Monday, May 31, 2010

Sushi Rice Salad

Last July I wrote about making vegetarian sushi on the grill, using collard greens instead of dried seaweed.  (I more often make more traditional vegetarian sushi, but that's not interesting to write about.)

My wife recently found a recipe for brown rice sushi salad on the blog Tea and Cookies, which got it from the blog Dana Treat.

Smiley is asleep now for his afternoon nap.  Time to make this salad..

(Tangentially, Dana mentions how sushi rice will "gum up" unless rinsed very thoroughly.   In our last order from Azure Standard we bought a bag of sweet brown sushi rice to try.  It's delightful: sweet and soft like normal sushi rice, without being as sticky and with the healthiness and slight nutty flavor of brown rice.)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Today's Fish

Most weeks Smiley and I drive past the Eugene Fisherman's Market at least once.  We stop to buy some fish to grill for lunch.

Smiley loves grilled fish.  Today he ate over a half-pound.  He helps me sprinkle the spices on the fillets: dill, Penzeys Bankok Blend and Singapore Seasoning.

For the past few months I have been buying frozen farmed tilapia, but today tried fresh northwest-caught rockfish (mislabeled as "snapper", as often happens).  It was only slightly more expensive and I was curious how Smiley would like it.  Since he liked it so much we'll switch for a while.  It's better to eat local, fresh fish than frozen fish of unknown origin.

(I used to use Penzeys Northwood Fire on Trader Joes frozen Alaska salmon, but that spice mix was too hot for Smiley, and driving by the Fisherman's Market more often stopped me from buying frozen fish.  And yes, these are still those same spice bottles from December of 2007.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

End of May: Back to Having Energy

So, why was it two weeks since I did any blogging or status updates?

Two weeks ago (the week of May 16th) my wife was out of town on a business trip for several days.  I got to be the only parent for most of that week, which was fun it seemed all my time and energy went to parenting, teaching, and writing a sermon with no energy left over for social networking.  My wife returned at the end of the week exhausted from airline flights and a gluten reaction, and then had an even worse gluten reaction on Saturday.

So last week began with me tired from having taken care of Smiley and my wife so much.  Tuesday and Wednesday of last week were kind of blah for no apparent reason: I am guessing it was allergies because I had a noticeable "background level" of nasal congestion and headache.

Thursday my math students had their second midterm.  I spent most of that day grading.  I'll finish grading tomorrow.

Friday my wife took the day off work and we all went to the aquarium.  That was fun, especially since Smiley did much better than I expected dealing with four hours of driving (with no napping!).

So today was my first real rest in two weeks--except I didn't.  I did not have yesterday as a "Preparation Day" for this Shabbat, so the housework to-do list was not conducive to resting.  Today was also the first sunny day in two weeks, so there was a lot of yard work to do.  So I decided to be restful tomorrow instead.  I knew this would happen: in effect I chose yesterday for this week to prioritize "love thy wife" over "observe Shabbat on the right day".

I let my wife sleep in late while Smiley and I processed twenty new videos.  I did dishes twice and washed four loads of laundry.  I swept the kitchen, patio, and front steps.  I leaf-blew the driveway and front sidewalk, planted four plants, then weed-wacked and picked up fallen sticks from all of the back yard.  I did some e-mail and blogging, and looked at friends' status updates on Facebook for the first time in many days.  Smiley had a nice play date with Tyris, during which Tyris helped Smiley learn to enjoy his new bike trailer seat.

It looks like May will end with me way behind on blogging one post per day.  But I have more than posts 20 waiting as drafts, full of links and waiting for when I have time to add paragraphs.  So I expect June will be better for blogging.

The Many Databases of the LCC Library

I had no idea that the LCC Library has so many databases.  The world is quite different from when I was a college student, searching the stacks for the right call numbers.

Ubuntu and Flash Bothers

Ubuntu is normally a wonderful operating system distribution.

Sometimes a problem arises when it cannot decide if it is an OS or a philosophy.  For example, after one version upgrade I needed to reinstall the package unbutu-restricted-extras.  The version upgrade made the old version of that package obsolete, but did not include a new version because the package includes material that is not open source and is thus contrary to what is officially part of Ubuntu.

