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January 29, 2009

Two Degrees of Barack Obama

This morning Christian sent me a link to an article announcing new additions to Obama's White House Counsel staff. Among them, I am pleased to announce is friend and college classmate Jon Kravis, who has been named Associate Counsel to the President. Jon is one of those eerily smart guys who is, at any given moment, capable of saying something brilliant and remarkable, and yet he is also nice, funny, and talented in other ways. In short, Jon is awesome. And now he's awesome AND Associate Counsel to the most powerful man in the world. Does this mean that Jon is now more awesome than he was before? I'd argue that it isn't possible. If you add "awesome" to "infinity" it's still just infinity, right? I argue that the same holds with Jon, who was already as awesome as a guy can be. But now he's awesome in an entirely new way.

Here's the little bio on Jon published in the article I linked to above (in case you are the type who doesn't like to link to things).

Jonathan Kravis
The President has named Jonathan Kravis to be Associate Counsel to the President. Mr. Kravis recently served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. Prior to this, he was an associate at Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C. Earlier in his career, he served as a Law Clerk to Justice Stephen Breyer of the Supreme Court of the United States and to Judge Merrick Garland of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Kravis received his bachelor's degree from Williams College and his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

And here is a photo of Jon and me at dinner a year or so ago, just the two of us in private conversation, discussing important things with far-reaching impact, and basking in the overall wonder that is Jon.

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We are proud of you, sir. Go be just. And if your boss wants to be an Idiots'Books subscriber, we'll totally put him on the list for free.

Posted by bogenamp at 02:18 PM

January 28, 2009

The Monk by the Sea

I was an English and religion major in college and so I did a lot of reading and writing. At the time, I had never thought much about art and had no idea what a big role it would play down the line. Not only do I work for a design firm and spend a lot of my time as Robbi's sounding board and editor on the illustration front, but now I am an art professor.

Robbi and I are teaching a course called Pictures and Words through the art department at Washington College. It is a semester-long version of the course we taught at Williams College last January. We have a handful of writers and a handful of visual artists (though a number of our students write and draw), and together we are examining the act of collaboration, specifically what it means to work with a partner in another medium on stitching together a coherent, compelling artwork involving both image and word.

Our class meets weekly (from 7:00pm-9:30pm) and is going well so far. We have a great group of students, all of whom seem genuinely interested in exploring the questions the course is asking. At the end of the semester, we will have a public presentation/reading of their work. Rest assured, you will be invited.

Because my college was known for art history, I did manage to squeeze in the two-semester introductory art history survey course, or at least one-and-a-half semesters as an auditor. I saw a great many slides from that seat in the dark auditorium, many of which I admired. But one painting has always stood out for me as my favorite. And now that I am an art professor, I feel qualified to share it with you.

This is The Monk by the Sea, by Caspar David Friedrich.

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I really like it and stuff.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:35 PM

January 26, 2009

Weekend in Baltimore

We drove across the bridge last Saturday to visit with Christian, Emily, and Iris. The girls are getting bigger and slightly more aware of one another.

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For example, they were playing together happily on the floor when Alden picked up a plastic rattle and whacked Iris in the face. The expected wailing ensued. Alden looked around guiltlessly, as if to say, "What? That was nothing. What a weenie." I did not photograph the episode.

We did all sorts of things: playing Sorry, playing Wii, cooking and eating, watching basketball, walking for five minutes in the park before deciding that it was too muddy, and going to brunch. For most of it we forgot to pull out the camera. But we remembered to bring it to brunch.

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Alden had to sit next to Christian, which she hated.

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He tried to get back into her good graces by helping her with the menu.
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But the puny little grouch rebuffed his kindness and indicated that she preferred to read it herself.

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She decided on the eggs Benedict.

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But upon being reminded that she was still a tiny baby, decided instead on bananas and peach flavored rice puffs.

We used the occasion to celebrate our 12th Christmas of the holiday season by giving Iris a gift.

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It was a jack-in-the-box, something we expected to terrify her. We were worried as we cranked it: Would she cry? Would she scream?

The clown popped out. We waited for her reaction.

Nothing.

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Apparently the terror of clowns does not set in until sometime beyond the eighth month. Or perhaps the rattle incident hardened her to the realities of life in a world occupied by Alden.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:35 PM

January 23, 2009

Up to No Good

Is it just me, or do these two look like common ruffians from the streets of Liverpool?

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Cannon grew out of his skelly sweat suit and donated it to his little partner. I've heard that the corrupting power of peer influence spreads to the manner of dress. The outfit has altered Alden's bearing and demeanor dramatically. So much so that whenever she wears it, I've been keeping an eye on my valuables.

