Friday, August 27, 2010

Spinning Your Wheels

Salon has a great interview with the author of a new book:  "Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?": America's misguided culture of overwork.
Here is a great quote:


Can we adopt this German working life in the U.S.? Is it even feasible?
We do things that are more socialist than Europe does, but we don’t call it that. We have some things left over from the New Deal that a lot of European social democracies aren’t even close to, like time-and-a-half for overtime and social security. The single biggest single-payer socialist medical system in the world is in the United States: Medicare. Untouchable. Defended by Republicans. But it’s more socialist than the German health care system. The problem with it is that it coexists with several other systems that are not socialist at all and just pay scandalous windfalls to private vendors.

The whole system is just grossly inefficient. All of those European countries have one system. There’s cost control. There’s no cost control here; there are four or five systems competing simultaneously. To get cost controls, we’re going to have to have one system of payments for everybody. Now either we go to a free market system or a German insurance system or a single payer system. Although I don’t understand how it could happen at the moment, I just see no alternative in the long run except that the U.S. goes single payer across the board. Not because I believe in single payer over these other systems but just because of the facts on the ground. You’ve got to have one system and we aren’t going to trash Medicare. That will never happen.
Yes, let's keep in mind that just because you are sitting at a desk does not mean you are working.  Just because you put in 12 hours doesn't mean anything got done or anything became better.  Just because you never see your family doesn't mean you are a productive hero of a beast.  And let's also not forget that the United States has quite a few socialist policies that the most conservative of us cling to like a life raft.  

Friday Lust List

Here are some pretty things to tempt you with. Happy Friday!

Animal House

Sharon Montrose has finally opened an online shop where her prints go for only $25!! These are amazing and I want to buy all of them. The baby animals would be perfect for a kids' room. :)


Vinyl Coat

And, in more home decorating news, Emma Jeffs creates the most beautiful light-diffusing decals that also provide nice privacy for your windows.  I think the Lace is my favorite.

Bunny Hop Championships!!

This is obviously right up my alley. Check out the long jump!



I do have some questions though. Why do they shake their bunnies before each hop? And why do they make these clicking noises all the way? Huh. Curiouser and curiouser. :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

To all lucky Salt Lake City residents

Shabby Apple is having a sale this Saturday.  An enormous, dresses-as-cheap-as-5-bucks sale.  Dresses from Shabby Apple!  That look like this!!


The pertinent details:
What: Shabby Apple Garden Party dress sale
When: THIS SATURDAY, August 28th, from 8a.m. to 12 noon. (The early bird gets the worm and all of that)
Where: 2485 Haven Lane, Salt Lake City, UT
Why: Are you even asking me that question?

If you are in Utah, not currently pregnant (although they do have some maternity styles) and love to dress like a girl, then cancel all your Saturday plans and go!

The Ad Men


On BBC, Adam Curtis has a very nice, short-ish but thorough overview of the evolution of marketing: EXPERIMENTS IN THE LABORATORY OF CONSUMERISM (1959-67)

And, while you are in the 60's mood, how cool are these phones from Sweet Bella? They would totally brighten up your office, and, on the plus side, you would never be able to get to your office voicemail again! :)


(via Oh Happy Day)

News from around the web

Stand up and be Counted
Newsweek has a cool infographic about the quality of life rankings of countries around the world.  The US came in 11th overall, behind every single Nordic country, behind Japan, behind Australia, behind Canada.  Shame, shame.

Play with the rankings on the Newsweek website.

Sacred Places

Charlie Brooker from the Guardian has a funny and thoughtful article on the suggested Muslim Cultural Center in the Financial District of NYC.  It's near Ground Zero.  Sort of.  I mean, it's closer to Ground Zero than, say, Macy's, but it's not right there or anything.
 
