Thursday, January 29, 2004

A Somewhat Real Call from the Real Estate Agent

Laura, I have two houses in your price range to show you this weekend. I hope you can make it.

The first one is small. It's very small. It's very, very small. Small. OK! It's a tree house.

It is somewhat of hike up, but you've got two young boys. They'll love to shimmy up.

It has central air. Well, what we mean by that is a large round portal in place of a door. It lets in lots of fresh air day and night.

And the view. Did I mention the view? Spectacular. You can see right into the second floor of all the neighboring houses. Who needs a TV and electricity, when you can view your neighbor's TiVo for free. Think of the savings on cable.

And you know that Northern New Jersey has a problem with flooding in the basement. But you'll never have those hassles. You'll be the envy of all around.

The second home is quite nice. It's remarkable that it is in your price range. It has four bedrooms, two baths, hardwood floors, eat in kitchen, den, and huge yard. Why is it so cheap, you ask? Yes, it is remarkable. Um. Extraordinary really.

I'm not sure if we'll be able to view it this weekend or not. We'll have to see if the wife is done hosing the place down yet. See, the husband is a taxidermist. He converted their basement into his work space where he sliced and diced quite a few critters. Started off with squirrel and possum and moved on to deer and moose. Worked so fast that he never got around to disposing properly of the carcasses. Just piled them up sky high in the three other bedrooms. A well placed rug will cover any discoloration in the wood, I'm sure. And a good room deodorizer. Just like new!

No, I'm sorry all the animal heads must go. Even the ones mounted to the roof. And certainly the yellow Lynx in the shower. A good paint job and plaster should cover the holes in the walls.

So, we'll have to see if the place has been hosed down in time for our inspection. Did I mention that the husband quickly moved from taxidermy to mummification as a hobby? Yes, yes. He branched out. The wife still has to relocate some relatives that the husband embalmed and wrapped and stored in the garage. That has to be done before we get there.

And be sure to step over the yellow police tape covering the front door. It's okay. The photographs have already been taken. There is some business about a missing mother-in-law, but don't let it bother you.

So, what do you say? 11:00 on Saturday. And I hope you've gotten pre-approved for a loan. Remember it's a seller's market.


Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Three's a Crowd

Ah dear old Sleep, I knew thee well.

I haven't had a full eight hours of sleep in ages. Probably since I first started peeing all night when I was pregnant five years ago. Pregnancies is really just about getting you ready to accept life with kids. All the physical humiliations, being cut off from single friends, and learning how to get by with next to nothing in the sleep department.

For the past few days, the kids have been slipping into our bed at night. Jonah just creeps in undetected clutching a dirty Pooh bear and whimpering about bad dreams. Ian senses that big brother in a warm special place and cries until he's in, too. Our Queen size bed won't hold us all. Steve complains that his ass is sticking out over the edge. Jonah gets all thrashy and elbows me in the nose. Ian twists my hair to relax. We try to sneak them out after a while, but they grow cold and lonely and cry to return.

When my mother called this morning for her daily check in, I told her about our difficulties. She lectured me about our permissive sleeping rules. "Kids have to sleep in their bed. You kids never did that. Well you've created this monster and now you have to live with it."

Should you let your kids cry in bed or should you bring them into your bed is a major debate among the child development experts. Sears v. Ferber. Like everything else we do with the kids, our methods tend to be middle of the road, uninformed, and inconsistent. We've let the kids cry in their beds before, but often we're just too tired to follow through and bring them into bed with our eyes still closed. Sometimes we wake up in the morning and find an intruder in our midst. We can't remember who brought him in or when this all happened.

Someday the boys will be lazy teenagers, sleeping until noon. I poke my head in their room and shake the bunk bed. "Get up, guys! You're missing all the fun." Happy thoughts.

Anyway, five paragraphs later, I'm just too tired to think through an interesting post today. So I've got some linky-links for you instead.

I am very interested in how blogging and internet affect political discussion. Does it lead to small insular cliques or does the linking process broaden debate? Read Dan Drezner for more on that. My own impressions are half-baked, but I think that there are definitely internet cliques but they are organized more by interest and profession than by political affiliation. The books people don't play with the politics people who don't play with the teenagers who don't play with the professors.

Since I'm only one step from full blown germ neurotic, I found this article fascinating. Apparently our kitchens are cesspools of bacteria. Those sponges smear microbes all over the eating surfaces. People contaminate vegetables and even sippy cups with bacteria from raw meat. Food safety, people, listen up! And Steve, you just can't eat leftover Chinese food after three days. (No that wasn't in the article.)

And it looks like Dean canned Joe Trippi, his campaign manager and the father of Dean's Blog for America. Dumb move.


Tuesday, January 27, 2004

A Tuesday

Finding a quiet place to work continues to be a challenge. Yesterday, because I had five hours of babysitting time, I was able to go downtown to the public library. The Mid Manhattan Library is usually okay as long as you're not sitting next to a homeless man.

Today, I had to stick around the neighborhood. I first tried to read sitting on my bed, but after three minutes, I saw a little eye watching me through a crack in the door. One minute later, he was dragged down the hall by the babysitter as he screamed in anguish. Jonah ran in to get approval on something that Angela has disapproved.

This whole business of working at home lasted 15 minutes.

A few years ago, I read an article by a writer for the Times. She said that by working full time at home with a sitter, she could still be "available" for her kids. Well, I'm way too available around here to get any work done.

I went downstairs to the coffee shop, The Monkey Room, where I did an interview with Jessica who runs the local support group for moms. After an hour, I moved on to Starbucks to work on another project. Starbucks, I thought, might have better lighting and better heating.

Nursing my fifth cup of coffee, I read about how little value is placed on raising kids in divorce procedings. Women who spend their youth raising the kids are completely screwed when the husband the bread winner takes up with a bimbo. I'm thinking about getting a post-nup.

Then home by 4:30. Made dinner. Sent Angela home. 5:00 Fed the kids. Let them watch Clifford. 6:00 Gave them baths. Diapers and PJs. 6:35 Steve came home and fell asleep on the sofa. Milk and 4 stories for the baby. 7:12 Ian dumped in the crib. Milk and applesauce and 4 stories for Jonah. Usually, Steve takes over at this point, but he's snoring, so I read, Baby Einstein: Jane's Animal Expedition, Strega Nona, Giggle, Giggle, Quack, and Olivia 7:40 Steve woke up and carried Jonah to bed.

When they've finished reading, Olivia's mother gives her a kiss and says, "You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway," And Olivia gives her a kiss and says, "I love you anyway too."


