Monday, June 30, 2008

CFCs be damned

The air conditioner in our car died (on the way to the party A broke her arm at- a decidedly ill-advised trip). This has of course led to the kids bickering over who has which window rolled down how far, but my biggest mistake in attempting to ameliorate the situation was to give them each ice packs on Saturday. A decided she was done with hers about five minutes into the trip and dared to put it down next to her carseat. C is offended if anyone other than himself dares to use that space, so the two of them argued over the precise placement of the ice pack for the rest of the trip. I had been debating whether we should fix the A/C but now I’m pretty sure it’s necessary.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

the song remains the same

We braved another concert outing with the whole family. (C was convinced to join us voluntarily by the lure of kettle corn and advance agreements to only attend from 10:15 to 3:45 and to stay home on Sunday.) We actually shocked him into dancing when we first arrived, but after he remembered that he hates music, he spent much of his time reading The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (occasionally asking me to help interpret tables for him; who knows how much he's absorbing about the 1950 per capita GNPS of the G-8, but it's somehow holding his attention). Except of course when he was taking breaks to beg for lemonade, antagonize his sister, or ask if it was 3:45 yet.

A, meanwhile, sweet-talked her father into spending an inordinate amount of time doing crafts at the kid tent and playing in the sandbox. I eventually managed to lure her away, but she was fairly cranky and wholly uninterested in the music, so after a while we let her paint in the kids' tent while we sat elsewhere (in view).

We heard a decent amount of music and saw a lot of friends, but like our last venture to Falcon Ridge when Alyra was a baby, we're not quite sure whether it was worth it given the constant child-management required. We considered bringing a friend along for C which might have helped- maybe in a year or two we'll be able to bring buddies for them both to keep them entertained. They each had friends over on Friday afternoon which was fun for all. Hopefully we'll be able to do more of that this summer to keep them distracted from each other.

Friday, June 27, 2008

C's last soccer game

C finished his soccer season last weekend with a bang... Great to see how far he and his teammates have come. They played the same "dark blue" team that they had played their very first game, after only one, 20-minute practice in the rain.

That first game of the season they were, understandably, very disorganized and got crushed. This time there was still the extra-tall coach's son on the other team who was able to dribble around people well and move down to score. And he and others still scored several points. But C's team scored more (unofficially of course, at this level/league they don't even keep an official score and certainly don't maintain team rankings...which is great...but the kids usually know who won, and the parents do to, even though we try not to mention it around the kids :)

C's team passed a lot to each other, which was one of the things his coaches worked on all season and it really helped them in this game. And they were just better individual players too. C plays better on defense--very instinctively in fact, so much so that the coach's were surprised that it was his first time playing on a team...but he wants the thrill of being on offense. So he played goalie for one quarter so he could then be guaranteed a chance to play center the next quarter (that's how they reward goalie participation). As you'll see in this photo, passing in an obvious way to start the quarter off...(don't forget you can click for larger views of these pictures).

I found it hard to get good photos of his great defensive playing. I was usually too busy cheering him on, and with the time delay on the camera and all... Here's a blurry one of him having just kicked it up field away from an opposing player (and a pass to a girl on his team no less).

Some of the highlights of his playing were an amazing save when the other team had bypassed his goalie, and the ball was on the line right in front of the goal just waiting a little nudge by one of the players running towards it, but he flew back there and kicked it out--to the cheers of his team and us parents... He also did a backwards pass (behind him, while facing away) to a teammate who scored a goal soon thereafter, and he was also proud of kicking it between some girl's legs on the other team...

Here's one of him going up to assist goal making if necessary. I hope he gets the satisfaction of kicking it into the goal himself one of these days soon...

All in all, a great way to end his first soccer season. He's already signed up for next Fall.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

know when to roll 'em, know when to fold 'em

D&D origami.

gosh darn it

I'm lucky not to have hit the problem of striking a balance between being likable and being taken seriously. Partly from not working in a cutthroat field, but partly because men over 50 have historically found me adorable in a remind-them-of-their-daughters kind of way and they do their best to make ME like THEM. Now that I'm running into younger men in positions of power (PRA and ADAI were run by older people and thus networks were generally older) and I'm getting older myself I might not be able to take the "likability" part for granted anymore.


I took the first step in trying to encourage fireflies to colonize our property. Strolling past A's preschool around 10 last night, I spied a presumably female firefly blinking hopefully on the ground. I relocated her to our garden and hope that the ones we've previously seen in our yard are males of her species.

it's the last day of school-

We'll see if C manages to effect a significant enough attitude adjustment for us to be able to keep him home next year. (I don't mind the homeschooling; I do mind the constant badgering of his sister.) Interestingly, our backyard-adjoining neighbor is pulling her same-age son out for next year, which could make things easier in many ways.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

now I know it's summer

The first black raspberry picking outing of the season is a treasure hunt; ripe berries are few and we trek farther along the trail before we're satiated. While A pops most of her finds right into her mouth, she (like Little Sal) likes to have a container for the few she wants to save. C invented berry-basket necklaces when he was four which usually work well. But they do need to be held to keep them from spilling, so we broke out Bucket Blast and belted a pail around her waist to make up for her one-handedness.

