[Just imagine picture of Owen looking solid, 70s soul style. Long leather coat, sideburns and a mustache, a little Curtis Mayfield in the background.]
Five days on, Owen is definitely into solid food. It's still rice cereal, but he is way beyond that first day of rice and milk soup, now preferring a drier, chunkier preparation. As soon as I got out the cereal and bowl last night, his eyes were fixed on me. Only a couple of times did he grab the inbound, food-laden spoon. Mainly he lunged for it, mouth open, like a great white going after a piece of chum.
This is but one example of how quickly Owen is learning these days. His ability to physically manipulate things improves seemingly day by day. His own locomotion is still limited, but not for long, I don't think. On his stomach, he'll see something in front of him, and he knows that there is a way to get there; he hasn't figured it out yet, but you can see the wheels turning. (It's the same look he had when he started to recognize his hands as his own, not as independent, slashing creatures.) The best he can muster is repeated pushing up and letting back down, which unfortunately causes him to inch backwards.
Friday, December 28, 2007
[Just imagine picture of Owen looking solid, 70s soul style. Long leather coat, sideburns and a mustache, a little Curtis Mayfield in the background.]
Posted by travis at 11:02
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Every parent knows that they must watch their language, or else baby's first word will be dropping the f-bomb when grandma and grandpa are visiting. But a new study suggests that, in addition to mimicry, babies have and exercise moral judgment, preferring those anthropomorphic, colored shapes who help others. (We can only assume that the same judgment is applied to people.)
So why is Owen fussing and not wanting to be held by Dad? He's just in a fussy mood? Maybe. Or maybe it's because Dad didn't help Mom unload the car yesterday afternoon.
(Aside: I love that "87.5 percent of 10-month olds" chose the helping shape. Think that maybe they had eight babies in the study? But "87.5 percent" is so much more scientific sounding than "seven of eight".)
Posted by travis at 07:21
Friday, December 14, 2007
I began something like a narrative with my posts about Owen's sleeping (or not), so I feel I ought to provide some followup. A week-and-a-half on, things are going well. Going to and staying asleep without a pacifier was a pretty easy change. The early morning (3-4 AM) meal has been harder to address, but we've whittled him down to a mere ounce (as of this morning), and two of the last four nights, he hasn't wanted it at all.
Actually, the low signal-to-noise ratio is a challenge, and was even before starting this process. Dr Ferber and his ilk describe the starting habit to be changed as a thing of metronomic regularity: the baby wants a pacifier, 2:35 bottle, holding, freshly pressed raw silk onesie, etc, every night. But at least with the feeding, our O bounced around, sometimes earlier, sometimes later, sometimes not at all. So is it a behavior or just bad luck? And on nights we've seen improvements, is it progress or just good luck? Over many nights, there's a trend, but it makes things a bit trickier than described in the books.
Owen's put a new trick in the mix: rolling on to his stomach at night. Yay for developing motor skills, but the poor dude still seems to associate being face down with tummy time. So he wakes himself up, gets frustrated, and starts fussing. I walk in to find him in the yoga cobra position in his crib, crying. But give him a little push on to his back, he grabs his piggie blanket, curls to his side, and back to sleep.
Another new trick: Owen was lying on his back, holding a toy in his left hand. He saw another toy to his left, but couldn't grab it reaching his empty right hand across his body. So he handed the first toy from his left hand to his right, then could reach the new toy with his left hand. What a problem solver! (Of course, he accidentally pushed away the object of his desire with his left hand, but that's not the point.)
Finally, these last two days, he's been very boyish. He's started grabbing at the cats' tails and can make a mighty racket by banging toys on his high-chair tray.
Posted by travis at 07:19
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Beyond the pacifier, Owen's sleep can also be tricky on account of nighttime feedings, which number one or two. "Or" is critical, here, as we've no way of telling beforehand which sort of night this is. It appears that tonight was a two-feeding night, hence the persistent yelling.
Happily, Dr Ferber does have advice on nighttime feedings (reduction of, as eating throughout the night can cause or exacerbate other sleep problems). However, the response is not the same as for de-pacifying. So the Ferberization continues, though maybe we are Ferberizing something other than we had thought. Or, perhaps we are reverting to the better-known technique of making it up as we go.
Posted by travis at 04:25
We are currently "Ferberizing" Owen. For those readers without babies on the brain, Dr Ferber is the author of a fairly well-known book on infant and child sleeping. His technique for getting a child to learn to sleep better is, broadly speaking, crying it out. Dr Ferber's key contribution to this traditional method, it seems to me, is breaking crying-it-out into smaller chunks of time, by having the parent go in to check on the wailing tot. Ostensibly, this is to reassure the child that he has not been forever abandoned by previously caring parents; it is also a useful way to assuage the parents' concern that the child might be in multiple pieces or have a large, sharp bit of metal stuck in him.
So that's why I'm blogging at 0315: because I'm waiting for either a) the current 15-minute period to end, or b) Owen to stop crying. The difficulties Owen has with sleeping, such as they are, seem to be linked to the pacifier. He's in the habit of sleeping with one. It will fall out during the night, so when he has a normal waking in the middle of the night, he can't get back to sleep. On some nights, it has been a trivial once or twice that we go and put the bink back in his mouth; on others, it's been significantly more trying. We were planning to live with it for a while longer before making a concerted effort to decouple pacifiers from sleeping - perhaps Owen would even learn to find the paci and put it back in his mouth himself - but then he had a couple of nights when he was crying mightily at bedtime, even with pacifier and high-strength cribside comforting from Mom or Dad. In the midst of this last night, we decided, "Dude, if you're going to cry your head off no matter what, it might as well be by yourself."
[Pause to check on Owen. Confirmed: all in one piece; no large, sharp bits of metal. Now for more waiting.]
He only cried for 25 minutes at bedtime last night, and then lightly for another 25 minutes early in the morning. We considered this to be pretty good, so our decision seemed a clever piece of parenting judo, using Owen's momentum towards our own end. But O! - beware the cockiness, young parent! This current round of wakefulness is at 50 minutes and going strong.
