Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I can't tell cars apart. I can tell a car from a truck or even an SUV. I can identify colors and age (within a decade). Once I get close enough, I can read the vehicle name. But apart from that, a car is a car.

DOB sees things differently. He can identify a car going 75 on the opposite side of a six-lane freeway. If we are driving through his hometown, where he used to work in car insurance, he can also tell you who owns the car. I have trouble identifying our car in a parking lot.

Recently, DOB has decided that he would like to purchase a Pontiac (I think) Bonneville someday. In furtherance of this goal, he has instituted a game of "Spot the Bonneville." I still have trouble remembering he's not talking about a public utility, and pleaded for a game of "Slug Bug" instead (I can identify them), but to no avail. He did establish the rule that there would be no detriment to points from an incorrect identification.

So one day he had just spotted a Bonneville and was trying to point out to me the virtues of the Bonneville in styling so that I could better identify it. I tried to notice the shape and features of the car. Then, emboldened by the knowledge that it wouldn't hurt me to be wrong, I pointed at the next likely candidate and shouted, "Bonneville!"

Then I realized I was pointing at the lot of a Saturn dealership.
The bag of clothes finds a home
After some pondering on the specific characteristics of our nearest neighbors, I came to the conclusion that the only likely target was the house next door to the left. So when I saw the lady next door out tending to her flowers, I showed her the bag and asked her if she had any idea where it came from. She did not, but volunteered the information that they took clothes downtown to a mission working with Mexican immigrants. I figured the clothes could not serve a better purpose, and gave her the bag. The end.

On a related topic, I have enough frilly dresses for D1--between hand-me-downs and things other people found at garage sales, etc.--that she could go to a party every day for a couple of weeks. She's not even going to have opportunities to wear them all before she outgrows them. I guess I shall just have to pick out a few favorites and save the rest for a garage sale, a hand-me-down bag, or in case I ever have twin girls and need more dresses at once. Or perhaps D1 will like to put them on her dolls.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Monday Morning
The station wagon broke down again. Won't start. Fortunately it did it close to DOB's work (at his partner's house, in fact) instead of in Hicksville this time. And his partner was kind enough to loan us his car to get home in. So we drove out in a 95 Taurus and home in a 01 Saturn. But we have to return it, so it doesn't count.

We've been gone all weekend again and the house looks it. Why don't the fairies ever come and do the dishes while I'm gone?

Marsha has become a regular blogger at last and has good comments on her political philosophy. (Which resembles mine except I'm less of an ideological purist.)

Time for me to start work. My first task is inputting various financial data from the Wall Street Journal. After that I shall try to clean off the desk so that when I have more work to do I have room to do it in.
Low-Budget Operations
One of the local radio stations plays a variety of music--swing, classic country, polka--according to the tastes of whomever the host happens to be. We appreciate the diversity, but apparently not enough other people do to make it particularly lucrative. The other evening we were listening to it on the drive home and the DJ came on saying, "Could the person who called a couple of minutes ago please call back? I was on the air at the time and couldn't answer the phone." Now I'm not surprised they can't afford a second person around the station--but not even an answering machine?

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Real Life Mysteries
Last night, while we were out running errands, someone left a bag of clothes on our front doorstep. Had these been a bag of baby clothes, I would not be particularly surprised. But these were a bag of women's clothes.

In the Sunday School stories, someone receives such a bag of clothes after praying for clothes they desparately need. But I don't need clothes. And if I did have to pray for clothes I do hope--with all due respect--that God would have better taste. These garments are not my color, not my style, and not really my size. (The term "my size" has a different amount of flex to it after pregnancy.) They would be better suited to someone three times my age.

Now that is a fair description of most of our neighbors. It may be possible that, in this neighborhood of somewhat similar houses, someone mistook the doorstep and I am holding the clothes that some lady down the street is wondering why her friend never dropped off. But if this is true, how do I find it out? It seems awkward to go door-to-door, holding up a bag and asking, "Excuse me, are these your clothes?" On the other hand, it would be just as awkward for them to go door-to-door asking if anyone has taken in a mysterious bag of clothes. Maybe I should just take them out and set them in the yard for all comers.
Football Season
The fall football season has begun. I refer not to the NFL season, about which I know nothing unless I happen to notice DOB has football articles up on ESPN.com instead of baseball articles, but to the season of plotting and training for the annual family football game on Thanksgiving.

Somehow I didn't fully comprehend, before marrying DOB, how important this would be. They should put this in premarital counseling: "Will your family traditions require your wife to learn to play contact sports?" Fortunately DOB did not make prior ability a qualification, since I didn't even know how to throw a football until he taught me. (This was not because I was prissy--my brothers don't play football, either. We prefer individual sports without rule books. We're not team players and we'd rather argue than look things up.)