Monday, January 26, 2004

In Defense of Marriage

Say what you will about Bush’s State of the Union -- it was weak on big domestic programs, it was too conservative on social issues, it was boring -- one week after the speech, all must admit that it has changed the national agenda. In the State of the Union he mentioned the problems of sex slavery. Last Friday, Dateline NBC had a disturbing expose of child sex slaves in Cambodia, a New York Times magazine’s cover article discussed the forced prostitution of young girls in the US, and we talked about it over brunch at my parents' house. All hail the bully pulpit! His discussion of marriage has also birthed a series of articles in the mainstream press.

Sunday’s Times had a front page story on Bush $1.5 billion marriage education program. Marriage education programs have mushroomed in recent years, even without governmental subsidies. These programs advise couples on financial matters and communication skills, and are aimed at lowering the rates of divorce. With single women with children at the highest risk for poverty, a husband with a job might not be such a bad thing.

In the same paper, an op-ed article by Laura Kipnis goes to town on this program and on the institution of marraige itself. Why are these programs being aimed at the poor? If marriage is so great, then don’t the middle class need better communication skills as well? What the poor need are programs to lift them out of poverty, not this governmental intrusion into their personal lives.

She cites some interesting statistics. Only 56% of all adults are married today, compared with 75% 30 years ago. Married couples with children have dropped to 26% of all households, from 45% in the early 70s. People are less likely to be married and less likely to have kids than in the past.

Why this change? Partially, the new economy has made it increasingly difficult for one income to support a family, as Kipnis points out. However, she thinks that the major factor has been the economic self-suffciency of women. Women don’t need a man’s salary anymore.

She sees this as a cause for celebration. Conservatives are the only ones who like marriage. She compares colonial America to marriage, and the revolution to divorce. Married people are deeply unhappy and, thus, “primed to swallow indignities like trickle-up economics along with their daily antidepressants.”

Marriage is a plot by elitist conservatives to subjugate the masses.

I have so many problems with this op-ed that I hardly know where to begin. With no time to organize all my points, I am just going to spew.

First of all, to say that married people are all miserable is just crap. She cites some Rutgers study that said that 38% of people in the first marriage are unhappy. OK, some people have to go around a couple times to get it right. How many people in their second marriages are happy? How many single people are happy? I have a good number of single friends enduring all sorts of humiliations with internet dating, because they very much want to get married.

Secondly, why begrudge lower income people of their marriage classes. The expenditure is relatively small. Too small to be used for a more ambitious program. And Steve and I attended an obligatory class through our church before we got married. It was a good thing. Why not give others such an opportunity? Why must only middle class gain some helpful pointers?

Thirdly, I don’t think everybody should be married. One of the great advances in the modern age is that women have a choice about this matter. But this doesn’t mean that no one should be married. Why deride marriage for others because you don’t like it?

Fourthly, divorce should not be celebrated. I have three good friends who have been divorced. In one case, the woman initiated it because the guy was a bum. But in the other two cases, the guy left for a younger woman. And in one of those cases, the bum left her with two small kids who now have to go to daycare. I’m not sure if marriage classes could have prevented those divorces from happening, but to assume that divorce is always benefits women is a mistake. And rarely does it benefit the kids.

Lastly, how come it’s okay for gays to get married, but not us heteros? If we think (and I do) that homosexuals should get married if they want to, then why shouldn’t the breeders. It’s bizarre.

Throughout the article, Kipnis assumes that people don’t want to get married. Women are making a personal choice to avoid the enslavement of marriage. Does personal choice help explain the statistic? Are people not getting married because they can’t afford it, they can’t find good mates, they are too pressured from work to date, they are scarred from their own parents' divorce, they are in alternative committed relationships? I’m not sure. But the picture is far more complicated than Kipnis makes out. And marriage is certainly not a life sentence to misery.

Things to Read

Dan Drezner also had problems with the Kipnis's op-ed.

For more on sex trafficking and trafficers, read Tim Burke's post, Evil.

More from the Times on politics and the internet.
Online political discussion has become so fragmented so quickly that some public policy scolds warn that the Internet is in danger of narrowing the spectrum of debate even as it attracts more participants to it. The same medium that allows people to peruse a near- infinite number of news sources also lets them pinpoint the ones they want and filter out the rest.


Sunday, January 25, 2004

On the FDR

On Thursday, I got a call from our three named real estate agent in New Jersey, Barbara Beil Pews (named changed to protect the innocent). Barbara said, "I'm sorry, Laura, but we have to cancel our appointment for this weekend. I previewed the only house available in your price range, and it was the worst house I've even seen. But still it had seven bids by contractors."

Great. The only thing we can afford is a tear down. Contractors are tearing down the post war boxes to make room for McMansions -houses that we neither want nor can afford.

I should be more disappointed. In the suburbs, my kids will have a first class, hassle-free education. They can run down the block to little league with their blond hair stuffed under a new baseball cap. They won't have me constantly screeching at them to watch the doggie poop and broken glass. Or be woken up to car alarms and fighting girls in the street. I should be more disappointed.

On Saturday, we packed up the kids in our environmental friendly Toyota and visited the transit museum in Brooklyn. This museum, an homage to trains and buses, is located in the decommissioned Court Street station in downtown Brooklyn. Down the subway steps are old trains sitting on the live tracks. Slick chrome trains from the fifties. And wooden models from the turn of the century with wicker seats and individual windows. It's not hard to imagine men in fedoras hanging from the leather straps with folded newspapers under their arms.

Probably the best part of the trip for me was the drive there along the FDR drive and over the Brooklyn Bridge. On this frigid weekend, we sailed along the eastern side of Manhattan without traffic. The air was so clear that each building was in sharp focus. You could see individual blocks of ice floating down the Hudson to the sea. And it was quiet. Too cold for construction or people's voices or even beeping horns. The city was empty. It was like that seen from one of the Mad Max movies when Mel Gibson flew around post-apocalyptic New York. And then we drove by Ground Zero.

As we crossed the heroic Brooklyn Bridge, Steve told Jonah that this was the oldest suspension bridge in the country. Jonah wasn't impressed with that bit of information, but he did say that he would like to ride on it with his bike. That would be nice. I would like to get dressed up like Sophie and Nathan in Sophie's Choice. Then jump up, grab a cable, and make an eloquent toast.

In the evening, we watched Down with Love. The film was dumb, but beautiful -- not unlike Renee herself. Watch it for the great clothes in a stylized city. In the end of the movie, Renee whines to Ian, "I don't want to get married, have kids and move to the suburbs." Me neither.


Friday, January 23, 2004

It's All So Rich

(I'm trying to write a quick post while I have a chance. The baby is sleeping. And Jonah is building train tracks on the floor next to me. But Jonah keeps interrupting me with long stories about the tracks he's building. None of his sentences seem to have any periods. And then Thomas comes around the bend and runs into Henry and there's a terrible explojun and then a big wind comes and it's like the three little pigs and the men come to do the construction and that is where they stay to check on things.... I'm nodding and typing at the same time, but it's not very easy.)

