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the hazzard of living

A friend came over my house this week and was completely aghast that I was letting Harvey play with some soy crayon rocks: non-toxic drawing tools about the size of a cherry and twice as long. So fearful for the life of my child was she that she contacted the manufacture and forwarded me the email, prefacing it with:

I felt I really needed to check out those rock crayons.  Even if they are non-poisonous, to my eye they looked like a choking hazard. I emailed the manufacturer and asked.  They say these crayons are for ages 3 and up.

That's funny, because I've met some 3 year olds and they don't need easy-to-hold won't-break-apart-in-your-mouth crayon substitutes. They just play with crayons.

Lenore Skenazy says it better in her book, but here's my quick take on the hazards of childhood.

Every year the number of children who chokes to death is in the hundreds. For the year 2000 it was 160 children ages 14 years or younger. I'm too lazy to find a more recent stat the doesn't float to the top of Google, but you get the idea.

The number of children in the US that year was 7.24 million. That puts the risk of your child dying "from an obstruction of the respiratory tract due to inhaled or ingested foreign bodies" at... wait, let me open up microsoft excel... at about one in 45 thousand. On the other hand, Harvey's lifetime risk of dying in a car accident is about 1 in 84.

But what can I do??? I have to get him to baby gymnastics!!!

There is a chance the Harvey could die from many things at many moments. Heck, the same is true for me or Dan or any of us - this life is a terminal condition after all, and none of us gets out alive.

Look, we keep the poisonous cleaners locked under our sink, we use car seats, and there's a gate at the top of the stairs. But we let Harvey play with dogs, sticks, Duplo legos (for ages 1.5 and up) and yes, crayon rocks. Because he's a little boy and what else is he going to friggin play with??? No really, because statistically, we're not likely to alter Harvey's risk profile very much by the sort of constant worrying that shuns inch-long crayons.

And there's another risk of fretting over crayons and hand sanitizer and strangers. We could very likely raise a child who views the world as a dangerous place, who fears people, fears change, fears new experiences. A child not very able to cope with life.

And life's too short for that. I'd rather let my one-year-old draw.

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biking the less-fun way

This week I was back to work, and so back to commuting on the bicycle. I am thankful that I don't have to do it pulling Harvey in the trailer, as much as I enjoy the extra exercise; in a bitter-sweet ceremony a week or two ago, the hitch was swapped over to Leah's bike and she is now the one who pulls him to the playground, the library, and the Whole Foods. I just go back and forth to work.

Not that that isn't exciting at times! So far, in just four days of commuting—I had today off, for that extra-long Labor Day weekend—I've encountered punk kids taking up the whole bike path, cross-country skaters swinging deadly steel-tipped poles as they swerved back and forth, and a car that tried to right-hook me twice in the space of a few hundred feet. Really! It had just barely passed me when it turned right onto a side street and I was only saved from having to brake suddenly by the fact that I was making the same right turn, and then I did have to brake suddenly when it turned right into a driveway a couple seconds later. No turn signal either time, of course—nor, I'm sure, any awareness that I was even there at all.

Good thing all those trips pulling Harvey over the summer made me extra-careful and oh-so-skillful! My sense of righteous indignation dates back much further, of course.

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biking law and praxis

Commenter Cindy points out that Massachusetts bike laws are friendlier to cyclists than ever before, which is of course very comforting. It's even better to see hordes of folks out on the bikes, as they were today: all sorts of folks on all sorts of bicycles. When drivers have lots of reminders that other forms of transportation exist they're more likely to look around a little bit before turning or pulling out; my careful study of human psychology tells me that actual bikes on the road will be more of a factor than a friendly legal climate. We can't even get more than one driver in four to stop for us at the crosswalk when we're on foot and pushing a stroller, and the state's crosswalk laws are hardly new or controversial.