But willingness to play was a necessary feature. His brothers also expect their wives, whenever they may appear, to play football as well. I mentioned the possibility that these theoretical young ladies might not want to play football. They countered that all girls worthy of consideration would be willing to play football; since they define a worthy girl as "one who is willing to play football," I couldn't really argue with them.

Last year I escaped on the grounds of being pregnant. That not being a good idea this year, I shall have to play. The teams have been designated, the players ranked in their various skills, and our team has a significant point deficit. DOB nonetheless thinks we can win, due to his superior strategic and leadership abilities. But I had better get in training. I ranked high on catching ability--or at least colliding with the ball ability--but low on throwing and stamina. So I will make my daily walks more vigorous and begin playing catch in the evenings. Can't let those Bengals win.
Sunrise, Sunset
D1 has outgrown her first clothes. Amazing. A month ago we had such a tiny, helpless baby and now we have . . . a slightly larger and more wiggly tiny, helpless baby. But it feels significant to us!

She has enough clothes in this size that I'm wondering if I'll ever have to do laundry. (Hint to people giving gifts to new babies: they'll need clothes after they're six months old, too.)

Here's hoping for a cool, early fall because at the current growth rate she'll have outgrown this next set by late October and if the weather stays warm all the fuzzy fall outfits she has won't be any good.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Small Miracles Gratefully Received
Yesterday I tried to get on the deceased computer long enough to copy off the files I had neglected to back up. It allowed me to get on (good), open the CD burning program (better), line up the documents I needed to copy (yes!) . . . and then I could not find my emails! Every combination of versions of Outlook and Windows hides them in a different place, and while I was searching for the current hiding place, it crashed again. (arrrrrghhhh!) And wouldn't come on again, no matter how hard I tried. Add to this that I was trying to feed a fussy baby, we had people coming over in two hours and the house wasn't ready, and I knew I was in trouble because I hadn't taken the nap I should have taken, and things were getting a bit hairy.

But today, after the meeting was over and the house had recovered, after I'd had a good night's sleep and a nap, while D1 was taking her nap, I tried again. And it booted up. And let me open the CD burning program. And grab the documents. And I found my .pst file. And they all got written onto the CD. And then the computer crashed.

Now I can ponder what to do with the computer at my leisure. Meanwhile, as the Oracle constantly points out, I had better back up more often. I haven't had a backup since he did it last summer before I got married. And if I only do a backup once per name change, my data is going to be in constant danger.
Alternative Lifestyles
D1 has spent an unusual amount of time either playing by herself or being held by someone else the past several days. Also I am planning on starting working from home for DOB tomorrow. These factors have caused me to realize that if I worked a normal job, I would be putting D1 in daycare about now, and thus caused us to ponder how our lives would be different:

We'd have a much bigger house, because my income would qualify us for a bigger loan and we'd need it because that's the kind of house financial professionals and lawyers live in.

And nicer cars. And we would just go out and buy an infant car seat instead of making the all-four-years one from the hospital work until one of the people who've promised to give us their old one finally remembers to do it.

In another month, when D1 started putting things in her mouth, she'd get sick all the time because she'd be putting toys in her mouth that twenty other kids had put in their mouths. So she'd be on antibiotics all winter, and I'd be stressed out because I'd have to keep taking time off work to take her to the doctor or stay home with her if the daycare wouldn't let her come.

With all that going on, we'd never get enough sleep. We'd drink a lot of coke and coffee to stay awake at work. We'd be grouchy.

I would be too tired to cook. We'd rely on frozen dinners and take out. Our food budget would probably be double or triple what it is now. And with the processed foods and D1's constant sickness, we'd be catching things all the time, too.

When we both got home, we'd be too tired to talk or read together. We'd watch TV for a little while and then go to bed.

Then again, we probably would have realized this would be a problem, and what with all our house and car and credit card (gotta furnish the big house) debts to pay off, we would put off having kids for another five years or so. No D1, D2 or D3. And by the time we did decide to have kids, I'd be older, we'd still have eaten a poor diet because I'd still be too tired to cook, and several years on the Pill might have messed up my hormones, so we might need fertility drugs. Maybe we'd get triplets to make up for lost time. :-P Even one kid would seem like a huge interruption, though, after we'd forced ourselves to get comfortable with life without them. My career would be that much farther along, and I'd probably want to get back to it ASAP. I'd take a few years off to get the (two) kids off to a good school, and then return to my more important work. We'd never have the time to know them--or each other.
Writing Our Own Job Descriptions
Judges deciding they could legislate was only the first step; now executive branch officials are deciding they can judge. Michigan election officials voted to deny ballot access to an initiative with plenty of signatures because they don't think it's constitutional. Note to election officials: That's not your business to decide. From the language given in the article, which is unusually broad, I suspect it could be construed in an unconstitutional manner--to prohibit, say, a private employer from granting benefits to same sex partners, or even preventing a private wedding chapel from conducting a same-sex ceremony. But a judge could also construe it to refer only to government actions, in which case it would likely be constitutional. Regardless, it's the judge's job, not theirs.

