Sunday, August 31, 2003

Those Wacky Professors

On Friday morning, I arrived at Penn Station to get the train to Philie for the Political Science Conference. As I looked up at the big board announcing the platform numbers, I suddenly realized that I was traveling without children. Wahoo. Thelma and Louise heading out on the dusty highway! No one to stop me. No responsibilities. No sippy cups to hold on to. It was worth going to the conference just for that brief moment of total freedom.

I've gotten a thicker skin about this conference over the years. The huddling hordes of guys in their rolled up oxford shirts no longer freak me out. I've learned that the best defense is a good offense -- red hair, a skirt, and two inch heels. Work it, baby! These guys stride around from room to room with their dog eared program dropping names and statistical models. I used to be very intimidated by their jargon and their closed ranks. Not so much anymore. Older and wiser.

It helps to have the "family," my oddball friends from graduate school who have stuck it out. Many are still slogging away at the degree. Other friends graduated and have become itinerate scholars, working different gigs around the country for a couple years at a time. A lucky few have tenure track jobs. It is always good to hook up with "the family" after a particularly bad panel, roll our eyes, and grab a drink. I also had my real family there, who lent me a bed and bought me an omelette (thanks, guys).

I went to several panels. Some related to my work, some featured a buddy, some were random. Very few got me all hot and bothered. Some especially boring panels made me consider self-mutilation.

One panel entitled "Activism On and Off Line," discussed hackers, but no talk about bloggers and their impact on politics. I had my hand raised to bring up the important role that bloggers play in monitoring the media, organizing rallies, bypassing organized interest groups, etc..., but my friend Toni made me shut up. She wants to write an article about this, and didn't want to share ideas.

One truly amazing aspect of the political science conference is the lack of interest in real politics. You would expect political scientists would live and breathe current events. They should sit around arguing whether or not it's time to get out of Iraq, the merits of the Dean campaign, and the state of the deficit, but no, they don't. For academics, politics has to be discussed years after the events and with clinical coldness. They only touch politics with sterile rubber gloves.

I'm glad I went. The Thelma and Louise moment was great. I caught up with old friends. And it also reminded others that I am still out there. Although I'm taking off time to mind the kiddies, I'm still smart and active, and I'll be looking for a full time job soon. I might spend most of my time at the playground, but that doesn't mean I'm dead.

UPDATE: Others on the conference: Drezner and Chris Lawrence


Thursday, August 28, 2003

Book Notes

I'm done. Wiped out. Through. Ready to catch the last few minutes of MTV's VMA. Hoping to see Missy Eliot pick up an award.

I just wanted to give a book suggestion for the long weekend. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain. He tells you everything you wanted to know about the kitchens in New York's fanciest restaurants, and lots of stuff you didn't want to know. He describes the subculture of the kitchen with its foul-mouthed, intense, pill popping, sweaty chefs, sous chefs, dishwashers, and owners. The best stuff is all the stuff you don't want to know, ie.
- don't buy the seafood frittatta on Mondays. By monday, the fish is probably four days old.
- don't be surprised if the bread was formerly on someone else's table.
- don't get well done meat.
- don't think too much about food safety. He thinks some quality time in the toilet is the price you pay for a fantastic meal.
- Emeril sucks.

As novice foodies, Steve and I visit a great restaurant a couple times a year. After reading this, I can't wait until our next trip. It would be fun to check out Bourdain's restaurant, Les Halles.

The first part of the book goes fast, but by the end, there is a little too much name dropping. And the Hunter Thompson style gets old after two hundred pages. Only Hunter should do Hunter.

But maybe a little over-the-top writing is the price you have to pay to get an insight into the kitchen.

(Off to the conference. Back to the blog on Monday.)

The Roaches Are Back! The Roaches Are Back!

The Roaches have made their triumphant return to our kitchen. Not the folk band, idiot. The filth-carrying, pot-roast licking, antennae-waving variety.

I noticed the odd one here and there over the past couple of weeks. OK, a stray. I can deal. But yesterday there was a cochroach convention going on on the countertop.

My inner suburban babe hates roaches. My more hardened city pals tell me, "even Park Avenue has roaches." Yeah, but they eat foie gras.

Yesterday, as I was making some burgers for the baby and myself. A couple of frisky guys ran around right in front of me! In the daylight! Jerks. Then I moved the knife block and three inch long suckers jumped out at me. They had been lurking there all along sneering at me. When my back was turned, I'm sure they were running out and licking the spatula. Scumbags.

Well, I got two out of the three of those bastards. A nice splat against the wall. But the third one is still out there. Mocking me from behind the microwave. Asshole.

Why have these creeps suddenly emerged? It's hot and humid which makes them more happy and bold. Baby drops Cherrios faster than I can pick them up. Who knows when the last time that Cuban hermit next door took out his garbage.

At 9:00, I'm going to call some exterminators. "Who's the roach's friend?"


Wednesday, August 27, 2003

More on Conference Culture

I had two minutes to surf around and found some other bloggers talking about the Pol. Sci. conference. If you care, check out this and this and this and, of course, this (see 8/1/03 -- haven't set up permalinks yet).

8 Hours of Sleep

8 hours of sleep and life is good. In the past week, I have been averaging a couple here and a couple there. Not enough for optimum performance. I wish I could be one of those super achievers who can get by on four hours of sleep like Bill Clinton and Martha Stewart. "She stays up until 4:00am, but still can make a perfect souffle for the Morning Show!" "And make a few stock trades at the same time."

Ian has been seriously cramping my sleeping style. It started off with him getting the flu, and us bringing him into our bed. "Poor thing is miserable and needs some mommy hugs." "OK, let him in." "And he needs a little milk in a bottle. A little treat since he hasn't eaten anything." "OK, I'll get it." So, baby get the comfy spot in the big bed between mommy and daddy and a nip of the bottle. "Hey, this is pretty good," he says and tries it again. The parents are patient, until the patient starts to feel better. And then there is the contest of wills.

A couple of nights ago, he kept me up all night. I would let him cry for a little bit, but then break down and bring him into the bed where he thrashed about. Several times I tried to sneak Ian back into his crib without luck. Without Steve working as goalie on the other side of the bed, there was danger of him falling out, his large head smacking the wooden floor. Enough of that. So last night, I let him cry and cry and cry. And finally he got the clue. No more bed for you, sucker.

And, yes, Steve and Jonah have been gone for four days, and it is FREAKIN' ME OUT! I'm not used to the quiet around here. I still have Ian, so I can't turn into a total degenerate drunk. I have to get up in the morning and feed him cherrios. But it is very, very quiet. At first, Ian spent a lot of time waiting by the front door for his big brother to come home. He has never known life without a big mouth brother who sucks up all the attention.

It is a bit hard without Steve, too. Not only do I miss his company, but I also miss his muscles. Thank God Angela was here to help, because there are all sorts of things that I can't do in four floor walk up without Steve's help. With Ian in my arms, I can't carry the garbage to the alley or bring up heavy groceries, like milk and juice. We leave the stroller hidden under the stairs in the lobby. Steve usually takes it up and down every night. But I have had to leave the $200 MacLaren stroller there the whole time hoping that some drugged up, hoodlum boys don't take it for a joy ride down the block.

