Wednesday, May 30, 2012

And now with Today's Business News . . .

Here I am again with my periodic supermarket report. In the past week or two I dealt with gooey, calorie-laden “salads”, and in the past I have noted the increasing varieties of canned tomatoes and Head and Shoulders shampoo. I am sure you could come up with more.

A quick trip to the grocery store right before Memorial Day yielded two strange products. Or rather, one strange product and one time-honored product with a rather bizarre advertising slogan.

Here's “apple
sauce on the go”. This is a rather blurred photo taken on my phone, but you can probably make out that what we have here is applesauce in squeezable pouches. I could forgive this —perhaps—if the product was on display with the baby food (though there are perfectly good little tubs of applesauce sold for people who do not want to open a big jar and let it go moldy, even in the fridge.) I’m just not sure what this product is for. Food fights in Junior High? Eating while driving?

Next we have cartons of Miller High Life beer. I admit that if you can read the small print, you will learn that 10¢ per tab or cap will be donated to help returning veterans, but to me the larger print seems to convey an unpleasant message—“you have fought for freedom, now come back and drink beer.”

I suppose this all goes to show I would be hopeless at marketing and branding and advertising. But I do purchase products and I am not tempted by these two.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Anniversary, Marcie and Andrew

Marcie and Andrew with their oldest son, Theodore,
in May this year.
Twelve years ago we were in New Jersey for Andrew's wedding. What an eventful life they have had since then—moving from their charming condo on Capitol Hill to their current house in Rockville, settling into challenging jobs and becoming the parents of six delightful children. Nothing prepared them for the task they had this past year when their youngest child, Veronica, was born at 24 weeks of gestation. The three of them bravely faced the challenges, which Marcie chronicled so movingly in her blog. Well worth reading, not only for their story, but for the links to the parents of other micro-preemies.

Veronica is thriving and Marcie and Andrew are looking forward to a year with a little more sleep. Well done, and love from us all.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Lucy

Today marks the anniversary of Lucy's birth. It is not a good idea to go into labor somewhat precipitously at 4 :00 on a Friday afternoon. The staff in the doctor's office, the doctor himself and the nurses at the hospital all wanted to pat me on the head and say "Come back on Monday morning", but Lucy, characteristically, had other plans and greeted us all at 5:30.

We had to cancel our plans for a birthday/Memorial Day picnic today and instead we will celebrate tomorrow. Lucy came over and trimmed our box hedges. Nice. You can see more photos and a little narrative here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Grab and Shove

My title is not the name of a previously un-published Beatles song, nor is it the original concept for the move made famous in that hysterically funny scene in Legally Blonde—way funnier than any scene starring a UPS guy has any right to be.

Grab and shove is my new style of gardening. Grab because I have lost (for this year at any rate) the desire to spend hours in the nursery picking out exactly the right shades of purple and the shades of pink which complement and contrast with them. Normally I would then look for variety in the shapes and sizes of blooms, and a contrast of short and wide and long and narrow leaves. Not to mention leaf color from dark green to chartreuse. No, this year I resolutely marched from rack to racked snatching pots with the eagerness of the chefs on Chopped helping themselves to additional ingredients. I was aided in my last foray by a lad holding a cardboard box for my choices. He followed me around, made me nervous and therefore helped me hone my grabbing technique.

As for shove, it speaks for itself. No measuring distances between plants this year, no trying out color combinations, no little holes with compost in the bottom. Just a swirl with the trowel and in she pops.

I have no photos of the shovees, because they still look—well, like plants shoved into the ground. But I am willing to bet that in a day or two they will start growing and no-one will know the difference. Except me. And you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

With Tears in my Eyes

(C)With tears in my eyes, dear, I begged you to (F)stay
You couldn't for(G7)give me, so you went a-(C)way
I made a mistake, dear, by tellin' you (F)lies
Now I lay a(G7)wake, dear, with tears in my (C)eyes
 This is not a paean to Hank Williams—though that would make me extremely popular in this household.

