Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Compliments From Students

I always get a kick out of the sometimes cute, sometimes sweet, sometimes hilarious things my students say to me. In the past two days I've received two very charming compliments worth remembering.

Yesterday students in a string quartet I'm coaching asked me if I wanted to be a school orchestra conductor. Their school's string director is retiring at the end of this year, and they practically begged me to apply for her position. I was so flattered!

Then early this afternoon five-year-old Katie came in to her private lesson and the first words out of her mouth were, "You're pretty."

Somehow moments like these make the out-of-tune notes I listen to every day 100% more bearable.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tribune on Sugary Cereals

The Chicago Tribune says that big cereal companies are not keeping their promises to market healthier products to kids.

"Sugar content may have been reduced, but it is still high. Some cereals are up to 43 percent sugar. And because most people pour more than one 3/4-cup serving into a bowl, the amount of sugar consumed is often at least twice the amount listed on the box.

"Making incremental changes in the ingredients to an unhealthy product doesn't make it healthy," Harris said. "General Mills makes a big deal about whole grain in their cereals, but most of the products have 1 or 2 grams of fiber and more sugar than whole grain. It makes people think the product is healthier than it is."

General Mills stands by its assertion that sweetened cereal such as Cocoa Puffs can be a nutritious way to start the day when served with skim milk."

In addition to talking about the obvious nutritional pitfalls of the cold cereal aisle, the article delves into companies' marketing schemes, and how children are specifically targeted:

"Parents, of course, can say "no" when their children beg for sugary cereal. But it's hardly a level playing field, as there is virtually no marketing of healthy food to kids, said Dale Kunkel, a professor of communications at the University of Arizona and a member of the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board.

A child would have to watch 10 hours of television before she saw one ad for healthy food, Kunkel said. "During that same time they'd see 75 other ads, 55 in the poorest nutritional category," he said.

Young children, meanwhile, don't understand that advertising information is biased or that the ads are trying to persuade them to do something, Kunkel said.

"Children hear ads the same way we hear a news reader on CNN," he said."

(Sounds like less T.V. would solve a lot of cereal battles!)

I've mentioned before that the American Heart Association now suggests women limit their added sugar intake to no more than 6 tsp. a day (and 9 tsp. a day for men).

Since 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 tsp, and many of the cereals in question contain around 12 grams of sugar per serving, even if children were limiting their portions to the serving size, they'd be having at least 3 tsp. of added sugar in their first meal of the day alone - and very little of nutritional value to go along with it. Frightening!

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Poverty Story

Ashleigh posted a link on her charming blog to an op-ed by David Brooks on the subject of Haiti: The Underlying Tragedy.

"This is not a natural disaster story. This is a poverty story. It’s a story about poorly constructed buildings, bad infrastructure and terrible public services."

That quote reminds me of very similar words spoken by my husband when I first told him about the earthquake. He said, with compassion, that when natural disasters strike third world countries, the results are almost always devastating.

There is a bigger problem that needs to be solved than aid for today, although that is terribly important. How can Haiti have safer, more secure tomorrows?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Massachusetts: The Brown State!

Yesterday was certainly an historic day for Massachusetts and for the whole country. My true-blue state elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate! Nathan and I voted in the morning, and then went about our usual day's work. At 8 p.m. we turned on the news to see the numbers start coming in. It didn't take long for Scott Brown to be a few percentage points ahead of Martha Coakley, and since city precincts are usually counted before suburban ones, we figured the numbers would only get better as the night went on. So... we drove into Boston to join the campaign party at the Park Plaza hotel! I had gotten a text message from the Brown campaign saying anyone and everyone could go join the party, and we figured, why not? This was history being made. We arrived in plenty of time for Coakley's concession and the ensuing celebration.

We didn't have our camera, so an iPhone photo of the two of us enjoying the festivities will have to suffice.

We enjoyed hearing Ayla Brown sing, meeting other Scott Brown supporters, and hearing the night's speeches.

After Brown's speech, it was getting late so we headed for home. As we walked out of the hotel lobby and onto the street, who should we see near a curb but Mitt Romney! We stood about three feet away from him, and I looked and Nathan and Nathan looked at me, and we both confirmed that yes, that was him in the flesh.

Sadly, he was talking on his cell phone, and we didn't want to be the kind of people who would interrupt a man's phone call, so we didn't say anything to him. (My brother - a Romney fan - couldn't believe me when I told him that. I think he's going to disown me.)

[Anyway, I didn't vote for him in the primaries, so it might have been awkward to talk to him.]

Of course liberals are saying it all comes down to Coakley's poorly-run campaign (and her campaign was indeed terrible), but I tend to agree with Hugh Hewitt's assessment:

This was not a stealth vote. The Democrat in this deep blue state did not lack for resources. The Senate Democrats provided the money. The president came on demand and cut the ads. The netroots were pulsing with unheeded appeals to voters.

The voters knew exactly what was on the line and they voted, decisively, against Obamacare. "It will raise taxes. It will hurt Medicare. It will destroy jobs. It will run us deeper into debt," Brown declared about Obamacare in his speech. "And we can do better!"

