Friday, January 30, 2009

At Last

Maira Kalman went to the inauguration. And now I'm thinking, we're even luckier than I thought.

Facebook, Friend One and Friend Two.

I have a very ambivalent relationship with Facebook right now. I did not read the New York Times article about Facebook etiquette, even though I'd been pondering the issues raised (who do I want to be friends with, can I not be friends when someone asks) for a while. I didn't read it because I was exhausted and because the other night, before the Times article appeared, I realized what was happening for me on Facebook. It came to me as I was reading Cat in the Hat to my kids. We got to the part where Thing One and Thing Two appear. (If you haven't read it in a while Thing One and Thing Two are strange little baby-doll-creature things brought to the house in a box by the Cat.) The text goes something like this: "And Sally and I did not know what to do, so we shook hands with Thing One and Thing Two."

This is what happens on Facebook. You do not know what to do. So you shake hands with old friend one and old friend two. Even if you abhor their politics; even if you can barely remember them; even if you don't really know them but share a real live friend or two in common. It's just what you do.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Reward

Yesterday, I went running, but only after I had this imaginary conversation with my brother:
Me: I don't want to go.
My brother (in my head): Just go for f-ing 20 minutes.
Me: F@&*-You. OK.

When I later had an actual conversation with my brother during which I told him about our imaginary one, he opined that successful exercising required two things:
1) A goal, such as running in a race and not losing ten pounds to fit into your skinny jeans.
2) An exercise partner you can't let down.

I don't think my brother's imaginary nagging was exactly the same thing as his being an actual exercise partner, but it was close enough. As for his goal of running in a charity event or a race or some such, I don't know. He was all, "That's your reward, you get to run the race." But to me, running a race with lots of other people, getting a t-shirt filled with corporate logos, seeing boxes and boxes of bottled water, this to me is no reward. I'd end up imaging how many emails got printed and filed for insurance purposes and how much paper was used approving the logos on the t-shirts and how most of those bottles of water were going to end up in a landfill. In other words, my brother's reward is my nightmare.

Stranger yet, when I tried to imagine what an immediate reward for running three times a week would be, I was hard pressed to come up with one other than "A new sports bra!" and "Feeling really sweaty and geekily cool at the end!"

It's good enough for me. And I don't have to worry about the charity runs; I can always just give when my obsessive-exerciser of a brother runs in the next one. He's always got one on the calendar. Weirdo.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Curse of WiFi

You all know it, I'm just pointing out that I'm suffering from it this very instant.

Response Abroad

This is a good, short piece by Anne Applebaum on Slate about the response to Obama abroad. For some, he's so impossible, he must be a hoax. For others, the great show of adulation shows how great our despair is. The latter seems pretty right on.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday Night

At the end of a long day it's almost time for me to sleep and this is the first chance I've had to sit down. I read that today is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the day that John Updike has died. I'm too tired to read much more and won't be able to make much sense of any of it anyway. It's time for bed and a paragraph of Middlemarch. I'd like to finish it by March. Wish me luck. Until tomorrow.....

Monday, January 26, 2009

Buh-Bye, Bill

I was wondering why he was still around. And now he's not! And the thing of it is, my husband didn't even tell me. Andrew Sullivan did. It's sad, but this makes me positively cheerful. Seriously.

The Vision Thing

Over the weekend, I read this piece by Jacob Weisberg on Slate. In it, he describes how Obama's inauguration speech didn't tell us what Obama thinks government should do other than work. Work towards what, Weisberg wants to know. My husband says this is carping. Me, I'm a little on the fence.

Obama is famously opaque on ideology. He's all pragmatism all the time. If you're a liberal, it's a good time to be pragmatic because thirty years of conservative theories put into practice have proven to be failures. And yet, would an explicit operating philosophy other than "Change" and "Yes We Did" be bad? Writing this I realize it might be because it would give people itching to know better and nay-say something to oppose for no reason other than they can. But at the same time, would it be good, so people can understand the scope in which Obama is operating?

