Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Virtually fit

Runners will enjoy this especially, because movements and actions are so amazingly perfect (sound doesn’t begin for close to a minute). It’s by way of Ron Bloomquist’s blog, Walking Fort Bragg. Watch it full screen if you can (click on the symbol farthest right).

Onwards from AKQA on Vimeo.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What a series!

Ellsbury steals home (!!) as Sox sweep Yanks.

New York is dooomed.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


The whole tribe hit the roads this morning, under a steady rain in 45°F (7°C) temps. (But I checked—we were in Minnesota, not Scotland.) It was wonderful. We were out for only about 45 minutes, and very much VS2 (H and A had already done their swim training), but it’s so great to begin to pick up that rhythm again after a few months of the occasional snowy stagger. Sweet B was gurgling and chirping happily in her warm, dry little chariot, Jasper the Wonderdog couldn’t have been happier, and the kids gave their new flats (Saucony Guide 2 for A, New Balance 769 for H) an appropriately watery baptism.

In different realm of running, there was a truly exemplary article in the New York Times this morning about the London Marathon. It’s rare to see such intelligent and incisive writing about distance running. Any running, really.

Oh, I wish I’d been there


Usain Bolt threw out the first pitch.

The Red Sox, down, 6-0, came back to win, 16-11, their biggest comeback against the Yankees since 1968.

Varitek hit a grand slam homer to give the Sox the lead in the fourth.

The Yankees walked Bay in the seventh to pitch to Lowell, who promptly hit a three-run homer.

The Yankees walked Bay in the eighth to pitch to Lowell, who promptly hit a three-run double.

Yankee all-star receiver Jorge Posada was called for catcher’s interference (extremely rare—it means he tipped the batter’s bat with his mitt) and a passed ball in the same inning (the eighth).

The game went four hours, 21 minutes, tied for the sixth longest nine-inning game in Major League history (the two longest games were also between Boston and New York).

It was Boston’s ninth straight win.

New York is dooomed.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Oh, yeah...

...New York was doooomed.

Birthday bashing

The New York Times gives some space to experts on the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Elements of Style, an American phenomenon most often known simply as “Strunk and White,” and still often used as a sort of bible in high school and college composition classes. They hammer it.

I’ve always thought that it’s the ruleyness of the book that bugs people. Mere suggestions can be accepted or rejected. Rules, especially writing rules, have to be rebelled against, especially by writers.

I’ve spent a good part of my working life editing the work of others, mostly informed non-professionals, some workaday pros (prose pros?), and a few really fine stylists. Some needed my help, some really didn’t. For those who did, I came up with my own set of non-rules. Some are Strunk and Whitish, some are not. Here’s a chunk. Take ’em or leave ’em.

Be yourself. More than anything else, this is the key to good writing. Don’t get formal, pompous, or prissy just because your thoughts are going down on paper. Let your personality come through. Simply put, write in your own voice. Read your text out loud to yourself. If it doesn’t sound like you, fix it. A few little tips here:
    • Where you have a choice, use the short word instead of the long one.
    • Try to find nouns and verbs that are precise enough not to need too many modifiers. Avoid thickets of adjectives and adverbs.
    • Keep your paragraphs relatively short.
    • Use the active voice. This is old advice, but it’s good all the same. Don’t say, “It can be observed....” Say, “You can see....” or “Working with these numbers, I noticed....” In short, sound confident, not mealy-mouthed.

Have a point. One. You’re writing an article, not a book. This of course, requires that you know exactly what your point is. Sounds obvious, I know, but it’s surprising how fuzzy a lot of us are on defining exactly what we’re up to. Try explaining your point in a brief sentence. If you can’t, you’ve probably got a problem.

Answer a question, don’t confirm a prejudice. A colorfully expressed point of view is great, but we need it to be based on all the facts available, not on a determined marshaling of only one side of the case.

Pare extraneous material. This is tough, but not all the good stories or pithy observations will fit your work’s purpose.

