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Sat, 06 Nov 2004
DaddyCon II: Day 2

Today DaddyCon II was in full swing. We all got up in time to get Elisabeth to her 9AM gymnastics class. Once again, I followed (more like tried to keep up with) Elisabeth as she wandered from apparatus to apparatus. Occasionally, she would pause in front of her sisters to exchange some smiling or giggling. The older two girls brought some books to amuse themselves, so I only had to stop by and check in with them a few times. No behavior modification instructions needed to be issued. We spent much of the rest of the day lazing around. The effect of all the traveling must be catching up with parents and children alike.

I did try to tune in to the BloggerCon webcast but I kept getting an error message about the server being busy. For all I know, the broadcast stream doesn't work with the Mac version of Windows Media Player. I popped into the IRC channels, but I didn't really have time to follow them all, and the content was kind of sparse for someone that wasn't on site.

This afternoon, we took some time to put some of Abigail's turtle graphics exercises up on the girls' blog. These don't quite count as programs -- the drawings are simple and she was just getting the hang of working with the turtle, but I thought it was a milestone worth recording. I also put up a few photos of the young hackers on my Flickr page. Since we did the first session yesterday, Abigail started to use phrases related to the turtle graphics world in her conversations about the real world. The thought pattern is starting to sink in. For today's session she had a few ideas for things that she wanted to try drawing.

Watching Abigail deal with the keyboard and trackpad on the PowerBook reminded me of how much you need to be able to do to interact with a computer, and how surprising various user interface features are. She got confused by accidentally bringing a background application to the front, transparent windows, mouse overs, and Expose, to name a few features. Proper use of the shift key was another cognitive obstacle, although that skill has been assimilated. After watching me touch type on the keyboard, I noticed that she was trying to put her hands over the keyboard in a similar way -- imitating the way that I typed. It's amazing to me how observant she was. Michaela and I did another session of shoe tying, and then we cuddled a bit while Abigail was hacking.

After Elisabeth's nap, we hung out some more (everybody wanted a low key day today) until dinner. Today's dinner menu was frozen chicken tenders and french fries, along with two varieties of pears, accompanied by the usual beverage selections, milk and water. This was also straight forward and uneventful. Since I didn't take into account some of the delays in pre-heating ovens and such, we finished later than I planned, so we mostly cleaned up and then I gave the girls a bath. This is another area where things were different from DaddyCon I. In April, Abigail still needed a parent to help her get through the bath routine. Now we send her off to the master bathroom while I give the younger two a bath in the hallway bathroom. After that was the regular bedtime routine, and the attendees were off to bed.

One of the interesting things about just hanging out with people (children or otherwise) is that eventually you end up talking about random topics. Today Abigail and I had a few conversations just because we were hanging out. The topics were those of adult conversation, and I found myself amazed at how fast children grow up. While that means a finite number of future DaddyCon's, it makes each one all the more precious.

[23:50] | [family] | # | TB | F | G | 0 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
Cheering from the peanut gallery
As much as I'm enjoying DaddyCon this year, I really wish that I was at BloggerCon. It would be great to meet some of the folks that I haven't had a chance to connect with in person (yet). Julie called earlier tonight, and she was sitting with a few folks that I've yet to meet in person. I have to admit that I wished I was there to meet them too.

But the primary reason that I wish that I was there is that I want to see Julie's session. This is her first time doing something like this, and I wish I could be there in person to be a support/help/cheerleader. Blogging has been such a big thing for her -- it brings out a beautiful part of her that is otherwise hard to see. I'm really excited that Dave is giving her this opportunity. At least it looks like IT Conversations is going to pick up all the sessions, so I can get the experience at some point. Tomorrrow we'll be cheering her on from DaddyCon!

[08:27] | [computers/internet/weblogs] | # | TB | F | G | 0 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
DaddyCon II: Day 1
Last night I flew back to Seattle after a highly productive week at the OSAF home offices in San Francisco. As I was walking up the ramp to the ferry terminal, I called Julie for our regular "about to get on the boat checkin". She had emailed me that afternoon to let me know that she had come down with a cold, but as I talked to her on the phone my heart sank, because the cold seemed quite severe, medication seemed ineffective, and Julie was quite frustrated -- the point of considering staying home from BloggerCon.

Fortunately, by the time I actually got home, one of the medications got traction, and some of the cold symptoms were abating. There was no further talk of canceling, and we spent the rest of the night in the kitchen, laptops open, catching each other up on the week, packing for BloggerCon and enjoying a brief moment of each other's company before passing the travel Baton.

