Category Archives: Blog

Photos of the Week 2018-02-18

We’re in California for a family wedding, so while I have several hundred new photos on my DSLR, I mostly don’t have time to process them. I did pull out a few, though, from our visit to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway:

Panoramic view from the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
Mt San Jacinto from the end of the driveway to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
SteelyKid and The Pip pleased with themselves after climbing a great big rock by the Long Valley nature trail.

There will undoubtedly be more photos from this trip to come, but not until I’m back in New York and can properly evaluate them all.

Academics As Athletes

In comments to my post about quit-lit and the impossibility of responding to many pieces these days, thm left a comment (yes, people still do that…) making an analogy that had never occurred to me: in a sense, academics are like athletes or musicians:

What I’ve been thinking about recently is the extent to which we should consider physics, or history, or any academic discipline, to be akin to areas widely acknowledged to be the domain of expert performance, such as athletics or music. Things where success usually involves a huge chunk of one’s youth, in an obsessive, immersive environment. Where there are more with aspirations than there are jobs. And where there’s a distribution of talent that spans orders of magnitude from the most talented and famous to vanishingly nothing for those who haven’t studied.

That hadn’t occurred to me, but there are some things I really like about it. And I especially liked the point about sympathy:

As a society, we have do have some sympathy for, say, the minor league ballplayer who never makes it to the majors, or the cellist who never gets a job in an orchestra. But it’s limited sympathy, because everyone knows the odds.

A big categorical difference between academics and athletics or music is that the moment of reckoning comes about a decade later in life.

To some extent, this analogy hinges on how well you think “everyone knows the odds” applies to a scholarly career. “Nobody told me the odds” is central to a lot of complaints about academia, particularly in quit-lit, and that’s probably the weakest point. Then again, anyone who follows sports at all undoubtedly knows several examples of athletes who had talent and knew they’d make it to the big time only to be derailed along the way by injury, or personal demons of one sort or another. So while academics might not be as fully aware of the risks as they should be, I’m not sure athletes are all that much better informed.

I like the point about the timing, as well, for athletics, at least. It’s not all that hard to come up with examples of people who stuck with the pursuit of a musical career for years longer than they should’ve. Those are interesting cases, because in popular culture at least, there’s a sort of perverse admiration for a lot of those people and their stubborn refusal to let go of their dreams.

Of course, that then carries over into a lot of the arts– we celebrate the struggle of people in creative endeavours in a way that’s frequently problematic. I follow a lot of writers on Twitter, and the nobility of the suffering Artist is a trope that gets smacked down about once a month on average. I suspect there’s a bit of a similar dynamic at work in a lot of academia, and maybe that’s an analogy worth pursuing.

(There’s also probably something to explore in the analogy to art in terms of the original piece that prompted this, in terms of the value attached to the end product. Is most scholarly production best thought of in science-like terms, where each work is a step in a cumulative process of constructing knowledge, or art-like terms, where any individual piece may be beautiful but few if any are truly essential?)

I’m also a little uncomfortable, as always, with the invocation of talent in this. That is, it risks playing into the myth that those who succeed have some special innate qualities that ensure their success. This underplays the role of hard work, discipline, and luck in “making it” in whatever field. Again, as a college basketball fan, I’ve seen countless examples of players who had talent enough to re-write the collegiate record books, who never made any impact in the pros for one reason or another.

Which, of course circles around to another thing that’s frequently problematic, namely telling junior academics to “just keep working hard.” This regularly gets slammed in academic Twitter, almost as regularly as the “suffer for your Art” thing on writer Twitter. That’s occasionally unfair– I think it’s often misreading something that is, in fact, the only practical advice you can give– but then we’re back to the “it’s impossible to respond to this” problem.

Anyway, a good comment, and one that provided some interesting angles to think about. So it’s worth giving whatever dubious signal boost I can by promoting it to a top-level post on a blog that nobody reads…

The Impossibility of Response

A recent blog post by Erin Bartram has been drawing a lot of attention, as it’s both an example of “quit lit” (essays about why a person is leaving a particular field) and a critique of same. It’s a really good piece, far better than most “quit lit” essays, and says some thought-provoking things about academia and relationships within academia.

