Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Gone is the purple panda of yesteryear, replaced by this adorable little kitty who likes to chase her tail. This time around, it's all about the candy...

Finally, some pictures again!

I used to try to attach at least one image to entries, something to catch the eye you know. But then I turned into a lazy slacker. And kept forgetting to find the camera and grab the pictures off of it. To make up for months of neglect, I'm going to spend a long time waiting for Blogger to upload each and every one of the following images. Enjoy!

Job and the lovely Sarah came to visit. It was awesome. Elise got to hear stories as read by Job which was even more awesome. Better still, Sarah might come out this way for school, so we could potentially be luring them both out here in the future.

Astronomy camping in style. As you can see I didn't camp alone. Here's one view of Chez Dan's

And, my campsite. Of which I was proud. This was before I installed a makeshift rain shelter in the form of a tarp bungee corded to the tree and the picnic table.
Our latest trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Elise's favorite part-the waves...

Also, creating art in the new otter exhibit
We got home to discover that Grandma Char had sent a cool new sweater, apparently to remind us of our trip. (Now is that advanced planning or what?)
That big smile on Elise's face pretty well sums it up. We'll keep the camera a little handier in the future!


This afternoon, we got another quick shaking to the tune of 3.7.

This evening, we had a protracted shaking of everyone's nerves as we tried to put Elise to bed. (Well, as Andy tried. I was a lazy slug and stayed downstairs handing out candy to all of the cute little munchkins.) Elise was convinced that the only way to keep earthquakes at bay was to sleep with the lights on. Grrr.

Stupid earthquakes.

For those of you out there who have experience with very real kid fears of very real and uncontrollable threats, what do you do? Obviously we'll be installing metal detectors by Elise's bedroom door and making sure she doesn't carry any liquids or nail trimmers with her. But that only works for terrorists, so now I need something for earthquakes. And really, any serious advice is appreciated.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Wouldn't you know it, we just had our second quake that we could feel here and it was a doozy. The USGS says it was 5.6 and lasted about 30 seconds. That seems about right in hindsight. It woke Elise, freaked Beaker, and sent us skittering for doorways as the house wiggled around. An hour later, Beaker is still shrieking and Elise is having trouble getting back to sleep.

Apparently, the risk of a similarly large one of these on this particular fault is elevated for the next 72 hours, so we'll be making sure we have our various ducks in a row "in case."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Badge of Honor

I like being at the top of the dogpile. I'm pleased to report that if you google "We're taking back the dinosaurs" my post about that is the top return. Spiffy!

So, the next time some crazypants goes looking for the latest Answers in Genesis crusade against humanity, they'll get my rant instead. Mwahahahahaha.

Also, for what it's worth, a lot of people seem to find me while looking for how to take their Samsung refrigerator out of "demo" mode. Nobody expects the Samsung refrigerator demo mode!

My direct challenge to the people at Answers in Genesis:
Use Genesis to explain how my Samsung refrigerator gets into demo mode, and what is the biblically correct thing to do about it?

Together, with the help of google, we'll tell the world...

Saturday, October 27, 2007


We've entered a new era of game playing at our house. Elise has discovered board games with a vengeance. She doesn't quite get Memory, likes playing with the little plastic cherries in Hi-Ho-Cherrio a little more than she likes counting them, and loves Candyland with an undying passion.

Not that many months ago, I relegated the games to a cupboard because they were a constant source of frustration. Not only did Elise refuse to acknowledge that there were any rules about how to play with these things, but she'd throw fits if such things were suggested.

All of that changed last Thursday. Now, she wants to take turns, wants to compete, wants to see everyone who's playing be happy. So, while it breaks her heart that anyone else would ever have the audacity to draw the gingerbread card, she understands that it's traumatic for us to have to go back to the beginning and the tantrums have abated.

It's funny playing board games with a kid, because I definitely don't want to teach her the same trash-talking I use when playing cribbage with Andy. But that's how I tend to be competitive. How do you model appropriate competitive behavior? Dunno. I'm trying to keep the "neener neener"s to myself, and end with a handshake and "good game." Hopefully, that modeling will help keep her from getting run out of preschool on the first day. Whenever that will be.

There are some other games going on here lately that are slightly less fun. We now have the "stalling at bedtime" game as well as the "burst into tears at the drop of a hat" game. We're shaving time off our bedtime game and will likely be ready for the pro tour sometime in the next five years. It's hard to resist getting that "one last" hug from someone whose serve is so great, but that's generally where we've lost time so sacrifices have been made.

