Saturday, December 27, 2008

Vote! Please, Vote.

Calling all hockey fans, internet junkies, and persons who wish to get in good with us here at Steingruebl World Enterprises!

The NHL All-Star game is coming up. For those of you who are not sports fans and don't know how these all-star things work, fans vote for who they want to see play. Our beloved Sharks are eating up the competition on the ice. But not online. The good people of Chicago clearly have much more time to kill on the intertubes than we do here in Silicon Valley. Probably something to do with the weather.

What I'm trying to say, is please, pretty please go vote! You can vote until your fingers fall off-the more the better. A little extra time on your hands? Vote for some Sharks. If you have no idea who they are, never fear. There's a little Sharks logo next to the names of the players you want. But, if you'd like a roster, here it is!

Forwards:
Marleau, Patrick
Thornton, Joe
Write in-Devin Setoguchi

Defensemen:
Blake, Rob
Boyle, Dan

Goalie
Nabokov, Evgeni

Oh please, please, please help send our Sharks to the All-Star game.

If my urgent pleas don't convince you to click like a fiend, I submit the following for your enjoyment:



And, even if that still doesn't convince you, don't forget to watch the Winter Classic on New Year's Day at Wrigley Field!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hangin' With Santa


The Ghost of Christmas Past will tell you (if you ask) that I've generally been very good at getting Elise in to see Santa early in the "season." This year, the weather has been mucky, we've been busy, yadda yadda yadda, and we didn't make it to see the Big Guy until yesterday afternoon after school.

It didn't even occur to me to have the video on the camera rolling when the two of them first met, and as a result I missed the sweetest part of the interaction. Wiping a tear from my eye, I regained my composure and am pleased as can be to share this bit of our holiday excitement with you now.



video

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How Will You Know Where to Find Me?

It's always an interesting exercise to look at the search terms people use to find this here blog. This week's gem:
cat pee under lemon tree

Hahahahahaha. My neighbors' cats are famous!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Birds are Scrounging

With a gazillion things to do today, I just took 10 minutes to refill all of our bird feeders. We were having finch fights in the front yard and it wasn't pretty.

We usually have a pretty good idea as to the amount of food in the bird feeders by listening before we even look out of the window. If things are quiet and kind of low-level burbly, the feeders are mostly full. As things empty out, the noise level rises. When it's loud outside, I know to start looking for birds in strange places, usually clinging to the edges of window frames and peeking inside for someone to yell at. This morning was quite a frenzy because the back yard feeders were completely empty so the back yard crowd was encroaching on the front yard gang's territory.

Did I mention our birds are self-segregating? The goldfinches and lesser goldfinches (and I'm sure the occasional pine siskin as well) stick to the back yard almost exclusively. We have regular seed and some suet back there in addition to the thistle, but the goldfinches clearly rule back there. In the front yard, we didn't get anyone for a long time. Then, the chickadees started coming. Then the sparrows, then the house finches. Finally, in the past few days we've seen a titmouse or two which has been a hoot. I knew things were desperate out there when I saw a goldfinch hanging on the Christmas lights and eyeing the sock of thistle that nobody had been visiting before.

It's been "cold" around here (lows in the 40s and upper 30s at night) and the little featherbutts have slowed down their eating. But when they're hungry, they're hungry and scarcity makes them grumpy. The sheer entertainment value of seeing them all happy and playing around instead of fighting with each other was worth the ten minutes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Birthday Extravaganza









It's official-we've got a big kid here at Steingruebl World Enterprises. Elise is five years old! I am still having a hard time wrapping my head around it.

We wanted to make the occasion special without going over-the-top crazy like so many of the parents we've met around here seem to do. My original hope was to have a party here with all of her friends from school and other places, and then I realized that it would be chaos, bedlam, misery and unpleasantness. The solution-celebrate with school friends at school, and then do some quiet things here. Worked like a charm!

First, on Thursday morning, we took a craft project to school. Elise has a friend whose birthday is the same day as hers, so we moms worked on a coordinated plan of attack. Yari's mommy brought muffins and party hats, and I brought felt and pompoms. (We are going to gloss over the fact that I mis-counted on the felt and thus put our celebration off by a good half hour, making Yari's mom spectacularly late for work. Numeracy is important, people.) The idea was that the kids could use the pompoms to make pictures on a felt work surface, and then I took pictures of them and their work to put into books for each of the two birthday girls. (I have the pictures and the books, now I just need to unite them.) I'd love to show off just how cute all of the kids were, but without permission of their parents I'm not going to post other kids' pics here. But, here is our girl:

At home that night, Elise got to open her gifts from us and from the Grandparents Schmiedeskamp. The log cabin set chosen by Grandma was an instant hit, and has been gracing the living room floor in various configurations ever since. Grandpa found some high-quality kid-sized garden tools, which pretty much took Elise's breath away. So cute! I've got to get out there and figure out what part of the massive garden ought to be hers to cultivate. Or at least show her how to use the hoe so we can thin out our pea plants and actually get a decent winter crop.

Our gift to Elise was a CD player for her bedroom, so that she can listen to her favorite tunes while she's up there playing. Part of that gift was the herculean effort we put in to find all of the various kid CDs that had been scattered around here and collect them in one booklet that Elise can keep track of herself. It's fun to see her making music choices on her own. I remember the little orange record player I had at her age and what a wonderful thing it was. She seems to be equally appreciative of this newfangled disk spinning device.

Finally, on Sunday we invited Rista over to play and celebrate. Yes, it was a two-girl party, but I think it was ideal for Elise. She really is happiest playing with her best friend, and I think any more excitement than that would have been too much. The girls played, the grown-ups chatted. Fantastic! At one point, Elise told us that this was the best birthday she's ever had. Awwwwwww.

When it came time to open her presents from Rista, Elise was excited but gracious. No idea where she learned that, but we were impressed. She got supplies for Shrinkydinks projects (Shrinkydinks!!! Mommy is excited by that!) and a little kitty kind of like Later, but different. To demonstrate the kind of appreciation our big, five-year-old girl has for thoughtful gifts given with love, I leave you with our favorite part of the festivities, which Andy just happened to catch on video. Happy Birthday, Elise. We love you and are so proud of you.


video

Thanksgiving!

This year marked our first CA Thanksgiving celebrated with friends. Danielle, Brad and Rista invited us to join them at Danielle's mom's house, and we enthusiastically did so. They put on a tremendous feast, and you couldn't ask for better company.

It begins to hit us that we have a big kid on our hands. Elise and Rista ran off and entertained themselves while the grown-ups chatted. I think we were all a little giddy with the thrill of it.

The best news is that, after a lot of discussion about expected manners, Elise did a fabulous job trying food and being a polite guest. Normally, we get tantrums and other unpleasantness when we inflict unfamiliar food on her. We do not like this state of affairs. We are working on it. For the short term, Elise got a crash course in acceptable behavior at a big feast of a dinner. And she really took note. We were stunned, stunned I tell you, that she ate a bite of absolutely everything on her plate without a single complaint. We learned that stuffing isn't torture in crouton form, and that cranberries may well be nature's perfect food. Heavenly!

Of course, I took the camera with us but neglected to take any pictures. "Next year!" she vows sincerely.

