Parenting and “Stuff”

Joule loses things.  She picks things up that she has no use for, just because she’s near them, and then puts them down somewhere else without ever being conscious of it.  She does this in my wife’s craft room, while I’m on the computer, and she’s talking to me.  My daughter and I both get in trouble for it.

I’m sympathetic. When I first got a cell phone, I managed to lose it within a month.  Used the insurance to get it replaced.  The girl at the call center was awesome and promised to name a new WoW character “Shadrach” for me. After the replacement came I lost it 2 weeks later. While desperately searching the submarine for it, I was completely stressed out. My friend Amrani asked what’s the matter, and I replied “I’m an idiot.”

“What makes you say that?”

“I lost 2 cell phones in 6 weeks.”

“Aw man, you’re not an idiot.  You’re just not… good with ‘stuff.’”

This made me laugh and break the tension, and then I decided that I must learn to be good with stuff.

I’m sympathetic to my daughter’s plight, but this does not mean that I go easy on her. I don’t want her to get to be 28 before she learns the value of keeping up with stuff…

The other day my daughter lost a shoe.  We were in memphis (an hour from home) working on the (currently empty) condo we rent out.  After 4 people spent 15 minutes searching an unfurnished house we gave up and took her out to dinner with only one shoe on. There were some boxes that had been given away to charity and we posited that the shoe disappeared with them. We threw out the 2nd shoe the next day because there was no point in keeping it. I explained to her the amount of time she would save if she always kept them together. I explained that there was nothing to gain by putting them in separate places. I applied all the logic I could to the situation. I gave her practical advice.  I told her whenever she puts something down she should ask herself “is this the right place?” and if it’s not don’t put it there.

I had a flashback to 32 years ago when my parents were working on a rental property (which ended up becoming dad’s house a couple of years later when they divorced) and everyone had to spend a long time looking for my other shoe. When I finally “found it” I realized we had found both shoes over 5 minutes ago, and I just thought it was the same shoe over and over again.  I was VERY “not good with stuff”.

Today I find one shoe in the hall by the dining room table right before dinner.

“JOULE! Why is there one shoe here?!”

“Oh, Sorry.” *pick up shoe and haul ass to my bedroom. return with zero shoes*

Where Logos has failed Pathos may find traction.

I got down on my knees. I grabbed her by both shoulders and held her at arms length.  I stared enraged into her eyes and let my arms tremble with the frustration of hundreds of hours spent searching for things and thousands of dollars of lost items throughout my life. Through clenched teeth I said (not loud, but intense) “Joule! Do Better!” and let her go to the table. I take 2 Deep Breaths as an emotional reset before going to the dinner table myself and heard my wonderful co-parent making sure the emotion connected to the relevant context;

“Why was Papa mad?”

“Cause I didn’t keep up with my shoes.”

Was this a failure to detach my emotions and properly relate to my daughter? No. This was a deliberately display of emotion for behavior modifying  impact.

Was this hypocrisy to expect things of my daughter at 6 that I hadn’t mastered at 10?(28?)  Maybe, but I don’t care. My goal is to make her life better than mine, not equal to it.


Chess: The next generation

The gifted and talented program for my 5th grade son (1hr on Fridays) has taught him chess.  We played a couple of games in which I would go easy on him and then win.  The third of these games he starts crying.  I explain that I’ve been playing chess 30 years more than he has and that he should not expect to win a single game against me this year.  Which he took as a challenge to beat me before his 12th birthday.

I was trying to get him to quit playing chess games and to try something different.  Pawns only games. 2 Rooks vs King. 3 pawns vs 2 pawns. Something with chess basics, but simplified.  He’s actually started asking for drills.  He’s started asking to play the weak side of the drill so he could figure out what to try different.

We also play Fischer random chess.

As we play I point out mistakes of his and let him take moves back.  Sometimes he’ll take a long time to move and then say “I don’t see anything to do” and I’ll break down the pros and cons of 2 or 3 different options.  Sometimes I get sloppy and lose a piece.  Sometimes that happens late in the game. 3 days ago it happened and I couldn’t recover and he won the game.  I did my best to be a gracious loser.  To not make excuses.  To not express my frustration with myself (especially not as anger with him).

2 days ago we played again. “Do you think I’m going to win again this time?” he asked.

“No. I’m going to focus and play hard and crush you. When you won it hurt me a little in the feelings, and this game will be rough for you.”

And I did.

And he was trying not to cry when I made him shake hands and told him it was a good game.  Then we played some drills where we would see how many moves it takes him to mate K+Q vs K… and he relaxed and enjoyed himself.

Power Plant Basics: The Steam Cycle

This is a better place to start than condensate and feed.

For some reason I don’t understand I get the nerves about posting these, so I’m telling myself that they are all rough drafts and I as I get better at the software and pacing I’ll come back and do a better version.

That being said the learning cycle has to be closed for any significant improvement to be made.  This means a product must be finished, and then examined for what parts of it are good and what parts are weak, and how the strong parts were executed, and how the weak parts can be improved.

*This is why all great architects do their great work so late in life:  The learning cycle is often 10 years from first concept to finished product to incorporate feedback.

One of the things necessary for this to work is time to become less attached to the product.  Another important ingredient is feedback (and the creator being receptive to that feedback while knowing when to ignore it and stick to the vision).

So here it is.


My intended audience is junior power plant operators who have been around valves and pumps and equipment before, but lack a big picture of how the parts are supposed to fit together.