Wednesday, April 29, 2009

some kids grow up too fast.

This is not what a normal ten-year old girl should look like. A normal ten-year old girl should also not be saving her money to pay for breast implants when she turns eighteen. And I don't buy the reaction of the parents in the article that it's just an urge that they can't control.

File under: narcissistic culture; bad parenting; and kids raised by pop culture.

Source: comments on this Boing Boing post, which offers its own disturbing images.

tooting my own horn

The 2009 Strawberry Street Festival posters came back from the printer yesterday, and they look really good.

Monday, April 27, 2009


A few things that have crossed my radar recently...

  • From the annals of our current events, here's a frightening view of what is happening to our urban areas. This blogger chronicled the death of a street in Detroit by stitching together a panorama of 60 vacant houses. Harrowing, to say the least.

  • If you're over thirty, I'm willing to bet you remember when you got your first Walkman — or when your friend got the next generation Aiwa, which was smaller and had more functions. I'm also willing to bet you remember the BetaMax players your schools had for movies, the ones that seemed so much more cumbersome than the cheap VCR you'd buy years later. And frighteningly enough, I can remember the CompuServe ad here.

  • Apropos of the current economic climate, this list of brands that might die is its own snapshot of our time and the way things change. Borders? I remember it when it was a kick-ass independent bookstore in Ann Arbor, but I won't be at all surprised if it goes the way of the Dodo. Esquire? For its history alone, this would also be a sad loss, but this pub lost its soul and reason long ago.

  • Rather disturbing news about tuna. As if the possibility of mercury contamination wasn't enough, this is further incentive to consider going on tuna strike for a while. Then again, it's even more disheartening to think that one person's strike won't do a damn thing when entire societies treat resources like this as though they're permanently sustainable.

  • Tech geek moment... This is really cool.

  • New York geek moment... Memories of Central Park in the summer time. But is Beerman still around?

Sources here include Gawker, Neatorama, and Boing Boing...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

starting a garden

I haven't really kept a garden since the summer Banana was born, and I was only tangentially responsible for it then. This year, however, I've decided to plant a small garden again. We'll do some containers as well, but I'm shooting for a small raised plot in the backyard. My plan is to put some tomatoes in it, some herbs, and maybe a cucumber or squash or two. Maybe some lettuce, though it's a bit late to get lettuce in. We shall see.

In any case, it's a bit of an adventure, and one that excites me. I enjoy getting closer and closer to my food production. I also enjoy things like the experience of watching Banana plant and care for a garden with me. We started it last weekend, in fact — a start that requires me to figure out what we seeded in which yogurt container. Should be an adventure...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Customer Service, how not to do it...

Yesterday, my Richmond Times-Dispatch was not on my doorstep when I woke up. Whether I was missed or it was stolen, there's no telling. I called the circulation department and registered my complaint with the auto phone system. Lo and behold, my doorbell rang half an hour later, and the paper was handed to me.

This morning, I woke to find this note wrapped around my paper:

The note would be one thing. One thing, that is, if the carrier hadn't then called me at 6:45 to make sure I got the note and understood I should call him in the future. Granted the carrier is a contractor, but this doesn't exactly strike me as customer-friendly behavior.

Lord knows I wouldn't have gotten away with anything like that when I was delivering papers in the early 1980s.

Friday Fun - advertising meets cool music meets illustration edition

Picked this Scrabble ad up from Boing Boing. It's top-to-bottom awesome.

