Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The boys generally had a blast. Avalanche was the top along wiht a little game involving barnstorming chickens (a little plastic plane zooming around knocking over little chicken tokens). It had moving parts and slamming the plane around was the goal - big hit.
Happy New Year to one and all from quiet Minnesota!
Friday, December 26, 2008
The boys are very happy with their bounty from the Three Kings (die Drei Königen). Santa Claus doesn't come to our house. We needed to have some sort of explaination for why Santa comes to some children, St. Nicholas comes to others, and why Baby Jesus brings gifts to yet more (esp. in Germany). I was inspired by a friend about how to limit the presents her kids got, and decided that they only got 3 - if it's good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for you. We just took it a step further, and decided that the Three Kings were also the ones bringing the presents - we have yet to explain about Santa. We figured this side-steps any argument with their frinds about Santa being "real", since we're in effect not discounting anyone's gift-bringing totem.
Michael got his first bicycle from Oma & Opa Tobias. Wow! The other presents sort of paled in comparison. A video (Der Kleine Icebär), a model post truck (for the not-in-the USA family, the photo in the pictures is the logo for the U.S. Post).
Gregor got some Legos, a Brio train that is battery powered, goes forwards and backward, and has a headlight. The puzzle of the US States was interesting, but within 6 hours, was down to 46 states.
Peter & I had a pretty sedate Christmas. I spent most of Thursday cooking, a pleasant situation. Coffee cake, apple cake, and the ham and dinner. I haven't really had time to enjoy cooking something other than wham-bam-here's dinner. Of course, I could use my new/replacement cookbook.
Peter took the boys sledding yesterday; a treat that didn't last long, due to the cold (yes the temperature was in double digits, but the windchill wasn't). Today was much nicer, weather-wise, but it was a bit too warm: the snow was melting, and will probably be completely un-sledable icy tomorrow.
The boys are finally coming down off their 2 day sugar buzz. I haven't eating so much good-tasting fat in a long time (Cheetos are certainly high in fat, and while tasty, just don't match home-made cake).
We hope you have had a wonderful Christmas (or other holiday of your choice). There are pictures from ours at the other post today. I'll be posting some links to videos on You Tube sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Procession in for Christmas Eve Mass.
Children's Choir, Jr.Gopher#1 5th from left, @ St. Albert's
Christmas Eve, finally getting around to decorating the tree, after the plagues and academic crises were satisfactorily passed.
We decided to put the tree downstairs in our playroom/den. We figured it would provide an immediate forum for playing with the presents, rather impossible had the tree been upstairs in the front room (i.e., dining room)
Initial aftermath of Christmas presents. Jr.Gopher#2 got a box of Legos.
A while ago:
I want a car for Christmas.
What kind of car?
A car with eyes.
A car with eyes?
Yeah, like in Cars (i.e., the movie)
2 weeks ago:
What do you want for Christmas?
A car, like in the movie Cars, with eyes?
No, mama, (in a tone of voice that said ... jeez, mom, duh, of course not). A real car.
A real car? Here I'm thinking, wow, this is early, I wasn't expecting this request for another 10 years or so ....
Yeah, a real car, one with doors that open.
From Opa & Oma. Definitely the hit of the day.
Yes, he really climbed on there all by himself.
Well, the best 2 presents at the same time.
Sledding today. Temperature 36 and balmy. I do mean this sincerely, it was really nice weather. Sledding yesterday was much shorter & colder. We were at Powderhorn Park, which is about 3 blocks from our house.
After the first couple of trips down the hill, Jr.Gopher#2 decided that he wanted to carry the sled up by himself.
Who am I to complain?
After wiping out at the bottom of the hill.
Jr. Gopher #1 can be such a ham for the camera. He had a blast all afternoon. Although when he stopped having fun, it was a total melt down because he wanted to win, a status defined by going further than Mama or his brother.
