Camera Technology Through The Ages

We have this old Fisher-Price toy camera from the seventies — it was Blake's as a boy — and it's a toy version of the old 110 cameras, remember them? It has a flash cube on the top which rotates 90° every time you take a picture. (Dave, I think we might have had the same one, I remember it or something like it.)

So despite this "camera" being completely unlike any camera the girls have ever seen, they have taken to it very well and pretend to take pictures all the time. "Say 'banana'!"

Cordelia, however, takes it one step further. After taking the picture, she runs up to you, turns the camera around and shows you the non-existent screen on the back; "See yer picture! See yer picture!"

Lick Sticks

I gave Delphine and Cordelia each a lollipop after lunch today, and wow, was it ever quiet with two gobs stopped up with candy! When Delphine was halfway through hers, she said, "If I were going to name this thing I'm eating, I would call it Lick Sticks. Because you lick it, and it's a stick. It doesn't pop, and you don't lolly it!"

She has a future in marketing.

Free Range Kids

Delphine and I have been reading some classic chapter books about kindergarteners, like Ramona and the Betsy books. (By the way, if anyone can recommend any other books/series in that vein I would love to hear it!) I am struck by how early these kids walk to school alone: specifically, early kindergarten. Ramona was written in the sixties and Betsy was written in the thirties. So, apart from the cars which I agree are a concern, what has changed in the world since then that prevents us from letting our kindergartners walk to school? Nothing. But we don't because of some irrational, formless fear that Something Bad will happen to our children if we don't supervise their every move.

I'm thrilled to find a website of people who don't want to wrap their children in bubble-wrap, and I'm astonished I didn't find it before now: Free Range Kids. I don't have time to read much now but I'm looking forward to exploring this website! And in the meantime I might even let my kids play in the front yard without supervision! I'm a maverick.

Conversations with Cordelia

Cordelia is so funny and verbal that I think we almost take the cute things she says for granted, but I'm going to try and write some of them down for posterity, and Delphine's too!

Today, Cordelia had just woken up from her nap and she accompanied me into the bathroom while I peed. After I finished peeing she said "You need paper?" I agreed and she got me one little piece of toilet paper, crumpled up into a tiny ball.

I looked at it and said, "I have to get some more because my bits are very big."

She said, "I like your hairy and big, strong bits!"

"Thank you!"

"And also your slippers."

TTC Madness

I'm posting this here mainly so Dave can enjoy some schadenfreude about our fair city and so Sascha and Leontine can see the messier side of Toronto. Oh politics, why must you be so hard?

A Day In The Life: Friday, April 25, 2008

(Delphine is almost five and Cordelia is two and a half and a month.)

It's 8:03 in the morning, and the girls are out on the deck. It's about 10 degrees outside so they both have on sweaters, and Cordelia has on mismatched wellies. They are lounging on the lounge chairs (the "relaxing" chairs) and playing "Ah ah ah!" with a crow. The crow says "Ah ah ah!" and they say "Ah ah ah!" back. Blake stood at Delphine's window (which overlooks the deck) and said "Ah ah ah!" and Cordelia started giggling.

Delphine loves to go outside every morning right after breakfast, now that it has warmed up (the weather, not breakfast). She has explored every one of the thousand square feet back there, and she keeps track of what is growing for me. Right now the fiddleheads are coming up, and it's all I can do to stop her from picking them all to eat.

Cordelia is at that stage where she overgeneralizes grammatical rules, so she "holded" my hand or she "moveded" back. (I'm not sure what that double-suffix thing is about, but it's pretty cute, in a Gollum-esque way.) Anyway, that's cute enough but Delphine has started doing it too, which is awesome. I like that she's learning things from her sister, even if those things are wrong. I'm sure they'll get sorted out sooner or later.

8:17 am: Cordelia is sitting at the dining table drawing with crayons. She says "I'm drawin' a hyclops! The hyclops goin' to have hair..." And she talks herself through the whole picture. She likes drawing cyclopses because she's still at the stage where her drawings are mostly circles and lines. Circle, circle inside, two lines sticking out; ta-da! Hyclops!