Happily, I don't let it bother me much. When I'm on the street I behave like a vehicle, staying as far to the right as possible but not hesitating to move left before turning or to take the lane when necessary. I find that, with enough time spent out there on the roads, it's not even that terrifying: sure, I expose myself danger from the unaware—like the driver who prompted Cindy's comment—and the insane—like the gentleman who threw a cigarette at me a couple years ago—but most drivers are paying a modicum of attention and will not actually run you over should they happen to see you. In fact, in this case a certain amount of "aggressiveness" is safer than the caution exhibited by riders who aren't used to busy roads and who let themselves get into situations where they have to move across traffic from a virtual standstill.

Just as I don't rely on cycling-specific laws to protect me, I don't always pay the strictest attention to those that aim to regulate my behavior on the roads. As long as there are people saying that bikes don't belong out there with cars, I'm going to interpret traffic regulations liberally to keep myself safe (and moving fast!). I don't need to stop at all stop signs: with much better visibility and maneuverability than the driver of a car I can choose when it's safer to roll through. I can turn right on red even when the sign says otherwise. I can even ride on the sidewalk when that will keep cars from getting stuck behind me. Naturally, I only do any of those when conditions warrant. And hey, I've never caused, or even been involved in, an incident on the roadways! (spills on the ice don't count).

As I continue to ride almost every day, I do so in confidence that my skill and alertness, combined with the skill and alertness of most of the drivers out there, will keep me safe. And while it would be nice if everyone in a car could be aware of the legal rights of cyclists, I'd be content if they're just aware that we're there. Maybe even coming up on the right!

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labor day t-shirt

On Friday I decided that I wanted to make Harvey a very special t-shirt for labor day - something that would represent the hard-fought struggles of labor movements in this country. You know, the stuff we celebrate this weekend by giving everyone a day off... as long as you don't work in retail or food service.

I give you the labor day t-shirt:

the labor day t-shirt

labor unite!

Dan did the design, naturally, and I made the t-shirt and appliqued on the pieces. After I ironed on all the bits it looked so good, I liked it so much, that I couldn't bear the thought of any parts fraying in the wash. So I hand-embroidered around all the pieces. It was 11pm when I started. I went to bed very very late.

t-shirt with a raised fist

labor power

The t-shirt got a lot of positive comments at the weekend's BBQs, although we had to explain several times that the fist was black and not red because we're anarchists not communists. And yes, that may be confusing vis-a-vis black power, but no one would ever accuse this little toe-head of having very much black power.

power to the babies

so white his hair is yellow

Happy Labor Day!!!

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guess it's tuesday...

High point of the day: When Harvey played a game at the library making all the puppets kiss each other over and over again.

Low point of the day: When I had to hold Harvey on my lap while going number 2 because he wouldn't stop screaming and punching my legs if I put him down.

Parenting is a fickle mistress.

rotting our brains

Harvey was sick today so we cuddled on the couch and watch several episodes of my new favorite show, Phineas and Ferb. P&F is a cartoon made by Disney that is perhaps the funniest kids show in production today. I swear, every other line just about makes me laugh out loud. Check out a good example from this episode below:

Minute 1:45: "Happy passive aggressive relationship day? Is that today?"
"It's okaaay. You probably weren't going to get me anything anyway..."

Oh man, the whole thing is just so funny!

If you pressed play and were like, "what? why am I watching this?" then you're in good company. Dan doesn't see what I like about this show. He much prefers to watch Between the Lions during his Harvey cuddle time and get in some phonics training to boot. But does phonics training have cameos from punk bands and a platypus that fights a mad scientist? I think not!

Harvey is feeling much better this evening. I am diagnosing the days events as a toothache turned fever or a fluke 24-hour flu. Either way, we should be back to non-tv-related activities tomorrow.

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you know what else was collaboratively edited? the Bible!

It's the beginning of a new school year, so once again the fifth graders are being introduced to historiography—which is to say, being taught about "sources". Sadly, time does not permit the budding young scholars to investigate any topic more deeply than would be satisfied by a glance into their textbook, but form demands that they be taught at least two facts: that there are things called "primary sources", and that Wikipedia is not reliable. Naturally, the justification for this latter point is that "anyone can edit it".

