Phone call from the NYC Board of Education Homeschooling Coordinator...

"Maitresse, I haven't received your IHIP for A's entry to 7th Grade."


Hallloooo Dahling!

[Maitresse is running to get to BigLaw. Suddenly, a young lady wearing a ballgown, long white gloves, and tiara with oodles of cash falling off her gown approaches Maitresse]

Ball gown Billionairess: "Hallooooo dahling!"
Me: "Erm..me? Hello?"
Billionairess: "Would yoo like an invitation to our bolllllll? Dahling, it will beee fabeulousss!!!"
Me: "OK."
Billionairess: "Come to our yacht, ok, dahling? And brrrring money with you. Lots of it. You'll need it to be with ussss!"
Me: "OK!"
[man in tails and top hot appears behind ball gown lady]
Man in Top Hat: "Hello dahling!"
Me: "Hello. My, your shoes are very shiny."
Man in Top Hat: "That is because I jusssstt paid that lowly illegal immigrant shoeshine man over there to shine them!"
Billionairess: "Alriggght then...see you on our yacht! Tah tah!"

Satire will get you everywhere.

What I am reading right now. A find for two bucks.

Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt.

About the author's school experience in Limerick:

"They hit you if you don't know why God made the world, if you don't know the patron saint of Limerick, if you can't recite the Apostles' Creed, if you can't add nineteen to forty-seven, if you can't subtract nineteen from forty-seven, if you don't know the chief towns and products of the thirty-two counties of Ireland, if you can't find Bulgaria on the wall map of the world that's blotted with spit, snot, and blobs of ink thrown by angry pupils expelled forever.

They hit you if you can't say your name in Irish, if you can't say the Hail Mary in Irish, if you can't ask for the lavatory pass in Irish.

It helps to listen to the big boys ahead of you. They can tell you about the master you have now, what he likes and what he hates.

One master will hit you if you don't know that Eamon De Valera is the greatest man that ever lived. Another master will hit you if you don't know that Michael Collins was the greatest man that ever lived.

Mr. Benson hates America and you have to remember to hate America or he'll hit you.

Mr. O'Dea hates England and you have to remember to hate England or he'll hit you.

If you ever say anything good about Oliver Cromwell they'll all hit you."


A writes a section summary/discussion of Beowulf

A springboard from which we further discuss this section of the action-packed tale. I love his use of the word "Ergo"!
Hrothgar left the hall and had entrusted it to Beowulf since he (Hrothgar) knew Grendel was going to come that night.

Beowulf is about to sleep in the hall and says that any day he can be as strong as Grendel. "Grendel does not know the arts of war, of shield or sword-play although he does posess a wild strength. No weapons, therefore, for either this night: unarmed he shall face me if face me he dares."

Now, wouldn't it be easier and swifter if he used a sword? I know it wouldn't be sportsmanship but Grendel has killed a lot of men, and has been a threat for over a decade. Also, if Beowulf does not use a sword there would probably be less wreckage in the hall and also if he wanted to fight unarmed then he shouldn't have brought the spear and sword in the first place. Ergo, it is better to use a sword no matter how manly Beowulf is.

So, then Beowulf had slept with his bolster (a pillow) under his head and his whole company of sea-rovers (a kind of pirate but more like a Viking) at rest beside him. None of them expected to see his homeland again. (Farther on in the book it was just Beowulf who did it alone so they could just watch him fight instead of worrying. Let Beowulf do the work if he is so great).
Grendel comes near the hall. One man, was spoiling for action. When he went inside (the hall), he sabotaged the building maddening (to crave) for blood. All of the men in the hall would've died if it weren't for one of Hygelac's kinsman was watching Grendel waiting for the first move he would make. The creature did not make him wait. He struck suddenly and started in; he grabbed and mauled a man on his bench and gorged on him in lumps, leaving the body lifeless, and eaten up hand and foot. Grendel's talon moved to Beowulf, bearing in with an open claw, till he found himself in an armlock. He found himself in a grap harder than anything he had encountered in any man on the face off the earth. He could not escape. Suddenly, a terrible scream and strain of catastrophe, the howl of the loser, the lament of the hell-serf, keening his wound. Beowulf's warrior tried to help him. Then, a tremendous wound appeared on his shoulder. "His sinews split and bone-lappings" burst. The whole hall was almost destroyed. He was driven under then fern-banks, fatally hurt, to his desolate lair. The end of his life was coming over him. Beowulf had won.