The "Ground Zero mosque" is a genuine proposal, but it's slightly less provocative than its critics' nickname makes it sound. For one thing, it's not at Ground Zero. Also, it isn't a mosque.
Wait, it gets duller. It's not being built by extremists either. Cordoba House, as it's known, is a proposed Islamic cultural centre, which, in addition to a prayer room, will include a basketball court, restaurant, and swimming pool. Its aim is to improve inter-faith relations. It'll probably also have comfy chairs and people who smile at you when you walk in, the monsters.
To get to the Cordoba Centre from Ground Zero, you'd have to walk in the opposite direction for two blocks, before turning a corner and walking a bit more. The journey should take roughly two minutes, or possibly slightly longer if you're heading an angry mob who can't hear your directions over the sound of their own enraged bellowing.
Perhaps spatial reality functions differently on the other side of the Atlantic, but here in London, something that is "two minutes' walk and round a corner" from something else isn't actually "in" the same place at all. I once had a poo in a pub about two minutes' walk from Buckingham Palace. I was not subsequently arrested and charged with crapping directly onto the Queen's pillow. That's how "distance" works in Britain. It's also how distance works in America, of course, but some people are currently pretending it doesn't, for daft political ends.
New York being a densely populated city, there are lots of other buildings and businesses within two blocks of Ground Zero, including a McDonald's and a Burger King, neither of which has yet been accused of serving milkshakes and fries on hallowed ground. Regardless, for the opponents of Cordoba House, two blocks is too close, period. Frustratingly, they haven't produced a map pinpointing precisely how close is OK.
It's well-written and you should read the whole thing. 

I'm not sure how to feel about this, honestly.  As a former Brooklynite, I am somehow not comfortable with the idea of any muslim/islamic cultural center being created anywhere near anything on Manhattan.  "Near" being defined as "on the American continent". 

Logically, I understand that the feeling is irrational.  That people behind 9/11 were part of  a small, extremist and possibly insane group of individuals. More of such extremist and possibly insane individuals are being stamped out at other mosques in other places in the US, and that it would be nice to have a cultural Islamic center with open doors and transparent activities counteracting those lunatics.  (We can't know what happens inside mosques, even those suspected of extremist leanings, because just like churches or synagogues they are protected by freedom of religion and can deny entry to whomever they feel like.  They feel like denying entry to a lot of people.  But then again, so do the Mormans and they are quite nice.  Most of the time.).  Not to mention that there were Muslim passengers on those planes and they are just as American, as heroic and as no longer alive as the people in the towers.

And, logically, and as Charlies Brooker points out, it's really some distance away from Ground Zero.  The argument that this is "hollowed ground" falls, in my opinion, flat on its face.  I mean, there are adult video stores and McDonalds and thieves selling forgeries much closer to Ground Zero than the proposed cultural center.  There are tourists snapping pictures of themselves in front of Ground Zero.  There are observation platforms.  There are souvenirs.  All these things make New Yorkers cringe much, much more than any cultural building.

(Note to some Ground Zero visitors: when you come to a site of recent disaster, please keep in mind that you are not at a civil war re-enactment.  This is recent.  This was very very real.  You may not think that New York is in real America, but this disaster is still real and recent.  People affected by this are all around you, trying to go about their daily business.  When you snap pictures of yourself or the site, pose in front of it, chew gum, and generally treat is as some sort of Universal Studios attraction, you are being a rude dumb-ass.  FYI.).

So while I have my feeling of unease about the new Islamic center, and while I feel that at least people practicing Islam should somehow coordinate an outreach effort to make sure their religion is not hijacked again (as it continues to be around the world), I'm not comfortable joining the outcry against building the thing.  I can't join that outcry because it is led by the same people who go to Ground Zero and pose in front of it for group photos (?!!!), who buy crap with pictures of the towers on it, who are loud, obnoxious and morbidly curious about the site.  These people disturb me much, much more than the practitioners of Islam building a center a few blocks away.   

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Choooo Choooo!

We are going to the Toy Train Show this weekend, and if you are in the DC area, you should come too!!  There should be loads of model trains, with steam and real honks and train noise and complicated tracks.  And there will be a real train the kiddies can ride.  And it's only $7 per adult, and kids are free.  It really can't get better!



The Largest Train and Toy Show in the Northeast!
Dulles Expo Center
4368 Chantilly Shopping Center, Chantilly, VA 20153
*** FREE PARKING ***

August 28-29, 2010
10:00a - 4:00p
Kids Under 12: FREE!
Adults Still Only $7.00 (good for both days)

Show Features

400+ Tables of Trains for Sale

100+ Exhibitors from Across the Country

Operating Model Train Displays
WVM Garden Railway Society - 30' x 50' G Gauge Layout
Piedmont Railroaders - 36' x 36' HO Scale Layout
Potomac Module Crew - 30' x 40' HO Scale Layout
National Capital Trackers - 24' x 48' O Gauge Layout
W&OD S Gaugers - 22' x 32' S Gauge Layout
Northern Virginia N-Trak - 16' x 28' N Scale Layout

Free Workshops and Demonstrations

Train on Time - Riding Train for Kids!

