Thursday, August 31, 2006

Literary hoax

We quite enjoyed this story this morning. Poet's love letter is a hoax
LONDON, England (AP) -- A British writer was duped into printing a fake love letter in his latest biography -- complete with a coded four-letter insult aimed at him.
More at the link.

First grade seems to be going well for all the first graders we know in various classes. Good news all around.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Some more pictures

fron McKinley Park yesterday:

Owen and Douglas looking at the ducks

The duck that Owen pointed to as an infant and made his baby sign for 'hat'

kids on the slide

First day!

Owen's first day of first grade went swimmingly. When I picked him up he told me he had made a new friend (a boy named Laurent, whose twin sister is also in the class) and that he couldn't wait to go back to school.

Here he is with his teacher, whom he seems to like a lot.


The Governator's Podcast website.


Also, apparently I had the name wrong for Douglas's eye condition. According to the pediatrician, it is esotropia (rather than amblyopia).

First day of 1st grade

We dropped Owen off at first grade this morning for his first day of all day school. He was very excited, as were the other students. I have a good feeling about it. The teacher seems really nice.

I have some pictures, which I will try to post later. I tried to post some yesterday but Blogger was not cooperative.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Black phoebe

We saw a bird we've never seen before in our yard today - a black phoebe. Pretty cool.

We started talking about having our house painted, but are wondering about the viability of the (probably asbestos) siding and wondering whether it is worth putting a coat of paint on it if it is going to have to be removed at some point. It's starting to crack in some places. I was looking online last night and saw that the lifespan of asbestos siding is "several decades" - ours is probably about 50 years old or so. After a while it deteriorates. You can apparently cover it over with something else like vinyl siding, but then you can end up with a mess because it will continue to crack and deteriorate underneath the new siding. Apparently you can't use vinyl siding in Davis anyway because it can't hold up to the sun here. I have to ask our neighbor, who has the same kind of siding and was the original owner of their house, whether our siding is original to the house or covered up something else like stucco.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


We arranged to meet our pediatrician this morning at the farmer's market for him to look at Douglas's eye, which Marni had noticed looked like it turned inwards when she saw us in Virginia. Douglas did not cooperate with having his eye peeked at (guess I shouldn't have told him Dr. Byrd was going to look at his eye) but Dr. Byrd managed to get enough of a look to be able to write a referral to a pediatric opthalmologist. He thought Douglas may have intermittent amblyopia (particularly when looking laterally) -- basically lazy eye. He thought it looked mild and said the opthalmologist may want to just watch it, but he wasn't sure. He did say that the pediatric opthalmologist has a lot of tricks like flashing lights to ensure that they can actually see the children's eyes. That would be an improvement over this morning, when Douglas spent almost the whole time with his head buried in my shoulder.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Back to school night

went well last night. The teacher is really nice and the other parents seemed great as well. The teacher lives on a ranch with horses, goats, and chickens, and at the end of the year she has a campout for the class. There is a cookout and the kids get to play on the hay bales, climb into the barn, ride the horses, etc. and then they (and some parents) camp out. Sounds really fun.

There is a child in the class with severe allergies to nuts, dairy, and a few other things. We will have to think pretty hard about what we can bring for lunch and so forth so as not to put her at risk. No peanut butter and no yogurt I guess. Drat.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Blog post #100

We dropped by Birch Lane school yesterday to have a peek at the class lists. Owen has a friend in the class, as it turns out - he was not previously assigned to the class but now seems to be in there. We met the teacher again and Owen seems to really like her a lot. Last night he said "I cant wait for first grade!" - a big turnaround from what he was saying when he was expecting to go back to Valley Oak without his friends being there. We are feeling really good about it.

He has been doing a soccer camp this week that is going very well. Meanwhile, AYSO soccer is starting up. Last night his coach called; the introductory meeting is scheduled for Saturday. This is U8 (under 8 year olds) which seems to be a little more serious than U6 was. They will practice twice a week rather than once a week.

Douglas is doing well and is quite happy to see his friends again (Helena and Elizabeth) now that everyone is back from vacation. His old babysitter, Maria, started work yesterday at his preschool so he gets to see her again, which is nice.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

All went well

Owen, Douglas, and I stopped by Owen's classroom yesterday and met his new teacher. She seemed very nice and friendly. He was the first one to stop by, and she let him pick out his cubby and write his name on a sticker to put on it, and put the supplies we brought into it. Last year she taught fourth grade, so the room was in chaos with old supplies being moved out and new ones moved in. I noticed they had a lot of what I assume are Montessori-specific supplies, things like beads, tiles with numbers on them, and so forth. There were puzzle maps, art supplies, and a lot of other things for the kids. There will be 9 kindergarteners and 11 first graders in the class. I saw the class list and unfortunately don't know any of the kids on it. I did note, however, that there are not one, not two, but three sets of twins in the class. Weird, eh?

