Suddenly Human

Jan. 12 - I don't think I'll delete the MoronAbroad site just yet. I've come to that decision after receiving a very strange email from the webhost for this site (Verio). They informed me that my bank had "charged back or denied payment" on my last hosting bill, and that if I don't straighten the situation out within three days they're going to "suspend" my account.

I can access the bank account in question online, and I can see that the payment was made as scheduled on December 8. No chargeback appears. Nor does there appear to be any reason for a chargeback to occur: my balance is healthy and, even if it weren't, there's more than enough in my line of credit to cover several years of hosting. I replied to the email and said as much, but fully anticipate that this problem will somehow take longer than three days to resolve. So it'll be good to have MoronAbroad up and running to complain about that if indeed it comes to that. (It could also be some kind of very elaborate ploy at identity theft, so I'm being appropriately wary in my correspondence.)

* * *

I had my first Studieskolen class since early December last night. I've switched from midday to evening classes, so I was a little nervous: this would be a whole new cast of characters to get used to—and who'd need to get used to me.

It's a smaller class than any I've been in to this point. There were two familiar faces: one classmate from my previous class, who'd also switched, and a classmate from last summer who'd switched to evening classes back then. They're both from England (although one lived in France for 25 years before moving to Denmark). Beside us, there were only four other students in the class: two women and two men. One of the women is from Russia, the other Honduras. Both men, alas, are from New York: one from lower Manhattan and the other Long Island.

I'm disappointed. Part of the joy of Studieskolen for me has been getting to know people from all over the world—I've met and gotten to know people from Japan, Ireland, Poland, Thailand, Spain, China, England, Indonesia, Japan, Israel, Pakistan, Lebanon, the Philippines, Brazil, and Iran, among others. You just don't get many situations in life where you get to meet so many people from so many different places, and get to know them well enough to hear their stories. And they're interesting stories, because sooner or later virtually all of them have to accommodate the strange fact that for one reason or another each of us has left our homeland, leaving our families and friends behind, to come to this fairy-tale country. It means you're dealing with a certain amount of adventurousness as a common denominator, and adventurous people tend to have interesting stories.

I guess I won't be hearing as many this session, and that's disappointing.

* * *

I maintain a private "Molli Blog" to help her American family members feel more connected to her. I can't possibly provide a link to that site here, because I do still give a little bit of a damn about privacy, but from time to time I'm going to allow myself to share entries from that site here on this one. The following bit is extracted from an entry I posted last night.

* * *

Trine had mentioned over the weekend that one VWP or another had suggested that from time to time we let Molli play with her spoon and cup when she's done eating, because handling them sooner will help her use them better later. Molli and I had been having a pretty pleasant luncheon this afternoon, so I decided to give it a try.

When she had eaten her fill there weren't more than a few tablespoons of porridge left in her cup. I figured she couldn't do much damage with such a negligible amount of food (I know, I know). She was sitting in her little chair on the floor in front of me, strapped safely in, so I just set the cup between her thighs with the spoon sticking out of it. She seized the spoon, handled it just long enough to draw all the food clinging to it into her palms, then gave herself a facial massage before picking up the spoon and staring at it with awe and wonder. Truly there was great power in this instrument!

Like any bad parent, I let her sit there with porridge in her eyes, her nostrils, her hair—everywhere except her mouth—while I went running for the camera.

While I shot two dozen still pictures and a full minute of analog video, Molli continued rubbing the food all over her face, admiring the spoon, and doing her best to up-end the cup into her lap. Snatching it away from her, I was astonished to see that she'd managed to glaze her entire face with less than a third of the porridge that had been left in the cup. I expressed my amazement verbally; Molli stared back with proud indifference.

The second pair of shots you'll see were taken by Trine while I was at Studieskolen. She'd purchased the cushions and belt-piece for the Tripp-Trapp chair today and had been dying to plop Molli into it. Since Trine was eating dinner without me tonight, she apparently decided to have a fine meal with Molli at the dining room table. She plunked the girl into the chair and handed her the Borg [her play cube] to see how she'd handle it.

Molli was obviously very happy, but in the second shot, below, it's just stunning how "grown up" she looks. She has an upright seriousness that I've never seen in her before. Trine took five of these pictures (she's not quite as profligate with the camera as I am) and looking them over when I got home I damn near teared up. Molli? In a chair? And look how earnest she is!

