Saturday, December 31, 2016

Poem for Saturday and December Snow

By Michael Chitwood

What you have not done
is without error. What you
have not said is beyond contradiction.

What you understand of God
was yesterday. Today a bicycle
waits, chained to a bench.

The success of this afternoon's nap
is the dream of lifting seven boxes,
your week, sealed with clear tape.

They stack, three to a column,
with the seventh like a capstone.
What you do not know they contain.


It snowed this morning! Not for very long and with no consequence in terms of local traffic, but long enough that we let people sleep later than we might have otherwise, so then we had to rush to eat lunch because Maddy wanted to go get her nails done before she started work. We decided to go see Rogue One since we were going in that direction, Daniel and Adam had not yet, and we wanted to see it again. It was even better the second time!

We had to rush out just as the credits started because Daniel got paged by his office -- everyone is on vacation and there was no one in the office who could take care of what they needed him to do long distance. Adam's girlfriend came with us to dinner at my parents' where we had Chinese food and celebrated the seventh night of Chanukah. Then we watched Southside With You, the Obama first-date movie, which is quite enjoyable!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Greetings from Philadelphia

On Thursday we took Daniel, Adam, and Maddy to Philly, where we went to the Franklin Institute (stopping first for lunch at Au Bon Pain next to the garage where we parked, since the mobbed museum lot was full; we hadn't realized Rogue One was playing at their IMAX). We particularly wanted to see Jurassic World: The Exhibition, which was awesome, and we also went to Robot Revolution (great for kids, though our engineer sons were pretty familiar with everything on display) and many of the permanent exhibits on the brain, astronomy, electricity, trains, planes, etc. We stopped for dinner at the Maryland House and now we're watching Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation since the kids had not seen it. A few pics -- more tomorrow!

Studying robotics

Robot blackjack

Facial recognition

Brachiosaurus attack

Baby pachyrhinosaurus

We survived!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Poem for Thursday, That's Amore, Through the Looking Glass

A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky
By Lewis Carroll

A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July —

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear —

Long had paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die.
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?


After a morning of work and chores, we went just after noon to pick up Maddy from the airport, where we parked and ate lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl. We spent a couple of hours in the afternoon watching the first Pokemon movie, which was my fault since I had found the VHS tape, then at dinnertime we went to meet Linda and Hildy, my two good friends from elementary school, and their families at That's Amore, where we shared Italian food and did lots of catching up.

We haven't all been together in years, and although Linda and Ira's older son was en route to Israel, all the rest of the kids including Maddy came and all appeared to have a good time. When we got home, we ate some of Maddy's birthday cake, lit the menorah, and watched Alice Through the Looking Glass (a Chanukah present). Again, the parts of my day I spent with family were lovely. I can't even imagine what the family of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher is experiencing now.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Poem for Wednesday, ZooLights, Star Wars

A Woman's Place
By Carrie Fisher

A woman’s place is in the home
Seated by the telephone
Men sow their wild oats
And women are sown.


The parts of my day I spent with my family were lovely -- we worked together, had lunch together, and went to ZooLights at the National Zoo. It took us a while to park, but the weather was very warm from December and although it was crowded, it wasn't suffocating so the way it felt sometimes last year. We met Annmarie as planned plus my friend Hildy's family, including her kids and father, who'd been visiting earlier in the afternoon! We saw pandas, elephants, and many other outdoor animals with Annmarie, then the light displays as it got dark, after which we went to Paragon Thai for dinner; Paul, Adam, and I shared tofu dishes, all of which were great.

We've spent the evening watching Star Wars (fine, A New Hope) and then the Robot Chicken Star Wars collections to try to cheer me up. I didn't think it was possible that any celebrity death could upset me more than the one-two punch of Bowie and Rickman, but Carrie Fisher sure comes close. I was a Star Trek fan before I was a Star Wars fan, but Leia was my first warrior princess -- a woman who dressed initially like a girly girl yet could wield a weapon and order the guys around. And Fisher herself was one of the first famous Jewish women of whom I was aware, who was public about the various struggles that made her relatable and who could be hilarious about them. RIP.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Poem for Tuesday and Great Falls

By Katrina Roberts

A man walks into a
museum in Paris, the Museum
of Natural History, to saw

a tusk off an elephant-
skeleton centuries-older than 
he'll ever be, becoming

in those early morning hours 
part of a derelict and
inglorious human history,

while swallows darn the air
in loops, their glinting wings 
an origami of hushed folds

only glimpsed by one vigilant
girl, framed as she is within
a pane of glass, the door of her

heart opening onto a filigreed
balcony that keeps her 
suspended, an unlikely wish

about someone not coming
back. A man walks. A man
walks in to a bar. "Whaddya

want?" Dusty continent
of desire. Majesty left as ragged
meat in heaps for hyenas

"laughing" in heat. Who can look
away? A man sets rough
elbows heavy on the lip

of zinc, thumbs each cheekbone
so his pointers steeple to catch
his brow, shuts eyes, heaves a sigh

then slumps to rest an unshaven cheek
against the cool, unquestioning
bar, as though to sink

into what's most elemental. What's
"natural" about any man
making his way alone

through empty Left Bank streets
carrying not a lovely burnished box
of watercolor paints in uniform

lozenge-cakes but a chainsaw?
The wheeling sky sees all
while sleepers sleep, still

dreaming in languages long lost
when day breaks. The pinking sky
sees all, but rarely speaks

though someone more Romantic
might say it weeps. And the sleepless
girl, orphaned by light, the bright

tusk of her hopes. The joke
no joke, no punch-
line, but a gut-punch in plain sight.


