4-Cup Sammy

“Step right up! You look like a smart cookie! Guess which cup the grape is under and win a prize!”

(I think I have it figured out. It’s in her mouth.)

Sam’s Story: Week 83

Contrary to popular wisdom, Ger and I do sometimes get out of the house and go to parties. It’s just that these days we tend to take Sam with us. Such was the case last weekend when a friend of Geralyn’s had a massive house warming party. There were a lot of kids there, actually, and it was kind of interesting to see what we’re in for by watching some of the older ones.

Case in point: One room in the house was designated the playroom, probably because it was chock full of a variety of toys. It was to this room that many of the kids gravitated and this included Samantha. I was sitting on the floor watching her play while another father sat with his son. The father and son painstakingly assembled this Mega Blocks pirate ship, complete with masts, rigging, sails, and the works. They were having fun, minding their own business when another boy ran over, a plastic dinosaur in his pudgy fist.

This newcomer got right in the first kid’s face and screamed “SEA MONSTER! SEA MONSTER!” He then proceeded to wail on the Mega Blocks pirate ship with the dinosaur, screaming the whole time. The father tried to interject with a “Oh, we’re ah… kind of playing here…” but at every turn the kid would just scream “SEA MONSTER!” and redouble the intensity of his assault on the pirate ship until it was reduced to its component parts and scattered across the carpet like so much flotsam. His work done, the dinosaur-wielding madman screamed once more and ran off.

So much to look forward to.

Sam’s social calendar has actually been pretty full lately, as Ger has gotten into the grove of “playdates” with other moms in our area. This week she had a friend over with her daughter Rachel, who actually had more fun than you’d think looking at this picture. I know that Sam still doesn’t understand that other people are anything other than objects to be bent to her will and amusement, but she is learning to play with those objects to some extent. For example, she’ll pass a ball to a playmate, but beyond that she doesn’t seem to care much. But at least there have been no sea monster attacks.


The last thing to report this week is that we can see how Sam is getting more and more vocal and flexing her linguistic prowess. She’ll now try to imitate words and sounds, though she’s still usually way off. Still, I just know that one morning I’ll go in to get her out of bed and she’ll pop off with “Good morning, Father. I thought I might fancy a dairy libation before ensconcing myself before the television to check in on my comrades on Sesame Street. What do you say?” And I’ll probably just go back to bed.

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

I’m pretty sure that, like most other kids in my generation and my part of the world, I read this book as part of a high school English class. I remember liking it, but surprisingly I recalled very little of it. Upon reading it again now I enjoyed it quite a bit. Lee’s portrayal of the perfectly and practically infallable noble Southern family (and the father in particular) is kind of annoying and pretentious at times, but in general she portrays a very charming and amazingly authentic (well, to me) picture of small-town life in the 1930s South. Likewise, the novel’s narrator doesn’t really sound like the 9-year old girl she’s supposed to be, but she and the other characters around her are engaging and memorable nonetheless.

It’s a great book, the kind that makes you want to recommend it to someoene else so you can talk to them about it.

Ohio school faculty baffled by biology

Ohio’s News Channel 5:

There are 490 female students at Timken High School, and 65 are pregnant, according to a recent report in the Canton Repository.

The article reported that some would say that movies, TV, videogames, lazy parents and lax discipline may all be to blame.

School officials are not sure what has contributed to so many pregnancies

Man, if the school’s biology teachers don’t know what causes pregnancy, the state needs stricter certification processes.

Relatedly, I remember a time when an obsession with video games meant that that you’d never really have to worry about pregnancy. How things have changed.

(Link and comments brought to you by the folks at the QuarterToThree.com forums.)

Short story end of the stick?

Amazon.com has started offering a service called Amazon Shorts where you can download short stories for just $0.49 each. It’s a pretty cool idea made better (for consumers, anyway) by the fact that it comes with absolutely no digital rights management whatsoever. You can read an HTML version of your purchase or you can have it e-mailed to you in .pdf format. You own it forever, you can copy it to whatever you want, and you can even download it from your “virtual locker” as many times as you want if you delete it or want to access it from another computer. And 49 cents is pretty darn cheap –cheap enough to impulse buy and not get annoyed if you don’t end up liking some new author you took a cheap chance on.

So while it seems like this would be a dandy service for consumers if Amazon can manage to actually get some good content (an often overlooked detail in the dot com age), it may or may not be a good deal for authors. One writer posted his thoughts and they’re pretty insightful. One ginormous red flag is that authors don’t get paid up front, which is something that most non-desperate writers avoid at all (pardon the pun) costs. A writer’s job is to write and a publisher’s job is to buy the work and publish it. Instead of following this time-honored model, Amazon.com gives authors a cut of each and every sale. So no sale, no payment. Lots of sales, lots of little payments.

To me, this makes sense if you’re either a) a struggling writer who can’t get a piece bought by a magazine or anthology, or b) a big name who thinks he/she can make more by perpetually getting little pieces of many sales than he/she can by outright selling a work once to a publisher. It’s the writers in the middle (a.k.a., “the vast majority of folks”) that I don’t know about.

