Testing…testing…

A recent discussion about two year olds yielded two divergent views – the “terrible twos” and the “terrific twos”. What’s up?

The age of two is all about exploration. The world is new, everything is worthy of exploration, and the ability to communicate one’s experience is limited. How that appears to an adult is at least as much about the adult as it is about the child.

Someone I am close to is employed as a tester. It is their job to find failure in a system. They try all the stuff the developer didn’t try (but the consumer might) to find the failure points in the product. Developers generally don’t like testers. The tester’s job is to say “This doesn’t work. Go back and fix it.” Developers says “that’s not what you’re (the user) supposed to do”, or “it wasn’t designed for that.” Testers are not very popular since their job is to make your work fail until it doesn’t (and in the software world, the person who writes the program is paid twice what the person testing it is paid). James Bach, a software testing consultant, compares testing to childhood between the 20th and 24th minutes in this talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5821YeWico. (It’s more than an hour and a half, and I’ll admit I haven’t watched it all yet.)

The job of a tester is a lot like the job of a two year old. At two, we don’t have access to a lot of data. We toss something into the toilet, flush, and see what happens. Do we know that the same thing happens every time? No. Do we know that the same thing happens with different objects? No. We test. We explore. (If you don’t want your child to toss things in the toilet, get a toilet lid lock.) As a parent, we have a few jobs. The first is to keep our child safe, so we don’t allow opportunities for testing of things that are inherently dangerous. We know the potential outcome of sticking a fork into an electrical socket, so it is our job to limit those opportunities. Our next job is to help our child learn about the world. For that job, it is important for them to have ways to explore their environment. We need to get into the two year old mind and remember (or imagine, or experience) a time when everything is new. We might notice there is a large area between inherently dangerous and totally safe. So our job is to facilitate exploration while mitigating risk.

The “terrible twos” result when we are unable to get into the two year old mindset and when we take everything personally – “my child is just doing that to annoy me”, “why can’t s/he learn? ” – or when the child can’t express their frustration or lack of understanding in words that we can understand.

The “terrific twos” result when we are able to see the world through two year old eyes, when we are able to tap into a sense of wonder, when we are able to facilitate and join in that exploration, when we encourage our children to express themselves. (And it helps when that child is verbally precocious.)

It helps to be open and not make assumptions. When I was learning another language, my ability to understand what others were saying exceeded my ability to express myself. I heard their words, translated them in my head into English, and then had my reactions to what was said. To respond, I had to translate those reactions into the second language and speak them. That process is too slow for normal conversation, especially in a group. The result could be that someone assumes: 1) I have no clue what is going on, as I’m not speaking; 2) I understand everything because I am attending and sometimes nodding; 3) I am stuck up or stupid because I am not joining the conversation. It was only when I learned to think in another language that my expression began to align with my experience. That is when I began to speak a second language – when I could get what was inside to the outside in a way that was comprehensible to others. Might that be like the experience of the two year old?

When I work with patients with altered consciousness (in a state we usually call “unconscious”), I talk to them. Years ago I worked daily with a patient who was intubated, sedated, and chemically paralyzed for many days. One day I came to work and they were awake and alert, though not yet able to speak. As I talked, I asked, “have you ever seen me before?” The answer was a head shake. When I asked, “have you heard my voice?”, the answer was a nod. When I asked, “do you know who I am?”, the answer was an enthusiastic nod. This “unconscious” person had been attending to my voice for days.

So it may be with two year olds (and younger). Clearly they attend to our voices. How much meaning do they derive from that? Unless they can speak, we don’t know. Many parents are now teaching young children to sign before they have the oral motor skills to speak, so they can make their needs known. Usually they focus on basic needs like eating. Communicating emotional needs is often beyond the skill level of the parent who does not know ASL or another sophisticated sign language.

But what can we do? We can foster the language development of our children from a very young age by speaking and reading to them. We can use actual language and not just baby talk. We can honor their attempts to communicate by whatever means are at their disposal. We can be open to the possibility that they can understand us before we have strong evidence that they do, while at the same time not hold them to our belief that they know exactly what we mean and are being willfully defiant. In short, we can model for them the communication skills that we want them to develop.

Christmas Trees

Every year I go cut a Christmas tree. Since they are grown on a tree farm, they are a crop, albeit one with a longer growing period than your average vegetable. Last year, pickings were slim. This year, I read that they were slimmer yet. One article said it was due to reduced planting during the 2007-2009 recession.

At any rate, I decided to go earlier than usual this year. It was a steady 32 degrees (0 degrees C) with freezing rain. Freezing rain is when the precipitation comes down as rain and freezes on contact, as opposed to sleet which comes down in a frozen state. We had sleet in the morning and postponed our trip until it was supposed to be over. Instead of ending, it changed to freezing rain.