I know at some point, the kids are going to sleep peacefully through the night without nightmares or other flimsy excuses to gain entry to the warm spot in our bed. But it might take a few more years. In the meantime, it is very difficult to be all professional and write articles and give lectures without eight hours of sleep. Things have improved since they were newborns needing to be fed every couple of hours. I went back to adjuncting four months after Ian was born. He was still up every three hours and, occasionally, up all night. Several times I gave an engaging lecture on interest groups or federalism with only two hours of sleep. But, I have to say, it hurt like hell.


Tuesday, August 26, 2003

My Two Lives

I'm overwhelmed. The responsibilities of two kids and part-time academic life has knocked the wind out of me.

The kids need fall shoes and overalls from Old Navy. Both need doctor and dentist appointments. There is paperwork for pre-school and a parent's meeting to attend. Not to mention to usual drill of feeding them, wiping noses, reading stories, and running to the playground. Dishes have to be washed by hand and the shower curtain dipped in acid to remove the orange mold.

I have to get my syllabus on line, make copies of the readings for the reserve desk, and tinker with the reading list.

The Political Science conference is in two days. My suit needs to be dry cleaned. I have to buy tickets for the Metroliner to Philadelphia. I need to put together some book proposals to shop around. I'm almost glad that there are no jobs to apply for, because interviews might send me over the edge.


Sunday, August 24, 2003

Wilted Ivy

The New York Times’s front page article discusses a new problem facing college students. As State Colleges Cut Classes, Students Struggle to Finish. State universities have suffered from cutbacks from the states due to the budget crisis. Unable or unwilling to cut in other areas, these schools are cutting classes.

Students can’t complete their majors because the courses aren’t offered or are closed up too quickly. And because students have to work many hours to pay off high college tuition, they can’t always sign up for the one class offered. They might be working the dish room at the dining hall when the only Intro to Stats class is being given.

What is going on here? Even with higher tuition, colleges are struggling. Where is all the money going? Certainly not to adjuncts and junior faculty. One student in my fall class will pay my salary two times over. And there are 17 other students in the class each forking over $5000 for the class. Where is the money going? To ancient professors who don’t pull their weight? To lazy administrators?

They can’t keep raising tuition. I believe the tuition at NYU this year is $25,000. The average income for a family of four in this country is $40,000. Soon a large portion of the middle class will be unable to borrow enough to send Junior to college.

The university system is crumbling. The ivy is wilting and the rugby fields are covered in clover.

I’m going to make a Jules Verne prediction for the future. In the next 10 to 15 years, many of the mid-level colleges are going close and reopen as cyber schools. The University of Phoenix has been very successful at it. The technical colleges have already started shifted their courses from the classroom to the monitor. It’s much more profitable. No campus upkeep. Less faculty. Large classes. Students also like it, because they can fit their courses into their work schedule.

In twenty years, a traditional college education with dorm rooms and intramural sports will only be for the very rich. Harvard will always be Harvard. Yale will always be Yale. But Fairleigh Dickinson University in Paramus, New Jersey is going to shut their doors and put in some high speed internet cables. The rich will have their schools, but everyone else will telecommute.

What is the future for the college professor in my Verne prediction? Well, there will be a need for someone to set up those lectures on line and prepare exams. One guy will write the lecture that millions will read. And then an army of T.A.s will answer questions, calculate grades, and take attendance. This development will surely make the academic job situation even tighter.

My prophesy is not a nightmare for students, however. My cousin is currently getting her college degree on line in the evenings after working full time. She’s able to do her coursework during lunch break at the office. She’s learning the same information, but isn’t wasting time between classes in a lecture hall or hanging out at a kegger at the fraternity. How responsible.

Though on-line universities may shake the traditional idea of college, maybe its time for us to get over it.


Friday, August 22, 2003


Today the city is not my friend. Two days of 90 degree heat and humidity. When we woke up this morning, the air already had the quality of bus fumes so we ran away again to my parents refuge in NJ. Two days of the kids sleeping like crap. Ian with his hacking cough and Jonah with his nightmares visited us many times in our Seely Queen size mattress in recent nights. Sticky and sleepy, I counted the hours until Steve came home.

Our apartment has three rooms that face the street and the morning sun. We're lucky enough to have our own room, a room for the kids, and a room for work and kiddie art projects. Lots of families of four occupy one room, so we shouldn't complain. While that space has kept us sane, it's too large to air condition properly. Also, the 100 year old wiring in this place can't handle it. We have an AC in our bedroom and in the study, but they can't be on the same time or the fuse will blow.

We are too afraid to put a unit in the kids' room. We have an ill-fortuned friend whose air conditioner fell several floors below onto old lady who sued his parents royally. Actually I'm surprised that it doesn't happen more often. The city has thousands of bulky units perched precariously on jerry-rigged supports. Anyway, we're sure that a unit in the boys' room is just asking for trouble.

To hopefully get a good night's sleep, we've moved the kids' mattresses to our bedroom floor. They're there now in the cool room, while Steve and I roast.

Maybe tomorrow will better, and I will mend relations with my city.


Thursday, August 21, 2003

A Puzzler

A couple of days ago, I received an e-mail entitled "Weekly Happenings." Kelly, the ministry assistant of a Baptist church in Arizona, in her hurry to get out the church's weekly events mistyped a parisioner's e-mail address. Some poor woman in Phoenix has no idea what is going at the local church, but a jaded New Yorker does. Funny these little twists and turns of the internet.

Now no one get mad at me. I am not making fun of religion or anything. But I am going to tell you some of things that go on in Baptist church in Arizona, because, frankly, I'm baffled. Alright I get "Family Night" at the ice rink on Friday night, but Sunday's teaching series is a puzzler...

"Sunday, in 2.42 @ 9:30AM, we kick-off a new teaching series based on the movie "The Matrix." The topic for this Sunday is "What is the Matrix? - Modernity, Organized Religion: 'There is no spoon.'" Come prepared for a great morning of praise and learning through interactive discussion."

I also learned that there is a gas crisis there and they will provide a list of "prayer needs" to help community through that crisis. "The gas distribution problem in the valley is an opportunity for you to share the light of Christ with your coworkers and strangers!"

Meanwhile in Alabama, a State Supreme Court judge and dozens of his supporters are protecting a statue of the 10 Commandments displayed in the court house. Barry Lynn, the head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is throwing up a stink as usual. There is a lot of talk about "the separation of church and state."

I'm not going to give a little history on church/state separation now. Jeffrey Rosen did a nice job in a Times Magazine piece a couple of year ago. He explains that the roots of this doctrine are in anti-Catholicism in the South at the beginning of the century, and gives a nice history of important court cases.

Church/state issues have been a big issue for the court in recent years -- school vouchers, prayer at school gatherings, college funding of religious clubs. The papers have covered these decisions carefully, as they should. Many have been alarmed by the court's swing to the right in this area.

So far, these cases have not roused me out of my nap. If people in Alabama want this statue, let 'em. I don't really get why it so important to display it, but if they want that ugly thing in their lobby, let 'em. So what if this Godly statue is in a court house. People do things differently in Alabama.

Whenever I try to get a debate going in class about this topic, that is also the sentiment of the students. They couldn't care less if public money goes to religious schools, if the schools do a good job of educating kids. I think this wall is supported by extremists. And older extremists.

I have no clue what that prayer meeting in Pheonix is about, but as long I don't have to go, let 'em.

