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September 29, 2008

San Francisco

Last Thursday we arrived in San Francisco. Promptly upon landing, we satisfied Alden's lifelong dream to see the Golden Gate Bridge.

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She was mostly pleased, but mumbled something along the lines of, "I thought it would be bigger."

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Robbi tried to cheer Alden by showing her Alcatraz through the viewfinder thing.

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About which Alden mumbled something like, "Even a baby could break out of that place."

She is getting harder and harder to please. So I went for broke and attempted to jump over the bridge.

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At which point Alden declared herself satisfied for the time being and content to go on with the rest of the vacation.

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We had lunch at a Mexican diner. I gave Alden some guacamole which turned out to be a bit too spicy and got in trouble with Robbi.

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It was worth it.

We kept driving north toward the Russian River, where Robbi's brother was to be wed. We saw a sign for Muir Woods. Robbi has always wanted to see the redwoods and so we decided to stop. The approach was a windy affair. I had to drive slow. California is not straight and flat and predictable like the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

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But eventually we got there. As we entered the park, we came upon the First Amendment Area.

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Both of us were compelled to seize upon the opportunity to speak our minds free from persecution, but neither of us could think of a worthy cause to promote or outrage to express. It was just too nice of a day. And they cleverly place the First Amendment Area out of view of the tallest redwoods. And so, desirous of seeing them, we continued on our way.

The redwoods are very old, apparently. One thousand years old, some of them. They are also tall. And grand. And rather awe-inspiring.

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We walked around, filled with awe, struck silent by how small we felt.

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The silence was enveloping, affirming. I felt the kind of peace I seldom experience in my busy life.

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I was glad to be there among these ancient trees and was just saying to myself, "This is what vacations are all about," when Alden decided that the trees were not grand and affirming and worthy of awestruck silence. Instead, she decided the time had come to holler like the damned. We rushed back through Muir woods to our waiting rental car, trying our best not to disrupt the peace as our tiny baby shattered the reverential silence of other would-be vacationers.

After leaving Muir Woods, we followed our GPS onto Route 101, but found the road so clogged, that we asked the thing for another route. The alternative was Highway 1, which was longer and slower, but offered the prospects of less traffic. We chose wisely. Highway 1 is a preposterous road if you aim to drive straight and get there on time. But it is an excellent road for meandering north on the first day of a vacation. It twists and winds and follows the coast, offering breathtaking views and a tour of small towns you'd never see from the main highway.

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We drove through the town of Tomales, for example, and found this building, which is apparently not a bank.

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Arriving finally at our hotel on the Russian River, we settled in for a fine weekend of festivity, which did result in the marriage of Robbi's brother to my very fine new sister-in-law. Photos of all of this to come. Robbi, along with Maiko, was conscripted as wedding photographer and took 40 gigabytes of shots. I have neither the time nor energy to go through them right now. But I did meet some new family.

Here are my nieces-in-law,

Scarlett, Chloe, and Laramie

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And my new friend Ryosuke.

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He is Seiko's sister's grandson. I'm not sure how to describe his relationship to me, but we had a fine time playing catch, cars, and harmonica, so I don't really care.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:04 AM

September 24, 2008

Halfway There

Today is Alden's six-month birthday.

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On hand to witness the celebration: Grandpa John

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And Grandma Judy

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There was a present to be opened.

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Alden took the challenge of opening it seriously.

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Lacking the dexterity to remove the wrapping paper, she decided to eat her way to the gift inside.

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The gift was a mirror surrounded by soft creatures, a perfect present for a child whose two favorite pastimes are rolling around on the floor and looking at herself.

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After the present had been thoroughly enjoyed, we proceeded to the birthday gruel.

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Alden is proving to be a very enthusiastic eater.

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She clearly wants control of the spoon and resents very much the fact that she still needs assistance getting it into her mouth.

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The rest of the half-birthday will involve a trip to Washington where we will spend the night with some friends in anticipation of an ungodly-early departure for San Francisco tomorrow morning. We are headed West for a week to celebrate the beginning of the second half of Alden's first year.

Coincidentally, Robbi's brother also happens to be getting married while we're there.

More on that to come.

