Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I Wish They Made...

It has happened to all of us, right? You run into some kind of obstacle in a project or daily life, and can't find just the right solution. You know what would do it, but it's just not out there - the book, the product, the service. You tap your chin and say,
"I wish they made ____."

Then one of two things happen - you eventually discover that they do indeed make it, or you don't. If you do, you're thrilled and proud of the person who thought like you and made it happen. If you don't, you either start a business doing it yourself or just live without, settling for whatever you can pull together.

Last week Hazel had a bad cold and spent several days in terrible coughing fits. I told my mom I wished I could give her a cough drop for some kind of relief but knew it was a choking hazard and didn't want to risk it. I gave her things to drink and some nighttime cough medicine but felt terrible listening to the hacking all day. Then my friend Kelly mentioned in an email her kids were sick and she'd given her cougher Vitamin C lollipops. LOLLIPOPS! Now somebody's thinking! I went up to Rite Aid and got them - Runny Rhino Cold Relief Pops with Zinc and Vitamin C. Hazel thinks they're candy, and while I know they're not exactly nutritional, they do give her some benefit and relief when the coughing gets bad.

People often tell my friend Corey that she "stole" their long-sleeved bib idea. Instead they should be grateful somebody finally made the thing we've all been needing. (Look for the food smock in Baby Talk's Dec/Jan issue - congrats, Corey!)

I'd love to hear what everyone else "wishes they made." Or what your million dollar idea was that someone else "stole."
What's missing from the market out there, or what's genius in it?

*Photo courtesy of Maren - Torin eating first birthday cake in food smock.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Right Back Where I Started From

As some of you know, we have been looking for a new job for Ed. Our 3 years with Citi will be done in the summer and we've decided to exit New York and investment banking. We've been in the search - apply - interview process for a few months and are happy to announce Ed has accepted a position with Relativity Capital, a private equity firm in Arlington, Virginia.

Your next question is, "What will he be doing?" or "How is that different from what he's doing now?" Please be patient with me. I watch Noggin and fix PBJ's every day. Ed has explained investment banking, private equity, venture capital, corporate development, and hedge funds to me hundreds of times but they remain abstract, barely relevant to anything I do except as a source of income. But here's a simple explanation:

Investment banks advise companies on financial decisions and help companies raise money to follow through with those decisions, such as mergers, acquisitions and divestitures.

Private equity firms raise a fund through investors, use that fund to buy companies, and generate a return on the investment by various means.

That's the best I can do without dropping a lot of financial jargon. Click on the wiki links to learn more, or just email Ed. Basically it is a related field, still in the realm of business finance. Relativity is a new firm, with only a handful of employees split between the NY and Arlington offices. Ed and another new hire will bring the Arlington headcount to six! Because it is small and new, it will be quite different from Ed's office life now, but he is really excited to work in PE and so closely with the firm's founders, who have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field.

As for me, my feelings are equally excited but more complex. I was born in Arlington Hospital. I spent my first 18 years in Fairfax, VA, and when I left I did not expect to ever return for more than a visit. I was sick of it and wanted to explore all the places where I hadn't grown up. I was also anxious to leave behind a small collection of adolescent demons associated with the place, and start over fresh, as an adult.

Now it's 15 years later and after living in Provo, Boston, Toronto, Boulder, Denver and Brooklyn, I'm returning. But rather than a homecoming, it feels surprisingly like another fresh start, with the bonus benefits of knowing my way around and being close to my family. We went to my parents' house for Thanksgiving weekend, and while driving around the area, I frequently checked the emotional barometer. I was delighted to feel a new relationship with the place, and a comfortable eagerness to bring my family there.

People complain that the DC metro area is crowded, expensive, and traffic is terrible. Luckily we're coming from New York City, from which reference point anything is an improvement. My heart flutters at the thought of all those parking lots.

Over the weekend we spent a little time examining maps and exploring neighborhoods to get a feel for our housing options. We hope to live as close to Ed's office as possible, which may mean living as close to the orange or blue metro lines as possible (the office is at the Rosslyn metro station.) We don't expect Ed's hours to be as long as they are now, but we've learned to make a short commute a high priority. That would put us in Arlington or Fairfax counties; beyond that, we don't know exactly where we'll be. I've learned more in the last 2 weeks about northern Virginia geography than in 18 years growing up. But keep in mind only 2 of those were driving years...

