Blog-o! Notes from latte.ca

Wed, 30 Aug 2006
Conversations With Delphine

Blake and I usually tidy up the living room every night after the girls are in bed, but last night we were just too tired and couldn't be bothered.

This morning Delphine was appalled when she came into the living room.

"It's so messy! It was messy ALL NIGHT! You guys were supposed to tidy up!"

I think 4:30 has just officially become "Tidy-Up Time". "You guys" indeed!

[Posted at 14:14 by Amy Brown] link

Cc:-ed to the MacPython list, because they might know.

Hello,

I'm trying to get Subversion bindings for my installed version of MacPython (/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.4/) This seems to mean that I want to install Subversion, and if so, I would like to get it hooked up to Apache so that I can connect to http://svn.latte.ca/ (or whatever) on my work computer and access my home repository.

Now, I can install the subversion python bindings using DarwinPorts, but that won't hook into the Framework version of Python, so I've downloaded the Subversion 1.3.2 sources, and I can build them, but they complain about my version of Apache. Specifically, about apxs being too old.

Do I really need to upgrade apache to Apache 2 to get this all working?

Is there a good way of replacing the default Apache with Apache 2, or is that a really bad idea because the Software Update will get horribly confused?

Is there another place I should be asking these questions?

Thanks,
Blake.

[Posted at 12:47 by Blake Winton] link
Fri, 25 Aug 2006
Books in August

The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping our children thrive when the world overwhelms them by Elaine Aron. After Delphine decided she hated music class because the leader was too loud, a friend recommended I read this book. It is about the 15 to 20 percent of children who are apparently highly sensitive, and how to parent them effectively without making them miserable.

So is Delphine highly sensitive? Kind of... she's unusually sensitive to noises, and to the emotional state of others. Combine the two and logically you could determine that she is very sensitive to noisy expressions of emotion, as we saw at the music class and as Baba's friend Ann found out. (She had cause to gasp loudly in surprise in Delphine's presence once; Delphine cried a lot, and ever since then Delphine has periodically mentioned, "Ann shouted, and then I cried. Why did Ann shout?")

It does make her easy to discipline by shouting at her, but I'm not a big proponent of the "Discipline by Scaring the Shit out of your Child" method, so I try to avoid it. (Easier said than done, since shouting is what I do when I'm angry, and getting angry is what I do when I'm depressed, and depressed is what I get alarmingly easily, it seems. More about that later, though.)

Delphine's not sensitive to other things that the book discusses though; she doesn't care if her food touches, and she isn't bothered by tags on clothing or seams on socks or tactile annoyances of that nature. Thank goodness, because it seems like it would be irritating to have to work around those kinds of sensitivities. I am quite sympathetic to Delphine's sensitivities because I think I share them (I will read the adult version of the book sometime and see) and so I can quite easily understand her and figure out what is going to upset her, especially now that I have read this book and know what patterns and situations to watch for.

I wouldn't read this book if you don't think you have a sensitive child, because that would be borrowing trouble — if you don't have to worry about this stuff I would strongly recommend you don't. But if you think your child might be sensitive, or seems to react disproportionately to certain situations, this book is probably worth a look.

Vices of My Blood by Maureen Jennings is a murder mystery set in Victorian Toronto, which is just brilliant. I love getting a picture of what Toronto was like in the past, and Jennings does a great job painting that picture. The characters are appealing and the mystery was good; what more can you ask?

How To Read Literature Like A Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide To Reading Between The Lines by Thomas C. Foster. I am frankly a little pissed off that I haven't read this book before. I have been hinting around needing a book like this for ages — when I read How To Read and Why by Harold Bloom, I thought it really failed to discuss the How part. This book does.

The book is a high-level discussion of the symbolism found in literature: every trip is a quest; eating is always significant, usually of communion or trust among the eaters; weather is usually about something other than weather; and so on. Foster also discusses sonnets, and briefly (one chapter each) touches on Shakespeare, the Bible, Children's Literature, and mythology (mainly Greek) as precursors or fodder for allusions or roots or — there must be a word for this but I can't think of it — anyway, stuff that writers allude or refer to in order to enrich their text. Foster discusses intentionality (did the author really mean that to be a symbol/allusion/pattern? Answer: yes.) and irony, and then caps the whole thing off with a short story to practice your newfound skills on.

I love this book. I might buy a copy. It makes me wish I had read it before I read Cat's Eye because I am sure I missed a whole lot in that book by just reading for plot. But I have the rest of my life to try and read more deeply.

