Sunday, February 26, 2006


Coincidence has played a significant role in my life this week. First it was underwear, now it is computers.

Writers who kept their Journals on Diary-x logged on yesterday to discover that (sic): “All journals, user information, forum posts, templates, images, and everything else are all irrecoverably lost.” It is the on-line equivalent of “the dog ate my homework”, except that poor Stephen Deken was telling his subscribers, “My dog ate YOUR homework.” I could almost understand what he was talking about as he described the phenomenon of “head skip.” I noted what he wrote about the last backup in December 2004, and reminded myself that I needed to do something about backup for the files in this computer.

You guessed it: later in the day there were definite signs that something is amiss with my beloved G5. It looks like something is trying to eat the desktop and the screen keeps going fuzzy. So I stayed up much too late last night burning backup CD’s. It means that tomorrow we will have to drive across town to the Apple store and talk to the latest in a long line of Mac employees called Jason who uses a language I do not understand. I’ll grit my teeth and do it. I have been trying to take photos of the screen to illustrate the problem, but my camera too is on the blink. That, I am afraid, will be another story. I just hope we don’t have to hear the word “irrecoverably.”

Friday, February 24, 2006

Ron's Birthday

Today is the last of the February birthdays. And there is no photograph of Ron blowing out the obligatory candles. This photo is hot off the press: I took it yesterday when Ron brought the kids over for lunch. This week is mid-winter break for the school district, so lunch with Papa and Grandma is on the list of field trips. Eleanor had her eyebrow gooped up with some surgical glue as the result of a trip to the hospital on Sunday. When I asked her about the experience, she replied, "I bit him." She did too. Poor doctor!

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Yesterday I came across two articles on a subject that normally I do not think much about. I figured that the gods of trivial information must be conspiring, so today I shall write briefly (no pun intended) about underwear.

The first article appeared in the Education supplement of Britain’s Guardian Unlimited. In a piece entitled Red stars and bras, Marc Abrahams introduces us to Olga Gurova, who is based at the European University in St. Petersburg and studies the cultural history of underwear in the Soviet Union. I quote:

In the 1920s, Soviet magazines touted a "regime of cleanliness" for the proletariat. "Underwear," explains Gurova, "was a compulsory part of that regime." A goal was established: everyone should have at least two sets, and should change sets at least once every 7-10 days.

I was still reflecting on that information when I opened the March edition of “W.” There, in an article entitled “Romantic Interludes”, Jessica Kerwin tells us everything we ever wanted to know about the lingerie designers of Paris. All I will say is that this putative bra retails for about $195, while the panties, ribbons and all, cost about $180 and can be purchased in New York.

When I wrote a couple of days ago about the exams and essays of my youth, I omitted to say that many essay questions began: “Compare and contrast ...” These pieces would make a good basis for such an essay, but I don’t intend to do that. You are smart people and can do that for yourselves. And if you do a good job, you too can teach at the European University in St. Petersburg.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Pick up your Pens . . .

I don’t spend a lot of time examining my fingers, but the other day during a bout of idly contemplating my digits, I realized that the bump has finally disappeared. It was a callus and it was formed on the middle finger of my left hand (I am left handed) shortly after I learned to write. It was usually indelibly stained with ink.

Just about everything I write these days is on a computer, because when I write by hand unintended words and letters tend to appear on the page. My handwriting, of which I was once so proud, is slovenly and erratic. At the age of eleven, I passed the 11+ and went to the “grammar school.” One of the things that set us apart, besides the ugly gymslips, the blazers and the school berets (all in a rather grim shade of bottle green) was “school writing.” We were told that a great deal of our life would be taken up writing essays and that in order to write quickly, legibly and efficiently we had to undo everything we had learned about writing. No more loops and flourishes. Our writing henceforth was to be streamlined, with no fancy bits to slow us down. It was assumed the ideas would flow: our handwriting had to follow suit.

