Archive for November, 2012

November 29, 2012

Uniqueness of Baby Names

Baby center released its list of the top 100 baby boy and girl names for 2012. What’s not on the list? Nicole. For most of the eighties Nicole was one of the top ten, but lately it’s been on the decline.

Of my friends who gave birth in the past year, three strived for unique names. I thought they succeeded. If I had to guess, all three picked names less common than ‘Nicole’. In reality each of those names all made the top 100 list. In fact, two of those friends, who don’t even know each other, ended up picking the same exact name (though one used it as a middle name).

This got me thinking. How unique is unique these days?

Babycenter’s list is generated from their members, which isn’t necessarily a representative sample of all babies. To get a broader perspective I turned to US census data. Here’s what I found.

What does the distribution of names look like?

We all know the popularity of given names changes all the time. In 1995 the most popular girls name was ‘Jessica’, but in 2011 ‘Jessica’ was ranked 120th. I wondered if parents looking for rare names may end up like my two friends, and settle on the same “rare” name. Maybe ‘Kendall’ (currently just three ranks below ‘Jessica’, and six below ‘Nicole’) will become the new ‘Emma’.

I looked at a variety of years, but ultimately decided to compare 2011 to 1995 as they have a similar birth rate and 2012 data isn’t available yet.

There are more names to choose from

The US census data only lists names that were given to at least 5 babies. Using the birth rate data I can extrapolate that approximately 7% of babies in 1995 and 8% of babies in 2011 had a name given to less than 5 babies. So in addition to the two years having the approximately the same birth rate, the US census lists for both years represents approximately the same number of babies.

Here’s the interesting thing: In 2011 there were approximately 34 thousand unique names on the US census list whereas there were only 26 thousand unique names on the list for 1995 – for approximately the same number of babies!

The ultra common names are the names on the most decline

In 1995, 44% of girls and 58% boys (or roughly 1 in 2 babies) were given a name that made the top 100 list for that year. For 2011, only 31% of girls and 44% of boys (a little less than 2 in 5 babies) had a name that made the top 100. Thus the use of a name in the top 100 is declining.

Yet, most parents still pick names that in the top 1000. Despite there being over 19 thousand different girl names and 14 thousand different boy names given to babies in 2011, 67% of girls and 79% of boys (or roughly 7 in 10 babies) had a name in the top 1000. If we subtract out the top 100 baby names, we find 3 in 10 babies had a name ranked in the top 101-1000. That’s the same rate as in 1995!

What about Names Collisions?

Parents often state they are striving for unique names out of a desire that their child to be the only child with a given name in school. In other words, they want to avoid a name collision.

How common are name collisions?

Name collisions have been on the decline. Using a Monte Carlo simulation I was able to compute the probability of a name collision for a group of babies. Thirty years ago a group of 40 babies would be 97 to 99% likely to have a name collision. In 1995, there’s a 79.9% probability of a name collision in a group of 40 babies. In 2011, there is only a 56% probability that at least two babies in a group of 40 will have the same name.

The probability of name collisions has actually been on a decline since 1990. (Coincidently the world wide web was created in 90’s.)

Picking a name with low probability of collision

This is actually fairly easy to calculate. Let’s use the name Kaitlyn, the 100 most popular girls name for 2011, as an example.

In 2011, there were 2893 Kaitlyns born (roughly 0.15% of all girl baby births for that year). Let’s say Kaitlyn is going to go to school with just one other girl baby also born in 2011. If we pick that girl baby baby at random, she has a 0.15% chance of also being named Kaitlyn and 99.85% probability of having a different name. Let’s say Kaitlyn is going to go to school with two other girls. Each of those girls has a probability of 99.85% of not being named Kaitlyn. The probability of a name collision is one minus the probability of neither girl having the name Kaitlyn. Mathematically that’s expressed as 1-(1-0.15)x(1-0.15) or 0.3%. The general formula is:

p(name_collision) = 1 – (1 – popularity_of_name)number_of_students

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics the average elementary school has 482 students. According to the US census data, 48.8% of babies born in 2011 are girls. That would mean there are 234 other girls in addition to our Kaitlyn. We compute the probability of a name collision as follows.

p(name_collision) = 1 – (1 – 0.15)234
p(name_collision) = 1 – (1 – 0.15)234
p(name_collision) = 29.7%

Thus there is only a 29.7% probability that our Kaitlyn will go to a school with another Kaitlyn.