(Fashionable, eh? Note the empty-but-stained bucket; she does put berries in, but they are retrieved quickly.)

It worked well enough that C used one on our post-dinner walk, and when I'm picking in earnest next week I might too. We'll see how much my productivity increases with two hands.

Monday, June 23, 2008


I took C up North Street at 9 p.m. on the solstice so he could see the fireflies at their peak. It's hard to get him to express excitement over anything outdoors so his awe at the display was fun to see. He caught them and I contemplated them, unsurprised that anyone would believe in fairies.

He wanted to relocate a number of them into our yard but I suggested we find a way to attract them instead. Turns out the larvae eat slugs. Now I'm definitely on board with his plan. We typically see a few in or yard every night but not the numbers we'd like!

Little Elbows

An update to Sarah's post from yesterday. A and I only had to spend about an hour today at the orthopedic specialist's office to confirm that yes, her elbow does indeed have a hairline fracture. That gives her the dubious distinction of being the first person in our immediate family to have broken a bone, at least that we know of... Funny that she broke her elbow falling on soft grass/plants in the woods, while each of us has had what looked like more serious falls or injuries over the years without a break...

As you can see by the following photo, she is happy with her new cast, and doesn't seem to have been in any pain since it was immobilized. Cast-off date is 3 weeks hence...

hope for transit?

The number of Delmartians riders of "my" bus (the 18 at Four Corners at 7:22) has quintupled since last summer.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thanks American medical system!

Dan and A have been in the ER for six hours now trying to figure out whether she broke her arm yesterday. (Minor fall, major reaction that's unlike her, and still hurts today). He just called and they're pretty sure now that they have the THIRD set of x-rays done (go radiation!) that it's not broken.

(This is why I sent Dan instead of taking her myself- I'd be throwing so many fits by now they'd have kicked me out.)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

in which we deal with our son's annoying one-upmanship by doing it ourselves

C: I know more than any of you about anything.
D: Everyone has different types of knowledge which they know best.
S: I know how to use logistic regression.
D: I know how to change the oil in the car.
C: Well I know most everything better than you, and EVERYTHING more than A.
D: A knows people's names better than any of the rest of us.
S: When people we can't remember show up at parties we ask A what their names are. (This is in fact true.)
C: Well that's not really useful information.

A: Five hours is a far car ride.
C: You mean a LONG car ride.
D: We are far away from Oma and Opa's house.

A: I can count to 100.
C:You can't count to 1000. I can count to any number there is.
S: You can't count to pi.
C: Pie isn't a number.
D: Pi is the name of a number that's 3.14 something...
A: I can count to ten in Spanish. Uno, dos...
S: "Cosine, secant, tangent, sine, 3.14159!"
A: tres, cuatro, cinco, seis...
C: Shut UP, A!
D: and it's interesting because it's an irrational number that goes on and on forever after the decimal point.
A: siete, ocho, nuev, diez!
D: That's great A!
C: Shut UP, A! So how do you count to it?
S and D: YOU CAN'T.
C: Wow, that's weird.
D: Invisible numbers are even weirder.
C: How can a number be invisible?
S: You mean imaginary?
C: (giggles) If it's imaginary it's not real!
S: That's right, it's not a "real" number, and you can't count to it either, but it's useful when you're calculating things.
C: So what IS it?
S: The square root of negative one.
(Numerous other questions arose that got too difficult to field since (a) C has no experience with negative numbers except arithmetically and (b) we were in the car and I couldn't try to demonstrate anything on paper.)

(At our potluck, all the other kids were off playing and C hung out with the grown-ups for a while. His method of making conversation was to quiz us on WWII.)
C: What was the Marshall Plan?
Brian: The Marshall Plan was the U.S.'s post-war plan for rebuilding the economic systems of Europe (etc. etc. etc.)
C (shocked): How did YOU know that?

the basement shouldn't freeze

Because of the volatility of petroleum prices, our heating oil company is no longer offering prepay agreements at a preset rate. In the past we saved a lot by paying upfront for a year's worth of oil. The next few years will be interesting....

