Saturday, December 27, 2008

Whom do you love?

We're with Scott and Carlie in Austin for Christmas. Two related stories from our Texas Boxing Day:

1. Owen woke up early on the 26th and began calling for Mommy. When that didn't work after a dozen tries, he called for Daddy a few times. When that didn't work either, he called for Santa.

2. Owen was hanging out with Uncle Scott while I spent a few minutes gathering up dirty clothes. When the Young Gentleman caught sight of me with the basket of clothes on my hip, he brightly smiled and happily cried, "Laundry!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


From Overthinking It, a pop culture blog, 40 inspirational movie speeches in two minutes.

I laughed out loud when I first watched it and was pleased that I recognized the majority of the sources. (Oh man, I just laughed out loud again, watching the video to make sure the embed worked.)

William, Overthinking It may be for you. You might want to start with The Philosophy of Batman: Schopenhauer Edition.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The fifth dimension... found!

It so happens that a large box of Cheerios can actually be a gateway to the land of the lost (peppercorns). However, it seems a different portal is required to access the dimension in which letter-openers are sequestered.

(I know, I know, why on earth was a toddler allowed to handle a letter-opener? Choose two of three:
a) He's quick.
b) I'm a bad parent.
c) 'bout time the boy started earning his keep 'round here. Least he could do is sort the mail.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The case of the missing peppercorns

Last Sunday, Owen was exploring the pantry and found a large container of peppercorns. A bit bigger than a coke can, it was plastic and made a pleasing rattle when shaken. The lid was secure, so I let him play with it while I made our grocery list. Within a minute, he had stopped playing with the peppercorns and, instead, stashed them in some hypothetical dimension that is orthogonal to height, width and depth. At least that's what I conclude. He made those peppercorns disappear without a trace. I don't think he ever left the area, and I've checked the floor and bottom shelf of the pantry, and the neighboring cabinets. The peppercorns are gone.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Automaker bailout

Listening to the descriptions of the bailout for GM and Chrysler - at this time, just a notional agreement between Congressional Democrats and the White House, neither House nor Senate having voted on anything yet - it's sounding like pseudo-Chapter 11: limits on spending and dividends; obligations on labor to renegotiate; the "Car Czar"* as faux-bankruptcy judge; government as new, preferred equity. Not knowing any more about such things, it's begging the question to me: why is this being done via bespoke, ad hoc legislation, instead of in the well-established framework of Chapter 11? Could it be that the powers-that-be are just too proud to admit that Angus was right?

* Aside: Will Wilkinson had a nice bit on "czars" in the US government on NPR about a month ago.

Looking at the world through rose-colored eyes

It's an overcast morning in DC. On the train in, around dawn, I looked out the window and was surprised to see that the clouds had turned dusty, rosy pink. All of them, in all directions, giving the whole outside world an odd tint, like an old photo, if old photos lavendered instead of yellowed. The world inside the train remained a familiar, fluorescent-tube white.

Curious O

One of the Young Gentleman's more endearing traits is his unrestrained curiosity. When something interests him - and much does - he LOOKS at it. He peers at it, getting as close to it as he can. (In some cases, I feel this must be counter-productive, unless he has some sort of macro-lensed third eye on the bridge of his nose.) If the object of interest is under a piece of furniture or in a box, he unabashedly bends over or gets down on the floor to really see it. It's really cute.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Another proud moment

Owen and I went to the library this evening. While we were browsing, he grabbed the Ramones first album and slipped it into my stack of stuff. I didn't even notice it until the librarian checked it out.

Editor's note: I do have non-musical reasons for being proud of Owen. It's just that these seem to be easiest to blog about.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Owen is not the most goal-oriented walker. On trips longer than the kitchen to the front window, he tends to lose focus. For example, he and I don't walk out to get the mail together. It would take all night, and we might not make it back. And that's fine and understandable, as there are a lot of interesting things to observe and explore along the way.

So I was a bit surprised on Sunday when, at the neighborhood park, I asked Owen if he was ready to go home and have some lunch. He immediately started marching off for home, saying, "Lunch, lunch, lunch". (OK, more "luch, luch, luch", but the intent was clear.) It was a couple of minutes before he stopped saying "lunch", and a couple of blocks before he even broke stride.

Monday, November 24, 2008


I'm done with the boards! They have impressive security for these tests - they definitely wanted to make sure that I'm the person taking the test. But yippee! Now I can resume normal life. Or start working on a research abstract that's due next Monday. What kind of people put a deadline right after Thanksgiving weekend?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Disgusting Medical Factoids of the Day

The studying continues.
Sunday was anal disorders and irritable bowel syndrome. Monday was inflammatory bowel disease. Today is all about infectious diarrhea.

Things I know:
How long a tapeworm can you get from sushi? A very long one (feet) –diphyllobatrum latum.
What happens if you eat a bad chitterling? You get yersinia diarrhea.
How many individual Norwalk virus (cruise ship gastroenteritis) particles does it take to cause diarrhea? 10
What is a common method of transmission of Norwalk virus? Aerosolized vomit (eeewww)
What bacterial infection can you get from a pet turtle? Salmonella
How many E Coli bacteria does it take to make you sick as stink? 10
How many E Coli outbreaks have been attributed to leafy green vegetables since 1993? 26
What does 30% of raw chicken juice have in it (the liquid around the chicken in the styrofoam tray)? Campylobacter jejuni, which causes diarrea

I’m going to go wash my hands now.

And one last fact: How long is the ‘appointment’ for taking the GI board exam? 630 minutes


There’s all kinds of talking going on at our house, and some of O’s is understandable. He’ll point at something, look at me, and very earnestly babble something completely unintelligible. So I guess. He’s also picking up new words which include some 2 syllable ones like ‘apple’ and ‘bubble’. He also is saying words that begin with ‘L’ more, but he adds a ‘g’ sound to the beginning. So Owen’s current fave photo to look at (and carry around the house) is one of his cousin Lili when she was a baby. He alternates saying ‘baby’ and ‘gLili’ when he sees the pic. He also has discovered the ‘sh’ sound, but can’t always determine when ‘s’ vs ‘sh’ should be used. Hence, he proudly climbs into a chair in the kitchen and says ‘shit!’ Sometimes it’s ‘sit’, but most of the time there’s an ‘H’ inserted there. It’s hard not to laugh when he says it.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


I’ve been studying for the gastroenterology board exam. It covers everything GI-related and all the stuff I learned as a fellow. So even though I know a lot of GI, the test is expensive enough (>$1k) that I feel obligated to study (alot) until I actually take it.

Medicine is full of standardized tests, which is good, because you want doctors to know stuff about medicine. But bad, because they're irritating, expensive, often the information tested isn't practical, and good test scores don't guarantee a good doctor.

The standardized testing started prior to med school, with the MCAT (medical college admissions test). I studied a lot for this one. Then in med school, there was USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Exam) steps 1 and 2. Step 1 was all about memorizing biochemical pathways and which viruses were double-stranded DNA viruses vs single-stranded RNA viruses – clearly very practical. Step 2 was a bit better, asking questions about diseases. USMLE step 3 came right after my intern year and was all medicine, which was great for me as an internist because there was very little on the test that didn’t apply to the general adult patient. The internal medicine boards came next, which I took during my first year of GI fellowship. They rocked because it was a day off of work and all my work friends were taking the test at the same place. That test was in a country club ballroom complete with chandeliers, which made it an extra-classy testing experience.

So now I’m to the GI boards and have spent the afternoon reviewing the different anorectal manometry patterns that can be seen in fecal incontinence and the plethora of diseases that can cause diarrhea. Now is probably not a good time to invite me to dinner. Or if you do, don't ask me what I've been up to.

With each level of testing, the price goes up, I think mainly because there’s no one to say ‘stop, there’s no reason this test should cost so much’. I’ve also been a party to the advent of computer-based testing. Step 1 and the medicine boards were paper. Step 2, 3 and the GI boards are computerized. Hopefully the computer test will go better this time than with steps 2 and 3. The computer at the testing center crashed for both my steps 2 and 3, ending my test early and requiring a reboot. During step 2 (which is two 8 hour days of testing), most of the people around me were taking an HVAC test, real estate licensing, or the GRE and they would all finish in a few hours. For step 3, the whole test center crashed, so they made all of us go sit in the hall, but weren’t allowed to speak. I’m sure they’ve worked out the kinks by now, right?


We’ve had to start spelling a few things. Well actually, one thing, which would be O’s new favorite food. He prefers a whole apple, to be eaten while wandering around with bits of apple and peel stuck to his shirt, the floor, and a bit in his hair. He uses his 8 teeth to knaw bits off the apple and will eat the whole thing, skin, stem, and core, unless watched closely. Peeling them makes the eating process a little easier, mainly since he doesn’t have any molars. I’ve also figured out how to get the core out without breaking the apple so he can still eat it ‘whole’. And just in case you’re wondering – Macintosh apples are his favorites, as there a little softer than other apples. In addition to spelling the a-fruit, we’ve also had to rearrange the kitchen, moving the a’s up and farther out of reach. We also had to move the onions, not because he keeps eating them (he only tried biting into one once), but because he peels them, and then proceeds to drool on them.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The surprising thing about the election

This just occurred to me this morning. The surprising thing is not that Obama won. He ran a great campaign, and the macroeconomic/political deck was stacked against McCain (who ran a disappointing campaign). Rather, I'm surprised at the Democratic gains in the House and Senate. The polls say that a big majority of voters think the country's "on the wrong track", they're all concerned about the economy (domestic policy), so you reward the party that has controlled Congress for the last two years? Yes, I know, it's only been two years, but given the time horizon of most voters, that's forever. If nothing else, shouldn't there have been some ambivalence about the ability of the party to get anything done in two years? (Certainly that's what the Congress's abysmal approval ratings are said to reflect.) But I guess this is what riding coattails is all about.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Nasal Gazer

Owen’s new favorite activity? Nasal gazing.
That’s right. Squatting down and peering up our noses, to see what’s inside. He’s recently discovered that he can jam his finger into his nose and it fits quite well, hence more than one Halloween party picture where the YG is trying to see if he can touch his brain. Previously, he preferred to jam his finger into our noses. He’s started trying to blow his nose, despite the fact that he’s healthy and doesn’t need to, thanks to Dr. Seuss’s ‘Hand Hand Fingers Thumb’. It’s mainly about monkeys playing the drums, but one page shows the monkeys blowing their noses into hankies and Owen is very, very interested in this page.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hasta la vista, Champy

RIP Diaper Champ. You served us well. Through the first 1000 or so baby diapers you were great. But then, when Owen’s taste expanded to include all the food groups, your powers of odor suppression failed. And now you must live in the garage away from all with noses.

