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March 14, 2010


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kathy a.

he's organizing the books? damn kids, you never know what they'll be up to next.... ;)

i generally lead the most boring life of anyone hanging around the blog. one just does not rub shoulders with the famous in the home office where i normally work [unless my cat persephone counts; she believes herself the queen of the universe]. today, i finished a middling-large work project, and received my order of girl scout cookies. also on the list is cleanup, and stocking food and cat litter.

but dudes -- next week we are going to visit our daughter in japan! i am not, ya know, the international traveler type. the agenda is packed -- tokyo, hiroshima, kyoto, and the town way north where daughter is studying.

i am so not packed. my house is unclean. more things need doing. so, the week looks to be very mundane right up until thursday, at which point i will start racking up the mileage and experiencing something way different.


We had the heavy rain and wind last night & this morning, but it isn't supposed to stop until tomorrow night!

Sir Charles


That's exciting. I've never been to Asia; well, technically I set foot on the continent once by crossing from the European side of Istanbul to the Asian side on a ferry for a quick cup of tea. But I've heard Japan is fascinating -- one of my colleagues described it as being both totally modern and totally foreign.

In classic fashion I believe the son has bitten off more than he can chew. We have a lot of books scattered over shelves in five different rooms on three different floors. The system I started when we moved in here 12 years ago has utterly broken down and books are distributed randomly. So the boy decided to completely revamp the system. I kept warning him he was going to end up without time to get it done. He persisted and now seems to be scurrying to get it done and prove me wrong.


I think the sun is supposed to shine and break 60 tomorrow. I may have to play hooky.

kathy a.

so, his girlfriend is visiting, and he thinks the books need re-arranging? whatever. i personally have given up on organizing them, except for trying to put work-related ones on shelves in my office, and the periodic culling out of the really bad ones. and occasional dusting. very occasional.

Sir Charles


I pretty much had gotten to the point where if there was a shelf space for them I considered it organized.

As I suspected I just made him go to bed and there are books strewn on the floors of four rooms. Poor kid just took the SATs yesterday. He didn't really need to make a project for himself. And I presonally would have preferred that he clean the bathroom that the girlfriend will be using. Well I need something to do with my Friday night this week . . . :-)

Does everyone hate dusting? It's my least favorite chore I think. And it's relentlessly needed -- and I do it rarely (and poorly) as well.

Have the best time in Japan. Let us know how it is if you get a chance.

kathy a.

i've actually been to japan before -- we lived there when my beloved was stationed there, and our daughter was born on a navy base. that was the only time i have been outside the US. seriously. even canada and mexico. i am so lame.

and boy howdy, did i feel like an ugly american there, living in a japanese duplex with an infant and toddler, wanting nothing more than central heating [vs. kerosene heater, which is a total toddler magnet], a dryer [vs. hang-drying], and an oven. and babysitting. it goes without saying, we did not do a lot of sightseeing, 21 years ago.

kathy a.

hope junior's SAT's went well. and that it is a good visit with the girlfriend.


Aw, thanks, Sir C., I appreciate the thought.

Also, funnily enough, I should say that I actually used to play DnD with the drummer of Wilco's nephew (though I never met the band). He was was friends at college with a friend of mine from high school. Weird, huh?

minstrel hussain boy

japan's OK, but, much like having german friends one must remember that if there are more than ten of them together, after 30 minutes talk turns to world domination. they can't help it, i think it's a function of language.

quick japan story (actually it's a vegas story but fuck it)...

a trumpet playing buddy and i had just gotten back to vegas after doing a japan/hong kong/singapore/sydney tour with michelle leGrand (who, by the way, is a prince of a fellow. elegant, witty, and a musical gorilla).

we were in a casino coffee shop after the shows and george (the trumpet player) was trying like hell to impress a cute keno runner. he was waxing all poetic about the wonderfulness of japan. this is going on, and on, so i figure it's time for the set-up, the bait, and the hammer.

i bring the subject around to kobe beef. george goes into the schpiel. talks about the ranch we visited (and ate, it's good meat but not worth all the bother) and goes into the cattle being a certain special breed, raised in a specific prefecture, in padded stalls, given massages, fed on rice beer and all manner of exotic stuff...

the hammer:

i interject:

yeah, and when it's time for slaughter they do that different too, they take them to kabuki theatre and bore them to death.

strange how we can never predict what love will do to our kids. i thought my son would be like most other kids and discover girls and turn stupid. he didn't. he's the same, sensible kid. there is a special someone that i'm not supposed to know about (but do). he's been working on an elk hide, tanning it the old way to get a soft and supple white leather. that's a traditional gift to give to one's intended.


they take them to kabuki theatre and bore them to death


Sir Charles


Hopefully you'll get the chance to do more overseas travel and do it in slightly more luxurious style than your first go-round.