The last version upgrade broke two things named flash: viewing Macromedia Flash files on certain websites, and properly mounting and unmounting removable media sticks (which used to be called "flash drives").

The first problem was apparently caused when Adobe updated the Flash formatting on the same days that Ubuntu released its new version.  I tried two fixes that have been used in past years by other people: reinstalling the package did not work, but installing the package from Adobe's website rather than the current Ubuntu repository did solve the problem.

The second problem was caused by having too many packages installed.  Normally Ubuntu is very good at notifying the user when packages conflict, but this time a conflict causing problems but not declared.  Reinstalling pmount might have also been required.

More about the MRR Myth

I wrote about vaccine worries back in Novembers of 2008 and 2009.

I updated that first post when the news  broke that Dr. Wakefield had published a flawed study, but until today never the full extent of his immorality.

For a quick overview, I refer you to Darryl Cunningham's cartoon entitled The Facts In The Case Of Dr. Andrew Wakefield.  He cites his references here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Level Three Househusband

Way back in November 2008 I said I had become a level two househusband.

That post was mostly about how tricky it was to keep our home free of gluten contamination.  Calling myself "level two" joked that efforts that once seemed formidable and fearsome had become routine.

I recently wrote about how discipline is simpler with a two-year-old toddler, and how the rainy days of the past Winter and Spring were not boring or difficult as I once feared.

I'll add that Smiley's routines have become much, much simpler as he has grown older.

For example, his going to bed routine is a cakewalk compared to when he was an infant.  He's no longer swaddled, using a bottle, and needing to be lulled to sleep with a long and delicate process of story, song, positioning, and movement.

Now I read him two books and either sing or make up stories while he sits on my lap and drinks a sippy cup of milk and maybe eats a string cheese if his recent meal was small.  Then I put him in the crib with his bedtime comfort items (binky and blue cloths) and perhaps a favorite toy of the moment.  "Please lie down so I can cover you," I ask.  Rarely does he cooperate immediately, so I say farewells and leave.  When I return a couple of minutes later he is almost always ready to lie down and be covered with blankets, and then I leave again and he is asleep within minutes.

Some days (such as today) I give him a book and he falls asleep reading.  Only rarely does he not take a nap.  When he is healthy and well-rested I can often even adjust when he wakes up in the morning and how active he plays to cause him to nap early or late if that helps my schedule.  And he sleeps through more noises than when he was an infant.

Finally, keeping the house free of gluten has become easier, for two reasons.

Foremost is that Smiley can now stand up, compared to way back in November 2008 when I last wrote about this.  Our decontamination routine when entering the house is so much easier.  I carry him downstairs and put him on the dryer, since my wife never eats off that surface.  Using the laundry room sink I wash my hands, then wash his hands and face.  Then I wipe off his hair with a damp cloth.  Then I undress him and take off my shirt.  I either wipe off my pants with the damp cloth, or take them off also.  Then I carry him upstairs and we put on clothes.

The secondary change is that my wife has, over time, figured out that most of her accidental getting-glutened problems were happening at work.  I still wipe off the car seats with a damp cloth and/or vacuum the car more often than most people, but now know I do not need to do this after every outing to the library or a store.  Once or twice a week is sufficient, based upon how much we use the car.

So I suppose I'm a level three househusband now, since more issues that once seemed formidable and fearsome now create no worry.  But it seems strange to say so, since most of the change is due to Smiley's growing older rather than an increase in my own skills. Perhaps it is an inexplicable benefit from slaying all those orcs.

Toddlers: Avoiding Disciplining While Promoting Self-Discipline

In late February and early March of 2009, when Smiley was almost a year old, I wrote about discipline and how I was training Smiley to be a safe infant.

Now that Smiley is two everything is different.  I should write about what discipline is like for him as a toddler.

For requests, make use of how toddlers think with their hands.

When it is time to leave the library, I hand him my library card and ask him to carry it to the check-out desk.  Before I change his diaper, I hand him one of the small toys that he enjoys holding while being changed so he has something to do besides wiggle.  If he is being slow to leave the house and get in the car, I hand him something to take to the car.

