Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Boom The Cannon!

It's been a while since I've posted a sample of my eldest daughter's literary attainments online.

(Heck, it's been a while since I've posted anything online.)

But one never quite knows what one is going to get with the Pillowfight Fairy. In years past we've seen diagrams for schemes of airborne sheep rustling, to pictures of dungeons ("Warning: bad people only") to some surprisingly dark bus-stop nocturnes.

One of the fun parts of being a home-school daddy is seeing the progress that your kids make. I look at those earlier efforts, which were done over two years ago, and I marvel at how much progress she's made since then.

But she's still my daughter of course. And naturally, that means her poems involve artillery.

Yup. She was assigned today to write a poem, of her own composition, in cursive. Here's what this little second-grade daddy's girl came up with:
Behold! Ye launch a cannonball! For freedom! And messes!

That. Is. My. Daughter.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Quartet of Fun Videos

Ok, so I haven't been blogging much lately--and I haven't been blogging as many of those long, wordy, overly-sincere disquisitions on What's Wrong With the World And How To Solve It.

I suppose you could look at it like this... it is, after all, that time of year when we're supposed to give thanks for the blessings in our life, right? Well then, perhaps my readership should Give Thanks that they don't have to sit through another of my 5000-word manifestos today. :)

And I'm thankful that I don't have to write them just yet.

Instead, I've been collecting some fun videos I've been seeing online lately, and thought I'd pass them on. No doubt you've seen some of them already, but perhaps you haven't seen all four.

So, we'll start with one that's hit the internet lately in a really, really big way. It's shown up on a lot of people's blogs, including that of my sister-in-law (although that's not actually where I first saw it). Behold: the Muppets do Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

And, as usual, Animal steals the show. But Beaker (who, along with the Swedish Chef, is my favorite Muppet) puts in a pretty good showing, too.

(Oh, and my sister-in-law has some wonderful Thanksgiving-day pictures of my three kids, and their two cousins, playing in a pile of leaves. Take a look here.)


Ok, here's the next one, which has been all over the TV lately, so most people have already seen it. But if there be any more Luddites out there like Tonya and me who don't watch TV, then you might not have seen it yet, in which case you are welcome to treat this post as a public service. With a hat tip to The Anchoress (where I first saw it myself), I give you Cop vs. Kitty:

You know, I'm glad that this wasn't my cat Pasha doing that. What's cute with a three-lb kitten would, with my arthitic yet lovable 15-lb lardbutt, be downright tragic.


Ok, here's the shortest video of the bunch. I had been web-surfing a few nights ago, when the Pillowfight Fairy came over to the computer and saw some random link about albatrosses (the seabirds with the 7-foot wingspans). So we clicked it, and watched some video on them.... and then clicked on some more, and some more... and eventually we were watching all kinds of nature videos. (By the way, the ones of albatrosses landing on ground, as opposed to on the water, are good fodder for seven-year-old humor. Apparently, albatross stall-speed is faster than albatross running speed, so their landings tend to involve plenty of unintentional mayhem. Especially when they land on a beach crowded with other albatrosses.) Well, we went from albatrosses to frogs, to insects to...

...to this one that was temptingly captioned, "Frog vs. Dragonfly". What we expected was another of those videos showing nature in all its gory glory, red in tooth and claw (or whatever it is that frogs have). What we got gave everyone an unexpected and surprisingly hearty laugh.

Geez. That's not much better than what Pasha could have done.


Ok, here's the fourth one, which is the longest video of the bunch. I was reading along on the Wired website, on a story entitled Thanks a Lot: Pop Culture's Finest Moments of 2009. Now, I'm never one much to put the phrases "fine" and "pop culture" in the same sentence, unless the sentence is something like, "That's a fine load of pop culture you've managed to land us in this time." Nevertheless, I was bored, and there was a cool picture of Superman next to it, so I thought, "meh..." and clicked. (I was actually more intrigued by the picture of Dr. Horrible next to the story immediately underneath it. Apparently, there's going to be a sequel to Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog! Huzzah! I say.)

There's actually some interesting stuff on that list of pop culture. But the one that caught my eye was for an episode of the latest Batman animated TV series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Now, the title itself does nothing for me, sounding too much like that of a soap opera. But the Wired write-up of this particular episode made me cock my Spock-brow:
After decades of taking the animated Dark Knight deeper into the shadows, Warner Bros. lightened things up with this bright series, which is resiliently clever. Nowhere is its broad, demographic-crushing appeal more brilliant than in this musical episode, which features the vocal acrobatics of the resurgent Neil Patrick Harris as the Music Meister, a villain who can send humanity into a trance by singing (mostly about himself). Ranging from outright cheese to subversive comedy, “Mayhem of the Music Meister” found Batman hitting the high notes, literally, while beating back a horde of ballet-dancing supervillains and superheroes, all while sampling iconography from Milos Forman’s Amadeus to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Best animated hero worship of the year, hands-down. —Scott Thill

O.M.G. An episode of Batman... done as a musical? All the superheros and supervillains singing and dancing? Subversive cheesiness? I. Am. So. There. So I clicked on it, and had a big dopey grin on my face for the next twenty-three minutes or so.


View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

I especially liked Batman's deadpanned line at the end of the "Death Trap" song about halfway through.

I remember, as a kid, that occasionally the powers-that-be would do something weird like this in one of the cartoons that I watched at the time, and I always found it hokey to the point of being totally embarrassing. Why do they do stuff like this? Don't they know how dorky it is? And then I grew up, and discovered that these were often the only episodes of the cartoons in question with anything like a long-term redeeming quality. By the way, this includes the "Kill the Wabbit" Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd episode, which in hindsight (and a bit more immersion in the lore of Wagner) becomes freakin' brilliant.

Anyway, this is the kind of episode that I once would have totally embarrassed me by its sublime dorkiness. So I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Sign That Our Daughter's Moral Training Is Not Complete...

From the Adrenaline Junkie (Age 4.9):

"Sometimes I feel like... like... like I don't have enough things."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Where the Heck do They Learn These T hings?

So the Happy Boy, still aged two, just ran up to me.

And, of course, being two, he made absolutely no attempt to stop.

Whump.

"Ow", I explained, somewhat annoyed. "Why did you just do that?"

And my two-year-old boy, who's not yet speaking in complete sentences, looked straight up into my eyes, and sweetly explained:

"Torture Daddy."

Where the heck do they pick these things up? He's two, and he already has a firm grasp of the term torture.

And although he can't pronounce it yet, it appears he also has down the concept of "mortification of the flesh", as we just caught him intentionally (and happily) running headfirst into the cabinets....

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Tale of Time Travel

Saw something recently that tickled my funny bone, in an intellectual sort of way, and thought I'd share it with y'all.