Friday, June 20, 2008

we can't be trusted

Last summer I was happy to be moved to the third floor because it didn't have autoflushing toilets. Alas, they've now "upgraded" here too. Interestingly this occurred the day after our organization was granted additional office space up here. Maintenance continues to work quickly 'round here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Dan and I decided to check out Rockin' on the River tonight; we figured it wouldn't be a particularly family-friendly concert but we wanted to go out and it was free and the opening act was a band we'd seen at a friend's wedding five years ago so there was some nostalgia there. ("Hey, remember when we only had to convince my parents to take ONE kid so we could go away overnight?" "Yeah, and Mala had So Much Food.")

Our method of getting C to leave the house voluntarily, especially for a venue where we may encounter people or, heaven forbid, music, is to settle on a reasonable timeframe and agree to buy him junk food while we're out. He settled in with some kettle corn and a book (Spies and Saboteurs of World War II, of course) for about five minutes before the noise started getting to him. He relocated to the hill along the side of the Green Island Bridge a little bit away. Eventually the volume even there was too much and I took him for a walk until the end of the first set, when we agreed to leave to make him happy.

It wasn't until we were leaving that it occurred to me that most kids don't sit by themselves and read at concerts. But given the other recreational activities taking place there it was probably for the best.

Monday, June 16, 2008

yes, I'm conducting a literature review

Most researchers have a financial incentive to obtain positive study outcomes. I don't have direct incentives, but my research center will not continue to obtain grants if we don't make our funders happy. And our funders are, for the most part, trying to maintain their jobs, which means the programs they run need to be funded and they don't want to risk this funding with bad news.

Even if researchers are not financially tied to positive study outcomes, they often are emotionally tied to the programs under study. Many of our funders are completely convinced that the programs they oversee "work," and no research would ever convince them otherwise, even if their jobs weren't on the line. It doesn't take too long to get emotionally invested in a project.

So we come up with something nice to say in our reports even if we don't find anything positive. And even though we own the rights to all the data we collect (one thing SUNY insists on when accepting grants), we don't publish anything negative or null results (in our case, usually meaning that an intervention did not have an effect).

Null results are rarely published even in more purely academic settings simply because such studies are often less interesting to read. They're much more likely to be rejected by top-tier journals unless they're refuting something previously published and have a larger sample or better design. Both of my published papers are of null results and we didn't even bother submitting them to prestigious journals.

This is a problem because 20 people could conduct similar research and even if only one gets statistically significant results (which with a 95% confidence interval is likely to happen by chance), that one paper is likely to be added to the published literature and all the others trashed- if not by journal editors, then by the researchers themselves who won't trouble to write and submit a paper that's unlikely to get into a good journal when they could be spending their time on more effective career-building activities. Meta-analyses of published work are becoming more popular; to compensate for small sample sizes in research on a particular topic, they collect all the decent published studies on a topic and analyze them as a whole to see if they have statistically meaningful results. Problem is, meta-analysis can not compensate for publication bias.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

natural selection in action

I seem to have cleared the garden of just about all the slugs that come out before 9 p.m. and all the slugs that are foolish enough to drown in beer. I picked off dozens surrounding the plants and beer the first couple of nights, but now I'm rarely getting more than four. I know they're out there since they're still doing damage, but apparently only the late-night teetotaling slugs remain. I'll have to go out there with a lantern sometime. And maybe some margaritas- perhaps it's just the IPA they're uninterested in? I can relate to that.

Word of advice: Unless there's no reasonable alternative, I advise against picking up slugs with your bare hands. I've been collecting enough that it's been the best option, but the secretions of a frightened slug are the stickiest, nastiest ectoplasm that I've ever encountered. They don't wash off with soap and water either.

I looked into the edibility of slugs, figuring that in an emergency there's enough of them to provide a significant amount of food. Even if they eat all our plants, we'd still have a highly productive slug farm, and people eat snails after all. Alas, I wasn't able to get a clear answer, but I suspect they're as nutritious if not as palatable as escargot. And easier to catch than squirrel.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

why I'm not a farmer

In addition to another large batch of lettuce and mystery greens, our CSA today provided us with strawberries, basil, broccoli, and several summer squash. I just remembered to PLANT zucchini last week, and they're harvesting. I did just pick a pint of sugar snap peas, which is exciting, but apparently they're the only thing I should trouble to grow.

