Friday, May 8, 2015

Short Ride

Spring sports are winding down, and I've decided to draw my own volunteer involvement to a close and let someone else take the reigns of this particular tornado. Events of last fall have given me a new desire to better enjoy the time I have, doing things that I like to do. That means parenting, of course, but also trying to get back into the creative mode, and shake off the stresses and self-made obligations that take away from that.

Life is a short ride on a fast machine... and like last year at this time, John Adams' compositions seem to be particularly apt to my frame of mind. This one is perhaps more joyful than the other work, and feels more like a conclusion that a collision. Enjoy, and I look forward to returning soon.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Pocket Pen Showdown: Space versus Sport

I've taken to carrying a few index cards and a small pen around all the time, to jot down the million or so to-do items, shopping lists, and "remember to talk to ..." reminders that flit across my brain at this time of year, at the confluence of youth sport and big-projects-at-work seasons. I am still deftly refusing to go the smart phone route, opting for the dumb-slab approach to keeping on track. Here's my dumb-slab:

space_and_sport

An inexpensive "index card briefcase" that someone gave to me a few years ago, and a pair of pens: the blue one is a bullet-style Fisher Space Pen that I've had long enough that, by eBay convention, now gets to be called "vintage," and a gift-to-myself Kaweco Sport fountain pen. A few thoughts on each, with each. The scanner did a hash of the Space Pen with its boring black ink. It's actually far clearer in real life than this would indicate:

20150327 pencast_space

With the sports team, I've been doing a lot of check-writing and invoice-signing and general scribbling around, and for that, the Space Pen is unequaled. It's tiny, so I can stow it in my shirt pocket, and because of the pressurized ink cartridge and the magic ink, it's always ready. As a regular fountain pen user, I forget about the obligatory get-the-ink-flowing scribble that one must do with cheap stick ball pens (and not-so-cheap ones, too.) The Space Pen is always ready. I don't need to write upside down, or under water, or in space, but I do need to write things quickly, and in limited space, and on-the-go. Try filling out track meet paperwork with a fussy pen while escorting a line of 8-year-olds. NOT A GOOD IDEA.

20150327 pencast_sport

The Kaweco was more of an indulgence buy, using a holiday gift card given to me for the always-dangerous enablers at Jet Pens. It was more of a "rounding-out-the-order" buy than filling a specific need, but it's proven itself a fine contender when I have a little more control over my writing environment. I'm still a pen snob, proudly so, and I have no issues fussing with nibs and inks and the whole post-versus-non-post agony. For the record: I'm on #TeamNonPost. Like the Space Pen, the sport is small enough to live in the bottom of a pocket, with no clip to snag. It's not so precious that you feel bad letting it knock around with your keys and wallet, and it's got little touches that make it a fine choice. Swappable nibs, for example, a twist-off cap cap with faceted sides to prevent it from rolling around. I'm a sucker for demonstrator pens, too. ("Look at the ink!")

No pen is perfect, though. The Space Pen -- or correctly, the knock-off refill I am using -- is prone to "ink boogers" around the ball after a period of disuse. I suspect this could be related to the heat of riding in a pants pocket, too. The Space Pen is always easily lost, given its slippery-fish finish. My own example went missing literally in two seconds -- I had it, and then suddenly I didn't. (My wife found it at last, as all excellent wives do for their klutzy husbands.) So upset was I that I finally bought another. Evidently Fisher has started putting a little grip section on the pen, and... I don't like it. Try looking at product shots on Jet Pens. I don't think of myself as sensitive to that sort of thing, but after growing used to the smooth grip of "my" pen, I found it hard to adjust. The new one is my daughter's now, and we'll she what she says.

The Sport I've found to be something of a dry-starter. It writes fine and fast once the ink gets moving, but there's a little refill-squeezing to get the ink down into the feed and the nib. I'm not sure what's going on here, as I'm using the refill that came with the pen. Luckily, ink mysteries are one of the things that fountain pen users secretly love to fuss over, so I'm not too bothered by it, not really. The cap doesn't have any air holes in it, so it's not drying out that I can notice. Kept on its side, it starts right away, but I can't guarantee that sort of storage, bouncing in a pocket or rubber-banded to a journal in a bag.

