Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Conversations with Tadpole

I had a conversation with Tadpole this morning that felt a bit like an Abbot & Costello routine:

T: I have a giraffe inside of me.

Me: A giraffe?!

T: Yes daddy.  I have a giraffe inside of me!

Me: Are you telling a story?

T: No, it's not a story.  We're not in a story, or a movie!

Me: How do you know?

T: My youth is all spent.  My get up and go has got up and went!

You win, kiddo.  You absolutely win.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


For the first time in about a decade I got in a pool to swim & work out today.  We joined a local health club with a (5 lane, 25 meter) pool and childcare, and I decided to take advantage.

Tadpole enjoyed her new play space.  I have a few doubts about how long she'll enjoy it after the novelty wears off, but we shall see.
Sprout got the "younger sister dragged on other people's schedules" treatment today as we ended up at a park with a friend of Tadpole's for much of the early afternoon, perked up with a snack, then headed to the gym.  She apparently slept after minimal crying.  This will not be our typical schedule if I make a habit of this.

Which ... I think I'd like to.  It's abundantly clear that I have no endurance compared to when I was on the team in high school.  I can't right now work out hard enough to tire any muscles.  But I can build endurance, and I still have pretty good form.

Brief digression to extend my incredible gratitude to coaches Jeff, Scott & Joel who coached me in high school and drilled us constantly on body position in the water.  I was rolling all over the place (as intended) and have a lot of control over when/where my hands and arms are moving for both freestyle and backstroke.  I did a length of butterfly, which was a mistake, but also did some one-arm fly which felt good, and I can manage a passable length of breaststroke (always a weakness).

I "swam" for about 20 minutes, by which I mean I was moving pretty consistently.  In the middle, there were definitely times where I walked at least half the length, in large part because I didn't want to swim with bad form.

I have one issue with form (a holdover from high school days) - when I breathe on my right, I hunch my shoulder up a bit and make small, weak muscles do work they shouldn't have to.  I'm going to work on getting out of this habit, but also just mostly breathe to the left for now.

So what can I do:
I can finish a lap of freestyle, but only about a length with form that feels good.  (Partly because I don't have the rhythm & spacing for flip turns back yet)
I can do about a length of backstroke, previously my favorite.  Form here doesn't feel as good, but it's still fine.
I can do a length of breaststroke.  Breaststroke never really clicked for me, but I have a good space to work from.
I can finish a length of butterfly if I want to, and I still have a fine dolphin kick.

About 10 minutes in, I was really struggling with breathing and endurance, and nothing felt good, but I kept going, give myself permission to walk or keep my head out to breathe, and refocused on a few drills I remembered, and by the end I was remembering why I enjoyed swimming so much.  It felt good!

Now I just need to figure out if there's a way to get to the pool around school and nap schedules, and how often I can go before either Tadpole or Sprout decides it's too much ...

Monday, September 29, 2014


Since my former college RA is sharing her recipe for homemade yogurt which I've been thinking about trying ... here's how I do sourdough bread.  I'm not going to post the recipe from King Arthur flour, but here's the starter I use, and the pretty pot I keep it in (recipes included when you order from them).

When you get the starter, you feed it with a batch of 2:1 flour:water a few times to wake it up.  After that, it's important to either stick it in the fridge or take out a cup every 3-4 days and feed with flour/water. 

Heres some not-entirely-unhealthy starter.  Bubbles are good.  Orange and stinky are not.

There are two options for making bread, the OK way and the damn good sourdough way.  The OK way involves mixing starter with flour, water, salt, and bread yeast, kneading, letting rise for a while, turning into 2 loaves, letting rise for a while, then baking.  The damn good sourdough way only uses yeast from the starter.  Mix with flour and water, let sit for a few hours, then overnight in the fridge.  The next morning, mix in a bit more flour and salt, knead, rise, form loaves, rise, bake.  It's not always pretty, but it's damn good sourdough.

After you have a healthy colony established, you can give some to friends (so they can return the favor if yours ever goes bad), or stick some in the freezer to revive if yours goes bad (I haven't tried reviving, but the internet informs me it works).

Kneading can probably be done in a stand mixer, but it's 10 minutes of work, so I'm happy doing it by hand.

You can make sourdough biscuits.  I use this recipe.

This does throw off 2-3 recipes / week to keep your starter healthy out of the fridge, so I always have bread to give people, but I think it'll keep for a week or two in the fridge before you need to feed it.

I basically don't buy bread anymore because OMG Sourdough so good! But I have to imagine that the flour needed to keep starter & bread going (we use King Arthur all-purpose flour) isn't price competitive with basic bread.  It's a good way to work on measuring with a 3 year old, though.

Monday, September 8, 2014

I'll always take care of you

Today was a bit chaotic, with much accomplished, but often left half-done for a while, so the detritus of entertainment, cooking, and laundry was littered through the house.  Also, we have a shower that doesn't leak and a baby who can fall asleep in places other than her crib!

Late in the day after prepping a dinner for Tadpole and another for R and I, I set a few dishes to soak and headed upstairs to check on R and the baby.  We chatted for a bit and then headed downstairs to discover that not only had I left the water running, but the seal I applied on the kitchen sink the last time we discovered it leaked when it overflowed was not as watertight as hoped.

With a bit of prompting, I got some towels.  A bucket under the sink caught most of the water, and was mostly filled with things that can take getting wet.  It was, in the grand scheme of things, just one more of the ways in which life was chaotic today, but all worked out for the best.

Tadpole (of course) wanted to help, which was the last thing I felt up to dealing with as I pulled various cleaning supplies out & set them to dry.

Daddy, are you sad?

No, I'm not sad.  I'm just very ... frazzled right now.

Oh.  OK.

(long pause)

Mommy, daddy is very frazzled.  Frazzled is like sad.  I'm going to bring my friends to watch from back here.

(aside - I *love* watching her try to figure out how words and concepts fit with words and concepts she already knows.  Even in the midst of cleaning up overflowing sink, this was fascinating and delightful!)

Later that night, as we were getting ready for bed:

Daddy, I'll always take care of you when you're frazzled.

Thank you Tadpole.  (big hug).

Yes, I'll help when there are spills, and I'll always be here to take care of you.

Hopefully she'll feel the same way when I'm in my dotage.  But for now, there are days when Tadpole's driving me to distraction, and others where she's the one saving me from it.  Today was the latter, and I needed that.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Overheard Today

This morning, while I was feeding Sprout, Tadpole decided an extra spoon was needed.  Sometimes we give Sprout a spoon to keep her hands occupied.  As she's become more coordinated, I've backed off this technique because the second spoon becomes a hindrance.  Tadpole was having none of this.  She was in a "helpful" mood, and determined to help whether I liked it or not.  Second spoon was coming, and if I didn't accept that a tantrum was in order.

Through strategic use of deep breathing exercises, the threat of exiling a favorite toy (I try to stomp pretty hard on defying something I've just said), and requests to use her words, she finally let me explain why I did not want a new spoon. Which she accepted, and then came these magic words.

Or, I could get a new spoon and we could put it on the table in case you want it.

Yes, Tadpole.  Yes.  That will absolutely work.

Solved that problem!

