Saturday, August 27, 2016

Parenting: Month 70 - A summer vacation ends

So, tomorrow we head back for the back-to-school social. There have been some preliminaries. We were amused to learn at the mommy coffee time (no, I was not there) that T was the subject of some of his K classmates conversations over the summer (T is too internally focused to talk about people whom he has not recently been in contact).

For our first summer since school started, we ended with a trip, and lots of family time.  The kids were remarkably happy when on vacation. We think it is all of the constant attention from the parents in addition to all of the novelty. My son still regularly asks when are we going back to the places we went.

Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland
Driving a rover at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland

Some other summer notables:
1. First baseball game. And completely spoiled, he got to go on the field and take part in a high five line of the home team. He probably thinks that this is normal.
2. Mommy school and daddy school. Mommy school was as expected. Daily piano and chinese. Daddy school still means lots of LEGO, and this summer we added Technic and simple machines.  We also had a little Scratch, board games, electronics, and an average of a session (5 problems) of math a week.
3. Grandma and grandpa school turned into a not-success.  We are starting to have discipline problems. Given that we pretty much has a free pass on the toddler years with T, it was not going to be that easy forever.
4. A has gone from a little chatterbox babbling along to a little chatterbox that is talking all the time. Usually about something she wants. Alternatively, singing (which is much more entertaining). But there are not very many quiet moments.

Washington Wild Things game
High fiving a Washington Wild Things baseball player
Things to come
1. Sports. T is signed up for soccer this year, after much pleading from the school team.  Given that he did not take part in the various camps in spring and summer, we are not expecting much. But he may have fun.
2.  Taekwondo - T is taking a break, which will allow daddy to catch up somewhat in rank.
3.  School. One of T's favorite teachers is not coming back. One thing that we really liked about her was that she let T essentially find his own level, letting him do things well in advanced of grade level in and out of class. It was one of the things that highlighted his Kindergarten year, so we are somewhat apprehensive in how the coming year will work out.

Self defense color belt testing
Taekwondo self defense testing

Ba mang ee form
Ba mang ee form

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Book review: The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Three body problem is a hard sci-fi novel that is a combination of a detective thriller and a horror story.

The detective thriller is what the main POV character thinks he is in, and how most of the novel reads. The backdrop are top scientists in China suffering strange accidental deaths, and the protagonist having strange results in his experiments. As part of the backdrop, is the cultural revolution. The nature of science means that senior scientists in the present day all had to survive the cultural revolution, and a large part of the story is through a secondary POV character who lived through it, and as the book goes on you see the actions and experiences of those who were were targeted by the cultural revolution, who were the ones who carried out its actions, and who were instigators, then targets. This comes to a head as providing the motivation of several of the key actors in the book.

The horror story has two aspects. One as experienced by the main POV character. Like a good horror story, it is a case of an impending and unstoppable doom that is made known to a generally competent subject, who, for all of his/her knowledge and skills, cannot stop. The second is an online computer game, which initially presents itself as a side line. In the game, the players take I he role within a civilization, which because of its environment is doomed to failure, the players try to understand their environment and build a civilization that can survive and thrive.

The trick to having several parallel story lines is to bring them together naturally. And this is what I experienced in this book. The horror thread that is in the book makes you understand the POV of the characters who experienced the Cultural Revolution as their motivations are revealed. The actions and beliefs of the principle characters make sense. The temptations faced by the main character are definitely there (as he had been courted by both sides that are revealed) and you can see how he could have turned the other way.

I, like most, do not have much exposure to Chinese fiction that deals so directly with the events of the Cultural Revolution, which I have always thought to be a sensitive topic even through i have had informal conversations with those who went through that and the generation of their offspring. It was well worth the time.

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