Monday, December 26, 2005

A Very Pukey Christmas

I feel incredibly powerful this Christmas... I brought the plague upon two households within a less than 24 hour period of time. Friday afternoon I came home from work to start packing us up for our holiday trip. In the middle of packing, I started feeling ick. By the time we were ready to leave, I'd puked everything left in my stomach that hadn't already left another way. (Pleasant, I know!)

But, we only go out to Wyoming for Christmas once every few years, and I wasn't willing to disappoint all the Boal relatives by not bringing Ellie out for the holiday. So, Sarahlynn drove the whole way up to Valparaiso, despite the fact that the two of us combined had only accumulated one night's sleep over the course of the week. We arrived there around midnight, immediately went to bed, and were roused again at 2:45 so that we could get ready and drive to Midway airport for our 6am flight to Casper.

A still felt somewhat ick, but the vomiting (worse than I've done in YEARS) had helped clear things up.

Flights out to Wyoming were amazingly on time; Christmas Eve service was great (if a bit too late to have kept Ellie awake); and gift opening was outstanding! (Soon to come are pictures taken with our new digital camera!)

Fast forward two days...

Sarahlynn's father, in Valparaiso is puking sick. This from a man who NEVER gets sick.
Sarahlynn's been sick and is just now recovering.
My sister Anny is on the up-swing, too.
Brother-in-law Rob, though, is now hooked up to IVs in the hospital. (He has kidney disease, so when puking (etc) screws with your electrolytes, it's a good idea to have an IV to help out with that.)

Turns out that my Iowa relatives have also had the same thing. I haven't seen them since July, though, so I'll not take credit for that.

Beware of me, Plague Carrier!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Third Amendment

Recently, the press has published stories about GW authorizing the NSA to spy on the communications of people inside the United States without explicitly going through the secret court that usually authorizes such things. We're talking specifically about communications between someone inside the US and someone outside the US. Not that this makes a difference to me. Our law enforcement system tends to be based on the principle that you can't violates someone privacy unless you have reasonable cause. (I should know. I watch all three (four for a while) Law and Order shows!)

I remember hearing various conversations on NPR about where the "constitutional" right to privacy comes from. Sure, there are things about not being forced to testify against yourself, not being tried twice for the same crime, the right to know the charges against, to be defended by an attorney, etc. But I guess there's some confusion about whether an explicit right to privacy is laid out in the Constitution.

Which brings me to the obscure little Third Amendment in the Bill of Rights:
"No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

OK. Super. I don't want the military taking over my house. Great. Why does this even matter. Well, there's some history here, if you're interested.

I like to believe that this Amendment did, indeed, have something to say about whether or not the government (military, intelligence, Congress, anybody) has the right to just come and hang out in my home -- regardless of whether the "hanging out" is done physically or virtually by way of monitoring my communications. Maybe "without the consent of the owner" would also cover a situation in which a spy was deployed to infiltrate someone's personal life and surupticiously get information from that person.

Just a thought...

Christmas Letter Woes

Sarahlynn did a wonderful job writing and preparing our Christmas letter for this year. It's got nice things to say about all of our individual adventures this year, a top ten list, a family Christmas picture, happy wishes for everyone, all to be printed on nicely bordered paper. Well, the printing didn't get off the ground as quickly as we'd hoped because of frustrating printer problems.

Well, those printer problems have finally be rectified via the purchase of an early Christmas present... a new printer. This one (Epson CX7800) is a nice step up from the previous model (Epson CX5400). It can scan negatives and slides. It has slots for all varieties of camera memory. A USB port to connect cameras directly. Great automatic photo adjustment settings. All kinds of super features! Merry (early) Christmas to me.

Now I can print a nice print out of this to put up at work. (And boy does it make nice prints!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Potty Training

Ellie's moved up to the 2 year-olds' classroom at school. Along with that promotion comes pottty training. We've already been working on that at home for a few months now -- in fact, Ellie really got into the idea for a while. We're in a bit of a relapse right now, because Ellie thinks it's funny, I suppose, to watch Mama or Dada race with her to the potty chair whenever she starts to grunt. Or perhaps she enjoys watching us rush to ask: "Who do you want to take you to the potty? Mama or Dada." (That would be Mom's rendition of the question. You can imagine what mine sounds like.) So, potty training is going.

It's amazing to watch some of the older kids in her class, though. Some of them wear underpants fulltime and have to button and zip their own pants after going! Impressive, in my book. It'll be nice to have Ellie out of diapers some day. I'm guessing 6-9 months out.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving Fun

Well, one of my favorite holidays is done and so starts the official winter holiday season. Here's my flourish of random thoughts from the Thanksgiving vacation and about the upcoming holidays.

(1) I love Thanksgiving for a few reasons: turkey, ham, stuffing, yams, green bean casserole, chocolate pecan pie, time off from work, the in-laws, and Harry Potter.

(2) I love the end of Thanksgiving because it means I'm allowed to listen to Christmas CDs again!

(3) This year, we celebrated my mother-in-law's birthday while we were there for Thanksgiving. Pumpkin shaped cake was a miraculous achievement! And I really enjoyed building the winter setting for her to display the ceramic cottages she collects!

(4) The drive home on I-80 around the south of Chicago is always a little rough. This year it was accentuated by even more road construction than usual, an accident on I-55 that slowed things down, and a flat tire! 5 hour drive --> 7 hour trip.

(5) I absolutely LOVE my daughter. Over Thanksgiving, she learned to scold the big dogs when they came too close to her food; and on the trip home, she decided that Lizzi shouldn't be allowed to encroach upon her half of the back seat. "No!" "No!" "No!"

I love the holidays!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Math Redux

Yesterday, I had a great reminder of some old math lessons that I haven't thought much about in a few years. Remember "banker's rounding," also known as round-to-even. Most people learn about this technique somewhere in highschool, be it a math or science class. For me, it was sophomore chemistry. Most people promptly forget about it and go on about their business, rounding numbers with, what some situations show, zero-biased calculations.

If you don't recall, the basic premise is this: If you are rounding a number, and the most left-most number to be removed is a 5, then you round to the prior digit to the nearest even number. For example, I want to round these numbers to the nearest whole number:

Banker's Traditional 14.5 14 15 15.5 16 16

As you can see, with traditional rounding, 5's always round up. With banker's rounding, 5's always round you to the nearest even number. As the theory goes, statistically speaking, 5 is smack in the middle of 1 and 9. It has no tendency to lean up or down. So, it should round up or down with equal likelihood to minimize the bias of the rounding. So, evens round down, odds round up... that is, you always round to the nearest even number.

Anyway, I ran across this at work yesterday. We're setting up a new Teradata system to replace our existing DB2 one. BIIIIIG databases. Well, the new system users banker's rounding by default. The old one doesn't. I'm absolutely sure that some user, despite not knowing SQL from a bad spinoff, will notice that some average dollar amount is off by 1 penny between the two systems. OMG! It'll be the end of the world, I'm sure.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Different Kinds of Sick

My wife and I are very different people when we're sick. If I've got a fever, my skin aches, my kidneys hurt, my back is sore... and I love having my back rubbed. I like cuddling. I like cool breeze on my skin.

My wife: She can't stand touching when she's sick. She can't hardly have me in the same room with her sometimes. She needs to be alone.