(Repeated three or four times while I laughed and agreed.)

Driving home from a school event, we got this (unprompted) gem:

Friends are coworkers because these four reasons.

1. That's how the world works.

2. Coworkers are coworkers

3. Coworkers use work because coworkers get money to buy other things*

4. It's the absence of work that's how coworkers get money.

That's what Tadpole's are for.

* OK, 3 was shorter, but we forgot & asked her to tell us again for posterity & that's what she came up with.

Finally this evening after we'd read bits of One Fish, Two Fish, I got this gem while she was washing up:

Ned doesn't have a good bed.  We should get him a new bed.  I wouldn't like his bed because it has holes in it.  I would cry if I had a bed with holes in it.  When I had a crib, I didn't fit in it and I cried a lot.  I had to sleep on the floor because it has holes in hit.  But now I have a big girl bed.

So there's that.  We need to get a new bed for Ned.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Overheard Today

While Sprout was fussing in the car:
Tadpole: don't worry Sprout, I'll take care of you. I have to go to school some days, but Tadpole will always come back. I'll take care of you. I'm a good big sister.

Later, on news that she was going to do a solo play date with a friend while Sprout naps:
I'm going to see A. She's a good friend and coworker.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Making beer - the three year old edition

I've mentioned before that I homebrew beer periodically.  The last batch got a bit too excited.

Tadpole's been doing her own "brewing" too.
Here, she's boiling the wort, with my last batch in the background.  This (I've been informed) is vanilla beer.

Beer starts out as wort (or beans) in a carboy.

After putting the beer in a carboy, you need to add an airlock.

It's important to syphon out some beer in order to weigh the original and final gravity

But first you have to separate out the yellowish crud at the bottom.

You need to get the finished product into a bottle.

Cap the bottle, of course.

And eventually, you get to drink the finished product!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

So this happened

Just, y'know, doing some laundry a few days ago with the girls.

Tadpole decided that the cat needed a blanket to help him sleep

Make that two blankets.  Sprout is growing curious.

Another view.  Note how long he's just sitting and letting the girls play around him.

The cat finally got up to move, but not far.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bedtime Songs

Tadpole doesn't really let me do bedtime songs very often anymore.  We have the bedtime routine, with books and teeth brushing and potty (often twice) and climbing into bed and a story.  And once upon a time, there were songs, but she doesn't usually let me sing bedtime songs anymore.  Now she kicks me out.  So that she can "read" her books for a while, and then maybe ask mommy to sit with her, and eventually fall asleep.  Which, as long as she doesn't wake her sister up, is fine with me.

When she does let me sing, the current rotation is:

"Puff, the Magic Dragon" (substituting her name for little Jackie Paper, and little girls instead of little boys)
"The Child Song" ("Circle Game" by Jonie Mitchell, which I learned sometime in grade school because my Friend's School was weird).  Again, substituting girl for boy where appropriate.
"Bring me a Rose in the Wintertime", again a favorite from grade school.

"Where Have All the Flowers Gone" has mostly worked its way out of the rotation.  And I can't do "When the Saints Go Marching In" anymore because Tadpole yells "Nine!" on "... in that number" now, so it's not exactly a bedtime song.

I'm looking forward to singing some of these with Sprout, when she gets to the bedtime song phase.  And after I can't do counting songs like "Twelve Days of Christmas", "Green Grow the Rushes O", and "Children, Go Where I Send Thee"

Mock my bedtime songs, I dare you.

Monday, August 11, 2014


I may have mentioned before that R decided a while ago I should get into beer brewing.  I have about 40 bottles of batch 5 downstairs trying desperately to bottle condition.  The flat beer (a very strong and hoppy ale) is pretty good, but I'd like to get a bit of carbonation ...

Yesterday we had friends over and started Batch 6 (Northern Brewer's Caribou Slobber, which I'm making again because it was so good last time)

This morning the cat woke me up, I stumbled downstairs to feed him and heard an intermittent buzzing, which I at first took to be a big.

That's a 5 gallon batch overflowing a 6 Gallon Carboy.  There's clearly wort in the airlock.

This is exciting (yay! Beer is fermenting! My yeast is active!) but also kind of scary (google homebrewing blowouts if you're curious)

So: gameplan:
Sterilize a new bung and airlock, along with syphon hose. Fill a big tub with enough sterile water that the syphon hose can reach. Guide the hose down and use a tub of water as my sterile airlock.

I've done this before with a 1 gallon batch. What could possibly go wrong? :)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Two jokes that do not fit on Twitter

Me, earlier today: "We're going to do A then B."
Tadpole: No, we're going to do B then A. That's how the world works.
Me: Nope. We're doing A first.
Tadpole: That's not how the world works. We're going to do B.
Me: I'm doing A right now. Then we'll do B.
Tadpole: OK, but that's not how the world works.

My daughter: never let facts get in the way of a good theory. So, basically, a French philosopher.

Item 2:
For the second time in the last few days, Tadpole identified a Miller Liter delivery truck as a beer truck. (It does have a realistic picture on the side after all.)
Today: Yes, and there's a wine truck too.
Me: What?
Tadpole: The red truck there!
Oh, you mean the red coke truck with the outline of a soda bottle ...

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Two brief episodes from today:
Driving home from school Tadpole mentioned that they'd read the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
I wish I had been there with my chair. I could have fixed the baby bear's chair.
Later, still on the subject of baby bear.
It was snuggly.
Oh? Did you give the bear a hug.
No daddy. The bear was inside the book. I was outside the book.
This from the girl who hugs any page where someone is sad ...

In the bath this evening, Tadpole was collecting water & soap suds in a cup.
Look daddy, here's your coffee.
Thank you Tadpole.
Actually, it's not coffee. It's beer. Here's your vanilla beer. Do you want some?

Raising her right?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Parenting Advice

Tadpole had a terrible time falling asleep in her crib.  Sprout really likes falling asleep in her crib.

Tadpole was great at falling asleep in car seats and strollers.  Sprout not so much.

Tadpole had trouble self soothing, Sprout figured out sucking her thumb very quickly.

Tadpole woke from naps if I moved around even a little bit.  Sprout's got the hang of getting herself back to sleep.

Sprout takes one good morning nap, then short naps later in the day.  Tadpole (once she fell asleep) could sleep a long time whenever she was tired.

I point this out because as every parent knows, lots of people like giving parenting advice.  There are books out there with parenting advice.  Some of the books are good.  Some of the advice from people is good.

Even if all advice was good and based in experience and research and things, it would run into the basic problem that kids are different.  Granted we have more experience than we did with Tadpole, but I don't think that we're the cause of all of the sleep differences above.  Kids are different.  Even good advice doesn't always apply.

That's worth keeping in mind.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Celebrating victories

After the past few days, celebrating some parenting victories seems necessary, so here goes:

Tadpole hasn't had an accident in a long time.

We took Sprout to the doctor*, and when he handed Tadpole a sticker, she said Thank You unprompted. He made a point of complimenting me and R since that's uncommon and takes work from the parent. I'll take it!

Tadpole and I went for a long walk with Sprout today. Tapole walked on the sidewalk, occassionally dashing ahead or waiting behind and running after me. When I called her back to me, she came quickly and without protest.

