Saturday, September 11, 2010


Today is our 11 year wedding anniversary! I'll have to try to scan some of our wedding photos as digital copies weren't really even an option back in 1999. Our wedding was lots of fun, and it was nice to finally be married, after being engaged for almost 2 years (due to living in different cities)!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Katherine milestone update

Katherine's second and third words are, respectively, "no" and "go". And speaking of going, last week, after months of accomplished cruising and weeks of free standing, she took her first steps.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Chef Owen

Owen took timeout from his dinner to make Katherine some noodles. "Making noodles" entailed getting coriander from the pantry, putting some in a pot in his play kitchen, stirring, pouring into the colander, and then pouring it into a few more pots besides. It was terribly thoughtful of him. Nonetheless, it was probably best that Katherine didn't try any of the noddles. (But I think that I get some bonus dad points for eating dry coriander and praising Owen's cooking.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Return of Brown Bear

Katherine has developed Owen's love of 'Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?' by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle. Owen preferentially chose B4 over all books for months when he was this age, demanding that we read it over and over again.

Last night Katherine wiggled out of my lap and pulled B4 off the shelf. She loves it just as much as her big brother, although her favorite part so far is poking Red Bird in the eye.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hello, world


10 REM Katherine's first word
100 SAY "Hello"
110 INPUT Reply$
120 IF Reply$ <> "Hello" THEN GOTO 110
140 IF RANDOM(1) < .333 THEN WAVE
150 GOTO 100

For those of you not feeling your old-school BASIC, Katherine's first word is "hello" (really). She says it to you and is very happy when you reply in kind, sometimes so much so that she'll wave.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


One of the joys of living in The Holler is fireflies in the summer. They've arrived. Actually, I saw the first ones a couple of weeks ago, but they're really out in force now.

Monday, June 07, 2010

BP refining safety citations

FlowingData shows OSHA citations issued to BP refining over June 2007-Feb 2010. Not only did BP get many more citations per barrel processed, they were overwhelmingly of a more serious nature than the citations issued to other US refiners. Maybe there is something fundamental I don't understand about OSHA citations, but these numbers make BP refining look very bad, maybe even evil. The numbers are particularly bad as they all come after BP's 2005 Texas City explosion, when BP supposedly got religion about safety and operations.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Thank you, William

William got me this T-shirt:

which has caused awesomeness over the last two days.

1. At Trader Joe's yesterday, a woman almost did a spit take when she saw it. I was delighted, as no one has ever done a spit take on account of my hilarious clothing. And as she had just gotten a steaming hot sample of coffee, an almost spit take was probably best for all concerned.

(There may be something about TJ for great Ts. About a month ago there, I complemented a guy on his 100% tremendous echo base T-shirt.)

2. Yesterday, Owen asked me about the scene on the shirt. I described it as, "This is a Conestoga wagon. These are oxen pulling the wagon. And these ninjas are making them stop and go another way."

He asked for clarification on oxen - "They are like big, strong cows", if you were wondering - but after that it was all about the ninjas. We still try to avoid assassins and the like in conversations with Owen, so conflating a white lie with outlandish historical falsehood, I characterized them as "naughty, mischievous people" who interfered with pioneers on the frontier. For whatever reason, this captivated his imagination, and when I further mentioned that there was a Conestoga wagon at the B&O Railroad Museum, well... now ninjas and Conestoga wagons were cemented together in his mind, bound by his favorite place on earth. Further adding to the excitement, he specifically associated the wagons and the ninjas with the turning of the Thacher Perkins, a one-time event from March. We talked about the wagon and the ninjas multiple times yesterday and today. At one point, there was a minute-plus speech about "going to the museum, to open the manhole, to go down in the cave [the space under the roundtable], to see the wagon". Further discussion clarified a few points:

a. How could a Conestoga wagon fit in the "cave" under the turntable? (As you can infer from the video, it's less than six feet from the top of the turntable to the earthen floor below.) Owen thought that the picture of the wagon on my t-shirt was essentially life-sized.

b. When Owen says "ninja", it sounds an awful lot like "engine", of which there are many at the B&O. So perhaps he thought the ninjas were engines, and that's why they were at the museum? Or maybe engines are mischievous (for which I blame Thomas; there's a potentially massively tedious post coming on this), like ninjas? Anyway, I think there was some intriguing cross-talk between phonology and semantics going on in Owen's head.

