January 29, 2007

Racism in the very young

There are certain statements out there that you hear again and again, so often that they sort of take on the status of truth. You never examine them for veracity, they just linger in the brush growth section of your mind and form part of the framework of your beliefs. For instance, fish is good for you. Or, racism is not ingrained but rather learned at home from the parents. I believed both of these things. Until now.

I no longer believe racism is learned at home and is not ingrained. That is too damn simple. My new theory is that racism springs from a childís dislike of looking or being different. At some very early point, kids donít like the idea of standing out. They donít like different. If something looks different or is outside of their little group norm-think, they have a tendency to shun it. Thatís my root cause explanation for why the Girl Child told me that she did not want to engage a particular baby sitter because that baby sitter was dark skinned. To be clear, there is no possible way that my children picked up negative attitudes about darker skinned people from me or my wife. We donít have them (as far as I know), we donít talk about attitudes like that, and we do our level best not to judge on appearance. We are particularly careful about what messages we transmit, overtly or quietly, to our children.

I took my little peanut aside after she confessed this and I told her that it was wrong for her to dislike the baby sitter because of the color of her skin. I told her that she didnít even know the baby sitter and it was unacceptable for her to dislike her without knowing her. I told her that there were plenty of people in the world who I disliked but I disliked them for reasons wholly unrelated to their appearance and she too was allowed to dislike people, just not because of they way they looked. I reminder her of how unhappy she was when someone in her class called her the grinch because she did not celebrate Christmas and I told her that the situation there was identical to the situation here Ė someone judged her for reasons having nothing to do with who she was as a person. I then reminded her of an old exercise she did in her last pre-school where she made a list of all the things about her that people could not tell about her just by looking at her (which I blogged about in January 2005). I told her that the point of that was just to look below the surface and not judge based on the appearance. It is completely ok to judge other people, I told her, but it has to be done on a valid basis and the color of anotherís skin is not a valid basis.

She seemed to take it all in. She also assured me that no one had been telling her that darker skinned people were bad. I wanted to rule out comments from classmates.

My wife and I were mystified by this turn of events and what could have given rise to it. So, I am sure it is just because of her becoming more and more aware of the world around her.

I didnít tell her, to my wifeís relief, that the world is primarily populated by ass-hats and color is simply not a good predictor of another personís ass-hat level. Politics, on the other hand. . .

By the way, I still basically think fish is good for you, all that shite about mercury to one side. Although, I do note that with all the fish I have eaten, I am better at predicting the ambient room temperature. So maybe it is the mercury.

Seriously, I hope I handled that one ok. I never saw it coming.

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January 27, 2007

New York: Weird but Wonderful

I drove into New York City this morning from the darkest corners of Coastal Connecticut. I was on the FDR at just about 9:15 and I was passing the corner of the FDR and about 120th or 125th street. There he was. A man standing on the corner. He was wearing a faded blue sweatshirt and a blue knitted watch cap of almost identical hue. It was 25 degrees without the wind. And he was just standing there. Well, not just standing there. He was holding something. He was holding an orange in each hand. He also had an orange in his mouth.

That would have been odd enough, I suppose. But it wasn't all.

He, while holding the two oranges with arms akimbo and the third orange crammed into his mouth, was also balancing what I think was a quarter of a watermelon on his head, rind side down on his cap, of course.

I cannot decide. It was either a protest against the war, a protest about low wages given to farm workers, or a protest about the coming rise in citrus prices due to the freeze in California. Or, it was art and he was commenting on man's inhumanity to man.

I love New York. Life here can be so surreal sometimes.

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Literacy is a beautiful thing

Especially when demonstrated by your six year old daughter. The Girl Child, not even 100 days into her kindergarten experience, attended shabbat celebrations with us at the Boy Child's preschool, where we were the shabbat family for his class. The celebration was all very nice, of course. The highlight, and all I may ever remember from this, was the Girl Child, sitting in front of the Boy Child's class of 15 children, reading a story to his classmates. She sat there and read to them. I swelled with pride and I risk becoming a bore as I share this with everyone I know.