Finally, nether pen is a very graceful poster -- that is, sticking the cap on the non-writing end. The Space Pen is really so very tiny that you almost need to post the cap, unless you're gripping it in your fingertips, like starting a fire with a match. Which, incidentally, is pretty much how I write with it, keeping the cap in one hand and scribbling with my claw-fingers perched on the barrel. Apologies to all past teachers who tried to show me the One True Light of penmanship: it didn't take. On my Space pen, and on the new variant now in my daughter's care, the posted cap want to work itself off the end a bit, unless you really jam it on. And it's a polished surface trying to grip a polished brass (?) inner ring... so no dice. It tends to work loose no matter what I try. The Space Pen has a small rubber O-ring sealing off the halves of the main pen and helping the cap stay on a bit with friction. Something like that is needed when writing, in my opinion, though I don't know how it would be engineered.

The Sport has the advantage in the posting-the-cap department, I think. The facets bring the overall posted diameter up to something like a "real" pen, and I would imagine that the aluminum models (the "AL Sport") also get a bit of weight balance with the cap hanging out there. I personally think it looks like the skinny barrel is being swallowed whole by some large green worm, and just keep the cap gripped in my non-writing hand as well. Pro tip: keeping the cap is is a good way to get your pen back when it's borrowed briefly. I would not say "no" to a donated AL Sport just to make the comparison complete. Are you listening, Kaweco/Jet Pens? I can be bought, so very, very cheaply.

So, which pen is the winner? Currently, I'm giving the edge to the Space Pen. I was very distraught to lose it, in part because it was a gift, and in part because it's becoming my always-got-it pen, ready for any mundane job. The Sport is seeing less activity right now, but it's got a place in my writing arsenal, and certainly has a greater range of ink choices... and no boogers.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Love, Oncology Style


Let me preface this by saying: everyone involved is now fine and healthy.

Please refer back to this phrase in case you feel yourself freaking out at some point in this post. I freaked out just writing it, and needed this reminder.

Now then...

My eldest child developed a strange and persistent lump of skin that didn't respond to any sort of topical treatments. The lump was dubbed “It,” and It had to go. So last summer during school break, we had It removed. As a parent, it's disconcerting to hear your child's doctors essentially throw up their hands and say “we don't know what this is, but It should come off.” So, there was a minor bit of outpatient surgery that left us with you-babble-while-anesthetized stories that will serve us for years. Off went the excised part of my child for a biopsy, and home came my child, bandaged, sutured, and drugged, and glad to be rid of It at last.

Until the phone call.

Suddenly we're getting a call from the lab, the technician reading off the very long medical name for It, which sounded like blah blah blah lymphoma blah blah blah, followed by phrases like “pediatric oncologist” and “radiation treatments” and “start immediately.” 

It turns out that cancer is a wonderfully clarifying disease. You are either the type of person to fall apart, or the type of person to get into ass-kicking mode. I'm pleased to say that I married the latter.

My wife drove from school to daily radiation treatments, with the other children in tow. We'd meet up at the end of the day: child-in-question exhausted from the radioactive assault, other children exhausted from the daily trips through San Francisco Bay Area rush hour traffic, my wife exhausted from driving and worry, and me exhausted by association. August, September, October... these months are blurs. Somehow, my child managed to keep it together, managed to stay strong enough through the treatments to stay awake at school, managed to keep spirits up despite missing sport practices and not having the energy to make it past 9:30 at night.

Somehow, it all worked out, and everyone involved is now fine and healthy. The lump was benign and rare, treatable with excellent recovery odds. “If you must get cancer,” said the oncologist, “this is the one you want.” Yay?

My heart goes out to parents of patients dealing with worse incarnations of this disease. We got off lucky. Oh sure, there's now qualifications. A six-month oncology followup soon, and lifetime annual checkups with a dermatologist. Watching the sun exposure, especially on the site of the surgery and treatments. And parents remembering what matters, and refocusing.

Eldest is on the cusp of adulthood: just celebrating a major birthday, learning to drive, even thinking about life beyond high school. Around midsummer last year, my wife and I were sufficiently Freaked Out about any and all of these, because “Motivated” is not a term we would have applied to this child. We have not yet seen one leave the nest, and I'm always afraid that we're somehow screwing it all up. There are plenty of things to worry about when that first child is ready to stretch their wings. I hope, for all of your sakes, that you handle it better than we were.

