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What Were McCain's Advisers Thinking? The Republican Party Just Gets Wilder!

When I was in elementary school (in maybe 1970?), my mother ran for the Washington State Legislature and I door-belled for her campaign. She would take one side of the street and I would take another. I remember distinctly being told by one lady on a front porch that I was a smart and beautiful little girl and that she wasn't going to vote for my mommy because my mommy should be at home with me and that I should tell her so. And so despite the strong odor of Reality Show that Sarah Palin brings to the presidential election, I am deeply uncomfortable with what I see being said about her.

I was particularly uncomfortable about Maureen Dowd's breast pump remark, because there is a significant minority in our country who feel that lactating women should be completely invisible. Women are such easy targets for vicious Internet memes.

Who knew that the news coverage of the Republican National Convention would be all about how McCain's Veep choice is HOT and her daughters are easy? Culminating in the oh-so-tasteful comparison between Britney Spears's little sister Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin?

TeenpregnancyI wonder how the editors of the Christian Science Monitor can with a straight face publish the headline McCain pick of Palin helps win over party's conservative base; it begins:

Moments after Senator John McCain announced his running mate - Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, an outspoken abortion opponent - his campaign sprang into action to fan flames of enthusiasm among his party's demoralized conservative supporters.

At a lunch in Minneapolis, two of his top advisers - Charlie Black, a veteran political operative, and Dan Coates, a former senator from Indiana - were extolling Palin's virtues to about 150 influential evangelicals as evidence of McCain's ideological commitments.

Charlie Black, what were you thinking?

I have a really odd connection to Charlie Black, though we've never actually met or spoken: We were both conned by the professional con artist Joseph A. Cafasso during the same time period during the summer of 2005. There used to be more about this on my blog, but I took it down after legal threats seemingly made on his behalf by one of his close associates who is ironically a former CNN exec. On January 15, 2007, she wrote:

THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NON-NEGOTIABLE WITH ME OR CHARLIE OR ANYONE ELSE WHO IS AFFECTED! TAKE THAT STUFF DOWN NOW! . . . Cramer -Take this shit off the Internet! No one wants to have a conversation with you. We would rather you vanish as fast as you invaded our lives! Either take this crap down or you will be sued!

So. All right then. (Quoting from private email? Absolutely. Fair use? Yup.)

In any case, what I wonder -- as I see the Palin PR disaster unfold -- is whether Black was fooled again as he was fooled by Cafasso. Or whether he's just fooling himself.

PalinwatchthumbnailIn February, Firedog Lake's Christy Hardin Smith wrote an interesting profile of Black which mentions his association with international con man Ahmed Chalabi. Yesterday, Firedog Lake posted a "Sarah Palin Goodbye Watch."

Put down your best guesses for when, why, and how Sarah Palin will bail from the GOP ticket.

So far the blog entry has 360 comments. (Their server seems to be having some problems, so be patient if the links don't work.)

Meanwhile, the Financial Times editors, presumably also with a straight face, publish the following headline: McCain counts on character to clinch it while at the same time running an image of McCain with Bristol Palin and her boyfriend, Levi Johnston.

Looks like the Republican Party is in full swing, and the party is getting wilder and wilder. What's next? These are not your daddy's Republicans!

Fortune reports that there is an online prediction market on "whether Palin will be dropped from the ticket": Betting on a Palin withdrawal.

Intrade, an online prediction market based in Dublin, created a contract Tuesday morning on the likelihood that John McCain will drop Palin as his running mate. After opening at a probability of just 3%, the odds on Palin being cut from the ticket hovered around 14% yesterday. Predictions plateaued today at 10%, perhaps in response to yesterday's speeches by Fred Thompson and Joe Lieberman. Both praised the governor for her reformist qualities.

. . . Placing a Palin withdrawal at even 12% seems bullish; no presidential candidate has withdrawn his VP selection since Thomas Eagleton left Democratic candidate George McGovern's ticket in 1972.

See also The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.

I am not placing any bets. I am just rubbernecking at how fast Bristol Palin has become an instant Pop Tart and Sarah Palin the new Victoria Principal. One message for the rest of us is, Don't aim too high. Don't let this happen to you.

CNN's current at 7:52 PM 9/3/08: Palin to slam Obama in convention speech. What an awful political spectacle it will be to see if she can conceal her anger at what has happened to her over the past few days. Will she be saccharine or Janis Joplin? Or will she not be able to contain the anger? Can we look away? And don't you feel like a voyeur?

