Saturday, July 25, 2009

Baby's first... junk mail?

She's just over a month old, but Mikaela already received her first piece of junk mail today. It's from these folks at the Washington State Department of Health, and technically it's addressed to "The Parent(s) or Guardian(s) of Mikaela Stephanie Cuthbert," but it's nonetheless official: her name has been indelibly entered into mass marketing databases.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

First days and photos!

First and foremost, have some pictures. We have more, limited only by how speedily I can get them transferred and uploaded.

The first nights back from the hospital have been pleasant. Yes, you read that correctly. The main reason for this: now we're only being woken up by Mikaela, whereas before we also had caretakers coming in every 30-60 minutes to take vital signs and perform other tests. Don't get me wrong -- our care was second to none -- but it's nice to be able to get sleep which is a bit less interrupted.

Breastfeeding has been an adventure. I was starting to worry about whether Mikaela was getting dehydrated on Friday and was trying to figure out how to supplement the minuscule bits colostrum with glucose water, trying to make feeding sessions a bit more productive and less fussy by calming her, etc. And I was feeling guilty, because I couldn't actually feed her and take some of the burden off of Tamara. However, she politely but firmly assured me that this was all normal. Sure enough, she's getting a fair bit of milk now and feeding lasts a decent amount of time.

My role -- and one I'm happy with -- is to be Tamara's arms and legs when she's feeding.

Aside from when she's hungry, I'm actually somewhat good at getting Mikaela's fussiness under control. I've been using the techniques from The Happiest Baby on the Block. I'll quickly swaddle her, pick her up and turn her on her side, shush loudly into her ear, and sway her a bit, and Mikaela will quickly fall into that quiet-alert state. It's been remarkably effective for us.

Note that I don't recommend the book itself. While the techniques in it may work, it's more of an exercise in self-promotion by the pediatrician-author. I find some of the ancillary claims dubious.

Anyway, things are going remarkably well. Well enough, at least, that I have time to write this up here. :-)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

And baby makes three...

Our daughter, Mikaela Stephanie Cuthbert, was born today (6/24/09) at 10:27 am PDT. A healthy 6 lbs 5 oz, 19 inches long. Mother and daughter are both doing great (and napping as I take a few moments away to write this :-).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Triathlon distances

What I don't get about most triathlons: the swims are usually short, often not even half-marathons. My casual swim workout is longer than most tri swims. These are followed by ridiculously long bike rides and marathon or longer runs.

IronMan Canada, I'm looking at you. Which of these things is not like the other?
  • A 180 km bike ride
  • A 42.2 km run
  • A 3800 m swim

Friday, May 22, 2009

Seawalls and chains

Yesterday, as I was bicycling from the ferry terminal, there were 15 or so fire, police, and medical units by the Washington Street Public Boat Landing, an old landing built on top of the seawall by Alaskan Way. This entire area is reclaimed land -- mostly rubble from the Great Seattle Fire that was pushed into Elliot Bay -- and highly unstable.

Well, as it turns out, some poor fellow fell into a hole when the sidewalk collapsed underneath him. According to comments on the Seattle Times version of the story, he was singing "Down In A Hole" (Alice In Chains) while being rescued.

Speaking of chains... I managed to snap my bicycle chain on my ride home yesterday. Apparently, I don't know my own strength. Anyway, the guys at the bike shop said I'm supposed to brag about this, hence this mention in my blog.

If you come across a broken chain lying along New Brooklyn Road on Bainbridge, now you'll know why.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Have I mentioned that jellyfish annoy me?

I've been swimming in Port Orchard fairly regularly since mid-April. The water surface temperature has been averaging 50°F or so -- chilly, but tolerable.

Last week, though, the surface temperature rose to the mid-50's. Apparently, the jellyfish polyps take this as a sign to bud off and produce juveniles. Fortunately, the jellies in Puget Sound are incapable of stinging humans. However, that doesn't mean the swimming through schools of them won't irritate your skin, as I can now personally attest.

In other news... um, well, there isn't much other news. Work exists, but nothing blog worthy. Bean arrives in a little more than a month, and we're insanely excited.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Another black eye for CFLs

Lifetimes shorter than advertised.
Slow (minutes-long) start up times.
Environment-contaminating mercury.

Now add power consumption to the list of reasons why compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) aren't all they cracked up to be.

This EDN article points out that CFLs have a terrible power factor, between 0.4 and 0.6. In layman's terms, this means the lamps are using 66 to 150% more energy than advertised: a 13 watt lamp may require the power company to actually pump the energy equivalent of 32.5 watts down the line to light it up.

The good news -- for you, at least -- is that you're not actually billed this larger amount. Electric meters measure "real power" -- the 13 watts put off by the bulb. The bad news -- for the utilities and the environment -- is that the electric company has to provide the "apparent power", or the equivalent of 32.5 watts.

This is still less than the 60 watts needed for an incandescent bulb, but it does eat away at the magic of CFLs.

(Apparent power is usually given in volt-amperes; this is dimensionally equivalent to a watt, but this helps us electrical geeks to distinguish when we're talking about "real" vs. "apparent" power.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Does not compute

An article in today's AP news feed claims that 1 in 5 four year-olds are obese. Sure, obesity is a problem in our populace and it's no surprise that this is reflect in our children.

