Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Your Shakespearean Insult of the Day

For my Father’s Day present, Lauren gave me one of those little flip books – the kind with three separate piles of cards on a long spiral binding spring, cards that you can randomly flip to wherever and create phrases thereby.  You see this sort of thing a lot these days in the odder sections of bookstores.  They’re a lot of fun.

This particular volume promised that when used correctly (and really, it’s very hard to use these books incorrectly) you could “create your own Shakespearean insults!”

How could I pass up an opportunity like that?

But after playing with it for a bit it dawned on me that the wider public was missing out on all this fun.  Thus began the Shakespearean Insult of the Day project – an experiment in long-form Facebook posting.  Each day I’d randomly flip to a new insult (the only rule was that I didn’t want to reuse words) and post it to that portion of the wider world encompassed by my Facebook friends list.

It seemed to go over well.

But after a month or so it was growing increasingly harder to find new combinations, and it seemed a good time to bring the project to a close.  And since I have this blog, it struck me that I should collect the whole set and post them here as well.

So:

1. Unmuzzled ill-faced canker-blossom
2. Dankish fool-born miscreant
3. Foul-reeking swaggering nut-hook
4. Mangled lumpish clack-dish
5. Three-suited mewling pizzle
6. Pernicious half-faced measle
7. Unmannerly muddy-mettled runagate
8. Fen-sucked flap-eared hedgepig
9. Beslubbering dizzy-eyed boor
10. Crooked-pated tedious jolthead
11. Odious half-faced malt-horse
12, Sheep-biting hell-hated jackanape
13. Mouldy pigeon-livered wagtail
14. Unctuous buck-washing clotpoll
15. Fawning scurvy want-wit
16. Milk-livered rump-fed giglot
17. Knavish flap-eared popinjay
18. Frothy dull-eyed mumble-news
19. Weedy earth-vexing flirtgill
20. Gleeking flap-mouthed fustilarian
21. Craven swaggering rudesby
22. Bat-fowling brassy varlet
23. Perfidious sodden-witted drudge
24. Plume-plucked fly-bitten lewdster
25. Saucy ill-breeding harlot
26. Reeky fat-kidneyed coxcomb
27. Haggard lumpish bung
28. Barbarous frosty-spirited apple-john
29. Goatish logger-headed prig
30. Weedy prattling bum-baily
31. Monstrous shrill-gorged elf-skin
32. Plume-plucked fly-bitten cullion

Go forth and spread the word!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Waiting to be Judged, Part 2: Tabitha

Fair week is now revving into high gear here, with more and more of the animals and exhibits arriving on the fairgrounds.  Lauren’s rabbit Milkshake is now safely ensconced in his semi-detached estate in the rabbit barn – showmanship and judging to take place on Wednesday – and tomorrow the five chickens who made the cut will be shoveled into place in the poultry barn.  The tents are set up.  The midway stands ready to accept paying customers (and if there is anything creepier than an empty midway except an empty midway with a solitary clown walking toward you, it has yet to be discovered).  All stands in readiness.

Buckle in, folks – it’s going to be a long week.

Today it was Tabitha’s turn to take her projects in to be judged, which of course meant that it was also time that they were finished.  She has spent the better part of the last month working on her Drawing & Painting entries, with the final pencil drawing being completed this morning.  We also had to stop by the school district’s main office this morning to speak to the IT people, as we discovered that her woodworking entry (“something completed as a school project”) had to be accompanied by a working drawing, which drawing resided on her school Google Drive account whose password had been changed by the IT people at some point since the end of the school year, thus bringing us back full circle.

Technology – sometimes it’s your friend and sometimes it’s not.

But it all got worked out.  Everything was finished.  Everything looked good – and yes, indeed, they looked really quite good.  Tabitha has some actual artistic talent that she clearly did not inherit from me, and she put it to good use on these projects.

The one that she spent the most time on and was most proud of was her Flag Map, which was entered in the Mixed Media category.


