April 21, 2008

He is as is a little sponge

so i totally yelled at elliot on Saturday. I mean, not really--it's not like I lost my temper or was actually angry, really, at all. But he was bouncing on Ada's head--by which I mean, literally sitting on her head and bouncing up and down and I just decided that this behavior could not continue. I am tolerant; Ada is tolerant. But head bouncing is right out. Forever. Definitely. Finito.

So anyway, I was like, "Elliot, NOOO. Noooooo." Very firmly and loudly; there may have been some finger wagging and meaningful eye contact. Elliot's response was to burst out laughing, so I was like--oh well, so much for my attempt at being Firm.

But it's interesting, because although Elliot has not ceased in his attempts to bounce on Ada he's become very interested in the word "no." All day yesterday, sometimes in context and somtimes not, he just wandered around bellowing "noooo, nooo, noooooooooooo."

Brandon says he is doing a very good imitation of me, which is to say, I think, that Elliot's attempting to convey a complex series of ideas: "it's not that I am angry but rather I'm just disappointed that you are failing to live up to the moral standards which you and I both, I'm sure, agree are imperative for the sustainability of social order, but as I said, I'm certainly not mad."

April 20, 2008

Today's Reading

I highly highly recommend this essay, in today's Times. It's about an important question, maybe the most important question: why should we bother? When there is a big problem, a problem which needs to be solved but is bigger than our our ability to solve it, what should we do? When our actions cannot "solve" the problem, why should we change them?

The specific set of problems this essay is about are environmental, but they are more generally social; they are about taking responsibility for our own lives. This is something I have been thinking about lot lately--I am struggling with the fact that despite my commitment to living ethicically and responsibly I do not think about ethics or responsibility as I go about making most of my daily decisions, particularly my consumer decisions. I am trying to change that.

For me, this is closely tied with the experience of becoming a parent, because parenting has made me think very vividly about my ideas about consuming, conserving, and prioritizing.  More specifically, I've been thinking about how often I think about parenting in terms of consuming rather than preserving and prioritizing--which is too bad.

Anyway, I'm veering precipitously away from my main point here, which is also the main point of the essay, which I will link to again, because I really think it's just that good. The main point is--you should bother. You should try.

For instance, consider this:
It’s hard to argue with Michael Specter...when he says: “Personal choices, no matter how virtuous [N.B.!], cannot do enough. It will also take laws and money.” So it will. Yet it is no less accurate or hardheaded to say that laws and money cannot do enough, either; that it will also take profound changes in the way we live. Why? Because the climate-change crisis is at its very bottom a crisis of lifestyle....For us to wait for legislation or technology to solve the problem of how we’re living our lives suggests we’re not really serious about changing — something our politicians cannot fail to notice. They will not move until we do. Indeed, to look to leaders and experts, to laws and money and grand schemes, to save us from our predicament represents precisely the sort of thinking — passive, delegated, dependent for solutions on specialists — that helped get us into this mess in the first place.

and this:
Cheap energy, which gives us climate change, fosters precisely the mentality that makes dealing with climate change in our own lives seem impossibly difficult. Specialists ourselves, we can no longer imagine anyone but an expert, or anything but a new technology or law, solving our problems...which is probably why we prefer to cross our fingers and talk about the promise of ethanol and nuclear power — new liquids and electrons to power the same old cars and houses and lives.

And finally, this:
...our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum...as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.

Lest I sound hackneyed and kneejerky and pedantic-- I don't mean to. I don't mean that you should make superficial changes that don't make a difference--there are so many of these. I just mean that I am trying to be open to, and less cynical about, the idea of radical personal change and the ways that it can, maybe, matter.

*here i would add that we need to think carefully about how to put pressure on the corporations which accomodate our desires--it doesn't do much to cut down on your own water use, for example, without encouraging government to change legislation for corporate water waste and pollution, which is (from what I've read) a much bigger problem.

April 16, 2008


Someone in our house did the following today:

  1. Closed the dog in this special between-the-doors place, unbeknownst to everyone else. She was not discovered for an hour.

  2. Took a shit in this bowl, which happened to be lying on the floor:

  3. Awakened the entire household at 5:30 AM. It felt like this:

  4. The culprit was last seen avidly blowing kisses just like this one:

April 15, 2008

Everyday Use

So, this morning while working away while at our lovely local coffee shop I up and dropped my WHOLE CUP OF COFFEE onto my laptop.  The whole thing, onto the keys, drip drip drip, and out through the battery slot on the back.  

Now, as you join in the collective gasp of horror issued at that moment by every coffee shop witness, including some meddlesome geek who asked the barrista if she "had a blowdryer" to dry out the computer (what, in her purse?) as well as Brandon and the crazy scone lady, let me assure you that probably probably probably this is fine, the computer is fine, plus it's totally under warranty, and plus I have a print out of my most recent chapter draft, and plus, here I am, typing on another household computer.  It's fine.

Still, though.  I mean, my laptop.  My laptop.  I might as well say, my life's work.