Meanwhile, can you do this? It's Alden's newest trick.

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She taught me how to do it.

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Material for hours of fun, believe me.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:28 PM

September 23, 2008

Cover Girl

As those of you on the mailing list of the Williams Alumni Review must already know, one of Robbi's illustrations is featured on the cover of the current issue. This is American educator and theologian Mark Hopkins, in case you didn't immediately recognize him.

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What's more, six more illustrations appear inside, all caricatures of people featured in an article on famous quotations by Williams alums (George Steinbrenner, Stephen Sondheim, and Jay McInerney among them).

The article will be online soon, and when it is, I will post the link. But for now, I wanted to shout from the rooftops about Robbi's first magazine cover.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:50 AM

September 21, 2008

Fat and Happy

The diet has ended and my stomach is full. If the scale is to be believed, I lost two pounds in the course of my long week of self-denial. Perhaps this disappointing result can be explained by the slightly premature breaking of the fast. Last night around 7:00pm, Robbi and I started fantasizing aloud about food, along the lines of, "If you could eat anything in the world right now, what would it be?" We traded visions of melted cheese, butter-soaked garlic bread, gooey brownies as our spirits fell knowing that another joyless evening stood between us and the promise of a morning free of dietary restrictions. One of us, I can't now remember which, brought up the fact that as adult humans with innate free will, we could, in fact, opt to call Pizza Hut immediately and order one of every item on the menu. One of us, I can't remember which, did just this. Both of us drove to said Hut, and when we arrived, Robbi remained in the car with the baby while I walked with great patience and restraint into the restaurant.

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What did we order? I can't remember. Something light and low-calorie, so that we might ease back into "normal" eating gently.

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We drove home, I think. It is all a blur to me now. Suddenly we were sitting on our couch. Food was on plates.

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The smell of it enveloped me like a hug.

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How could I not return the embrace?

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For those of you who scoff at cardiac health, I wholly recommend Pizza Hut's new macaroni and cheese and bacon and cheese dish with garlic breadsticks, caesar salad, and chocolate-covered breadsticks with chocolate dipping sauce.

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We ate without a trace of guilt. Afterward, we promptly passed out, even the baby.

Apropos of nothing, don't you wish that you could sleep like this?

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The rest of the weekend was consumed with this and that.

We walked across the Chester River bridge to take Iggy to a nail-clipping clinic.

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We spent some time looking in the mirror.

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Today, we drove out to Kennedyville to take a walk through the cornfields.

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We arrived to find that the corn had just been harvested. Most of it was loaded into the backs of trucks. But someone had left a pile of it right by the path.

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Far across one of the fields, Iggy spotted a threat.

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We went to investigate.

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It was, as I suspected, a terrifying inflatable clown. At first, I tried to speak kindly to it.

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But it tried to tell jokes and squirted me with its trick flower, which understandably made me unhappy. And so I took matters into my own hands.

Never let it be said that I'm afraid to punch a clown.

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Or put a clown in a headlock.

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Or hold a clown upside down by the foot.

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Or give a clown a pile driver.

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When the situation calls for action, I will even kick a clown.

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He went up, up, up.

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And did not come back down.

Iggy looked at me fondly, her eyes brimming with gratitude. We walked on.

Eventually we came to the cliff.

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We walked down the path, past the bamboo patch.

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And down to the beach.

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Where Alden put her feet into the bay.

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It was just that time of day when the light is right.

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On our way back to the car, Iggy discovered an enormous mushroom, which she proceeded to corner and intimidate with a great deal of barking and raising of hackles.

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She was feeling justifiably emboldened as we walked back through the corn fields. We were all feeling grand when suddenly, we saw it.

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That damn clown was back for more. No longer willing to endure its torment and wanting my daughter and dog to know that I would and could protect them from this and any future clowns who might attempt to make us laugh, I took matters into my own hands.

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It is my strong belief that I had I not prematurely ended the diet last night, I would not have had the strength to defeat the clown today.

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And where then would we be?

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Posted by bogenamp at 09:51 PM

September 18, 2008

The Morning After

Here's what greeted us at the break of dawn.

