Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dixie goes skiing

David Kann checked in from Carlisle, PA, with the following letter. For those of you who don't know, DK is a lifelong friend, who is more like a brother, not withstanding the inconvenient fact that my actual brother's name is also David. There is no Jewish person ebtween the ages of 30-50 who does not have a whole family tree of davids within three degrees of separation. My dad was Buddy before he became Dixie. That refers to an old Sesame Street routine called Buddy and Jim, two friends who did repairs and destroyed everything they came in contact with.

Our own Buddy and Jim had an endless series of capers, most notably building a rope tow from junkyard parts so that we could have our own ski hill as kids. But that's another story, and a good one.

DK could also have added that Dixie has delayed his surgery two weeks, to April 4, in order to go skiing again.

Somewhere in the annals of Paul history the following story needs to be archived and the blog is as good a place as any.

Last week on the spur of the moment, shortly after finishing chemotherapy Buddy and Susie took off for Aspen.

I spoke with Buddy and he told me how much fun he was having.

I asked how he felt and he said ,"Great".

"What I do is I ski the tough stuff...the hanging valley wall, some bump runs....I ski until I am short of breath...then I lay down in the snow until I catch my breath and then I get up and ski some more until I can't breath again...then I lay down again until I can breath and I start over."

I foolishly tried to tell him to take it easy...that I was worried about him....that he had to be in a somewhat debilitated state; that his blood count was undoubtedly low...

So I said, "Just ski the groomed runs...be happy to be outdoors in the snow and sun".
Well I got the same answer I have been getting for years..."Don't be silly David Kann."

I closed my eyes, shook my head back and forth slowly and thought...can you teach a dog to sit at a table and use a knife and fork?...can you teach a rooster calculus?....

There just ain't no way to slow that (old) man, that we all love, down.
Eli may have inherited his chutzpa directly from you (here I quote from the blog......... Eli, in a bid to impress the older kids, stood up on his chair mid-pizza and yanked his pants down.) But I know where you got your chutzpah.......pure and simple and original.

More birthday pictures

These pictures are from our birthday celebration in Jacob's class as well as that night at home, just us and the Yardleys. The sunglasses picture shows Jacob with two of his best friends Andrew Moy (Kathy Chen's son) and Javier Wong.

Jacob's party

Jacob’s party was a big success. All the kids met here and piled onto a bus, which we hired from our compound and we set sail for Fun Dazzle downtown. I have described the place before, but in case you missed it or forget, it is basically a huge indoor playground, with climbing thingies, slides and the absolutely biggest ball pit you can imagine. It must be 50 yards by 25 yards.. just huge.

Jacob and all the kids absolutely love this place an every time I go I snicker at the thought of my sister seeing us now, because she is revolted by the unsanitariness of ball pits and won’t let her kids in them. Frankly, she has a point, and the pit at Fun Dazzle puts any and all others to absolute and total shame.

Anyhow, the kids were pretty well behaved on the bus. I only had to use my cattle prod two or three times. We got there and 4 or 5 more kids met us there, mostly Chinese kids who live downtown. They all played like banshees without anyone getting hurt, the pizzas arrived close to on time and we got a chuckle out of the sings they put up saying “Happy Birthday Paul Jacob.” We did have to reprimand several boys, including Jacob about pinching girls’ butts. Eli, in a bid to impress the older kids, stood up on his chair mid-pizza and yanked his pants down. His play worked – he prompted great bursts of laughter -- and the admiration was only deepened, when I yanked him out of the room and gave him a stern talking to. A huge shit-eating grin never left his face.

While still capable of being perfectly angelic and adorable, Eli is really starting to flex his muscles and push back, but that is a story for another post. I often think of what my mom has said about me: “He was the perfect child until he was 4.” My perfection ended when I returned to the table from the bathroom during a dinner party hosting Japanese guests who couldn’t a lick of English stark naked and proceeded to run around the table doing an Indian war chant, before opening and shutting the basement door with great rapidity and refusing to let go of the door knob as my folks tried to yank me away. I guess I should not be reprised that Eli has it in him.

When the party ended, we had to get 21 kids together and out and onto a bus, while making sure the kids who met us there found their folks. As we were leaving, Becky said, “Did you see James’ mother? “ I had not, so as I and the Yardleys and one other mom who accompanied us, escorted the kids onto the bus, she went back to make sure he was okay. I got everyone the bus, but no Becky…

After five more minutes I called her. She had found James – playing happily by himself. He knew his mom’s number, she called and the mother said, “Oh is the party over? I’ll be therein a half an hour.” We were already a half hour late. Becky found one other kid there. Still playing with his family, who took responsibility for him and she joined us. We pushed off and were on the expressway when I got a phone call from another mother, who barely spoke English. “This Owen mother. When your party over?” Oh no… did we leave another kid there unaccounted for? My heart dropped. I handed the phone over to a Chinese speaker and started asking other kids, who insisted they had seen Owen leave with his mother. It turned out his ayi had picked him up and the mother was trying to figure out when they would be home, but that was scary. We got home before 1 pm and most of the kids took off.. A few lingered… I was ready for a stiff drink and popped a beer.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Happy Anniversary To Us

As many of you remember first hand, 13 years ago today in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I made an honest woman out of Rebecca. I could say, “I can’t believe it’s been 13 years” but I would be lying. I really can’t even remember not being with Becky.

More amazing to me is that we have been a couple for 18 years now, and are inching towards the day when we’ve spent more of our life together than not.

We had a hell of a weekend, lots of fun but totally exhausting. Mr. Li is coming over tonight and we are not going out or anything. We will celebrate next Saturday by going with some friends to the black tie Australian Ball.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Some funny response

I really enjoyed these two responses to my last column. If you didn;t see it and would like me to email you, drop me a line.