Hourly Door Prize Giveaways
Plus Much, Much More!


And while you are waiting for the show doors to open, ticket in your hand and impatient toddler at the ready, check out these cool train track demandments and designs on Wired's Geek Dad.  I think this one is my favorite:
"It's an ode to what got you into this predicament in the first place".

What you can't have


Lately, fashion blogs have been teeming with these pictures. Pictures of gamine and effortlessly chic women and stylish men who have elegance about them that I can never hope to achieve. They probably roll out of bed looking this way. I just have to come to terms with the fact that no little black dress will ever make me look like Audrey Hepburn.  Sigh.



But, at least, Mad Men is back again and Christina and I can certainly fill out all those dresses.  My head is dreaming about Audrey, and the rest of me looks like Marylin.  Or, in my case, Sophia.  Or Anita.   I can't help it. :)
Oh well.  We do look great when in Italy. :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Two cool videos

Even though I gave birth to a kid, and am expecting to have another one soon, I honestly have no clue how these kids come about.  I mean, I logically understand it.  I can recite the process of cell division, specialization, the whole thing, I get it.  But I just don't REALLY get it.  I mean, how can that be? How does something come from what used to be nothing?  It's all just cells dividing, really?  For a while, cells divide, and then you get a little person saying "ffffff-uck teeee-ruck"? WOW. 

I don't get it.  It's like a sci-fi movie plot.  So cool it can't possibly be true.

That's why this video of cell division is so awesome.  It's only zebrafish (no insult to zebrafish), and look how crazy complicated it is!  They were able to capture the first cell divisions for the first time ever.... you can watch the little zebra fish in the making!  And, our babies start out the same way.  Amazing.  It's awesome, but still doesn't make it more believable.



And, of course, when the thing gets built and gets bigger it can do all sorts of cool stuff. Like chasing after butterflies. Oh, and "the thing" happens to be a penguin.



How cool is that?

It's Moooonday

Here are some Etsy cows to cheer you up! These are so amazing, although way out of my price range.  Still, a cow-loving girl can admire all this moosomeness captured in oil painting.  See more at RozArt's Etsy Shop.



  

All images property of RozArt's shop, of course.  How cool are they?  Can't you hear the cows mooing right at you? :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Oh-oh, he might be catching on.

Yesterday, we had this conversation.

Elijah (holding his toy dump truck): "fffffff-uck".
Me (cringing): "No, no, T-ruck.  Teeeee-ruck".
Elijah (giving me a sly look): "fffffffff-uck".
Me: "No! Teeeee-ruck!"

Elijah(with sly look turning to sly joy): "Fffff-uck teee-ruck!!"
and, before I can say anything else, he looks triumphant, throws up his hand and says:
"Ha! HIGH FIVE!!"
... and he high-fives me.  He looks very proud of himself.

I folded over laughing.  I couldn't help it.
So there you have it.  Not only does he say it, he now clearly gets that it sort of gets a rise out of people. Great. HIGH FIVE, Mom! Awesome job.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Beet Root Soup

The weather has been insanely hot in our neck of the woods. We normally only get a week or two of heat spells in a summer, but not this year. 50+ straight days of 90+ weather.

When it's this hot, you don't really want to be in front of a hot stove, and you don't really want to eat anything hot either. Enter... dum, dum, dum!

Beet Root Soup!

We used to make this all the time for hot weather lunches in Russia. (Even though it never got THIS hot there. Until, apparently, now). It's like borscht, but meat-free, very light and so, so refreshing. Try it, you'll like it! Here is a lovely recipe from They Draw and Cook:


The recipe credit goes to:

NAME Anna Afonina
LOCATION Bryansk, Russia
VICE Roast meat, apple pie, ice-cream (yum-yum-yum) 

For extra yumminess (although with less healthfullness), serve the soup with a dollop of sourcream.  And check out the rest of They Draw and Cook blog for very cute recipes, especially ones for kids. :) Happy munching!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Christopher Walken reads Poker Face

Priceless.