The excitement reached a fever pitch this afternoon, when I told Owen that we could go to the museum to see the wagon. He immediately said that he also wanted to see the engines/ninjas stopping the wagon. I explained that there would be no ninjas at the museum, but I think he thought I was just trying to set him up for a surprise. Arriving at the museum, we went straight to the wagon, and Owen asked to see the ninjas. I reminded him that there were none at the museum, wary of the letdown after 24+ hours of buildup for this moment. He paused, then went to the rest of the museum without a word.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thank you, Oma

This evening, Owen he announced that he had a present for Katherine in his (empty) hand. "It's a marble. A pink marble. A package came for Katherine and Owen opened it for her."

"Oh? Who sent her the package?"

"Mmmm... Grandma Oma*."

So, Oma, on behalf of your granddaughter, thank you for the phantom pink marble.

* She was only "Oma" until her last visit, when Owen added the "Grandma" in front of it. It's only there occasionally, so I think it's more of a title than a name, used whenever extra respect is due.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Golden Age of Baby

Katherine is truly in the Golden Age of Baby. She's sleeping better, loves her mushy baby food, and has a huge smile that she employs very frequently to woo everyone around her. She makes cute cooing noises and likes to grab toys and shake them. She likes to sit and watch Owen as he runs around wrecking things and is more likely to laugh in response to his mayhem than anything else. She is also learning to creep. She doesn't go anywhere quickly, but she definitely gets to her destination. She'll start of playing on her quilt and a minute later is belly-crawling into the kitchen to check out the action.

Right now the destination seems to be the refrigerator...

Who knew that the refrigerator could be so interesting. She just had a long conversation with the fridge and gave it a few hits with her tiny (but mighty). fist.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Numbers don't lie, but they can tell stories

From, "Same data, two charts, two different impressions, both fundamentally true yet also fundamentally misleading in opposite ways." A clear, accessible and thoughtful discussion. (Hat tip to Chris.)

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Just to repeat what everyone else has said about it, Avatar is stunning, and if you have any interest in it at all, you should see it on the big screen. I have to think the IMAX would be nice, but we couldn't go there because the theater was closed due to the threat of the building collapsing under accumulated snow (or so the sign taped to the door indicated). We did see it in 3D. The 3D was more subtle than other 3D movies I've seen. I think it generally gave the visuals a certain richness, though I felt like there was a certain blurriness at times towards the edge of the screen. I'd like to watch parts in 2D to compare.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Getcher math on

The New York Times has started a series of columns on math, "from pre-school to grad school", written by Steven Strogatz, a Cornell professor. It starts with the basics - in this case, counting, featuring a clip from Sesame Street. Looks promising.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Katherine had prunes today - her first fruit - so you might think this is going to be a gross baby food story, but no. She loved the prunes far too much to squander their yumminess on mess-making.

This story is about buying flounder stuffed with crab meat from Trader Joe's. (A 6-ounce serving for $2.99. Such a deal, right?) I explained to Owen that "stuffed" meant that there was one food inside another. In this case, there was crab inside the flounder. First he wanted to see the crab. "Well, we can't see it now. We'll see it once we've cooked it and cut into the fish."

"Crab have claws?" "Yes, but they take off the claws before they stuff the crab in the fish."

"Mommy and baby crab inside." Umm...

"Daddy crab talking. Crab have mouths."

Thankfully, by this point we were ready to check out, which provided a helpful distraction. If he'd kept going, describing how much the crabs were looking forward to their family vacation to North Carolina*, I might have had to put it back.