Laura Romanoff writes from Chicago, in her own inimitable style:

Poor baby!! I so feel for him. The same thing happened to me when I was probably exactly his age in our cul de sac with twenty neighbor kids watching. My babysitter felt so unbelievably terrible. But it was fine. Hurt like hell and terrifying and weird (mostly because I fell off the bike and was dragged on the gravel till she stopped trying to peddle with my foot in the spokes). Healed perfectly. No scars. Went on to grow size nine feet and to dance ballet on pointe. And to have my feet be the object of my old boyfriend Andres' weird foot fetish. So don't you worry, big daddy.

How are you doing otherwise? Wendy said you guys seemed really happy when you were at home and that you, Alan, were reenergized. I don't know how your dad is doing these days. How is he? How are you? I wish I could stop by and visit you guys!

I have got to go home and get the heck out of work. Via bus. The Mini is just a little bit smaller after I smashed it into the back of a Jeep Tuesday night. A perfect illustration of how hard it is to be a little car in a big SUV world. I was driving downtown to meet a hot Jewish cop that Silvia had introduced me to (I think the one and only dude fitting that description). I looked to the side and stole a look at the cop driving next to me to see if maybe he was hot, too (not). Light turned green, started going, noticed, "Huh. The Starbuck's is now a Chipotle" and BAM! Didn't even realize what was happening until the air bag poofed in my face. So of course, who has to push my baby car out of the middle of the intersection and write up a ticket because I don't have my insurance car? Said not so hot cop. Anyway, illustrative of car size arms race because she stopped at the greenlight so she wouldn't block the intersection. I never ever would have known, sitting essentially on the floor.

Anyhooters, no big deal. All's well, good as accidents go, but I'm now bound by public transportation for the next couple weeks. Taking the bus to the factory. Really glam.

I miss you guys. Let me know how you're doing. Give Eli's kiss a little kiss for me.


And Amy Mindell chies in from Detroit:

nice work. thanks for sending this. I appreciate it. I like the story as
much polished and spiffy (Rebecca, no less) as I did in the blog. It's a bad story, of course, and now I"m worried all over again with you recent posting.

I was in florida for a week with my family. My parents rented a
house and my sister and her family decided we should all be down AT THE SAME TIME. Yes, I was scared. And so would you be, if you knew my sister even a little. but it went remarkably well. By that I mean, no eyes were clawed out. the kids adored being all together, so that, I suppose is the reward for all my accomodating and biting my tongue.

Anyway, you have been having the BEST times of late. The new cabinet, which I think is fabulous. The artwork. Anna's pink outfit. Jacob's awesome birthday bus tour (the image of those little unpopular kids boarding the bus was touching). skiing.
dude, it's been one good week. except Eli's foot. yikes. keep me posted.
send my love to BB. xo -Amy

798 Art Center

There is an artist’s loft/studio/gallery area not far from here, in the Dashanzi area. The area is called 798, which is some sort of oblique reference to the Tian. pr-tsts. I don’t understand it so I can’t explain it, but that it what I have been told. It is an old industrial area that has been transformed into galleries, studios, cafes, etc.

I went there once in the fall with Hal and Ruth (my in laws). We didn’t particularly like the art and it was sort of confusing to walk around and figure out where to go and what to see. But it has a nice feel and some cool restaurants and the mere fact that it exists in Beijing is more interesting than any particular thing you will see there.

The other day the school led a little trip there, led by an Italian woman who is an art buff who has lived here for a while and knew the area quite well. I headed down there and had a nice afternoon. (tough life, I Know). There were even two other men there. It was nice to walk around without having to think but my overall impression of the area did not change a t all.

I do think there is a certain industrial beauty to the whole setting, as captured to some extent in these photos. All around it there are still active industrial plants, so there are workers in blue hard hats walking around, and occasional fork lifts and dump trucks passing through.

We somehow ended up visiting this one artist’s live/work space. He is pretty successful, as I see his paintings around. I actually don’t like them all that much. He uses that fat little Buddha-type guy as his symbol and he is in all the pictures, sometime sin the foreground as the subject, sometimes just elsewhere, smaller. I thin he’s kind of ugly, but the guy is definitely a good technical painter, with a really nice sense of balance, symmetry and color palette. He was also very nice and it was interesting to see his works in progress.

He had probably 50 paintings, some quite huge, in various stages of completion, from sketches to almost done. I thought it was interesting how he worked on so many pictures at once.

It was a pleasant and interesting afternoon. The school is trying to become more active, serving as more of a community center, which is nice, because there is nothing else like that here. It’s lie you head off to the JCC or YMCA.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Happy Birthday Jacob

The top picture shows Jacob and Mr. Li beating the batter for his birthday cupcakes. Below that are two shots of him talking on the phone this morning to my folks and Laura and her family, who sang him "Happy Birthday." He is always cold and has been wearing this sleeper to bed lately. It is really cute and fairly comical.

Happy Birthday to Jacob, who turns 8 today. He is so excited. He came into our room at 6:20 this morning and asked me what time it was.

“Uh,.. 6:20.”

“In the morning?"


“I’m 8! I’m 8!”

He crawled in bed and cuddled for a few moments then said, “Mom, come on, we have to decorate the cupcakes.”

Last night we made a huge batch of cupcakes to bring into school this afternoon. I tried, really tried to make them myself, but as soon as I pulled the boxes out, Mr. Li and Ding basically took it out of my hands and took over. Jacob helped Mr. Li mix, then we all spooned the batter into molds.

We told Jacob he could pick what we had for dinner tonight and he chose a trip to Annie’s, the pizza place around the corner. Saturday, we are having a birthday party at Fundazzle, the huge ball pit/playground place downtown. Since it is sort of a pain to go down there, we rented a Riviera bus to transport all the kids, which they are all as excited about as the party itself.

