Monday, November 29, 2010

In Which I Discuss Overparenting

And my great exhaustion with the whole topic. Right here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Bad Pie

This year, my contribution to my family's Thanksgiving celebration was a really bad pie. Really bad. It should have been a really good pie. A really good carmelized butternut squash pie with ginger in a twice baked crust. Had I followed the directions and NOT mixed all the spices for the filling with the alcohol that also flavored the squash, it would have been terrific. Terrific! I'm sure of it. I mean, I'm sure it would have been terrific had I not only not tried to infuse alcohol with pie spices but also baked the pie for the required period of time to achieve a firm custard. But, instead, I underbaked the overspiked pie. There was one bright spot. I pushed the squash through a strainer and the consistency of the stuff was gorgeous. Truly silky smooth. The rest, I'd rather forget. Fortunately, I saved a little face by also making shortbread. Cornmeal rosemary shortbread, to be specific, and that was a big hit, even if I thought the shortbread should have had more salt. Now, I've got brownies in the over, because, you know, when you fall off that horse, you've got to get right back on.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Chart Situation

I once sat in on a talk by a fairly well known child psychologist who told the room, "If any one knows of a chart that works, tell me." At the time, my daughter and I were in the middle of a great chart experiment. Or, more precisely, Helen was hoodwinking me through a chart.

The purpose of the chart was simple: To help Helen get to sleep without me in the room. The incentive was straightforward: A princess costume.
The time frame was reasonable: Four weeks.

Plus, Helen had the idea for the chart, she made the chart, she kept the checks and ex-es on the chart. (A very bad bedtime meant she'd lose a check.) It was all terrific, until Helen got her costume. Then, suddenly, she couldn't go to sleep without me in the room. "I only did it to get the dress, mommy," she confessed.

As if I didn't know.

And yet. And yet! Here we are in the grips of another chart. This one was also proposed by Helen, drawn by Helen and is kept by Helen. What's it for? New food. Dinner has gotten to be awful around here. Helen eats nothing because she's bored with everything (and by "everything" I mean pasta, hard boiled eggs, carrots, cauliflower, hot dogs and the occasional fish stick). But her new friends at her new school are eating new foods, so she has a little bit of a peer incentive, even if the new food idea slightly terrifies her.

Anyway, here's how it works. She tries a food we've agreed on, she gets a check. After about 25 checks, she gets a (medium) toy. So far, she's tried raspberries (yuk), blackberries (double yuck), sweet potato (Yum!), and romanesco cauliflower (Yum!). I wasn't sure if the romanesco cauliflower should count because truth be told, it tastes an awful lot like regular cauliflower, which she likes, but it looks a lot different, so I'm sticking with it's status as new.

We'll see if after her (medium) toy she will still eat sweet potatoes. I think she might. I think we might have found a chart that works, but, then again, I've thought that before.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Investors Learn from Bubbles

Over on Pro Publica and in The New York Times, my friend Jesse Eisinger writes about new bubbles in the world of investing. With changes in Fed policy to bring down interest rates by buying long term assets. I'm not going to pretend I can comment on this. I will instead just share the kicker, which is actually a kicker:

"...It’s commonplace to lament Wall Street’s lack of a historical memory. But there is something different at work. Professional investors have learned the lessons of the financial markets’ serial bubbles and learned them well.

The lesson is: When the next one comes, I’m going to get mine. I’ll just get out early this time."

Which means that a very few people will still make most of the money and the rest of us will have to hope against hope that their mistakes don't make the market collapse when our kids are going to college, or when we retire, or when we need money for long term care for our parents or (good god) ourselves. Of course, it's a foolish hope because if Jesse is right, sooner or later most of the people will have to pay so a few of the people can keep all the money.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Wives & The Power

The Daily Beast ran a story by Joe Matthews and its first two paragraphs are this:

"The conventional wisdom has hardened quickly: Californians, in rejecting Silicon Valley CEOs Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, supposedly declared in last week's elections that they don't want corporate executives running their government.

Nonsense. California voters may have turned down the applications of Whitman and Fiorina for the governorship and a U.S. Senate seat, respectively. But in the very same election, they voted to put a female corporate executive from the Bay Area in charge of their state's government.