Best advice from my brother Scott – never feed your (diaper-wearing) toddler a bran muffin at breakfast and chili for lunch. Good to know.

10 year old pants

I have some 10 year old pants that I’ve been wearing to work. Is it wrong to want newer work pants? I don’t really want the old ones anymore. There’s nothing really wrong with them, except that they’re old, and a maybe a little faded. They’re not obviously out of style, but still. Am I shallow for wanting new pants? Will it be ok to get new ones as long as I donate the old ones? I can’t shop until after I take the GI boards (self-imposed), so I can defer my decision until then.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A proud moment

Owen went to the CD cabinet, opened it and immediately picked out A Tribe Called Quest's Low-End Theory. As soon as it started spinning, he began bobbing up and down and waving his arms.

I could have only been more pleased if he had then found Kerry's Chumbawamba CD*, howled and hurled it across the room.

* Even after nine years of marriage, commingling of bank accounts, etc, etc, there are certain things that I'm sure to identify as Kerry's.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The surreal world of O

Yesterday, Owen wanted to wear his lion costume so that, once wearing it, he could go into the guest bedroom/storage room, climb into his old infant bathtub and put three pillar candles and one candle holder in the tub with himself. (This would be after the brief self-admiration Kerry described.)

When he's old enough, I expect him to go into a bar and order a single plum, floating in perfume, served in a man's hat.


Language development is really interesting, particularly when it’s your own kid and you can see all the changes first hand. Owen is getting more vocal (more on this in a moment). He’s always been very observant and seemed to understand a lot of what we were saying. Now that includes ‘Go get your Brown Bear book’ or ‘Go find George’, which he’ll toddle off to do.

Yesterday, Travis and I discovered that he understands a lot more than that (and no it’s not b/c Owen started cussing). We were discussing how much Owen likes his lion Halloween costume. In particular, two Saturday mornings in a row, he’s wanted to put on his lion costume and look at himself in the mirror in our guest bedroom, admiring his mane and tail. Yesterday, Owen heard us discussing this, and he went and started banging on his bedroom door. When we let him in, he went to get his Halloween costume and cried until we put it on him, then promptly went to the guest room door so we could open it and he could look in the mirror. He also roars like a lion when he’s wearing it, which is pretty cute. So it seems that he understood our conversation and it reminded him that he wanted to go play with his costume. I guess it’s time to start spelling things in front of him.

He also talks more – more babbling in O-gibberish, more successful mimicking of words we say, and more words of his own. From his favorite word ‘up’, to bubbles, apple, truck, dog, cat, and my favorite - stinky (to refer to his diaper) he’s getting quite a vocabulary.

My favorite language development that he's had is that he's starting to learn animal sounds, thanks to Sandra Boynton's book 'Moo, Baa, La La La'. Now when I read the book to Owen, he'll fill in some of the animal sounds i.e.
K: A cow says
O: mooo (in a soft cute baby voice)
K: A shee says
O: baaaaa (same voice)
K: 3 singing pigs say
O: ah ah ah (or la la la, depending on how the mood strikes him)

He realizes that real cows say moo, also, as we discovered when we took him to the petting farm last weekend.

It seem like just yesterday that he would scream like he's being eaten by a bear every time he wanted to communicate. Hmm... How times change.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Observation on the brain and self

This is a fascinating account by a brain scientist of her own stroke. Her description of her thinking and perception as parts of her brain shut down is remarkable.

(Or see it on the TED Talks site)

I'm not as amazed by her suggestion that we all ought to live in our right brains. I can't help but observe that, were it not for the nagging of her left brain that something was seriously amiss, she would have died. But I'm a pretty died-in-the-wool lefty*, so how else could I respond?

I remember how Owen went through the process of discovering his hands and other fundamentals of his being, and I wonder how much his perception was like Dr Taylor's.

* New conversational fun: I think I'm going to start swapping the political and brain hemispherical senses of "right" and "left" without warning.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The hobgoblin of little minds (and parents)

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. I often mis-refer to that quote, dropping the "foolish" bit, when self-deprecating my own nit-picking of comma usage, capitalization, font sizes, etc, at work. But I was thinking this weekend about how hard consistency is in the realm of parenting.

I think that Pre-Parent Me did a pretty decent job of not claiming to understand the job that parents were doing. On the matter of consistency, however, PPM did claim too much. "Parents should establish consistent rules for their kids", or something like, is the guidance, which seemed obvious and straightforward to PPM. But now I appreciate how hard that can be, as any moment of the day can present a new discovery for Owen, which is a new opportunity to say "OK" or "no", ie, make a new rule. And in addition to all the new rules, there is the continual revisiting of the old ones (at least the old "noes"). So I realize over time that that spur-of-the-moment rule about not playing with the Halloween cat candle probably isn't all that important, but if I revoke that rule, then - horrors - I'm being inconsistent and - double horrors - I'm teaching Owen that he can wear me down. Yes, I know (as PPM knew) that the key is to make rules only where they matter, but I note again the multiplicity of new opportunities each day for the Young Gentleman to break himself, others or his surroundings.

I realize that there are a couple of possible rejoinders here. One might be, "Enh, Owen will live in the world, and the world isn't consistent, so don't sweat a little variability on your part." Another might be, "Look on the bright side: If you change your mind, you're teaching him that Dad isn't bull-headedly stubborn and that persistence pays off." But that's not the point of this post. The point is that, even for someone who thought that parenting looked pretty hard, it can be harder than it looks.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Treasure Update

After rescuing all the magnets from underneath the fridge and returning them to the front, O has removed them all and placed them in their proper place. Underneath the fridge. If only I had the babytranslator from the Simpsons... I'd love to know what he's thinking.

Universal banking

So it seems to me that most commentary on the ongoing financial crisis regards the return of universal banking (combined retail, commercial and investment banking) as a saving grace. Were it not for the repeal of the Glass-Seagull Act in 1999, then JPMorgan could not have bought Bear Sterns, Bank of America could not have bought Merrill Lynch, and we wouldn't have the joy of Morgan Stanley and Goldman turning themselves into bank holding companies.

The argument, as I understand it, is that universal banking supports volatile investment banking activities with stable, secure retail banking. But surely this goes the other way, too. Why is this a good thing to more tightly integrate those inherently innovative, risky activities with regulated banking, which above all is meant to be sturdy? It looks to me like the AIG model: a vast, traditional insurance business married to a smaller, more creative financial-products division. And that worked out. Oh, wait...

I don't see why this whole kerfuffle doesn't reinforce the "thin banking" model: You want deposit insurance and government protection, then stick to simple retail banking. You want to be cutting-edge? Good luck, but you're on your own. As this crisis broke, I read an analogy that the financial sector was like a utility next door to a casino, and that the government would raid the utility to keep the casino going. That may be the right thing to do, and may ultimately be better for the utility than letting the casino close. But some separation still seems like the right thing to do; I don't see how setting up the roulette wheels in the turbine hall puts us in a better place for the future.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Hidden Treasure

More things found today that were previously hidden. We had kiddler safe magnets on the refrigerator. These are big flat ones with no little magnet disks that can be ingested and cause bowel perforations. We have a nice Van Gogh flowers magnet (mine), a Star Trek magnet (Travis’s), a magnet from the Tallgrass Prairie in Oklahoma, and Owen’s favorite, the ‘Keep Civility in Howard County’ magnet bumper sticker. He used to carry the civility magnet around the house waving it the air and babbling. He also put it in a stock pot and stirred it with a spoon (not sure if this was had something to do with his opinion about the civility movement or not). Then suddenly the magnets were gone. All of them. Not in the stock pot, not scattered around the kitchen. O hid them and we just found them. One was in the coffee table padded bumper and the others were safely stored under the refrigerator. I think he’ll be pretty excited tomorrow to see that magnet Spock has shown up again.

If it don't fit, force it

... and even if it do fit, force it.

When Owen tries hard to open, close or otherwise move something, he makes a tremendous, open-mouth grimace. It exposes his four bottom teeth, and it looks like the sheer effort of whatever he's doing is pulling his face down his neck. If I have any pumpkin artistry at all, my jack o' lantern this year will be that expression.

Owen tries hard almost all the time. And for over a month, it's sort of made sense, as the name of the game was putting things in other things. Whether toys in a bag or shapes in a shape sorter, sometimes pushing a bit harder does the trick. But now we're trying stacking things, and in that case, using all your might generally doesn't help and often has the opposite effect. So the Young Gentleman will put one block precisely on top of two others, then push down almost until his arms shake, at which point - surprise - the tower falls.

I'm not worried, but this is curious. Do all kids do this?

