Monday, April 29, 2013

Rainbows and Unicorns

I learned a new word last week:  spectroscopy.  Son was invited by his teacher to attend the Spectroscopy Society Banquet in May.  We discussed it at dinner, of course.

Youngest Daughter:  What is spectroscopy?

Me:  It is not colonoscopy.

Son:  Spectroscopy is the study of rainbows.

Youngest Daughter:  And unicorns?
(Of course, rainbows go with unicorns!)

Son:  No.

Youngest Daughter:  What is the study of unicorns called?

Son:  Theology.

Youngest Daughter:  Why did Son say that theology is the study of unicorns?

Me:  I don’t know!  There are no unicorns in the Bible.

Youngest Daughter:  The Bible could do with some unicorns.

I told my husband about this conversation, and he decided to search on Google.  Not for spectroscopy, but for unicorns in the Bible.  It turns out that unicorns are in the Bible!  In the King James Version, anyway.  It’s authorized, so it must be true.   

Locations of biblical unicorns – Numbers 23:22,  Numbers 24:8, Deut 33:17, Job 39:9-10, Psalm 22:21, Psalm 29:6, Psalm 92:10, Isaiah 34:7.

The Hebrew word for ‘unicorn’ is translated as ‘wild ox’ or ‘rhinoceros’ in every other translation. 

I could have asked Google about spectroscopy, but it’s much shorter to ask my son. “What good is spectroscopy?” I asked.  He replied, “Well, you can discover things with it.” 

“Like what?” 


I know that Helium is good and discovered already, so I asked my husband, who gave me a lengthy informative explanation but it was after 11 p.m. so I don’t remember much.  It has to do with flinging parts of molecules around and creating a spectrum, which then reveals rainbows and unicorns. 

Science is so beautiful!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Poetry month celebration

A few days ago, Green Girl in Wisconsin reminded us that April is poetry month.  O frabjous day!  Check out the Pablo Neruda poems she posted.

I don’t know a whole lot about poetry, but I do have some favorites.  I usually say my very favorite poem is The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats, but around here, the most commonly referenced poem is this one:

            This Is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

            William Carlos Williams

I first found this poem in my Norton Anthology of Poetry, a book I have only because I was fortunate enough to hang around with a bunch of English majors in college. When I was young and sincere and trying to learn guitar, I put these words to a tune.  It was an earnest and spare song with harmony consisting of the four chords I had learned to play on the guitar. The world is lucky that I can’t find it and that I gave up trying to play guitar.

Now that I am older, this poem annoys me with its lack of punctuation.  Perhaps it just balances out my overuse of punctuation.  Nevertheless, I do feel the poem is complete.  It reminds me of my son’s English teachers who would always respond to his spare prose on a written assignment with “I need more.”   Why?  Son answered your question (in full sentences, with punctuation!).   i wonder if Billy Carlos Williams' teachers would have asked for more verbiage.

The Common Household finds no earnestness, but rather, high spoofability, in this poem, especially when I am always unwittingly saying, “Who ate the ____ that I was saving for dinner?!” 

Here’s a variation written by Oldest Daughter when she was 12:

Yesterday, I broke the piano that you had been saving to teach with.
I’m sorry, but I was practicing karate.
I’d regret it, but it was the perfect target.

And I offer you this:

                        I have spoofed
The poem
Which was in my
Norton Anthology of Poetry

And which
You were probably
For English class

Forgive me
It was so,

It is probably wrong of me to post this on Shakespeare’s birthday, but this is just proof that April is, in fact, the cruelest month.  

Do you have a favorite poem?  A favorite Earth Day Cake?

It was Earth Day yesterday.  Here is Youngest Daughter's
Earth Day Cake.  It has nothing to do with this post.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dress code

Last week my son went on the school band trip.  They went to a beach town, so you know the trip was full of scholarly and serious musical activities.  One of the activities on the band trip was a cruise.  A very scholarly cruise, no doubt.

Before the trip, Son got an e-mail with instructions about the cruise.  He said, “Mom, it says here that appropriate dress for the cruise is ‘slacks and a polo shirt.’  What is that?”

I said, “Slacks are pants that are nicer than cargo pants or jeans.  They don’t have to be as nice as the pants that go with your suit, but if you don’t have anything besides cargo pants you’ll have to take your suit pants.  A polo shirt is a shirt with a collar and three buttons going down.  If you don’t have one, find a shirt with a collar and without words on it.”

Son:  “Why are they called ‘slacks’?”  

I did not have an answer for that, but I said, “Maybe if you washed and ironed a pair of cargo pants that is not all raggedy, they would be sufficient.  Barely.”   This is an unfair request for me to make, because I never iron anything.  It is my 11th commandment.

I was about to say he should call Dad and ask to borrow a polo shirt, but Son’s next utterance took us in a different direction.  “Can I use the car?”

Me:  “Where will you be going?”

Son: “Around.  Here and there.” 
Me:  “Be back by 5:30 so I can take Youngest Daughter to Hebrew School on time.”