Another thing that’s not clear is how Amazon accepts writers into the program. It’s not a free-for-all system where any armature can put his story up for Amazon to host and sell. But they’re not saying right now how you get your work stocked on their site. One has to wonder how they’ll deal with this. Open the floodgates and choke the system with poor quality dreck and customers will learn to avoid it. Tighten controls so that only top-tier authors are allowed, and they may have difficulty finding enough takers to provide any kind of selection. Still, I’m glad they’re trying new things, and I’d like to see it work.

Sam’s Story: Week 82

Sam has learned the joys of bellowing. Not screaming, shrieking, or shouting, but bellowing. Early one morning Ger and I were dozing in bed when we were suddenly awakened by a very distinct and surprisingly booming “MAMMA!” from Sam’s crib. And it wasn’t a one-shot kind of thing, as she repeated it (along with “DADDA!”) throughout the day. That night I taught Sam how to play tag by chasing her until I had her cornered, then turning around and running from her until she cornered me. She bellowed the whole time, in both directions. After she wore me out and I lay down on the carpet to catch my breath, she kept running all over the house, bellowing all the way.

What’s with all the bellowing I’ll never know. I just suppose that it, like all the other inexplicable things she does are enjoyed out of sheer novelty. Come to think of it, such a life inhabiting the extreme polar opposite of jadedness must be pretty dang cool. You and I are world-weary, civilized, and composed. Sam is standing in buckets, yelling at nothing in particular, and having the time of her (so far) short life. Excuse me while I join her for a while.

Okay, I’m back. Pictures!

Seems like we’re taking fewer and fewer pictures of Sam lately, and I’m not sure why. She’s more active than ever, constantly doing things that I’d love to catch on film. But I think the problem is that she does them so spontaneously and so quickly before moving on to something else that it’s hard to catch them at the right second. For example, one instant she’s playing with a pink pig puppet on her arm, but by the time I whip out the camera, turn it on, and focus, all I get is this.

Still, as Sam’s activity level has increased, so has the need to keep an eye on her and curb certain behaviors like stabbing the cat. I often worry about how well I’ll do when the parental guidance I’ll have to dole out is more of the gray variety, like scooping out all the chocolate from the Neapolitan ice cream while leaving the black and white stuff behind. It probably doesn’t help that I’m currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird and gradually realizing that I’ll never ever be as absurdly good a parent as Atticus Finch is. I guess I can comfort myself with the knowledge that those were different times and that Gregory Peck probably never tried to talk a drunk, pregnant, teenage girl out of robbing a convenience store. You know, because it was novel.

Chipotle Otaku


Man, I thought I was a fan of Chipotle, the quasi-fast-food restaurant that specializes in fantabulous burritos the size of your head. I eat there at least once a week (and on occasion, more often), I’m in bliss every time I scarf down one of their massive offerings, and I’ve proselytized several co-workers so that it’s our most popular lunchtime destination. Like I said, I considered myself a pretty big fan.

That was before I found this: www.chipotlelovers.com. The lengths to which these guys have taken their love of Chipotle borders on psychotic, and I’d even say they’re on the far side of the border. Their mania over this dining establishment is outweiged, however, by the equally absurd quality of the website. I’ve spent more than a little time working with hardcore fans seeking an outlet for their passion, but this is beyond the pale.

They have everything related to Chipotle on there –store locators, nutritional information, menus, news, in-depth information about every menu item’s ingredients, photographs, polls, and more. Heck, I don’t even know how I ever called myself a fan without even knowing about the entire Chipotle slang lexicon. The nutritonal information guide is particularly fantastic, as it allows you to assemble a custom-ordered burrito, bowl, or taco and view detailed nutritonal information based on your unique build.

In fact the look and functionality of the website is also awesome from a design perspective, which kind of leads me to believe that this whole thing is either (a) intended primarily as an engaging portfolio for the web designer’s services, (b) a not-so-subtle example of viral marketing secretly banked by the Chipotle corporation, or (c) all of the above. My money is on (c). Also, it is on a chicken burrito with rice, black beans, mild salsa, cheese, and sour cream.

Various Philip K. Dick Stories

Philip K. Dick

I went on a bit of a Philip K. Dick bender, reading a handful of his books in quick succession so I’ll just combine them here. In addition to The Man in the High Castle which I talked about earlier, I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, The Minority Report and Other Stories, and Galactic Pot Healer.

I definitely enjoyed the book of short stories the most, and I suspect that Dick excells in this area over novels. They were mostly like neat thought experiments, like the future-telling paradoxes from “The Minority Report” and “Paycheck,” or the examination of paranoia in “Second Variety.” The novels were just kind of meandering and felt like he was filling a quota. Do Androids Dream (upon which the movie Blade Runner was based) was pretty good, but felt disjointed and like it needed to be fleshed out more. Galactic Pot Healer, on the other hand, ranks up (or down) there as one of the worst books I’ve ever read. It seems more like the literary equivalent of a doodle that was passed off for a complete work –there ar a few interesting ideas but it’s all mixed up, formless, and half-baked.

