Monday, January 31, 2011

Bus stop

At the bus stop this morning I asked one of the girls what she did over the weekend.  "On Sunday we rode our bikes 7 miles."  Then Natalie, surprised by the coincidence, said "no way, on Saturday we rode our bikes 7 miles."  Other girl:  "Well, it was flat so it wasn't so tiring."  Natalie:  "Where'd you go riding?".  Other girl: "The tobacco trail."  At this point in time, Natalie laughed and crinkled up the corner of her nose in astonishment. "That's where we went riding!"

It is truly awesome and infectious to watch your children display utterly ingenuous and unaffected enthusiasm and glee. There's nothing better.  And to think that puberty is really, really, just around the corner. We can only hope it will last.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Death of Ambition

The Economist had a piece in its year end issue how life begins at 46, and one of the points it made was that people become more comfortable with where they are in life and they let go of ambition.  I kind of get that, kind of don't.

However, the other day I undertook the "Fitness Test" on the elliptical trainer at the gym and was slightly taken aback when, after 11 minutes or so, it told me that my cardio level of fitness was "Above Average" and my VO2 capacity (whatever that is) was 397.  What does "Above Average" mean?, I thought.  For the general population, or for users of this machine.  And so, 3 days later, I went back and took the test again, and was still "Above Average" after 13 minutes, but with max VO2 of 449.

Then, once the test was done, I stayed on the machine and settled into a more moderate workout pace. But after just a few minutes, I felt some cramping in my left calf.  So I got off, stretched, drank some water, and got on a treadmill for a little jogging.  But after 5 minutes there, both of my calves really started to cramp.

And so, as I approach 46, I find that I must respect newfound limits imposed by this mortal coil, and/or hydrate better.  Whatever.  I went to the gym and worked out, which is OK.  And then I went home and didn't even watch FSC, but worked a little.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tainting Russia's image

Alexander Osakovsky of Russia's Unicredit Bank was on Bloomberg today saying that the terrorist bombing Moscow's Domodedovo airport was aimed at tarnishing Russia's image. After the recent Khodorkovskii verdict, the death of Sergei Magnitskii in jail after 11-odd months, but prior to the filing of any charges, and the siloviki generally running roughshod over any reasonable idea of rule of law since... oh, I don't know, the calling of the Varangians (i.e., the begining of Russian history), I think it's hard to tarnish Russia's image.  So I wouldn't worry my pretty little head about that.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Kids are Alright

With Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, and Mark Ruffalo. This is the best movie we've seen for awhile, takes you back to the days of Kramer vs. Kramer, Ordinary People, and other movies about actual people.  Rent it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Parking lots

Anecdotal evidence continues to suggest that the recovery proceeds apace.  The parking lot at RDU was much fuller this week than it has been in recent months. The parking lot where Graham does Tae Kwon Do, where 54 and 40 meet, and where the O Gym is (apparently it's popular with the student set), is ridiculously and increasingly more full when we arrive for class just before 10 on Saturdays.  Although, come to think of it, it's January, so gym traffic could reflect the short-cyclical New Years Resolution gym crowd more than the slightly longer cycle of economic boom and bust. The Mexican restaurant nearest our house was full to bursting last Saturday night when I went to pick up our take-out.  Then again, when we showed up with a team of 14 at a Vietnamese restaurant in Boston on Wednesday, the proprietors quickly moved another party or two out of the way to other tables and set up a 14-top lickety split. It's no time to be turning away a big table.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The modern world

Thanks to the largesse of my employer, I have now joined the modern world and am tapping this out on my shiny new iPad. And the best thing about is, i must say, that Natalie knows more about it than I do. For the first time in my life, I am not the expert on a new technology sin the household. Delight. If only one of us knew how to move the cursor backwards without erasing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Crazy calls

I actually got a phone call today from the former CEO of a large, notoriously bailed out insurance company (yes, that one).  He had read my other blog and wanted to clarify a thing or two for me.  Very interesting.  He offered to meet with me next time I'm in New York.  You can be sure I'll be there soon!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

TV selections

As he more and more often does these days, as the afternoon wore on, Graham decided it was time to watch a little TV.  First, I suggested Tom and Jerry.  Graham turned that down, saying it made him sad. When asked why, he said "I feed bad for the cat, because the mouse is always so mean to him."  So he watched a video about World War II, in which the Americans lay waste to the Japs at Truk Island.  That was mellower.