Stuff to Read

from hubby... on the lack of a sense of humor in the NYC bureaucracy

from the NYT... on the challenges that women face in the field of technology. 3 Women, 3 Paths, 10 Years On

from my brother, ace reporter for the Times Herald Record ... the story of a tenacious teddy named Theodore. Couple Wants Bear Taken Elsewhere


Wednesday, August 20, 2003

The Escape

I could only take so much of the "House of Mouse" before I said "that's it, let's go." Barred from the playground because of Ian's oogie nose, we took the subway up to Inwood Library. What illness isn't made better by a little subway ride?

New York City does a lot of stuff really well. Its museums, zoos, restaurants are arguably the best in the world. Even their main library on 42nd Street is amazing. Its front steps are flanked by two majestic lions. Inside the marble entrance you can read the names of Astor and Carnegy who put together this world class collection. I spent many days at the long wooden tables just staring up at the huge painted ceilings. So, yes, NYC has some amazing accomplishments. But its branch libraries are not one of them.

The Inwood library was built by geniuses of some sort. The linoleum tiles squeak with every sneaker step, and make little toddler toes slip. Someone must have gone out of their way to find that special squeaky, slippery tiles. The children's area is on the second floor. Smart, right? That way I have to follow Ian around like a hawk to prevent a fall down the stairs. And the elevator is locked, maybe so those crazy kids don't joy ride. A librarian has to be tracked down for a key. So, we got out a train book and a Raffi video and split, since the boys were looking worse for wear.

We got home, walked up the stairs, and then I realized I forgot the keys. Jonah whimpered as we walked back down. "I am so excited about Raffi. I am starting to cry." 1-1/2 hours until Steve comes home. What to do?

Since my kitchen window was open, I decided to climb the fire escape. In movies, it looks so easy. Richard Gere in Pretty Woman pulls down the ladder with his umbrella and climbs up with flowers for Julia. Doesn't really work like that. I had to jump up to release the latch. As the ladder slid down, rust and old paint rained on my head. Richard would have been filthy if he had tried it here. And then I had to walk over plants that people leave out on their escape. But I did it. And Jonah kept asking if he could come too. The super's wife watched my kids as I climbed in and found my keys.

So, all is well. A nice little adventure today, and the kids are tucked away for bed.

Chinese Water Torture

Our upstairs neighbors purchased an air conditioner for their living room this summer. They must have gotten it second hand, because a constant stream of water leaks out of it. Those incessant drips don't fall harmlessly down to ground or on some poor sap's hair. They land on our window sill where they randomly richocet into our living room. Our curtains have water stains and the paint around the window sill is warped.

I'm really tired today. Sick Baby kept me up from 2:00 to 3:30 am last night, and I just spent a spaced out half hour on the sofa mapping out the trajectory of the drips in my head. How far can the drip enter into our living room? Wow that energetic guy made it all the way to the green chair!

Why don't we just go up and complain? Well the parents don't speak English, and the son is a member of "Da Boyz" who hang out selling drugs in front of our building. It's best to just shut our window despite the 90 degree weather and go to the park.

Someday I will write about other apartment dramas that we've lived through -- paper stealing guy and na*ed guy. (I have learned to not actually write out the word na*ed after people started arriving at my website with interesting search terms: "na*ed pictures of Gwen Steffani" "na*ed next to the washer/dryer". My personal favorite was "trampy trailerpark princess". Highly amused.)

Last night, Steve and I watched two hours of I Love the 70s on VH1. It's not as funny as the 80s series. I was a little young to remember the early part of the decade and so were most of the commentators. And at some point in the 70s, my parents highly restricted our TV viewage. Not only in terms of total hours, but in terms of shows. The Flintstones were on the banned list, because Fred was a poor male role model. The Bradys were also on the list, because Marsha dated too young. My Catholic, intellectual parents really interfered with major TV watching.

I think VH1 went through 1972 without mentioning Watergate, which is amazing. I distinctly remember my parents watching the congressional hearings for hours and hours. In fact, my parents even had us memorize a little speech about Watergate, which we would have to recite at their gatherings. Hey, thanks for warping us!

Unlike my virtuous parents, I have just flipped the tube on again. (More Chinese water torture -- kid's shows.) Ian has a hacking cough and an oozing nose. Rather than face angry looks from other parents at the playground, I am keeping them inside. Also I'm feeling a tickle in my throat right now; I'm not sure if I'm up for the schlep to park either. I am having envious thoughts about a backyard right now.


Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Let's Move to India

I wasted some valuable babysitting time searching around for a link in Time Out New York. In it, Ice-T tells us why he is peddling his new high energy drink. Let's just say he thinks it will provide men with more power in the sack. I couldn't find it on line. New Yorkers should skim it at the local B &N. It is worth a chuckle.

Instead, my link of the day has to be more of a downer. In Sunday's Times Magazine, Walter Kirn writes about all the high tech jobs that are now going to India. My father-in-law who is an auditor for a bank is terrified that some guy in Bombay is going to take his job away next week. Kirn has similar worries. If Indians take all our middle income jobs, who is going to buy all those cheapo toys that China makes for us?

My solution. Let's move to India. That's where the jobs are. India, the next land of milk and honey. Soon the dream of every smart little kid in Scarsdale will be to scrape together enough money to open a newstand in Bombay. Sure, there are the occasional monsoons, but hell, it's work.

FYI, here comes the grid stories that I've been expecting. See Blame Ohio.


Monday, August 18, 2003

Channeling Jayson Blair

I’ve been scanning the papers looking for the cause of the blackout. Insane terrorists were quickly dismissed. A lighting bolt, an act of God, was also ruled out. Human error would seem to be the cause.

So far most of the stories have been about the result of the blackout – hot, dirty people sleeping on the street and long walks home. I’m waiting for the look inside the power plants. A look at the guys whose mistakes caused this mess, and the hero in PA who stopped it. I’m waiting for the next kid-rescued-from-the-hole story or miners-trapped-in-the-hole story. Well, wait no longer.

Our story begins in a plant in Ohio. Three guys supervise an army of switches and dials. Little hands waver on half circles marked with numbers. There are some handles for pulling in case the whole place is about to blow. These three guys, Cliff, Hank, and "Smally," are chatting about their plans for fishin’ over the coming weekend. They aren’t really watching the switches and dials, because nothing ever really happens. Every day the same thing, but that’s okay, because it gives them lots of time to talk about fishin’.

As they laugh at Smally’s method for tying flies, the switches and dials start moving slowing to the red, angry side of the semi-circles. They don’t notice until the control panel begins wailing a warning alarm. Lights flash. And the guys turn dumb faced to their equipment that hasn’t so much as whimpered in all their years at the plant.

What to do? The decision falls to Cliff who has the most seniority. Should he pull that large handle in front of him which will localize the problem or will he wait and hope that they can borrow some juice from Canada. What to do? He has seconds to make that decision, and complicating it all is that he is only a couple of years from retirement and the wrong decision will cost him his job and who will hire him at his age. He tells the other guys who are on their feet looking at him, to wait. "Let’s see what happens in Canada."

Then the Dateline camera turns to a map of NE America and Ottawa. Little Christmas lights on the map indicate the location of power plants. Like dominos, the lights are dimmed.

The camera zooms on one little light in Northern Pennsylvania. In the next shot, we meet George, who like the guys in Ohio, is holding down the fort in front of the exact same switches and dials. George is wearing a white, short sleeve shirt that is a little too baggy in the sleeves. From the pocket hangs an ID with an unfortunate picture of him with one eye closed. While absent mindedly munching on an apple, he notices the dials going into the red. And like Cliff, George faces the decision that he never he thought he would have to make. But he pulls.