First time down the hill, to get a feel for it. This was the only time #2 wanted company.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
For those of you here in the Twin Cities, or just in Minnesota, or ... hell, anyone of you:
please write to the Light Rail authority and tell them that putting a train line 12 feet from a recording studio is stupid. The met council finally, after years of haggling, has approved extending the rail line into St. Paul. This will go 12 feet from the Minnesota Public Radio station's building, which also houses American Public Media (a.k.a., MPR). I think I'd be pretty annoyed if I was a parishioner at one of the churches in question - ooops, sorry, you can't pull the hearse up to the front steps of the church any more, there seems to be a train platform there.
If nothing else, please tell them that they need to perform the assessment required by the Fed. Transport Auth, which they haven't done.
Chair Peter Bell
mail: 390 Robert St. N.
St. Paul, MN 55101
other addresses are in the link for Mayor Coleman & Gov. Pawlenty
Thank you, for any of you who can do this. I appreciate it.
MPR's suggested text: although I know all of you are intelligent enough to write your own ... since you likely don't even live here, it's a simple cut & paste job.
"Please listen to Minnesota Public Radio's concerns regarding the Central Corridor Line and consider all options, including an alignment change, to protect this vital institution!"
Monday, December 22, 2008
Sit down w/ my grade & the class syllabus. What's my grade right now? How hard do I need to drive myself this morning & afternoon? Will I be able to get home to put up the Christmas tree, now that we have a functional tree stand?
Just to put things in perspective ... If I don't even take the exam, I'll get a C. This is not a passing grade, for grad school (B- is).
Just to put things in perspetive ... All I need to get a B- is 24%
By utter random chance, otherwise known as sheer dumb luck, I should be able to exceed this
ahhhh, the sound of stress departing
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Wednesday night: found my wallet, when emptying my bag in preparation for studying, the fairies must have returned it, because sure as hell's hot, I know I looked in that damn pocket. Studying seemed to be going well. I found new stuff to study in preparation and figured it was not hopeless.
Thursday morning: We get the kids off to their respective locales.
9:10 a.m. I blew my nose yeah, no shit, this is relevant
9:11 a.m. My ear over-pressurizes, as happens sometimes when one blows one's nose.
9:30 a.m. on the train (which everyone here calls the "light rail" -- it's a train, people), my ear starts annoying me even more
9:50 a.m. am sitting in the student lounge eating a late breakfast & reading the news, and my ear hurts, pretty badly
10:10 I ask myself, what the hell am I doing sitting in the basement of a building housing the medical school, when the student walk-in clinic is across the street?
10:15 standing in the clinic, I have tears runing down my face
10:30, after begging for someone to see me, I'm crying
keep crying through the doctor's exam, no doubt contributing to the prescription for heavy narcotics. Apparently I have an ear infection
11:10 on the phone to Mr.Gopher, have gone past crying to actually sobbing
11:15 write a note to my Epi prof informing her that I won't be taking the final, and ask for her to let me take it on Monday (I assumed this would mean getting an incomplete)
11:17 write a note to my academic advisor, letting her know that my internship term paper would not actually be arriving on her desk Friday morning, and asking for an incomplete.
12-ish - finally at home, in bed, desperately waiting for the Vicodin to kick in. Eventually stop crying and fall asleep out of sheer exahustion & good drugs
3-ish - briefly rise to consciousness. Realize that jr.Gopher#2 had at least 5 ear infections before he turned 18 mo. God help him, is this the crap he dealt with? No wonder he kept waking up in the middle of the night screaming! I'm surprised he ever stopped! He didn't get wonderful painkillers?! The things we do to our children. I'll never take pediatric ear infections as de rigeur again.
4-ish - Epi prof tells me that I will be allowed to take the exam on Monday. No incomplete. yea.
5-ish - advisor (who failed to respond to at least 3 e-mails in the semester asking what I was supposed to do for the course, tells me on Wednesday morning that I need to turn in a paper no later than Friday) ... tells me that she'll give me an incomplete. not-so-yea.
Friday (yesterday): Jr.Gopher#1 is next door with Jr.Gopher#2 as usual on Fridays. 1-1/2 hour after dropping him off (i.e., walking through the foyer), I get a call: he's still got diarrhea, he can't stay. Jesus, Mary & Joseph! Give me patience! Are you kidding? Of course, I was still pretty stoned on Vicodin & wouldn't have gotten any studying done. But, I would have gotten a whole lot of sleeping done. And, of course, Mr.Gopher works late on Fridays. Did the boys go to bed at a reasonable hour? Well, 8:30, rather than 8 seems pretty reasonable, after our now-traditional popcorn & cold veggie dinner in front of a movie. Did the boys go to sleep at a reasonable hour? uh ... no
Saturday: Study? Are you kidding? I planned on spending the day with my family, delighting in the satisfactory discharge of my academic obligations. I'll be damned if I'll pass that up.