Pretty things from all over the web


Paper to Read

This Jerome K Jerome quote print is from Keep Calm Gallery.  I am the biggest fan of Jerome K Jerome ever.  If you want something hilarious to read, pick up a copy of 3 Men in a Bot (not counting the dog) - or, even better, read it online as the book is now old enough to have its rights expire.  I still have my old, blue, dog-eared copy that I bought for 5 canadian dollars at a second-hand book stand on a Nova Scotia trip with my parents.  I read the book in Russian translation first, then in English, and both were awesome.  Here is one of my favorite parts to give you a taste:


We got up tolerably early on the Monday morning at Marlow, and went for a 
bathe before breakfast; and, coming back, Montmorency made an awful ass 
of himself.  The only subject on which Montmorency and I have any serious 
difference of opinion is cats.  I like cats; Montmorency does not.

When I meet a cat, I say, "Poor Pussy!" and stop down and tickle the side 
of its head; and the cat sticks up its tail in a rigid, cast-iron manner, 
arches its back, and wipes its nose up against my trousers; and all is 
gentleness and peace.  When Montmorency meets a cat, the whole street 
knows about it; and there is enough bad language wasted in ten seconds to 
last an ordinarily respectable man all his life, with care.

I do not blame the dog (contenting myself, as a rule, with merely 
clouting his head or throwing stones at him), because I take it that it 
is his nature.  Fox-terriers are born with about four times as much 
original sin in them as other dogs are, and it will take years and years 
of patient effort on the part of us Christians to bring about any 
appreciable reformation in the rowdiness of the fox-terrier nature.

I remember being in the lobby of the Haymarket Stores one day, and all 
round about me were dogs, waiting for the return of their owners, who 
were shopping inside.  There were a mastiff, and one or two collies, and 
a St. Bernard, a few retrievers and Newfoundlands, a boar-hound, a French 
poodle, with plenty of hair round its head, but mangy about the middle; a 
bull-dog, a few Lowther Arcade sort of animals, about the size of rats, 
and a couple of Yorkshire tykes.

There they sat, patient, good, and thoughtful.  A solemn peacefulness 
seemed to reign in that lobby.  An air of calmness and resignation - of 
gentle sadness pervaded the room.

Then a sweet young lady entered, leading a meek-looking little fox-
terrier, and left him, chained up there, between the bull-dog and the 
poodle.  He sat and looked about him for a minute.  Then he cast up his 
eyes to the ceiling, and seemed, judging from his expression, to be 
thinking of his mother.  Then he yawned.  Then he looked round at the 
other dogs, all silent, grave, and dignified.

He looked at the bull-dog, sleeping dreamlessly on his right.  He looked 
at the poodle, erect and haughty, on his left.  Then, without a word of 
warning, without the shadow of a provocation, he bit that poodle's near 
fore-leg, and a yelp of agony rang through the quiet shades of that 
lobby.

The result of his first experiment seemed highly satisfactory to him, and 
he determined to go on and make things lively all round.  He sprang over 
the poodle and vigorously attacked a collie, and the collie woke up, and 
immediately commenced a fierce and noisy contest with the poodle.  Then 
Foxey came back to his own place, and caught the bull-dog by the ear, and 
tried to throw him away; and the bull-dog, a curiously impartial animal, 
went for everything he could reach, including the hall-porter, which gave 
that dear little terrier the opportunity to enjoy an uninterrupted fight 
of his own with an equally willing Yorkshire tyke.

Anyone who knows canine nature need hardly, be told that, by this time, 
all the other dogs in the place were fighting as if their hearths and 
homes depended on the fray.  The big dogs fought each other 
indiscriminately; and the little dogs fought among themselves, and filled 
up their spare time by biting the legs of the big dogs.

The whole lobby was a perfect pandemonium, and the din was terrific.  A 
crowd assembled outside in the Haymarket, and asked if it was a vestry 
meeting; or, if not, who was being murdered, and why?  Men came with 
poles and ropes, and tried to separate the dogs, and the police were sent 
for.