It sucks when we're both sick.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


I think of myself as a bit of a Hippie sometimes. I'm not nearly old enough to be one, of course. The important thing is that I tend to either like people or feel indiferent about them. I very rarely can say that I really hate someone. Here's the history of the people that I've hated.

c. 1985: There was a kid in grade school, 1st grade, that I really hated. He was the main "bully" at school. He pushed me down once, into the mud, and I had to go to the nurses office to get a loaner pair of jeans. (Her office was right next to the principal's, who I believed kept a belt on the wall with nails through it!!)

c. 1988: There was another bully. 4-6th grade, I think. He was really a jerk to everyone. Another classic bully. But the enmity he shows toward others. It made me sick.

c 1994: In high school, there was another guy in the low brass section of the band (I played trombone) that I really hated. I don't know exactly why. I have to admit that it might have been a little jealousy. He was awfully good. But there was something else about him that just made me hate him.

c. 2005: A coworker, whose head is just a bit too big to fit through the door, thinks that his latest undeserved promotion makes him just slightly higher than God on the VIP list. And he's behaving much like God -- the Old Testament, fire and brimstone sort of God. Ugh.

As far as I can recall, these are the only people I've ever HATED. I've been turned off by other peopel's behavior, but always been able to excuse or forgive them. Not these four, though.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Bad Onion?

The land of the free!?

Quoting from slashdot:
"You might have thought that the White House had enough on its plate late last month, what with its search for a new Supreme Court nominee, the continuing war in Iraq and the C.I.A. leak investigation. But it found time to add another item to its agenda - stopping The Onion (soul sucking, life sapping, irritating, obnoxious, but still free registration), the satirical newspaper, from using the presidential seal." The only joke here is that our tax dollars are being spent on this.
It's great to know that the White House is keeping an eye out for abuses of our national symbols. I wish they'd ask all those people with white sun-bleached "Support Out Troops" ribbons to remove them from their cars.

Monday, October 24, 2005

To infinity and... not quite 12 meters

The space elevator project is fascinating. If you haven't heard about this idea, take a look. The basic principle is that if you can get a massive enough object into geosynchronous orbit around the earth, then you can run a cable between that "anchor" and a platform on the earth to transport materials into orbit. Great idea! Of course the physics of gravity and fuel efficiency interrupt the dream to remind us that fuel has a lot of weight and that this big strong cable is going to have a weight to. Scientific American, this month, points out that gravity may really just be an illusion anyway, but don't tell these guys who are competing in a NASA space elevator contest.

So, no one won the contest by achieving the objective of raising a light-powered platform 61 meters.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Today was Ellie's 2nd birthday party! What an amazing thing to think about. It was two years ago now that Sarahlynn spent the night laboring; two years ago that we drove down to the hospital in the morning -- despite my insisting that we should just wait until Sarahlynn's 12:00 OB appointment. (Ellie would have been born in our bed if we'd tried waiting!) Two years ago that I got to watch Ellie be born; and got to call all of our friends and family and brag about her birth.

Time really is a weird thing -- relative in more ways, of course, than Einstein tells us. It seems so long ago. Ellie's been through open-heart surgery. She's learned to eat. She's learned to say "Mom" and "Dad," among her plethora of other words! She's learned to roll over, sit up, crawl, stand, and (almost) walk. She's potty training! She's already been all over the eastern 2/3rds of the country: from Wyoming to New Orleans to Chicago to Boston and Disney World!

Well, today was Ellie's birthday party. Along with tradition (sort of), Ellie got to invite two of her friends from school. We also invited family friend, Oliver, who isn't even 1 yet.

Sarahlynn came up with the most amazing cake this year: Dora the Explorer's Backpack.
A little back story here. Sarahlynn comes from a family where birthday cakes are a big deal. They're always representative of some major event from the latest year of the celebrant's life. So, one summer, her family went on a big white water rafting trip. So, one cake, that year, was iced with blue ripples of frosting, tipped with white caps; a brown shoreline; celery stalks for trees along the banks; little rafts from Tootsie-Rolls; and half-grapes to represent little floating helmets that had fallen out the rafts! Amazing.

Sarahlynn certainly out did herself and lived up to family tradition with Ellie's cake:

My wife's amazing! It's no wonder my daughter's so great!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Parenting - Disney World Style

Well, I'm a little late in posting this story, but I do love sharing it...

I was lucky enough to get to go to a conference for work in Disney World! So, we decided to make a family vacation out of it and take Ellie to visit her favorite donkey... and that mouse guy, too. I'll leave a major post about the vacation to Sarahlynn; she'll do the trip more justice that I would.

I do need to share my favorite part of the whole vacation, though. (And it's my favorite not because I enjoyed it at the time, but because I get to tell other people the story over and over and over.)

Disney World has a wonderful deal with several of the major airlines, now. You can actually get your boarding pass and check you luggage AT your Disney resort hotel. Wonderful! All we had to do Monday morning was take our luggage to the check-in area, they check us in, tag our bags, and take them off to the airport for us. Awesome. So, we leave our carry-ons with the bell-stand and head off for a fun day at Animal Kingdom before our evening flight.

Animal Kingdom was fun.

So we arrive back at the hotel just in time to catch our Disney Express bus back to the airport. Halfway to the airport, Ellie has diarrhea. While sitting on Dad's lap. And it leaks out. On his shorts. On his shirt. Oh, was I SOOOO glad that we checked our luggage at the hotel. (ugh) We had a spare outfit for Ellie, of course.

As soon as we got to the airport, I headed straight to a bathroom to clean up. Got Ellie cleaned up. Got her spare outfit on. Mom was nice enough to go to the nearest store and buy me a new shirt... no shorts or pants to speak of at the NASA gift store in the airport, unfortunately. Well, Sarahlynn claims they had full body jumpers, like the one she bought as Ellie's new spare outfit, that were adult size. I think security might have held me up for a while, though, if I tried to walk through in a big NASA jumper with footies.

Well, I cleaned up my shorts as best I could and proudly paraded through security with a soaking wet crotch. (No, the bathrooms didn't have driers!)

If you're brave enough, here's my picture after some basic preliminary cleanup...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Katrina on Google Maps

No matter what you think about the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, New Orleans doesn't look the same. Now Google Maps can help you understand just how massive the devastation is. It provides both pre-Katrina satellite as well as post-Katrina satellite imagery. Check out the highways, and the parks, and the train depots, and... everything.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Lego + Escher

Some people have way too much fun!

Buy Tom Bihn

Some things just don' t make their way far enough into main stream media. I just stumbled across this entry at Apparently, a bag manufacturer snuck a wonderfully subversive message into their products a little while back. Right below the French version of the washing instructions is the quip:


I'll let all of you non-French readers enjoy the translation in the Snopes entry...

Suffice it to say, we should all be buying Tom Bihn products.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Specifications for Lasagna

I found this site posted on Slashdot quite some time ago, lost it, and then stumbled upon it a few weeks ago. Now I'm blogging it so that I never forget again... (That's the kind of person I am: have to write it down or else I forget.)

There's a back story here: I can't make lasagna. That isn't entirely true. I can make lasagna, but it never turns out exactly as the instructions explain it should. Why? Because I can't follow recipes. And, for some reason, lasagna recipes are the hardest for me to follow.

It isn't that I don't understand the words or the technical language being used. "Stir" here, "mix" there, and "preheat oven" make perfect sense to me. The problem, here's an example, is that the recipe goes through all the mixing and preparing and then says "bake in preheated 350F oven for 40 minutes"...

WHAT? What preheated oven? When should I have preheated the oven? Where was that step!?