It seems like everyone is watching that god-awful Trump reality show. Even me. Well, I'm not watching it closely, but I do pause on that show for awhile as I'm surfing around. The premise of the show is 20 or so people compete to be Donald Trump's next toady.

I just can't imagine who would want such a position. I would rather starve on an island for a month to win a million dollars or make out with an asshole to win his heart for a million. The prize on this show -- taking crap from a guy with a nasty comb over -- does not sound at all fun.

The show is worth a brief look to watch the contestants grovel (literally) before Trump and to witness the tasteless decor of Trump's home. He welcomes the contestants to his gold plated home with a flourish. The camera does a close up of a faux Renaissance vase. He said, "This home has been visited by kings and presidents. And now you're here." One contestant replies, "it's all so rich."

I welcome more shows like this on TV. Give us more Hilton sisters. More Hilfiger heiresses. I think it is good to demystify the rich. All the money in the world does not make you interesting.

Read This

Blogs in the Times again. About the influence of blogs in this campaign.


Thursday, January 22, 2004

The Intrusion of Hardship

An eviction notice is masking taped to Apt. 12C. A middle aged woman lives in 12C along with son who attends a local community college. She always greets me in the stairwell with a friendly smile and pat for the boys.

What happened? Until recently, I saw her regularly return from work in the evenings. Her son was not one of the boyz hanging out selling drugs. Why the eviction? I'm not sure, but possibly her brother's murder over Christmas time pushed her over the edge. When her son found out, he punched a hole in the front door spewing blood everywhere. There were screams and an ambulance. Later, her smile was gone, and her hair uncombed. I haven't seen her in weeks. Maybe she returned to her family in the DR. The half-known stories of an apartment building.

I bring this story up, because I feel an eruption of my inner commie. Sunday's magazine story on the working poor focuses on the story of a woman stuck in one crappy minimum wage job after another.

Yes, she is partly in her position due to bad decisions and to irresponsibility, but she has also had some bad luck. She had four children; the last had an IQ of 59. A rough childhood, slimebag husbands, childcare problems, illness, lack of teeth -- all these circumstances have kept her poor.

She has received help from the government, but that does not seem to be enough to improve her lot in life. No, she's not a beggar or starving, but she's not doing well either.
So often the crises that devastate the poor are family related.

The author writes,
Money may not always cure, but it can often insulate one problem from another. Parents of means could have addressed Amber's handicaps without uprooting themselves and discarding their assets. They could have purchased services; brought their own skills to bear and walled off their house, their jobs and their lifestyle from the intrusion of hardship. In the house of the poor, however, the walls are thin and fragile, and troubles seep into one another.

Though our landlord is trying to push out the long term residents of the building with their rent controlled apartments, the working poor are here with me. There's Angela in Apt. 11B raising a 13 year old daughter and a 3 year old grandchild. Out of work for a year because of her poor credit rating excluded her from retail jobs. The old Asian woman in 11C works long hours somewhere. One homeless man slept under our stairwell for a week last month.

I feel very close to those people not only because I can hear them thumping around next door. Address their needs, and you get my vote.

Things to Read
Google Bombing makes the Times.

J. Lo and Ben are now really over!

$470,000 buys you a four bedroom house in Dallas or a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan.

Things to Remember

Not only are we going to New Hampshire ... we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico. We're going to California and Texas and New York. And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan and then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House! Yeeeeeeah!


Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Martha on Trial

Lileks is back to watching his kid. He writes, Back to the dad-at-home routine, and I couldn't be more pleased. "It's a daddy day tomorrow," I said to Gnat, and her eyes lit up. "Yay!" My sentiments, exactly. Why does it always sound cooler when guys stay home with the kids?

Yesterday, after dinner, I gave up. I ran out of steam and couldn't manage the rest of the evening routine. I put on the Food Network since it amuses all. Jonah likes the mixing and the pouring. Ian just enjoys seeing people eat. The three of us sat on the sofa waiting for Steve to come home and be a better parent.

The show on the Food Network was called Almost Cooking or something like that. The woman dressed like she just came home from work in a sensible sweater and flipped up hair. No pretense of being a chef or anything. Which was good, because she explained how to spice up your mac and cheese from a box with an envelope of Taco mix. Voila. Mexican Macaroni and Cheese.

OK, I'm not above mac n' cheese. In fact, we ate it last night, the quite excellent Annie's Organic kind. But I hardly think that mac n' cheese from a box really deserves a segment on the food network.

What is going on? Are we seeing a shift from the Martha Stewart dominated 90s. Is there a Martha backlash? Is there more than Martha on trial right now? Is the whole lifestyle before the judge as well? Hmmm. Mixed feelings.

A friend of mine is a former editorial assistant for Betty Crocker Publishing, which is a subsidiary of Simon & Schuster. Of course Betty Crocker is really a team of women, mostly based in the Mid-west, who come up with those creations. My friend nicknamed the cooking writers collectively as the Betties. The Betties had a fondness for canned pineapples, maraschino cherries, and Campbell's soup. Seemingly stuck in the 70s, they had no use for pesto, sun dried tomatoes, risotto, or fresh vegetables.

I know the Betties' cooking well. My mom did it. Once a week, she would simmer chicken breasts, add a cylinder of cream of mushroom soup, and pour the glop over white rice. I liked it.

I'm very interested in cooking styles and tastes and what that says about a particular era. The 70s tuna casserole says easy, efficient, who cares about food when you can smoke a lot. The 90s Martha Stewart 50 steps to perfection cooking says quality, image, wealth.

Does this show represent a new era in cooking or was it just a horrible mistake? My dad has a theory that a decade doesn't really become its own until after three years. 1962 was very much like the 50s. 1972 was still part of the late 1960s. Now that we've hit 2004, we should be starting to see the unique qualities of this decade that separate it from the 1990s. Of course, Dad also thinks that the Beatles didn't really write Sergeant Pepper, so I'm not so sure how much we trust his views on cultural issues.

Things to Read

Check out this cool planned suburb in the Netherlands.

An excellent article on the working poor and the discussion at Crooked Timber.

Tim Burke froths at the mouth over academic journals.


Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Starbucks Without Bucks

I'm writing this from the Starbucks on 181st Street, though I won’t be able to plug it into the blog until later tonight. After blowing a month’s rent on this iBook, I couldn’t justify the extra $100 for the airport card.

I see that the Invisible Adjunct is on a short hiatus. I'm making some changes around here, too. For the past six months, I've been making two or three short entries during the day. I'm finding that too hard to maintain, now that Large Baby is no longer taking a morning nap and is showing his displeasure with my lack of attention by tossing Lego in the toilet. One longish post in the evening is going to work better for me. Although I can get competitive about being the first on the block to talk about an issue, it is just not possible. I can’t be that kind of blogger.