And in the midst of the riot that sweet young lady returned, and snatched 
up that sweet little dog of hers (he had laid the tyke up for a month, 
and had on the expression, now, of a new-born lamb) into her arms, and 
kissed him, and asked him if he was killed, and what those great nasty 
brutes of dogs had been doing to him; and he nestled up against her, and 
gazed up into her face with a look that seemed to say: "Oh, I'm so glad 
you've come to take me away from this disgraceful scene!"

She said that the people at the Stores had no right to allow great savage 
things like those other dogs to be put with respectable people's dogs, 
and that she had a great mind to summon somebody.

Such is the nature of fox-terriers; and, therefore, I do not blame 
Montmorency for his tendency to row with cats; but he wished he had not 
given way to it that morning.

We were, as I have said, returning from a dip, and half-way up the High 
Street a cat darted out from one of the houses in front of us, and began 
to trot across the road.  Montmorency gave a cry of joy - the cry of a 
stern warrior who sees his enemy given over to his hands - the sort of 
cry Cromwell might have uttered when the Scots came down the hill - and 
flew after his prey.

His victim was a large black Tom.  I never saw a larger cat, nor a more 
disreputable-looking cat.  It had lost half its tail, one of its ears, 
and a fairly appreciable proportion of its nose.  It was a long, sinewy-
looking animal.  It had a calm, contented air about it.

Montmorency went for that poor cat at the rate of twenty miles an hour; 
but the cat did not hurry up - did not seem to have grasped the idea that 
its life was in danger.  It trotted quietly on until its would-be 
assassin was within a yard of it, and then it turned round and sat down 
in the middle of the road, and looked at Montmorency with a gentle, 
inquiring expression, that said:

"Yes!  You want me?"

Montmorency does not lack pluck; but there was something about the look 
of that cat that might have chilled the heart of the boldest dog.  He 
stopped abruptly, and looked back at Tom.

Neither spoke; but the conversation that one could imagine was clearly as 
follows:-

THE CAT: "Can I do anything for you?"

MONTMORENCY: "No - no, thanks."

THE CAT: "Don't you mind speaking, if you really want anything, you 
know."

MONTMORENCY (BACKING DOWN THE HIGH STREET): "Oh, no - not at all - 
certainly - don't you trouble.  I - I am afraid I've made a mistake.  I 
thought I knew you.  Sorry I disturbed you."

THE CAT: "Not at all - quite a pleasure.  Sure you don't want anything, 
now?"

MONTMORENCY (STILL BACKING): "Not at all, thanks - not at all - very kind 
of you.  Good morning."

THE CAT: "Good-morning."

Then the cat rose, and continued his trot; and Montmorency, fitting what 
he calls his tail carefully into its groove, came back to us, and took up 
an unimportant position in the rear.

To this day, if you say the word "Cats!" to Montmorency, he will visibly 
shrink and look up piteously at you, as if to say:

"Please don't."
Keep Calm Gallery has some other very cool prints as well; the prices are steep but the typography and the quotes are just priceless. 


Paper to Write

Imprintables is a new Australian paper shop.  Well, at least new to me.  I love all of their cards - small sized, elegant and perfect for little announcements of big things.  Almost makes me a send-out-baby-arrival-announcement kind of girl.  Almost.  May be I'll use them for the next birthday party though!

Paper to Hang
 Kidlandia offers custom-printed maps for your kid.  Make your own pirate bay, world or country, customize all the place names with things your kid loves (including custom creatures, treasures, boats and swords) and make him king! Who would not love that?  I mean, I'm thinking of getting one for my husband.  Shhhh.  You can get these in vinyl sticker form, in stretched canvas, or as a printed paper.  To hang. 

Oh, and you can also order a plain, old, boring real-world map.  But I don't know why you would.  I mean, look at this.




No paper involved at all

And, finally, the Help Shop has some well-designed tablet tins for your perusal:


And don't forget to check out their Help, I'm Bored section, even if you are not.

A tale of every air traveler

As told by the brilliant Christoph Niemann (NYTimes Abstract City Blog). See the whole thing because you don't want to miss it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

String Theory

This article on tennis by David Foster Wallace has been making the blog rounds lately.  It's fascinating. You should read it.  It talks about the vast, profound difference between the top players in the world and the runner-ups.  Once you get in the stratified air, it's amazing what the best of the best can do. It's not just work, practice and their 10000 hours.  It's something else.  Something superhuman.