You may or may not be able to see the detail there, but each of those national flags was done by hand, in acrylics, colored pencils, watercolors, and Sharpies.  They got really, really intricate.  It's also a big piece - 11x14 or so, before the frame.  I was very impressed, as was the judge.  For this Tabitha got a Top Blue. 

Lauren and I checked after we got Milkshake all sorted out tonight, and a Top Blue it remains – no Merit or State Fair.  But this is impressive enough on its own, really – they give out even fewer Top Blues in the Drawing & Painting category than they do in Photography.

This is her Watercolor entry, a landscape in fantastical colors.  This got a Blue.



Her pencil drawing – another landscape, one that played a bit with lines and perspectives – got a bit shorted because of the time spent on the other two but it worked out nicely in the end and the judge gave it a Red.


From there we walked across the way to the next building for the Woodworking area. 

This is Smaug.


Smaug was designed as a CO2 racer for one of Tabitha’s classes this year over at Mighty Clever Guy Middle School.  The body was carved out of a single block of wood, and then she put the wheels on and painted it.  There’s a big hole bored into the back for the CO2 cartridge, and it did actually race against her classmates’ vehicles at the end of the school year.  Smaug did not win those races because, as Tabitha said, “it’s not really designed with aerodynamics in mind.”  But it did win a Blue at the county fair, and that’s quite a thing in itself.

So a Top Blue, two Blues, and a Red, which sounds awfully familiar after Friday.

Well done, Tabitha.  I’m proud of you.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Waiting to Be Judged, Part 1: Lauren

Fair Week has begun in Our Little Town.

Well, it’s begun for the 4H kids and their families, anyway.  It doesn’t begin for the rest of the county until Tuesday, when the fair actually opens, but by then we’ll already have been there for a while, getting all the good stuff and generally having the run of the place.  That’s the secret to life folks – if you want the good stuff, get involved.  The rubes get the leftovers.

That’s one of the secrets to life, anyway.  Others include “never play cards with a man named Slim,” “if you follow batshit insane policies don’t be surprised if you get poor results,” and “know your audience, and in particular know just how little it knows about what you’re actually supposed to be doing,” among other things. 

Life is full of secrets.

The first official day of County Fair activities was yesterday, when the judging started for some of the projects.  Those projects included all of Lauren’s non-animal events (rabbits and chickens are next week), so she and I spent some time carefully getting them all formatted in the proper County Fair style (they give you an entire manual for this sort of thing, and some of the directions are specific down to the quarter inch).  She had two Photography projects and two Visual Arts projects.

The first thing we did was get the Photography projects out of the way.  We allotted nearly 72 hours to get through the judging process, based on past experience, but to our surprise we were able to walk right up to a judge and were out in less than 20 minutes.  So three cheers for the folks running the fair, I say.

One of Lauren’s Photography projects was “Four Photos of Different Subjects: Landscape, Person, Animal, Building.”  She’d been taking photos all year for this, and when she decided that she didn’t have a Building photo that she liked we spent an hour or so last week walking around downtown taking random photos of the structures we walked by.  Lauren has a good eye for an image, and a lot of those pictures came out really nicely.  It was hard to choose.

These were her four:





The landscape is the skyline of Philadelphia, as seen from the New Jersey State Aquarium in Camden, just across the Delaware River.  We were there over Christmas last year, and she took a bunch of photos of the city as we were leaving the aquarium.

The person shot is a self-portrait in Chicago, at what will forever be known in this post-Divergent world as the Bean – a highly polished piece of public art right on Lake Michigan that does indeed look like a chrome-plated lima bean from the outside, though you can go underneath it and the angles get a lot funkier.  We were there in March and joined the throngs of tourists taking photos there.

The animal is Midgie.  Lauren loves close-up shots, and Midgie is fairly accommodating when it comes to cameras.

The building is another close-up, this time of a door on a church downtown – one of the ones she took on our walk last week.

The judge was duly impressed, and she gave Lauren a blue ribbon for this project.  In our system, blue is a category rather than the single winner – it’s the equivalent of getting an A on a test.  We like A’s. 