Friday, October 03, 2008

O update

Aside from the new laugh (see below), here’s what Owen is up to.
1. Climbing – on the furniture, up the stairs. He’d like nothing better than to stand on the back of the couch and beat on the front windows.
2. Shoes – He loves shoes, and trying to put on shoes. Especially mine. He says ‘shuss’ pretty reliably now when confronted with footwear.
3. Hiding things. He finds places to hide his toys – in the coffee table bumper, under the ottoman. He also his our nanny’s book in the pantry and deposited her car keys under a table. Hmm… note to self: Don’t let O play with keys in the morning before work.
4. Dancing and humming. He loves music, particularly the tinny music that comes out of all his toys. His current favorite musical toy is a cow teether/rattle that plays ‘Old McDonald’ when the button is pressed. He stands, rocks, smiles, and waves his arms like he’s directing an orchestra.
5. Belly button – Thanks to 2 books, Sandra Boynton’s ‘Belly Button Book’ and ‘Where is Baby’s Belly Button’, Owen can now find his own belly button, which he calls ‘buh buh’. He can also find other people’s belly buttons and loves to ram his tiny pointy finger into them.

Mr. Sinister

O has developed a new laugh, which I refer to as his ‘Mr. Sinister’ laugh. This laugh only appears at certain times:
1. While trying to smash the cat in the door
2. While trying to grab the cat’s heart and pull it out a la ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’
3. Trying to poke mommy in the eye
4. Trying to bite mommy/daddy/nanny.
The laugh is easily distinguishable from his normal cackly, cute giggly laugh. Is this the first taste of 2? I guess only time will tell. Fortunately, he responds somewhat to ‘no’ and is still redirectable. Even when he's doing his mad scientist laugh, he's still pretty dang cute.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A tiny boy, brandishing a bottle of Wasabiyaki, chases a cat through my kitchen

Nope, not a dream, just another evening in the Holler.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The killer web browser feature

Just look at the headline and top image from this Lifehacker article on all new and evolving web browsers. It's clear what single feature could cause a web browser to break from the pack and set the new standard: a non-round logo.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tiny Diner

Owen does like to eat. A lot. I think he may actually eat more that his grandmother. Tonight for dinner he ate cauliflower, spinach, tofu, bread, plus some of my hamburger and bun. I never thought I’d say this about a baby, but sometimes the little dude really gets a hankering for tofu. He also likes avocados, broccoli, hummus, and really hasn’t turned up his nose at anything yet. Except for chili, which he accidentally got a taste of when he was 4 months old (ask Travis). And his interest in green beans waxes and wanes. Now he doesn’t really like to eat baby food – no more rice cereal and smooth textures. Finger foods are the way to go. His current favorite foods are bananas and cheese, which I think makes him similar to 99.5% of the babies in the US.

Sometimes though, he gets very opinionated about his food. Something he liked the day before is now only good for tossing to Furry Lewis. Yesterday, I found him stashing beans on our window sill.

Just FYI, the Tiny Diner, is also the name of a portable rubber placemat that suctions to tables. We have one, and it rocks. It keeps Owen from destroying our friends tables and is also great for restaurants. It even has a drop tray at the edge, to keep food out of his lap.

Why it’s important to keep the pantry door closed

We have a pantry closet in our kitchen. Inside, our microwave rests on a shelf, and we have assorted foods, cloth grocery bags, and baby stuff on the shelves. The floor is generally sparkling water and beer storage. There’s enough room for one adult to stand inside; and plenty of room for a baby to make mischief.

Last week I was cooking dinner for Travis and I (veggie and tofu curry) while cooking some O food for the week (sweet potatoes, broccoli, etc). Owen was playing in ‘his’ cabinet in the kitchen – the one without a latch, filled with things for him to play with. In seconds, he had invaded the pantry, grabbed a bottle of beer, and dropped it. It didn’t break, thank goodness, but the top popped off, shot across the kitchen, and beer went everywhere. I’m not exaggerating, the beer was EVERYWHERE in our kitchen. All over Owen and all over me. His high chair, the table and chairs, the fridge, dishwasher, oven and cabinets all had beer on them. There were also numerous toys, such as O’s music table, shape-sorting cube, some stuffed animals covered in beer. The ceiling was spared (for the record, my mom is the only person who has spilled beer onto the ceiling of our house, but that’s a story for another time). Owen was a little perturbed by being covered in smelly brown liquid.

Where to start cleaning? Clearly, with Owen. He had a bath and went to bed at 7:15 pm. Then I changed clothes and set to work on the kitchen. All told, it took 1.5 hours to clean up.

What’s the moral of this story?

Keep the pantry door closed.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Truck! Truck! Truck!

Owen is getting more talky and his favorite word is currently 'Truck!', which sounds more like 'trukk!'. He uses it to describe trucks, cars, and any large vehicle that might possibly be some kind of truck (bus, wood chipper, etc). His current favorite book is 'Tough Machines', which has pictures of trukks to include tractors, dump trucks, cement mixer, steam roller, digger, etc. We read it at least twice a day. Still a far cry from Brown Bear Brown Bear status, but we're getting there.

Monday, September 01, 2008

When in Austin, use a sheet

One of Kerry and my favorite stories is from our first trip together to Austin, many moons ago. We spent the night with friend who was spending the summer at one of UT's co-op houses. Said house was not air-conditioned, so it was about 90 degrees in the room we were sharing, with zero air circulation. Further, our friend gave us a mattress to sleep on. A mattress: no sheets, no pillows. Suffice it to say, we did not sleep well. We stopped trying at about 4 or 5 in the morning - remember, we were college-aged, so that was the equivalent of giving up on sleep at about midnight these days - and went out driving, looking for someplace with air-conditioning and food, in that order of importance. (Happily, the place we found, completely by accident, was the Star Seeds Cafe, an Austin landmark with enormous, fluffy pancakes and a thermostat set for the last ice age.)

There's a clear lesson here, and as many times as Kerry and I have told this story - many long-time Hollerer readers no doubt know who our host was that summer long ago - you would think we would have learned the lesson: when in Austin, use a sheet on your bedding. Alas, even those who know history are sometimes doomed to repeat it. While visiting Scott and Carlie at their new home in Austin this weekend, Owen's been using their portable crib, which we found set up without a sheet. The past three days, he hasn't slept particularly well, often waking up sweaty. We had attributed this to his trying to sleep in a strange place and wrestling with an illness. But last night, Kerry suggested we get a sheet. It turns out a sheet had been intended for the crib and was missing quite by accident. The sheet is on, it's now 0630, and it's the first time Owen has slept past 0500 this trip.

(It should go without saying that the air-conditioning has been working the whole time.)

Ed. note: Kerry read this and said, "This makes us sound like bad parents." Erm. She also notes that we had asked if we needed to bring crib bedding. Having been told "no", she says that when she saw the port-a-crib, she thought it had a special kind of mattress that didn't need a sheet.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Carnivorous Owen

Today we celebrated friend Ros's birthday by helping eat all the meat she had smoked and grilled over the last few days - kind of a fantastic all-you-can-meat party. We sampled her dad's famous ribs, salmon, shrimp, beef tenderloin, two kinds of pork tenderloin, and chicken. O sampled all the foods and his 2 favorites were a pork rib, which he gnawed on for awhile and corn on the cob, which he chewed on for 20+ minutes. I think he was using both as a teether, but whatever, it makes for good photos (which I don't really know how to post).

Friday, August 22, 2008

A new low in IT productivity

Sometimes your computer doesn't really help you get your job done. Yesterday evening, going one step further, my computer kept me from going home by refusing to shut down.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Age and Treachery, 1
Youth and Not Eating Broccoli, 0

Owen has started questioning the deliciousness of green vegetables. Green beans were always a bit suspect, but now spinach, broccoli, and any sort of leafy green are now food non grata at the high chair. But last night, he ate broccoli twice: once cooked into an egg, and once mixed in with hummus on wheat bread.

Editor's Note: As I have described not eating green veg as something of a pattern, you may question my assignment of zero points to Youth and Not Eating Broccoli. Surely Youth and Not Eating Broccoli must have had some previous success? Well, yes, but that was in earlier matches against Age and Total Lack of Guile. And besides, you can hardly claim to be treacherous and not fiddle the scoreboard a bit.

Showing off for Oma

My mom just spent a week and a half with us. It was wonderful to have such a nice, long visit with her. Owen got into it, too, developing all sorts of new tricks in honor of his Oma's visit. A quick list doesn't do justice to her whole visit, but I need to get these down before I forget:

- Owen is walking. I think it was last Wednesday, but whenever it was, it happened that fast. One day, he was occasionally taking several unassisted steps; the next, walking was the preferred method of getting around. Exit homo infantus, enter homo erectus. Of course he still falls at unexpected times, and he needs something to pull himself upright on, but he's starting, stopping, changing directions - he's a walker.

- Owen is dancing. When he hears music, Owen starts bobbing up and down, and waving his hands side to side, as if conducting the music (or scratching records, as the kids do these days). Actually, it's not limited to music. He'll start bobbing along to most anything rhythmical, such as the sound of Dad chopping vegetables. He also hums.

- Owen likes to push adults around on the floor. This goes hand in hand with the walking. If you're in a crawling position, he'll stand up and push on your hip or butt, finding it high comedy when you crawl away or collapse under his mighty strength.

- Owen has always liked it when I give him big, squeezy hugs. He's started giving them back. Of course he can't really reach his arms around me, so he just curls up, jamming his knees into my chest and his head onto my shoulder. He also says, "Rrrrrr," like I do, to make clear what he's doing.

- Owen may have picked up words for "cat" and "truck". I'll buy "Ka!" because it comes in a high pitch and almost only when there's a cat around. "Tuk" I'm a little skeptical of, as it's awfully close to his universal word. (A stopped watch is right twice a day.)

- Not only can Owen unlock and open the dishwasher, he's now learned to turn it on.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but I trust that Kerry or I will remember later.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What I won't eat again

White bread toast.

After spending almost a month in Venezuela, I will never eat white bread toast again. The included breakfast at my hotel was the same every day – tea, a small glass of juice, and 3 pieces of white bread toast, 2 pats of butter, and 2 jam packets. I actually haven’t eaten any toast at all since returning home. After awhile, white bread toast really starts to taste like cardboard. It's great to be back in the land of wheat bread!

