I am dreading work on Monday. Really, truly, woke up with a stress headache this morning dreading it. For the first time the fact that I live 2 hours from campus has become extremely problematic.
The benefit of grad school and kids has always been the flexibility. Remember the separation anxiety? I started lingering during drop off. Rather than hand her over to her teachers right away, I held on to her signing her in and putting her bottles away. We then would sit on the floor and play together for five or ten minutes. It’s meant fewer days with tears when I have left. I suspect she’s also crying shorter periods of time when there are tears, because the tears generally don’t start anymore until I’m mostly out the door. I also pick her up a tad on the early side so we can get home in time for dinner and can get her down by her 7pm bedtime.
That won’t be the case on Monday.
My adviser meeting time this changed this quarter to early morning. In order to be sure I get there on time, I will need to leave about 30 to 45 minutes after she wakes up. That means I will have time to nurse her, and that’s it. Daddy will have to finish getting her ready and take her to day care. Our group seminar is at the end of the day. I will not be able to leave campus until 5 at the earliest, which means in addition to the normal rush hour commute, I will be fighting with the leaving campus crowd which will add another half hour to my drive time. That means I won’t be home until Nicki should be asleep. No evening nursing. No bathtime. No lullibys. No goodnight kiss.
I’m supposed to be part time (20 hours), yet I work 3 full days a week, plus evenings, plus nap times. I know, I know, my thesis – my responsibility to get it done. It’s not the number of extra hours that is frustrating me, it’s the sudden lack of ability to designate family time and be there for my family during key hours.
Of course, this is also weighing heavily on my decision about future employment. I heard good news from a company I had an on site interview with, which means I will likely have a couple offers to choose from. While I’m super excited about both these companies, I keep coming back to this dread of not being there for my daughter in the evenings. Moving is not a clear answer, as the housing market close to the silicon valley is intimidating. Opportunities to work for the silicon giants don’t come every day. If I pass now, what will that mean for my career long term? This highly dependent baby stage won’t lass forever.
I wish these decisions were easier.
I fully appreciate the irony that this post fallows hot on the heels of my previous post where I said Nicki was going to skip crawling. Not 48 hours later she was already proving me wrong.
I first noticed progress on this milestone Friday evening. Nicki got on all fours reaching for a book on a book case and ended up stumbling forward a step. I thought to myself “Hmm, I’ll bet some people consider that crawling.” (Pre-baby I thought milestones were always obvious when they were hit, in truth they hardly ever are. Some people count the first time the baby does the action, others count the first time it appears intentional, and still others wait until baby is doing it consistently. We fall into the latter most camp – if she’s not doing it consistently enough for me to get photographic evidence of it, I don’t count it!)
Saturday evening Domingo was watching Nicki while I was getting ready to start the bedtime routine. He suddenly called down to me “she crawled!” Apparently she had done the same half step stumble I had seen earlier, this time to reach a power cord. We quickly realized that she was willing to move a step forward on her hands and knees if it got her closer to an object she wasn’t supposed to have. If we tried to entice her with a toy, or something else she was allowed to play with, she’d protest until we helped her walk to it.
We decided to test this theory out with the object of mommy’s she always covets – the iPhone. Success! After a few minutes of just staring at it, she actually crawled forward a couple of steps. I was so excited a posted a video to facebook.
We worked with her Sunday and she was took to it like a fish to water. Once we were able to cox her to crawl about a foot it was like a light switch went off in her head and she suddenly realized she could reach anything she wanted under her own power. As soon as I put her down on the floor, she was off! I almost had to break my photographic evidence rule. I couldn’t pick up my camera fast enough to record her crawling! That’s also why all the photos of her crawling are slightly blurry. No time to setup the shot, baby’s on the move! Mommy needs to practice with a moving target!
Bedtime tonight was a little delayed. Nicki was throwing a ball, and crawling to go get it. Yes, she was playing fetch with herself. It was too cute, and I loved the progress she was making, so we let her stay up a little later. It is amazing how much they can change in just 24 hours.
