Thursday, September 29, 2005

Weekend Getaway

So, BioMom and I are outta here for the weekend. Our last free weekend for the forseeable future.


I had a little freak-out this week when using my Outlook planner while at a committee meeting. I now actually have things planned. . . That is, on my calendar, for the week that Itsy comes.


Here's a shout out to Cousin's Mom, Lez, for the 'little toy' I just received in the mail.

I love it!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Something Like Motherhood

In today's New York Times Modern Love column titled "Something Like Motherhood", Carolyn Megan finally put words to feelings for me in describing her fear about having kids. Bold mine.

When the author's brother, in making plans for the aftermath of the impending death of his wife, pleaded with her to move in with him and his two kids she responded;

I never answered him. I said things like "We'll see how this unfolds" or "Don't go there yet." Stall tactics. Each time he asked, I felt trapped, an impendin sense of desperation adn doom. It's the same feeling I had years ao that led to my decision not to have children.

The decision came from my desire to be fully in my life as a writer rather than to raise a child. Having a child was not how I wanted to make meaning of my life, not how I wanted to give back to the world. And the reason for this was my sense that I would love too fiercely, too desperately at the cost of my self.

I knew my children would always come first and my art second, and I sensed the resentment I would feel about that. So I made a choice and said no to the idea of a child. But my niece and nephew are alive and here and need taking care of now. And I have stepped in without hesitation, something I could never regret.

Doug Henwood on Jeffrey Sachs

I, too, have been baffled by this man's career: shock therapy to humane development and antipoverty strategies? Neoclassisist to Othodox critic? Classical music to U2?

Check out this article in the Left Business Observer: The Long, Strange Career of Jeffrey Sachs.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Quote of the Day

Chinese Checkers is really different than Minnesota Checkers.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Family Bed

Recently, the FYO has been regularly waking at about 4:30 a.m. and coming into our room with some Midwestern passive-aggressive apophasis to sleep with us in bed.

We have designated two appropriate situations in which she is allowed to join us. The first being sincere illess as represented by some irrefutable symptom such as regurgitation or fever. The second is a seriously scary storm.

The rules established, the FYO's job is to determine exactly the boundaries of those rules. To know that the fence surrounds the yard is not enough. It is important to identify which grass along that border are considered IN the yard and which OUTSIDE of the yard.

And so it began.

In the beginning, her approaches were obvious, and simple, if not, still impressive. I mean, how in the hell did she force herself to actually wake at 4:30 a.m. just to test our limits? Is this not an impressive example of internal fortitude? I imagine her in there, the inexplicable desire to roll over, or the very beginnings of a need to urinate, causing what would normally be a temporary wake, but instead she wills her eyes open like a teenager on a road trip trying to get the most out of spring break by driving all night to his beach-front destination, espresso in hand.

Being a relatively light sleeper, I hear her door open and her feet padding toward our room, insouciently passing up the bathroom along her way despite, I'm sure, the pressure in her bladder as if out of spite for us in anticipation of the rejection.

She approaches one of us slowely, quietly. Waiting for just the right moment to interrupt our REM sleep. In a whisper:

It is storming.

From this we are to infer that one of the exceptions to our rule should be allowed and she should be welcomed into the bed.

Of course, in this case, it usually is a lovely, starry-skyed night and one of us (alternately) takes her to the bathroom, oversees the emptying of the bladder, and points out to the dissapointed FYO, that the night is clear and that she will be spending the rest of the fleeting evening alone, in her own bed.

The next night:

I'm sick.

And again, we perform the back-to-your-room drill. Its no use just saying it. Go to bed! Because a debate ensues and I end up wide-eyed the rest of the night having had the logic-center of my brain awoken by the FYO's demand for attention, any attention, just so that it be in our room, with us. If she can't stay in the bed with us, read to us, or play with us, at 4:30 a.m., an irrelevant and illogical discussion will do.

Recently, her approaches have become more thoughtful. More manipulative.

Calmly: I'm having trouble breathing.