Bloggety Blog Blog

Hmmm, it's been awhile since I last wrote anything here. Perhaps time to rectify that. We've had Thanksgiving, a notable birthday and random interesting things going around here...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quote of the Day

This is not likely to be a regular feature, but I just had to share this one. You know, in time for Thanksgiving and all.

So here it is, courtesy of a media relations tool at AIG.

"Let me know if you are interested in engaging. If so, we can establish some rules that are amenable for both of us."

This one has a delicious back story. Read it if you dare! And then bear in mind that this was sent by someone hired to do media relations for this appalling excuse of an insurance company.

Read it? Good. My comment: No wonder the place is a federal disaster area*. It's idiots all the way down!

How is AIG exempt from ridicule when the company as a whole has failed so spectacularly? I'd say some armchair management tips are par for the course when you've just begged and received $150 BILLION in handouts. After all, you've got all the money any of us might ever collectively hope to have, and all we have left is our snark. Leave us our snark. Or at the very least rob us of that too by hiring a mildly clueful media relations doobie.

But by all means keep sending vague messages of strong-armishness to Wonkette. Because I am amenable to more entertainment value for my $150billion.


*Well, almost. AIG only gets half of the money that we're spending to get Katrina's victims sort of back to some semblance of normal.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Strange Maps

One of my regular reads is a blog called Strange Maps. All kinds of interesting ways of presenting information. A recent one caught my eye and I thought I'd share it here.

So, head on over and check out an interesting comparison between cotton production and presidential voting. And then have a gander at some of the other interesting (and strange) maps.

***Update***
The link to the map has been fixed to direct you to, er, the map. For those wishing to read about a whale smacking a kite surfer, you can find that story right here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Evidence


Alright, neighborhood kitties. 'Fess up! Who did this?! Was it a pigeon or a mourning dove?

Either way, I want to give you a reward.

Where We Sleep

I'd like to think that I'm good at homemaking, but my ability to arrange furniture, hang pictures and organize stuff is largely limited to the utilitarian. Someday, I tell myself, I will actually design something that looks fantastic while still being functional.

Well, that day may have arrived for our bedroom! An attempt to keep a street light from shining in our eyes at night resulted in creative curtain placement. A trip to Ikea resulted in the purchase of two slick looking light fixtures. Put 'em all together, and you get the following:


And when they're on, the lights look a little like this, but without the glare.


My next project, to finish the room, will be to make a coordinating bedskirt and duvet cover. As I get pieces of the house put together "just right" I'll post more pictures.

Compost


With all of this beautiful lawn and garden, I've been itching to compost. It seems so silly to throw away stuff that could easily be used to keep things healthy and gorgeous.

Happily, the City of San Jose runs a compost education program with the help of lots of volunteers. I got to attend a free class last weekend, and learned the basic ins and outs of getting stuff to rot. Being new to this, I'd like to share what I learned and also get recommendations from more experienced composters.

It is important to note that it's hard to fail at compost. Stuff eventually rots all by itself, but a clever person can speed that up and produce great stuff in as little as 2 weeks. Stuff chopped into smaller pieces rots faster. In the city, with neighbors and such, a nice person keeps the rotting stuff in bins and keeps it in balance so it's not all stinky. Compost done right doesn't smell bad.

For optimal rotting, you need a good mix of carbon, nitrogen, water and air. (At the class, I peeked at the notes of the elderly lady next to me and was thrilled to see C + N + O2 + H2O. We grow 'em good here in big city America.) All of this stuff lets microbes do their work. The instructor simplified it to browns and greens. I thought that confused the issue a bit, but it helps with the general idea.

Brown=Carbon=dead stuff like leaves and woody kinds of stuff like twigs, paper
Green=Nitrogen=things collected live like kitchen scraps, grass clippings

Interestingly, coffee grounds and tea leaves count as "green" since they're initially harvested from living plants. As the COG points out, you can toss in coffee grounds complete with paper filter. And hey, that gives you a somewhat balanced addition!

A quick note about stuff that does NOT go in your compost. Add this stuff and it either doesn't break down or it smells horrid.

Animal stuff-meat, cheese, milk, eggs
Grease/fat
Grains, beans, or breads
Carnivore poop (parasite risk-herbivore poo okay, apparently)
Diseased plants (I also add weeds gone to seed, but I'm not confident I can cook 'em hot enough)

The booklet that came with my bin says to keep fruit an veg scraps in enclosed, rodent resistent bins. I think if you're keeping up with it you won't have rodent nests, and rats are not interested in stuff that's not fatty. I'm seeing ants discovering my bin, but they don't get comfy because I turn it regularly. If pests are an issue, sticking to yard waste (instead of food stuff), turn regularly, and you should be fine.

As mentioned above, a good compost pile doesn't smell. Nice and earthy, yes. Stinky, no. I thought my instructor gave helpful sniff-test advice. If compost is stinky, it's out of balance. The variety of stink provides clues.

Cat pee or other urine-like smell=too much nitrogen. Add "browns" (leaves, woody stuff)
Baby spit-up/vomit=too much carbon. Add "greens" (grass clippings, coffee grounds)

Clearly, motherhood has been excellent training for compost pile maintenance.

Then, we have the air and water. Compost should say as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Too dry and the microbes don't survive, too wet and you'll get flies. Keep the hose handy!

Air is important. Not only is it necessary, but it keeps those stinky anaerobic bacteria from taking over. Piles need regular turning to keep stuff mixed up and to keep the little decomposers happy. The middle of the pile gets hottest, so a regular stir lets all of the stuff get in on the rotting. My instructor recommends every other day or so until you get sick of it, my bin's instruction book advocates once a week. I'm having so much fun watching the steam coming out of mine that I'm turning it daily. That will undoubtedly change over time. Regardless, a manure fork is your friend because it is great for tossing stuff around, and pokes great holes if you're aerating instead of turning.

Good composting really does seem to come down to personal preference. If you want to really cook stuff, it takes a cubic yard of stuff to generate temperatures above 140°F, and you have to do it in batches. A "cold" compost pile is one that you add to continuously, and it will "only" get up to around 120°F. I'm giving this "hot" compost thing a try for my first batch, but will switch to "cold" composting after this in an effort to cut down what we send to the landfill. Come spring, I'll probably make a worm bin for the fun of it. Worms don't eat much when they're cold, so I figure I'll wait to start with them until we can all be successful. Look forward to an exciting description of worm composting sometime soon.

I hope this was interesting and informative! And for those of you who have more experience with this compost stuff, please feel free to chime in with advice in the comments.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Grand Tour (Outdoor Edition)

The event you've all been waiting for! Or something like that. Here is the outdoor portion of the Steingruebl World Enterprises headquarters.


Please, step up to the front door-


Or the back door, or the sliding back door. The front door is the only one with a buzzer, though.



This is pretty much my favorite view of all. When we look out of the sliding back door, this is what we see. Not a huge surprise that I spend a lot of time in this sunny little room!

Following the path of stepping stones, you can see the part of the yard that isn't visible from the back room due to garage-based interference.

From left to right, we have our prickly pear, nectarine tree, tall tree with little blue berries that the birdies all seem to like, plum tree, and swing.