Well, that's going to cost a lot, hope they have insurance.

Shooting for the bullseye

Okay, I have some Maitresse-y things to do now.

A had his first post-puberty check-up at the pediatrician's today. At 67 inches, he's officially "off the chart." Can I say, Yao Ming? Funny how kids grow.

I have also been strategizing with Catherine how to prepare A for CNED studies this year. The CNED is an educational body in France that, along with the Ministry of Education, provides a curriculum for students to prepare for and pass the French Baccalaureat (the "Bac").[Here, Maitresse went into a rather long-winded and pretentious-sounding blah blah blah talk about the Bac and A's French studies. I have since gotten it out of my system, thank you. Now kindly pass me a cornichon.]

Catherine's concern is that while A is already following a full-time American curriculum, adding CNED studies will push A into academic overload. So we are trying to figure out a compromise. I teach CNED's science and maths in lieu of or in addition to what we're already doing, and Catherine handles the French for the CNED work. CNED requires a second language (other than French) to be studied beginning by age 10. We have English and Latin as "secondary languages."

There are more complications, but I won't go into those now. Right now we have: an American classical curriculum, plus the CNED.

I am otherwise excited about this book find: Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey.


Erm...excuse me. Where am I?

Today I observed an unusual amount of hairsprayed big hair, and white socks and sneakers. And a lack of the normal pedestrian traffic around Times Square. And everywhere else.

Toto, we're not in New York City anymore.

A took his lesson at an outside bench near Central Park with Catherine, under the shade of a big Pottery Barn umbrella and the watchful eye of a cop. They're speaking French. Yeah, the language of subversives. They're also drinking Jamba Juice.

After his lesson, A wanted to go to Washington Square Park. I refused. I did not want to get accidentally arrested.


I am supposed to be planning our academic schedule...

But I have a little problem. I am distracted.


Siouxsie Sioux is coming! Siouxsie Sioux is coming!

Sept. 5-7 at 8 p.m. at B.B. King's on 42nd St.

Funny, and not too long after my blurb about becoming more Native.


a word on scheduling

As lofty as my aspirations were with scheduling our first academic year of homeschooling, I will admit that I deviated not just a little from our schedule as I first created it.

Our daily 6th grade academic schedule looked like this:

- Latin 8:30-9:00 am
- English Spelling (Wordly Wise) 9:00-9:20 am
- English Grammar 9:20 am - 9:35 am
- Structured Reading (after brief break) 10:00 am - 10:30 am
- Writing 10:30 am - 11:15 am
- History & Geography (after lunch break) 12:00- 12:30 pm
- Logic 12:30 - 12:45 pm

Additional lessons:

- Violin lesson on Monday afternoons
- French on Wednesdays with Catherine ("homework" throughout the week)

- Science Internship on Tuesdays (4-6 hours) followed by Math at home
- Science curriculum on Thursdays with "homework" for the rest of the week
- Math on Thursdays
- Art after Math for 30-60 min., depending on the instruction in the lesson taken from "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" curriculum
- We covered "U.S. Government" on weekends.


- Outside play
- Fencing
- Swimming
- Sailing

note: Sailing and outside play were free! We used our local YMCA for swimming classes, as they provided the most bang for my buck, and there are some fencing programs in NYC that are also inexpensive or totally gratis.

Eventually, though, we began waking up at around 9:00 am and not doing lessons until after that time. By then, though, we were on "automatic pilot" and we'd begin with Latin, with the remaining subjects covered by around 2 pm. If anything was NOT covered by 2 pm, we'd take a break anyway, and resume after dinner until whatever subject was completed. At first I felt very guilty for not continuing to "follow a schedule" but I realized that allotting a time to a subject as we went along was OK.

