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

 Family  Comments Off on Mum’s gone
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.