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March 31st, 2016

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delphica
When Lu was a baby, sometimes I would think about how joyful it would be, as a parent, to introduce her to the marvels of nature, science, and technology.

This weekend, we're going to visit a friend up in the Catskills, and it's Maple Syrup Weekend -- a state-wide thing in which farms that produce syrup and maple sugar open up to the public, most have some basic farm-type activities for kids, like petting goats, and samples of maple candy, stuff like that. To get excited for this, I asked Lu this morning if she would like to learn about how maple syrup is made.

She said "well mom, you take a bucket to a maple tree, and a hammer, and you TAP TAP TAP a spout into a tree and the raw syrup drips out into the bucket. Then you come back to get your bucket, and bring all the raw syrup to a giant stove, which cooks it into real syrup that you eat."

Okay then, I guess that is covered. Hopefully she'll get a kick out of petting the goats.

March 23rd, 2016

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delphica
I had a great cab ride last night. It's a bit of a coincidence that I haven't been updating that frequently, and in a relatively recent post I was talking about how I make a real effort never to take cabs/car service due. But this would be one of the few times I felt I needed to take a cab because of time constraints.

I was getting out of work late, and usually, that is a time when I would like a car ride IN SILENCE. I can be chatty enough with a driver, especially if I am on vacation or having fun, although it's sometimes touch and go because no matter how relaxed I am, I don't want to have a conversation with The Coming Race War Cab Driver or Let Me Tell You How Women Should Focus on Having Babies Cab Driver. And last night I was tired and somewhat cranky from having a work project come up with some unexpected issues and I was looking forward to sitting there and having my brain cells gel back together.

But when I gave the guy my address, he said "Pelham Bay? What are rent prices at about now? What about condos?" And asking New Yorkers about rent and property values is like throwing raw meat at a pack of wild dogs, I was instantly ON IT. He and his family live in Bay Ridge, so we talked about those prices, and then he reported back what other cab customers have told him about real estate in their neighborhoods, so we had the customary exchanges like "I cannot believe anyone would pay that!" and "OMG, that is so cheap!" and "Bed-Sty is INSANE, that is literally insane!"

And then we got off the pricing and started talking schools, that was animated as well. His son is 12, and does very well in math and science but is a reluctant reader. I suggested he try his kid with The Martian.

He mentioned something about how things where different from the days when he was in school (he seemed about my age), and so I asked him where he went to school, because he spoke with a slight Chinese accent and I was wondering what part of China he was from, and he said .... Chinatown! In the 1970s! And I guess it was a reminder of how life has changed, because yes, a kid growing up in New York City's Chinatown could absolutely speak Chinese 90% of the time and come out of it with a Chinese accent. It was that isolated, that recently. Now I just don't think it's possible, even for a kid whose parents speak Chinese at home exclusively. So we talked about that for a while.

And -- more things I didn't know -- we were still talking about schools and he showed me a video of his son's science fair project, and when he was looking for it on his phone (we were sitting in traffic so this wasn't dangerous) he said something like "I'm not sure where the file is ... oh, but I posted it on Weibo, I'll show you the video there" and I had thought you had to be a Chinese national to have a Weibo account, and he was kind of dismissive (not of me, of China as a concept I guess) and hand-waved that off, like "well ... you know how it is ... " No really I don't have any idea how you are spoofing a Chinese national's internet credentials, but okay sure.

He was definitely the most interesting person I've talked to this month, hands down.

March 14th, 2016

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Daylight saving time. Some people get very heated over this. For myself, I feel like my own internal clock must be vague to begin with, because I never feel overly disoriented by it. Maybe it feels "different" for a day, MAYBE two days, and then I forget it happened. I'm flex about jet lag, too. I'll notice it when it's drastic, like in China, but even then, it's more like a "it's funny how it feels so much later to me" and then that's it. I might go to bed an hour earlier or an hour later on any random night anyway. My wake up time is more fixed, because of the whole Working For The Man thing, but left to my own devices for a decent amount of time, like while on vacation like civilized people, the getting up time will start drifting around as well.

I know there have been experiments where researchers put people in isolation areas (I hope they are nice, with lots of amenities) and leave them to it, eventually they see most people set themselves to an internal clock that's just shy of 24 hours. I would love to see where I shake out with this ... but it's also possible that part of the appeal is that if you're in an isolation area, I'd assume you don't have to go to work and that other people keep your kitchen pleasantly stocked so you can eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner food as is your wont. The whole package strikes me as really relaxing.