And the power plant is saved. So is Pennsylvania. And so is most of the South. It takes a while for the media to locate George, because they were busy covering the stories of human misery. It is his local paper that first cracks the story. They take his picture in front of the dials and switches with a big smile and his hands on his hips. It is not long before he has signed over his story to Disney.

Dateline should feel to air my story, along with my notes to their camera crew. I interviewed all these guys personally. Really. It’s all true.

Tick, Tick, Tick

Last night on Sixty Minutes, one segment, The Biological Clock, discussed the findings of Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of "Creating a Life." Hewlett found that many women with incomes of $55,000 were putting off having kids until it was too late. These women wanted to use their twenties and thirties to pursue their career never thinking that their eggs were being depleted every month.

Like those women, I put off having kids, but by the mid 30s, I knew it was time to get to work on that project. My problem was unlike the women interviewed on 60 Minutes, I was never able to get the career going. I didn't finish my diss until my mid 30s. My annual social security statements from the government are embarrassing. The few years that I did work full time, I chose professions that pay squat -- publishing, teaching, museum assistance. Like I have said before, I have a real talent for under achievement in the salary arena.

After I graduated, I had one small kid and plans for another. I didn't think that an assistant professor salary ($35,000)would cover all the child care and assistance I would require. And I have deep ambivalence about the range of child care options. So I put off plans for a full time job for another couple of years. They may never let me back in the ivory tower. I may be relegated to the off-white garage out back.

But Donatella Versace thinks that mixing kids and work is no big problem. Stop whining, darling.

Motrin, he says.

On Saturday night, right after I finished reading the New Yorker article about the child with Kowasaki disease, Steve walked into the bedroom with a hot, crying baby. Ian was having trouble breathing, and his face was bright red. We squirted two droppers of Motrin down his throat, and then consoled him with a bottle of milk. It took a couple of hours of walking around and watching Larry King for him to finally go to sleep.

At 5:00 am, he woke up again hot and crying. And that was my Sunday, hot and crying baby all day. Sometimes the crying would wind down to a whimper, but that was as good as we got. Not even the Wiggles could make him happy.

I had planned on getting work done yesterday. I still have to finish the brilliant conclusion to my brilliant journal article. I have to figure out what panels I will be able to endure at the conference. Perhaps put together an outline for a book to shop around to publishers. And school starts in a couple of week, and I need to revise my syllabus and put it on-line. But not much happened. I tried for a short while to ignore the situation and work on the syllabus, but Ian clung to my legs and I couldn't concentrate. A lost work day.

Dr. G. might get a call at 9:00. I hate calling him because he won't do anything for the kids unless they are bleeding from the eyes. He is a one doctor crusade against the over prescription of antibiotics, so he never gives them out. Motrin, he says. And then gives me a 50 minute lecture on a study in Holland that showed that 90% of ear infections cure themselves. "I don't care, Dr. G. Just do something to stop this crying before I stick a gun in my mouth."

I guess I'm not going to get much work done today either. At least he doesn't have Kowasaki disease.


Saturday, August 16, 2003

Onions. Garlic. Cans of Tomatoes.

Last night, I made a huge pot of tomato sauce and invited over Susan and Chris. It's great having single friends, because they are so appreciative of your cooking. Pasta sauce is one of the easiest things you can make. I think it was the first things I learned to cook. Onions. Garlic. Cans of Tomatoes. And anything else you can find. But the friends made lots of yummy sounds and said that it was better than the box of raisins and donuts that they were planning on eating.

After dinner we sat on the blue sofa drinking wine and martinis and surfing the TV. One of most amusing things we fell upon was Gary Coleman on the Fox News station. He was so out of his league that it was painful to watch. At one point, Coleman said to Hannity, "You're giving me hard time, just because I didn't know who the hell Dick Chaney was."

We also shared more war stories that we had picked up from others during the day. Bob ran home all the way from his art studio in Jersey City, which has to be about 14 miles, because he was so worried about picking up his daughter from daycare. Annie, who is very pregnant, finally got a cab ride. And I wasn't the only one who was having 9/11 flashbacks.

Susan did okay on her walk home, because she kept spare sneakers, money, a flashlight, and other supplies at work. Last time she had to walk home in heels. Both Susan and Chris have a "Go Bag,"which is a backpack of essential items that they can take with them if someone unleashes a briefcase nuke in Times Squre.

OK, I'm gone until Monday.

Remember don't buy any meat from the supermarket for a week.


Friday, August 15, 2003

Power On

I'm back in the city with the kids and the lights are on. Steve didn't go to work today, because the subways are still down. There were a couple of hard-core workers at the office, but Steve didn't feel that he was needed.

I came rushing back here from NJ at around 9:00. I hadn't heard from Steve and was irrationally worried. Where was he? Why was he not answering the phone? Had he gone to work?

It took about 9 months for the constant stress of 9/11 to fade. After a year, we threw out the cans of beans and bottles of water from the trunk of the car. We laughed at Steve's batteries and radio under the car seat. We even used the batteries in the flashlight to power a toy. I thought we were over it. But then this happened, and I realize that the terror is still there.

Turns out that Steve had just slept in. He had trouble sleeping last night. In addition to the heat/humidity, "Da Boyz" were out in full force outside of our building. Emboldened by the lack of police, all the guys from the hood partied all night in front of our building. They had a barbeque going on the sidewalk complete with fireworks and drugs. Steve said he couldn't get to sleep until about 4:00.

I had been feeling like a traitor for leaving the city last night, but after hearing that, I'm glad I left. The kids wouldn't have slept, and everyone would be whining and crying.

Shortly after we got back here, Susan and Chris came by to exchange stories about the trip home. It took them longer than Steve who is in good shaping from carrying kids around. They said it took them almost 4 hours to get home.

Margie called. She still hadn't heard from Stu. She knew he would have been unable to get home to Long Island, but she had no idea where he was. Cell phones have been shaky. I'm sure he's okay. Stu is very resourceful.

Feeling a little jealous, I heard stories from the others about lines for pizza and ice-cream, the chaos in Harlem, and the guy who bought a bike to ride to Westchester.

We talked about how a thunderbolt knocked out the whole Eastern seaboard, and that certainly terrorists were watching eagerly.

I think I'm done with the blog for the day. I have to toss out rotting food, reset the clocks, and make a list of things we need for a big pasta dinner tonight.

I hope you're out of the dark.


Thursday, August 14, 2003

It took Steve 2-1/2 hours but he made it. Walked 150 blocks. more tomorrow.

6:16 An hour ago Steve told me that he would call from a pay phone at this time. No call. Mom has the radio going in the kitchen and we're distracting the kids with a video. My cousin is stuck in traffic in CT, and her husband is going to try to drive out of Manhattan.

2 hours ago, I drove over the GW bridge which is very close to our apartment. We passed 7 broken traffic lights. After finding a parking place, I got Jonah out of the car and called 911. No answer. Started to panic. Couldn't get through to Steve. Really panicking. Finally able to connect to Susan who told me what to happen. Steve got through on someone else's cellphone and said get out of the city. NOW. I could hear the panic in his voice, too. Yes, I said. Jonah was dumped back into the car seat. Ian slept on. And we came back to my parents.

5:55 No word from Steve. I'm watching all the people walking up 5th avenue on TV. Having major 9/11 flashbacks.

5:42 -- Waiting for call from Steve. Power on in NJ. In-laws in Cleveland say that there is no power there.

we're okay. We made it back to NJ. More later. Steve's in midtown and a several hour hike again of him.