Deadlines were not always followed this year. I found myself modifying deadlines a lot. My solution to that for the coming year is getting A his own agenda, into which he will write his projects due by date order on a calendar for which he is totally responsible. I have decided to get him the most grown-up looking one from the Columbia University Bookstore.

because I have Japanese friends with Japanese parents

A: Is "colonel" a Japanese word?

My wish list

- I would build my very own Maitresse Classical School. Preferably in the West Village for the "far from the madding crowd" factor, or on the Upper West Side for the "credibility factor."

There would be the Classical Curriculum, of course, plus tons of opportunities for outings, sports, chess, art in museums, music, an in-house darkroom, school newspaper, and academic or interest clubs that students could start or drop at will.

Students will have, by 12th grade, published a softcover book of any length, of non-fiction, poems, or stories, or a story, which they will have had the opportunity to work on from 9th grade. Community service, conflict resolution, entrepreneurship, and sustainability teachings would also factor into the curriculum.

- Alexander starts a rock band, becomes known as the "thinking man's musician," and becomes famous. He credits his success and everything he knows to his classical home education.

- A and I open a Willy Wonka-style candy factory in Williamsburg. Why Williamsburg? Because it's got tons of factory space and it's hip, silly. Plus, that psychedelic boat ride...

- I build a cob house somewhere in North America. Then I build another. And another. Soon, I have a cob house community of homeschoolers who really don't mind living among one another. Or at least, it would serve as a good retreat for like-minded families.

- More parents who don't homeschool notice us who do, and decide that we have got the right idea, take responsibility for their children's educations, and homeschool, too.

- Maitresse gets funding for that thoroughbred rescue farm.

- A takes me up on my RTW ticket offer, and goes around the world after high school.


Why can't we be more...American?

Hawkeye: Would the Huron make his Algonquin brothers foolish with brandy and steal his lands to sell them for gold to the white man? Would the Huron have greed for more land than a man can use? *

I am bound to get evil eye e-mail for this. We live in a great, productive country. We pride ourselves on our work ethic, our innovation, our genius, our ability to make money in our enterprise.

And I love this country, or I wouldn't choose to be here.

But tonight, as I worked at BigLaw, and attorneys everywhere talked of their $50,000 weekend summer house fees for one summer in the Hamptons, or stressed over the minutiae of the bloody one-sentence fax that had to go out seconds ago to the CEO of the BigFirm which BigLaw represents, or the e-mail that didn't go out fast enough, or did the courier deliver the document to the attorney at his home who was waiting to do more work in the middle of the night, or the Blackberry that doesn't seem to deliver the same message you will get on your computer which is still faster than snail-mail anyway, or you-know-who who just bought a BMW so that SHE CAN DRIVE IN TO WORK ON SUNDAYS to enjoy it but can't afford it UNLESS SHE ACTUALLY WORKS ON SUNDAYS, or the class action lawsuit that demands that the risky mutual fund just should have performed better....I wonder...

HAVE WE ABSOLUTELY GONE BONKERS? LIKE, STARK, RAVING MAD? I also know that this is not isolated to BigLaw - but is a reflection of so much that goes on in our society. On a more extreme level it's Enron. Worldcomm. Halliburton. ImClone.

Or the Long Island Board of Education.

Or the lawsuit against McDonald's for causing obesity. Yeah. Uh-huh.

More. More. More. And I will not be accountable for what happens when I get it.

The western world has been like this for a long time. Howard Zinn, how right you were: "The Indians, Columbus reported, 'are so naive and so free with their possessions, that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. [T]hey offer to share with anyone...' He concluded his report by asking for a little help from their Majesties, and in return he would bring them from his next voyage 'as much gold as they need...and as many slaves as they ask.'" from A People's History of the United States.

Yes, as a society, we are selfish. We want more, now, yesterday, faster, better, costlier, but not actually pay the expense ourselves, better, faster, sweeter, with fewer carbs thank you, send it electronically, you can reach me on my Blackberry, and let me have as little of the work involved to get there.

I wonder. Why can't we be more... American? At least, like in the indigenous sense? Imagine. Taking responsibility for our actions. Being ok with sharing freely. Claiming only the land than we can use at that moment. Not being afraid of aging because becoming an elder is cool and we get more respect when we become elders. And irrespective of rank (because not everyone is equal, right?), everyone still pitches in.