More here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


The past few days have been full of potential blog posts. Unfortunately, the time to sit and meander through a few posts has just eluded me. I've wanted to write about new ads, old ads, and food. But the focus just hasn't been there. Hell, I haven't even dug up many cool music clips, except this one of buskers from around the world singing "Stand By Me." Enjoy and stay tuned for regularly scheduled blogging to resume later this evening or tomorrow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Night Terrors, the 2009 edition

For a while now, Banana has gone through another period of night fears. If she wakes up in the middle of the night (and this is the big IF) and the IKEA sea horse light on her wall is not turned on, she either turns the light on over her bed and goes back to sleep or comes in to my room. Last night, when this happened, I asked her to go back to her bed and she said she was scared. Mind you, this wouldn't have been a problem at, say 5:30, but it was just shy of 2:00 and there were a good few hours of rest still to be had. I asked her what scared her and was informed that it was dark under her bed. Unfortunately, the logic that it was also dark under my bed was not enough to convince her that our rooms were equally safe (or dangerous).

I migrated her back to bed and lay with her for a bit until she fell back to sleep. This was all well and good until I woke up this morning to find her awake and reading. She said she'd been up for a long time, and this drives right to my parent paranoia. To wit: she isn't that far into the book, but there's no telling how long she's actually been up; this could result in a tired kid after school and an early evening of couch-sleeping after dinner; and of course, these thoughts are topped with my own anxieties about how well (or poorly) I'm parenting.

The reality is that everything will probably even out. We had a busy, busy weekend with a couple of late nights; so chances are her mind was just hyperactive and she wouldn't have slept well anyway. Chances are, a bit more routine will bring the even sleeping back. But if it doesn't, how the hell do you get rid of the monsters under the bed?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Fun — Boston nostalgia edition

Had to go with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Sadly, this is the only video I could embed...

And another one from those years...

Renaming Fun

I propose that Crab Chips be heretofore described as a "crispy Old Bay spice delivery system."

It's Richmond, Baby...

Yesterday, I spent six hours waiting on line in the spring sun. I've managed to make it this long in my life without ever intentionally waiting this long for anything — not concert tickets, not the New York DMV, not people. But yesterday was the registration day for the Richmond Parks and Recreation summer camp program. The city offers a good enough deal to make even the sanest of us take a half day off work to be the first on line, or at least to get there in time to make the cut for the program.

They take between 60 and 85 kids, depending on the program. Thankfully, I got there in time to ensure that Banana was #25 — though thanks to a couple line-jumpers she was #30 by the time registration started. The line continued to form through the early afternoon until people started counting to see if they needed to wait. Most left, perhaps to go to another community center. Those that stayed ended up at a loss anyway, because the line was cut in half as they let us in to register.

In the end, I'd say the scene was pure Richmond. Several of the parents knew each other and we passed the afternoon chatting rather than reading the books we'd all brought. To make it even more a solidly "Richmond" scene, many of us who didn't know each other before yesterday had friends or colleagues in common. We'd lived on the same streets, knew the same people. As much as I used to describe New York as the biggest small town in the world, Richmond has defied my sense of what a small, close-knit community within a city can be. It's both endearing and frightening at the same time, creating a sense of home that I sometimes ran from but find myself now embracing.

To a certain extent, I suppose yesterday's waiting was one more validation of that. Certainly, paying a fraction of the cost of private summer camps was a motivator, but as the afternoon wore on, what I truly appreciated was the utter feeling of community, the sense that Banana would spend the summer with friends, and that our network had deepened just a little more.

Note to self...

Parenting Rule #743 — The fashion girl edition.

When someone gives you clothes for your kid, do not show those clothes to your kid just prior to her getting ready in the morning. Pay particular attention to this if the clothes are too big for the kid and need to have a date with Febreeze.

Failing to pay attention to this rule is guaranteed to cause delays and stress.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Badvertising — how far is too far when it comes to inappropriate use?

I understand the idea of mixing kid's entertainment with adult themes, but I don't understand doing it in an ad for the kid's meal using Spongebob Squarepants. Do we really need young kids imitating this kind of thing? Such a crass example of a failed creative idea doesn't even require further commentary.

more awesome video feeds...

Courtesy of my friend Phil comes this brilliant video tip. Watch carefully to see who (or what) is narrating.

The Lost Tribes of New York City from Carolyn London on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Things I like

So, you take a little cardboard robot. You give it a mission to cross Washington Square Park. You wait to see if people will help it. Brilliant!

Ah, my old haunts...

Thanks to Daddy Types for the link.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter, corrected

At a bit of prompting, I should burnish my earlier assessment of the Easter afternoon. A grand time truly was had by all, from the stellar food at brunch to the perfect weather. Even the peeps enjoyed themselves...

Easter omens

PIcked this up from Serious Eats... Someone in Brooklyn bought a dozen eggs from TJ's, hard-boiled them, and opened them to discover this:

For some strange reason, this makes me think of the interestingly shaped, oddly colored eggs I used to buy at the farmer's market in Fayetteville.

life at the heart of crass consumerism

Yesterday was Richmond's annual Easter on Parade. Neither parade nor particularly Easter-ish, this amounts to a few blocks of Monument Avenue being shut off for a grand street festival. I gather that once upon a time in some far-off memory of "the way Richmond was" this amounted to a parade of grand hats and people strolling along in their Easter finest. While some of this was on display yesterday, the festival amounted to much more of this:

Large inflatables for sale? Check. Gyro/falafel/sausage/funnel cakes for sale? Check. Parents saying no? Check.

Don't get me wrong. There were some grand hats. There were refined folks in their better garb — right down to our friend and neighbor who sported a boater for the day. There were grand houses opened for parties. There was a troupe of Morris dancers decked out in their sticks, bells, and face paint. There might have been a petting zoo. There were bottles to fill with colored sand. There were mimosas and bloody marys in plastic cups. There were dogs decked out in wings and ears and bonnets. There were kids-a-plenty. And there was the sun, the grand sun which decided to push past the April moods and join us all day long. There were puppet shows, and there was Jonathan Austin — Richmond's local juggler who is at all things public where there are kids and families.

With all of this and more, I still don't understand the need for the same food concessions as always. Isn't it possible — just once? — for there to be a festival in Richmond without the same old Italian sausage and funnel cake vendors? Isn't it possible — just once? — for that big cup Banana is holding to be filled with lemonade that doesn't come with a side of grease and a heavy dose of sugar? And I fail to see what Batman and Dora the Explorer have to do with Easter.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Peeps on Parade

This is brilliant... National Geographic is running a contest of Peeps in exotic places. Take pictures of peeps and add them to the group, eh!

Maybe Banana and I will have to do a bit of that when we hit DC on Friday.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

a tale of a girl and her boots

Anyone who's read back to Christmastime knows about over the Hanna Andersson clog boots. Those boots were such a hit that they went on Banana's feet that morning. She continued to wear them almost every day since.

A couple weeks ago, I had them shined. The shoeshine pointed out what I'd already noticed a few days before: the rubber on the soles was wearing down to the wood and pulling away on one heel. I made a mental note to hijack the boots for a couple days and take them to a cobbler. Last week, though, the rubber fully came off of one heel. Banana's mom tried to glue it back on — but Gorilla Glue may not have been the right answer. Regardless, when I took a closer look, I realized that the wood had, in fact, begun to wear away on both heels meaning a cobbler would have a hard time with the repair.

I'm used to the fact that kid's clothes wear out. I'm used to shoes wearing out — especially when they are a favorite item. Still, I felt like three and a half months was a short lifespan for boots that retail for $85. I was particularly surprised since Hanna makes the same boots for women and decided to call the company.

One of the things I love about Hanna Andersson is that their CSRs all seem to be mothers or grandmothers who know exactly what clothes mean to kids and parents. The woman on the other end of the phone took a deep breath and said in a very serious tone, "No. They shouldn't be wearing out like that so soon. And especially not on her favorite boots." She quickly pulled up the stock on the computer and came back with the news that they no longer had the black boots. "Do you think she'd like pink?" She asked. "We have a pair in stock in that size, and I can ship them out FedEx right away."