Literacy. Catch it.

Did I mention how proud I was?

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January 25, 2007

The Viking Bride has quit her job

She resigned her position as vice president yesterday and accepted the offer of employment as full time mother, care giver, and general all around boss. Her boss cried when she accepted her resignation and told her that not only would the door always be open, but that if my wife's position had been filled by the time my wife wanted to return to work, the boss would fire someone to make a spot for my wife. That is about the nicest thing she could have said, isn't it?

So, we are going forward without the benefit of my wife's generous paycheck and dental benefits. How bad can it be? Don't answer that.

Let the freaking out begin!

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Making ginger ale is not illegal in the State of New York

Don't ask, please, what I was researching earlier this week when I discovered that while NY Law prohibits messing about with explosives and explosive gasses, the following exception applies:

This provision is not to be construed to prohibit or forbid the manufacture and sale of soda water, Seltzer water, ginger ale, carbonic or mineral water, or the charging with liquid carbonic acid gas of such waters or ordinary waters, or of beer, wines, ales, or other malt and vinous beverages in such cellar, room, or apartment of a tenement or dwelling house, or any building occupied in whole or in part by persons or families for living purposes.

Seriously, thank goodness, can you imagine NY without a seltzer bottle?

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A rose is still a rose, no matter how stinky

The Viking Bride engaged in 40 minutes of intense cardio activity yesterday morning. Afterwards, she got on the floor to stretch. The Boy Child, the early riser, got up and wandered downstairs to the playroom/gym and announced a desire to cuddle with her on the floor. After a brief cuddle, he got up, looked down at his mother, and proclaimed:

You are so stinky. I hope you don't go to work with that stinky on; if you do, they are going to send you right home saying that you are so stinky.

And then he left her alone on the floor, just her and her stinky.

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January 24, 2007

While I wait to hear from my wife

who is giving her notice today (and I am waiting by the phone, unable to concentrate, and consumed with and by concern for my bride), I give you the following. Make what you wish of it:

Plov or Osh, the Uzbek version of "pilaff" ("pilav"), is the flagship of their cookery. It consists mainly of fried and boiled meat, onions, carrots and rice; with raisins, barberries, chickpeas, or fruit added for variation. Uzbek men pride themselves on their ability to prepare the most unique and sumptuous plov. The oshpaz, or master chief, often cooks plov over an open flame, sometimes serving up to 1000 people from a single cauldron on holidays or occasions such as weddings. It certainly takes years of practice with no room for failure to prepare a dish, at times, containing up to 100 kilograms of rice.


Plov is or should be, Vodka free.

There are so many ways to cook plov; some say there are 200, others-1200. But the main ingredients such as meat, rice, onion, carrot and oil remain unchanged. Then the fantasy sets in: plov with quince, with Turkish pea, barberry, eggs and pomegranate. Classical plov can be light in color (sometimes cal led Samarkand plov) and dark (Ferghana). The second one is heavier, but the taste! By the way, the real men's plov only can be dark. First peculiarity You should never drink vodka after plov. You can drink it before, but no way after. Only green tea and such is the tradition; very sensible tradition, mind you. Because only a very healthy person can drink a 40% alcoholic drink after heavy plov. In Central Asia if not every person, then every second can cook plov. Some better, some worse. But when it's necessary to feed the whole crowd of guests for example on a wedding, you'd better call oshpaz. The work of this master will cost a lot and basically he doesn't cook himself, but co ordinates his assistants.

When oshpaz goes to buy ingredients for plov, it is a comedy, which every person is ready to come and see if it is possible. I once have witnessed how one oshpaz, surrounded by the army of his assistants, was choosing rice. He slowly moved from one seller to another in the market, holding a bit of rice, smelling it, saying something to himself, and the throwing it back. All the vendors were very nervous; they were hiding something under their tents and putting something out. If oshpaz buys rice at a pi ace, then it's the best advertisement and this seller will have success in trade for some time, it is important to notice that a good plov can be made only from rice of the recent harvest, if it's from last year, then you can cook something that looks like plov.

