Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fountains

Ben has taken a shine to fountains recently. There are three fountains along Queen Street in Lancaster that we pass regularly on our walks through town. When we leave the house headed for market, he now specifically requests that we stop and see each of them. In the order that we usually pass them, the first fountain is the one at Penn Square, outside Citizens Bank. You can tell when Ben is talking about this fountain because the ground beneath the fountain isn't level, so around one side there are a few steps, and he will ask to "go up stairs, see fount."

Fountain number two is in the 000 block, out front of Isaac's. This, according to Ben, is the "fount with bubs." The smaller fountain isn't as violently agitated as the first one, so small bubbles tend to meander across its surface. And then there's the third fountain. If you follow me on Twitter or Flickr, you've seen this fountain before. It is the dancing fountain in Binns Park. Before Ben was born I would often find myself transfixed by the fountain, sitting for long stretches of time, just watching it. Even last year, Ben was mostly content to stand and watch the water play; it is mesmerizing.

Now that he's a little older, though, he wants to play too. The Binns Park fountain is a popular spot for little kids on hot days. We did let Ben play in the fountain one day last summer (pictures here), but this year it looks like it's going to become a regular occurrence. A week ago Saturday, he and I walked by on our way home from market, and he asked to get down out of the back pack. I let him, and I got this video out of it.


Ben and the Fountain

This past Saturday, despite the fact that it was mobbed, we stopped again and I got these photos (and more).

Monday, May 23, 2011

Like a Weed

On Friday, Ben will be 29 months old. Yesterday I measured his height: 37 inches. So in 29 months he has grown 15 inches. It's a wonder we can't see him getting taller as we watch. It's no surprise, though; both Karin and I are nearly 6 feet tall (My driver's license says 6' and Karin's says 5'10"; we fudge in opposite directions). Various online height predictors seem to agree that his adult height will be in the neighborhood of 6'2". Some day I'm going to have to turn my head up to look my Little Nugget in the eye.





For years now we have been trying to turn the dirty, rocky mess that was our back yard when we moved in into something we can actually spend time in and enjoy. Two years ago we carted out hundreds of pounds of gravel  and a couple superfluous trees. Last year we edged a flower bed and planted grass. This year we're planting a small container garden and replanting grass to fill in all the spots where it didn't take last year. The ridiculous amount of rain we've gotten recently has been a big help. On Saturday, one of the only sunny days in the last few weeks, Ben was playing outside in the backyard. He loves watering plants with his little watering can. I watched as he filled it from a large, unused planter that had been filled by the rain, then walked  over to pour it out over some dandelions. He repeated this task several times, picking a different set of weeds each time.

"What are you doing, Buddy?"

"Watering the flowers."

And it hit me, I think a lot can be known about a person by whether they see dandelions as weeds to be poisoned, dug up, destroyed, or as flowers. I remember wondering, as a child, what was so bad about dandelions. What differentiated them from the flowers that we were growing intentionally? Now, of course, I just want them to die so I can grow grass. And that's it: before concerns like owning a home and maintaining a lawn take over our lives, we are free to enjoy dandelions as both flowers AND toys, sending their seeds scattering through the air with a playful breath.

I have no doubt that there are adults who can still enjoy dandelions in that way. I am sorry to say that I am not one of them. At least I can watch Ben water the flowers and hope that it is a long long time before he sees them as weeds.

Monday, May 16, 2011

OK, Here's The Plan

It's sort of a ritual, especially since I'm always home in the morning now. I call Ben over, have him sit down on my lap, and I start out, "OK, here's The Plan." Then I go through our day step by step, usually ending on whatever event I know he will most look forward to. Then we execute The Plan. Once we get to the part of the day where The Plan ended, I sit Ben down and lay out a new Plan.

It works great for both of us. Days where there is no Plan usually go off the rails. Chances are, if there's no Plan, we don't leave the house. Laying out a Plan helps Ben to understand that even if we aren't going to the playground right now, we will get there. And it helps me make sure I get done what needs to be done. 

I don't remember exactly when I started laying out a Plan for each day, but I'm pretty sure it was before Ben had any idea what I was talking about, or at least before he had any way to articulate that he understood. Now though, he gets it. At first I was surprised by how detailed his memory was. Once I've given him The Plan, he will repeat it back step by step if asked. I've mostly stopped being surprised, but I am still constantly amazed. He even knows our most basic Plan by heart. If I have cash and don't need to stop at the bank before going to market, he gets upset.

