Thursday, January 14, 2010

Puzzling Development

It's been interesting to watch The Boy develop the skills needed to put a jigsaw puzzle together. As an adult it seems bloody obvious where things go, especially when you're used to doing 3000 piece puzzles and the one in front of you only has a dozen giant pieces.

I didn't react very well at first. The Boy would hold a piece in his hands, stare at it, try it one way, try it another way, then try it the first way again. Even when he had two pieces that obviously connected he'd try every possible combination except for the two sides that actually fit. It was pretty uncanny how bad he was, and I often suspected he was doing it on purpose just to drive me crazy. I would explain over and over how an edge piece has to be next to another edge piece, then he'd try to cram it into the middle of the picture.

After a few months, though, I learned to take it easy and just let him do his thing. The shapes don't seem to influence him, but he's remarkably good at finding parts of a certain object in the picture. So we'll focus on the castle first, and he'll grab pieces with just a hint of crenelation and put it down right where it needs to go. I'll hang back and offer suggestions when he gets stuck, or subtly move missing pieces closer so he'll notice them, but he's getting pretty good on his own. Sometimes he'll even crank out several in a row with no discernible rhyme or reason, which makes me still suspect he's smarter than he lets on, but that's probably just the law of averages at work.

I'm looking forward to the day he can be trusted with a real puzzle. I've got several stashed away in storage, and each one is guaranteed to make a grown man cry.

Elementary, my dear Daddy!

Ever since I was a wee lad I enjoyed a homemade treat called Honey Milk Balls*. I got the craving yesterday so I picked up some honey at the grocery store while The Boy and I were shopping.

We started the drive home when The Boy, out of the blue, asked a dreaded question. "Why did we get honey?"

I gripped the steering wheel tighter. I give him a sample of my sinful indulgence every now and then, but being the health hypocrite that I am, he is discouraged from eating it. Him deducing my evening plans would put a crimp in my binging. But what were the odds that a three year old would be that smart?

"We're just out," I casually replied.

"What do we use honey for?" The Boy continued. Damn, I thought.

"Was it in the cookies you made with Mama?" I asked, hopefully, knowing full well it wasn't.

"Nooooo," he said slowly. The car went quiet as he mulled things over and I groped for the radio controls hoping some music would distract him.

"Tea," he finally said. "We use honey in tea."

"Yes," I replied solemnly. "We use honey in tea."

And now I'm writing a blog post well after midnight while waiting for my honey buzz to end.

* Two cups oatmeal, two cups powdered milk, one cup honey, and one cup peanut butter. Mix together and form into balls. Or, in my case, eat right out of the bowl while watching West Wing on DVD.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Number Crunching

My doctor recently mentioned his concerns about the swine flu vaccine and the lack of extensive testing. When you test on 600 subjects, and then give that drug to a hundred thousand, what is going to happen?

Well, that's an easy math problem. Let's assume that there's a one in a thousand chance that the vaccine has some serious side effects. That's a .1% chance. Not a likely event for any given individual, but still something that should never be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Testing measures differ from one drug company to the other, I'm sure, but the two brands of the H1N1 vaccine I Googled both mentioned using 600 subjects in their clinical trials. So, what are the odds that they'd miss that .1% chance? If the odds of an individual coming through okay is .999, then the odds of six hundred people not showing any symptoms is .999 to the power of 600. This comes out to .5486, so there is roughly a 55% chance that a potentially fatal side effect could be missed.

Not that a few more test subjects will make me feel warm and fuzzy. Doubling the number of subjects only gives a 70% chance of finding out your serum is poisonous. Tripling it gives an 83% chance.

This sums up in a nutshell my biggest concern about vaccinations. Before injecting something into millions of people, make sure the testing process is more vigorous than for cough drops and foot powder.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Christmas time is here by golly

The Boy had a pretty good holiday, though we didn't plan it very well. A large bulk of his presents came from my family, who we didn't see until three days after the officially appointed birth of Jesus Christ, superstar. Which means that on Christmas day he only got a few things. Then the next day we went to visit The Wife's sister, where The Boy only got a token gift and had to watch his cousins dive into a pile of festively-wrapped loot.

It's an interesting change from the last couple of years, where he was more interested in boxes and wrapping paper than in toys. This year was different, though, partly because he's old enough to grasp the whole concept and partly because we finally got around to getting a tree and putting his gifts under it a week before. This provided the appropriate holiday torture and whetted his appetite for days.

I was hoping for snow, either here or up in New Hampshire, so The Boy and I could do some serious frolicking. But the rain gods were against me. Then the wind gods. Then the oh-my-god-it's-cold gods.