The trees in this place are tagged when ready for harvest. All of the tagged trees were small. All of the good-looking trees were untagged and many were fenced off. Next year looks like it will be great. In a nod to the aluminum trees of my youth (which my family eschewed), my favorite was this beautiful copper-colored tree. Alas, it was not tagged for harvest.

Some might call this tree “dead”, instead of “beautiful”.

The freezing rain made for some interesting phenomena.

Needles coated in ice

Riding

Time on the bike this week has been limited to commuting. The winter bike had (again) a sticky brake piston. It took some work to free it up, but now the rear brake no longer drags. Riding is enough exercise without adding artificial resistance (like on an exercise bike). I rode it on the snowy day, but otherwise the good weather bike is still getting the miles. The winter bike got its annual Thanksgiving check up and, in a few weeks, will get its annual change to studded tires.

Since I haven’t mentioned them in a while, the Bruce Gordon is a light touring bike with half-step plus granny gearing (3×6), Shimano Deore XT, with cantilever brakes and Bruce Gordon racks. I have been riding it for 31 years. It has gotten a new headset, bottom bracket, and wheels (rebuilt with the original hubs) over the years (and the usual chains, brake pads, and cables). [Bruce Gordon was a custom frame builder in Petaluma, California who died in 2019. After a degree from the Art Institute of Chicago, he went on to study frame building with Albert Eisentraut before starting out on his own. He brought an artist’s creativity to an engineer’s field. If you ride a 29er or a gravel bike, you have him to thank for shaking up the industry; though he is not responsible for the proliferation of micro-markets – his Rock ‘n’ Road (the bike that came after mine) was meant to be ridden in all conditions.]

The Spot Brand has a 3-speed internally-geared Sram hub, Gates Carbon belt drive, Avid hydraulic disc brakes. I have had it for less than 6 years. It has needed only the usual brake pads (more often than on rim brakes), cable (shifter only, since there are no brake cables), and drive belts (less often than chains).

Tomorrow the Spot comes back out. Today I went to Costco and, as I pulled in, saw someone’s package fly across the parking lot. On the way out I saw someone’s giant TV blow over. The temperature and wind speed met at 25 (degrees Fahrenheit and mph… -4 C and 40 km/h). Gusts were 40 mph (65 km/h) . It was hard to keep the car on the road going home. I’m glad the bike was at home. By morning the forecast is for 5 degrees (-15 C). The wax-based chain lube on the BG doesn’t work very well at that temperature. Winter may have arrived.

MAYCO – “Hope for Humanity”

I am off the bike this week, except for commuting, due to what may be a broken big toe. I say “may be”, because the treatment for a break or a soft tissue injury is the same. Without x-ray vision, I don’t know which it is. I haven’t found a good reason to pay for a doctor’s visit and an x-ray. If broken, pain and tenderness to palpation say it may be in two places. (The bike had nothing to do with the injury. Many have asked.)

The usual treatment is “weight bearing as tolerated”, meaning you walk on it as long as you can stand the pain, and a “post-op shoe” or other hard-soled shoe to minimize the bending of your toe when you walk (since you naturally push off on your big toe, stressing it with every step). Walking hurts more than riding a bike.

I splint broken fingers and other body parts – why not a big toe? So I devised this toe splint, which seems to be working. It fits (snugly) in a shoe, but feels better barefoot – which is true of life in general. The second toe is taped to prevent abrasion from the casting material – a semi-rigid material called “Orficast”, which looks like a roll of tape and is moldable, hardening after being soaked in warm water. While I walk a little funny since the toe won’t bend, it hurts a lot less. I gave up the cane yesterday.

Since I’m not writing about biking, I offer this post-mortem on a remarkable institution which would have marked its tenth anniversary last summer, were it not for a pandemic.

A 15 year old musician wanted to be an orchestral conductor. He looked around and found that, in the US, there were no undergraduate conducting programs. To realize his dream he would not only have to finish high school, but also get an undergraduate degree – then he could try conducting if he could get one of the coveted spots in a Master’s program in conducting. He discerned there was another way. He could start an orchestra.

With no funds, and being too young to form a not-for-profit corporation with which to fund it, ingenuity was the only recourse. He recognized that there were no opportunities for young musicians to play chamber orchestra repertoire, so he formed a chamber orchestra. He recruited musicians from WYSO (the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra) and the University of Wisconsin School of Music. He envisioned it as a mentoring program, so paired college music majors with high school students as stand partners. Over the years, he added workshops in historically-informed performance practice with local professional musicians. He enlisted faculty members (including members of the Pro Arte Quartet, the world’s oldest consistently-performing string quartet) to appear as soloists, so the student musicians could have the experience of performing with professionals. He developed a conducting apprenticeship program so other young musicians could get podium time during rehearsals and performance before an audience. He mobilized conductors to mentor him, found summer training programs, and served an apprenticeship with the Madison Opera Company – their first-ever conducting apprentice. World premieres and supporting young composers were an integral part of MAYCO, with a newly-commissioned work nearly every year. (2015 saw the US premiere of British composer Cecilia McDowall’s “Rain, Steam, and Speed”.) Eventually he partnered with an arts funding organization to provide a means by which donors could help fund the orchestra.