Here is a better look at the prickly pear. It's huge! I need to look up some recipes for the fruits, because I understand they're pretty tasty. Observant readers will notice an ugly sign protruding from the plant. It says "No Trespassing" because shortly after our arrival a bunch of fruits were taken and parts of the plant hacked at. (Including a letter sliced into one paddle.) I have no problem sharing, but dude, ask first. We haven't had any problems since adding the sign.


And now, we turn back toward the house. In the foreground is the bed where I'm intending to do most of my veggie gardening. It will need expanding, though, so I'll be asking for the landlady's okay. Given that this is where she used to have a chicken coop, I'm looking forward to some lovely gardening. This picture doesn't show it, but the peas and lettuce I planted for a winter crop are coming up nicely. The gophers and squirrels will be very happy!
Ah yes-back toward the house. The yellow house you see here? That's where the pigeons like to sit. And poop. And then fly over to our house and sit. And poop. Doggone pigeons anyway. Under this little overhang is our lemon tree. Seems like a silly place for a lemon tree to me, but some of the fruits are starting to ripen so I can't argue too much. The big round bed here was the home of our old english walnut tree. It was looking pretty sickly when we moved in. A lot of dead branches on top and a classic case of walnut blight evident on the leaves. I had hoped that the dead stuff could be trimmed off and the tree given a few more years, but it was not to be. Rotten to the core, it was.These are the remains of the tree, waiting to be picked up and hauled off. I'm pretty glad this didn't fall down on our heads.



Living here is like living in a park, truth to tell. With all of the plants, birds, bugs, cats, squirrels and, apparently, gophers, I could pretty much just exist in the back yard.

One last peek to send you smiling on your way:


And, a big happy birthday to Grandma Char!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Toeses?



Moses supposes his toeses are roses
But Moses supposes erroneously.
Moses he knowses his toeses aren't roses
As Moses supposes his toeses to be.
-Singin' in the Rain


Here in San Jose, "winter" has arrived, and we know that because jackets are necessary in the morning and it has started raining sometimes. Our huge new yard is full of all kinds of treasures, and the ones we've discovered most recently are the roses. Scads of them. Lots of variety. Some very smelly, some hardly at all. Every last one of them, though, is gorgeous. I have been bringing a few inside. Well, maybe not a few. Lots! Some on the mantle, some on an end table, one in Elise's bedroom, one on the dining table. They make things so cheery!

We've been eating breakfast in the company of this one-


And Elise wanted to pose by these beauties.

This is the sight that greets us just outside our back door. Birds are a little skittish about the birdbath when we're right next to it, but stand back and wait awhile and little finches land on the rosebushes and on the bath. There is something to be said for being surrounded by beauty!

40 Ounces


This is how we do it here at Steingruebl World Enterprises. Kick back, relax, and enjoy some liquid sunshine. These 40 ounces were hand squeezed (by Elise and Heather) from oranges picked from the tree in our back yard. Enjoy!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Shiny!

We've done it, faithful readers. We've officially become Californians. How did we manage to do that after all of this time? Allow me to introduce:


Our new car!

That's right. We here at Steingruebl World Enterprises now own one vehicle per licensed driver. I think that is a requirement for California citizenship.

The new car is a Honda Fit (sport model) in a fetching "blackberry pearl." It is primarily Andy's commuting vehicle. So far, the gas mileage has been impressive. Elise likes riding in it because the door handles work for her small hands (unlike the ones on our Subaru, which she can't seem to open) and it has an awesome cup holder in the door.


While the realities of car payments again aren't our favorites, we're enjoying some of the ease of living that a second car provides. I can get dinner ready while Andy drives himself home, which means getting the kiddo bathed and in bed before that too-tired point of no return. We can also scurry about with different purposes of a weekend, which has already proven handy. Plus, the new little car is just so doggone cute!

Of course, neither horse fits in the stable at this point as it is plumb full of junkola that we have yet to unpack/organize from the move. For the moment, though, it's kinda nice to see them both in the driveway.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Birds, Birds, Birds

I'm going to continue the streak of raving about our back yard and boast about the wildlife. If you really couldn't care less about birds and the weird stuff they do, you may want to skip this one.

After two years of not being allowed bird feeders, we (I mean "I", really, but "we" sounds so much less crazy) got our collection of feeders out before just about anything else. At this point, we're offering seed (a mix without millet due to the neighbor's pigeon infestation), niger thistle, suet and sugar water at various places. It didn't take long for the neighborhood birds to find their free lunch, and it took even less time for them to decide we're mostly harmless.

The thistle attracts a giant mess of American Goldfinches. Mixed in among them are some Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches, and maybe even an odd Pine Siskin or two. At most times of the day, the feeder looks like a giant, feathered tube that wiggles a lot.

The seed has been attracting some other characters. The Chestnut-backed Chickadees are hilarious and bold. They sort of like the suet we put out for them, but I think they'd rather annoy the finches. Our other surprise seed-eaters are of the Oak Titmouse variety. (What's the plural of "titmouse," anyway? Titmice? Titmouses?" They have a brilliant scolding call that sounds like the roar of a distant crowd. They are much more skittish and shy than the others, but we for sure have a pair of them.

As far as ground feeders go, we have been host to a pair of California Towhees. They do this funny little dance when they look for food, and I've noticed that they are spending a lot more time in our yard and trees lately. They like to sit on the neighbor's garage and watch all of the silly little birds. I think these kind of plain birds are fascinating, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of them. Since putting a birdbath near the back door, we've seen a Dark-eyed Junco hanging about.

Then, there is the huge variety of birds attracted by the clever landscaping in the yard, courtesy of the owner and probably a previous tenant or two. We have a lot of bug-eaters. The Bushtits swarm in on a fairly regular basis, gobble bugs from the orange tree and the various bushes near our back door, and then swarm off again. My favorites are the Phoebes. They really like to make themselves at home. I'm always catching them sitting on the swing or the patio chairs. They like to sit on tree branches near me when I'm in the yard and just watch what I'm up to. It would be creepy if they weren't so doggone cute. Apparently, they can be a little territorial, though. One of them found the birdbath for the first time the other day, and decided it was his. When the finches weren't buying it, he hopped down and proceeded to chase them all over the ground with much wild flapping and squawking. When he returned to the top of the bath, it was to spit out a goodly number of feathers.

The hummingbirds here like to sit in the trees and scold us. Sometimes they make cute little squeaks, but mostly it's shrill "you get away from my purple flowers right now!" calls. We got lucky the other day and saw one catching a bug in midair!

Someone was very, very clever about the tree planting here. The old (declining, not necessarily diseased) walnut has holes all over and I suspect is home to many. Other trees have bark that is fun to pick at to find bugs, and one big one has berries that everyone seems to like. That is where I generally see the mockingbird. In the past two days, we've caught a scrub jay from across the street scoping things out. Almost like it's casing the joint. Should we worry? He sits on bushes, fences and trees and cocks his head to observe what's going on.

Beyond our yard, there is a neighborhood gang of crows. Their primary joy in life seems to be harassing hawks. We've seen them chasing hawks on a number of occasions, and it's been spectacular. I like them most when they chase the #$%&* pigeons on the neighbor's house. Don't get me wrong, pigeons have their place I'm sure. At our house, it is as entertainers. Because any time one lands on our roof while we're outside, they get the hose. And Elise gets the giggling fits. I want a Super Soaker for Christmas so that I can improve my aim and be more ruthless.

