with kids, it’s always something

We had Baby Geek’s 15-month visit with his pediatrician on Monday. After the CT scan and visit with the neurologist about six weeks ago, I was curious to see what the word would be from Gregory’s primary care physician.

The word about the head was: not much. He seemed very neutral about the report from the neurologist. Perhaps he didn’t want to encourage or discourage us. Or he didn’t want to second guess another physician. I don’t know. He just commented that he’d read the report. When he measured the size of Baby Geek’s head, and I commented that the grow rate was slowing, he still seemed bothered by the fact that it was so far above normal. Or maybe he didn’t want me to be completely optimistic about it.

What he was more vocal about: Baby Geek’s lack of words. I guess at 15 months, even boys are supposed to have a few words (“mama”, “dada”, and a few others seem usual). Gregory chatters quite a bit, in bursts, but he doesn’t talk or gesture (we’ve been trying ASL with him since August).

Other things just seem to be a priority: he’s walking pretty well now (albeit a bit like a drunken sailor at times) and he’s learned to bite off and chew food (he stole half a grilled cheese sandwich off his mother’s plate the other week and ate it — an action that both pleased and annoyed her.) The shapes of things are fascinating to him; he got his hands on a cube-shaped box of Vick’s Baby Vapor Rub and spent several minutes turning it over and over, as if trying to understand something about the fact that all the sides had about the same size.

A little reading shows that boys are more likely to be “late talkers” than girls. The biggest worry with boys who don’t talk is ASD. The biggest symptom for ASD is a-social behavior and lack of eye contact. We have nearly zero worries on that score: Baby Geek loves to give hugs to the other moms in his play group, often attempts to make eye contact with other adults, and has this whole “playing coy” pantomime he uses to get the attention people he meets. He’s a lot less a-social than I probably was at his age. The other worry is hearing problems. He seems to respond to noises and the sound of voices. He hasn’t had any ear infections that we know of (so far, knock on wood.)

Here again, my own past seems to point the way. My Mom tells me that I was a rather late talker. When I started speaking, it was in almost whole sentences. Yep, that’s me. Always wanting to get the ‘A’.

Telling Baby Geek’s doctor this didn’t elicit much reaction either. He ended the appointment by telling us that he would talk about referring Baby Geek to a specialist if there wasn’t more progress with words by his next appointment in three months. He’s cautious, our pediatrician, and not afraid to haul out the referral pad. Ultimately, this is a good thing… but Mrs. Geek and I need to learn not to feel a small twinge of panic when he mentions doing this.

The Dragon Roars

It’s tough to keep a blog when you spend a couple weeks feeling sick. I’ve learned that the last few weeks. Prepping for Thanksgiving and then dealing with Baby Geek’s teething problems left me feeling very overworked and underslept by the start of December. This got so bad that I fell ill right about the time I last updated here, and I haven’t felt completely myself since. I slogged through the last week not feeling great, but was able to rouse myself enough to go out to dinner to celebrate my birthday. Then we got a tree went to another birthday party for one of Baby Geek’s playgroup friends, and started the Christmas decorating. I washed up into this week tired from all that, and came from work on Monday with a low grade fever, chills, and a splitting sinus headache. Recovering from THAT more or less brings me to today… where I am beginning to feel human again, if I don’t work myself too hard.

Working hard in the computer industry was the subject of a recent article in the New York Times article entitled Power in Numbers: China Aims for High-Tech Primacy. China is on the move in the high tech field. Everything they’ve learned from attending U.S. universities and by outsourcing work from American high tech companies, they are now using to get themselves a home grown computer industry. Given what I understand of history, this is an inevitable thing.

The article reports facts, but I’m not sure it reaches the correct conclusions. Does the computer industry in the United States have reason to worry because there is new big competitor in the field? Yes. I’ve spent the bulk of the last three years working with an international team (from India, not China) however, and I can tell you one thing: culture matters.

Information technology as it is currently being unleashed upon the world is an inherently disruptive technology. It requires the will to say “take what you invested in a year, five years, ten years ago and throw it out”. Old paradigms don’t matter. Do something new. Do something different. It’s not like throwing a bridge or building a better car or cheaper plastic household notions.

Here in the United States, we tend to embrace that kind of thinking. We look as the digital world as the new frontier that we can settle. It’s colonization, not of space but of ideas. We are interested in creating companies and organizations that embrace those ideas. The American high tech model is one where the person in change is the one who knows the most — not the most experienced, or with the best credentials, but the one who has the best idea of how to settle the frontier. You try, you improvise, you make it up as you go… a frontier isn’t settled methodically. Whoever gets there first, wins. As an immigrant nation, we accept that sort of thing naturally.