And in Louisiana, it seems they're up their old "one subject" trick. As if legislative bills are ever held to this standard. For some reason an initiative that addresses same-sex marriage and civil unions violates the one issue rule, but the Consolidated Multiplied Omnibus Bill passed at midnight just before adjournment never does.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Cheap Thrills
  • Making a casserole using leftover rice, leftover turkey, leftover cheese, and leftover broccoli, that turned out delicious.
  • Sewing a birthday card using scrap fabric and tissue paper on a blank card that turned out really cute and took about five minutes, less time than looking for one that wasn't obscene or too mushy. (Just stack a couple different scraps of paper and fabric artistically and sew them on with a regular sewing machine.)
  • Saving $35 over the previous month's electric bill by hanging four loads of clothes a week and turning off the A/C during a week of cooler weather. (I've discovered I really like hanging laundry. It is an excuse to get outside that doesn't get dirt under my fingernails.)

Monday, August 23, 2004

Milestones the Baby Books Miss: Burping
True, burping has been part of D1's life since day one. But in the early days, coaxing her to burp was a huge problem, requiring the united efforts of all adults in the vicinity, involving a dozen variations of position and patting techniques, and generally taking as long or longer than the meal itself. She would inform us of her misery intermittently until the burps were gone. If we misjudged the absence of further burps and set her down too soon, we would be punished with wails of anguish.

Due to improving skills at nursing, increased torso and neck strength, and perhaps DOB's fine coaching and example in the activity, matters have improved greatly. Now all I have to do is sit her up on my lap for a few seconds and we both wait calmly until she emits a noise that would attract admiration in a junior high cafeteria. After that, all is well.

Such a noise is, of course, loud enough to attract attention in other venues as well. Like last night in church.

Very Briefly, Before D1 Wakes Up:

  • DOB's mother's 50th birthday party on Saturday came off as a complete surprise. A good time was had by all. We have plenty of leftovers, which are essential after a party because you don't feel like cooking.
  • Cardamon is the cayenne pepper of baking spices. Do not attempt to include it in equal quantities to things like nutmeg and allspice.
  • My computer has, reputedly, died. I was not present when the death occurred. I am using the home office computer, which I hope does not jeopardize its tax-deductible status any more than DOB using it to check ESPN does. E-mail will not be functioning until I find a workaround with the laptop (which was broken when we moved in, so we've never bothered to set it up with an Internet connection). I hope the data can be recovered.
  • We were essentially gone all weekend, yet the house is a disaster. I've never understood that phenomenon. And we have guests coming tomorrow.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Interesting Thoughts Afoot

Some people refuse to understand the natural law concept. (I wanted to reply but it required an email address. I need to get me a throwaway address for online use.)

Our school email group is having a rousing (and so far quite civil) debate on whether minor, non-dangerous, traffic infractions are unimportant and should not be enforced (or observed) or whether the Law is the Law. It's a difficult matter because on the one hand a) you can't pull over every speeder, so some enforcement will be selective, yet b) any acknowledgment that enforcement will be selective opens one to charges of prejudice and profiling. And I don't think anyone is arguing that we can abandon the vehicular code altogether. We could perhaps make the code entirely a question of prudence, but that wouldn't really solve the problem in b).

I'm thinking about writing a defense of why women should vote, in response to this. In very brief form, I think that while household voting is not necessarily a bad idea (a sort of mini-federalism), it is certainly not the way things are now and there is nothing illegitimate about individual voting, as the civil government must deal with us as individuals in other aspects.

But all these thoughts must await further pondering. Great things afoot today, on which more later.

Friday, August 20, 2004

A day that will live in . . .
I don't usually post birthday greetings here (so nobody else get offended that you weren't mentioned, ok?) But today is unique for being both DOB's mother's 50th birthday, and my big brother's 33rd birthday. (I think. I need to get together with my nephew on this question. He was once reciting the family's ages and he came to Papa and said, "Papa is two and . . . I can't remember what other number he is." Well, I can remember the first number, Judah, so you just tell me the last one.)