My biggest fear is getting stuck on the amateur circuit for an extended period of time, never quite escaping that last hug, last story, last trip to the potty, last drink of water, last really last trip to the bathroom, last nightlight complaint, last last last... We're working on it. Last night, I thought we had it, and then 45 minutes later I hear a loud noise from Elise's room followed by, "I'm warnin' yeh!" Flapjack had cleverly managed to re-start the game by hiding under Elise's bed and then clawing at the door to get out of the room. Hilarious!

The game with the crying is a bit harder. It involves tears every time something doesn't go Elise's way. She wants a kid laptop every time we go to Target. She wants the brown tights that match nothing we own in this world. She wants to play another round of Candyland before dinner. She wants to carry her stuffed animals to the mailbox and doesn't discover that until we're half-way down the sidewalk from the sofa upon which she left them minutes before. If Mommy is not on call and present 100% of the time, the world has ended. Nobody can fill the gaping void while Mommy has a small task to complete sans child, and woe be it to any fool who tries.

This has become a little less harrowing with the extensive use of time-outs to distract from the weeping. A quick cool-off when a tantrum over (name of molehill) begins tends to put things back on an even keel.

Normally, I'd be all worried that we messed something up horribly and that we have somehow permanently damaged our kid. This time, I have watched her acquire new social and fine motor skills in one giant burst, and the perpetual upset follow immediately. Just like when she was a baby, these brain re-wirings are unsettling. For all of us. For right now, I'm hoping to get through this one with some humor.


Today, we saddled up the Subaru and headed south to Monterey to see the aquarium. For one reason and another, this is the first family adventure we've had in awhile, and it sure felt good to be out and about together.

I'm a little sleepy at the moment, but would like to report that we had a great time. Elise's favorite part is a glassed-in room that has artificial waves washing over it every few minutes. (For the Chicagoans out there, think the wave thing at Brookfield except bigger and with no chance of getting so much as a drop of water on you.) We spent a lot of time with the waves.

My favorite critters to see were the octopi. They are so neat to watch move. Unfortunately, they were not Elise's favorite at all, so I'm going to have to get my cephalopod fix elsewhere.

Our favorite part of the aquarium as a family was looking at the "deep reef" exhibit. Elise got so into the fish and the sharks that we spent a nice long time there. She managed to name "Spotty" and "Whiskery", and was also the first among us to see a flounder hanging out down in the sand. It was fun to have the rays swim above us because it looked like they were flying. Those minutes of perfection were worth all of the other hazards that attend a long day out with an almost four year old.

The new otter exhibit was a lot of fun, and we got to watch the otters eat right up close. The "outer bay" exhibit has a great white shark right now, and that was fun to see.

Because the place is kind of spendy ($25/head), we figured a membership was in our best interest. One more visit this year and we'll more than break even on the deal. Realizing that the drive isn't that long, we'll no doubt be spending more time there.

Changing our spots

We're officially upgraded to Leopard here. That fantastic new Mac OSX. So far, it looks very pretty, seems fairly zippy, and has completely mucked up my keychain. We may have fixed that now, but I'm not sure. Aside from that minor annoyance, pretty good so far.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bossy Boiler

"Daddy, quit telling me what to do!"

"You are really very bossy, Daddy. Quit bossing me about!"

We must be doing something right. It's just a short step from here to, "You're the meanest parents in the whole world!"

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Spiffy Comet

If you're in the Northern Hemisphere, quick, head outside!

***I stand corrected. Southern Hemisphere, your instructions are here.***

Well, only if it's dark. The astronomy world is all abuzz with the excitement of comet 17P/Holmes. You can be, too!

The thing that's neat about this one is that about 24 hours ago, it went from extra dim to extra bright. Before, you could only see it with a big telescope and/or some serious imaging gear. Then, a dude in Spain got all surprised that it was so bright which got everyone else excited. Now, it looks like just another very bright star in the sky, until you get some magnification on it.

I wish I was better at drawing pictures, but the people at Astronomy have a pretty good picture of what it looks like up in the sky right now.

