Friday, December 28, 2007

Top 7 in '007: Books

I'm taking a short break from baby pictures to engage in my only real blog tradition: the end-of-year, best-of lists. (OK, I know you're thinking, What do I care about your stupid lists? We want more baby pictures! And I totally understand and apologize. I promise the baby pics will return soon, and to tide you over, Laura Jean will post some extra cute ones over at her blog.)

Anyway, first up are the best books I've read over the past year (movies and music to follow in separate posts).

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling -- I thought Deathly Hallows was a very satisfying end to an excellent series. But will we care about the movies now that we know how it ends?

6. Storm World, by Chris Mooney -- The best of several popular science books I read this year. The topic is the contentious and very current question of whether global warming is making hurricanes more intense (and/or more frequent). To his eternal credit, Mooney digs deep into the scientific details of hurricane science and offers a cautious and nuanced verdict of "yes, probably, but also consider this ..." The book also has a clear-eyed understanding of how science actually works, especially how new ideas confront entrenched schools of thought and the way progress is made despite the messy requirement that it be done by human beings.

5. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi -- This guy was the movie reviewer for the Fresno Bee when I was in high school, and I always figured he was destined for bigger and better things. I was right: these days he's an award-winning sci-fi novelist (with a blog!). His first novel is military sci-fi a la Ender's Game or Starship Troopers -- advanced weaponry, bug-eyed predatory aliens, the survival of the human race and all that. Plus, it's ridiculously entertaining.

4. What's the Matter With Kansas, by Thomas Frank -- Fascinating book about how the Republican party has used culture war ideas to wrest big swaths of the heartland away from the Democrats. The book is a little dated (see, for example, the 2006 elections and the recent reconfiguring of the evangelical movement) but still full of fascinating insights.

3. (tie) Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville; Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman -- I'm planning a longer post about these two books, but for now, I'll just say that fantasy is moving rapidly beyond dwarves 'n' swords (the late, great Robert Jordan notwithstanding), and these are two terrific places to start.

2. Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie -- Review here.

1. The Known World, by Edward Jones -- A nearly perfect novel about Black slaveowners in antebellum Virginia. After finishing, I read an interview where the author confessed that he actually didn't do very much historical research for the book. Weirdly, I felt almost betrayed by that fact; how could these characters not be "real"? Anyway, Black slaveowners are the controversial hook for the story but aren't the limit of Jones's imagination. The Known World somehow revisits a time and place we think we already know (this ain't Gone With The Wind) and finds a wealth of new stories just waiting to be told.

Honorable Mention: The Long Loneliness, by Dorothy Day; Zodiac, by Neal Stephenson; What's My Name, Fool?, by Dave Zirin; Coraline, by Neil Gaiman; Toxic Sludge is Good For You, by John Stauber & Sheldon Rampton

Website Shoutout: It's fun, it lets you organize and review the books you've been reading and you can be my friend.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Grandparents

The flight to California was long but blessedly uneventful and Quinn slept like a champ! And now we're at Grandma and Grandpa's house for baby's first Christmas. You can just tell my Mom and Dad are naturals at this grand-parenting thing, in fact we're having a hard time prying Quinn out of their arms. Given the large size of my family, I'm guessing we won't get to hold her ourselves until sometime around January 3rd ;-)

Happy Holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Laura Jean's blog

After a long hiatus, Laura Jean has started blogging again! Check out more photos of Quinn at

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Welcome back to work

First day back at work and apparently stuff has been piling up in my office while I was gone.

Baby's First Snow!

So, one of my favorite things to do is play in the snow. Today, we had the first snow of the winter in DC.

This was also the first snow of Quinn's brief life, so I dressed her up in a special outfit for the occasion.

And of course, we dressed her up in an even more special outfit to go outside. I love bundled babies!

She did not, however, wake up to enjoy playing in the snow. As she does most of life, she "experienced it" while sleeping.

We also "watched" the snow out the window during the day. I'm not sure she can really see that far just yet.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bush and Iran

In non-baby-related news, here's the lede from the Washington Post this morn:
A Blow to Bush's Tehran Policy

President Bush got the world's attention this fall when he warned that a nuclear-armed Iran might lead to World War III. But his stark warning came at least a month or two after he had first been told about fresh indications that Iran had actually halted its nuclear weapons program. (emphasis mine)

The new intelligence report released yesterday not only undercut the administration's alarming rhetoric over Iran's nuclear ambitions but could also throttle Bush's effort to ratchet up international sanctions and take off the table the possibility of preemptive military action before the end of his presidency.

This is, of course, fabulous news for Iranians and Americans alike, if totally unexpected. I think all the 'very wise men' inside the Beltway were completely blindsided by this announcement -- conventional wisdom seems to have been that Cheney was making a strong push for bombing Iran before their term is up. Gareth Porter reported several weeks ago that:
A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran has been held up for more than a year in an effort to force the intelligence community to remove dissenting judgments on the Iranian nuclear programme, and thus make the document more supportive of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's militarily aggressive policy toward Iran, according to accounts of the process provided by participants to two former Central Intelligence Agency officers.
So not only were the dissenting opinions not removed - they actually comprised the main conclusions of the NIE. Kevin Drum has some speculations about why it was eventually released. Best guess is that new confirming evidence was recently received and some in the intelligence community wanted to put the brakes on Bush's sabre-rattling.

But damn, can you believe they thought twisting and censoring the evidence to justify yet another war would work a second time? How many days until this maniac is out of power? Oh yeah, 412 to go.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Here's Quinn all bundled up to go outside for a walk around the neighborhood. Poofy and pink!

It was a chilly but beautiful fall day, although Quinn didn't quite wake up to enjoy it.

Anyway, more pics of Quinn's second week after the click...

A fondness for thumbs...

Quality time with mama...

And the inevitable shoulder burp...

Mother-daughter bonding...

Sleep-deprived dad...

Sacked-out baby girl...