Tadpole sprayed water into her little pool today.

For dinner, Tadpole initially objected to pasta with sauce (Pasta should be served with oil and Parmesan, none of this barbaric sauce!), but ate it all!

We have two amazing girls. And things we have pushed for a long time regarding bathrooms, courtesy, and following directions on walks are starting to come to fruition.  Today is a good day to celebrate those victories.

Also pictures! 

* it turns out that about one in 20 babies doesn't have their tear ducts open on time. Tears flow to the wrong places, eye goop is disturbed, and the skin gets red and angry-looking. Sprout is one of the twenty, as we learned today.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Walking mommy to the sidewalk

Every weekday morning, R heads out to the train and Tadpole walks mommy to the sidewalk.  She's way too excited to stop at the threshold, but the train station is too long a walk.  So she walks mommy to the sidewalk.  I'm not allowed to leave the porch.  Bye mommy!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

All the numbers in the world

Tadpole (3): Soon I'm going to be five like [friend]

But what will you need to be first?

First I need to be four. Then I'm going to be five. Then I will be six.
Then I will be <mutters>1,2,3,4,5,6,7</mutters>Seven!


Yeah and then eight!  Then <mutters>1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9</mutters>Nine! Then ten! Then 11 and 12 and 13! I'm going to be really tall when I'm thirteen!

Yes you will kiddo.

Yeah and you know what? Then I'm going to be all the numbers!


Yeah! Even one hundred!

Mommy: yep, you might make it to one hundred.

Yes, I'm going to be one hundred and daddy we're going to need a really, really, really, really tall car when I'm one hundred!

Monday, July 7, 2014


Tadpole really likes experiments, and a few months ago we put a few flowers in water dyed with food coloring and watched the results.  Tonight, while we were looking over our garden, Tadpole grabbed a lily stem.  R suggested we put it in a vase:

Yeah and then we'll put in water and food coloring and wait and watch it grow and see the colors!

I was delayed a few minutes in following Tadpole in.  When I got inside she'd already gotten out the food coloring.

Yeah but first I got a stool and then I opened up the cabinet and I was reaching for the food coloring but then the stool was sloping and then I was floating in the ocean* but then I reached even more and I got the food coloring and then I got the stool back over and I climbed down.

Below is a picture of the corner where the food coloring is kept. I'm just glad nothing was broke. And she didn't try to get a vase down as well. 

*floating in the ocean is hanging on a counter by her elbows, with feet hanging free.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Swimming Lessons

We have a pool in town, and after a few visits it's extremely clear that Tadpole is going to get swim lessons.

I taught swim lessons all through high school and college.  To 4-8 year olds.  I taught kids with a lot less aptitude and enthusiasm than Tadpole.  I taught groups and private lessons.  I absolutely cannot teach my daughter to swim.

I still remember the sill progression.  I know the activities and lesson plans.  I could still teach swim lessons in my sleep.  I cannot teach my daughter to swim.

Tadpole goes to a Montessori program, so she (and we) have become accustomed to the notion of "giving a lesson" and "receiving a lesson".  She's good at receiving lessons at school, which I think is a combination of the natural environment and the teacher's training.  She's sometimes up for receiving a lesson at home, but pools are way to exciting.  Mommy and daddy are way to much fun. I cannot teach my daughter to swim.

So in a few weeks I, the former lifeguard and swim instructor will send my daughter off to swim lessons.  I'll disappear because kids learn better when their parents aren't around.  Someone else will teach her to blow bubbles, hum when she puts her face under the water, and hopefully guider her to the realization that moving through the water is much easier when you're horizontal.

I'm still holding out hope that sometime after the initial lessons I can teach her a few things, but I've accepted that I cannot teach my daughter to swim.  I'm just not very happy about it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Happy Father's Day

(Oh, hi old draft.  Enjoy this late update)
Father's Day gift from Sprout (with maybe some help from mommy) - slept in her crib much of the night, didn't get restless in bed until 7:00.

Daddy we made you a mug for Father's Day.

Oh?  Do you know what day today is?

Yeah, it's Father's Day.

Is there something we say on Father's Day?

Happy Father's Day daddy!

And I could make a Father's Day card for you.

You could get crayons and scissors and paper.

"What color paper.?"

Um, I think Yellow is a good color for Father's Day.  You could get yellow paper.

<while downstairs getting yellow paper>. <to imaginary friend Elsa from Frozen>
Elsa today we're going to make a Father's Day card for daddy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


More on developments in purposeful, imaginative play later. For now, a brief episode from tonight.

The scene: Mommy and daddy's room. A rocking chair with a small pillow for back support.

The players: Tadpole, Daddy.

The time: just before bedtime. Teeth have been brushed, pajamas donned. All is in readiness for a final story and climb into bed.

Tadpole: <grabs pillow> "I'm going to take this for bedtime.

Daddy: "No, that's mommy's pillow. Leave it please."

Tadpole: <screaming>

Daddy: (terrified, quiet) "shhh ... We just put your sister in her crib. You have to be quiet."

Enter Mommy.  Discussion ensues. Mommy clarifies that the pillow is Tadpole's, has been on a long-term loan.

Mommy: "You were so nice to let me keep the pillow. May I continue to use it?"

Tadpole: "No."

Mommy: "But it helps my back."

Tadpole: "No."

Daddy: "Without the pillow, mommy's back really hurts. Can she use it?"

Tadpole: <sets down pillow>. <goes to bed, picks up a full size pillow from the bed>. <deposits on chair>. <proudly reclaims original small pillow>. "You use that one mommy."

Mommy: (giggling). "OK kiddo. Thank you.  Are you saying I need to make a new pillow?"

Tadpole: "Daddy, tomorrow when you are making coffee and milk, I'm going to be sewing mommy a new pillow."

Daddy: "Oh?"

Tadpole: "Yes. I'm going to do the sewing, but not the pins part because pins are sharp. Mommy can you do the pins part and I will do the sewing when daddy makes coffee?"

All: <dissolves into happy giggles, hugs>. "I love you."

Monday, June 9, 2014

Magic Babies

I don't talk about Sprout much (yet) - R is still definitely primary parent, and Sprout still mostly eats and sleeps, but she's distinguishing herself in a few ways:
Sprout LOVES being outside. Not necessarily when she's in a stroller, but when we're just holding her, she loves taking in the outside.  To the point that when she's upset, I just walk outside with  her for a few minutes and she's happy again.  (Magic!)
Tadpole had a "Magic Song" that immediately calmed her down and helped her get to sleep. (Rosanna, by Toto, which I never want to hear again).  Sprout has one too: Counting Stars from One Republic. It's not quite as magical as Rosanna was, but it's pretty effective.

We went to a birthday party at the Morton Arboretum for one of Tadpole's classmates recently (awesome!) and Sprout was awake for most of it (and outside!), and happily looking around.  She was awesome.

We also practiced taking milk from a bottle today. Unlike Tadpole, Sprout likes it warm, but after that, she was pretty content.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A single raindrop

We were out for a walk with Tadpole a few days ago when she got a scrape on her ankle. (Turns out that I did have a reason to tell you to stay on the sidewalk and not stumble through the garden kiddo.)