Other countries may try to emulate the American model, but it doesn’t work as well… unless special effort is paid to cultivate this mindset. Looking at older, more ceremonial cultures, there is a stronger sense of things that run contrary to these notions. Older, more experienced managers are senior. People of a different class or background are senior. You don’t make it up as you go. You plan, plan, plan how it should be done. Everyone has a role that they should play, and the transition between roles occurs carefully according to well understood rules.

Does this mean that the United States automatically deserves preeminence in technical fields. No, but it does give the industry where I work a fighting chance. Let us hope that continues… at least until my career winds down, anyway.

support your local music store

I once saw an interview with David Crosby about the music business in which he was asked why the music industry caters so much to tweens, teens, and college students, and not to the over 30 crowd, given that everyone over 30 is so much more numerous and affluent that the former groups. His answer was a question to the interviewer: when was the last time you were in a music store?

I remember that this interview took place back around 2003 when Norah Jones was hitting it big… because Mr. Crosby was asked about her (and he was quite complimentary.) Thing was, you could still go into a big record store back in 2003. Now, it’s not so easy. Retailers like Tower, Sam Goody, and Virgin Megastores were still operating in those days. Apple iTunes and Amazon have eaten into much of the market since then… and those three chains are gone.

Now it seems that the only brick and mortar music stores you can find are smaller local chains, or independent sellers. It’s somewhat ironic; the small chains and the independents used to complain that the big chain stores were going to wipe them out. It turns out that the bigger stores with their vertically integrated management structures and higher business overheads were the ones hit first by the online music meteor. The smaller stores still soldier on, cultivating populations of customers and struggling to find a niche in which to scratch out a living.

I paid a visit to one of the very few music stores in our area on Saturday. My purpose was twofold: I had some DVDs supplanted by BDs (Blu ray Discs) in our collection to re-sell and wanted to see if I could do a little Christmas shopping. I immediately became depressed as I pulled into the parking lot. There were signs up everywhere announcing “Going Out of Business Sale”.

“Oh, no” I thought “not them too! Where will I go now?” While I have become more amenable to digital only purchases and buying discs through online retailers, sometimes you just have to go to the store and browse the bins. I also like owning the media; I have my iTunes library stored on a rather protected disk drive but you never can be too careful. One good zap and some digital purchases might be difficult to re-acquire.

I eventually got the whole story. This particular location of a five store chain is the only one going out of business, and even then, only for a while. The lease on this particular location had become too expensive, and the store was closing until they could find new digs. Given the amount of commercial real estate that seems to be available, they should be able to find something quickly.

I think I must try to support my local music store more often in the future. They’re becoming a rare thing… and while I like the convenience of the Internet, I don’t want them to die out completely.

a long and winding road, but we got there in the end

I think this past Turkey Day could be awarded the title “the Thanksgiving of Uphill Battles” and the title would fit.

It seemed that everything I tried to cook took a long and winding road to get to the dinner table. I smoked the turkey you see above for about 12 hours, from 6:30am to 6:30pm. It was a cool day and the smoker settled in at about 213 degrees F for much of that time. Since I had other things to do, I decided to just let it do what it felt it needed to do…. which produced a lovely looking bird, with dark meat that was underdone. After a quick consult with my mother, the white meat was hacked off and the remainder of the bird was put into a 325 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Problem solved. The cornbread dressing and the gravy followed similar roundabout paths to get to the dinner table. (Note to self: when smoking next time, run the smoker at 230-235 degrees F to try to get the bird cooked… and on yes, brine it for 24 hours as the recipe states instead of 8.)

It made for a rather late Thanksgiving dinner… causing me to frequently remind myself that “at least it’s just us… there are no guests.” I felt positively shattered from exhaustion the following morning.

The guests came to help us consume the leftovers on Sunday. Here again, the food had its own ideas about how to get to table. To be honest, I committed what I considered to be major sin when it comes to cooking for guests: I used a recipe relatively new to me, and I made it in a hurry. In this case, I was making pumpkin pie. The recipe called for a “blind baked” crust. The crust fell apart during the baking process, turning into a lump of flour and fat in the middle of the bottom of the pie plate. So, we had something more resembling “pumpkin tart” than “pumpkin pie” for dessert. A good time was still had by all.

Perhaps that is what I need to remember about this Thanksgiving… a good time was still had by all. And so it was.