I had to go sit in a comfy chair in the corner and fiddle and be all like my laptop, my laptop (here I think of Shylock, having royally fucked up, my ducats, my daughter) and really hang out there with the fact that really, I couldn't blame that spilled coffee on anyone else, and probably not even on Elliot who wasn't there, and probably not on being sort of tired from giving blood yesterday, and probably it was just my fault.  
Which is the sort of thing I have to be really meditative about, because like most people I have the tendency to have a gut reaction of being crabby and angry when I've done something careless or wrong, and then take that out on other people who might point out (not that anyone did, as it was obvious) that it was my fault, because then they are picking on me when I feel bad and I might have been careless but they are being MEAN, which is WORSE.  

This is such a disturbing part of the human personality--to emotionally compensate for our failures by bringing others down with us.  [edited to add--i'm just reading through this and noticing another means of emotional compensation to which I am prone, which is me being all "well, I might be careless but at least I am wise," which is great, but it doesn't dry out your laptop.]   

Anyway.  I sat there in my chair and thought about Elliot, and how he will break things and spill things, and I will have to teach him to not be careless, but also be nice to him, because being careless or just not careful enough with something special feels so bad.  But mostly I thought about how the hard thing about being a grown up is that you have to allot your own portion of guilt, and sit with it, and then also forgive yourself when your penance is done, and no one but you can decide when that is, when it's okay to pat yourself on the back and say, it's okay, you didn't mean to, you'll do better next time.  

April 12, 2008

Radio Flyer Sample Sale: A Disagreement over fundamental values

We did not buy the pictured tricycle, with which Elliot was obsessed.

Why was he obsessed with it? Because he could clearly tell that it was the shiniest thing around, and that it was big, way too big. Completely unwieldy for a person of his size. But big and shiny are concepts he gets, and cares deeply about. He wept angrily when we plopped him on the toys that were actually his own size. He would have none of it.

We selfish adults bought him -- what? A wee, tiny red wagon, about twelve inches long, for ten dollars. It is the cutest little wagon, perfect for dolls, animals, blocks, and other small friends. It's the kind of wagon you can take under the dining room table with you, or wear as a hat.

Does Elliot care about this wee wagon? Not really.

April 06, 2008

where I want to read my book

I just saw this! 

One of the pleasingest weeks of my earlier life was this one winter when we moved, right at the end of the semester.  My new school and new semester didn't start quite yet, so I had a whole winter week to spend doing nothing--nothing but sit in the attic eaves of our new house and eat english muffins with cheese and drink grape juice and read read read.  The ceiling slanted down close, but there was a window, and I dragged in all these pillows and it was so snug and airy and fantastic.

Brandon and I often discuss the logistics of making a reading nook for Elliot.  Since it's not looking like we'll have some odd attic crawl space anytime soon, maybe we'll build something like this.  When, as the website says, we move to a loft and then we, both of us, marry a carpenter.

(link via Beck the clever)

April 01, 2008

Elliot soulful; me sweaty

Elliot here being the particular kind of darling that merits the "vignette" and "blur edges" effects in iphoto (the other advantage of those effects being that they deemphasize my just-back-from-run sweatiness).

This is mostly just to say that elliot is very sweet in this overall action, and that all day he kept reminding me of Almanzo from Farmer Boy.

However, since Amy asked, here is an article about the children/soy issue.  From what I can tell at a preliminary review of the topic, here are the things worth noticing. 
  1. We have the idea that soy is "healthy" and "natural."  While it may well be perfectly healthy, in most of the forms that American consumers encounter soy, it is incredibly processed, and no more "natural" than your average chemical additive.
  2. Also, there are major agribusiness interests involved in marketing soy to us, in convincing us that soy is (as above) healthy and natural, and in getting producers to use soy all over the place.  
  3. There are some concerns about the health of soy.  It seems that it has some "anti-nutrients" which in large quantites can hurt the body's ability to process calcium and protein, and some feel there haven't been adequate studies done to determine what should be considered harmful.
  4. There is also some evidence that soy, again in some undetermined quality, has detrimental hormonal effects, leading to weird thyroid functioning and, more disturbingly, weird reproductive/fertility function, even later in life.
If people have thoughts on it beyond that, I'd be interested to know.  It seems to be in one of those grey areas where you have to think about where your burden of proof is: is it more important to you that a food be "proven" healthy, or that it be "proven" unhealthy?

We eat soy, but not much, since mostly we eat tasty tasty meat.  But it occurs to me that I have clearly been absorbing the "soy=good" logic.  The few times we had to buy formula I remember thinking that maybe I should get the "healthy fancy good" soy kind--I had some sense that choosing soy was choosing better.  Which maybe it is, but it's also just choosing a successful marketing pitch.

Here, Elliot as skeptic; a familiar family role:

Sigh, more reasons to be careful about your consuming

I don't really approve of tear-jerky things like this--I mean, is it like it would be okay to kill species if they weren't sweet and cute and songbirdy? Like, we can use all the pesticides we want as long as the only victims are toads and cockroaches? Either it's ethical or it's not, people. C'mon.

Still, here's today's article about how to shop so that your shopping doesn't "kill a songbird."

I mean, really. Do we need to get all Harper Lee on the environment? Apparently so.

The main facts I take from it:
1)As you think about where to shop, remember that many developing countries don't have rigorous limits on chemical use. So if you buy things from those countries, you and the birds will be healthier if you buy those goods fair trade (family farmers usually use more traditional, earth-friendly methods).
2)Bananas are one of the highest pesticide requiring foods, according to this. So while the thick peel might protect you, and thus keep bananas off most "top foods to buy organic" lists, they have a high environmental cost.