We decided to invite his whole class, which is only 15 other kids. It was a good decision. Apparently, the big party has been the talk of the class for the last week and Jacob is basking at being in the middle of it. Mrs. Cameron told use she was really happy to see the whole thing and there were a few kids who never get invited to anything who are out of their mind with excitement. I said something about that to Jacob and he said, “oh yeah, that’s all anyone is jabbering about.”

Last night he said, “Tomorrow is going to be the best day of school ever.” They have a free period where everyone is allowed to bring toys in from home as a reward for the class having gotten25 merits. The cupcakes are right after that. Then they have their Thursday clubs, which he loves and afterschool he has gymnastics.

When we rode to school today, he was swerving around, pedaling fast and singing to himself. He was so happy and excited to go.

I am just incredibly proud of Jacob. He was really been not only a trooper but a leader for our whole family in terms of hitting the ground running here and getting adjusted right away. He immediately became a leader and force for good in his class and school and ahs a large, great group of friends. He really amazes me.

And all the more so for the fact that when he was 3-5 we were quite worried about him at times and many people were convinced he really had some issues. All of that makes me all the more proud of him. Happy birthday Jacob.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Note from Carrie Wells

Carrie Wells just got out of the hospital after about a week and will have to return before long, as noted below. Here is a ltter from her. Send her best wishes... We all need to get through this spring and take it from there.

Dear Beloved Family and Friends:
First, please accept my apology for not responding to your emails (if you sent one). I did the most uncharacteristic thing in my obssessive-compulsive life today - I deleted all my emails. You may have noticed that I haven't been around for the past few weeks, resulting in so many unread (thus, unanswered) emails - I could no longer handle looking at the list growing, while not being able to answer any of them.
As most of you probably know, my darling husband, Dave, has been asking me for years, "What have you got, a hole in your head?" - usually followed by, "You should have your head examined!"

Well, so much for my dismissing him as a big Schmegeggie. It turns out he was right all along. So I went and had my head examined and they found the hole (albeit a small one) which started leaking cerebral spinal fluid. Not only did I have a hole in my head, but I was literally "drying out".

To make a long story, short, I spent quite a while flat on my back w/ a tap in my spine, trying to leak out just enough c/s fluid to give the hole a chance to heal and not enough to make life sooooo much quieter for Dave.
Well, at this point, we don't think it worked, but will find out more by the end of this week. One suggestion right now is to wait 6 weeks, see if it's closed, and if not...make a REALLY BIG HOLE and then plug it up w/ tissue (my suggestion of suctioning my legs, stomach, ass and hips, fell flat - boy these neurosurgeons really need to lighten up). So the verdict awaits, as do we we, patiently.
That explains why you have had no replies to your mail. Actually, today is the first day I've been able to handle sitting and typing, but look forward to doing lots more of it in the days to come.

Thank you to all who have called, visited, and sent good wishes. And to all of you who haven't, I'm presuming it's because you didn't even know. If, by chance, there are any out there who knew, but just didn't care - well f*** you. But with lots of Love,


Our latest purchase

We bought this piece of furniture yesterday at a place called Radiance, near here. They have a lot of beautiful stuff, countless rooms filled with it. They are having a limited early spring sale. I got this as part of that. It was pretty cheap.

We put it in our kitchen, where we needed both more storage and more color.

It is supposedly about 150 years old, which is almost brand new in China. The tiles are Japanese and the thing came from Northeast China, close to Japan.

I think Carrie and Kathy will like it. Not sure about the rest of you.

An artist we really like

I'm not sure how well you will be able to see these, but this is the work of an artist we really like. We will probably a painting or two from him soon. His name is Zhing Lin.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Anna's new Chinese outfit

She picked out this outfit -- "the pink one, pink, pink..."

And also bought this baby doll when we went to the big toy market on Sunday. I'll write more about it tomorrow, but the doll was right out of Chuckie.. with a maniacal laugh that wouldn't stop. We took the batteries out. She loves the doll and told me tonight that "he speaks Chinese."

Monday, February 20, 2006

Skiing pictures

So as I said before, I went skiing last Friday, with Theo and two other ladies, Annabelle and Katherine.

The whole experience was pretty funny but the bottom line is the skiing was not bad. They basically had one chairlift, which went halfway up to a bunny slope then straight up a pretty steep hill to a single expert un,. It was decently long and the middle section had a nice pitch so I enjoyed it. It really did feel like skiing and it was great to get some turns in.

Theo and Annabelle have been skiing regularly and say they are going to go every Friday. I will try to join them on a few more, though I’m not sure I can make it this week.

The whole experience was pretty funny. It was only about 45 minutes away, almost due North, slightly West. We pull into the parking lot, which is dusty and rocky like everything else around here. The whole ski area is surrounded by a fence. On the outside is the little ticket office. You go in there, fill out some paperwork, register your skis, so that they can verify you have the right equipment when you walk out and then give them a deposit of 220 kuai (about 28 bucks). Then you go on the clock, because you pay by the hour.

Theo had gone in to rent her gear. I was happy to have moved my ski gear over, which I yanked from the storage pile at the last minute figuring that there was no use in having it gathering dust for three years.

We took the chairlift all the way to the top, waving off the lift operator who tried to make us get off halfway. When we got up there, there was a ski patrol type sitting there waiting for us. it seemed he wanted to accompany us down to make sure we made it. Theo said they would consider ti really bad juju for one of us to get hurt and they wanted to make sure we could ski before they let us go alone. Their fears were not completely unfounded as Katherine, the fourth member of our party as in way over her head and slipped and slid all the way down with the patrol guy trailing her. She headed for the gentler terrain after that.