Which Exit?

Yesterday, I whisked the kids off to New Jersey to get some quality backyard time at Grandma and Pop-Pop's. I know I'm pretty lucky have my parents nearby to get some relief from the boredom of watching kids. Most of my friends aren't that lucky. I wish my mom could come here to help, but she's afraid to drive over the George Washington Bridge and lacks the muscles to carry Large Baby up and down the stairs.

As we pulled off the Palisades Parkway on to Route 9W, we passed an expensive restaurant where Jonah spotted something cool.
Jonah: Oooh, mommy look at that.
Moi: That's called a stretch limo, honey.
Jonah: I LIKE it. That's for when you have lots and lots of children.
Moi: And money
Jonah: And babies.

The inner commie in me liked that. He saw a big car and thought its purpose was naturally to carry around large numbers of people. He couldn't understand that only two people might be in such a large car just for the purpose of showing off how much money they have. At four years old, he can't grasp conspicuous consumption. Maybe at five.

And, according to NY1, it's going to be sunny, sunny, sunny today, so I running to my sister's today. Swim club and sun screen. I'll write more tonight.


Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Home Decor Tip of the Day

It's all about dark wood veneer. I love it and so do you. Where I've been seeing it:

1. It's all over the Gay Dating show on Bravo. I'm bored with the show, but I'm still loving the glimpses of the house where the show takes place. More house, and less gay kerioke, please.

2. Todd Oldham's new line at Target

3. My living room. Upgrading from the BILLY, we now own the IKEA DOCENT shelving unit. We're movin' on up, baby!

Educated Guesses

In a couple of weeks, I'll be attending the American Political Science Association's annual meeting. My friends and I will be doing our best to amuse ourselves.

In addition to getting loaded with Toni and Maggie, I have a few hypotheses that I'll be testing. A hypothesis is an educated guess, ex. More Democrats in Congress will mean higher taxes. It is one way that political scientists imitate the hard sciences.

Here are a few of my hypotheses for APSA:
1. Even though this is a political science conference, I will hear no one discuss the war in Iraq, the coming election in CA, or gay marriages.
2. The handful of women at the conference will be wearing baggy suits with elastic waists and large ethnic jewelry.
3. None of the women with tenure track jobs will have children.
4. I will meet more people without jobs than with jobs.
5. Most will be too fearful to leave the convention center to hang out in Philadelphia.
6. More than 50% of participants will have a prescription to Paxil.
7. 99% of the men will be wearing wrinkled beige Dockers.
8. 80% of graduate students will exclaim at least once, "Look, he's famous!!"
9. Number of men with pony tails = 0. (Thankfully. For men with pony tails, go to the annual sociology conference.)

I've gotten some suggestions from readers.

From Toni: 1. There will be more unfashionable academics than fashionable ones. 2. There will be loads of idle banter, meant to impress, that will in fact impress no one.

From the Invisible Adjunct:
The desperate jobseekers will be readily identifiable: they are the ones who are noticeably, if uncomfortably, better (or least more formally) dressed.

(Feel free to suggest some additional hypotheses.)


Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Evening Reading

I have a raging headache. Could be from the bottle of wine that we drank last night. But I just wanted to put up some links from the lastest New Yorker. It's a good one; a two week edition devoted to family.

David Sedaris is rapidly becoming my favorite writer for the magazine. He has a funny story about himself, his mom, and sad 9 year old girl.

Also in Talk of the Town, James Surowiecki discusses the new book "The Two Income Trap" which explains that having a child is the best predictor of financial ruin. Kids are expensive, the authors write. (Duh!) It's not the play stations or scooters that drive people to poorhouse. It's mostly because people have to fork over a ton of money to live in towns with good schools. (Oh, yeah?)

OK, I'm kicked off the computer, which is just fine. I need a gallon of water and some quality time with the remote control.

Testing Testing

Yesterday, after Angela left, I took the kids to the playground and ran into the usual suspects. In addition to discussing the behavior of the kids in art museums, real estate prices, and parking places, the topic of testing came up.

Since the remaining playground parents have been unable or unwilling to leave the city, we are about to undergo the rigors of getting the kids a decent education. It isn't easy. Our pre-school offers a class to parents on how to negotiate the process. There is a web site and a couple of books on the topic. I have been in denial about it all, so I haven't learned the system yet. I am going to get a crash course this fall.

At the park, at the cafe, at the pizza place, everyone is asking, "Are you getting your kid tested." Is your kid "gifted and talented" is the topic of the day. There are a few public schools in NYC that admit a handful of gifted kids. These programs are highly regarded and higly competitive. To get in, the kids have to take a two part test that costs several hundred dollars. The kid is wisked away and some mysterious test is administered. I am sure it involves electrodes and suction cups on the side of the head. A short time later, the child is returned, and the anxious parent is given the thumbs up or thumbs down.

Steve and I can't decide what to do. On the one hand, if Jonah does well, he could have the best education for free. He would be taught by smart, dedicated teachers surrounded by other smart kids. On the other, ... aack!! They're testing four year olds!! It is evil to put a little kid through that pressure.

Also, the system is corrupt. Wealthy parents pay for tutors $50 an hour to boost their kids scores. More aack!

Also, what if your kid isn't gifted and talented? I have a friend who had her sweet blue-eyed girl tested never thinking that her little wunderkind wasn't the smartest kid in town. As her daughter was ushered out of the testing room, my friend was silently handed a score. Average! My friend was heart-broken. Her dreams for her child were dashed. No longer the Junior Senator from New York, her little girl was now a check-out clerk at Fairway. The horror. Double aack!

It does give one pause. I like having the quiet assurance that my child is really, really smart. Somewhere between Bobby Fisher and Bill Gates. I mean he can count to a hundred. Ain't that cool? Still, I also know that every other parent out there is also sure that their kid is a genius. And that's how it should be. Why dash our dreams?

And also, I'm highly suspicious of those education people. They aren't the shiniest coins in the jar. I'm not sure they can really create an objective test to determine who is "gifted and talented".

The problem is that there are so few opportunities for kids in the city public school system. That's why 20,000 kids take the test for Hunter High School with only 40 being accepted. (OK, I totally made up those numbers, but I don't think its way off.) That's why parents are taking these silly tests and filling out forms and commuting 2 hours a day on the subway. Anything to give your kid a shot.

This is a really good reason to move.


Monday, August 11, 2003

It's my Birthday and I'll Blog if I want too.

Drink a beer in my honor. It's my birthday. And Lileks, too.

Puttering with Potter

I have only 100 pages left of the latest Harry Potter.

Steve vacated the premises with the kids on Saturday, so I could get stuff done. Yes, I did clean the bathroom and work on the article, darling. Don't be cross. But I couldn't just work on the article the WHOLE time.

Codify Scourgfy I also fixed the code on my sidebar that had gotten wiped out last week. Frustrating, but also fun. I love the symmetry of the quote on one side and the quote on the other, the bracket on one side and the bracket on the other. It's neat. It's tidy. It's anal. How excellent.

You know, I was a computer science major for a couple of semesters back in the mid-1980s. I learned BASIC, Pascal, and Cobol. I even got As, but dropped the major when I hit calculus. I didn't want to have to work that hard.