It made me think, though. First, reading like a professor seems like a lot of work; you have to keep track of symbols, you have to look for patterns, you have to try and figure out where you have seen this story or this character before, you are always looking for the next layer or layers of meaning below the simple action and dialogue in the story. And is it worth it? Do you really get that much more out of the book? I guess you do, or else no-one would bother.

And then, after you have been doing that for a few years and get good at it and do it automatically, mustn't it be horribly disappointing when you pick up a normal book, a potboiler someone left at the cottage or something, and you keep trying to find depths of meaning that just aren't there?

Like when you are used to watching Buffy and Firefly, and you watch a regular show and you realize that the enticing hints being dropped will never be picked up on, that the characters really are as one-dimentional as they seem, that the really obvious foreshadowing is actually just plain foreshadowing and not the clever misdirect you assumed it would be.

It must be like when you drink Manischewitz kosher wine and at first it tastes like sweet grape juice and you are waiting for the hit of spiciness or mellowness or depth that you would get if it were a good wine, like maybe ice wine... but instead it just turns sour and flat.

And another thing. The short story he gives as an example to practice on. It's a lovely story and being the simple-minded lass I am, I enjoyed it for the characters and the plot and the setting. Then I re-read it and tried to find the symbolism and allusions and the meaning, and I came up with a couple of pretty good insights. Then I read the professor's interpretation, and as it turns out the end of the story is a big huge, kind-of-obvious reference to Persephone's journey into Hades which I entirely missed, not surprisingly because I know nothing about Greek mythology (although Foster did helpfully present the myth earlier in the book, so I can't entirely plead ignorance.)

But now I have this idea that reading like a professor is like solving a riddle, and that in this case I have failed. I know that isn't entirely true; I'm sure that having been able to see that allusion contributes to one's appreciation of the story and therefore it is valuable, but I enjoyed the story for what I got out of it without making that connection. But I can't help but feel like I got it wrong, somehow, and that I have to "solve" each piece of literature as if it were a mathematical problem.

Thus I conjure up an image of myself poring through heaps of classics trying to figure out the hidden meaning, and triumphantly snapping each one closed and setting it aside as I "decode" it. "Figured out that one! Next!" Which I am sure is not the point.

[Posted at 10:42 by Amy Brown] link
Thu, 24 Aug 2006
Snakes on an Apple!

As I mentioned before, we got a Mac Mini. It's been a bit of a pain getting it all set up, but I think we're finally done. The web server is moved over, along with all the websites. The mail server is moved over, and I took the opportunity to delete my mother's account. (That's not as bad as it sounds. She had it redirecting to GMail anyways, and the error message says as much. Of course, since I haven't told her about it yet, this will probably come as a bit of a surprise.) Uh, and that turned out to be all the servers I was running. Well, I was running CherryPy, and some other stuff, but it wasn't particularly important, and I've found better ways of doing it, for the most part.

But that's not really why I'm posting here. I'm posting here because I got some cool Python stuff working under the Mac, and I wanted to share it. Specifically, I (or rather, my wife and I) wanted to have a window showing on the login screen, displaying the weather. After several bits of trial and error, and liberal "borrowing" from Dethe Elza's Pastels project I finally got something which would do what I wanted. First, the code:

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from AppKit import NSObject, NSApplication, NSTimer, NSApp, NSURL
from AppKit import NSURLRequest, NSWindow, NSTitledWindowMask
from AppKit import NSClosableWindowMask, NSMiniaturizableWindowMask
from AppKit import NSResizableWindowMask, NSBackingStoreBuffered
from BeautifulSoup import BeautifulSoup
from PyObjCTools import AppHelper
from WebKit import WebView, WebDataSource

import os
import stat
import time
import urllib

width, height = 620, 540

def Window(title, width, height, view=None):
    window = NSWindow.alloc().initWithContentRect_styleMask_backing_defer_(
        ((0,0),(width,height)),
        NSTitledWindowMask |
        NSClosableWindowMask | 
        NSMiniaturizableWindowMask |
        NSResizableWindowMask,
        NSBackingStoreBuffered,
        False)
    window.setTitle_(title)
    if view:
        window.setContentView_(view)
    window.orderFront_(window)
    return window

class MyAppDelegate(NSObject):
    def update( self, timer ):
        y = urllib.urlopen( str(self.wUrl) ).read()
        b = BeautifulSoup( y )
        self.view.mainFrame().loadHTMLString_baseURL_(
            """<html><head><title>test<title>%s<head>
            <body>%s<body><html>""" %
            ("".join( [str(x) for x in b.head.findAll( 'style' )]), b.body.div.div.div.div.div),
            self.wUrl )

