Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Total Recall

I frequently ponder The Boy's brain. Or rather, his mental development and how I can improve it, because if he's going to be evil then he'd better be an evil genius because I still expect him to support me in my old age.

His folks are fairly bright, but how big a factor hereditary plays in intelligence is up for debate so I want his environment to be optimal for memory and learning. When he gets older I'll hook him up to a little device I'm working on called Mister Quizzer to ensure he gets... proper motivation, but for now he's pretty much on his own.

His memory seems uncanny, recalling idle comments made days or weeks earlier, which is why I've stopped badmouthing people in front of him. Do all kids have this kind of recall at this age? I'm guessing most do. However, nature is a lazy slacker so I have a theory:

The brain requires energy, just like any other organ, and nature doesn't like to spend calories frivolously. If The Boy mentions throwing a sock at the cat three weeks ago at two in the morning, I do my best to remember and comment on it. I'll even ask for or remind him of more details, like the color of the sock or how the cat felt about clothing bombardment at that time of night. The more I blow these things off, the more some part of his brain may decide that it's not worth remembering every little detail, like historical dates and chemical equations, and his future as a historian or chemist may be ruined. I'm actually impressed with how much minutiae I can dredge up to keep up with him, considering how oblivious I am to the world around me.

I mentioned keeping an eye on what I say around him now, but to be honest I've always been cautious. With advances in medical science nowadays it's entirely possible that in The Boy's lifetime they could develop a drug that gives you total recall of your entire life, and fifty years from now I don't want him filing a lawsuit against me for our time with Mister Quizzer.

tongue tied

I listen to a lot of audio books during my commute, and I've developed a new found respect for those readers. I can't even get through Sammy The Seal without tripping over every other word, much less stay coherent hour after hour. I know they don't do it all in one take, and in some of the less-polished works it's painfully obvious where the cuts are made, but it's still impressive.

Sometimes even the authors read it themselves, which is a mixed bag. Neal Stephenson has a pleasant voice and can make his books feel like he's just chatting to you. On the other side of the spectrum, Stephen Hawking actually read his own book, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays. It's like listening to a Dalek explain theoretical physics. Almost as bad was Ray Bradbury reading Fahrenheit 451, who sounds so much like Andre the Giant that I kept expecting him to shout, "I am the Dread Pirate Roberts!"

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The bigger they are...

Like any boy, The Boy is fascinated with all things big. His current fetish is construction vehicles and fire engines, but I'm sure dinosaurs and tanks, jets, and other implements of destruction are not far down the line. I remember when my nephew, back when his age was still in single digits, became obsessed with the fact that I was one of the few people he had ever met who was bigger than his dad.

I'm trying to figure out how this mindset fits into brain evolution. For hunters it makes sense to want to figure out how to take down the big game. A single woolly mammoth could feed your tribe for a week, and in a calories-in per calories-expended ratio it's probably more efficient than chasing after rabbits all day. There's also the fact that males are territorial and like to size up the competition (which makes my nephew's behavior a little unsettling).

In the end, I've concluded that the biggest draw to fire engines and dinosaurs is the fact that... they're just so darn cool.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Romancing the stone

Ironically enough, the weekend that I experience the "joy" of a kidney stone is the same weekend that The Boy decides to eat a pebble. So now it's a race to see who passes his stone first.

I wonder if this counts as father/son bonding.