Posted by travis at 03:05
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
"Mind the gap," says the pleasant sounding woman on the London Underground. This pleasant sounding woman, Emma Clarke, recently recorded some funny, spoof announcements about tourists, leering at women, sudoku, and other unpleasant aspects of traveling on the Tube. The word from Reuters earlier this week was that said humor, posted on Ms Clarke's website, had cost her her gig with the Underground.
Posted by travis at 06:50
We had Thanksgiving in Belpre with a big crowd: Grandad, Dad, AP, Aunt Ann, Cousin E, his sister Michelle, her daughters Christine and Shelby, and Shelby's new baby, Christian (plus six dogs). Lots of time was spent watching and holding the babies (with perhaps a picture or two taken). Christian is only three weeks older than Owen, so it was fun to watch them together. Of course we had a delicious, traditional Thanksgiving meal. Less traditionally, we had some flooding in the basement. Kerry and I were driving Thursday morning and so missed the actual water, catching only the tail end of the wet carpet ripping-up and removal. However, though Michelle and Dad did the lion's share of the work, I did get to help in the laying of the Pergo floor and the re-moving of the furniture.
Owen has new skills and traits:
- He now has a sense of anticipation, mainly with respect to my hands. When we're playing, he'll sometimes get very excited when he sees my hands slowly drifting towards his face (where they can be grabbed and, hopefully, drawn into the mouth). Or, tickle, tickle, tickle - stop! with the hands put behind the back - brings big smiles when he knows the tickling will return.
- He can pass small objects from one hand to the other, and use the hands in tandem for holding larger objects.
- He can hold his body upright pretty well. (Boy, the things one finds newsworthy...) An exersaucer is in his near future.
- After weeks of trying, he can put his foot in his mouth (literally). And no sooner did one foot go in than he was trying to get both in simultaneously.
Posted by travis at 06:45
Friday, November 16, 2007
"This call may be recorded for training and quality purposes." Heard before almost any customer support phone conversation, I had never thought much about this warning/disclaimer. But did you know that, when such a phone call is recorded, very often the entire call is recorded, including your time on hold? I heard about an interview with a quality assurance/training guy whose job was to review these recorded phone calls. He said he heard all sorts of things while people were on hold and thought they were in private. Arguments, drug deals, and some things about which he just said that, had the call been live, he'd have dialed 911.
Apparently this is not a new thing, and I suppose it makes sense that the recording machine wouldn't necessarily know if you were on hold or not. One Internet wag suggests using the hold time to describe exactly how you feel about being placed on hold, in the hope that it is being recorded. Anyway, it's worth being aware of and may be a good reason to learn how to work the mute on your phone.
Posted by travis at 07:07
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
During the last trimester (or more) of her pregnancy, Kerry admitted to enjoying all the attention she got. I'm getting just a taste of that these days (without having to pee hourly) when I go out with O (eg, to the grocery store). People are generally interested to look and smile at him, and make a word or two of conversation with me. I know, saying hello to me is just the price of admission to look at him, but I don't mind; the reflected glow still feels nice.
Posted by travis at 06:54
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Over the past few days, I've learned a couple of useful things with respect to 3.5-month-old babies:
DO wash your hands before assembling a bottle of milk. It happens that just a touch of chili is sufficient to transform the bottle nipple from a conduit of sweet nectar into a lit match held to a great pile of Screaming Baby-brand gunpowder.
DON'T cough. Particularly, having just executed a textbook bedtime routine - clean diaper and sleeping clothes, reading a book, (non-chili-flavored) bottle, gentle laying in crib - don't cough. In a remarkable biophysical process, the sound waves of the cough are instantly metabolized by the baby into adrenaline and pain, causing immediate screaming, followed by 45 minutes of inconsolable fidgetiness.
Posted by travis at 20:10
Monday, September 10, 2007
At Owen's one-month checkup, the pediatrician noticed that Owen prefered to look to his right and encouraged us to encourage him to look left (eg, position ourselves to his left). A few weeks ago, Kerry noticed that Tiny O actually had flattened the back right of his skull through his preference for lying on his back - the only way he really can lie - and looking to his right. So we mentioned this to the (different) pediatrician at Owen's two-month checkup. I expected to hear a chuckle at our exaggerated concern, followed by something about soft baby bones and the typical, rounded shape returning once he could sit up, etc. Instead, she said, "Oh yeah, we're seeing a lot of that now that we tell parents to have their babies sleep on their backs. It won't be so noticeable once the hair grows in."
So all the well-meaning advice to us not to worry, that we won't do anything with any permanent affect on your newborn: not entirely true. Due to our disregard for symmetrical sleeping positions, Owen may never be able to play the king in "The King and I".
On the positive side, our redoubled efforts to correct, or at least minimize, the head-flattening led to a cool moment this evening. Owen was asleep in his bouncy chair, with head to the right, natch. I reached down and just turned his head and most of his torso to the left, with only the slightest of stirrings. Kerry was impressed. "Way to go, Dad." I felt like an all-star, even though the credit was really due to his comatosery. I might as well have been proud of shifting a 12lb, 4oz bag of rice in its bouncy chair.
Posted by travis at 19:30
Friday, September 07, 2007
When I was a kid, I had lots of LEGOs.
I had an M. C. Escher book.
I programmed computers and was good at math.
At Rice, I even had a course that required building a LEGO robot.
But today, I'm not building this, or these, or any of this.
Where did it all go wrong?
Posted by travis at 07:10
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Yesterday, Owen made his first trip to the mall. Within minutes, the mass consumerism overwhelmed his little system, and he passed out. He was relaxed for well over an hour of us eating and puttering around. Then, Owen had his first meal out, a bottle at Nordstrom's, sitting next to the piano. (The boy has fine tastes.) There was a big storm while we were at the mall, and when we drove home, Owen had his first specific indication of his tax dollars at work: a Howard County worker was cutting up a big tree - 54 years old, by my ring count this morning - fallen across Ivy Terrace, our only road home. So we drove down our neighbor's driveway, which actually connects to another street, and as we dashed along the side of our house to the front door, Owen was caught in the rain for the first time. All in all, quite an evening for the little guy.
