Monday, December 13, 2010

Thursday, December 02, 2010

London's Winter Wonderland

We're on Day 3 of Snowy London here. The summary of what we've done to enjoy it is thus: sledding in the park, hot chocolate, Wii Party, Christmas films and taking out the Christmas Decorations.

Here's some pictures, because everyone knows pictures are worth a thousand words.

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy St. Andrew's Day

Happy St. Andrew's Day!
St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, Greece and Russia.
When we were in Scotland last month, Thing One said, "I feel quite special, because there are St. Andrew's flags everywhere!"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Flamingos make a Flamingo

The clue about this amaing picture is in the title: Flamingos make a Flamingo. The picture was taken by wildlife photographer Robert Haas for (who else?) National Geographic. Divine intervention or just good luck? Who knows, who cares. It's a great picture. To read more about it, go to the Guardian story.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2010

We had a raucous Halloween this year, which is truly the only type of Halloween to have. I present to you here our costume offerings.

On the left you will see The Black Knight from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." His uncle, who made MarathonMum watch said movie countless times in high school, no doubt is brimming with pride. He spent most of the day uttering the phrases, "It's only a flesh wound!" or "I'm invincible!" or (most popular) "Tis but a scratch." The coolest thing about the costume, not captured here, was that his left arm detached, leaving him with a stump to carry around, and a bloody armpit. Very cool. (Thanks eBay!)

On the right you will see our fearless hero, the World War II Fighter Pilot. It's still undetermined if said pilot was fighting for the British or the Americans, but he was definitely on the side of the Allies. The moustache didn't stay on for long, so it's a good thing we captured it on film. The genuine fighter pilot jacket, given to him by his uncle the fighter pilot, just barely fit, but it was good enough for Halloween. Not pictured is the map he drew on the back of his bandana featuring all the notable landmarks of Greenwich's landscape-- our house, school, the park and his best friends houses.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Learning Lasts a Lifetime

Yesterday I found out that my favourite journalism teacher, June Lytel-Murphy had passed away. She was an amazing woman who taught me so much about so much.

These are among the most important things she taught me:

10. A good writer is a good reader.
9. You'll get the best answers by being a good listener.
8. Heavy earrings can do damage to your earlobes. Please be careful.
7. If you have a strong opinion about something, be sure you have the facts to back up your position.
6. No female over the age of 18 should be referred to as a "girl." She is a woman. Please change the copy accordingly.
5. Don't get fancy with the word "said." No "exclaimed" or "argued" or "shouted." If "said" is good enough for the New York Times, it's good enough for you.
4. Every person in the world has an interesting story to tell. If you think a person is boring, you're asking the wrong questions.
3. Believe in yourself.
2. If you don't stick up for yourself, no one else will.
1. An enthusiastic feminist is the only type of feminist to be. (See also No. 2)

My friend Dante said it best when he wrote, "Good teachers never leave you."

Godspeed, Juney the L. You were an amazing mentor and friend.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy 11th Birthday, Thing One!

Thing One practicing his presidential acceptance speech at the Smithsonian in August.

Thing One now is 11. It's not as significant as jumping from single to double digits, but it does remind that his march to teenagedom is growing ever shorter. And just beyond that is adulthood.

Earlier this month, I felt like I got an early preview of what he'll be like as a man. He was at his weekly tennis lesson, and had been paired with a particularly lovely young woman. As I watched from the sideline, all I could hear him say was "Yours" or "Mine" in the polite way that some tennis players do it. I could almost imagine him 10 or 20 years from now, running around on a tennis court and doing the same thing with his girlfriend, or (dare I say it) his wife.

This is a big year for him, though. It's his last year of primary school, and we're spending most of September and October running around to visit secondary schools. He was always tall and scrawny, but now he's starting to fill out. He made the school football team, which makes me proud of him, but he's also an excellent big brother, which makes me even prouder.

However, I know he's not a man yet. I know this because I overheard the boys talking this morning about what it takes to be a man.
"To be a man," Thing Two said confidently, "You have to have rode The Griffon."

The Griffon, for those of you who don't know, is a roller coaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg with a 90 degree drop that's 205 feet high, along with multiple loops and, for good measure, no floor. It takes roller coaster madness to a whole new level. I bribed Thing One to not ride on it because I thought it crossed the line from "fun-scary" to "dangerous-scary." (As it turns out, I was right. While looking up the facts above, I saw that the ride got stuck on the first precipice less than a week before we were there, and they had to take five people to the hospital. See? Maternal instincts are always right.)

"To be a man," Thing One responded, "You have to have either rode the Griffon or be 21."
He'll be a man before I know it.

Happy Birthday Thing One.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

London SkyRide

As you can see from the sponsored hi-vis vest, Thing One participated in the London SkyRide on Sunday. This was part of a nationwide effort to get more people on their bikes. It worked. In London, thousands of bikers participated, including Thing One and his Dad.

Thing One had a whale of a time. He said it was difficult riding along with all of the other riders, but he loved being able to bike by Big Ben and other notable sights of central London.