So. Sarah Palin: Victoria Principal, Harriet Miers, or Janis Joplin? What do you bet? Watching this shows just how tough Hillary is.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Summer is coming to an end and it is with some regret I will return to Westchester County for the beginning of the school year. I would be more than content to stay up here in Westport, New York and paint more pictures of Lake Champlain and walk dogs for the local animal shelter and work towards our various goals for the new house. Our amazing granite retaining walls are now full of wildflowers I planted from seed and I get a real kick out of watching hummingbirds checking out my poppies and sunflowers. And although a number of people I know up here are leaving at the end of the summer, many people are not. I feel like both my kids and I have more friends up here than down there.

This is a Great Place: there are a number of cool houses and store fronts on on the market around here that can be had for very reasonable prices. I have personally looked at a number of them, some while shopping before buying this one, others while shopping in hopes of convincing friends and relatives to buy around here. (I can tell you all about what's on the market here if you'd like to know.)

It used to be a resort town before the advent of air-conditioning, so it is a very comfortable place to be in the summer. There is a lot to do here, especially in the summer: concerts, theatre (both professional & amateur), art events, fairs, never mind the kind of activities people come to the Adirondack for like, say, hiking. (The kids and I did less of that kind of thing than I'd expected since there were a couple of unusually stormy weeks up here and I didn't want to strike out on unfamiliar trails during flash-flood or thunderstorm warnings. On the other hand, watching a production of Pippin in the Depot Theatre during a particularly violent thunder storm was pretty cool; there were some especially serendipitous thunderclaps in the second half after intermission; I think that if I see it again I'll miss them.

A few days ago, I was in complete panic at the thought of having to go back to Pleasantville and resume the life we have there. I'm not exactly reconciled to it now, but sort or resigned, gloomily thinking of what I can do there to prepare further for life up here. (As I write this, Elizabeth has just spelled "YouTube" out loud, presumably typing it into Google, and then asked how to spell "exploding" and "Elmo"; perhaps she is more ready for Westchester County than I.)

This summer, we have made more progress on fixing up the house than we had expected. We'd had a whole bunch of estimates made before closing last October and weren't sure when and in what order contractors would appear, but suddenly we're well past what we thought we'd be able to do this year and well into what we thought was going to get done next year. They've temporarily run out of scaffolding for the back of the building, giving us a several day respite from people pounding on the walls with hammers from 8AM to 4PM.

On Saturday, we had a small but instructive equipment failure: the lock to the door in the store part of the house -- yes, we bought a house equipped with a bookstore -- failed, locking us out completely unless we were willing to break a hand-painted glass window to get in. The store had previously been a liquor store (hence the hand-painted grapes on the windows), and so conforms to all of the nutty NY state laws involving how it is possible to access a store. There is no way in but the front door of the store and the lock broke.

Much is made on the Internet of "social networking" these days. Let me tell you about real social networking: real social networking is when you know the guy who can take your hand-painted window out and get you into your space and then put the window pane back intact in the same shape it was, and you get him to show up and do it. (The nearest currently practicing locksmith on this side of the lake is about 40 miles away, in case you were wondering.) We did that and now the lock has been replaced. Now David can proceed on to organizing his books in his Westport book space.

We have a dinner guest coming, so I should stop now. I guess this is the traditional What I Did on My Summer Vacation essay that one writes with the utter certainty that what one did on the summer vacation is better than what comes after that. But life may surprise me.

David won a Hugo last night!

David G. Hartwell's 2008 Hugo Award for Best Editor (Long Form)

David Hartwell at the World Fantasy Convention, Fall 2005So, as I was saying, I didn't go to Denvention, so I was not at the Hugo Award ceremony last night. When the phone rang last night some time after midnight, I was quite solidly asleep. I stumbled around trying to find it in the dark, but it stopped ringing. I figured either David had won a Hugo or it was a wrong number and I could know in the morning. (That chances that we'd both won for NYRSF were smaller than those of a wrong number.) So now it's morning and now I know! David G. Hartwell won for Best Editor in the Long Form category (the category for book editors, created 2 years ago). Whee! Congratulations, David!