Reader, he went shopping for clothes.  Progress is being made.  Perhaps soon we will be ready to dine with the queen.  Or even take a cruise with the queen!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why I am embarrassed

I am embarrassed to have to say this, but I am the citizen of a nation which could not pass watered down, basic, namby-pamby legislation to require background checks for gun purchases.  

Come on, Senators. You can do better than this.

Back in February I wrote to the Distinguished Gentleman from Pennsylvania, my senator, asking for more extensive legislation on gun control, and expected nothing to come of it, because the few times I have written to politicians, that’s what I have gotten.  I was pleasantly surprised (shocked is more like it, actually) when he and Sen. Manchin from our neighboring state put together at least something.

I am not against citizens lawfully owning guns. My son is eager to go to a shooting range next weekend with his Scout troop, and I am fine with that, even pleased with that.   In many areas a gun is necessary for self-protection, because law enforcement is too far away or too understaffed to respond in a timely manner – I understand that.  But I do know that allowing people to buy a gun without checking out whether they have a criminal record is just lunacy.  For God’s sake, I practically have to fill out a police report just to buy certain over-the-counter medicine.  Yes, it’s true that rigamarole to buy pseudoephedrine doesn’t prevent every single meth head from getting his hands on the stuff, but it makes it a whole lot harder.  Same thing goes for background checks on gun purchasers.

The reason we have come to this ludicrous situation is because gun manufacturers and their money have a stranglehold on our legislators.  Fifty-four senators had the guts to vote against that power.  Forty-six were cowards who voted based on fear-mongering and lies.

My thoughts are not primarily in response to the “crazed-guy-with-gun” events that get so much newsplay.  People are being gunned down every day in cities around our country, with very little outcry.  I sadly suspect our citizenry’s apathy is because both the perpetrators and victims of those crimes often have dark skin.  It’s true that I live far away from that scene, so I don’t speak of it with personal experience, but over time those crimes kill far more people than the events that spark news fury.  Then there are gun suicides.  Yeah, there are other ways to accomplish that, but a gun in the house makes it more likely to happen if the inclination is there. 

For the citizens of our cities and the citizens with suicidal depression, we need to make background checks the law of the nation.  To do less is embarrassing.

Here’s a link and an address for those who are interested….

909 Third Avenue, 15th Floor
New York, NY 10022

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Buds and Branches

Now this is more like it.

Almost!  Almost!   (azalea bud)
So many buds!  A big improvement over two years ago.

Bare branches.  I just love fractalization.

Hmm.  Dead tomato plant branches are not so pretty.

Forsythia hedge!

Slightly blurry lilac buds.  

The red bush whose name I don't know.

Rabbit refectory.  Sorry, we're all out of crocuses.  Maybe next year.
Today Youngest Daughter said to me, "I hate spring!"

I said, "Why?"

She said, "Because you always take photos.  And you make me go outside and look at flowers."

I am such a terrible beast of a mother.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Things that happen in the night

You would think the world is asleep at 4 a.m., but it is bustling with activity.  This morning, the Common Household Son and I were up at that hour.  I took him (and the neighbor) to the high school, whence they left for their annual band trip.  The band directors claim the bands will be in a competition, but they are really just going to hang out at the beach. 

At 4:15, before we left for the high school, I checked our flowers.  My husband planted some bulbs yesterday, expertly timing the planting to get them in before the evening thunderstorm.  

Crocuses, by the mailbox (near the street)

Tulips, planted near the house

This includes a self-portrait of the Common Household Mom.

I have not planted tulips for years, because the last time I did, they were eaten overnight.  Astute readers will note that these tulips are just to the left of the spot where my hydrangea stick (of blessed memory) was put in the ground last year.  

At 4:15 this morning, the tulips were still there.   There is no sign of any hydrangea, but I remain hopeful.
Flower check at 4:15 a.m.  Still intact.

On the way to the high school, we saw a conglomeration of bright but small lights, about 6 feet off the ground, bobbing up and down along the road.  Invasion by aliens?  No – closer scrutiny revealed it to be the running team, out for practice.  They were wearing headlamps such as one might wear for caving.  I revised my idea about suggesting to Youngest Daughter that she try track and field.  She would be happy to go running in the dark at, say 1 a.m., but I think 4 a.m. gets into her grumpy time.  By 7 a.m. it’s full-fledged grumpiness for her.

The high school was a beehive.  Many parents go on these band trips as chaperones, and they have my utmost respect and thanks for doing a job that I could never do.  I was grateful to be able to go back home and crawl in bed.

When I finally got up for breakfast, my husband said, “Did you see what happened to our flowers last night?  They've been eaten.” 

I doubted.  I told him how I had proof that the tulips were still there. “Maybe some of the flower petals fell off because the rain pelted them.”

He said, “Well, we might as well have had a sign in the garden that said ‘The Cafeteria is Open’ because somebody ate the flowers.  You go out and look for yourself.”

I did, and this is what I saw. 
"Delectable Desserts for Furry Night Critters"
Only one left!
The tulips are still intact, but the crocuses, which we planted by the mailbox, were last night’s dessert.  It might have been Bambi, but we suspect this guy: 

R.I.P., pretty crocuses.