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    Baby Signs


    2013 - 02.06

    Just wondering if there’s anyone we know who has some experience with Baby Signs or Baby Signing.  It seems as though there’s a few different options out there, and perhaps a few schools of thought.

    The original book that started it all seems to indicate that you should see what signs your baby is already making when they are trying to communicate and to largely adopt those as the language you use (this is a gross simplification).  We probably all at times growing up either had secret languages, or fantasized about having them.  That said, secret languages are most useful not in communicating but in keeping secrets, and that’s counter to our goal here.

    Other advocates seem to use primarily ASL (American Sign Language which is the official sign language for English speaking Canada), which makes sense to me since it would be a larger life skill for both the baby and us, if we started to become fluent in it we could actually use it for something else, whereas the secret language wouldn’t provide this benefit.

    One thing that I found especially odd is that as far as I can tell none of the programs are endorsed or provided by Deaf organizations.  It seems at least on the face of it that would be a natural fit, good outreach and a valuable revenue stream.  Also the fact that those organizations don’t seem to be involved at all triggers some cynicism for me at least.  Regardless, at this point we’re still planning on going forward with it.

    So I guess the questions that we’d like answers to are:

    • have you tried signing with your baby, and would you recommend it?
    • what resources if any did you use?
    • did you use ASL based languages or something else?
    • did you take a course, and would you recommend it?
    • did you teach everyone in the family the various signs? how about baby sitters?

     

    Would you hitchhike?


    2013 - 01.07

    I don’t recall exactly how or when this came up, probably because of us both being sick, but recently we were talking about whether or not hitchhiking could be an effective way to alleviate traffic congestion.  We both grew up in an era where hitchhiking was illegal and generally considered dangerous.  I wondered if the associated fears and illegality of hitchhiking lead to increased car ownership.  Not a topic that either of us really knows anything about, but it was a briefly entertaining thought experiment.

    Imagine my surprise when today I found an article: “Spontaneous carpooling: Calgary’s new city planning chief suggests hitchhiking as a ‘grassroots solution’ to city’s gridlock“.

    Turns out the practice of slugging has been around since the 70s as a real method of public transportation… and here I thought we were just talking about some sort of crazy thought experiment…

    What I Hate about Smart Phones


    2012 - 07.16

    I have come to the conclusion that despite the usefulness of smart phones, that I hate them more than a little bit.  I’d like to think that this isn’t due to phone envy, but rather a very real problem that exists with them.  Admittedly the same problem exists with other devices (most notably tablets and laptops) but in my personal life it’s the smart phones that take the cake.

    The problem I believe is that with the small screen and the fact that people hold them close to themselves generally making it impossible for you to see what’s on the screen ultimately means that you have no clue as to what the person is actually doing on their phone.

    In our typical environment we interact with people who are engaged in activities all the time, however it’s generally obvious what those activities are, whether it’s reading a physical book or juggling knives, we have external sensory information that guides us as to whether or not the person we want to talk to is engaged in something time sensitive, important and/or dangerous.  Thus we can judge an appropriate time to start a conversation or a totally inappropriate one.  Given the lack of insight into what someone is actively doing on their phone, it’s nearly impossible for you to know if they are actively engaged in something important which you should not interrupt, and further they tend to stay nearly continuously engaged (from you perspective with their phone, even if from their perspective they switch from a game, to email, to texting, to the internet and so on) without the normal natural pauses that tend to exist when switching activities.

    To some degree we’re used to this from people playing video games, or using computers.  The key difference is that in general those things happen on big screens which are also visible to you.  So you’re able to judge to some degree what the other person is doing BEFORE you decide to interrupt them.  Allowing you to decide if what you want to ask or talk about is more important than what they are currently doing.  Thus keeping courtesy as part of the interaction.  Without the foreknowledge of their activity on their phone, it’s exceedingly difficult to be courteous with your interruptions (from their perspective at least).

    Obviously this is a first world problem, but it seems to me that it is one that will continue to get worse and worse.  Other related problems would include (but are not limited to):

    • Bluetooth and cell phone conversations in public where it’s not immediately obvious that someone is on the phone, such that you think they are talking to you

    Hopefully the designers of mobile devices, augmented reality glasses and peripherals will start to take into account the social (and courtesy) costs of the devices they are developing.

