I’m still channelling all my creative writing urges into tinkering with Ruby rather than writing blog posts. Really like it.

Less than two weeks ago we restarted our efforts to teach Ingrid baby signs, based on the strong suggestion of a commenter. We’d given up earlier because she didn’t seem to pay much attention. This time, however, the success was clear and immediate. (Thank you, Katarina!)

After about a week she tentatively copied the “all done” sign after a finished meal. Since that was met with cheering, she tried it the next time as well. And oh how happy she was when this led to her getting down from the highchair! Huge beaming smiles all around. She hasn’t been eating much recently so it has been hard for us to judge whether she is done or just wants something else (for “something else” read “fruit”). Now that she can tell us when she’s done, all of us are less frustrated.

At first she only did it after meals, but I think she’s also generalised it to other situations – “all done with bath” primarily, because that’s the other activity she cannot finish or get away from without help.

The other sign that she picked up very quickly was the “milk” sign. A great success all around, because her previous signals for wanting milk have never been very clear: a slightly different unhappy noise was the best we got for a long time, until she learned to pull at my t-shirt. I must say I much prefer signing to t-shirt-pulling – firstly it’s less uncomfortable, but more importantly she can do it from a distance.

She hasn’t understood “eat” yet and I think she slightly confuses “milk” with “eat” – not because they look similar but because milk is probably the quintessential food for her. “More” hasn’t clicked yet, either. We’ll keep trying. Our next signs will probably be “all gone / empty”, “dog”, “bird” and “airplane” – and “crane” if I can find or think of a sign, since she has been pointing out every single building site and crane we pass.

PS: I’ve mostly picked signs based on American Sign Language (ASL) because I could easily find online resources for ASL – photo dictionarys etc – whereas British web pages only tried to sell me books, DVDs or classes. Too much marketing, too little information.

Less than a week of vacation and already my fingers were twitching and wanting to code. I’ve wanted to learn a new language for a while, so I started playing with Ruby.

It’s been a bit of a struggle since many fundamentals work quite differently from what I’m used to in the .NET world. I have to look up just about everything: how to declare a class or a method or an attribute or a variable, how to refer to code in other files, how to call methods, how to raise exceptions… It doesn’t help that most things have at least two syntax options: methods can be called with or without parentheses, blocks defined with do…end or with brackets.

Nevertheless exploring the language is fun. It’s a welcoming language, easy to get started with – you just write code and run it. No messing with classpaths (that’s all done for you) or solutions or projects or compiling (not necessary at all). In fact there’s even a web tutorial named Try Ruby! that includes an online interactive interpreter, just type and see things happen. There are also a lot of tutorials, docs and example code available on the web. (I started with the tutorial at RubyLearning.)

In fact getting started with Ruby was so easy that my biggest hurdle thus far was finding a project to write. All the applications that I really need I have either written or bought already. The few things that I want to build at some point are either too large for these few weeks I have, or too Windows-specific / GUI-heavy, so I would spend more time struggling with the implementation specifics than learning the language. In the end I decided to rewrite a tool I already have, a small backup utility that I wrote in VB.NET almost two years ago.

Different languages encourage different things, from the moment you first meet them. The .NET version of my backup utility has a GUI because Visual Studio makes GUI-building very easy and almost encourages you to start from the GUI and work backwards from there. Ruby doesn’t do that, so this will probably a command line app only. Ruby, on the other hand, encourages unit tests – a unit test framework comes bundled with the standard installation – so this version will probably be much better tested than the .NET one.

These are my notes from reading Lise Elliot’s What’s Going On in There?.

“Why Babies Love to Be Bounced: The Precocious Sense of Balance and Motion”.

This chapter talks about the vestibular sense, i.e. the sense of balance and movement.

A few interesting facts I learned:

Already at 10 weeks, a fetus reacts to movement.

  • Vestibular stimulation (chair spinning) can help the development of babies’ motor skills and reflexes

  • (more…)

    The shoes obviously felt strange because she spent the next hour kicking
    the footrest on the stroller.
    Mine, mine again, and Ingrid’s.

    Why do all SF and fantasy books grow into series?

    I regularly visit the web page of Stockholm’s science fiction bookshop to see what new books are coming out. Even though I haven’t bought any books from them for a few years at least, I go there because they’ve got a very nice overview page where it’s very easy to see at just a glance which new books they are stocking.

    The page currently has 30 books; 31 if you count the American and British editions of Terry Goodkind’s Confessor separately. Of the 30, 23 are parts of series – the worst offender is #17 in its series! Two more are associated with series (one is a Star Wars book and one is a prequel to some other book). That leaves just 5 standalone books.

    If I want to buy a book, I want a book that is able to stand on its own and is worth reading on its own. I want one book, not seventeen. And I don’t want to jump in the middle of a story. So when I skim that page my eyes skip right over all those series.

