Monday, March 29, 2010

Neverwhere on Wii Netflix Streaming

I watched the mid-90s BBC miniseries version of Neverwhere tonight. It's six episodes written by Neil Gaiman, one of our great writers. The story is about the under-world of London Below, and what happens when Richard Mayhew is dragged into it as a result of an act of kindness.

I had read the book first, so I knew how it went, but it was still good. Sure, you have to look past the cramped scenery, the dingy lighting, and the constantly panning camera so characteristic of the BBC, but you also have to give credit to the fine British tradition of surreal, fantastic (in both senses) television.

I got to watch this gem on my Nintendo! We received a disc for Wii that allows us to stream Netflix to our television. Alex is watching the complete run of Blue's Clues. As I might have mentioned, I caught up on Lost this way. There's 30 Days, Mythbusters, Monty Python...

The only bummer, and it is a major bummer, is the major missing feature: search. Onlline, Netflix streaming has search that will get you to any title available. On the Wii, it doesn't exist. The best workaround is to put stuff in your queue when online, then use the Wii to watch it. I suppose you could use Wii Internet (and this probably will basically work), but it feels pretty clunky.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Getting Getting Things Done Done

If you are, like me, a disorganized schlub, the last time you received formal instruction in "study skills" was fourth or fifth grade. Life was simpler then. We had workbooks that had blanks to fill in, book reports to prove we actually read something (in 4th grade I put a Paul Gallico novel on my reading log. I'm sure now my teacher had me dead to rights), TOPS cards to let us practice math with story problems. Instead of looking at girls you could run around the track (capped at 6 laps). You could even accidentally jam a pencil in your hand and get the lead stuck in there until you're almost 30.

But I digress.

Outlining and time management didn't really stick in there, and so for the next fifteen years, in and out of school, I managed to avoid learning it. I would write 10-page research papers over a weekend, and stay up real late playing video games before finals.

Not knowing this skill killed me for years and years. I can say this with perfect hindsight. I was good at times, just never as good as I could have been (valedictorian good? we'll never know).

I just never knew how bad off I was until I got to Amazon. Here I finally started to see that I had to do something or I was going to drown in minutiae and errands.

Thus, Getting Things Done by David Allen. I finished it recently and it's been a huge eye-opener and relief. The basic point is that your brain has a limited ability to focus, and when you haven't solidly nailed down your commitments and the projects that are important to you, they consume your focus with worry.

Instead you need to feel comfortable that every loose end in your life has a concrete action tied to it. The loose ends could be as complex as buying a house or as simple as writing an email. The point is to think ahead a little bit and figure out how easy the single next step would be to move that loose end forward. Then you have lowered the barrier (activation energy? A little chemistry there) to actually doing that thing.

Best of all, when there are less loose ends in your life, you get peace. You feel like Augustine, who could say truthfully that if he discovered Armageddon was coming tomorrow, he would still go hoe his vegetable patch today.

There are many ways to run a system like this, with a bunch of lists of things to get done. For me, a program called Shuffle made my phone even more indispensable. It's simple, but it does all I want it to in terms of organizing tasks and integrating with my calendar.

Any system you use to get organized? Tell me now, before I turn 30.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Alex's prospects

We had a meeting with Alex's teachers on Monday. On the bright side, his academic skills seem to be coming along nicely. Although he doesn't use language as much as we'd like, he appears to be cutting at a first grade level, and coloring, and writing words, and understanding sequences and stories. This is all very encouraging given his early speech delay. I have felt for a while like Alex is learning the same set of things that other kids would, but delayed a year or two.

In fact, the main barrier to his entering regular kindergarten now is behavior. He hits his teachers and headbutts, screams, and throws tantrums. His teachers are doing heroic work keeping everyone safe and putting him in time out. We are learning that Alex is set off when he doesn't have options.

He seems to respond well to structures like "X or Y" and "first X, then Y". So we are now saying things like, "Do you want to get out of the tub by yourself, or do you want Daddy to help you?" and "First put on your clothes, then we can have breakfast."

I've noticed lately that when we tell other parents about Alex's autism, they definitely look at us differently, like we're doing this heroic thing to raise a boy with this problem. I tell them that we're happy with how things have turned out so far. We got Alex into early intervention because Sarah was monitoring his development very closely.

But Alex is our only child so far. This is all we have ever known. I don't measure Alex against kids his age. I don't compare him to another kid who would be telling me stories and talking my ear off.

I wish he was. I can't wait until he does. I think he will someday.

Every parent is challenged. We have just had different challenges. We're not super-parents. We're just muddling through, picking our spots to place our effort, and praying for our child.