Posted by travis at 22:23
Thursday, August 23, 2007
... or at least 'till 0415.
Last night was the first time Owen slept "through the night". At least, once we officially "went to bed", he was put to sleep once by Mom and Dad, and only woke up in the morning (that we heard). So not only did he sleep for about six hours at one go, but he also went a whopping eight hours from the start of one feeding to the next. (That's longer than I like to go.)
Every day being different, I look forward to Owen having three five-hour sleeps while home with Kerry today, then spending tonight in naps with durations of prime numbers of minutes (not to exceed 97).
Reporting on other Owen changes, he's now cooing and smiling regularly, and he can hold his head up during tummy time for seconds at a stretch.
Friday, August 17, 2007
It's the 1970s, and Henry Kissinger is talking with Chinese premier Zhou Enlai. Kissinger asks, "What do you think of the French Revolution?"
An awkward question for a leader in a repressive autocracy, no? How to respond? "Well, Hank, I want to spend more time with my family"? No! The nimble Zhou said:
Imagine your boss asking you what you thought about X, and your response simply being, "It's too soon to tell." You'd be sent out on your ear (or ought to be). Maybe there is something specific you are waiting to find out, or you think it doesn't matter, but you've got to know something. "It's too soon to tell" is nothing. (And if you really can't tell anything about a social event after almost 200 years - three healthy human lifetimes - your analysis is likely meaningless anyway.) Or more accurately, it can *always* be too soon to tell. Zhou could have said, "This too, shall pass," but then the listeners would have yawned. We've heard that before.
But Zhou's gem was novel, and somehow, people seemed to, and keep seeming to, buy it. Not, "Umm, he didn't really say anything," but, "Wow, the Chinese, they really take the long view. They have such a subtle understanding of the consequenses of actions." The story's even become a sort of fable* to be trotted out whenever someone wants to demonstrate their own profound, long-term perspective. (The meanest-looking Muppet on Earth told this tale Wednesday in an FT editorial on Rove's legacy, which is what set off this current post.)
* I think I've heard it said that the exchange didn't really go down as commonly recounted. So much the better. It's such a brilliant non-answer that people are willing to deceive themselves to make it happen.
P.S. I think this may become a canonical rant.
Posted by travis at 15:23
Monday, August 13, 2007
... Rove around the Hill Country.
So Karl Rove is resigning, because, "There's always something that can keep you here, and as much as I'd like to be here, I've got to do this for the sake of my family."
I don't have anything to add to the commentary on why he's leaving now, how long he's been wanting to leave, etc. I would just say that I'm tired of high-ranking public and private-sector figures leaving their jobs "to spend more time with their families". Look, ye High and Mighty, we know it's (generally) not true. You've got your reasons for leaving or being fired, and if you don't want to share those, fine. But please, don't trot out this overused line. It's almost insulting.
Posted by travis at 10:14
Thursday, August 09, 2007
10 pounds, 4 ounces is what Owen weighs. At least, that's what he weighed at the pediatrician's on Tuesday. As Kerry has noted, since the doctor visit, he's discovered that lots of time previously wasted with sleep can be productively converted to eating. He's probably not 10-11 (talking too rapidly), but once his Mimi arrives this afternoon, he will be 10-12 (visitors present).
Posted by travis at 07:11
Thursday, August 02, 2007
In the past couple of days, Genghis accumulated his first belly-button lint.
Also, his hand coordination has improved. Kerry claims that he has intentionally put a hand in his mouth and tried to gnaw on it a couple of times. I can't vouch for that, but I do know that he can do more when I'm carrying him and he's agitated. Time was, the best he could do was reach up and grab a tiny fistful of chest hair. Now, though, he can reach towards my armpit and gouge the side of my chest or, as in one proud moment last night, punch me right on the chin.
Posted by travis at 07:03
Monday, July 30, 2007
As for the book itself - no spoilers, don't worry - we liked it. Very well done. I can't see anyone reading the first six books, wanting to read the seventh, and being disappointed.
Posted by travis at 07:02
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Q: What was the first song that Kerry and Travis, independently of one another, sang to Owen?
A: The Oscar Meyer advertising jingle
I came to "My bologna has a first name..." last night via Emily's advice to sing folk songs at 3am. It wasn't 3am, but Owen was crying, so I gave "This Land Is Your Land" a try. He seemed to like it, as he did the first verse of "Blowin' in the Wind". But he hadn't previously enjoyed my improvisations on "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall", so I suspected that it wasn't the folk genre he liked as much as the Woody Guthrie/Bob Dylan hybrid voice I was affecting. I tested this theory with my folksy interpretation of the Oscar Meyer jingle. He dug it, as well as a Guthrified version of "Lush Life".
Posted by travis at 06:59
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
That's the official motto of Genghis-rearing. Case in point: Monday night, we had crying or eating for all but about two hours between 9:30pm and 4:30am (at which time I gave up and went to work). Last night, between 7:30 and 4:30, we had sleeping, interrupted only by three very calm rounds of eating, diapering, and returning to sleep.
I think the returning to sleep last night was greatly facilitated by a triple play of milk narcosis, snug swaddling, and real squeezing hold until the eyelids got heavy. (Regarding the last, I was slightly concerned that my "sleeper hold" was approaching wrestling quality - see my earlier post which mentioned the non-running-wildness of Owenmania - but all was well.) But, beyond its general truth, that's the beauty of the Genghis-rearing motto: not only does it provide comfort in rough patches, it also keeps you from getting cocky when you think you've got something figured out.
Posted by travis at 07:02
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Monday's Express reported:
A Chihuahua in Masonville, Colo. is alive and well after protecting a toddler from a rattlesnake. The 5-pound dog jumped in front of the child moments before the snake struck, suffering numerous bites.Makes me (slightly) regret all those bad things I've thought about yippy little dogs.
