Sunday, July 27, 2014

Parenting Month 45: Visitors and limits

Cousins working together on a Blue construct
Cousins playing at the Carnegie Science Center Blue exhibit

This month was marked by my family visiting.  My parents came for a month, and my sisters and nephew came for a week.

The highlight, of course, was grandparents spending time with a new grandchild.  The other highlight was the cousins recurring time with each other. As T and J get older, their interaction becomes richer as both grow in their abilities to deal with other people.

Grandma and grandson at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History

AY has been notable in her responsiveness. As she is the second, we cannot help making comparisons to the only baseline we know. At this time, T was in the midst of colic. In comparison, AY is very responsive, trying out a range of facial expressions when we are talking to her, and vocalizing in call and response fashion. We are also entertained by her kicking and reaching out to things.

Baby looking out from lamb blanket
T is still the very good big brother. He likes to tell everyone that AY talks, sleeps, poops, and cries. He also still read and talk to his little sister, and helps with bath and diaper changing time.  However, the novelty is wearing off, and he is not always as excited to help out as he was.

We have noticed that while T is more outgoing and social (talks and plays at pre-school, tells short stories at home), he is regressing in other areas. We have noted that he used to have a relatively long attention span, focusing on one activity longer than others his age before switching. But it has gotten shorter. This is observable when reading books or when making things (Lego or woodworking).  Another not so good trend is that he is becoming more self-conscious of his limitations. Things that he used to try (and do fairly well) are now approached with a statement of "I can't do it".  While he is still a very well behaved and happy child, we do see some of the not so welcome traits that are probably quite prevalent in preschoolers, some that we are hoping that he skips the worst of. Part of this may come with paying attention more to others his age, and taking on their habits, playing, and capabilities. Some of these are fairly innocuous, like growing a liking for superheroes (and yes, there is one kid in his class that bears most of the responsibility for teaching everyone about superheroes) and the fact that he picks up pop culture (everyone knows Frozen, but Star Wars, TMNT, and others are common. I consider it part of my duty to try to get a step ahead of what he learns from his classmates :-) )  But he has also picked up increased instances of the use of the word 'no' and occasionally trying out tantrums to try to get his way. At this point, we are still pretty successful at working our way around 'no' through humor, and we're trying to teach him that tantrums don't work nearly as well as other things (like reminding him of some of the things we can do with him because we are not worried about tantrums at all)

Hi, I love mei-mei

One more month of summer, then both academic parents go back into a full work schedule, but for now, we are thankful that a relatively relaxed summer lets us have this level of interaction with our kids.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Java Cookbook by Ian Darwin: Book review

Java CookbookJava Cookbook by Ian F. Darwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What you want from a programming language cookbook is instruction on the basic tasks that are needed to form the scaffolding that you build around your application. Language teaching and references can teach you syntax and good practices. Topical books can demonstrate how to tasks in the large. But the cookbook is for the small but necessary tasks. And for me, who does not spend much time in the JavaVM ecosystem, the Java Cookbook is a very welcome addition to my bookshelf.

I spend most of my time doing scientific programming in Python and R, but I am starting to return to the JVM because of the need to deploy what I develop. But while other languages like Jython, Groovy, Scala, and Clojure exist on the JVM, to use them well means you need grounding in Java, certainly most of the instructional material assumes more than passing understanding of the JVM and the Java standard library.

I've been building a prototype application using Java as my means of re-learning Java. Where this cookbook has helped me already is in understanding better how to configure projects, more effective use of the Java data structures and I/O, and some utilities. While I know what I need to do through my experiences in other languages, and Java tutorials and references can identify the libraries and functions that I need, the Java Cookbook provides well written examples that I can use to guide me through the JVM.

There are some warts. This book (like most JVM books) seems to be written with the understanding that the readers are web programmers and I think that the discussion of the options available are filtered with that in mind. But this is a very good reference for those times when you know what you need to do, and it is not the type of thing that gets put into a tutorial.

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this book through the OReilly Blogger program

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Me and My Big Mouse by Ethan Long: Book Review

Me and My Big MouseMe and My Big Mouse by Ethan Long
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a fun book about a boy who has a pet mouse who he has to take everywhere, but the pet mouse is often very annoying. It is notable in that it has a message, that even something we find endearing can be very annoying. My three-year old son has caught onto the idea that something you like can also do something bad (make messes, break things) and be annoying. He does not quite catch on to the idea that this can be an analogy to a younger sibling (has a newborn sister), so he may be a bit young for this.

The discrepancy between word and picture may be hard to understand at this point, as irony is not yet part of his mental makeup. The pictures are cute, and get the point across of so this book is one that he occasionally asks for. And maybe as he gets older, we can reference it when he does reach the point he regards his little sister as annoying. :-)

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High Performance Python By Micha Gorelick, Ian Ozsvald: Book review

For someone like me who is a technical programmer but did not study CS, I've seen hints on how to speed up Python numerical code, but I only had a vague understanding of the principles and application.  This Early Release version of High Performance Python has examples that demonstrate why certain data structures are faster than others in particular situations, and how to use the various data structures provided.

But what may be unique is the chapter on the ways of speeding up Python through compiled code. There are many ways of using compiled code through Python, C and FORTRAN extensions, Cython and PyPy, and more recently Numba. But this book explains the strengths and limitations for each, along with a number of other ways of using compiled code along with Python that I had not heard of before. There are many references for each of these, but no general overview of this group of resources.

This is still an Early Release stage, so there are some warts. Many of the code examples are raw, and you have to know what you are doing to fill them in and get them to work. A website or Git repository with the source code examples would be very helpful.

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of the Early Release edition of this book as part of the O'Reilly Press Blogger Program.

I review for the O'Reilly Reader Review Program