Nick’s Pediatrician thinks she is going to skip crawling, just like she skipped rolling over. She turned over from stomach to back a handful of times, but wasn’t rolling over consistently until 7 months. On the other hand, she could sit unassisted at just 5 months. In fact, the first day she rolled over from back to stomach was also the first day she stood up on her own – at 6 months. Nicki is cruising with confidence, and can walk the length of the house while holding onto hands. When I picked her up from day care yesterday, she leapt out of Ms Laura’s lap and practically dragged her to me. It was more of a toddler run than baby wobbly walk. She’ll scoot on her butt, and drag herself a few inches while on her tummy, but she’s still not rocking on her hands and knees, the canonical precursor to true crawling.
Most days I’m like “Cool, she’ll figure it out when she’s ready.” But some days I fret. I get into my mommy worry bubble and I start to wonder why she’s not doing it. Is it simply my fault for not enough tummy time? Is there an underlying problem? And then I read articles like this, which lists all of the possible detriments to skipping crawling – including reduced gross motor skills, and reduce spatial skills.
I can’t help but feel this is how the mommy wars gets started. The above article is just conjecture. Conjecture by scientist and pediatricians and other very smart people, but conjecture none the less. There are no studies that prove it, one way or the other. Yet, we take these theories as gospel. Instead of “every baby and every situation is different”, suddenly you’re seen as irrevocably harming your baby for being different and not measuring up. I’ve already been told Nicole’s going to have delayed speech because we let her have a binky, even though she was already showing signs of being an earlier talker.
Here’s the thing with babies: they’ll learn to do it eventually. There’s a reason when someone learns to crawl, walk or talk isn’t on the college admissions application. When infants reach milestones are not a strong indicator of intelligence latter in life. Rather than dwell on not crawling, I will wait patiently for Nicki to take her first independent steps. We’re not that far from it now. Come on sweetie, come to mommy!
A while back I discovered that someone was trying to pass off my photos of Nicki as photos of her own child. I immediatly turned to Google reverse image search to see if anyone else was using my photos without permission. The process was so slow and tedious to enter the URL of each image from my blog that I gave up after checking just a few. There had to be a better way.
I know I’m not the first blogger who has had images of her child appear elsewhere. I’m not even the first blogger in my twitter stream this year that this has happened to. Internet strangers doing inappropriate things with baby photos is something that keeps some of bloggers up at night, and makes some of us hang up our blogging hat altogether. To make it easier to detect this sort of thing, I wrote a Duplicate Image Search utility script.
Simply give the script the URL of a webpage you want to check. The script finds all images on the page and displays them. The images are hotlinked, meaning I am not caching them or saving them to my server. My script is basically just a proxy service. Clicking on an image will open Google’s reverse image search and you can verify that only authorized sites are the ones displaying your images.
I had bloggers in particular in mind when creating this utility script. In order to make it more useful I attempt to atomically parse the page looking for a “next” button. You could start with your main index page, and slowly comb through your entire blog.
The script isn’t perfect. I wanted to parse out the search results and just return the web address of any unusual domains that might be using your photos without permissions. Alas the only APIs I could find that would let me do this are prohibitively expensive. If I get enough interest in this script that I can amortize the cost, I’ll consider making the improvements in the future. In the mean time, I hope it helps you stop anyone from using your photos without your permission.
Now that I’ve had ads up on my webapps page for a few days now I thought it’s time to analyze the numbers. I assumed the amount of revenue earned each day fallows a normal distribution. (Actually, this is an over simplification that makes the math easier. I’m sure there’s weekly patterns at a minimum, and possibly seasonal factors as well. And really, it should probably be a mixture of Gaussians for each component – revenue from views and revenue from clicks with a hyper parameter of views but I digress…)
My model shows I have a 55% probability of earning at least $100 in a year with a $118 being the expected value.
Not bad for two scripts I basically wrote in my spare time. But not great either. It if was an order of magnitude higher, I’d have great confidence that I could start my own business. With time an energy I could probably turn my webapps into something substantial. On the other hand, if it was an order of magnitude smaller this path wouldn’t seem viable at all.