Monday, August 11, 2008

A ‘do like….

Owen has alot of hair. He has Travis’s blonde locks. Yes, yes, I know that Travis isn’t blonde now, but he was until about age 8. Yes, I did have to tell Travis when we started dating that his hair wasn’t blonde anymore and that he needed to update his driver’s license from blonde to brown. But O looks a lot like Travis as a baby.

Anyway, Owen has several hairstyles. The young businessman, courtesy of nanny Carla, which involve a part and a side-slicked hairstyle reminiscent of a middle-aged businessman (surprisingly cute). He also sometimes looks like Pete Wentz, who is the lead singer for Fallout Boy and Ashley Simpson’s husband and baby daddy. Think pointy bangs on the forehead. Due to my first attempt at a haircut, he also looks a bit country, with a mullet/hockey hair – long in the back, party in the front. He briefly (1 day) had a mohawk, mainly b/c he got really sweaty at his first rock concert. Now that he's had a second attempt at a haircut, he's mulletless and looks like a little boy with baby hair in the front and little boy hair in the back.

Owen’s Birthday, Part Deux

We celebrated Owen’s birthday (observed) last weekend. Travis’s mom came to visit and my parents were here too, so O was very excited to see Oma, Mimi, and Papa. He seemed a bit puzzled when he woke up from his nap on Saturday to a house full of people who wanted to see him. He did enjoy his cupcake (even if it didn’t go up his nose like the cake from Bday, part 1). He had a great time playing with his friends Brooks, Molly, and Ethan. He particularly like playing with Brooks’s short fuzzy hair and trying to drink his bottle and take toys from Molly. At some point O will learn about ‘boundaries’ and ‘sharing’, but for now, he seems content to horn his way in to other people’s business. Happy Birthday to the young gentleman!

Thursday, August 07, 2008


We're back from four days in Seattle, where we attended the wedding of Dave and Jenny. They had a lovely service at Jenny's parents' home, a service that very much reflected their personalities and their hopes for their marriage.

Though various subsets had crossed paths, this was the first time in about four years that Dave, William, Eric and I had all been together. There's nothing like seeing old friends. I'm not able to put it into words well right now. I hope, faithful reader, that you know what I mean.

In a happy surprise, we got to stay with Josh, his wife A-P and 1.5-year-old daughter Emilie. We had only hoped to see them while in town, but they graciously hosted us, sharing their home, a stunning array of kids' books and Josh's fine cooking with us.

Owen was sleepless in Seattle like his name was Tom Hanks. It got better over the trip, but even when dog-tired, he had a hard time falling asleep outside of a moving stroller or car (and not always even in those vehicular tranquilizers). But for being short of sleep, he was quite chipper, making the most of his first trip to the West Coast. Stand by for pictures of Owen with his first coffee. (Kidding, of course. He had his first espresso months ago.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mr. Music

Owen has always liked music, but now he REALLY likes music. He likes to have his Mozart Magic Cube playing in the background when he’s playing with other toys. When it shuts off at the end of a song, he pauses and whacks it again, restarting the music. He also loves the music from his Leapfrog Baby Counting Pal, and will drag his parents across the room by 1 finger to get help pushing the buttons and making the music play. To show his appreciation for music, Owen now claps and does his own version of dancing, which looks like a cross between directing an orchestra and flapping wings. It’s pretty cute, especially if you’re one of his parents.

Owen's Book Club

Our little dude loves to ‘read’. He turns the pages and has definite favorite books, that have changed over time.

His first favorite book was ‘Baby Says Peekaboo’ which has flaps that he can lift to see the baby hiding behind a towel, under a hat, etc. The last page has a mirror, which is especially pleasing to Owen as he loves to look at himself in the mirror.

He still enjoys BSP but his next true love was ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?’, which Travis has previously written about. I have no idea why he likes this book so much. It has no plot and just stops with no conclusion. Fortunately, we no longer have to read it 8 times a day, but he still smiles and turns the pages with a single reading.

The next new great love of O’s literary life was ‘Dog’ which is a book of dog pictures with moving parts (like tails, legs, heads). We currently read Dog about 4 times a day and he’s loving it to pieces, literally. We’ve had to do some tape repairs to reattach one of the dog heads and a leg that was pulled loose (and maybe chewed on).

Eventually, 'Dog' was replaced, first by 'Tails', which is very similar to 'Dog', and then by '123' - a book I found at Joann's - the fabric and crafts store. It has parts that slide up and down or rotate, and this is O's current fave. His cousin Lili also enjoyed the book when she visited.

O welcomes new suggestions for his book club any time.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What to do in a traffic jam

The answer if you’re on the interstate (or Venezuelan equivalent) is….. go shopping! I witnessed this firsthand. When the traffic slows to a crawl, locals stand in the middle of the interstate (not in the median, not the shoulder, but between the two lanes of traffic) and sell things.
You can buy:
1. Food - cakes, cookies, chips, mangoes, other unidentifiable rainforest fruit
2. Household items - pillows (for sleeping in the car?), kites
3. cell phone car chargers (useful),
4. DVDs including Hancock and Wall-E (clearly pirated unless I missed some straight-to-DVD special deal for Venezuela)
5. Beer. Not kidding, when there’s traffic, people sell beer to the motorists.

When one spends hours a day sitting in traffic, one has plenty of time to peruse billboards in Caracas and other parts of Venezuela.

Most common billboards I saw in Venezuela:

1. Johnny Walker whisky – not just billboards, but buses, the side of a hotel or two. The most popular whisky in Venezuela.

2. Other whiskeys and scotches – my goodness these people love their whisky and scotch.

3. Beauty products, including ads for plastic surgery – there’ve been a lot of Miss Universe and Miss Worlds from Venezuela. Beauty is very, very popular.

4. Ham – They eat a lot of ham. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack.

5. Hugo Chavez – political ads (state and local elections are in a few months). Chavez smiling and standing next to a mayoral candidate. Chavez smiling and reminding everyone of the great things he’s done for a particular neighborhood. Chavez smiling next to an ad for one of the social programs.


It’s not a word I use particularly often, but it’s a good descriptor of traffic/vehicular transport in Caracas. It has the worst traffic I’ve ever seen, but when there’s no traffic, people drive as fast as they can. We’re talking 120 mph. Speed limit signs are very sparse and I never saw anyone pulled over getting a traffic ticket.

The first night I arrived, we had to take a detour because of a car wreck. I got a brief glimpse and it was the worst car wreck I’ve ever seen. At least I think the hunk of metal in the tunnel was car parts and judging from the view, the occupants didn’t fare any better than their car.

Everyone seems to have a car and people drive everywhere. There is a subway in Caracas, but it didn’t sound to safe, so I expect it’s not terribly busy.

Things I saw while riding in cars in Caracas:

1. Staying in your lane seems to be optional. When there’s traffic, it’s perfectly appropriate to use the shoulder, or to take a 3 lane road and make a 4th lane (somehow).

2. If the traffic is really bad, it’s ok to drive on the sidewalk. Even if there are people on it. I saw this in Valencia one evening, during a traffic jam. Things were very slow, so cars started popping the curb and driving on the sidewalk. Right by the entrance to McDonalds. Then more cars made a 2nd lane of traffic on the sidewalk. So 3 lane road with 4 lanes of traffic + 2 lanes of sidewalk traffic. Then buses started using the sidewalk to get around the rest of the cars. I wish I had a photo of a particular bus ‘rejoining’ the traffic, nosing in from the front of McDonalds at a 45 degree angle, blocking 1 sidewalk lane and 2 lanes of regular traffic. It was pretty impressive.

3. Stopping (or staying stopped) at a red light is also optional. Stop signs are also optional. One cab driver told me that it’s not safe to sit at a red light at night in Caracas, but this doesn’t explain all the daytime light – runners. Traffic lights are also optional if the traffic is bad. People just look for a hole and go. Everyone else will stop, right? At one point, there were enough cars trying to drive straight through an intersection (from all 4 directions) and turn left (from all 4 directions), that I could reach out the window and touch multiple cars (I didn’t).

4. Honking is extremely popular, as this is how I woke up most mornings. One Sunday morning I awoke to extra honking at 0730 to discover the traffic offender was a fun run, causing the road to be temporarily closed.

5. Parking anywhere is also ok. One lunch, we parked about 5 feet from the entrance of the restaurant, on the sidewalk, right by a pile of papayas.

Chavez, Si or No?

While I was in Venezuela, I only met one person who liked Hugo Chavez. Or, at least, I heard that this particular person thought Chavez was great, but she didn’t say anything about it while I was there. Everyone else I met – every doctor, nurse, clinic employee, driver, housewife, and other assorted people told me they didn’t like Chavez. All of them volunteered this information (I certainly didn’t ask). They don’t like his domestic policies, they don’t like the 32% inflation rate, they don’t like having Caracas be the murder capital of the world, and they don’t like the way he fights with everyone. A few people did comment that he and George W should go a few rounds in the boxing ring. But there was way more anti-Chavez discussion than any anti-American sentiment. Everyone was actually very friendly and interested in US culture and life.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Owen is walking

Owen started walking yesterday. Sometime in the afternoon, in fact. I'm not trying to be overly precise here; the change really was that sudden. As of yesterday morning, we'd seen him free-stand and take a step or two, once transiting from the coffee table to the ottoman. By the evening, he was repeatedly taking several steps on his own and walking to me or Kerry.

It was so thoughtful of Owen to delay this major milestone until Kerry's return; she would have been sad to have missed it. But that's just the kind of nice guy he is.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A place for every thing...

During the last week, Owen has taken to moving bits of food off his tray to somewhere other than his mouth. This is a deliberate process, not wild sweeping to the floor. I discovered just how deliberate the process was when I found a rotini tucked between his belly and left thigh. I thought he had dropped it earlier, so I fished it out and proudly put it on Owen's tray for consumption. He immediately grabbed it, not to eat, but to put back between his belly and left thigh.

