AY "MARHABAN" to aspiring unsuccessful doctor and ruler of the planet, and current conceptual game designer, Samantha Nicole Seymour. Or, as she prefers to be called, Ladybug.
At 7:13 a.m., June 8, 2000, when nurse/midwife Judy Dowd cut away the caul over my emerging child's head and placed a newborn Samantha in my hands, what first seized my attention was a brilliant pair of pale, dark-ringed blue eyes that intelligently and very calmly appraised me and the brave new world that greeted them. And so came Sam's first nickname: Bright Eyes.
Naturally, it did not take long for this epithet to fade into the past, replaced by another of Sam's own choosing.
"Ladybug" takes her nickname from her favorite computer game, Bugdom (although she has not actually played it in two months), but has since created (in her mind, at least) a more complicated but generally analogous offshoot called Ladybug Game, in which the eponymous arthropods rescue caged pill-bugs through 20 levels. This is but one of Sam's many cyberfavorites: Others include ClarisWorks (painting), Photoshop, plenty of downloaded games, and a selection of reference and educational programs, among which her choices are a CD multimedia encyclopedia and a medical reference/teaching program called The Family Doctor.
With occasional assistance in reading some of the more abstruse anatomical terms, Sam has learned quite a bit from the last-named program. Asked why, she'll tell you, "I want to be an unsuccessful doctor."
There is a story underlying this.
After accompanying her mother to a doctor's appointment at age two, Sam decided she wanted to be a doctor. Seeing a disciplinary tool ready to hand, I told her, the next time she started fussing to get something right now, "Patience, Sam. Always remember: A successful doctor must have patients."
Without pausing to acknowledge my edifying pun, Samantha promptly parried, "I don't want to have patients!" I reminded her that in that case she couldn't be a successful doctor, and she then debuted the "unsuccessful doctor" career plan.
Already an inveterate punster, Sam cracked her first one at the age of 18 months: Asked why she'd put a ponytail fastener around her stuffed rabbit's ears, she announced proudly, "It's a hare tie!"
Sam at four and a half: Gifted? You make the call
O SAY THAT Sam is not a typical four-and-a-half-year-old is roughly akin to saying that the Sahara Desert is not a typical sandbox: She will tell you herself (and quite proudly), "I'm not normal! And while she emphatically denies being "smart" (ever since my sister gave her part of a chocolate banana slug on Christmas, 2002; an event she remembers vividly because, in Bugdom, banana slugs are toxic), she will admit to "clever," "intelligent" or even "a little bit brilliant," although she categorically denies being a genius.
On this final point, however, there are varying opinions.
We haven't watched much television since 2001 (when we jettisoned our TV), but a scene from "The Simpsons" is forever etched in my memory engrams: A two- or three-year-old Lisa is playing with blocks, and stacks four of them so as to spell, from top to bottom, the word "STAR." Then, as she tries with limited success to draw her parents' attention to her achievement, elder brother Bart bursts into the room, yelling that he'd just scored a home run. All eyes focus on Bart, while in the background a despondent Lisa knocks down the blocks. These so fall as to spell "RATS," perfectly summarizing Lisa's mood.
A tangy slice of wry, and a well-aimed dart at America's preference for athletes over intellectuals.
Such preferences, however, are founded upon prejudice and therefore exist to be refuted. And we think Sam (a kind of real-life Lisa Simpson) may be the refutation.
On her way, Sam has certainly made an impression on doctors in some very disparate ways. Once at age two, she accompanied my wife to a gynecological appointment; during the examination, she saw a part she recognized from her recent anatomy studies, pointed to it, and stentoriously announced: "V-----!" (This is a family site, so I will let you work out what part was meant.)
A few months later, Sam went to her own doctor, Salem Magarian, for vaccinations. So amazed was the latter by her demonstrations of learning that he called in two nurses to watch as she meandered around the examining room, singing the (in)famous Alphabet Song, identifying dates on the calendar, counting to 99 (what she felt like counting to that day), spelling her full name, and stating upon request our address and telephone number.
Just the facts, if you will
Date of birth: June 8, 2000
Time of birth: 7:13 a.m.