Don’t strain for your opening sentence or paragraph. This probably contradicts advice you’ve read elsewhere, but I’ve found time after time that good ledes emerge later in an article, and that heavily-worked and strained-for opening paragraphs simply get lopped off because they’re too artificial. Try jumping right into your topic. Just say what it is you’ve found, or what you want to demonstrate, or what historical event you want to describe. This opening may not ultimately remain your article’s first paragraph, but it lets you get into your writing smoothly and easily, and it saves you a lot of mental anguish. Chances are, a natural lead will emerge as you write.

Imagine you’re writing a letter to a friend. This helps a lot if you’re having trouble getting going, or if you’re just a little intimidated by the idea of being published. In fact, this approach often results in the very best sort of writing—personal, colorful and idiomatic.

Rewrite. Your first draft is just that. Go through it to make sure that your organization makes sense. This is also the time to make sure you sound like you and that your sentences really say what you want them to say.

Stop when you’ve said what you need to say. A great concluding sentence or two sets off an article like the cherry on top of a hot fudge sundae, but remember that dessert tastes pretty good even without the topping. If you’ve got a quick, catchy conclusion, by all means use it. But if you’re straining to be funny or simply summarizing or restating what you’ve already written, forget it. (As with your article’s lead, your true conclusion is likely to be lurking somewhere else in your manuscript.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Summer’s here

Not because it’s 87°F (30.5°C), or because I’m wandering around the house barefoot in a polo shirt and shorts, or because I just stripped sweet B down to her diaper before easing her into her crib for a nap.


The first Yankees-Red Sox weekend series of the season begins tonight at Fenway. All New England will be there in spirit, and as many as can fit in the beautiful bandbox (36,108) will be there in person. Classy lefthander Jon Lester gets the start for Boston. New York is doomed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stress test

I read in the paper today that “British researchers say Tuesday at 11:45am is the most stressful time of the week.”

That works for me. Two weeks in a row now, sweet B has become some sort of pint-sized berserker on Tuesday mornings. Absolutely unhinged. Inconsolable wailings, weepings, and gnashings of gums. Food doesn’t work, hugging doesn’t work, rocking doesn’t work, singing Cab Calloway songs doesn’t work. This morning I even tried milk, not having offered her a bottle for perhaps a month now. It didn’t work either. Spectacularly.

I thought maybe I’d just call a cab to the airport and head back to Connecticut a few weeks early.

She did eventually hysericalize herself down into a late morning nap, and, costing Southwest Airlines a few bucks, she woke up her sweet self again.

My little Rudey Tuesday.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tri, and tri and cri

We all slept in late this dark, cold, and wet morning. I was amazed to roll over and see that it was almost 8:30.

Once we all got our motors started, H and A were out the door training for their first triathlon, which they have decided will be on May 31 in North Conway, New Hampshire. The schedule today called for efforts in all three disciplines. Swim and bike came first, and by the time they straggled bedraggled back to the house after their run, they were soaked, cold, and happy to be done.

While they were away, sweet B and I ran our own triathlon: because of the oddly scheduled morning, I’d let her get simultaneously hungry, thirsty, and sleepy. To report that I duly provided food, drink, and lullaby gives no sort of picture of the half hour we spent getting the poor lovey to the finish line.

We later booked rooms at the Nereledge Inn for the triathlon weekend. When H was little, we stayed here often on trips to the hills or the ski slopes, and I have a lot of fond memories of good times and pleasant people. It was under different management then, and something of a mecca for climbers, hikers, and cross-country skiers. I’ll be interested to see what it’s like now. Maybe we’ll even be able to get a little walking in.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bathing beauties ... and MUCH, MUCH More!

B is standing regularly now, pulling herself up on whatever offers, and she has a wonderful habit of chuckling up at us as we make admiring noises (the only kind we make). She also has learned the old faithful “peek-a-boo,” and often initiates it herself by pulling her fruit-and-veggie-encrusted bib up over her face and slyly pulling it down again, with a squeaky laugh and big smile. Irresistible. Have I said she has a superb, highly nuanced sense of humor?


Anyway, after all this activity, she has to hit the showers, where, for the next month or two, she will still need a little help.

Speaking of activity, H and A are training for a triathlon this summer in New England. Much scheduled swimming (A’s strength, H’s weakness), running (H’s strength, A’s weakness), and bicycling (they can both turn a crank). [I’ve never done a triathlon. Simple reason: I’d drown.]