Thing Two passed on the opportunity because he's still getting his sea legs-- albeit on a bike-- having mastered two wheels as my Mother's Day present. But he said he wants to give it a try next year. Thing One will be ready.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Summer in One Picture

This probably isn't the best representation of the summer-- after all, it's not in the sunshine, it's not in the U.S. (where we spent almost all of August) and it involves no form of swimming, roller coasters or ice cream (some of our favourite summer time activities). It's not even in focus, but that's phone cameras for you. (I refuse to moan about mobile phone cameras because after all, it is A PHONE WITH A CAMERA, something I couldn't have ever imagined when I was their age).

But I love this photo. My favourite boys in front of my favourite artist on day when we popped into the National Gallery-- only 20 minutes away from our front door-- so Thing Two could see some Leonardo da Vinci pictures, which had been his Top Interest at the time. But most of all I love the spontaneous hug. Soon after I took this picture, the guard came around and told me off for taking it, so I suppose it's almost a once-in-a-lifetime picture. Unless we want to take the chance again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Is Gravity Responsible for Falling in Love?*

Is gravity responsible for falling in love?

Are you kidding me? Of course not. Gravity is science. It is certain. It can be seen. It can be proven. It is indubitable. It can even be expressed by a scientific formula, in this case F=G([m1*m2]/D^2). (Thanks Sir Isaac Newton!)

Love—falling in, being in, staying in, or any other gerund related to its action—is anything but scientific. It’s kismet. It’s fate. It’s chance. It’s luck. It’s unproven. It’s a type of alchemy. It is the very antithesis of science.

But hang on a second. Could it be that simple? Is life really that clear cut? No, it’s not. Things are never just black or white, yes or no. There are usually lots of shades of grey, and there’s always at least one maybe.

Sir Isaac Newton, after all, wasn’t just a scientist. He was also a philosopher, a professor, a politician and a mathematician. He was Master of the Mint. (I don’t know what that means, but I bet it looked pretty cool on his calling cards.) You could say he was a jack-of-all-trades. Or you could say that he was neither one thing nor another. He lived his life in glorious shades of grey. He did, after all, have a surfeit of grey matter.

Is the Law of Universal Gravitation physics or is it mathematics? Both camps want to claim it as their own. It appears to be neither one nor the other: another great shade of grey.

Sir Isaac was a man of many talents, and also a man of many laws of physics. In addition to his Law of Gravity, he also wrote three laws of motion. The second and third laws explain force and action, but it is the first law where he may have been obliquely referring to love. The first law of motion states that an object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion, unless hit by something else.

So a person not in love will stay that way, but a person in love stays in love, unless hit by something (like fancying someone new). Maybe he wasn’t thinking about love when he wrote the First Law of Motion, but it certainly does seem to apply.

Would Sir Isaac still have come up with the same Law of Gravity if he had been able to apply it to falling in love rather than falling apple? Sir Isaac never married, and the encyclopedias don’t tell us if he ever fell in love. Falling in love, as applied to the scientific principal of gravity, certainly seems to be a shade of grey.

But if love, rather than an apple had inspired Sir Isaac Newton, could he have proven that gravity was responsible for falling in love? We shall never know.

* I wrote this essay as part of an application for a one-day writing course. (I was accepted.) They didn't seem to use it for anything, so I thought rather than let it sit on my hard drive unused, I would post it here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

For Star Wars Fans Everywhere

The reasons I love this:
-Only in New York City would the presence of Princess Leia would be met with shrugs;
-The arrival of Stormtroopers elicits a bigger reaction, but still, it's hardly a massive reaction;
-The thought of a scene being played out on a New York subway makes my day.

(It would have been even better if they had used the voice of James Earl Jones, but you can't have everything, I suppose.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All Hail the Oracle Octopus!*

All Hail King of World Cup!

For those of you who might have missed it this weekend, there was a small sporting contest called "The World Cup" played on Sunday night. But the bigger phenomena of the game was the astute picks by Paul the Oracle Octopus, who lives in Germany.

Paul now has announced his intention to retire to the quiet life after his perfect record of picking the correct winners during the World Cup. Paul, a 21st century kind of Octopus, announced his retirement in a 21st century kind of way: on Facebook.Good luck, Paul. We hope you find your retirement restful.

For those of you who missed Paul in all of his oracle glory, here he is, picking Spain to win.

*Thanks to Lesley Attarian, who came up with this headline.

Friday, July 09, 2010

New Imax: Legends of Flight

We love the Science Museum. Always have, always will.

Last night, we took advantage of our Science Museum membership to see the European premiere of the new Imax film, "Legends of Flight".

I was really looking forward to it. I thought it might be like my first-ever Imax film I saw in the late 1970s, "To Fly!" which was shown at the at the National Air & Space Museum, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

"Legends of Flight" is predominately about the development of Boeing's new airplane, the 787. It also shows some other historic airplanes, such as the Constellation and the Harrier jet.

In some respects, it was like the best bits of "To Fly." There were several scenes of amazing cinematography, especially when the glider is flying over what appears to be Alaskan glaciers. They also used animation pretty well, showing the structure of a plane versus the physiology of a bird.

But the film also certainly marked a cinematic milestone: the use of Imax technology to show a business meeting. I wish I were kidding, but I'm not. They actually had several (not just one) Boeing (or should that be boring) meetings about the development of the 787. Is that really the best use of Imax technology? I think not.

The boys loved it, and both awarded it a thumbs-up. I might have given it a thumbs-up if there had been less meetings and more flying.

