Archive for October, 2005

home again

Friday, October 28th, 2005

Got back from Atlanta last night. Toby and Emma were at the airport to meet me which was great. Toby gives a good hug. The flight was actually very good – my first time on Delta. When we were getting going the pilot came on the intercom: “Thank you ladies and gentlemen for choosing us as your bankrupt airline today. We know you have a choice of bankrupt airlines, so we’re happy that you think we’re the best of the broke.”

Today it’s dress-up day at Toby’s school. We got him a Buzz Lightyear costume, and the day it arrived he loved it and wore it all evening. However this morning he didn’t want to wear it at all and was very upset. He seemed in an odd mood anyway. So I’m not sure what the deal was but after about 20 minutes at school he appeared to relax and enjoy being a space ranger.


Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

I’m in Atlanta right now on a work trip which is hard work but hopefully going to be useful and kind of fun. Toby seemed to be better than usual about me doing this when I told him on Monday. I hope he doesn’t have to get too used to this. Last night Emma had a class meeting for her course, and our friend Arwen babysat Toby. Apparently he was asleep by 7:50 which is about 2 hours earlier than he goes to sleep for us.


Monday, October 24th, 2005

On Friday night Toby went for a sleepover at Lauren and Sam’s so that Em and I would get a night out, and of course so that he would have lots of fun with his best friends. both objectives were satisfactorally achieved. Em and I went out to see the new Wallace and Grommit movie which was a lot of fun. Afterwards we were planning to get something to eat, but it ended up being something of a challenge. We went down past the Cheesecake Factory at Southdale Mall, but due to the fact that you can’t book we had an experience rather similar to this one, except we arrived at about 7:30pm by which time the wait for a table for two was around 70 mnutes. We didn’t stay, and I’m quite glad. We did buy a couple of way overpriced pieces of cheesecake for dessert at home though, and went for good simple Italian food at D’Amico’s instead.

The rest of the weekend was good too. Em had an essay to do so I got a lot of Toby time, and singing at St. Mark’s went very well. We had about 70 people at evensong which is a great sized crowd. Apparently they very much enjoyed the almost all-Howells program we had for them.

toby’s progress

Thursday, October 20th, 2005

Caution – extreme parental boasting ahead!

We had our six-monthly parent-teacher conference at Toby’s school this morning, and made it there for 7:45am to meet with Lisa, one of his teachers. I’m pleased to report that he’s doing really well – she says that overall he’s very smart and is a joy to have there. The categories (and I’m sure Emma will leave a comment if I’ve forgotten everything were as follows:

Large motor skills, such as running, jumping, kicking and throwing balls etc. He’s very active and loves to climb, ride his trike etc. This is interesting because apparently when I was a kid I was very vocal but not very active, and I guess I was told that children are often one or the other. However Tobe loves to run and is an excellent climber. At the park there’s a ladder thing which is about 7 feet high – he zooms up and over and down and loves it.

Fine motor skills: Lisa said that he’s really good with his fingers, with things like coloring and using scissors. One thing we appreciated was that his concentration is good, and also that he seems to have worked through some of the frustration he used to have – he’ll spend a good few minutes trying to unwrap a cereal bar before asking for help if he needs it. Six months ago it sounded like dealing with frustration was a bit of a sore point for him, so it’s good that he’s working it through. He’s also doing well with sorting and with puzzles (which he really enjoys doing at home) to the extent that when she puts out the puzzles for the class he’ll be done with his almost right away and spends the rest of the time helping the other kids. This will either make him really popular or a total pariah (Lisa says he’s going to be a girl magnet).

Language: Regular readers will know that his language is (pardon my boasting) very good and advanced for his age. Lisa said that she appreciates that he is polite and uses his words well. Apparently he’s really good with his numbers and also at knowing more advanced opposites – the example she used was most at this age know up-down, but he also gets things like push-pull.

Knowing gender: He is currently highly aware of his gender and all the attachments that involves. And he tells everyone all about it every time they go to the bathroom. Now I think about it, we may have to tone this one down a bit.

Sociability: He’s good at sharing and seems to realize other people’s emotions. For example when we put him into the classroom this morning one of the boys was crying for his mom. Toby seemed to get that he was upset and why, and went to play with him to cheer him up.

Expulsion: He’s doing really well with potty training, and goes about 4 out of 5 days without having liquid accidents. Although we’re still working on the number 2s which he really doesn’t like doing in the toilet. She said that’s not anything to worry about right now and he’ll probably just get it right in the next few months.

So generally I felt really good about how he’s doing and also just how good the daycare is. They do so much teaching as well as play time and it’s a fantastic environment for him to be in. We also spoke about when he’d move up to the next class – preschool 1 – and whether it should be before or after our Christmas vacation. Personally I think it should be before – we’re in no rush to push him, especially as he’s enjoying where he is so much but as of last week he’s the oldest in his class now and I’d hate to see him get frustrated because of that. So we’re going to talk with the school director in the next few weeks to see how it should work.

Nice work, Tobes, you’ve made your parents very proud.

not the safest

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

In today’s notes from the Intelligent Design trial in Harrisburg, PA on Slate the reporter notes the following couple of points which amount to the same thing:

“‘They need at least a couple of different perspectives to appreciate the difference between fact and theory,’ Behe says in his testimony. This is the safest position for ID people to take: What could be more scientific than subjecting a theory to hard scrutiny?”

This is absolutely not a safe position for IDers to take. The reason that no ID papers have been successfully published in peer reviewed scientific journals, and that “star ID witness” Michael Behe’s faculty at the university where he is a professor have basicall disowned his ID ideas is that if you subject “Intelligent” Design to the slightest bit of scientific scrutiny it falls on its face.

