Tuesday, December 30, 2008

'Twas a Few Days After Christmas...

... and all through the blog, not a creature was stirring, not even a... um... Yeah, it's quiet here. We're holidaying (a verb? it is now) on the Eastern Seaboard (why doesn't anyone ever talk about the Western Seaboard?)—Virginia, New York, Maryland. De-lovely, non? Foolish bloggy shenanigans will resume shortly. Until then...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Code Talkers

As parents, we're often compelled to communicate in code, preserving the wee ones' blissful ignorance of adult complexities and concerns. When the kids were younger, we could just spell, but Louise's blossoming literacy has put an end to that. My grandmother used to gossip in French, but sadly, my French is very bad, so our secret communiques would be limited to stunted observations about croissants and hats. So what are we left with? Baroque obfuscation.

Example: The kids were hungry and cranky, we were sick, the fridge was empty. We negotiated possible solutions in code talk:
"What about 'Joyous Meals from the Donald of Scotland'?"
Which is to say: McDonald's Happy Meals.

Fellow parents, what code solutions do you use?*

* A couple of teachers I used to work with texted each other anything they didn't want the students to overhear.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Softly Softly Catchee Squirrely

Penny likes to chase squirrels. I get it. It's a dog thing. Leash laws, though, generally prevent her from "pursuing" this hobby. But this morning in the park, I saw a lady with her dog on a leash, and together they were sneaking up on an unsuspecting squirrel. (I didn't stick around to see the outcome.)

Here's what I want to know: What happens if they actually catch it? Has she thought this through? Do they divvy up the squirrel? Fifty-fifty? Sixty-forty? Who gets the head? So many questions.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'm pretty sure this one is meant to be the punchline to a joke, but I have no idea what the joke should be, so here's where you come in: make one up. "[YOUR JOKE-SETUP HERE]. And then the monkey says, 'or I'll be a monkey's uncle.'" Abundant, uproarious laughter. It'll be beautiful. (And can somebody explain to me why the monkey looks so sad? No, sad monkey, no. Laugh, monkey, laugh!)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Quarterback Problem

I particularly liked this article in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell. It describes the quarterback problem, how predicting which college quarterbacks will succeed in the pros is nearly impossible. Some of the best college quarterbacks flop while other seemingly less promising players thrive. Performance in the college game is only a modest indicator of how a player will perform in the NFL with it's very different and more extreme set of challenges. And I.Q. tests and other commonly used predictors are largely useless:
"This is the quarterback problem. There are certain jobs where almost nothing you can learn about candidates before they start predicts how they’ll do once they’re hired."
In other words, the only reliable way to figure out how a quarterback will play in the NFL is to put him in the NFL and see how he plays.

And, Gladwell argues, teaching suffers from the same dilemma. Training, certification, and other requirements typically mandated of teachers turn out to be essentially useless in predicting a teacher's success.

Again, it's the same basic problem: the set of challenges presented by a classroom are so unique and the set of skills needed to successfully manage them is so specific that no test—other than putting someone in a classroom and seeing what happens—can accurately identify who will be a successful teacher. (I've certainly witnessed first-hand exactly how teaching can go wrong and how, despite my good intentions and promising list of skills, I got brutally sacked—metaphorically, that is—by a bunch of twelve-year-olds.)*

Curious, curious.

* The implication, Gladwell continues, is that teaching should shift to an apprenticeship system in which anyone with a college degree can start teaching and is subsequently judged based on actual performance in the classroom, not on external, largely arbitrary criteria.

Scattered Locust-Showers

Last week, it was snowing. Now it's opaquely foggy, and the highs will be pushing eighty. What's next, scattered locust-showers? Hail-of-frogs? (Mmm, hail-of-frogs—them's good eatin'.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Time for another round of our favorite game, "Gimme a Backstory!" Same question(s) as always: What's his name / deal?

Easy Peasy

Yeah, I'm not sure why his ears are so big. It's gestural, baby, gestural. ("Gestural"—sounds weird. Is it really a word? The Google says "yes". But still—sounds weird: gestural, gestural, gestural...)

I remember, when I lived in England as a boy, going over to a friend's house after school. His father was sitting in a great recliner in the shag-carpeted living room eating dinner-or-supper-or-tea-or-some-such in front of the TV. The meal consisted of a rather charmless looking piece of meat and some rather over-boiled looking peas. (Most of my encounters with British cuisine were less than dazzling, though there were exceptions.) What was notable about the spectacle was the way he ate his peas. I watched with great curiosity/confusion as he methodically smashed them against the flat of his knife with his fork, then slid the pea-mash down his gullet.*

Huh. Is that a thing? Is it a British thing? Is it a British-dad-who-eat-dinner-or-some-such-in-front-of-the-TV-in-his-shag-carpeted-living-room thing? Or was he just a rogue pea-masher, carrying on his lone pursuit in plushly carpeted solitude?

Far flung Slimbologists, bring me data points!

* Perhaps we should start a series, Idiosyncratic Eating Habits of the Not Particularly Rich or Famous.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A New Orleans snowman (seen on the Napoleon neutral ground): grimy and hilarious with a tropical flair. Seems about right.