Posted by travis at 06:49
A week ago, picking up Scott, Carlie, and Lily at the airport, and then again at the train station yesterday, I was struck by the fact that all of us heading here and there with great purpose - maybe even to do Important Things - were once babies, whose existence could be summarized as eating, sleeping, pooping, and otherwise being fairly tiny and helpless. It's not a particularly profound observation, but the feeling of being surrounded by all those ex-infants was striking, nonetheless.
Posted by travis at 06:48
Friday, July 20, 2007
Today, I saw Owen watching the mobile over his crib while I was folding laundry. He wasn't just looking through it; he was actually tracking the different shapes floating by. Kerry says she observed the same thing yesterday (Owen watching the mobile, not me doing laundry). Either way, it's the first time we've seen him really looking at anything other than the face of the person holding him.
Posted by travis at 20:05
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Owen has increased his vocabulary in the past couple of days. When he is waking himself up, a process that may take 20-30 minutes, he often ejects a high-pitched little "Oo!" It's almost bird-like in quality, or like a single, loud hiccough. Or, as I prefer to think of it, it's the best barbaric yawp someone less than two feet tall can muster.
In the last 24 hours, Owen also seems to have developed the ability to indicate indigestion and soiled diapers. Naturally, both are announced with the same cry used during periods of hunger, certain diaper changes, and bathing, but it is an interesting development, nonetheless. We can't do anything about the indigestion (though Kerry may lay off Ros's curry for a while), but if Genghis says it's time to change a diaper, he's usually quite right.
Posted by travis at 20:14
Thursday, July 12, 2007
As with all newborns, Owen's hands are not really his own. They are semi-autonomous, often acting against his interests. His fists of fury sometimes strike his own face, leading us to repeat the schoolyard bully phrase, "Stop hitting yourself," but with a great deal more sincerity.
Owen's upper hand (or arm, really) is the "full" indicator when he is eating. The fist begins clenched by his face. As he fills up, the arm relaxes, ultimately going dead limp. One of my jobs during breastfeeding is to check the gauge. I feel like an old WWF ref checking on Hulk Hogan in a sleeper hold. I lift the arm once. It falls down limp. I lift it a second time. It falls limp again. I lift it a third time, ready to declare the match over. But before the arm hits the canvas... it stops, then begins to shake, then rise up with new energy as Hulkamania runs wild. (Actually, Owenmania doesn't really run wild. When the arm has dropped once, he's pretty much done.)
Today, Owen developed a new hand move, lifting them both overhead. When he combines it with his claw hand (versus tiny fists), he looks like an old Marvel comic book character, saying "They will learn to fear the power of Mr Furious!" or "NOOOOOOOOO!!!"
Posted by travis at 21:43
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
At almost six days old - when you're this young, the time of day is material relative to your age - Owen has reached some significant milestones:
- First package of diapers finished (Knowing what's coming for the next couple of years, noticing diaper quantities at all is amusing)
- First time peeing on Mom and Dad during a diaper change (First full day home, and a few times since)
- First time peeing on the picture of the baby panda on the wall of the nursery (Part of that memorable first pee on Mom and Dad, which also included a color-changing, open-air poo)
- First bath (Sponge bath - hated it)
- First fingernail clipping (Asleep - didn't mind so much)
- First stroller ride (Fun until the end of the driveway, then it was time to go home)
- First playtime with Dad (Hated it - Owen much prefers it when Dad sits still in a chair and lets him sleep on the lap and/or chest)
Posted by travis at 16:22
Sunday, July 08, 2007
I wrote this at 1115 on Saturday. I'd like to post some pictures, but I can't find the camera. We're back home, and believe it or not, things are not perfectly organized, running like a well-oiled machine. So day-old words for now, pictures to come later.
Background: Owen William was born at 1803 on 5 July, weighing 7lbs 7oz, 21 inches long.
There is no way I could summarize the last 52 hours. It's hard to believe that 52 hours ago, two of us, one pregnant, had just arrived at the hospital. For hours of induced labor, I didn't even seem to me that it would end in childbirth. I knew it, but it didn't really believe it. Previously, Kerry had just been pregnant, and that's what we had done for nine months. Then, it was labor, and seemingly, that, too, would go on for quite a while.
It didn't, as these things are reckoned. 11 hours after arriving, and following about an hour-and-a-half of pushing, Owen arrived. I have never seen anyone as focused as Kerry was at the end. She said pushing was the hardest thing she has ever done, and I'm not going to argue. Epidural or no, relatively short labor or no, she was tired, and that last part hurt. But she was strong and did every thing she had to to bring our baby into the world.
It was tough on Owen, too. He was a grumpy little dude for the first 18 hours of his life. With his eyes swollen from delivery, when he scowled, he looked like Yoda. Sometimes when his little, fuzzy hair stands out on his head, he looks like old Jack Nicholson. (I mention these likenesses just to illustrate that, apparently, childbirth hormones can play havok with dads' thinking, too. But it should go without saying that Owen may be the cutest baby ever.)
He can still work himself into a frenzy quite quickly. (Yes, "still". It's amazing to me that I'm so quick to perceive patterns in his behavior. With Owen at 36 hours of age, I was already saying things like, "He used to like breastfeeding in the football hold, but not anymore.") In fact, if Genghis brings home any name from the hospital besides "Owen William", it will be "Mr Furious". He can turn himself deep red, top to toes, in seconds, and when he cries hardest, his lower lip starts shaking at about 5Hz. He has a high-pitched shriek that is reserved for the most hideous events, such as a particularly offensive donning of clothes. We can only hope that shriek can be summoned up in stores, restaurants, etc, for years to come.