Background: My wife has somewhat unusual tastes in entertainment fare, when compared with most of female-kind in this country. She's one of those types highly-sought-after by us geeks, who actually enjoys science fiction. She once went to a Star Trek convention, and was mistaken for being in costume. Yup, she had just dressed in what for her was normal street-clothes, which happened to consist of a very 80's-style red jumpsuit with black turtleneck and black boots, and she just happened to be mistaken for one of the women in Khan's posse....

Okay, she enjoys more than just science fiction; she has enough girlyness in her that she occasionally watches the 5-hour BBC Pride & Prejudice miniseries that we have on DVD. Still, she doesn't usually go for the really weepy stuff. She likes explosions.

And big muscles.

(Hmm. Makes me wonder... How'd she wind up with me? Must be the potential for explosions....)


...


Ahem. Anyway, her favorite sci-fi sub-genre is Time Travel. Yup, she loves stories where people go back in time and accidentally cause themselves not to be born. Or they become their own parents or something. Pretty much, the more convoluted the story, the more it makes your mind bend just thinking about how they got themselves into this mess, or how they're going to get out of it by the end of the hour, and she's there. She was a big fan of the time travel stories on Star Trek; she was a big fan of Dr. Who; and she loved Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (a judgment with which I heartily concur).

So of course, I had to share the following news with her when I saw it online the last few days. It gave her a bit of a smile. Hopefully it'll do the same for you.


...


But first, I have to pose a time-travel thought experiment.

Suppose someone builds a time machine, and uses it to go back into the past. What would happen?

Well, there are two schools of thought. One is that the timeline doesn't change, because everything the time traveler does when he gets to the past already happened. If the time traveler loses his wedding ring in the past, his contemporaries from his home year will be able to find it exactly where he lost it. In fact, someone may have found it already, in the intervening years between when the time traveler lost it in the past, and when he started out on that journey in the future. Under this school of thought, the time traveller can't do anything that wasn't already done before.

A good movie that appears to take this approach is Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. ("Trash can... remember a trash can!")

The other school of thought is that the time traveler can in fact change the past, and by doing so will change the future. This is the school of thought on display in the Back to the Future movies. Marty has to fix the past before he goes home to the future; otherwise, since he accidentally broke up his parents, he would cease to exist.

Oops.

Well, just for kicks and giggles, let's assume that the latter of these scenarios is true--that a time traveler from the future can change the past to something different from what happened in the time traveler's history. What then?

Since I'm a geek, allow me to go to the diagram.
Let's say the above diagram represents a time-line. Now, let's say that a time travel experiment is started up that makes changes in the past.

So far, so good. The trouble is, since the past has changed, that means that the timeline diverges; from the moment in the past that the time travel experiment makes something different happen than what went before, the time line has changed--and the remainder of the original timeline, the one on top in these diagrams, never happened.

So really, only the bottom timeline exists anymore. And it is identical to the first timeline, up until the point where the time traveling object appears (seemingly out of nowhere, as observed by people in the past). From that point on, the timelines start to diverge.

Now here's where the fun begins. The timeline is now proceeding differently than it did before. This may in fact cause changes to the circumstances of the time travel experiment itself! What happens then? Well, that experiment will then be run at a slightly different time, and send its payload to a slightly different time in the past, causing yet another timeline to form (and voiding the remainder of the timeline we just constructed, too). And then this timeline will cause changes to the circumstances of the time travel experiment, causing yet more changes in the past....
Now, it seems to me that these alterations to the past timeline would accumulate; they wouldn't necessarily void each other. If the first experiment puts a bowling ball back through time, that changes the timeline; then the next iteration puts a nectarine through instead, what then? Well, since the timelines are identical up until the point in time that the time travel causes them to diverge, it means all the old alterations would still be there as well--including the bowling ball. (Though I'm certainly open to the idea that someone with greater powers of logic than me will come along and contradict this point. If I'm really lucky, maybe he'll come from the future!)
So what's left? Well here's the catch. Ever heard of the "Butterfly Effect"? Any change to a chaotic system, no matter how minor, causes little changes... which cause bigger changes... which eventually cause the system to look completely different than it would otherwise have been. This has long been a bugaboo in the world of weather forecasting. The problem is that weather systems are so sensitive to initial conditions, that missing the tiniest cause--like the flap of a butterfly's wings--will eventually cause the predictive model to yield wildly inaccurate results. The addition of that butterfly's wing flap could result in a hurricane showing up at a different time and place than it otherwise would have, for instance.

But don't we have the same thing in time travel? One minor change sends out eddies and ripples into the timeline, which grow--uncorrected--until the future looks nothing at all like it would otherwise have been. And this huge loop of time-travel changes, with each iteration changing the past, and in turn changing itself, would be dumping an awful lot of unpredictable, disruptive factors into the past.

Eventually, something is going to break. Rather, one of these changes will--through random chance--cause a tornado to hit the time travel research lab. Or will cause the wrong congressman to win the election, who decides to cut the research funding. Or will cause a giant fire-breathing turtle to appear and devour the lead scientist.

After all, this time-travel cycle can happen an arbitrary number of times, and is guaranteed to go on until the cycle is broken--by some sequence of events that stops the experiments. Then, you have a stable timeline, with no more loops.
Now, this timeline will have a lot of seemingly-odd, highly coincidental events in it, that to an objective observer just seem to conspire to shut down the experiment. Like that out of season tornado, followed by that crooked election, followed by that fire-breathing turtle. The observer might be tempted to think that God doesn't actually want us to discover time travel, right?

Either that, or God has an absolutely wicked sense of humor. And He's into slapstick.


...


So what would these "highly coincidental" events look like in real life, that would prevent time travel from happening?

Well, it might look a little like this.
Baguette Dropped From Bird's Beak Shuts Down The Large Hadron Collider (Really)

The Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle accelerator, just cannot catch a break. First, a coolant leak destroyed some of the magnets that guide the energy beam. Then LHC officials postponed the restart of the machine to add additional safety features. Now, a bird dropping a piece of bread on a section of the accelerator has, according to the Register, shut down the whole operation.

...

With freak accident after freak accident piling up over at CERN, the idea of time traveling particles returning from the future to prevent their own discovery is beginning to seem less and less far fetched.

Incidentally, I loved the comments on this article. I got a particularly good laugh from this one by HyMinded:

The bird's briefing:

The approach will not be easy. You are required to maneuver straight down this trench and skim the surface to this point. The target area is only two meters wide. It's a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. A precise hit will start a chain reaction which should destroy the station.


...


But what's really funny to me--partly in a "ha-ha" kind of way, and partly in the Spock-eyebrow-amused kind of way, is just how many serious scientists are taking this kind of reasoning seriously. After all, my little exposition up above seems pretty tongue-in-cheek to me, but apparently no one can find the logical flaw in the thing that can break the whole argument down. Take a look at this article from Time describing the same incident, and tell me if that isn't the case.
While most scientists would write off the event as a freak accident, two esteemed physicists have formulated a theory that suggests an alternative explanation: perhaps a time-traveling bird was sent from the future to sabotage the experiment. Bech Nielsen of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan, have published several papers over the past year arguing that the CERN experiment may be the latest in a series of physics research projects whose purposes are so unacceptable to the universe that they are doomed to fail, subverted by the future.

