Friday, January 29, 2010

Catherine was playing her violin today. I say playing rather then practicing intentionally because she was taking such joy in it.

She started by playing her favourite exam piece at a ridiculous speed for Harry and laughed at how the new tempo made some parts of it sound amazing and others fall apart. Her new piece was punctuated by comments like, "Wait a minute," and, "Oh! That's so cool!" as she read the music, noticed things she hadn't before and incorporated improvements. Never once did she glance at the clock and after a good 45 minutes put her violin away while chatting about how she loves a piece that ends on the same note it begins with.

Meanwhile, I'm just about ready to burst with pride and awe. 16 short months and she's made amazing progress. 16 long months in and she still loves her instrument and puts in practice sessions that far exceed her teacher's expectations. How cool is it that I get to witness an 11 year old pursue her passion?

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Problem in the Basement

There is currently a big, brindle, pit bull mix puppy in our basement workroom. It's almost 3 in the morning and I can't sleep because the poor baby/dratted beast is whining to be let into the rest of the house with us. It can't be because a) I don't know what it might be infected with and have my own dog to worry about and b) it does not seem to be housebroken.

And there, I just had to run away from the computer because it managed to get past the elaborate blockade I've constructed to keep it confined and was wandering around the basement. Ugh. Blockade is now reinforced.

How did we get this puppy? A neighbour found it outside a local store. It had been hanging out there several days and no one knew whose dog it was (and it was someone's dog. It has a beautiful collar to prove that). She went to leave and it jumped in her car and she brought it to my house. Because apparently my house is where strays should be brought. Over the summer we took both a baby skunk and a hummingbird with a concussion in to the appropriate centers. Now we have a "reputation".


But it's really my fault I have the dog now. I offered to take it in until she could take it to the SPCA. Which she said she won't be able to do until Wednesday. And I don't think I can take another night of whining, walks, pooping and peeing.

I may just run it in myself tommorrow although I'd prefer not to risk doggy byproducts being deposited in my new car.

If I sound rather cold-hearted and resentful about the whole thing keep in mind that it IS now 3 am. I'm sure that once I get a bit of sleep and then go down and take a look in the puppy's big brown eyes I'll be as smitten as I was yesterday evening when I took him in. Now however? Not so much.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Violin Exam

Yesterday was Catherine's Second grade violin exam for the Royal Conservatory of Music. This is something she's been nervous about for weeks.

No worries now. Although we haven't got the results yet her teacher, who was present in order to accompany Catherine on a couple of pieces, thinks she did really well. Catherine herse'f came out of the examination room with a big smile, partly because she also thought she did well and partly because she had actually enjoyed the experience. Now we simply have to wait. I think that will be harder for her teacher and I then Catherine who's simply happy it's all over with for awhile (until a theory exam in the spring).

I'll post results when I get them.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nintendo DS Drills

Harry got a Nintendo DS for his birthday last week. That means we now have two in the house and the Pictochat feature that lets the kids communicate over them has become a favourite. Even with me. It makes math drills ever so much more fun and has opened some doors to reading practice with Harry.

I'll sit in the living room while Harry sits in his room. I'll write or type something like, "3+4=" and Harry will type in his response. This goes on for about 10 questions and then the responses start getting silly. I'll get, "777777777", instead of 7 or scribbles rather then the proper answer.

And then I'll hear the maniacal giggles.

Still, if I just retype the question then I'll generally get a proper answer...For about another 10 questions.

But that's about Harry's limit. After that the scribbles, and the giggles, start coming faster then I can post my questions. So I get silly myself and start drawing pictures of disapproving cartoon animals or sending insults like, "butt face," or "poop butt."

Yes, I know calling your son a, "poop butt" probably isn't something you should admit to but when he reads that on his screen the giggles explode into full blown laughter. And notice the part when I said, "he reads that," because Harry doesn't read yet. But when it comes to a scatological insult he make the effort to read it and then he will painstakingly type that insult so that he can send it back to his mother.

So the math drill transforms into a stealth reading lesson.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The New Baby

We've actually had our her for just over a week now but you how busy it is with a new baby...Running around to show her off to all the relatives and such. So here is a picture:

She's adorable, isn't she?

She's a 2009 Hyundai Tucson. She had 17,500 kms (almost 11,000 miles) and she has lots of great options like AC and heated seats. She's only a 2.0 litre and FWD but with 4 new snow tires on her she handles our back roads like a pro. We're thrilled.