This photo was taken a moment after I suggested that playtime was over and that Alden and Cannon start cleaning up their toys.

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Needless to say, I backed down in an instant. I think she has officially entered adolescence. From what I read in the books, the next 17 years are going to be awful.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:56 AM

January 21, 2009

A Father Can Dream

Although she remains entirely illiterate, I can't help wonder if someday Alden might someday notice something like this about me.

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Robbi sent me the link from the blog A Practical Compendium of Random Things. Was she trying to help me look ahead to those endearing days that will come to pass as Alden learns to read and write?

Or was she trying to let me know how she feels about the color of my armpit hair?

In other news, Alden's campaign of sesame oil seems to have had its intended result. We took her to the doctor for the weigh-in yesterday and learned that she gained nearly as much weight in the last two weeks (8 oz) as she had in the preceding three months (9 oz). She is up to 14 pounds, 10 ounces, still not big enough to find herself on the lowest curve on the growth chart. But the progress was enough to satisfy the doctor's curiosity about whether or not she was capable of getting any bigger.

So the child is on her way. Though I suspect that some of the credit must go to the banana, almost certainly Alden's favorite fruit.

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She has eaten no fewer than two every day for the past two weeks. I fear that Chestertown might run out. I don't want to be the one who has to explain it to the baby if they do.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:35 PM

The Moment

Throughout our lives, we will each be asked to recount where we were and what we were doing at the moment when Obama became president. Some will tell of having been at the Mall, like my friend David, who sent this shot of his vantage of the Capitol.

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Others will recount the moment through lenses of personal experience, seeing Obama's election as the surprising affirmation of struggle, perseverance, and unflagging hope.

Alden will have her own version of the event, though it is unlikely to include much detail.

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She fell asleep at 11:54am and woke twenty minutes later to a new world.

And to a visit from Cannon, which from her perspective, is more exciting than any inaugural festivities.

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But looking at their faces, I see a sense of wonder and surprise, as if they somehow know that something has shifted in their young lives, that things are going to be very different from now on.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:26 AM

January 20, 2009

It's Her Future

Alden has been waiting for this day all her life.

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I only wish she could understand just how big a deal it is.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:43 AM

January 18, 2009

Unbridled Enthusiasm

For the most part, Robbi and I make our books for the sheer pleasure of creation. Unencumbered by the profit motive that drives most commercial printing efforts (and free from the accompanying editorial scrutiny), we are at liberty to do whatever the heck we want to. The pleasure comes from the act of expression and not from any accolades or sales figures.

But occasionally we get letters like this one (from two subscribers making the valiant decision to renew their subscriptions for another year in spite of the sour economic climate). Letters that so overflow with enthusiasm and gush with adulation that we remember the other side of the equation: we make books so that they may find readers whose lives are changed for the better by having read them.

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Thank you R2 and T for reminding us why we do this.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:17 PM

January 17, 2009

Date Night

The budding courtship of Alden and Cannon took another leap forward last night when they both decided to get inside the same container at the same time.

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It's a major step.

Later, Alden practiced her canter.

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It's cold in Chestertown, so we've been staying inside for the most part. We kept hoping that the Obama train would make a whistle stop, but he seems to have made it to Washington without making an appearance here.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:05 PM

January 15, 2009

Alden and Spud

We saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull tonight. It was horrible. Horrible. My pleasant childhood memories of Indy's bold adventures have been dashed against the jagged rocks of this awful, awful attempt to revitalize the franchise.

Indiana Jones does not deal with aliens. He does not have an illegitimate son. And he does not get married and live happily ever after. Perhaps the first three movies were just as bad. But they are safely locked in the sanctum of my memory, where Indiana Jones is cool and funny and where his adventures are exciting and suspenseful and not about aliens. Or matrimony.

If you have not seen the movie, don't. Don't let nostalgia get the better of you.

I'm too demoralized to write anything more. And so I'll share another photo of Alden's visit with Spud the other day.

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In the child's opinion, Spud is what a pet should be, an absolute whore for attention, and not a nervous Weimaraner or a diffident cat.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:58 PM

January 14, 2009

What the...?

Alden loves her cats, though she seldom gets to spend quality time with them. Her crawling skills, while passable for a baby, are no match for Oscar and Lily, whose interest in being admired by the baby is very low. When she comes charging across the floor, full of love and dying to shower attention, they either flee for the safety of the cat tower or escape through the cat door beyond which the baby is not allowed to go.

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Alden simply cannot grasp the concept.

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It's hard being nine-and-a-half months old.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:43 PM

January 13, 2009

Containing the Beast

We have heard from subscribers that our books present a problem. Due to their widely varying sizes, formats, shapes, and binding methods, the books are difficult to shelve. Some people have vented bitterly on this front, though these same people, when asked if they would prefer uniformity of size, format, shape, and binding method, have been quick to protest that in fact they love the variety of size, format, shape, and binding method, and that they enjoy opening their envelope each month wondering what we will have come up with this time.