It’s also, as I noted on Twitter, kind of impossible to write a response to, for reasons nicely summed up in the last two bullet points of the screen shot that heads the IHE article:

  • Yeah, this is a highly emotional piece of writing and paints with a broad brush and you might disagree with a lot of the ways I’ve characterized academia.
  • No, I don’t care that you disagree. My feelings, thank heavens, are not subject to peer-review.

It’s a very raw and emotional piece, and that raw emotion makes it feel like it would be rude to even attempt any response that isn’t just total agreement. Even partial agreement necessarily involves disagreement on some points, which would feel like disparaging or denigrating an honest statement of feelings, saying that the author is wrong to feel that way. And that’s Just Not Done.

This is a thing I see happening a lot of late, with pretty much any emotionally charged topic. If anything, this is a more genteel example than most, in that she acknowledges the likely existence of disagreement and just states that she’s not interested in hearing about it. In many cases, any expression of disagreement is treated as an outrage.

That reaction seems to be a nearly inevitable consequence of the ever-increasing entanglement of personal and political. Every thinkpiece about an issue of broad importance is also a statement of personal feelings and experience. In which case even a “Yes, but…” response looks like an attempt to gainsay those feelings and experience. And you’d need to be an asshole to do that.

So, the very pieces that ought to generate the most discussion by their nature also preclude responses, save by assholes, or those willing to be seen to be acting like an asshole, which may be a distinction with little difference. And, of course, those responses are generally the least useful responses imaginable.

I don’t have any idea what can be done about this, but it seems like a major obstacle to any sort of productive policy-making. Systematic change is undoubtedly necessary in academia and many other sectors of society, but making that change will necessarily involve bringing together people who are not in total agreement about everything, and hammering out some sort of policy that’s acceptable to a wide range of people. And when even “Yes, but…” is rude, it’s almost impossible to craft a compromise.

At the same time, it’s unrealistic to expect people to be completely dispassionate about policies that affect them in a deep and personal way. These are emotional issues, and individual responses will inevitably have an emotional component.

(And please note that I’m not claiming to be personally brave in writing this– you’ll note that I’m very carefully avoiding saying anything about the content of the original essay. If you’re reading along and thinking that I’m doing the exact better-part-of-valor thing that I’m saying is part of the problem, yep, that’s a fair cop. I don’t have a particularly coherent “Yes, but…” response to that piece to share, in large part because I know that generating one would be a waste of effort because I doubt I’d dare to share it.)

Anyway, this seems like an intractable problem. It also seems like a problem that ought to get more thought and discussion than it does. How can we both accept and validate the strong emotion that comes from personal involvement while also channeling that in a way that allows and even drives the crafting of policies that will be broadly acceptable, without requiring complete agreement?

Too Much F*&king Perspective

In a lot of ways, one of the best discoveries that’s come from blogging (other than, you know, the part where people pay me to write stuff) was Confessions of a Community College Dean (he now publishes his stuff at Inside Higher Ed, too, but I’m an old-school blog hipster and so always link to the Blogspot site that I discovered before it was cool). I don’t remember how I first got pointed to this, but I’ve been reading him for a long time, and it’s been really eye-opening, both for getting the administrative perspective on a lot of situations, and for getting outside the elite college sector where I’ve spent more than half of my life. (As of last year, I’ve had a Ph.D. for longer than I lived at home with my parents, which is a great “Damn, I’m old…” realization.) He’s really changed my perspective on a lot of questions around higher education.

In some other ways, it’s also been one of the worst discoveries– in the immortal words of David St. Hubbins, it’s too much fucking perspective. Reading “Dean Dad” over the years (as well as a bunch of other academic blogs, many of which I found via his posts) has made me acutely aware of a lot of really bad trends in other sectors of academia. A lot of these are things that I’m personally insulated from by a thick bubble of institutional privilege. But I’m not fool enough to think that just because we’re temporarily insulated from these problems that we’re immune to them, and some of these are pretty scary.

And, you know, there are a lot of days when I wish I wasn’t aware of those issues. It’d be really nice to sail serenely along thinking that the biggest issues we as faculty need to be aware with are things that only affect the elite of the elite, who operate near the top of the various bullshit artificial status hierarchies created by college ranking schemes.