Post-op, these things don't seem to matter as much. There's still the usual background-level worry that every parent has for their children, and we always reserve the right to Third Degree when the situation arises: we were teenagers once, too. (“Who is going to be at this party? Where is it? Who's driving? How are you getting home? Do you have your phone? Call us any time.”) But now we're fretting less about grades, less about future plans... fretting less about a lot of things, in fact. It's a good feeling, the non-fret.

I'm generally anti-New-Year's-Resolution, but I did privately agree with myself to try to be more easygoing in general at work, at home... at life. Smile a bit more. Agree a bit more. Stress a bit less. Stress a lot less, because my capacity for stressing out has been both increased and drained by last year's activities. Also: take regular vacation days, simplify whenever possible, spend less money, read more library books. Maybe, like most resolutions, these will fade away in the months to come. This blog is littered with a thousand good intentions and projects-started, after all. I'm no stranger to a lack of focus.

So that's kind of where I am right now, and where we are, and a sort-of explanation for why the extended silence here. After getting through the holidays, and getting the official “OK” from the oncologist, we have also been able to stop, and breathe, and look at each other and realize: that completely sucked, and we don't ever want to do that again. On a day devoted to love, we are taking it. Appreciating what we have, what we did, and that where we go in life is not always where we planned it. Thanks, cancer! You sucked, and don't darken our doorstep ever again.

* * *

One administrative note: I'm turning off comments for this post, not because I don't like my three regular readers, but because we're still suffering a bit from empathy fatigue. We generally didn't say anything to anyone until after the treatments ended, and as such, extended friends and family didn't hear about it until we put a very condensed version of this story into our annual snarky-and-weird holiday newsletter. You could pretty much track the US Postal Service's efficiency by the phone calls we received as our cards made it across the country and the recipients went "OH MY GOSH CANCER" and then called to comfort us. Our response to all: "It's fine, we're all fine, treatments were done in October. Relax."

So if you have the urge to freak out, here's some alternative actions:
  1. Say this aloud: "It's fine, we're all fine, treatments were done in October. Relax."
  2. Consider donating to a reputable anti-cancer charity and help kick this stupid disease's ass.
  3. Hopefully nobody is on the fence about this, but please vaccinate yourself and your children. I can now officially say that I was the parent of a temporarily immunocompromised child, and we had to contend with endless hand-washing, carrying around alcohol gel, and worrying about colds rocketing around my child's school. Now measles -- freaking measles! -- is in the Bay Area. Please keep the population safe and get your kids their shots.
  4. If you have kids, hug them, and if you have a significant other who has shown amazing strength, courage, and keeping-it-together-in-the-face-of-insanity, please hug them more. And if you have neither, please hug a nurse, oncologist, or radiologist (with permission.) Double hugs for the pediatric variety. Hugs for everybody.
And that's about all the room I have on the soapbox today. Expect a resumption of the usual, intermittent programming soon. Some things never change. I need to tell you about pens!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Full-On Loafing

I'm on vacation, enjoying the final hours of 2014, and being surprised that we're in the final hours of 2014. There's no Christmas quite like one spent with a young child in the house, and there's no holiday quite like one spent after a rather stressful and anxious year. This was the year of gaining perspective. Next year: a new outlook on life. I'll write more about that in the months to come.

Now I'm loafing around the house like a complete champion, wrapped in blankets, watching too much TV and eating too many cookies, playing Small World and only occasionally being productive by pulling out my AlphaSmart due to persistent goading from certain nameless parties. I'll be back in adult society next week and slumping around online again and generally making a nuisance of myself.

Stay comfy, Typosphere, according to the meteorological dictates of your hemisphere. Put your feet up and enjoy a refreshing warm or cold beverage of your choosing. Say farewell to 2014, and I'll see you in the new year.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Rhodia Paper Project: Weeks 1-5

The fine folks at Exaclair, Inc. are the US importers of Rhodia paper products, and being the slavering fanboy that I am, I was very pleased to see them running the "Rhodia Paper Project" from their blog, whereby other fanboys/fangirls could sign up to get samples of their various products mailed to them on a weekly basis to test out, in return for comments and feedback.

This had the back luck to happen just before NaNoWriMo kicked off this year, and although I've been diligent about signing up each week via Rhodia Drive, I've been pretty slack about testing or commenting, because, you know, noveling. I'm digging out after my win now, and am making up for lost time...

