Thursday, August 16

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Wednesday, August 15

The Naming Game

Daniel doesn't talk yet - not with words - but it couldn't be more clear what he is saying. When you have a moment with him on your lap facing you, he touches your face and says, "mmm," which is part question, part demand. He pauses briefly for your answer, and touches your face again, somewhere else.

We immediately understood the game. We have it down like experts now. He indicates something specific, nose, cheek, hair, ear, mouth, eye, tapping it lightly, and we name it as usefully as we can. It's language development in action, because we're both doing the same thing, he with his fingers, and me with a word.

At first, the rule of the naming game was touch, then name. Very soon, and I mean the third or fourth time we played, pointing became an acceptable substitution for touching, and now we're naming towels, soap, tap, hippopotamus. Not long from now, we'll have named actions as well: pick me up, let me down, feed me, give me that.

If Daniel is a good example, babies don't work on something, like crawling, walking, or naming, until they get it. Something seems to turn on in their brains - or they worked it out fully there first - and they just get up and do it. One day, he didn't point and ask, and the next, he did. Isn't that just the thing?

Sunday, August 12

Pay it Forward at Tim Horton's

While we were out and about yesterday, we went to the drive-thru at the Tim Hortons just south of Whyte Ave. Husband allowed space ahead of us so traffic could flow through the drive-thru line-up. A woman came from the other direction, pulled a u-turn and cut right in front of us! Husband waved his arms with his best mime of "What the hell?!" while I gave the icy female stare until she noticed me in the rear view and laughed. I sarcastically said, "I bet she doesn't even pay for our order." When we got to the window to pay, the Tim Hortons person said, "the woman ahead of you says sorry for cutting in line and she's paid for your order." I immediately tossed my note of her license plate in the garbage and forgot all intentions to key her car. Husband says this has happened to him or us a couple of times before this.

Today, another woman was turning onto the drive-thru lane ahead of us, and waved us through before her. Since she got there first and was just being nice, I suggested that we should pay for her order. After some hemming and hawing, Husband finally capitulated, saying, "I guess we can pay it forward this time."

I had to laugh at this, since neither of us is a big fan of the concept, and Kevin Spacey makes us both a bit queasy. Nevertheless, pay it forward we did, and hopefully to good effect.

It strikes me that this Horton's Forward Payment is the perfect beneficent crime. When someone pays for your order, you didn't know they were going to pay until you get to the till, so you didn't have a chance to pad your order with extra donuts or a couple of sandwiches for later. The one who paid has already sped off ahead of you, so you don't have much chance of finding out who thought you deserved a charitable carb-load. It's an anonymous donation with the unconfirmed presumption of generosity and gratitude at either end. I guess that's a good.

It doesn't work quite so well when you block the person in the drive-thru until they get out of their car and thank you for your kindness, though. That way leads to awkwardness.

Saturday, August 11

A Dish-Boscher for my Birthday!

My birthday came early this year with the delivery and installation of my new Bosch dishwasher. My old dishwasher was having problems of an unspecified nature, leaving a cruddy film on the dishes that, on busier days, I called "clean dirt." This left Husband in a more or less constant state of unsettlement when it came to using the dishes.

Isn't it fine?

It cleans dishes to a beautiful sparkling shine!

Friday, August 10

Our Garden Savanna

When the delivery guy brought that package up to the front door, he didn't realize I was watching him through the front window. He eyed our front yard warily, no doubt searching for the path to the door. Not seeing it, or perhaps not seeing me, he brazenly tromped across the grass to the front door.

I had been having a bad day, and to be honest, had already snapped at several telephone marketers and Husband, whom I had misidentified as a telemarketer. When the guy left, I started imagining revenge scenarios involving the shamefully unmown quality of our lawn.

There must be a tiny jungle ecosystem in development out there in our long grasses. Possibly, a tiny version of the Cretaceous is thriving, with feisty little velociraptors, and maybe a tyrannosaurus or two. These tiny voracious beasts must have torn ruthlessly at the alarmed delivery man's trousers, even as his shoes got caught up in the long grassy vines. By the time he got to the car, scraps of his shoes were barely clinging to his feet, and the bottom two inches of his pants were torn to ribbons, like the It's man's from Monty Python.

