Friday, February 18, 2011

Been Thinking A Lot Today

What with my baby's birth I've been giving a lot of thought to the future. It suddenly seems like less of a remote possibility and more of an actuality — I want Aki to grow up, to be a child, and a teenager, and an adult, and (predictably enough, I'm sure) I wonder and worry about what that world is going to be like. I'm not talking about environmental apocalypse. Alien races will enslave us and purify our air with their advanced technology before things can get too bad on that front.

But I wonder, specifically about what it means to live in a world that's so super-connected, and how it's going to affect her, as a child and as an adult. The world we're in is vastly different than the one my parents grew up in. It's vastly different than the one we were in fifteen years ago. What's the world going to be like five years from now? Or thirty?

So: a tryptic of essays, for your consideration, in order of erudition.

First: a primer on Ray Kurzweil from Time Magazine, by Lev Grossman. I tend to like Grossman's writing, but Time Magazine just dumbs the hell out of everything they publish. It's a perfect read if you don't know who Kurzweil is, or what he's about, but the best part of this is the Time-bot's choice of auto-links peppered through the article. Ironically demonstrative!

Second: a refutation of Kurzweil, sort of. Brian Christian has an axe to grind, and he does it with with wit, in first-person narrative. If the first article had me looking up books by Kurzweil, this had me reconsidering my rush.

And last, an article that puts the above two, and my last post, into some perspective. you just can't beat the NYRB for erudition. If anything helps point out where we're going, it's a clear eye toward where we've been, and where we are.

The last two articles, especially, are long but worth it. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, February 07, 2011

On Boredom

When I think about Aki growing up, and the things that were foundational for me, one that I want most for her is time to be bored. I don’t mean that pervasive sense of purposelessness or ennui that seems to get confused with boredom, though I’m sure that she’ll have plenty of that. I mean the kind of boredom that comes from long stretches of unorganized time.

When I was young, I often had nothing to do. My periods of structured time were largely limited. I played soccer one year, baseball another, but they were both summer leagues, and we were too young to be truly competitive. During school I was allowed a few hours of entertainment: maybe half an hour of videogames or an hour of television. I had homework of course, which may have taken me an hour when I cared to do it with any real attention, which was rare. Other than that, all I had to occupy my time was my friends, my surroundings, and whatever we could find to do. I remember hours playing with G.I. Joe toys and riding bikes. I remember sitting on lawns and discovering that it only took an hour or two to find a four-leaf clover.

These days, its almost the reverse. I flit from activity to activity constantly soaking in or producing information. I spend enormous amounts of time online, reading books, magazines, journals, watching tv shows or movies, listening to the radio, to music, playing with my phone, playing games, reading reviews of things I don’t have time to watch, or read, or play.

Nowadays I end up scheduling time away from media, and it’s space I cherish— exercising without headphones, meditating, taking a walk to the grocery store with Aki and leaving my phone behind.

Human intelligence, I believe, is born out of a particular and peculiar non-computer-like ability to synthesize new information out of all that we take in. We learn by studying and repeating, but we create new things — we demonstrate and innovate our learning — by combining disparate elements to make new things that never were. This is what writers do, but it’s also what engineers and architects do. It’s what all creative people do.

But we need time to enact that synthesis. To be creative means setting aside time without input, to allow our brains to cull through what we know, and make interesting new ideas. But that seems to be something that, at the moment, we’re tempted not to give ourselves, and we’re scared to give it to our children. I worry about the pressure to raise Aki in an environment where we’re tempted to rush her from charter school to dance class to chess class to music lessons, filling every second of her day until bedtime, because we fear that otherwise she won’t be competitive.

But more than that, I worry about the toys, the games and computers and phones which already eat up so much of my day, and I want to raise her so that she has some space away from it. I want her to develop the ability to resist their temptation: to value contemplation and solace, and down-time. I worry about it for her, because I feel like I don’t get enough of it myself. And I don’t have the courage to throw out all my shiny toys, to raise Aki in a house without these things. Perhaps someday.

Also, just so this post doesn't end up entirely depressing, this afternoon she grabbed the bottle from me and shoved the nipple straight into her nose. We both looked surprised.

Friday, February 04, 2011


Well, so first, for those of you reading this on the facebooks or on rss feeds, I went ahead and redesigned the blog. Since it's not really about travel anymore, I thought the name, look, and little poem-let at the top needed changing. So there.

Okay, then. Back to SAHD-dom. This week we discovered growth spurts. Growth spurts involve more feeding and less sleeping (except for the SAHD, who just gets less of both). Luckily, GTWM (Goes To Work Mom) figured out a good solution to the Great Milk-Supply Problem Of Last Week, and now I text the exact amounts baby goes through for each feeding, so she can adjust. Hooray technology!

Growth spurts presage both physical and mental developments. In this case, she has started trying to sit up a little more, and no longer cries right off when she gets Tummy Time™. In fact, she seems to enjoy it a bit, which means we're that much closer to the dreaded crawling, in which we're going to have to figure out what to do with the cat box. By "we," I mean "me." I really don't want her to figure out anything about the cat box.

Seriously, this is the one fear that haunts my nightmares. I'm going to turn around for a minute, and suddenly find her halfway through the little cover flap, joyfully putting everything she can into her mouth. I think the reason I'm so worried is that, of all the pregnancy info that washed over us last year, the one thing that really stuck with me is that cat litter carries a bacteria that will give a pregnant woman a slight cold, and then KILL THE BABY. Aaaah! Why do we have that in the house? Because we love our cat, that's why. And we have so far failed to toilet train it.

But thankfully, we're still at least a month or two from this dreaded development. She's on her way to sitting up, which is awesome. And when she starts locomoting, well, I'll have something else to write about, won't I.