My only injury came when the safety bar on the lift would not open and I yanked it really hard and it came up and smashed my forehead. My helmet protected me and I still got a nice knot in my left brow.

The surrounding area around the hill was not exactly beautiful but it was country and the air was crisp and clean and felt good to breathe in. The snow was completely manmade and the top steep pitch was solid ice, but the long steep section was pretty soft. It was strange going up the lift over nothing but brown rocks and tumbleweed, then skiing down.

We skied a little over two hours, then returned and were refunded a bunch of money.. we paid, I think, 65 kuai for the two hours and change. That’s about 8 bucks.

Afterwards we went in and had a Snickers bar. The lodge was surprisingly new and nice, with several decent-looking shops. I thought we were headed for the bar but the ladies preferred to sit on a bench and drink tea they brought. Go figure. I was tasting the Tsing Tao. Anyhow, it was interesting culturally and good to get in some turns.

Kristof column on china internet F-dom

I don't really believe in posting copyrighted material, but so many people have asked me about these issues, I wanted to bring this column from yesterday's NY Times to your attention.

China's Cyberdissidents and the Yahoos at Yahoo

Published: February 19, 2006

Suppose that Anne Frank had maintained an e-mail account while in hiding in 1944, and that the Nazis had asked Yahoo for cooperation in tracking her down. It seems, based on Yahoo's behavior in China, that it might have complied.
Skip to next paragraph
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Granted, China is not remotely Nazi Germany. But when members of Congress pilloried executives of Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Cisco Systems at a hearing about their China operations on Wednesday, there were three important people who couldn't attend. They were Shi Tao, Li Zhi and Jiang Lijun, three Chinese cyberdissidents whom Yahoo helped send to prison for terms of 10 years, 8 years and 4 years, respectively.

Only Mr. Shi, a Chinese journalist, has gotten much attention. But Chinese court documents in each case say that Yahoo handed over information that was used to help convict them. We have no idea how many more dissidents are also in prison because of Yahoo.

It's no wonder that there's an Internet campaign to boycott Yahoo, at www.booyahoo.blogspot.com. But it's a mistake to think of all the American companies as equal sinners, for Google appears to have done nothing wrong at all. Here's my take on the four companies:

Yahoo sold its soul and is a national disgrace. It is still dissembling, and nobody should touch Yahoo until it provides financially for the families of the three men it helped lock up and establishes annual fellowships in their names to bring Web journalists to America on study programs.

Microsoft has also been cowardly, but nothing like Yahoo. Microsoft responded to a Chinese request by recently shutting down the outspoken blog of Michael Anti (who now works for the New York Times Beijing bureau). Microsoft also censors sensitive words in the Chinese version of its blog-hosting software; the blogger Rebecca MacKinnon found that it rejected as "prohibited language" the title "I Love Freedom of Speech, Human Rights and Democracy."

Cisco sells equipment to China that is used to maintain censorship controls, but as far as I can tell similar equipment is widely available, including from Chinese companies like Huawei. Cisco also enthusiastically peddles its equipment to the Chinese police. In short, Cisco in China is a bit sleazy but nothing like Yahoo.

Google strikes me as innocent of wrongdoing. True, Google has offered a censored version of its Chinese search engine, which will turn out the kind of results that the Communist Party would like (and thus will not be slowed down by filters and other impediments that now make it unattractive to Chinese users). But Google also kept its unexpurgated (and thus frustratingly slow) Chinese-language search engine available, so in effect its decision gave Chinese Web users more choices rather than fewer.

Representative Chris Smith, who called the hearing and drew the Anne Frank analogy, has introduced a bill to regulate Internet companies abroad, but that's an overreaction. For, as Mr. Anti noted in his own critique, the legislation would just push out foreign companies and leave Chinese with rigidly censored search engines like Baidu.

That said, American companies shouldn't be abjectly surrendering. Microsoft could publish a list of the political terms that it blocks as "prohibited language." Google could post a list of all the Web sites it blocks. They can push back.

In any case, the tech companies are right about a fundamental truth: the Internet is a force for change in China. There are already 110 million Internet users in China, and 13 million bloggers — hugely outnumbering the 30,000-odd censors.

China's security forces try to filter out criticisms, but they often fail. A study by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School found that China managed to block 90 percent of Web sites about the "Tiananmen massacre," 31 percent of sites about independence movements in Tibet, and 82 percent of sites with a derogatory version of the name of former President Jiang Zemin. In other words, some is stopped but a lot gets through.

So think of the Internet as a Trojan horse that will change China. Yahoo has acted disgracefully, but the bigger picture is that the Internet is taking pluralism to China — and profound change may come sooner rather than later, for unrest is stirring across the country.

It's the blogs that are closed that get attention and the cyberdissidents who are arrested who get headlines, just as in America it's the planes that crash that make the evening news. But millions of Chinese blogs and podcasts are taking off, and they are inflicting on the Communist Party the ancient punishment of "ling chi," usually translated as "death by a thousand cuts."

Friday, February 17, 2006

Effective protest

This is no dumber than freedom fries, which ain't saying much.

Iran Renames Danish Pastries
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iranians love Danish pastries, but when they look for the flaky dessert at the bakery they now have to ask for "Roses of the Prophet Muhammad."

Bakeries across the capital were covering up their ads for Danish pastries Thursday after the confectioners' union ordered the name change in retaliation for caricatures of the Muslim prophet published in a Danish newspaper.

"Given the insults by Danish newspapers against the prophet, as of now the name of Danish pastries will give way to 'Rose of Muhammad' pastries," the union said in its order.