Wish I'd been there last night, though it's pretty nice in Westport, NY. My Facebook status line from last night reads, "Kathryn Cramer is not at the Hugo nominees reception; she is bathing mud-covered children following a concert in the park."

Here's Lake Champlain this morning.



Since I wasn't there, I would really like to see some photos of David winning the Hugo. Can people please send them to me?

Congratulations, David

Playing Hookey from the WorldCon


Cheryl Morgan has noted that my kids and I are absent from Denvention. Ah, I'm busted playing hookey from the WorldCon. No, I'm not in Denver, I'm in Westport, NY painting my basement and painting pictures of Lake Champlain.

SN852014Meanwhile, Peter & Liz performed last night at the Deport Theatre as part of the theater's summer apprentice program. Amazing action photos here. Today Elizabeth goes on a trip to a local farm.


SN852038This evening, the kids and I are going to an event at an "art farm." If by chance NYRSF wins a Hugo, I'm sure David will bring it home. I will, however, be in Montreal next year.

Stone & Roses

Westport, NYI've been having a terrific summer so far, mostly without regular consultation of the Internet. Every once in a while I poke my head in to Computerland and say "God, what a mess," and I go back outside to plant pretty flowers in the mountains or sip coffee while watching the sun rise over the lake.

I knew far in advance that this summer was going to be among the worst of times to be on-line because we are in the midst of a presidential election. Last time around, blogs proved that they could be key players in the outcome of the election, and so this time it was pretty clear that in addition to the usual Internet nasties, there would be people out there stirring up trouble in the blogosphere who were being paid to cause trouble, to take down bloggers perceived to be supporting of one candidate or another, people paid to say what they were saying, and meetings around conference tables in which promoting particular political agendas in the blogosphere would be discussed. And there would be all kinds of unnecessary grief as a result. As I put it to some of my friends back in February in a conversation at Boskone, this would be an election in which people's lives would get destroyed because of their blogs. I made a conscious decision to opt out.

Things are playing out a little differently than I expected, inasmuch as I've followed the goings on, but the on-line world is full of unnecessary awfulness this summer. It seems like every time I'm on-line for more than just to check my email, I end up spending time trying to parse some blogwar or other to see if this is something I need to be involved with. The answer is inevitably "NO", and soon I will learn not to try to parse them at all. But I am still having a hard time coming to grips with what a brain-sucking parasite one's computer can be.

For the past two years, I have been fairly reticent about what has been going on in my life because I have been cyberstalked by a woman who is obsessed with me. She watches me so closely that in May she ridiculed my new author photo within two hours of my posting it.  She picks Internet fights and then theorizes on-line that I must somehow be involved with the resulting blog wars she involves herself in. She has about ten blogs and tries to make herself look like a crowd. A week or so ago, on a single day, she wrote about five posts mentioning me in various paranoid nutty contexts. She also began developing conspiracies theories about people I am photographed with. One author whom my husband publishes and who is a friend of mine, but whom I haven't seen much of since he moved to the West Coast a decade or so ago, was a major figure in her fantasy life and conspiracy theories four a couple of months earlier this year. She also took out after one of my kids, but backed off after I contacted her ISP and law enforcement. Unsurprisingly, she is front and center in one of this summer's many political blogwars and apparently blames me.

Having given myself some breathing space, I realize that inasmuch as I have any desire to be on-line, I would like to be able to talk about what fun I've been having. Last fall, we bought a house overlooking Lake Champlain in the Adirondacks. I have been spending a lot of time up there.

Peter scales the new stone wall.The house came with two failing retaining walls, which we have just replaced with amazing dry-laid stone walls made of beautiful boulders studded with garnet. The yard was completely restructured as part of this process, and so I have been planting a yard from scratch which is a fascinating process. I've been learning about soil PH and soil structure. I've been mail-ordering beneficial fungi from and moss for the shadiest of our walls from Moss Acres. We planted special grass seed. I've most recently put in some raised beds and planted rose bushes. I've been getting up with the sun and working on the yard for an hour or two before anyone else gets up. I feel so wholesome and healthy.

roses & stone

The town where our house is is a very friendly place, and if I want conversation , all I need to do is walk out the door. People will stop and talk. It is tremendously socially nurturing. I wish the blogosphere could go back to being more like my small-town front porch. But I think I'll have to wait until after the election for that. In the meantime, peace be with you.