It is a conundrum, impossible to reconcile.

But one creative and enthusiastic subscriber sent us this photo today, her solution of the problem of how to store our books.

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Needless to say, Robbi and I were honored to learn that Anne had gone to such trouble, but at the same time it pained us both to know that Volume 19, which will be sent out in about two weeks, will not fit into Anne's Idiots'Books box. Nor will it arrive in an envelope.

If I have managed to create some small element of suspense, I am delighted.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:24 PM

January 12, 2009

The Look, Part 2: Explanation

I received an email from my good friend Christian just now, in which he endeavored to explain his theory for the origin of "the look" that has been appearing on my child's face with alarming frequency in recent days. His explanation required no words. Instead, he sent this photograph, taken a year or so ago when Christian, Emily, Robbi, and I went to roller derby in Baltimore.

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Emily and Robbi were, I believe, emulating the teeming badassery of the ladies on skates. My child, it would appear, is gearing up for a life as an eight-wheeled bruiser.

I couldn't be more proud.

Posted by bogenamp at 05:36 PM

January 11, 2009

The Look

One of Alden's more delightful and consistently gratifying developmental milestones has been the introduction of "the look", a scrunched-up face that she employs of late when she is feeling feisty.

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We have been daunted in repeated attempts to capture the look, as the appearance of the camera invariably causes it to evaporate. But our friend Beth, who visited today, caught Alden unawares, producing the above documentation to share with you.

And here is Alden with Beth's dog Spud.

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The baby was entirely puzzled by Spud, so dissimilar is he from Iggy, her only frame of reference for dogs. He is about the same size as our cats, but much more amiable. In the end, I think her attempts to understand Spud gave way to her enjoyment of his company.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:47 PM

January 10, 2009

Big Shoes

We're running out of obvious containers in which to place the child. And so today, I thought she might enjoy trying on Robbi's boots, which have been sitting unused throughout this snowless winter.

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At first, Alden wasn't convinced that this was a good idea.

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But as soon as she realized that the boots didn't prohibit pursuit of her new favorite pastime (investigating the contents of any cabinet in reach), her attitude improved markedly.

Her very favorite new game is puling the dishcloths down from the handle of the oven door.

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This game is great fun for the baby.

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And somewhat less thrilling for whomever has to keep hanging the towels up . . .

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. . . that they might be pulled down once more.

The world, to this child, is a magical place of towel bars that replenish themselves, diapers that become clean, and bowls that suddenly fill with food just when the hunger strikes. It must be so disappointing on that day when we realize that this isn't how things actually work, that eventually one must hang up her own towel and clean up her own mess, regardless of how large a pair of boots she's wearing.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:56 PM

January 09, 2009

New Word

Robbi just brought a new word to my attention, or rather, a new name for a common word, or rather, a very old name (new to me) for a common word that I have known for a long time.

The word is octothorp, which is the printer's traditional name for the pound sign.

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This information is unlikely to help you in any way, but perhaps it will give you some small moment of delight as you count the minutes to the start of the weekend.

Posted by bogenamp at 02:59 PM

Breakfast

Checking in on day three of the Baby Fattening Project. Here is Alden, on the final lap of a breakfast, after already consuming a handful of cheerios and a full bowl of rice cereal fortified with two teaspoons of sesame oil.

The new rule: both hands must be full of foodstuffs at all times.

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She seems to be enjoying this.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:44 AM

January 08, 2009

Early Start

The barn in which we live is foremost a pottery studio and shop owned and operated by Robbi's parents. One of the nice things about this setup is that they get to see Alden all the time. She probably thinks she has four parents. More often than not, when Robbi and I are passing through the downstairs on our way in or out from an errand, Bob and Seiko will step aside from their industry for a few minutes to spend some time with A-Chan.

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Seiko is one of the preeminent potters of Ikebana (Japanese traditional flower arranging) containers in the country. In spite of this, Robbi has never shown an inclination for working with clay. We are wondering if the spark of potter's genius might be of the sort that skips a generation.

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Early evidence suggests the child might have an interest.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:35 AM

January 06, 2009

Babies in Yet More Containers

It has been some time since I have posted photos of babies in containers, and a number of good ones have accumulated in the last few weeks.

For example, Emily in her Christmas stocking.

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Garcia in the dryer.

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Cannon in the washing machine.

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Cannon in the grocery basket.

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Garcia in serious trouble.

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And Alden in . . . love?