Saturday night: Study? Yes. Package arrived in today's post for Mr.Gopher, is hastily removed from view. 5 minutes later, he comes out and says, well, the hell with surprise, I need help dealing with this. Lo, and behold, he had purchased something I really liked from my wish list. A nice little posey ring. A nice, rather squashed posey ring. I think someone put it in a punch press, based on the sheer force which would have been needed to accomplish this damage. Although, given the damage to the outer package, the inner (inadequate) packing, and the invoice, I am kind of surprised that the ring wasn't squished a lot flatter. Scathing letter demanding restitution in contrast to their retarded return policy ... Study? Well, there is tomorrow, right?
Technically Sunday (12:06 a.m.): Well, I suppose I'll go find the text I'm supposed to read as the lector at Mass tomorrow ... um this ... morning.
No prior review? Are you kidding? What journalist for a commercial news outlet gets published/on-air without an editorial review? What if they were writing for the Star Tribune? The owners of the Strib are libel for irresponsible journalism. Who's libel for the school paper? The School a.k.a. The State. The students can’t legally claim sole responsibility for the paper. Editorial control rests with ownership. The students don't own it, the school board, and de facto the State of Minnesota does.
As with many other instances, a light touch is the best guidance. Shutting down the whole paper, rather than just one article getting pulled? That seems an unreasonable response.
If the article conforms to professional journalistic ethics/standards of practice - there is no reason it shouldn't be published. The cases cited by the Daily News are excellent examples of social bias censoring facts unpalatable to the local people.
First Amendment “rights” are not absolute. Slander/defamation is against the law - the unbridled freedom is only over that which is factually true. Pornography and profane language are protected under this amendment. Is that okay for high school students to publish? If your answer is no, you’re already limiting their freedom and possibly treading a slippery slope down to the Superintendent’s desk. There's no ethical difference between limitations. Whether it is disapproval about teenage sex or images of disembowled pigs in a slaughterhouse ... limitation is limitation.
Would the school district allow students to print content normally found in the City Pages or the Daily Minnesotan (U of M's student paper)? I'm pretty sure not - not due to the story content, per se, but rather due to the language choice and visual content. Sex might help distribution, but I wouldn't approve of my school board publishing it. God, you wouldn't believe the sex-advice column the U's paper runs.
My biggest question, in considering this: The Faribault paper didn't mention if this was a one-off problem - was this request for prior-approval unique to this story?
If the Superintendent realized there was going to be a story with potentially big ramifications (this sounds like it was) .. then I would expect him to want to review it prior to its publication, even if he didn't do so on a regular basis. Has anyone seen the article in question?
I can't get my knickers in a twist over this, without the School actually shooting down the article after seeing it.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Kate DiCamillo won the 2005 Newberry Medal for her book, "The Tale of Despereaux." DiCamillo talked with Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer about the film adaptation. She had just returned from the movie's premiere in L.A.
If you ever wonder (i.e., you're anyone I know other than STUF&GBTW or Cinda) about the process of going from written word to visual story on the silver screen ... you'll find this interesting. It popped up on the local public radio station because DiCamillo is a local girl. Opening Friday. I guess, unlike Will Smith popping into Edina, we don't rate a 'premier' here. Yeah, no kidding - the Will Smith. No relation.
(Although on a totally unrelated note, about 'not related', the Security chief at my last regular job was also named Smith, was shorter than I am, and was certainly much blacker than I am - not that this is much of a challenge. Clyde would constantly introduce me as his sister, which always, always made the person do a complete double-take. I could always see curiosity struggling with what they perceived as good taste. After personally being shocked the first time he did it, I encouraged the social confusion by pointing out that he was always considered the black sheep of the family. At which point, the person was never really sure if he should laugh. Which, in effect, gave Clyde & I a good chuckle.)
