May 4th, 2009

An exchange yesterday:

Emma: We have enough kids’ toys in the house. I don’t think we should get the toy kitchen for Dara.
Me: We should, otherwise how will she learn womanly skills?
Emma: Probably by watching you.
Me: Well played, madam, well played.

toby teeth

April 28th, 2009

Great excitement for young Toby today, as he lost his first baby tooth. It had been loose for two or three weeks, and yesterday it was clearly very close to coming out, but still not quite there. Apparently at school this afternoon he just but down on it and it popped out, causing a lot of interest from his friends. His teacher put the tooth in an envelope, which is now under his pillow awaiting a visit from the tooth fairy. Here’s some pictorial evidence (of the tooth, not obviously the tooth fairy):

Toby on April 27, with full complement of milk teeth

Toby on April 27, with full complement of milk teeth

Toby on April 28, with gap in teeth

Toby on April 28, with gap in teeth

victory for anti-bigotry

April 27th, 2009

Yes it’s been ages since I’ve posted, so to make up for it here are two heart-warming tales of young, decent people standing up against madcap bigotry – in both these cases, against the nastiness that is the Westboro Baptist Church, fronted by Fred Phelps. He has a history of really nasty anti-gay protesting, often outside funerals of US Army victims of war, because apparently America is a hotbed of gayness, and therefore the soldiers deserved it.

Victory number one: The Phelps people were planning to protest outside Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, because apparently Walt Whitman might have been gay or something. But the school had other ideas:

At the 2:10 p.m. dismissal, 500 students issued forth from the campus and lined up, several students deep, along the police tape, across Whittier Boulevard from the congregants. They alternately chanted the school name and “Go home!” — drowning out voices from across the street.

Faculty had spun the event into an interdisciplinary lesson. English teachers spent the day on Whitman’s verse. Social studies teachers led a unit on tolerance. Math teachers fanned through the crowd, attempting a head count.

It was the first taste of protest for many Whitman students, and perhaps the first time they had paid much mind to their namesake.

“This is my school, and this is where I live, and that makes it personal to me,” said Maddie Oliver, 18, a senior. Along with others, she wore a blue T-shirt emblazoned with the Whitman passage “Let your soul stand cool and composed.” Principal Alan Goodwin helped choose the slogan, hoping students would see its wisdom, he said.

Rebekah Phelps-Davis, daughter of Westboro pastor Fred Phelps, said it was “the duty of the servants of God to go where the message needs to be heard.”

Susan Russell, 17, a junior, said she hoped the publicity would “highlight how ridiculous they are. I mean, that sign — ‘You will eat your babies’ — that doesn’t even mean anything.”

Victory number two: the Phelps people protested outside a school in California, where a production of “Rent” was to be staged. Once again, both teachers and students had more enlightened and, frankly, beautiful ideas:

A handful of members of Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, which is known for its anti-gay protests, vowed to come to the campus to demonstrate against what it saw as the godless enablers of homosexuality. By midday Friday, the protesters had arrived. There were three of them, carrying signs that said, “[Gays] Are Beasts,” among others.

As they gathered on the sidewalk, several students came together in counter-protest on the other side of the street. Within minutes, more than 200 — some wearing rainbow tie-dye shirts and holding peace signs — stood sentry in front of the campus, clutching signs that said, “Support Love,” “God Hates No One” and “Love Is Not a Sin.”

The students turned the protest into a mini-celebration, singing songs from the musical and breaking into the school’s own fight song. A couple ran through the crowd in swim trunks, with the words “God Loves Gays” written across their chests. One was wrapped in a rainbow-colored cloth. Another wore a handmade shirt that read, “Love Is Equal.”

At one point, several students ran across the street to stand near the protesters. They shouted, “God loves gays and lesbians too,” and waved their signs at passing cars. Minutes later, Fred Phelps, pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, and his supporters walked away, taking their signs with them.

gmail autopilot

April 1st, 2009

It’s an incredible 5 years since Gmail was announced by Google. A lot of people thought it was an April Fool’s joke, but it has since turned out to be an amazing resource for millions of people – I know that I would hate not to have it.