The past few days have been such a blur that I don't know if I've mentioned that she is in fact teething: we can see the front two teeth working their way up in her lower gum. Also, her irritation with them seems to be getting more localized on a daily basis. In addition to smacking her lips, chewing wildly, and making weird clicking noises by flicking her tongue against her lower gum, she's now sometimes actually bringing her hand to her mouth in obvious "ow, it hurts" gestures. That's probably also why we're not getting a whole hell of a lot of sleep lately.

Tomorrow's meeting was cancelled, so Molli's entry into the world of commerce—or at least the world of video game development—has been indefinitely postponed. I ought to be relieved, but I'm actually kind of disappointed. First Times write up at three months, first business meeting at six... that would have been a hell of a C.V.!

* * *

One thing I didn't mention in that entry was the astonishing (to me) fact that Molli is now abstracting the world around her in extraordinary (to me) ways. Up until last weekend, Molli cried for concrete reasons: "I'm hungry." "I'm uncomfortable." "I need attention." "I've got a pound of shit in my diaper." "I'm utterly exhausted and want to cry hysterically until I fall asleep." Suddenly she's crying over moral indignities. "But I wanted to jam the spoon all the way up my nose!" "I don't want to play with the damn Borg!"

She also exhibited the first signs of stranger-wariness, or whatever it's called, the other day. A friend had come by to visit and, without even thinking about it, we handed Molli right off to her for a quality hold. Molli squirmed and cried and flailed her little limbs around.

"For God's sake," we told her, "it's Kirsten. She's held you a dozen times. You love her."

"No!" Molli seemed to be roaring, "I've never seen this person before in my life and if you don't get me out of her arms at once I swear to God I'll rip her face off!"

These will sound to the non-parent like very minor behavioral changes, and like perfectly ordinary behavioral changes to any adult who's raised a demon of their own.

If you're not a parent, let me help you get your mind around the sheer astonishingness of all this. Imagine you bought an extra Thanksgiving turkey last November, a fifteen-pounder, and decided not to cook it. It's been sitting there in your freezer ever since. Every day when you open your freezer it's sitting there, just where you left it, doing absolutely nothing of interest. This goes on for months and months. You get used to that turkey being in there. When you hear the word "freezer," you think of your half-empty ice-trays, the mystery bundle of tin-foil containing something you set aside during the Clinton administration, and that turkey.

Then one day you open your freezer door and the turkey comes leaping out at you. "Jesus Christ!" it exclaims, "it's fucking cold in there!"

The astonishment you would feel, I promise you, is not much different than the astonishment I feel when Molli suddenly does something new. It's weird, freaky, and exciting—and, still, exhausting.

It's like she crosses another Rubicon every day. . .

The Diceman Cometh

If you ever took Latin, I don't need to tell you what jacta alea est means. But if you're like most Americans, to whom Latin is about as familiar as Urdu, I'll translate: it means the die is cast. At least that's how it's usually translated. Back in the early days of English, when the phrase was first translated, that's how they would have said "the dice have been thrown."

This Latin snippet is important for a couple of reasons. Firstly because it demonstrates the popularity of gambling with dice in the ancient world, which is an important bit of trivia for keeping wayward adolescents interested in the classics; secondly because it's a short little Latin phrase you can drop into conversation to impress snobs; thirdly because the event of its utterance changed the course of western civilization for ever.

The line was uttered by Julius Caesar on this very date in 49 BC. Caesar and his army had just crossed the Rubicon, a little stream in northern Italy. The Roman Senate had long ago established a rule that Roman citizens should be forbidden from crossing the the Rubicon with their armies, since they figured anyone coming south toward Rome with an entire army probably wasn't up to any good.

(If the Roman Senate had really wanted to play it safe, maybe they should have designed the infrastructure of their empire so that all roads didn't lead to Rome—but that's beside the point.)

You may be wondering why Caesar would set out to break the law this way. He had, after all, been a popular and successful general and had been governor of Gaul for some time. But that's exactly why he decided to cross the Rubicon: he had become so popular and so powerful that the Roman Senate ordered him to disband his army and give up Gaul.

Which has always made me wonder why the Roman Senate didn't say "jacta alea est" after issuing their demands. Maybe they were just too eager to get back to their dice.

Anyway, by crossing the Rubicon Caesar had officially committed treason and launched the Roman Civil War.

The rest is history.


* * *

Today is the birthday of Kirstie Alley (1955), Howard Stern (1954), Rush Limbaugh (1951), Joe Frazier (1944), Glenn Yarborough (1930), Jack London (1876), and Edmund Burke (1728).

Today is Zanzibar Revolution Day in Tanzania.

© 2005, The Moron's Almanac™

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