Admittedly, some recipes are better than others, but the people who write recipes aren't engineers. Engineers write specifications that can be read and understood in a clear, straightforward, repeatably accurate way. (Well, good engineers are supposed to be able to do that. I took Tech Writing in college with some people who were simply incompetent writers. I'm not the best speller, but I think I can write a halfway useful specification.)

Anyway, that's why Sarahlynn won't let me make lasangna. I always miss something or make a silly mistake somewhere. Not critical to the edibility of the final product, but annoying enough to warrant not letting me make lasagna on my own.

The solution: Cooking for Engineers!

These aren't always the most elegant dishes, but the approach that the authors of these recipes takes to explaining is pure genius.

Oh, the other part of back story here is that I'm a very visual person. Graphs. Charts. Diagrams. Numbers. These are the best ways of conveying information, in my opinion. Accompanying text is important, but once you've read the text once, the associated artifacts are should need to refresh your memory or explain the concepts to someone else. Picture's worth a thousand words... or a million lines of code.
As for the recipes, they're drawn out in a type of diagram that shows how different ingredients are being combine and in what order. At a glance, it can show you the chronology of preparing the dish, as well as where there are opportunities for parallelism in the preparation and what the dependencies are between different steps. Brilliant!

Maybe there's hope for me and lasagna yet:

More Aimlessness

So, this stumbling thing was really addictive for a while, but I've calmed down now. Here's a summary of the most interesting places I've stumbled upon:

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Fall Vacations / Work

It would appear that I'm going to get to have some fun this fall!!

Number 1
First, I'm going on a business trip to Orlando, FL in late September. 5-day vendor conference. Lots of schmoozing. Some (hopefully good) technical workshops. Sure we're staying at the Swan & Dolphin in Disney World... but it's a business trip...

But... you're right. While I'm there, we might as well ALL go and spend some good quality family time hanging out at the Disney World parks. Heck, when you can spend $15 on plane tickets (frequent flyer miles), that really does make for an affordable vacation. I just can't wait for Ellie to meet Eeyore! It's too bad that the Dora the Explorer isn't a Disney character.

Number 2
Then, much less exciting I assure you, is a trip in October to Washington D.C. Again a business trip, but for some training by one of the classic gurus in my field. I'm still awfully excited to go.

Walking... Walking...

Ellie's starting to walk!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Family Pains

Some families are painful to be around. Mine's just painful to look at.

But we're a great family to be around!

This family picture was from our new annual tradition of Christmas in July. We used to have a strong family tradition for celebrating Christmas at the farmhouse in Iowa, but as the families have grown bigger with a new generation of kids and spouses, we've decided it's more practical to shift to a new tradition. As long as the weather isn't as hot as it was this year, it'll be a great tradition!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Moons Over My Hammy

Denny's has always had some really bad names for their platters, but that's one delicious sandwich.

Insert rough segue using the fact that this sandwich has cheese on it, and the moon is made of cheese, and...

Google does some great holiday logos. July 20th's logo, commemorating the first moon landing was cute. The link though, is hilarious. Zoom in and take as close a look as possible at the landing sites on Google's map of the moon.

On a related note, I have a coworker who really believes that the moon landings were all faked. He's got a background in Electrical Engineering and a Master's in Computer Science, and believes that we couldn't have created the technology to land on the moon and return in 1969. I've got respect for the guy, but on this, I think he's a bit wacko, personally.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Another Geeky Announcement

The last time I saw the first silver screen rendition of the Transformers, I was 9 years old. It was awesome, as I recall thinking then. Of course, I rended it several years later when I was in my late teens. It wasn't really so good. Still, I loved seeing an 85 minute long episode of one of my favorite cartoons.

When I went off to college my parents decided that all of my Transformer toys should stay with them. Someday they might have grandkids who would like to play with them. The time has come, but I still think it'll be a little while until Ellie wants to play Transformers with her dad.

To tide me over, it turns out, there's a new Transformers movie to be released in Jul 2007! The most amazing thing is that this looks to be a live action movie rather than animated. Can't wait.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

It's fun to be a nerd.

This fall, the greatest new TV series to hit public television: NerdTV
See the story on slashdot.

Monday, July 11, 2005

One for Every occasion

I somehow got involved in the middle of a technical spat that occurred via email between a developer and a project manager that I work with... I guess as a technical lead, that's my role. But at the resolution of the conflict, I took a few minutes to relax and enjoy my screensaver, which is, of course, pictures of Ellie. She's got an expression appropriate to every situation:

"Why do you hate me!"

"I'm a perfect angel..."

"This is the best day of my life!"

"Good oral hygiene is important."


And I'll let this one speak for itself, and apologize in advance for the embarrassment to my daughter.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"Ewww," the doctor said

You don't ever really like to hear your doctor say "ewww" when he looks at your throat. Well, we all came down with sore throats this weekend, and Ellie tested positive for strep. The pediatrictian prescribed Amoxicillin for Ellie and Mom, and I went to see my doctor today. He asked me how I was feeling, checked my ears, listened to me breathe, then went to go look at my throat... "ewww" is the exact quote. "Oh!" was his med-student's followup. I thought about posting a picture of my throat, but decided that wouldn't really be nice to anyone who reads blogs around meal time.

He did have good news, though. "Looks like you've lost 4 pounds since we saw you last." Huh. I think not eating for the past two and a half days made me lose at least 4 pounds.

Well, Mom and Ellie are feeling better already after 24 hours of antibiotics. I hope I'll feel better tomorrow morning, too.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day!

To all the fathers out there, a big congratulations. I think being a father is one of the most important things I'm doing right now, and one of the hardest. So, I have to tip my hat to all the other fathers going through the same worries, hopes, frustrations, and joys that I am.

Here's my favorite part about being a father:

As for Father's Day, itself, my wife spoiled me wonderfully! She arranged for me to go out with some fellow dads for lunch, beer, and the ever-so-rare movie. We loved it. Meanwhile, she and the moms watched the children at our place. Sounds like they had a fine time, too, but it sure was nice to let myself be distracted from my daughter for a few hours.

But when I came home, the best part of Father's Day was sitting on the floor in the front room, playing... and signing "Dad!" eagerly as I came in the front door! Aparently, she'd been signing for me ever since waking up from her nap. ;-) Kids.... ;-)

Sunday, June 19, 2005

On Call

Being "On Call" for work is a strange thing, especially in my particular area of IS. I work in Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence. These systems aren't particularly "mission critical," as it were, which means that if they aren't available, people are inconvenienced in their work, but the company doesn't start losing money immediately.

First, the really silly part about being on call: all the text pages that say something to effect of "Everything went fine! Just wanted to let you know that the regularly scheduled 3AM backup ran just fine... again... for the 74th time in a row." Arg. How about you ONLY tell me when something goes WRONG!?

The other part of being on call is that you get to verify and sign-off on the work that administrators are doing to the systems managed by our group. Typically, this means making sure the database administrators are doing what they're supposed to be doing -- changes to database tables, permissions, etc. Now, here's the odd thing. We do these changes ONLY on the weekend, and sometimes ONLY in the middle of the night. Take tonight for instance, here I sit at 12:30 AM, waiting for a DBA to make some VERY simple changes to database views. My wife is sitting next to me wondering:

Why couldn't they do this at a reasonable time of day?
Why does my husband have to "check out" their work?
Why do they have so many conference calls?
It's not like you're a surgeon, on call for something important.

She's absolutely right. But, even though we're not a "mission critical" system, the 6,000 some users of our system still expect to have it up and running while they're working.