The other Photography project Lauren entered was in the “My Favorite Photo” category, and in this you can see her love of close-ups as well as her feel for composition.  I’ve been taking photographs for forty years now, and I’m impressed with what she can do.


This is her chicken Birdie, one of the Cochins.  In addition to the image itself, the judge really liked the fact that Lauren got down to Birdie’s level to take the shot rather than just standing and pointing the camera down.

This photo got a “Top Blue,” which is the best of the blue ribbon category and is eligible for a Merit Award or may even go to State Fair.  They don’t give out very many Top Blues, and this makes two years in a row where Lauren has won one of them so it’s quite an achievement.  We checked this morning and it remains a Top Blue rather than a Merit or State, but that is impressive enough on its own, really.

That out of the way, we decided to take our chances on the Visual Arts judging.  Last year this took roughly a geological age.  This year?  Half an hour at most.  So the lifetime and a half that we had planned to spend at the fairgrounds turned out to be about an hour, including getting Lauren’s exhibitor wristband free pass.  I tell you, it’s nice when things work.  Three more cheers for the folks running the fair, I say, making in all a grand total of six cheers just in this blog post alone.

Lauren’s first Visual Arts project was her illuminated bottle.  This project required me to consume an entire bottle of mead, which was sacrifice I was willing to make for my child.  Once the bottle was emptied and washed, Lauren festooned it with dark green glass beads with a variety of varyingly effective glues, and then stuffed it with battery-operated white LED Christmas lights that Lauren and Kim stripped the snowflakes off of.  It would make a nice nightlight.  As a final step, on the way over to the judging we dashed into to the local hobby shop (the one that doesn’t seem to feel the need to involve the federal courts in its efforts to weasel out of healthcare obligations to its employees) and purchased some satin hydrangea flowers.

This one got a blue ribbon.


Her other project was to take a photograph of a small side-street in Gamlastan – the old section of Stockholm, where we visited a couple of summers ago – and use it as a backdrop for a canvas cut out to look like an old window.  The judge liked this one too, though she felt the mullions should have been thinner and gave it a red (2nd) ribbon.


So one Top Blue, two blues, and a red.

Well done, Lauren.  I’m proud of you.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Our Little Town, 1999

Three of the longest-serving faculty members at Home Campus – Lyle, one of the mathematicians, Barb, the geologist, and Lloyd, Kim’s chemistry colleague – retired at the end of the 1998-1999 school year.  And since an event like that has to be commemorated with food, drink, and song, the rest of us met over at the home of another retired faculty member for a fair amount of each.

Of course there was food and drink.  There’s always food and drink in Wisconsin.  You can’t gather four people together for a traffic accident in Wisconsin without someone bringing a dish to pass.  The food and drink you just accept as normal.  It’s the song that made the event something unusual.  Not every event has song.

A group of us decided to form a singing group just for the occasion.  We’d get up and perform something, and it would, of course, be the most amazing thing in the observable universe for certain values of “amazing.”

Naturally, we needed a name.  And given that I ended up as the lead writer for this comedy sketch and further that I was unduly influenced by Kim’s chemistry background (hey – being married to the writer never hurts, just saying), we ended up as “Joseph Priestley and the Ketones.”

Those of you with backgrounds in history, chemistry or biology may commence groaning now.

For the rest of you, Joseph Priestley was a political radical in the late-18th-century Anglo-American world.  One of the original Unitarian ministers at a time when this was an exceedingly controversial thing to be and a leading figure in the increasingly radicalizing Enlightenment, his religious and political stances so irritated people in his native and rather conservative Britain that a mob burned down his house and he was eventually forced to flee to the US.  He settled in Pennsylvania and got caught up in the fierce partisan politics of the day, which is how I came to discover him while researching my dissertation.  He was also one of the founders of modern chemistry, and is generally credited with discovering oxygen (or “dephlogisticated air” as he called it – fortunately the name never took).  Priestley was therefore a simple choice for the lead singer.

