February 2000

Saturday 19 February 2000

Today was an exhausting but very fun day. Hayley came over at eleven this morning; we went to the supermarket to get some food (she also persuaded me to buy her a toy; she chose a play-money thing), then came back to my house. We played "shop" for a while, which was quite interesting; she had a hard time with the notion of change -- for example, when I bought something worth $2.02, and gave her $20.02, she wanted to give me back $22. I found it hard to explain to her why that was wrong. She told me that the second-graders learned about money, and I said "ah, you want to get a head-start, huh? That's a good idea."

We played Scattergories and Scrabble. Later I suggested to her that we go sledding. We went over to Kathy's house to get her sled, and Hayley suggested that we try sledding in her back yard. There wasn't really enough of a slope there, but then we decided to make an igloo rather than go off somewhere else to sled. We made the bottom half of the igloo, but then it started to get a bit shaky, so I told her we should wait until tomorrow, when it would have frozen solid, to continue.

At one point during the building, she needed to pee. Unfortunately, I didn't have the keys to Kathy's house, and the upstairs neighbour was not there. I told her she could pee outside. She did so, but didn't aim too well, so her jeans got wet. She was most unhappy about this. We couldn't get into the house to get a change of clothes, and she did *not* want to go back to my house. Finally I suggested that we could toss them into the drier (I *could* get into the basement, where the washer and drier are, I just didn't have the key to the inside part of the house). We tried that for twenty minutes or so, but they *still* weren't dry. Finally I heard someone upstairs (the landlady's apartment) and got keys to get into the house to get a change of clothes for Hayley.

At one point Hayley got very upset with me (while waiting for her jeans to dry): "If you hadn't had that *stupid* idea of me peeing outside, none of this would have happened."

I replied: "Well, I didn't know that you couldn't pee without wetting your pants. Don't blame *me* for your inability to pee outside."

She wasn't happy with this :-) We talked about the advantages of having a penis -- I told her that boys sometimes peed letters in the snow, to spell their names, for example.

Hayley: Some people think black people are worse than white people.
Jak: That's true.  It's silly, isn't it?
Hayley: Yes, it's what's in their hearts that matters.

Friday 18 February 2000

Here is a postcard my mother sent to Hayley:

Dear Hayley, the french words mean I am thinking of you. And I do thnk of you -- often. You won't remember this, but when I was with you last year, you gave me a pretty white stone, when we were on one of our walks where I got lost -- and you knew the way! I put the stone in my coat pocket. It is still there, and when I put my hand in my pocket, I think of you.


Tuesday, 15 Feb 2000

A little while ago, Hayley had her first publication: a poem in her school newsletter, the Lincoln Log-In:
      by Hayley Kirman

        Big, 3 horns
     Eats, fights, plays
Its name means face with 3 horns

Monday, 14 Feb 2000

Well, today has been quite a day. I worked from home today so I could go to Hayley's Valentine concert, which was really delightful. It took place in the library, which had been rearranged to form a big open space in one half of the room. The concert was by the first and second grade children, with the 3rd graders helping at one point. The younger children sat at the front of the audience, and lots of parents were behind.

The first graders came in, and after a moment of silence, they sang some songs for us; in some we were encouraged to join in, but most parents were a bit hesitant (I certainly was, as I didn't know the songs). One song was really nice, let me try to remember it. There's a cherry without a stone, a chicken without a bone, several more similar, and then they sang the same things again, showing us pictures: what was for the cherry? The chicken without a bone was a chicklet hatching (questionable biology there :-) need to get the rest of these from Kathy or Hayley.

They told us some riddles; a pair of girls would step forward, one would ask the riddle and the other would answer it: e.g., What do you lose every time you stand up? Your lap. What goes up when the rain comes down? An umbrella. More similar.

At some point the first graders sat down and the second graders came in; I'm not sure which songs were by which group.

They sang a song about love being like a magic penny, the more you give away, the more you get back.

There was one song that had the third-graders make an arch that the younger children came through in pairs, choreographed.

The nicest thing about the whole event was that all the kids were clearly enjoying themselves enormously (at least all the first and second graders seemed to be); the parents all had a good time too, as Lincoln understands well that such things should be short and sweet (about forty minutes total). One girl made a mistake, but everyone just smiled -- the notion of being laughed at is *so* foreign to these children that I'm sometimes afraid of how they will do in less pleasant surrounds.

