August 29, 2015

Happy Camera Day


Three years ago today my Nikon D5100 arrived in the mail. Not coincidentally, it’s almost the same age as Nicole. I wanted a large canvas print of Nicole the newborn, and my D60 just didn’t have the megapixels.

I remember the first time shooting with the D5100, how overwhelmed I was by the different interface and controls. The D5100 had more options and more buttons than my D60. For a girl just learning to go off auto, it was a little intimidating. I was both amazed by the image quality and frustrated I didn’t know how to adjust the focal point. Now the D5100 is second nature. So second nature that using the D60 to take the above photo required a learning period again to find the right controls.

In the past three years my camera has had 107,178 shutter actuations, which is just shy of 98 photos a day. In contrast, my D60 has just 28,354 actuations including today’s photo! It was my sole camera for 3 and a half years before the D5100 came into my life, and the camera I took to Europe and Asia! The D60 may have been my first DSLR, but the D5100 was the one I learned on.

I’ve been thinking about my next camera. I considered a full frame, but have little desire to repurchase my lenses. I was super excited about the D7200 announcement this past March, but something has been holding me back. I used the move as an excuse not to put off purchasing it. I didn’t want it to get lost in the transition. Now that we’ve moved I still haven’t found followed through. My current camera is nearing it’s end of life. Nikon tests them for 100,000 shutter actuations. After that the physical components can start to go. My shutter may stop working tomorrow, or it may last for a few more years. I kinda want to see how far my D5100 can go.

August 28, 2015

Alexis at Nine Months

Dear Alexis,

Another blink of an eye, and another month has gone by.

ToothWatch2015 has come to it’s first conclusion! Those two front teeth have finally come although way through! They were mostly broken through your gums at the start of the month, and remained that way for quite some time. Then, one morning when you were playing with Nicole she suddenly exclaimed “Baby has teeth!” Sure enough, there is no denying it now. You are amazingly gentle with your new found chompers. You go to town gnawing on your toys, but so far have left fingers alone.

Showing off those pearly whites.

You’re well on your way to being mobile. You’re scooting backwards small distances, and able to turn around when on your tummy to reach your toys. You love to stand and try and pull yourself up every chance you get. Your favorite climbing instruments are mommy & daddy. The tub is another favorite practice spot. So far you mostly just get your butt off the ground. You can get a leg underneath you and but can only pull yourself all the way up with a little help from mommy and daddy. You’re also a champion at getting up on your hands and knees in a crawl position, you’re just not crawling yet. Soon. Very soon.

You’re gaining more confidence standing at your table. You’ll reach across the table and hold on with just one hand to get your favorite toys. You’ll stand with just one hand on mommy, or daddy as well. Last week Mommy helped you walk by holding your hands. You had such a huge smile on your face. You cannot wait to walk. Sometimes you watch Nicole so intently as she runs around the house. We know you want to join her too.


You’re now eating Cheerios and Puffs in addition to your purees. Puffs are your favorite. You start the happy dance as soon as we put you down in the high chair. You pinch your fingers together and tap them on the trey to show your desire for solid foods. For the longest time you would get them in your mouth, turn them over and spit them out. It’s only recently that you started chewing on them.

Tummy time, smile time

Daddy and I think your favorite person is Nicole. You get so excited when she comes with us to greet you in the morning, or takes a bath with you. The past couple of nights you’ve actually cried when it was time to take you out of the bath and away from Nicole. I suspect as soon as you learn to crawl you will be her shadow.

Love Always,
Mommy & Daddy

August 25, 2015

My Life Right Now

Totally Staged. I was practicing with my macro lens, but I turned the rings around to face my iphone rather than the DSLR for the photo

Aside from the whole not-making-money-yet, life is pretty great right now. I’m loving my dual role as stay-at-home mom and entrepreneur.