...But ever since the British physicist Peter Higgs first postulated the existence of the [Higgs Boson] in 1964, attempts to capture the particle have failed, and often for unexpected, seemingly inexplicable reasons...

In a series of audacious papers, Nielsen and Ninomiya have suggested that setbacks to the LHC occur because of "reverse chronological causation," which is to say, sabotage from the future. The papers suggest that the Higgs boson may be "abhorrent to nature" and the LHC's creation of the Higgs sometime in the future sends ripples backward through time to scupper its own creation. Each time scientists are on the verge of capturing the Higgs, the theory holds, the future intercedes. The theory as to why the universe rejects the creation of Higgs bosons is based on complex mathematics, but, Nielsen tells TIME, "you could explain it [simply] by saying that God, in inverted commas, or nature, hates the Higgs and tries to avoid them."
Yeah. That and the fire-breathing turtles.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What I've Been Doing All Summer

Don't have a whole lot of time to post now, but I know that there are a whole bunch of people out there who've been wanting to see this. I might update this post a little later with more details about my little girl's Wood Elf outfit...

Behold, the Adrenaline Junkie's Halloween costume:




Friday, October 2, 2009

Assume a Perfectly Spherical Woman

No, that wouldn't actually be anyone I know. It's a little like that Perfectly Frictionless Ice that they keep asking you about in physics class--it doesn't exist in the real world, but assuming it does actually allows you to solve the math problem.

Well, I'm not sure this counts as an end to my months-long blogging hiatus, but I thought I'd pass along a bit of a Public Service Announcement:

The 2009 Ig Nobel awards have been announced! This is usually the scientific highlight of my year, and this year has some good ones. Perhaps not as good as last years study of how the analysis of archaeology sites--and our reconstruction of ancient history--can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo, but pretty good nonetheless:

PEACE PRIZE: Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining — by experiment — whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.
REFERENCE: "Are Full or Empty Beer Bottles Sturdier and Does Their Fracture-Threshold Suffice to Break the Human Skull?" Stephan A. Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael J. Thali and Beat P. Kneubuehl, Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine...

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for creating diamonds from liquid — specifically from tequila.
REFERENCE: "Growth of Diamond Films from Tequila," Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga and Victor M. Castano...

MEDICINE PRIZE: Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand — but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand — every day for more than sixty (60) years.
REFERENCE: "Does Knuckle Cracking Lead to Arthritis of the Fingers?", Donald L. Unger, Arthritis and Rheumatism...
And here is the one that inspired the title of this post:
PHYSICS PRIZE: Katherine K. Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, USA, Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University, USA, and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, USA, for analytically determining why pregnant women don't tip over.
REFERENCE: "Fetal Load and the Evolution of Lumbar Lordosis in Bipedal Hominins," Katherine K. Whitcome, Liza J. Shapiro & Daniel E. Lieberman, Nature...
You know, I've always kinda wondered about that myself. I suppose I'd just assumed their physics resembled those of those old Weebles toys from way back when I was a kid.

For obvious reasons, there are some fun pictures at the Ig Nobel site (and elsewhere, all over the 'net) of this last one being demonstrated:
PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, Illinois, USA, for inventing a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander.
REFERENCE: U.S. patent # 7255627, granted August 14, 2007 for a “Garment Device Convertible to One or More Facemasks.”
Well, of course you need two. After all, only half the population is female...


...


As I said, I'm not sure this post heralds the end of my blogging hiatus. I actually like having that extra time in the evenings to do stuff. And I am doing stuff! Some time, of course, is spent doing the chainmaille that will become the Adrenaline Junkie's Halloween costume (which is shaping up to be totally awesome); but I also started up an exercise routine about last May or so, that has knocked about 10% off my weight. And it has just been plain nice to be able to sit around and not worry about whether I needed to get online to feed the beast tonight.

But I'll eventually get around to that post on Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems I've been meaning to do for aeons.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Building the Home Armory

Ok, so I haven't blogged since sometime in May--and even then it was a bunch of odd limericks.

But, things haven't been slow around the house. We have in fact been busy with a bunch of other stuff--everything from lawn work, to new exercise and diet stuff (which I might blog about, if another bout of blog ennui doesn't set in), to dress-making, to...

Yup, my new (and rather expensive) hobby:
Dressing my toddler in maille.

What you see in the above photo is my little kid wearing his hauberk for the first time. It wasn't actually the first time I'd tried to get him in it; this was just the first time he actually cooperated. And let me tell you, you think it's hard getting an uncooperative toddler in his PJs? PJs are a cinch next to that thing. If he doesn't want to wear it, it ain't going on.

Well, I actually got him in it, and took a few pictures, and was feeling very, very happy. So! I pulled down one of the helmets and one of the swords I'd made way back in late 2007, and got them on him. Let me tell you, he was noble, he was gallant, he was cute as a button! So I tried to take another picture, and the camera chose that exact moment to tell me that the battery was dead. Figures. Immediately after that, he pulled off the helmet, dropped the mighty blade Årþørsgrößtetüðpik, and ran off to go do one of those things that toddlers are always running off to go do. The moment was lost. Sigh. I've never since been able to get him back in the whole get-up.

But! Some time after the camera's battery was re-charged, I corralled his four-year-old sister and dressed her up in the whole getup. Behold my midget valkyrie:

With pineapples on her PJs. Very apropos.

Hm... That's very nice and all, but at some point I'm going to have to make a coif with mantle. That neck looks pretty vulnerable.

Ok. Well, one thing about making maille is that you never know in advance how it's going to turn out; and when I tried it on the kids, I discovered that it needed a fair amount of adjustment. The seams under the arms pulled a lot of slack out of the chain pattern, and made the armholes too tight. And the neck was too big. The trouble with toddlers (one trouble with toddlers, actually) is that they have really big heads (proportionately), and really narrow shoulders. Any neckhole that's big enough to go around their heads, is also big enough to slip off their shoulders and make it look as if they're wearing strapless gowns. And let me tell you, strapless gowns would be a big hit on a medieval battlefield.

But one other thing about making maille is that you can always go back and change it after the fact. It's not like cutting cloth, where after the cloth is cut you can never put it back the way it was; with chain, you just add more until you have what you want. So, I started doing ad-hoc modifications until I had it the way I wanted it. I added some width to the arms, I built up the neck, and I added a slit in back (with clasps) so that the head could make it through the newer, tighter neck-hole.
And here the little knight is, doing something a little more studious than his normal dragon-slaying maiden-chasing routine.
And here he is looking for dragons under the dining room table. Nope, no dragons here, but there are some maidens lurking about in the shadows...
And here's the full get-up by itself.
I've actually added a few rows to the torso since this picture was taken, so it's a bit longer now. I'm thinking I'll keep adding a little at a time for now, until it gets to just above the knee, or until I run out of rings. Gotta protect the family jewels, and all.

