access denied

I’m feeling rather obstructed in my progress these days. Here are 4 photos of gates and doors that I couldn’t get through.

September, 2009. Sevilla, Spain.

August, 2011. Macau.

March, 2012. New York, NY.

August, 2012. Massachusetts.

Clearly, I am able to attach significance to these bits of metal (unlike those of 2 days ago). Also, I do seem to get around, even when I’m not getting through…

marginal progress

The temperatures got quite warm yesterday afternoon, thankfully, and much of the snow on our driveway melted. When I checked for the crocuses again today, they were bravely poking up through the snow.

Crocuses at 8:30 a.m. 3 spikes have poked out of the snow. (Actually, there are more spikes off camera.)

As for me, I confess that today I’m feeling snowed under (though it’s not the snow that’s doing it). I ran up against a wall with an experiment I’m designing (which is not actually about running up against walls), and then decided to switch gears and work on a different work project (which is not about gears, or switching them). Only to find that I’d managed not to save the file I’d worked on the last time I worked on the project. And another file for a different project to boot. (There were no boots.) I spent a fair amount of time hunting for the files, before determining that I had to retrace my steps. (Though there was no actual stepping). I spent a fair amount of time swearing at myself. (You can bet that there was actual swearing.)

It did not feel like a productive day.

On the bright side, the crocuses are making some progress.

Crocuses at 5:30 p.m., from a slightly different angle. You can see a 4th purple spike just emerging in the middle of the 3.

high strung

John and I sometimes joke that the violin is the right instrument for me, being that I can be a little high strung.

When I get too tightly wound, I do sometimes snap.

It should also be noted that I have a tendency to fine tune things.

In case you didn’t see yesterday’s post, I wanted to draw attention to it. (It was the Big Thing I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.) These are some portraits of my collaborator in that endeavor.

digging in

Our array of snow shovels.

Some of you may have noticed that I have been posting rather frequently of late. I decided, you see, that I would post every day this month. I have so many photos and stories to share, I decided to just dig in. I don’t really have a plan, beyond that. I’m just picking from among the photos in my digital hoard, or posting as things come up. I hope to share some more of my travel stories, and other posts I’ve started to draft. Maybe, when I’ve laid it all out, some sort of pattern will emerge. Or maybe it will be just a big pile. But it will be my pile.

There are some bushes hiding under these piles.

Our front path.

And now I should try to dig back into my work, which has been entirely neglected for the past few days. Not only have I spent a lot of time shovelling snow, but I have also not had any time without at least one young child since Thursday.


Tonight finds me cranky. There are a number of things contributing to my crankiness. A pinch of irritating interactions that struck a nerve, a dollop of research frustrations, and some generous quantities of life things have combined to make a recipe for a simmering stew of crankiness. I am the crockpot of crankiness.¹ I’ve spent much of the last few hours trying not to boil over.

We came home last night from my in-laws’, aiming to beat the Sunday end-of-holiday-weekend traffic. (We also had some projects we needed to take care of, including something Phoebe had to do for school for Monday). That all went well, but I was up too late, my sleep was further peppered by a nagging cough I’ve had for over a week.

Today, I spent a ridiculous number of hours trying to tame the gigantic pile of art supplies, craft kits, and kids’ art projects in various stages of completion that has taken over the breakfast nook² portion of our kitchen. This is not the first time I have spent hours trying to tackle this mess, a fact which is also seasoning today’s stew of crankiness. I actually took a break from this task to do some work. And now I have to get back to it. I will tame the beast, or go down trying.³

Here are some other odds and ends that surfaced on our visit to my in-laws’. Phoebe and I had a little sewing project, and we needed to dig out a needle. This image has nothing to do with anything that I just wrote about, but I was amused that this sewing tray contained both a tomato (in the form of a tomato-shaped pin cushion) and a basket, thus handily tying together two of my recent themes. (cf. basket, basket, tomato, tomato, tomato)