Many people have told us that being a parent makes you appreciate what is really important. It's already true, as the #1 topic of discussion and action has been eating. At least once every 3 hours, we are reminded that eating is important for our little guy, and yet, he's not born knowing exactly how to do it. Breastfeeding, which any casual observer might think would be the most natural thing in the world, is not the most natural thing in the world. It is a precise dance between mom and baby. When the latter is uncommunicative (apart from screaming at times), and the former is receiving incomplete and sometimes contradictory dance steps, it can be difficult. So far, each of our best sessions have been followed by at least two terrible ones. (Remember that pattern-observation thing I was talking about?) We're both convinced of the goodness of breastfeeding, but of course it is Kerry who most directly feels the pressure to be a "good mother" and nurse. When your baby is bawling and not eating, all of the well-intentioned comfort ("It will get better when your milk comes", "A lot of babies are like this at first") doesn't help a great deal. It's really hard to get past the thought, "We can't feed the baby." Of course there are the good rounds, and the well-intentioned comfort is, no doubt, based on facts. It's just hard to step back from that fundamental, immediate view.
Kerry commented that Owen had received more my skin tone than hers. Apparently she was referring to his mild jaundice. However, unlike his old man, he is not scheduled for any time under the UV lamps.
I love him loads. Not a novel observation from a new parent, but it is worth mentioning. I know this for at least two reasons. 1) I feel the sort of deep, empathetic pain for him that has previously been reserved for Kerry. When things aren't right for him, and I've got no idea how to make them right, it hits me hard in the gut. 2) Yesterday afternoon, with him asleep on my chest, holding Kerry's hand in mine, I felt such peace. I felt I could have stayed there forever.
Posted by travis at 10:58
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
About a year and a half ago, I was dismayed by the showboating over the dire security threat posed by Dubai Port World handling containers at US ports. An interesting follow-up appeared in last week's letters to The Economist:
SIR – You accepted as fact the perception that last year's uproar over DP World buying some port operations in the United States was all about national security (“DP World's long shadow”, June 16th). As any astute observer of inside Washington's Beltway would know, the uproar was more to do with the political dynamics of an election year. As proof, consider the Secure Freight Initiative, the American programme launched in direct response to our crisis: DP World is the central partner in the private sector. In other words, we are building a programme to protect America from the very same threat that Congress said we posed to America in the first place. No one on Capitol Hill has uttered a word of protest.
Posted by travis at 10:43
Monday, July 02, 2007
I expected to find articles describing Michael Moore's latest film, Sicko, about the US health care industry, as another of his propaganda-as-documentary pieces. I did not expect to find one of those articles from Kurt Loder, whom last I saw was reporting on Cyndi Lauper in 60-second MTV News bits, introduced by a Megadeth bass line.
(Doom-du-doo-de, du-du-du-doudle. I thought I was going to have to offer a free Holler Water to the first person who could tell me what Megadeth song that bass line was from, but the top hit on Google for "mtv news" megadeth revealed that it was "Peace Sells". Curse you Internet! You take the fun out of everything.)
Posted by travis at 15:34
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
I've passed some sort of biological/psychological milestone. As of yesterday, every time I get a call from Kerry, I think it's because she's gone into labor.
But am I really ready? A new reason to know "no": One of my bosses was traveling to Pakistan this week. "Was traveling", because as he was leaving London, he got word that his daughter's appendix had burst. So he landed in Dubai and turned right around. I can't imagine how that must have felt.
The very good news is that Paul's daughter is recovering fine. The lesser good news is that I'm not traveling to Pakistan any time soon.
Posted by travis at 14:06
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Congratulations to our cousin Shelby on the birth of her first child, Christian Allen. There were a couple of false starts, but she finished it off today. And as far as we know, everyone is resting happily.
Thanks to Cousin E and AP for keeping us posted via email and text message. (Actually, this post is surely redundant, as every Hollerer reader who knows Shelby has no doubt heard the news through other channels. Oh well. For some mysterious reason, I just feel like calling attention to the birth of a child.)
Posted by travis at 22:27
Friday, June 08, 2007
This Reuters article is about editors at a newspaper in China who were fired for allowing an advert honoring the mothers of those killed at Tienanmen Square. It's a relatively heavy piece for Oddly Enough, which tends to highlight incompetent criminals, wild animals wandering through cities, and the like. I think this story got filed under "odd" because of how the advert got in the paper. It did not refer to Tienanmen Square by name, mentioning only "June 4". Thanks to the effectiveness of state censorship, the young clerk had no idea what June 4 meant, never mind that it might be something verboten.
Posted by travis at 12:28
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
According to the lead story in the Financial Times today, in response to increased US and European interest in biofuels (eg, ethanol), OPEC is threatening to curtail investment and send oil prices "through the roof" (a direct quote from the Secretary General of OPEC).
Yes, double the price of oil. That will teach people to look for alternatives.
Posted by travis at 16:03
Monday, June 04, 2007
I have declared that all dreams Kerry and I have until Genghis arrives are impending parenthood anxiety dreams (iPad - take that, Steve Jobs). Not that it has required keen insight to see it on my part. Two nights ago, I dreamed I was scheduled to take a qualifying exam to skipper some sort of small, Coast Guard vessel. I had not been studying or practicing enough, and it was becoming increasingly clear that I was not going to pass. Last night in slumbertown, Kerry and I were taking our last childbirth course. Improbably, the course was being taught in a classroom lecture style, with extensive math concerning frequency and duration of contractions, etc. More improbably, the class was being taught by our differential equations prof from Rice. And to cap it all, Kerry asked a question about drugs for fathers to increase the level of support provided during childbirth - Pitocin for pops.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I'd long had suspicions as much. But on Monday, it became indisputable. We were at a barbecue where the attendees spent 15-20 minutes discussing someone's household budget. We then smoothly segued into tax withholding rates and the qualities of the corporate benefits office.
I thought it was a decent conversation. That's how I know we're yuppies, not just some blameless wayfarers lost in yuppie hell.
Posted by travis at 09:41
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
... link to David and Rita's report on the thriving Belgian country scene.
(And for the avoidance of doubt, dear reader, I'm not suggesting that *you* can't write something original. I'm using the usage of "you" where "you" means "I". You know.)
Posted by travis at 06:51
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
There are lots of Turkish flags flying around here, from flagpoles and hanging from balconies. No, I'm not commenting on them being Turkish flags - thanks for the vote of confidence - but on the number. There are more national flags on display than I am used to seeing outside of the US.