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It's lovely to behold, this pile of peels. Unless you happen to have eaten eight bananas the day prior, one third of an unnatural medley that also included milk and vegetable soup. For me, the peels induced vivid flashbacks of dietary confusion, hours of unspecific longing, passages of bewilderment, angst, and darkest despair. In case you were thinking otherwise, milk, bananas, and soup does not a proper day of eating make.

At least, I thought, it couldn't get worse. At least today was the day of meat. The alluring prospect of 20 ounces of chicken, beef, or fish awaited me. Plus six tomatoes, at least one bowl of vegetable soup, and ten glasses of water.

I started the day with an 8-ounce chicken breast cooked on the Foreman grill and served cubed with cubed tomatoes. Delicious and a welcome change, but within 30 minutes I was hungry again.

Late morning, the UPS guy brought an added bonus to distract us from our grumbling stomachs.

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In preparation for some serious hiking we are planning on doing with Alden in the months ahead, we purchased a Kelty kid pack. Alden slid right in and got happy.

After some morning meetings, we headed over to Bob and Seiko's house for lunch.

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On the menu? Steak and tomatoes.

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Alden and I took charge of the grill.

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While the food cooked, Robbi got industrious and mowed the lawn.

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I was not displeased when the time came to break my four-day monogamous relationship with vegetables and fruits.

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Robbi, too, approached her first bite with great hopes.

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But both of us admitted that something about the meal was not quite satisfying. The steak was good and the tomatoes were roasted to sweet perfection. But both of us craved a side dish of rice, a warm slice of bread, a bit of pasta salad on the side. I've always been a carbohydrate enthusiast, but the past five days have confirmed how much I rely on the sugars they provide for the bulk of my energy. I have felt depleted all week, and the large piece of steak I ate for lunch did nothing to help as the afternoon began.

I was in a low place, exhausted from calorie deprivation and weary with the prospects of two more days without my blessed carbs. Alden, feeling my pain, had a rage reaction, targeting a hapless bush.

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Before we could stop her, she showed that bush who was boss.

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We went back inside and I tried to get some work done. But I felt weak and shaky and couldn't concentrate. Eventually, recognizing that the sun was about to set, I decided that going outside would be more pleasant than stewing in abject self-pity at my desk. And so we walked along the water, talking amongst ourselves about anything and everything except soup.

Tomorrow is another day of meat, this time with veggies thrown in. The prospect is exhausting. And so I, like Alden in her great wisdom, am going to sleep.

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Posted by bogenamp at 09:40 PM

September 17, 2008

Milk and Bananas

Never have I awoken more delighted at the prospect of eating a banana. The past three days have been horrible beyond compare. I feel a newfound respect for...or is it bafflement toward?...the diets of my vegetarian friends.

Robbi and I both felt awful all day. Weak, irritable, despondent.

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Even Alden, who is nourished by the principles of trickle-down nutrition, was unhappy with the developments.

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But happily, we have arrived at Day 4 of The Diet, which is described thus:

DAY 4: Bananas and skim milk--eat as many as 8 bananas and drink as many as 8 glasses of skim milk.

I was cheered to find bananas on my countertop this morning.

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But on closer scrutiny, was unhappy with what I discovered.

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Notice that there are but 15 bananas on my counter. The diet calls for each dieter to eat "as many as eight bananas," which to my way of thinking, means "no fewer than eight bananas." There are two adults participating in this diet. Now, I've never been a math whiz, it does seem to me that there is a fundamental problem brewing in that it is physically impossible for both Robbi and me to consume eight bananas when only 15 are available. I am so glad to be bigger and sneakier than she is.

Here is the rest of today's offering.

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And, of course, as much soup as we can eat.

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Ah vegetable soup, how I am tired of thee.

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So here is the triumvirate of today's malaise.

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Perhaps I'm not approaching this diet with the proper attitude?

Or perhaps this diet is bunk. My good friend David Turner who is somewhat a student of health and nutrition, has gently informed me that our current regimen falls into the category of "fad diet," appealing for its outlandishness, but otherwise unwholesome to our health, given its failure to provide a nutrient balance. Perhaps this is true, but halfway up this mighty hill, I refuse to give up before I reach tomorrow, with its glorious promise of twenty ounces of steak for breakfast.