Not to mention I'd get to mount a galloping horse and do wicked archery. But that is beside the point.

Perhaps equal billing enables respect for that standard of living. But I doubt the United States would put up with a Maori Renaissance similarly-styled for Native Americans. Imagine what our society might be like if we did? Yes, I too, was a corporate CEO trained in ways and the work ethics of the Blackfoot.

Sigh. At least, I have homeschooling. It is far from the madding crowd, and when I teach, I give only what I can offer, and no more. No one can embezzle from the Maitresse Board of Education, either. In my view, that is most American.

So take that, Blackberry.**

*Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye to Sachem, in the film "Last of the Mohicans," based on the James Fenimore Cooper novel.
**An American (Canadian) gadget that delivers email to your person. Now taking subways and trains by storm all over New York, and well....America.


A family of bloggers...

OK, folks, I'm going to provide the link to A's blog. It is a pleasure blog. A fun blog. His academic stuff is kept off the web.

He would like more visitors to his site, and I really do not mind if other parents get to see his writings, rants, and...erm...rather normal interest in bands!

Alexander's blog is Pirates of the Carpe Diem.

note: I let A edit/create his own blog, writings and embellishments. Any quirks in the sidebar will be eventually corrected by the blog editor.


What we took our 93-year-old grandmother to see today...

It's true! The show closes tomorrow, and we figured, man-eating plants are probably right up her alley (more so than, say, The Producers). No English required - the comic moments were mainly physical and funny in any language. The audience was full of children of all ages, too. Grandma loved it.

What we ate afterwards...

Battered, fried & salted cod with malt vinegar...mmmm....and fried toffee crisp for dessert. British soul food. Yep, that'll do.

A Salt and Battery. Two locations in the City.

From a law school colleague's blog...

FBI Tracks Potential Republican National Convention Protesters
Law enforcement sources said that in recent weeks, federal agents have begun interviewing people in the New York City area they believe might know about any plots to cause mayhem at the convention, and have used surveillance against possible suspects.The intelligence unit of the New York Police Department has been closely monitoring Web sites run by self-described anarchists. It also has sought to infiltrate protest groups with young, scruffy-looking officers posing as activists. Memo to all vintage/novelty clothing store owners in Manhattan: Be on the alert in the following week for roving bands of uniformed officers buying Che Guevara t-shirts.

Meanwhile, sites have been suggesting people sign up to volunteer for the convention and either not show up or dress and behave conservatively, gain entrance, and cause mayhem from within. It's going to be crazy, kids.

Cops will be dressing like scruffy liberal arts college lefties. Liberal arts college lefties will be dressing like young Republicans. Some real Republicans look like scruffy hipster anarchists. All we need is the Village People to come in and dress like cops... although the NYPD thinks that activists may try to dress up like cops and fake police brutality.

Madness, I tell you! Madness!DON'T. TRUST. ANYONE.Me? I'll be staying home, thank you. "

credit to FM.


And then there was Minimus...

For a while now, I have eyed the Minimus curriculum after our experience with Latin Primer by Martha Wilson. It is simply more middle-schooler friendly, as it depicts Latin usage in engaging comic-style graphics, and it's whole-to-parts approach is more similar to A's language training repertoire.

It is also a secular curriculum.

We are making the Minimus plunge. We could not be happier.


Convention Week

The RNC is coming to in Manhattan. Fun, fun! I believe more protestors will descend on the island than Convention-goers. I don't know how I will participate yet, but A and I have marched a couple of times in the past two years. I also plan to work at BigLaw that week, despite this e-mail:

"We continue to work closely with our landlord to maintain the overall security at BigLaw. We also receive information on a regular basis from a variety of government and security agencies. We will distribute relevant information as we receive it. If you observe anything unusual in and around our building at any time, you should contact Security (ext. XXXX) immediately. Our landlord has recently agreed to allow the NYPD to use some of the vacant first floor space in [BigLaw Building] to set up a command post. As a result, you may notice a heavier than usual police presence in and around our building. The NYPD also continues to use our building as a training location for their [police group named after a Greek half-god] units, which are the heavily armed, anti-terrorism units created after September 11th. You may encounter these police officers, who wear body armor and carry machine guns and other specialized equipment, in front of our building. Please be assured that they are in this location for training purposes only. "

I did not make this up...*training purposes only*!