(Off to hunt more slugs, who are intent on munching up the zucchini, pumpkin, and scarlet runners moments after they've emerged from the soil. I got a dozen about half an hour ago- let's see if there's more. Another reason I'm no farmer- I can't even bring myself to kill the slugs I pick off. I relocate them across the yard to the Japanese knotweed.)

what goes around comes around

I let some fellow university employees suck up my air conditioning on Monday, and they've repaid me by delivering me ice cream. Not only that, but it's Crumbs Along the Mohawk, which sounds meh but is actually one of my favorites. Mmmm.

or on the bottom

(, of course)

Monday, June 09, 2008

very much a soccer mom

C always wants to play center in soccer. And he often gets to because he’s proactive about asking the coaches for it and he’s wily enough to have learned that if he volunteers to play goalie for a quarter (which none of the kids really like) he’s given first pick as to what he plays next. It’s not fair to say he’s no good at it- he’s about average- but he naturally plays defensively. He positions himself between the ball and his team’s goal, he hangs back to see how things are playing out before jumping in, and he’s more likely to make heroic efforts to get control of the ball if the other team is about to score. If he gave up the glory of playing offense he’d go from being a passable forward to become a sensational fullback. But he doesn’t buy it. *sigh*


June 1st, the annual date when we commit to only buying local produce, crept up without our notice. Perhaps this is a good thing, since my first thought when I realized was “damn, I should have bought more grapes and stocked up on some canned tomatoes.” Now I can’t cheat. Dan’s birthday celebration on Saturday led to multiple transgressions anyway (lemons and limes for drinks, which we agreed last year to make exceptions for; a bottle of rum, though I suppose we allow molasses anyway; and potato chips, the status of which remains uncertain- I say they’re against the rules, Dan says they’re not).

Our first CSA pickup provided us with radishes (which C suddenly likes), lettuce, spinach, bok choy, cilantro, and a mystery green (smells like broccoli, has a bit of a radish-like bite when raw that it loses when cooked). The first sugar snap peas are ripening in the garden, and we’ve harvested all of six tiny strawberries so far. We’re finishing up the last of our frozen black raspberries while eagerly tracking the status of this year’s crop (currently blossoming, as are the blackberries).

I’ve put tomatoes, scarlet runner beans, and pumpkins in the garden; basil and zucchini will go in tonight or tomorrow. Dan sacrificed the pale ale from the mixed case he was given for his birthday so our slugs can drown in organic beer.

A wanted her hair in braids on Saturday and was incredibly cute. One of these days I’ll invest in a comb so I can actually part her hair, rather than tie it into random clumps.

C used string to set up a spiderweb in his room. He hung matchbox cars from it too. I’m not sure if they were intended as decorative or to warn us of our fate if we dared to enter. Some things I'm afraid to ask.

Dan goes to Seattle this week and after that will be cutting his hours in half. Which is great because it solves child care problems and will give him a chance to do more work locally and actually see people, but a little sad because it was cool to be making so much money. Not that we were doing anything too exciting with it, but I was just getting used to the idea that buying prepackaged crackers didn’t have to be a special event. We’ll still have plenty (though less to throw at the mortgage) but we should take the time to look at the numbers and decide how much we have to play with.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

should caregiving be prioritized over a really good gig?

I like this article on workplace flexibility because it includes the suggestion that flexibility should be available to ALL employees. Reasonable work schedules are often only provided to workers who have an "excuse" for needing them. Even though I have only benefited from such arrangements- my hours were reduced at PRA during my pregnancy, and I had increased flexibility at the UW because I had an infant- I see it as inherently unfair to those who either work out more dependable child care coverage (having a parent home full-time; expensive day care) or who dote on their dogs rather than their children*.

In some countries employees may refuse overtime if it interferes with their child care needs. Honestly, I think ANY employee should be allowed to refuse- if someone doesn't want to work because they'd rather play rugby, an employer shouldn't be able to prevent that. The employer can instead sweeten the deal with enough incentives to get employees to work more voluntarily. There's a reason that industries that require overtime need to pay well.

No one else at PRA was able to chop two hours off their work day just because they felt like it, yet business proceeded as usual without my presence. (Really, it was to their benefit- I did the same amount of work for 20% less pay.) I wonder why the East Coast is so much less open to the freedom and flexibility part-time work offers both employee AND employer than the West Coast.

(Another cool thing from the article: an EU directive requires part-time workers' salaries and benefits to be the pro-rated equivalent of full-time workers' salaries. Wow. Something the article didn't mention: how important socialized medicine is to any of these options.)

* Dan did in fact call in to work once because Paco was sick. And he didn't even lie about it. But I doubt most people can get away with that.

it's the manufacturing, stupid

I hate that so much "green building" research, investment, and of course marketing is focused on new houses. (Example here, with free plans even.) While it may make people feel better about the brand-new houses they're building (usually on formerly undeveloped land), in most cases the manufacture and transport of the materials are far larger energy-wasters than living in an older, less-than-ideally constructed home. It's better than building a standard McMansion, yes, but not better than getting by with a house that's already there.

Some exceptions may exist- in some cases, it might be environmentally benign to build with materials gathered or harvested from or near your own land- stone, strawbale, cordwood. But improving existing housing stock almost always has a better payoff.

Monday, June 02, 2008


The local youth softball outfit is called the Bethlehem Tomboys. This bothers me but I can't quite articulate why.