Happily, not all food goes into storage, only some. And it seems that different foods have different homes. I've already mentioned where the rotini goes, but cooked egg goes on the highchair seat, outboard of the right leg.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Watching Watchmen with reckless enthusiasm

Watchmen is, in my highly unoriginal opinion, the best comic book ever. I've read it multiple times, each time enjoying it and terribly impressed by it. So I was quite nervous when I heard that a movie was being made of it.

Having seen the trailer, I've switched from nervous to recklessly enthusiastic. It looks fantastic. Admittedly, the main reason I say so is that I recognize the movie shots straight from the book. You (and I) may ask why bother making a movie that's just like the book, particularly when the distinguishing feature of the book is the way it uses the comic medium to tell the story? (OK, it won't be just like the book; there are some elements that don't make it.) But in this case, I don't care, because I'm so glad to see them holding close to a creative gem. At least they're holding close visually; hopefully the characters and plot do as well.

But did I mention how awesome the trailer looks?

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Scott and Carlie describe Liliana as being "crazed" when she's up too late relative to a nap or bedtime, and she starts getting all frantic and manic when she's, in fact, tired. Her cousin, Owen, sometimes gets crazed at night, getting all riled up, wanting to pull every book off his shelves, squirming and fighting mightily against the clean diaper, crawling about the crib as if the PJs were a swarm of bees after him, flipping switches on his music box, then collapsing into sleep.

With Kerry away, I've realized that I'm susceptible to the same thing. Being old, I don't express it quite so physically, but in spite of being tired and knowing myself to be tired, I find myself avoiding going to bed. It may be doing a bit of work, doing some chores around the house, or maybe writing a quick blog post. (OK, the (in)frequency of Hollerer posts puts the lie to that claim.) And then when I finally head upstairs, maybe I'll just read a bit. Just like that an hour or more goes by and, surprisingly, I still feel tired.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Birthday surprise

Kerry was back from Venezuela for the long weekend. This wasn't really a surprise to me, but it was to everybody else (maybe even to you, now, dear reader). I kept it on the DL because I didn't want to jinx it. Also, I thought it would be fun to surprise Grandad, AP and Dad in Belpre when Owen and I showed up for a visit, and Kerry popped out of the car. Don't know if I was right about the jinxing, but I was right about the surprise.

It was very good to see Kerry, and of course she was thrilled to be here for Owen's first birthday. I had been thinking that he would now be a toddler, but notwithstanding his age, he's not actually toddling, just crawling and cruising, so I suppose he's an ever-bigger baby for now. (Please, no need to comment about not worrying about milestones. I'm not. I only mention this because it was funny to me that I was thinking of "toddler" just as a title, not as a descriptor. Like an "ensign" in the navy - used to be the guy who held the flag; now is just the juniormost rank of officer.)

Owen had a good time on his birthday. He had the obligatory piece of cake, which went all over his face. (And in his face - stand by for pictures of blue frosting boogers.) And AP got some sparklers, so he was able to enjoy so extremely short-range pyrotechnics. He had slept through the neighborhood fireworks on the Fourth, but he liked the sparklers, as well as some relatively impressive amateur fireworks set off by another neighbor on the fifth.

Kerry is now at BWI, waiting to head back to Caracas. I was pleasantly surprised at how fast the first part of her trip went. This round is only a few days longer; hopefully it will pass at least as quickly.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Owen likes to sleep on his face. Not his stomach, like a big person might, but with his feet tucked under, butt high, and arms at his sides, leaving the face as a load-bearing member. He doesn't stay this way all night, but he'll start out that way as often as not.

Last night the young gentleman had a crying jag around 2245, so I got to comfort him and watch him go back to sleep. He was agitated, so there was a good bit of wiggling around, sitting up, and trying to get comfortable. Owen's move from sitting to lying in the crib was pretty hilarious. He would sit almost cross-legged, then tip forward. His arms were pre-occupied with holding Brownie to his chest, so he would just fall onto his face like a defective Weeble Wobble. Of course, that put him in the preferred sleeping position, so it wasn't a bad move.

This was funny to watch, but I also empathized. I know the feeling he was experiencing, of being dog-tired, but so tired that you just can't get comfortable. You toss and turn, and in a final fit of frustration throw yourself flat on your face, convinced that you'll never sleep again. Lights out.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Reach for the sky

This weekend, I noticed Owen reaching upwards with one hand. It's not a wave bye-bye up high, nor a reach like you reach when you're jumping trying to touch the rim of a basketball hoop. His palm is turned somewhat upward, and his hand - almost always his right - is a bit of a claw. It's as if he were going to pluck an apple. Or if the hand were lower, as if he were a Marvel villain, indicating his strength and plan for world domination with a simple gesture.

I had no idea why Owen was doing this. Carla pointed out that he does this when he hears a plane go overhead. (When he's outside, he'll also look up for the plane.) But that's not the only time he does it, so I think there's something else going on, too.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

What I'm eating

French food – The first day I was here was a national holiday in Venezuela (celebrating an important battle in Venezuelan independence) and my host loves to cook. This is partly due to the time he spent in cooking school in France when he was learning EUS. He invited me to his family’s home and we all cooked, and then ate for several hours. The menu included root vegetables with homemade béchamel sauce and gruyere cheese, vermicelli with homemade pasta sauce (tomatoes, bacon, fresh herbs, etc), a mushroom and beef stew, fresh salad, and grilled pears with homemade chocolate sauce.

Bottled water - even the locals don't drink the tap water.

Coffee - Yep, I'm actually drinking coffee. Venezuelan coffee is really good. I normally hate coffee, but the coffee here is pretty good, especially with a lot of milk and sugar.

Scotch – something else I also don’t like. Granted, I only had one scotch and water, but it was way better than the Dewar’s my grandmothers used to drink.

Arepas - cornmeal rolls that have cheese, meat, or other toppings. Very tasty and available everywhere. A staple.

Empanadas- like the ones in the US, but bigger and made with cornmeal

TGI Fridays – Not kidding. The menu is very similar to to the one at home (I think, as I don’t eat at Fridays but I do see the ads). American food is everywhere. McDonalds, Wendy’s, etc. Today I saw a billboard for a Wendy’s ‘Baconator’. Like the Terminator of all burgers, with bacon.

Hablo espanol poquito

How much do I wish I’d taken Spanish in high school? But no, I took French, which has not turned out to be helpful in my career as I haven't had a single French-speaking patient. The 2 years of Spanish in college were useful, but I’ve lost a lot of vocabulary since I don’t use it in B’more. Now, however, I’m rediscovering the language, thanks to my time in Caracas. My reading and listening are going ok, but speaking is coming along very, very slowly. I just can’t compose sentence very quickly. I'm definitely getting better getting through a conversation, but background noise or other people talking really throws me off.

Hola from Venezuela

I’m in Venezuela doing endoscopic ultrasound with a doctor who does a huge number of cases each week. He does more alone in one week than all the EUS docs at Hopkins put together. He’s also a good teacher and has interesting research ideas.

Caracas isn’t exactly a traveler’s paradise, so I pretty much work and hand out in my hotel room studying EUS. The doctor I’m working with and his family have been extremely kind and have also entertained me. Actually, everyone I’ve met (with the exception of the hotel desk clerks) has been really nice. People on both my flights down here (connected through Miami) warned me about how unsafe Caracas is and gave suggestions like – don’t wear a watch, don’t let people see you at an ATM, don’t go anywhere alone, don’t wear jewelry, don’t show your camera. Very kind of them to warn me, but it’s a bit disconcerting to hear these things.

The buildings in Venezuela are interesting – it’s like nothing has been updated since the Carter administration. Not the hotel rooms, building styles, etc. The people and cars look modern, but many of the buildings look old.

The hotels are pretty bad – expensive and poor quality. Looking at a few travel websites, 75% of the reviews are complaints about how much a particular hotel sucks. Including the ones that are >$350 per night (I’m not staying in one of these). Things here are expensive, $1 = 2 Bolivares Fuertes, the Venezuelan currency. So it’s like being in Europe, but with a greater chance of getting robbed, kidnapped, or giardiasis.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cuddly is only plush deep

Matt Kirkland goes inside some animatronic toys. Just pictures, with intriguing and horrifying moments.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tiger Woods is ridiculous

It's really absurd. It's not enough that he's won 14 major tournaments, that he's won every major tournament that he has led or been tied for the lead going into the final round, that he's had dominating stretches of consecutive regular tournaments, etc, etc. Now, just for variety, he has knee surgery, doesn't play for two months, double-bogeys the first hole three times, birdies the final hole to extend the tournament - twice! - and wins the US Open in sudden death. I mean, congratulations and all that, but it's really a bit much.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Do you see what O sees?

The answer to the titular question may well be "no". Last evening, he managed to find two white objects against white floors and walls in a darkened bathroom.

I've read that babies have fully developed vision by about six months. Nonetheless, given the large amount of brain given over to visual processing, it's impressive to me that he should be able to see so well, particularly in comparison to other seemingly simple actions (eg, clapping, walking, moving food from table to mouth).

PS: One of the found objects was the pull cord to the mini-blinds. This called to him with dual dangers - pulling the blinds six feet down on to his head and wrapping the cord around his neck - so, admittedly, it's a slightly lesser testament to his visual skills.

Owen among the Brobdignagians

Kerry, I, and others frequently comment on how big Owen is. And while it's true that he's big relative to his own recent past, he's certainly not big on a more general human scale. This is instantly clear when he climbs the stairs. He's very good at it, mind you, but watching him clamber up thigh-high steps, he actually looks rather tiny. (I'm sure that he would appear even smaller if I were at the base of the stairs versus one step behind him, but it would be hard to see him through the heart attack.)