Yet again, I am either a good mother for taking them to something exciting, or a bad mother, for not getting them home until 10:30 p.m. on a school night. It's a toss up.

"Legends of Flight": if you'd like to see a business meeting through the magic of Imax, this is the film for you.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

World Cup 2010: Paul the Oracle Octopus

In a continuing effort to bring my American friends up to speed on all World Cup 2010 news, I bring you Paul the Oracle Octapus!

OK. I'll be honest. "Paul the Oracle Octopus" is not his real name. I made that up. His real name is "Paul the Octopus" and he lives at the Aquarium Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany. His current claim to fame is being able to accurately predict the winners in the World Cup.

Paul works his magic after his handlers have placed two glass boxes containing mussels for Paul to eat with the appropriate flags on the front. Paul chooses the box-- and the winner-- by selecting it, opening the lid and eating the mussel.

He is, above all, an honest octopus. Even though he was born in England, he still picked them to lose to Germany, which they did. Yesterday, during a LIVE broadcast before the Germany-Spain game, he picked Spain to win (see above), even though he depends on Germans to feed him.

Paul the Oracle Octopus also correctly predicted that Argentina would lose to Germany, angering the Argentinian fans, who said they would put Paul into a paella if given a chance.

He has a very good record. The only time he was wrong was in 2008, when he predicted a Germany win over Spain in the European Championships, which Spain won 1-0.

Will Paul the Oracle Octopus pick the correct winner in the Spain-Netherlands match on Sunday? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

475 Posts and Counting...

Congratulations to me. This is my 475th post on MarathonMum.

When I started this blog five and a half years ago, blogging was still in its infancy. People have moved on now to Twitter and Facebook-- as have I, to a certain extent-- but I keep plodding on with the blog.


First of all, I like doing it. It gives me a chance to write about anything I like. I don't always come up with interesting essays, and often the posts feature pictures of Thing One and Two (though the grandparents like these posts). But I very much enjoy putting stuff out there. I may only have a few dozen regular readers, but that doesn't bother me *that* much. If I really cared about getting more followers, I would have made this a more general blog, guaranteeing more strangers reading the things I write.

I also might have more followers if I posted more regularly, but I tend to go in fits and spurts. Last year was a terrible year for productivity, but I was holding down another job as well as doing all the other things that moms have to do, so time was tight. Even when I was getting up regularly at 5:30 a.m. to get work done, the blog suffered.

Productivity also can be hampered by the fact that blogging is bloody hard work, as evidenced by the dead blogs scattered throughout the Information Superhighway. (MarathonMom, the original name I wanted to name this blog, I'm looking at you). There's also loads of people who say, "Oh, I'm going to do a blog," and then they abandon it. (Laurel Touby, take a bow. Scroll down for the apology for not blogging more.)

Another reason I keep plodding on is that it's serving as a really nice journal of our family life. Occasionally, I'll go back a few years to see what we were doing then, and I'll stumble across a photo of Thing One or Thing Two that will literally take my breath away, because they're so small-cute-different from how they are now.

But the best reason I can think of persevering is that it's keeping me writing. As I continue to toil on my first novel, it's a nice break to be able to just jump on to the blog and write whatever is in my head. Sometimes these thoughts are worth reading, sometimes they're not. But I do appreciate you stopping by, whoever you are.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Wimbledon 2010

They came, they saw, they conquered.

Obviously, I'm not talking about Andy Murray and Venus Williams at this year's Wimbledon. I'm talking about Thing One and Thing Two, who had their first Wimbledon experience.

Now that they're old enough to sit still, be quiet and stay up until 11 p.m. on a school night, (the last milestone being the last one reached), we headed to the tennis tournament after school on Thursday of the first week. The boys had been to Wimbledon just last summer (see below), but when we were there the most active people around were the people working at the tills in the museum shop.

At the height of the tournament, it's completely different. First of all, the Wimbledon station is completely decorated with Wimbledon posters and promotional materials, with big signs leading you to the bus queue or the taxi queue. (Although we didn't go there this year, in the past, Southfields underground station had astro-turf across the Tube platform, with tennis court markings).

We took the shuttle bus to the grounds, which was a mistake for us, because we were joining the famous queue, meaning once we got off the bus, we had to walk about a mile to get to the back of the queue, and then walk some more to get through the front gates, doubling back and crossing over on our past several times.

Once inside with your Ground Only Passes, it was fantastic. Even though it was 6 p.m., matches were still being played on all the courts, and thousands of people milled around the grounds. We got to see Sue Barker from her broadcast booth (reference lost on US fans). We also were one row behind the perimeter on Court 16 to see the No. 9 seed Na Li beat another ranked player. The boys were amazed at how fast the balls flew by and how hard they hit them.

As the day wound down, we got lucky when two older women stopped the boys and asked them if they'd like to go see some matches on Court No. 1. By this time, it was a women's doubles match for which not many people stayed. The guard either didn't notice or didn't care that we only had two tickets for three people, and it didn't matter any way since the court was only half-filled.

All in all, it was a fantastic memorable day I can't decide if I'm a bad mother for getting the boys home at 10:45 p.m. on a school night, or a good mother for taking them to Wimbledon. Maybe it's a little of both.