It’s a full house in Starbucks this afternoon. Like me, everyone is equipped with laptops, cell phones, personal data organizers. And decaf lattes. I scorned Starbucks when it first opened its doors in the neighborhood. The harbinger of gentrification and higher rents. But this chain coffee shop with all its boring predictability is really a godsend. It’s a place to work. The local branch library is pathetic, and the university library is a 40 minute bus ride away. 40 minutes of precious baby sitting time. So, here I am. With my book, laptop, and a grande.

And everybody loves Starbucks. We live in a neighborhood of old German Jews, young hipsters, Dominicans, and some Russians. They seem to favor particular shops. The Dominicans get their Cuban sandwiches, fried ham and cheese on a roll, at the bodegas. The German Jewish ladies follow Dr. Ruth to the local diner for their sandwiches. And the hipsters go to the overpriced lounge. But all groups seem to have a hankering for a latte.

Gee, I feel like an ad. Starbucks, home to working mothers everywhere and a huge spoon in this melting pot we call America. On the other hand, $1.90 for a small coffee sucks even by NYC standards.

So, what am I doing in this Starbucks? Working. I have taken a semester off from adjuncting to write a few academic articles and one or two mainstream pieces. We’ll see how this goes.

The trouble with this semester o' writing is that no money is coming in. Yeah, the adjuncting paid like shit, but still it was something. This semester, money is a big question mark. Luckily, my employment is not required to pay the rent, but I do like getting a paycheck now and then. I like getting that thin, boring envelope in the mail. I like ripping off the stub and leaving it by the side of my husband’s computer for its input into Quicken. I like it when the ATM sucks up the check and makes that satisfying thumping sound as the ATM digests. Burp. Direct deposit? No way!

I'm off for the evening to catch up on the day's worth of commentary on Iowa and the state of the union. For all the Dean supporters who are too humiliated to watch the evening news, may I recommend the excellent blog rundown from Ms. Magazine's Christine Cupaiuolo. (Thanks, Christine.)


Monday, January 19, 2004

The Other Dr. Laura

Women bloggers are going a little bonkers over the Caitlin Flanagan's review of Dr. Laura's new book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. Read Maud Newton and Joanne Jacobs for a quick summary of the debate.

The only time I listen to talk radio is when I borrow my parent's car. Sean Hannity blathers on as soon as I turn the ignition. I have only heard Dr. Laura once or twice during those occasions. I'm not going to defend Dr. Laura because I have no clue what she's about. But I will defend Flanagan, whose book reviews in Atlantic Monthly are always balanced and interesting.

Flanagan briefly pans Dr. Laura's new book, but does find that there is some good in her radio message if one isn't too troubled by Dr. Laura's personal hypocrisies (nude photos) or offensive language. I particularly liked Flanagan's defense of Dr. Laura's interest in minimizing the damage of divorce.

Flanagan writes,

In a nutshell, Dr. Laura believes that many of the aspects of adult life that I had always considered complicated and messy and finely nuanced are in fact simple and clear-cut; that life ought to be neatly fitted around duty and responsibility rather than around the pursuit of that elusive old dog, happiness. This is what makes her the most compelling advocate for children I have thus far encountered, because the well-being of children often depends upon the commitment and obligation of the adults who created them. If you want to know whether the divorce culture has been a disaster for children, tune in to the Dr. Laura show one day. The mainstream media have a cheery name for families rent asunder and then patched together by divorce and remarriage: they are "blended families." But the day-to-day reality of what such blending wreaks upon children is often harsh. The number of children who are being shuttled back and forth between households, and the heartrending problems that this engenders in their lives, is a sin. Every June, Dr. Laura fields multiple calls having to do with transporting reluctant children across vast distances so that court-ordered visitation agreements can be honored. Whereas an article in Parents magazine or the relentlessly upbeat family-life columns in Time might list some mild and generally useless tips for dealing with such a situation (have the child bring along a "transitional object," plan regular phone calls home, and so forth), Laura throws out the whole premise. What in the world are the parents doing living so far away from each other? One of them needs to pick up stakes and move. "I can't do that," the caller always says. "Yes, you can," Laura always replies, and when you think about it, she's right.

I think that what enrages some women about Caitlin's review is that she has stepped into conservative territory -- family values. Conservatives own this issue. Family and children are off limits for liberals, unless the families and children are poor.

UPDATE: This quote, which Instapundit loved, really pissed off the women bloggers. I took this discussion of wifely duties as a really minor point in the larger article, but others clearly didn't.


Sunday, January 18, 2004

(I have a raging sore throat, so husband Steve is stepping in. Props to the first guest blogger at Apt. 11D.)

Environmentalism in Washington Heights

I drive a '91 Toyota, with 184,000 miles on it. The thing will run forever. Since we live in the city, we don't use it often, but when we want to get off the island it's the best mode of transportation. Reliable, fuel efficient, easy to maintain. A Toyota is a fine car.

Last week it was my Toyota went for its annual emissions test.. Jonah (the older boy) and I went to a local garage in the next neighborhood north. One of dozens along the northernmost stretch of Broadway. They crept the car onto the rollers, chained her down, rammed the sensor up her tailpipe, turned on the computer, got behind the wheel, and away they went. The result? YOU FAIL. Why? Hydrocarbon count was too high. The limit is 0.80, and my poor car got a 0.89.

Now I had to get a tune-up. And, as it turns out, a converter. Three hundred bucks.

So last Saturday, after the tune-up and added equipment, Ian (the younger boy) and I took the car to the same place. Ahead of me was a mid-'80s Ford mini-van of some sort. "No way," I thought, "will this guy pass." And I was right. First time around the mechanic did a legitimate test. Second time around the mechanic left the sensor on the ground. That didn't work either. On the third time around, the mechanic backed a second car into the garage, crammed the sensor up its tailpipe, and then ran the test. YOU PASS!

Sheesh. I saw a couple Abe Lincolns change hands, and that's that! In Washington Heights and Inwood, that's called a "tip." But I'm not angry at the mechanic for pocketing a couple bucks. That's part of the underground economy in any neighborhood. And I'm not angry at the guy with the mini-van. His and half of the cars in Manhattan have no chance of ever passing any emissions test. A guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do.

Nope, I'm pissed at Albany. With standards becoming stricter and stricter, over time it's inevitable that older models car will fail. When I explained the whole situation to my wife Laura, who's no Communist but perhaps a half-step to the right of Karl Marx, she proclaimed that "Environmentalism hurts the poor!" A good portion of society can't afford cars or repairs that meet consistently tightening requirements. Your car fails, you can't register your car, you can't drive your car, you need a new car.

So some cars will never meet state emission standards, at least without some sort of "tipping" somewhere along the line. What surprises me is that there is no grandfathering. If standards tighten each year, wouldn't it make sense to grandfather engines never designed to meet such standards in the first place? In other words, an engine built in 1986 should never be expected to meet 2003 emission standards. An engine built in 2003 would, of course, be expected to do so.