However, the definition they're using is suspect:
Children were considered obese if their body-mass index, a height-weight ratio, was in the 95th percentile or higher based on government BMI growth charts.
If they're using the 95th percentile, then only 1 in 20 (5%) of children are obese by definition.

What they really meant: "95th percentile or higher based on historical government BMI growth charts." In other words, a category which used to constitute 5% of four year-olds now represents 20% of them. Or, heck, quit with the political correctness and just set a number: obesity in four year-olds is defined as a BMI or 18 kg/m2 or higher. Save the percentiles for justifying how you decided upon using 18 as the magic number.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Weekend chores and pranks

It was dark and snowy on Wednesday. Today, it was sunny and in the upper 60s. Such a dramatic change injects a lot of energy into people, and we were no exception.

The kid's room is now ready -- wallpapered, all electrical sockets have been childproofed, drapes are up, and all other adornments are adorned. The attachments needed to mount the used bike rack we got for my car have been obtained and the rack is successfully attached. We even cleaned up the yard a bit -- mowed the grass, ripped out a lot of blackberries, and mulched it all. I also got some mounting hardware for my traffic signal and painted it all (Ace Hardware appliance paint -- spray paint mixed with epoxy -- is excellent stuff).

I also got a small bike ride in and did a bit of swimming in Port Orchard. No distance; this was more of an acclimatization exercise -- the air may have been 68°F, but the water is still around 47°F. I can definitely feel the difference since last November. Back in November, it would take me about 3 minutes to acclimate myself to the cold; now, it's up to 8-10 minutes and the cold is still noticeable.

Anyway, while riding back from Port Orchard on my bike, I thought of an interesting prank. North Korea claims that it successfully launched the Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite, though everyone knows that it was really a failed missile test. They claim that it's orbiting every 104 minutes and broadcasting patriotic songs on 470 MHz (that's UHF TV channel 14, should you want to try picking it up on your rabbit ears). Alas, nobody has actually heard anything on this frequency.

Which got me thinking...

What would people do if I set up a transmitter on this frequency and blasted "Song of General Kim Il Sung" and "Song of General Kim Jong Il" on it, fading it in and out every 104 minutes? What kind of rationalizations would folks make? How quickly would the hoax be discovered?

On that last question: my guess is fairly quickly, but that wouldn't stop a new group of conspiracy theorists from forming their own cute new clique.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Carnival commute

How many of you can claim you had a carnival in the vehicle you commute in?

Well, that's what happened today on the 6:20 Seattle-Bainbridge ferry. Jugglers, musicians (including two accordions), face painters, and clowns. I wish my cell phone had a camera. I'll have to keep an eye out on Flickr and other sites to see if someone posts their pictures.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Freud's field day

First, for those who haven't heard: I'm going to be the proud father of a bouncy baby girl this July!

This process, though, has resulted in some very bizarre dreams for me. The first notable one was your typical adequacy anxiety dream: I was at work, looked at a clock, and realized I had forgotten to go to the hospital for the delivery. Nobody could drive me there, either. Apparently buses and taxis didn't exist, so I was panicking.

A few weeks later, a dream finds me and Tamara at the hospital for a checkup. Upon leaving, a nurse comes out with a three year-old girl and two year-old boy and happily pronounces, "Congratulations! Here are your kids!" I try to explain that my wife is still pregnant, that these could not possibly be my kids given that they're nowhere close to being newborns, that we'd be willing to go through tests to prove this, but to no avail. She condescendingly tries to reassure me: "A lot of new fathers have problems at first and are in denial, but these are most definitely your kids. Off you go!"

Last night, my girl was just born and the doctors tell me, "She's unusually advanced, mentally, for a newborn." This turns out to be a bad thing. Mentally advanced means she's already acting like a teenager. A day later, she's wearing eye shadow, has a nose ring, and is trying to get into all kinds of things that teenagers do, but in an infant's body. She finds this incredibly frustrating, as do I, but for different reasons.

Freud could retire early and comfortably if he had me as a patient.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I don't understand the economics behind femtocells. A femtocell is a device you plug in at home, expanding a cell phone company's coverage by using your internet connection. This allows you to have a better signal and takes a load off the cell phone company's towers and networks.

Great, I say. How much of a discount will they give me from my bill for doing this?

Answer: None, and they may actually charge you for this "service". Sprint wants $10-$20/month. Verizon will let you have it for free, but still deducts your minutes even though you're not using their network!

What a wonderful business model -- if you're a cell phone company. Charging customers to subsidize your business. And you don't even have to break any kneecaps or hire mafia thugs.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

IBM's glaring omission

I just saw IBM's "What is a Petaflop?" commercial. In it, they state that this computer can be used to "redesign our energy grid; cure diseases in our vascular system; simulate the big bang; we can build smarter cities; cut down on crime, disease, gridlock, global warming; it can help us make the world work better."

Alas, they omit the most widely used application for supercomputers: designing nuclear weapons. The TOP500 list has a number of IBM installations at Department of Energy sites; you can probably guess what they mean when they list the application area as not specified.

On the positive side, at least this means they're not testing actual weapons on people.