I do agree, though, that it's pretty silly that I have to sit and check every little thing that the DBAs and SAs do. If something weird does happen... then call me. Or, just wait until Monday so that someone can fix it at work. (Other people come in before me, so they can fix it.) ;-)

Monday, June 13, 2005

Pics, Boston, MIT

I didn't realize that the Boston area has more than 50 universities and colleges! Wow! Anyway, we just got back from a trip to Boston for Sarahlynn's work. Grandma Lester came with us for fun! And we all had a great time. Pictures are already online. ;)

And all that after being gone for a couple of days on my own business trip to Informatica World 2005. I think Boston was more fun!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Forgiving Newsweek

Google News - Korans were mishandled

Shouldn't we all be forgiving Newsweek for the treatment and misguided blame they received? I think Sarahlynn had it right in the first place.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Site Seeing

We all know that Google Maps now can display satellite images of the location you're mapping. Today's cool site is They've got all kinds of interesting things that are captured by the satellite imagery that Google Maps uses:

Like a military bombing/firing range:

Overlapping season in Utah:

The martian landscape of my old stomping ground, Wyoming:

Is it any wonder they chose Wyoming to film parts of Close Encounters of the Third Kind:

And parts of Starship Troopers:

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Geeky Stuff

I got a new geeky shirt for my birthday last night, so I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite geekware... see if you can guess what they say!



Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Event Horizon

Ellie achieved a new milestone today on her journey from toddler-hood to little-girl-dom. She used the potty!

We're not interested in pressuring Ellie to learn how to use the toillet. Kids with Down Syndrome often potty-train late, and we don't want there to be any stigma around going to the bathroom. But, Ellie's developing some regular habits and is showing some awareness about pottying. So, we decided to get her a potty chair.

Sarahlynn found a great one! It's all wood with a plastic pot, and has a book rack on one side and a toillet paper roll holder on the other. Everything a kid needs!

Tonight, Ellie was showing signs of need to go, so I put her on the potty. She acted like it was perfectly natural, took care of business, even picked up the book next to her and handed it to me to read to her!

I'm officially, now, one of those parents...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Question and Answer

Here are Sarahlynn's questions for me:

1. If you could wave a wand and get rid of Ellie's Trisomy 21, would you do it?
It took me a while to figure this one out, but the answer is "yes." I had to reconcile the idea that I have absolute, unconditional love for my daughter; but I still would want her to be different if that were possible. It's a paradox, but it works.

It's kind of like this commentary I heard on NPR yesterday. It was talking about the similarity between quantum physics and the nature of love. The commentator was explaining that one part of modern physics is the statement that when you try to picture the motion of an electron around the nucleus of an atom, you have to accept that the electron is moving around the nucleus in all possible paths at the same time. That makes it impossible to predict with certainty where the electron will be at a point in time. His corollary in love is that love looks and feels like all other emotions at the same time. Love is part admiration and part frustration, part envy, part pride, part comfort, part fear, etc. Interesting.

2. What is your favorite thing about yourself?
Right now, I'd have to say my problem solving and analytical skills. But really, that's just because I had two coworkers pump up my ego today. My boss's boss told me the really smart college kid we just interviewed was someone that he wanted me to mentor and turn into another me. And then another coworker made an "I'm in awe" kind of comment as I was helping him do analysis and research to figure out how some of our code works and what the related data really means.

3. What do you miss most about where you grew up?
Mountains. Even the little dinky one behind my parent's house.

4. What's the monster under your bed?
AAAHHH!! There's a monster under my bed?? Is that like "the monster at the end of this book?" Or the monster under Opus's bed? Really, though...
- That I won't be a good enough dad or a good enough husband.
- That I'm no where close to as smart as I think I am.

5. What's the best book you've ever read?
The Mythical Man Month
You know, I'd rather name a fiction book, but this book is both very educational and enjoyable to read... So...

The Official Interview Game Rules

1. If you want to participate, leave a comment below saying "interview me."
2. I will respond by asking you five questions - each person's will be different.
3. You will update your journal/blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Visiting Nana and Grandpa

This past weekend was Ellie's first visit out to Wyoming to visit with her Nana and Grandpa. She got a little sick near the end of the visit, but I think it was all-in-all a fun time. Here are some pics:

Better than sex!?

We've got DSL again!

Well, OK, it certainly isn't better than sex; but it sure is awfully nice to have DSL again. And our new service came with a free wireless router. Two great things about that: First, if you come to my house with a wirelss laptop or PDA, I've now got wireless to support you! Second, I finally have the nice fancy new router that I've been wanting for a while. The web interface sure beats running iptables commands on my old P2-233 linux server.

So, in celebration:

Friday, April 08, 2005

DSL Woes

More later, but the title pretty much says it...

  • Tuesday night - DSL goes down
  • Wed morning - DSL still down, so I look in the phonebook for the ISP's phone number
  • "Doo doo dah, we're sorry. The number you dialed is not in service..." (uh oh)
  • Since I'm in the area today, I'll just top by their office after work.
  • Where their office should be is now a tunnel going under new airport runways! (double uh oh)
  • So, I call the phone company and after some struggle they find out that an order went in earlier in the week to have my DSL disconnected.
  • Based on the conversation, it sounds like my ISP simply closed down, didn't tell their customers, stop paying their phone bill, and now the phone company is shutting off their customers. (Well, what do you expect from an ISP named ValueNet?)
  • But I can't sign up for new service until the old service is completely canceled.
  • Then I have to way another 7 days to get new service setup.
  • So, I asked to sign up for dial-up in the interim 10 days... "Your installation CD will arrive in the mail in 7-10 days." WHAAA?!?!
  • Well, luckily, all you need is your id, password, and a phone number to dial in; and they publish the phone numbers online. Piece of cake.
  • So, we have dial-up again...

  • I did get our email up and running again using
  • The website will be down until we get DSL again. Sorry to everyone pining for pictures of Ellie.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Where Religion and Science Meet

Speaking of NPR... I was off driving around in circles with Ellie tonight. I think the time change has been a little rough on her; but tonight she just seemed a bit wound up after an evening trip to the park and a few rounds of chase, which she still loves!

Anyway, the show on NPR was about the apparent conflicts between scientific practices and religious beliefs, when those conflicts can be reconciled, and where science and religion really do diverge.

It's a pretty interesting topic to me, considering that my father is both a very religious person (he was a missionary in Turkey for 11 years!) and a high-school biology teacher. No, no. He's not from Kansas. (No offense to any Kansans reading this, of course.) He doesn't have any qualms, whatsoever, with where science and religion intersect or diverge. To poorly paraphrase him: Religion deals with what you believe about purpose. Science is about striving to understand what you believe. (Eh, I'll never do him justice.)

Funny anecdote interjected:
When I was in 4th grade, we moved across town. During this time,
the school district was in the middle of rewriting the sex-ed curriculum.
Guess who was in charge, my dad! My mom, as a school nurse was also
involved. Amazing I wasn't more humiliated.

A few days after moving in, a neighbor from down the street knocks on
the door, makes a little small talk, then asks if we've heard about the awful
things they're trying to teach our kids in school about sex! Atrocious,
what some people think the schools should be teaching kids.

My dad graciously explained that he was one of the main authors of the
new curriculum. Our slightly embarrassed and dumb-founded neighbor turned
to go away, and mumbled something like "what did the Lord have in mind when he sent you to our neighborhood?"

Well, now these neighbors watch my parents' dog and bring in the mail
when they're out of town. Nice enough people.