Aside from crack-of-dawn pool time and after-work running and spinning, we’re pretty much humming along as usual here, after a wonderful Easter week sharing sweet B with someone else who loves her just a little. But two bits of great recent news have taken a lot of weight off A and H’s shoulders. First, their house here in Minnesota has sold (fairly quickly, although it didn’t seem that way during the process). Second, A has been offered the job he wanted back in New Hampshire. It’s exactly a month from today that H graduates, and when they head back to the Northeast, they can now make their plans with few loose ends flapping around in the breeze.

Yesterday was the first fine day here in close to a month. B and I often walk the 10 or 15 minutes from the house in to the Clinic to meet mom and dad for lunch, and I’ve been clothing her heavily and wrapping her up warmly in her stroller to get there. Yesterday, we took advantage of the higher temperatures and lower winds to use the Kelty for transport. B wore only a light fleece and a sunhat for the trip. We had a great time, and will do it again today.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Boston Billy

A trifecta of superbity:

1. A terrific article

2. by the funny, exemplary Steve Rushin,

3. about the great, great distance runner (and Connecticut native), Bill Rodgers.

Read it here. (Oh, do read it. You don’t have to be a runner to enjoy it.)

[I’ve never met or run with Rodgers, but I was once thrashed by his college roommate and fellow Boston Marathon winner, Amby Burfoot, in a high school 2-mile championship race. I remember these career highpoints vividly.]

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nature Cure

I posted last summer about a review of Richard Mabey’s book, Nature Cure, and how much I was looking forward to reading it. I brought it with me to Minnesota, but the intervals between feedings/changings/nappings/fiddlings/walkings/playings/cleanings don’t allow for the kind of sustained and serious reading this book deserves.

I noticed a couple of weeks ago in The Solitary Walker’s so-often interesting blog a discussion of Mabey’s insistence that our objectivity, our particular human consciousness, isn’t an unnatural intrusion on nature, but is in itself natural—the human niche.

In my own reading of the same pages, I chuckled when I noticed the oh-so British sniff of disapproval with which Mabey calls Thoreau “typically histrionic” for making the same point—the essential Thoreauvian point, perhaps the essential Transcendentalist point—and was mildly surprised seeing him get solidly behind the “truly rooted” Beat, Gary Snyder, offering the quote TSW passes along in his post.

But I’m only 40 pages in. I know this is going to be a book about an interesting man’s recovery from depression, and that’s why I want to read it. But so far, it is a meditation on meditation by an exquisitely self-conscious writer who also happens to be a profound eccentric. That alone would be interesting enough to keep me reading...when I’m not stirring pureed carrot in with a commercial mixture of apples and apricots, and eventually wiping the residue off a resisting, much loved, little face.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sweet B walks! (Sort of)

Breaking news! The B can now haul herself upright, then push off behind anything movable. She started out motoring along behind an upended laundry basket, but one of her doting adult relatives felt that the family honor demanded a dedicated device.

Sort of like aid climbing.

So, to beautiful, brilliant, and deeply sensitive, add superbly coordinated and elegant in motion. And her sense of humor...I could go on and on.

What? Oh. Am I?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Never any doubt

The UConn women win it all, having dominated all season. And yet a close observer ranks them only third in the long line of great teams at Connecticut. He’s probably right. Some program.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Of clean streets and English papers

The association of ideas has a wonderful power.

Something I read recently used (ironically, of course, and slightly mangled) the snippet, “The ploughman homeward plods his weary way” from Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Speeding along a highly personal synaptic route, this line oddly but instantly reminded me of a scene in The Sun Also Rises in which Jake Barnes emerges onto the street very early in the morning to see that the street cleaners are about their business wetting things down. From Gray to Hemingway—now there’s a stretch. But it’s an inevitable association of ideas for me.

When I was a college senior, I lived in a house on the southwest corner of Hanover’s main intersection. (Imaginatively, we usually referred to it as “The Corner.”) Most of us shared rooms on the ground and second floors, and used them as studies. We slept in a barracks-like space in the attic known as “The Tunnel,” which was reputed to be the coldest room on campus (the south gable-end window was never closed). I did most of my reading and studying in my room, but when it came time to write, I’d stake out space at a table in the rather grand, usually empty, main room on the ground floor.