To find it yourself (and again, I apologize to my Southern Hemisphere friends-I didn't plan this thing's orbit), look to the north/northeast. See if you can spot the constellation Cassiopeia. It looks like a big W. South of that and a little bit more toward the horizon you'll see a bright star (Mirfak) with two fainter stars beneath it that make a nice triangle. The one on the left is Holmes. There's a really really bright star closer to the horizon still, but that's "just" Capella and you can feel free to ignore it. Or feel clever that you know it's called Capella. Either way.

So, this comet is a pretty big deal. Feel free to scour the interwebs for info on it and post links etc. in the comments so we can all share in the excitement.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Great Dinner

We went out for dinner tonight!

This qualifies as news because we don't do it very often. Elise is a mite picky about what she will eat or put up with seeing on a plate, so it's been hard to find places to go.

Happily, our gamble on Willow Street Pizza paid off tonight. Not only did they do breaded chicken in an appetizing way, but they served it with broccoli! We had conversation! At a restaurant! It was really, really nice.

Today's visit to a preschool was pretty good. I liked the way the place was laid out, and I especially liked the classroom for kids in Elise's age group. They don't have any openings at the moment, but if I don't see anything else I like better in the near future I figure we'll hop on the wait list.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Calstar 2007

Here's my observing report, slightly changed from the original submitted to the astro mailing list I'm on.


I had begun with great plans to bring my family with me to my first ever multi-day star party. They didn't wanna, and after packing inefficiently around my XT8 I was just as glad. With the weather forecast as it was, it was nice to be organizing my first camping trip in a decade and a half for just myself. And my telescope.

Arriving Thursday afternoon, I sought advice from Peter M and Eileen S about where to set up. Snagged myself a lovely spot under a big tree, and due to weather woes and low attendance got to keep the whole place all weekend. Of course, I shared it with some cute little tufted something-or-other bird friends and a really loud scrub jay, but otherwise it was just me under the giant tree.

Setting up Thursday was exciting. My main goal was to see some things to the North, since my regular observing site at Coyote Lake doesn't afford much of a view in that direction. For awhile, the clouds cooperated and I got to know Draco a little bit. M102 was a thrill, and then I mostly just mucked about and tried to peek between the clouds. I realized later that there are some nice doubles up there that I'm going to want to go back and find! It was nice to check with a few other people who were also fighting the clouds to grasp faint fuzzies and bright sparklies. After awhile, though, the patchy clouds became more solid than patchy and the "sucker holes" so few and far between that I was having a hard time getting oriented. So, I covered the optics against the coming rain and headed for my sleeping bag.

Friday morning, it was oh so marvelous to roll out of my drippy (inside and out-it really would help to seal the seams on one's $25 tent, for what it's worth) tent and head for Chez Dan's. He had the coffee ready before I could even utter a coherent sentence! Bracewell the Younger and I set out the fightin' gear (aka plasticware) and then it was time to cook. All I can say is, Dan's the man. Hot, tasty food and good company are two of the greatest joys around, and he provided both. Thank you, Dan.

(A note on Chez Dan: Dan makes it his business to set up a full kitchen for the purpose of cooking breakfast for everyone at these multi-day parties. We're talking eggs, sausage, hash browns, coffee, pastries, cereal, oj. The works. This requires 4 camp stoves with 2 burners each, a ton of groceries, folding tables galore, and the rental of a cargo van. He goes all out. I honestly don't think I'd have made it through the weekend without him.)

Most of the rest of Friday was dedicated to staying dry. I hung a makeshift wind/rain shelter from "my" tree and picnic table, and had a great place to cook. I hung giant garbage bags between my tent's rain fly and poles and suddenly had a great, non-drippy tent. That evening, Peter, Eileen, Bill and I sat around my table after cooking some good food and talked and ate. After doing the dishes and making a thermos of hot chocolate and Bailey's, I headed to Chez Dan's to see if there was a party cooking. Hah! "If!" Hahahahaha

The party was in full swing, and Greg had already brought at least one pitcher of margaritas. Good wine was flowing well, including my current favorite in all the world. (Gravity Hills Base Camp Sirah '04, available at Trader Joe's for under $8/bottle.) Gortatowsky was in great humor, apparently after a full day of parboiling children. ;) Greg posted a description of the conversation that was pretty accurate. He politely refrained from mentioning the number of people who fell down getting up from the table, so I will too.