It is a paean to this rather grubby looking object. It has been quite a while since I got this laptop, and as I fumbled around with the trackpad, using one, two or three fingers and getting totally confused, I realized that I could connect this old mouse and achieve my goal much more efficiently, "Just for the time being . . . I'll switch soon." Weeks became years and I never got around to it.

The other day I put the mouse in a bag together with the laptop to take it so my contacts could be transferred to our new iPhones (and that is all a topic for another post. Or two) and must have dislodged the little ball-thingy. Anyway, the mouse no longer works and I have been forced into using the trackpad. That explains the tears in my eyes. It is a nightmare. I think it took me about two hours to post my last entry. It is not only hard to achieve what I want to achieve, it is difficult not to perform some functions I most certainly do not want to achieve. I know it will get easier (won't it?) I will stop automatically reaching for this small, grey object. I will no longer look like a dork when I take my laptop out in public. Though I will look like a dork as I perform digital gymnastics.

By coincidence, an article appeared in today's Wall Street Journal which indicates there is a different solution:
 A race to liberate computer users from the mouse is kicking into high gear, inspired by the potential of turning hands and other body parts into digital controllers. 
The goal: to manage computers and other devices with gestures rather than pointing and clicking a mouse or touching a display directly. Backers believe that the approach can make it not only easier to carry out many existing chores but also take on trickier tasks such as creating 3-D models, verifying whether clothes fit, training athletes and browsing medical imagery during surgery without touching anything.
Until then, I have a perfectly good gesture for my laptop.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Like Father, Like Son

I wrote recently about our use of inherited 50-year old stamps (you did read the post, didn’t you?). We are still working at it, although the surface area of envelopes precludes the use of too many 3¢ stamps—and there are an awful lot of 3¢ stamps remaining.

So I was bemused, curious and quite at a loss the other day to receive this envelope from Senator Rand Paul (and why he is writing to me is another question.) Did he inherit his stamps? Does he troll the blogosphere looking for ways to endear himself to individual bloggers?

Who knows, but when you have a father who sought the Republican Presidential nomination on a platform of fiscal responsibility, you must have picked up some tips.

Dad will be so proud.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No Hunger Games Here.

A few weeks ago, when I was "off-blog" I posted on Facebook this photo of the deli counter at Krogers. I was somewhat amused that the place I expected to find some nice green salads was home to this whipping cream decorated "apple pie salad." There was little indignation from my readers. In fact my former baby sitter, now a dietician in a hospital in Arizona, commented that it all  looked good to her. Shame on you, Patty!

Today while I was waiting for my pound of ham (low sodium, of course) to be cut, I scanned the salad offerings, and my eyes alighted on this. It was labeled chocolate cookie desert. It looks like something I would rather not come across in a baby's diaper. At least they identified it as a desert, which is more than I can say for the dish to its left rear. That's a "candied apple salad".

So where could I go to cleanse my visual palate? Why, the produce department to see some nice, nutritious fruit. You know, the things you bite into and let the juice trickle down your chin. There was plenty of that, but look what I also found. Pre-washed, pre-sliced, pre-doused in preservatives and packed in plastic for your snacking pleasure.

This post needs a snappy sentence to end with, but somehow, I just can't come up with one. I'm speechless.

Friday, May 11, 2012

HIja', tlhIngan Hol vIjatlh

What does “communication” mean? Marriage counselors lump it under the heading of the skill needed by one partner to tell the other what is missing in their marriage, in 2010 there was talk of a space ambassador being appointed by the United Nations to act as the first point of contact for aliens trying to communicate with Earth, and no movie quiz is complete without that quotation from Cool Hand Luke.

The medium of communication which interests me most is language, so I was fascinated by Arika Okrent’s book, “In the Land of Invented Languages.”  She writes of over 900 documented languages devised by an equal number of people, not all of them linguists, but most of them a tad odd, from Hildegard of Bingen to Marc Okrand (we’ll talk about him later.) I would recommend the book, but I have a sneaking feeling that apart from me, the only people who would enjoy it are my friend Halina and my arch-rival from college, Audrey.

