Sunday, June 21, 2009

Good Solstice to Everyone!   
* * *
Nico's poem:

* * * * *
flowers, flowers, flowers
pretty flowers
happy flowers
delicate, worldwide infested flowers
living, edible, gloomy flowers
Those are just a few.
comforting flowers
scary flowers
insect eaters, educational, openhearted flowers
lively, yummy, amazing flowers
exotic flowers too!
everyday life flowers
living creatures flowers
And don't forget dangerous flowers.
last of all
Best of all
I like fun flowers!
* * * * * * 

Friday, June 19, 2009


When Nico had his long awaited Hayao Miyazaki filmfest-campout-sleepover the other night (I'm under strict gag-order not to blog about it, so don't ask me!) I noticed during the s'mores that the marshmallows were not the enormous blobules that recent evolution had created, but the more petite puffs of days gone by.

Apparently the s'mores had been struck by the ubiquitous grocery shrink-ray.  Commodity prices shot up last year at the same time people began rediscovering frugality, so companies have been disguising inflation by down-sizing portions.

On the one hand, there's something to be said for going back to the days of muffins that you could hold in one hand and marshmallows that fit easily into a human mouth.  I know that when we returned from Ireland in 2004, portion-bloat was one piece of our own reverse culture shock.

On the other hand, companies are shrinking down as sneakily as they can get away with and they certainly deserve a stern and disapproving look.  Here's a nice video from a lady who is not amused.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Three days until summer solstice and we're wearing sweaters and sweatshirts.  Nights in the 40's and cool days has the house temperature slipping toward 60 degrees at night.  The fuel tank's empty and the woodpile's wet, so it's just been easier to leave the down comforters on the beds and keep the sweaters handy.

Monica's getting depressed.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The New York Times had an article that casts doubt upon all the research which supposedly shows moderate drinking to be good for your health.  They finally seem to have noticed the fact that in all the years of breathless reporting on this topic, they've never presented an iota of data to support a causal relationship there.  There a correlation -- it's clear from a hundred studies that moderate drinkers are likely to be healthier than both heavy drinkers and teetotalers -- but not only is there no evidence of cause, there's not much in the way of plausible causal mechanism hypothesized that I've ever heard.

The problem is that the human mind abhors (an unexplained) correlation, and will quickly latch upon whatever plausible causal story presents itself.  Our cognitions lust after causalities and chains of this-then-that's.  (Journalists, of course, professionalize this -- spinning their stories  out of a nest of familiar themes and narratives that arrive to us as 95% soothing confirmation and 5% anxiety-inducing provocation -- but that's a thought for another post.)

When I hear any science report in the news, I'm contrarian enough to immediately run the proffered narrative through a couple of variations.  In this case, could it be that moderate drinking and health both come about from something else?  Of course.  It only takes a moment to imagine various scenarios.  Could it be that the previous reports have had it backwards and good health causes moderate drinking?  Or at least that poor health causes both alcohol abuse and abstinence?  The Times article hints that this might be the case -- that teetotalers may be unhealthy because unhealthy people give up alcohol -- and poor health can also lead to alcohol abuse.

In a great number of science articles and nearly all health articles, a few moments of questioning quickly discredits the original causal claim -- which is usually the main "claim" or message of the article.  What's left in the rubble is evidence for a correlation -- and a best-guess about cause.   Also worth noting is that the choice of explanatory narrative isn't driven by the evidence at hand, but by the writer's and audience's cognitive and cultural needs and desires.  That is, the choice about how to imagine the causality usually has more to do with confirming or less often (as in the case of the original alcohol reports) disconfirming people's pre-existing prejudices.  

But in any case, it's nice to see the Times finally stating the obvious.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

Today was "lower school rising", when the kids symbolically cross a bridge from one grade to another.

Nico crossed from second grade to third -- and Porter moved out of the lower school altogether into 6th grade and middle school.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Monica's been the "class coordinator" for the 5th grade and this Wednesday was Beach Day.  She sent her account out to the parents:

"We had a great day at the beach.  We started off with some heavy drizzle but the kids all put on bathing suits and most went running into the water, some voluntarily, others not quite so.  None the less, there was no whining or crying and everyone seemed up for a good time.  A couple here and there would sit apart and discuss life topics.  An interesting segregation of gender took place until a few bold ones broke the barrier.  We were served a hot lunch of hot dogs and burgers (and veggie burgers too) which was welcome in the chill after swimming.  As we ate lunch, the sun struggled to come through and the dampness lessened and temperatures rose.  All were eager to enjoy the ice cream sundae fixings with only a few experiments on new toppings(promptly stopped in order to stop world hunger and waste of course!)  After lunch, gender segregation was no longer an issue and  great games of tag and some sort of capture the flag took place.  Balls, frisbees and a kite where played with. Parents and teachers were well entertained by our attractive lifeguard (We made sure not to distract from his duties of course!) After that, sand in all its glory became the focus.  Interesting digging, burying and building projects started to spring up everywhere with all sorts of collaboration taking place. Dry clothes soon became wet.  Then it was time to go.  I am sure all will sleep well tonight . . . It was a little frightening watching the hints of teenagerness but they are wonderful."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Had the stitches out. For those who asked, all the lab-pathology reports came back fine, the scar's a good six-incher from sideburn to Adam's apple, and the object itself was the size of a dove's egg (about an inch across). So now it's just a matter of patiently letting tissues re-knit.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

For sixty-odd years the Swamp Yankees in Ashaway have been putting on a "Huck Finn Day" in the park.  

Fishing with bamboo poles in the pond, free burgers and hotdogs for the kids, water-balloon toss, obstacle course, games.

So I ventured out with a great white sail of a bandage on my face, and we met Charles, Patty and the girls by the carnival games.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sometimes, when I've found myself hanging out with pagans or new-agers, I run up against some of the limits of my empathy.  One characteristic in particular that rubs me the wrong way is the new-agey interest in healing.  Some people become specialists in healing themselves from whatever tragedies and handicaps they are working on.  It's the very kernel of their identity.

Blech.  I hate healing.  First of all, I don't see that I have much role in it other than staying out of the way and not aggravating anything.  Second of all, it's just a drag.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

So Monday morning, the surgeon removed the parotid gland from back of my left cheek, which had developed a benign tumor.  The assumption was that it was the "superficial" lobe that sits atop the main facial nerve, but once inside he discovered that, on the contrary, the nerve sat atop it all.  He had to spread the nerve in order to fish out the gland, which made the whole process more difficult and a bit more damaging.  

After 3 hours in surgery I woke all tubed up and with a great bandage upon the side of my face.  They had placed a draining tube in the side of my head and hooked me into a pump.  It would be an afternoon and night of dozing, contemplation, and peeing into a bottle every two hours.  I had a button to release a flow of morphine into the IV, but I didn't use it much, since my face was pretty much numb.

I might have been nauseous if I'd tried to read or watch the television, but I was just content to be idle and to put up with the nurses' regular interruptions.  Maybe there was more morphine than I thought.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Home and resting comfortably, with about 7 inches of souvenir needlework along the side of my face. It'll make a fine dueling scar. (I just won't tell people that it's a duel I lost with the medical establishment . . . )