    A simple example of where this has been done to some degree is online chatting where you’re able to indicate your current status as something other than the simple toggle of online/offline, and now have options like busy or do not disturb, such that those who are wanting to interact to you through that medium have additional information which allows them to make an informed choice before initiating an interaction.

    Then again, maybe things will just get worse…

    Everything $1.00 and more


    2012 - 07.14

    Checked out the new dollar store at Brentwood today, and they have a reasonable selection and they actually do seem to keep everything at about $1-2.  It’s pretty big, and there’s a reasonable selection, and it includes some actual name brand stuff too.

    We talked about it while at the store, that despite the fact some of the stuff is probably made in the exact same factory as the brands we’re familiar with it still comes across as being somewhat suspect.  It’s amazing how much we’re influenced by branding and advertising.  I think that’s especially true of dollar stores.  You do see people buy non-name brand stuff, but I think that people are more comfortable doing that at stores which they consider a brand (e.g. major grocery stores, or places like London Drugs).  Because even if you don’t know the product brand, you trust the store “brand” enough that you’re comfortable without the name recognition.  Not really true in the dollar store experience, especially in this particular store which clearly says all sales final, no refunds, no exchanges.  Doesn’t bread confidence, but at the same time given the price of the items…

    That said, if you need some plastic bins, journals or envelopes it’s worth a look.

    Most amusing price comparison in store: 1 litre bottles of Coke $1.00 (on the shelf), 591ml bottles of Coke $1.00 (from the fridge).

    Most coveted item: 4 pack of Oh Henry! eggs $1.50 (they have individual ones for $0.39), this compares to Aero eggs which were 2 for $1.25 or $1.50 (if memory serves).

    MADD Virgin


    2012 - 06.01

    Was at Save-on the other day and saw something a little unexpected: MADD Beer and Wine.  Both are non-alcoholic, which of course you knew because otherwise they wouldn’t have been in the grocery store… but still it’s interesting.

    So they have a white and a red wine; bubbly, mulled wine and sangria specialty wines; margarita and mojito cocktails; Brut (Champagne) coming soon.  That and if I remember correctly it was a lime beer which I saw on the shelf (but not on the website).

    It’s interesting in concept and execution, also 10% of the net sales go to MADD Canada.  Nice to see a charity doing something other than a run/walk to raise money, and in something that aligns so well with their mission.

    My guess is that since these are all virgin beverages, but which are supposed to mimic the alcoholic version that I myself would not actually be interested in them.  That said, they seem like a good idea, and could work for people trying to cut back, or be designated drivers, or I suppose perhaps even pregnant women (I assume it’s only the alcohol that they are supposed to be worried about, but I don’t know that).

    Anyway, if anyone does try them out, let us know if they are any good.

    p.s. they were on sale at Save-0n while I was there…

    Class Size


    2012 - 03.04

    This is the sort of topic that could get me in trouble, given how many teacher’s I know…  Back when I was in school, having smaller classes would have been a bad thing.  Most of my teachers will remember me as being a decent-to-good student who stayed out of trouble.  This fond recollection is made possible by large classes.

    If teacher’s didn’t need to supervise so many students there are countless things which would have been noticed and could have possibly tarnished that teacher-pupil relationship.

    Of course when I was in school there was a healthy respect (and a little fear) of teacher’s which doesn’t appear to exist today (among students or parents).  So maybe today’s kids are less concerned with being caught doing things that they shouldn’t be doing… and likewise perhaps the parents are less demanding that they don’t.

    Thankfully I’m not a teacher so I don’t actually need to deal with that situation directly, but it certainly does seem as though a lot of respect has been lost somewhere along the way, and that’s really unfortunate.  If you look at the turnover in teacher’s and if the loss of respect was actually due to any of the teacher’s, those at the bottom and most hurt by changes are unlikely to have had anything to do with it.

    It’s actually strange thinking back on being in school, given that I graduated nearly half my lifetime ago (that’s a little scary to realize), but schools and the world are a fundamentally different place.  Things which have occurred in the world and dramatically affected the lives of parents and children (and teachers) since then include (in no particular order, and not limited to):

    • Harry Potter
    • Twilight
    • The Internet
    • Cell Phones
    • Texting
    • Columbine (and other school shootings)
    • Integrated classrooms (e.g. special needs students in the classrooms)
    • Bullying
    • Dual Incomes

    There once was a time (and it’s still the case in some countries) where everyone was so pleased or proud to be able to go to school and receive an education that students and parents worked with teachers.  Now it seems that there’s such an entitlement to an education that this respect is no longer afforded teachers or even the education system.

