Happy New Year to everyone. This year, for the first time I can remember, we're staying home for New Year's Eve. We can't exactly pack Sam up and take her out with us, and we waited too long to look for a sitter. It's just as well. I'm already tired.
Now for some meaningless statistics. In 2004, I:
- Made 247 posts on this blog
- Got 342 comments on those posts
- Posted 653 pictures of Samantha (woah...)
- Read 47 books
- Played 34 video games, many of them violent
- Watched 43 movies/DVDs
- Wrote 12 game reviews/previews for GameSpy.com
- Made 1,267 posts on the Quarter to Three forums
- Had one daughter (well, Ger technicall "had" her, but you know what I mean)
- Guest lectured twice in graduate-level classes at Alliant University
Got any silly year-end stats to share?
Happy New Year's Eve. We caught Sam toasting to 2004, which has been the best year of her life. (Don't worry, we watered down the champaign.)
The concept of "emotional intelligence" has been bandied around for a while now, usually offered as an alternative to traditional intelligence as a way of explaining/predicting success in life. I had always kind of scoffed at the concept, mainly because it came across as born from the same unscientific muck as the other books you find in the "Self Help" section of your local bookstore.
But the concept, which basically says that it's important to understand and appreciate the emotions of others and yourself, has gotten quite a foothold and I thought it was time I actually read something about it before forming an opinion.
There was a time when IQ was considered the leading determinant of success. In this fascinating book, based on brain and behavioral research, Daniel Goleman argues that our IQ-idolizing view of intelligence is far too narrow. Instead, Goleman makes the case for "emotional intelligence" being the strongest indicator of human success. He defines emotional intelligence in terms of self-awareness, altruism, personal motivation, empathy, and the ability to love and be loved by friends, partners, and family members. People who possess high emotional intelligence are the people who truly succeed in work as well as play, building flourishing careers and lasting, meaningful relationships. Because emotional intelligence isn't fixed at birth, Goleman outlines how adults as well as parents of young children can sow the seeds.
I'm actually about a third of the way through the book as I write this, and I'm unimpressed so far. It smacks of sensationalism the way it starts off (and continues) with the use of horror stories about emotions gone awry in domestic abuse and nightclub killings. It also overextends itself in its critique of traditional IQ testing, relying on the tautology that since IQ (or g, or general mental ability ) doesn't predict everything 100% of the time that it's useless and ripe for displacement by something newer, sexier, and fuzzier. I imagine that my opinion after reading this will be the same as before: "Sounds possible, but call me back when you've got more science and less sensation."
Notice what's missing from the little wooden train next to Sam. Now, what do you think she's got in her mouth?
Well, okay I'm not. I'm actually sitting on the living room floor, but I could be doing it from the bathroom or just about any other room in the house. My sister and brother-in-law gave me a wireless router for Christmas and I got it up and running last night. It was ridiculously easy to get working, but on the down side it has resulted in a new "No Internet at the dinner table" rule, which wasn't really ever an issue before.
I'm actually kind of surprised it's taken me this long to get a wireless network set up while so many other more technologically challenged individuals have been reaping the wireless rewards for so long. My dad, who is older than I am, already had one for crying out loud. But I love it, and I already have plans to expand my little wireless empire. I'll pick up another card for my old desktop machine, of course, but I also want to get a USB adapter so that I can wirelessly network my TiVo. Once this is done, I can easily control my season passes and recordings through a web interface from anywhere on the planet. I'll also be able to stream music and pictures from my upstairs computer to my television.
How have I survived this long without these wonders?
Ger's mom regularly prints out pictures of Sam from this website and puts them up everywhere. The top of the television, however seems to be a favorite spot. Hey, Joan, if you're reading this you should print off this picture and put it on top of the TV. That would be trippy.
Looks like my host has decided to nuke the Movable Type commenting system on my site (and others) because they were getting pounded by comment spammers. This means you can't leave comments at the moment, though you can always e-mail me.I wondered why things were so quiet. I'm going to complain to my host tomorrow and maybe upgrade to the new version of Movable Type over the long weekend. Hopefully they'll turn it back on soon.
Fricking comment spammers. Right now I'm concentrating very hard and giving them cancer with my mind!
