Monthly Archives: May 2009

Mustn’t go near black holes

There was a copy of New Scientist in the study, with a graphic of a black hole on the cover.  Lillian picked it up.

Daddy, what’s this? she said, pointing at the black hole.

“That’s a BLACK HOLE” I said, knowing she wouldn’t know what a black hole is, but trying to make it sound scary.

Predictably enough:  What’s a black hole?

“A black hole is something that if you fall into it you never come out and you get squashed into nothing. They’re very dangerous.”

That sounded interesting.

Have you ever been in a black hole?

“No, I’ve never been in a black hole.”

I’ve never been in a black hole either.

Thank heaven for that.

You wouldn’t want to go in a black hole, would you she said confidently.


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Not too sick for butterflies

Lillian has been not well since Saturday.  She missed school on Monday and Tuesday.  This morning (Wed) she woke up seeming quite well and wanted to go to school.  But a half-hour later the school called – Lillian was coughing and feeling unwell, so could somebody come and collect her?

When we got home she was OK.  In the afternoon she begged and pleaded to do something outside.  Fair enough.  She wanted to go to the zoo, which mainly means she wanted to go to the butterfly enclosure, so we rode across.


After an hour or so she started feeling not so well again so we went home.  She slept for a couple of hours on the chaise longue behind me while I did some work.

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Budding critical thinker

We’re eating dinner – main course mussels, which Teresa cooked because she thought Lillian like them.  Lillian isn’t eating much.  She says she has a bit of a headache.

Teresa: “Then you should eat up your mussels.  They are good for headaches.”

Lillian, plainly skeptical: “How do you know?

[Aside: to me this seems another milestone – a seemingly clear cut case of challenging the speaker to provide rational justification.]

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Lillian has now moved up to the next level in her swimming class. 


[Had to take this picture surreptitiously because I don’t think they like digital cameras in the swimming pool area.]

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What’s a servant?

We’re walking home from school.   Suddenly Lillian says

“Daddy, what’s a servant?”

Daddy has to think for a moment how to explain it.  “It’s somebody you pay to do all your boring stuff for you.”

She says “Like what?”

“Like…washing the dishes, mowing the lawn, putting out the garbage…”

“What – you mean like you?”

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Heading off to school


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Brain OK

From a talk given by psychologist Dan Gilbert (rough transcription):

In 2 million years our brains nearly tripled in size… and one reason is that our brains gain a new part.  That part is the frontal lobes, in particular the pre-frontal cortex.  Now what does the prefrontal cortex do for you?  … One of the most important things it does is an experience simulator.  Pilots practice in flight simulators so they don’t make real mistakes in planes.  Human beings have this marvellous adaptation that they can actually have experiences in their heads before they try them out in real life.  This is a trick that none of our ancestors could do, that no other animal can do quite like we can…”

Today I was taking Lillian to her swimming lesson up at the pool on campus.  I was putting her swimming stuff, in a bag, onto the carrying rack on the rear of the bike.  

Lillian said “Don’t you want me to carry that?”

“No,” I said.  “It’ll be fine there.”

“But what if it drops off?”

“I’ll pick it up and put it back on.”

“But what if you don’t hear it?”

“I guess I’ll have to go back and get it.”

“But what if you can’t find it?

“Then I suppose I’ll have to keep looking.” 

“What if you run over it?”

Seems like her 5-year-old pre-frontal cortex is working just fine…


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