Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy birthday, sweet B!

Well, almost. November has no 31st, so we’re counting today as her four-month celebration. B has almost doubled her weight...she’s at about 15.5 pounds now. She can roll from front to back and from back to front, and with a little help to balance, she can stand on her sturdy little legs.

Of course, she remains sweet, beautiful, and highly intelligent.

We had a wonderful family Thanksgiving, and it’s been great to be together. After Tuesday, and until just before Christmas, I’ll once again be solo with B during the day.

This is a great gig. Over to the right, in my “About Me,” I mention feeling bad I never learned to play the sax. But I think my real calling was child care.

Have I mentioned that I’m crazy about this baby?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mt. Washington this morning

13.5°F (-10.3°C), wind chill -5.8 (-21). Mt. Jefferson off in the distance. This is the north view of the webcam network. It’s the page Firefox opens to every morning on my laptop. Though it’s often a blank (fog/cloud), days like this start things off wonderfully fresh.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Snow yesterday...

...not much more than a heavy dusting, but it required car-window-clearing and it affected driving. The consensus at the Farmers’ Market was that, taken with the low temps, Winter Is Here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


My parents bought their house in 1955. Built in 1771, it was well out in the country when I was a boy, on a road that had been paved just the year before, in a town that had only recently gotten dial telephone service. The house was small, run-down, and beautiful all at the same time. Along with the apple trees on the south side, which I mentioned in an earlier post, on its north side it had a a towering elm, a great maple for climbing, and a rustic cedar summerhouse or gazebo. We tossed horseshoes over there, and I once built myself a pitching mound under the elm.

There was also a narrow band of field on its east, leading toward a swamp suitable for muddy exploration. It was often lonely for an only child, but it had its compensations: room to roam, trees to climb or swing from, plenty of space for hole-digging and “camping out.” There was a great hill just down the road for sledding, and a huge puddle formed in the field across the way every winter: perfect for pond hockey. My father put up a basketball hoop for me, but baseball was the house game, and every summer evening, when he got home, I’d be waiting for him with our mitts and we’d have a catch, for which there was a ritual ending. “Ten more,” he’d say, and we’d somehow arrived at the agreement that to count, all ten tosses had to be handled without a bobble. (I never cheated and dropped one on purpose to start the count over, because I never wanted to look bad.) Then he’d say, “One more for luck,” and in we’d go to supper.

The owners at some point earlier in the century, probably for some atavistic anglophilic reason, had christened the property “Blighty.” (We just called it what we still call it: “the house.”) They’d had signs made, which we were told they set out at the two ends of our road when they expected visitors from away. When we moved in, we found the signs in the dirt-floored cellar, where they remained for another 50 years. My dad brought them to me a few months ago, and they’re still sitting in a corner of the kitchen waiting for me to decide what to do with them.

Photo: Paul

Friday, November 21, 2008

Have I said, “brrrr?”

Minnesota’s impressing me.

8°F (-13.3°C) this morning, with a wind chill of -3 (-14.4C).

H gets home today in the early afternoon, after a 36-hour call at the hospital, so I think sweet B and I will wait till then for a walk, rather than heading out this morning. Yesterday in some biting wind but temps in the Fahrenheit teens, I had her so wrapped up only her little eyes and nose were visible. I love rosy cheeks, but this morning might be a little extreme. Is it too wussy to wait for double figures?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Deep analysis

Well, I might as well join the club. Typealyzer assesses this blog and characterizes me among:

The Doers

The active and play-ful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

Well, I don’t know about play-ful, and I have never had a problem with sitting still, especially with a book in hand. On the other hand, I do like women’s basketball. That is what the girl is doing in the drawing, no?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chafinch Map of Scotland

Is this ...

... known to all you Brits? Or at least all you Brits who walk in Scotland? Or at least all you Scots?