Tadpole is not a fan of owies, and she did not like the idea of cleaning it when we got home.  But after a few minutes of whining about that pronouncement, she quieted down and went back to tricycling.

It was blocks later when she announced that a thunderstorm was coming (clear blue sky notwithstanding ... after all, we'd had one a few days before, so thunderstorms were in the air).  And it was many minutes after that when she announced that she'd felt a raindrop.

You will not be surprised to learn that the raindrop from the thunderstorm landed on her ankle.  It cleaned her ankle and the scrape.  We would not have to clean the owie when we got home, although we could still put a band-aid on it.

The protests when we vetoed that line of logic we're more impressive than the first round.

How long do they stay three?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Two anecdotes

We took the girls out to a park and Ice Cream yesterday. On the way home, Sprout (3 months) began loudly explaining that she was hungry and tired of being in her car seat.  Tadpole decided to comfort her sister:
Sprout, if you would like to watch the Cars movie when we get home, you need to refrain from whining.
R and I sat stunned for a moment, then laughed. Encouraged, Tadpole continued.
And what do we say to that? Mind Blown!!

At the end of dinner, Tadpole was doing "Rock and Roll" fingers. Somehow these also became a phone to discuss her schoolwork on.
Ring, Ring. Oh hello Rock and Roll. I traced sandpaper letters with [classmate] today.
Me: hello Tadpole. What letters did you trace.
No, Rock and Roll, I don't want to talk about school anymore. I'm just going to be quiet.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


We had a thunderstorm tonight. The 3 month old fell asleep before it started, and the three-year-old ended up falling asleep while mommy sat with her.

Walking home from the park, Tadpole asked about thunderstorms, and we went a little bit Magic School Bus in our explanation: we showed her the grey clouds and talked about how water up there was joining into little water droplets, which would turn into raindrops and fall down.  And how the grass (and our garden!) really wanted that water.  I don't think we got into root systems, but we did talk a bit about lightning, charges separating, and electricity jumping between the clouds and the ground.  I talked about how that made a lot of energy and the thunder was part of that energy.  R talked about about how the thunder was the lightning saying 'hi'.  (Aside - myths, folktales, and kids stories seem less silly now that I'm a parent)

Tadpole ate it up.  She asked us to tell the story of the thunderstorms at least three times, and filled in words and phrases as we went on.  This was exciting and a way to use words and things.

And then we went inside and she said "I don't like the thunderstorm because it's loud and scary."

Yep, kiddo, it is.  We can tell you stories and use words and reassure you that you're safe and talk about being in a brick house which is the one that the big bad wolf can't even blow down, but at the end of the day lightning and thunder are scary.  And thinking about them is scary.  And maybe in the moment we can watch them together and have fun with that so that you have a not-scary experience of thunderstorms.  But for now, while you're three, words and stories and experiences are very, very far apart, and I'm not going to keep you up until 10:30 to watch the lightning and laugh together and process the experience.  But I will hold you and hug you, whenever you let me.

Unrelated aside - at bedtime, I was singing "Somewhere over the Rainbow" and Tadpole informed me that:
"Soon we're going to get a rainbow"
"Yes.  We're going to get it in a package from Amazon.  We're going to get two packages from Amazon and one will have a rainbow in it and the other one will have other things."

So also there's that.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Two anecdotes

We took the girls out to a park and Ice Cream yesterday. On the way home, Sprout (3 months) began loudly explaining that she was hungry and tired of being in her car seat.  Tadpole decided to comfort her sister:
Sprout, if you would like to watch the Cars movie when we get home, you need to refrain from whining.
R and I sat stunned for a moment, then laughed. Encouraged, Tadpole continued.
And what do we say to that? Mind Blown!!

At the end of dinner, Tadpole was doing "Rock and Roll" fingers. Somehow these also became a phone to discuss her schoolwork on.
Ring, Ring. Oh hello Rock and Roll. I traced sandpaper letters with [classmate] today.
Me: hello Tadpole. What letters did you trace.
No, Rock and Roll, I don't want to talk about school anymore. I'm just going to be quiet.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

We should all be Type A

Tadpole discovered the story of the three little pigs recently.  In our story, the little piggy with the brick house is Type A.  Much like mommy.  At the end of the story, Tadpole announced:
"I'm a bit Type A."
"Yeah.  Just like mommy."
"So you like having everything just so?"
"Everybody should be Type A!"

OK kiddo. We'll talk about work-life balance when you're older.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Daily Dispatches

Tadpole's on fire this afternoon.

Driving home from school, after confirming that she ate lunch:
Yeah and I took a nap!

Great! Did you do any work?

Yeah but I don't want to talk about it!


I did new work today. It was cloth washing!

Oh? What did you use?

We need a basket and a small cloth and some unsafe sugar!


Yeah and I used the unsafe sugar and I cleaned with the small cloths.

What did you clean?

I don't want to talk about it!

Later at the library she was mostly dashing about excitedly, but she did sit long enough to help me look up some call numbers, and later to check out Hugo- and Nebula-nominee Ancillary Justice.

On the way home, we passed a fair being set up:

Daddy I'm going to go on the Ferris wheel and not you and mommy and Sprout just me. I'm going to go one the Ferris wheel and a horse and a helicopter and a boat and a car to go visit my friends across the ocean.  But when I'm older.

Yes you will kiddo. What else is there to say?

Monday, May 12, 2014


R and I have been thinking a bit about how to introduce Tadpole to religion when she gets a bit older.  Tonight, somehow gods (Greek mythology?) came up in conversation and we asked Tadpole about them.

"Do you know what gods are kiddo?"

"Yes. They're like the captains of a big white boat."

<general laughter, pleased smile on Tadpole's face.>

"Mommy, are you going to cry happy tears?"

A good evening, with a very observant child.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Happy Friday!

It's still Friday as I start this anyway.  Both girls are asleep.  Sprout slept straight until 5:30 this morning, and while I don't dare expect or hope that will continue, I am certainly going to celebrate the sleeping baby whenever she does sleep through the night.

Big sister Tadpole tricycled (with some help) to a park close to one of the local schools this afternoon and so go to play on a playground otherwise populated by older kids! (High school? Old grade schoolers? Dunno. Old enough to think she was cute and charming, not an inconvenience). Riding the see saw with an older kid? Giant, giant smiles!

On the domestic front, I'd reconciled myself to a total dud in the various batches of beer I most recently brewed, but I cracked the second round of vanilla porter tonight and it was drinkable! Flatter than I'd like, but I get to drink my own beer tonight, which is a pretty great feeling!

So all in all a good Friday. Did I mention both girls are asleep and Tadpole went to sleep by herself with little drama!

(Above is "baby Amphisbaenia", a mythical two-headed snake featured in a book we checked out from the library a while ago.)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Geese, I guess?

Driving back from grocery shopping yesterday, I pointed out a pair of geese to Tadpole, but by the time she looked, we'd passed them.  A few moments later:

Look daddy! A goose! Just one goose.

Neat! Where?

We passed it already.

Oh. OK. Well thank you for pointing it out.

Did you see it?

No, but I'm glad you did.