Now that I've got my "grab-and-go" telescope set up for terrestrial viewing through the sliding-glass door, I'll work on getting some pics of our little friends. I will probably have birds on the brain for quite awhile, so you may have to bear with me. Interestingly, this bird watching is a newfound hobby for the whole family. Andy and I get into identification and behavior, Elise is learning to tell which birds are which and also what they like to eat. Beaker is practicing talking like some of them, and has learned to hop from perch to perch-something he had never done before we moved here.

So, there you have it. Our list of San Jose backyard birds. We'll keep an eye out for new and exciting developments!

Our Big Backyard


Grandpa Karl has kept us well-subscribed to a magazine called "My Big Backyard." It's all stuff aimed at Elise's age group, and exploring the great outdoors. It's been such a treat to finally have a back yard of our own where we can do some exploring.

Priority #1 has been to figure out what's going on with the orange tree. It seems to be flowering and fruiting full-time. Most of these trees take a break at some point, but considering there was a lot of over-ripe fruit when we moved in and there is a lot of green fruit now, I think we're going to be in oranges for awhile. Last weekend, I decided to harvest some of what was up there, mostly to get the decaying fruits off of the tree so that the new ones have the tree's full attention.

I made many exciting discoveries. The worst by far was that you really do have to treat ripe, juicy oranges gently or they split right open. I now know much better for next time. Along the same lines was the realization that a prudent gardener would wear gloves to pluck fallen oranges out of a rosebush. (Yes, I know, not too bright here.) Third, our garage is taller than it looks and in spite of that we really do need one of those basket-on-pole things if we're going to be effective harvesters. Finally, I discovered an abandoned bird nest. It appears to be made out of a lot of sticks and unraveled industrial carpet. I assumed it was abandoned because some enterprising critter was using it for walnut storage.

At any rate, in spite of my imprudent orange handling, we enjoyed quite a feast. I don't think I've seen Elise up to her elbows in orange juice like this in a loooooong time. I have a bowl of oranges on the counter waiting to be made into juice tomorrow morning. Yum!

Our Halloween

One thing we've discovered:
Halloween is a lot more fun with a big kid.

First, there was the pumpkin carving. We got a little carried away and our jack o' lanterns were a rotten, bug-infested mess before the big day, but we had fun and Elise has the makings of a master carver.

Then, there was the carnival at our friend Rista's school. Elise was willing to sit very still (for a very long time I might add) to have this beautiful princess crown painted on her forehead.

After which she and Daddy sat down to enjoy a taste treat.



We also joined in the Halloween parade in our former stomping grounds. it was great fun to see all of our friends dressed up, and Elise even made friends with a fellow princess. Nothing like a vast expanse of grass for running around! The rain held off and Elise enjoyed taking her shot at the piƱata (Though she was worried that it was "cheating" if the bandanna fell off of her face.) Here's the video footage!


video

I cleverly managed to misplace our camera prior to the big day, so I will be relying on the kindness of friends for decent pics of our girl in her costume. But I do have a grainy cameraphone picture taken about 2/3rds of the way through the trick-or-treat marathon.

As you might guess, the crowning glory of the day was trick-or-treating with Rista. For those of you who have not seen these two beauties in action, it is a treat watching them together. The two little princesses held hands up and down the sidewalks and stairs. They informed us that they are "brave together" which kept even the spookiest of houses from being scary. Candy is a big motivator. ;) In the end, they each ended up relaxing at each other's house, and the hostess shared her favorite treats from her bag. What a treat.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Modest Proposition

It seems that everywhere I look, someone has an opinion about California's "Prop 8." For those living under rocks, it's a proposal to change the state constitution to make sure homosexual couples will never, ever be legally married in this state. Since I'm an actual Californian who will actually be voting on this actual ballot initiative, I would like to weigh in on this thing myself.

Let me begin by saying that I detest ballot initiatives. I think they're a weak-kneed, cowardly device for an electorate that mostly can't be bothered to pay attention to what their elected representatives are up to. Here in California, we distrust 'em so much that we impose term limits and are never surprised when they can't manage to get anything done. I'm sure that some well-meaning person somewhere will tell me that it gets people more involved, but I think it's a major turnoff to sensible voters. This year's Voter Guide and attending Supplemental are enormous, and I resent being asked to do homework that should have been done by the elected representatives whose salaries we all pay. Stupid and busted. I hate ballot initiatives.

Which leads me right on to Prop 8. It's a sop to the "Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve" crowd. Not only that, but this thing has been funded right along by groups that are largely based outside of CA. As a skirmish in the great "culture war," this looks a lot like James Dobson and his ilk counting coup. If Prop 8 passes, the hippiedippie Californians have been forced to behave for a change. If it fails, well, we all knew that California was home of wicked treehuggers and now can be hated with impunity.

In case it's not clear by this point, I think Prop 8 is hateful and disgusting. It's been 10 years since Matthew Sheppard was horrifically beaten and left to die on a fencepost in Wyoming. I can't believe that people still don't have anything better to do than imagine in detail what's going on in their neighbors' bedrooms. Who has time for that? Many of the people who seem most frightened of GAY MARRIAGE (booga booga!) seem to confuse homosexuality for pedophilia. Homosexual doesn't mean extra kinky, assaults precious snowflakes and is out to steal your husband or wife. It means human being who is sexually attracted to another human being of the same gender. Period.

As a society, we value individuals who come together for a common good. Think of our tax code. We give non-profits a tax break. We even give churches the benefit of the doubt and don't tax them, either. And, we tax-incent married people. As far as I'm concerned, a committed couple is a committed couple. It's not like better marriages get a better tax rate than crappy ones. I haven't liked some of the people that various friends have married over time. Their lives, their commitment.

This culture of fear we have here in the US is alive and well, and one has only to look at the expressions on the faces of the people in Prop 8 commercials. Parents heartbroken that their kid's teacher mentioned that sometimes men marry men, and women marry women. That's right kids, we want you thinking and asking questions in class, unless the very existence of something (or in this case, someone) makes us uncomfortable. There is also some convoluted nonsense about this being a free-speech issue, but it makes my head hurt so feel free to imagine what a homophobe couldn't possibly say if any gay person anywhere ever had rights equal to their own. Make it juicy, because it most likely would be. If Prop 8 fails, you will miss out on a lot of creative vitriol. Oh the humanity.

If you put lipstick on a bigot, they're still a bigot.

We've gotta have someone in the "out"group, otherwise I won't have any tasteless jokes to tell at public gatherings! First we couldn't make fun of black people, then they took away the respectability of hateful jokes about any brown people (yay 9/11-we got Arabs, Persians, Muslims and vaguely Middle-Easterney people back!), the handicapped are also off limits. I mean really, what else is there to talk about?!*

I suspect there exists the mistaken hope that a constitutional ban on marital equality will "cure" all of the world's homosexuals. All I can say is, given that national ban on drinking didn't rid our great country of alcoholics, I'm not holding my breath.

We here at Steingruebl World Enterprises value ALL families, and will therefore be doing our part to see that Prop 8 goes down in flames. Big, sparkly rainbow ones. Rest of the nation that wishes it were here, you're welcome.