Hot spit. La Maitresse is going to have fun.


Bring It

Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

From the NY Times Magazine

(this past Sunday)..an article about...oh, a strange little girl...

Alexander is learning about "military" time and time zones via his event picks at www.olympics.com. He is getting very good at it: "The women's foil fencing are on at 19:19...is that 2:19 pm our time?" Yes, indeed.

Erinn Smart competed in the foil division today, a young African-American woman who trains at the fencing club in NYC where A is a member. While she didn't place for a medal, she is a force to be reckoned with, and I expect that she fenced brilliantly for the U.S. Last year, A and I watched international fencers Gruchala of Poland, Wuillaume of France, and Vezzali of Italy compete at the World Fencing Championships. They held the World finals at Grand Central Station. Vezzali won the gold in Athens today.

All these sports events got me thinking: if I could, I'd have A do more soccer, more swimming, more fencing, he'd learn to row, etc., during the day. I understand that in New Zealand, it is not atypical for kiwis to learn several sports, and learn each well. I strive for the same. Which is why I am so offended by the CNN article depicting homeschoolers on a sofa. On a couch, for godsakes.

And anyway, for whom is homeschooling accomplished entirely at home? I spend so much time out of doors with A - at the museum, at the River Project, at music and French lessons, sailing, fencing, etc., that our homeschooling has only ever been partially at home (need I mention supplemental outings - if we study Assyria in Kingfisher History, we "go there" to the Metropolitan Museum's Assyrian antiquities section). If anything, I feel we want our children to learn what is out there, not confine them to more walls (the institutional walls at home!) or have them become socially inept book nerds.

OK. I got that out of my system. Now back to the couch to watch the Olympics.



...back to the sofa? CNN makes us sound like a slovenly, lazy bunch...


Today I had a molar extracted, and another molar treated to a root canal. Ew and ew.


Alexander has a critical note for the Chinese and Romanian lady gymnasts in Athens today: "What is up with the glitter in your hair?"

: )


I love my 93-year-old grandmother

No, really, I do! And A loves having his great-grandmother visit us in New York.

But there are a few quirks with having a near-centenarian, at 93, who behaves as though she might be 33, visiting me and A. And I don't mean figuring out to which Broadway show to take her.

For my own mother who is in Florida: My apologies to you, if you happen to read this post.

For starters, my grandmother does not speak English. She was already a senior citizen when she arrived in the United States, and beyond her full-time job and duties to her household, learning a new language was "too much work." A has been filling-in-the-blanks with a lot of awkward smiles.

She does not use a cane. She does not need one.

She does not use a hearing aid. She really does need one:
Me on phone: "Hello abuela. Soy yo. Maitresse."
Grandma: "Maitresse? She eeees not here!"
Me: "No, it's ME. I AM Maitresse. Su nieta. Your GRANDDAUGHTER."
Grandma: "Maitresse? She eeees not here!"

She does not like compromise.

She insists on washing my dishes and cooking my meals. And doing the laundry, and sewing wherever sewing is needed.

She thinks A is lacking in socialization as a homeschooler. El esta muy solo. I should matriculate him in the nearest public school.

Her humor is raunchy. Things that will send her laughing beyond control are words like "ca-ca" and "pee-pee." And "huevos." I won't translate. A is waaay more embarassed than me when she decides to tell one of her funnies.

My grandmother is naturally curious.

She re-organizes my things constantly. Exhibit A: The pseudo-erotic Japanese art poster I had (which I embarassingly did not realize was erotic until I had the thing expertly framed) lying face-against the wall, is suddenly up on the wall in full view for everyone to see. A, my 11-year-old diplomat, has not commented on it.