Monday, August 21, 2006

School inching closer

We got a letter from Owen's teacher over the weekend. Apparently he will be in a K-1 class. We think there will be 3 K-1 classes. For some reason they prefer combination age classes at his new school, maybe particularly in the Montessori program. We'll go over there probably this afternoon and meet the teacher and see the room (and perhaps learn who the other students will be).

Yesterday we took my mom to the newly rebuilt DeYoung Museum in San Francisco for her birthday. The museum was not very kid friendly, unfortunately, and was quite confusingly laid out. However, they had a cool exhibit called "The Quilts of Gee's Bend" with quilts made by African American women in Gee's Bend near Selma, Alabama. The quilts were pretty nifty.

The museum has a tower. You go up to the 9th floor and there is floor to ceiling glass, giving a 360 degree view of San Francisco. It was foggy yesterday so we couldn't see as much as we might have, but it was still a great view. Owen thought it was pretty cool.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Better know a district

California's 31st on YouTube.

The artwork is the greatest.

Letters, letters everywhere

Douglas dug into his yogurt this morning, took two small scoops and then said, "Mommy, it's a B!" Sure enough, the two adjacent holes did resemble a B.

Later on he told me the hole looked like an umbrella.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Schooling update

We just heard that Owen has been accepted into the Montessori program at another nearby school for this coming year. This is a big relief. He knows a few of the kids in that program so hopefully he will be in the same class with someone he knows already.

What to Eat

I'm currently reading What to Eat, by Marion Nestle, which gives nutrition information by going through the supermarket section by section and discussing various food related issues in each area. For example, I just read the produce section and she talks about things like wax on the fruits and vegetables, GMO foods, organics, pesticide residues, microbes and so forth. It's pretty interesting. She has a very sensible approach to things and talks about the latest thinking in food research but with a very approachable and understandable style. (Actually, I was hoping for more footnotes so I could see what research she was basing her remarks on, but there don't seem to be any footnotes, unlike The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.) She used to be a nutrition professor at Berkeley but now is at NYU. It's a huge book - get it from the library.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


is about the only thing blooming at the moment.

Well, that and lavender.

Meanwhile, I've been investigating what it would take or cost for Davis to have a school bus that would be able to transport the kids who live on the other side of the train tracks to school. It looks like it would cost probably at least $80k per bus - not cheap.

Apparently Davis used to have school buses and gave them up at some point! It seems pretty unbelievable now.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Schools again, et al.

I went to a meeting at Owen's school last night. It was a community meeting to discuss the task force's recommendation that the school be closed. It actually was not as bad as I was expecting. No hand grenades or burning spears. There were quite a few logistical questions, which the school board really needs to answer. The primary one in my mind (and many others') is that it is not safe to have kids walking across the train tracks -- at a place where there is no designated crossing -- to get to school. Some people seem to think this is preferable to a school bus, but I disagree.

Dan had his last softball game of the season. He is off again this week and then goes back to work on Monday. Meanwhile, Owen's soccer season is just about to begin. School starts on August 29.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Photoshop is a wonderful thing

No, I didn't make this image, but it gave me a giggle.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Happy birthday Marni!

Hope you have a great day!! It was really fun to get to see you and your family in Virginia. Thanks for coming up!

Thursday, August 10, 2006


For the past two nights, between about 8 and 9:30 pm, the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District has been flying planes 300 feet overhead and spraying a pesticide, pyrethrin, which is made from chrysanthemums, to try to kill mosquitoes. So far there have been something like 7 or 8 West Nile Virus cases in Davis, although the number of mosquitoes actually seems pretty low to me. I can't even remember having been bitten at all this summer (at least not in Davis; we were bitten at Shasta Lake). Most of the cases have been younger adults (20s-30s), which seems to me to be unusual as it is typically either young children or elderly people who get sick when they are bitten. Most people who are bitten have no symptoms. They have found dead birds testing positive at several sites around Davis.

Some people have objected to the spraying (particularly organic farmers, who managed to get the planes to skip them somehow), but I've actually been surprised how muted the response was. In Davis they cancelled softball games and other outdoor activities, but in Woodland evening recreational softball was continuing to go on as usual. Hey, what's a little pesticide raining down on ya?