And write we did. I was in my early twenties the first time I saw a multiple-choice exam. Unfortunately, it was the GRE and I wasted precious time trying to figure out what to do. Until then our homework and our exams had consisted of essays. There was quite a ritual. We were given “rough note books” where we sketched out our ideas and sentences, always in pencil. The paper was so cheap it wouldn’t even hold ink and in those days of post-war austerity, we had to fill our rough notes books completely before being allowed a replacement. Then we moved on to our exercise books, where the essays were fleshed out in their full glory. They had to be written with a fountain pen. No biros allowed. And none of those sissy cartridges either. We had bottles of ink (Waterman’s) and we dipped the nibs in the bottle, applied pressure to the plunger and sucked in the ink. I don’t remember being told to use blue-black ink, but I know I did. Blue was rather flighty and black better left to elder statesmen.

I kept those exercise books for years. I was comforted to see how much I had once known about Metternich and the imagery of Alfred de Musset. I still have nightmares about taking exams and memories of walking into a room and taking my place under the steely-eyed gaze of the invigilator. The words, conjuring up some academic Indianapolis 500, were always the same: “Pick up your pens and start writing.”

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Liesl is four

This is quite a week for family birthdays! Liesl is celebrating her fourth birthday today in Rockville. The DC family will be there and we are sorry we will not be with them. I am sure the six little cousins will have a good time. From the looks of this photo, Liesl will be e-mailing us soon to give us an up-date on the party. Look at those blonde curls: she certainly doesn't get them from our side of the family.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Happy Birthday, Charlie

Charlie celebrated his sixth birthday today with a trip to the movies with his dad and a couple of friends to see Curious George. It seems only yesterday I was at the hospital to see the newborn. We joined Charlie and the family for cake and ice cream later this evening. I took the photo a few days ago when he was watching his grandfather deal cards. Look at the concentration!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Marcie has a birthday.

The five of you going out for a birthday dinner was perhaps not the most relaxing occasion, Marcie, but I am sure that you enjoyed celebrating with Andrew and the children.

This photo was taken in October, right after the birth of Linus, and I put it here because it shows Marcie's mother, Diane, who has suffered some severe medical setbacks in the months since this photo was taken. We all send our love and best wishes and hope to hear better news soon.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Turin, si: Torino, no

I am an Olympic Games junkie. I am not sure if it is because I enjoy and appreciate the various disciplines, or because it give me a legitimate reason to sit and be a couch potato.

One of the great joys of living across the river from Canada is access to CBC television. Unlike the American networks, who generally show taped coverage in the evening, CBC is on the air most of the day. You have to hand it to those Canadians: they support their athletes through thick and thin. If an American wins, we watch the edited version of his event, including the human interest story. If a Canadian is in twenty fourth place, we watch his race from beginning to end. Even if it is that race where a man skis for twenty-two miles, yanks a rifle off his shoulder and shoots at something and then skis back another twenty-two miles, we follow him. Every. Single. Mile. And then there’s curling.

I applaud the Canadians for announcing that the games come from Turin. No Torino for them. They have enough trouble getting people to speak French and English. Forget Italian. I’ve got to go now and rehearse singing “O, Canada.” Now that Torville and Dean are no more, I won’t have much opportunity to sing the National Anthem. Unless Eddie the Eagle comes out of retirement . . .

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Who am I? 24601

I suppose Jean Valjean didn’t have a lot to occupy his mind in the nineteen years he was imprisoned. So perhaps he didn’t find it too hard to triumphantly declare his identity: “Who am I? 24601!”

I, on the other hand, have trouble remembering who I am. Sure, I know my name, my address and my date of birth. If I shut my eyes and try hard I can usually come up with my Social Security Number. But I am defeated by all those web sites that demand that I identify myself. They want ID’s, they want passwords. When I first started registering on various sites, I religiously obeyed the rule about not using the same password. Of course I knew I shouldn’t write down information on Post-it notes and attach it to my monitor. So I wrote it on scraps of paper, most of which I lost.

