Tomorrow we are finally moving into our lovely new house. All is packed and ready. We’ll be spending tomorrow lugging boxes and furniture (again), and then live in a mess of boxes for a week or several (again).

I am really not looking forward to another move, but I am very much looking forward to moving into a permanent home. While it was very convenient to have a landing place for these 3 months, and to not have to unpack all our stuff, it felt like living in limbo. Most things remained packed away, including much of our furniture, almost all our kitchen equipment, all our books, etc etc. Everything was temporary. “It’s only for one more month, it’s not worth digging through everything to find X. We’ll manage without.” Or “Let’s just buy a new one.” It didn’t feel like a home, and frankly it was also just too cramped for the three of us. I felt a constant low-level tension because of this, and it will be very good to be rid of this feeling.

We were slightly over-optimistic in our estimate of the speed of getting a new internet connection (= too late ordering one) so there will be a gap during which we will have no internet at home. If we find an open WiFi connection, we may get online anyway; otherwise I’ll have to make do with what I get at work. So posting may be light for the next 10 days or so.

Ingrid’s having a real language boom. It feels like she “gets” a new important concept every other day or so. These are not just words for things or actions, but for more complex ideas, and I get the impression that she grasps the concept together with the word.

Each time the pattern is the same. First she learns to understand the word and the concept and when to use them. Then she learns to say them, and does it intensively for a few days. Then the word becomes part of her vocabulary and loses its novelty.

First came the concept of waiting. (That was about a month ago I think.) I would tell her to wait (“wait, let me put away my bag and then I’ll pick you up”) and she would wait rather than continuing to ask to be picked up. Then she started saying the word herself, telling me, in effect, “I’m waiting”. Or rather, “I’m waiting, I’m waiting, I’m waiting, I’m waiting” – because she was always repeating it lots of times very fast, “oota-oota-oota-oota”. Not an ounce of patience!

Then she learned ise (“myself”, meaning “I can / want to do this myself”). That appeared to arrive together with a new desire for independence. Can walk, don’t want to sit in the pushchair! Can brush my teeth myself! Can put on my trousers myself! Can wash the dishes! (No, actually you can’t.)

Recently she also learned veel / mer (“more”). I understand that that’s a word that many babies learn early on, but until recently Ingrid’s been happy with just pointing or saying the name of the thing she wants more of.

The latest thing is the numbers one and two, and palju (“much”, “many”). Now every time she picks up, holds or sees two of something she says “two!”, and sometimes even picks up two things just so she can then say “two!”. I don’t think she has understood “three” yet – things are one, two, or many.

Realising that washing dishes is, in fact, quite a pleasant and peaceful activity, when compared to alternatives such as trying to brush a toddler’s teeth, or singing “baa baa white sheep” for the umpteenth time.

Ingrid used to be very fond of bathing – bathtime was the best part of the day. It should be obvious from all the bath photos I’ve posted, too!

Note the words “used to”. All of a sudden, she has lost her taste for baths. Every evening I ask if she wants a bath, and she shakes her head. Some days I convince her to give it a try, and three minutes later she’s telling me “done!” and trying to climb out. In the last few weeks she’s had a few quick showers, one or two baths that I more or less forced her to take, and that’s it. Of course I wash her hands and face and feet, but most of her body doesn’t come into contact with water very often now (apart from when we go to a pool).

What happened? And what do we do now? I’m not going to force her into the bath, especially since she is now tall enough to be almost-able to climb out (and then slip halfway and fall). I take my shower in the morning, and generally I’m in a hurry to get to work after that, so I don’t dawdle much. But perhaps I should still try to get her to shower with me… or maybe we’ll just go swimming once a week and share a shower after that. Or maybe she will just rediscover the joy of baths.

Quite randomly in the middle of a session, Visual Studio went bonkers and started saying “No files were found to look in. Find was stopped in progress.” whenever I tried to search for anything.

Visual Studio being what it is (a buggy but widely used tool), I went to Google. And Google delivered: the solution is to press Ctrl + Scroll Lock. Huh? As a fix that’s on par with spitting over your left shoulder on a Thursday with a full moon.

And if that wasn’t weird enough, the bug has existed in the last 3 (three) versions of Visual Studio: 2003 and 2005 and 2008 (which we use). And no one at MS has bothered to fix it.

Ingrid is definitely “almost two” now: a “big girl”.

