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.