Today is also the second anniversary of a significant telephone call from DOB to His Majesty, one of a very, very few occasions when DOB found himself tongue-tied.
After seven months and a call to the title company, we now have a deed to our house. Woo-hoo! We are officially home owners!

The deed itself is boring. I've seen more impressive certificates from VBS. Couldn't they at least put on a fancy border?

Thursday, August 19, 2004

DOB and I have few areas on which we just do not understand each other. Less than most couples, I think. But we still have a few.

One of the primary ones is tie descriptions.

Every morning, DOB puts on the shirt and pants I have ironed and then calls out, "Which tie should I wear?" (Even if he always wears the same tie with that shirt.)

I call back from the kitchen, "The dark blue one with light gray spots."

"Which one is that?" he asks. He only has one tie currently in use that remotely resembles this description. I don't think he even looks.

"The one I bought in February when I went shopping with Kitra for maternity clothes," I elaborate.

"Oh, OK," he says. A few moments later, he emerges wearing the right tie.

What is so hard about matching a clear description to the tie in question? And what is so much easier about recalling the precise circumstances of its purchase?

It might be easier to just go with the description that he understands. But I refuse to concede my ground that visual descriptions are more logical than recounting the life history of the tie.

Thus, we are working on yet another tie descriptor that we can both agree on. Following Deontologist's example, we are starting to name the ties.

Today's tie, the dark one with the light gray spots, is called "Nuclear Fallout."

Alas, DOB's ties are much more conservative than Deontologist's ties. It's going to be tricky coming up with memorable names.

Or I could just lay his tie out with his shirt. But why make things boring?

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Good Divorce
This month's Reader's Digest had an article on the broader acceptance of the reality that there is no "good divorce" and all parental divorces traumatize children.

So what should be done about it, according to the article? Get the kids counseling to help them deal with the trauma.

I'm not sure this perspective is an improvement. Is it better to be irrationally optimistic or pragmatically calloused?
King Arthur and His Syncretistic Knights
Setting aside mysteries for the time being, DOB and I started reading Rosemary Sutcliff's retelling of the Arthurian Legends, The Sword and the Circle. So far I'm impressed with the version (but I have always enjoyed Sutcliff): it has the right tone for an ancient legend while remaining entirely readable, and it handles the immorality and occultism at the heart of the legend well, neither glamourizing it, camouflaging it, nor going into excessive detail. Alas, unlike the gorgeous illustrations for her retelling of the Iliad and Odyssey, there is only a cover illustration and it looks like three modern teenagers in Halloween costumes.

When you look at the whole story, the mix of beliefs is indeed strange. People go to the church feasts, yet they still look for omens from the stars. Children are raised in convents, but also study black magic. Incest is taboo, but adultery is acceptable--and so is revenge killing, or even killing for the fun of it, as long as it's a fair fight. It is not yet a Christian world, but a syncretism of Christianity and the old practices. There is a God, but He seems too far away for practical purposes. It reminds me of what I've read of some areas in West Africa today, where people may profess Christianity or Islam, but still do voodoo on the side.

Because the pagan beliefs are still strong, there are a lot of random or unknown quantities in the stories. Sitting at the end of centuries in which the universe has been accepted as orderly, first as created by God and then by the laws of science, it is harder for modern inhabitants of Western civilization to appreciate the world of Merlin, where things just happen, and don't have to make sense. But it has been a common outlook on the world, and is likely to become more so, as a society that no longer has an intellectual faith in God begins to lose its faith in science.

This is not the world of the Middle Ages, whose romantic lens we usually see it through, but the Dark Ages, in which semi-barbaric peoples struggle to survive after civilization has disintegrated. People commonly muddle the two, and then blame the resulting mess in their minds on the ascendancy of the church. But the Dark Ages were so dark precisely because the church had so little influence. It was in the Middle Ages, when the church became the final arbiter of morals and manners, that civilization was able to stabilize enough to move forward after the wreck of Rome.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Hints from Heloise
  • Don't try to take stains out of white shirt collars immediately after washing the windows using old newspapers.
  • Poached eggs make a great quick meal on toast or fried potatoes, but they're really not all that hot on popcorn.
  • It's not a good idea to open shampoo bottles with your mouth, but if you keep forgetting to open it before putting the baby in the bathtub, that's what you'll be stuck doing.

Monday, August 16, 2004

I have found them at last
There is an Apostrophe Protection Society in the world. They even have pages of photos of actual apostrophe abuse. (Note: The images are graphic and may be disturbing to some readers, at least those who care about grammar.)

The particular abuse that annoys me the most right now is the one on the box of hair clippers I picked up at a church rummage sale a few months ago. The cover shows a young boy in a bowl-cut with the chirrupy title in large letters of "Getta' Haircut!!" (The quotation and exclamation marks are on the box.)