I found it here, on the wonderful site, Strange Maps, where I am told that it was “written in 1965 by Edwin Morgan (b. 1920), Poet Laureate of Glasgow (1999) and (since 2004) Scottish National Poet.” I further learn that “[t]he work looks deceptively simple, while in fact it is a cleverly multilayered combination of poetry, cartography, ornithology, linguistics, and maybe just a hint of Scottish nationalism, with carefully encrypted route suggestions for TGO Challengers.” (Okay, I made up that last part.)

The “cleverly multilayered” stuff is way over my head, but I think its cool, anyway.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wind aided

A while before I left home for Minnesota, there was an article in a local paper about the 50th running of the invitational cross-country meet sponsored by our high school. The Nonnewaug (originally Woodbury) Invitational is, I think, the oldest invitational meet in the state, and although it’s changed shape over the years, its distinctive mark is a concentration on small schools and a low-key, friendly atmosphere. Doughnuts and cider after the races (four of them—boys and girls varsity and j.v.) have been a feature. This year, they had some special doings and an alumni race to spice things up.

Great stuff. I coached teams that ran in this event in the ’70s and ’80s, and I helped direct it during the ’90s. Farther back than that, I was in high school when the race (then just a single run: boys varsity) was established. And under a pile of detritus somewhere in my father’s house lie trophies from the third and fourth annual Woodbury Invitationals in 1963 and 1964, which ... ah, wait a minute (counting on fingers) ... that would make this year’s running ... the 48th. (Counting on fingers again to make sure)—Yes, the 48th.


What the hell. It’s a great event. I’m just sorry that I won’t be around in another 48 years when they celebrate its 100th.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ear flaps

It’s 26°F (3.3°C) here in southern Minnesota this morning, with a wind chill of 14° (-10°). We’ll still be going out for our morning walk, of course, sweet B and I, but winter is definitely lurking around that corner just up ahead.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Please stop!

Hope, yes. Idolatry, no. He’s a gifted politician, not a heavenly body. There’s an interesting discussion of this syndrome here and here.

I actually think the phenomenon says more about our relief to be getting rid of the current demolition crew than it does about imbuing Obama with a Lincolnian civic-godliness, though there’s more than a whiff of that in the air. I think it’s being ironically played upon here...

...though I often see irony in earnestness (how world-weary and sophisticated of me). (And, though it’s not germane to this topic, Barack seems to me to be the first president since Kennedy to appreciate and occasionally use irony—pretty dangerous stuff in the “gotcha” age.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

On the processing of words

Coming out to Minnesota for six weeks, I packed the only available laptop, the iBook G4 that my father no longer uses. It’s old and slow and doesn’t run Leopard, but it’s a perfectly adequate writing machine, which is all I need it to be. There was, though, a problem: it had no word-processing program installed. I’m pretty sure it had the Apple software when it was new, but Works has disappeared from its hard drive, and iWork was never installed to replace it. So I had to work something out.

The answer seemed obvious. I would turn to Google Docs, the web-based word processor I’d used a bit and had been tracking since it was known as Writely. The GD interface is similar to Microsoft Word’s, it has features that make it a great tool for collaborative writing or writer-editor work—and it’s free. But I’d had a few passing problems saving documents (just as I have saving posts on Blogger—also a Google product). What killed it off as a primary option was a horror story I’d read about someone who could not retrieve what he’d written due to a Google foul-up involving his password. He discovered that Google has no help desk or customer service for Docs, that, in fact, it is impossible to reach a human being to solve what is, essentially a simple problem. So no. GD was out, except as a handy traveler’s backup (along with the trusty thumb drive).

How about getting a copy of iWork and using Pages? It’s a lot cheaper than buying Office to get Word. But although I use Pages for simple layout tasks on my desktop iMac, I haven’t gotten comfortable with its word processing side.

Almost 20 years ago, I was forced, kicking and screaming, to begin using the pompous, ponderous, stubborn, but dominant Word. I’ve been annoyed by it ever since, but, as with an utterly maddening relative, I’m used to it, and like those cranky old guys who only write with fountain pens, I’m sensitive to change—I miss that hard-won feeling of familiarity, if not ease.