Delphine is making pictures of all different houses. She drew a condo, and a boathouse, and the roof of a house, and a round house, and just a regular house.

This morning Delphine told me she had a bad dream, but she changed it to be a good dream. There were monsters, and she had writing on her skin which told the monsters there was something inside her, but she told the monsters that the stuff inside was stuff they didn't like, muscles and bones, not something good like money and treasure. Then she flew away, and the monsters couldn't fly. She triumphs in her dreams!

It must have been a good night for bad dreams, because Cordelia woke up twice with bad dreams, too. Maybe Delphine can teach her how to make her bad dreams go better.

It's 2:42 pm which means I should go and wake up Cordelia so we can go pick up Delphine. Cordelia has only been asleep for about an hour; I put her down a little later than usual because there was a guy here aerating our lawn and I had to pay him.

Anyway, this morning we went to the library to pick up the thousands of books Blake and I had on hold, and to get some books for the girls. The girls got another Alfie book by Shirley Hughes, and a few more picture books. I got a couple for Delphine from the "Advanced Picture Books" shelf. I must also remember to order a new chapter book for her; we just finished "'B' is for Betsy" by Carolyn Haywood. We read a couple of books while we were there; Delphine picked out a book about a farmer, but she was very disappointed when it turned out to be just a counting book. She is getting too old for probably about half of the books in the picture book section of the library. I think we might have to switch to a bigger library, but I don't want to; I love this library and it's so handy.

After the library we went to the toy store to get something for Ursa, who is turning 5 this weekend. The girls were supposed to help me pick something out, but they got distracted by the train set. There was a little boy playing with the trains too, and they did 'dinosaurs knock over the trains' and 'look out, sheep, don't get hit by a train!' and all kinds of other train/plastic animal hybrid games. I finally got them to help my pick some little things out, and we headed home.

Lunch was peanut butter and Marmite on leftover buns (I forgot to make bread again). I made Delphine a snack of oatmeal cookies and prunes (no, she's not constipated, she just really likes prunes) and we were off to school. After I dropped her off, Cordelia and I headed home, the lawn aerator guy was here, and that's the end of that story, mostly. After he was done I overseeded the lawn and seeded the border we are converting to lawn. I know, it's madness. I need to come up with something better to do with my backyard, but in the meantime grass seed is cheap.

Now I'm going to wake up Cordelia and get her something to nibble on while we go back to the school to pick up her big sister.

Cordelia had a couple of oatmeal cookies to nibble on, and I put her in the big double stroller to go pick up Delphine. Usually we take a smaller stroller, but Delphine stubbed her toe really badly in the morning so I thought she might need a ride home.

After school, Delphine stopped and played with her friends for ages, as usual. School is out at 3:15 but we're lucky if we get home before 4:15. As usual, they started off playing in the school play structure, sliding, jumping on the wobbly bridge, and, increasingly, climbing the various climby bits – ladders, ropes, tires, and so on. Then they moved on to playing right at the far end of the playing field, apparently in the dirt. I think they like it over there because they're so far away from their Mums and grandmothers and so on. Finally we Mums got them moving by promising a few minutes of play on "Big Hill", the sloped lawn at the front of the school. (Obviously Delphine's toe was no longer bothering her.) We finally managed to leave with only some of the usual hysterics, and came home to a dinner of pancakes and bacon and mango and fried tomato. Sometimes I like to have breakfast for supper, just for fun.

We skipped bathtime in favour of reading some books, and then it was into pajamas and into bed by 7:15. I make that sound easy, but often there is some debate as to whether and when it is necessary to put on pajamas, brush teeth, tidy bedrooms or go to bed. Usually we all agree on reading a book or two, though.

Blake got home, as usual, sometime in the middle of bedtime and joined in the mess of brushing and reading and fighting. After the Smalls were in bed we Bigs took the laundry off the line and folded it, cleaned the kitchen, Blake had his supper, we watched a couple of Daily Shows and went to bed.

And that's a day in the life.

What I do on my Mac.

