorize, spend a few moments studying it, and ace a quiz. As a first-time science teacher, I'm driving to school and looking at all the examples of inertia, wondering which ones will most resonate with my students. Whch ones can I turn into a hands-on activity? Which examples will they remember?

I'm kicking myself for not remembering the quote or the author, but I was hit profoundly by a statement I read in a metaethics class in college. It basically made the point that wisdom is not necessarily about discovering new information but it's about familiar information becoming more salient.

Today, a beautiful song became salient. We're doing the middle school glaze-over of slavery, and I spent a few days teaching about how much history is wrapped up in music and vice versa. "Swing low, sweet chariot" has always been one of those that hits me down deep, resonates with those low swinging notes. It's a pleasure to spend more time with it, to see it fresh through my student's eyes, to look out across the last hundred years of our past, guided by voices.

And now it's stuck in my head.

*I did say it, quickly.