Every time I look at it, I am filled with questions. Who are they quoting? Why do they have an apostrophe when no letters are missing? What are they exclaiming over? Why did they need to come up with a name--what was wrong with plainly labeling it "Hair Clippers?" How does one use hair clippers to do a bowl cut, and why would anyone want to?

It's almost enough to make me regret buying the clippers. Maybe I should glue something over the cover. (I have to look at it fairly often, as DOB gets it out every week to trim his goatee. And he claims he can't figure out how to get the cord back in the box, so it doesn't get put away until I do it.)
For those of you who care

New baby pictures are online. They're from Saturday the 7th.
It was a dark and stormy night.
Two girls, camping on a beach, seek shelter. By mistake, they stumble into a rickety old house. In one derelict room they find an elderly couple bundled up in a decaying bed. With hollow eyes and sepulchral tones, the old man cackles fiendishly at them and says,

"You might as well die now. There's no hope for you now that you've been exposed to it."

And what is the loathsome disease the girls have unwittingly been exposed to? The man continues.

"You can litter one box, and you'll escape. But as soon as you litter the second box . . . you . . . will . . . DIE!!!!"

No, that's not supposed to make any sense. But it's what I dreamed last night. Why littering? Why boxes? Why the one free toss? I have no idea.
Mysteries of the Modern World
What's the point of a baby outfit with a matching bib? If I don't care if she spits up on the outfit, I'm not going to bother to put a bib on her. If I do care if she spits up on the outfit, the matching bib is not going to be an acceptable target either. The end result is I use the matching bibs from the former outfits when she's wearing the latter outfits and use the matching bibs from the latter for--I don't know, display pieces?

Friday, August 13, 2004

Too Much Thyme On My Hands
Last night I was making dinner. I grabbed the marjoram, noticed it had a cover for shaking, and gave it a few shakes over the dish. I grabbed the thyme, gave it a few shakes over the dish, and noticed it did not have a cover for shaking. Sometimes I think my spice cupboard is deliberately set up to entrap me. I retrieved what I could and scraped the rest off and threw it away. It was a terrible waste of thyme.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Sherlock Holmes and the Drug War
A combination conspicuous for its absence. The crimes Sherlock Holmes unravels pertain to theft and murder, motivated by the usual assortment of human passions. Drugs are present neither as a crime themselves, nor as motives for other crimes.

(At least to my recollection, but it's been awhile since I read through all the stories. DOB and I are reading through them at the rate of about one a month, so it will take me awhile before I have a more definitive thought on this.)

To be sure, literature is not criminal statistics, but nothing conveys the mores and social realities of a time better than its literature. Sherlock Holmes is meant to be sensational--to tell the tales of the dregs of society. So it ought to be an excellent place to look to see how drugs influenced Victorian England.

Drugs were readily and legally available at the time. Opium dens operated; Holmes himself shoots cocaine from time to time when the casework gets slow. It's not evident from Sherlock Holmes, but opium and cocaine were commonly used in patent medicines.

And the dangers of drugs were known. Watson lectures Holmes from time to time on his cocaine use, rather as a doctor might today lecture a patient on smoking. In one story, Watson must go to an opium den to retrieve a friend who is tragically addicted, much to the grief of his friends and family.

But drugs still are not perceived as a societal problem per se. Certainly they sometimes cause problems for individuals, but even there the drug of choice for home-destruction is alcohol. (As it has been since Noah planted a vineyard and will be until the cup is passed in the New Jerusalem.) Because drugs are legal, they do not attract the attention of organized crime. Imagine what Professor Moriaty could do if he also headed up a drug cartel.

In short, the record of Victorian England gives us historical precedent that the legalization of drugs not only means no need to prosecute people for having drugs, but also gets rid of crimes committed over drugs--and without an increase in drug abusers. Then today's police, like Sherlock Holmes, could focus on thieves and murderers and let the mere addicts alone.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

New Income Source
The Wall Street Journal had a consumer review of various plain white T-shirts, which apparently are the latest rage. The one that received the poorest quality rating was also one of the most expensive, at over $40. But this was not that odd, considering that the fashion company's stated goal is to create a T-shirt that feels like it's been worn for 12 or 13 years.

Instead of cutting up DOB's remaining premarital T-shirts for rags, I clearly should be selling them. I wonder if armpit holes are now a hot fashion item?
DOB has some interesting calculations on the economic impact of a gas price jump.
First Lessons
Last night we were sitting down for family devotions. DOB, noticing he had D1's rapt attention (or seemed to), pointed to the book in his hand and said, "This is a Bible."

