Sunday, 26 February 2012

Upgrading Communications.


My daughter and I have been exchanging letters now for quite a while and it's been good. A few weeks ago during a video conference she mentioned that email was now a possibility. She had access to an email account and it would certainly speed up the whole process and allow her to send me some videos. I've been thinking about the prospect of emailing each other for a while but I've been reluctant to bring it up for many reasons. So I'd just been waiting for her to suggest it.

My biggest fear is a shortage of content. I've done a lot of blogging over the year, even way back before it was called blogging and it's a real struggle to keep finding new things to write about, I've limited this blog to weekly updates for this very reason. With emails it's even worse because you're communicating to a limited audience. When we were writing letters I'd have several weeks between communications to stock up a few things to write about. As soon as I'd post one letter I'd start stocking up on things to say in the next, sometimes I'd even get a head start and have most of my next letter written and ready by the time her reply arrived. Where letters are short stories and a summary of events emails are more like conversation, which can quickly become difficult to keep alive and interesting.

There are a couple other problems that have presented themselves as well.

First off email has this way of applying pressure. Both she and I immediately noted how much more stressful it is knowing that you've not replied to an email rather than a letter. Delivery is instantaneous so you lose all the leeway time that the letter's 6000 mile journey afforded. The convenience of email makes you much more aware of your response time, it only takes a minute after all and the recipient knows that it only takes a minute and you know that they know that you know etc... It's like trying not to answer a ringing phone.

The multimedia messages have largely gone unused thus far but then I'd long been including photos with my letters and she'd once written a letter with an array of differently scented markers, so the multimedia prospect isn't really going to change things much. Saying that, she has just acquired a new video camera.
So while it's not become a problem yet I expect that it will soon. Video messages in particular are large, so there's upload time and email storage space is going to be an issue, not to mention the technical aspect of connecting the camera in the first place, but we'll see how it goes for now.

So upgrade we have, to more modern communicational means. Hopefully it won't degrade the quality too much. No doubt in a few years we'll be friending each other on facebook or whatever other social network is popular at the time.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Highest Form of Flattery

Probably the single most frightening thing about being a parent is being emulated by your child. It goes much further than your two year old shouting "damn it!" at strategic times. They ultimate mimic everything you do right down to your facial expressions and intonation.

Jack mimics me more physically and Helen verbally. His facial expressions are all me where his speech patterns are Helen. It's funny at times, and quite scary at others. When he grows up he wants to go to my university, but he wants make robots instead of program video games. However he wants to make robots that you can control with the iPhone, he's going to build the robot and I'm going to do the iOS work. I think it's a really good idea and I look forward to the project. He wants to learn karate. He says things like "well that's not very good", "that's not worked very well" and "it's kicking my butt" just like I do.

It's easy to let yourself get caught up in some OCD pattern where you try to censor your every action. It's impossible of course, but you feel compelled to try. It's like you're in some reality TV show where a three and a half foot tall camera man following you everywhere and recording your every move and every time you slip up you have to deal with a 6 month long PR nightmare.

Over all I feel it does make me a better person. It makes me more conscious of my treatment of others and my performance at University. I consciously try to celebrate even the smallest wins and spend little time dwelling on losses. It's a daily battle but it gets easier as time goes by.

Some months ago Jack was walking to school with Helen. She made a casual comment about how handsome he looked and how handsome he would be when he grew up. Jacks burst into tears. Mentioning growing up to Jack is always risky.
Helen tried desperately to calm him down and figure out what had suddenly made him so upset. Finally though his tears he told her.

I don't want to be handsome I wanna look like daddy...

Gee thanks.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Re-reverse Psychology

What whatever you want your child to do, they will do the opposite.

I have a theory that reverse psychology was created by parents trying to control their children.

It's certainly true that children, and most people, can be lead by reverse psychology. So long as you don't let on that you're trying to trick them they'll almost always fall for it. I've used this particular technique on Jack many times but I try not to over use it. Jack has more than once proven that he's not easily tricked and I don't want to lose my big gun. However I've often wondered what it is that makes it work, I don't believe that children are generally malicious but it does very often seem that Jack won't want to do something simply because he knows that I want him to, or vice versa.

Jack is read a story every night at bed time. We've acquired quite an extensive collection of stories for him over the years, some he likes and others he doesn't.

The only problem is that for weeks Jack will insist on the same story night after night. It's not really a problem until it's comes around to a story that Helen or I dislike, and there are quite a few of these.

There are a few of these stories in his collection but we'll just focus on the one for this blog, we'll call it Story A. Helen and I dislike the story for many reasons but mostly it's just a crap story. No matter how we pleaded we couldn't get him away from it at bed time, for weeks we were forced to read it to him every single night. So one night when he asked for the story I thought up a flawless plan and responded with "Yay! I love that story." Jack was puzzled but didn't pay me much mind.
I carried on with this behaviour for a week or so, I even started recommending the story before he'd get a chance to request it. At the beginning of the next week Helen asked what story he'd like and Jack hesitated, I jumped in and said "as long as it's not Story B I don't mind." Jack went with Story A as we expected and I played excited. The next night the same thing, I said "Anything but Story B, that one makes me grumpy." Jack finally took the bait and I huffed and grumped all the way through the story. Success.

Now when we ask him what story he would like he'll say Daddy what's not your favourite? To which I reply with whatever story I feel has done me ill will over recent time, it's great. We haven't read Story A in months. But it is a little unsettling knowing that Jack so enthusiastically and consistently does something that supposedly makes me angry... but oh well, I'm still counting it as a win. My flawless plan worked flawlessly...

A few nights ago we went through the usual routine and got to the story. When it came to the story Jack asked What's not your favourite? 
I don't know really, I don't like any of them. What story don't you like?
I want the story that's not your favourite.
Well how about we read a story that makes you miserable for a change?
Ok then, I don't like Story A...   I think he may be on to me.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Plush Names

Jack has quite an extensive plush toy collection. At a guess I'd say he had around fifty cuddly toys and counting, Jack's goal is to have one of every type of animal in the universe, he's nearly completed earth.

Most of them have names, some of which he came up with himself, others he got from other sources such as parents or tags. Many of the names he comes up with are what you would expect from an under five, Beary, Owly, Dragon, Scooby, Sad Dog and so on. All based on species or distinctive qualities, most just adding 'y' onto the end of the best describing noun.

Jack acquired an octopus some months ago that has received a lot of contact time. I'd go as far to say the octopus is in the top five favourites.

The problem is that octopae don't name well. Jack's usual level of creativity hasn't really been able to make much of a fit, Octy and Octoee, are awkward to say, so he's just been The Octopus until last night. In a stroke of inspiration Jack has given the octopus both a name and a title.

Octopus Prime, leader of the Octobots.