It's hard to focus when you're only two.  Holding something helps, and can immediately alter what you are thinking about.  It is no fun to be still or follow boringly direct orders--but it is fun to hold something or being a helper by carrying something.

Most of preschool teaching and toddler education is arranging the environment.  Giving Smiley something to hold is a small but concentrated way to manipulate his environment.

It does not help much with reminding him to follow rules, but it is awfully helpful with making him agreeable to requests.

(When nothing physical is available for the hands, a ritual song or counting up can be almost as helpful for aiding focus.  Smiley likes when I sing Itsy Bitsy Spider or count up as he climbs into his car seat.  He is not racing against the song or counting, nor am I indicating impatience with my voice if he is slow.  The routine is simply enlarging the sensory scope of event so he is less inclined to be distracted by the joy of hanging from the coat-rack-handle above the doorway or something sees in the parking lot.)

For rules, respect the toddler's autonomy by only restricting their stuff.

Smiley has never been given a time-out.  But his stuff gets time-outs fairly often.  It is our normal method of discipline when he breaks a rule.  The popular guideline of "about one minute per year of age" applies.

If a toy truck is not following the rule of No Toys in the Kitchen then I ask, "Does the truck need a time-out?"  If his mug of tea is part of a problem with the rule No Hands in Your Mug then I ask, "Does the mug need a time-out?"

Almost always the question is sufficient to cause cooperation.  When this happens, I talk to the item that was threatened with time-out and thank it for following the rules.  Then I talk to Smiley and thank him for helping the item follow the rules.

Rarely he is inappropriately rough.  If we are roughhousing and he keeps hitting my face then I might put myself in time-out (I stop playing with him, stand up, and walk around or do housework).

Every now and then there is nothing to give a time-out to, so I redirect him instead.  But redirection, although effective at his age, does not teach him to exert self-discipline.

I could declare that obeying requests is a rule, but I try to avoid using time-outs to enforce my requests.  Smiley is old enough to reason with, and he will nearly always comply with requests if I can appropriately change his focus of attention (more on that below).

Yet there is an obvious correlation between having things in hand and putting things in time-out.  Holding a special toy when his diaper is being changed not only gives him something to do besides wiggle, it also gives me something to put in time-out if he is not cooperating on the changing table.  There are other times (although few so routine) that I anticipate trouble and quickly offer him something to hold just so that if he does act up the item is in his hands, reading for me to ask if it needs a time-out.

A reminder helps to focus attention.

Smiley is bright, but still often needs to process thoughts for a while.  I can almost see little gears turning in his head.

He also has the toddler habit of fixating on what he is doing.  Even when his attitude is cooperative it often takes him about ten seconds to transition from what he is doing to what is requested.  For example, if he is looking at something and I say, "Please come this way," he usually will listen without further prompting but only after a few seconds of delay.  He is not being willful or prioritizing his desires over mine, he is just dealing with a toddler's brain.

When I need to remind him of something, I use three ways to direct his focus.  Imagine he is standing on a chair, or asking me to play with a toy while I am still eating dinner.
  • Optimal is with an open statement or question, if this is age-appropriate and he is awake enough.  This teaches the habit of self-monitoring.  "Uh oh.  Please be a listening boy."  "I would like to play with toys but I can't now.  Please look at me and tell me why."
  • Next best is a reply that points out what behavior is inappropriate while also describing an alternative.  This does not teach self-monitoring but does assure him that with different timing or method he can have what he wants.  "Please look at your feet.  Can I help you reach something?"  "I would like to play with that, and will be done with dinner soon."
  • Least helpful, but sufficient, is to only point out what is inappropriate.  "No standing on chairs, please."  "I'm still eating."
When I do not need to remind him of something, I often do so anyway when I can phrase it as a compliment.  By thanking him frequently for following rules, I help teach him to be mindful of his actions while being able to offer the kind of action-specific praise that toddlers thirve on ("thank you for helping the truck stay out of the kitchen" is better than "good listening").  Depending upon who you believe, the ratio of compliments to criticisms should be at least 3:1, probably more than 5:1, and perhaps 20:1.

A warning is an ineffective "freebie" chance.

