Archive for January, 2012

January 21, 2012

Who will Zippy Be?

I’ve been thinking a lot about who zippy will be when he/she grows up. Zippy seems to have so much personality already, mooning the technician at our last ultrasound and I can feel zippy bouncing away. I’ve been thinking I’ve been feeling movement for a while, but there’s no mistaken it now. What once felt like a bubble popping a few weeks ago now feels like hard object pushing out.

I know one thing about zippy, zippy will never be the ‘cool’ kid. From the ultrasound it looks like zippy has inherited mom and dad’s dance skills, which is to say, lack of dance skills. It looks like zippy was trying to do the monkey by putting one arm up and the other down.

If lack of dance skills wasn’t enough to solidify zippy’s lack of coolness, Domingo and I are already planning fun weekend science projects and museum trips for when Zippy’s a little older. Boy or girl, Zippy will be playing with hexbugs and legos (when he/she is old enough of course!). I really want to make learning fun as possible early on, and I think the best way to do that is play activities that help build important skills like creativity and logic, like doing puzzles with mom and dad. We’re hoping to strongly encourage math and science when zippy starts school.

It’s hard not to picture Zippy as being a computer scientist one day, since that’s what both Mom and Dad are. Of course, kids don’t always follow in the parents footsteps, and given Zippy’s ultrasounds it seems clear that zippy has a stubborn streak. I think zippy will have no problem letting his/her will be known. Domingo predicts zippy will be one of those babies that prefers not to be swaddled, given how active he/she is. I am skeptical. Zippy has a lot of room now, but as we get further along zippy will be more used to confined places. Either that, or I’m going to end up some amazingly bruised insides.

I’ve also been wondering what zippy will look like. We have similar complexions and darker hair (though it was lighter for both of us as kids), so that seems like a given. I have light eyes (green with a blue recessive trait), and my husband has dark eyes with the light eye recessive gene, so zippy has a 50/50 shot of dark or light eyes. Even though we both have straight hair, we both have family members with very curly hair, so I think there’s a possibility of curls in Zippy’s future. I did try a couple of those simulators that take your photo and your partner’s photo and predict what baby will look like. They were all pretty horrifying. Domingo’s baby pictures are pretty cute, so I will just have to hope zippy takes after him.

January 13, 2012

SOPA is Just Bad Business

There’s been a lot of talk about sopa and it’s sister bill pipa lately. Both bills are designed to combat online privacy, effectively by giving the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and others a big broad sword with which to swing at ‘copyright pirates’. In reality, the bills will do little to stop real pirates and can do more harm to you and me.

Supporters of the bills argue that they will just target large sites, and not about censorship or going after small, personal websites that are using copyrighted material under the fair use act. But the companies that make up RIAA and MPAA haven’t shown much integrity on that front, nor have they particularly acted rationally. Let’s not forget the sony rootkit scandal where Sony was so concerned over their own profits that they stealthy installed a rogue program on all their customers’ personal computers – without said customers’ permission. The program (called a rootkit) monitored what each customer was doing on his or her own computer, and beaconed the information back to Sony so Sony could attempt to identify possible copyright theft. Not only was it an invasion of privacy, the rootkit had vulnerabilities that allowed hackers to gain access and control the customers’ computers. Sony put their customers’ privacy and personal data at risk with an ‘everyone is guilty until proven innocent’ mentality.

But there’s one area of SOPA that’s bad and I’m surprised no one is talking about it. SOPA reflects an old marketing thinking of ‘control your brand at all costs’, taking a draconian approach to even the most mild of infringes. The problem with this approach is it’s counterproductive online. In truth, the power of the internet is viral marketing, where a message is allowed to spread like wild fire, at little or no cost. By allowing fans to create fan fiction, or homage videos, you’re gaining free marketing that not only drums up fan interests, but helps companies reach a larger audience. The fact that these are fans and third parties, thus not affiliated with a company, spreading the companies allows corporations to easily distance themselves from any representation they think is unflattering to the brand while simultaneously profiting from positive buzz.