Yeah. I saw it.  My eyes are better than yours. 


Your brown eyes have trouble.  But my blue eyes are really good. So I saw it because of my blue eyes.

So I see two geese on the side of the road, point them out to Tadpole, and eventually get told that my eyes aren't good based on their color because they can't see an imaginary goose.

Three, people.  She'll be here for the next 15 years, not tipping her server.

On a slightly related note, this mostly made me realize how different her conception of using words to say that we saw a goose is from mine.  Whatever those words mean to her, it's not what they mean to me.  I've been reading the Lives of some early medieval saints, and there's a recurring episode where the saint comes across a village of pagans and basically takes over their bodies, making them freeze or dance, in order to disrupt their ritual and/or show them the power of God.  In the same way that "I saw a goose" just means something fundamentally different to Tadpole than it does to me, I'm pretty sure these episodes meant something fundamentally different to their authors and audiences.  In all cases, I wish I understood what was going on there. I think the world would be more interesting.

It's just so tough to be Three

We've been noticing a lot lately that it's just so tough to be three. (Which I cannot hear in anything other than the tune to "I just can't wait to be king" from The Lion King.)

It's hard when you need to go to bed and daddy's been clear that you need to be quiet and go to bed but you just pooped in your diaper but you can't tell daddy so you writhe around until he leaves and mommy comes in so you can tell her.

It's hard when daddy asks whether you remember the nightmare that woke you screaming and asking where mommy was. No! But now it's necessary to be carried and clingy all morning. Who mentions nightmares the next day?

It's hard when daddy asks if his shoulder smells like milk and so you try to nurse like your sister and you bite him and he gets mad. How were you supposed to know he was just commenting on how your baby sister spit up there earlier.

It's hard when you want a fruit bar but it's in two pieces and daddy won't hand them over. Of course screaming is the only solution here. There's no call for daddy to laugh. None.

Going on a bear hunt outside is totally awesome!!!

So awesome that you forget about potty and pee in your clothes right after coming inside.  

It's tough when you take a bath because there's all this water right there and you have a mouth plus daddy seems to want to play a game where he reacts a lot if you pretend to drink the water, but why does daddy get upset when you try to play the game? You waited until the bath was done because you've learned drinking bath water is the fastest way to get out ...

It's just so hard to be three.  And so, so hard when daddy makes the choices he does. Time to step it up and not talk hard daddy.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

All the Muffins and Bagels in the Land

With apologies to Josh Lyman, had I not been leaving the bedroom of one sleeping child and walking into a room with another, it's likely I would have recreated his famous scene. As it was, I contented myself with a few fist pumps.

Tadpole's bedtime routine has been on a rocky road towards improvement, with last night a near-total disaster in which I had to call in R to finish things off.  But last night I articulated one very specific change I needed to make: if Tadpole was having trouble settling calmly after we finished books, I would default to assuming she needed to go potty. Tonight I did exactly that, she went potty, then fell asleep easily.  Hence, Josh Lyman.

Two observations and a few other nice things:
First, a successful bedtime tonight does not mean tomorrow will be easy.  After last night'a disaster, it was comforting to be able to approach tonight as a whole new bedtime. I've learned the hard way that one good night does not a pattern make, but it can get my hopes up and lead to frustration down the line.
Second, bedtime has taught me that parenting often provides many opportunities to get it right. I might be happier when I handle a situation well the first time, but as long as I can look back on tough situations and think of something new to try, I'll probably have another opportunity to handle it well later. (Any suggestions for a girl who signals she's ready to end the bath by trying to drink dirty bath water? :)

Other things that have made me happy recently:
N.K. Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy is coming out in an omnibus edition with a new novella. Jemisin is one of my favorite authors, so this is fantastic news!

In the latest "What If?", the creator of XKCD answered a 4 year old who wanted a billion story skyscraper. 

Twenty years ago this week, Internet came to NPR. Melody Kramer (@mkramer) has the initial memo. It's delightful. 

 Today, happy thoughts. Soon, why it's been so tough to be three, recently.

What's that on your face?

Possible appearances to the contrary, this isn't about my lack of shaving.  More a public service announcement:
If you make coffee using an Aeropress (recommended)
Use the inverted method (recommended by many, though I've never really had it work)
Spill coffee grounds on the bottom of the tube because you're not using the funnel.

It is, theoretically, possible to clear the grounds off by blowing on them.  In practice, however, you're likely to accidentally blow into the tube of finely ground coffee.  Which will end up in your eyes, the coffee mug, the floor, etc.  

Monday, April 21, 2014


Parenting things I do well poorly.  A deliberately incomplete list compiled late at night while watching Star Trek.

Things I do well:
  • Kneel to get at Tadpole's level when talking to her
  • Involve Tadpole in household activities like laundry and cooking
  • Give Tadpole intense focused attention
  • Give Tadpole space to explore
  • Notice when Tadpole needs some direction & help her focus
Things I do not well:
  • Easily distracted by my phone
  • Get impatient - not allow Tadpole to finish telling me something, and not leave enough time for 3-year old paced activities
  • Not facilitate or model meeting new people 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

When all you have is a tow rope ...

Tadpole's fallen for the Cars movie in a big way. She really likes both Lightning McQueen and Mater, who's always been a "race truck".  Yesterday as we were driving to school, she announced:
Mater is a Tow Truck.
He pulls cars when they get stuck.
That's right!
Are those cars stuck?
What do you think?
I think they're not stuck. They're going.
That's right.
[brief pause]
Are those other cars going?
Why do you think?
Because they're not stuck!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Home Brewing

Last year, R decided that I needed a hobby, so she got me a homebrewing kit.  I've now produced 3 batches of beer, with the fourth currently fermenting away, ready to be drunk in about a month.

Sometime I'll put up some pictures of Tadpole helping me strip labels from beer bottles and clean the carboys between fermentation cycles, but today two experiments I'm trying for the first time:

I started with Northern Brewer's "White House Honey Porter" recipe (a 5-gallon kit, so roughly 4-5 dozen bottles) based on the Honey Porter recipe brewed in the White House.

The first change I made was to infuse most of the batch with vanilla.  Two beans, dropped in a vase full of vodka overnight to sterilize them, then added to 4 gallons during secondary fermentation will hopefully lead to a nice Vanilla Porter.  (I also have a single gallon of the original recipe fermenting separately)  Bonus - a bit of vanilla vodka to enjoy while racking the beer.

Second experiment - saving some yeast.  After siphoning the beer from the primary fermentation to secondary, there's a bunch of left over slurry - bits of yeast along with leftover undigestible proteins.  Pour in some hot water to loosen it up, dump into sterilized mason jars, and let sit for a few hours.  Most of the remaining slurry will settle out, leaving water with some yeast.  Pour into new sterilized mason jars and enjoy your own live colony of yeast, ready to be pitched into a future batch of beer.  Or at least that's the theory.  I saved a few batches, hoping that at least one will stick.  Also that maybe Tadpole and I can do some experiments with yeast.  There's a video on youtube where a guy feeds the yeast various ingredients and tests which they eat the most of (based on carbon dioxide produced).  That seems like a fun experiment.  Hopefully google will come up with others, and I've actually saved the yeast properly.  Only time will tell on both fronts.