    def applicationDidFinishLaunching_(self, notification):
        rect = ((0,0),(width, height))
        self.view = WebView.alloc().initWithFrame_(rect)
        self.window = Window('Pastels Test', width, height, self.view)
        self.window_delegate = MyWindowDelegate.alloc().init()
        self.window.setDelegate_(self.window_delegate)
        self.wUrl = NSURL.alloc().initWithString_(
            "http://weatheroffice.ec.gc.ca/city/pages/on-143_metric_e.html")
        self.update( None )
        timer = NSTimer.scheduledTimerWithTimeInterval_target_selector_userInfo_repeats_(
            1800, self, 'update', None, True )

class MyWindowDelegate(NSObject):
    def windowWillClose_(self, notification):
        NSApp().terminate_(self)

def main():
    app_delegate = MyAppDelegate.alloc().init()
    NSApplication.sharedApplication().setDelegate_(app_delegate)   
    AppHelper.runEventLoop(installInterrupt=True)

if __name__ == "__main__":
    while True:
        if os.stat( "/dev/console" )[stat.ST_UID] == 0:
            # If the console is owned by root, start the app.
            main()
        else:
            # Otherwise, sleep until it is.
            time.sleep( 10 )


And next, the launchd plist file that keeps it running:

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<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN"
"http://www.apple.
com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">
<dict>  
    <key>Label</key>
    <string>ca.latte.update.login.weather</string>
    <key>ProgramArguments</key>
    <array> 
        <string>/path/to/test.py</string>
    </array>
    <key>ServiceDescription</key>
    <string>A program to pop up the weather in a box</string>
    <key>LowPriorityIO</key>
    <true/>
    <key>RunAtLoad</key>
    <true/>
    <key>OnDemand</key>
    <false/>
    <key>Nice</key>
    <integer>1</integer>
    <key>StandardOutPath</key>
    <string>/path/to/loginWeather.out</string>
    <key>StandardErrorPath</key>
    <string>/path/to/loginWeather.err</string>
</dict>
</plist>

And there you have it. Way cooler than my previous attempt, which tried to write using sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow LoginwindowText -string "parsed weather info here".

If any of you have any questions, I'ld love to answer them as best I can. Just comment, and I'll see what I can dig up. By which I mean email Dethe, and ask him. ;)

[Posted at 22:23 by Blake Winton] link
Sun, 20 Aug 2006
Why?

Delphine (still) asks us why a lot. Sadly, sometimes I don't have a good answer, which sort of led to the conversation we had this afternoon.

[First scene. Two cactuses are dancing.]
Delphine: "Why are the cactuses?"
Me: "Well, uh, they just are. Questions about why a thing is don't really have answers."

[Next scene. A goat has paint on himself.]
Delphine: "Why is he dirty?"
Me: "..."
Delphine: "He's dirty cause he was painting."

So, I guess some questions about why a thing is something are easy to answer but some questions about why a thing is something have no good answer. Can anyone tell me what the difference between the questions is, and how to explain it to a three-year-old without using words like "intrinsic", or "just because"?

[Posted at 14:16 by Blake Winton] link
Sat, 19 Aug 2006

The short-term goal of all this running foolishness is to run the 5K event in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon on September 24th, in aid of the Assaulted Women's Helpline. Initially my friend Michelle talked me into doing the 5K walk because she is involved with the helpline, and then I decided to upgrade to the run. And now I have to collect pledges, which I hate doing. I sent out email, and I am posting here, and hopefully that will earn me enough pledges to get me off the hook.

It makes it easier that this is a pretty compelling cause. If you want some idea of why the helpline is needed, go to their chilling page on how to erase your online tracks. Can you imagine living under that kind of scrutiny, with someone who believes they are entitled to that kind of control over you, and having no way out? It makes me angry just thinking about it.

So if you want to pledge some money for a good cause, or just to express your astonishment that I am actually running anywhere for any reason, here's my online pledge page. Thank you!

[Posted at 22:25 by Amy Brown] link
Fri, 18 Aug 2006

I went running last night with my friend Michelle, my real-life inspiration for all this perspiration. It was the first time I have been running with someone else, apart from the clinic. It was easier than running alone; the time goes a little faster. We chatted about this and that and she gave me some hard won running tips. (Breathing is good!) She is training for a half-marathon which means she runs for, like, multiple hours at a time, and is doing hill training and real athletic things like that. That's so cool!

Since I was running with company (company, moreover, with a fancy interval-timing watch) I decided to try three-and-ones for the first time. The first set was fairly hard but we slowed down a little and the rest were quite doable, if a smidgen on the long side.