I waited, wondering what lesson he would choose for our daughter's first spiritual instruction.

"Don't spit up on it," he continued.

Well, I guess that's a good place to start.
Very Disturbing Thought
In a conversation at church this Sunday, the question of diapering before the invention of plastic came up. A friend related that she had known a very elderly woman who could remember her mother walking around, a baby on one hip, and her skirt constantly stiff and smelly with you-kn0w-what.

Ewwww. Did everybody really do that?

On a more pleasant note, D1 is developing the theory that the small objects that periodically strike her face are subject to volitional control. Firm proof has not yet been established, but experiments are ongoing.

And on a less pleasant note, polyester covers or no, it's time for a change.
Gender Conflicts
D1 has a few distinctly boyish outfits, picked up at garage sales before she was born or inherited from her uncles. (They're mostly in the size I expect her to outgrow any second now.) Today she was wearing one of them, a blue onesie with a little bear and fish on the front, when we headed out for a walk. Wanting to keep the sun out of her eyes, I decided to get her hat. It's shocking pink with a bow and lace trim. I think the pink won out.

Of course, that was just to make up for last Saturday, when she was wearing a pink onesie and a Milwaukee Brewers hat. (The kind that nachos come in. DOB discovered it was a perfect fit.)

Let's face it, we need a boy, too, to straighten this out.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Core Functions of Government
Apparently a WA state legislator wants the state secretary of health to publish pamphlets promoting small families. I'm not sure what her definition of "population sustainability" is since families of two or fewer children result in a declining population because they don't fill in for those unable to have children at all. Government moralizing is generally despicable, but this is one case where the moniker "Nanny State" doesn't quite fit.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

The Inevitable Baby Post
Anytime you see a timestamp this late you can bet I'm up with D1. Tonight we were going to Get On Schedule and all go to bed on time. We did. D1 decided she didn't want to go to bed yet. So I'm out with her in exile, trying to get her to settle down while letting DOB get his sleep. Last night D1 went 5 hours straight--giving me the longest chunk of sleep I've had since she was born. But two good nights in a row is probably too much to ask for at this stage.

This afternoon we were over with DOB's family and one of the uncles was holding D1. She was defying all his attempts to get her to look him in the face. Finally as a last defiant gesture she flung her bib up over her face so that she couldn't see him.
First Amendment Watch
In other news, the First Amendment is threatened, once again, by the people who ought to be most concerned about protecting it. The ABA is considering making part of its ethics rules for judges one that forbids them from joining a group that discriminates against homosexuals. This would mean judges would have to leave groups like the Boy Scouts and, presumably, conservative churches as well.

Now, judges do need--more than any other member of society--to both be and appear impartial. But this can only go so far. Would we ban judges from joining the Sierra Club on the presumption that they then could not judge fairly when large chemical-producing corporations came before them? For that matter, why shouldn't a judge belong to, say, an all-female or ethnic club? (Which apparently would be prohibited even under the current rules.) As long as a group does not call for violence or oppression of another group, simply belonging to a group that has restrictions on membership does not intrinsically call into question one's ability to judge fairly.
Fourth Amendment Watch
After taking His Majesty (aka my dad) to the airport on Saturday, DOB and I sat in a McDonald's parking lot while I fed D1. At the motel next door the police had pulled over a car, arrested the driver, and proceeded to search and impound the car. We initially parked on the far side of McDonald's, but then a few cars obstructed our view, plus it looked like the situation was well under control, so we drove over to the near side of the parking lot. (Shameless gawkers that we are. We tried to gaze only intermittently, though.) The female passenger was standing against the motel wall, watching with a passive-resistant demeanor, and finally made some calls on her cell phone, presumably for other arrangements. Meanwhile the police took a dog and rubber gloves and dug everything out of the car--pillows, clothes, etc.--and strewed it around the ground.

Studying criminal procedure tends to take the blood out of it. (Law can make any subject boring. One could read the Supreme Court case Jones v. Clinton cover to cover without finding anything to appeal to the prurient interest.) Watching the thing live and imagining the same thing happening to me on my next vacation makes the Fourth Amendment a vividly important string of words. Even just a search is a huge infringement on personal freedom. The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments aren't just about protecting the rights of criminals (as an occasional law-and-order conservative seems to think)--they're about protecting all of us from the dangers of an overzealous state.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Keyes to Illinois
So it appears that Keyes is going to run for Senate in Illinois. I initially thought this was a bad idea--Keyes isn't even from Illinois (don't want to go pulling a Hillary) and doesn't exactly have a spectacular record of vote-getting.