"This is a punishment for those who started misusing freedom of expression to insult the sanctities of Islam," said Ahmad Mahmoudi, a cake shop owner in northern Tehran.

One of Tehran's most popular bakeries, "Danish Pastries," covered up the word "Danish" on its sign with a black banner emblazoned "Oh Hussein," a reference to a martyred saint of Shiite Islam. The banner is a traditional sign of mourning.

Eli's leg, sponges in the ear, hitting the slopes and more...

I took eli to the doctor this afternoon and the ankle is healing well, meaning it is not infected. But goddamn it looks nasty. It was the first time I had gotten a really good look at it since the accident, which was a week ago. Every time we have bathed and cleaned it, he is screaming like a cat being skinned, so we have to move fast and it is impossible to linger and get a good look. Today I got that good look and, wow, it’s a pretty extensive and serious wound. The doc today said it will ‘almost surely” scar and that’s obvious, really.

I asked the school nurse to take a look and change the dressing yesterday because it was getting so hard for us to do with him. She thought it looked pretty good but there was one part she was worried about and thought a doctor's visit would be a good idea. The cutting was worse than I initially realized since I was so focused on the swelling and bruising. His teacher Deanna told me after taking him, “now that I saw his injury I realize how brave Eli has been.” The little Mr. Softee is pretty tough.

All of which makes me feel a little sheepish about the fact that my new column, just posted, is about the accident and our trip to the hospital. Maybe I should have waited until he was fully out of the woods. Drop me a line if you want me to send you the column. I already got an email chiding me for joking about taking Percocet and giving Eli a double dose of Motrin without "proper medical authorization." Stay tuned.

Today was really warm, I’d say about 45 degrees. Yesterday was quite cold and in the afternoon downright frigid when a very strong wind picked up. But it was worth it because it blew all the nasty stagnant, thick-as-pea-soup air out and brought in some nice crisp clean air, which felt, smelled, tasted, breathed much better.

I celebrated this beautiful, clean air day by going skiing. Theo and another friend, Anan belle, have made Friday their skiing days and invited me to join them. We drove up to a mountain about 45 minutes away and skied for a little over two hours. I can tell you this precisely because you pay by the hour. I will post some pictures and write more about it later, but it as not bad and quite nice just to be in the hills, exercise outside and breathe some relatively fresh air.

I received the following email from Leah Gomberg about two hours ago and thought I would share it with you. When you become a parent, no one tells you about going tot the doctor hoping your kid’s leg isn’t snapped off.. or because they shoved a sponge in their ear… Read on…

so here i am, up at 3:43 am..noah has not been sleeping well and was just up fussing for an hour..maybe he's teething..so I gave him tylenol..maybe he wet...changed his diaper...he finally went to sleep but now i'm up. so i'm on the web..read your blog..checked the weather (50degrees??!!).

Hope all's well there. Later this morning, when there is daylight, both Sam and Eli have their Winter Concerts..should be a nice day..

We had an interesting visit to the ENT this week. I got a call from the school nurse who told me that Sam put a little sponge ball in his ear, which actually got stuck in his ear..at which time he tried to get it out but pushed it in further..the nurse didn't want to attempt to get it out b/c it was close to the drum.David was inbetween patients so we both went to school..we saw it with a light...David attempted to get it out but decided it was too deep in so there I was driving Sam to the ENT..we waited almost 2 hrs in the office..to be greeted by a funny dr. who asked Sam why he did it..to which Sam replied he really had no idea..it just kind of fell in...

the dr. advised him to put nothing in his ear smaller than his elbow and then used a vaccuum cleaner to remove the sponge ball. we put it away and will attach the story to the crazy little ball. sam, needless to say, is quite embarassed but is expressing quite a decent sense of humor about the whole thing...I look forward to less crazy days sometime in the future.

hope all's well there..love to all,

Thanks Leah. My dad’s been using that “don’t anything in your ear bigger than an elbow line for years. I guess he was right. Q Tips drive him nuts. The days will never get less crazy though, you know. In five years, you will have a teenager in the house, remember.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Three Stooges

DK and Joan and Ben Cohen braved the elements last weekend for a trip to Bolivar, and DK sent along these pictures. I didn't know that His Honor had also kept the hair off. Well done guys.

The other picture is from the previous trip and I do believe that is a plug of Red Man in his cheek.

Delaware Dave hits the big time

Delaware Dave writes in:

I've made the big time. Local television interview in Dover. Check out www.wboc.com. Look on the video link to the story on infant mortality. Pay extra attention to the strange shots of my eyebrow and hands. I think 60 minutes will be picking up the story.


I'm proud of you David. I don't know why the director was obsessed with your hands. And where were your surfer dude pooka beads? Haven't you learned anything from dad? You could have used that spotlight to promote a gig or something.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Eli update and ice skating on the Lantern Festival

Firs things first: thanks to everyone for inquiring about Eli. He is doing better but is still limping around. He didn’t walk at all until he went to school on Monday. When I picked him up he was limping around proudly. But maybe he overdid it. Tuesday he walked little, and this morning he woke up complaining that his leg hurt and wasn’t walking at all when I took him in. The leg looks a lot better but it’s still pretty cut up and bruised. When he gets upset, he sort of cries and says, “I hate that stupid bike! I wish it was never invented.”

When he really wants to get me, he says, “It’s your fault, you never should have put me on that thing.” He knows how to hurt me. But he’s healing and I hope that he’ll be walking regularly by this weekend. Otherwise, I guess we’ll take him back to the hospital. If any of the docs in the crowd want to weigh in, please do.

