Friday, January 23, 2009


This week, I was delighted to re-discover the words Anagnorisis and Perepeteia, courtesy of a video essay on Fora TV by Mike Rowe, who is one of my favorite media types, like, ever. This video has been making the rounds on the Internet, and if you have 20 minutes to spend and haven't see it yet, it's well worth your time...and not just for the laughs or the vocabulary refresher. Mike (I feel like I can call him Mike, cuz he's just that kinda guy), articulates for us the problem with today's American society: we have vilified hard work as being below any of us with more than three brains cells to rub together. And he's totally right.

But that's not why the words Anagnorisis and Peripeteia are much on my mind today.

Webster's Dictionary defines Anagnorisis as: "the point in the plot, especially of a tragedy, at which the protagonist recognizes his or her or some other character's true identity or discovers the true nature of his or her own situation " (emphasis mine)

I experienced a clear moment of anagnorisis at 9:47 this morning, when I realized that the tasks making up today's administrivia had formed a perfect daisy chain. I started to map out the steps that had to be completed before I could fulfill my main task for the day, and after 45 minutes of digging, noodling, sending emails and hunting down files, I realized that the first and last tasks in the chain were, in fact, the same.

My true role in the universe is, apparently. Sisyphean in nature. If I can solve this riddle, I will make myself redundant and will be out of a job.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thought for Today

I find myself wondering if I can charge someone with attempted murder, if he or she is so incompetent that it causes me to have a stroke.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Because of What's at Stake

I don't need to tell you that Barack Obama will be inaugurated the 44th president of the United States today. Or that millions of people are lined up in DC, hoping for a chance to catch a glimpse of the man we have elected to lead us out of this mess we're in.

And I sure don't need to tell you that the country is holding its collective breath to see if he can be even half the man we have asked him to be.

I will say that I am extremely pleased and hopeful that this country is finally looking at the office of the President with real regard and with an air of excitement. We need to feel like our elected officials are worthy of our respect. We NEED them to be heroes, and it's rarely been the case during my lifetime. I've seen the last four inaugurations met with emotions ranging from bored acceptance to open disdain.

Not everyone is excited, of course. I have seen and heard comments from people who, while they acknowledge the popularity and oratory skill of our President-Elect, cannot wait to see him falter, so they can mock and point fingers and say, "See? I told you he was a puffed-up, over-hyped incompetent!"

I sure hope they don't. Not that I don't think Obama will falter, and soon at that. He cannot help but do so, and not just because every President does. The expectations placed on this man are overwhelming to an extreme. And despite what both his detractors and supporters say, he is neither The One, The Messiah, nor the embodiment of NAACP writer Jabari Asim's "Magic Negro".

Barack Obama is just a man, albeit an exceptionally intelligent and poised one. I think he will make a good president in tough times. But when he makes a mistake, I hope that he is not lit upon by the far right, with the sour grapes taste of November's defeat still fresh on their tongues. I admit, it will be tempting. The Bush administration sure hasn't been spared the liberal lash during its eight-year tenure. But I'll submit that the stakes are higher this time, for a lot of reasons.

This country is embroiled in a combination of economic and political turmoil that hasn't been seen since the beginning of World War II. Make no mistake: it really *is* that bad. And it's going to take a collective will and collective sacrifice, equal to the one we made then, to pull us out. But the difference is that this time, we don't have a shared enemy to line up against. the amorphous "War on Terror" is meaningful to us only when there are human casualties to count and mourn. While we can decry the 4,000+ dead and 40,000+ wounded in the last five years, they pale in comparison to the tens of thousands of American lives lost in WWII. While we are paying more than usual for milk and bread, we aren't rationing our metals and nylons. Most of the time, most Americans forget that we have 200,000 of our young men and women overseas. The result is that we have to imagine and create our own rallying points, which makes this recovery an order of magnitude more difficult than the last one.