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It's possible. Cannon came over for a visit today and after riding their stylish plastic cars together, they shared a moment at the horrible plastic entertainment module.

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In addition to being less than a week apart in age, residents of the Eastern Shore, and hat wearers, they share another interesting characteristic: both are too small! Both Alden and Cannon went to the doctor today and both were prescribed three teaspoons daily of sesame oil as a means of fattening them up. Alden gained exactly nine ounces in the past three months, bringing her weight to 14 pounds, two ounces, small enough to be less than the fifth percentile in baby weight. The doctor is not worried (we let him know that Alden's grandmothers are 4'10" and 5'3" respectively) but nevertheless, we have been charged with bulking up the child.

I relish the challenge.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:02 PM

Post or Die

I received this email just now, from a college friend who reads this blog from time to time.

"Are you in a Hallmark version of Speed where if you post fewer than four cute pictures of Alden each week your barn will blow up?"

The truth is, yes, if I post fewer than four cute pictures of Alden each week, the barn will blow up. This is how it feels inside my heart.

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And this is what I look like with my shirt off:

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It is so good to be understood, finally, to have my endless plight be a shared one at last. Thank you, David, for understanding, for being there for me.

As I march bravely toward meeting this week's quota, I leave you with yet another shot of my overphotographed charge.

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May the poor thing survive her tortured childhood.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:13 AM

January 04, 2009

The Greatest Gift of All

If you think this entry is going to be about babies, you are a sentimental sap who completely misunderstands the purpose of this blog, which is to talk about cars, guns, and babes. And cats.

Robbi, Alden, and I ended up having ten Christmases this year, the first of which happened way back in October. Seiko came up to our studio early one afternoon and asked us if we'd be willing to come over to her and Bob's house that evening to receive our Christmas present. I was puzzled by the timing, but nevertheless delighted. We showed up at the appointed hour.

There were two reasons for the early gift. The first became apparent as soon as we entered the living room. The box containing the present was enormous, and Seiko didn't want to have to put up with it for two extra months.

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And so I opened the box. Inside, I found a large plastic orb that bore an uncanny resemblance to the Death Star.

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I continued to explore the yet-unempty box. The orb had a stand.

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I had absolutely no idea what it was. And then I read the accompanying literature. We were proud owners of the Litter Robot, the final word in self-cleaning litter boxes.

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Our spirits soared as we reflected on the end of an era. Would we ever scoop malodorous clumps of cat yuck from the litterbox again? It seemed that we would not. We hastened home to try the thing out.

Here is a schematic of the orb.

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Basically, the Robot's orb sits on the stand. The orb is full of litter. When the cat enters the orb, the weight of its feet activate a switch deep within the orb. Seven minutes later (which must be the maximum time possible that a cat can possibly spend making yuck) the orb turns 270 degrees counterclockwise. In the process, the good litter is separated from the yuck and saved in a special compartment while the yuck goes into a hermetically sealed, soundproof chamber in the base. The orb then returns to its proper orientation, full of nothing but the freshest, most wholesome litter.

And folks, it works! All you skeptics may watch this very nice animated movie that shows exactly how the miracle happens.

Cat in:

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Cat out:

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I wish you could have seen his face as this picture was taken. He was so very happy.

Once a week we open the base and remove a pre-bagged pile of yuck. We take it to the trash. In the interim, no foul odor emanates from the Litter Robot. This, we learned, was the second reason for the early Christmas gift. Bob and Seiko reasoned that there was no earthly reason to endure two more months of stinky litter box if our lives could all be made complete and sweet-smelling by bringing the Robot into our lives mid-October.

We have been happy and sweet-smelling ever since.

Needless to say, I am tempted to put Alden into the orb. Not only would this provide another entry for the Babies in Containers contest, but it might save on diapers. So far, her mother has yet to consent to the scheme, but I sense her resolve may be weakening. More on that front to come.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:18 PM

Hats

Alden received several hats for Christmas this year. Three are of particular note.

Here is her flapper hat, hand-knit by Grandma Judy. (Notice as well the Kansas bib not hand-knit by Grandpa John.)

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This picture was taken just after its subject awoke from a long nap, hence the gravity of her expression.

And here is her Dr. Seuss-like handmade creation from Aunt Ming, who claims this wonderful hat as her very first piece of knitting.

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And surely the lime green helmet hat from Aunt Andy deserves an encore. Robbi put the hat on Alden at some time during the night (it has been cold in Chestertown) and so I was greeted to the unexpected sight of Alden ready for the gridiron when I plucked her from the crib this morning.

What better way to start the day than to play with one's garishly colored, tastelessly decorated, sound-producing entertainment center?

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At least there are hats to offset the scourge of molded plastic. It is a small, important consolation.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:18 AM