The pictures here are from last Sunday. We went downtown and met Eric R. and his family to go ice skating. We were going to go to Houhai Lake, which is large and beautiful and filled with action, but decided to go elsewhere. This lake is right by the Blue Zoo aquarium, which the kids love and Eric knew it well. We met him and some other friends of his there. Unfortunately, it was the day of the Lantern Festival, the final day of the long Chinese New Year’s celebration, so the guy who rents skates and these crazy little ice skating chairs that are popular here was not around.

Eric and his friends had skates, including some extra kids’ pairs. Obviously Eli did not partake. I carried him around and he played in a little snow pile with Jacob and other kids and watched these guys ice fishing. They were pulling these little silver fish out and throwing them into a plastic shopping bag. I can't even imagine what is in that water. Jacob has never skated and he is scared to try, unfortunately. I feel this is a parental failure. We should have gotten him strapped in years ago. As you can see, Anna did give it a whirl and seemed to like it, though she was basically just carried around by us, her fat little legs wobbling all over.

There was an older couple out there with their little grandson zipping around on a little skating chair. We were watching and he asked us if we wanted to try. I spun around a little with Jacob and then he booted me off and went wild. It was cool. The old man was really a master on this thing, making incredibly fast and tight turns.

The Blue Zoo features a very cool moving sidewalk that takes you right through the middle of a huge aquarium filled with sharks, eels, marlins, turtles – and mermaids! Yes, they have a couple of women in mermaid outfits swimming around and most of the Chinese people there seem to ignore the fish for the maids. Anna too. Really wacky.

After that, we went out to dinner, to a Belgian place Eric and his wife Titi knew. They had really good steaks, and I don’t know when I had one of those last. The kids ordered off the desert menu and were very pleased with the Belgian waffles. Anna went apeshit when the waitress came over and somewhat angrily took away the salt and pepper shakers she had been emptying on a plate. I finally distracted her with the lobster tank but it was tough. Anna is incredibly strong willed and sure of herself. It is going to be really interesting to watch her grow up. She already seems like she’s five, so what will she be like when she is 5?

As I said, it was the Lantern Festival on Sunday, a fact of which we were completely ignorant. We came back from Thailand and took down all the New Year's stuff Mr Li had put up. We did keep up Ding’s red symbol, but we just sort of figured, “Our Chinese New Years holiday s over so the holiday is over.” Uh, no.

It ended Sunday night the Lantern Festival and all the fireworks in the previous few weeks were just a precursor. Sunday night was wild. We got into a cab after dinner and as we started heading home, there were fireworks popping up all over the place – to the left, right, in front of us, behind us. Years ago, Becky had to work in NYC on 4th of July, covering downtown festivities for Newsday or Gannett. We were down at the beach and I drove up with her and hung out in Battery Park all day with her, she filed her stories and that night we drove back.

It was really cool driving down the NJ Turnpike on 4th of July evening. We passed through one fireworks display after another. It was like that the other night, but all the fireworks were just being set off by regular people, no official displays or anything. Then we got home and the explosions just kept going all night, petering out around midnight when we finally went to sleep.

Now the holiday was really over and the next day by the time I rode home from taking the kids to the school the next day, the army of workers who put all the lights and lanterns up in the entrance way were out taking them down. Sorry I never got any good photos of that.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Some responses...

Brother Delaware Dave writes in:

Hey thanks for the shout out to Emma. She was really thrilled to see her picture on blog. For some reason she had not been reading it. Jesse always independently looks at the computer. Emma doesn't spend so much time on line. All of a sudden she is all over your blog and asking how to reply.

Funny responses on the Steeler story. Guess you hit a chord with the Pittsburgh Diaspora. I've always wondered why so many people leave Pittsburgh if they like it so much? My conclusion is that there are a lot of smart people there, but obviously not the opportunity for those folks as there is in the broader world. No wall street, few magazines, small arts scene, only 1 NICU......I would doubt that there is such strong feelings about the Youngstown or Des Moines diaspora but I could be wrong. Sounds like Eli is doing better-good to know.

Glad to make Emma happy. Send me more photos and I will post them.

I think David is right on target about Pittsburgh. Many of us set out to college, then start pursuing careers, ambitions, etc and find ourselves far away. Life gets in the way and suddenly you are settling down elsewhere. Pittsburgh certainly isn't Bay City or Steubenville where most people from upwardly mobile households feel they are failures if they end up back there, but it has a touch of that.

We just grew up in a way that said, "The world is your oyster. Go out and conquer it." Or something like that. I really can't remember what I thought in high school about where I would end up living. I don't recall having any huge ambition to live any particular place but I think there was a general assumption that you could and should go out and puruse whatever you were doing to the fullest and an understanding that would generally lead you away from Pittsburgh.

Also, you can't fully realize how unique of a place it is until you go out and live elsewhere for a while.

Amy Mindell writes in from Detroit. I managed to help transfer my People gig to her when we moved from Ann Arbor to Maplewood almost 8 years ago (hard to believe it’s been that long, but Jacob is about to have his eighth birthday.) She’s still plugging away for them, which had her running around Detroit during SB week. She writes:

I've been enjoying your excitement over the Steelers, and the cool feedback. what a high.

I can tell you Detroit was awesome and I was so proud of the city. I spent a lot of time downtown bc of multiple People assignments, and it was a different city than I've seen in my life. Miraculous sight. Total strangers said the same exact thing that was in my heart, the pride we felt in the city rising to the challenge with dignity. We were kick-ass hosts ('cept that murder on Fort and Cass).

I rode the people mover crushed against suburbanites with their kids (kids! in downtown Detroit), steelers and seattle fans, young people out partying at clubs, and everyone was upbeat, helpful and uncomplaining. The city looked beautiful.

Anyway, hope Eli is feeling better, don't feel too bad, it happens. We do what we think is ok and hope for the best all the time.