You know that I think that's ridiculous. There are basically two reasons for there to be "false information" (quote-marked judiciously) on Wikipedia: vandalism and bias. Obviously, the first can't possibly be a problem in a traditionally-edited text, and so it is presumably the cause of teachers' concern. But really, how often is Wikipedia vandalized in a way that would trick even a fifth-grader into thinking that the vandalism was true encyclopedic content? If "ROSA PARKS WAS SO GAAY LOL!" makes it into a school project there are bigger problems than the student's choice of sources. Yes, we can imagine that there are people maliciously changing, say, the birth dates of obscure historical figures; but knowing that Ethan Allen was born in January instead of June is hardly vital to an understanding of the course of the American Revolution.

Plus, you may not be aware of this if you haven't actually read Wikipedia but there are some serious experts—and seriously dedicated people—posting things on that site. Anyone can edit, sure, but User:Magicpiano is going to edit a lot more often than any vandal, and he won't let any shit slip by that doesn't belong on that Ethan Allen page! Which is to say, obvious vandalism is generally dealt with instantly, and subtle vandalism will only be able to hang around on pages that no one is watching; pages that won't, most likely, be needed by fifth-grade researchers.

But what about bias? Surely the random... No, I can't even formulate a hypothetical that would make Wikipedia seem dangerously biased compared to any other historical source. Yes, I noticed recently that anarchists seem to be more active on Wikipedia than Marxists: witness the one-sided treatment dealt out to Hague Congress (1872). But the same research project also led me to A Concise History of the Russian Revolution, by Richard Pipes... who as it turns out was a Cold-War-era analyst for the CIA who argued that there could be no hope of detente with the totalitarian Soviet state. That doesn't make his book useless by any means, it just means that it won't be the only one I read on the subject. And how did I check on Richard Pipes, when I saw how many books he had written about Soviet Communism? I looked him up on Wikipedia, of course!

It isn't even as if that sort of bias is something that bothers fifth-graders—or their teachers, in fact—in the slightest. For the most part they limit themselves to the barest account of facts, and parrot those facts from whatever source they happen to find. Speaking as a historian, most things written for a fifth-grade reading level are, if nothing else, infected by the biases that are almost inevitable in that sort of simplifying and compressing. But that's a problem that is much too big to consider at the end of this already-long post, and one that has nothing to do with Wikipedia in particular.

One final point, just to drive home how much it bothers me to hear people complaining about the collaborative aspect of Wikipedia: Wikipedia is almost certainly the most reliable source about historical events on the internet. Yes, it's written an edited my many people, and you may not know who they are. But everything else on the internet is written by one person (well, one per page... you know what I mean!) and that person's motivations and biases, to say nothing of their actual level of knowledge, are just as opaque as those of the Wikipedia editors. School teachers can't say that kids shouldn't look things up on the internet—the internet is like all the rage these days, with the technology and the interfacing and everything—so they should lay off the Wiki-hate. And also consider getting a degree in history, but I understand if not everyone has the time for that.

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night rider

It may have been the super-warm temperatures that prevailed up until the beginning of this week that confused me, but it seems like dark is falling much earlier all of a sudden. Lights on inside at 6:30 with perfectly clear skies outside? How did this happen?! I suppose the equinox is only ten days away, but it's still a shock.

That being said, I did enjoy the first occasion I had in quite a while to employ the lights on my bike. It shows how hard-core I am, you know, setting out on a moonless night to get some milk from the store. I don't know if it's more or less hard-core than biking to work in a thunderstorm like I did on Wednesday; much of a muchness perhaps. And this evening only one car—pick-up truck, actually—offered to hit me, by trying to pull out of a side street without stopping. I was so surprised by the driver's failure to even pause that I would have been flattened had he not seen me and braked in time. I'll take the head-lamp next time: maybe if I shine it in people's eyes they'll notice me.

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no doctors for at least 30 days now

Harvey in the hay at Parlee Farms

big boy on a big bale

We went apple picking with friends this afternoon, on their excellent suggestion. Apples pick quick, so there was plenty of time to play in the hay, watch goats banging their heads together, and eat apple crisp with ice cream on top.