Today, however, they do have a pretty decent joke, in part because it sounds almost plausible: Gmail Autopilot.

worst game ever?

March 20th, 2009

Probably not, but tetris in HD just isn’t as much fun as the real thing. It’s kind of hypnotic though.

youtube music

March 14th, 2009

My brother David sent me this a couple of days ago, and it’s fantastic. It’s by someone (who I would guess has plenty time on his hands) who took samples from YouTube videos and mashed them up into really decent songs. The whole collection can be found at thru-you.com, and there’s some background info at mashable.com. I just think it’s a wonderful testament to the creativity of humans – the people in the videos, the guy who did the mixing, and the technology behind it. Here’s one of the songs – enjoy:

sexy people

March 14th, 2009

I’m not sure I’m 100% comfortable with the ethics of the sexy people blog – it’s a list of portraits which probably seemed like a good idea at the time. I think that a lot of them were sent in by the subjects of the photos, but some of them are just plain strange. Scrolling through the archives, I think that this page gave me the most laughs.

the ‘news’

March 9th, 2009

I tend to take a look at the BBC news pages every day or so, but over the last few months they’ve been getting really annoying, mostly because of the extreme over-use of quotation marks. Here’s an ‘example’ from today:

Quotation marks on the BBC

Quotation marks on the BBC

See what I mean? And most of the time, there’s absolutely no need for them – it’s not like they’re direct quotes. Anyone have any ideas why they seem to feel the ‘need’ to do this? If you read the ‘blog’ of ‘unnecessary’ quotation marks, you’ll see their idea that unnecessary quotes often make words look really sarcastic, and if you read the BBC’s ‘headlines’ that way, it does sound a bit more amusing.

ten glorious years

March 6th, 2009

Today it’s ten years since I arrived in these United States (specifically, this particular one – the Great State of Minnesota (whenever politicians refer to a state, it’s always a “great state”)).

I can’t quite believe I’ve been here this long, but I’m pretty happy about it. When I got on the plane in 1999 I had never been to America before, and to be honest I’m not sure what I was thinking apart from that it would be something of an adventure, and it would be good for me to see if I could do it – live in a different country. It was quite a culture shock when I arrived – much more than I expected. I had visited a couple of friends shortly before I moved here, one in Berlin and one in Tokyo, and while they found the culture differences quite challenging I think that they expected it more than I did. My take was that people speak English here, so how hard could it be? Well some things weren’t too bad, but as most people know there are a lot of differences between American and British English, but actually more than you would expect. Apart from the words themselves, there are a lot of subtleties, word ordering in sentences, idioms, turns of phrase and even body language. Also I had never really lived in a suburb before – certainly not one without obvious public transport. It took quite a while to make friends beyond my initial circle of expat buddies (and thank goodness for them!) and sometimes I would go a whole weekend without really speaking to anyone. But you know, that was actually OK, and it was probably good for me to have that time.

Anyway, still here, and at a quick reckoning here’s what I’ve done in the last ten years:

Lived in a couple of different apartments
Bought a house in a great neighborhood
Joined a great choir, of which I am a section leader and also choir president
Made some wonderful friends
Built up some decent retirement savings (even with recent stock market disasters)
Learned to barbecue a fantastic steak
Traveled to several states in the US, plus Canada
Traveled to India a few times, and to Bermuda
Got married
Got my green card, and now my US citizenship
Progressed in my career in a way I really wanted to, got a bunch of great opportunities, and have learned a ton
Put on a few pounds, but not as much as I deserve to
Gained tons of confidence by doing pretty much all of the above through a combination of good fortune and hard work
Had two wonderful kids

Speaking of those kids, I also just put up some new pics here – hope you enjoy them

not so elegant

March 6th, 2009

A great page on Wired today – 12 elegant examples of evolution. Some totally cool stuff, until you scroll down the page and read the completely non-evolved comments of the ridiculous and ignorant evolution deniers who seem to feel the need to trumpet their nonsense without any kind of knowledge or humility. I was all inspired by wonders of nature and of science and of human ingenuity, and now I’m feeling a bit deflated. Oh well. It’s worth a look, just don’t read as far as the comments.