I got to go back to Wimbledon the following Wednesday for the men's semi-finals with the tickets we won in the lottery for Court No. 1. We got to see Rafael Nadal play, and even better, I got to see Rafa change his shirt! (which he did frequently between sets). It was just as much fun the second time.

We'll do it again next year, for sure.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

London Elephant Parade

This summer, London has been taken over by a herd of elephants. Not literally, obviously, because it probably would have made the news. These elephants are part of Elephant Parade London 2010, and will be auctioned off next week to raise money to help in the conservation of the endangered Asian elephant.

For the past few weeks, we've been on an elephant hunt. With 259 elephants in total, we have our work cut out for ourselves. Luckily, three of the elephants live in Greenwich, so we checked those off our list without breaking a sweat. After a lot of walking, we've managed to see 45 elephants, a paltry 17 percent of those on display.

But it's been a blast looking for elephants, particularly on a one day during the half term when we made it our mission to see as many as possible. All of the elephants will be on display together this weekend at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, but frankly, if you claim that you've seen all the elephants by seeing them all in one place, that's cheating. The elephant auction will be held on 3 July.

Without further adeiu, here are our favourites:

Thing One's favourite, No. 127 called Gloria:
Thing Two's favourite: No. 57, called Help!
(Green! His favourite colour)

My favourite was not my namesake, which is in front of the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank, but the one pictured above, No. 45 New Map of London. I do love a map, even if it's on an elephant.

Hunt them while you can.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Leonardo, Mona & the Boys

Thing 1 & Thing 2 in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre
(Not pictured: Hundreds of people jostling around trying to get their own photo.)

It's Art Week at school, so the boys have been learning all about, you guessed it, art. Thing One's class has been studying Picasso, Matisse and Mondriani. Thing Two's class studied the work of Leornardo da Vinci.

When Thing One told me they were looking at the work of Mondrian, I had momentary art amnesia so he had to tell me what sort of work he did. "It was black lines, squares and primary colours," he said, which is a spot-on description.

Thing Two is now absolutely fascinated by da Vinci. He also told me that while he was pleased that we saw the Mona Lisa, he was disappointed that he hadn't see The Last Supper yet. I told him we would put it on the list of Things To Do. He also taught me all about the Vitruvian Man. (In fact, I was disappointed that he wasn't here I was was writing this post, because I couldn't remember what he was called.)

In any case, I have posted the picture above for Thing Two, so that way he can prove to his class that he had seen the Mona Lisa, because some of his friends didn't believe him. The 7-year-olds need evidence, so here it is. They are a tough crowd.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Thing One & Thing Two at Centre Court last summer.
Big Surprise: It's raining.

Wimbledon has started, which is probably a good thing for English football fans because for the next two weeks they'll have something different to think about other than the current sad state of affairs on the England squad.

This is one of those times when I absolutely love to be in living in London. The BBC has all-day coverage, which might not be great for work productivity, but is great for all tennis fans. Our first year here, in 2009, we went over and queued up on the first day for grounds tickets and had an absolute blast. I followed up with a solo trip a few days later, because I figured my pregnant state meant it would be some time before I'd be able to get there easily. (As it happens, we won tickets in the lottery for Centre Court tickets in 2000, but we haven't been back since.)

This year we are planning to nip over to SW19 after school to see the tournament in action. I think this is the first year that both boys are old enough to go over after school and wait around, hoping we'll get a grounds pass. We're going to give it a try, anyway.

I'll be going over there in any case, since I was lucky in the lottery and got two tickets for Court No. 1. I learned an important lesson the day the tickets arrived in the post, too. They came in a non-descript envelope, so non-descript that I thought it was junk mail and almost recycled it without opening it. Luckily, curiosity got the better of me, so now we're off to the tournament.

The picture above was taken last summer when my old grad school flatmate Kavita came to visit with her family. She is a tennis fiend, so we went over to the Wimbledon museum and also got a tour of Centre Court. Appropriately enough, it started to rain while we were visiting, so we got the full Wimbledon experience.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

World Cup Fever: Best Commercial

Nike, it can almost go without saying, wrote one of the best slogans in history: Just Do It.

They've got a new slogan for World Cup this year: Write The Future.

I love it. It tells you that your future is in your hands. They've taken this slogan and used it to set out two scenarios for some of the best footballers in the world. What will happen to them if they make a historic goal or what will happen to them if they miss he historic goal. (Look for cameos by other famous sporting legends, like Roger Federer.)

I don't know how many millions Nike spent on this commercial, but it was worth every penny. Fantastic.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Cup 2010: England v. US, as portrayed in Lego

Maybe you've been stranded in the Indian Ocean for the last couple of days, (Abby Sunderland I'm talking to you), so you may have missed either the England v. US World Cup game on Saturday, or, even better, this Lego reenactment that was released a few days later, and is now an Internet phenomenon. If you've missed either or both, get up to speed by watching this clip, thanks to the Guardian.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Some Wow Words from the New York Times

The New York Times, one of my favourite papers in the world and one for whom I proudly worked (very briefly, in both time and content) published a list the other day of the words that most frequently stumped its readers. I found this list both life affirming and humbling, based on the words I use frequently, and the words I had to look up. I've provided a definition of the first 10 on the list, but I'm not going to tell you which ones I had to look up, and which ones I knew already.