Hopefully three colonies:

In the meantime, I'm left to look forward to getting these into bottles in a few weeks, and drinking them a few weeks later. 

 I'll keep you posted on the progress, complete with some pictures of my assistant.  Until then, enjoy this shot of Tadpole helping me siphon for primary fermentation.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Honest Preschooler

Daddy, can I drink the bath water?
Daddy, can you go out?
So that I can drink the bath water.


Do [friends we saw yesterday with a six month old] have a kid?
What do you think?
They have a baby. I wish they had a kid.
[big cheeky grin] I wish they had a girl!
For you to play with?
Yes! [even bigger grin]

Astronomy videos: A Formula

Tadpole's been fascinated by space and planetariums ever since we got her the Magic School Bus: Lost In Space book.  Last week we took her into the city to visit the Adler Planetarium and her first big screen video.  Major treat!

After watching this video and bits of Cosmos, I've discovered the formula for an astronomy popular science video:

  1. Start with people huddled around a small fire, and the notion that we've been telling stories about stars since this ancient prehistory.
  2. Talk about how in the Middle Ages we didn't understand how stars work, but now we do because we're in the Age of Science.
  3. Reference Native American myths about constellations.  Take the myths literally.  Show the Greek/Roman constellation names for extra insult.
Essentially, these videos and the early parts of Cosmos that I've watched seem to be taking potshots at Evangelical Christians who treat the Bible as literal truth & question scientists, via the proxy of Native American myths.  

It's insulting.  Insulting to the "primitive societies" whose stories are appropriated as stand-ins for ignorance.  Insulting to the various non-western traditions that were studying astronomy at the times when these narratives claim Medieval Europe (and by extension everyone) was not doing science.  (Check out the Islamic Sciences section on Lost Islamic History, or follow them on Twitter!).  It legitimizes a relatively small group, while also making sure that they will never accept your message.  (Well, I used to think that my religion was literally true and scientists who question it should be rejected, but then I watched a 20 minute video that told me I was thinking wrong & so I changed my mind!)

Most importantly, these videos miss a huge chance to capture the hearts and minds of the kids who are presumably the target audience.  We have built giant particle accelerators that smash things together to reveal the secrets of the universe!  We've got telescopes so big they can let us look back in time towards the big bang!  We got rid of a planet because we found so much extra stuff out there! We put telescopes up in space to get an even better view! (Aside - I remember my dad taking me to see some of the first pictures that came back from the Hubble Space Telescope.  I didn't entirely understand what was going on, but the memory is one of my earliest and strongest childhood memories).  There are people living in space.  They run! They wash their hair! They squeeze water out of washcloths, play guitar, and use giant robots to grab spaceships.  We can watch videos of all of these things in the comfort of our own home! (Aside - for definitions of the future that don't include flying cars, the future has very much arrived)

All of which is to say:

Dear writers and producers of astronomy videos,

My daughter is three, and she's pretty captivated by space.  She knows who Commander Hadfield is.  I'd love to encourage this.  I'll come visit overpriced planetariums to sit and watch a video with her and hopefully build a memory like my own memory of seeing pictures from the Hubble Telescope.  Please give me that video.  The one that reveals the secrets of the universe, black holes, pulsars, colliding galaxies, tours of our own solar system, and other wonders I cannot even imagine.  Don't sit us in front of a fire and tell her to understand "science" instead of "myth".  There's a scientific story out there every bit as wonderful as anything any other religion can offer. Give us that one.  Please?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Day in the Life

Things I did today:

4 loads of laundry, including cloth diapers

Pulled grains previously used in brewing beer out of the freezer

Gave Sprout her first bottle

Sliced a vanilla bean and dropped it in vodka to sterilize it in preparation for trying to turn a small batch of homebrewed honey porter into a vanilla porter.

Walked Sprout into town (20 minutes-ish)

Failed to soothe her while many older ladies walked by and smiled

Walked halfway home before she fell asleep

Walked back into town to pick up canning jars for saving homebrewing yeast

Started bread with spent beer grains

Washed all of the things:
Fermentation containers
New beer yeast jars

Walked in on Tadpole not napping but applying Vaseline to herself. Said Vaseline originally located on a high shelf which she had climbed to.

Did not take a picture of this event, got angry instead. Parenting Fail twice over.

Walked for just over an hour while Tadpole napped in the stroller

Made rice/scrambled eggs/cheese for dinner (Tadpole made rice)

Kneaded bread with Tadpole.

After sampling, added a second vanilla bean to the vodka. Primary batch will be vanilla porter, gallon batch will be the straight recipe.

Baked bread.

Now getting Sprout to sleep before I collapse in bed.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Beer and Star Trek

The last few days have been exhausting, and Tadpole's home for Spring Break all week, so the routine (such as it is) has been a bit disrupted.  Today was also exhausting, but R gave me a much-appreciated break.

All of this was helpful because Tadpole has had difficulty sleeping (with the expected evening behavior) and Sprout had an inconsolable hour today.  Sometimes parenting is about guiding your kids, or savoring the moment. Other times it's about surviving the day, which we did.

So now here I am a bit before midnight, with Sprout sleeping in her pack and play, Captain Kirk on screen, and a bottle of homebrew in front of me.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Toddler Telephone

R and I have taken to sending Tadpole back and forth with messages these days, a role she relishes.  She happily summons us to dinner, offers snacks, offers to care for her younger sister, and generally makes herself helpful.

Today, I got a particularly interesting message:
"Daddy, I get to poop with Sprout!"

Did I mention that sometimes Tadpole's messages are a bit garbled?  When I confirmed the message with R, it was closer to what I'd first expected:

"Daddy, Sprout just pooped and mommy wants you to change her diaper."

Lucky me.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rocket Ships

This evening we walked in on Tadpole just before bed drawing on the whiteboard. "I'm drawing a rocket ship," She announced.  "With flames coming out of the back."  Further questioning revealed that the figure in the middle is either the pilot or the canopy.

My daughter is amazing.  We've got a few books about space, and watch YouTube videos from the space station, but I didn't see this coming at all. 

Sometimes developments sneak up on you gradually, little pieces falling into place bit by bit. Other times they jump out of left field.  Tonight, Tadpole's drawing, and description, leapt out of left field.

She's pretty incredible. And she's drawing rockets with fire and canopies that will carry her far away someday.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sleeping Babies

Sprout's asleep right now. And twitching occasionally to reassure me.  We've discovered that she can manage about 20 minutes in the crib at night, or hours in my arms/lap.  So R gets some sleep to start the night, and I get snuggles, which are awesome.

Based on recent experience, things you can do with a sleeping baby late at night:

  • Listen to a podcast (quietly)
  • Watch John Stewart (as long as I don't mind a trek to the basement, so as not to wake anyone else)
  • Read Nebula-nominated Sci-Fi book "Fire With Fire"
  • Tweet snarky comments about Fire With Fire because they're needed
  • Work
  • Blog

Things you can't do with a sleeping baby

  • Most of the house cleaning since it involves 2 hands or tromping up and down stairs
  • Sleep
  • Listen to a podcast while blogging
  • Edit and publishable blog post

Things you can do with a not-sleeping baby

  • Dance
  • Make shushing noises
  • Cover her eyes and then look at them every 30 seconds
  • Play Rosanna by Toto on repeat (this song lulled Tadpole when she was an infant, and seems to work on Sprout)
  • Try to accumulate more steps on tracking app by making circuits of the kitchen
  • Hand her over to mom

Thursday, March 6, 2014

And Now We Are Four

Three weeks ago we welcomed a new addition to the household.

