Soccer is done; life returns…

Our spring soccer season wrapped up this past week with the State Cup tournament in Pocatello over Memorial Day weekend and with our end of the season party on a weekday evening. Life feels like it is slowly returning to normal, and as is usually the case by the end of the season, it is with a mixture of sadness and relief that I view this passing.

Our friend John got some really good pix of both Li from the windswept steppes of the soccer pitches in eastern Idaho this spring — we had almost uniformly lousy weather for the season until the final couple of weeks — and of Ian playing. I’ll post a few of those in the next few days as I begin to get caught up on stuff around here.

It has been nice to have evenings back, so that I get a little more time with family and dinner has seen a welcome return to our schedule. Ian and I spent some time yesterday working on stuff in the garage — long overdue, in a couple cases — and we’re enjoying a weekend with Deb’s folks visiting, playing a bit of pinochle with them, and watching them get reacquainted with Li.

I’ve been doing a little reading, working on and almost done with Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash”, and just starting “Getting Things Done” (for obvious reasons). I did manage to squeeze in a couple of other books over the season but aside from Alex Garland’s “The Tesseract”, none struck me as extraordinary.

On the subject of “Getting Things Done”, if you’re a follower of GTD or have tried it and found it didn’t help, I’d like to hear from you; post a comment… I’m curious to hear your opinions and experiences with it. I’m just starting to factor some of its ideas into how I try to keep track of everything I’m supposed to be doing…

Long Time Gone…

It has been a long time — over a month since Miss Li’s birthday — since I wrote anything here. Time for an update… OK, long overdue for an update…

So, what’s been keeping us busy, you might ask?

A few days after Li’s birthday, I came down with some sort of nasty stomach bug that kept me down and away from work (and almost everything else) for a full week. Much misery, but I’m grateful none of the rest of us came down with this (and I know the rest of us are even more grateful that whatever got me didn’t seem communicable).

Work has been more than hectic, between organizational changes, deadlines, deliverables, and missing a week. I’m glad January is now in our rear-view mirrors; February, although hectic, is beginning to feel like I’m beginning to be caught up. Probably just an illusion, I know.

Li at the piano (January 2009)
Li at the piano (January 2009)

Li is, generally speaking, continuing to do well. We’ve struggled recently with another stretch of about 10 days or so of sleep problems. Problems as in, when Li doesn’t sleep or doesn’t sleep well, neither do Deb or I. Those nights tend to lead to long brittle days for all of us. The past few days, however, have been much better and the good days, though, are really good… she’s growing, and her vocabulary is blossoming. She loves to play the piano, loves to draw, has taken to helping dry dishes and helping set the table for dinner (we’re trying to convince her to get Ian to help more often with these things, but so far it’s not working — but not because she isn’t trying). She has a “vacuum” that she uses to help clean the house — a cardboard wrapping paper tube that she walks around the house with, saying “baboo, baboo”. She seems to like to say “Yes!” with an emphatic nod (and despite being two, has not yet discovered the power of “No” yet — at least not the verbal version of “No”), and she says an emphatic “Amen!” at the end of our pre-meal prayer.

Ian, Li, and Fi share the job of drying dishes (January 2009)
Ian, Li, and Fi share the job of drying dishes (January 2009)

Ian got his driver’s license this past week, which is also milestone of sorts.

We’ve been doing a bit of reading over the past few weeks, as well. I’ve enjoyed “Pattern Recognition” and “Idoru”, both by William Gibson and both very good. I also enjoyed “The Eleventh Man” by Ivan Doig, and although it was good, I don’t feel like it was up to the extraordinary standard he set with his earlier works. I’m part way through “The Irregulars”, which is a biographical account of Roald Dahl’s involvement with the British intelligence community in the US during World War II. He’s always been an intriguing author: we’ve long loved some of his kid lit, and his adult stuff is so off-beat that it’s interesting to learn a little about the guy behind the BFG and other books. Deb has been doing some reading on the subject of “spirited children” given what we are continuing to see from Li, and there have been some valuable insights from that.

