DAILY BRIEFING
Smiles and Meteorology

Sept. 23 - Molli's learning how to smile. She's actually been learning from the moment she was born—we have videos of on-again, off-again smiles from just a few days after her birth—

No, we don't. I was exaggerating. What we have are dozens of little videos taken seconds after one of those fleeting smiles crossed her face. In these videos Molli's expressions fluctuate between bewilderment, surprise, and confusion while one of us murmurs hopefully off-camera, "Show us the smile again!"

We'd read that babies take some time to learn how to smile, so we assumed her early smiles were just the random products of hyperactive facial muscles. We said as much to one of the midwives once, while Molli was still merely on loan to us from the hospital, and she seemed surprised by our cynicism.

"Why shouldn't she smile at her parents?" she asked. It was the sort of cheerful but evasive statement that told us nothing.

This guy says the first real smiles occur at about 4-6 weeks. These guys say 6-8 weeks. Both claims seem to fit with this online survey of parents (which, being an online survey, is actually meaningless).

It's hard to figure what 4-6 weeks, or 6-8, actually means for Molli, since she was 7 weeks premature. If we go from the actual date of her birth, I suppose these "real" smiles of recent weeks are toward the late end of the range. If we calculate from her original due date, though, she's a precocious smiler.

Personally, I think she's an early smiler. I think so because she's already close to giggles and laughter, which those same authorities claim we ought to be seeing much later by either measurment. One evening late last week I was watching her examine the world from her baby seat when suddenly something about one of the walls caught her attention. Her eyebrows shot up, her eyes widened, and, as her mouth rounded into a broad open smile, she made a startled exclamation indistinguishable from the opening salvo of a good little laugh. I was stunned. She sat there smiling at me as if inquiring whether or not I, too, had seen the hilarious thing about our wall.

You can tell me it was gas, or a cry for attention, or one of those random tics of her developing facial muscles, but I'm not listening. Incomplete as it may have been, it was her first laugh. She's repeated the behavior several times since. Sometimes when Trine and I are playing with her she gets so smiley and excited that a full, loud laugh seems just about to burst out of her—it's like it's there but she can't quite figure how to get it out. (This is also frequently her problem with gas, but that always manages to find a way out in the end.)

But this is all technical, or anecdotal, and has nothing to do with the only thing I wanted to say, which was this: there is no horror in this world of horrors that her smile does not dispel.

* * *

Unfortunately, the camera always seems to be a second or two behind her smile. I'm assured by veteran parents that this is no accident: there's something in a camera lens that acts as a smile inhibitor to the developing newborn.

* * *

I've spoken a lot about Danish weather over the past 18 months, but I haven't spoken much about Danish weather forecasts.

Danish meteorology is a very crude science. Calling it a "science" probably does an injury to the word. Danish meteorology is more like craps or roulette. You're more likely to be hit by lightning than encounter an accurate forecast of the weather in Copenhagen. This doesn't seem to bother anyone.

"Urban says it's going to rain this afternoon," says the first Dane.

"MetroXpress said it would be sunny and warm," says the second.

"Yes, but DR1 said it will be cool and cloudy, with occassional gusts," says the third.

They will then look at one another, nod, and go about their day, each in their own wardrobe, tailored to whatever sham oracle they've shackled their faith to.

It's confusing to the foreigner, who isn't fool enough to expect entirely accurate forecasts but does anticipate at least a certain amount of consensus.

Despite its inaccuracy, however, Danish meteorology merits praise for its optimism. All summer long I encountered forecasts of three or four days of cool temperatures and cloudy skies followed by a sudden burst of sunny warmth. As the days ticked by the forecast would remain the same: three or four days of blech followed by an actual day or two of warm sunshine. The warmth never arrived, and as for the sunshine—remind me what that looks like? The situation was exacerbated by the inevitable disagreements between the various meteorological sources: some would say we could anticipate four days of rain before our warm spell, some more, some less. The heaviness of the rain and the extent of the chill would also vary by forecast. But there was always unanimous consent on the future: high temperatures, sunny skies, and glorious summer—some day.

I could probably work out a Danish meteorology page along the lines of my Zen-Buddhist Clock and GPS Synchronomete, and time is something I don't have. Which reminds me—I've gotta go.

A Pax on Every House

August Caesar was born on this day in 63 BC. The first real Roman Emperor, Caesar introduced the famous Pax Romana. This was a political policy which stated that any country which did not object to being conquered by Rome would be conquered by Rome. Countries not wishing to be conquered by Rome stood in violation of this policy, and were therefore invaded until they agreed to be conquered. This ensured peace throughout the world.

Bruce Springsteen and Jason Alexander turn 55 today. It's also the burthday of Mary Kay Place (1947), Paul Petersen (1945), Julio Iglesias (1943), Ray Charles (1930), John Coltrane (1926), and Mickey Rooney (1920).

It's the Foundation of the Kingdom Day in Saudi Arabia.

Happy Thursday!

2004, The Moron's Almanac™

[close window]
[Daily Briefing Archive]