In this Talk of the Town, Nicholas Lemann aruges that to be great, a president has to make something. It goes hand-in-glove to Weisberg's piece. We need stuff made; to make things, you need to imagine them. But do you, as President, need to tell everyone what you imagine making the very first day you're in office? Maybe not. Maybe my husband is right. Maybe not telling is a brilliant political move by our new president. Only time will tell. After all, he's not yet been in office a week and we know that Guantanimo will close, emissions standards will go up, and he told Repulicans who balked at the stimulus, "I won." Maybe the guy does have a plan.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Under the Weather

I usually post on Sunday nights, but I feel a little queasy and so, I'm going to lie down and plan on posting in the morning.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Off to Philadelphia

These last two days have seen me try to wedge too much into too few hours. I know, what else is new, but it means that I haven't seen much news and I haven't done much thinking about what I haven't seen in the news -- other than the news that Benjamin Button got all those Oscar nominations and I'd kind of like to see it but who has time for a three hour movie? In any case, we tried to go to Philadelphia last Friday and couldn't because my son got Strep. We're going to try again today. Fortunately, it's much warmer today. Fortunately, so far no one has a fever. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Oath Moment

For all the grammar-people out there, check this out. Personally, I loved that the most eloquent of men stumbled ever so slightly. Still, I'm sure he'll act faithfully, and to the best of his abilities. Thank god.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

No Joke.

You have to read this. I'm refraining from quoting. It's funny. I promise.

The Night of the Day

It's after 9:30 and this is the first chance I've had to post, but here are pictures of where I was today, with my son on my shoulders. My daughter was somewhere else in the crowd with her class, my husband also there. It was wonderful to be in a public square; it was a wonderful day.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Is There Anything Tom Colicchio Can't Do?

Last night, Alice Waters came running and he saved Joan Nathan's life! (By the way, Joan Nathan is originally from Providence, where I'm from, so, it's like, he saved my neighbor, or my mom, or something. Sigh, what a man. But, seriously, the whole thing is like a set piece from a foodie-improv skit.)

If I Could Change the World

I got to this list of books that changed the world via Light Reading. I find it, the list, I mean, very, very funny. Like the kind of funny that makes me laugh in the back of my throat but not out loud....and continues to make me do so for days and days.

On Obama

I really do think Andrew Sullivan has a passionate eloquence on Obama. Check this out.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Where Will You Be?

Today I got an email from David Plouffe with the question on everyone's mind. (It has nothing to do with the dishwasher.) It is: Where will you be Tuesday? The whole world wants to be somewhere, it seems. Somewhere. Right here. Amazing. I'll be home with my son trying to get him to let me watch for the 45 minuts I'll be able to sneak in before I have to pick up my daughter. Where will you be?

The Dishwasher

In a world poised on the brink of both despair and virtually transcendent hope, the conversation I keep having these days is about one thing. The dishwasher. Everyone, it seems, hates unloading. No one minds filling it up, and why not? In doing so, one might exercise great organizational feats and solve seemingly unsolvable puzzles like, "Just where can this mug go?" Plus, you clear out the sink and it's so satisfying to clean up.

But unloading the dishwasher is kind of like putting away folded laundry; the work is done and the last dribs and drabs are nothing but a bother.

At least that's what everyone else seems to think. Me, I don't like the laundry, but I love unloading the dishwasher. It makes me feel so, I don't know, accomplished. And this shows you where I am these days, and what passes for accomplishment. But you know what I say? I say you take what you can get.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Breast & The Milk

I finally read Jill Lepore's New Yorker article about breast milk and breast pumps. In the end, after wading through the overly precious styling, she makes a reasonably interesting point that in this country the experience of breast feeding (for mother and child) has been conflated with the delivery of breast milk (to the child). The result, as far as policy is concerned, is the easy out of creating space (or time) for women to pump milk but not on-site day care so they could actually nurse their babies. In essence, the breast pump/breast milk/breast feeding matrix is yet another example of American food policy, rhetoric and trends failing to meet the complex emotional demands of a family while patting itself on the back for satisfying the simple nutritional needs of individuals.

