Feb 132013

I’d like a do-over of the last 24 hours, prefer­ably without any of the fol­low­ing:

  • My son hurt his knee badly at judo last night, which neces­sit­ated a trip to emer­gency until after 1 am. The doc­tors and nurses at BC Children’s Hos­pit­al are fant­ast­ic, but even so it took 4 hours, 9 pm — 1 am. Dur­ing which time our neigh­bour stayed in our house so the 6-year-old could sleep in her own bed — thanks again Michel! He’s now on crutches with a knee-brace until he gets to see the ortho­paedic spe­cial­ists, which hope­fully won’t take too long. They’ll call us, we’re told.
  • The morn­ing after the night before was a bit of a bust, but I man­aged to get the 6-year-old off to school on time. From which I had to pick her up again at 1:15 pm as she was com­plain­ing of an ear-ache.
  • And then the toi­let was plugged, com­pre­hens­ively. Who­ever came up with toi­let augurs did the world a ser­vice.
  • Of course, all this hap­pens while I’m in single-parent mode. I don’t know how those who are in per­man­ent single-parent mode cope. My biggest con­sol­a­tion is that I don’t have any major pro­jects cur­rently due, so tak­ing time to deal with fam­ily issues is not the prob­lem it would oth­er­wise be.

Can I have a nice, peace­ful, rest of the week, please?

Jun 102012

It was the newly six-year-old's birthday party yesterday. I booked a package at a local community centre that provides party leaders, games for 45 minutes in a gym, and a private room with tables and chairs for lunch and cake after the games. The party leaders did all the decorating and clean-up afterwards, as well! I organized most of the food for the random assortment of around 20 kids, aged between 4 and 6, and their parents. Which meant providing stuff the kids would eat, and stuff the parents would eat.

One thing I discovered a couple of years ago: most kids love grape tomatoes and sugar snap peas, even if some insist on opening the latter and only eating the miniature peas inside. Those all disappeared quickly again. The cheesy crackers went, the grain+seed gluten-free crackers were mostly ignored. The adults loved the walnut-olive tapenade (recipe from Eat Like a Dinosaur: Recipe & Guidebook for Gluten-free Kids) but the kids mostly ignored it. They went for the mini bagels with strawberry cream cheese instead; the occasional kid preferred the the plain cream cheese. My husband made 70 small chicken kebabs which I paired with the "not peanut sauce" almond-butter based satay sauce from Paleo Comfort Foods: Homestyle Cooking for a Gluten-Free Kitchen (since there are a few kids with peanut allergies in the group). Some of the kids ate the kebabs, the parents ate a lot, and the remaining few were polished off by the party helpers after the kids and parents had had their fill. I also made carrot-beetroot fritters (those are beets for you North Americans), which the parents liked and the kids mostly ignored. I thought they were good, and even better with a dollop of tzatziki on them.

For dessert we had store-bought miniature cookies, and my son made marshmallow lollipops. Let's see, sugar, coated with sugary white chocolate and dipped in even more sugar? What 6-year-old could resist? Very few, as it turned out, although a couple of kids in the group don't really like sweet things and turned down the marshmallows. These were the same kids who turned down birthday cake afterwards.

The birthday cake was a basic minimal-flour chocolate cake, with lots of frosting and sprinkles. I like these basic cake recipes; they're the sort where when the cake is almost done you can turn off the oven and leave it overnight to finish and cool down. Light sponges that need precise timing are too much work I find; things happen and I don't get back to the oven in time and they're dry and horrible. A dense, rich cake has a lot more leeway in terms of baking, and a small piece goes a long way as well.

Afterwards, the kids all piled out the door to the lawn outside the community centre and ran around for half an hour, a lovely end to a fun party. As I'm writing this, my daughter is having a long nap, recovering from all the excitement! And we still have lots of cake, satay sauce, and a few fritters in the fridge.

Nov 262009

One of the unforeseen advantages of having an Amazon affiliate account is the positive loop it introduces. In this particular case, I reviewed books about raising children, people clicked on the links, they bought other books from Amazon that showed up in my reports, I looked at those books, etc. I call it a multi-level recommendation service; I'm sure there are more "official" names for it.

Anyway, in this particular case someone bought Parenting the Strong-Willed Child: The Clinically Proven Five-Week Program for Parents of Two- to Six-Year-Olds, and since my daughter is strong-willed (much more so than her brother at that age), I thought I'd take a look. I also ordered When Your Child Has a Strong-Willed Personality from the library and read both the books at more or less the same time.

Parenthetical note: are there ever a lot of books out there on how to cope with strong-willed children!

Both the books have anecdotal/illustrative examples, which mostly served to make me grateful for my child. After that, the books have the same basic ideas at the core, but go about the message in different ways.

The "clinical program" book has an actual program in it that you're meant to follow, which consists of spending 10 minutes each day doing the program for that week, before starting the next week on the next phase. This would probably be useful if there is a serious problem; condensing the program and combining steps worked out fine for us. The first step is simply paying attention to what the child is doing for those 10 minutes: no questions, no orders, just saying "now you're stacking the red blocks" "now you're colouring with blue crayon". The "do you want to try..." etc comes later, after you and the child have got used to the idea of your paying attention to what the child is actually doing rather than what you think they should be doing, for that small amount of time. Personally I think this is the most important step - it's so easy as a parent to get into the "now we have to do this", even if it's under the guise of encouraging the child to do things "properly", and fail to take the time to pay attention to what's really happening. The other steps in the program are also reasonable, nothing stupendously different to what other books say.