Once he is thinking about the rule or request, the next instance of non-compliance prompts a consequence.  He never gets any warnings, since at his age they are counterproductive and primarily teach the child that he or she need not cooperate until the "free chances" are used up (after the request is repeated so many times, or a certain tone of voice is used, or counting down starts, etc.).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ring Around the Dizzy

Back when I taught preschool I didn't like the game Ring Around the Rosy.  I would get bored and/or dizzy before the preschoolers, and I had to fall farther each time too.

I realized yesterday that for many months Smiley has liked spinning around on the green office chair, and so I taught him that Ring Around the Rosy is a solo activity.  Now I'm free from an unwanted parental activity!

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Rainy Day

Smiley and I spent a lot of time at parks last Summer, so he was with many other children.

I was worried that when the rainy days of Winter and Spring arrived we would both be very bored.  Other househusbands of one- and two-year-olds shared this worry.  I would give them my business card, with Smiley's name and age written on it as a reminder to arrange rainy day play dates.  Most of them shared their contact information with me as well.

But I never called them.  The three families with little kids whom we already knew well were sufficient for about one play date per week, which was enough.  Rainy days were not boring after all.  This still seems strange in retrospect.

Today was a rainy day, probably the last one this week.  So I thought I might as well make it a typical rainy day and then blog about what what we did throughout the day.

(Note that having an entire day in the house is only a Mon/Wed/Fri phenomenon, for I teach at LCC on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the morning and afternoon.)

7:30 am Smiley wakes up.  Since he is happy being in his crib I let him play there while I catch up on processing photos and write a blog post.  On other mornings I might use my time before he wakes and when he is content in his crib to read scripture, pray, shower, have breakfast, etc.

8:00 am He begins to get fussy, so I go get him.  He gets his diaper change and then we play with toys in the sitting room for a bit.  Then he has breakfast (today it's some cereal and a cup of orange juice).  While he eats I make phone calls to arrange play dates for this week.

9:00 am Mommy leaves for work.  We hug and wave good-bye.  Then he does more playing with toys while I wash some dishes.

9:15 am We make graham crackers.  While we do this I also empty the top rack of dishwasher, and wash the new dirty dishes we make.  Baking is a nice rainy day chore.  On weeks with more than one rainy day this half hour break from toys and books would probably be spent cleaning the house.  A friend calls back to ask if 11 am today would work for a play date.

9:45 am We process some videos, including one we just made of his rolling flat graham cracker dough.  Catching up on photos and videos is a great rainy day activity.

10:00 am I change his diaper.  His pajamas smell of sweat, so I change him into to shirt and pants.  I also put goop in hair so his bangs are not in his eyes.  Then I empty bottom rack of dishwasher.  Then we play with toys together, until he picks out a book to read.

10:45 am We read The Fire Station by Robert Munsch.  Then he does most of the "reading" for Where Does it Park? by Susan Canizares. 

11:00 am Blake and and two-year-old Liam arrive.  The boys eat graham crackers and milk, then play with toys.  Everyone helps bake spice cookies.  Then more playing with toys.  Just before they leave Smiley wants to everyone to read The Fire Station together.

On a rainy day with no play date we would go shopping, to the library, visit a place in a currently popular book (post office, fire station, hardware store, airport), or so forth, for a chance to see other people.

12:20 am Blake and Liam depart.  Smiley and I read lots of books: The Fire Station and Stephanie's Ponytail by Robert Munsch, Big Rigs by Hope Irvin Marston, The Ox-Cart Man by Donal Hall.  After we read The Ox-Cart Man we find two nice YouTube videos about sheep shearing, since as we read he commented for the first time "the sheep get a hair cut".  (We describe what happens in his books' pictures, but usually do not try to teach him about things until he produces the words.)

1:00 pm I do laundry.  Smiley wants more "movies" so I let him watch a recent video of himself.  He uses the space bar to restart it a few times.

1:10 pm Lunch time.  Smiley eats fish (both of our leftovers from yesterday) from while I put away cookies and clean up the kitchen a little.  After he is done with the fish, I try other options in decreasing order of sweetness.  He eats olives off pieces of leftover pizza and then strawberries.  I eat the pizza as he finishes his strawberries.

1:40 pm I claim a 10-minute break to read online comics and read news (interesting bits about internet regulation, diet, gender, and fantasy mountain terrain).  Smiley plays with toys.