I tried a few smaller programs, primarily meant for memo-writing or journaling, but they didn’t click for me. Which meant back to Word. Word, however, only comes with Office, and the package isn’t cheap. So: eBay. I found someone selling the consumer version, and joined the bidding. With a final bid placed two seconds before the auction closed, I won a copy for what was still too much money, but was substantially below retail. And here I sit, using it to type this post.

Of course, it’s the new version, and at home I have the old one, so after all this I’m still having to come to grips with those ease and familiarity issues.

[Special irrelevant historical comment: For my money, the best all-time word processor—a tool for processing words and nothing more—was the late, great XyWrite, a writer’s tool if ever there was one, and once a mainstay of newspaper and magazine editorial offices. It worked in DOS only (there is or was a Windows version, but it wasn’t/isn’t the same superb program), wasn’t WYSIWYG, and had no menus. On the other hand, you could personalize it through simple programming, the commands and (programmable) keyboard shortcuts were easy to learn, moves and changes were direct and instantaneous. Best of all, the mechanics of all this stayed out of your way. It never asked you questions or made suggestions or assumed it knew more about what you were trying to do than you did. It let you write the way you wrote. It was to Word as a great athlete is to a blind and blundering hulk. A great, great program that I jury-rigged a system to use for years after it had become “obsolete.” I’d buy a copy in a minute at five times the price of Office if—technical impossibility—it were available today for the Mac.]

Friday, November 14, 2008

Yay, sweet B!

She giggles! (Earlier this week.)

She rolls over! (Just now!)

A spectacularly good-humored baby, she also cheerily puts up with her grandfather. We’re having a wonderful time together. After particular...effortful...moments, we’ve begun to collaborate on something that Mrs. Tingley, the very proper ballroom dancing teacher of my youth, would not have approved of. It consists of B standing unsteadily on my lap and my holding her hands above her head while she jiggles and bounces. We call it the poopy dance. Then we head for the changing table, from which she looks up with a beatific smile of encouragement.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hit ’em where they ain’t

Just an odd thing that has stuck with me for a while. I read somewhere last month that the average weight of a major league ballplayer in the early ’70s—guys of my generation— was 182 lb. (13 stone). It is now 209 (15 stone). In the ’80s I wrote a kid’s book on the game in which I made the point that, unlike (American) football or basketball, baseball was played at the highest level by normal-sized men. Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, for example, were all just under six feet tall. Now they’d be little guys, and people would be amazed at their abilities given their size. Certainly no room in today’s game for Wee Willie Keelers.

I know this sort of thing is happening in hockey, too. How about (everybody else’s) football?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Second home

I’m in Minnesota, renewing acquaintances with the fast-changing sweet B, who now charms as a smiling and gurgling drool machine. A goes back to work tomorrow, after a month’s paternity leave, and H continues her pediatrics sub-internship at the hospital. So B and I will be playmates most weekdays from now until just before Christmas. I’ll be doing all the usual baby care, and fitting in some work during nap times. Mostly, of course, I’m here for the snuggles. Damp though they may be.

Friday, November 7, 2008


We weep.

We dance.

We breathe again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Dan Froomkin’s always invaluable column today has an interesting roundup of opinions on what Obama’s victory means to the people who voted for him. He says it boils down to “a call for a restoration of American values, pre-Bush.”

The New York Times also has this comment in today’s lead editorial:
His triumph was decisive and sweeping, because he saw what is wrong with this country: the utter failure of government to protect its citizens.
There’s a lot of talk now about how important it is for Obama to act in a bipartisan manner. That would be great. But the Times quote highlights how extreme, how bigoted, how reckless, and how fundamentally corrupt the once-proud Republican party (it’s not called the GOP for nothing) has become. Bipartisanship is a two-way street, and the Republicans are not interested. John McCain’s concession speech was noble, but he was not speaking for the congressional Republican party, let alone its base.