Idiot. Brainus Emptious It was the mid-80s, the computer industry was just getting going. During my first semester, we still used punch cards to program. I could have gotten a job at Microsoft or Oracle before people logged on to AOL, before hard drives, before CD-ROM, before BLOGGER. I could have gotten a job while those companies were run by dishelved nerds (well, I guess they still are).

From time to time in my life, I come to a crossroad. On one side is money town with clean, black cars and porches with gas grills and on the other side is abject poverty with student loans and walk up apartments. Guess what side I invariably choose. Someone should study me.

Readus Alldayus I also spent most of the weekend reading
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
. Since I've had kids I haven't been able to read as much as I would like. My dad thinks I'm crazy. "Why don't you read a chapter a night like I do?" "Because I don't read like that, dad". When I read a novel, I loose all self control. I have to read until its done pausing only gulp down some stale potato chips. Recognizing this character flaw, I started reading the book over the weekend, so that the children wouldn't be too badly neglected. In fact, I finished the book before I finished this post using up my precious babysitter time. 850 in two days. I wish I could read Hagel that fast.

Susan wanted my review. Fun. Fun. Fun. I liked the surly teenage Harry. I don't know if "it's the best one ever" since I don't remember the others that well, but it was damn good. I give it 5 teenage sneers.


Saturday, August 09, 2003

A Saturday Post

I promised myself that I wouldn't post on weekends. At most, I was allowed to fiddle with code or look at other blogs. On weekends, I was supposed to plug away at the dreaded journal article. But I can't help myself. I just read a good peice in the Atlantic (while Ian lay on my back and the Wiggles sang in the background).

A must read for at-home moms is "Housewife Confidential" by Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic Monthly (Sept. 2003). I will have to set up the link later. It isn't online yet.

The article compares housewives from the 50s and 60s with at-home mothers today. The jobs are entirely different. Housewives from the 50s/60s didn't take the kids around to art class and gymboree. They were more concerned with getting the chores complete. Today, at-home moms have the opposite concerns (kids first, housework last) and even enlist others to do the floor and laundry for them.

So far, so good. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, because both my mom and my mother-in-law have pointed out the virtues of the playpens while watching Ian, destucto-baby. None of my friends use a playpen, because watching the kids is more important to them than doing the dishes. They haven't given up careers to clean, but to get Johnny all set for Harvard. Anyway, that's what I've been thinking about lately, so it was interesting to see someone else talk about it.

The article is also a bit contradictory. Sometimes the author paints a sentimental picture of home-life during the 60s and highlights the accomplishments of Erma Bombeck. But she also points out that Erma wasn't sane until she got a part-time job. Again, something that I've been thinking about.

I've ripped the article out of the mag and put it by the side of my computer. I'm going to come back to it on Monday. Now I have to brace myself for my enlightening work on education policy.


Friday, August 08, 2003

Get Your Sorry Ass Moving

After two days of uneventful playground time with the two kids, sometimes it is best to just do something different. Change the channel. Take the subway downtown and look for adventure. Yeah, it involves lugging Large Baby in the stroller up and down subway steps, but it's better than laying about the apartment.

So, that's what we did today. My friend, Sally, and I took the kiddies to the Museum of Natural History. Since Jonah joined us, we've been there a lot. It is our rainy day activity. We catch the A train at 181st station, and transfer for the C to the basement of the museum. Suburban moms go to the mall; we go to the Natural History.

The C train drops you off the ground floor of the museum. As usual, the lines were backed up into the station, because it takes the ticket takers about five minutes a person. The ticket takers there are a horribly discouraged lot, but juggling four kids on line for twenty minutes doesn't make me all that sympathetic.

After finally getting the tickets, I had to balance a tray with hot dogs and fries with one hand and push the stroller with the other. So far, not an uplifting experience.

We visited the dinosaur exhibit, which was fine as always, but the highlight was the whale room.

When we were kids, our parents would cart us over to the "Nastural" History museum a couple of times a year. We would eat hotdogs on the steps and admire Teddy Roosevelt up on his horse with the Indian at his side. Now, my favorite parts of the museum are the ones that have been around since we were kids. The Hall of Biodiversity is fine, but give me the brown bear diorama any day.

In the ocean room, an enormous whale hangs from the ceiling. The lights are dim, so that you can see the dioramas better. Little animal stories in a box. Look there is the father walrus and he's protecting his children. See the octopus and the giant squid fight. Ah, the mama seal has a fish for her babies.

They have recently added some movie screens around the room, which makes it look too busy and dilutes the drama of Orca looming above your head. Don't change anything more, guys.

One of the great things about having kids is that you get to relive your youth. The C train to the museum was a time machine to 1970.

IM Chris

LauraM1111: been reading my blog?
cmck930: Missed it for a few days. Any bombshells?
LauraM1111: nah. just a lot of ben and jen links.
cmck930: Bennifer. Have you seen Gigli yet?
LauraM1111: exactly. You've been reading, too.
I can't wait to rent it.
cmck930: It pains me to read the nasty things that those jealous critics are saying.
LauraM1111: clearly they just wish that they were with Jenny from the block. get over it, guys. She's with ben.
cmck930: You guys house shopping this weekend?
LauraM1111: Perhaps. Too rainy to camp. Drove around Fair Lawn a couple of days ago. It looked good.
cmck930: Yeah? Did you check out that neighborhood Carla recommended?
LauraM1111: I'm not sure if I was in the right neighborhood, but I drove down a block called Radburn. Cute smallish houses. Sidewalks. People walking about. Good signs.

Hey, Ian needs a pit stop. Talk later about Sunday.

Academic Blogs

I somehow wiped out all the code for my sidebar yesterday. In an attempt to improve my links, I was periodically fiddling with it while watching the kids. One dumb delete must have trashed everything. I'll have to fix it tomorrow.

One of the things I was working on was trying to find blogs by academics. I found a few good ones, but mostly a lot of depressing sites, which dwell on all the woes of professorial life. Here are some good ones:

The Invisible Adjunct
Professors Who Blog
Easily Distracted

How much should I read and write about academic abuses? On the one hand, I have seen and heard and experienced some real horrors, and I would love the opportunity to out the phonies and expose the sadists. I would like to stick a pitchfork into a few idiots. But on the other hand, life is short, and I don't want to waste it being bitter.

Yeah, we can't buy a house now because all our money is going to pay off student loans. Yeah, I only make $5,000 a year teaching two graduate school classes at an Ivy League university. Yeah, the dissertation. But I can't let I lose my sense of humor about life. Steve has moved on to a normal job, and is quite happy. And we have two great kids and live in a cool place. The only thing that picks away at me is the career. What am I going to do when the kids go to school? That's when I get all annoyed about academic life. They might not let me come back after five years of home-life. I'm going to give this academic thing a little longer, and if it doesn't work out, I'll do something else.


Thursday, August 07, 2003

A Blog Day

The word "blog" sort of describes my mood and the weather -- slow, thick, and dull. It hasn't stopped raining or threatening to rain in a week. And the humidity makes it hard to breathe.

The kids and I were at the playground today, but hurried home after a few rain drops hit us. Turned out to be nothing, but we were up all those stairs, so we couldn't go back out again. I let the kids watch TV for a while, too bored to think up interesting games for them.

Even the news is boring me. They're making a lot about Arnold running for governor of CA, but I don't think it is really drumming up the interest that everyone expected. Other than a lot of dumb Termanitor quotes, he hasn't said anything to wake me out of this stupor.

I'm going to turn the AC on in the bedroom and curl up with Harry Potter.