Harvey in the hay wagon with apples

bringing home the bounty

We hit up Parlee Farms for apples for the first time, and having only ever been there in berry season before I was astounded at the crowds. Their trees are all super-dwarf, so if any of us were above average height we could have picked even those apples up at the tops without any mechanical aids. We got cortlands and honeycrisps, passing up the other two options—macintosh and gala—this time. Harvey made sure that our half-peck made it back safely in the hay wagon, but all the excitement tired him right out. He fell asleep in the car, and didn't even manage to finish his third apple.

Harvey sleeping in the car holding an apple

just like snow white

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sleep cycles

We are sleep training Harvey. In order to get him to sleep through the night we have laid down the lay of NO NIGHTTIME NURSING between his evening feeding at 7:30 pm and his morning feeding, loosely defined as anytime after 6am, and which is currently defined at 6:00 ON THE DOT or 5:45 if the sun is up and I can't stand his screaming anymore. Harvey is still sleeping in the bed with us, so during his no milk tantrums he flails, kicks, or more often these days just crawls atop my chest, places his elbow on my larynx, and screams directly into my nasal cavity so that the sound reverberates all the way through my sinuses.

But at least he doesn't feel abandoned.

The method has actually worked over the past few weeks. He's pushed his morning tantrum time later and later - from 3am to 4am to 5 and this morning to 5:30. He's sometimes waking up earlier in the night, but he seems to go back to sleep with a little soothing or a diaper change if necessary. All in all I've been amazed by how quickly our portion of uninterrupted sleep jumped from three to five to seven hours. That alone is worth a few minutes of screaming tantrum.

On the other hand, after two weeks the tantrums are started to wear on me worse and worse. It's like I'm out of tantrum ignoring reserves and the moment I wake up I'm tense all over and grinding my teeth. This puts me into a very crumby mood for the morning. I seem to be able to recover by the time I'm done walking the dog, but I'm not exactly a wellspring of patience during the day. Which is frustrating, because I'm getting more sleep than I have in over a year.

Although it's hard to compare the value of short bursts of sleep interrupted by slightly uncomfortable nursing with the value of a long stretch of sleep instantly forgotten when you wake up to intense physical abuse that you can't reciprocate because the tyrant is only 15 months old.

six of one, half a dozen of the other?

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oh snap!

two versions of bicycle law on signs

sticker fight go!

So sometime in the spring some enterprising individual (or organization) put up stickers on the backs of many signs along the bike path in Lexington. Unlike the usual "stop snitching" messages or band logos, these stickers are reserved and official in appearance; also very large. This gives them the stamp of authority, especially when combined with their content, which reads in full:

BICYCLISTS MUST YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS

MASS. STATE LAW CHAPTER 85 SECTION 11

I was a little taken aback when I saw one of these stickers for the first time. I like to thing that we're all polite people, and resorting to legalism isn't necessary to keep cyclists from violent anti-pedestrian savagery. Also, I hate when people tell me what to do. Clearly I wasn't the only one in that latter category, because someone much more enterprising than me went so far as to put up (over the first sticker) a competing message. In a nice bright red, it reads:

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 85; Section 11

A person operating a bicycle on the sidewalk shall yield the right of way to pedestrians.

Yeah! That shows them! I'm glad that, here on the bike path, we can go back to shouting at walkers to get out of the way, and just flat-out ramming them if they're not quick enough! Wait, no one does that at all. Well, it's still nice to know the law is on your side if you decide you want to go that route.

Sarcasm aside, the second, redder sticker is technically more correct. It actually quotes the relevant statute, while the words—or indeed the sentiments—of the first are nowhere to be found anywhere in Chapter 85 of Massachusetts' General Laws. If you want to look for yourself, though, you should note that the the law in question is actually Chapter 85 Section 11B; Chapter 85 Section 11 proper says nothing about the subject at all, which quite confused me when I looked it up:

Section 11. Whoever violates an ordinance or by-law prohibiting persons from riding or driving at a rate of speed inconsistent with public safety or convenience may be arrested without a warrant by an officer authorized to make arrests and kept in custody not more than twenty-four hours, Sunday excepted; and within such time he shall be brought before a proper magistrate and proceeded against according to law.

