Sam’s Story: Week 79

Back a few years ago, before Sam was born, a friend of Geralyn’s came to visit us. She brought along her husband and one of their children, a boy somewhere around 1 year old. I remember very clearly when we went out to dinner how amazed Ger and I both were over how easily her friend could simultaneously ignore and pay attention to her child. The kid was constantly squirming, grabbing at things (steak knives, glasses of water, etc.), and shouting, but this woman somehow managed to corral him, yank things away from him, and otherwise keep him in check, all without breaking stride while holding an adult conversation with the rest of us. It was like someone was remote controlling her arms and hands while the rest of her stayed in this world.

Out to dinner last night, Ger and I realized that we had come to possess this same incredible gift. We were sitting there talking about what books we had been reading while Sam snatched, threw, yelled, and generally spazzed out like a little tempest in a tea pot. Sure, Sam may have thrown a wadded up napkin in Ger’s cream of mushroom soup, but Ger never batted an eye as she picked it out with one hand and pulled a crayon out of Sam’s jaws with the other –all without any kind of lull in the conversation with me. It was bizarre, but I guess it’s a good thing. If only I could split my being like that at work, I’d be running the place by now.

Look, this week’s pictures:

Of particular note is the following sequence of images, which is currently my computer desktop wallpaper (click for a larger version):


In other news, Sam’s vocabulary seems to be backsliding a bit. She understands more than ever, but her predilection for “No” (or, on occasion, “No-no”) has squeezed out other words of late. Here’s a chart to show what a typical day’s uttering amount to:

Sam Says

Unless the SATs of the future feature only questions to which the correct answer is “No!” things need to improve.

Favorite book

This is the book that Sam is obsessed with. Specifically, the part with the Little Red Riding Hood story. She will demand that it be read to her over and over and over again. Often while holding it right-side-up.

San Diego I/O Psychologists unite!

I’m not sure why I haven’t mentioned this before, but in the last few months I’ve been fortunate to be part of a small group of people who decided to create a professional association of industrial/organizational psychologists working or studying in the San Diego Area. Starting an organization like this was both weird and banal at the same time. The idea had actually been bouncing around between myself and a few people at work for over a year, and we eventually worked up to just picking a date, calling a meeting, and contacting everyone we knew. The response was pretty astounding –over 100 I/O students and professionals showed up. We chatted a bit about what we should do and then chatted about how often we should meet, and then –presto!- We had ourselves a professional organization.

The only thing we really had to argue about was the title, which turned out to be “San Diego Industrial/Organizational Professionals” or “SDIOP” for short. There was some rancor over the “P” standing for “Professionals” or “Psychologists” as the vast majority of us (maybe even all of us) were not technically licensed to call ourselves psychologists. Having had all interest in the name game ground out of me in the course of naming products at GameSpy, I didn’t care as long as we didn’t come up with anything that abbreviated as “NAMBLA.”

Over the course of the next few weeks we organized our first meeting and I got myself elected as an officer. Not president, though –that went to the very capable Ben Schneider, who is about as an experienced and noteworthy a guy as we could have hoped for to be in charge of the thing. I ended up as Secretary/Webmaster, which worked out pretty well as one of the first things I did was bang out our website:

Kind of fruity, I know, but I like it. It was fun to design a website for once that wasn’t a blog. I actually would have linked to it earlier here but it was kind of …fundamentally broken in one spot and I didn’t figure out how to fix it until yesterday. Sorry. Nobody complained in the meantime, though, so maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

At any rate, if you’re an industrial/organizational psychology professional or student in the San Diego area, we’re meeting again in August. The specific place and date are still being worked out, but should be posted on the website if anybody can get that lazy webmaster to do any work.

Harry Potter and The Intelligence of Emotion

Speaking of Harry Potter, this kind of made my mind boggle. TalentSmart, a company specializing in leadership and employee assessment, wrote a white paper about the different displays of Emotional Intelligence in the Harry Potter books. It describes one dramatic exchange between Harry, Ron, and Hermione, then shares the following wisdom:

Let’s stop here a moment and notice that Ron is highly disconcerted by Harry’s suggestion and Hermione feels anxious. Harry’s friends know him well enough to realize that something major is upsetting him. Harry jumps to the conclusion that their respected schoolmaster has doubts about him. In response, Ron focuses on Harry with “don’t be stupid,” while Hermione focuses away from Harry on to Dumbledore: “Of course he doesn’t think that!”

Those familiar with the story know what happens next: Harry becomes intensely bitter and shouts at his classmates. They are left to watch his frustration “pouring out of him, his frustration and lack of news, the hurt that they had all been together without him.” Once Harry’s feelings burst out this way, there is nothing to hold them back. A painful summer cumulates in an emotional explosion directed at his schoolmates.”