The name of Anne Gust Brown, a former top lawyer and executive for The Gap, wasn't on the ballot, but it might as well as have been. She served as de facto campaign manager for the campaign of her husband of five years, the once and now future Gov. Jerry Brown."

No, Mr. Matthews. If Ms. Gust Brown's name wasn't on the balloot, then, in fact, voters in California didn't elect her, they elected her husband. She might have done an awful lot to help her husband get elected, but she didn't run herself.

Does she have access to power? Yes. Can she influence how the power of the governor's office is used in California? Of course. Is the power of that office actually in her hands? No, and if she herself had run for governor, the narrative of the California race would have been a whole lot different.

Matthews tells us that Jerry Brown might not appoint a chief of staff because he has his wife there filling that role on an unpaid basis. If that's the case, then give her the title and pay her a dollar, because why not? Then she has an actual, acknowledged public role. Too messy? It's cleaner than this.

This whole thing reminds of the recent Forbes list of the "100 Most Powerful Women in the World." Michelle Obama was at the top of that list -- the number one, ONE - most powerful woman in the world. Sure they put her there to be provocative. And I was provoked. Because while Michelle Obama is, in my opinion, totally awesome, she's in the position she's in and has the particular power she has through her marriage. If she weren't married to the president, she'd still be powerful and do important things, I'm sure, but if you didn't live in Chicago, you might not know about her.

I've been reading the excellent Big Girls Don't Cry right now by Rebecca Traister. It's about women and the 2008 election. At the beginning, Traister quotes Living History, Hillary Clinton's memoir, in which Clinton describes the power of the first lady as "derivative." That's the point.

Women who are powerful in their own right and are married to men who hold powerful positions do not hold the same power as their spouses. It does a disservice to everyone, but especially women, to conflate the power of office with the power of influence.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Anyone Can Be Chancellor!

So Joel Klein is leaving his job as Chancellor of the New York City public schools and Cathie Black, publisher of Hearst Magazines is taking over his job. Why, I wonder, can't we have an actual educator as Chancellor? A school system isn't exactly a business. I know I'm not supposed to think that, but I do.

Comic Fiction-or Funny Moments in Fiction?

Howard Jacobson has an essay in the Guardian asking why comic novels aren't taken more seriously. He gives examples of funny moments from Anna Karenina and Little Dorrit.....which seems to me to sort of conflate what might be funny in a book that's about so much life it can't help but include the funny parts and what's meant to be a comic book.

I got to the essay via Maud Newton who thinks maybe Muriel Spark is too funny to get the respect she deserves. (I'm a Spark fan, but I don't think that's why Spark isn't taken more seriously.) Anyway, it's all interesting because it's all about how people don't think that comic and complex can go together.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Too Much Information?

I don't want to overshare, but this is exactly how I feel about OB tampons.

It's a Video Game, Mom!

Yesterday, both my kids were home from school. At around two in the afternoon, we prepared for our second big outing of the day, a trip to the bank and possibly Radio Shack for batteries, which we needed for my son's bumper cars. But even the mention of Radio Shack brought on an onslaught of tears and renewed pleas for a video game. Any video game would do. Elliot just wanted a video game.

I did not buy a video game. But, my daughter whispered to me that she wanted a piece of cardboard so she could make a video game for Elliot and cheer him up -- but it had to be a secret. This I gave her. When Helen's "video game" was done, it had a place for thumbs, four buttons (two on each side), a boy and a girl and a building in between them.

"Is that you and Elliot?" I asked.
"No. It's just a boy and a girl."
"Are they trying to climb the building?"
"Mooooom, it's a VIDEO game!"
"So they're fighting!"

On Tuesday over on Strollerderby I'd blogged about the California case argued before the Supreme Court requesting that sales and rentals of violent video games to those under eighteen be banned. My not-surprising take was that parents and kids should figure out reasonable limits together.

I don't think my daughter's assertion that video games mean de facto fighting changes it, but it is kind of upsetting that that's what she thinks. It wouldn't be a video game, even one drawn on cardboard, if the people in it weren't fighting. One more strike against video games.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Still Here!

OK. So I regularly blog in my head, and then something happens in my day - like a birthday or a kid home from school - and by the time I sit down to write the blog in my head it's gone! Which is to say, once the anti-biotics kick in, I'll be back to blogging here again.