There are also a surprising number of Tweety Bird decals adhesed to store and car windows. Admittedly, the number is only about three, but it's still surprising to me. I know, American popular culture is everywhere, but why Tweety? Sure, everyone loves a bird who talks like the clergyman from The Princess Bride at 78 RPM, but how did it beat out the big names like Mickey, Snoopy, and Bugs Bunny? (Actually, there may be a broader Looney Tunes thing going on, as I saw Bugs shilling some candy-bar-like thing.)
And it just wouldn't be commentary about another country without mentioning roads and driving habits. Sadly, the drivers and roads around Ankara are fairly predictable and broad (the latter applying only to the roads). There are several places where the lane dividing lines simply disappear, but the traffic seems to flow along in 2.5 lanes without much fuss. (Confidence born of such situations may account for the relatively casual treatment of the lines when they are presents, but it's nothing to make the heart race.)
Posted by travis at 16:46
Monday, May 07, 2007
My first observation of Ankara as our plane descended this afternoon was that it looked like southern California. Actually, that was someone else's comment, and I don't konw that I would have thought of it myself, but it seemed a good description of the dry, scrubby countryside.
My real first observation, one that I actually made versus taking from someone else, was of the mosques. They all have minarets, naturally, but what really catches your eye from the air is their silver domes. At the right angle, the city was almost twinkling with reflected sun.
Riding from the airport to the hotel, I saw a couple of minarets without mosques. On one, I thought I could see where a building used to be attached, but another just appeared to be free-standing. I wonder what that's about.
Posted by travis at 11:05
It's gross. I guess I had always thought it was gross, but now thanks to dear Scott and Carlie, I know. They very kindly threw us a baby shower over the weekend, and it was lots of fun. It was particularly fun for everyone else when Kerry and I got to eat mystery baby food and try to guess the flavors. In fairness, there were some (banana, cinnamon apple) that weren't repulsive, even if they weren't the finest presentation ever of their original foods. But the green beans (identified by me as broccoli and by Kerry as peas) were terrible. The chicken sticks, which looked like nothing so much as little, nail-less fingers, were pretty bad, too, their unsettling appearance complemented by an unsettling texture that was somehow both crumbly and wet. But the worst was probably the mac and cheese, the smooth mac and cheese that tasted like paste, if paste were a punishment for one of the seven deadly sins. Ugh. I can almost sense it again in my mouth, just thinking about it. That is a bad thing.
Posted by travis at 11:04
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
It's entirely possible that, were it not for Joe Satriani, I never would have read a Kurt Vonnegut novel. But in 10th grade, I thought Joe Satriani was the bee's knees, he had a song called "Ice 9", I learned that Ice 9 was a thing from a Kurt Vonnegut book called Cat's Cradle, I needed a book to read for my English project... and if this were a proper memoir, a lifelong appreciation of Kurt Vonnegut would have been born. Didn't happen. I read Cat's Cradle and another one besides, but that's been it.
I did, however, gain an appreciation for Vonnegut's biting quotes, such as: "I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled 'Science Fiction' ... and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics mistake the drawer for a urinal."
And the day after he died, my Google quote gadget served up this one: "If flying-saucer creatures or angels or whatever were to come here in a hundred years, say, and find us gone like the dinosaurs, what might be a good message for humanity to leave for them, maybe carved in great big letters on a Grand Canyon wall? Here is this old poop's suggestion: WE PROBABLY COULD HAVE SAVED OURSELVES, BUT WERE TOO DAMNED LAZY TO TRY VERY HARD..."
Posted by travis at 06:53
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
TinyD, aka Genghis, aka Geronimo, aka Shai-Hulud has accumulated aliases faster than Riley Freeman. And yet, Kerry and I have been maddeningly close-lipped about his real name. (Or have we?) You can make your own naming guesses or suggestions at bf2k7, and maybe you'll trick us into giving away something.
There are no instructions for name guessing. The closest would be William's canonical rant.
Posted by travis at 14:17
Monday, April 09, 2007
Lournac the Magnificent has already guessed Genghis's gender without benefit of ultrasound or us telling her. But you still have a chance to demonstrate your own powers of prognostication. Go to
and enter your guess for the gender, arrival time, length, and weight of Genghis.
Cousin Carrie has made the first guess. Good for her for breaking the ice. Not so good for her guessing a 30 July delivery. As a hint, it says on the page (in bold) that due date is 27 June.
(I am entitled to give some grief about bad guessing. After all, when I played this game with our friend Jen, I guessed boy after she had already told everyone she was having a girl.)
Posted by travis at 06:59
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Reuters reports that stuffed polar bear toys were the highlight of recent US-EU talks. (Not that hard to believe, actually.) My favorite quote: "For the remainder of the news conference the participants played with their fist-sized presents and lost interest in telling reporters about the negotiations."
Posted by travis at 13:12
Friday, March 23, 2007
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
My reaction to reading this (very short) article on Reuters:
I realize that it just because it's a cuddly wittle polar bear, but Herr Albrecht's assertion that it's an animal's "right" to be left to die and/or killed hacks me off.
(It is a really cute little bear, isn't it?)
Posted by travis at 20:45
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
3.1415926... Take the first few digits, and it looks like March 14th. Some people go even further and say that you should celebrate at 1:59pm, but I don't know about that. a) It invites arguments over 12 versus 24-hour time format, or the unpleasant suggestion that one should celebrate at 1:59am. b) It's pi, dude. It describes the size of every circle ever, plus showing up in standard probability distributions and Buffon's needle problem - it's earned a whole day.
Posted by travis at 06:18
Friday, March 09, 2007
Blues Traveler used to be one of my favorite bands, if not the outright #1, and though I sort of lost track of them after their fifth album, I still think they're pretty groovy. Then I read this in the Express this morning:
Blues Traveler's John Popper was arrested after the SUV he was in was clocked going 111 mph, the Washington State Patrol said Wednesday. Officers found marijuana, four rifles, nine handguns, a switchblade, a Taser and night-vision goggles. He told troopers the items were to prevent him from being "left behind" in the event of a natural disaster.This doesn't change the music, but it's such an strange, unsettling image that I'm afraid it may be permanently associated with the band in my mind.
Posted by travis at 07:16
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Getting off the MARC train tonight, I looked up to see twenty or thirty con trails crossing the sky. I'd never seen so many, most of them stretching from one horizon to the other. Apparently they decided to turn off high-altitude wind today. Whatever the reason, it was striking. I'm a relic without a camera built into my mobile, so you don't get a picture, but I'm not sure that a picture - at least one that I could take - would do it justice.
But speaking of Zambonis, Kerry's taking me to a Capitals game tomorrow night. C-A-P-S, Caps, Caps, Caps!
Posted by travis at 18:57
Monday, March 05, 2007
According to Deutsche Welle, the building at the heart of the riots in Copenhagen was a symbolic "Youth House". And "squatters" had actually been granted permission to live there in the 1980s by the city council. (An odd definition of "squatters", but permission was also extended to "punks", so there's still some mystery.) Anyway, the current owners of the building concluded it was beyond repair, so they've knocked it down, but not before rioters could do $2.4 million of damage (including to a school and a nursery) and accumulate 647 arrests.
Posted by travis at 11:25
See Dave go to school.
Go, Dave, go.
This week Dave starts working on his... hmm, I don't remember if it's a masters in education or some other sort of program. The point is, he's starting about a year of work that will lead to him being a high-school teacher of math or science.
Dave left Microsoft after seven years or so because it was time to do something else. "Something else" included 18,000 miles and 6+ months of touring around the US, seeing family and friends. All along the way, he went to classes, from elementary school art through law school, not just because he is a Renaissance man, but because of his interest in teaching.
Notwithstanding his preternatural social skills, Dave is a nerd who really enjoys math, coding, and word puzzles. I suppose another way to say it is that he likes to think. I am glad Dave is becoming a teacher because he's got the smarts and the personality to be good at it. I am excited for Dave because he might be able share his own enthusiasm for thinking with his students. It's a long shot - they'll be high schoolers, after all - but I think that Dave has as good a chance as anybody.
Posted by travis at 07:33
Friday, March 02, 2007
Hundreds of people are demonstrating throughout northern Europe because the Danish police have evicted 35 squatters from an unused Copenhagen theater, which was sold six years ago.
Umm, what? People are turning to violent protest because the city is selling an unused building? In Copenhagen? And this is mobilizing people in other countries, too? I'm obviously missing something.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Readers of bf2k7.com have no doubt noted that I don't write as much as Kerry, particularly about the incoming baby, and may even be getting the impression that I'm not all that excited about becoming a dad. Not so! As lame proof, I offer a link to Found, showing just one small example of why I'm looking forward to parenthood.
Posted by travis at 08:53
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Kerry and I made it here safe and sound and are being hosted admirably by Eric. In fact, he took us on a tour this afternoon. Maybe we'll get around to uploading some pictures while we're here, but in the interim, you can see today's wanderings via mapmyrun.com. Naturally, today's walk is 13 Feb; more to come. And if you have Google Earth on your computer, the route can be loaded right in by clicking on "3D View", at the top right of the map.
(To avoid any confusion, "Copy Of standard" has nothing to do with Rome. It's just a jog I occasionally take when I'm feeling exercisey.)
Sadly, Google Maps doesn't have enough detail to show you around the inside of the neighborhood grocer, where Eric selected a delicious dinner of antipasti. Prosciutto, olives, artichokes, bread, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes... mmmmm, antipasti. And cannoli for dessert. Mmmmm, cannoli.
Posted by travis at 16:32
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
So our gal Louren says she can tell the gender of a fetus just by looking at mom's tummy. "Poppycock!" you say? Well, she got TinyD right. According to yesterday's ultrasound, "it" is a "he".
We haven't scanned the pictures from the ultrasound yet, but they're coming soon, maybe posted here, certainly on bf2k7. (And no, we don't have the ultrasound shot showing that he's a boy. But let's just say that TinyD may not be such a good moniker. Heh heh heh...)
And oh yes, the other details from yesterday: ten fingers, ten toes, spine, other useful-looking bones, heart, head, etc. All present and accounted for.
Posted by travis at 09:14
Friday, February 02, 2007
As everyone even remotely associated with a pregnant woman knows by now, a Mexican woman recently gave birth to a 14.5-lb baby.
What this story made me realize is that, notwithstanding their restricted diet of the past few months, the Furryous Two will almost certainly be in an entirely different weight class than the newborn TinyD.
Posted by travis at 20:30
Twice in the last week, I heard really poor news reporting. Both stories had to do with health care policy: CBS Evening News reporting on NIH cancer funding, and NPR on the President's proposed health insurance changes. Both stories were almost willfully one-sided.
CBS was reporting on cuts in cancer research funding over the last two years. The entire story was people affected by or opposed to funding cuts (including our friend, Dr Ben, the only reason I was watching this report in the first place). There was no response or explanation offered from NIH as to why cuts might be appropriate or necessary. (Never mind that, if you believe the unit-less bar chart that was shown for a few seconds, the cuts over the past two years are quite small compared to the rapid growth over the preceding six or so years. But without seeing actual numbers, I wouldn't want to push that too hard.)
NPR was better, but only in the details. They, too, presented only the analysis indicating that the administration's proposal might reduce the money going into health insurance. One wonk observed that health care costs grew faster than inflation, as if this were some sort of unalterable fact, Planck's Constant for the economy. There was never a hint that the real growth of health care costs could be an effect, not a cause, never mind that slowing that growth might be a prime motivator for the proposed changes.
What's particularly irksome about these one-sided reports is that policy questions like these are inherently two-sided. They're all about trade-offs. It's not that someone has recommended reducing these particular expenditures (or trying to reduce them) without any notion that there might be effects. No, they are facing some sort of external constraint or trying to effect some positive change. To report them without even acknowledging so is, at best, unhelpful.