The timing is a little unfortunate in that we'll miss Dave & family, who are moving to England in the spring, by only a few months. But hopefully they won't stay over there forever, and we can get the next generation of cousins together for some formative years. And "Nana & Bobba" (my parents) aren't going anywhere - it will be great to be close to them. Of course we also look forward to reconnecting with friends that are still, or newly, in the metro DC area, and hosting visitors.

So that's the news - post any comments, advice, ridicule, threats, etc. below.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ex Libris, Part II

I have always had a lame vocabulary. I didn't realize it until standardized testing hit, and my verbal scores consistently came in low, year after year. On the SAT and years later on the GRE verbal was at least 200 pts below math. The inaptitude turned out to be interlingual, when, after 27 college credits of Spanish, my oral examiner gave me high marks in every area except vocabulario. Same for my ASL tutor. More recent evidence was produced when my blog received an "Elementary School"* readability rating (thanks a lot, Mr. Genius.) I did invest in a hefty dictionary-thesaurus set to see me through college and grad school, but I admit I only used it for writing, almost never for reading.

Like everyone else, I was taught by my English teachers to use context when I came across a word I didn't know in literature. But this technique's limitation is the context itself! For example, I can glean that delft is a color, but what color? Erysipelas is obviously a disease, but I know nothing else about it. My vocabulary is not expatiated by using this method alone because I don't learn the words well enough to reuse them in my own language, and certainly not the multiple times necessary for lexicon incorporation. I suppose some people actually keep a dictionary nearby and look up new words, but that's too disruptive for me. My reading windows are small enough - if I looked up all the words I don't know, I'd never get anywhere. Instead, I just gloss over the obscurities and continue in ignorance. I don't understand how other people do it.

Ex Libris essay #2 is called The Joy of Sesquipedalians. Anne Fadiman grew up in a highly literary family - she and her brother used to compete to find the longest and strangest words. So she was both thrilled and horrified when, as an adult, she read a book** that contained 22 words she had never even seen before. She wrote them down and ran them by her family, then made a quiz to give to colleagues and friends. She also looked them up and used as many as she could in the writing of this piece, providing definitions for the others at the end.

About 15 pages later, I was having the same experience with Ex Libris, minus the thrill. The horror turned to frustration and embarrassment as I read page after page of words I didn't know, stuck in with a few I did. So I decided to follow Fadiman's example. I wrote down the words and you shall now be polled. Below are the 56 words I did not know in 140 pages of prose. They're in alphabetical order, followed by page number. As you look through the list, keep in mind that I'm starting off at 0, so if you even know 1 you beat me - and you don't even have context like I did! And if you do think you know one, look it up just to make sure. Ed, the king of fabricated word pidgins and near-homophones, took a look and said, "You don't know what provenance is?"
"It's provenance, not providence," I responded.
"Oh. Well what about patency?"
"Patency, not potency." Et cetera.

accreted 150
acolyte 13
alluvium 42
antients 109
bibliolatrus 37
bibliomane 57
bravura 60
captious 81
caroming 69
chrestomathy (back cover)
concatenation 92
dactyl 133
declivitous 147
delft 115
distaff 50
doppelganger 90
ectomorph 140
eidetic 67
eland 74
elegiac 13
embonpoint 97
emendation 137
enchiridion 155
erysipelas 146
frisson 64
gewgaws 52
hegemony 59
hortatory 47
hubristic 81
ichor 91
kerf 117
lapidary 33
legatees 128
lissome 77
lucubrations 117
necrosis 34
paean 148
palimpsests 41
parity 73
patency 56
peroration (back cover)
perspicacity 82
pettifogging 81
probity 141
prolix 93
provenance 88
ptomaine 98
purdah 89
salacities 128
schist 67
soidisant 33
spoor 93
spurious 58
turpitude 98
umber 44
villanelle 117

Ok, let's have your numbers. And any other recent new words you've learned. And how you learn and keep new words. And anything else you want to say about it. And let's hear from you ghost readers on this one, too - I know you're out there! Hmm, maybe we can play some kind of blog Balderdash with these...