I have to admit that buying this car was a pile of fun from start to finish and we learned a lot that will come in handy next time we purchase a vehicle. Thought I'd share what we learned in case anyone is interested.

-Research. We started researching about a month or two before we planned to buy. We watch new and used car adds in the paper and on the internet so that we got a good idea of what fair prices were for various models, years and mileage. When we finally made our choice we knew we got a great deal because of all that research. We also, despite a huge Hyundai bias, checked out safety and reliability ratings for lots of different models.

-Math. The is an "of course" thing but I'll mention it anyway. We were tempted to buy new because of some wicked interest rates offered by dealers included 0%. However, in the end, the insane depreciation of a new car (especially my beloved Hyundais) generally meant much more in terms of savings then the low interest. A new 2009 Tucson with the options on our used one and all taxes and fees in would have pushed $30,000. Ours, after everything, was just a touch over $20,000. We'd had to have had a negative interest rate on a new car to compare with that.

-Buy out of town. We're close to Halifax, the "big city" for Nova Scotia and even for the Maritimes. Once we started looking for cars outside of Halifax we saw car prices drop and thousand or two for comparable models. We eventually drove a couple of hours to pick up our car.

-Set your limit and walk away when it can't be met. We fell head over heels in love with a 2007 Hyundai Sante Fe that had every option under the sun and leather seats. It was one swanky truck. But the dealership either couldn't or wouldn't meet our price. To be fair we were only separated by a thousand dollars and they'd come down several already but we knew what we could afford and had to move on. I can't tell you how good it feels to absolutely love something but not let that love take away your good sense.

-Have a great bank and get pre-approved for the loan. There's nothing so frustrating as having a saleman that insists on talking monthly payments when you want to talk final price if you've let on you may want to finance through them. Once we went through our bank negotiating was much easier.

Anyhow, I hope some of that is helpful to the next person who's car shopping.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Geek Generation Gap

One of the gifts my daughter got this Christmas was a box set of manga (essentially Japanese comic books) called .hack//Legend of the Twilight from my mother-in-law. I'm pretty sure my mother-in-law had no idea what she was buying and, if she'd opened the books up, would have been horrified at some of the almost naked ladies that were featured in the book. Regardless, I sat down to read through the books to make sure, almost naked ladies aside, that they'd be okay for Catherine to read.

I was also looking forward to reading them myself. I'm a comic book fan from way back and in fact still have several boxes of bagged comic books in the linen closet that I or the kids take out and read. It's mostly Marvel - lots of X-Men related titles as well as Namor, Alpha Flight, Avengers and so on. I am not a comic book newbie. I know Marie Severin designed the classic Spiderwoman costume, understand who influenced John Byrne's art and who he influenced and can annoy the hell out of my husband by explaining all the references in comic book movies.

This my first real read of manga but hey, aside from the big dopey eyes and weird expressions, it's still a comic book, right? I know how to read a comic book.

First thing I noticed was that they were bound wrong. The cover was on the back! Maybe my MIL picked them up in a discount bin? Regardless, I opened the book at what I knew was the start, flipped past the first couple of pages and started reading. I have to tell you, I had no real worries about Catherine reading this because I couldn't make head nor tales of the story and I doubted she would. Comments seemed random, the art was disconnected. Nothing made sense. I put the book down and went to check online reviews. I'd heard good things about manga, maybe this was just a dud?

Nope. The review were pretty good. People enjoyed this series. Maybe I just wasn't getting it? Maybe the way it told stories was beyond me and fans of manga just picked up on stuff that left me confused?

I picked up another book in the series, flipped to the beginning and started again. It was still incomprehensible. I went to put the book down but as I did I noticed in huge letters on the very first pages of the book the word STOP.

The proper way to read manga that page went on to say, was from the back forward. The exact opposite way one would read a western book. The book wasn't bound wrong. The cover really DID belong on the "back".

Feeling like an idiot I grabbed the first book and started again. This time from the proper place. But the story didn't get much better. Things seemed to have a bit more of a flow but the story still eluded me. I went back to the instruction page and took a closer look at the instructions. Read the panels backwards too it said. Not only that but read the word balloons in reverse order as well. D'oh.

The book made sense after that. And it was a good read. I never put the books down until just a little while ago and now Catherine is also reading them. It makes a difference when instead of blundering in, thinking you know it all, you actually take a minute to learn about what you're doing.

I honestly feel like an old fart now because all I was thinking as I got frustrated with the seemingly incomprehensible story was, "These kids today and their stupid manga. When I was a kid they knew how to write and draw a proper comic book!"