Once the rain let up, I benefited greatly from the great sky tour. Thank you, Michelle! It was fun to have so many people out there looking UP and pointing and chattering excitedly. I'm pretty new to this whole hobby (having attended my first star party ever back in May or June-when was that, Greg?), so it was really great to have what amounted to a personal invitation to meet some of my new friends up in the sky.

Saturday morning was wet with promise of better things to come. Coffee at Chez Dan's increased my optimism, even as I watched a lot of my new pals head for home and other commitments. By mid afternoon, it was downright balmy. I spent a good portion of the day looking longingly at Eric's beautifully designed 10in travel scope and dreaming of how much easier it would be to take my family out if I had such neatly packaged optics. At lunch, several of us got together to share our favorite charts and show off the finer points of each. It was good to see what everyone else was using for tools!

Saturday night, the field was abuzz with raw energy. All the people who had left earlier in the day had been replaced with new arrivals who were equally fun to meet. I set up between Eric and Chris and got to work making sure I had things right. Eric gave me a great lesson on collimation, and convinced me that I really ~do~ need to use a barlow when I'm adjusting my primary. I think I also need something that fits a little more snugly in my focuser than the laser Orion provided with my scope.

My new favorite toy is my copy of Objects in the Heavens (Edition 3.5) by Peter Birren. Since I had finally been able to pick out Cepheus after Friday's sky tour, I opened my guide to the Cepheus page and jumped in. It was really exciting to see NGC6946 the "Fireworks Galaxy" and NGC6939 a rich open cluster in the same field of view. So pretty!

Fresh from the success of that, I led several people down the garden path in search of NGC7023. It is apparently the "Iris Nebula". And a real beast to hop to. I mean REALLY. No good landmarks nearby, so it was a challenge anyway. Eric finally got to where we both agreed it ought to be and we were mightily disappointed. All of that work for THAT?! Maybe we were doing it wrong, though, because I've since looked up some pictures of it online and they are gorgeous! Somebody else out there take a look and tell me what you think. And gimmie some pointers on how you get there, wouldja?! (Note: The images you see are always going to look more impressive than what you get in the eyepiece, this one happened to just be especially disappointing after a lot of hard work.)

After that, we went for Herschel's Garnet Star. Lovely, lovely, lovely. I want to spend some more time there.

Dan stopped by and reminded me that there are some nifty double stars in Cepheus. We looked and he was right! Fun stuff. I can't remember now which ones we looked at, though. Somewhere in all of this, Eric planted the seeds of an eyepiece fetish by lending me all kinds of spectacular optics. And Chris dazzled me with his patience as he imaged the Cocoon.

(Forgotten in the original was my first view of the Orion Nebula. Ohmygosh that is something else. Even in my "small" scope with no filter the thing was amazing. I can't wait to get another look under better conditions.)

Another first for me this night was splitting the double double. I'd heard of it but hadn't managed to do anything about it before. Eric convinced me to give it a go and also gave me good hints about looking at the stars for a bit until the doubles of the bigger doubles appeared. It was so cool-like one of those stereo vision puzzle things where all of a sudden this 3-D image jumps out at you. Wahoo! Then I was off to a triple, which I did slightly less well. (Which one was that, Eric?)

From there, nearly everything became a planetary nebula and I popped my most-used eyepiece in my pocket. That helped a bit. I thought the battery was going out on my red dot finder because it was so dim. And then my 9x50 finder was acting funny. And then everything was drippy. DEWED! Frustrating as that was, it was nice to experience it along with a bunch of other folks so I could get some good advice on what to do with my optics. I'd never been dewed out before. Now I know to just give that secondary a good rubdown with my shirt sleeve and keep going. ;) (Note: This was a joke for my astro pals. Under no circumstances should one rub a telescope mirror with one's shirt sleeve.)

Sunday morning saw some truly spectacular fog. I missed a lot of it though, as I slept in the latest I have in the nearly 4 years since my daughter was born. I think that the entire trip would have been worth it for me just for that...

Another incredible breakfast with Dan, and a final serving of Carl's truly spectacular eggs. Wow was that some good food. I promise to be around for clean-up next year, Dan, instead of just the cooking. And really, thank you.

Packing up wasn't so fun, but things mostly dried out and now I have some nicely dried LSA mud to bring back the fond memories. The Iron Ranger was restocked with envelopes when I finally left, so I paid my debt to society before hitting the road.

I came to this hobby for the stars and stayed for the people. Thanks for a great party, everyone. See you out there again soon!