    I’m enough of a realist to not try to defend all teachers and especially not the education system, there are definitely flaws in both at times.  The larger problem though is in a society which essentially requires that students achieve a University degree, but which doesn’t respect the educators which help make that possible.  That same society then elects politicians who share that view, and those politicians undermine the system as a whole.

    So I joke about not wanting smaller classes, but when I went to school although there were smarter kids and less skilled students, everyone was fluent in French and English; behavioral problems consisted of talking too much during class, or failing to follow instructions.  But even so everyone yearned for the teacher’s approval, hoping for positive feedback, or a stamp or sticker.  We were not concerned that a student might bring a weapon to school.  Bullying happened, but it was limited and it was not of malicious intent.  Fights happened, but they resolved issues and everyone moved on (in fact two of my best friends became my friends after such altercations, and we’ve been friends for about a quarter century now).  It was a different time, and dare I say a better time?

    I often think that when people colour the past and remember it as better than today that they are inventing a past which might not have actually existed.  I actually believe that the respect with which teacher’s were treated is something that has diminished over time and to the detriment of all.

    So smaller classes, I suspect that it would help in a lot of cases.  It would help the teachers, but especially the students.  But we would all benefit IF we gave teacher’s more respect for the education and expertise which they have and for the difficult job they do.  If we could repair and rebuild this respect, then maybe we could repair and rebuild the system, and perhaps then politicians would have the good sense to offer some deference and respect when addressing education related issues.

    Geek vs. Snob


    2012 - 02.28

    A while back one of my cousins posted about the concept of a Geek and how it is different from a snob, with a real life example.

    We were out one evening at a pizza parlor with some friends and their friends, and one person in the party was the son of a winemaker. One of the women, who wanted to drink some wine, asked him which wine he recommended. None of them, he said. Period. He didn’t even offer up a suggested beer or cocktail, and this woman either had to drink nothing, or ignore his advice. What a snob.

    Read more: http://candlewineproject.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/geek-vs-snob/

    I thought it was an interesting read, I also thought it was an interesting choice of terms.  I personally often think of Geek as a noun, and sometimes use it to describe myself.  In that context I’m usually thinking of it in terms of expertise with respect to computers.  I think however that she’s using it more as an adjective: Wine Geek, Cider Geek, etc…  I too use Geek in that way sometimes: Board game Geek.

    For me the difference really is that Geek when used in this way implies enthusiasm and if not a certain minimum level of expertise an aspiration towards it.  Snobbery on the other hand has an implicit negative connotation.  The inherent difference being that by calling someone a snob you’re making the value judgement that they are being condescending in the offering of their opinion (which may be based on just as much expertise as one offered by a geek).  So realistically it’s the way in which the opinion is offered, and not the opinion itself.

    I think the problem of distinction is exasperated by the sphere in which the example is presented: beverages (or more generally food).  Not everyone has the same tastes, and perhaps more interestingly not everything tastes the same to all people.  So even if one were talking about wines, you could have a much better made wine that was actually technically of higher quality, but it doesn’t mean that you would actually like it more, or at all.

    Take that to the sphere of technology instead and there are definitely clear external metrics which can objectively classify something as better than something else, and the subjective element although still present is less important, and less likely to be problematic.

    Getting back to the  central question though of whether or not one is a snob or a geek, I think that it’s not actually a difficult situation to avoid.  Geeks are valued for their knowledge; Snobs are derided for the manner in which they share their knowledge.  So if you want to be a geek and not a snob you share your expertise but in a non-judgemental way.

    If you find yourself asked to recommend a wine (and you have appropriate expertise) then you can indicate that you personally wouldn’t choose any of the ones that are offered, but that wine X is probably the best of the bunch (or would probably make the best pairing with what they’re having for dinner).

    That said a geek is also permitted to have the courage of their convictions.  By this I mean it’s totally alright to recommend against any of the choices if you have a good reason.  Ex: I honest believe that YOU would not be happy with any of the choices, or that you would later regret making one of those choices.  That’s not snobbery, that’s conviction (and well intentioned).