Thanks Amy. We take chances with the kids all the time, I guess, but one of them bites you in the ass, it hurts. he is doing much better but I won't be fully satisifed until he is walking normally.

And last but not least, Art chimes in, fresh from vacation in orlando:

That home alone is no rated G movie Al. Better watch that one with them to explain it. If you don't you might find a flower pot falling on your head when you open the front door!!

Good to hear puzzle master is doing well. Ankles are no fun...sprains are worse than fractures; neither is good.


Very good point about Home Alone. It is both heartwarming and terrifying to watch Jacob's reaction to the slapstick violence. He literally rolls around the floor laughing as people step on nails, get shot in the butt with staples, have their heads set ablaze, etc. Eli likes it, too but not like Jacob. And it is really terrifying, though certainly not surprising, just how bad Home Alone 3 and especially IV are.

Dodgeball tournament

Well, the dodgeball tournament was a huge, smashing success. Dulwich destroyed all comers, winning four games with apparent ease. I’m sorry I missed it. It sounds like I could have had a column about of this thing no problem.

Apparently, the fears of the Japanese team were unfounded and our squad was by far the most organized, polished and athletic. They had actual strategy, which was for whoever caught the ball to flip it to Lucas on one wing or Leanne on the other and let them wing it at the other team. Apparently, Jacob had a very clear and definite strategy of staying as far away from the ball as possible at all times.

He was really proud. The pictures are of him and Lucas, his good friend and Dulwich’s star athlete. Lucas was on our soccer team and is a superb player.

Snow photos

Last Monday, the day we returned from Thailand, we had a couple inches of snow. Anna is the only one who really got out and played in it and here she is, with Becky, with Ding and with Mr. Li and their snowman. Snow is pretty rare here and we sort of regretted not getting the boys out into it. We were so tired, though, that we were just happy they were over at a friend’s house having fun and staying awake.

The big snow in NJ and NYC looks like fun. It made Becky and Eli particularly homesick. I figured it would be great fun for a day or two then a big drag. Hope you're all digging out.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Emma Paul in the house...

10-year-old niece Emma Paul checks into the blog with a couple of posts.

First, she writes:
heyyy speaking of tooth fairy my teeth won't come out i've only lost 8 and i've tryed everything ecept for the door trick and that means when i get braces they will have to pull my teeth out
love,Emma k. paul :)

Actually, Emm, were we speaking of the tooth fairy? Jacob recently figured out it is us, by the way and keep sproclaiming as much. We are trying to get him to shut up so as not to spoil it for Eli.

And then she wrote:
I hope Eli is feeling better the only bad insedent that happend to me with a bike was when I was Eli's age and my new cowgirl dress got ripped say hi to jakey for me LOVE YA all toots(tootles):)

Thanks for asking Emma. Eli is doing a lot better. He's still not walking so we'll how it goes. sorry to hear about dress.

Steelers mania continues and Skirbs checks in...

Skirboll sent along this photo of himself at the Bowl. Not sure who that is with him but he looks familiar. Rip? Turns out he has been a regular blog reader/lurker. Who knew?

I am still making my way through all the email about my Steelers column and trying to reply to them all. I have been really touched by this.

Here are a few more.

ALAN - Absolutely the BEST article in the Journal in weeks - so thank you! I consider myself an expat as well - because I now live in Maine - formerly Aspinwall resident and Pitt alumni. Living here in Patriot country as a STEELER fan is difficult - but NOTHING compared to what you're going through!

Good luck - hope you get to watch the game - and thanks again for the great article. If you every find your way to Maine and it's a Sunday give me a call. I get all the STEELERS games on satellite and I always have a case if IRON in the fridge!

Regards and GO STEELERS! ,

Ted Hebert

I like this one, with the image of him hunched over his computer and his scoffing wife heading to bed.

Thank you for a very well written article.

I am celebrating my 2nd year here in Brussels, Belgium and can really
appreciate this story of another Steeler fan who is a long way from home
(Upper St. Clair, PA 1972-1981). My wife just shakes her head at me on
her way to bed as she watches me frantically clicking the update button
on NFL.com awaiting the written outcome of the first quarter, 3rd and 3
play on the Denver 40.

I am a hopeless Steeler addict and I apologize to my friends and family
alike, in advance, for my behavior on Monday, should the Game's outcome
be anything other than God's will.

Enjoy the Game.

Tom Z.


I really liked your column. I’ve watched many American sporting events from abroad and have always enjoyed watching in the company of other expats, regardless of who they were rooting for.

I am actually going to be in Paris for the next week and would like to find a place to watch the game with some fellow countrymen. I imagine that your column spurred quite a few responses. Did you happen to hear anything from those in Paris?

Anyway, thanks for the great writing. Good luck to you in China and to your Steelers.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Steelers column feedback

I had not received a single email about my Steelers column as of the other day which seemed puzzling to me. I was just certain that this one was really good and would have struck a chord with ex Pittsburghers if no one else. I inquired and was told that there was a problem with my email box and they were working on it.

Well, yesterday they solved it and I received a dump of messages.. dozens of them, most of them really touching, many from ex Burghers living all over the globe, including a Ligonier native in South Africa. There were also a couple from old friends who found me... one a friend of Eric R's, and one from Tom Smuts, a friend from Reizenstein Middle School. It is so cool.

In many ways, I fel this column is the thing I have been waiting years to write.. finally to express some of my love for Pittsburgh. I'm not sure what comes next, but I am working on it.

I'll post a sampling of the letters, beginning with one from the artist wh made the above collage. I replied and sent has sent me a poster, apparently creating quite a stir in her small town Mass. post office, with empoyees looking up PEE-KING. She is selling them on EBay. if anyone wants info on getting one, let me know.