Lately it has been storming insessantly. One night, the lightening and thunder was particularly loud and scary. Every crash, BioMom would let out a little yelp and the house would shake with the thunder. I actually started to go and get the FYO, worried the she may even be too frightened to make the journey down the hall to our room, but I opened the door to find her confident and unafraid self:


Said she, as she marched by, blanket over her shoulder, confident with the assurance that this, THIS was, in fact one of our documented exceptions and that we could not, in all fairness, retract her God-given right to a spot in our bed on that night.

She misunderstood, apparently, the spirit of the exceptions: actual fear, actual sickness. And, being not yet able to fully comprehend the fable of the boy who cried wolf, she invoked every exception available if not for the SPIRIT of the exception (she was not afraid, or sick) but for the PRINCIPLE of the exceptions themselves.

I should mention in this discussion that I do recognize that there are different schools of thought on the family-bed issue. One book, that I recommend, Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, sent to me by Cousin's sister (also a cousin, obviously) insists on the developmental importance of welcoming a child into your bed.

They begin in the chapter of that name, "Family Bed" :

We have some funny ideas about sleeping in this society.

From this, I have gleaned from them that as a parent, sleeping at all should be considered secondary to the goal of nurturing your child. You haven't slept much since your newborn came? What did you expect???

Our pediatrician recommended we keep our first child in his own bed, in his own room, so we could establish from the first that they would have to follow our rules and learn to sleep alone without bothering us. But we went into parenting wanting to be bothered.

Okay, already they're making me feel selfish. . .

They go on:

In fact, we saw it as essential. We felt that our infant baby belonged with us. Sleeping next to us, he could relax into the softness and warmth of our bodies. He was bathed in the security and comfort of our presence. All was right with the world, for him and for us, when he was sleeping between us, usually snuggled right up against one or both of us. . . . For several years we slept together, breathed together. Even when he slept in his own bed, our bed was often where he started off the night, or wound up by morning. . . .

A greater intention came into play here, one we valued far more than sleep. We intuitively felt that the security and the peace that our physical presence gave our children was nourishing to their whole being. The effect was tangible. We could see it in their open, curious, lively, loving faces. Our presence at night rounded them in their bodies and in the world, and that rounding could be seen in the way they quietly observed the world around them. They were curious without being frenetic, active without being out of control. The well-being and joyfulness emanating from them was wonderfully contagious. They were wholly present--whether it was in laugh of delight, a shout of anger, or a loving embrace. The purity of their aliveness was enlivening for us and more than made up for the lost sleep.

So, basically, if we don't let the FYO sleep with us, her life will be a doomed, intimacy-fraught search to replace the losses she felt as a child. A divorced, 40 year old mother of three, she'll return to our house, looking for the intimacy refused to her as a child.

If we let her, she'll pass Go, collect $200 and head off to Harvard Medical School on a scholarship.

And, what if she wants to crawl into bed with us forever?

We believed that when the children were ready to sleep through the night, they would; and when they were ready to sleep in their own beds they would choose to do so; and of course, they did.

Why not let her sleep with you you ask?

It is horrible. Horrible I tell you. Sleeping with her is like sleeping next to a trout flopping around in the bottom of the boat, flipping about, in its last attempt to reach its aquious sustinence.

And that is if she falls back asleep.

More likely, she has urgent stories to tell.

Or, a desire to finish that chapter in Judy Moody which requires a police-officer's spotlight, filling the quiet room with light as though the sun had come up inside the house rather than at the horizon.

If she comes in at 4:30, I can kiss 2-3 hours of restful unconsciousness goodbye. While she might feel nurtured at that moment, I can tell you that already tapped pitcher of patience runs thin when I'm exhausted.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

More on the Ivy Mrs. Degree

See Echidne of the Snakes' rant, and another scathing article at no other than, Slate.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

New Day, Same Old @%#&

Today's New York Times ran an article that it has run before.

This one had a different title, and a different author. But the same message.

Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood by Louise Story.

What I would like to see is a follow-up article of one of these women actually IN the position they are describing, 10 or 15 years from now, bun in the oven, having worked their arses off for 60 or 70 hours per week at some top law firm for the past 10 years, having just made or about to make partner, and enjoying the fruits of their hard work.

I am not a Harvard grad, but I am doing some serious cost-benefit analysis right now in deciding if, when, and how much FMLA leave to take next year and even though my university (and department) is extremely flexible, it is, no less, a serious cost-benefit analysis.

A counter-article would have to consider:
1. lost earnings and benefits (especially if the women are not married to a wealthy spouse or, for some political limitation, cannot marry their spouse and therefore enjoy the benefits that accrue from his/her labor force participation),

2. lost experience toward promotion and higher future wages (there are many academic articles out there that show that both men and women lose a significant amount of salary/wages over time in their career even if they take a short leave)

3. both of 1 and 2 should be measured with compounded interest

4. the possibility that (gasp) they won't PREFER to be a stay at home parent with their little darlings,

5. the possibility that (gasp) they may actually get some personal fulfillment from work

6. the REALITY that law firms don't employ people part-time (or that few firms offer this sort of flexibility)

7. and, finally, again, why it is that men just don't seem to even CONSIDER such a cost-benefit analysis.

The Harvard/Yale part of the story (and there is ALWAYS a Harvard/Yale part of the story) just highlights the drama in the choice these women are planning on making while ignoring the privileges accorded to the individuals.

For a longer discussion, check out the post at Crooked Timber.

Monday, September 19, 2005

David Brooks an Optimist?

I've never seen what appears to be the series of unconsidered shenannigans we call White House Policy described in quite the way that David Brooks did in his New York Times column from yesterday's paper: "A Bushian Laboratory":

But gradually and fitfully, Bush has muddled hs way toward something important, a positive use of government that is neither big government liberalism nor antigovernment libertarianism. He's been willing to spend heaps of federal dollars, but he wants that spending to go to programs that enhance individual initiative and personal responsibility.


Is Brooks on the Bush payroll?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The 28-Week Jimmy-Leg

When BioMom's quiet, she'll feel Itsy moving around with fairly subtle movements. At those times, it is clearly awake and floating around, reaching out with its arms and legs.

But then she'll feel a huge kick or punch that will appear, to me, as though she (BioMom) has the hiccups or something.

And then I'll rush over to try to feel Itsy. . . . Nothing will happen. BioMom suspects Itsy to have had the Jimmy leg just as he/she was falling asleep!

Things That Make Me Want To Be Paternalistic

Taggert over at A Random Walk posted a horrifying account of how Katrina survivors are spending their debit cards. Not that I'm against people blowing off a little steam after surviving a disaster, mind you. Its just that I don't want to PAY for it. . .

Between that account, historically mismanaged donations by big agencies like the Red Cross (see this for a more current example of government workers with an excuse to spend money), and already, no-bid contracts offered to Bush cronies in the wake of any opportunistic disaster with Katrina being no different, I wish I hadn't forked over my last Andrew Jackson at our crazy left-wing church today.

The Innocence That She Will Lose

I just lost a tooth! she says to the checkout guy at PetsRUs.

He either doesn't hear her, doesn't realize she is talking to him, or pretends that he doesn't hear her.

It is reasonable to think that he doesn't know that she is speaking to him. She has said something out of nowhere, quite softly, and her face was not looking in his direction, and, therefore, the soundwaves of her statement travelled elsewhere.

I try to get his attention, to sheild her from the reality that will inevitably close in on her someday: People don't care.

Maybe I am just cynical.

But she is not, and it is lovely, her world.

She approaches everyone and anyone with her, and our, personal details with the assumption that the details, HER details are important to everyone. Whenever this happens, I hope the stranger will give her some attention. Be delighted in her firsts. I hope that the details she provides are not too personally revealing on my part, and I hope that when people don't care, that she isn't crushed.

I lost my first tooth and another tooth is coming in! LOOK! she says to the besuited woman waiting impatiently for her coffee at Caribou. Her little fingers part her lips so that you can see the both empty space on her lower front jaw and the white little mountains cropping up in the left back; her six-year molars making an unfashionably early entrance.

Tonight at an outdoor concert near our closest lake, the FYO wanders over to a shady spot while I stake out a spot for BioMom and her parents, and the blanket I know they're toting. I overhear the FYO telling a fellow concert-watcher that

No. We don't know if it will be a boy or a girl yet.

Bravo Again Frank Rich

Message: I Care About the Black Folks

Friday, September 16, 2005

Some Humor from Cousin

Via her Mom:

When asked how he felt about Roe versus Wade, George W. Bush replied, "Frankly, I don't care how people got out of New Orleans. As long as they got out."

Thursday, September 15, 2005

All Things Lost

On Tuesday the FYO ran into the street toward BioMom's car after school waving and screaming:


She didn't lose it exactly. As the full story unraveled to BioMom throughout the evening, it turns out that a Four-Square ball was the culprit rather than her first adult tooth pushing its way through her gums like a beansprout.

But like The Little Prince, to the FYO the ends justified the means. This was her first lost tooth and that implied her first visit from the Tooth Fairy!

BioMom gave her a darling little tooth-shaped pouch in which to put the tooth under her pillow that night. And she was so excited that she couldn't help herself but take it out, put it in, take it out, put it in.

FYO, plus tiny item, plus constantly effing with it equals, you guessed it, it gets lost.

Being out of town, I missed all of this.

I returned to my phone to a desperate message from BioMom asking for a call to reassure the FYO that even though she had lost the tooth, that the Fairy would come. The FYO, ever the rule follower, insisted that that was "tricking" the fairy and that she wouldn't get her due rewards.

By the time I called back they had, thankfully, found the tiny piece of enamel that was the broken tooth and she was off to bed. The tooth under her pillow an enormous boulder in her mind.

We settled on a golden Sacajawea dollar as her "reward" but I was moved by the following poem:

The Tooth Fairy

They brushed a quarter with glue
and glitter, slipped in on bare
feet, and without waking me
painted rows of delicate gold
footprints on my sheets wtih a love
so quiet, I still can't hear it.

My mother must have been
a beauty then, sitting
at the kitchen table with him,
a warm breeze lifting her
embroidered curtains, waiting
for me to fall asleep.

It's harder to believe
the years that followed, the palms
curled into fists, a floor
of broken dishes, her chainsmoking
through long sliences, him
punching holes in his walls.

I can still remember her print
dresses, his checkered taxi, the day
I found her in the closet
with a paring knife, the night
he kicked my sister in the ribs.

He lives alone in Oregon now, dying
slowly of a rare bone disease.
His face stippled gray, his ankles
clotted beneath wool socks.

She's a nurse on the graveyard shift.
Comes home mornings and calls me.
Drinks her dark beer adn goes to bed.

And I still wonder how they did it, slipped
that quarter under my pillow, made those
perfect footprints. . .

Whenever I vist her, I ask again.
"I don't know," she says, rocking, closing
her eyes. "We were as surprised as you."

--Dorianne Laux

Monday, September 12, 2005

My Daughter, the Phyllis Schlafly of FYOs: The Nature v. Nurture Debate Continues

On Mondays and Fridays I pick up the FYO from school at 2:25.

Yes. You heard it: 2:25 p.m.

It is great to have that time with her, but it definitely cuts into my workday which used to go until 5:30 or so.

Today, after her very first piano lesson ever, we had a little separate free time and then decided to try playing LIFE!

While still a bit beyond her, I figured we'd have fun trying.

If you don't remember, you begin by selecting a pink or blue 'peg' and putting it into the driver's seat.

The FYO decided immediately that she had to have a blue peg because

. . . girls don't drive.




Um. . . What?

Yeah. Girls don't drive, so if you have to have someone in the driver's seat, it HAS to be a blue peg!

I'll remember that when you're sixteen and asking for the keys to my car!