Of course, it would be possible for me to earn more if I cut out the middle man. Google takes a cut of 32%. Thus if I’m earning $118, Google’s cut is $56, and the total revenue generated from ads on my webapps is $174. This tells me I could charge $14/mo for ad space. Of course, then I’d have to find advertisers and convince them that my webapps are worth it. No, the cut Google takes is worth it.
On the job front, I did find a local data scientist job to apply for. It’s not the same data I’m used to, but I’d love to branch out. Domingo and I have often joked how at home I’d be in a “Black Friday war room”, analyzing real time shopping data. So why try consider something new?
Yesterday I was reading an article from the Wall Street Journal on the lengths parents are going to for great high school photos, including professional makeup artists, hair, and a whole photographer entourage for year book photos. I wish I could say I didn’t understand where they were coming from.
I have photo envy.
A little envy isn’t a bad thing. I am friends with several professional photographers on facebook. When they post their photos I want to grab my camera and emulate them. I try to recreate their masterpieces. Often I end up with an interesting photo, and I always learn something new. Imitating others is one of my favorite ways to learn. Yes, a little photo envy is good.
The problem arises, however, when I see photos I can’t emulate because I can’t go back in time, i.e. wedding photos and newborn photos. They don’t even need to be professional, just different from anything I have. In this situation photos envy can be paralyzing. Rather then growing and learning with my camera, I dwell on what I didn’t think to capture. Self doubt creeps in, and I find myself less inclined to pick up my camera. That same feeling also fills me with regret for not doing professional photos. I wouldn’t be missing photos if I hired a professional. And if I hired a professional I’m sure my thought process would be I wouldn’t be missing photos if I hired a better, more expensive professional.
I need to get past photo envy, but how?
I figure for a first step I need to force myself to focus on the positive of what I do have, and convince myself that I do have more good photos than I think I do. I decided to play a little game: find my top 5 favorite photos that I’ve never shared before. Not here or facebook. They must be taken by me and near duplicates of any that I have posted is cheating.
This is going to be hard. There are a lot of photos to go through, and I can be super critical. But, hey, if it gets some good photos out of the dusty corners of my hard drive and into the light, all the better.
My Favorite Never Before Been Seen Photos
1) Playing in her gym
While this one isn’t a stand out from a technical standpoint, I can’t help but be drawn into that smile and those eyes. She loves her gym and I love her smile! I’m also a sucker for a lite up, perfectly in focus eye.
2) My attempt at being artsy
When I was going through my folder I realized I had surprisingly few profiles, and no true profile. I think it’d be fun to have on that shows the shape of her head. This weekend when when I can utilize my super simply baby photography secrete weapon (aka, Domingo) I will have to take more!
3) Mommy Daughter Love
Nicki at just six weeks old!
I did a series of these with a tripod before going off auto. If you look closely, you can see the camera remote in my left hand. Despite being high ISO they all have a too long exposure, creating motion blur. This is one of the few ones with such crisp eyes. It’s not the most flattering photo of me, but what can I say? I’m such a sucker for those eyes.
4) Feet in Domingo’s hands & holding my hands! (I’m counting this as one. My game, I get to bend the rules )
Nicki’s feet are a bit smaller than the other babies her age at day care (sorry kid, you have short parents with little feet and big bobble heads and it’s apparently genetic.) I think I can get away with the “newborn” photo even though she was seven months old in these photos. I was happy to have a chance to redo these photos, I have learned so much about photography in the past ten months. One of the reasons I like this pairing so much is I think it shows so much improvement photographically speaking from the first fingers and toes photos. Mommy got good with her camera!
5.) Sleeping Beauty
While I love the shadows and light in this one, it’s a stand out also by the memories it invokes. I love that she’s sleeping 11+ hours in the crib these days, but I still miss my little pooky sleeping next to me. I miss leaning over and seeing this sight in the middle of the night. I miss the funny little noises she made while sleeping, even the not so little noises. I miss the way she’d play with her feet while she waited for me to wake up and get her. I miss the newborn stage! Why can’t they stay tiny forever?!