From André Roberge

jennifer:~ bwinton$ history|awk '{a[$2]++ } END{for(i in a){print a[i] " " i}}'|sort -rn | head
86 ls
80 bzr
60 cd
56 scp
46 vi
38 exit
37 sudo
25 xcodebuild
13 spam
7 ssh

I’m not sad about that set of commands. I look around a lot, and check stuff in a lot, and copy it to my iTouch most of the time. I’m sure xcodebuild would be higher in the list if I didn’t use Command-B from inside the IDE.

An odd restriction

As I mentioned before, I’ve ported Gambit Scheme to my iTouch, and have been playing around with it a little. It’s pretty nice all in all, but I recently ran into a small problem while I was trying to play around with macros. The problem? There’s no way to enter a backtick (`) on the iTouch! That means that I don’t really have a way to write code like

`( a b ,(+ 1 2) d)

which makes writing macros a lot more painful. Fortunately, I got a lot of help from the people on IRC and on the Gambit mailing list. Specifically, Marc Feeley, the author of Gambit, posted a snippet of code that I could put into my .gambcini file that would add $ as a synonym for `. The code looked like this:

    #\$  ;; the character to dispatch on
    #t   ;; this character is a delimiter
    (lambda (re c) (##read-quotation re #\`)))  ;; handler

and the example, which works, is:

$(1 ,(+ 2 3) 4)
output: (1 5 4)

If you’re trying to write that code on your iTouch, you might notice that it includes the forbidden `, and so you’re once again out of luck. Except that in this case, you can replace #\` with #\u0060, which you can type in on the iTouch, and then it’ll all work.


Spring has arrived with an unlikely two sunny warm days in a row, over a weekend! We celebrated by playing in the muck. We raked most of last fall's leaves off the front and back lawns, and I cleared off and weeded some of the north border in the backyard. I pulled out about a ton of creeping charlie, which is surprisingly satisfying to uproot when the ground is soft; you can get hold of a bit without breaking the stem and then reel in about a foot of plant and roots, like a magician pulling scarves out of a hat.

We also uprooted some of the many raspberries, and I cleaned out some of the raspberry patch. There are dozens of plants there and it's hard to get the leaves and twigs and weeds out from between them, to say nothing of trimming out the dead canes, pulling out the millions of little suckers, and removing the raccoon poop. I think the smart thing to do with the raspberry patch will be to thin it out as well as reduce its overall footprint. The previous owners must have really like raspberries.

There are lots of little things growing, but the only things flowering yet are crocuses. I'm not sure what the other things are so I'm looking forward to their flowers. Some tulips I planted last fall are coming up in the front yard; Delphine is very excited about that because she helped me plant them.

Perhaps the most remarkable accomplishment this week was that Blake built a frame for our Square Foot Garden. That's a technique for vegetable gardening whereby you plant your entire garden in one (or more) four-by-four foot squares. We picked out the spot for the garden and Blake was poking around in the shed and found four perfect four-and-a-half foot planks, which he screwed together into a frame to delineate and protect the garden. I say this casually, as if Blake screws things together to make other things all the time, but if you know Blake you know that just isn't so. He is not what you might call "handy". However, he made a perfectly lovely frame without swearing or drawing blood, so I think he might be handier than either of us suspected. The frame is gracing our garden and waiting patiently for some nice compost and lots of seeds.

On the road again…

Last night, I finally got the garage door open, after it had been frozen in a block of ice for most of the winter, and got my bike out. So this morning, I biked to work for the first time in, uh, I don’t even know how long. It was a pretty sweet ride, all in all. There were any number of reasons not to do it; my biking jeans are dirty, it’s too cold, I couldn’t down-shift, but as always there was one reason that trumped them all. I wanted to ride again. And so I did.

Some of the things I forgot about during my hiatus were how good that first cup of coffee tastes after you’ve been riding in -5° weather, what a rush it is to pass cars as they’re sitting, idling in stop-and-go traffic, and how invigorated I feel when I finally get to the office, and sit down. Oh, also how sore my butt is. Damn, that’s a small hard seat. I can’t wait to get used to it again.

Well, that’s about it. I made it in safely, and I’m sure I’ll be doing it again, and again, and pocketing the $22.50/week that would have gone to the TTC, to spend on random upgrades.