Skimming the Times

I don't know why I read movie reviews. I rarely have the chance to see them anymore. I also still subscribe to Time Out New York, the local guide to music, movies, and cool stuff, all of which I no longer have access to. I guess I read these reviews because I don't want to be too out of it. This is a temporary period of being cloistered in Apt. 11D. Soon, I'll be out again. Maybe.

Anyway, surprisingly the Times loved Freaky Friday, the Disney teenage movie. Here's the final paragraph:
Since her character wears no historical costumes and suffers from no debilitating ailment, it is likely that Ms. Curtis will be overlooked when Oscar season rolls around. This is a shame, since it is unlikely that any other actress this year will match the loose, energetic wit she brings to this delightful movie.


Wednesday, August 06, 2003

The Summer of Gay

More on gay shows. Susan, after a tough day at work, stopped by with a bottle of wine and Harry Potter. Wahoo.

We drank the wine and watched the new gay channel, Bravo, for a couple of hours. They had on a gay reality dating show; one guys sifts through 15 or so hopefuls over several days while a camera crew records every moment. The twist is that some of the guys are not really gay, but nobody else knows that. So, really the point of the show is not to watch who is going to be chosen. The point is to see how good your gaydar is. Susan and I watched for two hours trying to guess which contestants were really straight. "Oh, he's moisterizing his elbows. You know he's gay." "Look at him dance. Straight!"

Yes, we're lame, but it sure beats watching Fear Factor.

Ben and Jen - 2-together 4-ever

Is it true? Is their love over? some links. J. Lo Dumps Ben

Sony Pulls Gigli TV Ads

House = $$$$$

Hubby just sent this link about the cost of housing the New York City area . Around U.S., a House Is a Home but Not a Bonanza

According to this article, prices for houses are incredibly different at the coasts from the middle of the country. With the influx of all the creative, smart people (according to the Times) to the NY, Boston, and San Francisco, the middle of the country is emptying out. Housing prices in states like Indiana are in the 100,000s, while around here you can't find anything livable for 300,000. Our recent house hunting fiasco confirmed that.

The Times made it out that it was a good thing for the area. A larger nest egg for home owners, who can borrow against equity to get more stuff. I just think that things are too out of whack.

Housing prices have tripled in the area, but wages haven't. And those who didn't get in at the right time are in big trouble. There are no starter homes anymore. People just starting off can't afford to buy anything new or are borrowed up to their eyeballs. This has a big impact on the quality of life around here.

Nobody can afford to do creative occupations. Forget being an artist or a writer these days. Do it on the weekend. You can't afford to be a teacher or a professor. People are forced into more lucrative professions -- accountants and lawyers.

Children are a luxury that have to postponed until the late thirties, if ever. With high mortgage prices, two incomes become a necessity. The worry about schools adds further pressure to housing decisions.

The cost of living has become a real issue to us and to many of our friends. Some have moved to Los Angeles or North Carolina. I have heard some stories about many artists moving further north up the Hudson Valley.

I want to live in a place where friends can stop in for a beer after work, where there are a lot of fun, energetic people milling about, where my children can play naked in a backyard sprinkler, where I can find fresh vegetables, where my husband can be home with us for dinner, where we both can find jobs, where we have room for all our books.


Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Academic Inspiration

The Probability That a Real Estate Agent Is Cheating You in Sunday's Times discusses the work of Stephen Levitt, an economist at Chicago. The article does much to play up the stereotypes about academics -- nerdy glasses, muscle-less, crappy car, which undermined the whole thing. How much is the author distorting the picture?

But if it is accurate, then economics is getting much more exciting that political science. Here is an except of the article:

In Levitt's view, economics is a science with excellent tools for gaining answers but a serious shortage of interesting questions. His particular gift is the ability to ask such questions. For instance: If drug dealers make so much money, why do they still live with their mothers? Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What really caused crime rates to plunge during the past decade? Do real-estate agents have their clients' best interests at heart? Why do black parents give their children names that may hurt their career prospects? Do schoolteachers cheat to meet high-stakes testing standards? Is sumo wrestling corrupt?

And how does a homeless man afford $50 headphones?

Many people -- including a fair number of his peers -- might not recognize Levitt's work as economics at all. But he has merely distilled the so-called dismal science down to its most primal aim: explaining how people get what they want, or need. Unlike most academics, he is unafraid of using personal observations and curiosities (though he does fear calculus). He is an intuitionist. He sifts through a pile of data to find a story that no one else had found. He devises a way to measure an effect that veteran economists had declared unmeasurable. His abiding interests -- though he says he has never trafficked in them himself -- are cheating, corruption and crime.

With the help of a guy in sociology (that I used to know), they looked at why so many drug dealers live with their moms. They went over the financial records of drug dealers in Chicago and found out that, suprisingly, dealers didn't make all the much money. Amusing, right?

Political science could use a shot in the arm of sexy questions. I'm going to the American Political Science Association's Annual Meeting at the end of the month and am already bracing myself for a snooze-fest. A sample of paper titles:
Dependent Preferences and Over-Time Instability in Survey Responses
Bayesian Inference for Semiparametric Strategic Discrete Choice Models
The Politics of Common Agency: Unitary, Multiple and Collective Principals

I'm actually paying a lot of money to attend this conference. Hard to believe.

Times Commentary

Everybody seems to be talking about gay issues. The Times Style section said that this was The Summer of Gay. And Maureen Dowd had a gay friend make over Bush. See "Butch, Butch, Bush"

Also see The Probability That a Real Estate Agent Is Cheating You. More on this later.

The Skinny Bra

On the latest episode of Sex and the City, Miranda celebrates fitting into her skinny jeans. She has slimmed down because as a single mom she has no time to eat.

That's where I was a couple of months ago. Too busy to eat, so I finally fit into my favorite GAP capris that have sat in the closet for two years. Oh, happy day!

The problem is that I keep loosing weight. Chasing Ian around all day is like running 5 miles a day. I'm buff. I'm thin. Maybe too thin.

A couple of weeks ago in the playground, one of the Jamaican nannies who has never said a word to me, approached me with a strange question. "Did you breast feed your children?" I had no clue where she was going with this. I paused and said "Yeaaah?" She responded, "Well, I only ask because your breasts are so small. How could they feed your children." Thank you. Thank you very much. I had to explain that there were huge several months ago.

I guess I'm so thin now that I'm beyond the skinny jeans. I'm in the skinny bra. Far less cool. Probably won't make it onto Sex and the City.

Singing in the Rain

Yesterday, we went outside for the late afternoon outing and shopping expedition. Because it is such a pain to get out of my apartment, we tend to go outside for two 2-3 hour trips a day rather than in-out-in-out. Every day at around 3:30, we hit one of the playgrounds and then do the daily food shopping. Yesterday's shopping list included red potatoes, turkey, American cheese, and olives.

As we came out of Frank's, the over priced deli on 187th Street, it began to pour. We watched the rain under the awning for a while, but I got bored, so we went home in the rain. We were soaked even in that short walk around the corner.

What the hell? Puddle stomping time! I popped Ian out the stroller and the three of us ran around in the rain like fools for a half an hour.

Think the boys will remember what a cool mother I am when they become surly teenagers? Nah, I don't think so either.


Monday, August 04, 2003


Yesterday, I recommended looking at the blog, Ain't Too Proud To Blog: The Source of the painful, burning feminine-bitch. Well, after further investigation, I noticed that she has a annual boobiethon where she and her friends post pictures of their splendid boobs. This might explain the site's popularity. Steve, honey, please don't check this link at work.

