Archive for December, 2008

christmas eve

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

The start and end of Christmas eve for a Toby who is almost six and very excited:

Up at around 6am to wait outside his parents’ room until someone gets up. When I found him, he immediately asked whether Santa had been yet. I told him that it was the wrong day and he was very upset, but excited that it will be tomorrow.

End of the day: after she read his stories tonight, Toby asked Emma how big the letter C is. She asked him what he meant, and he said “You know, the *real* letter C.” I think he meant some Plato-type Utopian ideal of a C, it wasn’t really clear. Interesting question though.

elaborate deception

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

It’s that time of the year when Emma and I, along with parents all over the world, practice a ceremony of elaborate deception on our children. That’s right, we’ve been very careful not to give the Santa game away to Toby (and Dara, although she wouldn’t get the idea yet anyway).

In Toby we are blessed with a very smart and inquisitive child and we’re pretty sure he would see though the Santa thing quite quickly, so we’ve had to be very careful with how we get Christmas stocking presents together and what we talk about when we’re discussing them. I, of course, end up feeling a bit of angst around whether it’s OK to be doing this – on one hand it’s a lot of fun but on the other it is kind of a con trick, but on the other hand he’s only five so enjoy the magic of Christmas and enjoy having three hands.

I did the same thing with the Advent calendar my mother sent him, when I said that if he opens a door early it’s bad luck. Of course I had no way of telling him how that would work, and fortunately he didn’t ask, but it felt again like I was being a bit of a fraud.

Anyway. There’s a lot of interesting information on the wikipedia about Santa – it’s worth reading.

Oh, and Merry Christmas.

new kid pics

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Just posted up a bunch of new Toby and Dara photos – here they are. Hope you like them.


Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

The Slate Explainer column has been running a list of unanswered questions from readers. Here’s this year’s crop. I like how some of them are very terse, but some are long and rambling, ending with some kind of justification:

Is the stomach normally full of air like a balloon, or is it squeezed flat by the other organs, like a balloon with no air that spreads open as food and water come in? Are the other organs squeezed and compressed like a squeezed sponge, or are they like a sponge not being squeezed? What about the intestines? Are they squeezed flat normally, or are they open like one of those long balloons that magicians make animals out of? I’m trying to get a picture in my mind what the inside of the body normally looks like.


Saturday, December 13th, 2008

You hopefully can’t tell, but I’ve just upgraded m’WordPress installation to the latest version – 2.7. It’s a slightly cumbersome but not particularly difficult process involving a mixture of database backing up and FTP file manipulation. You just need to concentrate so that you don’t overwrite the wrong things. Apparently from now on it’ll be a one-click process so it should be much easier for the less technically inclined.

Anyway you shouldn’t be able to tell, but let me know if anything seems different or broken.


Saturday, December 13th, 2008

Very proud of the kids today, if I may be somewhat boastful. Dara is just being a happy girl in general, and now has about 6 or 7 definite words. It’s continuing to be great to hear her chat come along and get more of an idea of her personality.

And Mr. Toby is doing great at school too. We went to a party for his class yesterday afternoon, and firstly it was so good to see how much fun he was having with all his friends and how much they liked being with him; secondly we heard from his teacher that she had just re-assessed his reading progress. When he started in September he was about level A in reading – levels 1 and 2 are foundation; levels 3, A, B and C are kindergarten level. After a few weeks, one month ago, he was at level C. Levels D through I are first grade level; J onwards is second grade. His assessment yesterday showed that he was at level H. I’m very pleased at how he’s doing – partly to see his progress, but also because he’s just enjoying reading so much. It’s really rewarding that he’ll pick up books and work through them, and is feeling so good about his abilities.

santa scares

Friday, December 12th, 2008

In previous years we have tried to encourage Toby to want to get his picture taken with a Mall Santa – most of the malls here have a great big Santa’s Grotto, outside which lines of parents, grandparents and children stand for hours to get a picture with Santa. However (and probably fortunately) Toby seemed to be very suspicious of the whole thing, and especially Santa himself. Last year we met a Santa who was on break from his perch – he was a very large man wearing a quite ornate Santa outfit, with lots of extra fur trim and even knickerbockers with stripy green and white socks. I found him intimidating, and of course Toby would have nothing to do with him.

Well it turns out that Toby is not alone among his peers for being Santaphobic. Our local paper recently sent out a request for readers’ photos of their kids crying in Santa’s lap, and got loads of fantastic examples. Here’s a video compilation.

economic stimulus package solution

Monday, December 8th, 2008

There’s a lot of talk in the news and government about the economy of course – employment and credit seem to be tanking, retail is suffering, and the main three car manufacturers in the US are begging for money from Congress. President-elect Obama had his weekly address over the weekend, and is talking about a huge stimulus package which would help America with education and infrastructure, also creating about 2.5 million jobs, if it goes the right way. However I think he’s kind of missing the point, and here’s my solution.

It starts with the fact that Emma is a bit addicted to the TV show What Not To Wear, where people with terrible fashion sense, or who are just stuck in a clothing/hairstyle rut, are given an intervention, shown how to choose clothing which flatters them, and styled to help them look and feel better about themselves. In almost all cases they say that they can’t believe how good they feel, and are amazed by the results. And that’s exactly what America needs – a new, better looking, more positive outlook where they can literally and metaphorically get rid of the old wardrobe and bad hair, and learn to be fabulous again.

So my stimulus package would be very much along the lines of What Not To Wear: $5000 per person to spend on a new wardrobe, as long as it is under the supervision of trained stylists, followed by a hair re-style (and makeup for the ladies). This would clearly help the economy, but would also get everyone looking and feeling much better, which would add pep to the step and make everyone feel much more likely to go out shopping, to see and be seen.

Case solved. You’re welcome.


Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Local paper blog reports a visit to the excellent Minneapolis Institute for the Arts, which is only a few blocks from my house. And in the post, one of my favorite bizarre pictures:

Sarah Allen portrait

Sarah Allen portrait

Text: “With no attempt at idealization, Mrs. Allen is presented as a masculine-looking middle aged woman, appearing sturdy and confident as she daintily pulls on her glove.”

Hmmm. If someone painted a picture of my wife looking like a 22-year old dude in a dress, I would be having serious words with them. Certainly I wouldn’t want the picture being in an art gallery for all to wonder at.