Snakes on a plane!

Snakes on a plane is coming out on Aug 18. No doubt it will be awful, but the concept is just so delightful.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

So long, been good to know ya

Dan and I were enjoying singing "Na na na na, hey hey, goodbye" to Lieberman last night. Of course, now he is running anyway as an independent. I suppose he has a good chance of winning, too. Pretty ironic for someone who's been in the Senate 18 years to complain about the "old" partisan politics as the victor.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Weird news

First children of beautiful people tend to be girls.
Very strange.
This study uses the Add Health data which I'm in the process of analyzing for a completely different topic (predictors of civic engagement, as it happens).

The interviewers rated the adolescents on a 1-to-5 scale. Several years later, in wave 3 of the study, they asked about children born. The researchers found that those who were rated most attractive were significantly more likely to have female children than those who were less attractive.

Why does this occur? Kanazawa said that the study supports the evolutionary theory that parents tend to produce offspring who benefit from their own attributes.

Parents who have traits likely to be more beneficial to boys - such as large size, strength, and aggression - are more likely to have boys. Parents who have traits likely to be more beneficial to girls - such as physical beauty - are more likely to have girls.

Kanazawa believes that men value physical appearance more than women do when seeking a partner, and so beauty, in general, is a better attribute to pass on to girls than to boys.

"Physical attractiveness is good for both men and women, but it is much better for women than for men," he said.

Mark Thomas, senior lecturer at the biology department of University College London, told the Sunday Times newspaper that Kanazawa's findings do seem to conform with research on sexual evolution.

Kanazawa said his research also explains why women, on average, are better-looking than men.

"Because physical attractiveness is heritable - and because physically attractive parents have more daughters and less attractive parents have more sons - the average level of physical attractiveness among women increases over time relative to men," he said.
Very mysterious. I don't quite understand how this can work on a biological level, but nevertheless I thought it was interesting.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A few more pictures

View from the community pool and rec room toward the beach near my dad's house.

NYC brownstones along west 77th street. (At least I think it was 77th. Somewhere around there, anyway.)

The naval museum in Norfolk had a spherical screen showing various things, such as weather patterns or sea currents over several months. One of the coolest things was a path tracking a great white shark who had been tagged and swam from South Africa to Australia and back over four months. They weren't sure how she knew how to get there and back, but one conjecture was that she was using celestial navigation.

Now for some NYC pictures

The first morning in New York we went to the Central Park zoo. It was extremely hot and humid. We felt sorry for the polar bear! It was nice and chilly in the penguin house, though.

It was great to get a chance to see Julia right before she departed to 1) Albany, soon to be followed by 2) Australia and 3) France.

We had a really nice time visiting with Adam. He and Douglas got along famously.

The kids really enjoyed riding the Staten Island ferry. We popped into a tiny museum near the ferry dock on Staten Island and the kids got to pretend to dig for fossils in a little sandbox.

Here are the family en route to the natural history museum. It was really nice to see everyone. We also got to see Dan's brothers and his grandmother. Unfortunately, the hot weather followed us to the east coast, but we got out quite a bit nevertheless.

The kids enjoyed the dinosaur bones at the American Museum of Natural History.

The last morning before we left we went over to the Diana Ross playground in Central Park and the kids played in the sand. Contrary to Julia's speculation, there was no gold lame at the Diana Ross playground.

More Norfolk pictures

It was great to see everyone in Norfolk!

We all enjoyed using James's powerful birdwatching scope. We saw the craters of the moon, which was really cool.

Owen and Douglas had a great time playing with Elena. They spent a lot of time playing hide and seek. The boys are really enjoying the cool stacking robots and Zoob that Marni brought, as well (thanks!).

Marni's son Aidan is an adorable and cheerful little guy!

Douglas and Dad on the porch in front of his house. The house faces a tiny park, and the beach and pool are three blocks down the street.

Vacation pictures: Norfolk

Owen had a great time swimming in the ocean (or rather entry to the Chesapeake), although after five minutes in the water he was stung by a jellyfish. The next day he got right back in, though.

The kids also had fun playing with a supersize chess board near Dad's house.

Alexandra and me at the Norfolk Tides game. We were fortunate enough to see a game the Tides won, although they have a pretty miserable record this year. We saw their star player, Lastings Milledge, play, and by the time we got to New York a few days later he had been called up to the Mets. (Apparently his name is because his parents intended him to be the last child. I'm not sure whether it worked out or not.)

We went to the naval museum in Norfolk, where Owen enjoyed petting a shark. The rest of us begged off that one.