William Gibson’s “Spook Country”

I saw William Gibson’s “Spook Country” in an airport bookstore on my recent trip to Dallas (notes to self: let’s skip Dallas in late June in the future, and sushi in Dallas just seems like a bad idea on second thought) and couldn’t resist. Let me qualify this a little by saying I don’t read much science fiction, but I’ve always like Gibson’s writing and I’m not even sure I’d really bin him as SF in the first place. In short, this is a great read, and just what I needed this summer: darkly funny, insightful, very engaging, a little edgy, and some food for thought about how blurry the lines can get.

Makes me want to go find my copy of “Count Zero” and start re-reading some of his earlier work…

A Full Week

It has been a full week — our first full week since coming home from China with Li — and it has, in fact, been a full week. We’re starting to get the routine down, and she’s adapting well (and, so are we, actually).

Ian and Li exploring a Lego bucketBy the end of the week, Ian seemed to feel like school was much closer to being under control as he got closer to being caught up. It has involved (and will continue to do so for a few days) going in early for make up sessions with one of his teachers. It was also his first full week of soccer, with training sessions on three evenings and two matches this week. The return to soccer seems to agree with him — probably the combination of getting outside a bit, the exercise, the competition, and the teamwork. And he still found time this week to squeeze in a bit of quality time with his mei-mei (little sister), sharing one of his own loves with her.

Evenings and nap times with Li are gradually settling down, too, with the extended bouts of screaming becoming fewer and farther between, and primarily restricted to just those situations where she has gotten too tired to be rational (we’ve had a few of those ourselves). She’s sleeping better — not typically through the night yet, but for longer periods — and as a result, we are too. We took the leap yesterday evening of moving her out of our room, where she had been sleeping in a portable crib, and into her own room and real crib. She’s napped there each day this week, but the time or two we’d tried this move in the past had just resulted in screaming. She slept well, but only lasted in there until about 4 am, and since we couldn’t get her to really fall back asleep there, we just threw in between us in our bed and squeezed a couple more hours of sleep in. We had expected this shift to be a much bigger step backward, but so far so good…

The best part of bath timeBath times are a bit of a challenge: she turns into Dash from the movie “The Incredibles” as we lower her into the warm bath water, with her legs going about 4500 rpm and water going out behind her in an impressive rooster tail. We no longer have to have a steady stream of Cheerios being fed to her to keep her in the water for long enough to soap, rinse, shampoo, rinse, but she clearly hasn’t reached the point where she enjoys bath time. This, too, would be interesting to explore in terms of how they did bathtime at her orphanage, as she supposedly enjoyed baths. Her favorite part of the whole exercise seems to be sitting in Dad’s lap, all wrapped up in a hooded towel after the ordeal is over.

We’ve slowly started to introduce her to our circle of friends late this week as well. She clearly does better with low key people (which is understandable, given her parents), does better on her own turf here at home or where food is involved (John and Tiffany at Great Harvest Bread were big hits!). She and Deb went to both of Ian’s soccer matches (or most of each of them) this week, and she seemed to do fine: she enjoyed being outdoors, actually paid attention to the match, and did pretty well with all of the attention. She seems more open to adults than kids, in general, too.

Li had her first doctor appointment — a normal well-baby check — this week, and that was hard. Lots of immunizations (by the time it was over, she looked like a pin-cushion) and they drew blood (it seemed like they pulled about 3 quarts) for a number of additional tests just to check for other possible problems. That was the hardest part, as a parent, to watch: for the first time since we met her, we saw real tears — and lots of them. All the screaming to this point has been all wind and no rain, but there were tears aplenty by the time that was over. It made an impression, because we had to take her back in for the results of the TB test this morning and she clearly did not have fond memories of the doctors’ office.

She’s standing on her own more and more, and for longer periods of time. She took a sort of stumbling pair of steps yesterday, but they were more caused by a loss of balance than a desire to go from point A to point B, so we aren’t really counting that as walking. Those first real steps, though, are clearly not far away.

Li exploring one of our book casesLi loves books. Just can’t seem to get enough of them either. Her favorite right now is a board-book version of Noah’s ark that we read at least 10 times every day — her favorite page is the one where the reader has to howl like the two wolves, roar like the two lions, and trumpet like the two elephants. I don’t know how much, if at all, she was read to in the orphanage or whether she had books there to look at, but ever since we gave her a couple of books early in China, she has been drawn to them. I don’t specifically recall anything in the adoption paperwork where we touched on our love of books and reading as a family, but this is just one more way that God made sure this little girl has, as the Chinese would put it, “fallen into the honeypot”.

