Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spoilerrific Downton braindump

Warning: this post contains spoilers for all of Downton Abbey to date.

- So why did O'Brien have it in for Thomas all this season anyway?  If the show told us, I've forgotten.

- I think making Robert basically incompetent at his job of being Earl of Grantham is a good and interesting direction for the show to take.  In the first two seasons, many people criticized the character for being too perfect - kind and benevolent to everyone.  But having him be incompetent (and a wee bit out of touch) while continuing to be kind and benevolent makes him far more interesting.  It's also an interesting contrast with Ethel: Robert is incompetent but gets to retain his position and will live in luxury for basically the rest of his natural life; Ethel made one mistake, and is socially deemed unemployable and reduced to prostitution.

- Although I'm surprised that Ethel didn't just take off for some other part of the country and claim to be a widow. They'd just had a war and an influenza outbreak, I'm quite sure there were many young widows with small children.

- I'm disappointed that we'll never get to see Sybil's everyday life in Ireland. It would have been so interesting to see how she adjusted.  Even with her nurse training, she probably would have had her own "What is a weekend?" moment.  For example, she's probably never done laundry (it was time-consuming in that era, and I doubt they would have had trained nurses doing hospital laundry when any untrained person could have done it) and she's probably never gone grocery shopping.

- I really don't get why Robert and the Dowager Countess were so put off by the prospect of Edith marrying an older man and therefore having to nurse him through his dotage.  So what if she does?  Basically, she'd be earning her pension.  It's the early 20th century British nobility equivalent of taking some tedious administrative job in a university so your kids will have drug coverage and a dental plan.  And, I just realized, Robert had his own marriage of convenience, which worked out splendidly!

- (Speaking of, they should make a Downton prequel that covers the early days of Robert's and Cora's marriage.  A benign marriage of mutual convenience has got to be an interesting interpersonal dynamic, and not something we often (if ever) see in fiction.)

- This means Sir Anthony Strallan's "I'm leaving you at the altar for your own good" thing was a triply dick move.  First, because Edith gets to decide for herself what her own good is, thank you very much.  Second, because he's denying her the opportunity to earn her pension. As of the time of the wedding, Downton was broke and the family was going to downsize.  Sir Anthony still had his fortune.  His refusing to marry her because he thought she could do better would be like that university administrative job refusing to hire you because they unilaterally decide that this job wouldn't be your passion.  And third, he's leaving Edith dependent on her family.  Which doesn't just mean she's dependent on her parents, it also means that, once her parents die, she'll be dependent on Matthew and Mary.  Imagine being financially at the mercy of your least favourite sibling for the rest of your life!  Leaving someone in that situation is certainly not noble, Sir Anthony!  In fact, the noble thing for someone in Sir Anthony's position to do for someone in Lady Edith's position would be to marry her even if he isn't attracted to her but they get along reasonably well enough for a marriage of convenience.

- At the very very least, Edith should have gotten breakfast in bed the morning after she was jilted at the altar!

- I really want to know the internal logic of this "married women get breakfast in bed" rule!  How did they come up with it and why?  Surely getting dressed and going downstairs is just as difficult for an unmarried woman!  Also, why don't they share with their husbands?  We saw several scenes of a woman eating breakfast in bed and chatting with her husband while he gets dressed to go down and eat breakfast.  I don't know about you, but if my spouse were right there with food while I was getting ready to go get food, I'd certainly stop getting ready and start eating off their plate!  I also wonder if women who have been married but now aren't (widows and divorcĂ©es) get breakfast in bed.  Maybe we'll learn next season...

- I think we needed a bit more "show, don't tell" about how many men of the daughters' generation died in WWI.  Sybil mentioned once that it seems like every man she's ever danced with is dead, and Edith told Robert that it's ridiculous to object to her marrying someone older because so many of the men of her generation died, but we haven't actually seen this.  William (the footman who married Daisy) died, the father of Ethel's baby died, and...that's it for named characters, I think. Maybe a scene where they're organizing some major social event for the first time since before the war, and a huge chunk of their guest list is dead?  Too bad they jumped right from 1918 to 1920 at the end of season 2, so now they can't really address this any more.

- I really do think they've had time moving too quickly in this show.  We've had 9 years in three short seasons!  I kind of get why they didn't want WWI to last more than 1 season, and they had to make the last xmas special take place nearly a year after season 3 for obvious plot reasons, but if we keep up this pace they'll have to kill off the Dowager Countess from old age in a season or two!