This week Tadpole celebrated her third birthday.  I have been thinking of her as "almost three" since at least November, so it's nice to actually have a three year old.

Since Tadpole and I share a birthday (best birthday present ever!), we are now together 34.  Also, I got to have my birthday dinner at Two Toots, a train restaurant!

So now we are four.  R and I, and Tadpole and Sprout.  Tadpole's pretty excited about being a big sister.  R and I are trying to remember what sleep is like.

Also we have a cat, to complete the picture of things.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


I sent out a tweet a couple days ago:

I should probably clarify a bit: Tadpole is not quite 3. She's going to be defiant, and I suspect that anyone who's got a secret to fixing that has better things to do than give Twitter advice.

What I'm really trying to figure out is how I respond to Tadpole's defiance.  The defiance of a three year old isn't something that can be reasoned with (much, although it's more possible than it was), and since her goal is usually to get a reaction from daddy, my anger and frustration don't have much of an impact besides encouraging her.  As so many parents before me have learned, I'm basically helpless in the face of a cheeky three year old.  My frustration and anger are coming from this helplessness, not what she's doing.

For other difficult interactions, I've built myself a script.  Crying baby? Start swaying and bouncing.  Fall/other hurt: hold her and ask where it hurts (because if she can show me, things are probably mostly OK). Don't want to wrap up an activity: set a timer on the phone, and end things when the timer goes off (Tadpole has learned to react well to timers)

Defiance? I have no idea.  Sometimes she's holding something/in the midst of potty so there's some urgency to restraining her, but often she's just in her head, looking to provoke a reaction from daddy because that's one of many fun activities.

Haters gonna hate, and three-year-olds are going to grin cheekily, look at the roll of toilet paper, look back at you, and unroll the whole roll because they know they're not supposed to.  That's not behavior I can control.  My response is something I can control.  What that response will be, I still have no idea.  Advice on that?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Computers, bodies, and Star Trek

Inspirations for today's post include the Star Trek: TOS Episode "By Any Other Name" and "Turing's Cathedral" (February's book club read, finished the Audiobook on Sunday).

Essentially, each has me thinking about the relationship between brain/body (and, I suppose something like soul/personality/essence), and the ways those relationships distinguish us from computers.

In "By Any Other Name", the Enterprise is taken over by powerful aliens who create human bodies to accomplish the hijacking.  (Total aside - Spock does a LOT of Magic in this episode, all of it basically irrelevant).  The aliens are highly intelligent, rational, and equipped with a superweapon, so they have no problem taking over the ship, but they're unaccustomed to human bodies.  Kirk is seductive, Bones injects drugs, Scottie introduces the delightful effects of alcohol, and the aliens find themselves defeated and transformed.  Embodied humanity, in this narrative, is more than the sum of thought processes.

In the exact same episode, the aliens dispose of the rest of the crew by transforming them into fragile crystals.  Their body, memories, and personality, the leader of the aliens informs Kirk, are maintained and preserved in this form.  Embodied humanity, in this narrative, can be fully known and encapsulated in some static form, irrespective of environment.  (Another aside, the moment in which Kirk rushes through his ship encountering these crystals might have been affecting and tragic if the camera had held on for a few extra moments).

Meanwhile, most of the way through Turing's Cathedral the question of the relationship between computers and biology has cropped up in a few places.  One contrast is between a calculating machine that fundamentally acts one step at a time (and therefore places a great deal of importance on clock speed) compared to a biological process acting within an environmental continuum.  Another important distinction is between early computers, with unreliable parts but generally uncomplicated & debuggable operations, modern computers with generally reliable parts but highly complex and unreliable operations, and biological processes that occur in environments with unreliable parts and highly complex/unreliable operations.  The gap between a computer and an organism, and therefore the types of processes and correction methods that each uses, is actually vast and fundamental.

This distinction between body and mind has a long tradition in at least Western philosophy (one which I'm hopelessly unqualified to survey or comment on), but the general notion of an ability to separate these two, perhaps joining them via some ineffable "soul", "spirit" or "identity"is appealing and in some ways intuitive.  The potential for artificial intelligence, for a truly deterministic universe, weather control, and artificial life seems tantalizingly close the more these two elements of our self seem distinguishable.

The more that I read about computers, biology, and particularly neurology, though, the more convinced I am that this apparent distinction is dangerous and misleading.  Our bodies are not supercomputers stuck inside a collection of tendons and bones.  (We're not Krang!)  We're embodied in an analog (continuous) universe.  Computers are really cool.  So are people, but we are embodied in (and embody within us) a vast and complex ecosystem that proceeds steadily, not via the ticks of a clock.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hasty responses to Turing's Cathedral

A few pre-book-club reactions to Turing's Cathedral:

The book reviews the origins of the first computer built at the IAS (Institute for Advanced Study) at Princeton, and the personalities who created it.  In setting the stage for the personalities, it dives back as far as the revolutionary war, but mostly surveys fin-de-si├Ęcle Eastern Europe, the period leading up to WWII, and the and the drive for something that could do the calculations necessary for an atomic bomb.

Within this context, I found two strong themes: first, the physical engineering problems involved in creating the computer, and the abilities that distinguished it from previous computers/calculator. (I am hoping someone has an explanation if the significance of "numbers that do things as well as numbers that mean things"), and second the problems the first computers were intended to solve, and the future applications their designers envisioned.  The book concludes by looking at the way our digital universe has evolved and continues to evolve.

I was most out of my depth in the engineering area.  I don't know what distinguished the MANIAC, understand the mechanics of vacuum tubes, the difficulties of memory allocation in machine language, or have any idea how this relates to modern processors.  I did have two takeaways, though.  I'm much more sympathetic than I had been to the impressive leap between envisioning a theoretical device and the practical reality if bringing that device into existence. (Probably related to my experiments in bread making and beer brewing, which are as close as I've come to any engineering problem.)
Second, the notion of a central "clock" which is really more of a counter/incrementer, as essential to computers.  Instructions are performed at each step of this clock, which means states are allowed to change whenever the controller advances, which means finite spaces can be reused, which is really powerful.  Also means there's a giant gap between the digital, chunky, universe and the continual analog universe.

As far as the problems solved, the book mentions 5, on different timescales: atomic bomb equations, shock waves, meteorology, evolutionary biology, and stellar evolution.
It's an interesting set of problems.  The only real comment I have is how much harder meteorology seems to be than was expected.  I think (getting back to messy engineering), you need the ability to do really complicated messy calculations to scare up something like chaos theory.