This, to me, seems the point and the problem. The pro-pumping, pro-breastfeeding argument goes something like this: Breast milk is healthier than formula so babies should get breast milk. (LePore left off any discussion of the chemicals now found in breast milk that are pulled from the nursing mother, for that happy news see Having Faith, by Sandra Steingraber.) Let's not, pumping/breastfeeding people seem to be saying, mention the sensual or emotional satisfaction of nursing. Too icky. (And let's not mention those who don't have the option to breastfeed -- not only those mentioned by Lepore, the "few," like me, with low supply or those who died giving birth, but also mothers who adopt or gay men who have kids.) Instead, we'll just say breast milk is healthy and babies should have breast milk, and the pleasure of the breast is nice and all, but won't contribute so much to IQ, well, maybe IQ, but not the bumped-up immune system.

Here's the quote from Lepore's article that I like: "No one seems especially worried about women whose risk assessment (vis a vis breastmilk vs formula) looks like this: "Should I take three twenty-minute pumping breaks, or use formula and get home to my baby an hour earlier?"

This whole it's good for you-who cares-if-it-feels-good split reminds me of how we think about food in general. How many times must we read articles like this top-10 in popularity offering from the New York Times: The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating. The post wasn't about butter, which makes everything taste good, it was about beets, which according to the post should be eaten raw to get the most of the nutrients. Well, I like my beets roasted, thanks.

Fundamentally, and very broadly speaking, I don't think our food culture wants to think about pleasure unless the thing that gives pleasure is seen as naughty. Naughty is thrilling, but it's not everything. Good for you is good, but it's not everything, either. And breast milk is good for the baby, but it's not the whole kit 'n kaboodle of breastfeeding, and it's not the only way to feed and nurture baby. Not by a long shot.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Once More On Israel

What's happening in Gaza is devastating and inexcusable. Andrew Sullivan is right here, and the "reader dissent of the day" is wrong. The reader asked "what would you have Israel do" with extremist Hamas. Here's what I would have them do: Sit down and talk. Shame them with diplomacy. Kill them with kindness, with social services, with health care and economic development, anything but guns. As others have noted, Hamas can't govern, they can only instill fear, and Israel seems only to play along.

Thursday, January 15th

I can't believe that on Tuesday of next week, Barack Obama will become President. With any luck, in eight years or so, we'll look back at photographs from Tuesday and this past year and say, "Wow! Look how young he looks!" The whole world feels so dark and yet, it really does feel like we're turning a corner and can't see the road, but I'm still endlessly glad to be taking the turn.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Running & Blogging

So, I'm poking around looking at what happened today and wondering what I'm going to blog about and I'm having this problem. I can't read any of it. i mean I tried to read the Bono column, I really did. But I couldn't. Besides, apparently everyone hates it already, so I don't really have to. Plus, reading that column just reminds me of hopping around my bedroom when I was in high school singing along to a song on October that went, "On the side, of a hill, blood was spilled, we were filled, with a looooove....and we're going back there....Jeruuuuusalem...." when suddenly, it hit me, this was no "Two Hearts Beat As One," unless I got that song all wrong, too. And I was a huge- HUGE--U2 fan back in the day. I still count some of their songs as guilty, guilty, irresistible pleasures. But that's not the point. The point is that I couldn't read Bono's colum or Maureen Dowd's about Tim Geithner who apparently didn't pay his housekeeper and then there was something about the Clinton's.....couldn't get through it -- and I think here's why: At 9:30 this morning, I ran for 25 minutes on an indoor track. Now, I'm tired. Very, very, very tired. It's a little pathetic, but there it is. Now I'm working for the day whan a 30 minute run energizes me. I'm thinking, if I keep it up, April. Maybe I'll be able to read something by then, too. In the meantime, sleep well everyone!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This is Why Oprah is Oprah

Forget about all the self-actualization. She goes there. Here, with Kate Winslet.

It's the Stupid Title

I could barely read this article, linked to from Jezebel, because of it's title: When Childbirth was Natural, and Deadly. The article is about childbed fever. Why did so many women in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries die of childbed fever? If they went to the hospital to give birth, they died of childbed fever because doctors who attended those births went from dissecting cadavers to catching babies without washing their hands. Not only that, those same doctors were offended by the very idea that their precious hands that had so recently been plunged into a dead body could possibly infect a woman and lead to her death. In one of the most egregious and deadly examples of intellectual and moral defensiveness imaginable, leading doctors rejected outright the notion that handwashing before a birth could matter. (The truth is so awful, to have unnecessarily caused so many deaths, that I can almost understand their defensiveness. In fact, one or two of those who recognized their error actually committed suicide). You can read all about it in the excellent book by Sherwin Nuland, The Doctor's Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever, and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis. Childbirth is scary enough, but doctors and scientists should recognize that not all of the threats it generates come from the laboring woman. No, medical science (which, full disclaimer, I'm pretty much for) yet provides plenty.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Playmobil....what can I say?