Height (length) at birth: 20 in. (50 cm)
Weight at birth: 8 lb, 5.5 oz. (3.77 kg)
Current report (as of February 23, 2005)
Age: 4 yrs., 8 mos.
Height: 3 ft., 8 in. (1.10 m)
Weight: 40 lb. (18.18 kg)
Shoe size: 11
General health: Robust. One illness requiring antibiotic treatment (ear infection at age two); several flu-like illnesses with low-grade fever, requiring over-the-counter or no treatment. Constantly active; flexible, strong, fast; excellent coordination; lightning reflexes.
Appetite: Excellent but distinctive: Starts light and grows to crescendo just before bed. Favorite foods include: pesto over fusilli or linguine; avocado; tortillas, both whole wheat (which must be divided in quarters) and flour (which must be divided in sixths); naan, whole wheat (must have two-thirds per serving); avocado; chicken breast; ground-turkey balls; baby corn; baby beets; "monster" (muenster) cheese; Annie's macaroni and cheese; chocolate milk ("bunny"); grape juice. Nonfavorite foods comprise virtually everything else, and are likely to be rejected out of hand.
Verbal/intellectual: Extremely self-guided. Superlative categorizer: Learns of dangerous objects and extrapolates to classes; consequently, has never been burned, fallen from anything (since age 8 months), or cut herself. (At one year, whenever she found a sharp object left in her reach, she would bring the offending implement to my wife and very solemnly hand it to her.)
Motor: Walking since 10 months; running since 12 months; manipulates small tools and performs intricately detailed operations on computer and otherwise; handles eating utensils and writing implements inexpertly but to fairly good effect.
Toilet training: A challenge. Uses her potty readily enough to urinate, but appears to have phobia regarding defecation in same and demands diapers for that purpose.
Emotional: See section below.
Personality in public: Described as cerebral and initially shy but opens up when engaged. Often remarked as a quiet observer, but plays boisterously and joyously with her friends, has a ready and charming smile and is quick to laugh.
Personality at home: Independent; loudly vocal; incessantly active (starting slowly but quickly coming up to speed); demanding; obsessively perfectionistic; volatile; driven to obtain knowledge; self-assured, -confident and -willed. Sam has been known to defeat coercion (by such threats as a timeout or confiscation of one of her toys) by volunteering for the one or handing us the other. She also has been known to go to bed hungry rather than submit to eating something she does not like. (Aside: Developmentally, her age is supposed, according to pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton, to present a sort of preview of adolescence. If so, I can hardly wait for the real show.)
Note: Has bestowed nicknames from Bugdom on every member of our combined family and several of our family friends. For example: I am Water Taxi; my wife is Spider From Level Four; my wife's mother is Thorax (the Ant King); my father is a Boxing Fly, my sister a Caterpillar, and my mother Fire From Levels Six and Nine. Our friend Suzanne Beecher, however, is the reigning champion, being at once a Dragonfly and a Buddy Bug.
Preferred activities: Graphic arts; math problems; computer games; puzzles; reading; general learning.
Notes regarding above to date, enumerated by activity:
Graphic arts: Combining Photoshop and the much more primitive but surprisingly capable ClarisWorks, produces and edits art like a professional. Uses multiple clipboards to import/export images; works in fine detail, zooming as necessary; intelligently simulates transparency effects in ClarisWorks; elegantly solves problems with retained invisible backgrounds in imported images; well versed in all tools in Claris and rapidly mastering the great many in Photoshop. Attention to detail is astounding: Often examines and changes individual pixels at high magnification. Likes to narrate her actions aloud, step by step; this unfortunately is probably rather hard on our neighbors. Independently finds/looks up graphic elements to copy from books or other household objects, as well as downloading them from the internet. Incorporates elements from life, games, imagination and intellectual concepts: Four-dimensional mathematical models of the universe, foreign alphabets and her favorite characters from real life and fiction have thematically coexisted in her recent paintings.
Math problems: Demands several (occasionally many) per day, and will specify what kind, although usually willing to learn new kinds once the old ones have been assimilated to her satisfaction.