I love Barack’s intelligence, eloquence, commitment, character, and mastery of the issues. But the attributes I think we’ll all come to prize as he begins to get things done have been much less touted: his pragmatism and his toughness. Don’t forget he’s from Chicago, where politics is still a bare-knuckle affair. Keep your ears open. You’ll hear the Republicans squealing by February 1.

Then we can get on with the Restoration.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Dixville Notch

Always the first district in the U.S. to report its vote in Presidential Elections, it’s a beautiful township in Northeastern New Hampshire (with great, uncrowded hiking). Here’s the story (poor Hart’s Location):

This morning, Dixville Notch reported 15 votes for Obama, 6 for McCain, the first time it’s gone Democratic since 1968.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cool, calm, collected

Quiet competence is so refreshing.

Obama Field Director John Carson:

Spokesman Bill Burton:

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Good politicians, of course, share certain attributes with good salesmen. The one that impresses me most, because I absolutely don’t have it, is a particular kind of memory. They remember your name, your spouse’s name, your children’s names, and a tidbit or two about you all. To me, that is, as Nat silkily sings, “just incredible.” [Time out: He really misses that last note, doesn’t he?]

My local Democratic Town Committee had a rally on Woodbury’s North Green on yesterday’s crisp, gorgeous Saturday morning (I forgot to bring my camera, so unfortunately I can post no pics of this classic New England scene). This has always been a strongly Republican part of a generally Democratic state, but this year, party officials see a chance to grab a seat in the State Senate. My friend John McCarthy, a former American Ambassador to Tunisia and Lebanon, now retired from the foreign service, is running a strong campaign emphasizing competence and pragmatism—what a concept!—in a time that requires change.

So the big Connecticut guns were all wheeled out yesterday morning to support and energize: The chair of the state party, our Democratic Congressman, the Attorney General, the Secretary of the State, the Comptroller, recent (and undoubtedly future) candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, the Majority Leader of the State Senate, and a few I’ve probably forgotten. Much cheerful speechifying about the importance of getting John and Barack elected—an unusually terrific, positive, enjoyable kickoff to the final three days of hectic Get Out The Vote activities.

Back to that memory deal. I’ve been an active Democrat for long enough to have gotten on what I think of as “the list.” Some Democrat in Hartford needs to know a little something about Woodbury? Call this guy. Looking for a sacrificial lamb in some impossible election? If this guy won’t run, he knows someone suicidal who will. Most of all, need to raise some money for your campaign? This guy’s been carrying our flag for a while; he should be good for something. So every four years I get a call from our Secretary of the State. We schmooze, she asks me for money, I agree to send some, we say good-bye, and she goes on to the next index card in her contributor file. Every two years, she calls just to schmooze. She might also ask for a little money, but this call is mainly to keep in touch. She has higher office very much in mind. All of this is fine by me—she’s good at her job, and she doesn’t have to twist my arm for support. The thing is, we’d never actually met until yesterday. I walked up to her, introduced myself, and the first thing she said, without missing a beat, was, “how’s the writing going?” and the second was, “are you still winding the town clock?”

Well, the writing’s not going all that great, and I stopped winding the clock a while ago, but I was still astonished, and oddly gratified.

On the other hand, I suppose the deployment of this sort of fact-retention is responsible for the success of a good half of the incompetent hacks in office. I know it’s resulted in my buying the occasional unfortunate necktie.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy birthday!

Sweet B was three months old yesterday. We continue our evening iChats, which is where this photo came from, and its easy to notice how rapidly she’s changing and growing. I’m headed for Minnesota in a week to nanny (the copy editor of this blog says that to nanny can, indeed, be a verb) until just before Christmas. At the rate she’s going, she’ll be crawling by the time I get there, and we’ll be running quarter-mile repeats together before I head back home. I will consult to see if she wants mom to join us or plans to go too fast.