Navigation on the malegislature.gov site (love that mal in there!) is so terrible that I never would have suspected an 11B existed, except for google: it was only a search for bicycle yield pedestrian site:http://www.malegislature.gov that led me to the real stuff. At least now I know where what looks like most of the bike laws are hiding!

So far only one of the original blue stickers has been covered. Will the red sticker vigilante strike again?!

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If you've been expecting an email from me this is why it's late

Since I transitioned from a full-time worker to a full-time mom and homemaker, some things have become easier and some things have become harder. It's been easier, for example, to vacuum the living room twice a week, to keep the laundry at a manageable level, and to make healthy food for lunch and dinner. It's been harder on the other hand to do anything involving the computer. Respond to email, download pictures, or, er, blog. These are near impossibilities unless I do them when Harvey is asleep. And he's not a big sleeper; 30 minutes to 1 hour for a nap, 1-2 extra hours at night before we go to bed... and I also need those hours for other things that Harvey can't be around. Like cooking, or unloading the dishwasher. Or, er, going to the bathroom in peace.

Which is not to say that I'm giving up blogging, only offering an excuse for the sporadic nature of my posting. I'd like to share much more about Harvey and his development. Like how he says a million words now, and a million more each day. He's totally a little toddler, a "no" machine with a will of iron. He loves dogs and balls and cookies and tea. He's worth giving up on email.

I was going to end this post with a cute picture of Harvey, but that involves 1) charging my camera, 2) downloading the pictures to my computer, which means 3) finding two separate cords in the mess that is my desk. So I give up. He's cute. Take my frazzled-ass word for it.

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23 months is too far apart for Irish twins... shoot!

So now seems about as good a time as any to make an announcement: we're pregnant! Harvey's little brother or sister will be arriving around the end of May 2011, God willing and the crick don't rise.

Actually, if the crick rises it won't be much of a problem either. We're planning a home birth again, so it's not like we have to GET anywhere.

Obviously, we are joyful and tired and giddy and frightened and amazed at our prowess for getting pregnant the moment we decide to. Indeed, this will be part of a future "talk" with Harvey. Watch out boyo, Archibald men have VERY potent seed.

Mostly, my predominating feeling, in addition to hating nausea, is that I like our family a lot and I'm psyched to make it bigger. Almost as psyched as I am to pull out all the baby clothes out of storage and sort them by size.... um, actually, more psyched about the former.

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distraction announcement

In what is surely the most momentous announcement on the blog this week, I am happy to tell you that we have switched to orange for fall. Better early than never, that's my motto. If any blue happens to be lingering about your browser, hold down shift and press the reload button. That is all.

today

I carried a plastic potty the size of my torso 3/4 of a mile to my house while holding the dog leash and the stroller handle in the other hand because someone was throwing out a perfectly good potty and eventually we'll need a potty.

Man! No one ever told me becoming an eco-friendly white-trash hippy would be so physically taxing! Well, I guess I should have imagined.

yackety yack. Don't talk back!

Harvey suffered through his 15-month doctors check-up today. The doctor asked me whether Harvey was saying any words and I was like, "Yeah... LOTS of them." He asked for some examples so I said, okay...

first there are the foods:
cracker, cookie, milk, tea, turkey, apple, nursing, more

then there are the things to play with:
ball, dog, tractor, car, phone, door, paper, momma, dadda

and the animals:
cow, pig, goat, bear, cat

and the orders:
up, down, no, NO!

At which point the doctor said, "Wow! That's a lot of words!"

And even that list is not nearly exhaustive. This morning Harvey pointed to an ad on the back of the economist and said "airplane" (sounded like "ayah-pain") which blew me away since that's an object he usually only sees in the sky. Also today he dropped his apple and said "apple down" which impressed me because it's almost a sentence.

And these are just the words he draws from memory unprompted, not including all the words he'll repeat when you say them first.