I think that it's the job of the parents to provide those other experiences, though, I think. That is, I don't think that schools should have any part that children are known to dislike "for their own good". Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age is a wonderful book about teaching and learning, and how it might happen in several hundred years. Stephenson writes pretty "hard" science fiction, meaning that there is little if anything that he describes that makes scientists who understand the reality wince. There is lots of projection, but it is all very coherent and well-thought-out. That's one of the things I like even more about Kim Stanley Robinson, who writes better science fiction than anyone I've read, I think, CS Lewis, John Wyndham, John Stapledone notwithstanding. There are many more recent good science fiction writers, like Clarke and Asimov and Simak, but they don't have the literary richness that KSR does. His Mars trilogy is wonderful; it describes a mission with a hundred highly intelligent (in many ways) people who start the colonization of Mars. It is continued in the second and third books, where politics and sociology become more dominant. I think it will become a classic work, in the sense that many people will know it enough to use it as a refferent, or as common background, the way people use TV shows or movies.

Saturday, 12 Feb 2000

Here is a story that Hayley wrote. I'll try to scan in the pictures at some point. I haven't been able to get my scanner to work with my linux system yet.

The dinosaur's dream, by Hayley Kirman

A long, long time ago, there was a triceratops and 9 T-rexes. One day a triceratops was walking home and he met a T-rex. Soon it was night and T-rex didn't want to fight with the triceratops. The next day T-rex was walking and met the triceratops again. They did not fight. The T-rex was so mad that he tried to bite the triceratops. The triceratops hit T-rex and T-rex fell into the lake. Triceratops was very surprised that T-rex didn't want to fight with him. Soon it was July. In July the dinosaurs gather food for the winter. Soon it was August. One day, Triceratops saw a Stegosaurus and the Stegosaurus had a baby. Triceratops had a baby too, so they played together for a long time. They had a very fun time. Then triceratops went home and the baby triceratops had a bad dream. The baby triceratops dreamed that people were alive and they captured him. It was very scary. He ran after he broke the rope that they tied him up with. Baby Triceratops was so scared that he wished he was back home. I think that I'm in a dream. So I wish that I was home. So he went back home from his dream. Baby triceratops was very happy that he was home and that it was morning and that his dad was up.

The end.

Tuesday, 8 Feb 2000

Tonight I came over and hung out at Kathy and Hayley's for a bit; we watched Batman and then Scoobidoo. Kathy went out for dinner with a friend; Hayley played solitaire for a bit, and we watched Arnold and chatted. This was the one where Arnold tries baseball, and every time he hits the ball it hurts someone. The second episode was one where the Chinese restaurant owner is discovered as a wonderful country and western singer, but declines fame and fortune for the simple things. "I like Arnold," I said to Hayley. "The character, as well as the show."

"Well, you like the show because you like the character," she said to me.

"Um." I thought a bit. "There are shows where I like the character but not the show."

"Like Batman!" she replied.

I laughed. "You don't like the show? Why do you watch it, then? Do you like the bad guys?"

"No... But I like to see what they do, and how Batman deals with them."

Hmm. I don't know how best to format conversations in html.

I read Junie B Jones and her big fat mouth, (I had to ask Hayley; I'd forgotten the title). Who is the author? I asked. Barbara Park. She had to look at the book for that. I liked that story a lot. It was about a very brash but bright kindergarten girl, who likes the janitor at her school, and decides to be a janitor for "Job Day". Everyone laughs at her, but the teacher tells them off, and the janitor visits the class and everyone ends up liking him and thinking that janitor is a cool job.

Saturday, 6 February 2000

On Saturday, some friends from work (Wendy and Rob) came down to visit; they are thinking of possibly moving to Providence some time in the future. They came with a friend of theirs called Chantal, who is from Alberta. When Hayley and I were alone at one point she asked me "The shorter girl, is she the daughter of the other two?" I laughed, because I knew the three were of roughly the same age, and asked Hayley how old Chantal looked. "About 15 or 16" was Hayley's guess. I told Hayley that Chantal would probably be delighted to hear that, and at one point Hayley plucked up the courage to tell her. She was indeed very pleased. Wendy and Rob got the short end of the stick in that comparison, but Wendy is nearly as old as me, and Rob looks much older than he is. It's funny how much difference there is between how old people look and how old they are, once you get a bit older :-)

We went down to the playground, though it was a bit nippy, and the playground was snow-covered, so we couldn't do much there. The snow wasn't really a good texture for making snowballs or snowmen, so we just hung around there for a bit and then walked back. On a cold winter's day, just a thirty minute walk is nice; I suspect Hayley would have got cold if we had stayed out much longer. Hayley was pretty shy, talking pretty much only when talked to, though when we went to Kathy's house, she became much more talkative, and showed everyone the poem she got published in the school newsletter.