And in case you're wondering, it's made out of "bright" aluminum--it's an aluminum alloy that contains some magnesium and some other stuff to slow it's tarnish rate. It's very shiny. The shirt weighs something less than four pounds. If it were made of stainless steel instead, it would weigh three times as much, and my little knight would be pinned to the floor.

...


Ok, so that project is pretty much done, aside from the constant after-tweaking that we arteests can never seem to resist doing to our works. Now what?

Well....

That picture of the mighty blade Årþørsgrößtetüðpik? Well... it's not looking like it's in too-good of a shape anymore. After all, blades made of cardboard don't last very long. Årþørsgrößtetüðpik and her sister blade Uncalibur-ated are more than a year-and-a-half old, which for cardboard blades is something like 173 in dog-years. It was time to get some new swords.

But the thing is, you don't want your kids injuring each other, so you need to find something either really lightweight, or really foam-like. Now, there are various piratey-looking swords out there, but they don't actually look right with chainmaille. You want straight swords for that kind of work--nice long ones, so the combatants can swing at each other while yelling taunts from Monty Python ("Tis but a flesh wound!" "What are you going to do, bleed on me?") (Which reminds me of another bit of our cultural corpus I'm going to have to introduce them to someday....) Now, Nerf has a few foam swords out, and they are long, straight ones... but they have neon yellow and blue hilts, and look like they are straight out of some Manga comic (which they probably are).

Nor could I find anything online that looked right.

So?

So I took a trip to the local hardware store, followed by the local fabric store, then came home, and....

Is it just me, or does my wife look more enticing than usual tonight? There's just something about a woman with a big-ol' honkin' sword....

(Now, if I could just get her in maille, well... I'd be in absolute Valhalla.)

Basically, I got a length of half-inch PVC pipe for the core, which I cut down to a decent length for blade-plus-hilt. I also got a length of wood with a square cross-section of 1.25", and cut that into pieces for the hand-guards and pommels. To make the blade, I wrapped the PVC pipe in thick foam padding, then wrapped the padding in duct tape; I inserted the hand guards and bolted them in place; then I wrapped the hilt in duct tape, put the pommel on the bottom, and bolted that on.

The first sword I wrapped a bit too tightly. The foam is a wee bit too compressed, so it hits a bit harder than the other two. Somehow, the Pillowfight Fairy figured this out, and now, of the three swords, she wants to use that one all the time. Go figure. We don't let her.

(Incidentally, that's the one that Tonya is wielding in that picture above, with that smile on her face that says "The Beatings Will Now Begin". No wonder I think it's so sexy....)

Ahem. Anyhoo, these swords are an absolute blast to play with. The two girls and I had them outside earlier today, and they ganged up on me. You know, I may be bigger, stronger, and more coordinated than they are, but there are two of them; and when they figured out that "We can attack him from opposite directions, at the same time!" I really had to do some scrambling.

I also showed them how to do a decent parry. Now, that's a good Fathers' Day activity.

Tonight as I was taking the pictures that follow, the girls were smacking each other silly--including one instance where the girls simultaneously raised their swords high up in the air, and then whapped each other clean on top of each other's heads. It was almost as though they'd choreographed it....
Obviously, they have to treat them as two-handed swords. The swords are a little too heavy for them to use one-handed. I suspect, if they keep playing with them like this, that will change pretty quickly....

It was rather funny. At one point the conversation sounded like this:
Fairy (echoing Daddy from earlier in the day): "You need to learn how to parry."

Whap.

"See?"
Somehow I can't see this last picture without thinking to myself: "Luke... I am your father."


...


Ok, so what's next?

Well, I still have a few (hundred, maybe thousand) rings to add to the torso of the Happy Boy's hauberk. After that, I have a new shipment of rings coming from The Ring Lord with which to make an outfit for the Adrenaline Junkie. I've got this cute little idea planned out for a wood-elf outfit for her, to be made from aluminum rings that have been anodized to look like bronze (but weigh only about three-tenths the amount), and from overlapping metallic scales of green anodized aluminum.

And as I said, this is a very expensive hobby. I need the Junkie's outfit to take a long time to make... so that our finances can recover before I start making the Fairy's outfit. She's actually wanting something in pink.

Did Valkyries ever wear pink?

I think not. (Gag.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Meine Gesamtkunstwerkpoesie ist Verpfuscht

Funny how having a hobby like chainmail leads the minds in weird directions.

I had a bit of a slow workday today, and my mind began to wander to about the third maille project I have planned after I finish the one I'm working on now. My daughters have decided they want maille dresses, of course; so I have to think of ways of making maille dresses for them that actually look right. I mean, that's one heck of a novelty item, there; it's not likely they'll be wearing these things to church some bright and cheery Sunday morning. So I don't just think about the maille outfits themselves, I think about the whole ensemble.

Q: Why the heck would a girl be wearing chainmail?
A: Because she's a warrior maiden, darn it!

So, the next question becomes: what kind of warrior maiden?

Well, I have a cute little wood-elf outfit in mind for the Adrenaline Junkie, when I get done with the hauberk I'm making for the Happy Boy. But after that, for the Pillowfight Fairy?

Gotta be a valkyrie. Definitely gotta be a valkyrie.

Well, as I said, it was a slow day at work; and as I was sitting there in front of the glowing box, my mind started to move onto valkyries. And then I started thinking about Wagner's Ring Cycle, and about Brünhilde, and...

See, now, this is the way my only-sometimes-coherent mind works:

...and then I started to think of a limerick about Valkyries.

?!?!?!?!

Yup. Bet you never thought of that one before. A limerick, of all things, for crying out loud? Wagner in his grave has just rolled over.

Well, yes. After all, there's something subtly humorous about the Ring Cycle. It's so big, and so grand, and so darn serious, that it walks very close to the edge of self-mockery. And it only takes a little push before it tips over--like that glorious "Kill the Wabbit" number that Warner Brothers did back in the sixties, that youtube has quite lamentably taken down for copyright reasons. I mean, photographs like this one do tend to lend themselves to parody and ridicule, precisely because the people therein take themselves so seriously.

So--the limerick! Take a good long look at the photo at the link, try to ignore the fact that the bearded guy is Wotan (a bass) and not Siegfried (a heldentenor), and...

...well, it works best when read out loud, very dramatically. Think William Shatner dramatic.
The young heldentenor, he swünz,
At the song of great Hilde von Brün's;
With her spear, shield and armor
So nothing can harm her
Magnificent, iron ballünz.

[insert sound of record scratching...]



...


Ok, so much for my Gesamtkunstwerkpoesie. By this point I was in the rhyming mood. I was also approaching Vogon territory, but I was having fun.

So!