We're big Playmobil fans in our house. Perhaps because of that we overlook some of the oddities of the Playmobil imagination. Like the child-in-a-tented-hospital bed toy or the fact that the ambulance comes with an IV bag and tube, or the generally amazing minute attention to flora in many of the kits. Still, this particular toy? The Playmobil security checkpoint? It takes the cake. As do the reviews on Amazon. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Someone Give the Woman a Hairbrush!

Did Drew Barrymore have sex all day before the Golden Globes? Is that why she just couldn't brush that hair? Jeez.

NB: The link didn't work, but if you saw the show or the pictures, you know what I'm talking about.

No-Impact Ice

Today, we took the kids "ice skating" on the new Polar Ice Rink that's part of the American Museum of Natural History. As part of their effort to highlight and combat global warming,we were told the rink itself doesn't require extra energy energy. I don't know how ice rinks are installed but this one has no super-duper cooler beneath it, no Zambone clearing it because it has no ice on it. Instead, the rink is made of large plastic puzzle pieces. When I first got on, I thought it was just awful, but then, I got used to it. It wasn't the end of the world, the plastic. Besides, the setting is lovely and the faux ice makes you work really, really hard to get a glide. Plus, on it my kids were champs. They were stomping away and when they fell, they didn't get wet or cold. They could've gone on for hours (this was good news-bad-news). I couldn't help wondering if in twenty years all ice rinks will be like this one. I prefer real ice even with the environmental impact (if we walk or take public transportation to the rink does it make any of the impact better?), but this rink was not without it's charms -- especially if you're with 4-year-olds. Thanks in advance for indulging the picture.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Kickstart

This week, I got to it. I started revising a long writing project I've been working on, and I started running. With both things, I was nervous. With the writing, I'll say it, I'm fairly terrified. With the running, I just expect to disappoint myself sooner or later, and by disappoint myself I mean stop running instead of cultivating a thrice-weekly habit. But with both running and writing I have this idea that I shouldn't have to start. That is, I imagine people who run or write have always done it and so always do it and so they never had to begin. They had access to some kind of fairy dust that got them off the ground and plopped them in the middle of these activities which require not a small amount of attention. Then when I went running on Friday (for the second time this week but at the expense of doing any writing), I realized these are the kind of things that you just have to get yourself up and out to do. There's not magic fairy dust, there's just getting the proverbial rubber to hit the road.

I thought of this again when I read this article about saving money in today's Times. Saving, running, writing, these are all things that seem like very reasonable activities that other people do. So, why not you? Why not me? Why not try? Maybe tomorrow? Where's that fairy dust?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

On a More Serious Note

If you're not worrying about plastic bottles, you might be worried about Jihadists. This is worth reading.

Responsible Water

Have you seen those Brita ads? "Two hours in a meeting' -- focus on empty water bottle -- "a lifetime in a landfill". I find them very affecting, or effective -- in other words, they really work on me. I thought of them the other day when I saw a huge recycling bag in front of our building filled with seltzer bottles. I mean, the thing was stuffed. It was like the remnants everyone's holiday hangover cure were being laid to rest in that see through bag of please-let-them-be-recycled bottles (because not everything is being recycled these days). So, I have a few suggestions. Of course there are the reusable water bottles for every day drinks. And for seltzer, my friend Karen showed me the wonder of Soda Stream. With it, you, too, can have excellent homemade seltzer (or soda) and no extra bottles. Here's to the bubbles!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

When Will It Happen

Is it possible, just maybe barely possible, that when Bush finally leaves office and the Obamas finally get to move into the White House, people (including the players themselves) will stop talking about the Brad-Jen-Angelina divorce-affair-baby-making situation? Maybe? Is it too much to hope for?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cabinet Postings

I'm a little more intrigued by the Panetta pick for the CIA and the subsequent response than I'd normally be. This might be because I read The Dark Side this summer (as I've said often) so I have this emotional response to anything having to do with the people who tell unmarked planes where to fly. But I think it's also because I've always liked Leon Panetta for no other reason than that he reminds me of my high school Algebra 2 teacher, and I really liked that guy, even though I can't remember his name. Which is to say, Leon Panetta looks familiar to me, he looks like a familiar type, so I feel OK about him and this is D.U.M. dumb, I know, but given articles like this one in Slate, it doesn't seem like the worst kind of dumb I could fall into.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Is This So Shoutable?