She has literally seen four men driving in her entire life: Grandpa, MRM#2 (because MRM#1 literally needs MapQuest to get from his house to his office), FoF, and Sidekick's dad. And even then, when they're with their wives, the WIVES DRIVE!?!

A little further along in the game, one is required to stop at the MARRIAGE stop sign and pick up another peg, pay some taxes, and draw a random piece of luck from the LIFE pile. It so mirrors real life doesn't it?

Upon landing there she exclaims:

Well, I HAVE to have a pink peg!

I literally think I am more bothered by her self-imposed anti-woman generalizations than the societally-inspired homophobia.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Prolific Elf

It wasn't until we were about three-fourths of the way through the enormous pile of one-and-a-half-by-two-inch typed note cards on silvery stock that we came to the one with the header:

dear [FYO], age five,

It was a relief, for sure. Her increasingly panicked voice wondering if he had, indeed, written her back. I was beginning to collect notes to girls with names similar to the FYO, concocting an explanation that he could not, quite, read her writing.

Mr. Little Guy, who, as it turns out, is an elf, rather than the troll we had supposed, had, indeed, written her back.

Here it is, copied directly, written in all lower-case letters:

how nice of you to stop by. so sorry i missed you. thank you for the great picture. you sure are talented. i am so proud of you. by the way, i am not a troll. i like them but they tend to talk too much about digging for gold and investment banking. i'm an elf and we are much more fun to chat with. plus we are very accomplished cooks. you should try my minnow cakes. they are delicious.
we have a cat named nickerson. he is normal size and when he is bigger, we will ride him around the lake. i think penelope sounds like a very nice cat. nickerson says hello to her (and you too of course).
my name is thom and live with my wife, martha, a great elf and our daughter alta lucia, age eleven. she is a princess elf. i am taller than my younger brother and shorter than my older brother.
enjoy the summer. i believe in you.

mr. little guy (august 27, 2005).

Certainly priceless.

Friday, September 09, 2005

My Junior Year: What This Professor Learned by Becoming a Student

I am currently auditing English 305: Creative Writing.

And no. I wasn't bright enough to think ahead about the project and turn it into a book.

Having said that, I am definitely learning about more than creative writing and, though I won't admit this to my students, am developing some sympathy for them.

On the first day, the professor told me that I could just go to the textbook rental place and pick up the books.

I trotted over there, begged my way in (I had forgotten my i.d.) and stood at the counter waiting for someone to help me find my books.

One sympathetic observer informed me that I needed to actually go into the stacks and find them for myself.

Of course!

Within the stacks, I sort my way through the odd organization of the books. No Dewey Decimal system for this store. Nor are they arranged by course, which would make sense to me. They are, however, organized by topic, so I wandered over PAST ECO to ENG, bumping, awkwardly, into former students who, by the look on their faces, tried to place me in this out-of-context situation.

I start gathering the (rather long) booklist only to find that the two books required for the next day's homework were, clearly, in short supply, and were no longer available.

Using my clout as professor, I inquire at the front desk.

Oh, we've ordered more. They'll be in in a couple of weeks.

I leave, happily, with most of the required books under one arm, and head back to my own office and the backlog of work waiting there for my attention.

I completely forget about a) the books and b) the homework until, literally 12:35 the next day.

This is exactly 5 minutes before class.

The other students in my group have completed their practice poems, read the readings for the day, and brought into class with them their note-taking system.

Me, I had nothing.

My sympathy abounds.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Another Home-Run by Frank Rich

Falluja Floods the Superdome

Florida's Spiky World

In this quarter's new The Atlantic Monthly, Richard Florida [the author of The Flight of the Creative Class and Hirst Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University] echoed my critique of Friedman's The World is Flat in his article "The World is Spiky."

In the article, Richard critques Friedman's "flat-world" hypothesis [which claims that globalization has essentially leveled the world's playing field. "'In a flat world,'Friedman writes, 'you can innovate without having to emigrate.'"] by showing through several interesting graphic depictions of the world,

[I]n terms of both sheer economic horse-power and cutting-dge innovation, surprisingly few regions truly matter in today's global economy. What's more, the tallest peaks--the cities and regons that drive the world economy--are growing even higher, while the valleys mostly languish.