*I made this up, but admit it, you were thinking of how to find out who said it so you could make fun of them, you Elitist Bastard you!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Funnier and Funnier

Several years ago when Elise was barely speaking, I set about trying to teach her the "Who's on First" sketch. Today, I finally got my wish.

Elise and I were sitting around the table after dinner and having some fun conversation. At one point she said something to the effect of "Who knows?" I answered "The Shadow Knows" and her being almost 5 and quite literal wanted to know "What shadow?" I of of course confused her and we kept chatting and she asked "Where is the Shadow?" to which I replied "Yes!" This made her quite confused and we went back and forth several times like this before I explained the joke to her and also had her watch the "Who's on First" sketch from youtube, link posted above.

Fast forward to bedtime. We're getting ready to read Elise a bedtime story and Heather said "The moon is made of cheese" to which Elise replied "No it isn't, it's made of shining armor, and it shines in the stars." Heather replied "Who is wearing the armor?" to which Elise said "Yes!".

Makes me proud.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Games We Play


We're in the midst of a game craze here at Steingruebl World Enterprises. It started innocently with Candyland. We progressed to Go Fish and Crazy Eights. Cards are fun because they fit in a purse and can materialize unexpectedly at coffee shops when Mommy needs extra time to mainline some caffeine.

And then, we found Uno. This was a favorite game for me with my elderly after-school-babysitters in 3rd & 4th grade. Andy recalls playing a lot of Uno with his family. (He also recalls the rules better than I do, but don't tell him I admitted to that.) Andy searched for and found a card holding helper thing, and now there is no card game Elise can't play. Well, she'd be pretty bad with poker since she tends to flash her cards a lot.

My favorite part of this new card playing trend is the trash talk. Elise can really dish it. And, she's great with strategy. I'm impressed by just how quickly she picked up on how to stick it to an opponent. She's usually so mild-mannered and sweet that this is a fabulous new way for us to see her.

Andy has also got her started on Yahtzee. They only play the top half of the score card for the time being, but Elise is learning it and has a great time playing a game that she knows we sometimes play while she's in bed. Sneaky, sneaky parents also look at it as an opportunity to teach math. (But seriously, don't tell Elise that. We're saving it for a surprise when she's in 1st grade.)

Since we're having such a great time with games at the moment, I'd love suggestions from loyal readers (and even the traitorous ones) regarding games that might be fun to play with a nearly 5 year old kiddo. Not that I'm getting tired of playing Uno several times a day, mind you....

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Random Newsiness

Hi, there, loyal readers!

I was going to try to respond to the debate last night shortly after it happened, but really the whole thing just wore me out so I settle for leaving that commentary to others who apparently have more stamina.

Before I go off to bed and try to get a decent night's sleep for a change, I thought I'd share a few bits of current eventage here at Steingruebl World Enterprises.

1. Ebay's big layoffs have not included Andy. We think he's pretty well secure, but there are a lot of people who aren't now and it stinks. Layoffs. Yuck.

2. I hate street lights. It might be time to finally join the International Dark Sky Association. There is one light across the street from us that has been shining through the gap between the blinds and the windows to keep me up at night. At least, I assume that's why it's up there and on all night like that. We've installed curtains, and hopefully tonight will be better.

3. Power tools are fun! Curtain hanging required drilling, and I have to say that I continue to love the drill that I purchased awhile back. Even better, I get to pass my love of tools on to my kiddo. Today, Elise used our electric screwdriver to help me with some self-assembly furniture. Wahoo!

4. On Tuesday, we officially handed back the keys to the previous headquarters. I'm really proud of how we left things, and it was good to see Sandra and Celerino back in their home. Even though their stuff won't follow them from Spain for eons. I think they're going to like how the neighborhood has grown in the last 2 years.

5. Tomorrow's goal is to get the dining room to be less like a jumble of boxes and more like a cozy place for us to have meals and play games. Daunting. But I think I can do it. Especially if I quit dawdling now and actually go to bed!

6. Someone has been trespassing in our back yard. Prickly pears have been harvested, which I actually don't mind at all, but I'd sure like the courtesy of an introduction before people come in and just take stuff. I'm thinking of getting one of those motion sensitive sprinklers that people use to scare off pests. And then just be on the lookout for wet neighbors...

7. The Sharks start their season at home tomorrow evening. Go Sharks!

Friday, October 3, 2008

What's there to Debate?

We watched Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. He was nice enough to stand there and not laugh at her which I think deserved extra-credit points. I can say that if this version of Sarah Palin had been on my high school debate team, I'd have been the coach's favorite in spite of the fact that I skipped meets for family funerals and the occasional band performance.

A few people have pointed me to an absolutely brilliant flow chart of this particular debate. Head over to The Daily Kos to see it in all of its original glory!

And then bear in mind that as much as this lady might be good at a number of things, she's not vice presidential material. And FSM forbid McCain kicks the bucket (what with running for president being his bucket list and all) and leaves her minding the store. George the clueless clown puppet has nothing on what Palin could be. By all means respect her as a human being, but my oh my don't imagine for a minute she'd be anything other than a disaster as VP.

Fall is Falling

Tonight, we're expecting our first rain of the season. Wahoo! I'm kinda hoping that we'll be able to hear the patter of rain on the roof in this house. I went outside this evening to hang some cute pumpkin lights for Halloween, and the air has that perfect autumn smell to it.

As I worked, I started noticing sounds in the distance. And doggone it if we can't hear the neighborhood high school's football games from here! The band was loud and clear, and we could hear the refs' whistles and the crowd's cheers. The whole thing seems so New Englandy/Midwestish. I continue to think we're gonna like it here.

The Tooth Fairy has Arrived

Yes indeed, folks, the Tooth Fairy herself has visited us here at Steingruebl World Enterprises.

At school on Thursday (Oct 2, 2008. Mark your calendars, people!) Elise was bored at naptime and resorted to wiggling her insanely wiggly tooth. Wonder of wonders, it popped out. When I arrived to pick her up, I was greeted by the biggest ever gap-toothed grin and a shriek of "Mommy! My tooth came out!!!" So exciting. I was also informed by Elise's teacher that getting her to put said tooth into an envelope was like...something akin to pulling teeth.

We made much of the tooth and the proud big kid was willing to show off her new smile.


It took awhile for Elise to fall asleep, but once she did the TF penned a little note and tied a sparkly ring to it with a length of dental floss. Awwwww. "The Tooth Fairy took some of your dental floss, Mommy," said a disappointed girl. "I don't think she'd do that, Sweetie. It looks like she and I use the exact same kind. How cool is that?!" I get the feeling there is something Elise isn't saying about the TF, something that's gnawing at her. Hopefully, we'll figure out what it is soon.

And hey, the good ol' TF gets another shot at it tonight! Elise's front teeth are coming in like crazy, and she had a second very loose one on the bottom. This morning, after running straight at me and crashing like a wave against the cliffs of Dover (one of her favorite things to do lately), she made a funny face and asked if we could go brush her teeth. Sure! Why not. She then complained that her tooth was "irritating" her, so we sat on the sofa to take a look. Good thing Daddy isn't squeamish about teeth. He took one look and said, "Woah! Did that just fall out? If not, I think you could just grab it and it would fall right out." Turns out, Father really does know best. Wow was Elise proud to have extracted a second tooth in as many days!