I wanted to write something about this Shouts & Murmur's column from the January 5th New Yorker. I wanted to write something because the essay, called "Looking Your Best," is by a woman named Amy Ozols and I get that it's supposed to be funny. I understand that lines like this one are meant to be ironic and hence humorous: "Self-confidence is the most attractive trait a person can have. For this reason, strive to love yourself and accept yourself exactly as you are. This will be difficult if you are overweight, on account of your loathsome physical appearance and compromised value system, but do your best."

But it's not funny. It's kind of, what's the word? Smarmy?

Now, I know, I know the editors and the writer were trying to subvert the whole New-Year-New-You-let's-get thin-talk. I bet Ozols thought she was skewering how people talk about losing weight by pointing out the inherent contradictions and self-loathing that lace food/body writing, but it gets a knowing grimace and maybe a "yeah I'm in on that one" chuckle.... at best.

And you know what? It turns out it's unfunny to write a post about an unfunny piece. But I was so annoyed that in one of the few instances when a woman was actually writing the Shouts & Murmurs (not that I keep track of such things, but it's hard not to notice most of the column's writers are men) she's writing about how people talk about getting thin. I just wish if they were going there it had been, you know, funnier.

On Israel: The War with Iran

Robert Kaplan has an explanation. I don't know enough to comment, but if you're interested, it's worth reading.

The Baking Sebatacle

In the last two weeks, I've made banana bread, cookies and, last night, a marble loaf cake. I have to stop baking. All I want to do is bake. I also have to stop knitting. But, really, I love to knit. Still, the hand needs the rest and I guess the home arts do, too. In the meantime, I'll be reading more. Just today, I read a nearly perfect paragraph in Middlemarch. I also liked this story in the Times about Obama's wistfulness in moving; I appreciate how human it is. Really, I should send the Obamas some cookies to help their hotel room feel more like home.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Hand & The Jury

Not to go all personal, but I'm having this thing with my right hand that's somewhat painful. Whatever it is, it makes typing uncomfortable. Plus, I have jury duty tomorrow. Which is to say the posts will be a little slim early this week. But I will add this personal note -- today we took our kids ice skating in Central Park (we all got new skates!) and then in the afternoon I took them to the Carousel for a ride. Sometimes, living in New York, in January, is magic.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

More on Israel

This is worth reading and it gets at why I don't think Sullivan was all the way right yesterday. Because ultimately it doesn't matter whether the Israelis have the moral high ground or not (not that there really is one in war -- there's purposeful attacks and justifiable ones, but moral?). In any case, avoiding the thorny philosophical problems of war, I'll simply agree that because of how the news work and the trippy balancing acts of the middle east, it's impossible for Israel with it's established power to do anything with an attack but ultimately help Hamas and its rhetoric. It's all awful.

Friday, January 2, 2009

To Read, On Israel

I think Andrew Sullivan has something important to say about Gaza here. I don't agree with him - exactly, but I won't get into it. I just think his post should be read.

A Blog I Like

I like the blog Light Reading and the reason I like it is the same reason I like certain cookbooks: It gives me ideas about whom I might be should I be someone with lots of ideas about what to read (or cook) and what's good and what isn't. And even though my time is so limited now that ideas for what to read are about as helpful to me right now as ideas about what to listen to on audiobooks -- I mean, I'm not really going to be able to read or listen to nearly as much as I'd like to any time soon -- I still like to have them. I keep looking up the books that Sue Dickman recommended listening to and I have a little book of lists and I trust that some time or another I'll have more time and energy. Right now, I'll keep my lists, like little promises for new years to come. As long as there's no awful terrorist attack or anything. I just had to throw that in; I don't want to take anything for granted these days.