Jul 312008

A resident of Douglas County, Colorado, “challenged” — which is to say, requested removal — a book she found at her library, Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, which is at least partially about gay marriage. The librarian there, Jamie LaRue, has a blog, and has posted his response, and it is truly a model of measured calm and rational argument in the face of would-be censorship.

Jul 292008

The Rejection Collection, Vol. 2 is a second volume of cartoons that weren’t quite good enough to make it into The New Yorker. The book description over at Amazon begins with this amazing pair of sentences: “Each week The New Yorker receives more than 500 submissions from its regular cartoonists, who are all vying for one of the 20 coveted spots in the magazine. So what happens to the 75 percent of cartoons that don’t make the cut?”

(Thanks to David Lubar.)

Jul 292008

Google has a word processor and a spreadsheet program. I understand PhotoShop now has an online version as well.

Is there, somewhere on the intertubes, an online illustration program, more full-featured than Microsoft Paint? I need to do one semi-simple thing, and I’d just as soon not have to buy and install software in order to do it.

Jul 282008

Newly opened in my mall: A salon devoted exclusively to eyebrows and eyelashes. Isn’t this like a restaurant that serves only side dishes? Are there really women who would go to one salon for their hair, and then go to a different salon for the small patches of hair that grow an inch or so south?

Jul 282008

Saturday we went blueberry picking. J had been to the berry farm just a few days earlier, and our fridge and freezer were already stuffed with them, but it’s an inexpensive outing and Lea was excited to go. I had my doubts about Alex, of course, and this time they were justified: He picked three berries and declared himself finished.

He and I sat for a while under the makeshift gazebo that served as a meeting spot for those waiting for the “Berry Ferry” back to the parking lot. (This farm is huge.) Alex shook everybody’s hand and said “Congratulations!” and “Nice to meet you!” He started doing this a few months ago. Now he shakes hands with pretty much everyone he meets — often multiple times, which means I have to bark at my son to stop being so goldderned friendly. “That’s okay,” the handshakee usually says. They are generally charmed and amused by Alex. But he has to learn that it’s one handshake per customer. Left to his own devices, he’ll shake hands with some guy a dozen times or more. It beats randomly hitting people, of course.

Alex and I started walking around the farm. I kept waiting for a staffer to reprimand us for straying away from our designated area, but nobody cares as long as you don’t start ripping plants out of the ground. It was a sunny day, not too hot, the endless farm was a gorgeous environment, and Alex was in a chipper, upbeat mood. We practiced skipping. He told me what the clouds look like. We wandered away from the blueberries entirely, and found ourselves walking next to a cornfield, and after that another crop that I couldn’t figure out. Giant leaves, low to the ground. Spinach? But it didn’t look like spinach, and anyway, this was a Pick-Your-Own-Blank kind of farm, and somehow “pick your own spinach” doesn’t strike me as a winning business model.

“I wonder what this is?” I said out loud, and Alex immediately replied, “Pumpkins!” He was right. It was too early to see many of the vegetables themselves, although we did finally spot a few small, green ones. But Alex had recognized the plants just by the leaves. I thought that was pretty impressive.

We wound up walking all the way back to the main entrance. Alex, tired, sat on a bench next to a couple of ten-year-old girls. They immediately detected that something was wrong with this kid, and did not hide their distaste. One whispered to the other, and they kept glancing over to Alex, who is still too young to notice this kind of thing. I dread the day when he finally grasps the casual thoughtlessness of his peers.

Alex and I must have walked a solid two miles — I brought him back to the car so we could wait for J and Lea in air-conditioned comfort, and was astounded when the dashboard clock informed me that we’d been out there for well over ninety minutes. The gals came back not too much later with a full eight pounds of berries. Lea would have stayed out there until nightfall if we had let her, although she refused to sample even a single blueberry. More for the rest of us, although supply is not exactly the problem. We now have enough blueberries to last until 2012.

Sunday: After a trip to the trolley museum in East Haven, we head to the shopping mall to buy my nephew a birthday present. I dropped the idea that we might try bowling at Krazy City again, before remembering that last week’s trip had ended in disaster. The kids started jumping around in excitement, so I couldn’t unsay the words. Instead I said to Lea, “If Alex knocks down more pins than you, are you going to have a tantrum?”


“What are you going to do?”

“I am going to laugh and give Alex a silly hug,” she said. Neither J nor myself had given her those instructions, which she recited to us as if she had memorized them. She’d evidently been thinking about this.

This little kid-sized bowling alley really is ingenious. The pins are attached to strings like marionettes, thus simplifying the reset mechanism. An overhead monitor keeps score, and also shows a brief animation after every roll, so that children won’t be deprived of valuable television viewing time. Lea is equally as interested in the monitor as in the bowling itself. She will throw the ball and then immediately step back so she can she watch how the game reports on her score. Will it be a birthday cake with pin candles? A shooting gallery with pin targets? A parody of The Matrix in which a single pin contorts itself to avoid the bowling ball?

After the game was over, I hoped to avoid any discussion of the score, but Lea pressed me on it. “Who won?” she said. “Daddy, who won?”

“Alex did,” I said. Lea dropped to the ground — temper tantrum, stage one. Uh-oh. But then she just as quicky sprang back to her feet, and ran at Alex, laughing, and indeed gave him a silly hug that ended up with both of them rolling around on the floor. I thought maybe she was trying to hide her true emotions — my heart is breaking but see how I smile — but in fact she was genuinely giggly. Somehow, in the space of a week, Lea had discovered that attitude is everything. She’s still bound to be a competitive person, but at least now she knows that a crying fit after a loss only screws up the rest of the day, whereas taking the defeat in stride means maybe Daddy will spring for a game of air hockey.

Additional weekend notes because I am too lazy to start a different blog entry:

- Finished reading Stefan Fatsis’s A Few Seconds of Panic and highly recommend it. The Word Freak author puts down his Scrabble tiles and joins the Denver Broncos for their training camp. He’s not just a journalist, though — as George Plimpton did decades ago in Paper Lion, Fatsis joins the team as a player, specifically, a field-goal kicker. The result is a very funny and insightful book that weaves Fatsis’s observations of life in the NFL with his own attempts to kick the ball — consistently and flawlessly — through the uprights. Fatsis is a wonderful and keen-eyed writer, and the moments when he gets to kick in front of the whole team are as packed with suspense as any thriller. Great stuff.

- I am also now officially addicted to Slitherlink. I’m working my way through the easy 10x10s at KrazyDaddy. Right now I can solve perhaps one in four without making a mistake somewhere or getting irretrievably stuck. (I completed one puzzle this weekend and beamed with pride for about three seconds before I realized my solution consisted of two separate loops.) I’ve figured out a few of the basic solving techniques and will hopefully make a few more important realizations as I persevere. The logic-puzzle part of my brain is woefully underdeveloped, so I’m glad to have discovered a Japanese logic puzzle I actually enjoy solving.

Jul 262008

The National Scrabble Championships are in progress this weekend. (Thanks, Trip, for the heads up — and good luck!) Poking around the annotated games, I came across what I thought was a really tremendous bingo. Just two moves in, Cesar Del Solar is faced with the following board, and holds the tiles EEINNU? (The question mark is a blank.)

Can you figure out what Cesar played? Click through to see.

Update: …And since so many of you are also friends with Trip, you can follow his progress in the tourney here. So far he seems to be kicking serious butt.

Another update: Fox News just did a small story on the Scrabble tournament! Alas, the one they covered is in Senegal — didn’t mention the US event at all.

Jul 252008

A very nice little puzzle game. All you have to do is expose the spaces that contain the treasure chest. Yep, that’s all.

It took me a few minutes to catch on to how this works, so let me ‘splain:

- Once you pick up a piece, you have to put it back down again.

- If you can’t put the piece down where the mouse is pointing, the piece will rotate.

- If you click outside the frame of the puzzle while holding a piece, that piece will flip over.

Just move the pieces around until you claim the treasure. The puzzles, needless to say, get harder as you go along.