UPDATE: Comments are kind of back. I upgraded to Movable Type v3.14, but for some reason it's forcing me to manually approve each comment. I'll try to fix that, but in the meantime you can go ahead and comment. You'll just have to wait for me to notice and approve it before it appears.
UPDATE: Okay, I got the kinks worked out. Thanks to Joost for his help! On his day off, even. Comments are now working correctly, and I've got the new version of MT-Blacklist installed to boot.
Geez, where to start? The holiday, I guess. At 11 months old, we really weren't sure if Sam would be old enough to enjoy her first Christmas. Boy were we wrong. We three opened our gifts to each other and from my family on Tuesday night before leaving for St. Louis, and Sam got into it. At first she seemed to think it was just a chance to rip up paper, but soon the gifts started piling up and she was laughing and flapping her arms so hard I thought she was going to pass out. The new toys infatuated her, but her favorite thing turned out to be romping through the wrapping paper. Also, there were bubbles.
And as expected, Sam made out like a little, incontinent bandit. Clothes, books, and more from Nana and Grandpa Madigan, leather slippers and toys from Aunt Shawn and Uncle Brent, and toys toys toys from Mom and Dad. And on Christmas morning the giving kept on going with more toys and a toddler-sized car seat from Grandma and Grandpa Sommer. I, on the other hand, got an electric nose hair trimmer.
(Actually, I'm being unfair for the sake of a joke. I got lots of great geek toys --more than I deserve-- which I'll talk about another time.)
Sam and I gave Ger something I think is kind of neat: a picture frame with four pics of Sam in it. The pictures are black and white, except for one object, which is in color. It's even more saccharin sweet than the Christmas Card we sent out.
I also have to pause a moment and comment on one of the books that Nana gave Sam. It's called "I am a BABY!". Not "I'm a baby" or even "I am a baby." No, the book boldly declares that "I am a BABY!" For some reason this totally cracked me up, as I kept putting "By Ayn Rand" at the end and imagining opening it up to find pictures of pudgy little babies bucking society's conventions and removing the twin yokes of tradition and organized religion. Then crapping themselves. As you can see, it has already caused the light bulbs in Sam's little head to go off.
Anyway. Wednesday morning we got on a plane and flew to St. Louis to visit Ger's family. Sam did fine on the flight. On Christmas Eve they had their big family gathering, and Sam was, appropriately, the center of attention in her new Christmas dress. Which Geralyn bought despite the fact that she would only ever wear it once in the history of mankind. Sam made the rounds with the rest of the family until I came back from getting an appetizer to find her drinking a Busch Light, smoking a cigar, and rolling her eyes at every mention of that awful Bill Clinton. I think she was chewing on some communion wafers, too. Yes, this is the dominant composite image I have of Ger's family, and I love each and every one of them.
Let's pause for some pictures, of which there are many. More update after that.
Done clicking? Good.
Christmas night brought slightly classier festivities when Ger's godparents took us to the St. Louis Club for the annual Christmas feast. Now, the St. Louis Club is pretty ritzy. I had to wear a tie and they don't serve nachos. Also, if a waiter offends you I think you can have him killed. By lions. Sam wore her other Christmas dress, which Ger also bought, despite the fact that Sam would only ever wear it once in the history of mankind. And no, before you ask, she couldn't have just worn the first dress again. What are you, stupid for even asking?
Sam was the only baby in the whole place, but she did well and got to sample all kinds of stuff from the buffet: smoked salmon, grilled vegetables, Jell-O, fresh-baked breads, and fruits. Apparently, though, she thinks fresh raspberries and cream is the most vile culinary abomination ever. No accounting for taste, I guess.
Our time between parties was usually spent just kind of lounging around the house, playing with our new toys. Or in Sam's case, some really old toys. Ger's parents unearthed some of her old Playskool Blocks for Sam to play with. These are just awesome wooden blocks of various sizes that you can build with. They don't appear to be made any more, probably because they killed some kid by not being tied in with a cartoon or movie. But Sam loved them. Specifically, she loved knocking down whatever I build out of them, as shown in this time-lapsed photography:
In the third picture, imagine her squealing in triumph just before throwing down the final bones of my creation. She's been reading too much "I am a BABY!" I think.
