Columns 1997

Kid Birthday Parties

Did you hear the latest news from the action packed world of astro-physics? The Hubbell telescope (whose slogan is "Your tax dollars zipping through space.") just sent back some data that proves to the six guys who understand this stuff that not only are there Black Holes in outer space, they are also bigger than anyone thought. And they have edges. Well, not really edges, but things called Event Horizons. This is a kind of border - where if you cross it, you get sucked into a voracious maw of super-duper- gravity and are never heard from again.

Kids and Jobs

Yesterday we received a "Val-pak" in the mail. You know, those envelopes stuffed with coupons from local businesses and mail-order companies. I pulled out a couple we might use and was just about to throw the rest away when my son wandered by. He immediately spied an ad for a correspondence school that promised to teach one how to earn lots of money by learning skills one can do at home.

"Cool! Can I have this?"

Sure. Anything to keep him occupied for three minutes.

Awhile later he nonchalantly ambled back into the kitchen.

Valent Squirrel Muffins

It was seventeen years ago today that, after a few hours of studying in my grad school's library, I decided I needed a break. I walked out to the main hall of the school to slurp a drink at the drinking fountain. While I was there, a flower shop van drove up, a guy got out and started carrying in a bud vase that held three red roses.


Geneaology, Comets and the pedigree collapse.

It's tricky to get just the right perspective on one's place in the universe.

Real Estate Stories

When we decided to move to Wisconsin we had to sell our house in Chicago. We had cleaned and fixed-up for weeks, it was twenty minutes before the first walk-through, and I was 100% exhausted as I pulled brownies from of the oven (to make the house smell enticing) and lit the artfully laid fire in the fireplace. Then I went upstairs to get the kids.

I came back downstairs eight minutes later.

Roiling smoke filled the living room and billowed down the hall towards the kitchen. Yes. I'd forgotten to open the fireplace damper.

Known as Addressed

I have received many kind notes and remarks from readers since I started writing this column - but I think the kudos I relish most is one I heard about just a few weeks ago.

Awhile back, I wrote about the birthday celebration of a 7th grader I know. He and some friends spent a day at the State Fair last year. They had so much fun one of the kids threw up.

Apparently the post-vomitous kid was so delighted by his inclusion in my column that he cut it out, framed the article, and hung it on his bedroom wall.

Weekend with Thirteen-Year-Olds

Mary extended the invitation to me two months ago. Would I like to join her at the Up North cabin for a weekend? She'd be there alone on her way home from a professional obligation. I responded no. The 300 mile drive sounded exhausting, losing a regular family weekend sounded complicated and tiring.

Several days later I was sitting on the sofa (with coffee) when a huge thought came flapping into my brain like a large and rowdy crow. It cawed to me loudly, "Since when did you get so old you don't have to do tiring, tricky or interesting things anymore?"


The first glaciers moseyed on down to our neck of the woods about a million years ago. World wide chilly temperatures created a deep freeze climate up north. That prevented snow from melting; the unmelted snow then compacted into huge (200 feet high, 300 miles wide) crazy quilts of ice. More snow fell, didn't melt, got heavy enough to squish down and spread out the glaciers. Think of an under-baked multi-layered cake. After a while the weight of the top layers makes the bottom slowly collapse, compact, and ooze off the cake plate and onto the table.

Memories of Friends' Houses

The ad read simply enough. 'For Sale By Owner, 2-story brick, 3 bedrooms, spacious kitchen.' Someone has already bid in on it. If all goes smoothly, a new owner will soon move into the house of some of the best friends we've made since we moved to Wisconsin.

It could be worse. Since they're 'only' moving to Iowa, I suppose we could say we're not losing friends, we're gaining a weekend getaway destination. After all, a year ago some other people we liked moved to Shanghai.

Northern Lights

Did you see them? Last Friday night our part of the earth was graced with a visitation of northern lights.

It was only the second time in my life I have witnessed the shimmering and ethereal show. As a friend who also saw them said, "They are the most beautiful thing in the world. I think they're what heaven looks like."

Our family was spending a long weekend in Michigan and we'd happily squandered most of the day hiking around Manistee National Forest.