Second peculiarity
If you have never lived in Central Asia then I need to explain what "gap" means, it's translated from Uzbek as "the talk", but it has a slang meaning - chat. However in Central Asia this word is used to define a small friendly party held for some reason or without any. And "gap" is a thing for men and usually it takes place not in the houses but in choykhonas (tea houses) or some other places. Plov at "gap" is cooked by the participants themselves and not by the master.

One of my foreign friends who lives in Uzbekistan recalls how they were cooking men's plov: while the person appointed as the chief cook was preparing meat, all the others were cutting onions, carrots and Namangan reddish. The secret of men's plov is: when the cook takes out the cracklings from kazan, there is still a little bone left on cooking in the kazan. This bone gives plov that noble yellow-brownish color and the taste of real men's food. Now every thing is ready and we are ready to taste plov. The cook has to finish some magi n tricks and this is the most difficult moment. Firstly, because others will be giving him vodka to drink and if he will partakes then he will spoil the plov. Secondly, all the drinking people are eager to steal a piece of onion or meat, and he is waving with his Kapkir (skimmer) on them, yelling, that no good plov can be prepared this way.

Third peculiarity
"Oshi Nahor" - morning plov, is one of the elements of Central Asian family traditions. There are millions of guests invited and tables usually are set in the house and not in the yard. The activity takes place from about 6 to 9 a.m. New guests are seated right away on free seats by the young helpers. After three minutes you see green tea at your table and after another five-plov. But if you refuse to come to "oshi nahor" the hosts will consider that you don't respect them, in the season of weddings, you might get a number of invitations for "oshi nahor" in a day.

Again, one of my American friends told me how he had four invitations. All of them were in different parts of the city. He was traveling from 5:30am and by eight he was able to pass al ready 2 plovs. At third plov he couldn't eat and was just sitting there quietly drinking tea. But someone noticed that he wasn't eating and told the master. The master appeared next to him. He was forced to eat. It was a real torture for him to think about the fourth plov, but knowing Uzbek traditions and respecting the people who invited him, he finally went there. He was forcing himself to eat fourth plov. "I thought I would die, or even that I wouldn't be able to stand up and get to the car" - says Michael. But somehow he managed to get to the car and asked the driver to turn the air conditioner on. Slowlo, he came to his work. During the day, one of his colleagues came in saying: It's my father's jubilee today and he is cooking lots of plov. Please, come to my pi ace today.


We now return to being a Plov free zone.

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January 22, 2007

Every leap begins with a step

Or, if done incorrectly, every leap can be the result of an attempt to convert a stumble into a jump in the hopes of landing safely on your feet and, if lucky, with some small amount of grace. But here's the thing about leaping or jumping; I'm afraid of heights.

I'm deathly afraid of heights. I have probably written about that before. I cannot go to the edge and I dislike even thinking about it.

So, sea level is probably a safe place for me. I spent some time, a couple of hours, at sea level on Sunday all by myself. The kids did not want to come with me to walk on the beach in below 30 degree weather. I went to hunt sea glass or beach glass. Sea glass is a piece of glass, usually from a broken bottle, that has been tumbled about in the ocean where the movement tends to polish the edges and make it smooth to the touch. I wanted it either to put in a glass filled jar on the kitchen window sill where it would sparkle when the sun hits it or to glue on to picture frames as decoration along with some shells.

It is awfully peaceful to walk slowly along the winter beach. There are few people and they are mostly solitary types. The wind was blowing and the waves were gently slapping at irregular intervals against the sand. It smelled desolate but the cries of the sea birds gave lie to that impression. There were shells everywhere, the discarded former homes of sea creatures who had no further use for them. The shells crackled under foot as I kept my eyes peeled for the tell tale gleam of sea glass shards. It was terribly cold.