Life with a mischievous Smurf

One of Owen's favorite hobbies is proving Dad wrong. He likes to wait until I've made a pronouncement about his behavior, then do the opposite. So it's no surprise that, within 48 hours of my declaring the decline of "gukh", the word again dominates Owen's speech. We're tuned into WGUK, all gukh all the time.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Life with a Smurf

For about a week, Owen's word was "gukh". About half of what he said was "gukh", often quite emphatically and definitively. We couldn't figure out exactly what it meant; given the amount he said it, I have to figure it had multiple meanings, depending on context. "Gukh" was "smurfy" for Owen.

This is written in the past tense, as Owen seems to have moved beyond "gukh". (His quick changes make timely blogging difficult.) Indeed, in the past couple of days, his vocabulary has expanded a startling amount. He's making all sorts of new sounds, finding new combinations of vowels and consonants, and mimicking us as well.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What we're not videoing

I expect that, at some point down the road, I'll regret not taking more video of Owen. I'm sure I'll want to see or hear how he used to say "ggggggg" or the army crawl he used to get around for two months. (Or was it only one? Or four? With more video, we could check and know for sure.) But the thing is, what I really want to video are the moments like these from last night:

1. Owen's always helped with the laundry. At first, when he could only sit in the bouncy chair, he'd direct the sorting, identifying clothes that should be washed in cold or on gentle, should be hung to dry, etc. As soon as he could pull up, he discovered the joy of banging on the front of the washer and dryer, great drums that they are. Now, he's taken to pulling the clothes out of the dryer. So last night, I stuck the basket next to him, and he merrily pulled things out of the dryer and dropped them right into the basket. (Given his fascination for the dishwasher, I ought to be able to get him to do the dishes by 15 months.)

2. We were sitting by the front door, sorting the mail, and Owen got the rubber, choking nub off the end of the doorstop. He was enjoying it, but I'm a little leery about the choking, so I took the nub and held it in my hand. First, I would hide it under a finger, and he would pry that finger away to find the nub. Next, I held it in my closed fist, and he would open my fist to find the nub. Then, I would pass the nub from one closed fist to the other and present him with two closed fists. He would open the fist that originally held the nub and stare in wonder at my empty palm. Then he would turn the empty hand over and around, convinced that the nub must somehow still be there, adhered to the back of the hand or something.

Those are the things I'd love to have a video of, but I don't know how to do that without videoing every moment of his life, which would seem to interfere with making such moments (not least because of his hamming it up for the camera). So I write these little notes and hope that I remember to read them down the road, and that they're half as wonderful then as they feel right now.

Oh, and speaking of wonder, Owen's wonderful sleeping of the last week (regularly until 6:30 or 7:00) seems to have gone bye-bye. Yesterday morning he was up at 5:30; today, after staying up late (making those moments I'm so keen to remember), he was squawking and standing at 5:00.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

No is no

Owen knows "no". Three times in the last 24 hours, he was messing with something he oughtn't (once the cord on a lamp, twice the broiler door). All three times, I said "no", firmly, but not particularly dramatically. All three times, he looked at me, stopped what he was doing, and started doing something acceptable without leaving the location of the forbidden fruit. As if he though, "Oh yes, that's right, I'm not supposed to pull on the lamp cord. I'll just remove these books from the shelf instead. That will be fine."

I was and am amazed, and am enjoying it while it lasts. (The Vegas line is currently another 36 hours.)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

First Blood

Owen took a tumble yesterday evening, breaking his fall with his upper lip on the edge of the coffee table. His two front upper teeth, only in for a couple of weeks now, nicely incised the inside of that lip. Blood and crying ensued. Actually, there was a good bit less crying than I had expected. He kept sucking on his upper lip, presumably trying to figure out why it was getting so puffy and now had a metallic taste. He also gave one of his "Bbbbbbb"s while the blood was still flowing, which made for a nice spray.

I should note that he didn't completely break his fall with his lip. His head bounced a bit, then he tried breaking his fall with his forehead. This, also, failed to completely break the fall - though it has given him a nice bindi - so he gave up and just went the rest of the way to the floor.

We're so proud that he is active and mobile enough to start hurting himself.

Naturally, the horse having left the barn, a pad now covers the edge of the coffee table.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Q: How do you know your new and improved interface is only the former?

A: When you have to add a search function to find commands in the menu.

Dennis O'Reilly reports that Microsoft has added a search function to help you find commands in the "ribbon" that replaced the trusty menu bar in Office 2007. Sad.

Although, this could be its own innovation. Apparently you can just type Win+Y, then the name of the command, then click from the search results to access the command. But imagine, what if the process were shortened, so that you just typed a combination of keys to directly access the command? Like Ctrl+S to save a file, or Ctrl+P to print... what possibilities! The mind boggles...

Alphabet Pal - Social Conservative

Owen got a Leapfrog Baby Alphabet Pal when he was very little from one of my work buddies. It's an inchworm with light up ears that talks. When you press any of it's 26 feet, it says a letter of the alphabet and can be set to say the letters phonetically. Now that he's actually old enough to play with it he enjoys biting the ears, looking at the battery case, and occasionaly hitting the alphabet feet.

Alphabet Pal is also fun for mom and dad. We can press the individual feet to make the Alphabet Pal say phonetically H.I. H.O.N.E.Y. H.O.W A.R.E Y.O.U? It took about 10 seconds before we tried making it say F.U._.K , D.A._.N and other choice sayings (it's ok, Owen wasn't listening). However, Alphabet Pal is too crafty and clearly we're not the only people who've tried this. Once it figures out that your intention is inappropriate, it giggles and says 'That Tickles!' I guess we'll have to amuse ourselves in some other way.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Owen Bear, Owen Bear, What Do You Read?

Owen's current favorite book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? He will preferentially pick it from a stack of books, and he turns the pages himself. Admittedly, he turns the pages with little regard to the words being read. Indeed, his pace generally requires one to read quite quickly, leaving little time for funny purple cat or blue horse voices. (Aside: The blue horse sounds like Nixon. Weird.) And once he turns the last page, he flips the whole book over, and it's time to go again. We generally go through about three or four times, though on the last pass, O will skip a few pages.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gooooooo Pope!

Pope Benedict XVI is in DC, which is causing a lot of excitement. Of course there are people just out to see him walking around the White House, riding down the street, etc. There are protesters, too. I saw two small groups yesterday. One was for separation of church and state. The other was anti-celibacy. (Specifically, for priests, but most of their slogans were not so precise.)

The happy surprise have been the papal pennants for sale on the street. They're the triangular, pseduo-felt things on a stick, that normally say "State" or "Steelers", but these have a picture of Benedict XVI. I'm still looking for pope-themed jerseys, bumper stickers, scarves, or beer hats.

The pope is holding a mass Mass at National Stadium right now, at 10AM. It's a beautiful, clear day. Makes me wish a little bit that I was a Catholic without a day job.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Where in the world is Carmen de Santiago?

She's in Paris, protesting China's hosting of the Olympics, about halfway through the article.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Red wine vinegar

I was making the shopping list this weekend, and I noticed our red wine vinegar has a sell-by date. What, I wonder, happens to vinegar when it gets too old?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Nine months old

Owen is nine months old today, and it's also Developmental Milestone Saturday:

a. For the first time, he managed to move forward on his hands and knees. He's been locomoting by army-crawl for some time now, and he would get up on his hands and knees, rocking back and forth. But this evening, visiting Eric and Christy, he managed to take a few "steps" forward in the quadrupedal crawl. I didn't even realize it at first; I saw him do it, then a few seconds later asked, "Did he just crawl?" He had done, and did it again later, just to prove it wasn't an accident.

b. As much as I have liked Time for Bed, trying to read it to him since birth, Owen has disliked the book, often crying at the sight of it. Although we'd approached the halfway point within the last month, it was only last night that we made it to the end. Owen particularly liked the little girl on the last page, smiling at her, then turning his head to beam at me, "Do you see that?" Tonight, we read the entire book again, with Owen turning each page. Again, he smiled at the girl, then me. Then he flipped the book over, and we read it again.

In honor of Anti-Developmental Milestone Saturday, Owen is doing his absolute best not to fall asleep.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Looking at the world through gray-colored glasses

It's a gray morning in DC: light drizzle from low, flat clouds. Walking down L street this morning, everything was gray: sky, buildings, road, people. Oddly, I found myself really enjoying it - big, wide grin enjoying it - to the point that I was avoiding looking at the few spots of saturated color. Mackey's red bar-front, yellow umbrellas in front of Au Bon Pain, an orange car, these tried to disrupt my perfectly muted cityscape.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Time to retire?

I saw this week that Chris Webber is retiring, at the age of 35.

From time to time I've thought about professional athletes - the non-golfers, anyway - and how strange it must be for them to have to hang it up in their thirties. I remember being in high school and reading an SI with a cover story on Michigan's Fab Five, of whom Webber was one. Since then, in my professional life, I've gone to college, decided on a major, found a job, went back to school, found a job in a new field, and now think ahead to what, potentially, the next 30 or 40 years of that career might hold. Chris Webber has played basketball. Not to say that there is no more to him than ball, but he has been focused on that job the entire time. (At least, I figure he's been focused to compete at that level.) His entire professional life has been as a player, and now, one year older than me, that life is over, whether he wants it to be or not.

Maybe it's only a difference of expectations. Webber certainly didn't expect to play in the NBA until he was eligible for Social Security, and maybe he thinks, "My word, how strange that someone one year younger than me could contemplate doing his current job for another 30 or 40 years."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

It's good to be dad

Owen was having a hard time getting to sleep tonight. After the changing and the book-reading and the bottle, when alone in the dark, there was lots of crying. When I went in to try to calm him down, some holding and Happiest-Baby-On-The-Block-brand shushing (tm) was enough to get him to stop crying (even though he's supposed to be about six months too old for that to work anymore). Once he wasn't upset about being upset, Owen started squirming, which is his bedtime way of saying, "Geez, I'm trying to go to sleep, here. Why are you holding me? Let me be in my crib, man." OK, good, I laid him down on his back, but instead of of grabbing Sheepy (one of his three, rotating crib companions) to his face, he held on to my forearm and hand. After a couple of minutes, he turned onto his side, away from me, in a typical sleeping position, and shortly thereafter, I extracted my hand. I waited for another minute or two, in case another round of crying started up. And when Owen rolled back on to his back and opened his eyes, I thought, "OK, well what will we try this time?" But he just looked at me for a second or two, then turned back to the wall and fell asleep.