My early college career was, let’s just say, undistinguished, but by my senior year I was a happy and ravenous English major, writing decent papers and getting good grades. For my final paper in a course on 17th and 18th Century British lit, I decided to tackle the transition from Augustan to Romantic by comparing the structures of a poem, Gray’s Elegy, and a building, Horace Walpole’s “little Gothic Castle,” Strawberry Hill. I began with a small pile of books and a notebook of lined pages early on a soft May evening, and finished banging away at the typescript as the sun came up the next morning. I knew this was essentially the last intellectual effort of my college career, and I knew I’d done good work and was finishing well. I felt just fine.

And when I wandered out the front door to see if the day deserved me, there were the street cleaning machines watering and brushing Hanover’s Main Street. In the dizzy fatigue of such moments, and stuffed to the gills with every book, play, and poem I’d inhaled over the past few years, my mind flashed immediately to Jake and the sprinkled streets of Pamplona, and with such force that I’ve never forgotten the moment. Inevitably, the memory now has come to remind me of youth and possibility and far horizons.

Of course, the same association means I’m the world’s only English major who, hearing “far from the madding crowd,” thinks Hemingway, not Hardy.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Huskies and Sox

I wrote last year about the University of Connecticut Women’s basketball team’s ultimately unsuccessful drive toward a national championship. Tonight, undefeated all season, we cheerfully watched them thump Stanford—the team that knocked them out last year—in the semi-final game. And on Tuesday night, we expect cheerfully to watch them thump dark-horse Louisville, finish the year 39-0 and bring home the trophy as one of the very best collegiate teams ever.

And Boston’s baseball season begins tomorrow.

So Wednesday, I expect to be able to say, “O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

To the mountains?

H and I had all sorts of hopes when we were in New Hampshire for little jaunts in the White Mountains with sweet B, and perhaps even a few days on the ski slopes, but her schedule in clinic and classroom put paid to that. She gets a month off after graduation in May, though, and she’s raised the possibility again, this time perhaps with A, as well.

May and June are actually not that great up there: mud and—much worse—black flies. But the thought of heading out together is hard to resist. Fingers crossed.

And hands waving wildly to slap the !@#$›% bugs.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A reprise and a tip

She’s eating her carrots. But today she’s apparently decided not to take naps.

Hot tip: the Tilty. As they say, A Better Sippy Cup.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Carrots? I don’t need no stinking carrots!

Sweet B turned eight months old Monday. Bubbly was served. Things here continue to revolve around her. Walk into any room of the house and there would be no doubt there is a baby in residence. She has become a Cheerios...

...aficionado over the last few weeks, and she’s been enthusiastic about shifting to more and more solid food. Instead of giving her bottles during the day, I’ve been spooning—some meals it feels like troweling—a mixture of baby fruit and baby oatmeal into her voracious little mouth.

On the other hand, she has returned to the newborn pattern of waking up every few hours during the night and demanding milk. Somehow, this fails to thrill Mom and Dad (I remain oblivious, tucked into my great little guest bedroom downstairs).

Yesterday evening, partly because it is time to begin introducing some veggies to the diet, and partly in the hopes of filling B up sufficiently to sleep at least halfway through the night, A defrosted some carrots, thoughtfully pureed last summer by Aunt K, and approached the royal highchair. B obligingly opened her mouth, A smoothly inserted the spoon, and the next thing we all knew, B emitted a growl of disgust from somewhere deep in her throat, turned quickly to her left, leaned over the arm of the chair, and expelled her mouthful, leaving us in no doubt about her attitude on carrots. Her dad tried a little of this, a little of that, but B continued to be absolutely clear about her feelings.

Today I’ve given her one feeding of fruit, but I’ve also defrosted more carrots, which I then returned to the fridge, in the hopes that it was partly temperature B was reacting to. I will, however, stand back when I spoon it in.

Our sweet B remains, of course, brilliant, insightful, deeply sensitive—and iconoclastically stylish.