But I was not feeling the cold much. No, I was too involved with taking counsel of my own fears. We are resolved that my wife is going to leave her job to take care of the kids and the consummation of this resolution is fast approaching, brought about by shaken confidence in the ability of the nanny to provide safe supervision of the children. I had run the numbers before and, assuming nothing changes too badly, we can afford to take the income hit for at least a year before she would have to go back to work, again, assuming that other plans do not come to fruition as we are so devoutly hoping/praying. That is what I tried to tell myself, as I contemplated being the sole income source for my family. I tried to tell myself that I could swing this, that I had run the numbers before and I had done that exercise with full theoretical detachment. That exercise, even if it was done as a back of the envelope scrawl, is something that I have been carrying around in my bag like some sort of talisman I can use to ward off evil thoughts and fears. I reminded myself, while slowly pacing next to the water, to trust my dispassionate analysis. That was a comforting thought.

I needed some comfort, I decided. It felt too much like events were rushing towards us, that our leap into the unknown was about to begin with a stumble and not with a considered and confident stride forward into the future. And I don't like heights to begin with, you see.

We did not fire the nanny on Sunday night. Instead, in the kindest way, I told her of our unhappiness with the job performance and our unhappiness with some decisions she had made. I asked her to go away and reflect on how to either restore our trust or help us to figure out a transition so that we could part as friends. I have given up trying to guess what her decision will be; I am simply trying to plan for either eventuality.

I cannot envision how our lives are going to change as a result of this decision. It feels like the right thing to do for the children, though. I hope I can remain flexible enough to keep my balance as we stumble forward. It would be too much to hope that it looks graceful.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:43 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

In case you missed it: R.I.P. Senator Smathers

I assume you missed the obituary pages this weekend and thus might not have noticed that George A. Smathers, former Senator from the State of Florida has died. Smathers took a lot of very conservative positions regarding Civil Rights and in noting his passing I am in no way endorsing his positions. But he did do two things we should note.

First, we should all be thankful that he insisted that all federal holidays be moved to Mondays. He created the modern three day weekend! Thanks, George!

Second, he said the funniest thing I have ever seen in politics and I reproduce it here. He denied saying it by the way. But, it was reported that in the middle of a contentious race for the Senate, he used to say of his opponent, Claude Pepper, to some not terribly well educated audiences, the following:

Do you know that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage, habitually practiced celibacy.

Politicians were so much more clever in the really not too distant past.

I had trouble not laughing I was re-typing the quote, by the way.

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January 19, 2007

Physical limits

I may not have totally reached my physical limits, but my body is telling me that the limits are in sight. And by "in sight", I do not mean something glimpsed just peeping up over the horizon. I instead mean something on the grill of the Mack truck that is looming larger in your vision with every passing second.

I am 39; not 29. I should know that the following may be too much:

Mon. 45 minutes serious cardio.

Tue. Squash, additional cardio, pilates.

Wed. Heavy weight lifting, Squash.

Thurs. Squash, additional cardio.

Fri. Squash, pilates.

The body is cramped and hurts a bit in places where I wasn't entirely aware I had places (pace, Ms. West). I will not try to slip out of the house early on Saturday morning now to go play squash at the local racquet club. I want to, mind you, but I will not. Instead, I will sink into my own decrepitude and hope that the damage I have wrought will have healed up by Monday, so I can start all over again. After all, I have a squash date that morning.

Still, I have never been one to acknowledge physical limits, at least, not happily or willingly. So to be confronted by them now is not pleasant.

I have no intention of aging gracefully.

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January 17, 2007

Read any good books lately?