I hope the SATs went well too -- once again, though, I was reminded of the huge advantage of affluence. My son got to take one of these prep classes where they are taught techniques for the test and take practice tests over and over again. He's a bit of an erratic performer, but the bottom line was that his practice test scores improved by over two hundred points in the course of a few weeks. But these classes are hugely expensive and I suspect are pretty much the preserve of the upper middle class and higher.

[I was incredibly pleased to have the rare opportunity to hear my son talk on the phone with his girlfriend -- this is usually done out of parental earshot naturally --and see how nice he was to her -- and what a kind tone he had. It seemed like something that beats the hell out of the SAT in terms of improtance.]


That is a funny story. I have never been able to figure out how someone parts with the kind of money that kobe beef costs. It's not that I don't like to eat well, but I find that I generally can't discern enough quality difference to justify that sort of price differential.

low-tech cyclist

Does everyone hate dusting? It's my least favorite chore I think. And it's relentlessly needed -- and I do it rarely (and poorly) as well.

I actually enjoy doing the mundane household chores, at least when I have time for it. (Time's been in short supply this last year - go figure.) But there's simply no way to enjoy dusting.

Just to dust the top of our piano, one has to move a bunch of pictures and other knickknacks, dust the piano itself, dust the knickknacks as well, and put them all back where they were. And all you've accomplished is to make a surface that's maybe about 4 square feet look marginally better.

I'd rather scrub the toilets than do the dusting.

Fortunately, my wife and I have broken down and hired a cleaning lady who sweeps through the house every other Thursday, taking no prisoners in her quest for cleanliness. She vacuums, she dusts, she cleans countertops, she cleans tubs, toilets, and sinks, consolidates our clutter, and even runs a few loads of sheets and towels through the wash while she's here. The only drawback is that it sometimes takes a few days to track down where C. has put away various small objects, but that's a small price to pay.

Now if only there was a "let us organize your garage/basement/workroom for you" service, because my basement is a total disaster, and I really don't have the two days it would take to get it into some semblance of order.


I hate vacuuming, to be honest. That, and sweeping. They simply do not make vacuum cleaners and brooms for tall women (with tall meaning rather in excess of 5' 4") and I have to curve my back over and lean downward a bit in order to use them, which translates to nasty back pains. Ugh.

Also, it's boring as hell. BO-RING. But it looks so nice when you're finished, and vacuuming is better than using a broom because you're actually removing dust as opposed to pushing it around to different spots.

Laundry? With three boys and a farming husband, I do two to three loads PER DAY. If I skip laundry one day--as I did yesterday, because, you know, SUNDAY, day of rest, etc.--I have to do four to SIX loads the next day. I might take a break, but the jeans-wearing, towel-muddying, and t-shirt be-sweating continues apace.

I don't need a cleaning lady; I need a clone.


Corvus, I had an acquaintance in college who was a sister to one of the members of a band called Titanic Love Affair. Some of Titanic Love Affair became part of Wilco for awhile-- although Jeff Tweety changes up the band so much, there's probably a dozen Midwest musicians who were part of Wilco at one time or another. Also, given the incestuous nature of the Urbana alt-rock music scene in the 90's, I think every music fan at the University of Illinois in the mid-90's knew somebody who knew somebody who was in Wilco at some point in time.

Like you, I've never met the band.

FYI, there's a bloggingheads podcast between Will Wilkinson and David Shenk on the interactions between genetics and environment. I haven't listened yet, but it seems on topic for the discussion regarding genetics v. nurture.


Personally, I think the nature vs. nurture dichotomy is obfuscatory, and really only used because it is alliterative. Much better is the genetics vs. environment distinction, although in that condition environment is just an incredibly vague and broad category. You probably need an additional distinction between the information and behavioral cues you are taught (nurture) and the actual physical nature of the location(s) or condition in which you are raised (environment). Of course, the difference between those things is fuzzy. Does having parents who smoke, for example, count as nurture, or environment (maybe one should just assume some overlap.

Whatever it is, it is probably best to think of those external influences as interacting with your genetic makeup, not building upon it.

kathy a.

mhb, pretty funny kobe beef story! living in japan was just, well, so different in a million ways.

litbrit -- oy, the vacuuming. i'm evidently shorter than you, but can affirm that this is a terrible chore at any height. and i need to do some serious vacuuming this week. laundry, too, but you just toss that in, and it gets done.

Eric Wilde

they take them to kabuki theatre and bore them to death

:) I find kabuki entertaining, in a humorous sort of way.