I'm ... Skeptical of the attempts to analogize biological and technological evolution and suggest machines are impacting our evolution in the way that biological evolution works.  I think that the distinction between digital and analog is really big. I also think that no technological ecosystem is anywhere near as complex as our own, and I think these are huge qualitative differences between evolutionary environments.  I also think these are justifications for my knee-jerk reaction, so we'll see what I think as things settle.  The flip side is that computers are still in their infancy, are inserting themselves into our world in unimaginable ways, and are clearly highly powerful, addictive, and impact full devices.  Maybe skynet is close? Maybe whatever human-machine evolution develops will be highly unlike skynet.

I listened to this as an audiobook, which was awesome unless the book itself has pictures, because visualizing many situations would have helped.  I'm also really glad this was a book club book, because I need help understanding and processing it.

To the extent that I want to get something out of book club, it's:
I'm glad we're discussing this
Can someone clarify what pre-MANIAC calculating devices were like, and why "numbers that do things and numbers that mean things" is so important
Anything else is gravy.

May edit for clarity, links, and grammar after book club, potentially with a PS unless that turns into a new post.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Preschool Assisted Risotto - A recipe

Tadpole and I made Risotto recently!

Yes, that's Tadpole standing on a bar stool & stirring the rice into the risotto.  Next to her hand is the ladle which she used to ladle the water & stock into the pan as the water bor was absorbed.

Every once and a while I find myself stepping out of an interaction with Tadpole and wondering how this happened.  It seems like we were just practicing siting safely on stools, and now she's standing on a bar stool and stirring rice at a hot stove! Even having seen all of those individual skills appear and come together, this moment just blew me away.

Recipe for preschool-assisted risotto:
Safe and Stable Stool Standing: Tadpole's been working on this pretty much since she was able to reach the top of the stools.  Sitting, standing, with and without assistance, and eventually climbing on  with and without assistance.  I still remember the first time we had a visitor over whose mom let her sit unassisted on a stool.  I was blown away. And terrified to try it with Tadpole.  But eventually we both got brave and did it.  She's been getting more comfortable on the stools ever since.

Stirring: Stirring without making a huge mess, that is.  Getting the spoon into the right spot, moving it around enough to keep things mixing, but not so much that they spill everywhere.  We practiced this a lot with beans, which were pretty much the best toy ever from about 18 months to 2 1/2 (and still in the rotation).  

Pouring Ingredients: We've been practicing this during morning coffee-making for quite a while.  (Back in the day, I'd make coffee at the espresso maker with Tadpole carried in a baby Bjorn and pushing the buttons.  She's been doing more of the steps ever since). She watered the Christmas tree & some plants this year, and helps with baking.  For risotto, I poured the olive oil, but Tadpole handled the rice, wine after I added it to the measuring cup, and ladling the liquid.

Respect for the hot stove: We've been enforcing this since it was clear that Tadpole understood words. For a long time, it was simply a space she had to stay away from.  More recently, though, we've been exploring the boundaries of the stove and the oven.  The stove gets hot, the nearby counter doesn't.  We can look at the oven, but not try to open it, and have to stand back when mommy or daddy opens it.  As she shows that she's understanding a lesson about safety, we get to refine that lesson. In fact, when we started this risotto, Tadpole didn't want to stir: "I will pour daddy.  You stir because that's a hot stove."  There's a parenting win!  After watching me stir, she was interested in trying.  We practiced it together first, then with her stirring by herself before I stepped away to take the picture.

Making risotto with Tadpole was an amazing experience.  She was somewhat excited about it, although I don't think she really drew the connection to making our family dinner that I did.  For me, though, passing this on to my daughter, and watching all of the skills we've been practicing (consciously and unconsciously) come together as she stirred rice and ladled in broth as the liquid was absorbed was pretty much the highlight of my week.  Baby steps, built over literally years, eventually became the ingredients for making family dinner together.

For those interested in the actual recipe, I think we went with:
  • Chop an onion (Tadpole did NOT help with this part)
  • Add a small amount (1-2 Tbsp?) Olive Oil to a pan and turn on medium heat
  • Add chopped onion and stir ~5 minutes until browning
  • Add 2 cups arborio rice & 1/2 cup white wine
  • Heat a container (~4 cups?) stock in a separate pot. Water is fine if stock not available
  • Stir, ladling in more liquid as the liquid is absorbed/boiled off (~30 minutes)
  • We topped off with green beans, parmesan and pesto that R made.  We have previously topped with mushrooms, which Tadpole disapproves of on general principle.
But really, google or a cookbook can give you better directions.  (Of course, if you have risotto suggestions, please let me know.  Especially after this success, I expect we'll be making more)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Altered readings of Persuasion, and a surprising connection

Persuasion was my first read of 2014, mostly because it was the subject of my monthly book club. This marked my third book club attendance, and the first where I found my perceptions of the book very much changed.

I went into the meeting with a relatively simplistic view: Anne the clear-eyed heroine stands in for the voice of Austen who is presenting a coherent social critique of this silly class system.  The characters are set pieces and the fall in Lyme is clearly contrived, and all of this is because Austen just wants to get everyone together and contrast the productive navy with the wastrels that are the gentry.  It's pretty easy to pluck out examples that support this narrative, so I was a bit surprised that one of the first questions at book club was exactly about this: does there seem to be a coherent social critique here, or specific humorous episodes?

The more I think about this, and about the critiques that came up at book club, the more suspicious I am of my first reading that there's a single overarching critique in Persuasion. On further discussion, I found myself more drawn to a reading that sees various episodes tracking different themes including -

  • The value of the Navy (and the Navy's ability to reveal true character)
  • The superficial and ridiculous values of the gentry
  • The disconnect between worldly fortunes and internal happiness
  • The relative importance of happiness, financial security, and status in marriage
  • The characteristics of an ideal wife
Smarter people than I have spent a lot more time thinking about and researching Persuasion.  I'm sure that there are other themes to be picked out of the text, and perhaps other overarching narratives I've missed.  I'd recommend reading Persuasion, and also discussing it or reading critiques.

What interested me about my initial reading of Persuasion compared to my reading after the discussion is that my reading essentially changed from an overarching single narrative with occasional tangents to a series of interrelated set pieces and characters/caricatures combining entertainment, insightful social commentary, and somewhat contrived plot elements.  So basically Americanah.  As mentioned in my first post on Americanah, I just don't know how to read this.  Individual scenes and chapters may stand or fall on their own (one of the members of book club confessed that he had a hard time with the opening of Persuasion, while I found the opening some of the most charming & delightful writing I've encountered recently), but ideally they're probably more than the sum of their parts.  (The contrast in Americanah between whites who view Africa as an interchangeable country and the the African immigrants who can both acknowledge the different countries and also find a common bond in their status on the margins of society springs to mind).  

When preparing for book club, I asked my wife what she thought was worth talking about in Persuasion.  One of her answers was "Who is a modern writer comparable to Austen?"  I hadn't expected to be answering "Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie", but maybe?  (Or maybe I still don't understand the conventions of novels.  That's always the thought that springs to my mind as I stretch my reading muscles.)

There's no conclusion here.  If you've got resources to point me towards conventions of the modern literary novel, I'd certainly love to see them.  Similarly, if you've got thoughts about how to read long fiction using models other than episodic vs. overarching narrative structures, I'd love to hear those as well.