Living and dying online

Have been reading the cover story from the Times magazine a couple of weeks back about what happens to your online legacy when you die.  Some people go pretty overboard and want to keep everything.  I don't know about that, but I have put a fair amount of time and energy into this blog so I guess I should make some plan for protecting it.

In general, I'm of a mind that enough traces of me will be left behind. In fact, though I can be a pretty assiduous archivist, I find the act of throwing stuff away pretty liberating. Before moving south a couple year and change ago I went through boxes and trimmed down the legacy of my academic career to two bound copies of my dissertation (I also have a pdf that I bought from the University of Michigan, which I will happily send to anyone who requests it), some copies of my senior essay (offprints from the publication, sadly I lost my copies of the original with its specially commissioned drawing by Jean Paul Beck), and a handful of other papers, including the only thing I paper got an A+ on, a close reading of a poem by John Donne.  Other than that, I chucked it all.  I also tossed out tapes that I had carried around for 3 decades.  I felt lighter.

I feel sort of the same about my digital legacy.  It's important to do some editing.

Oh and, by the way, I got promoted a couple of weeks back.Now I have to manage all of one person but also hire more and grow the top line of my area. Just what I needed. More work.

As for now, I need to go take down the Xmas tree.  We are moving in 4 weeks to a rental while we renovate the homestead, and we ain't done squat.  We need to get this tree outta here and also take a carload of crap to the rental this afternoon.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Blood libel

Now, I dislike Sarah Palin as much as anyone.  I really don't think she should be in positions of responsibility in governments larger than that of Wasilla or whatever you call it.  And she often says ridiculous things which clearly disqualify her for any role in foreign policy, like "our ally North Korea" or "I can see Russia from my yard".  But on the blood libel thing, I think we need to cut her some slack.  I'm fairly educated, and I've paid a reasonable amount of attention to Jewish culture, and I frankly had never heard the phrase "blood libel" before, and certainly wasn't aware of its anti-semitic provenance. So I don't think this can be put down to her exceptional ignorance, somebody correct me if I'm wrong. This is normal ignorance. I guess you could argue that a good politician would have somebody vet his/her public statements.  But she is politician 2.0 par excellence.  Does she have handlers? One would assume they would have advised her not to cross a hotel room in a towel in front of reporters.

It's also entirely conceivable she said "blood libel" full well knowing it would ignite a firestorm, to show the red states yet again that she doesn't care what the mainstream media thinks. But if that were the case, Fox News would be leading with her defense, so I doubt it.

Anyway, here I am talking about her.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Siphoned off by Facebook

I realize that this blog is losing energy to Zuckerberg's creation.  With so many people over there it's just more interesting to scroll down and see what's going on than with other folx it is to come over here and write about myself, quite often.  Such is life.  Right now it's bedtime.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Dead white men

I have now read through the American Heritage series of books on American presidents leading up to Lincoln, having skipped from Washington to Van Buren.  No amount of pleading with Graham could convince him that we should at least read about Jefferson and Jackson, who were pretty pivotal figures.  Instead, I have been feasted on Tyler, William Henry Harrison, Fillmore, Pierce, Polk, Taylor, Buchanan, and perhaps another. It is  astonishing how much time and energy was wasted in this country dicking around with slavery, bending over backwards with stupid arguments about how it was OK.  Indeed, all told it's striking how long have been the lulls between America being on the right side of history.  After Jefferson, it's largely downhill to Lincoln, after which there's a lull till we get Teddy Roosevelt and Wilson.  All told for the land of Manifest Destiny, our track record has been pretty poor.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Another Garfield fan

Natalie was introduced to the charms of Garfield by her cousin Caroline.  The plump cat and his antics have now found another supporter in the form of Graham.  The whole flight home from New York yesterday, Graham sat next to Mary and cackled while reading a Garfield book.  Later at bedtime, Mary was reading some particularly choice episodes to him, and he laughed so hard that he... had a little accident.  Oh my.

This afternoon, Graham decided that it was time to watch a little television.  Usually that means military documentaries, preferably WWII.  But I was able to steer him initially to some Jetsons and some Loonie Tunes. And then a touch of Elmo. But, soon enough, his sweet tooth showed itself, and we were watching the military channel about World War I (which will do in a pinch). After some discussion of Turkey rushing to Baku and difficulties on the Eastern Front, the focus turned to France and America's entrance into the war. "This must be 1917, since that's when America entered," Graham informed me.