Wiper blades

Okay, I know this is trivial, but I bought some new wiper blades yesterday and they are so frickin’ cool! They were kinda expensive… $20 each (the basic ones are like $6), but these Bosch blades are designed to appear like a single flexible unit. They don’t have any brackets. It’s like a wand of rubber. Link

They perfectly conform to the windshield, and they even have this little cap that encapsulates the attachment arm.

They are just too cool. And they work great too.

This isn’t an ad, it’s just a really cool, really well designed thing I came across.

Wiper blades have made my day.

Kids bounce

Cynthia and I took Sammy to this park this evening. It was chilly and we (that is, Sammy and us) had the requisite standoff about wearing a coat. We finally settled on a fleece with a yellow slicker overcoat. I swear, we should use three-year-olds for work stoppage negotiations. They are intractable. Although I would guess they might crack under the offering of chocolate milk and cookies.

Anyway, we went to the park and had some fun. Sammy, much like me, isn’t exactly the social type. She’d rather play with people she already knows. Since her mummy and daddy were the only ones she knew, we became her default playthings.

So, we played hide and seek, tag, etc. As we were leaving, I was racing Sammy down the park. We were supposed to touch four trees in a row.

I gave her a two-tree head start and then took off. I touched the first tree, then the second. As a bore down on the diminutive three-year-old, she looked back to see where I was. As she did, she veered into my running lane. I tried to jump over her, but as she teetetered back and forth, she pinballed off my thigh. She started to go down, so I contorted my body backwards and tried to pick her up as I fell. But I couldn’t maintain my balance. She landed on her face and skidded forward. I bounced off her and fell on my shoulder.

Cynthia started shouting at me. I bounced up and picked up a dirty and stunned Sammy. Three, two, one… wahhhhhh!

As Sammy screamed into my ear and tears streamed down her cheeks, I reassurred her that everything was okay. Cynthia calmed down once she realized Sammy wasn’t broken.

By the time we walked the block and a half home, Sammy was ready to go back to the park. That’s my girl!

Fresh bread

One of my favorite things about colder weather is how much more enjoyable it is to cook, since I don’t mind heating up the house by running the oven.

Today is bread day. Sammy helps me measure and then it’s the smell of fresh bread all afternoon. Is there anything better?

Walk for the homeless

So yesterday I took Sammy on a walk for the homeless here in D.C. Because we did it, Fannie Mae contributed $100 toward the cause.

Sammy asked what we were doing. When I explained homelessness to her — “some people don’t have a place to sleep, so they sleep outside on the sidewalk” — she just had this sad, puzzled look on her face.

I don’t understand why my walking 5K helps the homeless. To point, as we walked, a homeless guy was panhandling in the middle of the march. Nobody gave him any money. Stacks of bottled water, for use by the marchers, sat shrinkwrapped on the mall. I can only assume the unused water will go to a shelter.

All the money that goes into planning the event, I’d rather that simply go to the cause. It seems like a waste to me.

This morning I woke up early to go grocery shopping. I arrived at Whole Foods about 10 minutes before it opened. While waiting, a homeless guy asked me for money for food. I said no. Then looking at all the shiny organic food awaiting me in the store, I changed my mind and handing him $5. “For food,” I told him.

Actually, the real reason I gave it to hime was so I stopped feeling like a hypocrit. Sigh.

I’ve got a feeling…

Over the last few months, Sammy has been “hearing” the radio more and more. We’ll be driving along and all of a sudden from the back seat I’ll hear, “this week”?!?! For a moment I’m confused, and then I realize, she’s just repeated the last clearly enunciated words that came through the radio. She repeats them as a loud question, as if she were in disbelief.

She’ll do it again and again and again. It’s quite funny and we make a little game out of it. I’ll do one — “in Iraq”!?!?!?! and then she’ll do one: “blue state”!?!?!?!

As I drove Sammy to school this morning, I set my iPod to shuffle through The Beatles. Sammy and I continued our game as The Beatles played “Let it be” and “Taxman.” And then “I’ve got a feeling came on.”

“Good time”?!?!?!

“Socks up”!?!?!?!

“Wet dream”?!?!?!

Ooops.

Mmmmm…

I’ve been in several meetings lately where someone has uttered the phrase, “Hot topics.” Whenever I hear it, I start quietly singing the “hot pockets” jingle for the gooey microwaveable stuffed snack:

Official site | Wiki entry

Bad dog!

So, yesterday I told Cynthia that I’ve been passing on the story about our friends’ dog. That’s when she said, “Oh, it wasn’t their dog, it was a friend of THEIRS… in BOSTON.”

That’s a BIG red flag. So I googled the story. Sigh: Among the many results.

Boy, do I feel stupid! (Still a funny story, though…)

Kitty cats aren’t for stickers

Today is voting day. This morning I took my daughter to the polling place, which is in a church right across the street. It’s kind of fun just walking across the street to go vote. Every time I do it, I feel kind of special, even though the general elections in D.C. are anti-climatic. Since D.C. is 90 percent Democratic, all of the races are usually decided in the primaries.

Anyway, Samantha came with me for the first time. She asked what we were doing and I told her we were choosing the people who help run the city and the country. I’m sure she didn’t quite understand, but that’s okay.