So, as week 1 draws to a close on Li’s new life with us and our new life with her, we can look back at this week and offer a prayer of thanks for

  • a really full week together
  • the love and joy this little gift of God brings to our family
  • the kindness, support, prayers, and patience of our friends and extended family as we all adapt

Tomorrow marks Li turning 15 months old and the start of our second week home. We can’t wait to see what this next week holds for all of us…

Recent Reading

I haven’t really kept up on posting anything about what’s on my reading stack, but I actually have been reading quite a bit lately. Part of it is a release from the stress of work (and specifically, the stress of trying to make sure that when I disappear to go to China in the immediate future that I don’t leave a mess of unfinished major tasks for Jeff) and part of it is to keep from going crazy as we wait…

I’m currently in the middle of two books: Barça: A People’s Passion by Jimmy Burns (an unexpected Christmas gift from Chuck) and The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten (loaned to me by Mark). Steingarten is hilarious, and I knew I was in for a treat when he opens the book by touching on his food aversions and how he (mostly) got past them — those aversions include some of my favorites: Greek food, anchovies, Indian desserts, and clams. Right now, however, Steingarten is playing second fiddle to Burns. Barça is rich in the history of one of the great football clubs in the world, a club with a unique history interwoven with the politics of Spain and a club whose history is populated with some of the greatest players in the history of the game. The book is about much more than just the sporting side of the club, and has been a real eye-opener. Understanding the history of the club within the 20th century history of Spain and Catalonia puts a completely different stamp on the nature of the rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. I am within 25 pages of the end of the book and, although it has not necessarily been an easy read, it has been both worthwhile and very enjoyable in terms of both the history and the football.

Over Christmas, I also read The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig (probably my favorite contemporary writer) and Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. Pizza is fluff but enjoyable; sort of the the futbol Americano version of Joe McGinness’ The Miracle of Castel di Sangro but not as filling and without the twist at the end. The Whistling Season did not disappoint at all; it had been a couple of years since I last read anything by Doig, so this was a real treat. Vintage Doig, but with a touch more humor (or perhaps the humor is closer to the surface?); I don’t remember laughing out loud with Doig in the past, but I did in several passages here. The book follows a pair of threads separated in time by 40-ish years in the life of a young man in western Montana and more than just touches on the ways in which school and teachers can influence life. Definitely worth reading, and if you aren’t yet a fan of Doig, this one would serve as a great introduction to an extraordinary Western US writer.

Back to “normal” life…

It has been ages since I last posted anything, I realize. Life at this point should return to something resembling “normal” for a couple of months, based primarily on the recent end to the spring soccer season. We have a break of about two months between the end of that season and the start of the next, so I will try to be a little more regular in adding stuff here. Lots to write about: soccer (of course), a couple of big shifts in my small slice of the Linux world, a couple of interesting (at least to me!) developments in ColdFusion.

I took Friday off this past week — even though it was already a short week, with Monday having been the Memorial Day holiday — to try to get caught up on several things around home that have been wanting for attention. This felt like the first real “day off” for a long, long time, and in addition, it finally feels like summer (mentally, that is). The combination of not going to work, having Ian out of school, and warm weather made for such a relaxing and energizing combination… we made quite a dent in that to-do list. Friday ended with our first Friday evening pick-up match (I finally get to play again!), and despite it being obvious that I really haven’t played much the past 4 months, it was wonderful to get to play again. Our weekly kick-about is one of my favorite parts of summer: a summer evening, surrounded by friends, kicking a soccer ball about, on the best pitch in town.

I’ve had a little time to read lately, and have been re-reading Phillip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy and “The Stand” by Stephen King, and have started working on Douglas Hofstadter’s “I Am A Strange Loop”. I also read Robert Ludlum’s “The Apocalypse Watch” (crap; skip it), Len Deighton’s “Berlin Game” (fluff, but the writing is so much better than Ludlum; I liked it, but Deb couldn’t get into it), and Joe McGinniss’s “The Miracle of Castel di Sango” (great story, average writing; required reading for anyone associated with soccer; I was furious at the end of the book, but I suppose its the only ending that really works).

Work has not been all that great lately. Very little technical work, mostly project management stuff, and lots of turmoil and uncertainty within the org and the team based on personnel changes at all levels.

More to come…

Great Expectations

Ian has a reading project on tap for his summer break ahead of an honors-level English course next Fall. The assignment: read (and then write about) Dickens’ “Great Expectations”. I’ve never read much Dickens, having survived my school experience without it (although I do remember at one point finding a copy of “A Tale of Two Cities” at a library book sale or a garage sale of some sort, but only made it through the first couple of pages before losing interest).

Given some of our other reading lately, particularly stuff by Jasper Fforde and his Thursday Next books with their foundation in old lit, I am actually looking forward to digging into “Great Expectations”. After reading (and loving!) FForde’s “The Eyre Affair”, Deb and I both read “Jane Eyre” and loved it. I guess there may be a reason some of these are considered “classic” literature. So we are treating GE as a family reading project for the summer (although Ian gets the solo pleasure of the writing portion of the project that goes along with it in preparation for school next Fall).

And there is something about just the title of this particular work that seems like it fits my life right now…