I would like a recommendation for a good book. I just finished Amos Oz's memoir, which I wrote about in an earlier post. I am currently reading a lot of foreign language translated into English mysteries. These can be a bit hit or miss but I tend to enjoy them just the same. Still, I feel a rut coming on. Also, I seem to be lacking the motivation or energy to begin to tackle the sizeable selection of unread non-fiction I have been accumulating like a squirrel with a pile of nuts.

Otherwise, I have been reading out loud to the kids and they have been responding very well to the old great ones, including, Charlotte's Web (finished), Stuart Little (in process), The Wind in the Willows (in process), and the Jungle Book (finished). I can't wait to start reading them Kim and the Three Musketeers, but that may be a couple of years yet.

So, what would you recommend for me? Classic or non-classic, new or old, recently read or way old favorite. Let me have it.


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A simple thought about Jihad

The following may not be exactly an original thought, but then how many really original thoughts exist?

I was musing on the train this morning about the concept of Jihad, which many Islamic advocacy groups have tried to define in the context of a personal battle, a personal struggle to, say, quit smoking or lose weight. This personal struggle meaning of the term appears to be offered to soften the more widely accepted meaning of holy war.

I will note this. I am not fooled. To define Jihad as personal struggle simply brings to mind another personal struggle that came to be written about in a well known book. Perhaps you've heard of it? It was called Mein Kampf, or my struggle.

To me, there appears to be little difference in whether you call a Jihad a holy war or a kampf, the end result is not good for anyone.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 16, 2007

It comes to us all in the end

Death, that is. The children are interested in death and have been for some time. The topic comes up regularly. Sunday night, it came up again with the following:

Girl Child: Boy Child, you are going to die, you know.

Boy Child: [swallows and asks solemnly] When?

Me: Not for a long time. My plan is that you will have a long and happy life. And then, one day, you will get married and your life will seem much longer still.

[Murderous glare from Viking Bride]

Me: There, you see? It is already feeling longer.

One day I will learn to leave well enough alone. I promise.

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January 15, 2007

A cake, I tell you, a cake

I made a fateful discovery this weekend and I wanted to pass it along to all of my married friends. I discovered what to do when my wife has been hit by the double whammy of a baby with dual ear infections plus her getting PMS. Sleep deprivation plus hormones and emotions running all over her body. Exhaustion plus irrationality with a dash of crying or sometimes downright anger. You get the picture, right? It was a long weekend and destined to be even longer if I didn't figure out how to make amends for all of my many, and unspecified, transgressions.

Well, I figured it out. Here's what I did and you can do it, too.

First, go to the best bakery in town. The place that makes cakes a woman would kill for.

Second, pick out the triple chocolate cake. The chocolate cake with the chocolate frosting and the chocolate mousse filling and the little bits of crushed chocolate bits on the outside.

Third, tell the baker, when she asks you what you want written on the cake to just write: Sorry!

Fourth, present the apology cake to the wife. Enjoy being excused for everything bad you have done up to that point during the weekend. Hope that she saves you a slice.

I wish I had stumbled upon this method sooner. Still, better to acquire wisdom late than never at all.

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January 09, 2007

Baby still sick; we are still exhausted

The poor little guy cried from 10:51 until after 12:20 last night until he finally fell back asleep. He is bunking in with us in our room while my sister in law has claimed his room, formerly the guest room. We let him cry himself to sleep after he demonstrated an unwillingness to be terribly soothed. I kind of insisted on that over my wife's objections. I think it was for the best.

But the thing is, you see, I am so tired that, among other things, I even left my tie at home when I left for work this morning. Good think Brooks Bros. is still running their big sale.

This is not a good week to be tired. I have a dinner and committee meeting tonight -- first of the year, first with a new committee class, gotta set the right tone as chairman and have to drive the agenda. Tomorrow, a board meeting at which I will be front and center on a critical governance issue in order to resolve a sticky IRS tax situation that the organization is faced with. And then on Thursday, I am the MC at a dinner for 125 people. Sometime in there, I have professional responsibilities and a couple of other things to do.

Please let the baby sleep tonight. If not, shoot me now, please.