Ex Libris has inspired me to read more, write more, learn and use more words, and do more to pass a love of reading and learning to my children. Thank you, Ms. Fadiman. It has been a fructiferous read.

*Upped to "High School" after this post - imagine that!

**The book was The Tiger in the House by Carl Van Vechten. The words she didn't know are: monophysite, mephitic, calineries, diapason, grimoire, adapertile, retromingent, perllan, cupellation, adytum, sepoy, subadar, paludal, apozemical, camorra, ithyphallic, alcalde, aspergill, agathodemon, kakodemon, goetic and opopanax.
I knew grimoire from Outlander and alcalde from Zorro, the Gay Blade.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ex Libris, Part I

It all started with the reconnection with my old missionary companion Kim ("Kimmie") Petersen. Somehow we hooked up with each other's blogs and profiles - I saw that she is an avid reader, and she saw that I had a book by Anne Fadiman in my favorites list - The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (highly recommended.) Kim told me that the name of her blog, exLibris Lady (also highly recommended, especially for book suggestions), is based on another book by Ms. Fadiman, and I should read it. And so I have.

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader is a small, very entertaining, book of 18 personal essays recounting the author's lifelong love affair with books, language and all things literary. Reading it made me feel both confidently clever and dolefully dense - clever for the experiences and passions with which I could relate, and dense for the heaps and mounds of literary references and 50-cent words with which I could not. I recognized (but not necessarily understood) probably less than 5% of her allusions and references. Ms. Fadiman is a seriously well-read woman. I am not. But I enjoyed it so much all the same.

This post is Part I because it's an intro and book review. Part II will be a more personal post inspired by one of the essays, so watch for it. And have your dictionaries handy!

I was thinking I'd give a quick one-liner about each essay, maybe a quote as well. I didn't realize until I just now counted that there were actually so many - it doesn't feel like eighteen! So instead here are some highlights:

#1 Marrying Libraries - On the solemnity, and complexity, of combining her and her husband's book collections. "After five years of marriage and a child, George and I finally resolved that we were ready for the more profound intimacy of library consolidation."

#5 Never Do That to a Book - On the ways that people treat books and why. "...just as there is more than one way to love a person, so there is more than one way to love a book. The Fadiman family believed in carnal love. Hard use was a sign not of disrespect but of intimacy."

#8 You Are There - On the practice of reading books in the places they describe. "For example, reading Steinbeck in Monterey won't do; we must read him on Cannery Row."

#10 Insert a Caret - On her and her family's compulsive proofreading - hilarious to anyone who has the same tendency. "Once, when I ordered a chocolate cake to commemorate the closely proximate birthdays of my three co-Fadimans, I grabbed the order form from the bakery clerk, who had noted that it was to say, 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY'S,' and corrected it. I knew my family would not be distracted by the silver dragees or the pink sugar rose; had I not narrowly averted the punctuational catastrophe, they would have all cried, in chorus, "There's a superfluous apostrophe!"

#13 Nothing New Under the Sun - On quoting, referencing, intellectual property and the fine line of plagiarism - written with footnotes ad nauseam to reference almost everything she says or thinks. "In the incestuous world of cookbookery, there seems to be no such thing as plagiarism. Add a sprig of rosemary and the recipe is yours. In literature - or so goes the conventional wisdom - the rules are a bit stiffer. I have long been fascinated by the sea-change through which an aggregation of words, common property when scattered throughout a dictionary, is transformed into a stealable asset."

And you don't want to miss #12 The Literary Glutton, on figuratively and literally devouring books; also culinary descriptions in literature. "The art critic Eric Gibson once told me that one of the most frustrating experiences of his life was reading the description of chicken-and-sausage stew in A Moment of War, Laurie Lee's memoir of the Spanish Civil War, while riding the Washington subway, at least a half hour's ride from his kitchen."