Don't get me wrong. I think it's astounding that in one generation the wildlife in the eastern part of the country has returned at an incredible rate. Northern Manhattan has a small population of bald eagles. Turkey and deer plague the suburbanite. Bear have found their way back to the Catskills. Moose are wandering about Massachusetts. Every spring and fall my local park is festooned with all sorts of migrating birds. It's not uncommon to see peregrine falcons and red-tailed hawks flying over the neighborhood. Who would have believed such a thing in 1970?

But where should we draw the line? Increase emission standards and either: (1) take those standards seriously and force failing cars off the road or (2) give a wink and a nudge and keep those smoke-belchers chuffin' along. One is draconian, the other is hypocritical. I'm not sure where we stand at the moment, but I do think that, at least in New York, we've reached a point where a good number of the cars on the road are substandard. Why punish people who are trying to get by with what they can afford? Or why pass a law which nobody takes seriously?

---posted by Steve


Saturday, January 17, 2004

a stream of words going into the blue

(I'm breaking some major rules around here and posting on a Saturday. But, but, but I just got my new iBook which is begging to blog, and I have such a good quote from the New Yorker that I just can't help myself.)

In this week's New Yorker, Katha Pollitt writes a hysterical essay on cyber stalking a former lover. She tracks him down through google and find all the conferences he has attended in recent years. She even e-mails female members of his panels to find out if they slept with him.

Now, the question of the day... Have you ever googled an old girlfriend/boyfriend?

Politt also writes of her internet obsession.

He had accused me of being addicted to the Internet, and he was right. I spent hours every day following the news, and surfing from one odd Web site to another. I joined Listservs all over the left, from Aut-Oy-Sy, which focussed on the ideas of the Italian anarchist Toni Negri, to Women Leaders Online, for pro-choice Democratic feminists, and carried on intense discussions with people I came to feel I knew in some deep, ultimate way, although I had never met them and didn't want to. What I loved about the Internet was its purity and swiftness, I told him, the feeling of being without a body, of flying into space in all directions at once, becoming a stream of words going into the blue, a mind touching other minds. I think he took this as a sexual rejection.


Friday, January 16, 2004

Steve: FYI

The lights on the Empire State Building are green today in honor of Popeye's 75th birthday.

Sex in the Stacks

Thanks to Crescat Sententia for reminding me about the popular myth about the University of Chicago's main library, the Regenstein. In the bowels of the library are miles of books that are rarely seen. You have to turn the lights on yourself when you enter those rooms. Students whisper about coming across couples taking a study break among the dusty tomes. BTW, Mr. Regenstein made his millions by inventing the window envelope.

I never witnessed or participated in those acts of scholarly love while I was a student, but I did make sure to keep my shoes on.

At that time, there was a pervert with a shoe fetish sneaking up on sleeping students who had kicked off their shoes while resting in the comfy airchairs by the windows. My uncle, who was chief of security for the campus, was hot on his trail. During our weekly lunchs, he would give me an update telling me to watch my shoes at all times. He never did locate the shoe thief, but did find a garbage bag of clogs and loafers in the dumpster.

Big Mac or Whopper?

The kids are sick again. Good Lord, woman. What is going on there? You must be feeding them nothing but Doritos and clothing them only in flipflops and a bandana.

Ah, yes. Terrible mother. It could also be that I send my kid to nursery school, aka the germ factory. Last month, one parent thought that it would be better that her child attend school with open wounds from the chicken pox, rather than the parent miss one day of work. Thank you for sharing.

As Ian rests a warm head on my shoulder, Jonah picks his nose.

Jonah, stop picking your nose.

I can't, mom. I have three or four burgers in there.


Thursday, January 15, 2004

Mommy Lit

My friends and family don't read my blog. Oh sure, they have their so-called "good excuses" -- a firewall at work, slow internet access, double pneumonia. I think that the real reason is that I tend to repeat myself a lot in real life, and the last thing my friends want to do is read about my views on this and that for the third time.

Since I know that my sister does not read this blog, I can talk about the book she gave me for Christmas, Mitten Strings from God, without hurting her feelings.

OK, Mitten Strings from God. Need I say more? This book is written by a woman who seems to have no doubts about her commitment to stay home with the kids, little outside interests, an unnatural perkiness, and a frontal lobotomy. I can't really bring myself to read the whole thing, so I've just been skimming it here and there.

The premise of the book is that we as mothers are too busy running from playdate to playdate and activity to activity and that we should just take the time to savor little quiet times with the kiddies. This will make all things well. Here are some quotes that made me gag:

"As mothers, we are the emotional centers of our homes. Our partners may make their own invaluable contributions, but women are still largely responsible for setting the tone and pace of family life. One of my greatest challenges each day is to sustain an atmosphere in our home that nourishes not only our bodies and intellects, but our inner lives as well."

"When we minister to our children with love and care, we teach them to care for others in return. Through our own loving example, we show the healing way, opening their hearts to the needs of those around them."

"Motherhood offers us the chance to re-create the world anew each day, to meet it freshly, even as we discover reserves of strength and wisdom we didn't know we had."

This book belongs to a whole subgenre of books -- mommy-lit. And it gives me hives. It is closely related to all that corny e-mail that people forward me about mothers.

I am sure there are some very good messages in this little book from my sister, lessons about taking the time to enjoy life, but the tone is so sanctimonious, virginal, and humorless, that I can't read it without snorting.

Read This

An interesting Times article on teenagers and blogging.


Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Bad Toys

Yesterday, Tim Burke wrote that Barbie is a crappy toy whose only purpose is to showcase clothes. He finds that, "boys’ toys are still vastly better-made, more varied, more complex, more interesting, than girls’ toys".

One saving grace of having two boys is that I never have to deal with the whole Barbie thing. On the one hand, it is an awful toy that gives little girls a poor body image and teaches them the importance of matching their purse to their shoes. On the other hand, I remember getting my first Barbie doll and what a thrill it was. Before that we had Barbie's trailer park counterpart, the Dawn doll. Barbie elevated my sister and me into the better social circles.

There are a lot of crappy boy toys, too. The Hot Wheels tracks are on my evil toy list. The cars themselves are not that bad. But in their varied colors and fenders, they aren't all that different from Barbie. The boys dress up cars, and the girls dress up dolls. Whatever. But the track sets are a different story.

Hot Wheels tracks come in sets that only work if arranged in one way. This leads to frustration and dampens creativity. The sets involve some kind of a motor or twirling rubber band that hurls cars around as fast possible. After watching the car go round for five minutes or so, it gets old. The next logical thing to do is to set up obstacles on the track and watch the cars crash. Soon, even a 10 car pile up gets old, and the kid who is now completely wired starts tossing the cars across the room bypassing the tracks all together.