Computer games: Has recently appeared to become bored with our selection of games, preferring to spend her computer time doing artwork. It is impressive, however, to watch her play Bugdom. She has played all the levels, although she now restricts herself to levels four, six, eight, nine and ten, and has no trouble defeating Thorax and winning the game. Most interesting, though, is her treatment of the ants: She refuses to kill an ant on principle, and will go to great lengths to cause them to get stuck on various obstacles; this is fortunately not difficult, as they will throw their spears and then walk to retrieve them in a straight line. I have seen her leave as many as 19 of them running in place with their abdomens pressed against a rock that lies athwart their path to their spears. (Online, it is also noteworthy that she has successfully played Fly Sui, catching flies with chopsticks until she got tired of it; when she quit, she had twice as much time on her clock as she did when she started, and had caught over 500 flies.)
Puzzles: Enjoys both computer-based and actual jigsaw puzzles; easily assembles (within 20 minutes) a puzzle consisting of a map of Mexico whose pieces represent provinces, without any model to guide her. Upon receipt of a book of six 24-piece Jigsaw Ocean puzzles, she promptly disassembled the puzzles and mixed up all the pieces; over the next hour and a half, she then proceeded to reassemble all six puzzles without referring to the diagrams. (Also imaginatively and creatively arranges Lego sculptures of people, animals and robots.)
Reading: Has unusual preferences. Recently, her bedtime "story" has actually been selected passages from California State Series' The Insects, an informative and only moderately sawdust-reminiscent entomology text. Also likes more conventional fare: Dr. Seuss, Winnie-the-Pooh, and such children's classics as Robert McCloskey's Make Way For Ducklings, Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd's Goodnight Moon and Maurice Sendak's spectral fairy tale Outside Over There. Fond, too, of the nonsense verses of Edward Lear.
General learning: Independently studies varying and constantly evolving areas of interest from text and reference books, on the internet, and from CD-driven and hard drive-installed reference/learning applications, as well as by having me read to her. Takes every opportunity to read signs, labels, computer alerts, lists of files, headlines and captions from books and newspapers, and titles of songs on CD cases. (Reads these last well enough, in fact, to program our CDs, naming each song in turn in the order in which she wants them placed.) The general impression she sometimes produces is that of some supernal but utterly alien entity, far superior to mankind in intellect but lacking knowledge of our world, which has set itself the task of remedying that defect as speedily and efficiently as possible.
Learning style: Unprecedented to my knowledge. Sam has never asked a question. Her approach is to guess the answer and await confirmation and/or correction. And since she is more often right than not, she will occasionally argue if corrected.
Vocabulary: Uses polysyllables in sentences with correct pronunciation and usage; demonstrates knowledge of their definitions. Still occasionally (and articulately) laments the loss (over two years ago) of her pachycephalosaurus. Pronounces "diphthong" correctly ... and actually knows what one is.
Reading: Taught with a sort of home-brewed phonetic strategy, Sam started to read before she could walk. Apart from her command of a fairly substantial array of specialized terms from subjects she has studied, I believe she reads at approximately a second-grade level. Her simpler books (e.g., Goodnight Moon) are quite easy for her to read, while others require differing degrees of assistance when she encounters unfamiliar words that she finds difficult to syllabify.
Writing: Although she does write with pencil or crayon on paper, Sam far prefers mouse and monitor, and has become a blazing-fast typist for someone who still uses one finger at a time and seems to have memorized the keyboard layout well enough to begin touch-typing soon. The list of words that she can spell unassisted is large and grows daily, but we still need to stand by to assist when she encounters non-phonetic words that she has not typed previously. Also writes a tiny bit of both Arabic and Chinese, which are to be found in her recent paintings; their characters, of course, she must draw by hand.
Mathematics: Conversant with simple arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of small numbers); aware of negative numbers and incorporates equations yielding them into her art; understands variables and performs basic algebraic operations; knows difference between prime and composite numbers and, given time, can identify selected numbers as one or the other after attempting to factor them; understands and works with fractions (Remember those quarters and sixths of tortillas!); knows the number of degrees in a circle, triangle or tetragon; knows the number of sides found on regular polygons, from triangles to dekagons; knows number of zeros in billions through decillions, and can therefore type them out correctly; can square small numbers and find integral square roots; can distinguish between integers, fractions and decimals; knows formulae for finding diameter, circumference and area of a circle from its radius; can find the hypotenuse and area of a right triangle given the lengths of its legs; can find the area of a rectangle given its length and width; understands the four-dimensionality of spacetime and the theoretical reciprocal perpendicularity of the dimensions, and attempts to illustrate these principles in her art.