The need for such languages is obvious. You have only to watch a UN debate and see the earphones adorning politicians as they discuss international issues to realize that a one-size-fits-all language would a boon. All languages are imperfect, as anyone who has waded through irregular verbs will tell you. All mousetraps are imperfect. But while it is permissible to attempt to perfect a mousetrap, even as the existing version is in use, the same policy cannot be applied to a language.

So why not invent one? Alas, such attempts have never worked. Much of the fascination of the book is the description of the language designs that were attempted—categories and sub-categories, languages based on mathematics or on symbols or on concepts. None, with the exception of Esperanto, even got off the ground.

And Mr. Okrand? He has a Ph.D. in Linguistics and was working on closed captioning for the 1982 Academy Awards when he answered a call to come up with some lines in Klingon and soon there was a whole Klingon language, with certification exams. Dr. Okrent is quick to inform us she passed her Klingon exam (only First Level so far, but with a score of 93.)

There is a part of me that wants to put my language skills to the test—the title of this post by the way supposedly means “I speak Klingon” or rather “Yes, Klingon language I-it-speak.” But for now I will content myself with admiring the complexity of Dr. Okrent’s book. Anyone interested in a trip to Chicago next Christmas for the Klingon version of “A Christmas Carol?”

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Weekend in DC

Just in case you were wondering where we were (and you were, weren't you?) we flew to Washington for the two remaining First Communions of the year. They were scheduled thirty minutes and forty miles apart, not unlike a situation we had two years ago. Lucy came too, on a plane that got in fifty minutes after ours, thankfully at the same airport. I was going to take part in Frederick's ceremony in Woodbridge, VA: Ernie was to join Theodore in Rockville, MD and we were all scheduled to meet up at Andrew and Marcie's in Rockville for a party. There was a lot more car borrowing and being in the right place at the right time involved. Logistics! I'm a glass half empty person and was terrified it would all go wrong, like a Logic problem on the GRE where there's an error at step one.

But it went off perfectly and we had a wonderful time. Here's Theodore (l), and Frederick (r) shortly before they were allowed to take off their suits and enjoy themselves. There are more photographs of the weekend here. I seem to be getting back into the habit of recording events visually.

There was an additional joy to the weekend. Theodore's little sister, whose white knuckle first year of life was recorded in Veronica's Journey, was all smiles and getting ready to crawl. Veronica, I hope we will be able to join you seven years from now at the same celebration.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Iceman Cometh . . .

. . . and he seems to have gone away again, but not before doing some selective damage.

You may notice I have changed my header from spring plants to exuberantly blooming hydrangeas. The bush is in my back yard and the photo was taken a couple of years ago. Here's the same bush today. The leaf spray on the right looks so green and healthy—they all looked that way before the frost hit last week and killed a number of the upper branches. It completely destroyed a smaller bush and left three untouched.

My instinct was to cut off the unsightly leaves and tidy everything up, but the nursery told me to leave the bush alone and let nature take its course. I've kept my hands off it so far.  I need to learn I'm not in charge of the universe.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Grandfather's Love

Not a good photograph—it was taken from my car with a cell phone. But I didn't want to get any closer and I didn't want him to see me taking the photo.

I came across him when I was off on an errand, but it wouldn't have mattered if I hadn't seen him that day. If I had driven that route to the park the next day or the day after, I would have eventually met up with him. He must be close to 80 now. I spent a lot of time sitting next to him and his wife on the bleachers when our boys played basketball together. I think they have more grandchildren than we do, and the one he is pushing in the stroller plays a special role in his life. She was born with developmental problems and since his retirement I don't think a day goes by that he doesn't take her to the park and push her along the boardwalk by the lake. I have come across them there several times and we have taken the opportunity to catch up on the news of each other's children.

I admire him and his ceaseless devotion to his granddaughter, so no, I didn't want him to see me taking the photo.