Chappaqua Tales #1

Yesterday, when picking my son up in Chappaqua, NY at middle school, I saw a girl about twelve drop an iPhone on a stone floor. Afterwards, she and a friend were marvelling, "It's even more cracked than before." So I asked my son if he'd seen many people with iPhones at school. He said he wasn't sure which cell phones were iPhones but reported that lots of kids had cell phones.

He did however volunteer that he'd seen an iPod Nano, complete with headphones, floating in a school toilet recently. I do wonder how many (hundreds of?) thousands of dollars of electronics are circulating in  that school on an average day. Should your iPod fall in a toilet, here is some helpful advice.

(My daughter made the Kindergarten newsletter for taking her big brother's iPod to school. We do not own an iPhone.)

This Year's Valentines

2265269730_e1027633e6_m My kids are passionate about Valentines Day. Every year they spend a lot of time hand-making valentines. In years past it has seemed, when the valentines came home from school, that mine were among the few children around here who did this, in that most or all of the other valentines were store-bought.

2265265170_41acb74830_m This year, about three weeks ago, I bought a ream of red paper and since then the house has been awash in sheets of red paper with their hearts cut out. Usually, in the home stretch, I carefully shepherd the kids through organizing their creations so that everyone they intend to give to gets a valentine. This year, the flu has been circulating in the house in the five days before Valentines Day. (Apparently there's an epidemic.)

(Also, I should admit that last fall when I was trying to round up flu shots for me and the kids, I wasn't persistent enough. The only one in the family who had this season's shot is David.)

This morning began with tears. It seems that while both kids had spent a lot of time and paper making Valentines, in her exuberance, my five year-old had regarded the products of my ten year-old as raw material for her art. Most of his Valentines got recycled into hers. I was only vaguely aware of this until this morning when it was too late to do anything about.

Next year we'll all get flu shots. And next year, I will orchestrate the festivities more carefully. Oh, well.

(Above left: a Valentine Peter made for his father in art class at school; above right: one of Elizabeth's lavish creations.)

On Genetic Testing and Being a Patrilineal Jew

My mother has in the past decade taken up the hobby of genealogy, something which I thought of as an odd affectation of my Mormon friends when I was a kid, but which now via the Internet has become much more popular.

I grew up with the last name Cramer, which is one of those occupational last names: it means "shopkeeper" in German. From time to time as the question has arisen as to whether I am Jewish. Though my Grandma Cramer was Catholic, most of the Cramer ancestors I knew were Texan Hard Shell Baptists. Someone in Texas, at some point in my early life, told me that while "Kramer" was a Jewish name, "Cramer" with a "C" was not. Some of the same relatives were also known to fudge birth dates on tomb stones so as not to reveal the true ages of ladies who had shaved off a year or ten.

I learned a bit more about my heritage when doing Internet map work following Hurricane Katrina. I knew my grandfather had been born in New Orleans, but not much more about it. He took me there once, when I was about 9. It turns out I have quite a number of relatives buried in old New Orleans cemeteries, some of them in Jewish cemeteries. My Irish great grandmother, Agnes Gleason Cramer was buried in 1906 with the Michael Gleason family in St. Roch Cemetery in New Orleans. (I'm told they were under four feet of water during Katrina.) And I have other relatives in the Dispersed of Judah Cemetery in New Orleans.

My great-great grandmotherMy more recently deceased relatives are buried in Houston. My great grandfather, Louis A. Cramer (1868-1933) is buried in the Resthaven Cemetery in Houston as are my Cramer grandparents. My Cramer great-great grandmother, born Sarah Solomon in New Orleans in about 1842, is buried in Washington Cemetery under her last married name, "Sarah Williams (1845-1923)" with Louis’ daughter, Leah Cramer (1901 – 1920), and and Sarah’s daughter Clara (1879-1954) and Clara’s husband, Andrew Barry, and 50 yards or so from her her son Mordecai Henry Cramer (1867-1949). Washington Cemetery, Houston's old German cemetery, is adjacent to the more famous Glenwood Cemetry, where Sarah Solomon's daughter Hannah (1875-1920) is buried.

