Happy 2012!

Well, Joe and Amy, my two older children, are finally quiet in bed after staying up to welcome in the new year. My younger son Josh gave out around 10, and my youngest, Lauryn, made it to 11. Of course, the four dogs zonked out as soon as the food stopped flowing.

I’ve taken a hiatus from blogging during a really busy fall semester–lots of work projects going on in addition to my regular teaching load, and the kids had a busy fall school schedule with homework, projects, and performances. We stuck around town this year for Christmas, and I’ve been slowly “rediscovering” our house, getting caught up on laundry and clearing out the clutter that accumulates over a semester. There have been a lot of topics I’ve wanted to write about, but just haven’t had the time. I’m hoping to get back into a regular shedule of posting in 2012.

For a quick snapshot, here’s what I’m watching and reading:

Book–The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach. A wonderfully written first novel, sort of about baseball, mostly about life. Funny and poignant.

Movies–I’m on a Martin Scorcese kick these days. Watched The Aviator and Gangs of New York on DVD and saw Hugo over Thanksgiving. Love his eye–the guy just knows how to tell a story in pure cinematic language. Saw Hugo with the kids and was impressed with how riveted they were to the Harold Lloyd sequences: good film doesn’t have to have lots of special effects; intelligent humor will grab an audience every time. I also just watched Midnight in Paris and Beginners and liked both.

TV–I finally decided to sample Downton Abbey on Netflix and ended up watching all seven episodes of Season One in a single day. The multi-layered plot involving multiple social levels hooked me immediately. I also got interested because I’m not as well-versed in the years leading up to World War I as I’d like to be. The series begins the day after the sinking of the Titanic and ends with Britain declaring war on Germany. Season Two starts up this month and covers the war years.

Oh, and I’ve been playing on the Wii a lot in the past few days with the kids–getting creamed mostly but having fun.

Life imitates Art

I recently had to put the seven-year-old into time-out for a minor infraction.  While child #1 was still sitting in one corner of the kitchen, the eleven-year-old also earned a time-out.

As I settled child #2 into a separate corner, child #1 looks over with an expression straight out of a 40s gangster movie and says,

“So, what are you in for?”

Irrational Optimism?

By TALI SHAROT
Published: May 14, 2011
Why are college grads irrationally optimistic about the future?

I also read this column today in The New York Times, which talks about the human habit of embracing optimism in the face of pessimistic statistics.  I found it especially interesting, given that a recent class of mine read Candide, or Optimism, by Voltaire. Candide  is itself a satiric reflection of the philosophical optimism popularized at the time by Gottfried Leibniz.

2010 in review

I haven’t posted much in the last month–I’ll have  a few thoughts about the Christmas holidays in the next few days.

In the meantime, check out some of the more popular posts from this past year.  The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s an overall summary:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire! (We all know how accurate the Blog-Health-o-Meter is.)

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2010. That’s about 3 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 33 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 40 posts. There were 35 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 13mb. That’s about 3 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was May 27th with 273 views. The most popular post that day was Running with scissors, glasses, and dogs.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, healthfitnesstherapy.com, slashingtongue.com, twitter.com, and en.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for c. gobin wordpress, site:garaborn.wordpress.com garaborn.wordpress.com, c. gobin wordpress running with scissors, site:garaborn.wordpress.com c. gobin homepage wordpress, and josh gobin.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Running with scissors, glasses, and dogs May 2010

2

Happy Birthday, “Breathless.” May 2010

3

Joe Crosses Over! May 2010

4

When a third of the family goes to camp June 2010
1 comment

5

My response to Jacques Steinberg’s column May 2010

Running with scissors, glasses, and dogs

Tomorrow I have another date with Chad. While you’re lowering your eyebrows, let me explain that Chad is the optician I have gotten to know personally over the last year.  You could say Josh brought us together.   OK, lower your eyebrows again–Josh is my six-year-old son, who was diagnosed with a lazy eye three years ago.

In those three years, Josh has gone through four pairs of glasses (I think. . . . Could be five).

His prescription hasn’t changed four times.

Pair #1 fell victim to being pair #1: taken off 15 times in 10 minutes,thrown across a room with dramatic flair (he was 3), and eventually found by one of our dogs.  A dog who likes plastic.