My person feelings, summarized in 200 words or fewer:
Religion is a nice thing to have around to guide us and provide anecdotes that help us articulate what it is that we believe. Logic and reason have to be able to play a role in supporting those beliefs, too. Science is a major part of that. Science is all about the striving to understand the world around us, and as a result ourselves. Ideally, the more science reveals, the more we appreciate about the amazing universe in which we live. I think that to declare "God created the universe in 6 days" belittles what the universe is. Belittles God. If we resign ourselves to the same literal beliefs that people had thousands of years ago, to me, that implies that the depth of our understanding hasn't grown in all those thousands of years. Poor God, to have such pitiful companions that they wouldn't strive to grow and understand him more fully, more deeply.

This I Believe (preface)

I'm going to write and post one of these later, but I wanted to advertise what I think is a really great "time capsule" reprise that NPR is organizing: This I Believe

This series is a reincarnation of a 1950's project by Edward R. Murrow, in which both notable and average people contributed statements about what they believe about life and how they've come to those beliefs.

I can imagine that for some people, it was a great opportunity to make political and ethical statements the current state of affairs in the world; but I imagine that for many, as it will be for me (if I get around to it), composing a statement about what you believe is really an opportunity to think deeply about your convictions, your choices, and your goals in life. We'll see...

Saturday, April 02, 2005

DSL Woes

More to come later, but the highlights are:

  • DSL went down
  • Tried to call ISP
  • Their phone number's diconnected??
  • Tried to stop by their office... where it should be is a new airport runway!
  • Called phone company
  • Aparently they had an order to disconnect a few days ago
  • Looks like my ISP ( went under
  • Yeah, yeah... what else should I have expected from valuenet?
  • So, I'm looking for a new ISP
  • It'll take a while to get a new service setup obviously
  • Hopefully, though, we'll have email up and running through an external email provider in the next 3 days.
More to come...

Catch Me if You Can!

Ellie's got a new game that we started this week. She's big on trying to get from where ever she is, into the kitchen where the dog's water bowl is. Well, we've turned this into chase, which can be played anywhere in the house.

Mind you, Ellie doesn't walk unassisted yet. So, chase tends to be a very slow game. Ellie starts the game by giving you a mischievous look. Then she turns away and starts to scoot / crawl / inch-worm with all the speed of a Galapagos tortoise, smiling and laughing all the way. Dad gets up to his hands and knees and chases after smiling and calling "I'm gonna get you!" After an exhausting 30-60s of chase, Dad finally catches up and scoops Ellie into the air. "I got you!"

And all rejoice with laughter and smiles.

Since I don't have a picture of chase, yet, here's Ellie at Easter:

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Fun New Games

When I got home tonight, I found out that Ellie had learned a new game today. If you make a fake sneezing sound, "aaaah choo!", she makes a little cough and laughs, laughs, laughs. Aparently this is what passes for entertainment for a 1 year old. So, I "aaaah choo!"-ed all night long. High piched. Low piched. Short. Long. All of them got the same giggly response.

I love my family.

Monday, March 28, 2005

A Day in the Life

I thought it was about time I bored everyone with a chronicle of "A Day in the Life of Paul." ''This is a typical M/W/F when I take Ellie to school.''

Depending on when Ellie chooses to wake up, I usually rouse from slumber between 6:30 and 7:00. From time to time, I sleep in a bit and Mom gets up with Ellie.

As I pick Ellie up and give her a great big "good morning" hug, I take a little sniff and hope that there isn't a big gooey surprise for me when I open her diaper. Odds of having a disgusting parent story to share at work are pretty 50/50.

Ellie and I head out for some breakfast with a short, pale sausage of a pug following behind. So, we take Lizzi outside for a morning pit stop. Odds of Lizzi leaving something on the yard that I won't clean up later: 95%.

Food for the dog is easiest, so she gets fed first. Rather than scarfing down her food, though, Lizzi hunkers down under the high-chair hopeing for something better than top-shelf dry dog food.

Breakfast for Ellie usually comes from a short list of options including eggs, cream of wheat, cheesy grits (those would be Mom's idea!), or oatmeal. Nice health, hot breakfast which inevitably ends up partially smeared across Ellie's face.

After first breakfast and some face/hand washing, we head back to the bedroom to wake Mom up. Time for a nice antibody rich second breakfast of breast milk while Dad showers (in the newly created basement bathroom!)

After Dad's done showering and Mom has picked out some clothes for Ellie to wear -- Dad usually mismatches different outfits together -- everyone gets ready to go off to their respective days of work, school, play, or some combination thereof.

Ellie and Dad head off to school... which Ellie usually LOVES. Ellie says "buh bye" with a wave and sends Dad on his way to work.

I won't bore with the details of a typical work day. Meeting. Meeting. Bathroom break. Meeting. Lunch meeting. Side conversation about meetings. Cynical note on home many meetings we have. Meeting. Snack on $1/package M&M's that supposed help support needy or disabled children. Meeting. Do 5 minutes of work because the last meeting ended early! Impromptu meeting as I walk out the door.

Whew! Now for a nice liesurely drive home in rush hour... which may take 30 minutes or 90 minutes depending on traffic. Arg.

Home again. Home again. Jiggity jog!
"Daddy's Home!"

I love hearing Mom say those words to Ellie as I walk in the door. Even better is the huge grin from Ellie, first when she sees the car coming up the driveway, and even bigger when she sees me walk in the door. I run over to pick her up and...

Oop. Better wash my hands first. Been at work with dirty, sick people with outside germs.

I shed the garments of industry, step into something more comfy, and wash my hands thoroughly.

Now I can give Ellie a huge hug! She's been playing on the bed with Mom as I cleanup.

Mom's usually got dinner done or mostly done, so Ellie and I only play a few minutes in the front room before dinner is ready to eat. Even more so than breakfast, we let Ellie do most of her own feeding at dinner. Things often endup a big of a mess, but that's what baths are for!

Speaking of baths... when dinner's done, it's usually time for a nice warm bath. Ellie loves the bath! Especially all the shiney fixtures and the drain. She's learning that when Dad says "time to go" or "all done", then it's OK for her to pull the drain and let the water out.

"Time to go!" Followed by some typical Dad joke having to do with letting the baby out with the bath water... How embarassing that I've turned into my father.

Depending on how early bath time is done, Ellie and I might have an hour or two to play before bedtime. So we play. Sometimes watch a little TV. Often go for a walk. But Mom nurses Ellie again before bed, and fills her with can range from extra-strength-Nyquil-milk to double-esspresso-milk. You just never know if the nursing will put Ellie down or get her wound up.

Eventually Ellie makes it down. The off-to-bed-endeavors can be written another time.

By now, it's usually after 9:00. Sometimes after 11:00 or later depending on how easily Ellie goes to sleep. Usually between 9:00 and 9:30, though.

Which leaves only a few more hours of consciouness before I hit the sack. The todo list:
- Occassionaly laundry
- Always dishes and kitchen cleanup
- Usually a Daily Show or two on the TiVo
- Possibly 24, Alias, or West Wing
- Probably one of the 18 Law and Orders that were on that day
- Mail sorting
- Bill paying
- Other odds and ends around the house
- Blog from time to time

Then finally off to bed. Tonight, I'm going to bed early... aiming for that 8 hours of sleep.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Happy Smiley Ellie

It's so great to have happy smiley Ellie back!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Sleep Deprivation

Apparently, I'm sleep deprived. I should have, of course, known this for some time, but my theory was officially confirmed on Monday.

