Quotes from FOGcon 2016
I am cleaning off my desk here, and I figured I might as well type up my favorite quotes from this year's FOGcon panels.

The Developing Reality of Intelligent Machines

"Things break all the time, and we just throw more stuff at them." -- Steven Schwartz, on why he's not worried about a machine intelligence apocalypse

"We don't think like us!" -- Effie Seiberg

"Nigerian scams have nothing on what's coming for us." -- Daniel Starr

"The CEOs are getting smarter, and that's scarier!" -- Karen Brenchley

"There is no commercial application of a baby." -- S. B. Divya

"The software on my phone that navigates me from place to place fortunately did not learn by watching me do it." -- Daniel Starr

"And as for the collapse of human civilization -- I don't know, I've seen worse." -- Effie Seiberg

"I don't know what Google is going to do with what they've learned from [AlphaGo], but I'm sure it will be altruistic and not evil at all." -- Karen Brenchley

Donna Haraway's Honored Guest Presentation

"I'm not totally against babies, as long as they're rare and precious. I think a cap-and-trade system would be great." -- Donna Haraway

Sentience, Science Fiction, and Artificial Intelligence

"Play is that which produces something new." -- Donna Haraway

"[Cockroaches] may not be smarter than a Roomba, but they get a lot more done." -- Jim Lutz

"You don't like all your relatives, but you figure out ways not to kill most of them." -- Donna Haraway

Draconic Appreciation Society

"I read a lot of Victorian children's books when I was a Victorian child in the 1960s." -- Jo Walton

"I think that the dragon comes from the concept of snake translated into a culture that likes drawing swirly things." -- Jo Walton

The letter T
From rushthatspeaks, a meme! Various things beginning with the letter T:

Something I hate: Terror. I get very frustrated when the reaction to criminals attempting to sow chaos and foment hate is to ramp up airport security theater and bluster about some minority group or other and generally cooperate with the entire goal of the bad actors. No you are giving them what they want! Don't do that! Hug your family. Join hands and dance. Sing cheerful drinking songs and/or your national anthem loudly, at the top of your lungs. Make lewd gestures with your fingers and refuse to be intimidated.

Something I love: Tea. Lately I have been mostly on herbal tea, as I had gotten caffeine-dependent again and needed a reset. I do love a nice cup of Assam, with a bit of milk, and soon enough I will be in desperate enough sleep deprivation that I will have frequent excuses to have a good proper caffeinated cup of standard tea. In the meantime, mint is lovely, and so is Bengal Spice.

Somewhere I've been: Tied House. This is a sort of pub here in town, where they have many interesting beers (which I don't like), lots of burgers (which I am likewise not much interested in), and really good nachos (target acquired!). We used to eat here pretty frequently but we haven't been in a long time. I should suggest it next time we feel like going out.

Somewhere I'd like to go: Titan. I mean, probably not personally go as such, space exploration is exactly what robots are for, but it seems like a very interesting place worth quite a lot of detailed looks! Nitrogen atmosphere, largely composed of water ice, methane cycle quite similar to Earth's water cycle -- what's not to like?

A film I like: Toy Story 2. My first date with andres_s_p_b, we went out to watch Toy Story 2 and got ice cream. It was nice. And, you know, worked out pretty well as dates go. We still like kids' movies. Who's up for Zootopia?

Would you like a letter? Comment and I will lovingly hand-select one for you based on an arcane formula involving how puckish I feel at the time.

Our Parking Adventure (also there was dancing)
Last night, my friend had ballet tickets for herself, suzanne, and me. The tickets had come with a parking pass for the garage across the street, so we didn't anticipate any trouble. But when we got there, the entrance we were at was closed for construction, so once this had been communicated to the cars that had pulled in behind us, we all gradually made our way back out and went around to the other entrance, where we joined a long line of waiting vehicles and eventually learned that our parking pass would do us no good because all the available spaces in the garage were full, and they hadn't issued this parking pass in the first place and they were very unhappy with whoever had, because there obviously weren't enough spaces because of the construction, and the nearest other parking the attendant knew of was ::vague wave:: over there.

So we went over there, where we paid $25 for parking (fortunately, one of us had cash), and hurried along to the theater. At this point we were about ten minutes past the start time. "I've never been late to live theater before!" I said. "I wonder what they do?" We were expecting to need to wait in the lobby for a bit, and then perhaps sneak in at intermission. But in fact enough people had been having this exact same problem that they had delayed the start of the show just long enough for us to zip in and find our seats before the house lights went down and the curtain went up. Hurrah!

