Thursday, June 30, 2011

Parenting Month 8 - Attachment

From Baby at Exercise Hurricane Earl
At the end of the eighth month we can clearly state that we have been successful at one of the major goals of infant parenting - attachment. T is clearly very happy with either of us. And he is babbling, expressive, alert, curious and generally happy in all settings.

But that is only as long as one of us is present. The other major happening of the past month is we have started sending T to day care. And he definitely does not like it. We suspect that the majority of his time there is spent crying. We also have noticed this at the local YMCA (which has child care) and at a church nursery. While the Y and the day care don't think this is bad enough to merit calling us, we notice that after leaving him with others for a while he is sobbing for a while. One web site describes stranger anxiety at this age to be a sign that we are successful in developing attachments with the parents. By this measure, we must be wildly successful.

The other fun thing that we did was have him take part in his first Red Cross exercise. It was a shelter exercise and his job was to take the role of a baby staying at the shelter without his mom. A role that he played admirably according to all concerned.
From Discussion about lunch

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June 28, 2008: Three years

Three of us at Phipps Every now and then in some parenting/marriage forums the discussion topic "which is easier/harder, marriage or parenting." And well before we had our first son, we were convinced that the answer would be parenting, if nothing else because we found the transition into marriage to be a very pleasant one and could not imagine the transition to parenting to be as good. And while there are not major dramas involved, I think that I would still consider being a new parent is harder than a new marriage was.

Neither of us had ever been much for the propaganda that surrounds both marriage and parenting. Neither the comments about how wonderful both would be, or the assumptions that either are signs of maturity or social skills. For both of us, it was a part of life, and it happens that it is a part of life that most people took part in, but no more.

What makes parenting difficult? Not to talk about the day to day issues (that is for my monthly updates), but more of what is intrinsically different about a family of two adults compared to having a third person who is completely dependent. For all talk about two becoming one, for us, marriage was still two people who were living life alongside each other, but we were still growing and had room to explore life while alongside each other. Each of us was making personal decisions that was separate from our marriage. While marriage provided the color and background scent of our lives, both of us had more. We can make decisions that affect the other, but both of us had resilience, and could disagree and influence the other.

With a baby it is different. We can make decisions, and the baby is dependent on our judgment. And that has changed the dynamic of decisions. Because we cannot get good feedback from a baby, we are reduced to guesses and feelings about what the root problem is, or even what constitutes a problem. And this is heavily influenced by what babies we have been exposed to, how intensely, the tendencies of parents to trumpet good things widely, but hide problems, books we read, and who we happen to talk to. And for most of us, the number of babies we actually have is small (certainly not enough to form a valid sample).

So we have the things that have gone well (baby is thriving, he is generally very happy, well attached to both parents, teething was fairly painless) and not so well (was colicky for many months, doesn't sleep well or self-sooth, does not take alternate care-givers well, does not socialize with others well, not really as active as we would like). And with the realization that all of our parenting desires are not all achievable (especially the sleeping part), the question is turning to what are we willing to sacrifice to achieve the desires we have not met. Because in the past it was enough to talk about things and know that our opinion is part of the eventual decision making. Now both of us are fully engaged in this thing called parenting, and we are interpreting the same information differently we do not make the same decisions with the same goals. And that is what the electrical people call impedance mismatch. ('friction' does not quite get the sense right)

One of the things that is nice about the fact that we are both on academic calendars is that our slower pace makes working through this easier then it will be when we are on our full job responsibilities. But still not easy. But we have years to work this out.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review: The Manga Guide to the Universe by Kenji Ishikawa

The Manga Guide to the UniverseThe Manga Guide to the Universe by Kenji Ishikawa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Manga Guide to the Universe is another offering in The Manga Guide to . . ., this time focusing on modern astronomy. And this is not astronomy as in star watching, this is astronomy as in modern physics. It tries to get across the fact that science is about answering questions through reason and data. But with cosmology as the subject, the plot is more obviously contrived than others in this series, and in this case may be too distracting to achieve its purpose.

