I shall get around to the weekend eventually but want to talk about my niece's birthday party a bit more. It was a well-stocked party although it ended up not quite having the right sort of food exactly --- my other brother, the Vegan, surprised us all by coming and nobody had thought to arrange for any Vegan-friendly food options, although he was willing to make do with salads and Goldfish crackers and potato chips. The centerpiece cake-wise was a hefty ice cream cake which was supposed to be one layer of vanilla and one (smaller) layer of chocolate, although it turned out both were vanilla under the skin. I can't say my niece, now three, seemed fully clear on just why everyone was expecting her to sit in front of a candle-lit cake and do something, but she went along with it as best she could.
There was also gift-opening, which since there's several large families, quite a few aunts and uncles, and a full set of grandparents who were ready involved opening a lot of gifts. She's got the hang of this pretty well, including fine points like showing an extended interest in the thing she's just opened instead of rushing off to the next thing. The lessons in stabbing and slicing open presents my mother inadvertently gave her last Christmas seem not to have been remembered, or at least not applied to this problem.
She did engage in one of those bits of youthful misdirected generalization which make her such a popular child, though. After being told that she should say ``thank you'' to whoever gave the present she'd just opened, she apparently took it to mean she should give the gift she just opened to that person. So the little charmer ended up walking back and forth on the patio handing her new gifts back to the person who seemed most responsible for them ... mostly. A few times she gave the present to someone who, apparently, just looked like they needed one. My other brother got a Barbie Thing this way, for example. Sweet.
My sister-in-law was apologetic to me that her daughter didn't seem very interested in what I'd given (a wooden-block railroad set), but I didn't mind. I was confident she'd play with it later and, besides, my parents gave a really mind-blowing present --- a ``water table'', a plastic tub in the rough shape of a pirate ship into which water is poured, and can be (by pump) brought up to fall down all sorts of complicated paths, setting things spinning and twirling, and even including a small water cannon which could be fired at anyone not paying adequate attention to her, or my other-brother, or whoever was at the table. Add to that a bunch of small floats and it's clear where attention is properly placed. Also that kids today have way, way cooler toys than we did when I was growing up.
Trivia: To get the wire bundle for the first suspension bridge across the Niagara Falls actually across the falls, designer Charles Ellet held a competition for local children with $5 a prize to the first to fly a kite across the falls. The winner's kite was then used to hold up a light steel wire, then a heavier wire, and so on until the first wire bundle. Source: Why Buildings Stand Up: The Strength Of Architecture, Mario Salvadori.
Currently Reading: A Matter Of Degrees: What Temperature Reveals About The Past And Future Of OUr Species, Planet, and Universe, Gino Segè.