Running with someone was fun, but running alone is nice, too — it's good to have some time alone with myself. I think it will be less pleasant as I increase my running time; I imagine it will be harder work and I will find it more difficult to keep my mind off the pain, or maybe the boredom. Perhaps that is when I will treat myself to an iPod.

I'm back in a Learn To Run clinic again; last Saturday was the first meeting. Obviously, since I attended the first two weeks of the last clinic before my injured knee forced me to drop out, it was all familiar material. The run portion was a cakewalk for me since it was two minutes walking, one minute running, although we were running a little faster than I have been. I hit it off with another girl and we ran quite far behind everyone else. She was embarrassed but I didn't care; better to run slow and keep running than to run fast, save face, and hurt yourself.

[Posted at 13:29 by Amy Brown] link
Wed, 16 Aug 2006

Cordelia is talking. She says "Cat". Okay, she says "Gah!" But she says it a lot, when she sees a cat. "Gah! Gah gah gah!" And she grins, and claps her hands. She loves the gahs.

She isn't walking yet, but she stands with aplomb, holding things in her hands, picking them up, putting them down again, drinking from her sippy cup while holding something in her other hand and not falling over, all at the same time.

She has an excellent sense of humour, with a particular taste for the absurd; silly hats, funny faces, things where they are not supposed to be give her pleasure and result in infectious throaty chuckles. She also likes it if you run towards her making silly noises and then nibble her on the neck. But then, who doesn't? Try it on your boss sometime.

She is a bit mischievious; the other day I was on the computer while she played and Delphine was napping on the big bed. I suddenly noticed that Cordelia was heading into our bedroom to torment Delphine, so I pushed my chair back and said "uh-uh"; Cordelia immediately squealed with delight and accelerated, her little hands slap-slap-slapping on the hardwood. "Chase me!" Little monster!

She sleeps quite well, provided she is not disturbed. I put her down after a short ritual at about 6:30, and she sleeps until 6:00 the next morning, with maybe one or two breaks to howl a couple of times, then back to sleep. She's fairly easily woken, so we have had to move Delphine's bed into the office/living room. Poor Delphine goes to bed in the big bed and then when we come to bed we move her into the office; she has been squeezed out of her own bedroom altogether. I guess that's the price you pay for being the one who sleeps well. It will be nice when they each have their own room.

Cordelia doesn't like to be spoon-fed, so I feed her finger food as much as I can; toast, crackers, cereal, beans, zucchini, cooked carrot, fruit. She gets a fairly good variety, most of which seems to go on the floor. But she's still nursing three or more times a day, so I am not too worried about it.

It seems weird that she is almost a year old. I am glad; I am looking forward to having two walking, talking, going-to-the-bathroom-all-by-themselves kids. But it still seems kind of soon, somehow. This baby is growing up much faster than the last one did.

[Posted at 15:15 by Amy Brown] link

Yesterday Delphine and Cordelia and I went out to run some errands. On the way home Delphine said, "Do you remember the Vikings? In Daddy's movie?"

I didn't remember, but she went on to tell me the story of the Vikings, most of which I missed but which ended with "They went home. The end."

Then she decided she was going to be a Viking, so she put on her imaginary Viking helmet and charged around happily shouting "Vike! Vike! Vike!"

[Posted at 14:25 by Amy Brown] link
Fri, 11 Aug 2006
Coming Back

(Return path marked in green.)

Based on my experiences with tricky detours heading up to Balm Beach, I thought that I should just take nice straight routes home, and see how that worked out. So I took Highway 6/27 straight into Barrie, then Concession Road 10 to Bradford, then Yonge Street stright to Finch Station.

As I said in the previous post, there was some craziness on the trip back. The weather prediction was a 40% chance of thunderstorms. I figure those are better odds than you would get at a casino, and I don't really have any other way to get home, so it didn't really affect my planning. I got to Barrie in record time, and figured that if the rest of the trip was that easy, I would have nothing to worry about. After an Iced Capp at Timmy's I made my way onto Concession Road 10, and kept on keeping on. Sure enough, 20 minutes out of Barrie, the skies opened, and a torrential downpour started. For most of it I was reduced to peering out of one mostly-closed eye, seeing only a few tens of feet ahead of me, since the rain was apparently pelting its way through my sunglasses, to hit me in the eyes. I suppose, in retrospect, that that was a good clue to me that I should have pulled over to the side of the road, and waited it out, but at the time, I figured I should just keep on riding, over to the edge more so that cars wouldn't hit me, because who knows how long the rain would last, and I didn't want to be stuck standing there for hours. Well, the rain didn't last that long, but it did manage to completely soak me, and my shoes didn't dry out that night, nor the next. Having said that, the wet shirt and shorts did manage to keep me comfortably cool for the rest of the ride.