Greetings from Massachusetts, home of the almost dynastic Patriots.
I so enjoyed your column in the Journal the other day that if you'd
like a print of this collage, I'll send you one. I do them as an
adjunct to my business, mostly for the fun of it, but sometimes for
profit. But, I always send the first one to someone whose fervor for
their team matches those of us in Red Sox Nation. A breed apart most
believe, but I believe you and the other Steeler fans may get the
fervor award. Congratulations!

If you want me to send it to you, just reply with an address. It
will be a 13X19 print. There are about 41 newspapers included.

Patty Coakley

Does anyone know this guy, who grew up around the corner from us?

Dear Alan:
Loved every word of the Steelers article. I believe you capture the spirit and feelings of all of us who ,for various reasons , have left Pittsburgh (in my case Northumberland Street in Squirrel Hill.) I too grew up in Pittsburgh during the 1970’s and recently tried to explain to my officemates why the Steelers embody the soul of Pittsburgh and that they are somehow a part of those of us who grew up there. Thank you for a great article.
-Norm Krause
Ithaca ,N.Y

Here's another good one:

You are what a Steeler Fan is ALL about!!!

Thanks for the article....

I am from Penn Hills and spent many a day at Murray and Bartlett in the
Hill. I attended payoff games in 78 and 79....I now live in Cleveland
and thought I had it tough living behind enemy lines and having to buy
Direct TV. There is no way to describe to the rest of the world the
loyalty that comes from growing up a Steeler fan and having to move

Don Marshall

Friday, February 10, 2006

An eli scare/ trip to the hospital

Eli had an accident tonight. Before I proceed with some fairly gruesome details, let me say that he is okay and sleeping comfortably as I write this.

While riding on the back of my bike, his right foot got entangled in the spokes of the back wheel. He let out a yell. I stopped, jumped off and found his little foot twisted at a horrible angle. I was terrified that he would move too much and further damage it. There was a Chinese woman and a young teenaged girl walking right there and they looked on in horror. A guard ran over as well. I yelled, “Hold the bike, hold the bike!” unsure if they understood. The girl got it and held the bike steady while I slowly got his foot out, held his screaming self tight to my chest and ran home, which was just around the corner, abandoning the bike in the middle of the street. (The guard walked it home for me.)

I ran inside, took him to the couch, with Jacob, Anna, Ding and Mr. Li peering on, and took off his shoe and sock. It looked horrible. I saw a lot of color and my first fear was that it was severely cut. I even feared a compound fracture for a moment. I wanted nothing more than to look away but looked closer and saw that the cut was superficial but it was black and blue already, and very swollen. He was crying but surprisingly calm. I called Becky, as calmly as possible told her that Eli was hurt but okay and met us at the hospital, then I called Theo across the street to make sure I was gong to the right hospital. As soon as she heard me say “eli was hurt” she hung up and ran over. In the meantime, I had gotten out a bottle of Motrin and I gave e a double dose.

Theo ran in with her friend nicole, also a neighbor, whose daugther Charli had the exact same thing happen, less severely a couple of weeks ago. Theo said, ”I’ll start the car. Bring him out as soon as you’re ready.” A few minutes later, we were hospital bound in the back of her Jeep. Eli’s panic was greatly eased by the cherry Jolly rancher lollipop Nicole ran in and got. Hey, when the chips are down you find out who your real friends are and these two came through in spades.

One of the only things worse than rushing your 5-year-old o the hospital with a mangled limb is doing so while feeling certain you are responsible for said mangling. I felt horrible about this, having done something that my inner self told me not to do and having Eli pay for my sin.

We got o Beijing United Hospital in about 15 minutes and went right into a triage room. The nurse there looked at his purple swollen lower leg and winced. Then she said, “I saw him move it a little. That’s a good sign.”

I need to move along here because it is bedtime… bottom line is the X Ray was negative, they cleaned it out, wrapped it a little and said let him walk on it as he sees fit. I suspect I will be carrying him a lot this weekend, but the doctor really felt that by Monday he will be much much better. He told us a few other things to look out for. I got home and called Dixie to check out the info we were given and it all checked out. Basically, I guess he has one hell of a sprained ankle. He was in amazingly good spirits If your or mine ankle looked like that, we would be sprawled out in bed guzzling Percocet and gin.

On the way back from the hospital we stopped at a DVD store to see fi they had Home Alone which Eli ahs been asking for since Christmas when he watched it in Bay City. Becky scored with the box set of all four Home Alones. I know what I’ll be doing this weekend. I hear IV is a real work of art. Does Macauley Caulkin play the bad guy? The best part of watching the movie, aside from Eli saying things like, “Don’t worry Anna, Kevin doesn’t get dead” every time he got scared was Jacob laughing so hard he couldn’t stand whenever Joe Pesci or the other guy got whupped on. He really, really loves that stuff.

Well, time for bed. I really feel like we dodged one tonight. It is going to be a long few days, but I feared much, much worse. Tomorrow, Jacob has a big dodgeball tournament at the Japanese school. We were all going to go but now I will probably stay home with Eli and Anna and Becky will accompany the might Dulwich Under 8 dodgeball squad. It honestly was a big deal for Jacob to make the team. They actually had tryout and 42 kids tried out for 15 spots. I think it’s absurd to have kids cut at this age.. but I’m proud Jacob made it. Apparently, the Japanese practice every day all year. I suppose it’s racist, but I keep imagining these little kids putting on Samurai headbands and war paint and being told they are playing for the honor of the rising sun. very sorry I will miss this whole thing.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Still Crazy After All These Years

David Kann paid a visit to Maple Mountain a week or two ago and sent along these pictures. As you can see, Dixie is feeling pretty fine. We should all look so good at 70 in the midst of chemo. I think I need another haircut.