- I really want to know what Mary's medical problem was!  A "small operation" that restores female fertility and could be successfully diagnosed and carried out in the year 1920. And, whatever the problem was, it presumably didn't interfere with the mechanics of sex, because if it had then Matthew wouldn't be worrying that the problem might be him.  Anyone have enough medical knowledge to figure out what this was?  Theory: maybe it isn't a real condition at all and is just a plot device.

- I had the misfortune to learn that the actor who plays Matthew was leaving the show before I even started watching Season 3, so the whole plot of the Season 3 xmas special seemed glaringly projected to me.  I knew where they had to end up, so the foreshadowing and such seemed completely unsubtle.

- Why oh why oh why did they have to name the latest new maid Edna?  We already have Edith and Ethel for me to get mixed up.  Why introduce yet another two syllable old lady name that starts with E?  (I know they're probably old lady names because of the era, but we also have names like Mary and Anna and Matthew.)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Things They Should Invent: track your delivery truck online

I spent Friday waiting at home for Staples to come and pick up the chair I'm returning.  (They never did, and they won't be able to find out what happened until Monday.  I'll be posting a full review of my experience once it's over.)  I was told that the truck would come sometime between 9:00 and 5:00, and they couldn't give me a narrower window.

Because of this, I had to spend the whole day ready for the truck to come.  I couldn't use the phone because I had to keep it free for when they buzzed me.  I took the phone into the bathroom when I had my shower and rushed through my shower as quickly as possible so as not to get caught in the shower when they arrived.  I wanted to run down to the corner store to pick up more milk, but I couldn't in case I ended up not being home when the truck came.

GPS technology exists, and tracking GPS location via internet exists, so why don't they use this to  make a website where we can log on with our tracking number and they'll tell us where the truck we're waiting for is?  If it's out in Scarborough, I probably have time to have a shower or run to the store.  If it's 2 blocks away, I might want to wait.

Apart from privacy issues, I do see how this might cause some customer relations problems.  People might be sitting there watching their truck get closer and closer and then make an angry phone call to customer service if it make a turn that takes it in a direction away from them, even if it's following its route normally. So I also have some alternatives in mind:

- Tell customers the minimum estimated time for the truck to reach them.  For example, if the truck would reach you in 10 minutes if it dropped everything and drove straight to you, the website would tell you that.  This would be phrased in a way to make it clear that it may be way more than 10 minutes, and it would come with a big loud disclaimer to that effect.

- If the truck has a regular route, tell customers how far into the route they are and how far into the route the truck is.  For example, "You are 75% of the way through the truck's normal route.  The truck is currently 20% of the way through its route."

- Show customers the truck's normal route on the map.  So if it goes all the way down the south side of the street and then comes back up the north side of the street later, the map would show that.  Might reduce angry calls from customers who just saw the truck on the other side of the street and then it drove away.

- Give a time estimate, based on the scheduled route and the truck's current location, and include a loud disclaimer to the effect that this is about as reliable as the estimated download time on your computer.

In any case, some information either already exists or would exist if they'd put GPS on the trucks.  Giving us whatever information is available would make the prospect of an eight-hour delivery window far less tedious, because even if we couldn't tell when delivery is imminent, we could at least tell when it isn't imminent.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Things the Library Should Invent: subscribe to author or series

A while back, I read and enjoyed Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  I then googled it and learned that a sequel was in the works, but the title and release date of the sequel hadn't been announced yet.  Then I forgot about all it.
Fortunately, the sequel (entitled Days of Blood and Starlight - I haven't read it yet so no spoilers please) turned up on some of the Best Books of 2012 lists, so I was reminded of its existence and added it to my holds list.  However, if it hadn't been mentioned in an article I read, I would never have thought to look it up again and would miss the opportunity to spend more time with the characters.
The same thing keeps happening with the Dexter series.  I forget to look for new books and discover two have been written since I last checked, or I check for new books and find that there aren't any.  I'd also be interested in reading whatever Malcolm Gladwell happens to write next, but he hasn't published in 3 years. I also think I'm going to keep reading the Inspector Gamache series once I catch up, but I don't know whether it's on a predictable publication schedule. 
I don't want to subscribe to all the authors' newsletters, because in many cases I’m not actively involved in the fandom so I don't want all the promotional material about book signings and paperback release dates and media appearances.  I just want to be informed when there's a new book to add to my holds list.
I think the library would be able to help me with this.
I'd like to be able to select an author or series out of the library catalogue, and have it automatically add any new title from that author or series to my holds list.  Users who subscribed first get placed on the holds list first, and users would have the choice whether to add the title in active or inactive mode.  That way I don't need to keep googling every author I'm interested in, then keep searching for upcoming titles until they show up in the library catalogue, and perhaps the library would have better data on interest in upcoming titles.
If this is all too complicated, maybe the library could just send out automated email alerts when a new title from an author or series you subscribe to has been added to the catalogue, and users could add it to their holds list themselves.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Best (incorrect) logic ever!

This article about when humans figured out that sex makes babies contains my favourite piece of logic ever:
[...] anthropologists studying the same group [of Trobriand Islanders] learned that semen was believed to be necessary for the “coagulation” of menstrual blood, the stoppage of which was thought to eventually form the fetus.
I absolutely love how, even though that's incorrect, it's still a completely logical conclusion to draw from available evidence.  And, even though their understanding of the processes was wrong, any actions they might take based on this conclusion will still be correct (i.e. if you want to make a baby, have sex).

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Thoughts from The Antidote: anti-procrastination

As I blogged about yesterday, I recently read The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman.  I think his thoughts on anti-procrastination are interesting.  As usual, any typos are my own:
The problem with all these motivational tips and tricks is that they aren't really about 'how to get things done' at all. They're about how to feel in the mood for getting things done. [...] The most common response to procrastination is indeed to try to 'get the right emotion': to try to motivate yourself to feel like getting on the with the job.

The problem is that feeling like acting and actually acting are two different things.A person mired deep in procrastination might claim he is unable to work, but what he really means is that he is unable to make himself feel like working [...] This isn't meant to imply that procrastinators, or the severely depressed, should simply pull their socks up and get over it. Rather, it highlights the way that we tend to confuse acting with feeling like acting, and how most motivational techniques are really designed to change how you feel. They're built, in other words, on a form of attachment - on strengthening your investment in a specific kind of emotion.

Sometimes, that can help. But sometimes you simply can't make yourself feel like acting. And in those situations, motivational advice risks making things worse, by surreptitiously strengthening your belief that you need to feel motivated before you an act. By encouraging an attachment to a particular emotional state, it actually inserts an additional hurdle between you and your goal. The subtext is that if you can't make yourself feel excited and pleased about getting down to work, then you can't get down to work.

Taking a non-attached stance towards procrastination, by contrast, stats from a different question: who says you need to wait until you 'feel like' doing something in order to start doing it? The problem, from this perspective, isn't that you don't feel motivated; it's that you imagine you need to feel motivated. If you can regard your thoughts and emotions about whatever you're procrastinating on as passing weather, you'll realise that your reluctance about working isn't something that needs to be eradicated, or transformed into positivity. You can coexist with it. You can note the procrastinatory feelings, and act anyway.
I'm not sure to what extent this is applicable to me (I'd describe my procrastinatory feelings as "I don't WANNA!", not "I don't feel like it" or "I'm not motivated") and I haven't yet figured out how (or whether) to actually apply this in my own life, but I think it's an interesting and refreshing perspective.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thoughts from The Antidote: feelings as weather

I recently read The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman.  It contained some ideas that made a lot of sense and some ideas that made very little sense, and I'm going to blog about some of each.

The first idea of interest came from the author's description of his experience at a Buddhist mediation retreat.  Any typos are, as usual, entirely my own doing:

Sounds and smells and tastes, after all, are just sounds and smells and tastes, but thoughts, we tend to assume, are something much  more important. Because they come from within us, they feel more essential, and expressive of our deepest selves. But is that true, really? When you start meditating, it soon becomes apparent that thoughts - and emotions - bubble up in much the same uncontrollable, unbidden fashion in which noises reach the ears, smells reach the nose, and so on. I could no more choose for thoughts not to occur than I could choose not to feel chilly when I was woken by the ringing of the morning bell at five-thirty each day - or, for that matter, than I could choose not to hear the bell.

Seeing thoughts as similar to the other five senses makes non-attachment seem much more approachable as a goal. In the analogy most commonly used by contemporary Buddhists, mental activity begins to seem more like weather - like clouds sand sunny spells, rainstorms and blizzards, arising and passing away. The mind, in this analogy, is the sky, and the sky doesn't cling to specific weather conditions, nor try to get rid of the 'bad' ones. The sky just is. In this the Buddhists go further than the Stoics, who can sometimes seem rather attached to certain mind-states, especially that of tranquility. The perfect Stoic adapts his or her thinking so as to remain undisturbed by undesirable circumstances; the perfect Buddhist sees thinking itself as just another set of circumstances, to be non-judgmentally observed.

Everything I've encountered before in my life about meditation left me with the impression that you're supposed to make the clutter in your mind go away.  I've also heard (quite often in advice column forums) the idea that our feelings are a choice, and you can choose not to feel a certain way or not to let something bother you.

I've always found this idea quite useless, because no one can ever explain how to do it. (They always say something along the lines of "Just tell yourself not to feel that way any more", as though I can just tell myself something and make myself listen.  That approach never works for me because I know that I'm just me telling myself in an attempt to make myself feel a certain way and there's no inherent truth or authority in any of it.)

But I find the weather analogy much more useful.  It passes, but that doesn't negate the fact that it exists and its impact is real.  To a certain extent we use clothing and other such measure to adapt to weather, but sometimes we just decide it's better to hide out for a while.  Hiding out is not unreasonable, as long as you can get done what you need to get done, and adapting your behaviour when you do go outside is not unreasonable and sometimes outright responsible.  No one would expect you to disregard the weather or will it away - and you do get to take a snow day when conditions warrant - but when you face weather that everyone faces on a regular basis, or when you face a certain kind of weather with some frequency, you need to figure out what to do to adapt.

As I've gotten older and better at life and more certain of what does and doesn't make me happy, I've also been able to purchase items that not only help me adapt to the weather, but also make me happy.  I have an awesome red coat and cashmere sweaters to keep me warm through the winter, a cheerful yellow umbrella and funky Fluevog boots to keep me dry in the rain, breezy skirts and dresses to keep me cool in the summer, and a beautiful, well-built apartment to keep the outdoors out and the indoors in.

The emotional equivalent is basically what I was doing with my 2008 New Year's resolution, where decided to start systematically using worldly comforts to get through dark emotional times rather than push through on willpower alone.  I've gotten better and better at it, and now I know to just buy a pre-emptive bag of chips for PMS week, or pop in an Eddie Izzard DVD the moment I get home from working on an emotionally difficult translation.

This is far better for inner peace and happiness than trying to power through it or will it away, plus it actually feels true to me, unlike every other emotion management principle I've encountered.  However, I don't see why meditation is remotely necessary to achieve this outlook.

Friday, February 15, 2013

I am pleased to report that my brain still works!

One time when my grandmother was in the hospital, before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's but after she's started showing what we recognize in hindsight to be the symptoms, I had the idea of getting her the gift of a demographically-appropriate sitcom series on DVD, so she'd have something funny at her fingertips at all times.  I mentioned this idea to another family member with the idea of brainstorming which sitcom series she'd like best, and was told that this might not be a good idea for a gift because she has trouble working her DVD player.  It seems she lost the ability to learn how to use new technology.  She'd follow step-by-step instructions if someone wrote them out for her, but she lost the ability to look at the menu items or the manual and read and think and figure stuff out.

This led me to develop the fear that I will one day lose the ability to learn.

A couple of years after this, My Favourite Little Person was born. Watching her play with toys and learn how to operate her body and figure out how the world works, I came to the realization that she is learning at rate several orders of magnitude greater than I am. Her parents have told me stories of how she'd have a play date with another baby and watch the other baby play with toys in a new and different way, then have her nap, wake up especially eager to return to her toys, and start emulating what the other baby was doing.  Her little brain literally assimilated the information during her nap!  Once, when she was 8 months old, I watched her banging two rings from her ring stack toy together, as though she was trying and failing to fit one ring through the other.  Watching this, I realized that she couldn't tell by eyeballing it that the one ring wouldn't fit inside the other - but she was literally in the process of learning this right before my very eyes!  And, I noticed, she was only trying to fit the smaller ring through the bigger one, never vice versa.  So, even though she couldn't tell by sight that the one ring wouldn't fit inside the other, she had already learned that smaller things fit inside bigger things and never vice versa!

This led me to realize I've already lost some of my ability to learn, because it has been a very long time since I've observed the world around me and figured out how things work and developed new skills like MFLP does every day.

I recently bought a new desk chair (from Staples - excellent customer service so far but I wasn't happy with the product. I'll blog about this more once the return process is completed). It came disassembled, so I had to assemble it.  To add to the challenge, the instructions weren't as good as they should be - they showed what connects to what where, but there was no how. Then, after sitting in the chair for a couple hours, I came to the realization that it was unergonomic for me (it actually made my back hurt), so I had to figure out how to disassemble it and get it back into the box, for which there were no instructions.

So to work out this chair, I had to inspect it, see what kinds of shapes and sizes there were and how they might fit into each other, try various things, see that they didn't work, and analyze why.  I had to look at the parts that were already together and analyze why they were there (e.g. "There's something blocking this piece, there's a screw here, could the screw be blocking that piece?"), look at my existing desk chair and extrapolate, and come up with ways to use my body and other objects in my apartment to lift and move heavy pieces into the position I wanted them, and then, when disassembling, to force them to come apart.  I had to take breaks and return to it, I'd sometimes go to bed and wake up the next morning with inspiration I needed to master the next step.

In short, I learned how to assemble and disassemble this chair the same way MFLP learns things.

So I can still learn!

I knew I can still learn things academically, by reading about them or taking classes.  I knew I could still learn how to use computer software the usual way.  But can't remember the last time I learned how something tangible works by observing its properties, experimenting with it, and figuring it out, the way MFLP does.  I'm quite relieved to learn that I can still do it.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Things They Should Study: are facial expressions informative on people who normally cover their face?

Recently there was a Supreme Court decision about whether people should be forced to expose their faces when testifying in court.  This case originated with a rape victim who wore a niqab and was called upon to testify against her attacker.

One of the ostensible reasons given for wanting witnesses to uncover their faces is that facial expression are thought to be informative in assessing the witnesses' credibility.

But is this also the case with people who are accustomed to covering their faces?  If  a certain method of communication is never available to you, would you be able to use it - and use it in the way the audience is expecting - if it were suddenly made available?  If you only ever used it in private and intimate settings and were suddenly called upon to use it in public, in front of an audience, and under scrutiny, how would your performance be read by people who use it every day?

I know someone who immigrated to Canada as a toddler.  He learned English quickly and easily like one does at that age, but he also retains the language of the old country, which he uses to talk to his parents and such.  However, because he left the old country at such a young age, he still speaks the other language like a toddler.  He has a childish accent, and he's less articulate and nuanced than you'd expect of a successful adult.  If he were called upon to testify in court in the language of the old country, his testimony would not reflect his actual credibility, because he's not accustomed to using that method of communication in the way the jury would expect.  Similarly, I find myself wondering if the facial expressions of someone who normally covers their face might also fail to reflect their actual credibility because they aren't accustomed to using that method of communication in the way the jury would expect.

I myself don't have a very expressive face, and my natural inclination is to keep it neutral. When I was a kid, people would always say things to me like "You look disgusted" or "Don't glower at Mrs. Neighbour like that" when I wasn't intentionally doing anything with my face, or feeling any of those emotions being attributed to me.  I later learned how to modulate my face in the way that's expected - a skill I was still mastering well into adulthood, because quite a lot of it I learned from Eddie Izzard - but it still isn't natural behaviour and doesn't come to me easily.  It's like telephone voice or a firm handshake - a performance I can put on, but not a natural reflection of my thoughts and feelings.  However, I'm not sure whether I'd be able to maintain the performance in so stressful a situation as testifying against my rapist, and if I can't maintain the performance my expressions may well be misinterpreted, like they were when I was a child, and be detrimental to my credibility through no fault of my own.

So if it could go so badly wrong for someone like me who has always been in a face-exposing culture, imagine how badly it can go to someone who isn't accustomed to their facial expressions being scrutinized and is suddenly having their credibility assessed based on something that they have never before had interpreted as informative!

I hope someone can actually do research and get scientific data on this, because the only thing I can imagine more terrifying than being forced to expose more of your body than you're comfortable with when testifying against your rapist is then having him set free and your credibility called into question because the jury is assuming you're more fluent than you are in a form of communication that you never use.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Things They Should Invent (or not): reverse gift registry

The way a gift registry normally works is you make a list of all the things you want and people buy them for you.

The problem with that is you still have to shop.  For me, shopping is the worst part.  I hate having to go out and look at stuff and figure out which thing best meets my needs.  The fact that other people are paying for it is very nearly negligible compared with the tedium of having to do the actual shopping.

If I had a gift registry, I'd want the opposite. I'd want to make a list of everything I need or want - simply describing it in words without having to provide any information on style or model or where to buy it - and as their present to me people would go out and shop for it.  They wouldn't even have to buy it, I'd be happy to use my own money.  It's the shopping that's the hard work.

Problem 1: There's nothing to stop people from just picking out any old thing without regard whether it meets my needs. For example, I want an desk chair that is ergonomically perfect for my body.  When I mention this to people, they tell me the name of a store that sells desk chairs and suggest I go there and sit in some chairs.  But that doesn't help me at all. I already know the way to get a desk chair is to go to stores and sit on chairs, and for me that's the difficult and annoying part.  They're basically restating the problem as though it's a solution.  And there's nothing to stop people from doing that with the reverse registry - not actually doing proper shopping, just naming a product that exists and declaring the job done.

Problem 2: I'm never going to be on the receiving end of a gift registry, so with this invention I'm just making my job harder.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Things They Should Invent: bundle buggies and wheeled luggage that follow directly behind you

Picture a person walking down the street pulling a bundle buggy or a wheeled suitcase behind them.

The buggy/suitcase isn't directly behind them, it's off to the side, on the side of the hand they're using to pull it.  (Look at the people pictured here.)

This is inconvenient in crowded pedestrian areas, because your buggy takes at least half a "lane", if not a whole lane, so it's harder for people to pass you.  It's also harder for you to pass others, because you take up more than a lane of space so you need more passing room.  I've also noticed that, in a crowded grocery store with narrow aisles (**cough cough METRO cough**), something about the way it corners causes bottlenecks when the user is turning in or out of an aisle.

Solution: design buggies and luggage so that they follow directly behind the user's when the user is walking. Off the top of my head, the best idea I have is that the handle should be shaped like a J, L or sideways Z (but with right angles rather than acute angles).  So the part of the handle you grip is at the side of the suitcase rather than in the centre (thus enabling the suitcase to follow directly behind you), but there's some kind of framework/architecture to cause the force to be exerted from the centre of the suitcase or from the whole front of the suitcase evenly, so that it will roll straight.

This would make users of wheeled luggage and bundle buggies less annoying to their fellow pedestrians and make life easier for everyone.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Thoughts from advice columns: the lady who walks her girlfriend on a leash

We live in a family-oriented neighbourhood in the heart of our city. Dozens of kids ride bikes, play soccer and so on while adults chat and watch. Last summer, one of my neighbours (with three sons) told me he saw a woman walking her girlfriend on a leash. I told him he must have been fantasizing. Sure enough, a woman with long dreads and multiple piercings (I’d seen her before; she rents a basement apartment on the street) came around the corner walking her girlfriend on a leash. We’ve seen it many times since then, in the middle of the day. My four-year old daughter asked me why the lady was wearing a leash. I told her that she was pretending to be a dog and that the other lady was playing the owner. My daughter loves inventing her own play scenarios and easily accepted my explanation. This has been going on since last summer, so it’s obviously a happy, long-term relationship. But I don’t love having to explain S&M role-play to my four-year old and would appreciate if the dog-walking happened after, say 9 p.m. What would you do?

I think LW's response to her daughter is perfect and nothing more needs to be said.

However, I was surprised when David Eddie said, in his reply:

I mean, I think you’ve handled your daughter’s questions in a very elegant and clever fashion, so far. But as time goes by, she may come to doubt what you’ve told her – or some older kid will tip her off. And she may resent you for that [...]

I can't imagine the daughter resenting the mother for her answer, because her answer is perfectly true.  Yes, it's simplified and unnuanced, that doesn't make it wrong.  When I was a kid, before I learned where babies come from, my mother would mention in passing that the male of the species has to fertilize the female of the species to produce young.  (I'm pretty sure this first came up in the context of chickens and eggs, but for as long as I can remember I've known it to apply to all animals.)  When I got a bit older and my mother read Where Did I Come From? to me, I didn't feel resentful or betrayed to learn that the fertilization is done with the penis.  I just thought "Oh, so that's how it's done.  Kinda gross." and moved on.