South of Barrie, I stopped in Bradford for a rest, gave Amy a call, and went on South down Yonge. It was getting a little hillier, and so I tried to take it a little easier, stopping every now and then. I met a nice kid who was taking the bus to his job at Canada's Wonderland. He was hoping for a thunderstorm, so that he could sit around and do nothing, and still get paid. Heh. He was also quite impressed at my trip so far. Finally, I saw the CN Tower. What a rush that was. I worked out at one point that I could describe my trip as "Go as far north as you can see. Then look north again, and go as far north as you can see. Lather. Rinse. Repeat." I never did manage to keep track of how many times you would have to do that, but it's sort of a neat idea. Maybe next year.

[Posted at 22:03 by Blake Winton] link
Books in July and August

It has been way too long since I did this, and I have read about a thousand books. I hope I don't miss any.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell is a book I read before. Since we own a copy, and it seems to be a book that is still being referred to quite a lot (notably in Child's Play by Silken Laumann) I thought I would give it another whirl. It's still an interesting and thought-provoking book about the reasons why people do things, and I am glad I gave it another read.

It was alarming, though, to realize how little of it I recalled from the last time I read it. It made me realize again how little I actually absorb of the books I read. So I have started taking notes while I read, which is incredibly geeky, but it's such a waste of time to read so much and not really take any of it in. Plus it's an excuse to buy myself some cool notebooks and pens. (The real reason I had children is so I could buy school supplies every August.)

Porgy by DuBose Heyward. I got this out of the library because it was mentioned on the flap of the dustjacked of a wonderful picture-book rendition of the lyrics to Gershwin's "Summertime", and I was intrigued that Porgy and Bess started off as a novel. A few pages into the book I was tempted to give up on it because of the annoying phonetic handling of vernacular ("Yo' bes sabe yo' talk for dem damn dice.") which makes the book nigh-unreadable until you get used to it, and that creepy early-1900s racism ("Crown was crouched for a second spring, with lips drawn from gleaming teeth. The light fell strong upon thrusting jaw, and threw the sloping brow into shadow.") But for all that I kept going because I wanted to know what happened next, and I was interested in the characters, and it turned out to be an enjoyable and thought-provoking read, with a couple of excellent turns of plot.

When Anger Hurts Your Kids: A Parent's Guide by Patrick Fanning, Kim Paleg, Dana Landis, and Matthew McKay. I ordered this book from the library because I have some trouble controlling my temper, and when I get angry I tend to do the kind of mean things to my children which appall me when I see other people do them on television. Nothing terrible, and I don't think it is bad enough to do any irreparable harm, but I still don't like to be an asshole parent, even just on occasion. Especially since every mean thing I do to Delphine, she turns around and does to Cordelia. Nothing quite like the mirror of a child's mimicry to show you how you really are.

So this book had some useful advice, most of which I already knew. It covered a lot of information about what to expect from children at different ages — apparently a lot of people who get angry at their children do it because they have unreasonable expectations. That's not my problem, I have a pretty good handle on normal childhood development. There was also information about how to talk to yourself about a situation; instead of saying to yourself, "She's dawdling to get on my nerves, she knows we are running late and she is deliberately sabotaging me", you should say "she is at a stage where she doesn't like to be hurried, I need to give her lots of warning,..." But I don't see Delphine as vindictive or deliberately difficult, either. So that's not my problem, either.

My problem is that I get irritated when I ask her to do something and she doesn't, and that she is at a stage where she is defiant towards me specifically because I am her mother, because she is asserting her independence from me. So I tell her to do something, and she automatically says "no" because that is the stage she is in. Which is all well and good, but sometimes I am just not up to jollying her along and distracting her and offering reasonable choices, sometimes I just damn well want her to do what I tell her to, and now. So I shout at her. My problem is that I need to get more sleep and to not be in constant physical pain, or fear of it, so that I have the patience to deal with her. The better news is that she seems to be moving out of that defiant phase into something a little more reasonable.

Clean and Green: The Complete Guide to Non-Toxic and Environmentally Safe Housekeeping by Annie Berthold-Bond. I have been looking for a useful book on hippie housecleaning ever since the smell of my usual all-purpose cleaner started to make me feel ill. I read a couple that were useless, and then I got to this one, which is about perfect. It goes over all the ingredients you will need to make your own safe(ish) cleaning supplies, discussing what they are and how they work, and then offers about a million recipes for each application. I used to seek the one perfect recipe for each product (all-purpose cleaner, tub scourer, etc) but I think this way is better, since it allows you to tailor your cleaners to your needs.