I could get the same result from giving my kid a liter of soda and a jelly donut.

UPDATE: Crooked Timber has a good discussion going on about Barbie. Miriam Jones weighs in.


Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Academics with Kids

I've been gone all day dealing with a car that is belting out excessive amounts of hydrocarbons for the tree huggers up in Albany. (Yeah, I voted for the tree huggers, but should the laws really apply to me, too?) Awaiting me is a messy desk and a long to do list. To put off real work, I've been skimming the blogs.

There are a number of academic bloggers who write about their kids. For obvious reasons, I favor those blogs. Today, Russell Arben Fox sings the academic blues as he drives his colicky baby through the countryside. Tim Burke disses Barbie. And I just came across the blog, John & Belle Have A Blog -- more academics with kids.

Just because you've read Beowolf in old English doesn't mean that you can't enjoy a rousing rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

Tuesday is Reader Mail Day!!

Mo liked the New York Times article on young doctors choosing less demanding specialties, and she found a good quote that I missed. (See blog 1/8)

I also hope, as the NY Times article on young women doctors suggested, that a shift is going on in our society, away from slaving away at the job and toward putting the family higher on the priority list. I couldn't believe what one doctor said about the younger MDs he comes across:

"When residents come looking for jobs, they ask, `How often do I have to take night call,' " he said. "There's less intensity, less determination and less devotion.""

Less devotion... to the JOB, not to the family. So clearly their priorities are screwed up! Given the prevalance of attitudes like that in the workplace, is it any wonder women just throw up their hands in frustration? And sometimes just quit?

Another reader, Loren, also had bad experiences in hospitals. (See blog 1/7)

...your advice for entering a hospital hit home for us: when our little guy (now seven months) was born he was a few weeks early and we had to bring him back to the intensive care for jaundice. Getting in was stressful enough, but getting out was horrendous. We just wanted our little guy home once he was well, and out of that depressing windowless place urrounded by so much sadness (very little more heartwrenching, I've decided, than the infant intensive care in the early morning hours, but that may just point to my limited experiences and relative good luck in life).

But after all our son's tests suggested he'd bounced right back to normal, we couldn't get straight answers from anyone in the unit about how long he'd have to stay, save a condescending resident who basically told us our son have to stay in a light box with IVs and probes stuck to him for over a week, probably more. My wife is a geneticist and I've dabbled in some epidemiology and public health, so together we figured out most of the journals and protocols for jaundice-related complications, but when we finally got to talk to the senior attending physician about why their standards for treatment and observation were way, way more conservative than the American pediatrics guidelines and ignored the lack of any published evidence for complications of the kind she gave us horror stories about, she referred us to their litigation specialist and walked away. We were livid, but thankfully our own pediatrican agreed with us rather than the hospital lawyers, and had us out in a reasonable time.


Monday, January 12, 2004


I was quite disturbed to learn from the Invisible Adjunct today that recruiters are looking up applicants on google to get dirt usually omitted from a resume.

What kind of stuff do they dig up? Attendance at science fiction conventions? List serve threads on cross dressing? A series of unpaid parking tickets from the Department of Motor Vehicles?

Of course, I was curious what my name would turn up, so I googled myself this morning. Nothing interesting. A couple of boring academic articles. Also, some old track race times. I guess some guy out in New Jersey is obsessed with the stats of high school girls cross country runners from the 1980s.

Since my life is so boring, I googled David Sedaris. I'm reading his book, Me Talk Pretty One Day. I found a lot of unofficial fan sites that post pictures of him and links to his brother's floor sanding business.

One fun part of doing this blog is that I can see what search terms people use to get to my blog. Apparently, a lot of people come to my blog by typing in Emeril Sucks. Another popular search term is Kowasaki Disease. I think a really entrepreneurial blogger could put together a disfiguring disease site or something about the top ten hated chefs of the food network.

What did I learn from this brilliant use of 30 minutes? A lot of people have an excess amount of time on their hands. Some people have borderline personality disorders. I really need to find some gainful employment.

Gay Parents

A Times article examines an emerging population of gay men who are not only raising children but are also committed to the idea that one parent should leave the workplace to do it.

Some say that gay parents have less hang ups about quitting work.

Sociologists, gender researchers and gay parents themselves say that because gay men are liberated from the cultural expectations and pressures that women face to balance work and family life, they may approach raising children with a greater sense of freedom and choice.

Others say that gay stay at home parents have similar issues as moms.

Though many gay fathers may enter into domesticity with few conflicts or reservations, the pressures of starting a new life stripped of professional status can mirror those faced by nonworking mothers. The transition may be even rockier, given that male identity is largely defined by achievements outside the confines of nurseries, mud rooms and kitchens.

No time for further comments. running out.


Sunday, January 11, 2004

Weekend This and That

On Saturday night, I got a Get Out of Jail Free card and headed downtown to meet my friend Toni. After an entire week inside apt. 11D interrupted only by quick visits from my mom and anxious calls to the doctor, I really needed to get out.

I was quite jittery about leaving the baby at first. I called Steve as soon I got out of the subway to make sure that the kids were retaining fluids properly.

When Jonah turned six months old, we congratulated ourselves on not killing him. But later, we got cocky. The kids seemed to thrive even if I didn't compulsively count vegetable intake. After last week's debacle, my confidence is shaky again. Who decided that it was okay for me to have two kids, when I have such a spotty record with house plants?

A couple swigs of beer with Toni at the Heartland Brewery helped to chase away my parenting woes.

We planned to see Lost in Translation, the Sophia Coppola/Bill Murray movie that has gotten good reviews, but it was sold out. We had to see whatever was open at the soonest time. It was too butt cold to shop around at different theaters or to think up a plan B.

So, we saw Something's Gotta Give with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaten, a feel good movie for the post menopausal. The movie doesn't have much going for it, except the treat of a close up of Jack's ass and the yuckiness of Diane Keaten making out with Keanu Reeves. Still, it was fun to go out.

Today, the coldness kept up us inside, so I made lentil soup using a recipe from The Moosewood Cookbook, the vegetarian bible. I like that cookbook a lot, though I've found that all their recipes are made better by a big ham bone. The ham bone sure picked up the lentil soup.

And tomorrow a new week begins. Much to look forward to. My new computer arrives. The babysitter returns, which buys me some time to work. A new episode of Sex and the City. And healthy kids.


Friday, January 09, 2004


Thanks to everyone who wrote me kind notes about my son's bout with diarrhea and dehydration. We have it under control now, though he still can't handle milk.

Diarrhea is, I believe, the number one cause of death of babies in third world nations. 2.2 million children died of dehyrdation from diarrhea in 2002.

Diarrhea. Not just a funny song.