Ketones are a class of organic compounds, and their pronunciation (Key-tones) makes them perfect for the backup singers in a scientifically oriented parody band.

So now you can groan too.

I wrote up a script that followed the grand tradition of those old K-Tel album advertisements that used to infest the UHF channels on television back when the distinction between UHF and VHF was actually meaningful.  It was heavy on the chemistry jokes, as you’d imagine.  We may have even rehearsed it once or twice, though that particular fact seems to have been lost in the mists of time.  We borrowed some lab coats and – in my case – a choir gown, and we were ready to roll.

And on the day, there we were.


From left to right, there’s Kim, Beth, Dave, Mary, Julia, me, and Dick.  You can’t see Marty, who played the Announcer, but he’s up at the top of the steps next to Kim.  I think that’s Ted in the background behind Dick, just photobombing us.

We were sharp.  We were cool.  We were, as the Announcer said, “the greatest band ever to light the fuse on a bomb calorimeter.”

I dug up the original script out of the recesses of my computer and translated it out of the Linear C that is Word 5.0.  And rather than pick out bits here and there, I’ve decided to post the whole thing.  Because I can do that.  It’s my blog. 

Here it is, in all of its glory.

---

Announcer:  Ladies and Gentlemen!  Fisher Scientific is proud to present Joseph Priestley and the Ketones!

JPK: Sittin' In Committee All Day
[Tune: Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay (Otis Redding)]

Sittin in the morning sun
I'll be sittin' when the evening's done
Watching the coffee roll in,
Then I watch it roll away again
Yeah, I'm just sittin' in committee all day
Watching my life roll away
Sittin in committee all day
Wastin' time

I left my home this morning
Lookin' forward to productive day
Now I have nothing to live for
Look's like nothing gonna go my way
So I'm just sittin' in committee all day
Watchin' my life roll away
Sittin in committee all day
Wastin' time

Look like nothin gonna change
Everything still remains the same
I can't do what ten people tell me to do
So I guess I'll remain the same

Sittin' here resting my bones
And this moron won't leave me alone
Two thousand hours they drone
And my ass just turned into stone
Now I'm just sittin in committee all day
Watchin' my life roll away
Sittin in committee all day
Wastin time.

[whistling part]

Announcer:  Yes, Fisher Scientific has teamed up with Molar Records to bring to you on compact disc the greatest hits of the greatest band that ever lit the fuse on a bomb calorimeter!  All the songs that kept you company those late nights in the lab are now collected in one place!  Better Living Through Chemistry features such classic hits as The Chemist

JPK: The Chemist
[Tune: The Boxer (Simon & Garfunkel)]

I am just a chemist, though my story's seldom told
I have squandered my existence for a lifetime's worth of mumbling
Such is lecturing

All lies and jest
Still a man says what he wants to say and asks it on the test
Mmm-mm-mmm

Announcer:  And who can forget the classic Lab Cycle - a sixteen-hour rock opera about the daily routines of a scientist?  Well, most people, actually - but with Better Living Through Chemistry your mind will forever be scarred by classic musical moments as Joseph Priestley and the Ketones take you through the scientific process, from its anxious beginnings...:

JPK: Stir Bar Spinnin'
[Tune: Blackbird (The Beatles)]

Stir bar spinnin' in the dead of night
Take these separate layers and mix them right
Through the night
I will sit here waiting for a way to see the light

JPK: Thymol Blue Titration
[Tune: Crystal Blue Persuasion (Tommy James & the Shondells)]

Thymol-blue titration
Ahh-ahh

JPK:  Don't Touch That
[Tune: U Can’t Touch This (MC Hammer)]

[Bass line]
Don't touch that

Announcer: To its anguished declarations of moral purity...:

JPK: They're Pharmaceuticals
[Tune: You’re Unbelievable (EMF)]

These things you take
They make you feel so good
Don't try
Oh, they're not drugs
[bump bump]
They're pharmaceuticals

Announcer: To final triumph:

JPK: Sweet Alkaline
[Tune: Sweet Adeline (every barbershop quartet ever in the history of the universe)]

Sweet alkaline!  My alkaline (my alkaline!)
You're the caustic stuff I love, dear alkaline (my alkaline).