Speaking of David, his Golden Girls/Election 2008 video has become an internet sensation (8,700 hits and counting). If you haven't watched it, you probably should. It's damn funny.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:20 AM

September 15, 2008

Seven Days of Hell...I mean...Soup

Over the summer, Robbi's brother told us about a diet that he and his fiance had tried. Apparently, he lost seven pounds in a week. When he described the described the eating regimen, I was intrigued to say the least. On the one hand, a person on this diet may eat as much vegetable soup as he pleases. The idea of a diet without volume restrictions was appealing to me. On the other hand, there were a number of other restrictions to consider.

Here is the day-by-day accounting of what one may eat each day (in addition to unending quantities of vegetable soup).

DAY 1: All fruits except bananas.

DAY 2: All vegetables, raw or cooked. This includes baked potato with a LITTLE butter.

DAY 3: Fruits and vegetables, but no potatoes or bananas.

DAY 4: Bananas and skim milk--eat as many as 8 bananas and drink as many as 8 glasses of skim milk.

DAY 5: Beef, skinless chicken, and/or fish--as much as 20 ounces, total. You can also eat 6 tomatoes. And you must drink 8 glasses of water. Don't forget at least one bowl of soup.

DAY 6: Beef, skinless chicken, or fish and vegetables. Drink 8 glasses of water and eat at least one bowl of soup.

DAY 7: Brown rice, vegetables, and unsweetened fruit juice.

Ever since the summer, Robbi and I have talked occasionally about trying the diet, always in a safely abstract way. Yesterday morning, however, Robbi awoke and announced that she was going to try it, starting immediately. Before I could really think through the implications of what I was saying, I agreed to join her.

I sit here now at the end of day two a shadow of my former self. Since waking this morning I have consumed corn, beans, tomatoes, onions, and, of course, several bowls of vegetable soup. Eating only vegetables all day long is very, very hard if you are me. I have been feeling vaguely ill all day. Light-headed and somewhat disoriented. It has been slightly fun, to tell you the truth. I feel like a true martyr.

Yesterday was slightly better. I ate peaches and nectarines, clementines and grapes. I didn't feel like I was really eating, but I could at least stave off the sense that I was entirely empty.

I am looking much forward to Wednesday, when I will be allowed to drink milk again, eight glasses of it, apparently, along with eight bananas. It has struck me these past two milkless days how much I enjoy the stuff. And Thursday...twenty ounces of steak! It is a strange diet, but one which has already demonstrated its effectiveness.

I weighed in yesterday morning at 176 and went to bed last night at 175. This morning I was 172. Where is this heading? I may be gone by week's end.

As for that vegetable soup, it's not just any vegetable soup. Here is our five-gallon pot of it.

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Here is the recipe, in case you are tempted to try this diet for yourself.

* 1 head cabbage, shredded or chopped
* 2 large onions, chopped
* 16-28 ounces canned tomatoes, chopped
* 2 green peppers
* 4 stalks celery
* 1-2 packages Lipton onion soup mix, or any dry onion soup mix (optional)
* black pepper
* any fresh herb(s) of your choice, chopped
* 6 carrots, sliced
* 1/2 pound green beans, sliced on diagonal
* 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (optional)

I bid you adieu until tomorrow, at which time I will be allowed to eat fruits and vegetables. Ah, tomorrow.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:37 PM

September 14, 2008

Pigskin Pick'em

For almost ten years now, I have been picking the weekly NFL games in a pool with my friend Christian. I am an average football picker, given that I am an utter dilettante and Johnny-come-lately to football fandom. I have been aided by the fact that "my" team, the New England Patriots, has been on a winning tear of historical proportions for the past seven seasons. Thus, my homerism has worked to my benefit. I was the overall picking champion of our group once, early on, when the group was small. There are now more than 40 people in the group, mostly relatives of Christian's large extended family, including a few new arrivals.