I still can’t figure out if this is silly or a brilliant move to bring one part of I/O psychology closer to the masses (and market your product in the meantime). But at any rate, wonder if examining emotional intelligence in the context of a pissed off teenage wizard is the kind of thing that will rack up the credibility for a construct that’s already kind in a lot of people’s “iffy” column.

Then again, this is a company that offers a pop culture fueled training film called BRAINS! apparently for use in teaching zombies about the wonders of emotional intelligence. I’m so confused.

Sitting there

One of these days I should record a soundtrack to go with the pictures of the day. What you’d hear in the background would be a minute or two of things like “Sammy. Sammy! Hey, Sammy, look over here! Look at Daddy! Sammy. Sammy!”

Sam’s Story: Week 78

I’m sitting here about to lose my mind, mainly because I can’t get the freaking Elmo’s World theme song out of my head. Sam has been watching a lot of Sesame Street lately, which means I have been watching a lot of Sesame Street lately. The show’s cross-generational longevity is pretty amazing, as I remember watching it as a kid in the 70s. Elmo (or as Sam calls him, “Ella!”) didn’t debut on the show until around 1985, though, so I was largely ignorant of that little red-haired freak until recently.

Actually, I give the little guy a hard time, but I actually kind of like him on balance. The Elmo’s World segment is kind of cute if overly predictable, but I guess that’s a combination kids love. I do hate, however, the bit with those vaudeville rejects Mr. Noodle and his brother, Mr. Noodle. Every day Elmo has a question about something and every day he thinks it’s a good idea to ask Mr. Noodle. This is surprising, given that all available evidence suggests that Mr. Noodle is substantially retarded. Yet Elmo insists on asking simple questions like “How do you wash your hands?” or “How do you hop on one foot?” And every day the mental midget on the other side of the window proves incapable of answering even these simple queries. So every day I stand in front of the television and scream at him until Samantha bursts into tears.

Other things I hate about Sesame Street include the song that finishes off every visit to Elmo’s World. Basically he takes the name of the show’s theme and just repeats it to the tune of “Jingle Bells.” Here’s the lyrics to the show about fish: “Fish fish fish fish fish fish fish fish fish fish fish. Fish fish fish fish fish fish fish fish fish fish fish. Fish fish fish fish fish fish fish, fish fish fish fish fiiiish!” God, I hate that. Let’s see, what else? Oh, I hate Baby Bear, because he pronounces all his Rs like Ws. I especially hate the segment where he does “Hero Guy” –excuse me “Hewo Guy”– bit. Stupid bear.

Sorry, this is supposed to be about Samantha, isn’t it? Look, here’s some pictures.

Not much else to report on the Sam watch. Her vocabulary is growing and she seems to recognize colors, as she will usually point to them correctly when prompted or return with the correct ball when asked to “get the green one” or somesuch. The other day I had a collection of multicolored shapes –green, blue, yellow, and red– and I asked her to point to the black one to see what she’d do (there was no black one). She looked at the shapes, looked at me, looked at the shapes, then curled up her lip and gave me the biggest “hey, screw you, pal” look I’ve seen yet. I’m so proud.

The discipline thing I described last week has been going just about as well as it was then, except that I think Sam is figuring out how to game the system. If she thinks that we’re not paying enough attention to her, she’ll often run over to the couch and start endangering her own life by standing up on it and teetering around. She does this, I think, because she knows it’s a sure-fired way to detach my butt from the recliner and say her name really loudly. As soon as I get up, though, she plops back down to a safe position, a big grin and a “this is easy!” expression on her face. Maybe I’ll start telling her that if she stands on the couch that Elmo die. See if that works.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Like just about every other non-illiterate out there, I snatched up the latest Harry Potter book. Not surprising, since I think I read somewhere that enough copies of this book were sold in one day to fill a football stadium with cream corn for a whole week.

The book was pretty fun –fast paced, imaginative in places and charming everywhere else. My only complaints are that there’ snot much of a narrative thread tying this one together so that it’s just a kind of jumble of events prefaced with mysteries and with a big event at the end. It also retread on a lot of the same themes that have been pretty thoroughly covered in past books: friendship, loyalty, trusting authority, distrusting authority, honesty, puppy love, and general teenage angst. At least there’s only one more book in the series so those can’t get driven much deeper into the ground.

Of course, the big hype around this book is that some major character dies between its covers. And indeed he/she does, and it’s not some minor character like “Buck the Janitor” who gets introduced on page 300 and greased on page 302. I won’t spoil anything for you, but if you’ve read the book or don’t care, this is pretty funny.