¹ The crankpot?
² Really, I don’t know what to call this area. It’s the part of the kitchen where we have our table, and where we eat meals, including, but not restricted to, breakfast.
³ Should I toss the beast into the stew?⁴
⁴ Wow, this is totally not the post I thought I was starting to write. In fact, I changed the title. And then even deleted my original first paragraph. I was going to write about various things I’ve said I’d do but haven’t yet done. Which is often a source of crankiness in itself. But I won’t go there tonight. Hopefully I will have simmered down by morning.⁵
⁵ Happily, few things cheer me up more than getting carried away with a metaphor.

The Republic of Pants: Election 2012

It’s once again election season in the Republic of Pants. Four years ago, we were gripped by the tight pants race between Corduroy O’Bloomer and Trousers McPants. Today, the pants of the Republic are still split.

The media’s bias-cut stretches the fabric of the truth, tailoring the fit to either the Left Pants Leg or the Right Pants Leg. For those fully comfortable dressing on one side or the other, the choice may seem an easy fit. For those caught between the legs, however, the decision remains an uncomfortable one, and many concerns chafe.

After wearing O’Bloomer for 3 years, many are ready to try on a new pair of Pants. Some complain that O’Bloomer didn’t fit the way they’d hoped, that they’d been deceived by overly flattering dressing-room mirrors. Others never thought he was a good fit, and are pushing to go back to older pants styles. Yet there are still many who support O’Bloomer, and argue that his sturdily constructed pants are only beginning to be broken in.

O’Bloomer and his Vice Pants, Bootcut BiDenim, seek to publicize benefits of The Affordable Cleaners Act, a law by which all pants should be given access to adequate laundering. They claim that better fabric care for all pants will positively impact the well-being of the Republic, as well as addressing the rapidly rising costs of laundry. Critics argue that the dry cleaning companies will clean up while the pants of the Republic are hung out to dry.

Corduroy continues to be hemmed in by threadbare rumors, including that he is a Muslin, or just like Linen. Rumors that he was manufactured abroad persist in spite of his display of his “Made in the Pants Republic” labels.

Opposition styles, though, are also far from universally appreciated. After one of the most awkward and embarrassing fashion shows in decades, Tweed R. Moneypants was selected as challenger to O’Bloomer.

Few would call the Moneypants campaign seamless, with evidence of it being patched up on the fly. Many claim that R. Moneypants is really a pair of reversible pants, showing whichever pattern of his double-face fabric better suits his base. Some dispute his claims that he pulled himself up by his belt-loops, saying that he was braced by his father’s suspenders. Moneypants has further been criticized and for pocketing his assets in offshore Bermuda shorts, and for being in the back pocket of powerful suits with a vested interest in seeing him wear the Pants.

The uncomfortable stiffness of Tweedy’s material has been the butt of many jokes. Hammerpants Rayon, running mate of Moneypants, seems to be cut from a more comfortable pattern, but many doubt that his flashy cloth has enough substance to adequately cover the seat of the Pants Government.

Every fiber of the candidates is being examined for stains, holes and other defects, whether or not they are material to the issues. In this straight-legged race, neither side has the option to be a relaxed fit. Both must stay up on their briefs or risk being caught with their pants down. As the old adage goes, “He who slacks off gets sent to the cleaners.”

Both O’Bloomer and Moneypants are expected to be neatly pressed for the upcoming debates, with carefully tailored responses under their belts. Questions likely to be addressed include: How will each address the continuing strain on the fabric of the Pants Economy? How will they protect the National Pants from the looming menace of international Powerbritches? And finally, and most controversially, do leggings really count as pants?

The summer puzzle

School’s out for summer! Except when you are a grad student, or otherwise an academic researcher. For me, summer mostly means easier parking for lab meetings, and a shortage of subjects for experiments. If anything, I’m supposed to get more of my research done.