Read This

At this woman's work, Dawn has a couple of good posts on the different styles of raising children in rich and poor homes. Are poor kids better off than rich kids?

Bling. Bling. The Sunday Times has two articles on diamond rings. An article in the magazine section said that single women are now buying diamond rings for themselves and putting them on their right hand. And in the Sunday style section was an article that said that diamonds were man's best friend. Is the Times in cahoots with the diamond cartel? Will their next article be on diamonds for tots? Am I spending too much time reading the Times?


Thursday, January 08, 2004

Scarred For Life

(Just a quick evening post. It was a tough day. Ian's diarrhea came back at 11:00, and I spent the rest of the day making sure that he was constantly hydrated, doing three loads of soiled laundry, and changing diapers. I'm not sure if I'm exhausted from the stress or all the manual labor of the day.)

A few weeks ago, I took Jonah to the bathroom in Barnes and Nobles. When we're out, he has to go to ladies room with me. I wouldn't let him go into the men's room alone. Fear of pervs.

As we washed our hands, he looked up at the tampon dispenser and asked, "what is that, mommy?" I froze. I want to be much more open with my kids about their bodies and sexuality than my parents were with me. No need to pass on the Catholic guilt in this area. Let's break the cycle, I have always maintained. But there was that question, out there in the open, and me totally unprepared for how to answer it.

So, I told my innocent little four year old son that the tampon dispenser was a candy machine. It was the first thing that came to mind. Have I scarred him for life?

Read This

A writer for Salon writes that she will never have children and will everyone get off her back about her decision. Having kids comes with huge costs, and she isn't willing to assume those costs. That is why a quarter of American women don't have children.

Perhaps we need to reduce the price of motherhood.

A Sane Life Movement

Young medical students are increasingly choosing specialties, like dermatology, which have less pressures than other specialities like surgery. "The surgery lifestyle is so much worse," said Dr. Boldrick, who rejected a career in plastic surgery. "I want to have a family. And when you work 80 or 90 hours a week, you can't even take care of yourself."

Marek is a dermatologist in Santa Rosa, Calif., north of San Francisco. He gets into work at 8 a.m., leaves at 6 p.m., and is rarely called to the hospital at night, giving him ample time to spend with his wife and two children. "When I'm done," he said, "I'm a husband and a father. I go to soccer games. I coach soccer games."

The article says that doctors are increasingly looking for a "controllable lifestyle." One that allows them to spend time with their families and not be on call over the weekend. It did not say that women were making these choices more than men.

Is there a new countercultural movement going on? One that eschews demanding careers for ones that allow for more time with family? Could this sane life movement expand to include even those who don't have families? I have a dream.


Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Advice to Caretakers

I have had too much experience with hospitals -- two c-sections, grandma with cancer, and lots of friends and family who are medical professionals. Here's my advice for those unfortunate souls who enter a hospital:

1. Assume that the staff is trying to kill your loved one. After that has been ruled out, then assume that the staff is tired, burnt out, wary of law suits, or wacked out on pharmaceutals pilfered from the supply cabinet. Assume all that, but do not assume that they have the best interest of the patient in mind.

2. Next, learn everyone's name. Write it down or ask for business cards. Understand the difference between a resident and the attending physician. Refer to them by their name, when you're speaking to them. Be respectful, but firm.

3. Do not let students practice inserting needles on the patient. And just keep them out of the room if at all possible.

4. Ask lots of questions. If you don't understand a procedure or diagnosis, make them explain it to you. Take notes. Ask for copies of lab results even if you don't understand the numbers.

5. Do not let them rush into any intrusive procedure. Take smaller steps first. Make them explain why they want to do those procedures. Take notes.

6. Make sure that your patient is comfortable with clean sheets and blankets. If the nurse won't get those things, then find the supply closet and take them.

7. Have a medical professional with you if at all possible. Someone who speaks the language. If your second cousin is a nurse, have her meet you at the hospital.

8. If you find a nurse or doctor that is especially good, be very nice to them. Buy them flowers the next day.

9. Get the patient out of there as quickly as possible.

Remember hospitals are where people die. It is not a hotel. You have to be on guard to protect your patient from the inept, the lazy, and the stupid. No need to abandon all hope, but certainly abandon all trust all thee who enter.

Inside the Emergency Room

After one day of diarrhea and another day of vomiting, Ian's system started shutting down. His diaper was dry the whole day, and he refused water. When he cried, no tears came out.

We rushed him to the crowded emergency room at Columbia Presbyterian. Columbia Presbyterian hospital is considered one of the primo hospitals in the country. It has a top medical school and high achieving physicians doing cutting edge procedures. Some of the most prominent New Yorkers go there when ill. Darryl Strawberry went there to cure his cancer, though it couldn't stop his love of the white powder.

Sonny Van Bulow lies in a special room on the top floor in her dreamless sleep. Claus spends millions to keep her in permanent coma so that he can avoid murder charges. The medical students file in to observe what happens to the comatose body after many years of slow decomposition. They are sworn to secrecy.

Although many celebrities use the hospital, it mainly serves the poor of Washington Heights. The rich go in one entrance to the nice floors, and the poor use the grungy emergency room.

The emergency room where we were late Monday night was full of uninsured Dominicans. Some were very bad off. A teenager with a stab wound. The asthma room is heavily used by kids gasping for breath. But there are also many with more minor problems that could be taken care of by a simple doctor's visit, but lacking insurance, they must go to the hospital instead. The 19 year old in the next room to ours had an out of sync period.

We were there for nine hours rehydrating Ian with a quart of fluids and glucose. I am not going to write about how it felt to watch my baby probed and stabbed by strangers with rubber gloves. I lack the writing skills to express these feelings with sounding either too glib or overly maudlin. But I will say that I feel very, very bad for parents with kids with cancer or serious birth defects who have to undergo much more serious procedures.

He's much better now, thank God. It all happened so quickly. 48 hours really. He's mostly back to his old boisterous self, and we're very thankful.


Tuesday, January 06, 2004

The baby is doing much better. Pedialite and cheerios seem to be doing the trick. I need 12 hours of sleep and a valium, but otherwise I'm cool. Thanks.

I spent the night in the emergency room rehydrating Large Baby. No posts today.


Monday, January 05, 2004

Read This

My baby is sick today. Squirting out albino poops out the side of his diaper. I'm off to the doctor's soon, but here are some good things to check out. A number of them have to do with poop since we're knee deep in the stuff right now.

Russell Arben Fox writes about the mixture of resentment and contentment that goes along with turning 35 with a big family and without tenure.

At Crescat Sententia, Will Baude writes why car travel beats the subway. It seems to me that car travel promotes a different sort of equality-- not the rubbing together of people from different walks of life, but the rubbing together of different places... This isn't necessarily superior to the other way around, but it makes going new places, running errands, and visiting obscure friends or finds a much more regular part of life. On the subway side, let me quickly add a few subway benefits: 1. Never have to drive home drunk, 2. You can read an entire New Yorker on the way to work 3. No car seats.