The NY Times was able to compile this list because of an incredibly cool feature on, which I only just learned about. If you're reading a story online and are stumped by a particular word, if you double click it, a question mark will appear. If you then click on the question mark, it will give you the definition.

This list also reminds me of an incredibly vexing school assignment that my brother was given when he was in 7th grade. He was given a list with various Wow Words (though they didn't call it that). My parents took one look at the list and said, "Let's call Grandpa. He reads the New York Times every day. He's bound to find these words." I was able to find one word-- placid-- in a book I was reading at the time, but my contribution was immediately rejected by everyone because it came from a "Girl's Book."

So without further delay, here's some new words for you to add to your vocabulary. Drop them into a sentence at your next party to impress your friends!

Most Frequently Looked-up Words on, 2010

Date Range: 1/1/2010 through 5/26/2010

1 inchoate (definition: undeveloped)

2 profligacy (definition: recklessly extravagent)

3 sui generis (definition: unique)

4 austerity (definition: The 2008-2010 Recession Aftermath. Kidding!)

5 profligate (definition: the adjective version of the noun found in No. 2)

6 baldenfreude (Fake Word, so don't bother getting out your dictionary)

7 opprobrium (definition: state of being abused)

8 apostates (definition: person who has abandoned religion, cause or political party)

9 solipsistic (definition: theory that only the self is the only thing that can be verified)

10 obduracy (definition: obstinate)

11 Internecine

12 soporific

13 Kristallnacht

14 peripatetic

15 nascent

16 desultory

17 redoubtable

18 hubris

19 mirabile dictu

20 crèches

21 apoplectic

22 overhaul

23 ersatz

24 obstreperous

25 jejune

26 omertà

27 putative

28 Manichean

29 canard

30 ubiquitous

31 atavistic

32 renminbi

33 sanguine

34 antediluvian

35 cynosure

36 alacrity

37 epistemic

38 egregious

39 incendiary

40 chimera

41 laconic

42 polemicist

43 comity

44 provenance

45 sclerotic

46 prescient

47 hegemony

48 verisimilitude

49 feckless

50 démarche

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Thing Two Turns 7!

Thing Two turned 7 today. He wore the shirt above under duress, because his father and I thought it would make a hilarious photo, and we were right. At least I think I was right. We are now passing this shirt on to another worthy soon-to-be 6-year-old.

In preparation for this post, I went back and reread previous Thing Two birthday posts. It was funny and fascinating to see the more things change, the more things stay the same. So in the spirit of that idea, I present this list of things I love about Thing Two:
The more things change:
1. He married his girlfriend Esme this year, in the playground. She is the cleverest girl in the class, so I keep telling him that you want to marry someone clever. But she should also make you laugh. When I asked him what he liked best about her, he said, "I don't know. I just look at her, and she makes me happy."
2. He's got a "back-up girlfriend", Isabella, who is equally lovely. How does a 7-year-old manage to attract two fantastic girls? It must be his curly hair andd impish grin. Isabella showed her affection for Thing Two by presenting him with a picture of Abraham Lincoln. Either she was showing her affection, or she didn't know any other American boys. I'm going with the latter.
3. He loves math, and is very good at it, so he now has a new moniker: Mr. Math.
4. He learned to ride his bike without his training wheels/stabilisers this year. By doing so, he beat both his brother and his mother by at least a year on this skill.

The more things stay the same:
1. His sunny nature, disposition, and enthusiastic laughter.
2. He's still Mr. Movie. This year, he's become absolutely transfixed by the rating system, because he knows he won't be able to see a 12. And all 15s are absolutely "scary", straight out of the box.
3. He is still incapable of walking quietly down the stairs. He can only jump from stair to stair, making an enormous racket as he does so.
4. He's a great helper in the kitchen, and he's getting better at cooking all the time. I keep telling him this will attract the ladies later in life. I don't think he believes me.
5. How he sings to himself when he's happy.

Happy Birthday, Thing Two. May you have many more.

Monday, May 03, 2010

NYT A Moment In Time Project

We're putting the "G" into the GMT for the Moment in Time project. Thing One and Thing Two revive and enjoy the Victorian tradition of tumbling down Royal Observatory Hill at Greenwich Park, London, on the Prime Merdiain (0 degrees longtitude) on a gray and rainy Sunday.

For those who haven't heard about this, the New York Times asked people around the world to take pictures on Sunday at 11 a.m. UTC, or 4 p.m. London time. This was my submission and caption. For more on the project, and to see some other early submissions, go to the New York Times photo blog here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy Birthday to Shakespeare

Thing Two has been on a Shakespeare kick of late. It started with his class production of "A Midsummer's Night Dream" and has continued from there, including a recent request for "The Complete Works of Shakespeare" -- all 752 pages of it. (And yes, dear reader, I did buy it, since it was only £3 at the local bargain bookstore).

The Globe Theatre in London celebrated Shakespeare's 446th birthday last weekend by opening its doors and having workshops throughout the day. Thing Two was incredibly excited about the prospect of seeing the theatre, and spent most of the weekend talking about how much fun it would be.

Thing One was less than impressed that he had to go as well. He offered up several alternatives to his time: rock climbing, bike riding, football, running around in the park. No. No. No. No. We all had to go, we told him. He had a bit of a pre-teen sulk, made it clear that he wasn't happy about our trip to the Globe-- despite the fact that his brother was ecstatic-- and off we went.