Well, I suppose I should have stopped, but I didn't. So somewhere from the depths of my head (depths of my head?) I coaxed this one out, on a topic near and dear to my wife and me right about now:
A tutor who tuted the flute
Tried to tutor his toddler to pooot.
But the bairn loved the swooshie,
And quite feared the flooshie,
So the toddler pooot tut'ring was moot.
And no, this limerick was not autobiographical. Not even in the slightest.

Y'all are lucky that I decided not to rhyme flusher with gusher. I was tempted to, but that might have been pushing it a little too far. And the whole flusher/gusher thing isn't autobiographical, either. Nope. Not at all.

Once upon a long time ago, I blogged a limerick I had thought up, and my sister-in-law (who had just had a long-distance online haiku contest with a friend) quipped:
This makes me think that a limerick contest with Tim would be inadvisable.
I appreciate the sentiment, of course... but the more I write these things, the more I think that limerick contests are probably inadvisable under any circumstances.


...


Which brings me to the third one. At this point I was almost but not quite rhymed out. And I was definitely in Vogon territory by now. So I thought of one that my mother most likely would approve of, as would my wife. The sentiment here should be well considered by anyone who decides to do limericking on the internet:
Don't advertise smut with a bugle!
With naughtiness one must be frugal.
Though your meaning be mean,
Your words must be clean--
Lest you draw all those perverts with Google.
So that's probably it for one day. I'll try to be more productive at work tomorrow.

P.S. Here's a little fun one I saw somewhere. Do I have any commenters that can interpret this one for me?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Noble, But Doomed?

Ok, so it's been another two weeks since I dressed Bob and Larry up in maille. And it's been a whole lot longer since I actually wrote something substantial about anything.

Does this mean you'll actually be writing something substantial tonight?

Possibly. Although I'm not so sure it's all that substantial. Well, I think it's substantial, but I have a way of getting worked up over things that seem minor to everyone else around me. So what I think of as substantial, winds up striking everyone else as mildly humorous, in a there he goes again sort of way.

But then, I suppose that the best way to entice me out of my blogging slump is to give me a news story that tickles one of my pet theories.

(Man, Orwell would have hated that sentence. A person is slumping, so you entice him by ticking the theory he keeps as a pet....)


...


All Orwell aside, here's a news story I saw recently. I've actually seen similar things at other sites. But for those who don't want to plow through the article, there's a nascent political movement out there to try to bring back our Constitution's Tenth Amendment.

Tenth Amendment? What's that? And what do you mean, "bring back"? Where has it been hiding?

It's this little inkblot* at the end of the Bill of Rights:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
If I recall my political history correctly (and I may not), it was added to the Bill of Rights to assuage a specific fear of the Federalists, thus gaining support for its passage. And this specific fear is actually a very interesting one.

The Federalists opposed the Bill of Rights on two major grounds: first, they believed that it would be unnecessary. Since the national government would be a republic answerable to the people and to the states, the theory went, it would have natural limits on its power to oppress the people. That is, if they attempted to stifle Freedom of the Press, the people and the states would rise up and throw all those bums out, and (presumably) put new bums in who would undo what the previous bums did. I think we can safely say the Federalists got that one wrong.

But their second objection (in my opinion) was a bit more substantive. The constitution granted lists of powers to the various branches of government, with the implicit (unwritten) understanding that these lists represented all the powers that were being granted. That is, if the Constitution said you had the authority to regulate usufructs, salt pork, and left-handed tennis matches, then you only had power to regulate usufructs, salt pork, and left-handed tennis matches; you had no authority over anything else. It was understood at the time the Constitution was written that the national government's jurisdiction was over only those things that were specifically mentioned in the Constitution; everything not mentioned therein was forbidden to the Feds, and either was the province of the states, or (if the states didn't want to regulate it) belonged to the sphere of private life and commerce. This principle was called the Enumeration of Powers, and this principle--originally unwritten--was one of the bedrock principles of limited government.

The Federalists' fear was that, by listing a set of rights in the Constitution, it would make it easier for future tyrants to weaken the principle of Enumerated Powers, and even start treating those listed rights as the only rights the people have. Ok, so let's say the Constitution grants the Grand Pooh-Bah authority over usufructs, salt pork, and left-handed tennis matches; and let's say it explicitly grants the people the rights of Free Speech, Free Love and Free Bacon. Now you have two enumerations. What do you do with things that aren't listed on either list? The Federalist fear was that the very existence of the enumeration of rights creates a gray area that shouldn't be there; people might look at these two lists, and say: "The Right of the People to Sing in Public isn't listed among the rights of the people. And it's just plain annoying. And it's probably an usufruct anyway, since no one around here seems to know what the heck that means. There oughta be a law!"

The net effect of a Bill of Rights, in the Federalist view, was actually to weaken the powers of the states and the rights of the people--since it weakened the principle of Enumerated Powers, which is so important to limited government. And it would tempt those in power to read the Bill of Rights as an enumeration of the Rights of the People--meaning, if a supposed right wasn't on the list, it perhaps didn't exist....

I think the Federalists were a lot closer to the truth with this argument than they were with the other one.

So to placate the Federalists' objections and get them on board, two Amendments were added to the Bill of Rights. The Ninth Amendment was written to preempt the argument that the rights in the Bill constituted some kind of enumeration:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
And the Tenth was written to reaffirm the principle of Enumerated Powers--that the power of the National Government was limited to only those powers explicitly granted it in the Constitution:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
All very well and good.


...


So what the heck happened?

After all, if you take the Ninth and Tenth Amendments literally, then the Federal Government has no legitimate authority over anything not specifically listed. That is, Congress wouldn't have power to legislate anything regarding education, or health care, or funding for the arts, or environmental protection, or pensions (like Social Security). All of these things would be "reserved to the States respectively, or to the people," because none of these things show up in the lists of powers granted to Congress to legislate.

But... one of the powers the Constitution does grant Congress is the power to regulate "interstate commerce."

What does that mean?

Well, here's what many, many successive Supreme court rulings have said: anything, that in any way, shape, or form, affects any transaction that might conceivably cross state lines, counts as interstate commerce. The education you get in Kansas may some day wind up being used when you do business in Mississippi, so education falls under "interstate commerce". The doctor who treats your bunions went to school in North Dakota (because all good things come from North Dakota, I'll have you know), and the medicines he uses were developed in Massachusetts, so medicine falls under "interstate commerce".

In fact, the food you grow on your own family farm, which is grown for your own family's consumption--and is never traded for money, let alone sent across state lines--still affects the market. After all, if you didn't grow that food, you'd have to buy it, so your choice to grow it has economic impact, and thus--ahem--can be regulated under the "interstate commerce" powers. No joke--the Supreme Court case that decided that one is Wickard v. Filburn, 1942.

To make a very long story short, these two amendments--the Tenth, in particular--have for all intents and purposes been nullified by successive Supreme Court cases. Everything affects interstate commerce, if you interpret the term broadly enough; and as a result, Congress can get away with passing just about any law it wants, on any topic. It's been this way since at least the time of FDR--but it was moving that way at least a generation before.