1:50 pm We read again: Annie and the Wild Animals by Jan Brett

2:00 pm We play with toys again.  Since nap time approaches, I become busy making tea as an excuse that he needs to by himself: he switches from marbles and duplos to tower building and sliding beads along his bead maze.

2:20 pm Smiley finally has his after lunch poopy diaper, and thus is ready for his nap.  I change his diaper and then squeeze in some laundry (move the washer load to the dryer and start a third load).  Then we start nap time routine: we read two books in the nursery while he drinks milk (today Baby Happy Baby Sad by Leslie Patricelli and The Alphabet Room by Sara Pinto).  Then I tell him stories or sing while he finishes the cup of milk.  Then I put him in his crib with a binky and cover him with blankets.

I should note that up until The Alphabet Room every book we have read today has been a library book.

Today, as often, he does not want to go to sleep right away and refuses to lie down to get covered by the blankets.  So I leave the room and let him fuss.  After I rinse and refill the milk sippy cup I return to the nursery, where he has decided to lie down and be covered.

2:45 pm His nap begins.  I do this blogging up to this point, and read more news.

3:10 pm Confident that Smiley is fast asleep and not just quiet, I start things that are annoying to have interrupted.  I eat more lunch, make phone calls, and work on my current computer chore (currently mapping out the Navigator's District for my role-playing game).

4:30 pm I go sit in the spa and enjoy some relaxing prayer time.

5:00 pm He might wake up any time, so I come inside and do e-mail and math teaching preparations.

5:30 pm He is still asleep.  I don't want a 10:30 pm bedtime tonight, so I go to wake him up.  I start by opening the blinds in the nursery to let in more light, then doing more laundry while singing.  He stirs but does not wake up.

5:50 pm I really wake up Smiley.  My wife arrives home from work.  We play, make dinner, eat dinner, do more laundry, talk on Skype with Grandpa Lee and Grandma Dena, and then play more.  When we are making dinner the pressure cooker steam frightens him, so I take him to the nursery and we read The Alphabet Room again.  During his Skype chat he "reads" Where Does it Park? again, and also Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? by Bill Martin, Jr.

8:30 pm Smiley is not acting tired yet, but it is getting late.  Bath time for him!

9:30 pm My wife goes to the spa.  I put Smiley to bed.  He did not each much at dinner, so we stop and he finishes off his plate of beans and cheese on the way back to the nursery after getting his milk.  Normally he gets two books, but I also took a string cheese for him to eat while we read, which takes more time.  So we read Baby Happy Baby Sad again.  He also helps with Peter Rabbit's Touch and Feel Book (from when my wife was little), Pup's Supper (from the Monterey Aquarium), and two Sandra Boynton books he has not heard for a while which are now more meaningful to him: Opposites and Blue Hat, Green Hat.

So we bake two treats.  I do four loads of laundry.  We catch up on processing photos and videos.  Smiley hears a book read to him (and often helps "read") seventeen times.  He has a nice video chat with family.  He plays a whole lot, with me or a friend or alone.

UPDATE: The glaring lack is exercise.  I have a goal of doing one round of reps with the weight bench and dumbbells  before he wakes up in the morning and a second after he falls asleep for his nap.  But many days I fail this goal.  I also would like to go running early in the mornings when it is not raining too hard for this to be pleasant, but have lost this routine also because during most of April either Smiley or my wife was sick, so I needed all the morning sleep I could manage.  However, I do get to do some worship dance or tai chi in the sitting room while he plays, and following a toddler all day long is a bit of exercise in itself.

May Development

Smiley's personality continues to rapidly develop.

Two weeks ago he started making bigger Duplo towers.  Three small changes were involved.  He now sometimes puts a small stack of blocks onto a single block instead of always adding single blocks to the top.  He now builds a tower by adding medium-sized stacks of blocks instead of only adding single blocks.  And he now gets his step-stool so he can reach higher.

He has begun drawing pictures that are supposed to be pictures of things.  His first was only five lines ("lines, Daddy, other people").  Later he drew a solid blob ("airplane").

He also began wanting me to take pictures of things.  Most often this happens when we are driving: perhaps he is wanting something interactive to do with an adult while in his car seat?  But sometimes he wants a picture of things at home.