You would have to pick the 38th most popular girl’s name (Anna) before there’s a 50/50 chance that another child at the same elementary school having the same name. For boys you’d need to pick the 72 most popular name (Ian) to have a 50/50 chance at a name collision. What if you pick a name below the top 1000? Then there’s only a 3% chance of a name collision for girls and a 2.3% chance for boys!

Of course, this analysis is only considering a name collision with another child having the same spelling of the name. There could also be a Caitlyn, Katelynn, etc. According to NameNerds. There are an additional 6938 girls named with a spelling variants of Kaitlyn in 2011. Including these spelling variants, the chance of a name collision increases to 70%.

So what about spelling variants?

Using the new counts from NameNerds I found the following names are likely to have a name collision at an averaged sized elementary school. The probability of the name collision is in parentheses.

For Girls: Sophia (97.2%), Isabella (94.1%), Olivia (90.9%), Emma (90.1%), Chloe (88.0%), Emily (87.8%), Ava (86.0%), Abigail (84.6%), Madison (84.5%), Kaylee (81.1%), Zoey (81.0%), Mia (78.9%), Madelyn (78.5%), Addison (78.2%), Hailey (78.1%), Lily (77.3%), Aubrey (76.0%), Riley (75.6%), Aaliyah (74.9%), Layla (74.7%), Natalie (74.3%), Arianna (73.6%), Elizabeth (72.6%), Brooklyn (71.0%), Kaitlyn (69.9%), Ella (69.4%), Makayla (68.6%), Allison (68.1%), Mackenzie (67.4%), Peyton (67.2%), Kylie (67.2%), Brianna (66.3%), Lillian (65.4%), Avery (65.1%), Leah (64.4%), Maya (63.2%), Alyssa (62.8%), Amelia (62.8%), Gabriella (62.4%), Sarah (62.3%), Katherine (62.0%), Evelyn (61.8%), Jocelyn (61.7%), Grace (60.6%), Hannah (60.0%), Jasmine (59.8%), Samantha (59.4%), Alaina (59.3%), Anna (57.8%), Nevaeh (57.6%), Victoria (57.5%), Alexis (57.0%), Camila (56.3%), Savannah (56.1%), Charlotte (54.7%), Liliana (52.9%), Ashley (52.6%), Isabelle (52.0%), Kaelyn (51.4%), Lyla (51.3%), andKayla (50.4%)

For Boys: Aiden (97.5%), Jayden (95.6%), Jacob (92.8%), Jackson (92.3%), Mason (91.9%), Kayden (89.3%), Michael (88.5%), William (87.7%), Ethan (87.5%), Noah (87.2%), Alexander (86.5%), Daniel (84.6%), Elijah (83.6%), Matthew (83.5%), Anthony (83.0%), Christopher (82.5%), Caleb (81.4%), Joshua (81.2%), Liam (80.9%), Brayden (80.2%), James (80.1%), Andrew (80.1%), David (79.9%), Benjamin (79.8%), Joseph (79.7%), Logan (79.7%), Christian (79.7%), Jonathan (78.4%), Gabriel (78.1%), Landon (77.7%), Nicholas (77.0%), Lucas (76.4%), Ryan (76.3%), John (74.9%), Samuel (74.8%), Dylan (74.7%), Isaac (74.1%), Cameron (74.0%), Nathan (73.0%), Connor (72.5%), Isaiah (71.1%), Gavin (68.5%), Carter (67.8%), Jordan (67.1%), Tyler (66.1%), Evan (65.6%), Luke (65.5%), Owen (63.9%), Aaron (63.8%), Julian (63.6%), Jeremiah (63.5%), Brandon (63.4%), Zachary (63.4%), Jack (63.0%), Colton (61.5%), Adrian (61.5%), Wyatt (61.0%), Dominic (60.3%), Angel (60.1%), Eli (59.6%), Austin (59.2%), Hunter (58.9%), Justin (58.5%), Henry (58.4%), Jason (58.2%), Robert (56.9%), Charles (56.9%), Sebastian (56.6%), Thomas (56.6%), Brian (56.4%), Eric (56.3%), Tristan (56.1%), Jose (56.0%), Kevin (55.8%), Chase (55.7%), Levi (55.6%), Josiah (54.2%), Bentley (54.1%), Grayson (54.0%), Giovanni (53.8%), Carson (53.5%), Xavier (52.8%), Ian (51.7%), Jace (51.5%) and Brody (50.0%)