There we have it, my top 5(ish) never before been seen favorite photos.
My next step in combating photo envy will be to convince myself that I have enough good photos by hanging some up around the house. I’m thinking of another canvas print over the mantle, this time of the whole family. It’ll go nicely with the wedding painting we had done. Maybe something like our anniversary photo, but without the disheveled pillows in the background. Ut oh, better sign off before that photo envy starts to creep back in again.
We’re entering the double digits of months. Oh. My. Gosh. Where is the time going?!
You have made great strides towards walking. Literally and figuratively. As soon as you could cruise, you were off! You’d do three or four laps around your activity table in a row, it was the cutest thing. You also enjoy cruising on the coffee table, and discovering all the non-baby safe things mommy forgets to put away. You used to hold onto the baby bumper, but you quickly learned it was more fun to have your hands free. The only issue? You can only balance on your feet for a second or two. It wasn’t a problem for you for long, you learned to lean your chest against the table for support so you could hold an object in each hand.
One handed Standing.
Mommy needs to learn photoshop. I have so many adorable photos with something in the background (in this case diaper wipes.) Sigh.
You are very into your toys these days. It’s amazing watching you development, you make such leaps in perceiving your world. You offered your binky to Fuzzy Bunny, by putting it on his mouth. We weren’t sure if that’s what you were doing, or you were just bashing your toys together, until you tried to put your pacifier in Mommy’s mouth! You thought it was absolutely hysterical, and kept trying to get mommy to take it. You had your little spider push the buttons on the remote control, and seemed to be making him crawl up the table. You also put the pretend purple phone to your ear without being prompted to. I know I’m biased, but I’m pretty sure that level of “role playing” is very advanced!
My little ham
The many outtakes of Nicole “Pookytron”
You now eat cheerios, Gerber “puffs” and yogurt melts like a champion. You weren’t as keen on the steamed vegetables yet, though you did put some carrots into your mouth. I think it’s the texture that you’re not sure of, you take the pureed vegtables very well. Even peas, which you hated at first. You’re also not a fan of cooked pasta, egg yoke or cheese yet, but we’re working on it. After rejecting banana in non-pureed form twice before, you shared one with mommy on Monday. Mommy will let you in on a little secret: if you share your banana with the kitty, she will love you forever. Kitty loves people food.
Enjoying her time in the swing
You have been a little miss giggle fits this month. Everything makes you happy. You squiggle up your nose and squint your eyes with a big ear to ear grin. I hope you never grow out of this phase. I just want to gobble you up, I can never get enough of your face! Seriously, my 1 TB hard drive has less than 2 GB free. I have a full 32GB card I can’t download because I’m out of space!
Mommy and Daddy
This weekend we went to the park. We’ve been going every so often since the weather warmed up. Nicki loves to swing in the baby swing, and sit on her blanket in the grass watching the other kids play. Since the swing was occupied, I set her down in the grass. I had my camera with me and I was taking photos while Domingo kept an eye out at all the loose dogs around. Most people ignore the lease laws in the area and let their dogs run and chase Frisbees. Fine. Whatever. We want to pick up Nicki should a dog venture too close. Even a friendly dog that has never bitten before can bite if provoked and we don’t know how Nicki would react to her first dog encounter. She’s not exactly gentle with Lily kitty and she adores her kitty.
Playing in the grass
An older woman walked by with her two terriers on leashes. The one was clearly nervous – hair on edge, defensive posture, the whole nine yards. The other was more curious and approached Nicki. The woman let the dogs get within two feet us. She introduced the curious one as “the friendly one” and then asked if Nicki would like to meet her dogs. We declined.
Nicki was tense. She wasn’t complaining or fussing, but she was also not smiling or making gestures like she wanted to meet the dog. The ‘friendly’ dog, perhaps sensing Nicki’s uncertainty, seemed to tense up to: tail low and still, shoulders back, head down sniffing in Nicki’s direction.