...


So now we're actually seeing a movement to roll back the power of the Fed. The article I linked to above notes a recent attempt by the Feds to force the state of Maine to issue Fed-approved ID cards to the entire population, and Maine said, well... no. And the Feds backed down!

So now we have the State of Montana getting into the act. Being a very outdoorsy kind of State, with a great heaping helping of that Western Libertarian character about it, it's no surprise that the population has a very strong hunting/gun culture. And they don't take too kindly to out-of-towners coming in and telling them what guns they can and cannot purchase, and what hoops they have to jump through to do it. So the governor recently signed a bipartisan bill stating that guns manufactured in Montana, to be purchased by the people of Montana, for the benefit of the people of Montana, do not come under the heading of "interstate commerce"--because there's nothing "interstate" about it. Therefore, such manufacturing and sale need not be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, since Congress has no authority to regulate in this case.

The Feds, needless to say, are not amused.

The article goes on to mention that 35 states have jumped in the pool with some kind of legislation asserting their 10th Amendment rights to blow off Federal legislation on topics not explicitly granted in the Constitution. It mentions things going on in Georgia, in Texas, in Utah....


...


Believe it or not, I'm only now getting to the part that I find really interesting. I mean, I find all the above interesting, but here's the part where my frustration really starts to kick in.

Sigh.

I'm all for these efforts, and I hope they succeed. They have my support, and I will cheer them when they are occasionally victorious. But in the long term, I doubt there will be many lasting successes.

The underlying problem is that the state governments no longer have an effective check on the power of the Feds.

But first, I have to back up a bit. The guys that wrote the Constitution understood something about power: anyone who has it, wants more of it, and will use what power he has to gain more whenever he has the opportunity. The motives change from one person to the next, of course; some people with power want to wield their power for the Benefit of Humanity. Others just enjoy the thrill of squashing their opponents like bugs. But it's very rare to get people in positions of power who want less power than what they have. After all, given how fierce the competition is as you climb the greasy pole, it's not likely someone gets to the top who doesn't want to wield the power. If they didn't want to wield the power, they wouldn't have been climbing the greasy pole in the first place.

And when you have this kind of situation, with Government run by a class of people who want to Change the World and squash their enemies and retire as comfortably and as young as possible, little obstacles like Constitutional Thou Shalt Nots are easily ignored. After all, if everyone else in government concurs with your overreach, then who's going to stop you? And who's to call it an overreach, anyway?

So when every position in Government is filled by power-grubbers, each of which wants to expand their little empires, how the heck do you keep Government small, under control, and accountable to the electorate?

The Founders' answer: you set it against itself. You design it in such a way that no one's power grows, except at the expense of someone else's; and you give this someone else a veto on whoever it is who's trying to usurp the power. When you've got a government designed like this, it's slow, and inefficient, and rancorous--but when it does pass something it means that whatever it is has some kind of real consensus behind it, and is less likely just to be a power play.

So we have what we glibly call checks and balances: The President can't do something without Congress, and Congress can't do something without the President, and the President must consider the People or risk becoming ex-presidential, and Congress has to defer to the people or risk becoming ex-congressional, and the judges are selected for their positions by the President, with the advice and consent of the legislature. Despite my distaste for the things that come out of Washington these days, the system works pretty well, most of the time; all things considered, our government is still more limited than most developed nations' governments, and I think that's a really good thing.

But...

Back in 1913, I think we made a terrible mistake.

Here's the trouble. Prior to the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, senators were selected in a manner directed by the legislators of the various states. If the legislators of one state wanted the senators to be elected by the people, well and good; but if in another state they wanted the senators picked by the governor and ratified by the legislature (like ambassadors are now), that was legal.

And yes, this produced a bunch of highly corrupt machine politicians. Yes, yes, yes; I know all that.

But it also gave the state governments a seat at the Federal table, and that made a huge difference in what got passed. This goes back to what I said earlier about checks and balances: in order to keep one power player from getting to powerful, you set it against another power player with the power to veto him. Well, prior to the 17th Amendment, the States could effectively veto the Feds. After all, when a state's senators were selected by the governor or legislature, those senators had to do the governor's or legislature's bidding in Washington, or they quickly found themselves ex-senators.

And this meant that, if the Federal government tried to run roughshod over the rights of the states back prior to 1913; if they'd tried to push unfunded mandates on the states; if they'd tried giving orders to the states on how to run their health care or their educational systems; the Senate--answering the desires of the state governments--would have put a big, fat no on whatever plan that was. The Senate was the check against the power of the central government; any attempt to increase Washington power at the expense of the states, pretty much had to get the states' consent first.

But now the Senate, being popularly elected, isn't much more than a somewhat more pompous version of the House, and it provides the states no protection against Fed encroachment. The states have lost their check, and governmental power has become unbalanced.

In such an environment, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the 9th and 10th Amendments have become little more than inkblots--there's no governmental body dedicated to defending them anymore. That used to be the Senate's job; but it's no one's job now. And no matter how much one may like the ideas behind these (or any other) Amendments, if there isn't a governmental body dedicated actively to protecting them, then they might as well be inkblots*.


...


So what of the Federalism movement? Well, I'm for it. And I'm not the only one who thinks the 17th Amendment was a bad idea. Apparently Democratic former senator Zell Miller thought so too, and introduced a bill to repeal it just before he retired from the Senate.

I'm all for states standing up and defending their rights, too. After all, one thing the Constitution definitely does not do is give the Feds the power to give orders to the states. For that matter, the Constitution doesn't give a general police power to the Federal Government, either; nor does it require the states to enforce the federal laws. If a state decided simply to refuse to enforce a law on behalf of the federal government--as California does with medical marijuana--the Feds have a much, much harder time keeping the people in line. In fact, in many cases the only leverage the Feds really have over the states, is the lure of federal funding--that is, if you comply with these laws, we will give you cash for X, Y, and Z. And in most cases up until now, the states have taken the bait. As the article said:

Robert Natelson, a law professor at the University of Montana who was involved in drawing up that state's sovereignty resolution over a decade ago, argues that states up until now have been unwilling to take action of any real consequence in checking federal power.

"Back then they passed the resolution, but they didn't turn down any federal dollars," he said.

"If the states are serious about returning the federal government to its historical origins, they're going to have to do more than pass resolutions. They're going to have to turn down money and litigate."

Very true. And so whenever I hear of some governor turning down Federal money--as Sarah Palin did recently with the Federal economic stimulus money--it really does warm my heart. When a state rejects such money--and the strings that come with it--it often leaves the Feds with no leverage in the matter, no ability to bully the state government back.

Well, I can hope that we'll see more of this eventually. I'm not completely hopeful at this point; it's still a little too much windmill-tilty. But it's fun to see this sort of thing happen, even if it is only a little bit here and there, around the edges.