I'm still floating.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Puerto Rico

So it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged (again). But I’ve been thinking about a lot of different blog posts, hence the multiple postings in a 15 minute period. Travis and I had our 1st date last week since December! Mom and Dad came and stayed with Owen for a few days and Travis joined me in Puerto Rico.
I was there for a week for a work conference, which was great. The conference speakers were very interesting, I got to meet with research collaborators, and Puerto Rico is beautifual and have great food. I also got to teach at the hands on course that was part of the conference, which included teaching attendees how to freeze parts of the GI tract with CO2. Nifty.
Travis joined me on Friday and we took advantage of our extended date! Lot of good food, basking in the sun, and hanging out with friends.
I missed Owen a lot since I was gone for a week, but having some time with Travis sans-baby was great.

8 Month Update

Owen is 8 months old. He has more hair and is much more mobile. He now eats Oatios (organic cheerios). His favorite place to play is the kitchen, which has led us to create an Owen cabinet with Tupperware, water bottles, and large plastic utensils to bang. It’s made it much easier to get ready in the morning now that he’s happy emptying his cabinet. He’s 22 pounds and 27 inches long (at least at 8.5 months, when I finally got around to posting this). He babbles, army crawls around the kitchen, and rocks on his hands and knees. He has 2 teeth and now sleeps from 7:30 pm to 6 or 6:30 am (hope I didn’t just jinx us by typing that).

Best Medical/Biology Fact of the Day

There are more bacteria in the human body than human cells. This many bacteria = 100,000,000,000,000. Nice.

Sad News

One of the young internal medicine physicians at my hospital passed away suddenly 2 weeks ago. She had a headache and two days later was dead and no one really knows what caused it. Scary and sad. Prayers and peaceful thoughts for her family, friends, and colleagues.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Happy Birthday to Travis

Travis is 34 today, so now he's almost as old as I am!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Monstrously late comment

So this is far too tardy to match the 24-hour election news cycle, but last weekend there were stories about an Obama advisor who got booted for referring to Hillary Clinton as a "monster" (off the record), with attendant shock-and-appall responses from both the Clinton and Obama campaigns.

We hear so much about the US Presidency being the hardest job in the world, being ready to answer the phone at 3 AM, etc. Couldn't we expect that individual to have a bit thicker skin? (And please understand, this is not a criticism of Hillary Clinton. This pattern is repeated innumerable times in any campaign.) Couldn't a campaign just blow this off, indicating a little more toughness and a little less political gamesmanship? "Oh that... yeah, we understand that an advisor to Obama made an off the record comment. Called Senator Clinton a 'monster', I think? Well, maybe she thinks that Senator Clinton is a tough character, maybe a little bit scary with her strength. Or maybe she said something dumb in the middle of a long, exhausting campaign. Or maybe she just doesn't like Senator Clinton. But really, does it matter? Do you really think this is the first time Senator Clinton has heard someone say something not nice about her? C'mon... Oh, but if you we're asking to check facts, no, Senator Clinton is not a vampire."

Even better would be if Clinton jumped out at the press corps, wearing a Frankenstein mask, saying, "Boogity, boogity, boogity!" but that's probably too much to hope for.

(Aside: I obviously don't understand what "off the record" means, if such a comment is immediately printed and attributed to the speaker.)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

What not to eat

I'm reading capsule endoscopy studies again (I'd put in a link to my previous rants/posts on the subject, but I don't know how). I learned some valuable info about Chicken n' Stars soup, which I used to really like growing up. The stars don't digest. Stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes, and 5 hours in the small bowel aren't enough to digest the stars. I know this because I spent 30 minutes watching stars, and the occasional bit of stringy chicken, travel through someone's digestive tract. OK, now I'm hungry.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The birds

I'm working from home today, and I just saw a marvel of nature.

I opened the front door to let Tex out. (No, of course, she didn't actually want to go out. She was just meowing at the door. And no, she's not the marvel of nature.) There was a flock of smallish, black birds down the driveway and across Ivy Terrace, making such a ruckus that I could hear them quite easily from our front door. Walking closer, I saw what had to be at least a thousand birds. Over a few minutes, most of them congregated on the ground in a backyard. That group of groundlings then flew 50 yards through some trees to some different open land. All the while, the birds had been chirping and chattering. Their calls stopped, all at once, as all of the birds took off from ground and trees. The sound of their wings was stunning: soft in quality, like a stack of frayed paper being ruffed, but loud in volume, because there were hundreds of stacks of paper, all around.

The flock redistributed themselves at the tops of trees around the Holler and resumed their calls. After a few minutes, they started to leave, a steady stream heading north. There were so many that the leaving itself took a few minutes. But then it was quiet and they were gone, black specks headed north, a few blocks or a few hundred miles.

It was a wonderful ten minutes or so. I was reminded of the cicadas in 2004.

Monday, March 03, 2008

What makes a little dude happy

We paid a quick visit to cousin E in New Jersey this weekend and had a good time hanging out with him and his dogs, Mabel and Maggie. The pups were, in fact, a highlight for Owen. He liked trying to touch their paws, though they were clearly unenthusiastic about the prospect. And he loved it when they wrestled. They did it a couple times, and both times he watched them in quiet amazement for a minute or two. And then he started to laugh, cackling with delight. It surprised me, because high-voltage hilarity is generally reserved for things being done to him: tickling, being tossed in the air, being carried up stairs. But just seeing something and laughing is rare. He'll smile at us, Carla, or a few favorite books - not necessarily in that order - but the only other time I can remember him really knocked-out amused by seeing something was when Tex leaped onto a ledge to get away from his grasp.

Mr O was also very happy to examine a VCR and a large candle-holder, as for a pillar candle, but sans candle, on a low shelf. Why the latter, when there were so many more dangerous objects around? Who's to say. The candle-holder had a reindeer motif. "Genghis loves animals," as we used to say before he was born.

Owen is a good traveler, but he seemed quite happy to get home. This also was a surprise. When he's returned from previous trips, I don't remember the sense of yay that he seemed to exhibit yesterday afternoon.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

O's Os, Part 2

I really felt like a parent this morning when I stepped on a stray Oatio this morning - not in the kitchen, mind you, but at the top of the stairs, by our bedroom.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Them's fightin' words

Elkridge Hollerer news favorite Hugo Chávez recently launched a new campaign against US "imperialism", this time in the form of English-language words at the state phone company.

I'm glad to see Chávez taking up the anti-English theme, which is a perennial favorite of mine. After all, how many times can we really hear the French exhort against le weekend or l'e-mail? But I am a little concerned that Chávez himself might be affected by this push. Will he have to change the name of his call-in TV show, "Aló Presidente"? Will he still be able to rail against yanquis?

I think I get a chuckle out of this issue because as an English-speaker, I have the moral high ground. 1066 and the subsequent couple of centuries: That was linguistic imperialism.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

El Primero O

A few weeks ago, we introduced Owen to cheerios. Except, of course, being the typeA mom that I am, we bought him froo-froo organic cheerios instead of the regular kind. He tried one, made an awful face, and hasn’t tried eating one in weeks. Never mind that he puts EVERYTHING else in his mouth. He’ll play with them on his high chair tray, scooting them around, crushing them with his mighty fists, and dropping them for the cats, but not eating them. Today, however, he picked one up (with a pincer grasp, no less) and put it in his mouth. He gummed it for awhile then swallowed it. No gagging, just an expression of puzzlement. Then he proceeded to crushing them again.

Monday, February 25, 2008

2th 2

Mystery solved. I think Friday’s sleep disturbance was related to the arrival of tooth #2. Owen slept like a champ Saturday and Sunday night. He also took a nap at a duckpin bowling alley, which is pretty impressive as it’s not particularly quiet there. I guess the only other O news of the month is that he got sick for the first time earlier this month – pinkeye! He seemed to weather it pretty well and is back to his normal self.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sleeping update and 2 firsts

The mystery of Friday night's poor sleep has been solved. All hail the arrival of tooth #2! O's other lower front tooth has just shown itself, so I'm chalking up his regression to teething. Last night he slept like a champ.

Today he had 3 firsts -
1. His first foray into the kitchen cabinet, leading to 75% of our plastic tupperware being removed from the cabinet
2. His first unrolling of toilet paper in the bathroom into a pile, which he thought was the best ever
3. He tried to pitch head first off the couch - he's used to flinging himself forward from a sitting position to get in pseudo-crawling mode. Doing this while sitting on the couch is not recommended. Fortunately, TBHE was there to catch him

OK, the sleeper awakes

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sleepin’. Or not.

So a few months ago, Owen turned into a good sleeper. Asleep without a fuss by 7:30, going to bed drowsy but awake and talking himself to sleep. There was minimal noise in the night, and then he got up at 5:30 or so. And then he started sleeping until 6, which was even better! No dream feed, no eating in the night. He’s even been napping in his crib for about 2.5 hrs a day (instead of on the nanny).
The last few days he’s decided to undo some of his progress, starting with the napping. He’s been napping for 20 min around midday, instead of 1 + hours. And last night he woke up a lot and was squawking, to finally wake up completely at about 4 am. Travis (going forward to be known as TBHE – The Best Husband Ever ™) took the 1st shift with O. Now I’m waiting for Owen to wake from his morning nap while TBHE takes a nap.

Happy Valentine’s Day (a little late)

Guess what I got for Valentine’s Day? A scale! Hmmmm…. Is Travis trying to tell me something?