Of course, that’s a terrible idea. I’m fairly certain that I’m a better person for having gained that wider perspective, and for making an effort (not always successfully) to keep the broader realities of higher education in mind. But man, there are days when my life would be easier and happier if I could ignore all that stuff…

Sometimes It Sucks To Be Right

For reasons I can’t quite comprehend, a number of the organizations from which I get my news feel it’s critically important that I stay informed about the antics of a colossal douchebag named Logan Paul, who has apparently attained infamy as a YouTube star. I’m not linking to the stories or his stuff, because life is too damn short. Really, the only reason I’ve typed his name at all is that seeing this come around yet again made me realize that I was right about an old argument, and that it kind of sucks.

Way back in the early days of blogging, there was a lot of chatter about how This Changes Everything, with lots of invocations of how blogs were displacing the mainstream media and completely overturning the existing order of the commentariat. I remember seemingly endless discussions and debates about the changes blogs and other emerging media would bring, almost exclusively focused on the journalism aspect.

My take at the time was that the effect of new media on journalism was actually far less significant than the effect of opening up space for other forms of expression. I thought then– and mostly still do– that the specific form that political punditry would take was less important than the way that free and easy creative tools would change the relationship between people and culture on a wider scale. It was much less significant, to my mind, that the Internet offered everybody a chance to be a political columnist than that it offered everybody a chance to create stuff and share it with a potentially huge audience with minimal effort. The idea that anyone with access to the Internet could create anything they want and share it with the world instantly seemed to me to have a greater transformative potential than anything going on in the political-commentary space.

And, to a large extent, I think that’s been borne out. Some political punditry has sifted to new-media spaces from more traditional outlets, but more than that, the brave new-media world of bloggers mostly got co-opted into fairly traditional pundit channels, drawing regular paychecks for writing vapid opinion pieces in a form that would be more or less recognizable to a journalist from the 1970’s, though he might need his grandkids’ help in getting to the columns in question.

The changes to arts and entertainment, though, seem vastly greater to me. SteelyKid has a cheap Android tablet of her own, and most of her evening media consumption is not from TV networks (though we go through phases where she’ll get fired up about some show for a while), but rather a dizzying web of YouTube channels of young-ish people making videos that I often find nearly incomprehensible. There are whole categories of “shows”– video game play-throughs, “unboxing” shows where people show themselves opening gifts and putting toys together– that I don’t think anybody would’ve conceived of prior to YouTube making it trivial to put video online for a mass audience. And yet, this stuff draws huge audiences of kids.

Of course, the down side of making it easy for anybody with access to the Internet to create and share whatever takes their fancy is that some people are unbelievable douchebags, and unfortunately their douchbaggery makes them more inclined to make and post nonsense. Which leads inevitably to the steady trickle of “YouTube stars” who turn out to be thoroughly awful human beings. Connecting these people to a receptive audience might be considered transformative, but not in a good way. Which is why I say it sucks that I was right about this aspect of new media…

(That said, I don’t think the fraction of YouTube stars who are walking piles of hot garbage is any higher than the fraction of celebrities created through more traditional movie-TV-and-music channels who turn out to be hot garbage. It’s just that the space of potential YouTube stars is much bigger, and the concept remains somewhat novel, so the absolute number of them who get news coverage for milkshake-ducking themselves is large.)

Photos of the Week 2018-02-10

I’m trying to keep up some photographic activity, because I need something to do that isn’t work and doesn’t piss me off. Of course, this means generating lots of images, and I need to do something with them. At the same time, I’m trying to do more personal blogging, so…

This may or may not be sustainable as a weekly series, but we’ll start it out that way, and if it degenerates into an intermittent photo dump, well, so be it.

A girl and her pupper, N in a series.
Snow is exciting!
“I am a vigilant dog. Anybody who wants to interrupt Reading Time has to get through me, first.”

On Metrics

A history prof from Catholic University named Jerry Z. Muller is flogging a new book titled The Tyranny of Metrics, most recently via an interview at Inside Higher Ed (there’s also a version at the Chronicle of Higher Education, but it’s paywalled, so screw them). This is being hailed in many parts of my social-media universe as being a righteous takedown of the mania for “assessment” in all things.

And, you know, I have some sympathy for this position. A lot of the push for greater “assessment” of everything in academia is pretty useless, just resulting in a lot of silly knees-bent running about. All too often the people calling for more “assessment” of things don’t have any coherent idea of something to do with the quantitative data they generate, they just want to be seen to be generating quantitative data because that’s a Thing that accrediting bodies have decided is important for colleges and universities to be seen to be doing. As someone from a quantitative science, that kind of pointless number-accumulation drives me nuts (and I’ve said so frequently enough that colleagues sigh heavily when the subject comes up in a meeting I’m at, even before I raise my hand to speak…).