Joseph Mallord William Turner Rain, Steam, and Speed – The Great Western Railway 1844 Oil on canvas, 91 x 121.8 cm Turner Bequest, 1856 NG538 https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG538
Jerry Hui, composer of “Glacies”

Partnerships were negotiated with WYSO and the university (and later, churches and an art gallery) to secure rehearsal and performance spaces, as well as use of larger instruments (e.g. percussion and piano). The orchestra performed on the Sunday Afternoon Live at the Chazen performance series. (Scroll down to August 5, 2018 on the Chazen Facebook page to hear a few seconds of the sound check for the performance we listened to online in a Tim Horton’s in Niagara Falls on that date.)

A series of top-drawer university violinists served as concertmaster until the conductor married the last concertmaster and they became co-artistic directors.

Little did the founder know at the time, but starting musical organizations as a teen ran in the family. His aunt’s brother, George Shangrow, founded the Seattle Chamber Singers at 18 and directed them until his death at the age of 59. That was never the plan for MAYCO, which started as a program to run until he went off to college. Then he thought about how to run it virtually while away at school, returning for the summer performance season. Since it was conceived as an organization run entirely by and for youth, it was going to end some time unless the founder became Peter Pan. It did, in fact, hold a “Finale” performance in 2016, before returning for an “Encore” in 2017. Due to an offer he could not refuse, he stayed in town for his undergraduate music performance degree and continued the orchestra until it was struck down by the pandemic.

George Shangrow, from the Orchestra Seattle website
MAYCO Co-Artistic Directors Thalia Coombs and Mikko Rankin Utevsky

The late John Barker, classical music critic and Professor of Medieval Studies, gets the last word: “Hope for humanity is not always easy to conjure up these days. But last Friday night at Music Hall, on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, brought me a genuine dollop of it, thanks to the concert by the Madison Area Youth Chamber OrchestraThe MAYCO players brought it [Shostakovitch’s Ninth Symphony] off with real flair, under Utevsky’s amazingly expert direction. (And, by the way, he is a splendid writer as well, as his notes for the program booklet demonstrated.)That our area alone could produce such talent is what has stirred my hope for humanity.” (Excerpted from The Well-Tempered Ear)

Poster for the concert reviewed by Barker above. Poster design, photo, and feet by Mikko Rankin Utevsky

And now for something completely different

Riding a bike isn’t the only thing we do. People who ride (and write about) bikes have jobs and families and friends who don’t ride bikes. (Duh.)

After a 14 mile ride for an appointment this morning, it seemed prudent to get out on the water and not spend the day inside working. A couple of hours in a kayak does wonders for changing one’s outlook, and the view from the middle of the lake is a nice change from the shoreline. Staring at a computer screen can wait.

Even the time at the keyboard required a break, as a sudden downpour hit before I put the kayak away – can’t let the boat get wet;) The sun remained shining as torrential rain fell for about ten minutes. It’s 80 degrees (27 degrees Celsius) and the sun is blindingly bright. If it weren’t for the fact that I just changed clothes and my hair is still dripping, I’d think I imagined it. Now to go bail out what got in before I closed the hatches and covered the cockpit.

http://simplycastlink.uwm.edu/wypA?recipient_id=14k0X-2cRRPaUO0T9RrdVKbgfzIvRzCFcf6uEuGUkWlOgbqueajjG7zA
https://rehab.pesi.com/Search?keyword=acute+trauma&keywordSearchType=All

So what else do we do? One of us trains Occupational and Physical Therapists (and Assistants) for the acute care of patients with multiple traumatic injuries. While the odds that one of you reading this fits that description are slim (unless a search engine brought you here), maybe you know someone that fits. Nurses and Speech and Language Pathologists may also find value. This is a two day course, offered in the Detroit area September 17-20 (two presentations in different locations), downtown Milwaukee September 27-28, Kansas City area October 28-31, and NYC area December 10-13.

This is a trial run. If these seminars are successful, the program will be offered nationally next year. There will be a live webcast of the Kansas City presentation (which will be available on DVD) but, in our humble opinion, a webcast of a hands-on seminar sorta defeats the purpose, or at least limits the opportunity.

If you have questions that aren’t answered here or in the links (one to UW-Milwaukee, the other to PESI Rehab; both with copies of course brochure available), the instructor can be reached at OTTrauma@gmail.com. Please help spread the word. Stay safe out there! We’d rather see you on the road than in the hospital.

We’re official! We just received a photo of our sign:

And one last word from the road via Charlie, who finished his eighth crossing of the continent by bike:

Nothin’ half-fast about Charlie. He didn’t even mention his partial crossing of the continent with us last year, ended early because he had a date to go climb a mountain.