Laying out The Plan doesn't always assuage Ben's frustration over not getting to do what he wants to do right away, but it works better than it used to. Sometimes The Plan merely gives him a way to more accurately articulate what he doesn't want to do. Take for instance one evening when Ben wanted to play outside at dinner time. Karin laid out The Plan: "We are going to put on our shoes, get in the car, go to McDonald's, get you chicken and french fries, come home, eat dinner, and then we can play outside." His response?
"Not want put on shoes, get in car, go McDon's, get kick and sench sighs, come home, eat din. Just want play outside."

Friday, May 6, 2011

Robopocalypse

For months now (actually, I'm pretty sure that at this point it's been more than a year), Karin and I have been talking about starting a review blog for young adult literature. Now that I've picked this blog up and dusted it off, I feel like we might actually make it happen. Of course, if we're going to write a review blog, I need to figure out how to write book reviews. As a librarian, Karin reads lots of book reviews. As someone who is so spoiler-averse that I won't read the jacket copy before I've read the book, I do not. I do, however, read a lot of reviews of television shows thanks to the A.V. Club's excellent TV Club. I figure it's pretty much the same thing. Still, before we try to get that blog off the ground, I want to do a couple of test runs. So here's my first attempt.

~~~

When I saw the cover, I knew it was either going to be awesome or terrible. With “ROBOPOCALYPSE” written across the entire width of the book in shiny red embossed lettering, there was going to be no middle ground. I am pleased to report that this book, by Popular Mechanics’ Resident Roboticist Daniel H. Wilson, falls firmly on the side of awesome.

The book delivers what its title promises. Although we begin at the end, when we get to chapter 1 and the beginning, we witness the Singularity, the moment machines become aware and able to self-propagate. From there, it’s a short road, about one year in the story’s timeline, to the end of the world as we know it.

The best part about Robopocalypse is that it all feels so plausible. And it’s not just because we’re all aware of the furious pace at which our technology is advancing in real life. All of the robots in the book, from the self driving cars that terrorize city streets immediately after Zero Hour, to the far more intricate, deadly, and grotesque machine-built machines that emerge near the end of the war, come across as realistic, if sometimes distant, threats. Wilson has degrees in computer science, machine learning, and robotics, and his knowledge of his subject shows. Or, more accurately I suppose, it doesn’t show. The technical details of the story’s robotic systems are never distracting. When necessary to the story, those details are presented as fact, often without explanation, and they make such transparent sense that the machines are lent a terrifying reality.

My one real complaint about the story is that I wish it were longer. And not just in that way that you don’t want to finish a great book because you don’t want it to be over. The story’s central conceit is that the human survivors of the war’s final battle find a record of encounters with humans that the robots considered heroes, and the book is a retelling of that record. It’s a good framing device, but it means that between the individual stories there are often gaps of months. I think the book could have been even better if it had a less discrete narrative.

The short version of this review is, if the title of this book sounds awesome to you, you will like this book. It comes out on June 7th, one month from tomorrow.  Keep your eye out for the movie adaptation too. Steven Spielberg is directing, and it’s due out in 2013.
~~~

Just one final quick note. I am not going to put ads on this blog. Blogger makes it nice and easy, but even AdSense text ads on a personal blog just seems crass. However, whenever I link to Amazon, you can assume the link has my associates ID in it. It's entirely unobtrusive and if I can make a few extra cents because someone decided to buy something from Amazon after clicking a link here, yay.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Welcome Back

Hey look, rezendes.info points to a real, current, functioning website again. How nifty is that?

I'm not even sure how long it has been since our blog went offline. It was whenever I decided to stop paying for MobileMe, because that's where the blog used to be hosted. Now that I've had a chance to play around with Blogger a bit, I realize I should have started up again here ages ago.

The impetus for getting the blog going again now was twofold. Fold one was Cap'n and Lissa's excellent family blog "...with two cats in the yard." I had imagined that I had been keeping up with that blog, but when I went and looked at it a few days ago, I realized I hadn't actually read it for about eight months. So I went back and read all the entries I hadn't. Reading through such a great chronicle of friends' lives reinforced the value of keeping such a record. That reminder lead to fold two: rereading all of my old Life in Lancaster posts. I'd written more than I remembered, and right now, none of those posts are online. It's not that I'm such a great writer that withholding those gems from the world is wrong, but merely that those posts chronicle the days leading up to and immediately following the arrival of Ben. That was a very special time in our lives, and I'd like to have that record online.

So, here's the plan:
Sometime in the next few days (hopefully) I am going to upload all those old posts into this new blog. Blogger will let me backdate posts, so they will all be posted with there original date stamps.
Then, going forward, I will try to make, if not regular, then at least semi-frequent posts. There was a time when I blogged regularly, back on my good old Xanga, but those days are long gone by. I really do intend to make good on this attempt, but I've said that before. Maybe you can help keep me honest.
I also want to try to get Karin posting here, so hopefully between the two of us this will be a blog worth keeping up with. Stay tuned.