Random Stuff

After a lengthy hiatus, it's time to fill you in on the happenings of our lives here.

New Coffee Pot
Well, more an old coffee pot revisited. Our 4 cup Mr. Coffee was taking approximately 40 minutes to make 3.5 cups of coffee. And that was after I gave it a good cleaning with lots of vinegar. We've been drinking more coffee here lately anyway, so we took out the Proctor Silex 12 cup behemoth. The result? Eight cups of delicious coffee in under 10 minutes. Now that he's been made redundant, Mr. Coffee is wandering the streets sporting dreadlocks and asking for spare change.

Back from Camping
I had a lovely camping trip to stargaze a week ago. It was soggy. Very soggy. But very, very fun. I'll put the report that I sent to my astronomy group up as a blog entry here in a bit. Elise is still convinced that I'm ready to go camping without her at the drop of a hat, but hopefully I can convince her otherwise one of these days.

Cat Litter
I recently tried to change things up from the Swheat Scoop we generally use in hopes of controlling odor. After less than a week, I can confidently state that Tidy Cat for tight spaces smells dramatically worse. Anybody else out there have a favorite?

Of Cats and Kids
Lately, I've taken to giving Flapjack verbal warnings using the voice of Groundskeeper Willy. "Ahm warnin' yeh!" Elise imitates it perfectly. Eerily perfectly in fact. It's hilarious.

We purchased some additional Duplo blocks to augment the collection that sees almost constant use these days. This set contained a cat. For those of you who want to know, the cat is now named Sarah and she gets into all kinds of mischief and is apparently working on inviting herself everywhere we go. She was quite well behaved at the coffee shop this afternoon, though, so I can't complain too much.

Elise has decided that she wants to be a cat for Halloween. I headed for eBay, not being as craftily inclined as last year. Unfortunately, I accidentally bid on the wrong one and won it. So then I bid on the right one and won that so we've just spent a lot to make our kid look like the cat she likes to pretend to be.

Flapjack does not like it when Elise hugs her. But Elise knows that hugs will make the cat go away so she can play with mommy without the cat always trying to sit/gnaw/lick on her stuff. Very smart girl. No word yet on how to get the cat to stop licking the doors in our house, though.

Elise has been collecting rocks for awhile. They spend most of their time riding in her toy school bus. Brownie and Jimmy are clear favorites, and sometimes we make roller coasters for them out of legos. It's pretty creative, but we're starting to think that maybe it's time to get this preschool thing in gear so that she has some actual human friends. Rocks are nice and all, but since she connects and plays with any kid(s) she can at the park we're making the social life a bit more of a priority.

When we first signed up for DirecTv, their boxes had TiVo DVRs. Ours busted in the move here, so we were given their "new" stupid buggy piece of cr@p to replace it. The last of many, many straws with this thing came when Elise and I were watching her favorite episode of Dora last week, and the thing suddenly deleted it WHILE WE WERE WATCHING. It was awful. To be fair, our settings are to only save 5 episodes at a time and a new one was starting to record as we were watching the oldest one we had recorded. But really, that's just sloppy programming. I was going to ditch the whole works and go to cable so I could get a real TiVo, but it looks like DirecTv has heard the masses and is going back to TiVo in the near future. Wahoo! In the mean time, eBay saved us again and we're getting a pretty nice looking actual TiVo receiver here very soon.

A continuation of what I started up there in the Rocks section. We have a visit scheduled to a Montessori school tomorrow, and to another school in a week. Should be good stuff. I hope one or both of them turns out to be just the thing so that we can get this kid of ours playing with people instead of rocks. She's pretty stoked to get back to school. And given how sorely mistaken I was in my choice last time, I'll probably run it by all of you for your suggestions before I make any school decisions.

Last but not least, our girl is getting more intelligible! After a loooong stint of "l"s sounding like "y"s and "r"s sounding like "w"s, she's suddenly getting 'em right. And she looks at us for a laugh every time. Because she knows we're going to chide and tickle her for pronouncing these letters the same way we do. It's a lot of fun.

And, for those of you who like to get mail, the surest way to get an actual personal letter is to send one to Elise. She now loves answering letters. When we get a new one, we generally have to drop everything (even legos) to sit at the table and write a response using each and every crayon in our collection at least once. Then, we dash to the mailbox to mail it. (Even in the rain.) So, if you're in the mood for some colorful artwork, you know where to send your inquiries...

