December 16th, 2008

First Ever Obfuscated Holiday Letter

Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een gelukkig nieuwjaar!

Happy Holidays Friends and Family!

2008 has been an exciting year in the O.-A. family. Mama, Papa and Son welcomed Daughter, who was born in Keene, NH at Cheshire Medical Center on September 26. She started life at 8 pounds 14 ounces at around 9 o'clock in the morning, nursed in the O.R. with assistance from the anesthesiologist and others in positioning (we _loved_ the staff at Cheshire Medical Center), lost very little and started gaining in a very few days. She's around 14 pounds now which gives you a sense of what we're dealing with.

Unlike Son, Daughter sleeps. This is a very wonderful thing, altho of course we love both of our children very much.

Son celebrated his third birthday in August. He likes ride on toys -- weather permitting he'll spend hours going up and down the driveway (there's a slight incline to make it a little more interesting). This made parenting a little less difficult late in pregnancy because we could bring a chair out and hang out in the sun and watch him, knowing he was happy and active. Also, with the wireless network, we could read news and blog. Of course this was a great year for reading news and blogging, with all the election excitement. Son got a balance bike (bicycle with no pedals) for his birthday and really enjoys it. If we could only convince him to use the pedals on his tricycle, he could go on vastly exciting adventures with Papa. Maybe next summer.

We went out to Seattle in May to visit friends and family there. Unlike our previous trip out, the weather was good and there were no major power outages. Back here between the T-day holiday and the December Holidays, we lost power on Thursday and still don't have it back, which is to say we contemplate our mostly-functional generator with joy, instead of misgivings and attempts to locate a tech to make it come on automatically the way it's supposed to. We are also contemplating my Centro with joy, as that is our sole source of internet connectivity currently; previously, I viewed my phone with disgust and annoyance when it was still sucking the life out of its battery way too fast and also crashing frequently.

Also this last summer, we started looking for a larger house. Once we knew we were having a daughter, we looked into our future and saw separate bedrooms. We contemplated the loss of the adult space in the office with horror, and the prospect of renovating our beloved home in New Hampshire with trepidation. We went to open houses. We obsessively viewed real estate listings online. We carefully avoided using an agent. We even made sure we were financially positioned with a down payment readily available. As yet, an appropriate choice has eluded us in Concord, MA (our first choice) and Acton (our second). With the meltdown in the financial markets, our downpayment now looks a lot like an insurance policy against an uncertain future. We continue to shop, but don't anticipate buying soon.

Mama's adventures at the local library continue. This year she bought the library a new book drop so that patrons can return non-book items any time day or night. The charge was led ably by our librarian, and the Trustees made it happen. They even sent her an attractive vase with a fabric flower arrangement.

Papa continues to be employed at his current place of employment. He took the full FMLA to bond with Baby Daughter, help out with Son, and generally keep Mama from going completely 'round the bend. It was a successful endeavor and the whole family looks forward to his return to work 4 days a week. Probably Papa is most excited by this prospect.

We had a fantastic T-day weekend seeing many of Papa's extended family in Connecticut, and look forward to even more of the same over Christmas in Albany. With our loved ones spread out around the country (and around the world), no matter where we go, we feel both at home, and wistfully missing home. We are happy to all be healthy and untouched by the disasters which seem to pile up on all sides. We hope all the people we know personally and love deeply come through this difficult time relatively unscathed as well.

Should you happen to be one of those people we miss because you live far away from us, and have the time for a trip out to New England, never hesitate to contact us. As we've told you all repeatedly, we've got spare futon space and will spring for plane tickets in order to see you again without having to go through airport security ourselves.


R., R., T. and A.

mixed feelings about the holiday letter, and decimating the library

I decided to try writing a holiday letter this year (we enjoy other people's holiday letters -- it seems wrong not to reciprocate). Since I cannot seem to get through the mass mailing process, I figured I'd do it as a blog post. But then, a lot of the people who I would want to read it don't log in as an LJ friend, so it has to be public -- which means the usual anonymization policy applies. The result was a little ... weird. I hope it's cute-weird. If you feel strongly that it's bad-weird, find a way to let me know gently so I don't turn this into a decades long tradition and fail to realize what a dork I'm being until my grandchildren point it out to me.