Wendy and Rob, Chantal and her friend Rick, and I went to the Rue de l'Espoir, where we had an excellent dinner, along with three bottles of wine. Then we went back to my apartment (which I had hastily cleaned, so it was not quite the disaster area it could have been) to have coffee, and talk. It was nice to do that again --- it's something I used to do all the time in England and France, but it just seems to happen much less here. I'm not sure why.

Thursday, 3 February 2000

I feel good. I feel that I understand the world *much* better than I did anytime in the past. I feel in control of my life, I think, is what I'm trying to say. I've felt that before, but with less conviction. I think that trend will continue :-)

I didn't sleep last night. This morning at 8, I was chatting on irc, gradually realizing that this would be a good time to do something I knew I had to do before Friday --- buy some clothes so I could look presentable :-) I haven't had to look really presentable in a while :-) It's interesting how "presentable" changes with circumstance. Hayley asked me some time ago what I wore to work. "Pretty much whatever I like," was my reply. She looked dubious. "Can you wear shorts to work?" she asked. I laughed, "In the summer I do sometimes, yes."

January 2000

Friday, 28 January 2000

Math Morning I'm working from home today. I went to Hayley's school for "Math Morning", which was really neat. Hayley was so excited about this that she set her alarm clock for 5:30am :-)

We (the parents) sat with our children as they went through their first half-hour or so of daily routine. Here are some of the concepts they talked about: date, today, tomorrow, parity, one's column, ten's column, hundred's column, counting from 1 to 10 by ones, counting from 10 to 100 by tens, year, month, day, weather, bundle up when you go outside and it's cold out. The teacher is excellent; she said very little during this class, except for asking questions, letting the children answer them.

There were a couple of sentences on the chalkboard that Miss Anderson said she had written when she wasn't thinking right, and could the children point out some errors? They knew that sentences start with a capital, that month names are capitalized, that "I" is capitalized, that a sentence ends with a period. They knew that "dont" is wrong, and should be "don't", and that the apostrophe indicated a contraction from "do not".

[tally game]

Then we played a tallying game; we had a cardboard folder with two rings at the top, with the digits from 0 to 9 on cards on each ring. We also had little white bricks for ones, and long red things the size of ten ones put together.

We took turns rolling a die (a regular six sided die) and adding the number that came up in ones blocks. When we had ten ones we would take them out and put a ten in the tens column, and when we got to a hundred (lots of excitement at the rollover :-) she ran to get one of the 100 blocks from the teacher.

I chatted with Hayley's teacher and another teacher who was there; I recommended "The Schools Our Children Deserve" by Alfie Kohn to them, and asked them if it would be ok for me to teach Hayley some more advanced maths if the occasion arose. They both thought this would be fine, and told me that Hayley had very good maths skills.

The more I see of this school, the more I like it.

Thursday, 27 Jan 2000

I was very impressed when I went to Hayley's school today to get a form, and the admissions secretary recognized me. "You're Hayley's father, right?" I told her she had a very good memory. She told me she remembered me particularly because she mainly spoke to mothers. It's a pity that fathers don't pay more attention to their children's education.

Wednesday, 26 Jan 2000

Today I babysat Hayley while Kathy went to get her hair done. Hayley decided that we should play teachers. She had a class of (imaginary) friends of her imaginary friend Sabrina, and I had a class with Sabrina and those of her friends who spoke better English. The ones in Hayley's class didn't speak English much yet. She decided that the first part of the lesson would be about dinosaurs, and asked me to decide what we would do for the second part.
Jak: We could look at pennies.
Hayley: Pennies?
Jak: Yes.
Hayley: What's interesting about pennies?
Jak: Well, they each have the year they were made printed on them.
Hayley: Oh! [she realized how they connected with time] They say that
if you find a penny with your birth year on it, you can make a wish.

While I gave her her bath, we talked about various things. At some point the topic of marrying a sibling came up.

Jak: People didn't usually marry their siblings.
Hayley: Why not?
Jak: Well, for one thing, children who grow up together tend not to
want to marry.
Hayley: Oh, because they're bored of each other?
Jak:  Maybe, yes.  Also, there are cultural taboos against it.
One of the reasons is genetic --- if siblings have children together,
recessive genes can appear, which means the children are often not
very healthy. [I didn't explain it very well]
Hayley: Oh.
Jak: Another reason might be that if the siblings married other
people, there would be a bigger family.  Marrying each other seems
kind of a waste.