That's right, Iris Vainieri, all three-and-a-half months of her, is making football picks this year. Of course, when Alden heard this, she demanded to participate. I had no objection. My only concern was how Alden, in her pre-verbal state, was to indicate her preference when picking teams. Christian had the answer. He printed out images of the helmets of each of the league's 32 teams and presented the images relevant to each matchup to Iris, giving her the opportunity to express a preference. I was somewhat skeptical of the plan, but could think of no better strategy.

I am happy to report that babies know more than enough about football to make informed decisions about football contests.

At first Alden was not sure what to do.

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But she quickly caught on. For example, she clearly favored the New York Giants in their contest versus the St. Louis Rams.

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And there was no ambiguity about her preference for the Cleveland Browns in their confrontation with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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She did her papa proud in choosing to back the underdog New England Patriots (in spite of the loss of future hall of fame quarterback to injury in last week's game) in their intra-division grudge match against the New York Jets.

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It was less clear which side she favored in the Minnesota Vikings/Indianapolis Colts matchup.

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According to the rules we have established, Robbi is called upon to adjudicate in the case of an ambiguous result. It was decided that Alden favored the Vikings. Which, I can tell you now late afternoon on Sunday, was not a wise choice.

For most of the matchups, Alden's picking style was fairly straightforward. Sometimes she would tap the helmet she preferred. Other times, she would issue a knowing glance in the direction of her chosen victor. But when we brought out the helmets for the Houston Texans/Baltimore Ravens matchup, the child went wild. She quickly pushed the Texans helmet away and grabbed eagerly for the Ravens.

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Although her choice was clear, she proceeded to demonstrate the full extent of her enthusiasm by attempting to consume the Ravens helmet.

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She is clearly a fan. I don't have the heart to tell her that today's contest, which was to be played in Houston, was postponed on account of Hurricane Ike.

She picked the results of all 16 contests and then decided to hang out for a while in Robbi's wicker basket.

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I wasn't sure if I approved of such behavior.

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But then I remembered that of course I did.

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And all was well.


Posted by bogenamp at 05:18 PM

September 12, 2008

Bea Arthur for President

Here is my pal David Turner, star of the Broadway Stage.

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Those of you who know David might associate him with the Golden Girls, and in particular, with Bea Arthur, the progenitor of his patented wry deadpan. He is able to easily summon Golden Girl zingers appropriate to any situation and can watch an episode of Golden Girls with the mute button on and speak the lines of each character in perfect time. I kid you not. I have seen him do it.

I tell you this as context for the following video. It may also help you to know that David is a filmmaker who has made several outstanding films (including a promotional documentary for ASTEP, a non-profit that brings arts education and art therapy to kids living in poverty), a feature-length film, and a number of not half-bad sock puppet dramas (The Baby and Getting Closer).

In any case, I will delay no more the matter at hand. David has taken a clip from a favorite episode of the Golden Girls and has made some interesting substitutions. I will let the video speak for itself, but I will tell you that it has a very timely subject. Watch it. It's hilarious. And only five minutes long.

In closing, I will tell you that David learned the hard way the full extent to which people associated him with the Golden Girls. On the day Estelle Getty died, he received dozens of consolatory emails from friends, family, and seemingly tangential acquaintances.

Lord knows what will come to pass when Bea herself kicks the bucket.

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Posted by bogenamp at 10:58 PM

September 11, 2008

Tupperware Party

I'm convinced that the prime motivation for having a baby is the pleasure of finding new and unusual ways to pose and photograph it.

For example, last night we ran out of rice. I felt that it would be a shame to allow the bin to remain empty.

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Alden fit perfectly. And whether it was the intoxicating smell of rice dust or the satisfying texture of the rubber sides, she seemed to enjoy her sojourn far more than one might expect a small child to enjoy time spent in a rice bin.

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I wish that I was small enough to fit inside a piece of tupperware. Or conversely, that I had a tupperware bin large enough to crawl inside for a while.

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I can think of far worse ways to spend an afternoon.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:52 AM

September 09, 2008

Bodies of Marvel, Monsters, and Women

Here is a heads-up to all of you in the DC metropolitan area. Robbi's work is appearing in a group show currently under way at H & F Fine Arts, a gallery in Mount Rainier, MD, just outside the D.C. line.