I think what I'm trying to say is, my child is brilliant.

On a more realistic note, Harvey has sunk down to 70th percentile in weight and 60th in height. I guess my children like to do most of their growing inutero and then take it easy for a few years after that. Which explains why I just polished off four cookies while writing this blog post. Or "cooo-keeee!!!!!" as Harvey would say.

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sticker shocker

The previously mentioned sticker wars have heated up some.

another, more angry sign

I sense some hostility.

Hey Stupid!

Wake up! Bicyclists must yield to pedestrians no matter where they ride. Read the laws fully, you obviously don't have a clue. Bicyclists must abide by all motor vehicle laws.

Signed,
Pedestrians Against Arrogant Bicyclists Who Risk Other People's Lives

That signature line totally looks like it should result in a cool acronym, like PEDAVENGER or something, but it doesn't. PAABWRPL? That's a lost opportunity.

It's late, and rather than taking time away from working on my own sticker I'll just say this: motor vehicles aren't allowed on the bike path. Where does that leave your logic now, PAAB?! (Can I call you PAAB for short?)

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go ahead, throw your vote away

Among the sites on the internet that I try and often fail not to visit is MetaFilter, "a community weblog whose purpose is to share links and discuss content that users have discovered on the web" (thank you, wikipedia). Twice in recent weeks political discussions on the site have turned to the 2000 election, and the role played by Nader voters in denying Al Gore the presidency. A majority of MeFites, as they're known, are fierce partisans for the Democratic party, and as such are virulently opposed to any criticism of the Democrats from the left; not because they disagree with the criticism, though they may, but because for them voting is purely a tactical game. Since no one other than Republicans or Democrats can win elections, they reason, a vote for anyone other than the Democrats is in fact a vote for the Republicans. And naturally, the notion that leftists (loosely defined) might contribute to Republican electoral successes drives them absolutely, frothing mad. Anyone who knows me very well will know that I think that whole argument is nonsense.

As it happens, I voted for Nader ten years ago. Since I live in Massachusetts it didn't matter, but as I would probably have voted for him in Florida too I should point out that in my case—and I imagine I'm not alone—I approached his campaign from the left rather than the right. Voting for him was tactical, to my mind: in every other presidential election of my adult life (all two of them) I had voted for some variety of socialist. In 2000 I just figured that, with Nader, there might be enough third party votes to make a difference, and I wanted to cast one of them. And guess what, I was right!

But aren't I sad, today, that Gore didn't win? Of course not. He may have been the more leftist candidate of the two put forward by the major parties, but to suggest that his views then had anything in common with mine would be ridiculous. The same is true today—to an even greater extent, if possible. At present the Democrats have become convinced that the country is largely conservative; either that or they're taking the votes of leftist voters for granted because they figure folks like our MetaFilter friends will vote for them no matter what they do. In any case, the result is that political discourse in this country is moving steadily rightward. Since I am in no way a conservative (at least when it comes to politics) I refuse to follow. I will vote my conscience and attempt to elect someone whose positions I actually agree with, at least in part.

As for helping the Republicans to victory when I dislike them a great deal more than I dislike the Democrats, I am soothed by the happy knowledge that the country gets what it wants and what it deserves. In my innocent Marxist-Leninist days I backed up agitators who argued against improving conditions in prisons on the grounds that those improvements would prevent the minority prisoners from overthrowing the machinery of the capitalist state that oppressed them. Though I no longer think, if I ever did, that Marx—much less Lenin—correctly analyzed either the problems or the solutions of the modern world, the idea of allowing a situation to progress to its logical conclusion without imposing any superficial palliative measures still holds a tremendous appeal to my anarchist mind. As I have mentioned, huge traffic jams fill me with a sort of glee as I consider the inevitable result of our reliance on the automobile. This is especially the case when I'm on my bike.