I'm increasingly stressed about the baby's fever, so I've been adding comments all over the place to keep myself distracted. I've enjoyed the discussion at the Invisible Adjunct on sending Britney Spears to college and student/faculty daliances.

Anne Lamott at Salon wrote a funny column, Advice to a Pregnant Friend. And yes, much to do about poop.


Sunday, January 04, 2004

Trains, Lego, Laptop

The past two weeks have been strange. The rhythm is all off. Steve has been working every other day, I'm done with the semester mostly, the babysitter is gone, and Jonah's home. The blogosphere has been so quiet, you can practically hear the crickets chirping and see the tumbleweed blowing by. I have no idea what day of the week it is.

We've been using this break to have lots of little adventures and to organize the corners of the apartment that gather clothes for Good Will and old magazines for mom.

Last Friday, we met Steve after work for dinner in Times Square. On the subway back to 181st Street, we sat in the front car right by the driver. My son who is obsessed with trains was talking as he usually does about switches and buffers. The driver must have heard him, because she stuck her head out of the cab and invited him to sit with her as she navigated through the tunnels of New York. Probably breaking every rule in the book, she instructed him on the various levers and dials and showed him how the A train and the D train take different rails at 125th Street. He is the luckiest boy in Manhattan.

Our main project for Saturday was to check out laptop computers. My first new computer in ten years. We went to the Apple store in the Palisades Mall to check out the new gadgets.

I have found paradise and it is the Apple store. Trim and sweet little machines. I love them so. Steve noted that that everyone in the store looked like us. What does that mean, darling? Hmmm. Educated and earthy. Earthy? We're earthy? I don't think so. Maybe artsy. I think we look more like people here than in Comp USA. That went back and forth for a while.

While I bought little slingshots in Body Gap, Steve took the kids to Lego Store, the latest mall craze. A whole store devoted to Lego with little stations for kids to make their own creations. They have a wall of different colored Lego attractively backlit. You can fill up a jar with the Lego of your choice for $8. Steve noted the number of single middle aged guys in there buying toys for themselves and griping that the Lego kits of today are not like the older models. This place, not so much our demographics.

Today, we've been grounded by a bug that is ravaging Ian's and Steve's digestive track. In between changing diaper after diaper, I've been clutching the brochure for the iBook fanticizing about its arrival.

Getting a new computer has all the excitement of a first love. There's the discovery phase of joyously trying out different programs and setting up folders. Lots of stroking and carassing. The first thought of the morning... blogging on my shiny new baby.

Like any love, excitement is replaced by comfort, even complacency. After a couple of years, you stop cleaning each letter on the keyboard and dusting behind the monitor. You stop emptying the trash and organizing the desktop. The unused manuals gather dust taking up precious shelf space. The computer gets a little cranky and only you know the tricks to get it to print. It loses its luster, its charm, and even the cheery bootup chord sounds dull.

And then there will be the sad moment when my old computer will be put on the side of the road with the discarded Christmas trees.

Dear old Power Mac, I'm sorry, but I have to move on. You have failed to grow with me, and I have met another. I hope we can still be friends.


Friday, January 02, 2004

Times Square

Some parents are super organized. Sunday is swimming day. Tuesday is library day. Reading from 9:00-9:30. And gross motor skills from 9:30-10:00. Uh, that's not me.

Usually I wake up and have no clue what I'll do with the kids that day. Today, Jonah is on vacation from pre-school, and the day is wide open. No plans. No babysitter. I have been on the phone making arrangements for a half an hour, and the plan is starting to take form.

I have to do some chores around here today. Maybe let one of Jonah's friends come over. Start unloading Christmas from the livingroom. At 4:00, we'll take the subway with my friend, Susan, to meet Steve in Times Square. And then, we'll all go to Dallas BBQ for dinner.

Dallas BBQ is a New York chain. I don't think it has left the city yet. Excellent and cheap barbecued chicken and potent margaritas. $4.95 for white chicken, corn bread, and a baked potato. It's not the Salt Lick in Austin, TX, but it's a great place to bring kids, because the food is out pronto, and it's pretty casual. I can let the kids play with cars under the table.

It's actually hard to find kid friendly places in New York City. There are whole sections of the city where kids are unwelcome. We took the kids last week to shop in the lower east side and Chinatown. The crowds nearly knocked them down. We walked down some side streets because Canal Street was too rough. There are also no public bathrooms which are oh so important for kids who hold off going until the last possible moment when they're holding the butts and jumping up and down.

Times Square is also one of those places that seems to despise strollers and slow walking four year olds. Crowds in a hurry to spot Eminem at MTV or to see the Producers or to take their picture next to the naked cowboy strumming his guitar in the middle of the street.

(BTW. I've heard people start talking about Times Square as the new ground zero. As the place most likely for terrorists to go medieval on our ass. Slightly stressful.)

We'll wait for Steve in the granite lobby of the large building where he works. And then we'll navigate through the crazed tourists to the dinner destination.

I like a challenge.


Thursday, January 01, 2004


My political science journals have arrived. I usually do a quick skim and rip out relevant articles which are quickly filed and often unread. Mostly it's all too dull for words. Nighttime reading for the sleepless. However, the new journal, Perspectives on Politics, isn't too bad. I even enjoyed an article by two of my old professors from the University of Chicago, Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph. (no free links, sorry)

The Rudolphs write about their obsession with the diaries of Amar Singh, a subject in British Raj in India. 800 pages of insight into the minutiae of life in India at that time.

He wrote in his diary secretly, in private space, but much of what he wrote addressed public questions. He wrote about living as a colonial subject of the British Raj in India. He wrote about living as a colonial subject of the British Raj in India. He wrote about experiencing political domination and racial inferiority. He wrote about being a young man restrained by expectations of deference and obedience to one's elders. He wrote about the suffering and oppression his wife and mother endured under his grandfather's patriarchal rule of the 100-person Kanota household.

They believe that such diaries are useful first hand accounts and that this subjective information should be studied by political scientists. Diaries can provide insight into the oppressed, culture, identy formation, the politics of recognition. Political scientists can learn much from anthropologists about how to use such first hand information.

Bloggers come in different packages. There are the political commentators, the speedy news linkers, the specialists, and the diarists. While all are good and important, I think the skillful diarists will stand the test of time. Who reads the archives of Instapundit? It's all yesterday's scrawl. Though I don't always agree a hundred percent with his politics, I read Lileks who writes of life with the family in Minnesota. Anthropologists, and maybe even political scientists, will read about his trips to buy paper towels at Target to get a better understanding of 21st century life in the heartland. Today's blog is tomorrow's dissertation.

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