I dithered. After all, I'd bought the black boots for both practicality and "cool" factors — both of which they offered in spades. Of course, I knew Banana would love the pink, but still I had to hem and haw.

"Well, Dad," my grandmotherly CSR continued, "I'll tell you how you do it. You tell her that she'll get some new pink boots for the spring and summer. That's how you do it, and I'm sure she'll love them, Dad."

"You're probably right," I said.

"I'll do the return in advance, and send you a return slip. That way, when she falls in love with them, you can just send the others back to us."

When the brand new pink suede harness clog boots arrived, Banana was thrilled. Overjoyed. She pulled off her Chucks and had the new boots on before you could say "cobbler." Not only did she say, "Daddy, I like them even better than the black ones." She also said, "They're bigger." And sure enough, while the size was the same, the pink boots were almost a quarter inch longer than the black ones. Not only did we now have new bright spring boots, we had boots that would last slightly longer than the ones they were replacing.

I liked the black boots as a break from the steady onslaught of pastels, but I had to admit that a happy kid is worth any pastel onslaught. The pink won again.

(Kudos also to Hanna Andersson for excellent customer service.)

Monday, April 06, 2009

object lessons

When I left my university job a year ago, I explained to Banana that I was going to be making more money but that would mean I would have less time off. I wanted her to understand that we would lose a certain amount of freedom in the short-term. Over the past year, the realization of what this means has come home in fits and starts — less flexibility for me to come to school, more scheduling demands, that sort of thing. But it didn't really hit home for her, I think, until this week.

Spring Break.

Anyone who's been around us in recent years knows that this means a trip back to New York. This year, a variety of competing financial demands have reduced the slush fund I'd ordinarily use for the trip. And when I realized that taking a big chunk of time off would cut into trips to Maine this summer and other time-off needs, I decided to cancel our plans. Since Banana was already less thrilled about the trip this year, the decision was an easy one to explain.

Until last night.

That's when she realized that a good chunk of her Spring Break — the week when some of her friends are headed to the Grand Canyon, California, Paris, and the British Virgin Islands — would be spent at the YMCA without some of her better friends. This was not a happy realization, particularly after a long, tiring day. I tried to explain it from the standpoint that we'd be able to do other fun stuff, but she wasn't having it at that point. In the end, I patiently listened to what bothered her about the YMCA and talked to her about what we could do to make the best of the time anyway. I also promised a fun Spring Break next year.

I hope I can make good on that promise. Doing so may require some compromise with Banana Mère. Either way, it's an object lesson for both of us in what making choices means: for each gain there may also be a trade-off.


On NPR this morning, there was an interesting set of back-to-back pieces. The first was on willpower and what effect the loss of willpower has on people's ability to find motivation in their lives. The piece that immediately followed dealt with a marathoner who could no longer run. What struck me about the pieces was the way both issues dealt with identity crises.

I'll ponder more on that later when I have time...


Another (quasi-related) thought that occurred to me last week: Improvisation offers the chance for haphazard excellence while perfection offers the opportunity of disciplined completion. In the case of failure, then, improvisation offers a built-in excuse if something isn't perfect, while perfection offers no such wiggle room.


So, there you have it... A couple of disjointed thoughts for a rainy Monday morning. If I make the time and find the discipline, I may even write through a more cogent connection.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

April Fools?

This piece about an Amish tour of the Hasidic community in Crown Heights begs to be an April Fools joke. Just begs for it. Then again, it's also just weird enough to be true...

Thanks, USAA

Thanks, USAA, for the Customer Service Fail. You promised that my replacement debit card would be FedExed, but apparently the card is not arriving on time and wasn't sent FedEx. So, thanks for keeping me locked out of my slush funds for an extra day or two. Oh yeah, and I forgot the best part: the CSR who promised such great, prompt service? He never logged it in to "The System." So, thanks again for the Customer Service Fail.