But after reading some discussion on it, I'm starting to think maybe it's a good idea. The Republican party needs somebody to run in Illinois, but after all that's happened it's too late for a Republican to seriously expect to beat Obama. The GOP's real goal would be to go down fighting, without wasting the prospects of up-and-coming Illinois politicians. Keyes will run a good race, conduct interesting debates with Obama, and generally keep things moving without hurting his career if he loses.

If DOB had time to post on this his thoughts would no doubt be much more profound, but he's supposed to be finishing up work and coming home. ;-)
Money to Burn
I am cheap. OK, you all knew that already. Cheapness is neither virtuous nor sinful; it is just a habit of not spending money that may be good (as when it causes me to forgo unnecessary expenditures and remain solvent) or bad (as when it tempts me to avoid paying my own fair share).

Thriftiness, on the other hand, is a virtue. In essence, it is the practice of getting maximum value and enjoyment out of your money. Because bankruptcy is no fun, it requires ensuring that money first goes to paying bills and meeting the necessities of life. Next, it would require some level of preparation for the future, appropriate to one's means and future plans. (DOB runs into people making six figures who can't find money to plan for the future. There's something warped there.) After that, thriftiness just means spending less money on things that aren't important to you, so that you can spend more money on things that are.

Part of this whole equation is realizing that time is money, too. Thus, thriftiness may involve spending less money so that you need to spend less time earning money and can spend more time on things that are more important or more fun. Or it might involve spending less money so that you can have a job you enjoy more that pays less.

Thus, there are few particular behaviors or lifestyles that are necessarily thrifty or not. A thrifty person might live on a farm in the middle of nowhere, accessorized with things scrounged from dumpsters and collapsing barns, or they might live in a downtown apartment and spend a thousand dollars on shoes a month. The issue is whether they are living within their means and spending their money on the things that matter to them.

The trouble is, most people don't stop to think about what's important to them and make sure their money is maximized in that direction. Suppose you spend $5 more on lunch and/or coffee every day than you would spend by making these items yourself. (Ha, Marsha, you knew I'd bring it up, didn't you?) Over the course of a year, that's going to be about $1500. Is the taste and convenience of the purchased lunch or coffee worth that much more to you than the house payments/vacation days/donation to your favorite cause that the money could instead be used for? If so, go eat your lunch in peace. (On the other hand, it takes DOB and me less than 5 minutes to pack up leftovers for his lunch. That makes lunch packing an activity worth about $60 an hour--tax free.)

Everybody has to spend at least some money on food, shelter, and clothing. After that, their priorities are going to differ wildly. There will be things that they'd have to be flat broke to give up (for me, internet service would be one); things they'll spend money on as soon as they have any extra (a bigger house on acreage); things they'd spend money on if they had plenty of extra (attending live performances); and things they wouldn't spend money on if you paid them to (convenience food--beans and rice from scratch are healthier for millionaires, too). The important thing is not what order your secondary priorities are in, but whether you spend in that order.

The only action that defies thriftiness across the board is waste, which is simply putting something that still has some use out of reach of any use. No matter how rich I was, I would turn out lights in empty rooms (or maybe set up a snazzy system of automatic sensors ;-) ). If a wealthy person can afford to buy a new outfit for every day they're alive, that's not necessarily wasteful--as long as they dispose of the old ones in a way that lets someone else make good use of them. Even blatant overspending--buying for $150 something that could easily be purchased for $20, say--is not in itself wasteful. At least the money is going to someone engaged in some sort of productive activity.

Other "thrifty" activities may be thrifty or not, depending on your circumstances. Right now, garage saling is a thrifty activity for me because I live in a neighborhood with lots of garage sales, and I can get a lot of the things I need right now (children's clothes and toys, household furnishings) at them. Before this year I didn't have those factors and I had never shopped at a garage sale. On the other hand, in the past I have driven very decrepit cars because I had my dad and brother to do a fair amount of the work on them. Now I live on the other side of the country, and DOB and I don't have the space or skills to do the work ourselves, so that's no longer a thrifty strategy.

I'm cheap, and I can't help it. I work on being thrifty--which for me usually means being willing to spend money on the things that really do matter to me, and when necessary accepting the tradeoff of spending more money to save time and energy.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Some people carry the "fairy-tale wedding" concept a bit too far.

OK, I can picture the bride in wings attended by fairies, but where on earth did they find groomsmen willing to be "frolicking elves"? It's hard enough to get a guy into a tux. Now if they were playing Tolkien elves, armed for an Orc attack, I could imagine it better.