On the entrepreneur front, I’m splitting my time between web apps, and my primarily start-up idea based on photography. I love having a built in excuse to practice photography. If nothing else I’ve gained a lot of knowledge about a field I’m passionate about, a chance to hone my craft, and have many many photographic momentous from my journey. Being my own boss and setting my own schedule is a pretty great perk too. I’ve carved out 30 hours a week to dedicate to my start-up, usually in short burst. Working this way is surprisingly effective. (Well, not that surprising.) A number of ideas have come to me when I wasn’t explicitly searching them out. I’m quite pleased with how much I’ve been able to accomplish so far.

On the stay-at-home part, the house is coming together. I ordered the last piece of furniture we were missing yesterday. I still have a couple storage units to assemble, but we’re down to the last 12 boxes, and I”ve so far been able to avoid having a junk drawer or a junk closet. We’re in the home stretch! Alexis is home with me a couple days awake, and I’m enjoying soaking up as much baby time as I can. I loved having this time to bond with Nicole, and am so grateful to have it with Alexis as well.

Life might be busier these days, but there’s less time sinks. Daycare is the same raw distance from our house than the old one was from our apartment, but it takes half the time. The grocery store, bank, gas station, and discount retail stores are all a quick trip away. I spend 60 to 90 minutes less behind the wheel per day than I did prior to the move. I’m also double dipping. It’s no secret that I spend a bit of time as the momtographer of the family. I use this time to try out some of my theories, turning intuition about photography into numerical understanding.

Leave stable employment was beyond scary, but I’m glad we decided to take a chance.

August 22, 2015

Three Year Old Ballerina

Disclaimer: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. Read more about how I use affiliate links.

Nicki loves ballerinas. She loves them so much she can sit through the nutcracker in it’s entirety. I knew she would love to dress up as a ballerina. Now that she’s three, I was in dire want of some more portraits.



I have to be super quick with the camera these days for these posed photos. She’s happy to get in the pose, but holding it? That’s mommy’s problem. Or more precisely, mommy’s camera’s problem. She was having so much fun twirling and spinning about the room, but my camera couldn’t focus fast enough.



A trick that’s working fairly well these days is to ask her about things. For example “how many feet do you have?” if I want her to look down.

How most of my photos turned out. Happiest. Ballerina. Ever.

Materials Cost:
$30.15 – Leotard (Amazon). A splurg, I admit. Will be used for dress up clothes afterwards
$2.99 – Ribbon (JoAnn’s)
$15.58 – Backdrop (JoAnn’s) Would you believe I didn’t have a simple cream backdrop?! I purchased two yards, but I really need three. Sarah’s rule of thumb 1 yard for each year.
Total Cost – $48.72 fore tax.

August 17, 2015

Earthquake Preparedness

It was a rough night last night, probably the worst once since Domingo and I first became parents three years ago. We were still awake, lying in bed at 6:49 am, having not had the chance to fall asleep yet. There was a familiar crack, and the rolling wave of energy that raced from the left side of the room to the right.

“Was that a …?” I asked
“Earthquake” Domingo answered.

There have been a number of earthquakes I’ve felt since I moved out to California a decade ago. Most have been in the last couple of years. They’ve been minor, light rumblings with no damage. I’ve never seen any indication that the girls have noticed them. During the 2007 Alum Rock earthquake Lily (our kitty) did look in the direction of the street when the shaking started. I think she was expecting a big truck. Funny aside: while there was no damage from the earthquake, I did break my toe a few hours latter by running into a dresser while chasing the cat.

I may not have been prepared for the black widow spiders, but earthquakes I’m ready for. For every major life change, every new family member gained, and old one lost, we’ve revised our game plan. We have a plan for The Big One, whenever it may hit and where ever we may be. We’ve planned out who it is that will pick the girls up from daycare (me) and whose primary job is to secure the house (him). We know to text first, email second and call last since that’s the order a signal is likely to get through. We know in the middle of the night, when awoken from a deep sleep, which one of us is responsible for securing which child. Over prepared, we are.

I’m beginning to wonder if I should involve Nicole in our earthquake “what to do if”s talks. She didn’t seem to know what an earthquake is when I talked to her, but I know her preschool does fire alarm drills. I had just finished dropping off Alexis once when the alarm went off. Presumably prior exposure to the fire alarm helped keep Nicole calm when the alarm in our apartment went off last September, less than two months before my due date. It was just the two of us, alone in the apartment. She waited patiently for me to put shoes on, then let me carry her down two flights of stairs on my seven month baby bump.