We still don't have a really great internet connection (this is still going through EVDO), so I can't implement my Brilliant New Idea for reducing the size of the library. Long ago (like, 12, 15 years ago, something like that), I decided that It Would Be Wrong to let the library grow uncontrollably. I was hanging out on rec.arts.books at the time and it was clear that having a library of 10K+ volumes really affected one's quality of life (and not in an unmixed blessing kind of way, either). I set a personal limit of 3K volumes. When I started moving across country, I decided to pare it down. The goal was to halve it, but the first cut probably only knocked it down by a third. At this point, it's running about 1600 volumes (mine -- doesn't include R.'s or the kids' books) give or take a few dozen. A lot of it is in boxes due to a combination of limited wall space for book shelves, my husband using shelf space for music collection, photo albums, etc., and a son who for a long time would not leave anything alone. While T.'s getting much better about de-shelving everything he can reach, I've still got a lot in boxes that I can't decant until I've got more shelving and/or all children are old enough to be trusted around books on bottom shelves.

When it became clear, about 10 years ago, that internet search engines like google had effectively replaced a reference library (and with google books and a questia subscription, I doubt even I could afford a reference library as good as what I have access to online), I unloaded the books I kept around for reference purposes. I was somewhat nervous about this at the time, because what if I was wrong? What if the internet became wholly unreliable, or started charging a ton to access it or blah blah blah? Needless to say, I have no regrets. The Brilliant New Idea is more of the same: if a book is available via kindle, why should I own a physical copy? There's no reason to believe once a book is available via kindle that it will ever cease to be available (the Your Media Library unlimited downloads implies perpetuity in fact, altho R. points out that something might be available to existing owners but not purchasable by new owners). This suggests that I could carve out of my library any book that is available via kindle; the next time I want to reread it (if ever) or consult it, I can download it new on the spot. I'm actually less nervous about this idea than I was about getting rid of my reference books. (I did keep the OED. I'm not an idiot; you can't get at that online for free and there's nothing quite like it. Also, I keep the cookbooks I like.)

Anyone see any flaws in this? Other than those of you who consider me a heretic for purging the library of anything at all. :-)

Forbidden Love and Space Opera: revisiting Meluch

I still haven't called K. about this, but I've got a moment to post so I'm going to.

Meluch's _The Myriad_ has a variety of romantic connections within it, some consummated, some requited but not consummated and some unrequited. All -- or virtually all -- of those romantic connections are of the Star-Crossed Lovers variety and most are of the Forbidden Love variety. That's saying something, given how damn hard it is to come up with a Forbidden Love that makes any sense any more these days (and Meluch didn't do Lolita anywhere, which is the obvious one).

We've got a Roman and a US guy: gay guy unrequited attraction to an Honorable Enemy
We've got Love Between the Species: requited but unconsummated, between our heart-of-gold chick and the despot of three planets
We've got a guy who didn't marry his True Love because she was fragile, but instead married a woman who could take care of herself while he was away -- so well she had two kids by two other guys
The same guy who _did_ marry his True Love (remember the paradox I mentioned?), but she really was that fragile and she killed herself (consummated -- but still Star-Crossed)
Heart-of-gold woman who'll happily do anything with anyone -- as long as they aren't married -- who learns her lover is/was married
And the same woman and her CO: requited and both consummated and not consummated

Could this _possibly_ be a coincidence? My one remaining question is: did Meluch do this on purpose or is this another case of durn-I-just-exposed-my-innards-in-my-creative-work?

I said "virtually all" above, because I can't quite convince myself there isn't a non-star-crossed-lovers relationship somewhere in the book. But be damned if I can think of one off-hand.