Sarah Solomon and my great-great grandfather Adolf Cramer (1835-1877) had their marriage "solemnized" the Rabbi of the Hebrew Congregation Beth Israel of Houston. She was the daughter of Levy Solomon and Hannah "Annie" Hyams, both of Charleston, South Carolina, and both, I find, listed in First American Jewish Families, by Malcolm H. Stern, 3rd edition, Ottenheimer Publishing Company,

But what of the name Cramer? Was it just an occupational name, or was Adolf Cramer really Jewish? This is not an issue that the historical record is going to settle easily.

Enter genetic testing: for just under 200 bucks, will test a man's Y-chromosome and assign him a genetic haplogroup. My dad had his done. It came back G2c: an "extremely rare" haplotype most often possessed by Ashkenazi Jews.

Poof, I'm a patrilineal Jew. Except that Judiasm is a matrilineal religion, so in terms of religious tradition, as far as I know this is meaningless, since the last female identifiably Jewish ancestor I have is Sarah Solomon. Nor, so far as I know. was anyone in my branch of the family raised Jewish in the 20th century.

But it seems to me that because Jewish heritage is so much more genetically traceable than that of less self-contained (and ghettoized) cultural groups, there is are important issues of identity politics invoked by genetic testing.

The patrilineal Jew is a little bit of an oxymoron now. But how will this work itself out in a generation? I'm curious.

The Fate of Mice

Left to his own devices, my husband David Hartwell tends to create workspaces resembling those of the Wizard Merlin: towering, teetering piles of interesting things with narrow paths to walk through. His piles are legendary, though the really epic ones precede me: in the olden days when helping David clean up, at the bottom of one of his piles one might find a Medieval codex, or a first edition of Henry James's The Golden Bowl, or an uncashed $7,000 check. (I mostly run a tighter ship than that.)

I long since gave up on the idea of sharing an office space with him. My own Mission-Control/multiplex home office is in the dining room.

A few years back, David's mother was considering moving into an assisted living facility and we tried to convince her to come stay with us for an extended period of time. We put a bed in David's office, which is across the hall from the bathroom, and cleaned it almost all the way up. She died of a stroke that fall, but the bed remained in David's office, mostly unused, though I think someone slept there for one night thereafter.

Predictably, over time David gave that bed the Merlin treatment and so eventually it became hard to see that there was a bed there at all. I let him have his own space and he kept the cats out, and in the mean time we have edited another six or seven anthologies, and the materials involved in their production are still in his office.

So this afternoon, I was prowling through his office in search of something-or-other when I noticed little piles of cat food peeking out from beneath the books and papers. Mice. I investigated further and discovered the bed in the cat-free space of his office had become the scene of a Mouse Festival.

I peeled away the layers of books, papers, magazines, and discovered in the midst of the major mouse nest -- as though laid out for mousy bedtime reading -- a copy of our friend Susan Palwick's book The Fate of Mice; it has a cat on the cover. Apparently, the fate of certain mice in our household was to have their own utopia, well-stocked with catfood and breadcrusts, in their own bed in their own room, in David's offices where the cats are not allowed.

The mouse utopia is currently a pile of bedding out on the screened porch which I shall shake out in the morning. But mouse lives are short, and it appears that a few generations lead a very good life.

Test your level of Alienation online

Frances on Peter's deskI happened across an on-line questionnaire apparently by C. George Boeree, a professor in the Psychology Department at Shippensburg University, which claims to test your degree alienation. I score as only moderately alienated in most of the categories of alienation, but score very highly for "cultural alienation." Interestingly the term "cultural alienation" seems to be primarily used to study the effects of colonialism upon the indigenous population, like so:

The experience of colonial domination shows that, in the effort to perpetuate exploitation, the colonizers not only creates a system to repress the cultural life of the colonized people; he also provokes and develops the cultural alienation of a part of the population, either by so-called assimilation of indigenous people, or by creating a social gap between the indigenous elites and the popular masses.

(Amilcar Cabral, "National Liberation and Culture." Originally delivered on February 20, 1970 as part of the Eduardo Mondlane Memorial Lecture Series at Syracuse University.)

It is interesting to me that the incursion of million-dollar-house people into our corner of suburbia would provoke in me an alienation similar to that of the colonized. I tried the test on my son, and while he had no scores in the "high" range, most of his scores indicated moderate alienation, and one of his highest scores was cultural alientation.

Boeree's page on Conformity and Obediance is also interesting.