Hayley saw something on TV the other day that said "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, Children are from Heaven". She jumped up and said: "That doesn't make sense." She explained to me, and I forget the exact words, but the gist was: "If a child is from Heaven, then when they grow up they'll still be from Heaven, so how can they be from Mars or Venus?" I was very impressed with her critical thinking.

Monday, 17 Jan 2000

Yesterday Hayley and Jessica tried to make an igloo. There was a *lot* of snow compared to usualy for here, but nowhere near enough to build an igloo. They had the right idea, though; they had made a circular mound of snow. Hayley asked me how to make igloos, and I showed her the way I had learned. "You make a kind of snow-brick, basically [I sketched a cuboid], and make lots of them. You lay them down in a circle, like you did [I drew a view from the top], oops, not all the way around --- better leave somewhere to get in! Then you make a bunch more snow-bricks, and lay them around the same circle, but *in* a bit, like this. You can make them lean in a bit, too. Then you keep doing this..." Hayley did an 'aha'. "All the way up to the top, where you have to make one... kind of slide in."

I explained to her that there really wasn't enough snow out there right now to make an igloo, and that it had been years before there was enough snow to make an igloo when I was a child in NJ [the nearest place to here where I lived for any time]. She was very disappointed, but bore it well. I told her that maybe some year we could go to a ski resort for a week or so, in which case there would likely be enough snow. I'd like to get an apartment for Kathy, Rick, Hayley, perhaps Jessica, perhaps other friends, and myself for a week of skiing, some time. Rick and Kathy are getting a place for a week on the seaside this coming summer; I love things like that.

I have excellent memories from going to the XXX off S. Carolina; I flew my first two-string kite there, and generally had a wonderful time with Kathy.

Hayley said something very interesting to me today. "Whatever topic is under discussion, you always find a way to relate it to computers", is a paraphrase of what she told me. I told her that was an excellent observation, and that the reason was simply that my job made me like that: in some sense, my job is finding how technology can help people. My job title is "Technologist", currently, though I think of myself more as a software design teacher. Technologist is broader, and more accurate. I am fascinated by new technologies --- I've had a GPS and a PalmPilot for years, and I've always fantasized about new technologies --- I'm a fervent science-fiction fan. Science Fiction gets a terribly bad rap in current society; I'm not sure why. To me, science fiction is fiction that postulates some major difference in society from the current society, and explores the ramifications of the change. Some of my favorite SF authors are Asimov, AC Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Clifford Simak, and more recently Kim Stanley Robinson and Neal Stephenson. Some less well-known SF authors I love are CS Lewis (who also wrote many other types of fiction), John Wyndham (including his earlier novels under various other names). I like fantasy too; I think Tolkien was a genius, I liked Eddings' earlier works, Marion Zimmer Bradley has written some fabulous fantasy (and some excellent erotica); as a kid I loved the Catweazle books, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (I like Dahl's "adult" books too); Alan Garner is awesome. There is a *huge* amount of poor fantasy, IMHO, and the worst are the interminable series that lack imagination. Eddings I thought great in his first series, but the others just didn't have enough new twists to be interesting. I found the same problem on a smaller scale (that is, I was turned off more quickly) with various series like Piers Anthony's ???, gah.

On an unrelated note, I rented the 1999(?) Midsummer's Night Dream, but just couldn't deal with the language. I am an ignorant boor :-)

Hayley has not been to my house for a while, for various reasons. Today I brought her here for a few hours. We had fun. Mainly she wanted to play Prince of Persia with me :-) As usual, we traded off "driving" and being "co-pilot". Naturally, she likes co-piloting better in the parts she is not familiar with. One thing I find interesting is seeing which bits she finds hardest. One of the hardest so far is where there are "Chompers" -- these are obstacles consisting of two big blades, one coming up from the floor, one from the ceiling. They are zig-zagged on the cutting edge:

and they retract into the ceiling/floor about once a second, with a nice clanging sound at the other end of the cycle, when they collide. Because one identifies strongly with the persona in a third-person game, it is *very* scary. The thought of getting chopped in two by them squicks Hayley enormously (it squicks me a lot, too). So for a long time not only would Hayley not try this part, she wouldn't even watch while I tried, because the thought of getting chomped was too much for her. I think Jessica is less squicked, but she is happy to follow Hayley's example and hide, demanding that I do this bit. (Prince of Persia is very different from games like Quake and Doom, in that gore is not glorified, but is still very graphic; I think the difference between first-person games and third-person games is vastly under-estimated).