Except for the serve, power in tennis is not a matter of strength but of timing. This is one reason why so few top tennis players look muscular. Any normal adult male can hit a tennis ball with a pro pace; the trick is being able to hit the ball both hard and accurately. If you can get your body in just the right position and time your stroke so you hit the ball in just the right spot -- waist-level, just slightly out in front of you, with your own weight moving from your back leg to your front leg as you make contact -- you can both cream the ball and direct it. Since “…just the right…” is a matter of millimeters and microseconds, a certain kind of vision is crucial. Agassi’s vision is literally one in a billion, and it allows him to hit his ground strokes as hard as he can just about every time. Joyce, whose hand-eye coordination is superlative, in the top 1 percent of all athletes everywhere (he’s been exhaustively tested), still has to take some incremental bit of steam off most of his ground strokes if he wants to direct them.
I submit that tennis is the most beautiful sport there is and also the most demanding. It requires body control, hand-eye coordination, quickness, flat-out speed, endurance, and that weird mix of caution and abandon we call courage. It also requires smarts. Just one single shot in one exchange in one point of a high-level match is a nightmare of mechanical variables. Given a net that’s three feet high (at the center) and two players in (unrealistically) fixed positions, the efficacy of one single shot is determined by its angle, depth, pace, and spin. And each of these determinants is itself determined by still other variables -- i.e., a shot’s depth is determined by the height at which the ball passes over the net combined with some integrated function of pace and spin, with the ball’s height over the net itself determined by the player’s body position, grip on the racket, height of backswing and angle of racket face, as well as the 3-D coordinates through which the racket face moves during that interval in which the ball is actually on the strings. The tree of variables and determinants branches out and out, on and on, and then on much further when the opponent’s own position and predilections and the ballistic features of the ball he’s sent you to hit are factored in. No silicon-based RAM yet existent could compute the expansion of variables for even a single exchange; smoke would come out of the mainframe. The sort of thinking involved is the sort that can be done only by a living and highly conscious entity, and then it can really be done only unconsciously, i.e., by fusing talent with repetition to such an extent that the variables are combined and controlled without conscious thought. In other words, serious tennis is a kind of art.
If you’ve played tennis at least a little, you probably have some idea how hard a game is to play really well. I submit to you that you really have no idea at all.
Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Except I didn't say "Fudge"......

Elijah loves trucks right now.  For months on end, he's been screaming "TWUCK!! TWUCK!!" at the sight of any large vehicle.  Really cool.  He's into it. We got him loads of twucks.  All was well.

But now his pronunciation of the word "truck" has changed.  He is replacing the first two letters of the word "truck" with a clear, drawn-out, loud, well-enunciated F.
To further complicate things, he started speaking in short phrases at around the same time.  Which, so far, has produced some delightful gems.  Replace the first letter with a loud "FFFFFFFF" and you get the gist.

"Mommy, *uck!"
"*uck down!"
"*uck home!"
"Dump *uck!" (sounds a lot like 'dumb *uck', especially when mumbled while wondering off)
"Big *uck!"
"Fire *uck!"
And, of course, when he is really excited about a truck,
"*uck! *uck! *uck!!"

We have tried to practice prounouncing "truck" with him, but all that has done is made him yell "FUCK!" even louder.  So we stopped.  Now we just try to avoid the topic, but it's difficult given that the stupid things are all over the roads.  Who knew that things usually used to describe trucks in phrases are so interesting when applied to, um, this area.  We totally are at a loss for what to do - the only thing we can do, and probably will do, is to try to record him saying it so we can play it back someday for our grandchildren.

Someone please help us.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Phones and Photography

We are waiting for our new iPhones to arrive.  Soon, I'll have a camera with zoom AND a video camera on me at all times!! Wooohooo!  (Expect much more photos and videos of the mundane on this blog soon.... I know you can't wait!)

Apparently, the phones are actually shipped from China! Did you know that? I didn't! I thought the entire "wait 3 weeks to get it" was just Apple playing hard to get or something.  But, no!  So, by boat or something, the phones went from mainland to Taiwan to the US!  The phones came to Alaska, and now they are in Newark, NJ!! (Hold them! May be parents can drive them over! )

Ha. I love tracking stuff being shipped from overseas. The last thing I had shipped from that far away was our MINI Cooper!  It was so awesome watching the car make its way across the pond on some large, large boat. This is not as cool as tracking the MINI - but still.  I feel wonderlust!  I want to throw on a backpack again and track off into anywhere!