His pretending continues to develop.  He still prefers to pretend with props, but is not as firmly tied to them.  For example, his dump trucks and front loaders normally move marbles or dice around, but when he plays with them away from the house he is happy to move imaginary dirt.

He also combines toys in new ways.  For example, the best marble runs are currently a lot like diving boards: a tower of blocks with only one trough, allowing him to drop marbles into his trucks, containers, or hand while being simple enough he can maintain it.  He also put his steering wheel on his skateboard.

Socially, he has become very fond if "hide and count".  He doesn't really care if we know where he is hiding, although it is usually silly when we act like we cannot find him.  Mostly he just likes being able to combine two of his favorite things--hiding under or in something and having an adult talk to him.

Also socially, during the past week he has begun regularly singing along with someone else.  This should make his Skype times with family more fun.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Jaywalking in Oregon

The topic of jaywalking comes up now and then in Eugene.

Oregon state law does not even define jaywalking.

However, the DMV does regulate crosswalks.  The Oregon Vehicle Code protects drivers with laws prohibiting pedestrians from crossing a street against a traffic signal, inside a crosswalk in a way that causes hazard to an approaching vehicle, outside of a crosswalk against traffic, or outside of a crosswalk at an intersection.

Additionally, either Eugene or Lane County (I forget which) has a law requiring pedestrians to cross the street perpendicularly.  This strange law allows police to pick up drunks who otherwise would be a traffic hazard.

Google Search Ads Disappear

Google recently changed the appearance of their search result pages.

For me, the biggest difference is that all of the ads on the right hand side are now gone.  Apparently, the Firefox add-on Adblock Plus is now able to remove them.

What Kind of Hat am I?

From the quiz What Sort of Hat Are You?

What Sort of Hat Are You? I am a Redhat.I am a Redhat. I'm too much of a geek to be a genuine hat of any sort.

(If I was not a Redhat, I would be a Fedora.)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Principal and Interest Rates

Instapundit linked to two economic articles today that could serve as examples of what my math students learn.

From the first, this quotation about how certain pensions and programs have "fudged the books":
So public-sector pensions have the principal, but they get the interest rate wrong. The Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds, by contrast, have the right interest rate but don’t have any principal.
That's a great example of something my students can understand after Math 20 (and especially after Math 25), but which might have been Greek to them before.

From the second, about why the recovery of many banks does not necessarily mean a recovery to healthy banking:
But what about all those record bank profits? Isn’t that a sign that bank lending is back? Not at all, says Whalen: It’s just an indicator that even our most brain-dead banks can make money when the Federal Reserve holds their cost of goods — short-term interest rates — at essentially zero. "The zero interest rate policy is a massive transfer of wealth from savers to banks," says Whalen. In a financial rondeau that would make even Lloyd Blankfein blush, banks borrow taxpayers' deposits at close to zero percent rates and essentially lend it back to them at higher rates, through Treasury purchases. The banks keep the profits. Nice work if you can get it, but not exactly the "God’s work" of allocating capital to ensure economic growth.
This one is slightly trickier, but students who have taken Math 25 should still be able to understand it.

Responsibility and Choice

As a teenager, one of the most thought-provoking paragraphs I read in a fantasy story was something The Master Summoner tells Ged:
You thought, as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything. So I thought, once. So did we all. And the truth is that as a man’s real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do...
   - Ursula Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea, Chapter 4
Yesterday I was surprised to read a very similar sentiment in one of the Amber novels:
It seemed that a balance had shifted somewhere along the way, and that I was no longer acting but being acted upon, being forced to move, to respond. Being herded. And each move led to another. Where had it all begun? Maybe it had been going on for years and I was only just now becoming aware of it. Perhaps we are all victims, in a fashion and to a degree that none of us had realized.
   - Roger Zelazny, Sign of the Unicorn, Chapter 3

Children's Medicine Recall

My wife is on the FDA e-mail list for notifications of product recalls.  I normally don't blog about them, but this one might affect kids of family and friends.

McNeil has recalled a lot of its infant's and children's liquid medicines, including Children's Tylenol and Benadryl.  Follow that link for the complete list.