I think I’m done with Philliip K. Dick for now. I may pick up what are supposed to be his other classics (like Radio Free Albemuth or A Scanner Darkly) later, but I need a break.

Simpsons Season Six’s Shortcoming

So as an obedient fan should, I picked up the new The Simpsons Season 6 DVD set today. I love the show and based on the first disk that I watched tonight the DVD content is still top notch. They once again have commentaries for every episode, along with tons of extras. They’ve also retained the lesson learned from the Season 5 set where the DVD menus are both entertaining (funny stuff happens if you let it sit idle for a few seconds) but unlike previous seasons you can execute a command immediately without waiting.

Simpsons Season 6

Where Fox really goofed, though, is the packaging, shown over there to the right. I loved the boxes for the first 5 seasons, but Season 6 comes in this awful, awful plastic Homer head. Even ignoring the facts that it’s fugly and doesn’t match the other box sets, this thing is a truly astounding piece of bad package design. It flips open on a “hinge” at the bottom instead of like a normal book or DVD case, but then inside is a 4-disk DVD jewel case that does open from right to left like a normal case. But the outer plastic shell keeps wanting to spring back closed, which means that you have to fight it while maneuvering the DVDs free from the second, interior case and trying –usually unsuccessfully– to keep all the flyers and other inserts from falling out. Add to top it off, the case is an odd size that doesn’t stand up on its own nor is it amenable to stacking given its thoroughly non-flat nature. Just terrible design.

At least Fox was kind enough to set up a website where you can send in three bucks and receive an “alternate” case for the set. I’m already in the process of doing that, even though nowhere do they show you what the new case will look like. Still, it can’t be worse.


Sam has gotten quite adept at scooping food out of a bowl and feeding herself with a spoon. We can almost leave her alone at meal time if we put the tarp down underneath her.

Sam’s Story: Week 81

While coming back from the zoo on Saturday, we passed a little girl sporting a tee shirt that read, “I’M THE BOSS!” Parenthood has given me many wonderful gifts, one of which is the urge to throttle any parent who buys their children shirts like that. You don’t need to encourage toddlers to think that they’re in control. In fact, from what I hear, most of your energy goes into trying to counteract such sentiments. Sure, they can’t read, but they know. For my part, I plan on getting a shirt that just says “Do you want a time out?” Such an item would save my vocal cords from otherwise certain exhaustion.

Actually, I’m selling Sam short a little there. She’s not throwing tantrums yet, but you can see the little gears going in her head sometimes as she starts to piece together the association between crying and screaming and getting what she wants. Her teething is putting her in a grumpy mood as it is, but I think some of it is deliberate. Yesterday she wanted nothing more in the world than to lay hands on Ger’s scrapbooking supplies, which included scissors, paper cutter, glitter, and other items that could either create precious memories or a trip to the emergency room. When I refused to hand over any of this contraband, the wailing started and continued until I was forced to call in reinforcements from Sesame Street.

Later that day she made up for it, though, by giving me one of the best laughs I’ve had in a long time. We were up in her bedroom playing when Sam started showing an interest in pulling out and trying on some of her different shirts. So I helped her take her shirt off and put a different one on (an orange and black Halloween one for some reason), then change back into her original one. A few minutes later I was in the other room and I heard grunts of frustration coming from Sam’s nursery. I went in there and doubled over laughing when I saw how she had tried to pull her own shirt off, only to get it pulled halfway down her face with her arms stuck in the sleeves and pointing out at odd angles. Then because I was laughing so hard she started laughing, and the site of her standing there laughing while bamboozled by her own clothing made me laugh even harder. I’m just mad that the camera’s batteries were dead.

Speaking of which,

I love this picture in particular. It was taken near the Zoo where we stopped off to let Sam ride on the Merry-Go-Round. She was understandably freaked out at first, but warmed up when she realized that none of the giant frogs or screaming horses were going to eat her. We also took her on a little ride where she sat on an orange butterfly and went around in circles, but for SOME reason my camera decided that those pictures were an affront to nature and had to be destroyed. I’m still really mad about that.

Sammy Go Round

On a whim and on the way to the San Diego Zoo, we stopped at a Merry Go Round and took Sam for a ride. Note: It is REALLY HARD to take pictures with the “full auto” settings on a digital camera when your subjects are whizzing and bobbing by you at 15 m.p.h. We took like a gillion pictures, and this is probably the best one.

Personality Psychology in the Workplace

Personality Psychology in the Workplace

I picked this one up at the SIOP convention two years ago and finally got around to reading it. I honestly don’t know why I keep buying books like this. It’s just kind of this loose glob of papers related to some aspect of personality in the workplace, tied together without a stronger thread than the general topic. None of the chapters relate to each other or build on each other, and some of them are so esoteric and rigidly written that they’re a massive chore to get through.

Actually, a few of the chapters were good and a few might be great to come back to if I needed to research a particular sub-topic (e.g., measuring personality through item response theory), but on balance I don’t feel like I got much out of it. I’m just going to have to be more careful and pick books that read more like textbooks or self-contained technical books instead of an outlet for researchers to increase their publication count.