I would thank Deontologist, but I bet he just gakked it from Dave Barry.
How brightly shines the moon
I was finally able to show The Taming of the Shrew to DOB last night. And he enjoyed it as much as I hoped he would. It's such a great story about real love: not namby-pamby niceness, but the desire to see someone become the person they were meant to be, whatever it costs to help them get there. On what it means to be a leader. On the difference between a marriage that's a true team and one where each person maintains their own separate objectives and tries to manipulate the other.

And it's hilarious.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Mental Notes
It's much easier to remove the seal from a bottle of baby shampoo when NOT holding a wet baby.
It's also much easier to transport a freshly bathed baby if you don't leave the towel in the other room.
Something We Can All Cheer . . .
It's rare that a bill comes out in Congress that deserves unmixed support, and when it does it's usually repealing something. Surely this is one we can all get behind: repealing the unconstitutional (still is, no matter what the Supreme Court says) restrictions on talking about politicians shortly before an election. It's good for Michael Moore. It's good for the NRA. It's good for candidates who happen to own car dealerships. It's good for America.
College Expenses
We have received a comment that, cheaply as we may think we can get by with babies, vast expenditures are lurking eighteen years down the road. Now, we may only have a baby so far, but remember we were just in college ourselves and are still pursuing additional credentials. Also DOB is a financial planner and helps people save for their children's education, so we are not blind to the costs.

First of all, let me make a shocking pronouncement: Parents have no moral obligation to put their children through college. None. If you feed and clothe your child until he is able to work for himself, and give him enough education to read fluently, write coherently, and do enough math to not get cheated, you have fulfilled your financial obligation towards the child.

Further, parents aren't required to fund a college education for all their children, even if they do it for some. My parents funded some of their children's post-high school training and not others, depending on a wide variety of factors, including their own inscrutable reasons. We don't hate each other.

And not every child needs to go to college. None of my grown brothers has a college degree. One works in construction, and one is in the navy. One is a manager at a large software firm, and has never been held back by his lack of a degree. There are still a lot of fields where what you can do is more important than how many extra letters you have.

But there are many fields where credentials are necessary, and it's likely enough some of our children will want to pursue some of them. If we have the money to help them out, we might want to do so. And if we do so, I will repeat the lecture my mother gave to all teenagers: "Getting the credentials is just a game. Find the quickest and cheapest way to jump through the hoops that you can, and get it over with."

There are scholarships. There are work/study programs. There are much cheaper schools than Harvard. There are equivalence tests. If they really want an education, they can work and study for it. If they don't want it enough to help reduce the costs in one of the above ways, why should we pay for it?

This mindset leaves out two important aspects of a college education. One is the social aspect. About this, I am heartlessly indifferent. Any advantage of meeting different people and ideas they miss out on they can have while engaged in productive activity; any advantage of hanging out with other juveniles they can fund on their own. The other is the possibility of pursuing a great liberal arts education, broadening the mind and joining in the Great Conversation. Most colleges don't do this anymore, and those that do are by no means necessarily the most expensive. Besides, it is my hope that we'll raise them so that they will be broadening their minds and thinking about great ideas for their whole lives.
Laundry Room Meditations
DOB was horrified to discover that I have a racist, segregationist, laundry scheme: Whites on Monday, Darks on Tuesday, Coloreds on Wednesday. He dreams of the day when our clothes will be judged, not by the color of their skein, but by the content of their fiber.

And I've long wondered why, when I get detergent or stain remover on my hands, I feel compelled to wash it off with soap. Isn't what I am washing off essentially soap?

Another developmental landmark: D1 has learned to make spit bubbles. (This will no doubt soon have consequences in the laundry department.)

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Shameless Self-Promotion
Another article published here. (It's on my mother's lectures. Those of you who knew her can probably add a few of your own.)

Monday, August 02, 2004

Minor Developments
Everybody knows the big Baby Book Milestones: first tooth, walking, first word. But the fun of being a parent is watching the gradual development of a full-fledged human being, in steps so tiny anybody else would miss them.

The other evening, DOB set D1 on her back on the bed, with a couple of stuffed carrots on her arms to keep her company. We expected her to pretty much flail her arms and ignore them. Instead, she grasped one of the carrots with both hands and patiently manipulated it until she had its nose (so some stuffed carrots have noses) in her mouth, and tried sucking on it. Whereupon she screamed in annoyance to find no milk forthcoming.

Now, this seems small. But consider all the development that goes into it. Not only is she aware that there is a world around her, she has come to the realization that she can manipulate and control objects in the world. She can form theories about what will happen and then test them to see if they will work. It's the beginning of all work and play, of hand-eye coordination, and of interacting with the world rationally, as a human being, rather than by instinct alone. She's made giant strides from the passive newborn of six weeks ago.

Of course, this deepens our speculation on whether she has figured out that parents are manipulatable, too.