We spent a lot of time today talking about how very surprised the Tooth Fairy will be to have to come to our house for a second night in a row. That may well be the best part of it all. Hopefully, those top front teeth will hold off for a little while yet and let the TF catch her breath.

What a great milestone for our girl. After getting her teeth early, it's not a huge surprise that she's losing them so early as well. We're all in love with her big, beautiful new grown-up teeth. Wahoo, Elise!

Oh, and now she wants to know what the TF does with all of the teeth she collects. No clue. Luckily, she forgot to get me to help her write that question in a note for tonight, so we have time. Anybody have suggestions? The Tooth Fairy would actually really like to know...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

They've Broken Her Spirit

I'm not likely to ever fancy myself a fan of Sarah Palin, but I am starting to feel sorry for her. She did not, initially, come across as a complete imbecile. A few short weeks in the national spotlight, however, and she's not the perky "everywoman's woman" anymore.

She is an unquestionably easy target for anyone who's moderately informed, but she is an elected executive and I don't imagine that the people of Alaska would elect an utter fool. A lack of major population centers does not, of itself, lead voters to be pig ignorant. (As a Montanan born and raised, I take issue with the idea that rural=bumpkin.) If Palin is actually as stupid as she's looked lately, she would not be a functioning member of society. I mean really. No way am I ever going to cast a vote for her, but she's a human being and I'd like to see her treated as one.

I've been thinking for awhile that McCain did Palin a major (and perhaps shameful) disservice by dumping her into the national spotlight. No real preparation, no chance of actual success, and a career pretty much toilitized if they don't go all the way. Sarah Palin is no Geraldine Ferraro, obviously, but I don't think it's fair to make her suffer through the public drubbing she's getting.

What's an obvious conclusion to draw from Palin's declining performance and general aura of incompotence since we first met her at the Republican convention? An article from The New Republic speculates that the McCain campaign has broken her. I tend to suspect that they've got it exactly right.

If I were an evangelical, I'd be pissed. McCain has brought the "culture war" front and center with a punching bag. Setting evangelicals everywhere up for public ridicule. Now, we just have to wait and see how many McCain supporters are going to put up with this.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hooray for Pirates!

Lest we forget the value of religion in society today, I would like to point out the stellar example of Pastafarians in Arkansas. Truly the best possible response to the lunacy that is Westboro Baptist "Church". Brilliant. Just brilliant. Thank you, Arkansas Pastafarians.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Decade of Decadence

A lot of us, myself included, poked fun at Nader during his presidential run because of our perception of him as an old crank. He may well be an old crank, but he had it right while others had it wrong, at least with regard to scandalous banking.

Alert reader Jon sent me this article which is worth a moment (or two!) of your time. For those of you who aren't link-clickers, Nader rather eerily described the events we've been watching unfold. The final paragraph of the piece suggests a scheme for keeping regulators accountable, and I'd love to know if that ever came to pass. If these goons managed to do this much damage in spite of that, well, they are even less scrupulous than I thought.

Nader was wrong about one thing back in 1999, though. He thought we'd look back and wonder how we could have all been so asleep through this disastrous deregulation. Hardly anybody is wondering. We're just busily believing President Panic that we need to cough up lots of money to make it all better. This, my friends, is what happens when "regular" people refuse to take any interest whatsoever in yucky old politics. No government oversight, except by people we label as cranks and then ignore. Is coughing up $700 billion really less distasteful than paying attention every now and then?

My feelings on this bailout are the same as yesterday. Many thanks to my bro for pointing me to the perfect (tasteless, crass, morbid) picture to help me summarize:

Jump!

Posted on Natuba

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Of Homesteads and Houses

Due to my desire to procrastinate on the housework, I'd like to take a moment to make a wild historical comparison between irresponsibly regulated financial institutions and irresponsible railroad expansion. I'd love to hear your perspective, dear reader, as to whether or not my comparison is valid.

Back in the olden days, we here in the US were looking to populate the continent from coast to coast. The Homestead Act helped achieve this goal, and homesteaders claimed lands (often from indigenous peoples) at a tremendous rate. When railroads got to be big, more of the countryside became reachable than ever before. (Huzzah! USA! USA! USA!) But, the railroads needed refueling and water stations all along the way in order to operate. How do we give more people a chance to farm, industry an opportunity to expand, and make our country great? Hmmm...

The Homestead Act. Originally signed into law by Abe Lincoln, it could be "improved" upon to convince people to move to the real hinterlands. All of the best arable farmland was taken, but there was dry land that needed train tracks through it to get us from coast to coast. As a result, you could get as much as 640 acres of land (as opposed to 160 acres for a regular homesteader) as a bonus for taking a risk on this new kind of farming. Procedures for farming (read:destroying) semi-arid land were developed and demonstrated to wide-eyed dreamers. My great-grandfather was one of those, and he had the misfortune to see an impressive example of what was possible in a very wet year. He, and and many, many others headed west.

Montana's population more than tripled in less than 20 years as a result of this expansion of the Homestead Act. For some very good perspective on this, I recommend this article. Go ahead and read it-this page will be waiting for you when you get back.

******

Fascinating, eh? The unusually rainy years came to an end when my grandfather was born. People lost their homes. They starved. Gramps told stories of families too poor to afford a stamp to write to family back east for help. Sixty thousand people left Montana in the 1920s. What began as a seemingly reasonable plan to achieve something great failed dramatically. Real people suffered in earnest, and the railroads carried on.

It's ridiculous to compare homesteaders to people who borrow beyond their means, but I think the legislative and regulatory situations are very similar. In an attempt to stimulate growth, we relaxed regulation on major industry and incented lots and lots of people to take major risks to bolster that growth. Whether it's railroads or the housing industry, Americans have invested heavily. In the case of the dry land homesteaders, they simply failed and moved on to deal with the effects of poverty and disappointed dreams for generations. Today's honyocker (a term used to describe those short-lived dryland homesteaders) has too much house that's been foreclosed AND gets to pay for a loan (and interest on that loan) back to the people who sold it to them in the first place. At least this time people aren't starving to death and the costs are being shared. Small consolation.

One of the figures I've heard floating around is that this bailout is the equivalent of $10,000 for each household in the nation. Me, I'd rather have the $10k myself. The investment bankers can go build railroads.

Investment Banking Wall of Shame

With all of the house cleaning/unpacking that needs doing here at Steingruebl World Enterprises, I've had a lot of time to listen to radio coverage of this whole "save the planet by throwing money at investment bankers" mess. It is an understatement to say that I'm angry. Livid. The de-regulators, the greedy investors, the greedy bankers, the irresponsible mortgage peddlers and the overreaching mortgage acquirers. Why is this my problem? How is stuffing the front end of this ridiculous gravy train going to help the rest of us? Yeah, I'm mad.

Let's start with the de-regulators. The initial goal was to make money cheaper so that more people could afford to buy their own homes. Admirable, I suppose. But did we need to make it so easy as to encourage irresponsible borrowing? Not likely. Astute readers will recognize a lot of the names in this fabulous article about our deregulating deregulators.