And it was a lovely show. It started with a traditional pas de deux called "Diana and Acteon" which was very pretty and featured a lot of athletic capering about in the woodland and miming firing arrows, but inexplicably failed to contain any bathing, turning into a deer, or being torn to pieces by dogs. So I'm not sure what it had to do with the title.

The second and third pieces were interesting modern ensemble ballets with complicated lighting effects.

The last piece wins the coveted Creepiest Dance Award. It started before the intermission was properly over -- while the audience was still filing back in, the house lights were up, and the curtain was down, this fellow in a suit came moseying out on stage. "Perhaps this next one needs some explanation," we thought. "Or perhaps they're going to announce some kind of refund of the parking passes?" The guy continued to stand in front of the curtain, then wandered over to hide in the shadows at the corner of the stage, then eased on back out to the middle and started sort of bopping a little bit. House lights were still up, audience still coming back from intermission. We started speculating that he was lost. Eventually they put the curtain up, but left the house lights on and the audience kept chatting because, hey, house lights are up, but it gradually became apparent that Suit Guy was in fact the first dancer of the last piece.

Then about sixteen more dancers in suits joined him on stage. There were folding chairs, and chanting, and flinging of clothes on stage, and it all got more and more ominous and repetitive. Then there was a quiet bit with six dancers standing entirely still in their underwear while a metronome or something ticked creepily. Then later the suited dancers came out into the audience and collected audience members and took them back up on stage and had a loud techno rave with them and it was generally very interesting but not at all what I had been expecting from a night at the ballet.

Aaron Burr's Parenting Advice for Three and a Half Year Olds
chinders has become completely obsessed with Hamilton. This seems to happen a lot. But if you don't understand the reference in the title and you would like to, look! The whole cast album's on YouTube! Here's the relevant song.

(Management is not responsible for resulting musical theater addictions. If your earworm lasts longer than 24 hours, seek medical treatment or listen to something else real loud.)

Anyway, this is really good advice for our current stage of parenting.

Talk less.
Especially when you're giving instructions. Yes, kids this age can understand and follow multi-step directions. But they need some processing time to do it.

Furthermore, when tantrums are happening, interaction prolongs them. As long as there's an argument to be had, the kid will reflexively continue having the argument. Make your point concisely once, then stop. Eventually the flailing will burn itself out. But every time you say something (or, in M's case, try to touch her -- I hear some kids like being held when they're upset, but NOT THIS ONE) you reset the clock.

Example from this morning: Morgan is chewing on the edge of a box of Go Fish cards.
Aaron Burr: If you put cardboard in your mouth it will get wet and the box won't hold the cards anymore. ::waits for child to process information and come to conclusion that she should probably take the box out of her mouth; or not, honestly, no particular skin off my nose either way::
Alexander Hamilton: Morgan! Stop chewing on the box! It'll get all wet and the cardboard will fall apart and then it won't hold the cards in! Then you won't have a box and the cards will get lost! So you should stop chewing on that right now! Or the box will break! Morgan! Stop chewing!

Smile more.
Two points: One, if you can think of a way to make it a game, make it a game.

Example from yesterday: Morgan is scared of the doctor and doesn't want to lie down so he can check her tummy. She has brought a stuffed animal along to keep her company.
Aaron Burr: Do you want Figment?
Morgan: Yeah.
Aaron Burr: Here he comes! Oh no! He's jumped on you and knocked you over! ::gently tilts M backwards onto the exam table::

Two, praise is magic. Catching kids being good and thanking them for behaving nicely or being considerate or doing their chores promptly makes everybody happy.

Don't let them know what you're against or what you're for.
Okay, for this to be parenting advice you have to interpret it a bit differently than it's meant in the song. But I find it helpful to keep in mind during tantrums that I don't need to argue her into my position. As the parent I have all the power; I have already made the decision; I am waiting for her to accept it or emotionally process the disappointment or whatever, but I don't need her to agree with me. (I am in fact totally happy to have discussions about what the rules ought to be at some other time, when everyone is calm and capable of discussing them and bringing up relevant points, but not when there is already upset happening.)

