Overheard from a toddler in a stroller talking to his dad.
I skied across the lake to Olbrich Park, home of this seasonal labyrinth, made from donated Christmas trees by artist Lillian Sizemore. That’s where I met the toddler and the dad.
The installation included a “tree museum”, made infamous by Joni Mitchell in the song “Big Yellow Taxi”. “You take all the trees Put ’em in a tree museum. Ya charge the people A dollar and a half just to see ’em.”
There was no charge for this tree museum, but it included a selection of trees commonly used as Christmas trees in these parts, each with a card explaining where the tree is native, how long it can live, and how tall it will grow. They included Scotch and White Pine; Canaan, Frasier, Balsam, and Douglas Fir; Norway, Colorado Blue, and Red Spruce; and Arborvitae.
Meanwhile, as I got off my bike after work, I heard a commotion in the hydrangeas. It wasn’t Mary Hatch from “It’s a Wonderful Life”. It was a Peregrine falcon with a mouse in its talons, tearing through the dried canes and trying to get airborne again. It was maybe ten feet from me. It did not share the snack.
Lake Geneva Winterfest
The winterfest in Lake Geneva (no, Martha, not that Lake Geneva) is over, but that just means the crowd was smaller to look at the snow sculptures. The snow here has been too cold and fluffy for sculpting, so I have no contributions of my own except the photos. The gallery images sometimes get cropped by your browser, so click to open in fullscreen.
There were also ice sculptures. On the shady side of the street they were still in pretty good shape.
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.
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.
The freezing rain made for some interesting phenomena.
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.
Every year for the past 20+ (except when they were out of town), my daughter and I have cut a Christmas tree together. We always do it on a Sunday morning. Our son was part of the tradition, but now just borrows the van to bring his own tree home.
Today was, ostensibly, no different. We had read that demand was unusually high this year, but were not prepared for the crowd, nor were we prepared for the fact that only Scotch Pines remained to be cut. All of the firs were gone already. And we were earlier than usual, as my wife insisted on waiting until after Hanukkah when the kids were little (unless the calendar made that impossible). The worker who greeted us told us that many people got their trees before Thanksgiving this year. When I said, “so they’ll be dead before Christmas”, she smiled, shrugged, and nodded. Warm weather and no snow also made it different.
There are those who claim environmental superiority for artificial trees, as though we were causing deforestation by cutting a tree. The place we go is a tree farm. They grow crops like any other farm in the area – just no corn or soybeans. They provide seasonal jobs for local students and longer term jobs for farm hands during the growing season. The trees absorb CO2 from the air and exude O2, just like trees in a forest. Cutting the trees gets people out of their houses and walking outside. I don’t feel bad about cutting down these trees.
The usual year involves a lot of wandering about, discussing the virtues of Canaan, Balsam, and Frasier firs; checking out the Blue Spruce and maybe a glance at the pines, Scotch and White. We pick out some trees and make note of where they are so we can come back to them to make our final choice. None of that this year. We cut the second tree we looked at, though we did take a quick gander at the woefully small remaining firs.
We cut the tree, took it home, and got it up and decorated. That’s all to make one small bicycling-related point. The ornament shown is from Markleeville, California, home of the Death Ride and home of the blog California Alps Cycling. Dang! Isn’t his name Mark? Maybe the town is named for him and I never realized it, even though he moved there only recently. Or maybe that’s why he moved there. Maybe we can get him to address that in a future post. Anyway, I bought the ornament while in town for the Death Ride about 30 years ago.
Paying for the tree was a new experience. Usually we go into a barn that has been turned into a small store. We browse their collection of ornaments and pick up some cashew brittle to eat on the way home – I mean to bring home to the family. Try the chocolate-covered. This year we paid at a window outside. Nearby, Santa Claus sat behind a snow fence. Kids could say hi to him from 6 feet away – no sitting on Santa’s lap this year. I’m hoping Santa will bring me a new president with a peaceful transition of power.