I'm probably forgetting a ton of stuff, but I'll just have to make separate posts about it later after I remember it. I'll also post more pictures from the Seliga Christmas party and our dinner at the St. Louis Club.
Sam in her new hat and sweater, meant to ward off the freakishly intense cold in St. Louis over the Christmas weekend.
We're back from our Christmas trip to St. Louis. I'm going to write up a detailed account, but I need a half day to recharge first.
I will say, though, that it was freaking COLD in St. Louis. It was the kind of cold that when you get out of your car it punches you right in the face, then runs after you slapping your cheeks and pinching your ears as you sprint across the parking lot and yelp for mercy. Once you're inside to wherever you're going, it just stands back there on the other side of the automatic doors and points at you, mouthing "I know you have to come back out here. And when you do, you're mine, California boy." It then bares its pearly white teeth and paces back and forth until you have to go back out and dash for the car again.
At least it couldn't follow us back home to San Diego. Thank goodness.
This is the final book in the overly long Otherland saga by Tad Williams. It's the only book in the cyberpunk genre that I've ever enjoyed, though I have to admit to only trying the classics like Stephenson and Gibson. Williams has really created a rich cast of characters with deftly interwoven stories.
I started this series well over a year ago, and despite how much I've enjoyed it, it's taken me quite some time to get around to this final volume and finish it off. I'll actually be pretty glad to be done with it.
With Sea of Silver Light, Tad Williams completes his massive Otherland quartet, one of SF's more intriguing explorations of the eroding boundaries of the human and the nonhuman, the living and the dead. Otherland is a sequence that contains many secrets, and Williams plays fair by unpacking all of them in the final book. A group of adventurers searching for a cure for comatose children find themselves trapped in a sequence of virtual worlds, the only opponents of a conspiracy of the rich to live forever in a dream. Now, they are forced to make an uneasy alliance with their only surviving former enemy against his treacherous sidekick Johnny Wulgaru, a serial killer with a chance to play God forever.
Williams manages a vast cast of emotionally involving characters with considerable panache, but the real strength of the book is its endlessly questing intelligence; it is, among other things, an enquiry into the nature of storytelling as a way for human beings to give structure to their perceptions of the universe around them. It is as story that Sea of Silver Light ultimately works so well--involving us in the grueling descent of a vast mountain, the siege of an underground fortress, gun battles in a nightmare Wild West. Williams never neglects to tell us how things feel. He efficiently ties up every plot strand and convincingly reveals every secret in this large, complex plot.
I think that I may try out Williams's high fantasy stuff, like the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series.
Sam's set of Pooh Bear tea party toys. I like how you can see Sam and Ger's legs in the mirror at the top of this picture.
For some reason, Sam has developed a reverse mullet hairdo. Long in the bangs, short in the back.
Sam checking out her new Christmas toy. It's a lime green plush car! Just what she always wanted!
One of Sammy's favorite things it to take things out of other things. We keep all her toys in these wicker baskets, which she delights in emptying. We're still trying to teach her to put things in them.
Sam playing with "Buzz Buzz," the toy that used to be attached to her playgym. We recently disassembled it since Sam hasn't played under it for quite some time. But she still likes the rattles and toys that came with it.
This is an older pic, but I was playing around with colorization and thought it turned out good enough to include as a pic of the day. Sam thought it was absolutely hysterical when I put her rings between my teeth.
Yep, this year we became one of those families that puts pictures of its kid on its Christmas Cards. It's a bizarre insanity to which we were not immune, and we make no apologies:
Click for a larger version. Hope you have a great holiday season!
Let's face it, Santa can be kind of creepy, especially for kids. He's a loud, strange man with a partially obscured face. He wants you to sit on his lap and tell him secrets. He may reek of gin. I guess that's why this photo gallery cracks me up so much. It's full of children being mortally terrified of Santa, like this one:
I mean, look at that one. He is scary looking! I'm almost glad we didn't get around to having Sam's picture made with the Jolly Holiday Horror this year. The thing is, I kind of remember seeing a picture of me and Santa that would have been perfectly appropriate for this collection. I wish I could find it.
Anyway, check out the gallery. If you don't laugh at least a little, you may be well adjusted.