Monday, September 14, 2009


The baby is finally asleep, aided by the lullaby CD his godmother bought him, swaddling to keep him from striking his little face, and my presence beside him on the big bed, reading Lavinia by Le Guin. At one point, tired of looking at the colorful book spines on the wall, he turned to me. I showed him my book, the only color of which was ivory with rows of black letters. I read a sentence to him, pointing to each word. He grinned, and the pacifier fell out of his mouth. In his wordlessness, I imagine him to be cleverer than he is -- that he understands these words and is using his vast intellect to put them together. I know it is not true: my conceptions will collapse into his first words, so powerful is our written language. But it is always a mother’s belief that her child is a genius, is it not?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Our Beautiful Universe

The news is often, and understandably, full of horrors, tragedies, wars, and crimes. But, every now and then, you get something like this article in The Sun. Our universe is beautiful. A star's death fills the heavens with a lovely gaseous shape, and then the human mind, aided by the Hubble's technology, can give that shape a designation. There are wonders out there. Wonders beyond imagining. Wonders worth imagining. I cannot understand, and will never accept, the notion that we are bound to this Earth or should be. Our little planet, so lovely, so full of life, is a haven, to be sure. It shelters us against the harshest agonies of space. And yet, we must leave it. We must continue the journey. We must set sail. We have, with our telescope, seen the far horizon. Now we should work toward getting there. What good is human life if it doesn't dream and then pursue those dreams? Not for minerals, not for energy resources, not for technology, but because it is there and we can. No other reason should be necessary. This is what we do. This is what humanity does. Atmosphere and the Earth shouldn't be boundaries to this, but stepping stones, preparing us for taking on the stars.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Worldedit II

I was going to create a theme for the next worldedit entry, but so many amusing instances popped up that I had to include all of them.

On my son's charming fleece vest, there's a fox head surrounded with one phrase in triplicate:

Little Explorer * Little Explorer * Little Expolorer

(Perhaps this vest's manufacturer despises polo shirts.)

Driving to the airport, Sparrow and I noticed a road sign. It had two sides:

Autumn Dr * Autumm Dr

(It had been fixed by the time we returned from Florida.)

I couldn't help it. While alone in the nursery at my grandmother's church, I noticed a bulletin board with the modus operandi. It included:

Please us the door to the hallway and not the sanctuary.
Insure that the crib side is up when the crib is occupied.

(I couldn't see what was so pleasing about the hall door, and I've never heard of putting insurance on crib rails. In my ignorance, I corrected the bulletin with my trusty blue pen.)

Once in a while I read directions. So I took a look at an assignment meant to make its students into better writers:

Each class Dan will collect a nimber of reading journals for grading and comments.

(Unfortunately, there were no instructions on how to choose a "class Dan." Or what medieval unit of measurement a "nimber" is.)

Last but not least, here's an advertisement I saw while reading Paglia's latest article at the Salon. Which of the F-words is the most Foolish?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Summer wanes. Today I imagine that it is gone already. The weather here is cool, breezy. Our windows are open. Our central air disengaged. We lack only the taste of autumn: the minute chill carried on the drifting breeze, or the stray leaf, red or golden, signaling an end to the earth's fecundity. Persephone goes to Hades soon. Demeter mourns. But I get ahead of myself. Summer is resilient here. It is a season not easily dismissed. It has, in the past, lingered successfully into October, forcing a terribly abbreviated autumn that became winter far, far too quickly. Summer may do so again. Knowing this, I breathe deeply the dry, cool air. I exult in my open windows. I watch the thermometer with childish glee: 74° and dropping.

I taught an Intensive Latin course this summer. We used Moreland and Fleischer's honestly, if prosaically, named book-- Latin: An Intensive Course. It gets the job done. And, dear readers, the job is grueling. The equivalent of a year's worth of Latin vocabulary and grammar crammed into four five-day weeks in August. I've been instructor for this course twice now. If I do it again, I'll be making some adjustments. While I intend to follow the book structurally, I think I'll spend more time before class begins compiling a chapter by chapter workbook with a variety of exercises. Moreland and Fleischer's drills are wholly insufficient, and their sentences leave a lot to be desired. I'll keep their adapted Latin, and maybe, if I'm feeling particularly ambitious, I'll adapt some of my own. I'd like to see more Livy on the prose side of things, and more Catullus and Horace on the poetry. I adore Cicero and Martial, the two most common choices of the textbook, but exposing students to a broader collection of Latin authors is key.

Now, however, my attention must turn toward children and their childhoods. My fall course concerns the lives of children in antiquity. I've been building this class piece by piece. A few harsh reviews, an unfortunate showing at my first conference, and the encouragement of my wife and closest colleagues have solidified my intentions and goals. Class begins tomorrow. I am ready. I have made the final arrangements. I even know, finally, where I'll be teaching. All that remains to be done is a large amount of photocopying. Oh, afternoon classes, thank you for giving us long mornings.

September is here, miloves.

Departing summer hath assumed
An aspect tenderly illumed,
The gentlest look of spring;
That calls from yonder leafy shade
Unfaded, yet prepared to fade,
A timely carolling.
             William Wordsworth, September

Bottle Questions

There are newborn-flow, slow-flow, medium-flow, and fast-flow nipples. The medium-flow nipples say 3+ months on the package. Should I switch my baby to medium-flow nipples at three months?

If you're breastfeeding in addition to pumping, it's important to stay with a slow-flow nipple as long as your baby isn't fussing about the slowness of the milk. Getting milk out of a breast takes work, and your baby may begin to prefer the ease of the bottle's nipple to your own.

If you're an exclusive pumper, I'd still stick with a slow-flow nipple until your baby starts to fuss, though there are less consequences.

The moral of the story? Don't take advice from manufacturing labels.

How much breastmilk should I put in the bottle?

Slightly more than your baby generally eats, in case of extra hunger (usually just before bedtime). Your baby's stomach is about the size of his or her fist -- that's about the size of a walnut between six weeks to six months. Most babies eat about 700 to 800 mL (23-28 oz) per day, but may eat more, especially when on a growth spurt. Let your baby's hunger be your guide. If he or she isn't spitting up excessively, is producing at least six wet diapers a day, and is growing, you're giving the baby enough milk.

How much should my baby be eating? Does it change over time?

From about twelve weeks to six months, a baby's eating habits tend to be fairly constant. Not all babies are the same, of course, so it's good to keep track of what your baby is eating (and how much you're producing). A milk consumption calculator can help. Remember, don't compare the amount a formula-fed infant gets with that of a breastfed infant -- formula-feeders eat a lot more. Chances are you'll never need to buy eight-ounce bottles.

Do bottles damage teeth?

Here's the Mayo Clinic's answer. Essentially, no -- but the sugars you put in the bottle can damage baby's teeth, particularly if your child goes to bed with the bottle (or sippy cup). Babies shouldn't have anything other than breastmilk, formula, or water for the first six months. Fruit juice isn't as good for a baby as the fruit itself, and cow's milk is too difficult to digest at an early age.

Should I put cereal in the bottle?

I've had everyone from government representatives to well-meaning moms ask me if I put cereal in my baby's bottle. The answer? Heck no! A baby's main source of food is milk until at least the nine month mark. Food earlier than this is for supplementation and eating practice. If you feed your baby cereal in a bottle, he won't be able to practice eating from a spoon, and that's the point of adding cereal to his diet.