Yesterday: jr.Gopher #2 is diagnosed with Pink Eye. trans: no day-care. trans: mama doesn’t get to study for her impending final exam. I realize that I can’t find my wallet, last seen day before.
Today: There was an amazing biohazard clean up in the bathroom. Taking jr.Gopher #1 to pre-school/kinderstube results in his teacher telling me that diarrhea caused by potentially microbiological causes (rather than diet) means he can’t stay. So much for spending the day studying the difference between case-control and cross-sectional study design, trying to remember which one can calculate quantitative causation.
Killing time while waiting for the store to open, where I had last seen my wallet, is no longer a matter of sitting in a coffee shop, due to the limited patience of my recently acquired companion. Ah, I think, I’ll just go to the McD’s on Hiawatha, since it has a play area, and I can still have a cup of joe.
Approaching the intersection of 54th and Chicago, a monster-sized gray mechanical object zooms into my peripheral vision, with just enough sub-conscious brain processing to realize it’s a car. I screamed. Subsequently, I had a salient personal experience to demonstrate the efficacy and purpose of seat belts to jr.Gopher. I also now have a bashed-in rear quarter panel. When did I call my insurance company and down-grade my insurance? Ummm, that would be last week. So much for the $400 savings this billing period.
I got lost en route to McD’s (I didn’t realize the Minnehaha Parkway went under Hiawatha). There was no longer really any reason to kill time, but as I had told jr.Gopher he could play there, we continue on. After all, what else did I have to do?
Did I mention that I have a final tomorrow? Did I mention that I haven’t had much time to study for it?
Of course, neither store which could have had my wallet has it. After a more thorough excavation of my room, I’ve concluded it isn’t at home, either.
Sure, I can go to the DMV and get a new license - at least I can get a piece of paper stating that I have one, pending its arrival. I can call the bank & credit card company to cancel the cards. I can get Mr.Gopher to get me cash. My bus pass is only valid until the 31st anyway. But .... my student ID? I need it to get into the student lounge, where I planed to spend all day today & tomorrow studying for my epidemiology final exam. And spend tomorrow evening actually taking the 3 hour exam.
Did I mention that I have a final tomorrow?
I need the ID card to get into my laboratory to actually do the research, too. That, however, is far less important. Do I think it is remotely feasible to replace my ID card in an hour or so today? ummm ... to put it bluntly ... no.
Tomorrow: Say a prayer I do well on this jinxed final. If I do well, I’ll get an A in the class, which should do wonders to balance the crappy grade I’m getting in one of my other classes. Sigh ... time to make lunch.
There is a point at which the Fahrenheit and Celcius temperature systems cross: -40
The weather is a constant topic of interest to most Midwesterners. It's the guaranteed safe-topic in any social function. Did you hear how cold it was up in Duluth this morning? [today's answer: -30) And, of course, if they don't sound like they're from here, you can extend the meterological discussion: "Did you grow up here? No? Was it this cold where you used to live?"
After experiencing the bitter cold this morning (today's high was minus 3 F) ... the weather man on MPR said we failed to break the record low temp by a few degrees this morning. So, of course, out of curiosity, I wondered what sort of record lows the Twin Cities get:
December 25, 1879: -39F
so, yes, this is basically -39C
of course, balanced by
December 25, 1922: +52F
Today's frigid expedition was to a sporting goods store for the Jr. Gophers' new & improved Winter apparel. And 2 sleds. New hat, balaklava, thermal socks, and super-warm mittens. The snow boots & snow pants were last week.
As long as the temperature is above 20, we'll be hitting the slopes: well, the hill at Powderhorn Park, 4 blocks from home.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
100 = 62
1 = 39
The European Commission acknowledged last year that persuading the UK to embrace litres and kilometres over pints and miles was a lost cause. Minister for Europe Caroline Flint said it was a "victory for common sense .... In the current difficult economic climate, it will also mean that British companies do not face extra labeling costs in order to do business in the United States."
Now, this sounds suspiciously like something one would find here, in dear old NOT METRIC USA:
"Metric martyrs" lost the battle to trade only in pounds and ounces. One was convicted in 2001 of selling bananas only by the pound. His offence: failure to provide customers with the metric equivalent, as required under EU law. I guess he should have moved here.
Monday, December 15, 2008
1 pear tree: $200
2 turtle doves: $55
3 French hens: $30
4 calling birds: $60
5 golden rings: $350
6 geese laying: $240
7 swans swimming: $5,600
8 maids milking: $52
9 ladies dancing: $4,759
10 lords leaping: $4,414
11 pipers piping: $2,285
12 drummers drumming: $2,475
grand total 2008: $86,609
last year: $78,100
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Yesterday, Sec. State Mark Ritchie was on MPR's Midday. The program was a discussion on the state's history with prior recounts. Which, unbeknownst to me, occur fairly routinely - just for less notable offices. Does anyone really care who won the County Commissioner election for Kandiyohi County?
Ritchie's speech/commentary was fascinating. As was the blatantly obvious passion & frustration in his voice. I could see him shaking, vibrating with barely restrained rage, while discussing some of the stupidity currently masquerading as political objectivity. He also included some suggestions for improving voting rules. Fascinating. I didn't vote for him, but I probably will, if he runs again.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Death & Taxes: a visual guide to where your tax dollars go
A poster of the 2009 federal budget, in gross detail. (really detailed, really gross) You'll need to zoom in a bit, before the click-and-drag function works. This has a list of all the major projects of all the executive departments. Wow.
A statistics paper I was required to read was titled: How to Present Data Badly, Wainer, American Statistician, 1984(?). It's not the calculations of statistics, just how to display data - badly. If you could find a copy and want to see how the media and government are dis-informing you, I recommend it. One of Wainer's recommendations for how to display your data poorly is a metric of 'data density'. Measuring how many data points are presented per square inch. A couple of points of real data swimming in a huge graph with other pretty non-data is a great distraction. This budget picture has a huge data density.
p.s. if you want to read the Wainer article, I'll send you a copy. It's fascinating
Monday, December 8, 2008
"Do you want to read?" He nods.
So, I put the blanket back on him, he settles down into his covers again, and lifts the book up to read. A new copy of Grimm's tales (in German). With no pictures. He was lying there holding it propped up, just like ... oh, just like I do when lounging in bed reading.
So, please say a prayer, if you read this on Tuesday before 5:30 p.m. Central Time. My final project presentation is due. I've only got 18 hours to figure out how to elegantly explain something I don't really understand.
We were staying in a little blue-collar neighborhood in downtown Athens, which looks a bit like some of the footage seen. This is what it looked like 5 years ago. The real "city center" is behind the photographer. The only marches we saw was upon the victory of the Greek national soccer team in the prelude to winning the European Championship.
And, just in case you're thinking that 'all hell has broken loose' ... the Gates of Hades are actually located about 4 hours south of Athens, here:
Sie frisst zu viel Strom und wird deshalb abgeschafft: Die klassische Glühlampe soll bis 2012 aus allen Geschäften verschwinden - so haben es jetzt Experten aus 27 EU-Staaten beschlossen. Besonders leistungsstarke Modelle werden sogar schon früher aus dem Handel verbannt. - Der Spiegel, 12/8/08
They consume too much electricity and will therefore be discontinued: the classical lightbulb should be removed from all stores by 2012, decided experts from 27 European states. Especially, the high-intensity models will be banned even earlier.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
They can slice your fingers off. [well, duh] They can scare the bejeepers out of small children by leaving a bloody trail of crimson transmission fluid on the ice. They can become runaway weapons of vehicular mayhem if controlled by a vodka-swilling driver. When will society wise up to the inherent dangers of the seemingly innocent Zamboni?
From our polite neighbors to the frigid north, comes more Zamboni baloney:
Public health officials in Quebec City are alerting people who attended a weekend hockey tournament in Portneuf to be vigilant about any breathing problems, after a Zamboni used at the event emitted toxic fumes.
Seven people were sent to hospital with chest pains and breathing problems after playing hockey at the St. Ubalde arena rink on Sunday.