Next, I would like to point out a few CEOs who, along with their impressive salaries, should be held personally and publically responsible for some of this. I've linked to articles with pictures of each of these goofballs. Not just the guys currently in charge, but also their predecessors who ran their companies into the ground before bailing. Feel free to memorize each of their faces so you can shun them if you get the chance.

Stan O'Neal, Merrill Lynch CEO emeritus
John Thain, Merrill Lynch
Martin Sullivan, AIG CEO emeritus
Robert Willumstad, AIG (refuses his golden parachute)
Dick Fuld, Lehman Brothers
James Cayne, Bear Stearns CEO emeritus
Alan Schwartz, Bear Stearns

And, a shout out to mortgage brokers. Fannie and Freddy, Countrywide, and others. For shame. All the creeps making money off lending more than they knew people could reasonably afford. Just because there is no risk to you doesn't mean it's right. A guy from Countrywide pre-approved us for a ginormous mortgage several years ago, but it looked too financially risky so we stayed renting. A talk with another, independent, mortgage broker confirmed the wisdom of our choice. Not everyone was lending irresponsibly. It's not an excuse. Shame on you.

Finally, I would like to stamp my foot and point my finger at people who who borrowed and bought beyond their means. You knew how much money you made. You knew the terms of your mortgage. You bankrupted yourself and blighted your neighborhood. The fact that "everyone was doing it" is no excuse. Not everyone was doing it. Some of us have showed restraint and for our trouble we get to live with your mess. Once you're done feeling like a victim in this $700 billion crisis, go ahead and feel a little personal responsibility.

I would like to point out that all of this crazy cheap money lying around is largely to blame for the cost of housing. If massive mortgages weren't so readily available, so many people wouldn't be paying so much for so many houses. (Duh!) Now that prices are artificially high and money isn't cheap (or even available) we're in a mess. It's not just these junky securities that need a write-down in value, it's everyone's houses. We're not as rich as we think we are. And because nobody has done anything Wrong, we're all poorer. Capitalism isn't necessarily a synonym for social irresponsibility, we just manage to interpret it that way. Ironically, we let the unscrupulous prosper and then socialize the risk. And the results.

So there you have it. My finger-pointing on the mess for which I'm going to spend the rest of my life (as will my descendents) paying. Not amused.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Clean Your Bathrooms, People

I'm not exactly a paragon of housewifery and sparkly bathrooms, but I do have standards. But, when I swipe a wall with a damp cloth, I expect both towel and wall to stay their original color. How on earth does one render every square inch of a bathroom that dirty? I'm pretty sure I don't want to know.

Tuesday was supposed to be my day to get all kinds of things unpacked and put away. Instead, I spent it scrubbing the downstairs bathroom. Every last inch of it. It's going to take a few months of regular cleaning to get the last of the soap scum. I'm hoping that the Mr. Clean magic erasers will get the strange color out of the grout by the sink. I mean, really, how much face powder does one countertop really need?

So yes, I'm judgmental. The previous tenants of this place didn't clean. At all, apparently. The landlady did a bang-up job of mucking things out, but there is room for further improvement. I'm looking forward to unpacking and getting all settled in. I'll be cleaning as I go.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Moved!

Hi everyone!

We did it! We moved! The new house is lovely, if chaotic. The old house has waaaaay too many things that didn't sell in the garage sale. I'm glad that we have a few weeks left to get everything moved out/cleaned up. because honestly, I'm worn out.

Elise was sick for moving day, and has been pretty miserably congested all weekend. Today, however, she was feeling very well. All of that energy was a little hard for the grownups to take, but Beaker seemed to benefit from the competition. The two of them were zany and loud all day today. I'm hoping to get Elise outside a LOT tomorrow. Beaker too, maybe.

The concept of yesterday's garage sale was a little tricky for Elise to handle. Of course, she never plays with her baby toys anymore, but that doesn't mean she wants to get rid of 'em. Tricky stuff. Especially for the child of a couple of terminal pack-rats. We talked it over, and she was willing to let a few things go without a fight with the knowledge that we'd take the proceeds to get something more suitable for a big girl. It seemed reasonable at the time.

Those who know me well know that I have a real problem with Disney. And that I'm not too thrilled about Barbie dolls. Those who are familiar with the concept of foreshadowing now have a very good idea as to the toy Elise chose. If you guessed "Cinderella Barbie," you're a winner! And your prize is to keep track of the @#$% glass slippers, tiara and scepter that fall off all over the place. Mwahahahahaha. I'm hoping the princess craze will be short-lived. But I'm not holding my breath as I don't care to turn as blue as Cinderella's sparkly dress.

We're still waiting for the tooth fairy here. Elise's loose tooth refuses to fall out, in spite of the fact that its replacement is already completely through. Ugh. She has yet to figure out just how squeamish wiggly teeth make me, which I think is a good thing. More updates as we have 'em.

Anyway, we're well. We're tired. We'll take some pictures someday, and might even post 'em! Hopefully, things will come together quickly now and I'll be back in the swing of my virtual life again soon.

Monday, September 15, 2008

You've Got to Be Kidding

I promise that this will not turn into an all politics, all the time blog. Really. But golly, I take a day away from the interwebs to pack and I return only to learn that a nominee for Vice President thinks she's the current VP. In other words, she's not cooperating with a government investigation because she doesn't wanna, so there.

Can this possibly be real?! I had mostly discounted Obama's "more of the same" catchphrase as simply that-a catchphrase. But it's starting to ring a little too true. Theramin style. And it scares the bejeebus out of me.

Help.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cotton-Poly Blends Unite

It's a little hard to believe that an ignoramus in Florida can get national attention for being a cranky old man. And yet, in today's world he can. Of course, I'm doing my part to spread this mess around. But the guy is so comical and therefore an easy target. "Obama Half-Breed Muslin" indeed, you old coot.

Or at least easier than all of the quiet bigots who honestly believe they couldn't possibly be one of those horrible people who's a racist. There was a fascinating piece on NPR the other day which talked about people's experience with issues of race and their bearing on their election choices. By the end, I was disheartened that we are generally all so deluded. But, I also noticed that the participants were more aware of their bias as a result of their discussion.

I think that it's time to finally put to rest the notion of color-blindness as a virtue. People notice different skin colors. The key is to aware of your response to race, and do something productive with it. Many others have said this more eloquently than I, but seeing this doofus in action reminds me that we all have our own inner dufus. It's probably time to get in touch. A knee-jerk vote (regardless of the recipient thereof) is not in anyone's interest.

What's your inner dufus saying these days? And what crazed sign will it put out on your front lawn?

Beyond the Palin

Nothing says "successful marketing ploy" like a VP candidate that nobody can stop talking about. It's so reassuring to see that stupidity can still overshadow any attempt at thoughtful public discourse. Stay classy, John McCain. Way to serve.

We decided that watching some cage fighting on TV last night would be more relaxing than watching Charlie Gibson's interview of Sarah Palin. It turns out we were right. At least based on my bloodpressure after watching this clip.

I'm sure at this point that my readers from Montana are wondering why Palin qualified for a spot on the Republican ticket but Judy Martz didn't.