*Inkblot--I'm referring here to an argument by legal scholar and former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. In his view, the 9th Amendment is so indeterminate in meaning, that if it were blotted out with an inkblot, this wouldn't actually change the practical meaning of the constitution in any way. As such, I think "inkblot" is an appropriate epithet for any clause that is conveniently interpreted away by the courts....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hey, Arby!

This one's for you. Ask, and ye shall receive:

Let it never be said that I'm unresponsive to my readers. That is, except for the occasional unannounced two-week hiatus....

Altogether now:

They're coming to take me away, haha....

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Time for the Second Monthly Carnival of Tonya!

Ok, ok, so I haven't been blogging much lately. I've been busy with other stuff.

And what could possibly be more important than blogging? Well, I've been crafting some maille, for one:

I know what you're thinking, because you're thinking it so loud I can hear it all the way over here: He's cracked. He's gone completely mad. Anyone who starts crafting chain eventually goes a little nuts, and starts putting it on their teddy bears, and then on their sofas, and then on their cabbages and eggplants*.... It was bound to happen sooner or later; it just happened a little faster to you than we expected. Tim, it's been nice knowing ya, try not to dribble all over the nice young men in those clean white suits....

Well, you'd think that, and there may in fact be some truth in what you think; but no, I'm not actually crafting a hauberk for the Happy Boy's little friend. Although you have to admit, he's pretty cute, no?

No, we're not planning on loading up this little guy for bear. (ba-DUM-bump!)

We're planning on loading up this little guy for bear:
That would be the little one in the lower right.

Oh, as if that makes it any better! Ok, so you're planning on chaining 15,000 rings so you can put your toddler in a hauberk, for crying out loud. That's only marginally less un-sane than putting it on a teddy bear.

Yup, sounds about right. Though I don't know that we'll actually get to 15,000 rings. I'm about halfway done now, and I'm only at about 6,000.

That settles it. Completely cracked.

So maybe it's for the best that I haven't been blogging. After all, If "Sometimes I'm Actually Coherent", then that leaves all the other times, I'm afraid.

But! Fear not. My intrepid wife has been blogging a lot more than I have. If you haven't been following her blog, she's cooked up a trio of big meaty posts over the last two weeks. Given that I haven't been writing anything, I thought I'd throw my remaining regular readers a bone and send them over her way.

First, there's her post entitled Life Without a Baby, which is very poignant. We've had four babies, spaced roughly two years apart each. That means that since Tonya became pregnant with the Pillowfight Fairy in early 2003, we've constantly either had a baby (or very young toddler) in the house, or we've been expecting a baby. The Power household has been all babies, all the time, since 2003. And with the loss of Baby E three weeks ago, we now find ourselves babyless--none in the house, none on the way, and possibly (given Tonya's and my ages) none left to come. Tonya was feeling a bit melancholy about this fact. Before we got married, and even in that brief time between our marriage and the birth of the Fairy, we never really thought of ourselves as "baby" people--but that changed in a big, big way when our children came along. Now that we're facing the possible end of the "baby" phase in our lives, we're having to look forward, and it's not without some sadness.

(And fear. The Pillowfight Fairy is six-and-a-half now, which means she's halfway to being a teenager.)

Then, there's her next post, entitled End of School evaluation. About a year ago Tonya planned out what she wanted to get done with the Pillowfight Fairy's first grade year, and I posted about that here. It was an ambitious plan, and prompted one of our commenters to remark:
Four to six hours a day of rigorous academics for a SIX-YEAR-OLD?!!! Unless you have a certified genius as a child, you are setting yourself up for misery and failure....
Ahem. We have experienced neither misery nor failure. Draw your own conclusions. :-)

Well, we're proud to say that we made it through, and the Fairy made it through, and we haven't wound up in an institution yet (though I'm getting pretty close, as the pictures attest). We had to make a few changes to our plan, and didn't get everything done that we'd wanted to, but we did get most of it done, and we're very proud of how much the Fairy has learned in the last year. Tonya is also in the process of putting together next year's plan; one of us will probably blog about it a bit more when that's complete. Things are going to be a bit more tricky next year, too, since the Adrenaline Junkie will be doing her Kindergarten year.

Third, Tonya has this endearing way of trying to fill every waking moment with Productivity. (That is, until she gets wiped out by the day and spends her evening hours playing Civilization.) So what will she do during the summer months, until the time to begin the next year's academics? Well, she's decided to make a couple of dresses for the girls. She's already got the fabric, the patterns, and all the materials; she's already measured the girls; and she's starting to cut out the pattern pieces. Oh, and incidentally: our girls are shaped weirdly. I know, I know: as any boy can tell you, all girls are shaped weirdly--but ours are shaped weirdly even when compared to other girls. When Tonya measured them out yesterday, she discovered that the Pillowfight Fairy (age 6) has:
  • Size 4 chest;
  • Size 4 waist;
  • Size 5 hip;
  • Size 7 back-of-neck to waist;
  • Size 7 height.
The Adrenaline Junkie, age 4, has:
  • Size 3 chest;
  • Size 3 waist;
  • Size 4 hip;
  • Size 5 back-of-neck to waist;
  • Size 5 height.
This has created something of a conundrum for Tonya. Does she:
  • Pick the biggest sizes for each of the girls (7 for the Fairy, 5 for the Junkie) and just make the dress in that size--recognizing that they might be swimming in them, but hopefully giving them a little room to grow?
  • Make a dress with hybrid sizes--cutting (for instance) on the size 7 lines for the vertical directions on the Fairy's dresses, and on the size 4 or 5 lines for the horizontal directions? This would take a bit more work and would give a higher chance of making mistakes, but would give a trimmer-fitting dress.
Tonya is leaning toward the first of these two options, but is planning on doing some tailoring after she's had a chance to fit the dresses on the girls. Fact is, they might never grow into the dresses width-wise; thin runs in the females in Tonya's family, at least until motherhood changes the shapes of their bodies. Tonya made herself a skirt when she was in Junior high, when she was 5'2" and had a waist size of 18". And that measurement, dinky as it is, is actually equal to the 18" waist that her mom had on her wedding day! And our girls are likewise feather-weight when compared to their (often much shorter!) age peers.

Anyway, when those dresses are done, either Tonya or I will have pictures up on our blogs.


...


And this blog? Well, I'll try to step up my blogging pace, although since I haven't been spending as much time online lately, I haven't been seeing as much worth writing about. And I still have half a hauberk to finish, of course--after which you'll get to see some pictures of our little knight in shining armor.

After that? Well, I confess that I do have a whole bunch of other chainmaille projects lined up....


*Although if you actually are going to maille your cabbages and eggplants, I recommend you use stainless steel rings. I recommend 16 gauge, 1/4" inner diameter for an aspect ratio of about 4, which seems to work well for the European 4-into-1 weave. And it won't tarnish or leave black rub-off on your vegetables.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bidding a Fond Welcome Back To a Fellow Blogger

About six months ago I had the unpleasant task of removing a fellow blogger from my blogroll. Arby's Archives, which had been one of my daily reads (when he posted daily, that was), was no more. For some reason--which I have been coming to sympathize with--Arby just decided to up and delete his blog entirely.