Week 1: Your choice of grid

The contenders:

  • Rhodia Ice: white/grey/graph
  • Rhodia 80th Anniversary ivory/grey/graph
  • Rhodia Classic white/blue/graph
We start off by trying out the various forms of grid colors. I personally like using graph-style paper if it's available, especially for note-taking and NaNo plotting since I have terribly slop handwriting, and tend to drift all over without guidelines. I've got some notebooks old enough to have bluish grids, which I think Rhoida has since replaced with a violet ink (more eco-friendly sources, I gather.) My go-to ink color is blue for just about everything -- easy to tell when it's been photocopied -- so this week was about testing which ink I liked best against the three different grids and the paper colors.

I was predisposed not to like the ivory paper, which seemed a little faded or even dirty compared to the clean white of the other two. Maybe it's the grid talking, but it seems like the grid shouts "professional and serious" and the ivory paper says "quaint drawing room." I am also surrounded by white office paper all day, and use it in my meeting notebooks, so again, bias.
  • Rhodia Ice: white/grey/graph 
This was my favorite of the three samples, by far. The gray grid is very light on the paper, clear enough to see, but not clashing with any of the inks or pencils that I tried on it. The paper is the lighter of the two weights supplied (90g vs. 80g) but this is not paper you're going to send letters on, most likely. The grid says "serious" to me, and would be appropriate in a lab or classroom.
  • Rhodia 80th Anniversary ivory/grey/graph
My least favorite sample of the three, though the grid is subtle, and against the ivory paper, looks almost brown. I can't get past the color for this application, though. Clearly this is a personal moral shortcoming.
  • Rhodia Classic white/blue/graph
Second choice, and the one I already own in different sizes. In comparison to the "Ice" product, the lines are very visible, and especially when using blue ink -- the grid tends to clash more with my writing instead of fading invisibly into the background like the gray.

Week 2: Take a letter

The contenders: 

  • Clairefontaine Graf It
  • G Lalo Stationery (white)
  • Clairefontaine Triomphe
The second week is all about stationery, so the samples are unlined and plain. This is what you write your post-holiday thank-you notes on, and in that context, everything I said above pretty much goes out the window here. There really is a time-and-place for various papers, something I've not given much thought to before.
  • Clairefontaine Graf It 
Plain white, and with a slight, subtle texture on the surface. This is nice stuff, 90g, and was grippy enough to use pencil -- some of the regular Rhodia paper has a slickness that's welcome with fountain pens but disconcerting with a pencil. You need a little friction, and this has it. It reminds me very much of the bagasse (sugarcane waste) paper that I use for NaNo typing, with a little toothiness, but heavier than cheap old office paper. I would not be sad to own a pad of this with some ostentatious monogram in the corner.
  • G Lalo Stationery (white) 
Though this says "white," compared to the other two samples, it's a very light cream color. It has visible horizontal texture lines to it, and a subtle vertical line (watermark?) every 3cm. I was predisposed to dislike this entirely, expecting it to be grabby, toothy, and hard to use with my preferred pens. I'm pleased to say that I'm wrong on all fronts. Pencil behaves nicely even when writing lightly, and fountain pens give just the right amount of feedback. This is languid, letter-writing paper, and the color for this application is perfect. The clear winner.
  • Clairefontaine Triomphe
Of the three, my least favorite, though it's like trying to choose amount three very-good things. The same weight as the Graf It, but utterly smooth, like Rhodia pads, and as such, badly-behaved with pencils. Fountain pens skate all over the surface as expected, and the gel rollerballs I was testing with were so quick it felt like driving on ice. I would not say no to this if it were foisted on me in a dark alley, for sure, but if you're going to do correspondence, treat yourself and the recipient to one of the other two.

Week 3: The journal selection

The contenders:  

  • 5×8 Webnotepad Lined, (same as Webbie paper)
  • 6×8 Lined R
  • 6×8 Lined Rhodia 80g 
Week three is what I think of as the "journal selection." It's an odd size paper for my own needs, which tend toward the letter-size or A4 notebooks. These are all lined, with big broad spaces. Lots of room for inmost thoughts, I suppose. I don not have a rich inner life that requires documenting.