It was a beautiful sunny Sunday, and we had a great time walking along the Thames before getting to the Globe. After mistakenly sitting through a 45-minute lecture on Shakespeare play "Henry VIII," we got to see the theatre itself. We happened upon an audience participation play, with a "Dating Game" featuring Henry VIII and three wives. (He picked all three, natch.) The actors then looked for a willing volunteer to be an executioner. I enthusiastically pointed to Thing Two next to me, who also had his hand raised. But guess who they picked? Thing One, of course.

Thing One performed with aplomb, if I do say so myself. He looked nasty when directed to, swung the heavy axe when told to do so, and even waved to his adoring public when departing stage left.

Cue bitter disappointment, tears of frustration and sadness and wails of protest from Thing Two. He was not happy. You could say that it was a Tragedy of Shakespearean Proportions that he didn't get picked, given that his brother didn't even want to go in the first place, but that's overstating it a bit. It did, much like many of Shakespeare's plays, provide a useful life lesson: You don't always get what you want.

It seemed all the more appropriate that this dramatic lesson would be taught at the Globe.

Thing One demonstrating his "Evil Face" as executioner.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Best of the Volcanic Sunset Photos

This amazing photo was taken by my friend Kirstin on Friday night when we happened to run into them at Greenwich Park for the meeting of the Volcanic Sunset Appreciation Society, Greenwich chapter. Thing One is on the left, closest to the Observatory.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Beautiful Volcanic Sunset (which may or may not be lavender)

Thanks to our friends in Iceland and the volcanic ash spewing into the air, those of us in England got a few presents:
• All airports closed and flights cancelled at least until Friday night;
• Volcanic ash in the air, albeit not on a Pompeii-like scale. Just enough to get T-shirts that say, "I've sucked in volcanic air, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt"; and
• The promise of a "Lavender Sunset" tonight.

Thing One and I dutifully walked up to the top of Greenwich Park to see the "Lavender Sunset" for ourselves. The clouds were of a lavender hue, the sun was enormous and it wasn't quite what I expected, but it was absolutely spectacular just the same.

Thing One took the fantastic photo above, and I have to say that all of his photos were much better than mine. This one is his best shot. We were joined at the top of the hill by about dozen other photographers and probably a dozen more specatators.

Lavender sunset? Probably not. But for a once-in-a-lifetime event, it certainly was something.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 15*

To my 15-year-old self:

Please listen to this advice . I know some of it sounds crazy, but I know what I’m talking about here. You’ll thank me later.

• Don’t believe your hairdresser when she tells you that a perm would be a good idea. It’s not.

• In two years, a company called Microsoft will have its IPO, with shares selling at $21. Buy some.

• Grandma is right when she says you ought to have a Plan B for both boyfriends and life. This advice will serve you well.

• You may think these are the best days of your life, but they’re not. (But they are the best days of the star quarterback’s life. He becomes an appliance salesman.)

• Wear a bikini every day. Even in snow.

• You think you know everything. Trust me, you don’t. And believe me about the bikini.

You’re welcome.

*This is my winning entry in a recent writing competition sponsored by Spread the Word, a U.K. writing organisation, where I recently attended a workshop. I was limited to only 150 words, thus the short length. If I had to write down everything I didn't know at 15, it would be a VERY long list. The prize was a gold chocolate bunny (much happiness from the family), and a book, "How to be an Artist" (must happiness from me). I hope you like it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My Mother's Day Present: Learning to Ride a Bike

Five days later, he's still talking about it. I don't blame him. As someone who it took an entire summer to learn how to ride a bike (and picked up seven stitches on the way), I know how hard it is. Well done to Thing Two.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

World Book Day 2010

King Midas (Thing One) and the Mad Hatter (Thing Two) celebrate World Book Day 2010.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Oscars: 4:37 a.m.

OK. In the final stretch now. I feel like I should win an Oscar for being up to stay up so late and resist the chocolate tart.

Looks like Sean Penn just parachuted in to present the Best Actress award. Lucky him. He didn't have to sit through the interpretative dance routine.

Sandra Bullock wins, as expected. "The Blind Side" hasn't been released here yet. She's doing a nice shout out to all the other nominees. She forgot to thank her husband, though. She'll pay for that later.

Kathryn Bigelow wins for "The Hurt Locker." The camera cut away before I could see if she got a hug and a kiss from her competitor and ex-husband James Cameron. THAT would have been worth waiting up for. James Cameron seems to be smiling graciously, but maybe he's an actor too.

Finally! Best Picture! Might get to bed before 5 a.m.! Indeed I am, because Tom Hanks didn't mess about: he just did it.

Kathryn Bigelow looks like she's about to hyperventilate, have a heart attack or both. I don't blame her. She's got an Oscar for each hand.

Until next year...

Oscars: 3:50 a.m.

Doing a large dance sequence for the Best Original Score award is not a bad idea IN THEORY, but it only makes me want to break down and finally have a piece of chocolate tart. I resist, though.

Glad that "Up" won again, if nothing else because I finally got to see the Ellie Badges that the entire "Up" team is wearing. I want one of those.

Now I know why Matt Damon had to stick around: he was presenting the award for Best Documentary Feature. Cunning move No. 2, Oscar organisers.

Shabby editing tonight. I keep spotting seat warmers, when I've never noticed them before.

I believe that the hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin have changed their tuxes, but the fact that I noticed speaks volumes about the quality of this show (read: not very exciting).

Minor upset: Neither "The White Ribbon" or "A Prophet" win Best Foreign Film, instead it goes to "A Secret in Their Eyes". You would think if they're going to cut off the Argentinian because his speech is too long, the orchestra should play some sort of Spanish tango.

Had to think for a moment about the connection Kathy Bates has to "Avatar" but then came up with it: She played Molly Brown in "Titanic", another bad James Cameron film that made bazillions of dollars.

Finally, a big one: Best Actor! I really hope The Dude wins, even though we haven't seen the film yet (it either just opened here, or will open next week). Colin Firth sure is dreamy, and he was terrific too. He's been in Greenwich now three times for filming, and I STILL haven't met them. It has to happen some day. It's meant to be.

I like these personal introductions for the main awards, though it does add to the length.

Jeff Bridges wins! Now have to wait for a Dude reference. It's bound to come. He gave props to his mom and dad, though, which is nice. Several "man" interlocutations, which seems very Dude like.

Oscars: 3:16 a.m.

Kristen Stewart is there to introduce the Horror Movie montage. Hey, Kirsten, it's the Oscars, would it kill you smile? Would it kill you to smile EVER??

Morgan Freeman is teaching me all about Sound Editing, which is actually interesting, but isn't going to get me into bed any earlier. They're showing scenes from "A Dark Knight." Do you think this is the Academy's way of apologising that it wasn't a nominee for Best Picture last year?

Kathryn Bigelow just stood to congratulate the winner of Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. Every time I see her, I think, "Really? You're almost 6o? Could I please have the name of plastic surgeon or your oxygen chamber supplier?"

(Note to self: Really must go see "The Hurt Locker." Should probably see, "Inglorious Basterds" too.)

Big mistake by Sandra Bullock, who looks as nervous as all get out. She says, "And the winner is..." rather than the now encouraged "The Oscar goes to..." (because EVERYONE is a winner, after all).

Now for the "I See Dead People" montage: one way to get around the clap-0-meter to see who was the best linked is to have James Taylor sing. Cunning. How does Michael Jackson get in there? I know he was an International Superstar, but he was hardly Oscar material.

Oscars: 3:06 a.m.

Avatar finally wins an Oscar. Honesly, though, if it wins Best Picture I will have to boycott next year's ceremony, because I thought that film was TERRIBLE. I know millions of people disagree with me, but hey, I still think it was a bad movie.

Oh! Fashion faux-pas! Sarah Jessica Parker in Chanel Couture presenting alongside Tom Ford. Surely she knew this ahead of time and should have asked him to throw something together for her?

Sandy Powell, winner for Best Costume Design for "Young Victoria" is wearing a fetching hat. A woman after my own heart. I think she was also helped by the fact that it was partly filmed in Greenwich, but she didn't mention that in her speech.

Charlize Theron presenting for "Precious." OK. I can't think of ANY connections AT ALL between her and the movie. As I cast listlessly about for a connection, I guess I'll just have to look at the Look At My Boobs dress.

Oscars: 2:47 a.m.

Oh! There's Matt Damon!! I read on my Twitter feed he was going home after he lost in the Best Supporting Actor category. I guess he changed his mind.

A really good speech from Mo'Nique, who wins, as predicted, for Best Supporting Actress in Precious.

Can someone please tell me what Colin Firth's connection to "An Education" is? Or did they think, "Oh, he's British. They all know each other over there, don't they?" OK. Just thought of a tenous link: He starred in "Fever Pitch", based on the book by Nick Hornby, who adapted "An Education". (You're welcome, my American friends.)

Oscars: 2:29 a.m.

Seems slightly inappropriate that Carey Mulligan and Zoe Salanda enter to the tune of, "Thank Heavens for Little Girls." I think both should get an Oscar for navigating those stairs with those shoes and those trains. Any time they saved by not singing all of the Oscar songs has now evaporated due to the over-long introduction to the Animated Shorts Oscar award.

Oh no! Wallace and Gromit lose! This is terrible. More long faces at the breakfast table tomorrow morning.

Ben Stiller as Avatar. Are they ever going to let that poor man come to the Oscars in a tux? He is funny. Ironic that he's doing the Best Makeup award in makeup for a movie not nominated for it.

Time for a Dodgeball reference, just because I can: "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball."

Oscars: 2:02 a.m.

Sweet merciful God: it looks as though we're not going to have to listen to all of the Best Song nominees in their entirety this year. Maybe we will finish up before 5 a.m. this morning. I REALLY would like to get to bed before Mr. MarathonMum gets up at 5:10 a.m.

T-Bone Burnett just wins, which has got to be the greatest name of a winner ever, though not the best name of a winning song. That honour would go to: "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" (2006).

Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr. are pretty funny. Man, I wish "30 Rock" was on a regular time on a regular channel, rather than channel 129 at 10 p.m. on random days.

Hurt Locker wins its first award, and I'm cheered to hear that the writer who won is a former journalist who wrote

I just thought, "Who is that with Matthew Broderick." Oh! Molly Ringwald, and they're both doing a nice tribute to John Hughes. I'm sure this is making all of us Children of the 80s choked up

"Ferris Bueller's Day Off": Definitely in my Top 10 favourite movies of all time. "Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Now a nice assemblage of the Class of John Hughes (Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hal, Matthew Broderick, Mac Culkin and Judd Nelson). It has to be said: Judd Nelson hasn't aged well.