I think next time he will take the path of civilization.

But all this makes me think twice about ever mowing the lawn. Do I need to subject an entire ecosystem to trauma and death just so my neighbours will stop using the Lawn Comparison Index to feel superior? Perhaps it must be done, and the resulting extinction event will herald a new age of creatures whose necks will escape the onslaught from my mower.

Thursday, August 9

Today in the Mail

Husband's musical score arrived today. He has noted the joyous occasion in his blog, but has not elaborated to my satisfaction. To Husband, the main point is that the score that arrived is indeed the hardcover full score, and not some singer's pocket score, which only has the "It's Easy to Fake" guitar notations scribbled by a half-blind music undergraduate above a rough translation of the lyrics.

For me, the main point is that Husband's physical reaction, when he opens the parcel, is to go into a euphoric shock that looks something like what happens to Wal-Mart shoppers in the Roll-Back commercials. Sufficiently recovered, he explains that his heart is still pounding half an hour later.

While I am, of course, happy that the purchase has succeeded (if the pocket score had arrived instead, it would immediately have been embedded with force into one of the walls, where it would become part of our modern art display, "Failed Transactualizations"), I am starting to worry that a person's cardiovascular system can only take so much.

So I have laid it out clearly, although the details still need to be refined. When Husband reaches a certain stage of life at which the risks of mail-ordering outweigh the benefits, such purchases will no longer be allowed. My reasoning is something like, "you gotta live, man!" To which I think Husband will reply, "If you call that living...."

Tuesday, August 7


Here's a funny moment. We're driving through the West Edmonton Mall parking lot in search of major home appliances. It's hotter than I'd like, but Husband has given me a reprieve from Howard Stern, so Herbie Hancock's Butterfly from the album Thrust was playing. Daniel was drifting from sleep deprivation, and, as it turns out, so must I have been, because in the middle of what must have been such a calm moment for Husband, I asked, "Can you eat bear?"

Immediately realizing what an insane question that must have seemed, I didn't catch the exact phrasing of Husband's reply, which was something in the realm of, "If it's dead, you can eat pretty much anything." I quickly explained, with a laugh meant to represent never having lost sanity, that I was glad because if I shot a bear with a .45 while camping, I would very much like to keep the carcass, freeze the meat, and sell the pelt. Realizing this was still not representative of a sane conversation, I added that I would of course have to research butchers who could handle bear.

This whole scene comes out of two visions colliding in my brain: the still-vivid memory of taking target practice with Husband at the Wild West Shooting Center on his birthday, and the thought that my sister-in-law and her family had probably just returned from their week-long camping trip. See? Totally sane. In my mind, we are attacked by a bear that looks like one of Daniel's teddy bears ("Kodiak Bear," the souvenir teddy bear from Japan), and I save us with my new found knowledge that for a semi-automatic to be useful in the clinch, you need to have your clip loaded in advance. And: load it a day in advance, because your thumb will need like a day to recover afterwards.

Husband assures me that I have said much less sane things to him in the past, so he wasn't phased by it at all. That's what makes for marital bliss!

Monday, August 6

Blueberry Bran Pancakes

There's nothing like running out of all kinds of food staples, and not bothering to replace them, to get the creative juices flowing in the kitchen.

For a few months, we've been giving Daniel bread and jam during one meal of the day. I suddenly had the thought (having run out of bread) that some other tasty but more healthy alternative might also fit the bill. I checked the fridge and pantry: we had a crate of blueberries and plenty of brown flour and other baking supplies. I could make bread (and I did), but that didn't address those blueberries.

Blueberry bran pancakes! With blueberry syrup! It was the only sensible solution. These pancakes have always come out burnt pan-muffins in the past, so I altered the recipe, and here's a winner:

The pancakes:

1 cup brown flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup vanilla sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp cinnamon

1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups milk plus 1/2 cup milk reserved
1 cup blueberries

Combine the wet and dry ingredients separately first, reserving the 1/2 cup milk to add if the batter isn't the right consistency. Combine wet and dry ingredients, getting the batter to a thick but pourable solution, not over-mixing, and adding the blueberries last. In Alberta, I think you'll always have to add that extra 1/2 cup of milk.

