tisdag, december 27, 2005


My 4th Generation, click wheel, 14 month old iPod broke last week. Its brain got stuck somewhere in a manilla folder with an exclamation point attached to it - a very bad sign. I have read the manual and nothing resets it. No computer can see it. No amount of switching Apple USB cords changes the situation. My only option is to return it to the Apple Repair Shop. Or buy a new one. Without music, excercise is not even an option. Without exercise, I start to get all fussy inside.

I hate it when that happens.

As I have transferred all my cd's onto iTunes and then into storage boxes somewhere, I guess I will just have to start strapping my computer to my hip with an oversized fanny-pack. Won't my kids be proud.

måndag, december 26, 2005

Up for Air

I desparately need to read something. I am beginning to choke and panic. I brought seven magazines home from the office, I visited four convenience stores yesterday to find a Sunday Times, and I am now the owner of the complete collection of Calvin & Hobbes. I sat down on the couch at least three times last evening to exercise my eyes and never made it to one page one. I can almost not breathe.

Hence, I cannot write.

To make things worse, the family has been in particularly good form. They gave me very little material to work with over the past week. Something about Santa and a potential mound of presents I suppose.

I need an event, a catastrophe, an insult. I am working on it. For pure inspiration, I bought each member of the family a game from a collectors' series I happened upon at Target. Risk for the one who won't take one, Scrabble for the one who cannot read, Sorry for the soul who is always at fault, Monopoly for the kid who has no concept of cash, and Yahtzee for the child who leaves everything to chance. I got things going a bit last night, but we started off slow, with the game of Life in the new Sponge Bob Square Pants version. No car or pegs or getting married. This is a much saner version of life. You move a character about, adopt a pet, and opt to live in a cave or a pineapple. Perhaps the biggest difference in playing versus thirty years ago is that all the kids went to college instead of going straight into a career. When the kid who won Life looked like she was going to win the next game, Sorry, too, the group ganged up on her. Now that they are primed, I am going to set the table for breakfast with plates, maple syrup, and a stretch of Atlantic Avenue.

Then I am going to find a corner and read.

onsdag, december 21, 2005

But Did You Open the Damper?

The little one walks into the kitchen, tells us she's cold and asks if we can turn on the fire.

It's a dvd fire for the television screen, but we didn't laugh. We all just stared at her, silently acknowledging that she was still much saner than we. She didn't buy the odd thing.

It's Not Last Minute Until Friday

While the Spreeblog is in technical rehab and posting is temporarily suspended, I will put my Shopping features here:

The Elmwood District shopping has hit a watershed mark this year, I believe, helped by those who understand that living in a city can be a good thing; and some more structured support via the Forever Elwood Association. Room is just one of the new or rennovated stores to hit the street, and it is a thrill to see a little taste of Toronto's Kings Street head South. There is a heavy focus on luxurious bedding and pillows, which I will get images of later in the season, and then smaller stuff, like these ornaments or suprisingly heavy glass coasters to hand out to a host or hostess. If you had been thinking of getting a little something for the bedroom but lost your nerve, throw something sexy on the bed instead. Not the coasters, though.

JV Basketball

I have enough adrenaline and aggression to supply the left flank of a Spartan army. None of my girls do. One gets hit in the face with a soccer ball on her first day of practice at the age of 5 and doesn't join a sport for 4 years. Another is adept at any sport she tries, but is mostly concerned with how her hair looks. The youngest, who knows. I think she just plans on being the best without any dues paying.

I go to a JV's girls' basketball game today. My dad had always said, "Girls can't play basketball. They are not anatomically suited for it." He is a jerk, though, so I don't even waste time on fact checking. Pubescent girls may have a little trouble getting the right amount of air to dunk, but I am not seeing a lot of difference between them and the film clippings of the the old white college teams. Wait. I take that back. I think the girls today look a little better. They move, they flow, and they do it young.

Except for my kids, of course. They hold back and watch the ball. They don't run in to snag the ball or spurt with a breakaway. It is actually hard for my own body to sit and watch. I want to get in and burst. But I sit and watch and bite my tongue. I say, "Nice game. Glad you got to see some court time."

It's only sports. It's only a game. It's not worth a destroyed relationship with a daughter. Drive is a very individual thing and we all have it in different ways, but, my heart hurts.

She Got Game.

måndag, december 19, 2005

Never a Player

I think I would be too afraid to play this game. Shadow of the Colossus. I know I would always die. I would get scared when the monster appears on the screen and instead of escaping through expert eye-hand coordination, I would pound the controller like an excited monkey. I don't know why I never really connected with games, but even back when Pac Man was hot, when the munchie guy got close, I lost my composure.

I thought Boing Boing might lead me to a chick gamer site, but further inspection raised suspicions that it was nothing more than stealth marketing for a software company. Joystiq looks like a legit site, just no instruction on handling fear.

torsdag, december 15, 2005

We're CNN, and What Do You Think About That

I got stuck in an airport recently. I had come in from a transatlantic flight, missed my connection and became too tired to think much on my own. For three hours I sat in front of a TV screen offering up Lou Dobbs, Paula Zahn, and Wolf Blitzer.

When I was in college, I used to get up every morning, make coffee and turn on the PTL show. Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker used to get my brain perculating faster than caffeine ever could. "Who sends them money?" I would wonder. "In what part of the country is that eye makeup thing a good look and will I ever have the misfortune of going there?" Now I have CNN.

"We want to know what you think," Lou tells us. "Take our quick vote."

"Is there any reason, national security or otherwise, that the United States should ever engage in torture? Yes or No."

What could "otherwise" ever possibly be in the federal context? "I'm sorry m'am. We suspect you and your husband of tax evasion/patent infringement/putting pennies on railroad tracks. Come with us to our secret island of horror."

If you want to tell Paula Zahn Now what you think, you first have to let her know: Is your comment today negative or postive.

Negative or positive. I don't know. It would depend, I guess, on a number of factors that the comment box doesn't have selection options for. So, rather than get hung up wondering in which category my comment belonged, how about a clearer query, like, "Is your comment dumb ass or a stroker?"

Wolf, who should never be in a stiff collar, demands "Instant Feedback."

Jeebus, don't these people get enough attention? Is it really necessary to get this stupid to beat Fox for ratings? My favorite Quick Vote this week was:

"Which do you think is more reliable, Wikipedia or Encyclopedia Britannica."

Well if you said Britannica, CNN says you'd be wrong because . . .
Headline: "Wikipedia as accurate as Britannica"
Well, not really. Clarifying Subheadline: Wikipedia, the encyclopedia that relies on volunteers to pen nearly 4 million articles, is about as accurate in covering scientific topics as Encyclopedia Britannica the journal Nature wrote in an online article published Wednesday. The finding, based on a side-by-side comparison of articles covering a broad swath of the scientific spectrum[.]"

Well, sure, because just like the rest of us fifth graders, the volunteers copied right out of the Britannica pages. Besides, its science. Unless you live in Kansas, how different can it get? I don't know about you, but for my next term paper, I am sticking with Britannica. I can't let my social studies grade rest on the shoulders of some internet addicted shut-in with a password.

Back to you, Paula. I'm heading over to the Whiskey Bar.

Yeah, We Bad

Former President Bill Clinton was in town yesterday. He said about Buffalo, "You can’t live and stay here if you’re a wuss." BuffaloPundit thinks we should be branding ourselves, and offers up Clinton's tossed bone for gnawing on.

Now let's see. It meets certain criteria for branding: it is simple, short, direct, not already taken and true. As for word and image association, I went straight to WWF-sized biceps, mullets, and monster truck pulls, and then veered off to Richard Pryor's We Bad walk. I will never forget Richard. His face did "WTF?" better than anyone else's. It's a shame he had to catch on fire and all . . . Where were we?

Yes, it is good to be tough and thick skinned and tenacious and strong and dependable and a survivor and a team player. The trick is to keep that image from slip-sliding into "stupid."

Discovered blog about branding: Snark Hunting

onsdag, december 14, 2005

Lost in Space

"The United States did not chose war. The choice was Saddam Hussein's." George. W. Bush, December 14, 2005.

"They [the West] have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions, and the prophets." Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, December 14, 2005.

I think both these guys have been to Jupiter.

Discovered Blog: Iranian Truth

A New Song

Girls go to college to get more knowledge.
Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider.

Oh, that's nice honey. Get your hands washed for dinner.

The youngest is intrigued by the prospect of the oldest going away to college. "I'm not going," she says to me. "I want to stay with you."

Oh, that's nice honey. Get your hands washed for dinner.

I don't want any of them to leave, but that is not how it works, so I will do what I do best: ignore it. I hugged my oldest yesterday. "It's so funny," she said. "We are the same size."

I hate it when that happens.

Found Davezilla on schoolyard rhymes.

måndag, december 12, 2005

Happy Sankta Lucia

Scene: Generations of Americans, catching an occasional image of a blonde girl with candles in her hair, with each assuming that the precious creature fits somehow into the fold of a Rockwellian religion. She must be some sort of angel or precious servant girl greeting the baby Jesus in her jammies, with candles in her hair and roses on her cheeks. How quaint. How sweet. How very Peace on Earth.

I: What is the story? Can you translate the song? How can their voices sound as if they are but one?
He: (Silence).

The first year, we took our daughter to an old church near the 700 hundred year old square. It was standing room only, so we walked up alongside the pews until the volume of other visitors and hanging coats halted us behind a white support beam. I tried to see. I craned my neck. I patted the back of our child with such nervous please don't make a sound fervor that she responded with a relentless stream of curdled milk that found a home atop the dry-clean only sleeve of her father's coat. We left the church before I could figure out Ms. Lucia's story line.

"Sant Lucy. She's the patron saint of light," someone offered upon my return to the States. "She was a martyr for her faith. They tortured her and tore her eyes out. It is depicted in a famous statute, where she stands holding those eyeballs on plate. Light, lights, candles, get it?"

No, I decided. That wasn't right. I hadn't seen any of this Italian version on my trip; no grossness on a tray. Only coffee and some rolls in my version. I had more investigation to do.

Year two was equally unenlightening. We came to the old church early enough to get a seat, which meant that we came early enough for the toddler to decide to take entertainment matters into her own hands. On this dark evening with magic candles and captive adults, she decided to challenge the acapella voices with a, "Hi! Hi! Hi!" to everyone around us. Not "Hej! Hej! Hej!" which would have been the Swedish equivalent, but the very clear, identity-betraying American version.

For year three I decided to bring the holiday safely inside the house. The heck with the story. I would look it up on the internet if I got a chance. What mattered most was a white dress, something for her hair, and a tray to hold food. H&M solved the apparel issue with a circular rack full of white gowns, but what could be done about the head piece? I walked a pedestrian street and ventured into a florist shop. I was nervous. I wasn't sure what I was asking for, and whatever it was, I didn't know how to ask for it. Eventually I decided I wanted "that" and stood in line to pay. When it was my turn at the cash register, I walked up to the kindly Dawson's Creek kind of lumberjack of an owner who had just given his assistant a break. I reached for the money that I had conveniently placed in an easily accessible pocket, and proceeded to jam the zipper into the pocket lining. Suddenly, I felt like a Dicken's waif: 120 cm's tall and mute. I blushed crimson until the owner came around to where I was standing and began tugging at the snagged zipper. "I have daughters, so I think I can do this" he said, in English.

Probably convinced that if left to my own devices I would succeed in little more than setting her granddaughter's head on fire, my mother-in-law extended a gracious offer of help. She led me to a store with battery operated candles and adjustable head piece in forever-after evergreen. She handed me a box of silver tree garland and gesticulated quite clearly that this was for the belt. With the nod of her head to the cashiers, I knew that I had just acquired the insider's stuff on this holiday, and I was proud. On the morning of December 13, 2003, one little half-Swede half-American girl got all dressed up for her Papa in a white gown with a silver belt and carried in a tray full of muesli and orange juice for breakfast. We hadn't had time to get the food part figured out.
For Year Four I thought it would be nice to learn to sing the song and understand the story. Oddly enough, though, I discovered that there wasn't any manger scene in my translation. No new-born baby part, and certainly no eyeballs on a tray. No, this holiday had a much more pragmatic rationale. The holiday was all about getting through the dark, pre-Gregorian Winter Solstice and finding something pretty and sweet to think about in the process. So she and I loaded up the tray with buns, gingersnaps, and Belgian chocolates (just because) . Six hours later, we arrived at what we thought was to be a spectacular Sankta Lucia parade and found instead a three-hour long equestrian show for Icelandic-ish ponies, in Swedish, in a 20 degree stadium. Fahrenheit.

This year, we are all separated by oceans. My youngest wanted very much to be the Angel, as she calls it, and this time the Angel who gets to ride the head pony, and I wish I could give it to her. It is a tranquil and lovely holiday that reminds us that soon the days will be brighter. No conflicting Gods; just a day to remind us that soon nature will reset the sun.

And it will.

Natten går tunga fjät runt gård och stuva.
The night goes heavily stomping around the farm and cottage.

Kring jord som sol förlät, skuggorna ruva.
Around earth, as the sun forgot, the shadows spread.

Då i vårt mörka hus, stiger med tända ljus,
Then on our darkest house, comes shining light

Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

Natten var stor och stum. Nu hör, det svingar,
The night was big and still. Now hear, its swings!

I alla tysta rum, sus som av vingar.
In all our silent rooms, whispars as of wings

Se på vår tröskel står vitkläd, med ljus i hår,
See on our threshold there, standing clad in white, with lights in her hair

Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

Mörkret skall flykta snart ur jordens dalar.
Darkness shall flee soon, out earthly valleys.

Så hon ett underbart ord till oss talar.
So she a wonderful word to us brings

Dagen skall åter gry, stiga ur rosig sky,
The day shall rise anew, from the rosy sky.

Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia

torsdag, december 08, 2005

Pavlov's Pizza

"What idiot invented the chicken finger pizza?" is all I want to know.

It's a white pizza, topped with Buffalo fried chicken pieces, a sprinkling of blue cheese dressing, and a handful of crunched celery. It successfully marries two distinct taste experiences around here (i.e. unnecessarily doughy pizza and never quite reproduced accurately anywhere else chicken wings). It's like loving jelly sandwiches and loving peanut butter sandwiches and then one day, the big, loud kid sitting next to you on those elementary school table seats that are locked into place, says, "Hey, Einstein, you can eat 'em together you know." Yet as quick as I am to poke fun at the double-wide State Fair folk, when this pizza is in the house, I salivate, an accident of geography.

"Oh, no," I said, when I got home late from the office and saw such a demon on the living room coffee table.

"Why? Is the pizza fattening?" asked Junior Miss College.

Just the fatty parts.

Taste Good, Looks Like the Back Yard

I rediscovered the Food Network this week, specifically a show on recognizing, buying, and preparing ham. The next morning I went out and bought a huge City Ham, brown mustard, brown sugar, a bottle of bourbon, an anomizer with which to spray the bourbon, and crushed ginger snap cookies. All these items, save the anomizer, were to be packed onto the outside of the poor souless slab after I had burned my fingers removing the skin and fat following a 4 hour slow cook. Ok? Got it? A lot of work. Some pain. An important meal. No cooking intuition at all. Some knife work and two bandaids. Are you with me?

When I took it out of the oven, it looked like a wood chuck rolled up into a basketball. Two of my daughters and I stood around the thing and stared, wondering what the heck it might taste like. I wondered how I would cut it. The youngest walked into the kitchen, peered into the huge pan and offered, "It looks like dirt." The older girls could no longer contain themselves.

Best ham I have ever tasted. Scouts honor. However, a carving knife has gone on the gift list.

The Second Remission

"I saw three women this evening with cancer hair," my daughter said.

I saw four, but it wasn't a contest. I said nothing.

Did I never notice them before, or did women such as these of past decades die away quietly and out of sight? My mother has just gone through her second mastectomy, second chemo, and second run of radiation. Her hair has grown back enough to look intentionally stylish. Most of it is dark grey, ridged around the hairline with a shock of white. The hair is as soft as a puppy's. I have to stop myself from petting her head.

Her upper body is so incredibly small now. She was visiting from the south, so I threw my Nordic coats on her with every brief outting outside. I imagined that the needle-like wind would pierce her if she were not protected with Finnish technology and high grade down. She had trouble stretching her arms, as the cut site was still tender. I dressed her as I would have to do a toddler. I wanted to keep her with me, like another one of the kids; make sure she had a bed, new clothes every season, books, chocolates, the morning crossword and a window that catches the sun.

I spent a day - thirteen hours to be exact - on our early holiday feast. Each time I passed by the table partially set with our family whites, the thought of having some other type of plate kept nagging at me. Then, when looking for the silly, dishwasher-unsafe thirty-year-old probably lined with lead snowmen head hot chocolate cups, I found her china instead. That was what my tired brain was trying to remind me. I pulled them down, rubbed the silver lining around the edge of each, and set the girls to doing a fast switch, including the china bread plates and cups and saucers.

Two hours later she saw the table and quickly disappeared. She returned with a hand delivery of one of her famous newspaper clippings. This one was written by Ellen Goodman, a Boston Globe columnist. Ms. Goodman had described the almost compulsive need of her siblings and her to use their own grandmother's dishes this way. My mom had read this and thought of her own china that she had passed on to me, cut the column out and brought it thousands of miles for me to agree with. Thank goodness that some part of my brain had been overheating itself in an attempt to get the rest of bossy me to remember the china. It was a close save, and a big one. I cannot wait to place it in front of her again next year.

onsdag, december 07, 2005

Somebody said there'd be doughnuts.

(Happy Holidays anyway.)

For the office's end of the year don't forget about us card, I picked this image. Our client base is split between frozen tundra and hellfire hot. This year, cold won. Then we had a little caption contest. "Make it funny," was all I said. I had no choice. I was bone dry. All I was coming up with was the sort of thing you would see on an inspirational poster in a Republican Representative's waiting room wall: "You are never as alone as you think." You know, the kind of messages that successful business people would choose to send out, but gives me the creeps.

Bill won the contest. It was tough running, though, up against the one about the hockey goon with the lead pipe.

måndag, december 05, 2005

Humor by Committee

The best time I had at Chicken Little was when my five year old and I walked out of the movie theater into the windy, dark night and I watched her reaction to me saying, "If I saw one of those aliens out here on the street right now in front of us, I would pee my pants."

She thought I was the God of Funny.

Then in the car she realized, "Hey, I did not see the part where the dad chicken said to Chicken Little, 'I screamed like a little girl'; maybe he said it while we were looking at each other instead of the movie." Well sure honey, that line you had seen in the trailers had the potential for humor, so the Chicken Little committee, that same group that thought it was a good idea to play chicken with Pixar, scrapped it.

She like it better than Wallace and Gromit, but that is only because she hasn't acquired the knack for giggling at Brits yet.

Earlier in the week I took her to the grocery store before school. Hardly anyone was there yet but the bakers.

"Would you like a bagel?" I asked.
"Sure," she said, and walked up to the bagel display. A large baker man stood proudly behind the baskets full of creative bagels, and watched as my daughter sneezed all over the bottom row. n front of the 7 foot tall kindly baker man, sneezed all over the bottom row.