Disgracefully ignorant. I haven't mustered a donation for Obama yet, but I think now may be the time. My other action item for this week has been to join the ACLU's Constitution Voter campaign. Take a look and see if you're a Constitution Voter too!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hooray for Dr. Rabitz


I am officially no longer negligent with regard to my child's dental care. We went yesterday, Elise was a reluctant star, and all is right with the world.

Those bottom front big-kid teeth are pushing right up through, and I expect that the Tooth Fairy is going to be very busy very soon. The surprise of the day was that her top front teeth are on the way in as well. If she still has her baby teeth up there by Halloween I will be surprised. Wow!

In spite of the fact that Elise is a better tooth grower than I was, her jaw is small and the good doctor (who wears a hat with Bugs Bunny on it, given his name and all) quietly mentioned early orthodontia. As some of my faithful readers are aware, Elise still sucks her thumb in times of stress and when she's falling asleep. Dr. Rabitz gave her a very serious talk about stopping. As in, "I want you to go home and tonight, do not suck your thumb. Not even a little bit. And if you can do that, you can have TWO prizes the next time you come here." Ever the negotiator, Elise said she could probably do that for one night for a prize, but that's about it. The good doctor clarified his position by saying, "No-do not suck your thumb again at all."

From there, Elise got very quiet and a bit squirrely. She does this when she's upset and doesn't know what to do about it. We talked about the thumb issue when we got out to the parking lot, and reached the understanding that "no more, not ever" sounded pretty scary but that she will try her very best to see just how little thumb-sucking she can do. According to her teachers, she talked about thumb sucking quite a lot at school and attempted to do her rest time without it. As of this writing, I've heard her stir in her bed some but it hasn't been followed by the usual slurping sounds. Hooray! I hope it sticks.

Other bonuses from the day were that Elise got her very own new toothbrush to bring home (Spongebob Squarepants), a prize (a miniature butterfly shaped slinky), her picture on the "no cavities" wall, and her name in a drawing for a new bike (open to anyone who has a cavity-free checkup.)

The staff did a great job of explaining everything they were going to do before they did it, and it was amazing to watch the play of emotions across Elise's face. When we came to the parts that scared her most, I thought she was going to cut and run, or at the very least shriek like a mortally wounded banshee. But she didn't. In all of the worry about the thumb-sucking, we didn't really get a chance to celebrate the fact that she lived through something that has terrified her since she first heard the word "dentist." What a brave kid. We are so proud of her!

Finally, you will all be pleased to note that Dr. Rabitz informed me that our precious bodily fluids have remained unsullied since our move to San Jose. That's right, we're part of that lucky 30% of California WITHOUT FLUORIDE IN THE WATER. So now we don't have to wait for it to rain so that we can have drinking water, and we can stop giving Elise that grain alcohol at bedtime. (We saw Dr. Strangelove on TV Monday night.) Good grief. On the plus side, we are now the proud posessors of a year's supply of fluoride tablets.

Feel free to offer congratulations to our big kid in the comments. :) And stay tuned for news on this very, very wiggly tooth!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Moving Update

Today, Elise and I hauled a few more things to the new house and bummed around in the yard. Since the recent hot spell seems to be over, it was downright pleasant both inside and out. That $3 wading pool was a great investment.

Elise's bedroom is really starting to come together. We got her a canopy just like her friend Rista's, and she is enamored of it. I think she could spend the rest of her natural life playing under it, and we haven't even got the bed in there yet. Yay! It's going to be the world's best kid room. Or close to it, anyway.

In spite of the slightly odd shape of the master bedroom, we've got the furniture figured out and it's going to be awesome.

Of course, I also discovered that we have a pantry moth infestation. I'm at a loss as to how to clean all of the various crevices in the pantry (and I think also in the oversized cupboard in the 1st floor bathroom), so I'm mostly just littering the joint with sticky traps equipped with girly-moth pheremones. Hopefully, I'll nail a reasonable portion of the adults before we start moving in with food and the problem will go away on its own. Anybody out there have advice?

The neighbor's house can only be described as decrepit, and she seems to purposely be allowing pigeons to roost. I don't understand it. I do, however, note that the damn things are on my roof as well, and seem pretty content about it too. I'm dreaming of a hawk windsock or perhaps an owl or some other form of pigeon scaring device that won't also scare away the itty bitty fluffy gray birds that live in the orange tree. Again, I could use some advice.

There are ants all around the foundation and hornets nesting above the back door, but I know exactly what to do for them. Mwahahahahahaha.

Oh, and because we now have vast counter space at our disposal, I finally get to set up the item I've been coveting ever since my friend Raeghan told me about hers. Kitchen fish! The little aquarium I got to serve as a night light for Elise when she was a baby (it's too bright for that) now sits in the corner of our new counter, just below a little window. It's going to be awesome.

Only 9 more days to go! The house isn't nearly messy enough, and I'm going to be spending the rest of this week packing like a fiend.

Tomorrow was going to be a big push, but I was able to get Elise into the dentist mid-morning so at least the first half of the day will be a bit of a wash. On the plus side, we can see the new tooth that's growing in, and the wiggly tooth is now so loose that I get the heebie-jeebies just looking at it. And Elise is talking a little differently because of it, which I am just loving. She has a little wooden box that will be just perfect as a tooth-fairy mailbox, and she's anxiously awaiting the chance to put it to use. I'm thinking of how to make a miniature, sparkly note from the tooth fairy to put in there. Especially now that I packed all of the crapft supplies...

Okay, that's really it. I need to sleep! Will post more "exciting" moving details as they become available.

Not Amused

I was going to try to ignore Sarah Palin. And, I still maintain that we all should. But that appears to be impossible, so I'd like to share a few items that I think are essential for any voter who might be temporarily insane enough to consider casting a vote for a ticket that includes this person.

First, there are plenty of letters purportedly by Wasilla residents. Check out Snopes for help sorting the wheat from the chaff. After you're done there and maybe feeling a little humor impaired, head for Palinfacts. If she can make up stuff in her convention speech, you should at least get to play along.

What with the sun rising in the east and all, I found the Washington Post piece about Palin's family politics particularly informative. I will also point out that Britney Spears was widely criticized for not putting her kid in a carseat, but small-town values Palin got to fire the only person who warned her about the same thing. And that's the least worrying of the "oversights" detailed in the article. No wonder they won't let her give real interviews.

I tend to steer clear of leftist media for the same reason I steer clear of the rightists because of the proud disavowal of objectivity. It hurts my brain. So, take what you will from this Mother Jones article. Cheney gets away with this crap because he's downright scary. I defy anyone to let Palin get away with it just because she's a girl.

And, just in case you aren't utterly sick of every government scandal being known as some sort of "gate" (I want more attention to fences. I hear they make for good neighbors...), Troopergate is coming to a political theater near you. Unless the investigation is quietly derailed. We just report the news-you decide.

Because I am an uppity elitist and, like, value education and thinking and stuff, I will now point out that George W. makes Sarah P look like a Rhodes Scholar. Snark snark snark. I'm not impressed, but somebody out there please explain to me why I should be and I'll attempt to mend my ways.

Just in case anyone stumbles across this blog while googling for the Painted Pitbull, I'd like to point out that I'm not anti-Palin. I'm just anti-SARAH Palin. If you must give your support to a Palin, go for the one with the best qualifications: