Wednesday, December 29, 2010

new year's rewards

(written in the Houston airport during a 2.5 hr layover that was lengthened by another 3 hours and counting...)

Every year I make up some New Year's Resolutions when Abe asked me what my New Year's Resolutions are. I usually don't get past January. And I don't care too much.

But this year is different.

Not because I'm suddenly more into self improvement. Good bye noble intrinsic motivations. Hello external rewards.

Abe and I are each making 3 resolutions, effective Jan 1. If I complete my resolutions by 11:59 on Dec 31, 2011, then Abe will reward me with in-kind gifts of servitude. I'll do the same for him. The exact terms of the agreement (specific resolutions with measurable outcomes, as well as detailed plans for said servitude) are forthcoming. We'll mail ourselves the terms and open them next New Year's.

What I've learned from this experience is that it is much more fun to think of rewards for making my resolutions than actually making the resolutions themselves. Any suggestions for what my reward should be?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

friday photos: a special edition

Merry Christmas! Hope you are having a warm and cozy holiday weekend.

This is the online version of our annual Christmas card. We weren't able to send print copies to everyone we would have liked to (any some of those print copies may still be in transit...). On the plus side, the digital version has linked references.

Without further ado, Merry Christmas from Abe, Erin & Genghis!

Dear Friends,

As our thought-provoking friends the Beach Boys have noted, "Christmas comes this time each year." And so we share with you our annual Christmas card. This year, it comes in 3 categories: Things you probably knew already, Things you might have already known, and Things you almost certainly did not know.

Probably Knew
Genghis (not his real name) Gong arrived August 1, healthy, happy and with a good set of lungs. Exactly 2 days before the arrival, Erin restructured her career by switching to part-time work from home. Abe is still serving in the singles ward Bishopric, and (at long last!) defended a plan for his dissertation.

Might Have Known
Abe and Erin are both blogging. Erin posts life musings and weekly baby photos at Abe posts extremely technical political ramblings at Genghis (not a blogger) has mastered thumb-sucking and sleeping through the night. He has also rolled over more than 30 times.

Did Not Know
Abe has written software to explore more than 2 million web sites and conduct the first-ever representative survey of the political blogosphere. Results forthcoming. Erin is currently writing a 1 million dollar grant application and conducted the first-ever convenience sample of people's household cleaning preferences. Genghis turns light switches on and off with his toes.

But what we really hope you know is that we are happy to have you as friends and family. We hope you are well; keep in touch. Merry Christmas and a Happy 2011!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

goldigong and the three laptops

Once upon a time there were three laptops, a Papa Laptop, a Mama Laptop and a Baby Laptop. One day, the three laptops sat down to compute. “This wireless network is too slow!” said Papa Laptop. “This wireless network is too slow!” said Mama Laptop. “This wireless network is too slow!” said Baby Laptop. “Let’s go play Mine Sweeper,” said Mama Laptop. “When we come back, our wireless network will be just right.”

Along came GoldiGong. She walked into the office. She saw three laptops hibernating. “This laptop is too slow,” said GoldiGong when she tried to boot up Mama Laptop, which was over 6 years old. “This laptop is faster,“ said GoldiGong of Baby Laptop, which was really a mini notebook. “This laptop is even faster!” said GoldiGong of Papa Laptop, whose tagline was “The Most Powerful 15-in Gaming Laptop in the Universe”. And she restarted Papa Laptop for hours on end, just to admire how fast it really was.

Papa Laptop

Then GoldiGong began to surf the web on all three laptops. “This screen is too small,” said GoldiGong, squinting to see the GMail login box on Baby Laptop’s 10-in screen. “This screen is too big,” said GoldiGong, consumed in the glowing aura of the 15-in Papa Laptop, “it will probably make me depressed if I leave it on too long.” “This screen is just right!” said GoldiGong of Mama Laptop. Then CRASH went the Mama Laptop’s hard drive and GoldiGong had to reboot.
Mama Laptop

GoldiGong felt tired. She picked up the laptops to go into the bedroom. “This laptop is too heavy,” said GoldiGong, as she hefted 9 lbs of Papa Laptop . “This laptop is still too heavy,” said GoldiGong of Mama Laptop, “and it hasn’t really worked at all.” “This laptop is very light!” said GoldiGong of Baby Laptop, which came in at just a few pounds. And she skipped up the stairs with Baby Laptop to join the other laptops in the bedroom.
Baby Laptop

GoldiGong snuggled into bed to fall asleep while watching YouTube videos. “This battery is almost dead,” said GoldiGong as Mama Laptop’s comfortably-sized screen switched into low power mode after only a few minutes. “And this battery isn’t much better,” said Goldilocks as Papa Laptop burned away on his Intel Core i7 processor. “But this battery lasts forever – or, at least long enough to watch Pride & Prejudice (the 1995 version).” And she fell asleep listening to Darcy and Elizabeth engage in witty verbal exchanges.

The three Laptops came back from playing Mine Sweeper. “Someone’s been booting me up,” said Papa Laptop. “Someone’s been surfing on my web browser,” said Mama Laptop. “Someone’s been toting me around,” said Baby Laptop. “And someone’s been watching Pride & Prejudice on YouTube!” said all three laptops. “And here she is!”

GoldiGong woke up. She saw three angry Laptops looking at her. She looked back at them and said, “Papa Laptop, you’re too big and bulky to really be called a laptop. Mama Laptop, you’ve aged gracefully but your time is really past. And Baby Laptop, you have some respectable features but you’re just too small to work with.” So GoldiGong jumped out of bed and ran to the local computer store to buy something that better suited her needs.

Unfortunately, this is a fairy tale, so I'll just have to work with the computing power we currently have.

(btw, we don’t own Papa Laptop – he’s a rental from the University that Abe’s using for data processing)

*Text adapted from

Friday, December 17, 2010

friday photos

A few weeks ago, I was staying with my sister in Arizona. She collects everything: Newberry award books, aluminum cups, DVDs, shrunken heads. And, as it turns out, wigs.

Here I am sporting a fantastic red number with my now super cool son.

He wasn't as keen on the wig action.

I think he was really just upset because he looked too much like Howard Stern.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

musings on time and super powers after a long day

Over Thanksgiving, we discussed with our friends if "Going Back In Time" would be a useful super power. Since then, I read Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman, a series of short vignettes about what the world would be like under different laws of time.

An example:

24 April, 1905

In this world, there are two times. There is mechanical time and there is body time. The first is as rigid and metallic as a massive pendulum of iron that swings back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. The second squirms and wriggles like a bluefish in a bay. ...

Many are convinced that mechanical time does not exist. ... They wear watches on their wrists, but only as ornaments or as courtesies to those who would give timepieces as gifts. They do not keep clocks in their houss. Instead, they listen to their heartbeats. They feel the rhythms of their moods and desires. Such people eat when they are hungry, go to their jobs at the millinery or the chemist's whenever they wake from their sleep, make love all hours of the day. Such people laugh at the thought of mechanical time. ... They know that time struggles forward with a weight on its back when they are rushing an injured child to the hospital or bearing the gaze of a neighbor wronged. And they know too that time darts across the field of vision when they are eating well with friends. ...

Then there are those who think their bodies don't exist. They live by mechanical time. They rise at seven o'clock in the morning. ... When their stomach growls, they look at their watch to see if it is time to eat. When they begin to lose themselves in a concert, they look at the clock above the stage to see when it will be time to go home.

Anyway. Aside from being a nice alternative to an actual biography of Einstein that I've been reading (er, or letting sit on the bookshelf) for 2 months, this book got me thinking back to the conversation about "Going Back in Time" powers.

I am against having this power. Yes, you could go back in time to relive fun moments or to erase past mistakes. But I think I would end up in a continuous loop of going back to make better choices than I did the last time I went back to make better choices. I'd be stuck in 7th grade forever!

Plus, all super powers need limits. Probably the "Going Back in Time" limit would be that you had a rewind button but no fast forward. So you couldn't just skip from happy memory to happy memory. You'd have to live all the boring and uncomfortable parts in between.

And this brings things back to the age-old question: If you could have any super power, what would it be? Guests on a recent "This American Life" episode posited that when given the choice between the powers of Flight or Invisibility, people tend to choose flight as the more noble power but would rather be invisible so they could sneak into movies and shoplift.

I prefer to think better of humanity.

But if I could have a super power, I think it would be a third hand. It would come in so (I can't resist) handy!

Friday, December 10, 2010

friday photos (on time!)

Genghis's first hair cut.

Okay, so the baby bald spot was creating a double-mullet that needed to be dealt with.

Double-mullet sightings.

Ready for the hair cut.

Times of concentration and concern.


If you look closely, you'll see that I actually created a secondary bald patch on the right side of his head. Look, it was a difficult operation.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

agree or disagree?

Venn Diagram explanation: In music, the intersection of schmaltz and kitsch contains only holiday music played on the radio. In other words, there is no song that is both schmaltzy and kitschy that is not also holiday music. (Note: the reverse is not necessarily true, that holiday music must be schmaltzy or kitschy.)

Some definitions and examples for thought:

Kitsch: deliberate use of elements that may be thought of as cultural icons while making cheap mass-produced objects that are unoriginal. Types of art that are aesthetically deficient and make creative gestures which merely imitate the superficial appearances of art through repeated conventions and formulae.

The 1970s turn out to be a great era for kitsch. I wasn't able to embed this Bee Gees video but I highly recommend watching it as a prime example.

Schmaltz: excessively sentimental or florid music or art or maudlin sentimentality.

As much as I love Ol' Blue Eyes, he is quintessential schmaltz.

And, at the intersection. Oh, so many to choose from. How about this?

Bonus points for the random slideshow accompanying Andy Williams.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

friday photos

still, with the friday photos not on friday...

Here's Genghis enjoing his quilt made by Grandma Susan. I know you'll all realize that Genghis looks a little smaller here than in other recent photos - these photos were taken several few weeks ago.

Here's a picture from Thanksgiving, when we visited the famed Merry-Go-Round Museum of Sandusky, Ohio. "Look into the light, Genghis...look into the light..."