Exhibit B: My earrings disappeared. Today, on my way to work, I scrambled to find them. "Oh, those? Why, they're upstairs, of course," she revealed to me. "Where upstairs?" I begged, with half-a-minute to spare. "Oh, you know. In the box of trinkets," she replied, rather aloof, as she walked away, into the next room.

"WHAT BOX OF TRINKETS? I DON'T HAVE A BOX OF TRINKETS." A, now becoming quite the man, intervened. "I'll go and get your earrings, mom." Moments later, my earrings appeared in my son's hands. He had no idea what the box of trinkets was about, either.

Exhibit C: A certain...erm...feminine massage device (which I really have not used lately) has disappeared, as well. It was in my non-usable purse. Magically, my non-usable purse appeared near my grandmother's bedside. I won't even ask about that one.


Charley and other Big Events

Thank goodness L at MySchola and her family in Florida are alright. Thank goodness my mother and her family are alright (as Miami residents, they were not near the storm. But they tried on Andrew once).

Mother Nature. Can't live without her, but man, she sure can pack a wallop.

I woke up at 2:00 a.m. this morning to watch my friends Veljko, Nenad, and Milos row a four-seater scull (I don't know the fourth guy) for Serbia in Athens. This morning's rowing start time was set at 9:19 a.m. Greek time. OK. I officially hate CNBC. The cameras did not offer any head-on view or closeup of my friends, because...their boat was finishing fourth out of five competing sculls. They didn't make this heat, and tomorrow's rowing has been canceled due to the wind conditions in Athens. I doubt that they are checking their university e-mail, and I have no idea how to send a basket of Oreos and milk to them in the Olympic Village.

Guess who?

It's Pete Murphy!


Visitors = very short blogging hiatus.

Sorry for the short break - will blog again by Monday.


Today was an Alexander haircut day

Boys sure need an awful lot of haircuts. After a six-month search for a decent barber after my arrival in NYC, I found a barber at Astor Place Haircutters. Big selection of barbers, reasonable price for City standards, and, well, I just couldn't resist trying out JFK Jr.'s barber on A, at least once. Our regular barber there, however, never laid his hands on any Camelot locks, but rather, Mike Tyson's. Oh well.

Bright, but hates to work.

Does this describe your child?

Because I was wondering....erm...


And I came across this. University of Miami is my undergrad alma mater. They have a great K-12 education lab, and I might utilize this program to supplement other things A is doing. But who knows? Anything can happen between now and high school.

Check out the links to pics of now-UM President (and former White House Cabinet member) Donna Shalala. She nearly broke Alexander's hand once when she shook it.


Random musings.

"Mom, I want to go to Heorot."

I nearly look it up on the map, when I realize where Heorot is.

It's Hrothgar's hall where the Grendel slayings occur in Beowulf.


I am trying to figure out if we can incorporate these into A's bar mitzvah next year. Since we're doing an adventure or India theme, maybe I can take photos of A on an elephant and have them affixed there? No, he's not into animal subjugation. Maybe A eating a mango. Or strumming his air guitar. Or something.


I am watching a show about plastic surgery. A boy with big ears meets with a plastic surgeon. The boy's mother is smiling a lot. I notice that her ears sort of stick out from under her long hair. The boy looks afraid. The surgeon asks the boy if, irrespective of how his mother or father feels, he, the boy wants the surgery. He nods a little.

Before the surgery, the smiling mother asks the boy if he trusts her. He says "No."

While under the anesthetic, the boy cries. The doctors tell him to stop crying. His mother is in the next room, smiling a lot. Her ears still sort of stick out from under her long hair.

I am submitting A's final report to the NYC Board of Education a tad late. I can't believe we got through this year with so many subjects on the curriculum. I think we did okay.


What's not on the shelf?

A wants more Singapore Science (as well as more hands-on, get dirty in the lab science). He has asked me to buy S-Science for 7th Grade ("Interactive Science"). Now. I have a feeling he is going to really zip through the stuff this time. He has seriously got The Bug.

My immediate shopping list:

- Singapore "Interactive" Science for Grade 7.
- Writing Strands to Level 7. Yeah, it's a jump from Level 3. My apologies to the authors of TWTM for not paying attention to their recommendations. The Writing Strands folks state "Level 3 for ages 11-12." I believed them.
- Charcoal pencils of different softness grades to finish our art curriculum.