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January 08, 2007

The Girl Child's birthday party

It was held on Saturday, although her birthday is not for a couple of days yet. She had a wonderful time, bothered only by the fact that so many of the parents decided to linger for the duration of the party and chat. She complained bitterly to her mother that it was supposed to have been a drop off party. Still, she got over it. We had it at a local gym, just her, her brother, and 25 of her best friends. Guess which parent was the only parent running around with the kids during the party? That'd be me.

After the party, our college roommate and his wife and two kids and another couple and their kids came back to the house. It was 70+ degrees. We sat on the deck, worked our way through three bottles of wine, and watched the kids all play beautifully together. It was sublime; an early taste of summer. I realized that there is almost nothing that I find more relaxing than hanging out with friends, in the open air, with wine, while hearing as a background noise the cries of happy children at play.

Saturday was really quite perfect. Like nothing could go wrong. Even including, for me, having eaten enormous amounts of pizza and two pieces of birthday cake and still having gone down a pound the next morning. I believe my wife may hate me.

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Adventures in public transportation

I generally stand on the train from somewhere in the Bronx until we reach Grand Central. I usually chat with a train buddy ot two from that point in. It is a nice way to start the day.

Today, I was chatting with one guy, the other was absent without excuse, when this nicely dressed older woman decided to vomit her breakfast (and perhaps her dinner, too, come to think of it) into her copy of the New York Times. God knows, while I have often been tempted to do that, I have always been able to resist. One wonders which article set her off.

Either way, a delightful beginning to the morning after the baby kept us up just about the entire night with his own vomiting problem. And he can't even read the Times yet! I wonder what his excuse was.

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January 05, 2007

Truth is stranger than fiction

I gave up sleeping this morning at 2:20 and probably should not be allowed near a keyboard, but, hey, no one is up to stop me.

I've been reading this interesting memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness, by Amos Oz, an Israeli writer, inter alia. One thing he wrote (p. 32) was: "Sometimes, facts threaten truth". I've been thinking about that, off and on, as I've tried to decipher the meaning of it all. Four simple words. Four very difficult concepts.

Sometimes. Temporal issues. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. It is not at all clear to me when it does and when it doesn't. No way to tell. But, clearly, its use means that what follows is not an absolute rule but a mutable rule, to the extent that a rule can even be mutable. I guess, if it is mutable, maybe it cannot be a rule at all.

Facts. I think facts are clear. Facts are verifiable and concrete things. Things you can look up, things you can measure, things you can rely on to always be correct, that is, until the tools you use to measure and verify improve.

Threaten. This is a scary word. And it implies that the word that it modifies can feel emotion and can discern and analyze situations, not a word that normally applies to an inanimate thing, such as the word truth.

Truth. Well, I used to think that I knew what truth was, but I am much less certain. I used to think that truth and facts were if not the same, at least living in the same apartment building and maybe on the same floor. You know, sharing the same elevator every day. For more, you can see the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. An interesting read, more or less. I no longer, anyway, think that there necessarily is one immutable truth anymore. Truth is probably more of an instinct, more of a sense as to what feels right when you measure any given set of circumstances against your accumulated storehouse of experiences from which, generally speaking, you derive your ability to form judgments -- both moral and perceptual.

So, if you take that wishy-washy sort of truth is whatever feels right approach as a definition, and I am not at all convinced you should, then the statement that truth can be made to be less true by a fact is correct. Any fact that causes you to change your judgment will have to cause you to change your perception of a truth.

Maybe, also, a fact is just a truth that is all grown up.

Not all truths are capable of being shook so easily, some of them being premised on terrifically firm foundations. But some truths are nothing more than unexamined beliefs received in the form of generally accepted wisdom and thus can easily be threatened by a fact or two. I decline to give examples right now, although they certainly exist.