Soccer is starting to ramp up, which seems odd given our very wintry winter with no real sign of spring yet. Ian and I are headed to Las Vegas next weekend for a season-opening tournament this weekend, so the team has been doing a bit of fitness work and is playing in the indoor league, but we haven’t been able to train as a group. It will be an interesting start to the season, I’m thinking. Some of the politics surrounding youth soccer have reared their heads again this past week which continues to take a bit of the luster off the Beautiful Game, too… maybe more on that later, but probably not. Deb is also playing adult co-ed indoors these days — she’s actually off playing as I draft this post — and enjoying both the game and the social aspect of adult conversation. Probably says a great deal about life around our house these days.

A preview screenshot of the updated theme I'm working on for the blog.
A preview screenshot of the updated theme I'm working on for the blog.

All of that doesn’t leave much in the way of spare time. I’ve been doing a bit of tinkering on some technical stuff for an open source software project (which occupied most of what I might consider spare time available for geek stuff for the past 3 months), and I’ve also been working on a facelift for the blog. Here’s a preview at right, and with any luck I’ll have this in place in the next couple weeks (although these things have a way of taking much longer than I tend to think). My goals for this are a lightweight theme that’s reasonably attractive (particularly in light of who is creating it), fluid (enabling it to take better advantage of screen real estate — both large and small), standards compliant in its markup, and easy to maintain/tweak. It will take advantage of some of the capabilities of current browsers (things like rounded corners), will use jQuery for some subtle enhancements, and will (hopefully) degrade gracefully for those still forced to suffer with old broken technology like MSIE v6. OK, probably more than just two weeks, but it is coming…

A Few Odd Bits

A few odd bits, given that I seem to lack the time to post much more than that, these days…

  • Looking over the blog traffic for September, half the traffic was for the TiddlyWiki I set up for the junior high soccer teams for this fall season. Not surprising, given the absence of much of anything else new on the site these days. Overall, traffic was about even with August.
  • We’re officially out of summer; more to come on that, I think.
  • Been doing a bit of reading, but unfortunately most of it has been on the technical side. I’ll post more there, too, perhaps. The highlight, however, has been “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini: haunting, gripping, beautiful, and heartbreaking at times.
  • Been looking a bit at OpenID, both from a work perspective and for use here. I’ve got a bit of cleanup to do here, as well, given a couple of updates to WordPress and plugins.

A Long-overdue Li Update

Li and Ian
Li and Ian

Yeah, I know: this is way overdue. It has been more than a month since posting much about Li and life and how we are all doing. This last part of the summer has been more than just a skosh on the busy side — both at home and at work — and I’ve struggled to find any sort of time/energy combination that might lead to writing an update here. (I’m also in the process of rebuilding a couple of my Linux boxes under a new distribution, which takes a long time — I’m more than two weeks into that project as of today — when you try to do it in 15 minute chunks; more on that in a separate post, perhaps. And as much as I’d like to be able to blame a lack of updates here on that, it’s a really only a minor part of it.)

Li is doing great, in short. The biggest change — at least for us — is that she is developing some more effective habits regarding sleep. Deb has been working with her to help her learn to fall asleep, so nap time is becoming both a little more regular and a little more productive. It is also helping with sleeping at night, as she learns that she can in fact relax in her bed and gradually fall asleep (some nights “gradually” ends up being 7 seconds after she puts her head down, while other nights, it tends toward 15-ish minutes). As a result, she’s sleeping better, she’s more rested, and she’s generally happier. Ditto for us. The only real kink there has been that Li is working through her second major cold in the past 4 weeks, and is only in the past couple of days starting to bounce back from this second iteration. We’ll be glad to say goodbye to whatever little bugs have been wreaking havoc with her nose and respiratory system…

Li and her almost-constant companion, Monkey
Li and her almost-constant companion, Monkey

She’s continuing to expand her vocabulary, and she’s definitely talking more. The biggest change there is that she’s becoming much more consistent in hanging closing sounds on words. While we’ve become pretty good at using context to figure out what “baah” might mean, having that turn into “bath” makes a difference.

We took her huckleberry picking for the first time a couple weeks ago (and suffered through the angst of just the first of many — I’m sure — realizations that we although we remembered the lunch and the sunscreen, we forgot the camera!). Once she decided that she liked the berries themselves, the next step was convincing her that if she wanted to eat them, she had to pick them (and that the pail we were picking into was not yet for general consumption). The next challenge was centered around the decision that she had probably had enough of them to eat. As we found when Ian was little, it’s tough to get many huckleberries when picking with a little one, but we did end up with a couple of quarts by the time we were done. Probably more importantly, though, we had a great day out in the mountains about town and Li found one more thing she really enjoyed. (And next time, I’m positive we’ll remember the camera, but Deb is snickering as I write that!)

Li and cousin Lauren on Li's first trip into a swimming pool
Li and cousin Lauren on Li's first trip into a swimming pool

Li is growing and developing physically, too. She definitely enjoys being outside, and is now both able to and excited about going up and down the small slide on the school playground near our house. Rides in the stroller or the wagon as we go on walks are always highlights, as are trips to the zoo. Deb bought a family pass to the zoo that works with quite a number of zoos, and between trips to our local zoo and the zoo in Salt Lake, it has more than paid for itself; it’s great to just zip over for an hour and let her explore and watch the animals on an afternoon.

Some other random Li observations:

  • She loves cuddling with Monkey, a stuffed monkey from our friend Karie, that has turned into a constant companion. (So constant, in fact, that we’ve had to find MonkeyB, who occasionally makes an appearance so that Monkey can be washed.)
  • There is no such thing as “too many books” or “too much reading”, as far as Li is concerned. Current favorites include “The Napping House”, “Is Your Mama a Llama?”, “Where’s My Teddy?”, and the “The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear”.
  • Her favorite pajamas are her “pink-alicious” PJs, an early gift from cousin Jordy, but with the weather cooling off as the summer winds into fall, it won’t be long before we’ll need to put them away.
  • Li is definitely a morning person at this early stage of her life, even on mornings when Mom and Dad don’t necessarily want to be.
  • Li and Aunt Ida's quilt
    Li and Aunt Ida's quilt

    The quilt from great-great Aunt Ida is a blast; there are hundreds (thousands?) of picures on it from lots of different fabrics that provide a never ending source of things to point at, ask questions about, and discuss (including a University of Kansas Jayhawk and the KSU wildcat!).

  • Cherry tomatoes fresh from the garden are wonderful, and you don’t need to take the little green top-things off to eat them.
  • Pad thai from the Thai House restaurant downtown in definitely worth skipping a nap for.
  • Bugs are fun to squish when you’re wearing your too-cute purple crocs, and those same crocs are great for splashing in the water running through the gutter on a hot summer day.
  • Big brothers don’t seem to be good for much other than an occasional tickling or helping you learn to fly, but Li definitely loves hers.
  • Swimming pools and cousins — once you get used to them (both) — are a great way to spend a hot Saturday afternoon.

Geek Shorts

A few miscellaneous short geek items:

  • I’ve been looking at Arch Linux lately as a possible distro to try for a bit, and took the plunge last night on an older Dell Latitude laptop. I’m still partway through the installation even as I write this (in the middle of installing the GNOME desktop, actually). The basic OS install went smoothly, but I got stuck for a bit trying to get the nVidia video drivers configured; got past that hump and it’s plugging away at this point. More to come on that… if it looks like it will be worth hanging on to. It’s a bleeding edge rolling release distribution, meaning they don’t release new versions every x months with no updates to new versions of the applications (generally only minor patches and security updates are made available) between releases; their model feeds updates to apps as they become available, as as long as one periodically updates stuff, they are always current and there’s no need to re-install a version of the OS every six months or so. Maybe better, maybe not, but different. Part of what has impressed me is the level of polish on the documentation available for the distro, particularly for someone looking at it as a potential new user (see their beginner’s guide as a good example).
  • Being restricted to the touchpad on a laptop is slow and painful; my mouse is dangling off the back of the in-progress Arch box at the moment. Note to self: buy a second USB mouse to have hanging around for times like these.
  • Speaking of Linux, Wednesday’s xkcd Web comic strip struck a chord with me, having watched Ian over the past few years. See for yourself.
  • Speaking of Ian and geek stuff, today marks his 16th birthday. Happy Birthday, Ian!
  • I finished re-reading William Gibson’s Count Zero a week or so ago and I’m part way through Neuromancer right now; I keep forgetting how much I like his writing. And having gone back and started rereading these two classics of the cyberpunk genre, I am amazed at how often I find references to things from them.