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…

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.

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…