Two of them are still in intensive care, while another is suffering from a build-up of liquid in the lungs. Health officials suspect the patients inhaled nitrogen-oxide emitted by a Zamboni machine with an improperly calibrated motor, operating in an arena that wasn't very well ventilated.
Other problems in hockey rinks involved spewing microscopic particles. I ran into an unexpected international/cultural barrier - with another English speaking country: Canada. We in the U.S. often use grams per cubic meter when measuring pollution. With particulate problems, we use parts per million (ppm). Not the folks up north~
"What's more, 14 per cent also tested higher than 100,000 particles of pollution per cubic centimetre, roughly the equivalent of the air quality that might be experienced standing next to Toronto's Highway 401, the busiest road in the country." ~~ parts pollution per cubic centimeter? What is that? pppcc? I've never heard of that as a unit. wierd. Although, I suppose someone I know will promptly inform me that it's something like a barn in nuclear physics. :)
- At a Pittsburgh Penguins' game: looks like the zamboni ran over a wayward penguin (way cool pic)
- Choping off kid's fingers with a zamboni is apparently as easy as with a tractor PTO shaft
- ZUI: zamboni under the influence
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
as of 12/1, 8:02 p.m. Franken is ahead by 4,108. As impressive as this sounds, Coleman was ahead by more than 1,000 on the last day's count. And, of course in the stupidity of politics, Coleman's campaign has been much louder about how many ballots Franken is challenging. The total of "challenged" ballots is up to 5,943 . 2/3 of which are from Coleman.
The Secretary of State has released images of 1,000 of them, which range from WTF (voter)? to WTF (counter)? i.e., Why can't they read the damn directions? to How could anyone possibly doubt what the voter meant?
The last Monster Recount held here was in 1962, inspiring a ditty to the tune of I'm Looking Over a 4 Leaf Clover, which included:
What causes these switches is sons of bitches,
Who can't hardly count to ten.
So, we're counting over the votes from Dover,
And counting them once again.
revised: 12/2 8:02 p.m. vote count: Franken up by 2,535 , challenged ballots over 6,000 Sec. State asking candidates to cut the crap. Gelbmann says previous canvassing boards have average three minutes a ballot. At that rate, even if they worked nonstop, eight hours a day, it would take more than a month to analyze 6,000 ballots.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Basically, the Senate is the final arbiter of who gets to join their club. Normally, this is simply accepting the results of the state's election. But it doesn't have to be. Smith said the Senate last weighed in on a serious election contest in 1974. So, despite all the hanky-panky here with "objected" ballots, or who's counting what ... Coleman & Franken can get their other club members to weigh in. Considering that Sen. Reid is already opining on our election, it seems to be a much more interesting Constitutional issue than Florida.
According to Smith the Constitution allows the Senate to be the final arbiter of its membership. Smith said the Senate does so by determining the qualifications of each member. On most occasions, Smith said the Senate simply accepts a state's election certificate, but it has diverted course a few times.
"There is a motion under Senate rules and precedents that allows any Senator to make a motion to refer the credentials to a committee, presumably the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over election matters, in order to delay action on it," explained Smith.
In 1974: The contest involved a dispute between two New Hampshire candidates. After several recounts, the Senate moved to seat the Democrat. The motion was brushed back several times by Republicans who filibustered the issue. After months of wrangling, the Senate declared the seat vacant and ordered another election, which the Democrat won. Wow.
Sure, the senate probably won't get involved. But, wow ... how badly do they want it? and are they willing to set enough prescedent to screw themselves with the next election?
Monday, December 1, 2008
St. Paul, Minn. — Starting today, all cigarettes sold in Minnesota will be "fire safe".
The new cigarettes no longer contain a chemical that allows them to continue burning when left unattended.
Unattended cigarettes are the leading cause of home fire deaths in the U.S.
Tom Brace, director of the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association, said the new cigarettes should significantly reduce the number of cigarette related fires.
"Now imagine that cigarette falling into someone sitting in an upholstered chair or falling on the floor on a piece of carpet. The ability of that cigarette to cause an ignition would be reduced with the new technology that is now in play in this type of low propensity fire cigarette," Brace said.Brace said the new state law requiring fire-safe cigarettes is the most important fire-prevention law passed in more than 30 years.