Pair #2 was purchased while Pair #1 was still somewhat wearable, so for a short time we had a “back-up” pair.  I don’t know about your experience with “back-up” glasses, but I believe there is a corollary to Murphy’s Law: the speed with which an item is lost is multiplied by the number of replacement items kept on hand.  Also, the item which is in better condition will be lost first and will stay lost until someone or something . . . say, a plastic-loving dog, stumbles upon it.

I don’t remember much about Pair #3, except that one of the lenses kept popping out.  Keep in mind that, with Josh’s lazy eye, we are patching the good eye to make the weak one stronger.  This means that, while paying for two lenses, we have really only been using one (I looked but couldn’t find monocles in the kids’ section).  I offer this information for you to consider as you speculate as to which of the two lenses kept popping out, eventually becoming a milk bone.

It was during #3 that I met Chad.  Before then, I kind of hoped I would never get the same optician twice, since I was feeling somewhat embarrassed to bring mangled pieces (in a stylish Versace case, mind you), with the hopes that someone could wave a wand over them, say “Reparo,” and we would get a few more months’ reprieve.  But Chad was just so darned cheerful, almost as if he welcomed the challenge.  After the third time, we were on a first name basis.  He was a like a friendly neighborhood bartender; I’d come in, and he’d say, “The usual?”

So pair #4.  What can I say?  I got lax and overconfident.  After months of pulling in the driveway at the end of the day and saying, “Hand them over,” I thought we had established the importance of knowing at all times where they were: either very high up or on his head.  Then today came.  A sunny, beautifully warm, May Kentucky day.  The backyard called.  The swingset called.  The hose with five different spray settings called.  All I can figure out is that, somewhere between playing in the mud puddle and eating pizza, the glasses got left on the patio table.  The same patio to which the dogs were consigned while we ate.  I found the glasses later, temples chewed, one lens popped out (yes, that lens).  They are now in that same Versace case, awaiting another “adjustment.”

IMAG0069

We’ll see.

Cleaning up on Saturdays

WARNING: the following contains a fair amount of griping and moaning.  I’ve edited out objectionable language.

I remember Saturdays growing up being a rather calm affair.  Waking up relatively early to watch cartoons most weeks, except for the occasional attempt at sleeping in, which was usually interrupted by my dad standing at the end of the bed, waiting for a few minutes and then exclaiming, “you gonna sleep your life away?”  Apparently, there was much to be lost by 8:00 am.

Fast forward forty-five years.  At 6:30 the dogs begin their day, which sets the five-year-old in motion.  One might think she’d simply go out to the family room, turn on the tv, and entertain herself for a half hour while I get my eyes open.  And, in fact, she’s happy to do that, as well as helping herself to a jar of peanut butter, which she’s happy to share with the dogs.  In other words, sleeping in at this point, if possible, is not advisable.

Melissa does most of the cooking around here, but Saturdays are pancakes or waffles a la Dad.  Things move relatively smoothly through this phase, as long as I don’t get too much “help.”  Then comes the dreaded phrase, “ok, guys, it’s time to pick up the house a bit.”  Suddenly, it appears as if I am the only who lives in this house, since the air is filled with rhetoric straight out of the courtroom or negotiating table: “I did not play with that,” “she’s not helping,” “I will clean up this half of the room because that’s the only place I was.”

At which point Dad begins to turn a bilious shade of green, his biceps and chest begin expanding, and the buttons pop off his shirt.  I think of all those helpful lists of house rules  the supernanny claims does the trick, and I cast a resentful glance at the copies of Real Simple lying around: “De-clutter in 15 Minutes!” “Organizing that works!”  These articles always feature some Nordic-looking mom sitting in an all-white kitchen with a bowl of fresh lemons on the counter, while her surely-drugged, J. Crew-dressed kids bake cookies on their own and help each other with their homework.  If there are pets, they are busy wiping their own feet before coming in.

I have yet to see a picture featuring Legos strewn on the floor, a cute beagle chewing a Croc, while a kindergartner with a sticky face eats dog food out of the pantry.  I’m not saying any of that happens around here, of course, just that I never see it in a magazine.

So, after getting thirty minutes of straightening out of them (if I’m lucky and the stars are aligned), chaos resumes.  What keeps me off the ledge are moments of seeing them play well together, such as Joe trying to show Josh how a game on Wii works, or Amy challenging Lauryn to a game of arcade ball in the hallway.  Maybe we can have a fire later; I have some magazines that will work well to get it started.