In fact, companies being heavy handed with fans over derivative works has caused numerous fan backlashes, such as the Mad Men case where AMC went after fake twitter accounts designed in homage to fan’s favorite characters. In contrast, 2 consumers created a fan page on facebook for coca cola, which became the second most popular fan page, a technical violation of the facebook terms of service which says only the company can create a fan page. Coca-Cola instead thanked the consumers for their hard work and devotion. Under the new bill trademark infringements, not only could twitter and facebook face being taken down, but there could be possible jail time for the fans responsible in these homage works. Whether you’re paying homage to a Coca-Cola or an AMC is the luck of the draw.

The problem is the RIAA and MPAA in particular have no strategy for the online world, and have been resisting change. They assume down sales are due to pirates and not a changing market or changing consumer desire. They fight with netflix and resisted Apple’s micro-payment model as long as possible. Yes, piracy is bad and should be stopped, but until the attitude that any-paying-customer-is-a-potential-copyright-thief-or-trade-mark-infringer changes, I can’t get behind stronger copyright bills that give them unlimited power with no form of recourse to decide what is and is not a copyright violation. We’ve come along way in the past thirty years. There are many new forms of entertainment out there: smart phones, personal computers, e-readers, etc. The world is moving away from the days of vast CD and DVD collections, in favor of digital media and streaming. It’s time for the RIAA and MPAA to adapt, not dig their heels in further. The world has changed, and those that are unwilling to bend often brake.

I usually go over our budget every couple of months to see how we’re doing, but I’ve been particularly attentive to it lately. Adding a new person to the family will bring a set of costs, especially since we’ll need day care even though I’m not ‘employed’.

The easiest thing to cut is the entertainment section of the budget. It may be tempting to cut it down to zero, but I don’t think that works very well. Going on a crash budget is a lot like going on a crash diet. Sure you can do it for short periods of time, but could you live without any sweets for the rest of your life? If you’re like most people, eventually you fall of the wagon and binge. And bingeing can be far worse for you than little indulgences here and there. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do for free (or near free) to satisfy your entertainment sweet tooth.

There is a semi recent survey on experiences making us happier than possessions. The happiness of experiences comes in preparing for and planning the experience, the actual event, and reminiscing afterwards. Happiness in terms of possessions is usually tied to the act acquiring Over time possessions tend to lose their appeal. What was once shinny and new loses a little bit of its luster when seen every day. So rather than splurge on a shopping trip, save up for a fun activity. It’s all about creating memories. Planning a trip to the zoo, museum, or hiking can be relatively inexpensive, and when it’s with someone you love, all the better! Make sure to bring your student ID for possible entry discounts.

You can extend the fun of activities by keep mementos, photographs or scrap booking. I love going back over old photos. I often make flash slide shows out of our vacations and enjoy watching them over and over. (Flash builder is free for students). Scrap booking can be expensive if you’re into all the page embellishments, but you can also use graphic software to organize photo layouts on a page and print sans add-ons. (Edited 5/14 to add: I recently discovered Windows distributes a free program called Movie Maker, which you can use to turn your photos into slide show movies! It’s much easier than flash if you’re not computer savvy, and best of all – free!)

We also started picking up redbox movies on the weekend. For just a dollar (+tax) we have an inexpensive date night at home, whereas our local movie theater is $12.50 for a non matinee, non 3-D adult ticket. There are a few movies that I was happy to watch at $1.30 and would have been disappointed had I spent $25 on. Still, I don’t think redbox will completely replace going to the movie theaters for us – some movies you just want to experience on the big screen in surround sound – but it is a nice alternative.

Once the baby comes, we might switch to Amazon Instant Video or Netflix Streaming, so we have the convenience of not driving to our local red box location. The drawback to both these services, however, is we don’t have a device capable of playing the movies on the TV, so there would be a startup cost in addition to the higher per movie cost. We also still have our old fashioned rear projection TV, and the more we watch at home the more we’ll feel the pressure to upgrade it.

When I first got pregnant, I was very curious what was going on with my body week to week. I wanted to be sure I was taking care of zippy as best I could. But aside from eating well, and exercising, there’s not a lot I can do for zippy now. So instead I started turning my attention to preparing for Zippy when he/she arrives. It’s been a long time since I’ve been around a baby, and I had a lot to learn!


Baby 411A. It’s thick, and meant to be more of a reference than read cover to cover, which I find useful. If I have a question, I jump right to the chapter that covers it. The authors do have recommendations, but they’re clear about when they are given their own recommendations or general recommendations (e.g. from the AAP). They also do a good job of exploring different parenting techniques from parent-centric to baby-centeric philosophies, leaving the reader free to make their own choices to what’s right for his or her family.