Back to DST, I have heard people say they are "in agony for weeks," which is, well ... that seems extreme. I had a c-section and wouldn't have described it as being in agony for weeks. Which sounds dismissive on my part, although it's more that it genuinely has me wondering if this is one of those things where different people experience something differently, or if it's more like it's the same experience but the impact is different, or if they are using language differently to describe an experience that is essentially similar. WE CANNOT KNOW THE MIND OF ANOTHER.

OKAY YES I attribute plenty of things with causing agony for weeks, but I'm banking on the fact that the context usually gives it away as hyperbole.

February 22nd, 2016

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Going into this weekend we had two potential options -- there was a neat (I thought) program for George Washington's birthday at this completely random and obscure historic house museum in the city. As much as that whole package appealed to me, when I called to see if we needed to make reservations, the whole thing seemed both under- and over-organized. I had asked a friend if she and her daughter would be interested in going with us, and they were, but then it turned into that thing where they were coming from somewhere else and would be arriving somewhat later than we were, which added another layer of planning (which, not an issue TO ME, but seemed to be confounding to the museum people), so I switched gears.

Instead, we went to the college gym to watch the basketball games, or more specifically, the women's basketball game, because my five year old has about one game's worth of attention to give this endeavor. I think it was a good choice -- much more casual about coming and going, you have to be behaved as appropriate for for a basketball game but overall it's a fairly casual thing, and you can make 7 trips to the snack bar for $1 baggies of popcorn. In a way Lu didn't care about, but was slightly noteworthy to me, this happened to be the last game to be played in the old gym, as demolition starts soon for the construction of a new gym. I had been hopeful it would already look somewhat abandoned and spooky, but it really didn't. The parts that are already being broken down were isolated from the basketball part. Usually at things like this, I am pretty strict about following the rules, but after the game, a lot of kids were running around on the court and in this case, it's not like they can damage it.

The one thing that had me rolling my eyes was a little group of male fans watching the game. This is very small college basketball, division III and the size of the crowd is probably more like a high school game. We're definitely not in any kind of an arena or stadium. This is a gym with the bleachers that roll out from the walls. ANYWAY, these guys were really following the game, they seemed to know some of our players (they would call out players by name with "good shot" or whatever), and they were trash talking the other team, which I am generally okay with, but in this case, it was, I thought, getting right up to the line of what I would consider acceptable. And I know for some people, the whole point of trash talking is that almost nothing is off-limits. But especially for men yelling things at women, a lot of it was very appearance-based. Calling players out as ugly -- so, this could be something they might yell at a male player in a men's game, I guess. There was one repeated suggestion that one of the (other team's) players needs an ass lift. That one I have never heard a man shout at another man while watching a sporting event. The whole thing was stupid. I felt on the fence between thinking everything they said was juvenile, which is true of 99% of things fans yell from the stands at any sport so why wouldn't that happen with women's sports ... and thinking that if the vast majority of what you are saying is about female players' butts, then yes, there is something objectionable about your fan participation.

January 25th, 2016

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Well, we had a blizzard here. It wasn't that exciting. Part of it, and the upside on a systems management basis, is that it started late on Friday night so there wasn't any impact on the Friday evening commute, and then Saturday and Sunday were the worst of the days, and things seem reasonably ready to be up and running by Monday -- so I personally didn't have any disruption on the work/school (Lucy's school) front. The downside (for me, personally) is that I have fun things planned for the weekend, so it was more disappointing to miss those things. The city cancelled the WinterFest planned for Central Park on Saturday -- which, okay, on the surface is hilarious because what could be MORE like winter than a blizzard with lots of snow? But I understand why things like that are cancelled, it's not just the participants who would have to decide if they felt up to braving the weather to attend, it's the staff who work before, during, and after, many of whom have to travel in from other parts of the city, some quite far away, and there is a difference between bundling up and walking a few blocks to a park, and getting in a car or waiting for a bus. For some reason, it bothers me that cancellations like that focus on the participants, as if to sweep away the fact that the staff often cannot afford to live in the "nice" part of the city near the park.