...and for the near future:

- A decent easel when I can afford it.
- Copier.

My immediate to do list:

- Enroll A in this year's CNED.
- Call up the local CNED tutors (they sound incredibly snooty but seem nice) and schedule weekly in-home tutorials.

My wallet is going to hurt. Sigh.


a Kafka-esque thing happened tonight

Tonight I was in Grand Central Station.

There was a sandy blond-haired man attempting to board a train. He had no shirt on. There is a rule that all passengers "Must wear shirt and shoes" when boarding a Metro-North train. So a train conductor reported him to the police. The shirtless man was in disbelief that police were called on him. He might have been drunk. He was certainly goofy. He flailed his arms in the air. Two policemen began to get nasty with him when he flailed his arms in the air. The shirtless man grabbed a camera to take photos of the police who were nasty to him.

Two policemen then became four policemen. About three out of the four policemen tried to grab the shirtless man's camera. The fourth was attempting to begin to pin the shirtless man down to the ground. "NO, wait! What are you doing? I am just trying to take pictures of you!" Four policemen became eight. "What are you guys doing to me? Oh my god! Oh my god!" Eight became 14. Four National Guardsmen in full camouflage military gear now appeared. The shirtless man's camera was flashing incessantly in what now looked like a Rugby Pile-Up of the Worst Kind. "Stop resisting! Put your hands behind your back!" A policeman with a white German Shepherd appeared. "I know my rights! Gimme Al Sharpton!" More than 20 officers - including National Guardsmen - were now sitting on the shirtless man. A bystander jumped in and tried to get the shirtless man's right arm behind his back. The white German Shepherd began to snap at the shirtless man's head. I thought for sure the dog took a bite off the shirtless man's face.

I looked around me. Dozens of bystanders were standing around the scuffle. An old WASPy-looking lady was shaking her head. "So excessive. All this because he had no shirt?" An African-American woman also shook her head. "That's why nobody likes them."

Enough was enough. The Maitresse had to do something.

I walked up to a policeman who looked as though he weighed 280 lbs. I stood four feet away from the pile-up. Nobody seemed to mind.

Maitresse: "Excuse me. There are over 20 of you servicemen and women here. You are all piled up on this guy because he has no shirt, and you are still having trouble getting the cuffs on him?"
Policeman: "Well, you know...ma'am...sometimes they're - uh - really strong."
Maitresse: "Take a look at all of us standing around you. We are watching you. You are 20 servicemen having trouble getting one shirtless, hysterical, and confused man, cuffed. Are we really supposed to take you guys seriously when the next group of 20 sophisticated al-Qaeda terrorists try to make good on a very well-funded, well-orchestrated attack - maybe right here in this train station? This is pathetic."

With that, I left. I was grateful that the shirt on my back, the shirt a total fluke and gift to me from a friend, had the word "Harvard" written on it.

Note: a more appropriate shirt at the time would have been "UC Berkeley." That's just the activist in me.


this is where homeschooling gets really cool...

When A needs to fulfill his craving for science, as a homeschooler, he can look to the unconventional. Case in point: I made friends with someone at BigLaw who flies airplanes as his hobby. A asked me about airplane physics yesterday. I "threw" the question to my pilot friend at BigLaw. Result: Pilot friend at BigLaw is going to fly us on his plane his next week to illustrate the answer to A's question.

Maitresse's mantra: Oh please take us to Martha's Vineyard while you discuss torque force caused by the propellor, oh please, oh please, oh please...


Keep Left.

BigLaw provides company-sponsored car service to get me home at the end of my workday. From the BigLaw building to my address, it is a 20 min. drive. Last night, the driver of my Lincoln Towncar took 1 hour and 10 minutes to finish his mission. He failed to read the road signs. When I realized that we had been driving aimlessly for 40 minutes, I informed him that we were lost. He made a U-Turn. "Is this OK?" he asked me. "You're the driver," I replied, and, recalling the billing horror stories by some employees at BigLaw, I crossed out the "Stops taken" section of my car service voucher. We wound up even more lost. We came across a "Keep Left" sign. "What should I do?" he asked me.