When I first started voting in Washington, I was surprised by the process. The first step is to tell the poll workers my name. They look it up in a book and ask me to sign it. No ID or anything. Then I write my name on a little card and hand it to another poll worker. In years past, that poll worker would hand me a paper ballot and direct me to the “machines.” Recently, though, I’m given a choice: paper or touch-screen. Easy choice: paper. I’ll explain in a moment.

Anyway, I took the paper ballot, walked over to the little stands and used a standard non-technical pencil to fill in broken arrows. Then I feed the ballot into an optical scanner.

As I did all this, Samantha played with Lamby and ambled around my legs. It wasn’t until I got my “I voted” sticker, that she perked up. “I want a sticker!”

“Please,” I reminded her.

“Daddy, please I want a sticker!”

I asked the poll worker for another sticker and she gladly handed me another. Sammy put it on Lamby’s chest.

When I used to go to the polls with my mom, I remember the big machines with curtains and levers and such. It seemed so dramatic! So when I became a voter myself and used the paper-and-pencil system in D.C., it seemed so backwards.

But in recent years, I’ve changed my mind. The paper ballot is so easy. Just use a pencil to fill in a broken arrow. Mark the ballot directly. Use a scanner to count the marks. How simple is that?

The touch-screen systems are dangerous. They might work perfectly, but there’s no accountability. I can’t log in later to see how it recorded my vote. Print-out receipts are meaningless. The computer can record a vote for candidate A, and print out a receipt showing that I voted for candidate B. And in most states, recounts can rely only on the actual ballots, not paper receipts. So they are dangerous because it requires blind-faith trust. And that’s not what democracies are built on. Democracies require accountability.

So thinking about it now, D.C.’s system actually seems near perfect. The only system I’ve heard that’s better is to use a touch-screen system to print the actual ballot. Then the voter checks that filled-out paper ballot to make sure it is correct. If it’s not, shred it and start over. If it is, the voter submits it to an optical scanner to count it. It’s something University of Maryland professor Avi Rubin describes on a recent Science Friday.

The last time I voted, in the September primary, I noticed our Delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, using the touch-screen booth. I wanted to go up to her and say, “Stop! This is a bad a idea!” But I didn’t.

Anyway, I hope as a country we can move to something like what Avi Rubin describes. It’s so much more sensible and puts all this nonsense behind us.

So after voting, I guided Sammy back to our house. Once inside, I gathered my stuff for work and her stuff for school, still thinking about voting. Then I noticed one of our cats sporting an “I voted” sticker. It was time to move on to more pressing concerns.

“Sam, kitty cats aren’t for stickers.”

Good dog!

My wife, Cynthia, took our daughter to a friend’s house for a playdate today and came home with a great story. Our daughter and the other little girl go to the same school, so they like to get together on the weekends to play dress-up and dolls and such. Anyway, my wife returns, laughing as she enters the house. “I have got to tell you this story,” she says.

The parents of my daughter’s friend had recently been away on vacation and had hired a young graduate student to dogsit in their absence. They had two dogs: both big, friendly, and getting older. One of them was not so well.

Sadly, during the vacation, one of the dogs died. The grad student called the homeowners and told them the news. That’s okay, the mom said. We knew he was getting old, we’re just sorry you had to be there. Could you take him to the vet and leave him there to be cremated? The grad student said she would.

Problem was, the grad student didn’t have a car. And she didn’t have anything big enough to use to carry the dog to the vet. She looked around the house and found a big old suitcase. That would have to do.

She packed the dog’s body into the suitcase and lugged it to Metro. Now, this dog was big — 80 to 100 pounds big. The grad student didn’t weight much more herself. So she struggled with it all the way there; down the escalator and aboard the train.

When she got to her stop, she started carrying the suitcase toward the escalator. She labored with it, wondering how she would manage to get it up the stairs, when a man came up to her offering help. She gladly accepted. What a relief, she thought, not to have to carry it up by herself.

What you got in here? he asked.

Um, school stuff. Books, laptop, papers, she lied. What could she say? Oh, I have the stiff body of somebody else’s dead dog! No, that wouldn’t do. He bought it and helped her to the top of the escalator. Then, still holding the suitcase, he took off.

The grad student stood there, frozen. A stranger had just stolen a dead dog. Only he didn’t know it. He thought he snagged a pricey laptop and expensive school books. She didn’t know what to do. “Hey, that’s not what you think it is! It’s just a dead dog!” No, that wouldn’t work.

After the shock wore off and the man had disappeared, she went back to the house and called the dog’s owners to tell them what had happened. The poor grad student was apologetic, but the owners understood. Once the news settled in, they all just wished one thing: that they could have been there when the thief opened the bag.

What’s blood?

Recently, my wife and I noticed a little blood on our daughter’s clothes.

“Sammy, you’ve got blood on your clothes!”

“What’s blood?” she asked.

Uh, good question. Hard question. How do explain blood to a three-year-old?

“It’s the liquid inside your body, honey.”

“Oh.” She thought about that for a minute. “Why?”

“Well, blood goes all around your body, delivering oxygen to your fingers, your toes, your eyes and ears,” I answered, as if that would clarify things. She looked at me.

“Put your hand on your chest, like this,” I said, as I placed my palm over my heart.

“I don’t want to!” she said.

“It’s okay, I just want you to feel your heart. You’ll feel it pumping your blood around your body.”

“Okay, daddy.” She touched her chest. “I want to play a differnet game now.”