Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A nephew!

No single event in my life has changed my perspective so radically as that of becoming a parent. The teenage, rationalist and individualist refrain, “it’s my life, I shall do with it as I want,” rings hollow. No, it’s not your life – you are simply responsible for it. Your life exceeds you; you are to your life as perhaps the CEO is to the corporation; you have a degree of control as to the direction the company takes, certain aspects of the branding etcetera. Ultimately however you are responsible to the shareholders and to the world at large.

For my own part, I am highly invested in baby fluffy plc; significantly over-invested in fact. If, God-forbid, anything ill should befall him, I would be ruined; irrevocably so. The current CEO lacks experience; he is – and I don’t want to start a Northern Rock style panic here – insensible the dangers of operating environment. Fortunately I have a guaranteed seat on the Board for the next ten years, after which point the position becomes honorary and voting rights are rescinded.

This week we’re experiencing an Indian Summer, a welcome break from the waterproofs though no reversal of the return to commuting by headlight, of course. Still, the darkness makes the downtown picket lines harder to make out, something of a fixture around the myriad building sites this summer past. With plunging property prices nationwide, the bottom’s fallen out of the construction market. I wouldn’t feel too smug though: America sneezes, Europe catches a cold.

The weekend took us up to Seattle to meet my brand new nephew Maksim (Max). I’m very happy to report that baby, mother, father and sister are all doing very well, considering. The “considering” goes without saying in normal discourse, but it oughtn’t. By the albeit pitiful standards of newborn babies, especially when compared to kittens, he is a handsome chap.

Though our Ethan is just 15 months his senior, I still had some difficulty believing quite how little Max is; it also reminded me just how far we’ve come: Ethan is nearly the size of four Maxs, mostly sleeps through the night (instead of ninety minutes tops), eats ‘proper’ food, can be taken almost anywhere and does all sorts of cute stuff, as opposed to simply screaming and looking exceptionally delicate. Good for you, baby boy!

Little baby Max, fresh to the world.

Big sis Katrina was taking it all very well, I thought.

Max, Uncle Ben, Aunt Rachel and Cousin Ethan.

Go Red Socks! The three brothers-in-law take a short but welcome break from official duties.

He's a little rascal!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bacteria: good and ill

As a child I was frail and sickly; these days I am neither. That said, it takes but the faintest of maladies for me to revert to a state of high gothic hypochondria; I am pursued by the Reaper, his scythe teasingly probing my kidneys - the jaunty preamble to a lingering execution. Although neurotic and practically useless in this state, I become quite tolerably pleasant in my demeanour, as if determined to shake off this mortal coil on something of a high note.

At last today it seems the antibiotics are kicking in. Still, I am somewhat nervous of them – I cannot help but imagine that I might be biotic myself.

On the positive side of things I experienced a Damascene moment – an epiphany, if you will – at The Wedge, Portland’s annual cheese celebration. And despite my empirically justifiable scepticism on the matter, it would appear that savoury and piquant aged dairy products can indeed be manufactured on this side of the Atlantic. I tried an exceptional Gouda from the Williamette Valley Cheese Company, a superb blue reminiscent of Roquefort from Rogue Creamery (at $26/lb it ought to be good mind you; there’s also a two year waiting list) and – embarrassingly for the purist – the crowned “World’s Best Cheddar 2007” from California of all places. And it wasn’t half bad.

One of those culinary surprises, like those ostrich fajitas I had in Edmonds, WA. I’m afraid I don’t have as much time for cooking as I’d like these days, much like Nigella Lawson apparently. As time goes by she seems to be slowly transmogrifying into my maternal grandmother; a certain resemblance of appearance, voice and mannerism plus a preternatural affinity for Waitrose. As for the series, it seems to be a study in moneyed minimalism; I’m reminded of the recipe for tiramisu that appeared in Safeway magazine a few years back – ingredients: 1 Safeway Tiramisu.

Apparently few in the US saw the irony in Lee “who?” Bollinger, President of Columbia University, introducing his invited guest, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as a petty dictator [full transcript here]. I can’t say that I’m the greatest admirer of the Iranian premier, but he gave a good account of himself in the face of an obnoxious, pompous and self-righteous host; I only wish that when he claimed that there were no homosexuals in Iran he’d added “very much like the US Army.”

Ethan meets the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association rep at The Wedge.