And so, I suppose, the word threaten makes sense as well since, according to the above, truth is both variable and experiential, emotional and logical, filtered through a set of experiences and prejudices and pre-existing beliefs. Although, cognitive dissonance is the mind's way of dealing with this "threat" since it allows you to reconcile contradictory beliefs and facts and truths and allows you to hold both comfortably in your mind at the same time when really doing so should drive you to total distraction. So the threat is, while compelling, not critical.

Since I am not sure where I was going with all this, I cannot be certain I have arrived at my destination. If you, gentle reader, got this far, you can let me know if I should pick my pen up once more.

In any event, it sure as heck beat watching that Amanda Peet and Ashton what's his name horrible movie on HBO at 3:00 this morning.

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January 04, 2007

The Boy Child update

You all may recall that the Boy Child recently cut his face, next to his left eye, and required the services of a plastic surgeon. The doctor put a bandage on the boy's face and told us that he should be as immobile as possible over a five day span which fell over the New Year holiday. He was kept as immobile as one can keep a not quite four year old active boy. He was pinned to the couch by a steady diet of television, something he rarely gets to watch.

The Viking Bride had him back at the plastic surgeon yesterday and the bandage was removed. The plastic surgeon's reaction: "Damn, I do good work". We felt that was positive. It appears that the cut has healed beautifully and may not even leave a scar. That would be nice. The Boy Child looks like an angel and I was not really ready to see his perfect little visage marked, yet. Although, maybe, a scar would make him less pretty. Either way, it is still a big relief.

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January 02, 2007

That's all?

You know those moveable radar detectors the police put up? They tell you the current speed limit and then show you how fast you are going. We have one the police set up in Westport all the time.

Am I the only one who wonders how high they can get that sucker up to?

Assuming, of course, I am not driving with the kids in the car and further assuming I am in my wife's BMW.

Posted by Random Penseur at 10:30 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Beyond marketing

I was driving along the Post Road, early Saturday morning, after doing my grocery shopping (I did a lot of cooking this weekend) and I was sort of taken aback by the number of Lexus cars and SUV's on the road. They looked kind of nice and I got to wondering about whether I would want to buy one. And while I was wondering, really, no more than idly musing, I was sort of eavesdropping on my thinking not quite out loud and I heard myself, to my horror, wonder: Who drives a Lexus and do I want to be that person?

Feels like a triumph of marketing to me, that I am more concerned, at a somewhere between conscious and unconscious level, about the image or the lifestyle or the personality associated with a car than I am about whether the car is a good piece of design and will be safe and reliable. I like to pride myself on the thought that I can make decisions rationally, that I will decide on major items based on the sensible criteria. I suppose, however, that I am not immune to questions of style and image -- no matter how wonderful the Yugo may be (and it isn't), the fact is that I will not drive one. No, the other problem is that I am woefully unqualified to judge based on first hand information how well a car is made. Cars are now way beyond the ability of a shade tree mechanic to repair and maintain. So, maybe all you have left is style and image and anecdotal information such as you get from Consumer Reports.

When I related all this to my wife, she reassured me that actually this was a failure of marketing. Marketing doesn't want you to consciously think about these questions. They want to influence you in more subtle ways, in meta ways, and if you ask the questions than marketing has failed.

Scary, when you reflect on it, how marketing shapes our decision making process at a fundemental and basic level such that the decision itself is corrupted from the get go. I mean, if the way you set the process up to make the decision is faulty, than the decision has no integrity either, does it?

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

New Year, new attitude?

Beats me. Like I said to a friend on the train this morning after he said something about nothing changing, same job as last year; that's true, but I cannot keep doing it with the same bad attitude.

So, here's to an attitude adjustment. I think what I need is a really good fight. Something to get the juices flowing.

What do I have? Well, besides the beginnings of a cold, thanks to the Boy Child, I have a motion in a, get this, SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD CASE in which no discovery has ever been taken. The wheels of justice grind slowly, I know, but this is a bit unusual even for New York.

Posted by Random Penseur at 09:23 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack