I made a birthday cake for my son yesterday.
The basic recipe was this mud cake recipe from Taste. Modifications:
- we’re a three person household, so I cut the recipe in half, give or take (about 2/5ths, mostly, because I used 100g of Lindt 70% Dark chocolate)
- I used cream, not sour cream. I am intrigued by sour cream in a chocolate cake I have to say, but Andrew doesn’t like sour cream and generally I didn’t want to mess with the sweet flavour of a kid’s birthday cake more than I was already doing by using this recipe
Since we have an espresso machine in the house I also pulled my second or third ever espresso (actually, a very long black at that volume!) which undoubtedly was terrible. I drink coffee very rarely; but of course I didn’t have to taste it directly, I just had to not get coffee grounds in the cake. The coffee taste went well in the cake and means not having to use a liqueur for a bit of zing.
The we established an ancient ritual of our culture:
I cooked it in a $3 train mould from Kmart. All my love to you silicone cake trays: you’re a pain to get into the oven but a cinch to extract cooked cakes from. The “icing” is molten milk chocolate and the “decorations”, such as they are, are of a train turntable. I’m hoping to decorate cakes with a little more forethought as he gets older.
I cooked it for 20 minutes in a hot oven and another 5 minutes as the oven cooled and that was about right. If you like mudcakes slightly wet as I do 15 would probably work (for pieces of cake this size). The train pieces are a bit short: I wasn’t sure how full to fill the molds when it had self-raising flour in it and tried about 2/3, when I really should have gone nearly to the top.
While he got very excited about the sprinkles, my son actually ate half the undecorated engine with far more enthusiasm. It’s not really a cake for a toddler’s palate (and he totally has one, if everything in the world was made of butter icing he couldn’t be happier) but he didn’t seem put off.03.27.12
Liam Hogan tweeted:
Further on rebates for nannies: if they’re a response to family-unfriendly working hours, flexible childcare is solving the wrong problem.
Here’s some systemic problems with childcare as it currently stands that one might hire a nanny as a possible solution to:
availability (strong form) For under 2s in Sydney, you simply might not get a childcare place accessible to you, by your scheduled return to work. Full-stop.
availability (weaker form) You have 2 or 3 children under 5, not uncommon. If you do get childcare places for them all, they (a) start to approach the price of a nanny and (b) are often not at the same daycare centre. So you can add 2 to 3 drop-offs to your commute run, 2 to 3 infection sources to your health problems, and when your children do all end up at the same daycare centre, you can enjoy four to six weeks of emotionally resettling them with the new centre. Or hire a nanny.
commuting in general Family unfriendly work hours are common. Family unfriendly commute hours are even more common: either a really tight schedule where you hope for no breakdowns/signals failures, or just total impossibility of getting to the centre in time. (Or you can have your kids in care near your work, and have them commute with you. Fun for the whole family. Plus you cannot use the centre when you are sick, which is one of the times when you really want to.)
illness I had four bouts of gastro and eight respiratory infections in the four months after my son began daycare. A nanny is an expensive way to avoid this, but that night I considered calling the police because we couldn’t lift him up to feed him? Maybe that’s worth $200 a day to people who can pay to avoid it.
throughout the day contact a privilege of (partial) telecommuters and (partially) at-home business people, and in theory daycare centres allow drop-ins if children are well-settled there and can handle two separations in a day (so, probably not in the first several months of care). For these people, a nanny may be one way of allowing the parent and child to have throughout-the-day contact without the parent needing to be first contact point for the child’s needs.
Now, I fully agree that funding nannies is less good ultimately than, say, free and freely available childcare, predictable work hours, widespread onsite/neighbourhood childcare with liberal allowance for parent drop-in, redesigning work and cities so that 1+ hour commutes aren’t the usual case, or… I don’t even know what you do about the illnesses, because I once saw my 9 month old licking another baby’s face and getting a good licking back. But there’s a raft of reasons why nannies are attractive. We may turn to one after our next child on cost alone. So that’s the context of nannies, for me.02.26.12
I’ve been thinking more intensely about schooling my son since, well, he was born and also since I began reading Rivka’s homeschooling blog (she began homeschooling her then five-year-old year old daughter in June 2010, when my own son was about four months old).
I probably, frankly, wouldn’t know the first thing about homeschooling otherwise, but as it is, I can bring you several links. The first couple are a defence of homeschooling from a self-identified liberal point of view, in the US sense of progressive. In fact, all of this is about the US school system.
Do we have a responsibility to work towards equal educational opportunity for all children, and if so, do we violate it by removing our family from the public system? Even liberal homeschoolers don’t really seem to engage with this question much. Partly I think it’s because there’s such a strong libertarian streak in homeschooling communities, even on the left wing. But also, liberal philosophical arguments for homeschooling tend to be based on a critique of schools as rigid and stifling institutions…
… I’m not a homeschooler, and I don’t particularly care whether anyone thinks I’m sufficiently liberal. But I certainly don’t judge anyone who chooses to take their kids out of these schools. There’s no one right answer to how to make this world a more humane place, and the homeschoolers’ answer seems at least as wise as Goldstein’s. If anything, I instinctively distrust the idea that we can create a more liberal and humane society by putting our kids into less liberal and humane environments. By treating kids as instruments for social improvement, that argument mirrors the very same instrumental treatment of children that I object to when it’s practiced by “reformers” who treat kids as soldiers in the battle for global competitiveness.
And that last point about soldiers in the battle for global competitiveness neatly brings me to Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools:
Hundreds of private philanthropies together spend almost $4 billion annually to support or transform K–12 education, most of it directed to schools that serve low-income children (only religious organizations receive more money). But three funders—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad (rhymes with road) Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation—working in sync, command the field. Whatever nuances differentiate the motivations of the Big Three, their market-based goals for overhauling public education coincide: choice, competition, deregulation, accountability, and data-based decision-making. And they fund the same vehicles to achieve their goals: charter schools, high-stakes standardized testing for students, merit pay for teachers whose students improve their test scores, firing teachers and closing schools when scores don’t rise adequately, and longitudinal data collection on the performance of every student and teacher…
Every day, dozens of reporters and bloggers cover the Big Three’s reform campaign, but critical in-depth investigations have been scarce (for reasons I’ll explain further on). Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that the reforms are not working…
I was looking at one of those “the kids of today” lists and thinking about V. What will the world of the 2010 baby look like? I came up with:
- September 11 will be something that happened when his parents were young, roughly equivalent to the Vietnam War for me, a bit nearer than the moon landing or Harold Holt drowning
- in fact by the time he’s a teenager everyone or nearly everyone who walked on the moon will have died
- he may not ever learn to read a paper map or street directory unless he gets heavily into bushwalking or something
- by the time he’s grown up, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s really unusual to own many paper books, perhaps as uncommon as people my age who own vinyl (yeah, I do know a few, but…)
- there will be a few veterans of WWII and people who experienced the Holocaust (other than as little babies) around in his childhood and even teens, but they’ll be like I remember WWI veterans: very elderly
If anyone wants to play: can you come up with things that aren’t true of children born in 2000, say? Things like “your parents have always had mobile phones” are going to be true of children 10 or even 15 years older than V will be. (Of my list, the paper map stuff probably fails that test, so might the WWII stuff.)
I’m a terrible futurist, that already reads badly to me. For example, I didn’t own a GPS device at the time: that’s why I thought that bushwalking would rely on paper maps in 2030. (Since they don’t run out of charge, presumably they’ll be useful as backups for a long time, at least for the type of folks who are wary enough to take backup maps anywhere.)
But the question stands: there’s a lot of difference already between me and someone born in, say, 1995. But what’s the difference between that child’s life, and that of my son born in 2010?11.24.11
From Matt Yglesias:
Family life is subject to a vicious economic conundrum known as Baumol’s cost disease. Economy-wide wages are linked to economy-wide productivity. That means that over time sectors of the economy that don’t feature productivity gains will see rapidly rising costs…
Child-rearing is basically stick stuck in a kind of dark ages of artisanal production, but as market wages have risen the opportunity cost of this extremely labor intensive line of work has steadily increased. The implication is that societies that want to continue existing in the future are increasingly going to have to find ways to subsidize parental investment in the next generation.