My father-in-law was in town for a conference on hypno-therapy and listened to another doctor discussing his new theories on sleep. Here's how to tell if you're getting enough: How long does it take you to fall asleep after you get in bed? If you fall asleep in about 20 minutes, then you're likely getting the right amount of sleep. If you fall asleep immediately, then you're likely sleep deprived. (I'm the latter. Nearly every night, I collapse into bed and fall asleep, sometimes even before I get my glasses off.)

According to this doctor's research, everyone needs just about the same amount of sleep, around 8:15 hr. I average in around 6:30 hr. Of course, Sarahlynn probably averages around 4:30 - 5:00 hr. And she seems to do alright.

What are the consequences of not getting enough sleep: irritableness, lack of patience, and low-grade depression. If you want to know where I sit on those side effects, talk to Sarahlynn.

Better, anecdotal evidence that I'm sleep deprived comes when Ellie decides to wake up in the middle of the night. She's been sick lately, so that tends to happen more frequently. When she's up in the middle of the night and I'm working on rocking her back to sleep and she's just laid back staring at me with wide-open blue eyes, here's what the voice is typically saying in my head... (remember that I'm a computer geek for both vocation and avocation)

  • Now is this happening in the development or production environment?
  • This has got to be in production, there's no development Ellie. That'd be silly.
  • Clearly the Ellie process isn't working correctly. She should be asleep, or at least not need to be monitored at night.
  • How do I find out what PID is keeping her awake?
  • If I knew what process was running, I could "kill" it and she could go back to sleep.
  • None of that makes sense.
  • We need a better development methodology, so we can clean up these production processes.
  • The production Ellie should be able to run through the night without any intervention or monitoring.
  • Someone needs to debug this.
  • ...

You think I'm joking. Apparently I'm mildly sleep deprived and think too much about work.

Then sometimes, the voice in my head breaks out into song, courtesy of Bare Naked Ladies...
  • Who needs sleep? Well you're never gonna get it!
  • Who needs sleep? Tell me what's that for!
  • Who needs sleep? Be happy with what you're getting!
  • There's a guy's been awake since the Second World War!

Miracle of miracles

Silly little post, but...

Several months ago, my Zaurus touch screen stopped working again. It had broken once and I was able to use my super-power electrical engineering skills to fix it. (No snickers about the Taboo buzzer incident or the time I sprayed my harddrive with WD-40!) But now it seemed to be dead for good.

I feared that someday I'd end up buying a Windows or Palm based PDA, and give up the freedom of Linux.

Miracle of miracles... today, it randomly started working again! (May have something to do with me dropping it on the parking log last week... who knows.)

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Germ Warefare

Sick kid. Sick Mommy. Sick Daddy. At least the dog is happy and playful.

Having everybody sick all at once is no fun, especially when you're the least sick of them all.

We're all doing better now, but Ellie did spent a night being rehydrated in the hospital. Not much fun there for her, trying to sleep with a pokey IV in your foot. So, she and I just sat and cuddled all night long, while Mom went home and had fun with the stomach flu.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

I don't think they mean it

I love ThinkGeek, but really! I definitely do not want to see the action shots for this product...

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Ellie's First Trip

Mom posted about this, too, but it was some really great Daddy/Ellie time, so I definitely needed to write something.

Day 1:
So, we went to New Orleans this past weekend! Mom had a business trip there and Ellie and I thought we'd tag along and have some fun.

Ellie did great on the flight down. We had to wake her up early to leave for the airport, so she was more than willing to sleep on most of the flight down. She woke up for the past 1/2 hour, and was great. No ear-popping problems. No fussing. Just cuteness.

After the taxi ride from the airport to the hotel, during which Ellie was secured tightly to my chest with the BabyBjorn and I was secured with my seatbelt, and a fiasco trying to check-in, Ellie and I had lunch together and then went back to take a nap in the hotel lobby (no room yet). -- The taxi situation with the bjorn seems a pretty safe option when a car seat isn't available. (We would have brought a carseat if we'd planned to use it more that to and from the airport, but the whole trip was us walking around.)

Day 2:
The classic breakfast of coffee and beignes at Cafe du Monde! Then off to the St. Charles street car and a ride to the Audubon Zoo while Mom spends the day at the conference. Ellie slept through some of the zoo, but she woke up in time for a lunch of cat fish and fries and jumbalaya. Ellie also seemed to take a special liking to the reptile house:

We made it back just in time to spend a couple hours in the hotel room trying (unsuccessfully) to nap before dinner at world famous Brennan's. Awfully fancy for a restaurant that is touted as family friendly. Turns out that family friendly in the French Quarter just means that they have highchairs -- but the server did a great job with Ellie, and Ellie did a great job at dinner. Tip for taking young kids out to eat: avoid a four-course meal, jump right to the entree.

Day 3:
Another big day for Dad and Ellie. We all had breakfast together, then Ellie and Dad headed out to the French Quarter for some sightseeing and souvenir shopping. Ellie got to see her first street performers. (Not a great picture, but the does make a cart-wheel leap over all 8 people!)

We did some shopping in the French Market. Had lunch at Crescent Brewery. Did some shopping here and there. Then headed back to the hotel to drop some things off before heading back out for our river boat cruise on the Natchez. Mom was supposed to come, too, but work got in the way. :(

Ellie and I met up with Mom afterwards at the Audubon Aquarium, though. Fun there, dinner at the hotel, and off to bed.

Day 4:
Just enough time to pack things up and head out the airport for a wonderful flight home - despite bad seats. Ellie played with our neighbors on the plane then slept the last hour of the flight home. The drive back to the house was pretty rough, though! Ellie decided she'd had enough of this travel stuff and hollered the whole way home. But when we finally made it home, she was extatic! For the next 2.5 hours, she played with every single toy we own. SOOO happy to see all of toys!

All in all, a wonderful first plane trip for Ellie!!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Happy Valentine's Day

I took Sarahlynn out to see Lewis Black for Valentine's Day. Maybe not your typical romantic evening, but it certainly fits our personalities. We even went out for quick, inexpensive texmex (at Chevy's) for our romantic dinner before hand. I'm happy to say that the evening was a smashing success. Lewis Black was absolutely hillarious. I definitely recommend seeing his show at every available chance.

We were supposed to see Lewis Black last year about this time, too. But, unfortunately, other events in our life got in the way.

Friday, February 11, 2005

First Steps (a reprise)

The English major in our family is much more effective and expressive in her writing than the engineer. So, I'll take this opportunity to make a cheap post and just link to her great posts about our fun at the state capitol.

Ellie the Lobbyist

First Steps and Abortion

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Missouri First Steps

I'm proad to say that our daughter, Ellie, is currently a beneficiary of the generosity of all Missourians. Ellie has Down Syndrome. The Missouri First Steps program provides her, and thousands of other Missouri children between birth and age 3, with various forms of physical, occupational, development, and speech therapy. First Steps provides these services free of charge to the families of children whose delays range from trisomy 21 to deafness to more mild developmental delays. Since Ellie was about 4 months old, she's been a participant in the First Steps program. She, her mother, and I have all benefited more than we can probably imagine from the therapists who have worked with us to help keep her development close to inline with typical children.

The new Missouri governor, Matt Blunt, has proposed eliminating the program from the 2006-2007 budget. Some rationalization we've heard is that the program duplicates efforts already in place like Parents as Teachers. We participate in both programs with Ellie. Take some time to read the description of these two programs and it becomes patently obvious that the Parents as Teachers program, despite being a wonderful resource for many parents of typically developing children, is not suited to manage and provide the services that are provided by First Steps.