But, until Wombat and Wallaby are big enough to travel, I'm land bound.  So, what should I order next?  To make sure it comes from the ocean? A sari? Real Chinese food? A Portuguese water dog?!

Oh, but on to the photography part. So, when the phones do get here with that nifty 5mp camera and zoom and ability to focus..... it will still have one lens.  But, apparently, there is a way to change that! Check out these nifty fish-eye, macro and wide-angle add-on lenses! They attach with a magnetic ring, cost only a few bucks and should make for fun things to carry around in my purse. Yeay for more toys!

And, while thinking about photography, check out Ok Cupid's tips on how not to take bad photos!
It's actually not that hard. Use a decent camera. Go easy on the flash. Own the foreground. Take your picture in the afternoon. Then visit the nearest Apple store. Done.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Learn something new every day

Two completely unrelated, but rivaling in coolness pieces of information:

1.  Brainless slime mold makes decisions exactly like humans do.



It makes decisions by evaluating its options comparatively, rather than absolutely.  In other words, when presented with a $5 bottle of wine and a $25 bottle of wine, the mold chooses the cheaper one.  However, when a choice of $500 bottle of wine is added, the mold goes for the $25 one as it looks like a relative bargain. Except, in the case of mold, wine = oatmeal culture.  For humans, the wine story holds exactly as told.  :)

Economists refer to this as 'irrational behavior', and behavioral economics is the hot new field figuring out why humans do the things they do with their money.  It turns out that the older 'rational agent' economic theory is bust.  It also turns out that we are not unique in our irrationality - or, even more profoundly, it turns out that biological systems are irrational.  I mean, the mold doesn't even have a brain.

Read the entire article on Not Exactly Rocket Science. 

2.  A Tilt-Shift Tutorial!


Have you wondered how to take pictures of real, large, everyday objects in a way that makes them look miniature? The technique is called tilt-shift, and basically involves changing the focus and the perspective simultaneously to create an illusion of smallness.  Specialized lenses to do this can be very expensive, but there is a DIY Guide to creating one.  And, the same site also has an excellent explanation of How Tilt Shift Works.  Awesome.

I posted a NYC Tilt Shift video a while ago, and now there is also a San Francisco one.  Funny, the miniature versions of these cities are more like I remember them than the real pictures.  


Plungercammed: Tiny Fishermans Wharf from Bhautik Joshi on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

2!!

Elijah is 2!!

A big kid. He used to be a baby. Now, I look at pictures of him and do a double-take: is that really my kid? That's a big boy in the picture!  That's not a baby!  Yep.

Somehow, in the last year, he developed a sense of humor, a naughty side, a prankster attitude, the sweetest hugs and kisses, an eyelash bat that stops waitresses in their tracks and gets him great service at any restaurant, and the requisite strong will that comes standard in our family package.  With the strong will it seems negotiating skills came included, which is handy. :)We are overwhelmed by his cuteness and coolness and sweetness.

He had a great day being two. His party was at our MyGym (on the way to which, in the car, he hummed 'Happy Byouthday to E-ya-ya' in the sweetest voice possible, all while holding his birthday balloon). He got to have bubbles, a zip line ride, a ride-on toy, ball pit and a puppet show for his party. Not to mention all the friends!






And, of course, there was CAKE! We ordered a Bob the Builder one from Liz's Bakery next door, and boy did they do an amazing job.  The cake was so tasty! It had fruit in the middle (hey, no one can get mad at me for serving children fruit, right?) and not too much frosting, and the tastiest yellow cake layers.  But best of all is the cake design! Wombat was very excited about it.  He liked the taste of the cake as much as the toys on it. :)



We've been practicing blowing out candles with Wombat for weeks, and he's been doing it with no problem! Until, of course, he was put on the spot in front of everyone.




"Daddy do dat".  So Daddy helped blow out the candles.





There are more birthday pictures on Fotki, if you know the password.  If you don't, email me to ask. :)

We tried to ask for no gifts, and tried instead to do a used-book exchange. Of course, only our close friends believed us and everyone else interpreted this as "please bring a brand-new book for my child, wrapped." Oh well. May be I'll try again next year. :) Elijah definitely loves all his new books though! Lucky boy.