On the other hand fires (and false fire alarms as in our apartment’s case) are far more likely, statistically speaking, than earthquakes. Practicing fire drills makes sense. The big one is “imminent”, but imminent in geological terms seems to be the next thirty years or so. I don’t want to worry her unnecessarily.

For now I think I’ll wait until there’s an earthquake she feels before broaching the topic.


Domingo and I have this notion of turning our home into a smart home. We’ve been thinking about it ever since I started playing with Hue. So before I left Google I wanted to take advantage of my employee discount and purchase a pair of nest thermostats. During the check out process, Nest wanted me to confirm our HVAC system was compatible with their thermostats. Trouble was, our offer had only just been accepted. We were a month away from closing, and days away from leaving Google and my discount. I decided to chance it.

Turns out that wasn’t a good gamble on my part. Two weeks after taking ownership of the home I took the old thermostats off the wall to discover there was no way to power the one for the upstairs zone. I brought someone out who confirmed my fears. Nest was simply not compatible with our dual zone system. I asked if it made sense to update the dual zone system. He said it would cost thousands of dollars, definitely not worth it for a thermostat, even a cool one like the nest. Wait for the old one to die, was his advice.

Waiting for it to die took 2 months and 6 days apparently.

I got the distinct impression he thought the death of our zoning system would take longer.

Unfortunately it wasn’t just our zoning system knocking on death’s door. The AC and heater were being brought down with it. That was not a fun discovery, but if there’s a bright side to this rain cloud, it’s that I got to use my nest after all.

August 4, 2015

Color Coding

For my startup I’ve been spending every free moment reading about all things photography and image related. (as well as kicking myself for never having taken a graphics course in College.) This week I’m learning about combining colors digitally. Colors are surprisingly more complicated than kindergarten lead me to believe.

Computer monitors typically display in RGB, sRGB to be exact. I’ve had some experience working with RGB before, both negative and positive. In the RGB color model each color is represented as a combination of the red, green, and blue additive primaries. The values of each component range from 0 to 255, meaning 3255, or 16.6 million colors can be represented. This color model works well for computers (and hue!) because displaying a color is a simple matter of displaying red, green and blue light in the right amounts. Three little LEDs is all you need.

The draw back of RGB is that color mixing is not intuitive for us humans. Consider blue & yellow. In grade school we learn blue + yellow = green. In RGB, Yellow is (R:255, G:255, B:0), and Blue is (R:0, G:0, B:255). Combining yellow and blue gives us (R:255, G:255, B:255) or white. The difference is that we learned color combining through pigments, which is a subtractive color model. Light is an additive one.


My startup is a technology based product for humans. I am working with an additive color model, and need it to behave like a subtractive one.

The solution I’m taking is to convert to LAB color space. The LAB model has the very nice property of being closer to “perceptually uniform”. Representing each LAB color as a vector, the euclidean distance between two color vectors corresponds to the differences in color. For small distances, at least. It turns out for large differences I need to compute the slightly more complicated DeltaE. At least I now have an algorithmic approach.

Colors can be surprisingly complex.

July 30, 2015

Alexis at Eight Months

Dear Alexis,

How did we get here so fast? We’re now 2/3rds through your first year. I still can’t believe you’re closer to first birthday than to the day you were born. How are we only four months away from your first birthday party?

My goof ball

This month we broke out the activity table. You loved to stand at such an early age, but with the chaos of the move I really hadn’t been giving you much of an opportunity to practice. You were a little timid standing again at first, but once big sister showed you the toys you were hooked. Like the jumperoo, your desire to play usually outlives your ability to do so. You refuse to let go, even when your legs start to wobble with fatigue. Between the activity table and your jumperoo, your little leg muscles are getting quite the work out these days!