OK, the scale wasn’t really for Valentine’s Day. Travis just happened to pick one up at BJ’s, which is our 2nd favorite new hangout (right after Trader Joe’s). This is how we figured out that Owen weighs 20 pounds now. Clearly he’s enjoying his baby food.

I did weigh myself and then promptly put the scale in Owen’s bathroom (it’s for him after all).

Friday, February 22, 2008

Helpful parenting advice

Thanks to the Internet, you can now find useful tips for baby-raising, presented in clear diagrams.

Thanks to SognCentral for pointing us to this. And in an odd name pseudo-similarity coincidence, the pictures seem to come from a book by the Sopps.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

In defense of the IRS

Anonymous wrote: "Ooh, an even better idea? Get rid of the IRS and bring on the Fair Tax or Flat Tax. Either sound better than the IRS's implemented chaos."

I don't know who Anonymous is, but their tone seems earnest, so I thought I'd respond:

1. If the complaint is about the efficiency of processing returns, payments, and refunds, making publications and instructions available, etc, then the IRS may be blamed. However, I think the "implemented chaos" Anonymous refers to is the complexity of the tax code. At least in my experience, that's what makes taxes painful: finding the required information, figuring out what numbers fit into what boxes (even using TurboTax), etc. It's not getting the forms, waiting months for refunds, or being visited by black-suited auditors in the night. The content of the tax code is - rightly - developed via politics, so if one wants to take issue with its complexity, first stop is the Presidents and members of Congress who have filled it with all sorts of special perks and penalties to advance their particular remedies for the ills of the American economy and/or society. For example, I understand that one of the current Presidential candidates - not the Commissioner of the IRS - has proposed a special tax regime for "patriotic" corporations.

2. I'm definitely a flat tax fan (in principle, not dogma, so let's not bother with strawmen of stupidly defined flat taxes that are stupid), but I wonder about the "Fair Tax". It has a suspiciously cheery moniker for a tax, not unlike a special tax regime for "patriot employers". More substantively, George Orwell addressed this years ago: "All [taxes] are [fair], but some [taxes] are more [fair] than others."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Exit the golden moment

William referred to "the golden moment", when the baby can sit up and move around, but can't walk. My faulty memory had that as "but can't really go anywhere and get himself into trouble". Owen has crossed the threshold. When he's sitting and wants to be somewhere else, he will now move himself from sitting to the tummy. And with his hybridization of an army crawl and the worm, he can get himself around a room... well, not "quickly", necessarily, but quickly enough that he can get himself from the safe spot you left him to someplace else faster than you can feel good about without watching him.

Likes and Dislikes

Owen continues to develop his list of likes and dislikes.

He really, really likes the broiler door, which unfortunately, is located at the bottom of the oven. While some ovens have a drawer for pans at the bottom, ours has a door that can 1. smash baby fingers 2. burn the bejeezus out of baby hands. He makes a beeline for the broiler door every time he’s in the kitchen.
** ‘beeline’ is wiggling on the tummy, army-style, until desired destination is reached and chewed.
He also has an ongoing fascination with the hinge on the refrigerator door.

He has a very strong dislike for the electric screwdriver. It brings on instant crying and dissatisfaction. Hairdryer? Vacuum cleaner? Relatively nonplussed. Electric screwdriver? Commence wailing.

Travis picked up a book on baby sign language at the library. I guess we’ll start with the signs for ‘hot’ and ‘danger’.

What passes for hope these days

From the FT today: "Barack Obama made an aggressive pitch to Ohio's blue-collar workers yesterday with a 'patriot employers' plan that would lower taxes for companies that did not ship jobs overseas. ... The plan met with skepticism from otherwise sympathetic Democratic economists, who said it would require a large regulatory and bureaucratic apparatus. 'I would say that this plan is borderline unimplementable,' said a Democratic economist in Washington DC. 'It is also puzzling. Normally presidential candidates only come up with plans that are unrealistic when they are losing.'"

Doubtless Obama will fully embrace the logic of his plan by today announcing a "patriot consumers" plan that would enact a federal sales tax, waived for those consumers whose purchases contain a certain percentage of goods made in the USA.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Entropy machine

Like Bisousette, our young gentleman is a licensed agent of S.L.O.T. (the Second Law of Thermodynamics). He can be off in some far corner of the room, and as soon as he hears the stacking rings being stacked, he'll turn and wriggle across the floor to knock them over. The same goes for the stacking cups, whether they be stacked or ordered into a nice, nested pile.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Danger, O William!

Owen is absolutely fascinated by plastic bags. Whenever they are being used in his earshot, it's all stop so he can stare in wonder. Perfect. A suffocation/choking hazard is his favorite thing in the world. I wonder what other perils around the house he'll be irresistibly drawn to.

  • Matches?
  • Stairs?
  • Knives? (Remember the safety motto: "No knives till five keeps kids alive!")
  • Full-automatic assault rifles?
  • Off-balance-sheet accounting?
  • Les Cousins Dangereux DVD?

Owen can't lick his lips

So when the delicious oatmeal, barley, or multi-grain cereal is stuck to the margins of his mouth, there it remains.

Lip-licking: another skill that I didn't realize one had to learn.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The witching hour

Some nights, from time to time, Owen wakes at 10:30 or so, crying badly. These are not the subconscious mutterings of, "Hey, where's Sheepy? Where... oh, there it is. Let me mash it against my face. Mmf. Mmf. Ahh..." but rather the waking cries of, "AAHHHHHHHH! Pain! Fear! Pain!" Last night, I heard a sound that preceded the crying. I didn't recognize it at all; it sounded like a combination of choking and running water. Only when Owen started crying did I realize that it had been him, at which point that strange, earlier sound became one of the worst things I'd ever heard.

The good news is that these bad dreams - at least that's what we think they are - are consolable. The first time, we fed him. The next time, he was falling back to sleep with Kerry by the time I got the bottle warmed. Last night, I knew to immediately scoop him up, and within a couple of minutes, he was heading back to the non-scary counties of the Dreaming.

And here's where I start to feel a little guilty, when I get happy from my son's trauma. Because there is nothing that feels as good as that little person falling asleep in my arms. His head in the fold of my elbow, his arms gradually relaxing to lie against his side or dangle past my forearm - it's truly one of the best feelings I've ever known. I'm sorry that he was terrified from his sleep, but that moment makes it all better - at least for me.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The King of Kong

"The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters" is a documentary about one man's recent quest to break the 20+ year old record score for Donkey Kong. It's a well-made, unsettling movie, which made me never want to be the best in the world at anything. The people in the competitive classic video gaming game are deceitful (of others or themselves), paranoid, manipulative, and/or obsessive. This may be true of the elites in any field - business, politics, sport, art - but in an arena that seems to comprise about 75 people in the world, and for the rest of us just represents memories of well-spent quarters (if ill-spent time), it's a little disturbing.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Sour puss

When eating tart fruits (eg, apples, peaches), Owen occasionally makes an awesome sour face. The spoonful goes in, then a couple of moments later, the mouth puckers, the eyes screw shut, and the eyebrows raise. It lasts less than a second, but it's absolutely hilarious.

It doesn't happen with every spoonful, and he's clearly not repulsed, as the mouth and eyes open back up, indicating readiness for more. There is no gagging - green beans, I'm looking in your direction - so it's OK for me to laugh at his shock.

Unfortunately, I've not been able to photograph this phenomenon, primarily because it is intermittent and short-lived. But also, when Owen sees the camera, he is enthralled to the point of not noticing any tartness, or sometimes to the point of not eating. (In fact, Owen is fascinated with all things electronic. Camera, cell phone, Blackberry, remote control, phone handset, laptop - no matter the package, he can sense a circuit board, and is drawn to it.)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Work Blues and Partly Digested Food

I haven’t gotten to spend as much time as I like with O this week, giving me a bit of the work blues. It’s my week to be responsible for my nemesis – capsule endoscopy.

It’s a nifty procedure. Just swallow a camera the size and shape of a big vitamin, wear a recorder, and 8 hours later download photos of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and colon. Very useful for examining the small intestine that can’t be reached with other kinds of endoscopy, but a huge pain to interpret. Each study has 8 hours of recording time, generating 57,600 images which must all be looked at. Unfortunately, there’s no helpful computer program to make the reading easier (by marking the abnormalities for me). And the software has the not-so-useful characteristic of occasionally corrupting the findings, resulting in getting to re-read the entire study. This happened to me today for the first time, but I won’t repeat the string of swear words and grumbling that erupted when I realized I would now be reading the study again. The capsule images are turned into a video, so it’s like watching a trip through the GI tract, but not as funny as when it happens on the Simpsons or Futurama, and not as cool as when it gets shown on a science show. There’s always a few people who don’t follow the prep instructions, so I get to look at their partly digested food. There’s also a bit of a seasick factor when watching the images as the capsule really bounces around in the stomach. Oh well, I finished my 8 studies for the week and now don’t have to read them again for a few months. Hmm, writing about Owen is more fun…


Owen pulled up to standing today. He was sitting in his crib and managed to pull himself up. Then he did it with his activity table. Yesterday, he apparently spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to pull to standing. Nanny Carla described a look of very intense concentration during the effort (I suspect it’s similar to Travis’s look when he’s reading the Economist).

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Toothy goodness

Owen has a tooth. I discovered this last week (or maybe the week before) because he bit me. It’s small, and razor sharp. When he wants to give something a good chew, he finds a stationary object and rubs his gums back and forth on it, like a dog shaking a chew toy. He does the same motion for toys he can pick up – moving his head rather than the toy.
In other tooth news, O is fascinated when I brush my teeth. I draw the same scrutiny and look of intense concentration that his ‘Old McDonald’s Farm’ book gets (his current favorite). Hopefully he’ll enjoy us brushing his tiny tooth – not sure when this is supposed to start, so I guess I’ll have to read up on it.