We just didn't want everyone to bring a trinket, given how our house already looks like a storage facility for FAO Schwartz.  But of course, we bought him gifts ourselves.  And, with a little help from our family, we got him two BIG THINGS. 

And, after the party, he was so excited that he refused to take a nap.  It's like he knew that there were gifts waiting for him downstairs.  So, napless and sugar-high, we unwrapped the BIG THING NUMBER ONE.

A BIG, VERY LARGE, ENORMOUS TRUCK.

We saw Bruder trucks in our local toy shop.  Wombat tried to take every one of them out of their boxes and went wild over them.  I went on Amazon to see if I could procure one, of course.

And I found a truck that was half-off! The reviewers for it said "it was larger than I thought...." and "my kid loves it!!". I figured, oh, it's as large as the ones in the toy store, that's not too bad. I ordered it.  It arrived.

It's very large.

It's larger than the ones in the toy store. It's larger than Wombat. I'm pretty sure. But he can't ride it.

Mostly because there is already an excavator riding it.

No, seriously.

Here it is.



The smaller truck is in the foreground.  The large truck is in the back, and I didn't want to switch to a wide-angle lens to get it.  And I'm only half-kidding about the wide-angle.

Iggy wrapped it, and it was the largest box and the first box Wombat reached for. And after the paper was torn off, Wombat lost track of space and time for a little while and got to know his new truck. The first thing he did after the truck was out of the box is say "baby rul'!" and "baby digger!" and got 2 Little People figures to drive the equipment. Smart.



Wombat is sitting ON THE TRUCK.  He is sitting where the excavator (foreground) would normally sit.  Check out how his bum only takes up like 1/3 of the available trailer space.  Here he is adjusting his digger-holding spacers on the platform trailer.  Truck maintainance is complicated business.


After hours of playing with it, Wombat decided to take a lyrical pause and asked for his la-la-la and a song to play along to.  So, instead of bringing out the Wii plastic guitar, we opened the BIG THING NUMBER TWO.

A REAL GUITAR.

Wombat has been music-obsessed for months now. He's been sitting on the couch, listening to Russian cartoon songs and strumming the Wii guitar. For his birthday, we decided to get him the real thing.



He loved it. The new "la - la - la" is awesome.

There is only one problem: it has steel strings. They make a much nicer sound than vinyl, and the guitar comes with a pick for them, but Wombat wants to strum with his hand. He already tore up his thumb using it, and he still won't use the pick. So we are sort of hiding it until we figure out a way to get him to pick at the strings.

And then, of course, there are all the books, there are the toy trains, there are many other gifts that he got and is still going through.  Thank you all so much for such outpouring of love for our little guy.  He feels proud to be two; we feel amazed that two years have already passed.  Time does fly when you are having fun.

Happy Birthday to the best Wombat in the whole wide world.  If we could find words to tell you how much we love you, they would make the most beautiful song ever sung.



Yeay 2!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Once Upon a School

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Stuff I would buy if I had a waist

In what I am sure is a deliberate and targeted attack, the fashion industry is coming out with the most gorgeous pieces of all time for fall. And I cannot wear ANY. OF. THEM. Sigh. They are not in the budget, not really necessary, won't fit at the moment and won't be in season next season. But I am lusting after each and every single one of them.

Isn't this coat from Anthropologie absolutely perfect? Look at the lace detail! The waist! The 3/4 sleeve!!  Also, check out how completely impractical it is! For, um, "only" $168! Oh, just shoot me now.



And for more from Anthropologie, how about these maillots? So elegant and so retro and soooo perfect! My favorite is the green one, and IT'S ON SALE.  Someone with a currently available waist and a chest that doesn't require construction-site-grade support, please buy one already!

(Yes, I know that from this post it appears that I would like to wonder around in a maillot with a coat over it.  Let's chuck that up to the pregnancy hormones and move on.)

So, ModCloth and Ruche are no not letting me down either with all of these dresses up for grabs:


















Sigh.  Big, long, lusty sigh.  Ok, back to reality.  I have a shipment of some maternity tops coming and I'm sure they will look just as cute. A-ha.

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