Same school district, same grade: a smoking gun found in The Case Against Homework

So The Case Against Homework by Sarah Bennett & Nancy Kalish arrived in the mail. And look what I've found on pp. 71-72:

Even Lisa Jacobson, the head of her own tutoring company, balked last year when her son's fourth-grade teacher at their public school in Chappaqua, New York, insisted that she help him through his three hours of homework each night. "I said, I don't want to tutor him," Lisa recalls. "But the teacher said, 'You have to be the tutor. In a town like this, where real estate values depend on how good the school are and test scores, I'm expected to teach kids at a certain level so that when they go to middle school next year, they are completely prepared. I can't do that by myself all day. So I need the parent to continue at home.'"

My son, on two medications to meet the demands of school, is in the same grade and district as the child discussed above. I've heard that speech, although it didn't get as far as real estate values. I cut the teacher off when she started to talk about the demands of standardized testing by saying that the testing was for the benefit of the state, not my son, who has already been tested up one side and down the other and that I didn't care how he scored on the standardized tests.

There are only three elementary schools in our district, so there is a 1/3rd chance my son attends the same school she was talking about. When he was in first grade, they moved the 5th graders out of the elementary school and into the middle school. The move has turned out to be more than symbolic. A number of times, when I have complained about the demands the school places on my son, the school psychologist has reminded me how soon he will be in middle school.

But what is most disturbing about the passage from the book is the remark about real estate values. There's something to that. One of the nasty bits of No Child Left Behind is that schools can be labeled "failing" if they don't show sufficient improvement. Our elementary school principal remarked on this in something sent to us by the school a while back.

So. If our kids are working to save our real estate values, how much should they be paid per hour for doing excessive homework?

Elizabeth's Picture of God

The schools have been closed for two days because of damage from Wednesday afternoon's violent storm, so today I took the kids to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first time. Peter is such a science kid, we'd never been. Of course, I'd been there, but taking kids to museums is different.

We started with the Egyptian section, which was a big hit. Then we did the Chinese art on our way to the Balcony Cafe for lunch. After lunch, I tried to convince Elizabeth that she was interested in European painting by pointing out the Degas ballet dancers.

After hauling the kids through various sections in which they loudly declared their desire to go home, we eventually got to the suits of armor. The kids were very amused by the armor pieces designed to protect horses hindquarters.

We did the new Greek and Roman section last. The kids asked to sit and rest for a bit because their legs were tired. Elizabeth asked for a pen and paper because she had seen people sketching in the gallery. She drew a person.

I asked, "Who's that?" She said "That's a picture of God."

I started to put away the pen and she complained she wasn't done. So I gave the pen back because she said God needed a tutu.

So she added a tutu and wings. I asked what she had drawn. She explained, "That's an Egyptian ballet god."

(I promise I'll scan it in later.)

YouthCan 2007

Monday, I took my son Peter to YouthCan 2007, a conference for kids on helping the environment through technology held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Most of the people attending were part of school groups, some from as far away as Argentina, Russia, and Iran, though most from the US. In all, attendance was about a thousand.

A couple of years ago, I tried to arrange for a delegation from my son's school to attend, but in our district there were too many bureaucratic obstacles, and so I failed. This year, when I received a reminder of the event via email, on whim I decided that Peter and I would attend.

I decided to drive in rather than take MetroNorth from Pleasantville, since once you get off MetroNorth it is a bit cumbersome to get -- via public transportation -- from Grand Central Station to the museum. We left home about 8:30 AM and got a nice parking space in the museum parking garage (for which I later paid a hefty sum: $43).

(I had arranged for a babysitter for my daughter in in the afternoon [$30-something], and for the Mother Hen bus service [$30] to get her from pre-school and take her there, so Peter and I had as much time as we needed. Museum admission was free with the event, but I had already run up over a $100 tab as soon as I set the plan in motion. And Linda Hirshman wonders in a New York Times OpEd piece wonders at the struggle of moms rejoining the work-force, or meditates on our competing obligations; or something. It cost a hundred bucks to spend the day with one child in NYC without the other. In my utopia, this would be cheaper.)

IMG_0264.JPGWe arrived before opening ceremonies began; opening and closing ceremonies were held in the Hall of Ocean Life -- with the full scale model of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling -- a great venue for any event. The room full of kids and chaperons was better behaved than one might have expected as we waited for the rest to arrive because there was so much to look at just in that one room.