Nathan and I are happy and relieved at Brown's victory. For anyone living under a rock, the New York Times has a good summary of Brown's win and what it means for both political parties, for the Senate, and for our nation.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


This picture broke my heart:

In fact, all of these did, and they will break your heart, too.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

No Pants Subway Ride 2k10

It appears that the ninth annual "No Pants Subway Ride," instituted and organized by Improv Everywhere, was a big success. Supposedly as many as 3,000 commuters participated this year in cities across the globe - exponential growth for an idea that started with just seven people in 2002. Participants climb aboard their morning commute as usual, and then calmly shed their pants. The main requirement is for people involved in the event to act as though nothing unusual is going on; many continue to sip their morning coffee or sit down and proceed to read the day's newspaper.

Most notable was the event's "home base" observance in New York City, but other improv groups organized branches of the event in other cities, such as Capitol Improv's version on the D.C. metro.

Would witnessing such an event make you smile, or shake your head with disapproval?

[I'd smile.]

Scott Brown for U.S. Senate

My Aunt sent me a link to a great article by Hugh Hewitt on the upcoming special election for senator: A Massachusetts Miracle? Hewitt writes,

"...[Scott Brown] is a Republican running for the Senate in Massachusetts. This is the special election to fill the seat held by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, and the vote is on Jan. 19.

In any other state this year, Brown would be ahead of his opponent, Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley, a conventional Bay State liberal who supports the failed stimulus bill, the takeover of health care and every other big-government push of Team Obama.

In any other year in this state, Brown would be behind by 30 points.

But he is within single digits and closing, held back only by a lack of funds and the stark reality of the political demographics of the commonwealth.

When Brown appeared on my radio show this week, he was upbeat and energized by an enormous populist surge across Massachusetts, where Obamacare is every bit as disliked as it is everywhere else in the United States.

Massachusetts already has universal care, thanks to the initiative sponsored by then-Gov. Mitt Romney of a few years back, so all of the massive new taxes in the federal takeover will buy Massachusetts citizens zip, even as seniors get hammered by the huge cuts to Medicare. If Brown wins, Obamacare is back to the drawing board, which is tempting many Bay State voters to take a hard look at Brown."

Read the whole article, and then check out Scott Brown's website.

This is the first time since I've lived in Massachusetts that I've felt like my candidate has a fighting chance, and my vote might make a difference.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Heidelberg Pick-Up Line

Says my good husband to me this evening,

"At the end of the day, my one comfort in life and in death is that my wife is a beautiful, beautiful woman."

That's the most romantic spinoff of the Heidelberg Catechism I've ever heard!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Winter Running

I propose a new Olympic event:

Running three miles in twenty-or-below degree weather on snowy, icy sidewalks while leaping and dodging the slippery parts and thereby avoiding falling on one's you-know-what.

I think I would do well in such an event.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Accidental Home Birth

Emily posted a link to Jenny's "Christmas Evie Miracle" story - an unplanned home birth beneath a Christmas tree!
"I am SO not a home birth kind of gal, but the experience was nothing short of life-changing and completely spiritual for me and my family."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

On Trapping Small Animals

We have an animal problem in our house. Back when we were first moving in I had discovered a small pile of some sort of nuts in one of the upstairs closets, leading us to suspect that either the former owners liked to snack in dark corners or squirrels had been inside. As we settled in and the weather got colder, we could hear scratching sounds inside the walls at night. And then we started discovering new nut piles upstairs. Nathan, being a sensible fellow, set a Havahart trap. When that yielded no results, he added four spring traps all around the main upstairs room (currently that room is just being used for storage until we refinish the floors). Well, he checked those traps dutifully every night and every morning, but he didn't catch anything. Sometimes they were sprung, sometimes the peanut butter was even eaten, but no luck catching the squirrels.

Well, first on our to-do list upon returning home from our Christmas visit to California was to clean and organize the upstairs and try to find how these pests are getting into our house. We Lysol-ed everything and reorganized all our boxes of stored stuff. We really got a lot done!

Then, as I was going through a final box of clothes, I discovered that I had unwittingly done what Nathan could not do.

There was a dead animal in that box of clothes. (I may or may not have shrieked upon the discovery. Ahem.) Well, it was my box of clothes, and I was the one who found the critter, so I think it's fair to say that I trapped that animal with a cardboard box when Nathan could not do it with five elaborate traps - a situation I find quite humorous.

We aren't quite sure what this little fella is. (Or rather, was.) It's not one of the gray, fluffy-tailed squirrels I'm used to seeing, but I'm not sure it's uniformly red enough to be a red squirrel either. It's tail is quite skinny (although that could have something to do with being dead) and the hair on it's ears is not long. I don't think it could be a chipmunk, unless there are varieties of chipmunks with less defined stripes on their backs. For now I'm thinking it must be a red squirrel (a conclusion reached in part thanks to this helpful website), although it doesn't look like most of the red squirrels a Google image search turns up. If it is a red squirrel I feel rather badly, because apparently red squirrels are classified as endangered species, and here I went and killed one with a cardboard box.

Any thoughts on this guy's identity, friends?

(Apologies for the graphic images.)

And now, I'm off to launder everything that was in that box at least three times in a row.