This morning, we all got up, hopped into the car and dropped Julie at the ferry terminal, where she began the land, sea, and air trip to the Bay Area. The rest of us returned to the house for the first general session of DaddyCon: breakfast. After an uneventful (but satisfying breakfast), I went upstairs with the girls so that they could make their beds. I was intending to come back down and spend the rest of the morning reading, but the attendees decided to take things in their own direction. We spent the rest of the morning in their bedroom. Julie gave the girls an old tape player, and Abigail started it up and we hung out in their room. The kids were bringing in toys and we were hanging out. When I asked if they wanted to go downstairs to read, they refused, and I was in no mood to refuse them. Our only excitement was that Elisabeth managed to get the dresser to fall on her (along with all the drawers), by trying to pull some drawers out. Miraculously, she was only struck in the torso by the upper most drawer -- missed her head totally. I was probably more upset about it than she was. Tough kids indeed.

The disadvantage of having children that can read is that they can read stuff that you leave lying around. Last night Julie and I coordinated logistics for the weekend, and I took some notes. Last year, I had fun keeping things in suspense for the girls. This time around, Abigail discovered my notes, read them, and proceeded to inform her sisters of my plans for the weekend. Fortunately, not all the plans were written down, and she wasn't able to read all of my handwriting.

After lunch, DaddyCon became a multi track conference. Elisabeth attended the mandatory 2 hour nap track, while Abigail and Michaela settled in with me for a turtle graphics track. This requires a little bit of background. Up until recently, I've been kind of in the background when it comes to homeschooling the kids. It has always been our plan that I would get involved with the math, (physical) sciences, and computer aspects of educating the kids. I've done a bit of just introducing various topics or "quizzes" at the meal table, but nothing really structured. I've been really looking forward to teaching the girls to program a computer (assuming that they were interested). Abigail is now old enough that she can read lots of stuff, and can spell lots of words. She's doing basic addition and subtraction and limited multiplication, and I felt that she was at a point where learning to write small programs might be a reinforcement for the arithmetic concepts that she's learning. Someday, she'll be ready to take a crack at Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, but not just yet. It seemed to me that the turtle graphics system pioneered in Logo would be a great way to show how arithmetic could be applied to do something that my kids could relate to, namely drawing.

A few weeks ago I asked Abigail and Michaela to come into my office, and I showed the a little bit of turtle graphics, using the turtle module that comes with Python, just to whet their appetite. I promised them that I would teach them how to do it during Julie's trip to BloggerCon.

So today after lunch, we sat down to make good on my promise. Micheala didn't think that she could learn very much, but I wanted to include her anyway. I started off by talking about only a few of the turtle commands, moving forward and backward, raising and lowering the pen, and turning (I simplified this to right angles and didn't really get into explaining angles -- that will come soon enough). I had Michaela pretend to be the turtle, and we spend a little time ordering her (and sometimes me) around the kitchen and living room, in order to get the hang of drawing with the turtle. Then we sat down in front of the computer. I let the Abigail decide what she wanted to draw, and sat down to work with Michaela on tying shoes. I shuttled back and forth between the two of them, until Michaela got frustrated with shoe tying. By then Abigail had successfully completed a drawing, and she and Michaela started plotting things to draw. I spent the rest of the time watching them interact with each other and learn how to make the turtle obey. I helped only when they asked me, and I think they had a great time doing it. We didn't quite get to posting their work on their blog, but that's a part of tomorrow's agenda.

We spent the rest of the afternoon together. Elisabeth woke up, we had a snack and then headed out because I needed a haircut. The girls have been with Julie to get a haircut, but this was their first time in a barber shop. It was really interesting what they noticed. When we arrived, they we commenting on the fact that there was only a single hair cutter, and they were amazed at the number of books and magazines. There were even kids books. My barber made it easy by inviting the girls to come over and watch her while she worked, and she gave them a running commentary of the things that she was doing with my hair. The kids even scored some left over Halloween candy. After the haircut was a stop to get the girls a treat (stickers!) and another stop pick up a library book.

The first day of DaddyCon II wrapped up with a chicken curry dinner (they ate it all and were clamoring for more), the routine after dinner cleanup routine, and the usual bedtime routine.

[07:52] | [family] | # | TB | F | G | 2 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post

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