Announcer:  But Joseph Priestley and the Ketones were more than just one unwieldy and excessive fiasco!  They were several!  From Joseph Priestley and the Ketones vs. Broadway, their last CD before they were broken up by international treaty, come such bursts of musical shrapnel as:

JPK:  Sunrise, Sunset
[Tune; Sunrise, Sunset (Fiddler on the Roof)]

Is this the measurement I long for?
Is this the measurement I need?
I don't remember adding sulfur.
Where will it lead?

Why did it get to be a liquid?
Why did it get to be so blue?
What if it turns into a vapor?
What will I do?

Sunrise, sunset.
Sunrise, sunset.
Swiftly flow the years.
One damn thing following another
Trapped in this chemist's vale of tears.

Announcer: And this:

JPK: Favorite Things
[Tune: My Favorite Things (The Sound of Music)]

Stir bars on benchtops and pipettes in beakers
High molar acid that eats through my sneakers
Brown viscous liquids supported by rings
These are a few of my favorite things

Announcer: And, just when you thought it was safe to go back to the theater:

JPK: Super-heated...
[Tune: Supercalifragilisticexpialodocious (Mary Poppins)]

Super-heated catalytic oxygen reaction!

Announcer: Yes, the songs that haunted you in the wee hours of the morning when you were trying to sleep, the songs that plagued you in the late hours of the afternoon when you were trying to do something productive, the songs that bothered you in the evening when you were trying to eat dinner can now be yours!  Don't delay, act now!  Plus, as a special bonus for the first 6.02x10(23) callers, you will receive absolutely free the Ketone's version of that classic hit, Their Way.

JPK: Their Way (written by Bob Blue)
[Tune: My Way (Frank Sinatra, for all practical purposes)]

I came, brought all my books, lived in the dorms, followed directions
I worked, I studied hard, met lots of folks who had connections
I crammed, they gave me grades, and may I say, not in a fair way
But more, much more than this, I did it their way.

I memorized all sort of things, although I know I'll never use them
The courses that I took were all required, I didn't choose them
 I learned that to survive, it's best to act the doctrinaire way
And so I buckled down and did it their way

But there were times I wondered why I had to walk when I could fly
I had my doubts, but after all, I clipped my wings, I learned to crawl
I learned to bend, and in the end, I did it their way

And so, my fine young friend, now that I am a full professor
Where once I was oppressed, now I've become the cruel oppressor
Like me, you'll learn to cope, you'll learn to climb life's golden stairway
Like me, you'll see the light, you'll do it their way.

For what can I say, what can I do? Open your book, read chapter two
And if to you it seems routine, don't speak to me, go see the dean
As long as they give me my pay, I'll do it their way.

Announcer: Don't delay!  Send $19.95 to Fisher Scientific, 481 Boulevard of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15203.  This offer is good for a limited time only!  Void where prohibited by statute law, legal precedent or good taste.  Your mileage may vary.  Your red scarf matches your eyes.  No checks or COD's.  May be habit forming - consult your physician.  Do not operate heavy machinery while listening to this music.  Removal of the music from its social context will void the warranty.  Order now!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The World Below

We’ve been cleaning out the basement this summer, bit by bit.

This is mostly Kim’s idea, of course.  My basic attitude toward stuff is to leave it alone unless it is bothering me, and being remarkably tolerant in that regard this leads to a fair amount of accumulation over the long haul.  Kim is more proactive and demands that stuff prove its worth.  Either it deserves to stay or it doesn’t and that’s that.  It is a much more Darwinian world her stuff lives in.

One of the long-running disputes we have is whether a given object is “wasting” space or “using” it, for example.

But the basement has gotten out of hand even by my generous standards and I can no longer shrug when the clutter is pointed out, much as I try anyway.  So every so often we have gone down there and spent a few hours making it look worse.