The analogy is perhaps apt. We are rather poor, and yet we do not receive any government assistance that would be improved under a Democratic administration or dis-improved under Republicans. The Democratic health care "reform", for example, is a useless disaster. We will continue to do our small part to try and improve society, and if society is more visibly broken and unjust than perhaps we'll have an easier time convincing people to try something different; just like being stuck in traffic every day might make them reconsider how they get around. And if it doesn't, hey, no harm done: the country will have the politicians that it wants, the ones people vote for. Far be it for me to try and subvert the will of the electorate.

Not that I'm entirely above the concern of the tactical-voting Democrat. I will be bitter, bitter if Obama isn't reelected in 2012, not because I like him for anything but his graphic design team and the fact that he managed to break the color barrier in the White House, but because watching Glenn Beck and his television audience crowing about it would make me very sad. Very very sad. But ideally politics, even presidential politics, is about policy rather than personality, and even in a close race I will feel obliged to vote for my policies rather than against the "other side's" personalities. Is that fair?

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Nausea

I am in hell. No wait, that doesn't make sense. How come I am in hell yet I want to kill myself? I am in LIVING hell. There, that makes sense.

No, let's start again. How can I say this in a way that's humorous and enlightening? Just because you have a blog doesn't mean anyone wants to hear how you have buyers remorse about getting knocked up because you can't lift hour head off the friggin pillow without getting the spins.

No, let's start over. I'm sick but it'll only last another month-and-a-half. Not too much longer. Only six more weeks of being a terrible mother and human being. Actually, that doesn't sound too heartening.

Eyes on the prize, I'm told - imagine your cute new baby. This of course from people who love newborns. All I can imagine is the first month of Harvey's life - how it was the absolute worst month of my life — trying to do an infinite amount of hospitality while totally exhausted and in pain — a million people invading my home and then complaining to me about the level of cleanliness — Did you KNOW there is CLEAN laundry and DIRTY laundry mixed together on the STAIRS???? — (Oh gosh, that's totally worth risking more tearing to go fix) — people calling at all hours of the day and then calling back twenty minutes later angry "WHY DIDN'T YOU PICK UP THE PHONE WHEN I CALLED YOU???" — Everyone with their three thousand pounds of contradictory advice confirming my hunch that it's impossible to be an adequate mother.

How do people do this over and over again? How do people do this ever? I'd gladly go through childbirth times four to get out of nausea times two months.

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A point of clarification...

I deal very poorly with illness. Worse with drawn-out illness. I can't bear incapacitation. I despair over my life derailed by fruitless hours spent lying in bed, praying for relief. Even if it's just a week with the flu, I turn into Emily Dickinson all of a sudden.

It's very embarrassing.

As always whenever I get sick, Dan has been a saint this past week. He's picking up all the slack with the cooking and cleaning, and also watching Harvey whenever he's home so I can lie down.

Life isn't so bad. I have a wonderful husband; I'm getting 10 hours of sleep a night. I'm still making it to the playground each day. It's only in my mind I feel like Sisyphus, pushing a giant spinning space-training machine up an endless hill.

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Harvey in the kitchen

Harvey was a great help with making dinner tonight. He held the basket for me while I picked the herbs and then helped chop them, he squeezed some of the tomatoes, he stirred the sauce, and he helped taste both the sauce and the spaghetti. Tasted and tasted, in fact: my little assistant wasn't much good for stirring once he realized that tasting might be part of the process. He was pretty cute, standing on his high-chair for the necessary altitude to reach the counter, missing only an apron to be the perfect picture of the budding chef. Not that we tend to wear aprons around here; I just noticed the tomato stains on my shirt from when he splashed me with a little over-enthusiastic stirring.

As impressive as it is to have a 15-month-old who's that good in the kitchen, I think you should be even more in awe of us for growing almost all the ingredients for the spaghetti sauce. Admittedly, animals keep eating the roma tomatoes out of the garden just as they turn ripe, so even though it ought to be prime tomato season with us busy canning for the winter and making fresh sauce with the spares, I had to break open a can of California tomatoes. But the onion, I grew that! Not to mention the parsley, basil, oregano, and rosemary that I threw in. Why those four herbs? Um, because those are four of the five that we grow around here! (not counting chives, naturally). I only left out the sage because I didn't think it would go.