That said, I’m not quite ready to sign on with Muller and his anti-metrics campaign, largely because of comments like this (from the IHE interview):

The key components of metric fixation are the belief that it is possible and desirable to replace judgment, acquired by personal experience and talent, with numerical indicators of comparative performance based upon standardized data (metrics)

At a very superficial level, that sounds great, and is very flattering to the faculty ego. We have spent years acquiring subject-matter expertise, after all, and are surely qualified to judge students and others.

On another level, though, this creeps me out. The problem is that an exclusive reliance on “judgment acquired by personal experience and talent” unchecked by reference to standardized data is a wonderful way for decision-making processes to become hopelessly corrupted by individual biases. Many of the most pernicious features of academia have gotten there through the operation of biased personal judgement, stretching back decades, and a lot of efforts to improve academic culture are at their core efforts to unwind those years of biased judgments.

The inclusion of “talent” in that especially gives me pause, because it’s uncomfortably close to the idea that some people are special and succeed for that reason. This is one of the most harmful ideas in all of academia, the source of endless social-media angst, and I’m not at all comfortable with the idea of enshrining it as one of the criteria for who gets to exercise judgment.

This is not to say that any and all quantitative metrics are automatically superior to the judgment of a professional– many of the easy numerical measures we have are, as Muller correctly notes, basically garbage. At the same time, though, we know that they’re garbage because they’re quantitative. People objecting to the use of student course evaluations as a metric for faculty performance rely heavily on the argument that they’re biased against faculty from underrepresented groups. We know because that bias is something that can be quantified, and has in numerous studies.

As crazy as it is to claim that quantitative metrics are inherently objective because they’re quantitative, it’s even crazier to say that relying on individual judgment is the fix for that. And yet, that happens an awful lot when this subject comes up. On a few occasions, I’ve heard this pointed out, and the counter-argument basically amounts to “It’s OK because unlike the quantitative systems we object to, we have the right biases…” I don’t find this to be a great testament to the quality of judgment being employed.

So, on the topic of metrics and assessment and how they’re debated in academia, I find myself deeply conflicted. I’m happy to agree with the claim that many of the “assessment” exercises we currently do are useless, and many of the metrics used in higher education are bad. All too often, though, the anti-metric argument slides directly from “We’re doing a bad job of quantifying this particular thing” to “We should stop trying to quantify anything,” and that’s not something I can sign on to.

It’s ROCKET SCIENCE, People!

I’m normally not a big watcher of rocket launches, but SteelyKid was home sick yesterday, and happened to be bored and demanding right about at the time scheduled for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch, so I pulled up the live feed and we watched it together. It was totally worth it, because when the rocket cleared the tower, she jumped up and down in delight and yelled “It’s launching! It’s ROCKET SCIENCE, people!”

(She also did some heckling of the live chat running next to the streaming video, which was unsurprisingly a bit of a shitshow. Again, mostly worth it to hear SteelyKid talking back to the people who were claiming the whole thing was a fake…)

SteelyKid was super fired up, and decided on a Space theme when picking her clothes for today, so add a tally mark in the “inspiring the youth” column.

While I’m a little jaded about space stuff in general, I have to admit that the simultaneous booster landing was a pretty amazing spectacle. I mean, it’s basically a live-action version of classic sci-fi cover art:

Falcon Heavy boosters landing after the first test launch. Photo from SpaceX Twitter feed.

A lot of people are iffy on the stunt of sending a car into orbit, but I have no problem with that. The most likely alternative is launching a big lump of concrete or some such, so why not have a little fun with it? Some semi-useful collection of simple scientific instruments would’ve been better, sure, but SpaceX is a commercial operation, and they’re entitled to do a little advertising.

Which brings me around to the one thing I did have a problem with, which is the traditional Internet libertarian dunking on NASA any time a commercial space operation does something cool. The passing tweet that sort of crystallized this for me (though I don’t recall the exact source, and don’t care enough to look for it) was something like “Makes you wonder what Boeing and Lockheed and NASA have been doing for the last forty years, doesn’t it?”