Anyway, I liked this book so much that I went out and bought a copy, and it now lives in my kitchen for easy reference at any time. I like how making your own cleaning products brings an element of creativity to the cleaning process.

The only concern I have with this book is that it treats Borax as if it were as non-toxic as vinegar and baking soda, which it really isn't.

The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey.

This book is a collection of essays, one for each team in the World Cup finals, about football and the countries themselves and how they relate. Some of the essays are more about football, some of them are more about the country, some of them aren't really about either, but most of them are good and interesting and added another dimension to the whole World Cup experience.

I had this on order from the library months ago, but it only came in just before the end of the World Cup. I managed to squeeze in a couple of essays — Italy and France, of course, and Brazil and England — before the Final. The Brazil essay, by John Lanchester, has a wonderful description of why football is such a beautiful game, and so thrilling and hard to watch:

That's what you learn, as soon as you start to play and watch football: that football is difficult and beautiful, and that the two are related. Players kick the ball to one another, pass into empty space which is suddenly filled by a player who wasn't there two seconds ago and who is running at full pelt and who without looking or breaking stride knocks the ball back to a third player who he surely can't have seen who then, also at full pelt and without breaking stride, crosses the ball at sixty miles an hour to land on the head of a fourth player who has run seventy meters to get there and who, again all in stride, jumps and heads the ball with, once you realize how hard this is, unbelieveable power and accuracy toward a corner of the goal just exactly where the goalkeeper, executing some complex physics entirely without conscious thought and through muscle-memory, has expected it to be, so that all this grace and speed and muscle and athleticism and attention to detail and power and precision passion comes to nothing, will never appear on a score-sheet or match report and will likely be forgotten a day later by everybody who saw it or took part in it. This is the beauty and also the strange fragility, the evanescence of football.

Access All Areas by Ninjalicious is a book about urban exploration, which is the fine art of going places you're not supposed to go, mainly abandoned buildings or parts of buildings, construction sites, drainage systems, and the like. This book is very well-written; Ninjalicious (if that is his real name!) is funny, persuasive, passionate, and strongly moral, which makes it all the more miserable that he died (almost exactly a year ago) of some stupid liver disease. So donate your organs, people, you won't need them after you're dead.

Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic by John De Graaf, David Wann, and Thomas H. Naylor is a book which I'm sure I must have read years ago in my anti-establishment, screw-The-Man days, but which I don't remember at all. It is all about how Americans decided sometime in the fifties to put money and things before time, so now we (they) are all working their asses off to earn plenty of money to buy things they don't have time to enjoy, and how stupid is that?

They covered some very interesting material about philosophical insights into leisure time; the fact that this stuff is new to me suggests that I didn't actually read this book before, because I am all about the leisure and I am sure I would have remembered it if I had come across it. Apparently plenty of very intelligent people have thought long and hard about the need to take time away from work and walk around or read or garden or mess about in boats. I thought I was just lazy, but no, I was walking in the intellectual footsteps of some of the greatest thinkers in history.

The authors tend to profligately blame affluenza for all the troubles of our time, from obesity to pollution, which is mostly fair but gets a little hysterical after eight chapters. Anyway, thought-provoking, interesting, I give it two thumbs up.

Bringing Back The Dodo by Wayne Grady This is a collection of essays about nature and science, quite interesting although some of Grady's pet theories are pretty useless; the man desperately needs to read Guns, Germs and Steel. When he's not theorizing he's smart and readable.

Devil May Care by Sheri McInnis is a fluffy beach read which I actually read on a beach; possibly a lifetime first for me. (I didn't care much for beaches before I had children. Don't care much for them now, really.) A pleasant read with an interesting meta-physical twist and a surprisingly ambiguous conclusion.

Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood was more enjoyable than I thought it would be. (I just read it because I'm Canadian and I should and it's good for me, kind of like I eat Red River Cereal. Chew, chew, chew, chew.) It was a bit hard to read as the mother of girls — is this what they're in for? But I really (really, painfully) related to the protagonist's attitude to men and women, and after I decided not to read it at the cottage but save it for the city, I really got into it. (It's not really a cottage book; too depressing, too much thought required.)

A Thousand Barrels A Second: The Coming Oil Break Point and the Challenges Facing An Energy Dependent World by James Tertzakian. There's one of those self-explanatory sub-titles for you. This is the more sane version of that The Long Emergency book by James Kunstler I read last year; Tertzakian thinks we are coming to a break point in the oil economy — there is a limited supply of oil, and soon it will become too expensive to fuel our economy in the manner to which we have all become accustomed. Kunstler figures there is going to be some kind of post-industrial revolution, millions will die and the rest of us will go back to living in the Shire; Tertzakian thinks the change will be slow enough to allow us to adapt, with some difficulty, and that technology will ultimately save the day.