The yawning gulf of Phoebe’s summer vacation has been menacing me for months. “Sort out Phoebe’s summer plans” stubbornly stayed unchecked on my to-do list, day after day, week after week. Theo’s schedule seemed pretty uncomplicated; he’d just go to the same home daycare he’d been attending since he was an infant. This was also an option for Phoebe, as this was where she went after school and also a place she’d been going since she was an infant herself. However, she’d be the only school-aged kid there with just a couple of 3-year-olds. Plus Phoebe had expressed an interest in going back to the place where she’d gone for pre-K. They have a summer program, and she had some friends going.

I didn’t look forward to those double drop-offs and pick-ups. Even though both places were pretty close, with the time spent settling and collecting each child, the two-location solution gave even work-at-home days effectively an hour-plus commute, twice a day.

Then there were all the other enticing summer options. We’d already signed up Phoebe for karate camp at her dojo for the first full week of her vacation, and there was the option of a 2nd week at the end of August. Elsewhere were art camps (Phoebe loves art). Swimming lessons (Phoebe should learn to swim). Spanish camp (an appealing option). Camps for horseback-riding and gymnastics (Phoebe has been asking to do both of these activities).The number of options was dizzying, as was the thought of trying to get her to so many places. Not to mention that all these options were either expensive, and/or had really awkward hours. Plus it seemed like Phoebe should have some time just to enjoy the summer in an unstructured way. She loves to make projects for herself, and to play outside and look for rocks and bugs.

After weeks of hemming and hawing, trying to work this out in the blur surrounding my trip to China, I was considering just having Phoebe join Theo at the home daycare. Thus reducing the expense and the hassle, if making summer potentially less exciting (and social) for Phoebe.

Then our daycare provider broke the news to us that she would be closing her business. In two weeks. There had been a decline in enrollment, and it was looking like our kids would be the only ones left come the fall. What’s more, I’d already told her that I was looking to start Theo in a pre-K program in the fall, so he’d be going down to part-time. It wasn’t feasible for her to stay open, and she found a new full-time job.

In some ways this change made things a bit less complicated, if not exactly easier. We wouldn’t have to consider how our childcare choices would affect her income, or her feelings. (She’s been our main childcare provider for almost 6 years, and she’s been like family to us, given that our families live so far away.) She put us in touch with a couple of her friends with home daycares with openings, both of whom we’ve met and like, and who have interacted with our kids on things like joint daycare field trips and other meet-ups.

In the end, though, I thought it would be easier to just let Phoebe go to the place Phoebe wanted to go, and have Theo start pre-K earlier, thus having them both go to the same place. In deference to summer, I opted to have them in childcare only 3 days a week, giving us more time for things like seeing friends and summery fun. I picked Tuesday through Thursday at the center, leaving more options for long-weekend trips. I managed to get my lab meetings shifted to Wednesdays from the planned summer schedule of Fridays. I was going to start the kids in the summer program on Tuesday, July 10th, after the planned to my in-laws’ the week of the 4th of July.

I had solved the big puzzle. I’d made it all fit.

Then I remembered that I’d left out some pieces.

Like meetings with an undergrad for a summer project. Due to her other job schedule, we’d talked about meeting either Mondays or Fridays, starting in July. And that one lab meeting on Tuesday this week, the last meeting of the month with all 3 of the professors I work with. (John ended up taking both kids into his office.) Plus having the kids in childcare only 3 days a week leaves me only about 20 hours of week-day work time, even fewer on the weeks when I have to commute into Boston. And then there have already been sick days (Phoebe’s and mine) and business travel (John’s) and other unscheduled schedule conflicts.

Summer is great big jigsaw puzzle, but I’m pretty sure that the pieces aren’t all from the same box. Not all of the pieces fit together, not all of the gaps can be filled, and I’m still trying to figure out what the end picture will look like.

I think I’ll only have that figured out come fall.