I do love Japan, though. And you might believe they're talking about world domination when, in fact, they're really just talking about taking all our good food and leaving us with the scraps.

Eric Wilde


Yeah, the kerosene heaters are a real pain. You'd think after the deaths every year from fires people would learn. They even have the truck warnings every evening, where a truck with a loud speaker goes by the apartment and warns people to watch their heaters carefully. Still, with the deaths and the knowledge of danger, nothing changes.

Personally, my main beef about living in Japan is the living space and counter space. Talk about small kitchens!

kathy a.

things are compact in japan, for sure. and mostly i was impressed by that sense of efficiency.

i kept the kerosene heater in the kitchen, blocked by baby gates [and never run at night], but the inevitable happened and my young son got some nasty blisters on his inquiring fingers. we had a tiny, safe, electric porcelein heater in the babies' room -- our landlady was distraught about the electric bill, and wondered if we had an electricity "leak."

low-tech cyclist

They simply do not make vacuum cleaners and brooms for tall women

litbrit, is there something different in the way brooms and vacs work for men and women? Because I'm 5'10" and don't have any trouble pushing a vac.

On a related note, I gave up using brooms indoors years ago when I discovered Swiffers. Faster, easier, and they don't kick dust into the air the way a broom does. Always hated sweeping the kitchen floor. Love swiffing.

And as an alternative to vacuuming, there's always the Roomba. It was our vacuum of choice until we brought Ilya home, and it keeps the carpet clean under your bed just as easily as it does the rest of the room. And with three cats, that was a very useful feature.

The only thing I have to say about the laundry is, are any of your sons getting to an age where they can do their own laundry? You probably don't want to trust them with dressy clothes, but jeans, t-shirts, socks, and underwear aren't exactly rocket science to wash.

kathy a.

l-tc, swiffers don't deal well with the random crap my cats leave on the kitchen floor. dust and fur, sure; random crap, no. somebody, i'm not naming names, seems to think the kibble tastes better on the floor. this is not even mentioning the strange prizes that show up, such as twist-ties or random bits of paper.

i totally endorse kids doing their laundry.


Out here (in the country), the floors are black Italian tile, and every tiny thing shows, including Swiffer smudges, so they're a no-go, sadly. You can only use water with a few drops of white vinaegar, otherwise, it's streak-city. And first, you have to vacuum--but even regular vacuums aren't tough enough: I have to use a damned Shop-vac, because in the course of twenty-four hours, so much random Lego, Transformers' limbs, cat chow, broken cookies, and general hairballs seem to find their way to the floor, any normal vacuum will jam up instantly.

In the city apartment, which has walnut floors and at which I have banned the inter-room transportation of Lego pieces, I use a lovely Dyson vacuum--my romantic birthday present to myself last year--but even *that* could use a handle-extender, too. And a better-designed brush-roller thingie (we are five long-haired people, and fallen long hair tends to twist around those vacuum brushes and jam them up).

Okay, laundry...have any of you ever, ever dealt with severe ADHD? I'm not being snarky here, just curious. Because there are several possible outcomes for a scenario in which you trusted one of my boys to do a load of laundry. I'll leave out the least likely (but still possible) one--washing machine winds up being smoking semi-island in middle of lake because it burst into flames during impromptu science experiment that seemed like good idea at the time--and focus on some strong probabilities: a) everything gets shoved into the same washing machine, no matter what Mama said about separating colors--hey, we're saving water! b) aforementioned multi-colored load is fed far too much detergent, and machine goes wonky with bubbles or b-2) aforementioned load is so heavy and its weight is so badly distributed, machine is thrown into protest and off its axis during the first spin cycle and BAM, there goes another thousand bucks or so c) aforementioned load makes it all the way to the final rinse but then gets forgotten for a week or more--Mama has since returned to the city with two or more lads--and the whole soggy, oversoaped mess starts going rancid and mildewy.

They wake up in a new world every single day and must be re-trained. High IQ does not mean high-functioning, not automatically. I still have to remind the seventeen-year-old to brush his teeth. And I must do it several times, every single morning, every single night.

My own survival, and that of my undies and paler-colored t-shirts, depends on me doing my own laundry, and then me doing theirs and having a good bitch about it, as opposed to them doing theirs and costing me a fortune in new appliances, new non-moldy clothes, and (even more) therapy hours, you know?!

kathy a.

ooh, wonderful rant, litbrit! great reasons why kids should do their own laundry and not yours. even w/o the adhd, in my opinion.

Sir Charles

I am generally the sole laundry doer in the household. And I react very poorly to any complaints about the laundry.