It snowed today. Snowed! Snowed! (The last time it snowed here was Christmas Day, 2004, when Louise was three and June was a baby. And the last time before that was... I don't know when.) The girls were ecstatic. It continued through the morning, accumulating to a good inch or so, before turning to rain and dissolving away in the afternoon.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Les Brusiers: Thursday, Circle Bar; Friday, Hi-Ho

So just clear your week's calendar and scrawl a big, sloppy "BRUISERS" across the latter half of it.
Thursday night: Bruiser party at the Circle Bar.

Friday day: Gently nurse your hangover.

Friday night: Do it all over again.

Saturday: Ponder where your life went wrong and how you wound up in this blurry nightlife-ain't-no-good-life-but-it's-my-life predicament. But don't ponder too hard, because you'll be really stupid and probably won't arrive at any particularly useful insights.
All shows (to the best of my knowledge) occur in the theoretical "Show starts at 10pm" timespace. Details beyond that are left to the fates.

See you there. Whooh!

Monday, December 08, 2008

As I took a lazy Saturday bike ride, great clouds of birds swarmed overhead, merging, splitting, and merging again according to their mysterious ornithological group-think. Mesmerizing. (Also a teeny bit terrifying. If those beasts set their birdy mono-mind to it, they could launch a serious Hitchcock-esque peck-attack. Or—less terrifying but more plausible—a truly devastating Mel-Brooks-spoofing-Hitchcock-esque poop-attack.)

Saturday, December 06, 2008


A blimp has been floating over the city for the past few days. It's quite beautiful, drifting lazily in the cross-breezes, glowing luminously at night.* It's also an ad for DirectTV with a giant screen flashing looping promotional messages.

Are we living in Blade Runner yet?

* The girls love it: they call it "Blimpy" and carefully track its progress through the sky.

La Famille Brusier, Saturn Bar, Tonight!*

We go on at 10-ish sharp-ish. Then stick around for the "XXX-Mas with the King XXX-travaganza": Clockwork Elvis with Reverend Spooky LeStrange and her Billion Dollar Baby Dolls Burlesque.**

As usual, all hell will break loose.

* I must be the worst self-promoter ever—I've got to start announcing these things more than a few hours before show time. [Repeatedly smacking self on forehead.]

** Not actually XXX-rated, but don't tell the tourists.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Yakamein, (alternately: yaka mein, ya-ka-mein, yock-o-mein...) my new favorite food fetish—pork, shrimp, spaghetti noodles, scallions, and a whole boiled egg suspended in salty broth—from the pink Man Chu on Broad. (Read Sara Roahen's Gumbo Tales for a lovely and detailed exposition of the dish.)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Shocking, Really

I have a situation:
The Catalysts:
  1. I bought a new pair of shoes (lovely old-school gray and black checkered Vans, purchased on-the-cheap from the neighborhood thrifty-hipster retail outlet). I'm greatly enamored of them and have been wearing them close-to-constantly.
  2. In my new part-time house-hubby incarnation, I'm now doing a lot more grocery shopping.
The Consequence:

For whatever reason, the particular combination of fresh Vans, shopping cart, and linoleum floor generates an exceptional amount of static electricity, such that I repeatedly get the bejeesus shocked out of me when I reach for desired items on the grocery shelves.*

The Looming Crisis:

I do my best to persevere (bravely muffling yelps of surprise and pain), but if the situation continues unabated, I will undoubtedly develop a deep and irrational fear of canned goods and other domestic wares, causing me to withdraw from the world and live out my days in a boy-in-the-bubble-esque hermit-tent handwoven from anti-static dryer sheets.
Help! What's a half-hipster house-hubby to do?

* The girls find the whole thing very amusing.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Feet 'n' flowers. Taken a few days back, before a (comparative) cold snap made bare feet impractical.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Very freaked out mouse, held by tail. ("I've got a mouse by the tail, it's plain to see....") Delilah cornered this little critter in our upstairs hallway last night. The heartless farm boy in me was inclined to let nature take its course, but when the girls discovered the scene and began screaming in horror, I intervened, snatching it up and releasing it to the comparative safety of our front yard (though not before taking this commemorative photograph). In these times of economic crisis, it's nice to know I can catch a rodent with my bare hands. At least we won't go hungry (not around here, anyway).

"I Got B.O."*

Who wants to hear a Cajun story? Ooh, ooh, I do! (Cajuns—they're so funny.)

It was many decades ago.** My uncle was working for the census, conducting door-to-door polling in rural Louisiana. He knocked on the door of a house. An old Cajun lady answered. He began his series of questions.

"Can you tell my your name?"

"I got B.O."

"Well, um… I'm sorry to hear that. But I really just need to know your name."

"I got B.O."

"Yes, I see… Well, that's not on my questionnaire, so if you could just tell me your name."

"That is my name—Agathe Billiot."***

The light bulb flickered on, and all became clear. Cross-linguistic homonym-ilarious—whooh!

* No, not me personally, though I have been known to get a little musty from time to time.

** This was many years before my existence, and all particulars beyond the core story are embellishments of my own imagination. But then all Cajun stories should have a liberal dose of imaginative embellishment. (Is like de cayenne spicing up da crawfish of de narrative.)

*** For the non-Franco-phonic amongst you, allow me to explain: "Agathe" (the French analog of "Agatha") is pronounced something like "Ah-got", and "Billiot" is rendered something like "Bee-yo", so when you say it all together it sounds a whole like "I got B.O.", particularly when filtered through a thick Cajun accent. (Ain't no funny like a funny that requires lengthy expository footnotes.)