Cook on a slow burner: I set mine on 3. Makes 12-16 delicious pancakes.

The syrup:

1/2 cup vanilla sugar
1/4 cup water
1/8 cup honey
1 tbsp + 1 tsp corn starch
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups blueberries

Whisk the liquids together, then take a small part of the mixture in a separate bowl and make a corn starch slurry. Add the slurry back into the mixture, and add lemon juice and blueberries. Boil in a pan 5-10 minutes, until you like the consistency, or use the microwave for 3-4 minutes. The syrup will thicken when cooled.

This makes 3-4 jars of syrup, so be ready to boil a few jars to fill.

Diaper story alert: These pancakes work wonders in that department, what with the whole wheat flour and wheat germ. Says husband: "This is much easier to clean up!" For that reason, these pancakes are a new staple in our home.

Thursday, August 2

First Professional Haircut

Here it is:

Husband says he looks about 5 years old now. He's only 18 months, I'll remind you, in case you thought we waited until he was teased in kindergarten before ever cutting his hair.

Did he enjoy the salon experience? No he did not, even though they have flat screen TVs playing Disney movies, bubbles for people to blow, chairs in various shapes of automobiles, and stickers and lollies as treats for afterwards. That's way better treatment than what I get, which is hair pulled, a head full of bleach, and left under a noisy hot air lamp for half an hour.

The stylists collaborated in using electric clippers instead of scissors, which they thought was a very clever and efficient choice, but which I think might have been a mistake for two reasons: first, they create a terrifying sensory experience, and second, I like his hair a shade longer. Daniel cried piteously through this hair cut.

I think we'll have all these details worked out for next time, and generally Haircut Day will be an event to look forward to. There is a bakery right next door, so I can whisk my disgruntled stylin' little youth directly to the cupcake display after his hairy ordeal. Daniel is holding the head of his Hawaiian bear cookie in the picture.

Tuesday, July 31

"The Wikipedia Story" on BBC 4 Choice

This topic tickled my interest in a way I dimly recall from the "pre-political awareness" era of my education, so many many years ago. Topics of importance to me now are often soaked in the sour milk of political debate, just contentious enough in simultaneously boring and annoying ways to put everyone off the track of real intellectual progress. The democratization of knowledge and of knowledge-gathering, though, is cool, and might amuse you too.

In my mind, the arguments for and against Wikipedia always last about two seconds, in which I think, "you don't know and can't trust authors.... but who defines authority, anyway?" And then I remember that no intellectual should ever quote from any form of encyclopedia in any case (since encyclopedic knowledge is considered common and general), and call the whole thing off.

The podcast got me thinking more deeply about the comparison between online and book-form encyclopedias. Here are a couple of highlights that might get you listening to the program (which is only 27 minutes long):
  • "All information on [Wikipedia] is as important as any other piece of information. The intellectual foundation of Wikipedia, then, is an intellectual anarchism, a radical intellectual relativism: everything is miscellaneous." (Andrew Keen)
  • If you correct an article that is particularly politically contentious (something on environmentalism, for example), you may trigger a "revert war." Someone else can click to revert the article back to its previous state, after which you can revert it back to include your corrections, ad infinitum. This can discourage experts, who prefer not to engage with idiots, from submitting their knowledge to the pool, even though their knowledge is based on scientific research.
  • There is no way to distinguish between exceptional and misleading Wiki articles - but you could make the same argument about early Britannica articles.

Before you get too excited about contributing the contents of your noggin to the sum of human knowledge, consider my plight: apparently, some asshole in my neighbourhood has been abusing his Wiki-privileges, presumably inscribing Wiki-graffiti on pages that interested him, thus having himself and, well, me, excluded from the democratic process of Wiki-intelligence-gathering. Many thanks, you big nerd.