The woman was completely oblivious to what was happening. She noticed my camera asked if I needed the baby to smile for the camera and offered to hold the dog up over Nicki to get her to smile. (Because nothing can go wrong holding a nervous wiggly dog over a nervous baby’s head…) She could tell the baby wasn’t happy, but it didn’t occur to her the problem was the unfamiliar dogs. We kept saying, “no, that’s okay”, but she continued to offer. She went on and on about her grand kids loving it when she holds the dog above them. We were curt in our responses, hoping she’d get the hint and leave. After a few minutes she walked away, only to cycle back a few minutes later and ask again!
The situation was awkward, in part because neither Domingo nor I knew what the other was thinking. Domingo wanted to ask the lady to leave us be, but thought I would be embarrassed and upset. And sure, pre baby me would have been mortified. I hate confrontation and she was just trying to be helpful, after all. Yet hurt feelings would have been a worst that happened. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not so bad.
We made a decision that we both need to be comfortable with whatever the situation at hand is. If either one of us is uncomfortable, we’re allowed to say so. Better safe than sorry. We’re giving ourselves permission to be grizzly moms, err, parents.
First the good news: I’m going to graduate this summer. My adviser has given her blessing for me to participate at Graduation in June (about 5 days before the deadline to register!) and I went ahead and paid for my cap and gown rental. Happy progress.
I’m having less happy progress on the job front thing. I’ve had a lot of interest in my resume, but finding a good fit almost seems impossible.
Most (all?) of the jobs I’m well suited for are located 45 minutes away without traffic. Today it took me two hours to get to my interview when driving during rush hour thanks to a stalled car. That’s obviously less than ideal for a young family. Nicki’s bed time is at 7. Even if I left at 5 (which is a sign of a serious slacker here in the silicon valley), I wouldn’t make it back in time to tuck her in! That means I’d basically be a weekend parent. Or we’d have to move to be close to my job. Domingo would have the reverse commute, but he still wouldn’t make it home before bath time.
All this is making me rethink the start-up angle again.
* Flexibility. I’ve become quite use to this grad school perk. I typically pick Nicki up from day care before the 5pm rush, and whip out my laptop to continue working after she goes down at 7. Nicki’s sick and needs to come home? No problem.
* New Skills At my last job interview I thrived in the high level product ideas discussion. I loved brainstorming new features. I suddenly realized that maybe I’d be better suited in a technical project management (PM) role. Yet I have no experience to show I would be good at it. Even an unsuccessful star-up would give me experience points as a PM.
* No fixed salary/benefits. I’ve been lucky in grad school to be on several fellowships & GSRs. Those will look like a king’s salary to what I would be looking at starting out.
* Possible skill atrophy. I am a data scientist. That’d be nearly impossible to capitalize as a startup. No company likes to share there data, and unless I’m trying to break into the hardware business (super expensive, and see above bullet point) it’s unlikely to happen. For that reason most of my ideas don’t involve (much) data science.
* Isolation. I loved my internships because I got to work with incredibly bright people. I find gradschool lonely at times. It would be lonelier still to do a start-up.
I realize how crazy a start-up sounds to a mother of a sub one year old, and that’s why I keep hesitating. My goal wouldn’t be to be the next facebook (a company worth billions), or the next instagram (bought for billions). I have a much more modest ambition to be able to replace a salary I would otherwise get from working for someone else.
So I decided to do what any data scientist would do: collect and analyze data to see if it’s a viable idea. I decided to put adds on my webapps projects page (my blog is just too fledgling to really analyze my ad revenue data). Using ad data will give me a baseline of how profitable I could be. In general, though, I’m not a fan of the ad revenue model, at least not as the sole source of income. There have been some reports of ISPs swapping out webpage ad blocks with their own ads. In other words some visitors can come to my site, view my content or use my web app, click and ad and someone else gets paid for it. Not cool. To be fair, I believe this practice is rare. Still, I don’t want to be relying on a revenue stream that could get hijacked.
I’ll probably also work on some mobile app ideas I have. It would cost money to list it in the iTunes store, but I could write that off as a business expense and mobile is a valuable skill set to have!