A logical look at the Circle of Friendship

Is there any way to let people know where they fit in the circle of friendship?

I reckon that in general, people know where they stand in relationships. Maybe this is even reciprocated - that is, the people who you think are "close", also think you are "close".

You get together with "close" friends (your inner circle) all the time, have them round for dinner, and give them a phone call from time to time. Other friends (the circle outwards) don't quite get that treatment but don't expect it either. "Aquaintances" have their own "close" and other friends to manage and are happy to catch up from time to time.

If only it were this simple, all worked out by a logical guy like me :-)

I've caused problems where I didn't understand what circle I was in with someone else, or didn't know how to convey to someone what they should expect from me based on what sort of friend I considered them. Doh!

Time to go back to the drawing board to think up a way to let people know where they are...

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Movie Review: A Scanner Darkly

One of the most amazing movies I've seen this year (I've been trying to list all the movies I've watched on my blog sidebar, but somehow missed this one) was A Scanner Darkly (Wikipedia, official site).

A Scanner Darkly is a mystery/thriller/science fiction done in a style similar to a graphic novel, starring Keanu Reaves, Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey Jr. and Winona Ryder. It's almost an indie film (despite the big names), set in a near-future California, with subversive humour and an interesting storyline featuring an undercover agent sent to spy on himself...

But the biggest attraction is that it's closely based on a story by Phillip K. Dick. Dick has had big movies based on his works before (Minority Report, Blade Runner, Total Recall, Paycheck), but this one captures more of his unique style. The movie is apparently very true to the book and has Dick's unsettling and yet strangely believable quality (and I reckon doing special effects would be a lot cheaper using the film's preferred visual feel).

Without giving too much away, the story centres around a character "Bob" who works undercover for a "Big Brother"-type organisation tracking down a dangerous drug. While at the office, he wears a shape-shifting suit so no-one knows who he is (this introduces the notion that any one of his varied friends may also work for the organisation). Being undercover, he poses as a drug user - but this eventually attracts attention from the organisation, who sends him to spy on himself!

Add to this the fact that the drug Bob is on is altering his perception, and you have the setting for a tragic thriller (perhaps in the spirit of V for Vendetta or The 12 Monkeys), that uses future science in interesting ways, but is a personal and moral story too. Wow!

I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and rate it 10 out of 12.

One strange thing. it's rated "R", and I can't quite figure out why...perhaps I'm desensitised to the types of images it portrays (especially seeing The Bourne Ultimatum was rated "PG", the same as The Simpsons Movie). Hmmm...

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Book Review: Praising Girls Well (Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer)

This book, subtitled "100 tips for parents and teachers", caught my eye in the library the other day as being practical and divided into easy-to-digest sections, on a topic that interests me - my daughter.

I'd just been reading about boys and realised that even though I have some idea what my two sons are like, my daughter remains a mystery to me. Children raised even in the same household are different, with their own personalities, preferences, and learning styles. Birth order affects kids too. And to top it all off, girls and boys are definitely different - anyone who doesn't think so should try being a parent :-)

Praising Girls Well is broken into 10 chapters. Each chapter has ten tips for encouraging girls. There is slight overlap in the tips, but this serves to reinforce concepts and also to look at praise from different angles. 10 of the tips are also directed at parents.

I learnt a lot from this book. It's impossible to condense all the tips down, but here's a few interesting tidbits that stood out for me:

  • ban the word good - this was a good point for me, as I have caught myself using good more for "Good, you did what I asked" as opposed to "Great job!"
  • watch out for I - praise should focus more on the child than on the parent (instead of "I like the way...", try "You handled that really well")
  • focus on the achievement, not on her (instead of "You're so wonderful!", try "That was terrific, what you managed to do")
  • don't take credit for her success
  • praise the process, not the product, acknowledging when she tries hard, shows determination and interest
One tip that generated a bit of discussion between Olivia and I was "Unblock your blocks to giving praise", which talked about justifications for not giving praise, such as that it could make a girl "bigheaded", that praise should only be for something excellent, that if something could be better it shouldn't be praised, or that the parents helped create the success by paying for tuition (for example). Olivia and I had an interesting conversation about our own attitudes towards being praised and motivations for giving praise.

This book was helpful in terms of ideas for constructive praise which I know will free my beautiful daughter Maya to grow into herself without manipulation. It included useful definitions of different forms of praise (for instance, admiration, attention, approval, and more). Ages and stages of growing girls were identified. I'd recommend it to Dads like me that are still learning about their daughters.

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Heath Is 1

Heath turned 1 year old last week. What a big boy!

I've learnt from experience that first birthday parties are more for the adults than kids. We had a big fun day planned, starting with breakfast for Father's Day, followed by a get-together of Heath's friends, and then family from both sides over for cake and afternoon tea. Lastly, if we had room for it, Olivia's parents were staying for dinner.

Heath himself was pretty tired on the day and was in and out of bed. He enjoyed playing outside in the spring sunshine, and with his new cars and trucks, but was not interested in the cake at all. Like I said, the 1st party is more for the adults, so I ate his piece :-)

Here's some fun photos Olivia took of Heath - always on the move - from a couple of days before his birthday (see more at my Flickr account):

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Movie Review: The Bourne Ultimatum

Olivia and I saw The Bourne Ultimatum in Gold Class last Friday night, thanks to tickets that were my parent's Christmas present to us. To go along with the tickets, Mum and Dad also offered to babysit too - thank you Mum & Dad!

The Bourne Ultimatum (IMDb, Wikipedia, official site) is the third in the Bourne series (after The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy) which are very loosely based on the Robert Ludlum book series.

I think the appeal of these movies are the down-to-earth nature of the main character, the charm of Matt Damon, Bourne's pacifist approach (he's like the A-Team, he doesn't kill anyone!) and seeing one guy try to do the right thing in the face of overwhelming opposition. Ultimatum continues with these themes nicely.

The movie picks up directly after Supremacy and the action starts straight away. In fact, this movie had more action than either of the other two, and seemed to be faster paced. There are pursuits all over the globe, with one scene early in the film letting the audience see a little of how Jason Bourne's mind works when he assists a newspaper reporter to outwit pursuing CIA agents.

Pamela Landy is back, set opposite a ruthless CIA chief who seems intent on destroying Bourne and all who have had contact with him. Nicky also plays a more prominent role too. The film heats up when Jason Bourne starts to remember how he became a cold-blooded CIA assassin, and determines to travel back to the USA to confront those responsible.

While I enjoyed this film (and saw it as a fitting conclusion to the first two, even if the door was left open for further additions), it was more "Hollywood" than Identity or Supremacy. My two biggest gripes are the couple of instances where technology played an unrealistic part, and the two or three times when Bourne is being hotly pursued by the police force of a country, only to breeze through customs in the next scene. Do police give up that easily? Does he even need a disguise?

Overall I would rate this film 8 out of 12. Given the fact that I loved the first two, I was always going to see this one. I enjoyed it, but I just felt it wasn't quite as good as the others.

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Father's Day

I'm more than happy to not make a big deal of Father's Day. I hate the fact that everyone (from Tandy to Toys'R'Us, it seems) has a sale and the emphasis is on buying, rather than a simple acknowledgment of Dads. I feel really fortunate to have a great wife and three fantastic kids, as well as a Dad that I love a lot. Father's Day is just one of the days of the year that we can say these things out loud.

The day itself is always going to be a bit of a non-event in our house as we have Heath's birthday on the 3rd and TJ's birthday on the 7th of September. Suits me just fine!

So we had a simple Father's Day yesterday, starting with a few pressies from the kids. I love the amount of thought that goes into hand-made gifts or simple bought gifts. I scored some beautiful cards from Maya, a stubby holder from TJ, some much-needed socks and a book - all this, just for being a Dad :-)

Then we were off to the Pancake Parlour for family breakfast with my Mum and Dad. Mmmm...

The rest of the day was preparing for and enjoying Heath's 1st birthday party (more on this, later).

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