    I guess series help sell books. If you get someone to buy the first one and the subsequent don’t drop drastically in quality, the reader might keep going out of sheer inertia. But if they missed the first books when those came out, are they going to be interested in book 8? Unlikely, I think. In my case at least series significantly reduce the chance that I’ll even open the book.

    From the Internet and from books I get the impression that “baby’s first steps” and “baby’s first word” are considered to be important milestones. My experience is that the very first ones are actually not particularly interesting at all.

    The first time Ingrid stood without support, she didn’t realize she was doing it. Same for the second, third, and fiftieth time. But then one day she understood that she can stand, and from that moment on she can stand.

    Her first steps happened one or two at a time, but again she didn’t realize what was going on. Although she was taking steps, she wasn’t walking – she was standing but happened to move forward. And again, one day she understood that she can walk, and from that moment on she walks confidently (though not effortlessly or faultlessly) and probably won’t be doing much crawling at all.

    I imagine the same applies to language. First words are irrelevant. For many months now she has been able to say a few words and put them in context, i.e. she knows to say heja when coming home or leaving home. But for a long time that looked like simple mimicking without understanding the meaning, the purpose of language. Only recently she started showing signs of really understanding that words belong with things, that things have names – she likes pointing at objects around the house and hearing their names. Just like with learning to walk, this happened quite suddenly. So one part of that quantum leap has probably taken place. I’m not sure about the other part – actively and purposefully using words in order to achieve something. Maybe she already knows how to do it but cannot twist her tongue into the right shape, or maybe she hasn’t understood that yet.

    Fourteen months.

    Just in time for this blog post, Ingrid figured out walking. On Sunday she suddenly started walking – instead of lurching a few steps she happily toddled all the way across the room. Yesterday we were out and she didn’t get much chance to practice, but today in nursery she must have spent all day walking because this evening she was doing it quite confidently, even while holding things in both hands. And she’s now standing so confidently that she can bend her knees to pick things up from the floor, to turn and look over her shoulder, and to stretch up both arms to cheer.

    Instantly, when she stands up and walks instead of crawling, she looks a lot older. A toddler, not a baby.

    Something has also “clicked” for Ingrid about language. She makes a lot of very varied noises, but doesn’t say anything that I can understand, apart from the aitäh and heja she could do earlier. But it’s clear that she understands some things we say. More interestingly she now also wants to know what things are called. She points at things and says “tääh?” which seems to mean “what is that?”. Sometimes she points all the way across the street so that I have no idea what she might be pointing at, but she seems to like bushes, large bright lamps, and trains. She also points and talks while reading her books, and likes us to tell her the name of what she’s pointing at – it’s not just about turning pages any more.

    Pointing in general is a new skill, and a very useful one. Meals are more pleasant for everyone when, instead of just screaming, she can point at what she wants. (Mostly she wants fruit. I think she must be a fruitarian. She never seems to tire of mandarins or grapes.)

    She’s learned to make new funny noises with her mouth and hands – saying “aaaa” while patting her mouth with her hand so it goes “waaw-waaw-waaw” for example. Or saying “www” while moving a finger up and down across her lips so they vibrate. Current favourite toy: the long cardboard tube from a roll of wrapping paper. She puts it in her mouth and “talks” into it and listens to the booming noise that comes out at the other end.

    We’re also making a fresh effort with baby signing. We’re starting with “more”, “eat” and “nurse” because those should be most useful for all of us. Hmm, maybe we should add something for “train”, so we have something that’s fun and not just useful?

    We like orchids. We have few. In fact we have about as many as we can fit onto our desks without making it completely impossible to use the desks for their intended purpose. (Nine.) Some have been with us for years, others are more recent additions.

    Some flower, some don’t. Well, they all have flowers when you buy them – I’ve never seen anyone try to sell an orchid without flowers – but not all of them have flowered again. Our phalaenopsis has been flowering almost constantly for the last few years: a new stalk shoots up before the previous one has even lost its last flower. One of our oncidiums seemed to feel great for over two years, growing a massive bundle of roots and leaves, to the point where it needs the support of three thick books to remain upright, but just wouldn’t flower. Then suddenly a month ago it finally produced an impressive array of bright yellow flowers. Another, much smaller oncidium took no time at all to flower again, but only came up with half a dozen flowers on a stalk so short that you could barely see it among all the leaves.

    Here is the large oncidium at its best, and a close-up of its impressive roots (and a toddler in the background):

    Here’s one whose name I have forgotten:

    And here is the phalaenopsis, trying to fight its way through the window, closer to the light:

    We had our Christmas lunch at work today. Here’s what the rest of the team ate:

    It’s interesting. After 15 years as a vegetarian I couldn’t even see that pig as food. It didn’t look edible or smell edible at all. Not disgusting either, just not food.