Hmm, maybe I should make that a qualified statement regarding the school. There was no actual disruption to school, either on Friday (pre-blizzard) or Monday (post-blizzard), but my gosh, the school sent out a TON of emails throughout. Most of them were updates with information that would, in theory, be good to know, but as always, the email would leave out some critical piece of information so a second, follow-up email had to be sent. I swear, the number of emails I get from the school that start out "Unfortunately, the last email did not include the time/date/location/deadline/cost/other key info ..." is at least half the total number of emails. HALF.

I ate constantly, oh my goodness. It seemed like there was nothing much to do except cook and eat. I wasn't even hungry anymore, and was still excited when I came across a box of chocolate-covered pretzels I meant to put out around the holidays, but forgot about. Salty and sweet! I also made a decent chicken soup out of mostly stuff that was leftover, so it was quite a mix. I had realized that I had a bunch of pasta in the cupboard that all had just a little, < one serving in the bottom of the box, so I dumped that all in. It's ... interesting, how striking it seems to me to have different pasta shapes on purpose in the same dish. Dogs and cats, living together!

January 6th, 2016

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delphica
I don't think either of these was a NEW YEAR'S resolution, but they popped into my head recently as two things I resolved to do and actually DID. Or, at least, made better habits around them.

1. Planning things to not take car services. I guess this is pretty dependent in living in a public transportation area. I even surprised myself by how easy it was to change this particular habit, possibly because using public transportation more, in different parts of my city, rapidly increased my knowledge of how to use it most effectively, and that was like an instant gratifier that fueled my motivation even more.

2. Not using ATMs that charge fees. Or I guess you could have one of those fancy accounts that gives you the fees back, but I don't have one of those. In general it made me plan ahead more to have the cash I needed, and often reminded me that if I REALLY needed money, I could go one or two extra blocks to get it from a non-fee ATM. I don't think it saved me THAT much money in terms of the actual dollar value of the fees, but it did help me focus more on my spending. And sort of counter-intuitively, I did this along with trying to avoid as much as possible the cash back option at the store ... which I completely get is convenient, and fee-free, but also makes it a little too easy for me to randomly get $20 in my hot little hands.

These seem really small, not particularly interesting, and not related to like, my philosophy of the universe or anything grand like that, but given how hard it can be to change a habit, it's good to remember the times one is successful at it.

December 15th, 2015

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Decisions I Am Agonizing Over, part one million. Do I keep the landline at the cottage?

When we first got the cottage, I'm not even sure if I had a cell phone, but if I did, or when I got one shortly after, there was little or no coverage up at the lake, and then for a decent amount of years after, coverage was spotty, often depending on the weather or if the signal was feeling particularly Canadian that day. So we had a landline, and it got some use in the early years, and then as time marched on and civilization came to Grandview Bay, it was used less and less, although it still felt like it made sense to have it "in case of emergency," like I guess if the emergency involved not having your cell phone. These days, the cell phone coverage is fine, everyone has a cell phone, I can walk to my aunt's house if there was some issue with my cell phone, I don't know. Any scenario that includes using the landline but being unable to use the cell phone in an emergency situation seems incredibly specific. I don't even have a landline in NYC.

My whole hesitation, I think, comes down to feeling unjustifiably nostalgic about having a phone number that is that of my childhood. And it's not even THE NUMBER, it's the prefix. I am attached to the prefix, because it means, and has always meant to me "you're at the lake."

But it's a stupid amount of money to pay for something that we use, literally, never. It's likely it's been more than two years since I used the landline, to call either in or out. And when Lu was a baby, I'm pretty sure I unplugged the phone so it wouldn't wake her while she was napping, and maybe didn't plug it in again until the next YEAR. So not only not USING the phone and still paying for, but DISABLING it and still paying for it. That's crazy, right? I should go cancel it now while I'm focused on it.

December 8th, 2015

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I filled out Lucy's public school kindergarten application today, the whole process seems daunting.

1. She will most likely stay in the private Catholic school that houses her public school preschool class. When I was first considering this private school, I was really earnest about comparing the concept of private school and public school and making sure I had good reasons for private school. So now, four months into schooling, I can tell you I have one reason: it is next to our house. I have no other reasons that I care about. Frankly, it would have to have a specific untenable issue, like maybe human sacrifice, before anything would trump "next to our house" as a reason not to go to this school. Obviously, this means paying private tuition, and I did some comparison shopping to see the lay of the land, and while I'm sure no one likes to pay tuition for kicks, the rates are impressively reasonable for what it is; I would not feel like I was being taken advantage of, you know?