After months of being quite content to sit and observe the world around you, you’re ready to start moving. You are moving now, but there seems to be a disconnect between action and intention. I have photographic evidence of you scooting on your butt when you get excited and wave your arms. You seem to know you have moved too, but are not quite sure how. You are most mobile at night. You are also all over the place in your crib. I’ll put you down facing one way and find you facing another in the morning.

Now, when there’s a toy you want that’s just out of reach, you’ll drop down onto your tummy. At first you’d want Daddy or I to help you back up to a sitting position, but you’re getting more and more comfortable staying on your tummy. We’ve even observed your rocking, the precursor to crawling.


Your two bottom teeth are just starting to poke through your gums. It seems like those two teeth have been coming in for months! We had a couple of rough days, but nothing a does of Tylenol before bed couldn’t help you with. I will miss your gummy smile, though you’re pretty cute with teeth too!

Love Always,
Mommy & Daddy

Not long after we moved into our new home there was a ring at our doorbell. A local exterminator was handling a spider problem at a house down the block. Since he was already in the area he was offering to spray our house as well, even offering a discount. We declined. One thing you get when you move to a house in the suburban hills is bugs. We knew this when we bought the house. We’ll deal. Besides, the problem didn’t seem that bad.

The spiders we have were mostly harmless. Daddy long legs rule the roost in the garage. In the house the quick moving little black house spiders are the most common we see. I’ve been proud of how well I’ve handled them. I’ve even squished a few myself, though I tend to rely on Domingo to do the deed. Full disclosure, there was the one the size of my palm that I didn’t see in the doorway when I entered the bathroom. Domingo had to rescue me from that one. There was also a daddy long legs that dropped down from the sun visor in the car when I was driving. It was probably the closest a daddy long legs has ever come to being deadly.

Then came a relatively cool weekend Summer day. Yesterday morning we decided to take the girls to the Zoo. We figured we’d take our jogging stroller so Alexis could nap while Nicole ran around looking at the animals.

When I packed up the stroller into the trunk of the car I noticed a rather thick spider web near the foot rest. The feather duster I keep in the car made quick work of it. Once we arrived at the zoo and I unpacked the stroller and I noticed another spider web near the basket. The feather duster made quick work of that one as well. Domingo unbuckled Nicole while I took Alexis out of her car seat. As I extended my arms to place Alexis in the stroller I noticed one more spider web, this time with spider, in the head rest. I recoiled my arms keeping Alexis close and asked Domingo to squish it. Domingo leaned close to get a better look, than informed me it wasn’t just any spider. It was a Black Widow!

As a none native to any where black widows typically live, I know only know the venomous spider by reputation. Domingo assures me that the black widow in the stroller was too small to likely have enough venom to kill a seven month old baby. Still the symptoms of a black widow bite are non to pleasant and can last for a week, even in an adult. It felt like we only just survived the stomach flu.

The black widow had to come from somewhere. Its siblings may be still out there. I’m about to be on a first name basis with our local exterminator.

July 17, 2015

Name Uniqueness Analyzer

It lives!

For a while Uniqueness of Baby Names was one of the top blog posts. It even got pinned on pinterest. But as fun as it was writing the post (and doing the math!), the information wasn’t interactive. I hoped it was a fun read, but that was it. I wanted the math to live on.

I’m pleased to announce I’ve turned the post into an interactive web app. Simply enter a name to see how popular it is for a given year. The name uniqueness analyzer will also tell you the odds of encountering another person with the same name. If you’re searching for a name, the name analyzer can also suggest names based on how unique you’d like it to be.

This is my first webapp launched since leaving Google and deciding to start my own start-up. While the main start-up idea is still baking, I thought I’d launch a few apps to both keep me coding. I’m both pleased and embarrassed by how long it took me write it. On the one hand, I left Google a little over two and a half months ago. That’s a really long time to launch anything! On the other, I have Alexis home during the days two days a week, and lost a full day dealing with the death of the washer and drier. From “I will do this” to “It launched!” was only two days.

I’ll be watching the Name Uniqueness Analyzer closely to see what kind of adoption it gets. The dream is to launch enough of these web apps to replace my grad school salary, freeing me up to work on my start-up without worrying (too much) about the finances.

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