I am leaning towards Tertzakian's view, if only because it is a little less scary. I think life is going to become drastically different in the next few decades, and I think the twentieth century will be looked on as one of unparalleled energy consumption, but I think we will be able to make the transition to a less energy-intensive society without too much pain, at least here in nice stable Canada. I also think cheap, consumer airplane travel will sooner or later be history, so do your international trips now before the government gets smart and starts taxing aviation fuel like they should.

Blake and I are sitting pretty in this whole situation because we have, almost accidentally, made a life for ourselves which is much less oil-intensive than the average North American's. We don't have a car, Blake bikes to work, I can do all my errands without even using public transit. I buy local produce as much as I can, and lean towards organics where practical. We live in a multi-family dwelling, so we don't spend as much on heating as we would in a house. All in all, when the revolution (or evolution) comes, it is going to be much less painful for us than it will for the Joe Suburb family who live miles away from the grocery store and need two cars just to carry on their business.

How Not To Be The Perfect Mother by Libby Purves. I had to buy this from Amazon because the Toronto Public Library doesn't have a copy, except in Cantonese. It arrived yesterday, just in the nick of time because I needed a morale boost. Libby Purves is a mother of two who tells is like it is. Like it really is. On breast feeding:

Let nobody kid you that breastfeeding is not going to be hell at first. That mammary lobbyists are so keen to promote 'breast is best' (well, it is) that many of them have tended to slide rather dishonestly over the discomfort and exhaustion of the first weeks. Consequently, I suspect, a lot of willing mothers give up, convinced that they are rare cases who 'can't do it'. And indeed, anyone with throbbing, bleeding nipples, dreadful heavy swollen red bosoms, sharp needling letdown pains and a baby who still demands feeding every hour and a half at six weeks old, is entitled to any tantrum she cares to throw. I remember waking my husband up at 3 a.m. one painful morning with the words, 'Shall I tell you something? I hate bloody breastfeeding, that's what!' There are many paintings of the Madonna and Child, but in none of these has the feeding Madonna got her teeth clenched and her toes curled, as the dreadful infant mouth takes its first agonizing drag.

She makes mothering a baby sound like the cross between the appalling annoyance and the jolly adventure that it really is (often in the same hour,) and it's such a relief to know that I am not the only one who finds it so.

Another great advantage of handing new babies around to everybody ('The milk bill? Ah, yes, I'll just find the money — take the baby, would you?') is that new babies need to be talked to. And you may not feel like doing it. Next to the section on 'bonding' in the baby books, there is generally a paean of praise for mothers who talk all the time to their babies, maintain 'eye contact', allow infants to study their faces endlessly, and stick out their tongues to test reflexes. This is fine, when you have the time and if you are fortunate enough to have developed an instant adoration of the baby. If you are busy, or tired, or depressed at your life with this unsmiling little creature which gives nothing back and wakes you up four crippling times a night, the task of chatting to it may loom as unwelcome as all the other hundred jobs you have to do in your twenty-four-hour day. Despite underlying love, I hated talking to my second child for nearly two months; she never smiled until then, and I was exhausted, ill, and in constant jealous demand from the older child.

Just to read someone admit that other mothers sometimes feel this way is immensely reassuring and makes the whole business a lot easier to deal with. Babies are hard, dude. Okay, just one more quote (I love this woman; I would just retype this whole book if it wouldn't be faster to lend it to you):

When my son was four weeks old, he had only been to three places in his life: hospital, home and the Olympia Horse Show. We had friends with a box, and permanent guest tickets, and the baby's godfather John Parker was driving his coach-and-four in the final tableau and taking a team of Hungarian greys through an avenue of fire. So every single night I set off across London with the basket, wearing a loose-fitting lurex top to combine the constant feeding with a gesture towards glamour; and every night, in the box, Nicholas lay in state while friendly drunken Scotsmen lurched up to press lucky pound notes into his fist. He smiled at everyone, fed contentedly, and dozed off while Dorian Williams bawled his commentary on the show-jumping across the vast arena below. 'Thank God,' the baby seemed to be saying, his beady eyes swivelling busily around the scene, 'someone has at last understood my requirements.' All he had ever wanted, to keep him passably amused, was ten thousand people, four military bands, two hundred horses and a boxful of tipsy admirers.

