Sunday, December 17, 2017

Santa’s Workshop

I have mentioned before my son’s obsession with Minecraft.   He’s not alone as this is a common thing for children in a wide age range to enjoy.   It’s a world in which you can build things in the shape of cubes.   It’s an open-ended activity and he’s been doing a lot of creative things in the game.

Today he wanted me to play with him.   I’m a video game veteran but I haven’t played Minecraft like he has so he was the teacher and showed me what to do.   I asked if there was a Christmas world he could load.   There are worlds people have created that you can load and look around or play in.   Sure, he said, let me find it.

This world was impressive.   The creator had made building blocks representing all things Christmas.   There was an entire village with a huge Christmas tree in the center replete with presents underneath. My son said, “can I be the TNT master?”   I said sure, knowing this meant he planned on blowing something up (he loves blowing things up).

He got the TNT block and placed lots of TNT “presents” under the tree, promising me they wouldn’t blow up—and then he blew them all up.   He explained that by doing this it destroyed “the prize”.   I didn’t get an explanation of what the prize was because at that moment he said, “hey, there’s a secret tunnel underneath the base of the tree!”  

We both climbed down the ladder and followed a very long tunnel and then climbed up, opening a secret trapdoor in the floor.    As we looked around he said very decisively, “we’re in Santa’s workshop.”  I asked him if he’d been here before and he said he didn’t know about the tunnel or this secret place.   How did he know it was Santa’s workshop I asked, “I can just tell” he said.

The Big Boy Update:  My son gets worried when his sister leaves town to have eye surgery.   This afternoon he wanted to spend time on the bed with me with our iPads, side by side.   It’s sort of nice to have him want to be around me, usually he’s off and about doing his own thing.

The Tiny Girl Chronicles:  My daughter and husband just landed in Detroit for eye surgery on my daughter’s right eye tomorrow.   My husband got a call shortly after they touched down that Dr. Trese, our surgeon, is stuck in Atlanta with a power outage.   He’s trying to get back in time for surgery in the morning but we won’t know until tomorrow.   While this is frustrating news to my husband, my daughter is thrilled there is snow on the ground.  

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Trampoline Party

My son had his seventh birthday party today.   He wanted to do so at one of the indoor trampoline parks and he wasn’t that particular on who was invited.   We sort of let him have our way by suggesting he invite our friends who are visiting from out of town for a week with us and his good neighbor friends.   That and one other child from our Movie Night crew and we had a total of eight children, which was a good number, even though ages ranged from six to sixteen on the children front.

My son also wanted to have Pei Wei for the food—something difficult to do since the trampoline place was in the other direction entirely from Pei Wei, but was solved by having people come back to the house while my husband went to pick up the food.

There were four grandparents, some parents, Uncle Jonathan and his girlfriend, Margaret.   Most of the adults didn’t choose to jump but Uncle Jonathan, Margaret, my husband and threw middle-aged hazard to the wind, donned jumping sticky socks and went into the fray with the children.

Finding my son and his friends in the large place was a challenge some of the time for those adults who were wanting to get pictures but since everyone was having fun, no one seemed to mind.   My daughter spent a lot of the time with Margaret, whom she doesn’t get to see often but loves to spend time with.   As my mother would say, my daughter thinks Margaret, “hung the moon”.  

I forgot just how loud our house can get with piles of children in it.   Or rather I didn’t forget but I had a headache and my head was un-thrilled with the volume level so I hid after lunch and fell asleep for a while.    Thanks as always to the grandparents for keeping everyone (mostly my daughter) occupied.  

Tomorrow my husband and daughter leave for Detroit for eye surgery in which they’ll open up the scar tissue inside her right eye that is preventing her from (possibly) seeing.   We’ll know more after Monday if her right eye has the ability to see at all.

The Big Boy Update:  Why are boys so loud?  My son and his friend, Gavin, were having fun all day if volume is any indication of their level of happy.

The Tiny Girl Chronicles:  My daughter has been saying for a while now that she wants a blue car for Christmas.   She very specifically told me tonight, “I want a big blue car that’s just my size so I can drive around for Christmas.”   She further said, “and I want a hoverboard”.   She is fixated on the car thing, bringing home a sheet she brailled herself that reads, “For Christmas I want a car that is blue that goes fast, and is my size.”   This is a singular request because for Christmas the children are getting a Tesla child-sized electric car.”  There is a referral program with Tesla and since we’ve had a few referrals and Tesla mailed us a car.   It is red (the only option) but my husband has figured this must be because Santa likes red.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Mental Map

My daughter has the ability to map out her surroundings.   She has to do this by necessity to protect her body from injury.   She has enough vision to see some things—what things she can see we really don’t know as she can’t adequately explain it.   She saw a huge blow up last night and knew it was Mickey Mouse.   She also knew some of the houses in our neighborhood had lights on the roof line while others didn’t.

But there are things she takes guesses at and is way off.   You’re driving and say you see something out the window and she’ll look in the wrong direction and say she sees it too.   But the mental map is a lot more important than what she doesn’t see.   Being safe is a good thing, especially when the person you’re protecting yourself from is you.

My son is pretty good at spacial relations but I didn’t realize just how good until last night.   After our neighborhood holiday party we got in the car and drove around our phase of the neighborhood to see the luminaries lit up along the fronts of people’s houses.

We did a lot of talking about the houses and decorations and my daughter saw some of it but lots of it was just big colorful blurs to her.    When we got home my children, now very late for bed, got their pajamas on and my son said he needed to draw something before going up to bed.   It was a map, he said.   He didn’t tell me what it was as we went upstairs, leaving it on the table now that he’d gotten his thoughts down on paper.   This is what he drew:


He drew a map of all the streets in our neighborhood with dots representing the lit luminaries.   At the bottom right is the clubhouse.   There is one larger red dot on the lower left area—that’s our house.   When I asked what the other large red dot was this morning he told me that was his new friend from last night.

I had no idea he had such a complete map of the neighborhood, especially since he’s not old enough to travel much beyond our small cul-de-sac street to see friends.   I suppose I’d better find out who this new friends is.

The Bit Boy Update:  My son likes listening to the Movie Music channel.   A Star Wars song came on and my son said, “why are there always trumpets in Star Wars music?”  

The Tiny Girl Chronicles:  My daughter had fun at the neighborhood party last night, but she was a little bored.   She has trouble connecting with children and playing with them.   She loses them when they run off and a lot of times they don’t know how to interact with a blind child.   We’re working on some ways to help her in the future.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Month of Visitors

We have a series of people coming to stay with us this month.  I think we’ll have fifteen people staying with us, although not all at the same time.   I’m pretty happy about this because all the people that are coming to stay with us are either family or are in that category of, “might as well be family”.

So a full house.   That involves more chaos than I typically am comfortable with, but this can be a good thing.   I have a problem with chaos.   I fight it with excessive order.   Left unchecked this can turn into obsessive compulsive behavior.   Say for example the blinds having to be just the right amount of open or closed and when, upon entering a room, it turns out the blinds have been disturbed, they have to be restored to their “proper” or “correct” orientation.   And yes, this is something I have done and do notice.   So injecting my life with some chaos—three additional children for example—is going to do all kinds of good.

It makes me happy though when people come to stay with us and enjoy their time here.   You might remember back about two months ago when we had my childhood friend, Richard stay with us.   My children rated him a “solid eight” and we all didn’t want him to leave when it was time for him to go. This week Richard’s wife, Alice, has been staying with us as well as Richard’s mother whom my children call, “Aunt Jo”.  

I think everyone has had an enjoyable and relaxing time together.   I think the nicest thing though was when Alice got up after her first night here and she said, “I slept so well last night”.   Alice had to return home today and Aunt Jo is leaving in the morning.  

Tomorrow our friends who took their life on the road in a forty-five foot rig are coming to stay with us for over a week.   My children are very excited to see their three children and my husband already has a movie scheduled with Louie at 9AM tomorrow morning to see the new Star Wars release.

We have more family coming later in multiple sets, all the way through new years.   It’s going to be a busy but fun month here at our house.

The Big Boy Update:  My son was playing with some children he’d just met tonight at the neighborhood party at the clubhouse.   He’s getting better at these types of social situations.   He was playing some sort of Minecraft Wars and getting along easily with the other children.   I did’t see him for most of the time we were there.

The Tiny Girl Chronicles:  My daughter is so social, but she has a hard time interacting with social groups in many cases because she can’t see what’s going on or where the friends are going.   So she hangs out with the adults she trusts.   While my son had a great time tonight at the neighborhood holiday social, I think my daughter was mostly bored.   I didn’t realize this until we had gotten home and she said something about it.   Some things make me sad when I don’t realize they’ve happened until its too late.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Undo Undo Undo

There are a lot of things I find absolutely essential in working with computers.   There are things that taken away, would make the task of getting daily work done both arduous and much more time consuming.   Take the mouse for example (or touch pad).   Can you move around with the keyboard alone?   Actually, you can.   There are keyboard commands and shortcuts to get mostly anywhere, but it’s so much easier to just move the pointer and click, or double click or drag.

But my favorite and indispensable feature is Undo,   Undo and Redo.   I can take every word I’ve typed so far in this blog post, select it and press the delete key and—oh crap, it’s gone—or is it?  All I have to do is Undo and it’s back, right there, just like it was before.

Not only can I undo once, I can undo many times, as the computer is keeping a stack of all the actions I’ve done, letting me back out one, three, ten or more changes.   I use this feature all the time when I write presentations.   I put things on a slide, move them around, change font size, delete and add things.   Do I like the new layout?  If I don’t I just press Undo, Undo, Undo, etc. until I get back to the starting point of the slide.

It’s like a sandbox you can play in without penalty.   So why don’t people know about Undo?   I was over at my best friends house the other day, showing her some things on her Mac.   I was helping her with a presentation and mentioned Undo.   She didn’t use it, she said.   So I gave her a demo:  I deleted some text, I dragged a paragraph into the middle of another paragraph, I went over to the slide deck on the side and selected ten slides and deleted them—I basically destroyed hours of work.

She screamed (which was fun) and was visibly upset.   Then I calmly said, “watch this” and pressed Undo until it was all back.   And she marveled at the power of Undo.   I showed her Undo and Redo.   She said she had retyped things from scratch before from accidentally deleting them.    And my friend isn’t alone.   I’ve met many people over the years that don’t know about this one incredibly powerful feature of our computers.  

It’s not just within applications, it can be files you accidentally deleted or moved and don’t know which folder your fingers mistakenly dragged them to.  It’s in almost all applications and it’s one of my favorite features.   I don’t think I want to work on a computer that doesn’t have Undo.

The Big Boy Update: My son asked me yesterday, “is right zig or is left zig?”   I said, “as in ‘zig zag’?”   He said that was what he was talking about.   I told him I didn’t know and could he let me know if he found out?

The Tiny Girl Chronicles:  My daughter likes to be useful.   Or maybe what I mean is she likes to be capable.   It’s a strong urge she has because of the blindness.  When we were distributing luminary materials on Sunday for three hours she helped scoop sand and put candles and white bags in stacks.    She kept asking what else she could do to help.   I know in part she wanted to help, but another part I think (but don’t really know) is the other children were running around chasing each other and climbing on large, sharp rocks on an embankment.   She couldn’t see or follow them and she didn’t know the unfamiliar terrain, which could hurt her.    But she was the best helper we had at the whole event.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

28…In Hex

I can’t remember the concatenation of thoughts that brought me to this particular memory as I was getting ready this morning.   Every now and then I think of this memory from what is now twenty-five years ago and it always makes me smile.

I was in college, working at IBM as a co-op.   I’d been working there for a while and had a lot of friends in the large software product group I was working for.   I’d been dating the same person for the majority of the time I’d been working there but the relationship had waned and he and I had decided to part ways.  

I remember sitting in my office telling a co-worker who had stopped by about the recent split when this guy (his name was Bob) suddenly stuck his head into the door of my office and said, “you’re single?”   I said something clever like, “yeah” and he said, “do you want to go out?”  

Wasn’t this guy older?  I mean I knew he wasn’t one of the co-ops because we all hung out together and knew each other.   He didn’t look that old but heck, I was still in college and everyone not in college seemed really old to me.  I looked at him and said back, “how old are you?”   Unfazed, he replied, “I’m twenty-eight.”

Twenty-eight didn’t seem that bad.   It was under thirty and I was twenty-two and he had been a nice enough guy from the times I’d interacted with him at work even though I didn’t know him well.   And hell, I was on the rebound, so why not?  I said sure, gave him my number and said to call me about the weekend since I was at loose ends.

He did call, I think later that evening after work.   And then he told me the truth.   He was very nice about it, saying he liked me and was interested in going out but when he told me how old he was he had said in a much lower voice a second half to the sentence which was, “I’m twenty-eight…in HEX.”

OH…okay then.   I did the quick math in my head.  This was nerdy computer stuff.   He and I worked in software development, so this was a fairly simple translation code.   Hexadecimal is base 16. Everything we humans do is in Decimal, or base 10, for our numbers.  Computers don’t like decimal math on account of it not being binary enough.   Hexadecimal makes a computer much happier (not to mention the programmer).  

Back to the problem at hand.   The first digit of 28 is a two, which in decimal would mean twenty, but in hexadecimal would mean 2*16 or 32.   The second digit of eight is just an eight, but it has to be added to the 32, so 32 + 8 = 40.

This guy was forty years old.   I was twenty-two—he was almost double my age.   I don’t know why I asked him what I did next.  I had been quickly doing some birth year math.   I was born in 1970, which meant he was eighteen when I was born.   So I asked him, “how were the 60’s?”  He told me,  “they were pretty wild”.

And then he said he understood if I didn’t want to go out, what with the age deception and all.   I thought he was pretty clever and honest so I told him the date was still on.    We didn’t work out, but I’ll never forget how he asked me out.

The Big Boy Update:  My son asked us in the car yesterday, “do we celebrate spring cleaning?”  My husband explained that, “Mom does about eight times a year.”

The Tiny Girl Chronicles:  My daughter came downstairs this morning without getting dressed for school.   She didn’t want to go back up.   She tried, “but it’s creepy up there” and “but my legs are tired” and then realized she wasn’t getting breakfast and would have to go to school in her pajamas and without shoes in the cold and changed her mind on not going back upstairs.

Childhood Friends

Today was my son’s birthday.  He’s seven now and is numerically a year older than his sister, which makes him happy, although he wasn’t that upset about it really.   He likes his sister for the most part.   For dinner he wanted to go to Pei Wei.   We went there the other day and he wants to have Pei Wei for his birthday party meal as well, making Pei Wei a sort of a mini food obsession for him right now.

While we were at dinner he and my daughter were trying to monopolize their father’s personal space and time.   I was eating my meal, glad to have a break but I had to laugh when my husband said, “guys, don’t fight over me.”   I called  my son back to our side of the table and asked him about his day and the friends he was talking about from school.   He talked for a bit and then he asked me, “mom, did you have any friends when you grew up?”

I did have friends.   I had some great friends, I told him.   I told him about my best friend from my youngest memory, Jenny.   I said that Jenny had been across the street from the house Mimi and Gramps still live in in the winter months and that up the hill on the side of their house lived Veda, who was a close friend through high school.   On the other side were two boys, one older and one younger than me, named Jeff and Joey.   Which one was older, he asked.   I said it was Jeff.   He knew it was Jeff, he told me.

Then I told him about Rob, who moved in down the street and the first day we met I was on my Big Wheel and he’d come pedaling In on his Green Machine.   I had to explain what these two things were, saying they were three wheel tricycle like things only different.   It was about this time that my son had grown bored with my childhood reminiscing and moved on to my husband, and did he have any friends as a child.

It turns out we both had friends growing up.   The most surprising thing was when my husband said his best friend from childhood was Stephan, my daughter immediately said, “oh, I know him.”

The Big Boy Update:  My son wanted to get water from the ocean and make it into drinking water today and could he do that.   We explained that it was possible, but complicated and not cost-effective.   For him, the most challenging part would be that we’re not near the sea.   Yes, he said, but if he got a cup and a paper towel surely he could get the process started.    We tried to explain how taking the water out and leaving the salt wasn’t hard, but getting the salt out and leaving the water was the tricky part.   He learned the word desalination and has decided to think more on how he’s going to purify water for our family.

The Tiny Girl Chronicles:  My daughter has a friend at school named Madison.  She really likes Madison (we’ve only met her once).   She told me, “she’s the best friend I could hope for.”