PS - For the record, Ben's lab should get all the funding they want.
Posted by travis at 08:50
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Of course it's a silly number, and of course it's a silly exercise that will be repeated innumerable times by radio stations, magazines, TV shows, etc, but I am strangely excited by 89.7 WTMD compiling a list of the 897 greatest songs of all time. They're soliciting "ten bests" from listeners (or anyone with an Internet connection), and for some reason, that is interesting me right now. So I'll be submitting my list soon - voting ends at 5pm EST, 26 Jan - and I'll be sharing it here, with you (because you are terribly interested).
You - yes, you, dear reader - should vote, too. Hopefully, you won't waste as much time as I have thinking about whether it includes all genres, whether they mean the song (itself, independent of performance) or song as recorded by a particular artist, etc. I guess I've deliberated such points because I have some deep, unreasonable fear that someone will hold me to my vote. "OK, those are your ten best songs of all time? Well, that's all you'll get to listen to... forever! Muah ha ha!"
Posted by travis at 19:26
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
It was a strange scene at Union Station last night. There must have been a protest on Capitol Hill or the Mall, as the station was full of pro-lifers with anti-abortion t-shirts and signs. (Happily, this group did not have the more aggressive or graphic variety of such shirts and signs.) That wasn't the strange bit; the strange bit was that at least half of the protesters appeared to be high-school aged, and they were in their clumps of half a dozen with adult chaperones/leaders floating at the edges. The kids were behaving for all the world like they were on any field trip to DC: chatting, laughing, enjoying each others' company. At one level, this shouldn't and doesn't surprise me. Kids are kids, and I've seen our church youth acting the same way when they're out doing service projects or on "serious, spiritual" retreats. But yesterday, that same, care-free behavior seemed a little odd when, to take their slogans at face value, those kids were out to stop babies from being killed.
Posted by travis at 07:23
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Yes, it really is a cone o' pizza, the perfect marriage of topology and pizza, "enabling consumers to eat their favorite pizza with one hand, wherever they may be or what they may be doing".
Sadly, the website is only promoting the new restaurant and lacks any pictures. But the whole thing is oddly hilarious to me. It appears to be a solution to a non-existent problem - have these people never held a slice? - and then they actually called it "cone o' pizza". Because what has America been saying for years? "Pizza's OK, I guess, but what I really want is pizza in the shape of a cone!"
Keep your eyes peeled for Dodecadogs (tm).
Posted by travis at 10:21
Friday, January 12, 2007
Professional American soccer has done it again and has decided that buying marquee names (or one name, anyway) is the way to make the sport a major league in the US. At the risk of exposing my complete lack of understanding, I'll say that paying $250 million in salary and endorsements for David Beckham to come to Major League Soccer is a bad idea.
Beckham is far more a celebrity than soccer deity these days. He's lost his spot on the English national team, for goodness sake. And if you want to get current non-soccer fans excited about the sport, watching a pretty boy stroll up and down the right sideline, taking the occasional free kick and corner kick, is not really going to turn them on. You can imagine the way a non-basketball fan could appreciate or enjoy Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, or Kobe Bryant taking over a game and leading a team with brilliance. Beckham won't do that for soccer.
As for current soccer fans, this seems to suggest that MLS doesn't understand the sport. The league and the Galaxy are paying top dollar for a player who has underperformed for the last few years on one of the premier teams in the world, chock-full of talent and expected to win major titles. Is taking on the Kansas City Wiz, matched with players who - no disrespect - aren't near as good as his former teammates, really going to bring out the legendary Becks? I hope I'm wrong, but I have to guess "no". If MLS doesn't get that, then as a fan of the sport (versus of a local team), why don't I just watch real, top-quality soccer from overseas on cable?
I expect this has to spill over to the players, too. Of course there's always resentment of someone getting a big paycheck, but when it seems to be profoundly disconnected from on-field performance, it will be deeper and wider.
Perhaps most disturbing about this is that I had thought that MLS was adopting a humbler, more realistic, and more sustainable goal by trying to be a successful, second-tier league. Most obviously, the league has been building smaller (~25k-seat) stadiums, designed to be filled for soccer, versus echoing in vast football stadiums. Gambling on Beckham looks like the opposite strategy.
Versus spending loads on one questionable player - and I should note, I don't know that there is any single player in the world today who could do for US soccer what MLS seems to want - I'd have rather seen MLS push for stronger relationships with marquee international clubs. Yes, whisper it, I'm talking about MLS being a minor league of farm teams to Real Madrid, Bayern Munchen, Arsenal, etc (and as the league may have done with Chivas USA). Oh, but what about the good players then going overseas to play? Many do already, and will continue as long as the big money and talent is there. Better to have a system where you get to see the talented players early in their careers, fighting for a shot at the big time. And MLS could strike a good deal, to ensure they got real candidates on the teams, not just a dumping ground. After all, the world may scorn US soccer, but you know those teams love US consumerism and would be delighted to see us snapping up more merch.
Posted by travis at 07:41
Sunday, January 07, 2007
I've been waiting for just the right time to post this. I don't know if this is that right time, but here goes, anyway: I've tried Folger's crystals, and they really are as good as regular coffee.
No, wait, that's not the right big announcement. (It's not even true.) Let's try again: Kerry is pregnant.
At this point, we normally get three questions:
1. When is Kerry due?
Her due date is 27 June.
2. Do you know the sex?
Not yet. We should find out in early February. At this point, we're both happy to find out the gender. It seems to me that it will be just as much of a surprise whether we learn via sonogram or at the birth. And if surprise is really the objective, this opens up the even more surprising possibility of the sonogram determination being wrong.
3. What about names?
We won't really know until we see the little critter in the flesh, but we're both in mind for something traditional, a classical name. So the current front-runners are Genghis for a boy, and Paris for a girl. In the interim, Kerry has chosen the moniker "tinyD", so the baby registry will definitely include gold chains and four-finger rings.
We're both terribly excited about this. (The good kind of "terribly", natch.)
Posted by travis at 07:51