  • 5×8 Webnotepad Lined
  • 6×8 Lined R
 A tie this week, and mainly because the difference falls between if you want a little extra width as in the "R" pad, or rounded bottom corners as in the "Webnotepad." The "R" is top-perforated, like many of their notebooks, so it's entirely possible this is meant for less permanent writing. The other is not perforated -- the sample has clearly been torn out of a pad -- and if you're keeping a journal, that seems like it would be of more use to you. I have an unlined Webbie that accompanies me to back-to-school nights, kids' sport meetings, and other real-life/non-work situations where I need to jot down notes and numbers, and don't want to lose them. Both pages are 90g ivory, with the grey lines, and again, for this use, I can see it being superior to the white-with-blue.
  • 6×8 Lined Rhodia 80g 
Another choose-among-very-good-things, but this has a large red margin rule down the left side -- "large" here meaning 1 1/2" of space, which is a quarter of the page width. This feels really wide, and if you're even the tiniest bit OCD (ahem) it may bother you that so much "good" paper is going to waste over there, especially if you grew up with the cheap filler paper and spiral notebooks like I did, with the margin line dancing dangerously close to the holes punched in the paper.

Week 4: Colorful students

The contenders: 

  • 1 sheet of the 8×11″ Clairefontaine Pastel Graph paper
  • 1 3×5″ Exacompta Pastel Index Card
There are times when I regret not being a student again, because I've since learned quite a bit about note taking, organization, and the excitement of a well-stocked university bookstore. Then a come to my senses and remember the terrible food, crushing debt, and general lack of sleep, and am glad I'm gainfully employed instead. This week isn't so much a comparison as just a taste of products that I would totally send to student-version-me, once I get that time machine worked up.
  • 8×11″ Clairefontaine Pastel Graph paper
Normally I could give a pass on pastel paper, but this is pressing all my organization-nerd buttons: bound in a spiral notebook with perforations for easy removal. Heavy 90g paper with a grid on both sides. My sample was a light blue sheet, and the normal Rhodia purple grid looks fine against it. There's an index tab cut out of the side for indexing the notes, and I'm guessing this comes in a multi-subject notebook offering many sections of different colors. The grid is ideal for math formulas and structured notes. I wish I would have used graph paper all through my computing classes.
  • 1 3×5″ Exacompta Pastel Index Card 
Actually, two in my envelope: one green, and one yellow. Unlike cheapo index cards, the grid is on both sides, they are heavy paper (205g), and of course, pen-friendly. I used index cards to remember (i.e., cram) everything before exams. Past-student me would have certainly matched up the cards to the notebook colors, just because.

Week 5: Size does matter

The contenders: 

  • No. 8, (3 x 8 ¼”)
  • No. 10 (2 x 3″)
  • No.16 (6 x 8 ¼ “)
  • No. 19 (8 ¼ x 12 ½ “)

The best thing about Rhodia products -- aside from general pen-compatibility -- is that there's a size for every purpose. The worst things about Rhodia products is that there's a size for every purpose. The choice alone can be overwhelming, and in those rare cases when I am in a retail store that actually sells them, just spinning through the rack gets me a little dizzy... as in I could totally buy ten of these and use them for... I don't know what...

Like the previous week, these don't lend themselves to being compared with one another. They are all lined in violet on 80g white paper. The largest sizes have the same wide margin, and all are top-perforated.
  • No. 8, (3 x 8 ¼”) 
If you don't have a ruler handy, think "bookmark size" or "shopping list size." I own a gridded variant of this, and I use it for both purposes. It's just wide enough to get a decent list written down, and plenty long for use as a notes/bookmark. Consider using one to keep characters straight in your next Russian novel.
  • No. 10 (2 x 3″)
Almost comically small, just a little larger than half a business card. Small enough that you could keep one each in your pocket, bag, car, desk, stuck to the fridge on a magnet, glued to the dog, etc.. The lines are pretty well spaced apart given the amount of paper you're looking at here. Maybe for composing tweets offline? I struggle to find a use for this, other than as the ultimate tiny notebook when you need to jot down some critical fact, like, to pick a random example out of the air, the name of a piece you heard on the car radio, forgot, and then have spent a decade trying to remember. Just for example.
  • No.16 (6 x 8 ¼ “) 
See Week 3 for thoughts on this size. Tucked in with other lined samples, I can see this being most useful as the by-the-phone doodle and message pad, maybe the tote-to-a-meeting pad where you don't want to commit to actually taking a large number of notes, but don't want to get in trouble for staring at your phone the whole time, either. I personally find this size just a little too small for my writing needs at work, and too big to carry around casually.
  • No. 19 (8 ¼ x 12 ½ “) 
Ah, now we're talking. This is A4 sized, a little narrower and a little longer than a US Letter size, and the one I'm used to for my own meeting notes (I'm working through a backlog of old Black n' Red A4 notebooks.) The left margin is just as wide, almost wanton, but at least in the larger format, it can be used to call out points of interest: flagging to-do items is an obvious use case for me. I do like bringing paper to meetings, and having a whole year's worth of meeting notes in one place has proven invaluable to me, since I can flip back and reference old notes. The Rhodia is in a top-bound orientation, though -- like a legal pad -- and that I would find less useful than the spiral-bound books I use now. Of the four samples, though, this one has the most utility for me, and I could get past the top-binding pretty quick. I suspect the paper would hold up to disc binding very well if I needed to make an archive notebook. A future sample is slated to include their "meeting book" paper, which looks to be just about perfect. I think I'm ready to graduate beyond the simple lined-only books in the (sigh) five years when the Black n' Reds run out. Or sooner, if they meet an "accident."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