Of course the state has a budget shortfall, just like most states do right now. So, let's consider the alternatives from a financial standpoint.

One alternative is to foist the burden for care off on Medicaid/Medicaid. Providing services for under-privileged families with special-needs children this way not only places an unfair burden on already strained programs; but it also leaves families like mine out on a limb. With the assistance of the program, we're well-off enough that Sarahlynn can stay home with Ellie and work with her developmentally on a daily basis, both with therapists and on her own. Without the program, our personal expenses on therapy would easily rival or surpass our mortgage payment each month. Sarahlynn would be back at work full time to pay for therapists. Then Ellie would have to be in preschool full time. And she would recieve as much attention from her mother and I. Certainly not ideal.

But our financial situation isn't necessarily your concern. We're lucky enough to be able to afford only having one of us work fulltime; and we would be able to find a way for Ellie to receive the assistance she needs even if First Steps were eliminated... albeit to the detrement of both her development and our involvement in her learning.

Suppose you're more concerned about your own fiscal matters, and how state expenses affect your tax burden. The vision of the First Steps program is that the early the intervention, the better. Not so very long ago, children born with trisomy 21 were likely to end up in a state instituation as adults. Helping children with developmental delays before they enter the public school system makes them much more able to integrate with normal classrooms, decreases their need for special attention, and dramatically decreases the likelihood that they'll need (or need as much) public assitance as adults. So, the state pays for 3 years of therapy up front for young children; or the state pays for 20 years of institutionalization or assistance for adults in 15 years. I wonder what the true cost-benefit analysis would show.

If you happen to live in Missouri and are interested in helping Matt Blunt understand the impacts of a decision like eliminating Missouri First Steps, please consider taking a moment to fill out this petition, or send him or your legislator a letter. If you know anyone in the administration or general assembly personally, we'd appreciate it if you contacted them personally and let them know what an important program First Steps is.

P.O. Box 809-A
Jefferson City MO 65102
Telephone: (573) 751-3222

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Success of "if you say it enough, it must be true"

According to this article on Slashdot talks about just how saddly wrong high school students are about what freedom means.

The rhetoric goes on and on about how important freedom is, that we're standing up for freedom loving people everyone, that you're either for freedom or you're with the terrorists...

But really, if 50% of high school age students don't understand what freedoms something as fundamental as the FIRST Amendment ensures, then what hope do we have for GW understanding the Fifth and Sixth Amendments or the "well regulated" part of the Second Amendment.


Monday, January 31, 2005

TiVo might just survive

TiVo's been under attack by lots of cable providers that want to provide their own branded PVR systems. TiVo's been slow to release new features over the past couple years... very frustrating for us TiVo lovers.

Well, now TiVo has released an SDK for developers and is holding a coding challenge.

Yeah TiVo... what to code?...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Liberal Arts & Engineering

As my profile will tell you, I'm a geek of all trades. More importantly, I'm an engineer by training. I've got degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. Now, my wife, on the other hand has her degree in English. So, in college to impress her (and try to find ways of competing on level ground during arguments with her, which has failed) I took 4 English classes during my Junior and Senior years:
  • Shakespeare - actually because I love it, not her
  • Romantic Literature - not Harlequin, the other romantic
  • Argumentation - trying and failing to win against her
  • Fiction Writing - just for fun
As I've hinted, Argumentation wasn't my strongest class. I didn't do poorly. It's just that I tend to come at things from a different point of view than is typical in the school of liberal arts. That, and I'm bad at pushing my point of view, unless it's something very technical that I can build a straight forward, logical proof to argue with. Never the less, I ended up with a very satisfactory B in the class. Almost entirely because of my paper discussing the crucial part that computer science should play in every liberal arts education.

Sounds ridiculous, perhaps. But what I was able to show through the paper was that (a) by definition a liberal arts education is intended to broaden one's perspective on the world and our place within it, and that (b) the analytical methods that are critical to understanding the themes in computer science are fundamentally new and not being taught in any other curriculum that is already part of most liberal arts programs. I won't bore you with the details, but the professor was duly impressed with the argument I put forth, convincing her that, indeed, the analytical skills taught by computer science are not typically available elsewhere, and yet do provide insight into questions that are posed by a liberal arts eduction.

So, watch what you say about your friendly neighborhood geek. Despite the sterotypes you might hold, true geeks are deeper than you think.

Second Day Alone

By the way, Ellie did great being left at preschool again today. I sat and played with her for a few minutes. Said "bye bye, Ellie." And all I got was a wave, a smile, and "buh bye."

We made up for any missed screaming later in the day when Ellie went to the ENT (ear, nose, and throat; not fictional ancient forest creature -- that would have been more pleasant). Ellie's got very small ear cannals. So, every time we visit the ENT, we have to pin her down to the examining table so the doctor can remove the wax with a mini crochet hook and look in her ear with the micro-otoscope. She's big enough now that she HATES it and screams and cries. Tough to say, though, if it's harder on her having it done or on mom and dad helping hold her down.

Blind Faith

The current news about the Hubble Space Telescope is an apt metaphor for the Bush administration. A couple weeks ago, Hubble took on of the first actual pictures of an extrasolar planet. A week later, we hear the big news that funding for Hubble repair missions is being dramatically cut by the White House for 2006.

Since the President believes the world really was created in 7 days by the all mighty, I guess there's no reason for us to explore the universe any farther.

He also believes there's no reason to continue the silly study of stem cells. Even though the US main line of stem cells is contaminated. I guess his philosophy is that if you get enough sleep or enough vacation time, you won't get sick.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Greatest American Hero

My nonsense post for the day... I'm sitting here watching the Twilight Zone and one of my favorite shows from the 80s popped into my head, The Greatest American Hero. If you didn't watch the show, you really missed out. It was a great show about a misfit superhero who was given a power suit by aliens... but who loses the instruction book for the suit.

Great show. Only ran for 2 years. Can't even find it on TVLand now. Oh well.

Fatherhood: Patience and Productivity

I'm the kind of person who typically (except on some occassions) needs to be doing something productive. I've finally learned how to sit and watch TV rather than be up and around cleaning dishes or straightening or working on work while we watch TV. Turns out there's a lot of good stuff you miss if you're not paying attention.

Putting Ellie to sleep requires a skill I'd never spent the time to cultivate until now... patience. To rock calmly and quietly while holding a squirming, kicking, overly exhausted baby takes some kind of patience. Especially when it's the third time she's woken up in a night. I suppose this is all practice for having a teenager someday.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Theocratic or Meritocratic Democracy

(You'll have to excuse the ugly adjectivification of government types in the title.)

This is the age of right-wing evangalic conspiracy theories. Today's note from Echidne on god's supposed role in our most recent election.

So, what do we call it when the people of a democracy elect officials based more on their religiously influcenced (or dictated) assessment of a candidate's morality rather than the candidate's technical qualifications?

It's not a Theocracy (yet) where the church directly chooses the leadership of the government. But with how strong an influece religious morality has played in the last election, it certainly isn't a Meritocracy where our leadership is selected based on expertise. Is there a point at which fundamentalists, blindly following their interpretation of Christianity, overwhelm the choices in democracy?

As I see it, fundamentalism leaves minimal room for interpretation of religious principles. As such, the members of fundamentalist groups have little choice in who they elect -- only one candidate lives within the bounds of those edicts -- as described by the religious leaders. So, the religious leaders define which candidates are living righteous lives. As a fundamentalist, you're obligated only to vote for a candidate who agrees with you. If enough American's are fundamentalist, then the religious leadership has effectively chosen the federal leadership.