Nothing’s Sacred

Like a lot of people, I enjoy Lewis Black’s comedy on The Daily Show to the point where I told TiVo to keep an eye out for his standup routine. Having seen the latter, I can say that most of this book is essentially “Lewis Black’s Standup Comedy: The Book.” Black often goes off on random invectives against whatever comes to mind, like the chapters he spent complaining about candy corn or cell phones.

Non sequiters like those aside, though, there’s this kind of loose narative running through most of the book talking about growing up in the 60s and how Black developed his short-tempered views on authority in general. These parts are more like “Lewis Black’s Standup Comedy: The Blog” in that they’re pretty disjointed and hop around in time and space with pretty much complete impunity.

Black’s comedy here is pretty raunchy at times (e.g., he describes deficating on the television when it told him that Nixon had won re-election), but every now again he’ll inject it with some witty, more cerebral remark that makes you think for a second. For example, he quips that “if the United States Postal Service hadn’t already existed, Kafka would have created it.” The book doesn’t have as many laughs per minute as his “Back in Black” segments on The Daily Show, but I did get quite a few good gufaws out of it overall.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

There is, of course, a new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie just out, but I’ve actually been meaning to read this book for years. I absolutely adored the 1971 movie based on the same book, and it was fun to see all the same characters and scenes.

I think, however, that this is one of those cases where the movie (the 1971 one, anyway; I haven’t seen the new one) is better than the source material. The book lacks several key devices that I thought gave the Charlie Bucket character a lot more depth. In the book, for example, Charlie is not tempted to steal Wonka’s secrets by a spy from other chocolate factory. Thus he’s never faced with the ethical dilemmas around feeding his starving family by stealing the Everlasting Gobstopper and selling it to the competition, the result of which earns him ownership of the factory. In fact, the book’s Charlie earns Wonka’s largess just by being the last man standing in a game of “Just Stand There and Don’t Do Anything Mind-Blowingly Stupid.”

Still, good book, and I think I’ll pick up the sequel.

Sam’s Story: Week 77

Apparently, discipline is a laugh-out-loud riot, at least according to Sam. We’ve been doing the whole “time out” thing for the last couple of weeks, fully aware of the fact that Sam is too young to completely understand, but wanting to get into the habit and curb certain behaviors through the reward-and-punishment mechanisms that any drooling dog could grasp. Unfortunately, Sam thinks that standing in the corner is the height of hilarity, as she laughs whenever we force her there. She’s even turned it into a game where she tries to run off before we’re done counting down the length of her sentence, which means that we have to practically sit on her to keep in her place. Which is apparently even funnier. I can’t wait until Sam is older so I can give her privileges that I can then take away to punish her. I think I’ll start right off the bat with eliminating her college tuition if she keeps touching the television screen.

In other news, Ger and Sam have been going to this “Mommy and Me” class each week, where they do fun and wholesome things like singing in a circle, making crafts, and painting with pudding. The whole thing only cost like thirty cents for a couple of months, so I was kind of suspicious at first. I told Ger that if they shave Sam’s head and ask her to pass out literature at the airport, then it might be some kind of cult. So far the worst they’ve done is to sing a song about sharing, but even that is pushing up against the line in my book.


As you can see, I bought a cheap plastic wading pool for Sam to sit in. It’s a poor substitute for the real thing, but she enjoyed it enough and we didn’t have to focus every bit of our attention on keeping her from walking into the deep end. Because the deep end was like three inches deep.

Back in the saddle again

The other day Sam found the closet where we had put her old Kick & Play bouncie seat. Long-time Sam Fans may remember that she used to sit in this all the time. And apparently she remembered, too, because she plopped herself down and had a good old time. Can a 17-month old feel nostalga? Is that allowed?

I just did something substantially geeky…

I just completed my registration for the San Diego Comic-Con to be held this weekend. I’m actually only going one day, Saturday, but I’m going by myself –sans Sam and Ger as was agreed upon last month as a belated Father’s Day gift.

I know what you’re thinking: “NNNNEEEERRRDDSS!” You’re probably screaming it while standing on top of the cafeteria lunch table and doing your best Ogre impresination. And I probably deserve part of that, despite the fact that I haven’t bought a comic book in 10 years outside of the occasional graphic novel. But on the other hand, while comics is the beefy main dish of this particular feast, it’s also surrounded by many side dishes related to other areas of popular culture.

For example, there’s a panel on Saturday afternoon where Matt Groening, Al Jean, and others involved in The Simpsons television show talk about the upcoming 17th season. There’s also a premeir of the upcoming Family Guy feature-length movie, which should be awesome. And while I couldn’t care less about some presentation on what Superman is going to be up to in the coming months, there are a bunch of interesting, higher-level symposiums and round tables like how to write for comics, how to write for video games, voice acting for cartoons, and the like. Add in the people watching from the exhibit hall and it shuld tally up to a worthwhile day.