Art: This is addressed in the Preferred Activities section.
Music: In addition to popular American/western music (Sting/the Police, the Cars, Blondie, Madonna, Peter Gabriel), Sam has been exposed since infancy to some of the works of Rachmaninoff (she loves "The Isle of the Dead"), Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov. Occasionally enjoys the classical/folk music of the Guo Brothers. Has lately listened to Middle Eastern/North African music: Favorite artists include Amina Annabi, Zohar, Nawal al-Zoghbi, Andy Madadian and Olga Tanon. Likes to sing along with and/or dance to many of the above, including the classical compositions. Has thoroughly memorized the titles, order and length of all songs on all CDs; can say, for example, that "The Little Black Egg" is song number 7 on Cars CD 2, and that it is 2:54 long; will also occasionally spontaneously remark a coincidence of length between songs on separate and otherwise unrelated CDs.
Chess: Knew names of pieces at age one; knew the moves by age two. Resisted playing for some time, however, owing to a fear of pawns, and consequently has not yet progressed to tactical and strategic concepts. Is a member of the Free Internet Chess Server (FICS), using the handle Ladybug, and has so far played two unrated games. Incorporates chess into her art, plays with the pieces and talks about them. An outstanding feat: Placed eight queens on an empty board in such a manner that no two of them attacked one another, a puzzle that has defeated millions of experienced players.
Science: Described in Preferred Activities section and elsewhere. Conversant with elementary genetic theory; well versed in anatomy and basic physiology (human and animal); knows the names, order and relative sizes of the planets of our solar system (in fact, she says she's "one percent" Jovian); knows the general appearance of the major constellations (from a program called Starry Night); understands effects of combining various pigment or light colors in differing proportions.
Languages: Along with me and my wife, Sam is now learning Arabic (hence the "marhaban"). Has also learned a smattering of Mandarin Chinese, Latin, ancient Greek and French. Uses all five languages in her art, although not always in a way that is easily recognized. (We are introducing these languages now because I believe Sam's mind is more supple and she is therefore better fitted for language-learning now than is likely to be the case later in her life. It also tends to prevent the formation of cultural prejudice; and if there is anything we aim to discourage, it is prejudice.)
Samantha is the feminine form of Samuel, Hebrew for "told by God"; Nicole is the feminine of Nicholas, Greek for "victory of the people." I chose Sam's first name after researching meanings and preparing a list of ten finalists some three months before she was born, while my wife did the same with her middle name.
Y FAVORITE WORD in Mandarin Chinese is "dahoutian," meaning "the day after the day after tomorrow." As a friend of mine has suggested, this would make a fine Procrastinator's Motto. Indeed, so remiss have I been in updating this page that none of Sam's art more recent than 2003 has so far appeared here a circumstance I propose to remedy dramatically.
If I tell you that Sam has now produced no fewer than 436 paintings, you may find this somewhat remarkable. But in fact this is an understatement: So frequently does Sam reopen and modify her existing documents that in effect it would be more accurate to estimate that she has really produced at least twice that number, for almost every painting has undergone substantial change, and some have been essentially redone with images that need not even correspond with the work's original titles.
Under these circumstances, it is of course not feasible to include every opus here. I have therefore made a subjective selection among the most recent of them, including nothing last modified prior to last November. Even so, there are 120 of them linked from this page, making the download time for thumbnails prohibitive; accordingly, I have been compelled to use text links. To view a painting in a new window, click its title below.
I would have preferred to provide explanatory text with each piece, but have been convinced by the sheer volume of the undertaking to omit it. If you desire more information about any painting appearing below, please e-mail me, and I will reply at my earliest convenience.
Warning: Some of these images are rather large, and may take up to a minute and 39 seconds to load via at 28K internet connection. Please be patient.