He presents four graphs that proxy economic activity to support his argument.

The first is a world map depicting population as hills or spikes becoming increasingly tall and red as population increases. The share of the worlds' population living in urban areas, just three percent in 1800, was nearly 30 percent by 1950. Today it stands at about 50 percent; in advanced countries three out of four people live in urban areas.

His "spiky" map shows the uneven distribution of the world's population.

Five megacities currently have more than 20 million inhabitants each. Twenty-four cities have more than 10 million inhabitants, sixty more than 5 million, and 150 more than 2.5 million.

In terms of actual economic output: New York's economy alone is about the sze of Russa's or Brazil's, and Chicago's is on par with Sweden's. Together New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston have a bigger economy than all of China. If U.S. metropolitan areas were countries, they'd make up forty-seven of the biggest 100 economies in the world.

His second map shows essentially light emissions at night [a widely circulated sort of map but this is presented similarly with red spikes, getting larger with higher energy use. It is a more helpful map in the sense that you get an idea of differences intensity with a relief map.]. This map, like the population map, and similarly incongruous to a 'flat world' argument, shows highly concentrated activity in the U.S., Europe, and somewhat less so in Asia.

He argues that while both population and economic activity are spiky, it is: innovation - the engine of economic growth - that is most concentrated.

His third and fourth maps present a similar 'spiky' depiction of the number of patents produced, and the location of the world's most prolific and influential scientific researchers as measured by number of citations of scientists in leading fields.

So, Florida argues that rather than flat, the world is "spiky". That innovation is the result and cause of concentrations of creative and talented people.

Ideas flow more freely, are honed more sharply, and can be put into practice mroe quickly when large numbers of innovators, implementers, adn financial backers are in constant contact with one another, both in and out of the office. Creative people cluster not simply because they like to be around one another or they prefer cosmopolitan centers with lots of amenities, though both those things count. They and their companies also cluster because of the powerful productivity advantages, economies of scale, adn knowledge spillovers such density brings.

His warning to policy makers is that while continued economic progress depends on the growth of his described peaks, fostering such growth will exacerbate disparities around the world:

fomenting political reactions that could threaten further innovation and economic progress.

Friday, September 02, 2005

California Dreamin'

Calif. Senate Passes Gay Marriage Bill

Too Much Time On My Hands Or: Inefficiency Declines Without A Profit Motive

I suppose they do this on purpose.

At the start of the semester, they drag all of the college of business faculty together for an excruciatingly tedious meeting about everything from budget woes to sexual harassement.

Its a great time to see people you haven't seen all summer.

And people watch. A room full of academics is like a circus show.

And, I suppose it lessens the blow of starting up again. They know that without such a meeting we'd all be dragging our unprepared arse's into the classroom, partial syllabi and all, five minutes before the first class.

We professors can be an idiosyncratic group.

Yesterday's meeting was particularly raucus. At one point we were to discuss the adaptation of the AAUP's statement of professional ethics.

This is one of those toothless guideline for professional behavior. Don't harass students. Respect your colleagues. Don't go around houses in your neighborhood. You get the idea.

Furthermore, it has been vetted by a NATIONAL ORGANIZATION!

Naturally, it unleased a HUGE debate.

Where should the statement go? At the END of our bylaws? NOT in the bylaws? Near the mission statement?

One person actually asked who would do the 'spanking' if someone didn't follow the guidelines.

This goes on for about 1/2 an hour.

Then someone else asks: To whom will this statemtent apply? Professors? Tenured? Untenured? Tenure-track? Adjuncts? Grad Assistants? The Administration? Administrative Assistants?

If you know me, you know that at this point I am literally pulling out my hair.

We take a paper vote on the issue and then a coffee break. When we return, they've tallied the votes.

46 Yea
1 Abstention.