Today, however, the poor lad called from his school in a panic over a head lice outbreak just a few days before the girlfriend arrives. (I avoided suggesting nit picking as a courtship activity.) He wanted to know if he could engage in a pre-emptive war against said lice. (Who knew he could grow up to be a possible Bush cabinet member.) I suggested that turning his head into a chemical weapons battlefield unnecessarily wasn't the best approach and suggested that he just wear his hat around school. He then told me that he had a locker full of clothes that he had to bring home in light of the school fumigation. I suggested that yes, he, might consider immediately throwing the clothes into the wash when he got home. And he did -- a new precedent might have started. (My wife remains hopeless.)

big bad wolf

color catchers, the greatest thing i discovered in the 21st century after the ipod. i hadn't actually discolored anything since i washed my gym bag in which my cologne had spilled (god, the 80s were embarrassing; i'm glad i spent them drunk), but the discovery of color catchers allowed me to keep up with the wash that kids brought those color gradations don't have to be quite so fine.

Sir Charles

Ah, the sweet smell of Paco Rabanne. Like success, only redolent of Federal Hill.


Sir C., speaking as an entomologist, but not one well versed in public health insect pests, IIRC (& I'm not sure I do), when washing clothes potentially infested with head lice nits one needs to make sure that one's washer water is hot enough to kill the nits. Otherwise your washing efforts may not help.

As I implied, you should verify that online. It shouldn't be difficult to do, but it seems to me that what I've read before is that one needs to wash the clothes in hot enough water in order to assure that one has eliminated the clothes as a head lice vector.

Sir Charles

Arghhh! I may give them a second spin in hot water. They haven't been removed from the washer yet.

kathy a.

i'm picking up laundry and head-lice tips from really smart people on the internets. cool.


It's always interesting to see what topics come dominate an open thread around here. Laundry. A little surprised, but then, it's Cogitamus.

big bad wolf

ah, head lice. we got hit on thursday. no fun. the flyer the school sent home said it had to be 128 degrees, which is higher than a lot of heaters are set. it also said the dryer can do them in on the hot cycle. the kids are taking it well; better than i, am though i try to disguise that. the hardest part has been the reduction in affection that may be shown.

Sir Charles

My sister teaches fourth grade and got them three times within a couple of weeks. She was ready to shoot herself.


We're multitalented here -- and possessed of life's many splendored experiences.

low-tech cyclist

Wash at >128 degrees to kill the head lice, huh? And of course if you've got small children, they tell you to keep that hot water thermostat turned down to somewhere in that neighborhood to avoid scalding the kids.

Fortunately the thermostat's easy enough to adjust, but it's also easy to forget to move it back after you've cranked the temp up. So maybe cranking up the dryer heat is the safer answer, should the lice come this way.

Damn, this parenting stuff can get complicated at times. The good news is that, so far, there's been no evidence of a lice outbreak at our day care place. Knocking on wood, crossing fingers, all that.

And litbrit, maybe I should have been paying more attention along the way, but I confess I wasn't quite aware of the challenges you have with your ADHD kid(s). That puts a whole different color on things.

But as far as the Italian tile is concerned, I think I'd just put up with some streaks.


In my family growing up, mom ran the machines and dad did the folding (usually while watching sports—often a bulls game, as we are talking early nineties Chicagoland here). This is probably, in part, a legacy from my dad's own upbringing. He once told me a story about how there was one time he was outside talking with his dad, the train mechanic, who was hanging the laundry out on the clothesline, and some neighbor came by and gave him shit for it, like, don't you know that's women's work, and on in that vein. I can't remember exactly what Grampa's response was, but he was deeply, deeply dismissive of such an attitude, probably raised his eyebrows and harumphed to himself (not an overly vocal man) then went back to doing what he was doing.


Wash at >128 degrees to kill the head lice, huh?

I don't know if that will kill them once the nits have hatched, but washing clothes at greater than that temperature will kill the nits (ie., the eggs).


(And now you know why "nitwit" is an insult. :) )

big bad wolf

l-t-c, ain't that the truth: this parenting thing is complicated. it's funny i knew that going in. i was the oldest of six and so had a lot of responsibility early on, and gave me a glimpse of how complicated things could be. for many years, that perspective gave me some chuckles at my peers who had kids before i did and found it, surprise!, hard. as it turned out there was a surprise for me too: it turned out to be a lot more joyous than i ever expected. adam gopnick, in discussing lincoln (whom i am like in taking bad portrait photos) puts it nicely: "there is no surer cure for a melancholy man than the presence of small children" i have certainly found that to be true for me.

l still hate the lice.

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