Anyone who loves to read will find something of themselves in these pages, and enjoy the reading as well. It is a lovely balance of familiar and new, written by a true master of the English language. It especially highlighted for me the difference between being literate (me) and literary (her), but I've just taken my first step.

This book receives 4.5 out of 5 disco balls:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy Birthday to Maren!

Here at DMTotW we're a family show, and that means if Dave gets a birthday crossword, well so does Maren. And that's right, Tona, you will get one too. Today is my next older sister Maren's birthday and it's time for everyone to get to know her, or show off what they already know. She's educated, she's traveled, she's a great mom, and accomplished in so many ways. Happy Birthday, Maren - hope it's the best yet!
7. In high school Maren was active in the drama program.  
In which play did she bring the house down with her leading role?
The Man Who Came to Dinner
10. How far apart were Maren’s college graduation and wedding?
One Day
11. What will Maren’s children answer if she asks them,
“What do you get when you whine?”
12. In what city did they live when Torin was born?
Middlebury (VT)
13. What is Maren’s degree? (hint: not a B.A.)
15. Maren has always been wonderful on stage.  
Where was her very first performance?
Disneyland - at a magic show when she was like 4
16. How many times has Maren lived in California?
17. What is the name of the apartment complex where
Maren lived off-campus at BYU?
19. What is Maren’s degree in?
21. What was always the first part of Maren’s tennis
shoes to wear out?
Big Toe
23. In which neighborhood of Cambridge did they live
during Quinn’s first Harvard stint?
Porter Square

1. Our Dad has an absolute favorite picture of Maren
when she was about 3. In it she’s wearing a coat –
what color and what color trim?
Blue, White
2. In what city did they live when Laurel was born?
Palo Alto
3. What was Maren’s first car?
Chevy Malibu
4. In what city did they live when Sonja was born?
5. Maren has lived in three foreign countries.
In alphabetical order, what is the second one?
6. At what BYU freshman activity did Maren meet Quinn?
7.  In alphabetical order, what is the third foreign country
Maren has lived in?
8. What is Maren’s middle name?
Edna, after Grandma Younce
9. What classic recipe did Maren try over and over and
swear she could not make (until recently)?
Chocolate chip cookies
14. When we were little girls and shared a room, we used to
make up dance routines and perform them for the family.
What song was my favorite done to?
Rio (Duran Duran)
18. How old is Maren today?
20. In alphabetical order, what is the first foreign country
Maren has lived in?
22. Who was Maren’s first boyfriend?
(First and last name; I believe she was in 7th grade.)
Brian Nanto, the stud

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

7 Things You Never Knew (or tried to forget) About Me

My sister-in-law Camille has "tagged" me, supposedly requiring me to disclose seven interesting things about myself. I'm taking it a step further, trying to make it things most people don't know. As I was thinking of them, I kept coming back to embarrassing moments, since because of their nature I haven't flaunted them as much as, say, the fancy letters after my name in "Kari Hickman, M.A., CCC-SLP." But I also tried to come up with some that aren't extremely painful to admit. Here they are (drumroll):
  1. My lifelong sugar addiction began early with a childhood candy corn habit.
  2. My first boyfriend asked me out by getting on one knee and saying, "Will you be my lawfully wedded groove chick?" (Unfortunately there were no photos of the joyous occasion.)
  3. I would like to learn to play the banjo.
  4. In 1995 at a BYU dance I dislocated my knee doing, yes, the Electric Slide. I got an ambulance ride to the ER, a leg brace, and weeks of physical therapy, all of which came with numerous chances to tell the tale. Beyond embarrassing.
  5. Around age 15-16 I went a year and a half without shaving my legs. At EFY people asked if I was European. At Robinson people knew I was just Kari Younce.
  6. In 2000, I ran over my neighbor's cat, who had been taking a nap under my parked car. I was so traumatized that I had some guys I know come clean her up, and when my neighbor got home I told him she had been hit by a car. I never told him it was me. I still feel terrible about it.
  7. My hugely intense childhood celebrity crush was on...Huey Lewis.
It was only after writing these 7 things that I read on Camille's blog her 7 things, all of which are about her now (not in the past), and all of which received at least a paragraph in explanation. Since Ginger has been sick and not sleeping well for several nights, I lack the mental energy for such thorough self-analysis, so I shall let my 7 stand.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


This weekend was the 10th annual New York Chocolate Show, and I was a part of least for an hour. I heard about it the past two years we've been here, and never got over to it. Then someone told me yesterday it's going on until Sunday, so I called Ed to see if he could watch the girls Saturday morning. Things are relatively light at work this week, and the beauty is that Ed loves the chance to spend time home alone with the kids, so everybody wins (but especially me!)