Now I am starting to organize my password information (and I’m not telling where.) I don’t know which is more frustrating: clicking on a bookmark which takes me to a site where they obviously know who I am (Welcome, grannieb proclaims The New York Times , Hello b.ament chirps The Washington Post ) or trying to register at a site where I clearly registered before, because they tell me the ID is already taken. Yes, it was, by me, but I can’t quite remember the combination of open sesame words and numbers.

The most annoying site of all, at least to me, is The first time I registered on the site, I was Mrs_Rochester. I loved that ID, but by the time I tried to log back on again, I had forgotten my password, so I had to register again with a much less graceful ID. There are two different places to log on, one if you want to order stuff and one to access the Bulletin Board to pick up useful tips about sewing Halloween costumes or lining curtains. But it is not intuitive and I spend way too much time navigating the site. I have come to the conclusion that the site is scrambled by some terrorist version of Homeland Security. They must have found multiple instances of the word “Afghan”. And since there is a book on the site which combines the word “Afghan” with “American” (it's up in the top, left-hand corner) and “Monk’s”, conjuring up images of a suspect nation and a suspect religion, there must be someone in Kabul doing his darndest to keep me from checking out the new spring fabrics.

Maybe, like Jean Valjean, I will start tattooing my ID’s and passwords on my chest.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super Bowl XL

Today is Super Bowl Sunday. Back on December 4th I wrote about my love of college football, so I wouldn’t be mentioning professional football today if it were not for the fact that Super Bowl XL is being played in Detroit! We took a trip downtown on Friday to the pre-game festivities and got caught up in all the hoopla.

I don’t even have to mention the game. There are statistics involved: last year, according to The Washington Post $150 million was spent on beer in the two weeks surrounding the game and I know I read (somewhere) that 75% of the avocados sold each year are sold in the days before this event.

I could write about Kid Rock, Jerome Bettis, Mitch Albom and the countless Sports Illustrated swimsuit models who have been featured in the papers all week. But I won’t. I’m off to enjoy the game. Go Pittsburgh!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Eleanor's Birthday Party

Eleanor was two yesterday.We (Ernie and I, Elizabeth, Jeff and their four) gathered at Kate and Ron's today for a birthday lunch.The eight little cousins are always happy to get together. As usual they were playing so hard that they weren't as entranced by the two delicious soups and homemade bread as the grown-ups were, but they raked up much more enthusiasm for the chocolate cake. You can see Eleanor's delight. I just wish I could use Photoshop on this site to eliminate the knife. We honestly didn't let her cut the cake herself.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Megan and Emiliano are married

Exactly a week ago we were throwing clothes into a suitcase so we could be ready to leave (reasonably) bright and early the next day for Chicago. I had been somewhat dreading this trip. Snow in Michigan can cause heavy drifts around the south of Lake Michigan, but the worst we had to contend with was sun in our eyes!

The rehearsal dinner on Friday night was at Sal y Carvao in honor of Emiliano’s Argentinean ancestry. We were impressed by the waiters in gaucho pants serving enormous quantities of meat on spits. The late arriving cousins met for the customary pizza at Barones.

We visited the Morton Arboretum on Saturday morning and by the time we got to the church, all the family was assembled. Bob was the co-celebrant, Lucy sang and other members of the family participated in the mass. It was wonderful to have Emiliano’s parents here from Buenos Aires. Between us we can cope with French and German, but we missed out on Spanish. By Monday we were off buying Spanish dictionaries, but it would have been smart to hit the books before we got to Chicago. Esteban and Dora were most gracious and good sports through the elegant reception and the rounds of brunches and dinners that followed the wedding.

By Tuesday morning everyone was gone, leaving Megan and Emiliano and his parents to pack a U-Haul and make the long trip to New York. We missed so many of you and hope that our photographs will give you an idea of the great time we all had.