[Posted at 14:58 by Amy Brown] link
Fri, 04 Aug 2006

This is my first post with PyBlosxom on OSX.

[Posted at 13:49 by Amy Brown] link
Thu, 03 Aug 2006
Two and Ones

I'm into two and ones, two minutes of running and one minute of walking. I've been for two runs at that pace and they have been hard but not impossible. I had to consciously slow myself down so that I would be able to get through the two minutes a couple of times, and some of those one minute breaks seemed pretty short, but I've managed. I think I will do another couple of runs at this pace before I move to three-and-ones; so far I have only done two-and-one in the blistering heat and humidity, so I am curious to see how they are in reasonable weather.

Also next weekend my Learn To Run clinic (second attempt) begins; they will start back at one-and-twos so I will be in great shape for that.

I continue to shock myself with how motivated I am to run, but I know why. I usually exercise because I knew I should exercise, because it's Good For Me. I don't know what the human aversion is to doing things just because they're Good For You, but it definitely exists: I hated to exercise and would create all kinds of excuses not to do it.

But running has managed to elude being categorized as exercise in my brain; somehow it seems to have slipped into some kind of Hobbies and Activities category. I run for the sake of running, not for the exercise or because it's good for me or to lower my cholesterol or lose weight. I run so that I can run more, so that I get better at it, so that I can do a 5K in September.

So much so, in fact, that when I noticed my shorts were getting a little looser it took me a while to think that, yeah, it's probably because of the running. I actually thought, surely twenty minutes of running three times a week wouldn't make that much difference. But I haven't changed anything else, so that must be it. (Unless I do have some wasting disease, which was my first thought.)

[Posted at 22:03 by Amy Brown] link
Conversations with Delphine, Part X

Power

We installed new compact fluorescents in the bathroom because the government told us to. Delphine, of course, doesn't miss a trick, and she said,

"It's all white!"

"Yeah, we changed the light bulbs."

"Why?"

"These ones use less power."

"Power like the genie [from Aladdin]?"

Okay, that's not particularly funny, I just love to watch her learn these new concepts and piece together the world. And her perspective makes me think; is electric power the same as genie power?

We're also working on homonyms (not really working on, I just happened to get a book called Did You Say Pears? by Arlene Alda out of the library, and it is about homonyms and homophones, so she's had them on her mind lately), and the other day she said "There are two mangoes! Mango the colour, and mango the fruit!" And I wasn't sure whether to correct her or not; it's not exactly a homophone because the two words are obviously related, but I hate to split hairs with her on something so esoteric. She's three!

Poop

Today we had everyone over for dinner. After we were all finished eating Delphine decided she had to use the facilities, which are unfortunately right next to the dining area, and she still does all her business with the door open. So she did her thing, which of course turned out to be pretty noisy, and we all laughed.

"Are you laughing at me? I just farted!"

"Farts are funny," I said, which provoked a short discussion about why it's not funny when Zaida farts. I said we're laughing on the inside.

Then Delphine said "I have lots of farts. I'm full of farts!"

And then she got off the toilet and assumed the "please wipe my bum" position so I had to excuse myself and take care of her business while trying not to pee myself laughing. Ah, parenthood.

[Posted at 21:50 by Amy Brown] link
Thirty-One

Tuesday was my birthday, and I am finally thirty-one. Thirty-one is a bit more convincing than thirty, which sounds a bit like you're making it up, or at least rounding. And when you're thirty-one you're really, properly in your thirties, not just, thirty.

Delphine's daycare is closed this week, so I invited a bunch of her friends over and the day that worked for everyone happened to be my birthday, so we had Ursa and Tanya over, and Dexter and Ellen and Maxine. I was talking to Delphine about our plans for the day over breakfast, and I said, "Who's coming over today?" She said "Dexter." "Who else?" "Ellen, and Maxine."

I said, "Who else?"

She said, "Who?"

"Ursa!"

"Ursa?" She looked slightly alarmed. "Two friends?"

"Yeah, two friends! Is two friends too many?"

"Yeah. Why two friends?"

It turned out that two friends wasn't actually too many, but she didn't like the idea of it.

Anyway, we got some KFC (which I always have for my birthday), and Morgan and Kathryn came over too, and Morgan brought cake, so the house was noisy and full of fun for my birthday, which I love. I was absolutely exhausted by the end of it all, but it was a good exhaustion. I like my friends. And my friends' children.

Then tonight was the family dinner; Morgan and Erik and Baba and Zaida came over and we had steak and mashed potatoes and honey-spice cake which Blake made for me.

It has been a nice birthday, unambitious and simple and thoroughly enjoyable.

[Posted at 21:35 by Amy Brown] link