The Happiest Baby on the BlockC. I had several issues with the book. First, it’s too long, without a lot of content. I agree with the amazon reviews that said it could have been condensed into a pamphlet. Dr. Karp is also highly repetitive, repeating many similar stories, which just makes the book seem even more wordy. I got about half way though the book on the plane, put it down and haven’t picked it up again since. At the half way point, the author still justifying his methods rather than explaining them. I also don’t really think there’s anything ground breaking in the book. Perhaps if I had gotten the DVD instead of the book I would have gained a little more use from it, since I could observe his technique. My last complaint about the book is it’s clear he’s not a data scientist. He makes observations about other cultures and draws conclusions based on those observations. It’s not that I think his conclusions are wrong, just the unscientific way he’s reaching them. Perhaps he’s over simplifying the researcher to reach a broader audience, but as a scientist and a statistician, I found his analysis a bit off putting.

Free Resources

BabyCenter’s YouTube ChannelB+. I haven’t poked around Baby Center’s website, but I’ve found their youtube channel, and their newborn care and development videos helpful, especially as a starting point.

Kaiser’s Newborn Care VideosB-. The videos are older, and not as great quality. My concern is that the videos may have recommendations that are out of date. The only thing I noticed was in the caring for the umbilical cord section, they mention using rubbing alcohol on the stump. My understanding is that is no longer the recommendation.

As a general note, I do like youtube for learning how to do things, but I always watch them with a touch of skepticism. There is so much information out there, it’s hard to know what’s good advice and what’s just old wives tails. With all things pregnancy and baby related, I try to find a reliable source I trust. For pregnancy, I look to WebMD and Mayo Clinic (in addition to what my doctor says) to trust if something is safe or not safe. For child care videos, I look for AAP guidelines.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

This is it, the year I become a mom of an ‘outside’ baby. Over the past year I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of mother I will be, and how I want to raise my child. I almost never do New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I will. I resolve to be as confident as possible, and try not to let the judgment of others question my parenting skills.

I firmly believe that the vast majority of moms, across all parenting styles, are making the best decisions for themselves, their babies and their families. As a statistician, it’s hard for me to ever use the word ‘all‘. There’s an estimated 84 million moms in the US. Are there one or two ‘bad moms’ out there that only care about themselves? Sure. But that doesn’t mean I’ve ever meet any of them, or the mom with the screaming toddler in the grocery store is one of them. We will all be that mom at some point, no matter which decisions we make. Each child is unique, and what works for one family may not work for another. What ever a mom chooses to do for her family – go back to work or stay home, breastfeed or formula feed, cloth diaper or disposable, medicated or natural birth – she’s doing what’s best for everyone in her family. Period. Full stop.

In my not-yet-card-carrying mom status estimation, I think a lot of the judgment we moms give other moms stems from insecurity in our own decisions. We feel the judgment we receive from our decisions, and the need to defend our actions. Zippy’s not even here yet and I’m get questions about how we plan to deliver or discipline. Questions posed in a way where I know in the question asker’s mind there is only one right answer. I can feel the judgment before I even answer the question, because I know my answer is not the answer the asker is looking for. I can feel myself getting defensive before answering the question.

Each of us know the reasoning behind our own decisions and that we’re making these decisions out of love. It’s easy to conclude the person passing judgment just doesn’t understand us, hasn’t done the research or doesn’t love their baby the way we love ours. The problem is, this kind of thinking perpetuates the war. Even if we don’t intend to, we are judging other moms, and they can tell as well.

So my pledge is this:

I will not let other’s make me question my parenting skills. I will take comfort in the knowledge that one bad day, or series of bad days, will not turn my child into a serial killer. The best I can do is love my child unconditionally. Everything else is secondary. So when I feel the judgment of others, I will ask myself these simple questions: “Do I love my child more than they do?”, “Do I know my child better than they do?” and “Do I know what works and what’s best for my child better than they do?”. Yes. So why am I letting their opinions matter to me?

I will not judge other moms. Under the same philosophy, I don’t know some other mom’s situation and all the factors that go into her decisions. I don’t know her child better than she does. My opinion on whether she’s doing the right or wrong thing does not, and should not, matter. There are better things for me to spend my energy on than judging others.