Monday, July 30, 2007

Thoughts on food

Listen to an interview with Barbara Kingsolver about her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I'll read the book when I'm done with the ones I already have.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

My Mess and the Reason for it

So a few weeks ago I was all excited about messiness. Well, in my procrastinating and messy way, I put aside A Perfect Mess and spent my time with other books. The library has a way of demanding that of a person, lest you be put at the bottom of the list before it's your turn again for the book. First it was Buy Buy Baby (to be returned tomorrow, really) and now I'm back into The Assault on Reason. As long as no one puts a hold on A Perfect Mess, it may stay on the shelf for a while longer.

A Fair Evening

We went to the county fair last night and Joe enjoyed the rides. Isaac was a good sport but didn't get to have any hot dogs or funnel cake. Don't know the girl behind Joe in the red car and if you have a good look, you can see him on the roller coaster - second car from the end.

Shoppers and parents take note....

Having the pressure of "non-renewal" to make me actually read a book in (almost) the library-imposed three weeks, I plowed through the final chapters of the book Buy, Buy Baby which discusses in great depth the marketing of "baby genius" and "educational" materials to children (parents). The author spent 4 years researching children's toys and paraphernalia -- such as, but not at all limited to, Disney, Thomas, Care Bears & Baby Einstein. Additionally she covers parenting, No Child Left Behind, 1996 Welfare reform, day-care centers, as well as the schemes and aims of the marketers/companies behind the commercialization of parenting and the materials used in day-care centers. She has nearly 30 pages of end notes and almost 10 more as a bibliography. This is not someone who's crying wolf. There is a wealth of material and, hoping not to ramble on too much, I'll describe a bit here.

As a group, Gen-Xer's share primarily two traits: shopping and television. The Gen-X mom, this should come as no surprise, has been deconstructed in amazing and frightening clarity by marketing companies and they know how to classify you to suit their needs. As for children's television programs, research has documented that the only thing a child under 2 can "learn" from a t.v. show/video is the sight of a familiar face - which is exactly what the companies hope for. Here are some of the areas of cultural reform that she says are needed: more research (introduced in 2005 (!) by Senators Lieberman, Brownback, Clinton, & Santorum, but stalled in Congress) on the effects of children's television programs; at least partially PAID parental leave; allowing children to have open-ended play, or as she describes, doing Nothing. That is, not adhering to "standard's-compliant curriculum" which has come to day-care centers as a "trickling down of 'No Child Left Behind' rules.

But enough from me. Listen to an interview with the author or read the book.

Friday, July 27, 2007


I'm really interested in John Edwards. I know he's not one of the front runners, but according to this article his main concerns are poverty, health care, ending the war, and the environment. Amen, Brother! I think, if nothing else, he's forcing the front runners to talk about some difficult issues. Of course, since I live in a red state, it doesn't matter who I support.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


In response to Sara's comment I had Kirk go out and take a pic of the Hibiscus. Congratulations, Sara. This plant has made for many happy views out our front window. We get comments on it all the time. I can't take any credit for it. All plants are Kirk's responsibility and his joy, but that doesn't keep me from enjoying them. My walk from the house is filled everyday with something that looks like Black Eyed Susans, although Kirk insists they aren't. I complain a lot about our house, but at least Kirk has made our yard beautiful.

Friday, July 20, 2007


We haven't written much lately because nothing much has happened. Last week the sewer got clogged, so we had some extra expense, a mess to clean up, and a few days that our washer didn't work. Isaac started drinking from a cup without any help. Joe and I went walking in the rain today. We got wet and had a great time. This morning Kirk & our friend Matt put up the swing set in the backyard. We've been swimming a lot. That pretty much sums up life right now. We're hoping to start painting our kitchen cabinets soon, but I'm not sure when that will happen. Life is full of ordinary goodness.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Still a mess

A messy update..."The Benefits of Mess":
Flexibility - to adapt and change more quickly, more dramatically, in a wider variety of ways, and with less effort.
Completeness - more able to comfortably tolerate an exhaustive array of diverse entities
Resonance - an easier time falling into harmony with is environment and with otherwise elusive sources of information and change, deriving useful influence form them.
Invention - mess randomly juxtaposes and alters a system's elements and rotates them to the fore where they're more easily noticed, leading to new solutions
Efficiency - able to accomplish goals with a modest consumption of resources and can sometimes shift the burden of work to the outside world.
Robustness - because mess tends to loosely weave together disparate elements, messy systems are more resistant to destruction, failure and imitation.