I spent Tuesday morning doing assorted chores, then my kids went out to lunch with my mother and I tried to catch up on e-mail and stuff. In the afternoon, Adam went to see friends from high school, and Daniel, Paul, and I went to Great Falls, where I had to limp and it was very overcast but we saw lots of birds:

We got home in time to see the Terps lose their bowl game. Daniel had not seen Star Trek Beyond and wanted to see Jeff Bezos playing an evil alien, so after dinner (leftovers!), we watched that. Then we watched the end of the Cowboys-Lions game, Adam came home, and now we're watching some more ancient Pokemon episodes on VHS!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Poem for Monday and Christmas

Christmas Cheer
By Thomas Tusser

Good husband and housewife, now chiefly be glad,
Things handsome to have, as they ought to be had.
They both do provide, against Christmas do come,
To welcome their neighbors, good cheer to have some.

Good bread and good drink, a good fire in the hall,
Brawn, pudding, and souse, and good mustard withal.
Beef, mutton, and pork, and good pies of the best,
Pig, veal, goose, and capon, and turkey well drest,
Cheese, apples and nuts, and good carols to hear,
As then in the country is counted good cheer.

What cost to good husband, is any of this?
Good household provision only it is:
Of other the like, I do leave out a many,
That costeth the husband never a penny.


After waking Daniel and Adam, we picked up my parents and drove them up to spend the day with Paul's parents. So we spent most of Christmas in Hanover, eating primarily Swedish food and lots of cookies, watching some of the extremely unfortunate Ravens-Steelers game, and Skyping with Maddy, David, and their family in L.A., plus we exchanged presents. It was a very nice, low-key afternoon!

We got home in time for Doctor Who, which for once was completely delightful -- okay, not winning any feminist awards, but it was sweet and funny and didn't have any fate of the universe crap riding on the shoulders of a Manic Pixie Girl companion. Now we're watching ancient Pokemon VHS tapes to see the Poseidon Adventure episode! Hope everyone had a nice holiday!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Poem for Christmas and Chanukah

A Child is Something Else Again
By Yehuda Amichai
Translated by Chana Bloch

A child is something else again. Wakes up
in the afternoon and in an instant he's full of words,
in an instant he's humming, in an instant warm,
instant light, instant darkness.

A child is Job. They've already placed their bets on him
but he doesn't know it. He scratches his body
for pleasure. Nothing hurts yet.
They're training him to be a polite Job,
to say "Thank you" when the Lord has given,
to say "You're welcome" when the Lord has taken away.

A child is vengeance.
A child is a missile into the coming generations.
I launched him: I'm still trembling.

A child is something else again: on a rainy spring day
glimpsing the Garden of Eden through the fence,
kissing him in his sleep,
hearing footsteps in the wet pine needles.
A child delivers you from death.
Child, Garden, Rain, Fate.


Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas! I had a fairly quiet family day -- everyone slept late, then we ate lunch and watched several episodes of The Man in the High Castle while the Christmas bread baked. I think I finally have my new (inherited) computer synchronized.

Then we went to my parents' house, watched some football, had latkes with dinner, and lit the menorah. My foot is still hurting, so I didn't walk and I am very, very full! Here are some photos of the cats enjoying having so many people around and all of us celebrating the holiday:

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Poem for Saturday, Retrospect, Washingtonian

Moonless Darkness Stands Between
By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, the Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem-star may lead me
To the sight of Him Who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure, Lord: Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly;
Now beginning, and alway:
Now begin, on Christmas day.


I had to work on Friday, as did Daniel and Paul, but I managed to spend plenty of time with my kids around that. Adam started the day at his friend Kevin's overnight movie marathon; the rest of us ate breakfast together around our computers, and I finished my still-ragey-after-all-these-years review of Voyager's "Retrospect". Eventually we picked up Adam and we all watched the first couple of episodes of the second season of The Man in the High Castle, since we'd all watched the first season together last winter while they were here.

Then we met all four Helgesens at California Pizza Kitchen, where I got Tuscan hummus plus the free dessert to which I was entitled for my birthday -- chocolate souffle. Despite having a sore foot because of something I managed to do to it while trying not to step on a cat who went zooming out of the kitchen after dumping over her water bowl, I dragged my family to Charming Charlie to use the coupon I had for that and got a sparkly birthday bracelet. Now we're watching some more Man in the High Castle while Paul makes holiday cookies.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Poem for Friday and Family Stuff

Poem from the Russian
By Jean Valentine

In a circle of 12 winter trees
I'm hunched
Remembering being fled from

— Who gave me this wool sweater?
So it please you life, we won’t go alone —
Next year will be better.
Remember that white tree?

The white underpaint of the government.
The country of bone.

In memory of Michael Brown


I have spent all evening fighting with my computer, which decided it didn't like the new settings I spent days updating and required that they be reinstalled, and now LiveJournal doesn't want to let me see my Scrapbook, so I will take that as a sign to keep this brief. I spent the day with family, though I was working for a lot of it -- both sons were on their computers in the morning while I was working on a review, then we all went to California Tortilla for lunch and stopped in Giant to get ice cream for Adam to take to the all night movie marathon where he is now with his high school friends.

In the afternoon I did more work and began the aforementioned wrestling with my computer, plus I repaired a bit of jewelry and worked on the holiday packages that are clearly going to be late for Christmas but will hopefully arrive before Chanukah ends. My parents came for dinner to see Daniel, who is working from here again tomorrow. After they left, I tested my new Pokemon Go Plus which arrived from Japan late in the evening, yay! And we watched the Eagles beat the Giants, though I'm not sure if that helps Washington. Here are some photos of my past couple of days hanging around home: