Monthly Archives: March 2008

Your Opinion Is Stupid

After careful consideration, I’ve chosen a new phrase that sets my teeth on edge. I know you’re excited to know what that phrase is, so let me get right to it:

You have a right to your opinion.

People who say this don’t mean it. At least, what they say isn’t what they mean. What they mean is, “That is by far the stupidest opinion I’ve heard this century.” It’s a passive-aggressive way of letting people know you disagree with them.

I understand the temptation to use it. It’s easy to turn people’s right to have an opinion into the right not to have that opinion challenged. Just because you can have an opinion doesn’t mean it’s not a stupid one, and there’s nothing wrong with me or anyone else pointing that out. If you told me, “In my opinion, the Earth is flat,” I would happily tell you that that’s a stupid opinion, at least after I stopped laughing. “That’s my opinion” doesn’t exempt you from being wrong.

But if you’re going to disagree with someone’s opinion, come right out and disagree.

It’s a Small but Changing World After All

Two weeks ago I went to Orlando to take part in an SPIE conference. (My presentation on space docking sensors went very well, thanks for asking.) Since I was down there, I took a half-day and visited Disney World, specifically the Magic Kingdom. While I’ve been to Epcot recently, the last time I went to the Magic Kingdom had to have been when my high school band played at Disney World.

I enjoyed seeing what was the same and what had changed. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was gone, replaced with a Winnie the Pooh ride. Kenneth Grahame’s creation was no match for the marketing effort Disney has put behind Pooh. Tomorrowland was now more of an Alternate Presentland With Extra Pastels.

The biggest surprise for me was the changes Disney had made to It’s a Small World. Evidently the Imagineers have been reworking the ride for Disneyland for this fall, and some of the changes have been folded into the Magic Kingdom version. One big change: they’ve updated the song.

I had a borrowed video camera with me, and I shot some footage along the ride. Unfortunately the camera had a tiny mic and a not-so-great compression algorithm, but you can still get the gist of the ride’s changes.

Truly, It’s a Small World is the happiest ride in the happiest place on Earth, bar Disney’s other four happiest places on Earth.

You, Internet, Give Me a Warm and Fuzzy Feeling in my Heart

This week I’ve talked about vacuums, poppy seed bread, and Liza’s teeth, and I’ve posted pictures of the kids and vacuums. By the way, you people are seriously into vacuum cleaners and I’m not sure if that says more about you for reading about it or me for writing it. I giggled all day yesterday when I pulled up the blog to see what someone else is saying about The Boss. (P.S. Kat must be seriously traveling or dead not to have made a comment about her Dyson.)

Stephen’s post on parenting brought some nice comments and once again, my internet friends, I feel like we are not the only ones trudging up this million mile hill called parenting.

Two weeks ago we got a nice email from a women who found us from Stephen’s LOLTrek and LOLCards posts and has been following us ever since. She and I have traded multiple emails and several cross-stitch patterns and basically I feel as if the internet has brought me a new friend. The most amazing part: it isn’t the first time it’s happened.

April 25 and 26 we’re going to be in Boston. We’ll be at ROFLCon and staying with some friends that (you can probably see what’s coming next) Stephen met on the internet. Of course, now that we’ve known them for 10 years they are just regular friends that Stephen happened to have met on the internet. Also, I’m looking at the ROFLCon page and it’s looking like a serious Con. Another thing, I’m talking about Cons like they are something that I do. You see what the internet has done to me?

I’ve been swept up in the wave of Stephen’s internet fame and the view from where I’m sitting is beyond great. It thrills me to see you all having conversations here. Hey, even my mom (Hi, Mumsy!) is getting in on the action now that she has that there computer internet where she works. I have to tell you that when I was 16 and writing every thought that popped into my head in my spiral bound notebook, my secret desire was that someone would read it. I can pretty much die now with that dream fulfilled.

Parenting as Improvisational Theatre

My tendency is to plan ahead of time, then try to stick to that plan. I’m not really a make-it-up-as-you-go kind of guy unless I make a conscious effort. That spills over into how I parent Eli. Kids, especially high-energy four-year-olds like Eli, throw off questions and requests and a whole lot of chatter. I field the questions okay, it’s the requests I have trouble with. “No, let’s not take that ball into the bath.” “We’d better skip chasing for now — I just got home.” “Let’s leave that plastic plate alone. You don’t really need to play with it.”

Sometimes I say no because what Eli’s asking for is dangerous or unhealthy. Sometimes it’s because I’m in the middle of something and don’t want to go get what he’s asking for when he’s perfectly capable of going and getting it himself. But most of the time I’m saying no reflexively.

In Keith Johnstone’s excellent book “Impro,” he has a section on blocking and accepting in improvisational theatre. A big rule of improv is that you should accept whatever your partner throws out instead of blocking him or her.

A: Augh!
B: What’s the matter?
A: I’ve got my trousers on back to front.
B: I’ll take them off.
A: No!

The scene immediately fizzles out. A blocked B because he didn’t want to get involved in miming having his trousers taken off, and having to pretend embarrassment, so he preferred to disappoint the audience.

He goes on to explain why some actors do this: they’re initially rewarded for the behavior.

A problem for the improviser is that the audience are likely to reward blocking at the moment it first appears.

‘Your name Smith?’

They laugh because they enjoy seeing the actors frustrated, just as they’ll laugh if the actors start to joke…. The improviser…gags or blocks at his peril, although the immediacy of the audience’s laughter is likely to condition him to do just this.

When I say no to Eli, I’m rewarded. I don’t have to do any additional work. I don’t have to think about what he’s asking. Most critically, I know that saying yes might end up with him hurt or something broken. Chances are I won’t go wrong by saying no.

Long term, though, I’m teaching Eli that no is the default state. When you ask for something, chances are you won’t get to do it. That’s a terrible lesson! But it’s the one I’m teaching without meaning to.

This week I’ve decided to start saying yes to Eli whenever I can. He’ll have enough experiences where he’s blocked by other people without me piling on just because I’m lazy.

Here is the Lame You’ve Been Waiting For

Here’s the old vacuum:
Stephen wanted it to look really bad so he was all art-directing me to pull all the pieces out and make it look really pitiful. Frankly, I didn’t have to work that hard. The stuff you can’t see: the lever that raises and lowers the top piece has been broken forever, so if you pick it up, (and you have to pick it up because the piece is broken so you can’t tilt it back to roll it anywhere) the bottom flops drunkenly. The whole thing weighs a ton, by the way. The cord winder has been broken since just after we moved to this house, five years ago. And also, the vacuum doesn’t suck up dirt any longer. But hey, it’s had one belt change in 13 years. It’s been well worth the $200 my aunt paid for it when we got married.

Here’s the new vac and it’s called The Boss:
I thought I was going to get a Dyson. Everyone said, “Get a Dyson!” The commercials were telling me, “Get a Dyson! It’s the only vacuum on the market that has any suction at all!” I was seduced by marketing. I told Stephen in a slightly Stepford way that we should look at getting a Dyson. Stephen, of course, rolled his eyes at all this marketing hocus-pocus. He read the Consumer Reports on vacuums and told me to look at the top three or four. Dyson wasn’t even in that top tier. This Eureka was the middle of the pack as far as cost goes but rated high in most of their tests and had many good customer comments. It’s much quieter than the old vac and I’m pretty sure that if I were to put the hose in my mouth it would suck the fillings out of my teeth. The best part: the sticker on the vacuum says 60% more suction than a Dyson at half the price. Needless to say, I’m pretty dang happy with my new appliance.

Shake, Shake, Shake, Señora

Last night Misty shook Liza nearly awake twice.

Last night Liza slept very well.

This is just crazy. If you shook me nearly awake, I doubt I’d sleep any better. Then again, if you picked me up and shook me up and down, I wouldn’t like it very much, yet Liza thinks that’s the best thing ever.

I know, post hoc ergo the plural of anecdote isn’t data. You know what? You can stay up all night with your scientific skepticism and see if it keeps you as warm as my bed did last night.

One Last Post About Child’s Play

In the I-forgot-to-post-about-this department, back at the first of the month my text adventure Child’s Play took home the XYZZY Award for best NPCs. Clearly the route to creating award-winning non-player characters for a work of interactive fiction is to not have them talk.

And in the last week there have been two reviews of the game. Grunion Guy wrote a short but glowing review at the IFDB. Over at IF-Review, Emily Short enjoyed the game, and had kind words both for Zoe and for the mostly non-interactive parents.

Whom the Gods Wish to Destroy They First Make Parents

After about two weeks of good sleeping, Liza has regressed. It’s unfair, like going to a restaurant, ordering off the menu, having your food placed before you, and right as you start to eat, having the food taken away and replaced with rocks. Her poor sleep may have something to do with her teething. Two weeks ago she had no teeth as befits her Alabama heritage. Now she is producing teeth at a rate of one every thirty-one minutes.

She has taken to waking up in the middle of the night and hanging out for an hour or two. You can rock her, and she’ll lie in your arms, staring at nothing while she idly plucks at the skin on your neck. The night before, this began at 3:30 AM. Last night she started around 2:15. Simple extrapolation tells me that, come this weekend, she’ll be waking up an hour before she goes to bed, causing an existential crisis that will prevent any of us from sleeping.

Because I am Lame

I am totally excited about my new vacuum cleaner. When Stephen gets home tonight with the camera, I’ll even take photos of it for you because it turns out, I’m even lamer than I thought I was when I started writing these sentences.