Well, that's probably a lot to read. Congratulations if you made it all the way here without your eyes glazing over. Tee hee. I haven't been in a blogging state of mind lately, so my apologies for the longish gap and then the too much info all at once. I need about three more hours in a day...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Interweb based fun

Hi folks! The Magnificent Frog introduced me to this lovely game, and I'm hoping you'll participate! Here's how it works, as lifted entirely from the aforementioned Frog.

Essentially someone posts a word (in this case it would be me) and then the reader (you) rushes off to image search it. They (you) then post an entry with the amusing picture and a new word and rush back to say that you have done so.

We all then spend oodles of time cavorting about t’Internet putting silly pictures up and much fun is had by all.

My word is ancient, and here is my silly picture:

Your word is spinach.

Have fun, and don't forget to put the rules up on your own post. :)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Continuing to love Roomba

I have been bummed out for a few weeks now because Roomba inexplicably stopped doing its job. It was horrible. Cat fur in the carpet that I had to vacuum myself! Bird food that I had to sweep myself! Oh the humanity.

So, tonight I finally sat down to troubleshoot and perhaps contact the nice people at iRobot. As it happens, both of my issues were easily solved via their customer support website. Complete with video showing me just what to do to get Roomba back to work. Awesome. These people know their stuff.

I really love Roomba.

Today, I decided to rearrange the furniture in the living room, and I have to say it looks pretty good. Once I get all of the random bits and bobs put in place I'll take some pictures. It really does look nice! The only real downside is that it will necessitate moving one more piece of furniture into the "spare" bedroom so it will be just a tiny bit cozier for guests. As in, please be careful not to break any toes on all the furniture. But the air bed will still fit, as will a decent amount of luggage so it should all be good.

The weather reports for my upcoming star party are not looking so great. There are some predictions for rain on Friday. This will give me a chance to see how well I've really done with my gear purchases. Wish me luck!

My best gear purchase by far has been a copy of Objects in the Heavens. It's by a guy in Illinois, and I have to say I think he's done a fabulous job. I took this little guide with me to observe Saturday night and had the most rewarding viewing of my astronomy career to date. Absolutely brilliant. If anyone here in the northern hemisphere is looking for a good guide to get you going. Messier objects are all well and good, but this guide contains a lot of other really cool stuff as well. And all things that show nicely in a telescope of moderate size. With descriptions to let you know you've found what you're looking for! An excellent guide. It's really going to enhance my viewing at Calstar.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Preschool angst

Today, we visited a preschool together as a family. I loved the facility and the way it is run, which is why I dragged everyone along to go see the place. Elise warmed up to the teacher, students and activities pretty well. The teacher was kind, thoughtful, etc.


It was all direct instruction. For those of you in the teaching business, you know what I mean. For those of you who aren't, this gal made flash cards seem a bit like a game, and then did drills at the board. With four-year-olds. Never mind that this isn't seen as "best practice" in teaching and hasn't been for a long time. She was doing this with four-year-olds. The class of younger kids was this way as well, so it must be the thing across the institution.

As I look at more "preschools" in the area, I discover that they're all a lot like this. Get them young and train 'em up to sit in rows and answer questions. Am I crazy for thinking this is weird? Should I be pushing my kid to conform and perform already? Clearly a lot of people want this for their kids, and I just don't. She's going to be four soon, and because of her birthday we have nearly two years until kindergarten.

I'd like Elise to get in some good learning to play with others. I don't want her to be bored because I can see that when she is bored she does her own thing, which will cause problems for her later. Whatever happened to playschool?

Waaaaah. Yes, I know I'm whining. It's just frustrating that it's so hard to find a place that will let my kid play and grow at the same time.

Grandma Char had a great suggestion, which was to call the neighborhood elementary school and ask the kindergarten teachers what preschool experiences are valuable to kids entering their classrooms. I'll be doing that.

In the mean time, I could really use a few more suggestions!


We're often amazed by just how much we've cleaned up our language around here in response to parenthood. Yes, kids are linguistic sponges. Yes, we self police. Because there are some things that simply should not come out of the mouths of three year olds.

Consider, if you will, the time at the mall when Elise couldn't locate a toy in her stroller:
"Where the heck is the blue fish?"

While this seems hilarious on the surface, it is not appropriate for a small person. One has to prove mastery of a skill before taking liberties. Speech is still new enough for a kid that people are shocked, shocked I tell you to hear words like "heck" from a young'un.