* North Carolina is Owen's go-to spot these days. When a spaceship blasts off, it's almost always going to North Carolina. When Owen crawls underneath Katherine's crib or a blanket, he will declare himself to be in a cave in North Carolina.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Our newest foodie

Katherine has started the solid food. She was ready for the cereals and worked through rice, oatmeal and barley in fairly short order. Now starting veg, sweet potatoes have been a huge hit, and squash was pretty well received. The jury is still out on peas, but we've only had one try so far.

She gets pretty excited sometimes, leaning forward with her mouth open for each bite. As often as not, though, her excitement manifests as grabbing the part of the spoon loaded with food and then trying to shove the whole fist-ball of spoon and strained goodness into her mouth. Less effective.

Today's Owenisms

Carla folded a paper boat for Owen, which he pronounced "the most beautiful boat I've ever seen". He also described his spaceship (a partially unfolded paper airplane) as "the most beautiful spaceship I've ever seen".

Concerning the spaceship, he said, "Need engines to blast off." One at a time, he picked four engines off the floor and attached each to the spaceship: two at the bottom and two on the wings. (Spaceship engines are surprisingly small, fitting between the forefinger and thumb of a 2.5-year-old.) You could tell when each engine had been attached, because Owen said "tck". Then, "1, 2, 3, blastoff!" (He's doubtless rolling his eyes and sighing on the inside every time I mistakenly count backwards before a blastoff or shampoo rinsing.)

In the past week, Owen's taken to saying "actually" for emphasis. I'd wonder where he picked that up, except that I was mocked for it in college. So I guess I did it to him. Sorry, son.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


A letter to the editor of The Economist, January 7, 2010:

SIR – When I was a medical student one of the most popular lectures was given by an expatriate Haitian professor who explained the pharmacology that created real zombies (“Invasion of the living dead”, December 19th). Unrepentant troublemakers in small Haitian villages were sometimes dealt with by a shaman, who would prepare a powder from the skin of a blowfish mixed with ground glass. This was surreptitiously placed on the doorstep of the home of the victim, whose bare feet rubbed and absorbed the toxin.

The active ingredient of this poison was tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin which can paralyse and reduce breathing and heart rates to undetectable levels while preserving consciousness. The victim fell ill and “died”, to be buried in a wooden coffin. The night of the funeral, the shaman exhumed the “corpse” and took it away to his home. If the victim was fortunate (or maybe not) the toxin wore off, but the shaman then kept him stupefied with “zombie cucumber”, or jimson weed, which contains the hypnotic drug scopolamine. Zombies were used as slaves by the shamans, but occasionally escaped and returned to their villages. Imagine the power this gave to the elite: anyone who crossed their path could not merely be killed, but punished in the afterlife as well.

Dr Philip Early
Fresno, California

Thursday, January 14, 2010

8-year-old on TSA security list

The New York Times reports on Mikey Hicks, age 8, who has been on the TSA "selectee" list for additional security screening since age 2. (link here, don't know how long it will work; and hat tip to Kerry for the article)

I love the "mythbusting" on the TSA website:

Myth: The No-Fly list includes an 8-year-old boy.
Buster: No 8-year-old is on a T.S.A. watch list.

You know, mythbusting - getting through all the formalities and clutter to provide answers that real people can understand. But look at the bureaucratic, legalistic thinking behind the mythbust: "There are no 8-year-olds on the no-fly list. Oh, that other list... the selectee list... well, that's a totally different list, you see. Not really a watch list at all. Of course there are 8-year-olds on that list." (But not "as a rule". Thanks for the clarification, TSA spokesman James Fontenos.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Today's milestones

1. Owen sends his first email. Or so he thinks. For bedtime reading, he handed me a stack of Space Shuttle photos and announced, "Owen sending email."

2. Owen pulls Dad's leg. He was being uncooperative - I think with toothbrushing, or maybe putting on PJs - and then stopped, looked at me and with a perfectly impish grin said, "Teasing Daddy."