Andrew RevkinAndrew Revkin, a science writer for The New York Times and author of the kids' book about global warming, The North Pole Was Here, gave what was essentially the keynote speech. He made the interesting point that he realized that after writing 300 NYT articles, the people he should have been writing to were kids, since the decisions affecting our current climate are already made and that the decisions made now and in the near future most affect those under 19. I would have liked to see his one-hour presentation on his trip to the North Pole, but I had Peter signed up for something else, and so just bought a copy of his book to read later.

There were three program slots to sign up for. Our first was EcoMedia, held by The Bronx River Art Center:

Become educated about the Bronx River environment through several student multimedia approaches with different tools involving ecoTV, ecoGames, ecoWeb, ecoSound, and ecoPhoto.  See an amazing project unravel before your eyes as students in this ecological workshop, translate ideas like invasive species or watershed physics.

This was my first exposure to 13-year-olds giving software demos. I suppressed the impulse to try to help. It made the biggest impression of all on my 9-year-old son, who had seen mommy do many or all of the things the kids were showing him how to do, but having kids show him was different.


Miamia Country Day School on combating world hungerThe next session we went to was held by third graders from Miami Country Day School and consisted of a series of presentations by groups of third graders on solutions to the problem of world hunger.

How much land is actually useful for agricultural purposes? Find out and learn about a more effective way to grow crops in many of the poor regions of the world. Be ready to take home all you need to make your own container garden. Make up a recipe with organic herbs flown fresh from our school garden for your enjoyment! This workshop is hands-on, nose-on, and mouth-on.

The kids were doing a splendid job. But the room was hot and crowded (too small for the number of people there) so we slipped off for lunch before the end.

In the cafe, we found the group who had given the ecoMedia presentation, so we sat with them when we ate our lunch.

Guerilla GardeningThe third session we attended was Guerrilla Gardening, held by sixth graders from the Salk School of Science in New York City.

Save the plants and save the world! Learn how you and/or your school can create amazing indoor gardens while recycling and reusing your kitchen refuse. Plant beans, corn, potatoes, ginger, and much more. Leave with a head start on your own garden!

The students collectively taught a lesson that they might have had at school with their teacher. We drew sketches of various kinds of seeds found in many kitchens (kidney beans, bird seed, popping corn, etc.) then we made planters for them out of clear egg cartons and each came home set up to sprout the seeds on our windowsills.

IMG_0306.JPGAfter that, we attended the lively closing ceremonies in which there was some moderated discussion of what we had gotten out of the day. One of the teenagers attending had submitted a compelling short essay that was read out loud.

Peter at the microscopeAfter the official conference was over, we paid a visit to the Discovery Room, one of Peter's favorite parts of the museum. He looked at live grubs and butterfly wings under the microscope. We also spent a while in the museum's enormous gift shop.

eathing a snack at the end of the dayAfter a snack in the museum's main dining room, we went up to the top floor and saw the Audubon exhibit and the dinosaur skeletons. we saw a few more exhibits and then headed home.

For next year, when Peter will be in middle school, I think I'll try again to get a school delegation together to give a presentation.

Where to see the Geoff Hartwell Experience this weekend

IMG_0239.JPGFriday, April 27th, 2007
Kittle House 8pm
11 Kittle Rd, Chappaqua NY
Price: FREE!
Geoff and Rich Acoustic Duo!

Saturday, April 28th, 2007
*GEOFF HARTWELL BAND* @ Katonah Grill 10pm
128 Bedford Road Katonah NY
Price: $5
The Geoff Hartwell Band's first gig at this local hot spot. Come on out and have a ball with us!

Last weekend they played our house for my birthday! It was great.

Geoff in the Journal News

My stepson, Geoff Hartwell was written up in The Journal News yesterday: Geoff Hartwell: A familiar ‘Stranger’

"It was very important to me that this album be a songwriter album rather than a shredded guitar album," says the musician. "I wanted this group of songs to really be groups of ideas and groups of emotional things that you, as a listener, can relate to."

Relating to music, as Hartwell phrases it, is exactly what he was raised to do.

Growing up in Pleasantville, music was a constant in his early years. Though his father worked in publishing, he was constantly bringing the sounds of such musicians as Chuck Berry into the home and often playing in local folk groups.

Because of his father's influence, Hartwell became not simply a student of music, but a devoted disciple before the age of 10.