The chompers are interesting. If you keep your cool, they are easy -- you can slowly step up to them, get the rhythm, and step through on the "open" phase. Sometimes there are several chompers in a row, in which case (at least in POP1) they are synchronized so they go "chomp, chomp, chomp, pause, chomp chomp chomp, pause, etc. So if you have *lots* of gumption, you can run straight through. If you're a wimp like me, you do them one at a time, trying to ignore the others. Most of the time I don't get near enough to the end to worry about the time pressure --- this is an interesting feature that makes a vast difference in the complexity of solving the problem. At first, you ignore the time limit (one hour), and just explore. As time goes on, you learn an effective algorithm for the sequence up to some point, and this point gradually moves towards the goal (rescuing the princess). This early part becomes more and more automatic, to the point where you can do other things at the same time for much of the automatic part. Once that is done, you are looking at a new or relatively new scene, and you have to figure out how to get through --- somewhere there will be an obvious door to the next level. Occasionally you will find yourself at a position where you have tried literally hundreds of different possible things; if it gets too frustrating, try looking for cheat sheets on the web. Also, if you explore things well, you will often find more resources like "level potions" (there are various different potions you may find; some common ones are potion of healing [adds one hit point unless you are full], potion of damage [removes one hit point], flying potion [if you jump into thin air, you will float gently], level potion [adds one to your maximum hit points, and restores them all], etc. If you explore levels fully [e.g., jumping up to see if there are weak tiles in the ceiling], you may find level potions, which make the following levels easier. When you fight with someone, each hit you fail to parry will cost you one hit-point -- when you have none left, you die and have to start that level over again. Some levels are quite lengthy, and are divided into several pieces; dying only takes you back to the beginning of the most recent piece.

SPOILER: level 3 is *really* *really* nasty. Explore it all. There's no way to open the gate at the end. Go to the top right corner. Jump right. Yes, you can't see what's there. Close your eyes and jump. You'll find a series of pillars that leads you to a trigger-panel that opens the gate at the far left. Now, if you are *very* quick, you can get all the way over to the left before the gate closes. Walk (rather than run) for more than a few paces, and you're cooked. Or skewerself drop onto some really nasty spikes. I think "skilled" is something Hayley came up with as a combination of "skewered" and "killed"; she had an "aha" moment when I told her the usual meaning of "skilled". Now for the nasty part: if you do all this, you're wasting a level potion. Jump *AGAIN* into the void, to the right. SPOILER END

I find it interesting how much the Prince of Persia game has taught me about how children learn, how fascinated by it Hayley and Jessica are, how much respect I have gained for the people who produced it, and how hard I realize QA is (I had played PoP many many times before I discovered that there were sometimes alternate keys that did the same thing, and saw how appalling a design decision that was).

Sunday, 16 Jan 2000

Hayley was very upset this evening when her friend Jessica left at 8:30 (Hayley' bedtime), borrowing the Christmas Vacation movie. She is upset that older people get to stay up later. I told her that she had to figure out what it was that made her mother want to put her to bed earlier, and do less of it. She said she would try to be nicer in the mornings. I readily admit that I'm often grumpy until I've had my first cup of coffee.

Saturday 15 Jan 2000

I think Hayley needs to learn more about the value of discretion. She was asking me whether I liked going to X [name at least temporarily deleted :-)].
Jak:    Sure, I love it.  It's really great.  Besides  don't
        tell anyone, but there's a girl there I like.
Hayley:  Mom!!  Daddy's in love with a girl at X!
Jak:     Hayley!!  I said don't tell anyone!  That's terrible!
Hayley:  Daddy's in love, Daddy's in love!
Jak:    I am *not*.  I don't know her nearly well enough.  I just like
Jak:    Hayley, you must learn to keep secrets, or no-one will ever
        tell you any.
Hayley:  I'll tell it at Share [at her school]
Jak:    Don't you dare!
Kathy:  That would be a horrible thing to do, Hayley.  I think I'm
        going to post to the university bulletin-board "Hayley is in
        love with Alex"
Hayley: Noooooo!  And I'm not!
Kathy:   How about "Alex is in love with Hayley"?
Hayley: Noooooo!
Kathy:  Do you see what I'm getting at, though?  You shouldn't tell
        people things like that.

Friday 14 Jan 2000

A red-letter day --- Bill Gates is resigning! I didn't see Hayley today, partly because there was lots of snow and ice on the roads. Arisia is starting today; I bet spirits will be high there over Gates' resignation. I wanted to take Hayley to Arisia, at least to see the children's part of the Masquerade, but Kathy didn't want her to go (at least not enough to come herself).

The URL for this document is ~jak/people/hayley/diary/2000.html
Created: 27 Jan 2000