My Daughter is Kicking my Ass

...at games, that is. My youngest child (age seven) is on some kind of massive board game bender right now. We don't have anything Hallmark-y like an actual Family Game Night or anything, but we do have numerous bookshelves, and at least one of those shelves is jam-packed with games. As the kids have aged, the selection has improved. I will be a happy man indeed, for example, if I never have to sit through another round of Candyland ever, ever again, and my eldest's much-loved Toy Story Monopoly Junior is buried in the back of the closet where it will hopefully remain out-of-mind until the heat death of the sun.

Gradually, gradually, we have been able to replace these games of chance with more strategic and less luck-based fare. Mancala is a great one, because the rules are dead simple, and it contains a good mix of surprise and strategy (sometimes with directed help from dad. "I'm about to take these pieces unless you move them...") I know it gets disparaged for being the token "wacky" card game, but all my kids honed their ruthlessness to a fine edge playing endless two-player hands of Uno during sibling soccer games. We pulled Sharp Shooters out of storage recently, which is basically Yahtzee with more visual scoring and the pleasure of being responsible for sixteen dice. And we've even been playing Sorry! quite a bit, once I learned that it goes from a boring luck-of-the-draw game to a ruthless slapdown simply by dealing out a small hand of cards to every player. It was a revelation. Castle Keep is quick and easy, when the dog doesn't decide to lay down in the middle of the playing space. There's little want for unplugged entertainment at our house.

When any of the kids seem to be having trouble sleeping, my wife and I joke -- not untruthfully -- that they must be in the middle of learning something. We saw this when they were infants, discovering their hands, and rolling, and learning to crawl. We saw it when they were walking, and "talking" with us via baby signs (yes, we are those parents), and we see it now and then when they're mastering the bigger concepts: multiplication, vocabulary for their Spanish class, some new piano piece. You can practically hear the gears turning in their little heads.

With the exception of my 5am NaNoWriMo ritual of me + typewriter + dog + weaponized coffee, I have been sleeping soundly. Not a peep from the kids at all, which is why this sudden turn toward games and gaming has caught me off guard. We've been spending hours lately, moving tokens, dealing cards, or hoping for a six in Catan: Junior (because a six lets you move the ghost pirate, duh.) It's becoming something of a mania with the child, and of course we want to encourage this. It's harmless, is probably honing some skill or the other, and it's good for her to learn how to lose gracefully, because if there's one thing I do not do, it's coddle the kids. Once we've put Plumpy and Mister Mint and Gramma Nut and all the other horrors back in the box, the figurative gloves come off. I may point out weaknesses in the defense... for a little while. I do not play Daddy's Little Princess checkers. You want non-competitive? Do a jigsaw puzzle (though I get the last piece.)

So not only has the youngest been playing ever single game she can get her hands upon, and asking about those she can't (Monopoly, garrrrgh), but she is completely kicking my ass. Either the dice hate me, or she's skimming from the bank when I'm not looking, or she's genuinely, actually good. Is it possible to be a prodigy at Uno? Any scholarship opportunities in this? I'm asking for a friend.

I'm not even talking about video games, where my dwindling reflexes and Lack of Caring render me helpless to all three of my spawn. (Lego Pirates of the Caribbean, I'm looking at you.) I'm being outclassed and outgunned by a person still waiting for her permanent molars to come in. She's learned a victory dance from her mother. It's brief, but it stings, oh, how it stings.

I couldn't be more proud.