Reading The Manga Guide reminded me of an astronomy course I took back in college. Like the others in the series, it presents the material in the context of an anime storyline set in a japanese high school, with a plot that involves some schoolgirls in a situation that requires some knowledge about astronomy to solve. In this case, they need to put on a play, and they require expert assistance in updating a traditional story for a play for modern audiences. But because too much of traditional folklore is not believable due to scientific advances, they re-write it so that the principle characters are from other places, consulting with a local university astronomy student and an astrophysics professor to join them along the way.

The plot takes us to the moon, solar system, the Milky way and beyond. Each step has the characters identify a logical flaw in the current understanding, and then they reason through a solution, with the professor giving expositions as needed to fill in the facts or to demonstrate why the reasoned out solution is in fact correct (or not). While it can be fun, the writers clearly had more trouble on this one than in others, as the exposition often has to go on for pages, unlike other Manga Guide to the ... which usually only gives exposition to present a more concise and complete explanation of the principle that was just illustrated in the story. Because of this, while it is mostly entertaining, I think that The Manga Guide to the Universe may have been a stretch too far covering too much ground for the format.

Note: I received a free electronic copy of The Manga Guide to the Universe from O'Reilly Press from their blogger program.

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I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

Friday, June 03, 2011

How I use a Kindle (e-book reader)

I got the Kindle in September 2010. The timing was based on the fact that I had a baby on the way (more on that later). Because one of my hobbies is reading, and I realized that I was going to soon have considerable amount of time that I would be stationary, with only one hand available.

I already had a fairly large collection of e-books, mostly Adobe Acrobat files that are the daily nourishment of an academic. But I was also exposed to ebooks on my mobile phone and my long dead Palm Pilot. So I was used to the concept.

So what have I found? Like other data devices, the Kindle is an adjunct to my computer, not a replacement. Where it shines is in it's ability to sync with my computer, in particular I probably use the Kindle to read news as much as to read books (through pulling in news feeds in Calibre).

Peter is eating Mr. McGregor's radishesFor books, I like the fact that there are lots of inexpensive books. One of the first books I bought for the Kindle was Sears' The Baby Book, which was a $5 special right around the time my son was born. I regularly check Amazon's discount section for similar gems. But the shining jewels are the free book depositories. Project Gutenberg with it's vast collection of older works, with the better offering conveniently arranged into topical bookshelves and the Baen Books Free Library and their many CDs of books available.

I am a particular fan of Project Gutenberg Children's Picture Books which have provided a fine introduction to the tales of Peter Rabbit and many friends.

The place I really appreciate the Kindle is when I'm holding my son, when he is sleeping Because my son likes to be held when sleeping. And reading is a good way to use the time.Finding a comfy spot to sleep The Kindle is light enough and small enough to hold in one hand, or prop it up on my son without waking him up. And I can work its controls while doing so.

The other way to get something on the Kindle is email. Every Kindle has a email address and you can send a file to yourself (after setting up your account so that it will accept the email). I do this to send notes (e.g. shopping lists) or documents to myself so I can look at them online.

Some issues:

PDF is awful. Because PDF is a fixed size, and the Kindle has no easy way of moving around the page or zooming arbitrarily.

Wifi works, but it is slow. Use sites that are optimized for mobile use is available. When the page is loaded, use the Kindle menu to switch to 'Article mode', which strips it down to the article itself (i.e. takes out all the navigation and advertising columns)

Final verdict: Very handy. I would recommend it to any parent who reads, because this will help keep you sane when you are trying to do anything else when with a baby. Also very handy for carrying around documents without carrying lots of paper.

Resources for Kindle

Calibre - Library manager for your ebooks. Manage all your ebooks that you do not buy from Amazon here , it has a RSS feeds and it will automatically load to the Kindle when you sync. That means you can automatically download stories from news sites, blogs about any topic of interest.

Send to Kindle - Chrome plugin that automatically takes any web page and emails it to your Kindle (assuming you have set it up with your email address)

ReKindleit - Plugin for Firefox. Same idea, when you are looking at a web page, email it directly to the Kindle.