I left home about 9:30am and an hour subway ride, 15 minute walk, and 30 minute wait in line later, I slapped down my $28 cash and entered Chocodise. There were 91 booths, and all but a few info booths and water stations were filled with chocolatiers from around the world. And they ALL HAD SAMPLES.

Why else would you go? Yes, I and approximately 100,000 other people were there for the samples! Trays, bowls, platters, bags and plates lined the front tables of booths offering cocoa delights of all colors and flavors. After about 5 or 6 intensely rich pieces, however, my palate and stomach agreed I wouldn't make it all the way down Bittersweet Boulevard at this pace, not to mention Cocoa Bean Street, Chocolate Chip Drive, Sweets Avenue or Quetzacoatl Street. In need of something to collect my samples in for later, I stopped at the NewTree booth, because it had oh so many interesting-looking samples and it was also close by. I tasted a few - delicious! - and bought a $7 samplers box of small bars, answering YES! when asked if I wanted a bag. From then on I ate about 1 in 5 of the pieces I passed, keeping the others safe in my bag.

There were brownies, fudge, truffles, bark, sauces, ganaches, flourless cakes, hot chocolate, fondues and chocolate fountains. I think the most interesting one I tried was a Smokey Blue Truffle from Lillie Belle Farms - "the perfect combination of the Rogue Creamery's award winning Smokey Blue Cheese, organic milk chocolate and toasted almonds." It was surprisingly good, especially considering I don't like blue cheese. I also enjoyed chocolate dipped potato sticks but skipped the chocolate sardines!

There was a children's corner in the back, with activities scheduled throughout the day, including chocolate thumbprint art, but one look at the poor saps trying to force strollers through the oppressively thick crowds confirmed I'd made the right choice by coming alone.

After about an hour I'd stopped at most of the booths and was feeling lightheaded from the crowds and aromas. My final purchase was a bottle of dark chocolate dessert syrup from Guittard. Then I hit the restrooms (I'd been drinking a lot of water between tastes), and called it a day. A very good day.

I'll probably never get the chance to attend the Chocolate Show again, but as with most things I've done in New York, at least I can say I did it once. As for those of you whose future may still see you there, I offer one piece of advice: bring a ziploc!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

First Joke

Well tonight Hazel told me her first joke.

Ginger's in a very fussy, whiney stage right now so by the end of the day my nerves are raw and I snap at any little thing either one does. I gave them a late dinner and Ginger's shrieking was so unbearable that I left Hazel at the table to put Ginger to bed. Partway through the kicking, fighting, crying process I heard Hazel calling from the kitchen, "Mommy, I need more water!" over and over. Deep breaths.

Once Ginger was down I went back to the kitchen where Hazel was waiting, admittedly very patiently for a 2.5 year old. I refilled her drink and sat down to hopefully squeeze in a few quiet, quality moments with her. As she ate, my mind wandered, so I was totally surprised to hear her say quite clearly:

"Knock, knock."

Knock, knock? Where did she learn a knock knock joke?

"Who's there?"


Being so late in the day it took my mind a few seconds delay to put it together. But then I realized the joke - it's from a Little Bear episode we've seen 500 times.

"Owl who?"

"Hoooooo else?"

I'd been strung so tight I thought I'd snap. I mean I was teetering on the brink of insanity after the day and week I've had. And with one horrible knock-knock joke and a proud little smile, my toddler managed to melt my stress away in about 5 seconds, and it came pouring out my eyes. I laughed and cried so hard I couldn't talk, and I hugged her as tight as I could. She proceeded to retell the joke no less than 10 times, and one last time right before bed.

They say in comedy, timing is everything.

And I would have to agree.

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