Oscars: 1:46 a.m.

OK. Best supporting actor is out of the way, but we're already on to the only category this family cares about: Best Animated Feature.

We all voted for Fantastic Mr. Fox. Don't get me wrong, Up was great, and I won't be disappointed if it wins, but I thought Mr. Fox was, well, Fantastic. I've seen it three times now in theatres, and it holds up: it's clever, it's hilarious, it's inventive and it's faithful to the book.

The winner is: Up.

OK, that's all fine, but I still think that Fantastic Mr. Fox was better, and I say this as a HUGE Pixar fan. (Note to self: Does this mean that our "Up" art book, signed by director Pete Doctor and another name we can't decipher, is now actually worth more?)

Maybe this is why George Clooney seems grumpy: he knows he'll be losing out on all of the awards that he's up for tonight.

Sadness at the breakfast table tomorrow, I have to say.

Oscars: 1:03 a.m.

It's time for the Main Event. Sky just warned us that this program, "May contain sparkly diamonds and flashing images." Funny.

But 30 minutes later, I'm still waiting for things to start. Really, they should warn people of this so we could use the time to do something useful, like make coffee or have a piece of chocolate tart. Hooray! Finally starting!

Nice new touch: lining up all the Best Actor and Best Actress nominees. Might as well have them up first thing since we won't see them for another five hours anyway.

Look! There's Doogie Harris, M.D. Obviously trying to recapture the lightening-in-a-bottle success of Hugh Jackman singing and dancing last year. Only one big problem: I can't hear him. This broadcast will not be winning anything for sound, it looks like.

Hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin descend from a large crystal ball. If only I could make an entrance like that...

Vera Farmiga gets to sit next to George Clooney all night long. Lucky woman. But it looks as though George is in a bad mood, and he certainly isn't enjoying the jokes directed toward him.

Wow. A reference to "The Jerk." Now one from me: "The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!"

Poor Sandra Bullock. She looks SO nervous.

Finally. The first award of the night, only 45 minutes in. THIS is why I will be up until 5 a.m.

Oscars: Red Carpet Coverage (Part III)

George Clooney, always charming, looks awfully tired but is being very charming with the innane SkyOne interviewer. But he did say he hopes Jeff Bridges wins for "Crazy Heart." Classy.

Serendipity! Here's Jeff Bridges now, also being interviewed on SkyOne. Even though I haven't seen Crazy Heart, I hope he wins because he's awesome in everything he's ever been in. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury I submit to you: The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Fisher King, The Big Lebowski, even Fearless (seen by about six people, including me and Mr. MarathonMum). George Clooney was fantastic in "Up in the Air," so Jeff Bridges must be pretty good to beat George. We'll see. Bonus Points if he works in a reference to "The Big Lebowski" in his speech if he does win.

Kate Winslet looks very pretty, but I also worry that she seems to be disappearing. Are they letting her eat these days?

Charlize Theron: Big Mistake with the "Look At My Boobs!" dress. This will not go over well, I predict.

Cameron Diaz just waltzed in at the last minute, but finally, after years of wearing really kooky dresses to Oscar night, looks like the former model that she is. Maybe she fired her former stylist.

Wow. I can't believe it. The pre-game show is over, and it's on to the Main Event. I haven't even had a coffee yet. Might be time to do that now before things kick off.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Oscars: Red Carpet Coverage (Part II)

Just got my first look at Sandra Bullock, who looks like might win Best Actress tonight. She looks, at a very brief first glance, that she's impersonating a little gold Oscar herself in her gold dress. We might have to file this dress under the "Hillary Swank 2005" dress, where it would only looked good from the back, i.e. if she had to go up to the stage and collect the Oscar

Diane Kruger, usually impeccably dressed, is not so much tonight. It's some sort of odd pink-silk-pleating dress with a black neck and touches. Oh, goodness, no. Big mistake.

Ryan Seacrest is now talking to Quinton Aaron, the star of "The Blind Side" who was working security before be got the call to be the star on the movie. Tim McGraw has the best line of the night so far when he says, "People don't know how good an actor this guy is because he's actually a 5'8" white guy."

Nick Hornby is being interviewed on Sky-- you have to know that Ryan Seacrest wouldn't even know who he is, let alone stop him for an interview. He is living my dream, because let's face, it, the only way I'd ever get to Oscar night would be for writing, as it certainly won't be for my acting.

Wow. Sarah Jessica Parker, who's wearing Chanel, has A LOT of hair. Her dress actually looks quite comfortable, but I have to say her face looks a little tight. Maybe she's had some work done?

Colin Firth is being interviewed by SkyOne, but what I really want to know is what his wife, Livia is wearing. She's been trying to wear ethical fashion all awards season, which she's calling the "Green Carpet Challenge" for Vogue. Her dress is actually made from offcuts from other designers, and is unbeliveable, especially since it is, in essence, recycled. Now being interviewed by Ryan Seacrest, he made Colin Firth show the label on his tux to prove that he's wearing Tom Ford. He is, but like I said, I think Tom Ford makes a better tux than a movie.