The next chapter describes the types of messy people. I wonder what kind I am? I've been known to be obsessive with neatness and order, but I've always had it in my mind to try and get the most work done with the least amount of effort. Thus leaving more time for leisure activities. For example, if I'm going to the basement to get something, I try to take to the basement something that needs to go rather than go down empty handed and end up making two trips. This method can be practical some times, but entirely frustrating when trying to make several stops to different stores on a single outing while also traveling with children. Enter: Walmart and the boom of one-stop shopping. (another topic for another time) The other side of me sees the enormous benefits of the messiness and stability of organic gardening with regards to disease/pest resistance, soil moisture retention, etc... Then there's the orderliness required with babies learning to crawl and who, out of curiosity, like to empty shelves, bins, etc... I look about the house with its toy-covered floor I've accepted that the toys don't need to always be put away. As long as there's a pathway between the rooms/bathroom so as not to cause bodily injury during the night then what's to worry about. Speaking of night time.....

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The ol' spare tire

So I guess I have reason to be lucky I haven't actually gained any weight in the past three years. (read it now because the link only works as long as the Times offers free access otherwise you'll have to pay or, gasp, go to the library and look it up) Another option is to Google this: "Physical Activity Study" Hull Pittsburgh The first several hits are stories about the study.

Otherwise, here's a summary from the Times. "Parents have long griped that having children sidetracks their best-laid exercise plans. Now they have evidence. A first-of-its-kind study released in May by the University of Pittsburgh concluded that parenthood demonstrably reduces physical activity, while marriage has only a negligible effect. Just how big a hit do active parents take? Roughly 525 participants were tracked for two years, as part of a 17-year study called the University of Pittsburgh Physical Activity Study. Those who remained childless lost only a half hour of physical activity per week, while those who had children lost about three and a half hours. Men, in particular, were affected. Women, who exercised on average four hours before children, lost about 90 minutes a week once they became mothers. New fathers, who used to log just under eight hours of activity weekly, cut back a whopping four and a half hours." Which begs question: what about dad's who stay home with the kids?!

Fortunately, there is this caveat to the study: "Only parents of newborns and toddlers took part, so the researchers don’t have data to suggest the same would be true of parents of teenagers."

So there's hope that if I start practicing soon, I'll still be able to outrun them in the future. Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

What a mess....

Before you watch any more HGTV or Martha Stewart; before you buy that next issue of Real Simple; before spending (any more of) your money at the Container Store or Organized Living....Read this: A Perfect Mess, the book, or A Perfect Mess, the blog. They pull back the curtain on the organizational "industry" and look in-depth at the cost/benefit of putting forth the time and money to "get organized" when you might actually have less stress or increase profits if you just do what you know and quit worrying about if others think you're a mess. To put it very briefly, not to mention hitting a little close to home, "When people are anxious about their messy homes and offices or their disorganized schedules, it's often not because the messiness and disorder are causing problems, but because people simply assume (author's italics) they should be neater and more organized and feel bad that they aren't." The authors aren't talking about "chaos theory, complexity theory, networking, emergent behavior (?), self-organizing systems, distributed management, or any of the anti-centralized-control theories..." Rather, "mess for what it is -- a lack of order." This book is for everyone, whether or not you admit to being a neat-freak, because as they put it "Being messy and disordered and disorganized, as we mean it, is just what you probably think it is: scattering things, mixing things around, letting things pile up, doing things out of order, being inconsistent, winging it." In other words, everyone. Well, ok, everyone except you that is. I wouldn't dare presume otherwise.

"If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what then, is an empty desk?" -- Albert Einstein