"When he bought me my first electric, I was just gone," he says. "There was no turning back; there was no choice of what I could possibly do with my life."

Shortly after, by 11, Hartwell began playing locally with his father's folk ensemble. It was also around this time that he began to solidify his friendship with his lifelong friends and bandmates, J.J. Clark and Rich Kelly.

By his teenage years, Hartwell was playing every battle of the bands or open-mic night he could find. While still in high school, he gigged in renowned Manhattan clubs such as Kenny's Castaways, the Lion's Den and CBGB's.

"They didn't know how young I was, so we would get a gig at one of these places and they would be like, 'What the hell?' They would make me stand outside until it was time to play," he says.

Time for new cats

Cat & CantalopeOur last cat died in December following complications from cancer surgery. It is now nearly April and so we are really for one or more new cats. Our Best Cat Ever (who died of a stroke) in 2001 seemed to be a Maine Coon, so we have a mild preference for that breed because of disposition. Also we have a mild preference for fluffy cats with soft fur, since that's what we had for 15 years. Since it is easier to integrate a kitten into a household and modify its behavior, we have a preference for kittens. We have two kids in the house, one 9, one 4, both of whom have been raised with cats and love cats. Our cats have traditionally been indoor/outdoor cats, since we live away from main roads in an area with 1 acre+ zoning and lots of trees.

Geoff Hartwell's scheduled gigs for this week


From my stepson, Geoff Hartwell:

Howdy folks!

We got some great music coming up this week, with a SPECIAL ELECTRIC performance in New York City on Friday February 9th! (And some good news about Radio Play!)

Friday Feb 2nd 8pm
Geoff and Rich Acoustic at the Kittle House
This is an awesome place!!! Really great food and atmosphere. CRAZY extensive wine list and reasonable drinks.

Sat Feb 3rd 9pm
Geoff Hartwell with Richie Castellano (from Blue Oyster Cult)
Opus 465 465 Main St Armonk, NY 10504
465 Main Street, Armonk, NY 10504
Phone (914) 273-4676

The Tuesday Blues Jam at Jackson & Wheeler, of course!


317 E. Houston St. btw Ave B & C
Price: $5
Never seen the Band in New York City? HERE'S YOUR CHANCE!
This is our FAVORITE place to play in NYC. We'll be doing an EXTRA-LONG EXPLOSIVE ELECTRIC performance of new and old! A Funky east side hang that starts at 8 SHARP (get there early and have a drink!) and we're done by 10 and out on the town!



Be there or be square!

A 4-year-old talks about death.

With Elizabeth the fairy on our screened porch in Pleasantville, September 2005.

My four year old daughter just gave a lovely little speech. We were talking about how her middle name, Constance, was her deceased grandmother's name and she said:

I figured out that when people die, they still live inside you. And you can talk to them because they live inside your body, so I can still talk to Nannie.

Wise child.

After her grandmother died in the fall of 2005, when we were leaving the funeral home following the funeral, she said:

I have an idea. Why don't we go to Disneyland and get daddy a new mother?

Luckily, when we took her to Disney last summer, she didn't remember to shop for a new grandmother.

Photo: Elizabeth with her grandmother, September 2005.

A Robot Loose in the House: We are definitely living in the future.

A post-Christmas line just heard from my son in the kitchen: Mommy! The robot is drawing on the kitchen cabinets!

Needless to say, I was a little confused by this, but when I investigated, I found that the red metallic robot was indeed in the kitchen scribbling on the cabinets with a large piece of yellow side-walk chalk. This is definitely the future.

Will the robot be asking for its own room next? An is this an example of algorithmic content creation?


The Robosapien before Peter freed it from its box to roam the house.

My kids meet WolframTones 9/28/05

I did this YouTube video, My Kids Meet WolframTones, about a year ago and it never occurred to me to blog it. But now that everyone is covering their blogs with YouTube videos, perhaps it's time.


Here's what I said about it last fall:

After dinner this evening, I sat my son Peter, who has just started 3rd grade, down at my computer and let him play with Wolfram Tones for the first time.  The first interesting thing that happened was that my daughter Elizabeth, who turns 3 in October, started jamming to the WolframTones soundtrack on the toy piano in the living room. (I had gotten the video camera out to film Peter, and she started while I was getting set up.)

After about 10 minutes of fiddling, Peter came up with something he really liked.