And the answer is “Not really,” because I know what they’ve been doing: They’ve been doing what they were paid to do. They spent years doing shuttle launches, and launching satellites, and putting nuclear-powered robot cars on the surface of Mars, where they’ve succeeded better than any of the designers might’ve hoped.

I’m not trying to disparage SpaceX’s achievements, here: they’ve done amazing things, and I’m very impressed. But they’re not remotely in the same business as NASA at this point. They’re doing what they’re doing in large part because Elon Musk is a True Believer who has decided that this is something he’s willing to throw flipping great wodges of cash at to make it happen, and that’s wonderful.

If Boeing or Lockheed or NASA decided that simultaneously landing rockets was a Thing they wanted to spend significant resources on, I have absolutely no doubt that they could make that happen. They haven’t been asked to do that in a consistent way (there have been vague pie-in-the-sky concepts thrown around at various points, but never any sustained effort), and they damn sure haven’t been paid for it, and they’re not in the business of throwing money at causes because they Believe.

And, you know, I totally agree that it would be a more interesting world if they were in that business. Or, better yet, if we as a society were more willing to devote significant resources from tax dollars and the like to developing more awesomely cool rockets and all the many other things NASA does. That’s not where we are, though, and I get a little annoyed with people slagging them off for not doing something that they were never hired for.

That’s especially true when you consider all the things they have been paid to do: all the robot probes visiting Mars and Jupiter and Saturn and Pluto, the Hubble telescope and other orbiting observatories, the GPS system and other practical satellite systems, etc. They’ve focused on the science science side of things, not engineering new rockets, and that was a reasonable decision given the money available to them. It’s also been wonderfully successful, something we shouldn’t lose sight of just because a true-believer billionaire put a car in orbit.

Scientists, Journalists, and Crippling Cynicism

There’s a thread on everybody’s favorite low-stakes conflict, scientists vs. science journalists, going around on social media. It’s from a scientist who moved toward journalism (blogging for the Guardian), and lays out a bunch of reasons why it’s unreasonable for scientists to expect to see a news article article before it gets published. These are mostly pretty good, and founded in research into the content of news stories and institutional press releases.

While the thread as a whole is pretty good, it ends on a sour note for me, with a “get over yourselves” directed at scientists. I find that a puzzling decision, because a slightly different read on the same material would lay the blame for misrepresentation of science on the fact that many journalists are lazy and just lightly re-write press releases. There are plenty of good reasons for more humility on both sides.

The fundamental problem in this conflict, as in so many other stupid petty status fights, is that both sides have an overinflated view of their own work, and an overly cynical view of the other’s. Both sides seem themselves as noble seekers of TRVTH, thwarted by the nefarious actions of the miscreants on the other side.

Scientists in this argument like to portray themselves as ferreting out the secrets of nature, and prize accurate reporting of their work above all else. Any attempt to summarize or simplify their work will inevitably introduce some technical inaccuracies. This is seen as a horrible slight, misrepresenting the purity and elegance of what they do. Thus, the demand to fact-check things before they’re published, and the belief that refusal to allow this indicates an active desire to make them look foolish by inserting errors.

In reality, of course, most of the research carried out by scientists is not remotely important, and only a minuscule fraction of readers will even notice the bits that have been oversimplified. And the value of absolute accuracy tends to be very selective– scientists who fume about tiny errors in stories about their own work are often perfectly fine with gross oversimplifications of whole other fields of science.

But the journalists are not without fault, here. They have a tendency to see themselves as similarly noble in the pursuit of the public interest, ferreting out hidden details and penetrating layers of obfuscation to get to the real, uncomfortable truth. In that view, a scientist or other source asking to check the final story for accuracy is demanding an unconscionable breach of ethics, probably because they have some awful ulterior motive.

In reality, of course, only a tiny fraction of news stories are actually penetrating investigative capital-J Journalism. Most of them are small-r reporting, passing along a minor story that happens to be interesting. The fact that, as shown in the studies described in that Twitter thread, most distortion of science creeps into the news via press materials shows that the field isn’t exactly neck-deep in Edward R. Murrows.

So, yeah, scientists need to get over themselves, and accept that summarization and simplification are a necessary part of communication to a wider audience. Journalists also need to unclench a bit, and recognize that for the vast majority of stories there is not, in fact, any serious ethical concern raised by running a later draft past someone who can check its accuracy.

(There may be logistical issues regarding publication schedules and the like, which is a different conversation. I don’t think that’s an insurmountable obstacle either, but it’s not really the issue here.)