The show, titled Bodies of Marvel, Monsters, and Women, features the work of eight female artists, each of whom, according to the press release "explore ideas of the grotesque and otherworldly, the monstrous, the unimaginable, the uncanny, and the strange."

The show runs through September 28th. There was a really nice artist's reception with cheese and other appealing snacks on September 6th, but I forgot to let you know in time. Here's the press release, if you're interested.

Robbi's idea was to do a series of portraits that played on the idea that women who fall outside of society's strict definition of beauty and feminine propriety as relates to personal grooming decisions are viewed as circus freaks.

For example,

The Astonishing Plus Size

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The Amazing A-Cup

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The Great Unshaved

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The Unpainted Lady

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H and F is also the home of Robbi's enormous illustrated mural inspired by one of the pages in For the Love of God For those of you who missed the chronicling of its creation, you may go back to April of 2007. For those of you who don't want to go back to April of 2007, here are a few photos to give you an idea.

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Robbi worked on this sucker around the clock for a few days.

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By the end, she was beat.

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But I think it turned out pretty well.

In any case, if you happen to be in Mount Rainier in the next few weeks or if you are merely motivated to go see some grotesque, otherworldly and monstrous things, swing by H&F. It's at 3311 Rhode Island Avenue. If you ask nicely, they may even give you some of the leftover cheese.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:24 PM

September 08, 2008

Separated at Birth?

I was there in the delivery room and don't think that Robbi had twins, but I saw this fellow walking down the street the other day and couldn't help but notice the striking resemblance he bore to my child.

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Uncanny.

Posted by bogenamp at 03:48 PM

September 04, 2008

Split Ticket

We are at my mother's house in Andover tonight, visiting my mom and my sister Lindsay and meeting my nephew Orin for the first time.

Here is Orin, about three and a half months old.

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And here is Lindsay, whose birthday was yesterday.

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We had cake and presents and those paper things you blow into in order to heighten the sense of festivity.

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Earlier today we loaded the babies into their strollers.

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Lindsay's husband Casey and I took the wheel while Robbi and Lindsay handled the dogs. We have Iggy.

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Lindsay and Casey have Egg, Purple, and Atlas.

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The babies played together in the park.

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The jury is still out on whether or not they like each other.

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Or perhaps the matter has already been decided.

Given the sunny day, the green grass, the blue sky, and her adventurous mood, Alden asked me, somewhat sheepishly, if she might try her first jump.

And so I held her high.

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And let her give it a go.

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And up she went.

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And down again she came.

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We both agreed.

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It was a very good jump.

Later on, we went out to dinner to celebrate.

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Alden had her first sip of miso soup.

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And now we are watching the republican nominee give his acceptance speech. To commemorate the occasion, my mother pulled out presents for each of her grandchildren.

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The babies seemed cheered by the message.

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And suddenly unified, cousins and friends, perhaps inspired by the spectacular display of bipartisan sentiment to which we have been treated these past few nights.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:53 PM

September 01, 2008

Booger Baby

Alden has been spending a lot of time with our neighbors Donald and Ann. A whole lot of time. In fact, Alden spends so much time being walked around Chestertown by Donald that Robbi and I have, on several occasions while walking around Chestertown with Alden, been asked what we were doing with Donald's baby.

In any case, Alden was spending time with Donald and Ann this evening. All was going well when, without warning, she became a vile, loud, and disconsolate. And so she was returned to us, frowning and snuffling bitterly.

We put her in the bed with her favorite stuffed moose and she was out in 30 seconds. We suspect that we did not adequately nap her before handing her off.

Alden felt remorseful when she woke, and so penned a note to Donald and Ann, which I will include for your enjoyment.

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Alden is seldom a full-on booger, but when she is bad, she is horrid.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:04 PM

New Camera

Robbi's brother is getting married later this month. And while we are of course delighted and overcome with joy at the prospects of his nuptials, Robbi is perhaps more excited about the new camera she was compelled to purchase so as to capture the joy as artistically as possible. The sudden upgrade from our point-and-shoot to the single lens reflex is pleasing to behold. And so today, without pretense or contrivance, I will simply share some rather nice photos that she took the other day.

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Weddings are such nice occasions.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:40 PM