So I hope that, at least for the short term, those who would divide us by mocking and detracting from this administration will stay silent and help row the boat. Maybe even sing a song or two to help make the work easier. Because the alternative -- years of political dissent, stalled progress, and continued decline in our world standing and economic health -- is an outcome we cannot afford. While John F. Kennedy's admonition to "Ask what you can do for your country" may feel like a cliche in our modern age of detached cynicism, it is time for the men and women of this country to carry their President on their shoulders, instead of relying on his shoulders to carry them.

I promise, once we dig out of the mess that's been accumulating in this country for the last eight (ok, to be fair, probably more like 12 or 14) years, you can go back to your puffed-up punditry with my blessing.

Until then, God bless and keep you, Mr. Obama.

One additional note: Aretha, you still have it, sister!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Delurking Day

Alison over at AliThinks says it's Delurking Day, that one day each year when all of you who showed up here because you were Googling "Bifurcated Uvula" (and stop in to read occasionally), actually tell me that you're out there. So I hope all three of you have your comments handy. The rest of y'all can make a smart remark if you wish.

In other news, we had about a foot of snow here this weekend. It was our first "real" snowstorm of the season and it looks like this batch will be hanging around for awhile. It was a Good Thing, mostly because it finally got my daughter and her Nintendo-Playing Compadres to remove their collective bums from my couch and play outside for about 5 hours each day. They were exhausted and very happy at the end of both days, ate hearty dinners and passed out cold at 7:30. I, for one, was immensely pleased to see it.

I have to head down to Florida for a couple days, which is a bummer because, 1) my family can't come along, and 2) every second of my time there is so over-scheduled that I won't even be able to see friends while I'm there. Oh, and I'll get back just in time for it to drop below zero here.


Hope you all have good weeks.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Prepare for take-off

Mom! I hate division!

I stopped in the middle of setting down the dogs’ dinners, stainless steel bowls suspended mid-stream, and turned toward the dining room table. My 8-year-old daughter was hunched over her math paper, scowling.

“You’re not doing division already!”

She looked up at me, indignant. “Yes I am! Come see!”

I walked over to the table, dog bowls still in hand, with two deerhounds following me in half-panicked confusion -- faces upturned in anticipation, licking their chops. Looking down at K’s paper, I saw the telltale signs of calculating remainders.

“Wow. You really are doing division. Where did you learn to do that?”

She rolled her eyes in mock disgust. At least, I think it was mock. You never know. “In school, Mom. You know; that place I disappear for hours every day while you’re at work?”

Continuing to stare at her paper, I noticed she’d made a subtraction error in the third line.

“So I suppose this means you can multiply, as well.”

This time the disgust was real. “Tsk. Mom! Of course I can multiply! We have been doing multiplication since Halloween!”

The dogs began to whimper at my sides; Max bumped his head into the small of my back, shifting from foot to foot. I walked back to set down their food bowls and returned to K’s paper.

We worked our way through division homework. In the course of helping her, I discovered she can also calculate squares. As I looked over more of her homework, I saw that she had also been writing earth science definitions and had graduated to words like “discovery” and “appreciate” in her spelling homework. When did she learn all this stuff? I mean, I guess as some level, I knew she was learning to multiply. I check her homework several times a week. But I am certain we were calculating 4 + 2, just last week.

As parents, there are times when we are taken aback by the staggering growth rates our children exhibit. I think most of us experience it the first time they outgrow an outfit before we’ve had a chance to remove the tags from the store. When they begin to speak and develop vocabulary in earnest, we are amazed at the number of words they learn, just by taking in the world around them.

Third Grade appears to be fertile ground for this sort of exponential growth. I notice that K and her friends have developed increasingly sophisticated play routines (thank GOD, they haven’t started playing ostracizing games with each other yet). K is developing a keen fondness for puns and plays on words. She’s reading Harry Potter. She can make a batch of Hamburger Helper and brownies without my assistance. And now this sudden leap in the volume and variety of school work she brings home. I find myself wondering if children have always grown up this fast, or if the demands of our society have made them precocious.

My mother assures me, as only a mother can, that I was MUCH smarter and quicker to learn than K is, not to mention a better cook. ;) Perhaps. But I am still in awe, watching the development of this mind and body and wondering what I did before I became a parent.

The next ten years are going to be a lot of fun.