The fundamental problem, here, is a sort of crippling cynicism. Neither side really trusts the motives of the other, and that poisons interactions between them. Each side assumes the other is trying to put something over on them, and the end result is a kind of paralysis.

This sort of thing is extremely widespread in academia, and I find it utterly exhausting. When the starting point for analysis of any proposal or request is “How is this an attempt to screw me?” even trivial matters become enormous stupid fights. This kind of crippling cynicism is pervasive, and it’s responsible for about 2/3rds of the days when I hate my job and fantasize about doing something else for a living (the remaining third comes from grading…).

——

A couple of important caveats: First and foremost, Not All Collective Nouns. While there are too many pseudo-journalists out there lazily re-writing press releases, the best people in the field are very much not doing that. I’ve had very positive interactions with most of the journalists I’ve spoken to about stories they were working on, and I don’t recall feeling badly misrepresented by any of the stories that have quoted me. Similarly, there are a lot of scientists out there who are pleasant and reasonable and easy to work with on this sort of thing (I try to be one– I’ve never asked to review a final draft, and I hope my worst sin in interacting with the media has been losing track of the email asking me for a response).

Both science and journalism are, by and large, well-stocked with good people, and if you give them the benefit of the doubt you likely won’t be disappointed. The conversation tends to be dominated by the worst of the worst, both because they’re personally very obnoxious and because they make wonderfully flammable straw men for the other side to bring up.

I should also note that I write about this from the perspective of a physicist, which is arguably the field of science for which the generally low stakes are at their absolute lowest (our chief competitor being pure math). Most of physics, and especially the stuff I care about, has essentially no partisan political content, so there’s no political reason to misrepresent anything– it’s not like Trump voters are hugely invested in the Copenhagen interpretation while Clinton voters are big Many-Worlds proponents.

(Bernie Sanders is a Bohmian, though. No doubt about it.)

The stakes are higher for fields with partisan political relevance– anything touching on evolution or climate change, basically. Things may feel different in those fields, but even there I suspect that there’s a lot less actual incentive to distort than people think.

But then, I’m a sunny optimist at heart…

Winter Sports Update

At various point over the last few years, I have idly thought that SteelyKid might enjoy skiing, but we’ve had some winters with depressingly little snow recently, and I’ve never really gotten it together to get her out there. My parents were spending the MLK day weekend at Lapland Lake though, and Kate was going to Arisia in Boston, so I jumped at the chance to take the kids up to the fringes of the north country with adult back-up.

I arrived as the kids were getting a ski lesson from Pat, one of the instructors there, who was amazingly good with kids. SteelyKid took right to skiing, as she does almost anything involving physical activity– she’s an amazingly good natural athlete, which is a continual source of puzzlement for me and Kate. Neither of us ever had anything close to SteelyKid’s sense of balance and ability to pick up the moves for some new sport or game. The Pip had a harder time with it, which the instructors later commented may have had something to do with a bad set of ski boots.

Anyway, after a near-catastrophe when I accidentally took SteelyKid on a trail with a way-too-big hill on it, she was all about the skiing, playing broomball on skis in the “Reindeer Rally” that afternoon, and the next morning she dragged me and my dad out bright and early to ski a mile or so out to the lake (seen in the “featured image” above, and repeated below) and back. I shot this on the way back:

This was the third time she’d ever put skis on. Like I said, she took right to it… I was on skis for the first time in at least 25 years, and thus somewhat less graceful than she was, but it was a good deal of fun.

The Pip wasn’t as fired up about skiing as his big sister, though he did do a couple of lessons. He had a grand time on the tubing hill, trying to see how close he could come to riding his plastic sled into the creek (which wasn’t terrifying at all, nope). He was also quite content to lounge around the cabin and read books:

The Pip reading at Lapland Lake

(The specific book he’s reading in that shot is The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks (which is excellent, by the way). This was one of SteelyKid’s Christmas presents, but the Little Dude has gotten all fired up about reading, and powered through both volumes of the series that weekend.)

Anyway, it was a really good time, and SteelyKid has been occasionally agitating to go back. They got a few inches of fresh snow this week, so we’re going to make the run up there for the afternoon, and see how that goes…

SteelyKid and Grandpa after skiing the lake trail at the Lapland Land cross-country ski resort.