Archive for February, 2010

San Diego Zoo

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Just back from the zoo. Great trip! Will post more soon — everyone exhausted now.

Daniel and Camilla School Tests

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Above is a photo of Daniel and Camilla’s test since January 1. They are tacked onto my office door. There are a total of 96 spelling words here. Exactly two of them were missed. Very hard working, guys!

Chile Earthquake

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

An 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck Chile last night. Photos are just coming in. See the link here. There is some fear of a Hawaii-bound tsunami coming around 1pm PST.

Taleb Quote

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Nassim Taleb from Twitter: “What they call philosophy, I call literature; what they call literature I call journalism; and what they call journalism I call gossip.”


Thursday, February 25th, 2010

I’m not sure exactly what prompted me to put Beowulf on my Netflix list, but I’m glad that I did. It was thoroughly entertaining.

The entire movie is a CGI animation that doesn’t quite work – anyone looking at the characters sees them as so human that they are revolted by the imperfections of the images. It’s called the Uncanny Valley by robot creators, with some of very reasonable possible explanations as to why people are universally revolted by these near-perfect representations. In order to enjoy Beowulf, you need to ignore the impulse.

My favorite part of the movie (besides a nude Angelina Jolie, which has to top any male viewer’s list) was the mead hall that Grendal attacks in the beginning of the movie. While the speeches describe it as a grand hall, it really looks like a large wooden shack thrown up by near savage woodsmen in Scandinavia 1500 years ago—it basically looked really accurate. The castle that shows up later in the movie is a more typical, unrealistic Hollywood fantasy, but at least someone was thinking early on in the movie. I credit Neil Gaiman, though his input in the film may well have disappeared ten years before anyone started filming (animating).

I don’t know much about the original story. It never interested me like much older tales (Gilgamesh, the Bible, Homer). I always figured it for a Johnny-come-lately of the epic tales, interesting only for being in Old English. I’ll need to revise that opinion since discovering one of the premiere scholars of Beowulf was none other than J.R.R. Tolkien. An early Middle Ages tale of monsters, dragons and heroes. Does this sound familiar … ?

Reading Lord of the Rings to Very Young Children

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

I’d been avoiding posting on this for some time now. I’m not even sure when we started reading it. But we’re on an even keel now, and the kids look forward to it every night, so I think we’ll actually finish it.

For those not familiar with our family situation, we have a 6 year old boy and a 5 year old girl as our primary listeners. Our six month old daughter also listens in, but I don’t think she understands much. Our 2 year old son was too disruptive early on, so now he’s with Mom playing video games while I read to the others.

This is much harder than The Hobbit. I strongly recommend starting with The Hobbit – it is far more kid-friendly and uses an adjusted vocabulary. Also, the prose gets right to the point (relatively speaking, this is still JRRT’s writing and one of the joys of his prose is a luxurious slow pace).

We don’t go very fast – four to six pages a night right now, though I expect we’ll do more when things get interesting. I don’t explain words (very often), but use voices and hand motions to get across the mood of any particular piece. And — horror of horrors — I actually sing the songs.

The evening routine goes as follows. We first read picture books with all four kids; Dr. Seuss, Sandra Boynton, Pat the Bunny. They finish their milks, brush their teeth and we set up for the evening reading. Camilla (5 year old daughter) takes care of the baby. Daniel (6 year old son) can lounge or play quietly, which he did early on but now spends his time listening to the text. I was ready to quit early on as it neither of them appeared to be listening to me. For a few days, I felt I was reading only to myself.

But after a little time, they get used to cadence of the text and listen to it with understanding. It takes time. A few days or even a week. We’re up to page 130 or so (Tom Bombadil’s house) and it’s only now that I’m sure they’re with me.

We’re completely avoiding the movies. They’re too fast paced, and too violent for us to be comfortable with kids this young. They can watch the movies after we finish the book. The second or third time, that is.

Thanks to Nic for the red leather edition for Christmas. It clearly communicates to the kids that this is a special book.

Twin Parkinsons

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Just announced: Andy and Ashley are expecting twins!

California Death Spiral

Friday, February 19th, 2010

For those of you who also read Paul Krugman’s NYT columns and blog, don’t worry too much about us over the article published here. The 39% increases seem to be part of the individual insurance market, and we’re insured through my corporation under a business policy. Since there are fewer business customers fleeing due to high insurance prices, we’re somewhat protected from this.

Nonetheless, we faced a 30% rise in our own premiums two years ago, so we’re not completely immune. Health care reform is essential — the current situation reminds me incredibly of Enron and the power outages created in California in 2001 to force the state to pay higher electric bills.

Remind me again why I’m such a strong free-market advocate?

Sid Meier’s Civilization Five

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Set a little bit of time aside to play the game. Like most of 2011 … I hate Sid Meier.

And I’ll be seeing him when he gives the keynote at GDC (Game Developers’ Conference) this March in San Francisco.

Link for the game’s website is here.

Sid Meier's Civilization Five

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Set a little bit of time aside to play the game. Like most of 2011 … I hate Sid Meier.

And I’ll be seeing him when he gives the keynote at GDC (Game Developers’ Conference) this March in San Francisco.

Link for the game’s website is here.