The "strong-willed personality" book is more general and does not come with a 5-week program, so is likely less reassuring if you have a serious problem. It points out strongly that the worst problems come with a strong-willed child and a strong-willed parent battling and advocates the parent to not quibble over small issues, but to seek ways to defuse potential situations, and let everyone save face.

Both books counsel kindness and respect for the child's point of view as ways to defuse conflict, and give methods or tips to help. Variations on some of the techniques would probably also help with dealing with co-workers.

Mum’s gone

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Oct 292009

My mother passed away last night, 11:30 pm, with my step-father at her side. Demen­tia robbed her last years of the joy she should have had, and took her from us too young as well. Now we are left to mourn her, to remem­ber the life she lived, and to miss her. May she rest in peace.

Mar 202009

I admit to find­ing it amus­ing that Barack Obama’s gift to Gor­don Brown of 25 clas­sic Amer­ic­an movies ended up illus­trat­ing one of my hot but­tons — Mr. Brown couldn’t watch the Region 1-encoded DVDs on his Region 2 play­er. Here’s TechDirt’s take on the story (link from Volker Weber).

I have been in many dis­cus­sions with wet-behind-the-ears idi­ots in con­sumer elec­tron­ics stores who par­rot the Hol­ly­wood line that region-encoding is just fine and reas­on­able. Ask­ing them why send­ing DVDs from the US to Europe is bad and should be stopped meets with a “huh?” answer. Ask­ing them why my tod­dler should not be able to watch DVDs sent to us from friends in Aus­tralia eli­cits more of the same. 

Even­tu­ally we bought a DVD play­er that plays from oth­er regions as well, mak­ing it pos­sible for me to buy German-language DVDs suit­able for my chil­dren (not easy to find in Region 1 encod­ing). To my mind, the fact that the regions were set up to put Mex­ico in with Aus­tralia and New Zeal­and shows how non­sensic­al the whole con­cept is. I really don’t under­stand why so many DVD man­u­fac­tur­ers auto­mat­ic­ally region-encoded the DVDs rather than mak­ing them region-free, and I’m pleased to see that even though Blu-Ray repeats the whole region idiocy, many man­u­fac­tur­ers are in fact mak­ing their Blu-Ray discs region-free.

I assume at least part of that respon­se is due to the wide avail­ab­il­ity of DVD play­ers that don’t worry about regions, and the avail­ab­il­ity of instruc­tions to mod oth­er DVD play­ers. There’s an inter­est­ing write-up of the law case again­st Sony in Aus­tralia as well, which points out that “retail­ers of DVD play­ers are not bound by the terms of the CSS licence and the accom­pa­ny­ing tech­nic­al spe­cific­a­tions”.

This whole thing is one of the reas­ons I was so con­cerned about the copy­right legis­la­tion Canada’s Con­ser­vat­ive gov­ern­ment was try­ing to have passed last year. It cur­rently seems to be stalled, so I can show my kids their German-language DVDs, and DVDs from Aus­tralia, with a clear con­science a while longer.

Oct 292008

Tim has a post where he advises developers to con­trib­ute to open source pro­jects so that hir­ing man­agers will look favour­ably on them. I have some prob­lems with this, as do many of the com­menters on his post. 

First off, I agree that con­trib­ut­ing to open source pro­jects is admir­able and to be encour­aged. There are, how­ever, a num­ber of developers who work for com­pan­ies with employ­ment con­tracts that say, more or less, any­thing vaguely code-related that you come up with while employed by us is ours, not yours. Which means con­trib­ut­ing any code to any out­side pro­ject is liable to cause prob­lems, or at least a cer­tain num­ber of hurdles. There are oth­er ways of con­trib­ut­ing to any com­munity that are argu­ably just as valu­able, such as tak­ing part in organ­ising events such as loc­al con­fer­ences, volun­teer­ing at loc­al centres that teach people how to use com­puters, assist­ing users on web for­ums, or teach­ing at loc­al com­munity col­leges. Con­cen­trat­ing on writ­ing code for open source pro­jects seems restrict­ing.

The second issue is that it’s dis­crim­in­at­ory again­st those who simply don’t have the time. Work­ing single par­ents suf­fer par­tic­u­larly from this issue, but any work­ing par­ents of school-age or young­er chil­dren have the prob­lem to some extent. By the time you’ve picked the chil­dren up from school or day care, fed them and the rest of the fam­ily, cleaned up, taken them off to sports/music/whatever, helped with home­work, and done the laun­dry or whatever oth­er chores are neces­sary for that day, all you really have energy for is to unwind and relax. Espe­cially if you sus­pect that the tod­dler will sleep as badly as pre­vi­ous nights this week, wak­ing you up at mid­night, 4 am, and 6 am. When you have to be awake for the day job, as that’s the one that’s cur­rently pay­ing the bills, stay­ing awake into the wee hours isn’t an option for those who need more than just a few hours sleep a night to func­tion prop­erly. No mat­ter how pas­sion­ate they are about cod­ing.

In my case, the pro­ject I’m work­ing on for my day job is the one I think about in spare hours at night and at week­ends. If I were writ­ing code, I’d be writ­ing code for that pro­ject in pref­er­ence to an unre­lated open source pro­ject. I don’t think that atti­tude should be pen­al­ised by hir­ing man­agers either.