Our new craze here is a teenage-esque use of the word "like." Oh yes. While not as socially unacceptable as "heck" it's still pretty far out there.

"I was thinking that we could, like, build a house with like all of the Legos, Mom."

"My kitten like loooooves to sleep with Flapjack in her bed."

Like, nifty, dude. And I'm not sure if I can, like, keep a straight face as I, like, try to convince her to, like, change her speaking habits. Like.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ooooh, Shiny

You've probably already heard that Sputnik made it up into orbit 50 years ago. But if you haven't, go ahead and look for some articles on it. Lots of interesting reading out there and lots to see about the direction of our space program now. It's been 50 years since we got our first artificial satellite, and look how far we've come!

I'm feeling random tonight (it's past my bedtime) so I'll share a few links that gave me smiles today (and thank you Peter for some of these...)

The cat door everyone needs

What it's like to be a REAL sports fan

The weather at the place I'll be star partying in a week

Finally, the school we're visiting in the morning.

Yes, this has been a lazy post. Happy 50th anniversary, Space Age! I'll head out and look for one of your grandkids tonight, Sputnik.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Counting the stars

Many thanks to all of you who wrote in to respond to the challenge in my previous post. Things are looking up! It's really amazing how much we don't see in the sky anymore. With just a bit more light pollution, we're in danger of being like the inhabitants of Krikket! Well, maybe not really but you get the idea. Douglas Adams is my hero and I had wine with dinner. Bear with me.

Speaking of wine with dinner, our current favorite sells for less than $8/bottle at Trader Joe's. They're seriously pushing the '03 model, but we like the '04 best, especially after it's aired a bit. For what it's worth. And now you understand any typos you might find in this post...

We had a busy weekend here. On Saturday, Elise and I headed for an astronomy conference and left Andy to recuperate from his new and fantastic cold as best he could. It was a good, fun, long day and I think I pretty well wore Elise out. On the downside, I didn't get to hear Pamela Gay's talk. On the upside, we got to look at the sun through various telescopes and even watched a sunspot for awhile which was pretty nifty.

Sunday, we took Andy to the doctor. It's "just" a cold, but man is it a doozey. Then we drove up to Mill Valley for a birthday party. Then we drove home, loaded up the telescope and drove down to see friends. They have a great view from their front yard, and I'm jealous. Very, very jealous.

Of course, all of this means that Elise has been operating on limited sleep. She didn't wake up until after 7 this morning, but I could tell it was going to be one of those days from the start. I love it when she's active and into everything, but when she's tired it always leads to tears. Today featured lots of creativity, intractability, and inscrutability. Stories a mile a minute, but I couldn't figure what she was on about and generally everything was a fight. I like that I'm able to just sort of roll with this as a few months ago I think I'd have run screaming from the house after a day like that. But today was okay. And I think we're looking forward to a better one tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, Flapjack gets to go to the vet. She's due for her annual exam, but honestly I've been a little worried about her. I hope the vet can sort out why she's not as good at jumping as she used to be, why she's not chewing her food, and why she's been so much more vocal lately. And snuggly. This cat never snuggles. She must be ill. Or something. She's definitely been losing weight, so it'll be good to get her checked out. No telling how Elise will feel about that, though. She generally doesn't like to see Flapjack distressed at all. I told her that I'll be counting on her to talk to Flappy all the way to the vet tomorrow to help reassure her that she'll be fine, and that seemed to relieve her. We'll see.

The aluminum rolling/folding table I ordered online came today and I'm a mite disappointed. There is a reason that most of them cost more than $35, lemmie tell you. But, I think it will be fine for eating off at the upcoming star party/camping trip. Just a little more wobbly and flimsy than I'd like. Costco should be delivering a snaztastic camp stove to our door on Thursday, and then everything will be in place for a great camping trip. I hope. There's still some question as to whether Elise will actually sleep in a tent. But, the trip is 4 days/3 nights, so I figure she'll sleep eventually!

Finally, I'd like to mention that I had a giant crush on Wil Wheaton when I was in high school. I mean, he was on Star Trek! What a great life! He has moved on from there, retained his geekhood, and become an author. His third book is out now, and I just ordered it and am looking forward to reading it. No Star Trek, "just" stories. Good for you, Wil! And hooray to Fark for pointing it out to me.