"Keep left," I said.

Half an hour later, I got home. Nearly in tears, but I was home.


it's centrifugal

A has got the science bug. And not thanks to Singapore Science, the curriculum we use, but thanks to the CD-ROM "Civilization." He is asking for a complete overhaul of everything scientific that we own. We must get a curriculum that is better, bigger, newer, faster, tricked-up, more interesting, more challenging, with more horsepower, and shiny hubcaps that spin round and round. Erm...anyone know a science curriculum like that?


Ploy, backfired.

So Fidel is letting his people see Fahrenheit 9/11. Problem is, the reaction from Cuban moviegoers is inevitably - why can't we make films like this? One Cuban woman was openly complaining to a CNN cameraman about the lack of freedom of expression in Cuba. I've never before watched a Cuban in Cuba rant about her country so openly to the foreign media.

Fidel, compay, smoke on that Cohiba and think of another ploy...

And if Michael Moore is the impetus for a newfound freedom of expression in Cuba, then viva la libertad.



Anyone care to debate the word "Occidental," too?

Of all possible topics of conversation to be had in the Hamptons, I engaged in a debate with someone about the word "Oriental."

Here is how a perfectly good dinner conversation went bad:

Hamptons Guest: "Oriental is a bad word! Not OK! I got the list!!! That is a term perpetuated by colonialism!!!! Oriental is a rug!"
Me: [sigh] "What then, is the region called from which such a rug is made?"

From the Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary (August 1, 2004):
Main Entry: ori·en·tal Pronunciation: "or-E-'en-t&lFunction: adjective1 often capitalized : of, relating to, or situated in Asia2 a : of superior grade, luster, or value b : being corundum or sapphire but simulating another gem in color3 often capitalized, sometimes offensive : ASIAN4 capitalized : of, relating to, or constituting the biogeographic region that includes Asia south and southeast of the Himalayas and the Malay Archipelago west of Wallace's line- ori·en·tal·ly /-t&l-E/ adverb

And this from the American Book of English Usage, 1996 edition:

Asian is now strongly preferred in place of Oriental for persons native to Asia or descended from an Asian people. Both terms are rooted in geography rather than ethnicity, but where Asian is neutral, Oriental sounds outdated and to many people even offensive.
The usual objection to Oriental—meaning “of or situated in the East”—is that it identifies Asian countries and peoples in terms of their location relative to Europe. However, this objection is not usually made of other terms, such as Near Eastern and Middle Eastern, stemming from the same accident of geography that led the earliest European travelers eastward rather than westward into Asia. The real problem with Oriental is more likely that it comes freighted with connotations from an earlier era, when Europeans viewed the regions east of the Mediterranean as exotic lands full of romance and intrigue, the home of despotic empires, fabulous cities, and mysterious customs. Such common expressions as “Oriental splendor” and “the inscrutable Orient” testify to the rich—and now generally offensive—associations that have attached to this term in previous centuries.
It is worth remembering, though, that Oriental is not an ethnic slur to be avoided in all situations. It is most objectionable in contemporary contexts and when used as a noun, as in "the appointment of an Oriental to head the commission." In these cases Asian (or a more specific term such as Vietnamese, Korean, or Asian American, if appropriate) is the only acceptable term. But in certain historical contexts, or when its exotic connotations are integral to the topic, Oriental remains a useful term.

The important thing here is, as long as we use terms such as Near-, Middle-, or Far East, our language to describe certain parts of the Asian world will be faulty and influenced by a European worldview.

I understand why a person from the "Far East" would hate to hear "the appointment of an Oriental to head the commission." But for some situations, Oriental is a perfectly acceptable term. From my own experience, in my travels to the "Near and Middle East" - the term Oriental was evident in language, and for the most part, did not seem offensive or wrought with negative connotation. Oriental rug is O.K. Orient Express (that train that goes to Turkey) is O.K. Oriental dance is even O.K. Oriental Jews (Jews of the Near-and Middle-East) is also O.K.

"Oriental" to describe your Korean friend is not O.K. Neither is the word "chinky."