Trying to show a difference between fact and theory where it relates to evolution vs “Intelligent” Design would very quickly show that there are actually no facts which back the theory up at all. And that there is no way to prove the central tenet of their pseudo-religion – that an intelligent designer created life. Not to say that it didn’t happen, but it’s not possible to prove, or at least they have never found a way to prove it, and for something to be scientific you have to prove it until someone disproves it. Scientifically subjecting a theory to hard scrutiny is exactly what evolution scientists have done for the last decades. They have come up with refinements to the theory (as happens with all scientific theories) but the general basis of it still holds.


Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

Today is photo day at Toby’s daycare. We don’t have a very good track record with this – he (and many of the other kids) have a history of freaking out at all the equipment round the room, such as the big flash umbrellas and all the cabling the photographer uses. Not to mention getting him to wear what we want him to wear for the picture. He dresses quite well on the whole, but it’s not always easy right now to get him to wear a sweater, for example. We walked past the picture room on the way in this morning and took him in to give him a look around, and he seemed kind of interested, so we’ll see what happens.

Toby used a great word last night – he was in the bath and we were talking about animals. He mentioned a shark and I asked him if he’d ever seen a shark:

“Yes I have seen a shark”

“Where was it?” I asked. “Were you in a museum?”

“No, I was at the zoo”

“So, what was the shark doing?”

“He was … [eyes wide] lurking


Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

I was moved to put a comment on my friend Rick’s blog today, specifically on a post of his about the football team he coaches and the reaction of some parents to their having the audacity to win games by playing football properly.

tivo upgrade

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

I’ve been wanting to do it for a couple of months – add a new hard drive to my TiVo to allow for tons more storage space for recordings. Ages ago I managed to find a really good deal on a 120Gb hard drive*, and also got the TiVo upgrade kit from, which specialises in these things. The kit was excellent, with all the tools and pieces needed (including all the screws, a bracket to hold the old and new drives in the box, cables and a fan to ensure that the extra drive doesn’t overheat the TiVo box) plus very clear instructions. The main reason for not doing it sooner was just finding the time.

So Saturday evening I thought I’d get on with it, seeing as Toby had gone to bed early. First I had to set up the new hard drive – you need to “introduce” it to the existing TiVo drive so that they’ll work together and so that your TiVo knows that it now has all this extra space. This involves taking both drives and hooking them up to a PC and booting the PC up with a free Linux utility which you get from the TiVo upgrade instructions site and need to burn to a CD. This was where I ran into my first problem. I got the PC to see the drives correctly, by setting the drive jumpers to indicate which one was primary/secondary master/slave, and the PC’s BIOS could see the drives just fine. However, neophyte that I am I didn’t know that you need to do a special action when you put a .iso (bootable disk image) onto a CD. You can’t just copy it over using Mac Finder or Windows Explorer – you need a utility to make the disk bootable. So after a bit of frustration with this on Saturday night I just put the TiVo back together and asked around at work about what to do. I ended up getting drop to CD which allows you to burn the .iso image on to your CD and state that the CD is bootable. Easy to use, and did just what I wanted.

So last night I burned my bootable CD and once I had the drives all hooked up I put my bootable CD in the CD drive and the PC booted right up into Linux. Fantastic. It saw the drives just fine with their correct capacities, and I thought I was home free. My second problem was my inability to follow simple instructions. The upgrade instructions site says that you have to boot to Linux and check the drive info (which I had done) then restart and boot again so that you can run the disk add utility, which as noted above allows the TiVo system to see the new drive. However in my wisdom I thought it was just a mistake in the instructions to have to restart, and the system couldn’t find the disk add utility. After a few minutes of trying I decided to read the manual and of course it worked just fine.

Then it was a matter of putting everything together – attaching the drives to the drive bracket, installing the fan, hooking up the power and data cables and putting the box back together again. I took the box downstairs for the moment of truth when I started it up, and it had all worked smoothly. The settings and programming I had recorded were still there, and I’ve gone from a max of about 40 hours of space to 186 hours, although that’s on almost unwatchable low quality, so on decent quality it’s now at about 85 hours, but that’s plenty.

* It’s worth noting that if you’re planning on doing this, the word is that you should look for a non-super-fast drive. Most drives these days spin at 7200RPM or more, which is great for intensive PC stuff but not so great in a TiVo box because they get much hotter, and you don’t need something that fast. It’s a bit of a challenge finding 5400RPM drives but somewhere like Tiger Direct will have them.

black helicopters

Monday, October 17th, 2005

Threatening secrecy and security (which, strangely, the secrecy is doubtless being justified as promoting freedom) here’s the latest Google Earth competition results from The Register.

Seeing as I’m having a day of double-posts, I thought I should mention that one of the guys at work used the phrase “vice versly” today.

hat hair

Monday, October 17th, 2005

Although the weather outside (obviously not inside) is beautiful right now, especially for October, we know that winter is right around the corner, so I’ll soon have to battle with hat hair. This guy won’t, though.

In other news, Toby continues to be positively politician-like in his avoidance of difficult answers. We had a party last night for our friend Arwen’s birthday – lots of fun – and towards the end of the night Arwen was reading stories for Toby, including his Bob the Builder magazine. There’s a page where it shows some of the different characters and asks which is taller. We asked him who was taller, mummy or daddy, and he correctly said that daddy is taller. Then Emma asked who is fatter, mummy or daddy, and he said, “A great big fat cat is fatter”. Smart kid.