Sounds pretty fishy to me... loaves and fishy. ;)

First Day Alone

Today was Ellie's first day alone at school. Dad was nervous. I think Mom was neverous.
Ellie didn't seem to have any issues at all.

Mom tells the story best.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Why I Need to Stay Up Later

Rest assured that, no, I'm not actually up this late. I went to bed around 1a, but Ellie woke up about 30 minutes ago, and it was certainly my turn to be up with her.

Sarahlynn likes to stay up late. It makes sense, of course. She's home all day with Ellie. No time for herself. So, after I go to bed, Sarahlynn finally has time just for her and her alone. Problem is that she's a bit ADD and quite a bit OCD. These things were either inherrited or learned from her mother.

Here's how she describes her thinking to me:
  • "It's nearly 1a, I should think about going to bed."
  • "I'll just check the boards one more time."
  • ...15-20 minutes later...
  • "I really should check everyone's blogs one more time."
  • ...15-20 minutes later...
  • "OK, now off to bed. I need to take my vitamins and get a glass of water."
  • ...walks to the kitchen...
  • "Oh, the dining room realy could be dusted."
  • ...walks toward the linen closet to get a dust rag...
  • "I'll pick up some of Ellie's toys from the floor."
  • ...bends down...
  • "But this laundry should be folded."
  • she grabs the first piece of Ellie's laundry...
  • "I need to pack her spare outfits for preschool, but those baggies need to be washed."
  • ...sets everything down to find to find the zipper baggies for Ellie's spare clothes...
  • ...walks past the kitchen table with her computer...
  • "I wonder if anyone's posted a reply to my Dilbert thread."
  • ...cycle starts again...
  • ...repeat until after 2 am...
  • "I'm so tired... just going to collapse in bed."
  • "After I play one game of Spider Solitaire."
  • [from the nursery] "aaah"
  • "She'll settle herself."
  • [from the nursery] "Aaah"
  • "I'll give her a few minutes to see if she settles or works herself up."
  • [from the nursery] "Aaah! Aaah!"
  • "All right."
  • ...Next 15 minutes spent nursing....
  • ...Another 15-30 minutes spent rocking Ellie...
  • ...Then I take over if Ellie still hasn't gone down...
I haven't depicted that as well as Sarahlynn can, but I think you can get the point.

When I stay up with her until we both actually go back to the bedroom, Sarahlynn can get to bed at a decent hour. Last night, I said goodnight at 1a or so. Sarahlynn said, "I'll be there soon." Just to be sure I offered to stay up a little later, but she turned me down, insisting that she'd be in bed soon. She was still blogging at 2:20... After having gotten obsessed with waxing her eyebrows!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

And so it begins

I'm a Star Wars fan... but geeze.

Finishing Projects - Started

As promised, here are pictures of the wall removal phase of the project.

There used to be a wall on the left hand side.

Now you can see inside the closet!

Finishing Projects

Admitedly, I'm not the best at finishing household projects in a timely manner. Cases in point:
  • It took me 9 months to build the cedar chest for Sarahlynn's first Mother's Day.
  • The bathroom sink and cabinet I bought at the same time (as Ellie's gift to Sarahlynn) is still sitting in the workshop... now probably not usable from exposure to all the humidity and cold.
  • Both the workshop and basement storage are in shambles of disarray from my lack of patience in trying to get things organized.
  • This list can go on...
Never the less, here I am starting another new project. And it's probably the largest home improvement project I've ever done in our house!

The contractors just finished work on our basement bathroom a few weeks ago, but we decided the basement should be an even more hospitable "inlaw-suite". So, we're tearing down the wall next to stairway to open up the bathroom entry and laundry room, drywalling the outside of the bathroom, putting a ceiling in the laundry room, and painting the whole place.

If a cedar chest using 64 sq ft of lumber takes me 9 months to complete, then a basement with 1,000 sq ft of drywall will probably take me about 11 years. Luckily, we'll have divorced by then and both moved out of the house. (I can't imagine Sarahlynn staying married to me after 11 years of basement-in-progress.)

--Pictures to come if work progresses.--

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Outsourcing Tape Backup Hijinks

I work in IT... Specifically, I'm the development team lead for a data warehousing group. If you're not familiar with data warehousing, we're the geeks that gather up all the information that we can for a company about itself, its customers, its supply chain, its inventory, etc and put it all in one place to give business analysts and executive big wigs an understanding of how the business is doing and what they might do to make it better (read "more profitable"). What can I say, I enjoy the challenge of trying to unify all the disparate parts of a company into a single model. If you haven't worked for a fortune 500 company, you may have a good idea for just how complicated the all the data behind a big business can be. It's a real challenge.

Anyway, yes, I've sold out to "the man" and have a job that only very loosely works toward making the world a better place... But that isn't the point of this post.

So, we're looking to potentially work with a new database vendor for our data warehouse. Part of that evaluation and selection process is to perform a proof of concept in which we give a copy of our data to both of the vendors we're evaluating, they load that data on a test system configured like the one we might buy, and we execute functional and performance tests against their system. Since our current database is archaic in technology terms (5 year), both vendors had better perform better than our current solution. The only question is which vendor has the best combination of functionality, performance, ease of use, and price. (Just for reference, we're talking about 2.5 terabytes of data and database systems that cost multiple millions of dollars.)

One of the keys to this proof of concept is to create a copy of our existing data and send that off to the vendors. (Never fear, customer privacy is ensured by scrambling personal information and various legal agreements.)

As so many do today, our company outsourcing much of its IT administration to a third-party. (Not naming any names, but they had some issues with upgrading an airlines desktop PC a little while back.) Our database administrators, system administrators, and backup administrators are all "leveraged resources" from that third-party. A "leveraged resource" means that the person isn't solely dedicated to our systems. They might work on the systems for other clients as well. The theory behind outsourcing (as is the theory behind how civilizations and economies are built) is specialization. Someone else learns how to do something really well so that you can skip learning that and focus on your own core skills. Then they can trade services for goods or money. The outsourcing firm specializing in database/system/backup administration, and we hire them so that we reap the benefits of a specialist without putting time/effort into specializing ourselves.

Well, the so called backup specialists that I've been working today don't know how to load a backup tape and archive data to it. I'm no specialist here, but I ended up having to spend 2 hours tonight monkeying around with various tape commands before figuring out the one simple command out specialists forgot to execute. Many thanks to our friend Google.

Specialization may be the foundation of modern civilization and economy, but when it comes to IS, I think I'll stick to my strategy of being a generalist.

  • The specialist strives to learn more and more about less and less, until he knows everything about absolutely nothing.
  • The generalist continues to learn less and less about more and more, until he knows absolutely nothing about everything.

Who Needs Sleep

Ellie's a beautiful child, but sometimes I wonder if maybe we didn't listen to Bare Naked Ladies a little too much when Sarahlynn was pregnant. When it's 4am, she's totally relaxed in your arms, listening to lullabyes, all you want to do is drift off to sleep... but her eyes are WIDE AWAKE... you can't help but wonder what she's thinking about.
Who needs sleep?
(well you're never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep?
(tell me what's that for)
Who needs sleep?
(be happy with what you're getting
There's a guy who's been awake
since the Second World War)
Second World War indeed...

I have to think that there's some deep philosophical thinking going on behind those soft blue eyes when she's relaxed in your arms at 4am... wide awake. Maybe she's figuring out how to isolate and identify the Higgs Boson, or make a lasting Israeli/Palenstinian peace, or cure her Downs. You never know...