Because that’s how these projects are, really.  Every time you want to do a thorough cleaning of anything you have to disrupt everything, and it will get a whole lot messier before the tide finally turns and you can see any improvement, assuming that it does eventually.  This is particularly true when, for logistical reasons or perhaps just for no particular reason at all, we have mostly been cleaning out the back end of the basement.  This means that the front end – the end you see when you come down the stairs – looks pretty much the same as it always has.  Or, as noted, worse.

Given the work that has been put in so far, this is somewhat dispiriting.

But we have made exciting discoveries, so that has to count for something.  For example, once upon a time we apparently thought it would be worthwhile to save nearly three years’ worth of Smithsonian magazines from the late 90s, which is a testament to either a generalized optimism regarding our ability to find time and interest to read old magazines in the future or a sadly misplaced notion that “these things might be valuable someday!”  We found a pile of old cookbooks too, which were probably put there for much the same reasons at about the time the girls were born.  Those we will actually keep.  There's always a chance that there might be something tasty to be made.

Along the way we have also discovered that the cats have done a spectacularly lousy job of ridding the house of vermin, judging from the amount of mouse poop that I have vacuumed up and the desiccated corpse of a mouse that had climbed into something plastic and couldn’t get out again – straight into the trash with that.  It's a good thing the cats are entertaining at least.  They're certainly not earning their keep.

Further, we’ve discovered that the old vacuum cleaner needs a new cord.  It is disturbing when you plug things in and tiny puffs of smoke come out.  We run a non-smoking house around here, and this goes double for appliances.

We press on nonetheless, a day here, a day there, in between everything else.  The last time ended promptly at kickoff (or whatever they call it) for the World Cup final.  By the end of the summer we may have a clean basement again.

In other words, just in time for the cooler weather, when perhaps people will hang out down there, the place will be clean and ready to be messed up again.  And when the rabbits come in for the winter, well, it will be party.  Because you can never have a place clean enough for rabbits, really.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Getting Back to Reality

The World Cup is now over.  Whatever shall I do now?

First?

The thing about long, drawn-out events like the World Cup (and a month or so of any sporting event, even one you look forward to and objectively enjoy, is a long, long time, do you hear me NHL Playoffs?  And don’t even get me started on the NFL’s plan to expand their playoffs again – ain’t nobody got time for that) is that once they’re over you look up and realize that there were a lot of other things that really needed to be accomplished during that period and, well, they still need to be accomplished.

Where are those dratted house elves when you need them?

I have a class to prep for the fall.  Plans to make for August.  Grading to do for, well, pretty much every day until the end of July.  I desperately need a haircut, despite there being objectively less hair on my head than there used to be.  And next week is the 4H County Fair, which is always a blur in the best of circumstances. 

Methinks there will be some short sleep around here for a while.

And yet it was definitely worth it.  We watched most of the games, and it actually became a family activity that we could all share.  Hey, so it wasn’t learning a new language together while we crafted organic trinkets out of Fair Trade recycled forest products to sell them at local markets in order to raise funds to benefit homeless kittens.  Sometimes you just have to vegetate in front of a screen and share the magic of asking, “Now why is that a yellow card instead of a foul/red card/public flogging?” 

Also, “What is the deal with people wearing different-colored shoes on each foot, anyway?”

There were a lot of things I liked about the games.  The Chileans deserved better than they got after some really fascinating matches, for example, and after watching the Germans dismantle Brazil I’m feeling much happier about the fact that the US only lost to them 1-0.  I enjoyed the announcers that worked the American broadcasts – most of them rented from the English Premier League.  They were refreshingly brutal in their assessments of both players and performances (“it looked like a triple salchow out there!” said one after a particularly egregious flop) and even the guy who sounded way too much like Michael Palin for me to take altogether seriously was interesting.

There were also a few things that I didn’t like.  Does anyone play a less interesting style of anything than the Dutch?  Seriously – I tried to be on their side, but I began cheering for Argentina about halfway through their semi-final because I couldn’t fathom watching another game consisting entirely of people kicking the ball backwards. 