Alright, so the dinner production isn't actually that exciting. Still, it's nice to realize that even though I count this gardening year as yet another failure thanks to the drought and predation from small animals and under-fertilization, we still managed to produce plenty of edibles. If I'd thought of it, I could have grated some carrots for the sauce: there's still plenty of them left in the ground, of varying sizes and degrees of edibility. I just can't wait until next season when, in addition to doing all the cooking, Harvey is going to be able to do some of the grunt work in the garden. Time he pulled his own weight around here! I make a pretty good overseer, I think.

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get 'bent

I've been seeing a whole lot more "non-traditional" cycles out there on the roads lately. More tandems, more single-speeds, and especially more recumbents. So much so that the other morning at work I was sufficiently curious to google "why a recumbent"—in quote marks, of course, because I wanted to hear how people answered that question in particular. You know the world will ask!

Apparently, the answers are comfort, fun, safety, and speed (source). Critically, looking cool—or even not looking a little ridiculous— is nowhere to be found in the propaganda, but cylists who favor recumbents are clearly above such peripheral concerns as outward appearance. And the other points are debatable, at least. For my part, I don't find an upright bike at all uncomfortable (though I never tried to ride 300 miles in 24 hours neither), my kind of fun riding wouldn't be possible on a recumbent, and I have never reached a speed where I "worry about flying over the handlebars" if I try to stop, something that is apparently a concern of many recumbent fans. As for safety, the pro-recumbent articles are mostly pointing out that recumbents aren't as dangerous as you think in traffic; but I was a little concerned to read that while recumbents may be low to the ground, you shouldn't worry because their freak factor keeps you safe:

Most drivers are blind to ordinary bikes, but that WTF reaction to them works in your favour - most drivers slow down far more, and give me much more room, than on a conventional bike. (source)

If that's all it takes to be safe, I'll just wear a gorilla mask when I'm cycling in traffic and I'll be as safe as can be!

In all seriousness, I don't think the height issue is actually a problem. If a driver can't see something as big as a bike that's three or four feet tall, they're probably not going to notice a five-foot tall upright rider either. Bike defensively! Plus, there are always those awesome orange flags like the one we rock on Harvey's trailer. And I recognize that the aerodynamic efficiency of recumbents can make a huge difference in headwinds or at speed. And, as I realized when talking about all this with Leah, the only reason I think recumbent cyclists look funny is because they depart from the norm; impartially considered, all cyclists are probably a little silly-looking.

Nevertheless, you will never see me on one of those awkward machines: I'm too cool for anything but my REI mountain bike with commuter tires, fender, and dork rack. At least until I turn fifty and grow a beard.

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one man's trash

I hate throwing anything away. Now, by that I don't mean that I have all kinds of junk that I can't bear to part with—true as that may be!—but that I can't toss anything into the trash can without picturing it sitting in a landfill for the next couple hundred years. Just now it was a baking powder container, lacquered cardboard and metal and dusted with baking powder. Could it have been recycled? Who knows. Orange juice cartons, ditto.

A couple days ago I read an internet discussion about whether tossing your apple core out the car window is littering. The consensus was that of course it was, because having a decaying apple core sitting on the ground for the length of time it would take to disappear—months, perhaps, or even years—would either uglify the property or upset the ecological balance of the area. There's something to that argument. And yet, when apple cores are disposed of "properly", swathed in plastic trash bags and entombed in landfills, they won't decompose for decades.

I don't know, I'm sure. Obviously, we can't all throw our apple cores in the same non-designated spot. But since that's not happening, I think I come down on the side of natural rather than official disposal; as long as it's unobtrusive, anyways. Happily, we can dispose of all the apple cores we want here on our own property without them entering the waste stream. That means we manage to only put out one or two 13-gallon bags of trash a week, which is perhaps acceptable if not superlative or noteworthy. And we could do better with a proper composting setup. Tissues, for example, don't need to go to the landfill. Maybe we can work on that as cold season approaches! I, um, think I need to talk to Leah about it before I take any drastic steps, though.

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