Also, it helps a lot to be able to present choices you are more or less indifferent between. Either you get your shoes on and your dishes put away by X time and we'll go do Y fun thing, or you don't and we'll stay home. If your room is picked up you can have iPad time, otherwise find something else to do. It's much easier on me having a plan for either way things could go; otherwise I am standing there banging my head against a brick wall trying to figure out why the child does not want to do some ridiculously simple thing and is blocking the whole rest of the day. Obviously I usually have a preference here, and I don't generally mind telling her that I am sad that, say, she wouldn't get dressed so we have run out of time to go to the zoo this morning, but the more I practice non-attachment to my vision of how the day will go, the better the day in fact usually goes.

Furthermore, kids this age are practicing differentiating themselves from their parents. That means that they have fairly recently realized that they are independent entities, and just because you told them to do something doesn't mean they have to do it. So direct instructions will tend to invite "No!" or ignoring you or otherwise experimenting with Not Doing What Parents Say, while information that reminds them what they're supposed to be doing without actually being an instruction doesn't trigger that reflex.

Example from this morning: Morgan requests help picking up a pile of stuff on the kitchen counter.
Alexander Hamilton: Okay, start with these hair clips. Your hair stuff box is over on the table by the comfy chair, so go put the clips in there and then put the box away where it goes, then come back and get the next thing.
Morgan plays with the clips while Alexander Hamilton puts away the bag they were in.
Alexander Hamilton: Morgan, are you going to put the clips away? Put the clips in the box and put the box away, it'll just take a minute.
Morgan: You do it!

Later, Morgan again requests help picking up.
Aaron Burr: Okay... I see some shoes and a pair of pajamas in the bathroom.
Morgan picks up the pajamas and puts them in the hamper, then returns for the shoes.

Well, this is an interesting phase
Morgan has been experimenting lately with concepts of privacy, control of space, and locks. She's locked herself in various bathrooms and bedrooms (fine if it's her bedroom, not allowed if it's ours; fortunately, our interior locks are very easy to overrule so there is no arguing necessary to fetch her out of unauthorized locked locations), announced that she needs "alone time" in a variety of situations, and tried locking various adults out of the house (come down on like a ton of bricks).

She has apparently just realized that different people are aware of different events based on where they are looking, and has been manipulating that hard to get at things she isn't normally allowed. Monday, she got into (1) some cookies, above her reach on the counter, (2) the medicine cabinet, by climbing into the sink, and (3) the dog-walking bags, kept on a high shelf in the pantry. Later, I saw her dragging the wooden stool across the kitchen to the pantry again, intent on another high-shelf raid, and raised my eyebrows at her. "You keep doing what you're doing!" she said cheerfully. "Don't look over here!"

This morning I recounted that event to suzanne while Morgan was getting her shoes on. Morgan wanted to know why I had not, as instructed, kept doing what I was doing and not looked over there. "Because," I told her, "I have been on this Earth for 33 years and I know what Up To Something looks like."

"Not if I close the door!" she chirped.

One-Sentence Gratitude Journal: Hummingbirds
Today I am thankful for the two hummingbirds that were hovering around a bush on my morning dog walk being adorably decorative and unusually noncombative.

One-Sentence Gratitude Journal: Substitute Yoga Instructors
Today I am thankful for substitute yoga instructors. Whenever a new person teaches the class, I learn some new technique or stretch or way of thinking about a pose. Variety is very helpful to my personal practice.

One-Sentence Gratitude Journal: Planet Granite
Today I am thankful for my climbing gym. We took Morgan this afternoon, and they gave her a harness to try out even though she doesn't weigh enough to reliably come down when slack is given in the rope (it's okay, she wasn't climbing any higher than our heads anyway, so if she'd gotten stuck we would have been able to pull her down). A most excellent time was had by all, and Morgan leaned valuable lessons about things that are both scary and fun.

One-Sentence Gratitude Journal: Airlines
Today I am thankful for transcontinental airplane flights. I complain, yeah, but also I can go basically anywhere I might want to be in less than a day (maybe two days if I am going to literally the other side of the planet). That is pretty cool, you guys. It's not teleportation but it sure beats walking.

One-Sentence Gratitude Journal: Hiking Boots
Today I am thankful for my lovely tough hiking boots, which so wonderfully support my ankles.

We are in Virginia, visiting Brooks and Suzanne's relatives! Today we went hiking in the rain, and got really close to a deer which was in no way concerned about us.


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