I just got a call from a childcare centre who has had my son’s name down for nineteen months. I’m not even sure if they were offering him a place, most likely they are just culling their waiting list in preparation for the 2012 enrolment season. Nineteen months long waiting lists, on the very edge of the metropolis.
I’m sure there’s plenty of info out there already about the economic inefficiencies generated by private childcare in countries like Australia and the US where supply doesn’t meet demand and there’s little government intervention in the market. One of the most noticeable for us is geographic lock-in. If it takes a year or more to get our son care at a new location, we can’t move, until, oddly enough, all of our children are school age and thus likely to be badly disrupted academically and socially by a move. The next most obvious is all the mother-work in this. Applying to 20 centres (… many of which ask for a $20 waiting list fee). Ringing them all once a month or more just to keep a tick next to our name as “really wants a place”. (It likely doesn’t advance you up the list, what with all the other mothers ringing monthly too, and they certainly don’t give us any actual news until a place actually appears.)
I should put in a little bit of background for people from countries with at least some government provided childcare. Childcare in Australia for children 8 weeks to 5 years is provided by for-profit and non-profit suppliers in a private market. Waiting lists for first born children in Sydney (younger siblings of an enrolled child often receive some preferential treatment) who aren’t in certain disadvantaged and at-risk groups are somewhere in the realm of nine to twenty four months. (Employers are supposed to keep permanent jobs open to a returning mother for a year.) Costs are in the realm of $70 to $110 dollars per day for infants (median maybe $90?) and $60 to $100 per day for children over age two. There are government subsidies on a sliding scale that for some families might halve this cost.
The alternatives are local government certified “family carers” caring in their own homes, who have similar waiting lists, nannies at around $200 per day, or family. I don’t see a lot of solutions aside from nationalisation: the private market obviously sees no need even for centralised waiting lists and for whatever reason it certainly doesn’t see the need to create enough places to meet demand. All I have is a couple of lessons:
#1 you do not put your child’s name down at birth you put it down when you are pregnant, if they let you, and if they don’t, take the forms to the hospital with you and post them from there within hours of your child’s birth. (Sydney hasn’t quite reached the stage that I am told New York City is at, of ringing them all to give them notice that you have stopped using contraception, and might therefore require their services at some point in the next two years.)
#2 most childcare places open up in January and February, with enrolments in October. It’s obvious why when you think about it: (southern) January is when the five year olds leave to start kindergarten, so it’s the time when by far the most vacancies are created. That doesn’t mean put the kid’s name down in October for a place the following January, it means putting them down as early as possible and then concentrating your phone calls in October.
This can be frustrating depending on your child’s month of birth. Born January or February? You may well have to keep them out for a full year. Born November or December? You may have to enrol them much younger than you would have been comfortable with if you are lucky enough to be offered a place (although only for a day a week, already enrolled children almost always get the pick of newly opened spots on other days).
For the record, my January-born first son got a place that July, in a centre that had recently re-opened after bankruptcy and was taking immediate enrolments. That same centre, whose youngest enrolment at the time was a child 9 weeks old, is a year later asking us to re-confirm 2012 enrolments four months ahead because of their enormous waiting list. They currently have no children born in 2011 enrolled, implying a waiting list of 9 months at the very least We’re ourselves presently awaiting results of the 2012 enrolments closer to the city, to see if we get to move closer to my husband’s work in the next 12 months, or if we’re staying out here for the foreseeable future.07.6.11
Alex Sutherland, who is not yet 13 years of age, told Google+ his date of birth and promptly lost access to his Gmail account.
I’m not posting this to join any obnoxious blamestorm aimed at Alex or his parents: it sucks he lost his email archives and I hope that his parents are able to get it back for him. It sucks he had his trust breached and there’s no getting that back for him.
But I’m mostly posting because people are seeing the provisons of the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) for the first time and saying “pfft, not that hard to comply, why ban under 13s at all?” There was an illuminating comment on Making Light that is helpful there:
COPPA has a lot of “common sense” provisions which no doubt sounded great from the point of view of legislators and parents, but which are pretty appalling from the point of view of the operator of a Web 2.0 service. They’re burdensome enough, that, to my knowledge, only sites intended specifically and exclusively for children trouble to implement them. That is, no Web2.0 websites operating in the US permit users under the age of 13, except for specialty children’s sites. Not Google, not Facebook, not MySpace, not Livejournal, not Twitter, not Flickr or Picassa or Photobucket, not any web service here in the US.
Why? Well, you know how when you have a problem with your Gmail, you can pick up your phone and call Google’s tech support line? Ah ha ha ha. Right: no such thing. Well, one of the provisions of COPPA is that there has to be a phone number through which parents can call the service, as well as an email address at which they can email the service. Google doesn’t particularly want to have to pay operators to be standing by. No Web2.0 startup wants to be staffing a phone number open to the general public.
Google also doesn’t particularly want to figure out how to fulfill the provision of writing a statement as to what “information it collects” from (minor) users, since it allows users to type absolutely anything they want into those email bodies. Among sites for children, the open-ended TEXTAREA form field, like the one I’m typing this comment into, are seen as threats; highly structured or brief forms of input — pulldown menus and short text fields — are seen as safer. That prohibits most interesting Web2.0 applications.
Now Google is pretty big, it could afford to solve this if it wanted to, but has decided not to. But I think this is an issue worth knowing about in general: this means that children under 13 can’t participate in the Web as we know it today, essentially, because COPPA means that it’s prohibitively expensive to allow them to use websites that allow free-form content. Opinions might vary on whether this is a good thing (I certainly don’t think so, although I’m also not planning to turn my son loose on Google on his sixth birthday either), but it’s a thing.06.2.11
Hello long neglected blog. I am actually not going to say I feel bad about not writing, because here’s what I’ve been doing with my time:
- working on my PhD
- working on getting the Ada Initiative underway
- working on a PHP programming contract
- working on the Linux Australia Council
- household stuff, like snuggling my boy!
I’ll be back more once a few of those things disappear from my life.03.2.11
At which point, the topic became that wankiest theme of all bad tech writing (imo): “How can I use this to optimize myself?”
Catherine, on Terri’s Geek Feminism post about the Wired article The Advantage Of Dual-Identities (A Case Study of Nabokov)
This has a parallel in parenting studies too, “how can I use this to optimise my child?” This is definitely the most annoying undercurrent of the Life at 1, Life at 3, Life at 5 series for me, on which see more at Hoyden: breastfeeding, obesity, disability, general discussion.02.14.11
“Child Care Minister Kate Ellis says parents often do not know they are eligible for the rebate.”
Or, perhaps they know, and thought they’d applied, and just haven’t gotten around to chasing up yet another damn thing…
Or! I have some suggestions about what might have happened!
Perhaps they went to Centrelink’s site on the childcare rebate and found instructions to apply. Oh wait, no they didn’t. They found information about eligibility and payment rates, but not instructions. It almost sounds like it might happen automatically…
But just in case they went to their online Centrelink account, and it said that their identity has not been sufficiently verified to apply for childcare rebate. And they recall what their current level of identitiy verification involved. Consider this interaction (where “Mary” is a randomly chosen name for a Centrelink childcare benefit* recipient, of course):
Customer service officer: “How many shares do you own in $company?”
Mary: “The correct answer is zero. But I am guessing you want the answer I last gave you in 2001.”
CSO: “Yes, the one in 2001.”
Mary: “Well, I don’t know, because I have not kept records of how many shares I owned in $company in 2001.”
CSO: “OK, I see the problem! That was quite a while ago. All right. If you can just tell me how much rent you pay…”
Mart: “The correct answer is zero. But I am guessing you want the answer I gave you in 2003?”
CSO: “Yes please. If you can!”
That is, I received Youth Allowance as a student from Centrelink, and their entire identification procedure assumes that either I kept details records of my exact financial state at the time, or that it hasn’t changed. (Rents haven’t gone up in eight years, surely?) So, the system is designed to not give a benefit to anyone who ever received a benefit in the past, because interacting with them is just such a pain the second time. Which is not a surprise, since they administer unemployment benefits.
Not that new customers have it easy. A story I heard was someone’s genuine physical address tripping up a rather poorly written “no post office boxes” validator, and who therefore couldn’t meet the requirement of providing a residential address.
* Childcare benefit is not the same as childcare rebate. DUH. And there’s no way that’s confusing people into believing they have received all their entitlements.