2. The other obvious choice would be our neighborhood public school. Something like 98% of NYC neighborhood schools can accommodate the number of children that live in the neighborhood zone. While not right next to us, it's three blocks away, easily within walking distance even in poor weather. Guess what? This school is one of the few schools that cannot take the number of children that live in the neighborhood. So it's a lottery system, and some kids get in, and the other kids are sent to another school. I put this one down as my first choice of public schools for the lottery.

3. If she does not get into our neighborhood school on the lottery, most likely she would end up at one of two schools that are relatively close in the sense of the universe, but would still require driving (we don't own a car, so "driving" means taking a bus). Other than distance, one of them is pretty neat. It's a school in a modern building (well, like circa 1978) that's on an educational campus, with a charter school and a middle school, and I think a vocational high school (although there is another name for them now) at what used to be a seminary, is my guess? So unlike most schools in the Bronx, this one has more of a green campus, and many of the other buildings are cool gothicky 19th facilities. Because aesthetics is really the best metric to use when choosing a school. I put this as my second choice.

4. The other school, for non-lottery winners, is a new school that is designed to be a small school (like seriously some Bronx elementary schools are 4x larger than my all-district HIGH SCHOOL, cripes -- our neighborhood school that cannot accommodate all the neighborhood kids has more than 1,600 seats) and so far has a good reputation BUT is only K - 3. There's a proposal to expand it to K - 5 at some point, but I'm not counting on that, and I do not want to be doing this again in four years. This is my third choice. Both this school and the previous school are not only not walkable from our house, they are in a completely different transit path than how I go to work, so getting there at times when I want to be there would be a cluster.

5. I am having her take the test for public school G&T ... although at this point I'm not even sure why because all of the G&T locations are crazy far from where we live. Again, I things would have to be really dire before I'd send a kindergarten student on a 1+ hour commute (each way!). She'll have her whole life to have jobs with crap commutes. Well, I signed up for the test before I really looked at a map, so at this point she'll just take the test so I have another data point to complain about.

November 19th, 2015

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Falling down on the goal of writing more, but baby steps ... baby steps ...

Both Lu and I have colds, only medium colds but I kept us both home today. I think if just one of us had been under the weather, if I was fine and she had a little sniffle I would have packed her off to school, or if she was fine and I was poorly I could have sucked it up and gotten her to school and then gone into work (isolated in my office, I didn't have any meetings today and was planning on using it as a writing day anyway), but when I got up and she was lagging because she wanted to sleep more (and she was up a bit in the night with congestion so she was probably reasonably tired) I didn't have the energy to kick it in gear so home we stayed.

Then, mid-day, I got an email notice that a water pipe burst at her school, so there is no school tomorrow which is like ... nooooooo. I absolutely have to work tomorrow because I'm taking vacation next week and need to put in some sort of appearance before that happens. Now I've got to cobble together some sort of plan.

You'd think I might have used the time at home today to get some stuff ready for our trip next week (we leave SATURDAY), but nope.

In non-sad sack news, I am reading The Things They Carried, which is poignant stories about the Vietnam war. In an interesting twist, the copy I am reading is from the library, and a previous borrower was seemingly a high school freshman because every page or so has a vocabulary word circled. It's not really taking away from the reading experience, but I am unable to stop myself from pausing to mentally define every circled word as they come up. (So far I know all of them.)

November 10th, 2015

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I haven't been doing that great of a job at writing every day. Lu and I were away this weekend visiting friends in Western Massachusetts, which was lovely and pleasant, but boy, it was A LOT of kid-centric time. When got home on Sunday, mid-afternoon, I was so looking forward to some quiet time doing not much of anything (amazingly, Lu still had plenty to say). It's two days later, and I still feel like I haven't caught up in terms of feeling energetic.

I am currently having a personal tragedy (no) in that I had a coupon for some items I was buying online, and it was a very good coupon so I was delighted with myself ... and then I was wondering what was taking them so long to ship. When I went to check, I guess I never finished the checkout? I thought I had? But now the coupon has expired. Wah wah.
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