More and more, she wants to be like us and to join us in whatever we’re doing. When I am cooking dinner, she wants to stand on her step stool and watch me chop the veggies. (And have a little taster of everything. It turns out that she really likes raw mini sweetcorn, will eat raw aubergine and potatoes, as well as uncooked beans.) When I’m doing the laundry, she wants to be there to help me pull the clothes out of the washer and hang them up to dry. When the table in front of her mysteriously acquires splashes of food, she wants to wipe it with a paper towel, just like we do. When I go grocery shopping she gets a little trolley to push, and loves to put our shopping in it.

Watering flowers Watering the cat

Shopping actually goes faster this way, because she is in constant movement. The moment we’ve picked up the milk, she’s rolling onwards, and I have to either keep up or stop her trolley (in which case she’s likely to toddle off without it). I try to have a detailed list with me so I don’t need to stop and think while we’re in the shop, and it means that we walk through the shop in one long smooth movement.

Speaking of walking, she’s got much better stamina now than just a month ago. She often prefers walking to sitting in the pushchair. The shop we normally go to is, I’d guess, about 15 minutes’ walk away, and it isn’t uncommon for Ingrid to walk half the way there before climbing up into the pushchair, then come down again to walk through the shop and halfway home, too.

Meanwhile Ingrid has also discovered / understood pretend play. I’m not sure if this is related to participating in our activities, or just happened at roughly the same time. Her stuffed penguins walk, and her cow sits and sleeps. (Any animal or toy that lies down is always “sleeping”.) She also has her doll, and quite often doll wants to sit next to us on the sofa, or reads a book, or sleeps. Doll sometimes also wants to drink water from a cup, or to breastfeed. This morning doll was apparently hungry and was carefully fed with yoghurt. Occasionally Ingrid also enjoys feeding me (although my patience lasts through about two or three bites).

Speaking of eating… she’s now quite competent at feeding herself with spoon and fork, and reliably manages a glass or a cup. When she wants to, she can get stuff in her mouth without spilling much at all. The bib is there just in case, and remains clean after many meals. Messes arise when she gets bored with eating and starts to play with her food instead. She dips her pasta in her milk, or eats orange juice with a spoon, or tries to eat yoghurt with her fingers, or stuffs her mouth full of grapes and then spits them out half-chewed. At least she’s now learned that hand-washing after a meal is an unavoidable step.

It’s hard to say anything meaningful about her language development. I know her vocabularly keeps growing, and that it now includes a good amount of verbs, as well as simpler adjectives (big, small, hot, cold, wet, etc, plus a few colours I think). But I really only know about the ones she uses actively. I know that she understands an awful lot more than she says. I can give her instructions using words she’s never said – “put that nappy in the bin in the kitchen, please” or “climb up on the bench and I’ll help you open that box”, and she’ll follow them without hesitation.

Books remain as popular as ever. She still likes to point out things in books, but now I think she’s beginning to be interested in actual stories, in things happening after each other, in the same order. She likes to predict what will be on the next page: turns a corner and peeks enough to be able to guess, then turns the whole page and is happy when it turns out that, yes indeed, there is a cow on that page.

I’ve recently started telling her bedtime stories, too. It’s hard to know how much she understands of the actual story, but hearing my voice drone on keeps her relatively calm and makes bedtime a bit shorter. Before I started telling stories, she’d spend upwards of half an hour kicking and climbing around in the bed. Now it can sometimes take as little as 15 minutes, although half an hour isn’t at all rare. But at least she doesn’t kick me in the ribs, or climb over me while supporting herself with a knee in my groin, or accidentally headbutt me while trying to walk on the bed.

In fact I hope she doesn’t understand too much of the stories, because otherwise she’d probably be too scared to sleep: the only stories I know well enough to tell without much thought are the classics, Little Red Riding Hood, The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids, Hansel and Gretel, and other scary stories where someone generally gets eaten alive.

The company had a summer party this Tuesday. I hesitated for a short while, but in the end the decision was easy.

On the one hand: I could go to a crowded bar, with lots of people who are drinking, staring at TV screens (some football game) and occasionally shouting loudly. Possibly, if we can hear anything, we might talk about nothing in particular.

On the other hand: I could go home where I will be greeted with cheers of “emme, emme, emme, emme!” from the moment I put my key in the lock, and then I would get a big hug from Ingrid, and maybe one from Eric too. And then Ingrid and I would hold hands while we go downstairs and out to the laundry room next door. And then we would come back to a nice home cooked dinner with Eric.

I don’t spend much time thinking about home and family while I am at work. But the moment I step out through the door, I long to get home to them. The longing grows as I get closer, and by the time I step off the T-bana I am almost ready to run.

I’ve been at my new job almost two months now, and by now I feel like I’ve been doing it for a long time. I think much of that is due to how small and informal the team is, and how tightly involved I am. I am half the development team. My previous job (at a big bank) was framed and structured by all sorts of procedures, automated processes, approvals, systems, and schedules. Here I just sit down and do whatever I decide needs to be done.

On the one hand this leads to a lot of freedom and independence and responsibility. Our speed of response is stunning: if an urgent bug is found, the fix can be in production minutes after we’ve tested the fix.

But there are downsides, too. There can be confusion and lack of direction, because there was (until recently) no clear process in place for prioritising requirements or for scheduling and planning releases. There is tedious manual work which is easy to get wrong, because the deployment process is not automated. And so on.

The good thing is that it’s all changing. The other half of the development team is almost as new to the firm as I am (although he has worked there a few summers, he only started full-time a couple of months before me). Since we’re both new, we have no emotional investment in the current processes and systems. And we’re planning to change just about everything.

A new source control system is coming soon (SVN instead of VSS). A new development process is already being tried out (Scrum-inspired). Development tools to improve code quality (Resharper) have been introduced. Automated unit tests are slowly being put in place, and automated acceptance tests are being discussed. Automated build and deployment will be coming next.

My last job was, in a way, the perfect preparation for this. Had I come straight from school, or from another unstructured chaos-inspired place, I might not even know that things could be done differently, and we would have muddled on, just like the developers before us seem to have done. The gears would grind slower and slower, but we would probably be able to keep moving for several more years.

But I have seen the other end of the scale, and I know – not theoretically but from my own experience – the benefits of an automated build process, deployment scripts, code reviews etc. I know how much easier life could be. I know what we should be aiming for, and even though the ideal setup here will be very different from what we had there, I know how to figure out the way to get there.

If any of my previous colleagues are reading this, I’d like to send them a big thank-you for preparing me for this! You all thought I was working for the bank, and in reality you were all working on training me.

“The Dice Man” is the faux-autobiographic story of a psychiatrist who, bored with his ordinary routine life, decides one evening to let a die determine his next action. If the die shows a 6, he does one thing, otherwise something else.

He finds the experience exhilarating and liberating, and goes on to let the dice decide more and more of his life. At first the decisions are small, but later on he includes options such as leaving his family, killing someone, etc. As the psychiatrist he is, he also decides to spread this new idea as a therapeutic technique, as a way for everyone to learn that the self is malleable and not fixed, everyone can be anyone.

The premise is that we all have minority selves, impulses that push us in different directions, but we are taught and encouraged to extinguish and suppress most of them, to create a coherent self. This coherent self is only an illusion, and, what’s worse, an illusion that only causes struggle and boredom. Somehow Luke also links this to Zen ideas of letting go of the self.

The choices that Luke makes are driven by the dice, but they’re ultimately framed by the options he sets out before he throws the dice. And the options he comes up with tend to involve lots of sex and fair amounts of violence. Initially I got the impression that he was supposed to be your average self-absorbed sex-obsessed man, to show us how everyone has violence in them. But he seemed more like a psychopath, unaffected by the violent acts that the dice “tell” him to commit, feeling no empathy or remorse. While this leads to lots of explicit sex (which may get you ’cool points’ from the lads) it also leads to an aimless plot, and a rather simple, uncomplicated and thus uninteresting man.

And that’s my main gripe with the book. The basic idea is a great one, but the story that it develops into really doesn’t make much of it. The plot is weak and gradually unravels; the style becomes more and more uneven – which was probably an intentional choice, but that doesn’t make it any more successful. Basically the second half of the book didn’t add much, after I’d read the first half. And yet there are so many things one could do with this idea!

Nevertheless there was something strangely compelling about this book. I cannot get this idea of randomness-directed decisions out of my mind. Even though I really didn’t think it was a good book, I’d recommend you to read it anyway.

Amazon US, Amazon UK.

Life right now:

  • Scraped knees, because she has more speed than control
  • Sunglasses, because she wouldn’t leave mine alone
  • Scribbles on arm, because she has been learning how to pull the cap off a pen

The only untypical thing in this picture is her shoe: she usually pulls them off within minutes and runs barefoot instead.