One thing that struck me, as I watched the matches, was how friendly most of the players were with each other.

Some of it just seemed to be the kind of unwritten (I assume it’s unwritten – perhaps not, but I can’t imagine that anyone would actually put it in a rule book) assumption that there were times when it was appropriate to kick the ball gently back to your opposition, who would take a few moments to let you get set again before the game would start up in earnest.  This usually happened after a player actually seemed to get hurt and lay there for longer than they would if they were just trying to draw a foul.  Whoever had the ball would often just kick it out of bounds, turning over possession to the other team.  And when play resumed, the other team would just kick it back.  I thought that was very courteous of them.

Some of it was also the sort of “hey, man – no hard feelings” exchanges that happened after most fouls.  It’s just a game.  You don’t really see that in hockey or American football very often.

I’m sure that some of those players don’t like each other, and some of them are the usual assortment of jerks and idiots that one finds in any assemblage of humanity (somebody really ought to feed that Uruguayan player before games so he doesn’t try to eat opposing players in the middle of the pitch anymore).  But mostly they seemed to respect each other and play within the rules of decorum as generally understood. 

Diving was okay if graceful and not too exaggerated or often, for example.  Don’t mess with anyone’s goalie.  If you were genuinely caught doing something stupid, shut up, accept the card and move on.  A nice thumb’s up on someone’s good idea that you just couldn’t follow through on is always appreciated.  And so on.

Eventually it occurred to me that of course they felt that way. 

They were highly paid professional athletes – the elites of the world at a sport that dwarfs every other in terms of interest and participation around the planet.  They all have spent years training to be where they are.  They do this for a living, at the highest level, when most people watching them (not in the US, of course, since most people here probably spent half of what few games they tuned into wondering where the end zone was) would gladly pay to be where they are.  They move in the fairly rarified circles of the wealthy and famous.  Half of them are teammates with their opposition in other leagues around the world.

They have more in common with each other than they do with anyone watching them, really. 

Of course they treat each other with a certain amount of camaraderie regardless of the color of their uniforms.  Who else would understand them?  Who else knows what their lives are like?  The guy in the cheap seats?  The viewing audience?  Seriously?

So it was interesting watching them go about their jobs, kicking a ball around and getting handsomely paid for it.  I enjoyed the games.

And now there is work to be done, alas.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Havertown PA, 1992

We don’t really do birthdays much in my family. 

When the kids are small we have parties, sure.  Friends come over.  Ruckuses are raised.  The place gets filled with happy noise and shredded wrapping paper, and everyone goes home happy and amped up on sugar.  But those tend to peter out after a while – my last such party was in elementary school, for example.  For the adults, we are happy to gather around and have a nice meal together, blow out a few candles, maybe exchange presents or not (but definitely cards), and generally that’s about it.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve forgotten my own birthday entirely until someone mentioned it to me.

But sometimes there are milestone birthdays, usually the ones ending in zeros.  Humans like big round numbers for some reason – multiples of ten, or multiples of 25, and even better when those overlap.  We had a big party when my dad turned 70, for example.

And we had one when my grandfather turned 80.

We all came from our various places back to the ancestral homeland of Philadelphia for the party, a gathering of the clan, such as it was.  We’re not really a very big clan.

The main event was lunch at my grandparents’ favorite restaurant – a sturdy sort of place named Charlotte’s, out on West Chester Pike somewhere.  It featured decent food at reasonable prices and clearly catered to the retiree crowd.  A surprising number of our family events happened there when my grandparents were still around.

And then we went back to their house to hang out.


I’m not sure whose idea it was to take a group photo, but I’m glad someone thought of it.  We lined up in what seemed like a reasonable arrangement – grandparents and children on the sofa, spouses and grandchildren behind – and the there you have it.

There’s nothing really more to tell about this photo.  It is what it is, a happy moment when we were all together and celebrating.

And that is enough.