Just say it, Margie, "I'm a Mom and I'm Proud"

I've got Margie on the phone as I'm blogging. She just told me about a woman she met from her kid's gymnastic class who said that she works part time as an executive trainer (whatever that means). She would like to be home full time with her kid, but "her self-esteemed is too wrapped up in what she does".

Another story. Margie is working on a children's book, so that she won't have to say she's "just a mom."

Queer Eye for the Straight Pope

Roly Poly Olie is on the tube, so with the five minutes break, I have drifted over to the computer rather than tackle the dishes.

Amazing stuff on Andrew Sullivan's blog about being a gay Catholic. Heart-breaking.

OK, OK. I'll do the dishes.

Hovel Hunting

On Saturday, we blew off another 4-year-old birthday party, and with some guilt, went to look at houses in NJ.

The first place that Joanne the real estate agent showed us was incredible. I had no idea that people lived like this. It was a 2 room Cape with an unfinished upstairs. So, that first floor had one bedroom, a livingroom, and a kitchen with brown carpeting. You walk up the staircase that greets you as you entered the house, and you enter a windowless attic with insulation hanging down. And there was absolutely no yard. None at all. One foot of cement separates the back of the house from the neighbor's fence. But there was a hot tub in the basement.

All that beauty for $330,000.

I was pissed off. Pissed off that all money doesn't buy you a postage stamp of backyard or even an upstairs. Pissed off that we carted the kids all the way from the city to see that. Pissed off that we blew off poor Jakey's party for this.

Then we saw five more architectural wonders. I looked past the Hummel statues and the duckie wallpaper borders and the doll collections and the smell of pot, but these places couldn't even be called fixer-uppers. How dare they cost that much money?

When we came back, Steve and I both noticed how great our apartment was. Yes, it needs some paint and plaster, but it is far superior than those houses.

What should we do? Keep looking in other areas? Hunker down here for the long haul? Move to Florida?

Yes, It is Fun to Hate

I just can't get enough of the bad reviews of Gigli. Seems like reviewers are competing to find the worst adjectives for it. I can only hope that Anthony Lane reviews in the New Yorker next week. Here's a sample from an article in the Times:

The Washington Post called the movie "enervated, torpid, slack, dreary and, oh yes, nasty, brutish and long."

The Los Angeles Times told readers, "Forget the hype — this movie would stink even without its big-ticket stars."

The New York Times said the movie, though it draws on various other movies, "has a special badness all its own."

The Wall Street Journal called it "the worst movie — all right, the worst allegedly major movie — of our admittedly young century."

Worse news for the film, though, may lie in the views of the relatively few who went to see it. Leith Mahkewa, visiting New York from outside Montreal, was blunt in her assessment on leaving a theater in Times Square. "Even though I fell asleep, I didn't miss anything," she said. "I'll tell friends."


im a reelly good speler.

Thanks to Toni for the heads up on the Times article about the reading program in NYC . City schools are going to have a new approach to reading called "Balanced Literacy," which is a combination of phonics and whole language methods of teaching. Phonics helps the student decode words and sound them out. Whole language involves seeing the word in a context. Lots of phony research on this debate has been conducted, which has lined the pockets of self-righteous professors.

The whole debate is really about politics. Conservatives like phonics because there is a formula for teaching students how to read. Teachers drill students in a traditional manner. Less is expected of the teachers because they can rely on textbooks. The whole language method is much more touchy feely and progressive. Your views on this boil down to politics. With the progressive method, more is expected of the teachers, and therefore, liberals believe that teachers should get paid more. Also it should be more fun for teachers to be "facilitators of knowledge" (gag) rather than "drill sargents." Education professors will have be employed to teach this complex method. Conservatives, like President Bush, like phonics for exactly the opposite reasoning. Less money. Textbooks can cut out the teacher schools. Later, maybe even a computer program can substitute for a teacher.

Both sides make me gag.


Sunday, August 03, 2003

Weekend Blogging

I've decided not to post messages over the weekend. There is too much competition for the good computer. Also, I think it's best to be out of the house on the weekends doing exciting things -- museum, dinner party, hikes. Theoretically. Actually, weekends are the time to catch up on laundry and paperwork. Regardless, I still can't post messages. But I can surf around here and there. Here's what I found:

Colby Cosh is a semi-employed journalist in Canada. His blog is a mixture of sports, politics, and personal. You should read him, because he writes like a charm. Here's a sample:

Working in a coal mine -- Nature gave me a personality very much like Douglas Adams' ("I love the sound [deadlines] make as they go whooshing by") but sometimes (like when the whooshing gets real loud) even I have to get all professional and responsible-like. Don't expect too much action around here for the next twelve hours... I'm leaving for the annual Cosh reunion in scenic Tangleflags, Saskatchewan, tomorrow, but I'll certainly update at least once before I disappear into the bush. - 12:06 pm, August 1 (link)

I also found this sassy site: Ain't Too Proud To Blog: The Source of the painful, burning feminine-bitch. Lots of cool bells and whistles. Come here if you want to see some great pictures of Gwen Staffani and here the latest about the Today Show's choice of bridemaid's outfits. This is apparently one of the most popular blogs out there.


Friday, August 01, 2003

Education Politics

Still drunk. Still posting

Great article in today's times, High School Under Scrutiny for Giving Up on Its Students
, which looks into a school in Brooklyn that is forcing borderline students out, and then hiding the fact that they've dropped out.

Raising standards alone don't improve schools. Administrators will just find ways of getting around it. They won't actually educate the kids, because that seems to be too hard. Instead they'll look for bureaucratic shortcuts. Just fire the lot of them, I say. Vouchers, anyone?


Angela, our babysitter, came by with her husband, Richard, for pizza and beer tonight. After four beers, I'm not sure if it's good to blog or not. First drunk blog.

Angela just turned 20, but she's already been married for two years. She's from a small town in Peru, which is where she met Richard. He was down there doing his research for his dissertation. I'm not sure of his age, but he must be in his late 30s.

She brought Richard to our home, because she wanted us to talk some sense into Richard who's futzing about writing a page a day. He needs to finish and take care of his child bride. At 20, she has more sense then him. He wants to write an "important" dissertation. We tried to tell him that the best dissertation is a done dissertation. Write an adequate dissertation, we told him.

I think he wanted to impress us with his knowledge of obscure theorists. He was all, "Let me tell you about the Frankfurt school." And I was all, "Let me tell you about finished." I think he was a little disappointed with our reality check. He looked particularlly appauled when I compared writing the dissertation to making donuts.

He told us about his problems finding supportive faculty, and how stressed out they are about money. We commisserated. We were forced to go on welfare when our son was born. I was so stressed that I came down with shingles. Steve developed stomach problems. I have all sorts of other friends who had similiar difficulties. One friend in literature told me that she wishes that someone ran an intervention on her before she went to school.

And then there is the debt.

We try not to be bitter. There is a lot we gained from the experience. I think. Maybe we're smart now. Maybe we had a chance to read all sorts of books and have lively debate. There are two large degrees in the closet that haven't been framed yet. We met each other in the library. And at least we finished.

There is so much wasted energy and brain power at graduate schools across the country. So much tragedy. So many lives ruined. People are being trained for jobs that don't exist, but don't learn of that fact until 10 years later.

I could tell stories about it, but tonight I won't. It will waste a good beer buzz.

Ta-ta until Monday.

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