Well, he's back. He may not look like Cary Grant anymore, but his much wrinklier visage hasn't dimmed the sharpness of his pen, or something. Insert your own profound-sounding metaphor if you don't like mine.

Be warned when you visit his new site, though: it appears that he and The Boss (his feminine side) decided to put their kids in public school, and judging from the tone and timber of his first three posts, that turned out to be a disaster. If the state of education is something you get worked up about easily, then Arby's new blog is so far about 75% red meat. They're planning on going back to homeschooling right quick.

(And if you also get worked up about Scouting, or about pubescent boys who haven't discovered how to combat B.O. yet, then the other 25% of the blog is also red meat.)

So without further ado, Arby's new blog is entitled Boarding In Bedlam.


...


P.S. Arby, I'm curious--any particular reason you went with Blogspot this time instead of WordPress? I don't have any particular reason for asking--I'm just curious.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Things To Do With Cupcakes When You're Depressed

Ok, I cheated. We're not actually depressed. We obviously wish things had gone differently, but Tonya is home and on the mend, and a great deal of future uncertainty has been removed from our lives. What we're feeling is complex, but has a whole dollop of relief thrown in.

And it doesn't hurt that we have a much higher-than-normal quantity of chocolatey baked goods at home. You see, Monday was my 38th birthday, and Tonya had both picked up a devil's food cake to celebrate, and made a huge batch of chocolate cupcakes. She had then decided to decorate the cupcakes by spelling out the words "Happy Birthday Tim" on them in frosting--one letter per cupcake, so it only spells the phrase correctly if the cupcakes are properly arranged.

So the timing of events could be seen at least in part as one of those Mysterious Ways In Which God Moves--he timed things so that we would have the maximum amount of chocolate on hand when we needed it the most.

I know, it's a minor thing... but it's often the minor things that keep us rooted in the real world when all kinds of surreal, unreal events are swirling about us. My younger brother tells of the time he and his wife lost a child three years back, how he was resenting the fact that their eldest son, who was then two, wasn't staying depressed like Daddy was. He wanted to play! He wanted to run! He wanted to splash in the bathtub! --as was appropriate for an energetic then-two-year-old boy. And somewhere along the way something clicked in Daddy's brain--maybe my little boy is the one who has things right--whereupon Daddy climbed in the bathtub right along with his boy, and they started splashing together. Note that Daddy was still wearing most of his clothes at the time. And they splashed, and laughed, and tickled, and Daddy remained sane. To this day, he still refers to his now-five-year-old boy as his hero.

So here's the minor thing that's been going on over here. See, we've had grandparents over who like cupcakes. And we have kids who (obviously) like cupcakes too. So throughout the last few days, the various letters of "Happy Birthday Tim" have been vanishing, one after another. One of the y's went away, then one of the p's..., and--well, it looked like it needed a little cheering up.

So every time I noticed a letter missing, I'd try to rearrange the cupcakes into a complete phrase. And then someone would eat another one, and I'd have to rearrange them again. Or I'd pick the next cupcake to eat, by figuring out an anagram that uses all but one letter that I couldn't get to fit. Or after a while, I'd just start rearranging them every time I went into the kitchen, just because anagrams are that much fun.

Really.

And of course, there were a bunch of cool words that I never got to use because I couldn't figure out what to do with the rest of the letters. Thus, I wasn't able to deliver any wisdom on "Parthia". But for the most part, I think I did rather well.

Ew. Not a good thing to do to your harp.


We got a book of the Arabian Nights for next year's homeschooling, and read through some of it. Some of those stories are really funny.


Don't invite he.

I bet bartenders hear the "bar paid myth" quite a bit, actually....


Ew.


And if anyone does business with the M.I.B., I'll bet it's DARPA.


These are known for tormenting garden gnomes.


Well, I had letters for it...


An' da wife she slap da me.


Good that someone did. Those bartenders have to make a living somehow.

So we've been having fun with this. And I think this newfound hobby of mine has actually been cutting down on our family's cupcake consumption, because everybody has been fearful of taking the wrong cupcakes and leaving me with an unusable collection of letters, like when you have a bunch of stuff on a scrabble letter rack that just doesn't spell anything. Truth be told, I'm afraid that someone will come along and eat all my vowels.

Though it actually got easier when someone came along and ate the y's...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Baby E.

Well, this was the Big One.

Baby E. entered this world at 3:24 this morning, and left it not much more than two hours later. We did have the chance to hold her, and feel her breathe, and feel her move, before she quieted down and left us.
I apologize that these aren't the prettiest baby pictures you've ever seen; before you can bathe a baby, the baby's temperature must be above some minimum threshold, and Baby E's temperature never got high enough. But there really wasn't time to worry about making them pretty. At the time, we didn't know how much time we had with her, so we did our best to make every moment count.
Aside from being emotionally drained, Tonya is recovering from the delivery well. This baby came about four weeks early (which caught us by surprise), which meant among other things that Baby E. was much smaller than our other kids were at birth--she was only 5 lbs. 9 oz (and 18.5 inches long), as opposed to the Adrenaline Junkie's 8 lbs, 2 oz--let alone the Happy Boy's 9 lbs 7.5 oz. Under normal circumstances, 5 lbs 9 is not a big baby, but still within the normal, healthy range; but Tonya's body was accustomed to much bigger babies, and when the time came, Baby E. arrived much faster than anyone expected. The doctors had just gotten done saying that they'd be back to check on us in an hour, when Tonya involuntarily gave an almighty push and Baby E was there....

So now what?

Well, we're not entirely sure, but the first step is for Tonya to continue recovering. She should be coming home sometime tomorrow, and I'm going to be on Daddy-On-Steroids duty for a while. Thankfully, we have grandparental support to help out. When Tonya is home and has had a chance to catch her breath, then we'll start figuring out what to do. The hospital will keep Baby E. for the next two weeks, so we don't have to make any rushed decisions. That's very nice.

We have a lot of people to thank for the help they've already given. My wonderful brother and sister-in-law, Rick and Wendy, high-tailed it hither at about 9:00 last night to keep an eye on the kids, when we realized that we had to go to the hospital pronto. Then, around 10:30 when the doctors verified that Tonya was in active labor, my Mom and Dad started packing, and hit the road for the two hour drive up here, so they could relieve Rick and Wendy, so they could get some sleep for their workday. Then Tonya's parents came up this morning with the RV so they could stay with us long enough to help us get healthy and back on our feet. And, of course, there are all the people who've been praying for us since we got the Trisomy 13 diagnosis back in December; we owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.

With all the stuff we have to deal with, blogging will be irregular for a while. Not that it was very consistent before....