Some obvious ones on the list, but there are definitely some surprises, including two of my three friend’s pick! In 2011, 33% of girls were named a variant of these 61 girls’ names and 46% of boys were named a variant of these boys’ names.


My intuition of what constitutes a common baby name was clearly off. I fell into the trap of thinking names that were common when I was young are still common, and names that were rare are still rare. Even if you made the same mistake I did, the good news is it’s less likely to have a name collision today than 17 years ago.

One last thought. Throughout this analysis there was an implicit assumption that names were rarer because parents were deliberately choosing rarer names. But there are other possible explanations. With an increase in globalization prospective parents get exposed to new names. In the past two years I’ve worked with more Nikhils than Johns, and more Yis that Matts. I know people who picked exotic names for the children purely because they loved the sound of the name, and not because of any ethnicity or ancestry reasons. Perhaps this trend to uniqueness was inevitable, whether intentional or not.

Update 7/17/15: I’m pleased to announce an interactive web app based on this post. Now you can look up the uniqueness of any name for any year after 1950, see how a name is trending, and what are the odds of meeting another person with the same name!

November 25, 2012

Black Friday 2012 Recap

Well, Black Friday has come and gone, and, as predicted, I did all my shopping online. The only thing I bought in person was a haircut.


We finally got a new TV like we had been talking about for years. We’ve been thinking about moving into a bigger house when I finish gradschool, and I didn’t want to have to deal with moving the old rear projection behemoth that probably weighs more than me. Yet, we have no way of knowing what sized living room we’ll have in the new house, though. We also know so little of flat panel TVs that I don’t know what features are must haves and what are market hype. So we’re starting with the cheapest one we could find – a starter TV, if you will. I followed @bestbuy_deals on twitter and the new TV was their deal of the day.

It’s hard to say how good the deal was. The price went up between $30-70 after the deal of the day ended (gotta love those price fluctuations). CamelBuy seems to think it’s a good deal. It does include free shipping and take away of the old TV. I estimated that would have cost us $70-$100, so that’s definitely something.

Sonicare Toothbrush

I blew this one. Everyone and their mother seemed to offer a discounted Sonicare Toothbrush and my old one needed to be replaced. I decided to wait it out and see if there would be a lightening deal, or a price matching price drop occur. Only I didn’t think to use camelcamelcamel to alert me to the price! I know I said I was going to, and I did for other products, but didn’t think to do it for the sonicare. It wasn’t until a friend mentioned being alerted on a price drop for a DSLR for his wife that it occurred to me to check camelcamelcamel. Sure enough, there was a temporary $5 price drop that I had missed. Drat. So I bought it at the advertised black Friday price.


I confess, this one was going to be an in store purchase. I noticed Target was selling Jumperoos at a discount in their pre Black Friday sale, and I assumed the price would continue into the weekend. Since I wasn’t sure which one I wanted, I thought I would take a few days to think about it. Come Friday I discovered that the sale had ended. Luckily, Amazon was still price matching the earlier deal. It’s already shipped, and although I did not pay extra for expedited shopping, it will be here in one day. Score!

Memory Card

I needed given the insane number of photos I take of Nicki. In fact, it was the purchase I was most adamant about. I found BestBuy was offering the best deal, and I hovered around the website starting at 9pm on Wednesday (technically Thanksgiving day on the east coast.) At around 10pm the deal went life, and I snatched it up! Of course, the memory card was available all weekend, but I didn’t want to take that chance.


Online shopping was definitely a win. It was really nice to not have to worry about crowds or fighting for parking spaces, especially the baby, and there were plenty of good deals available online.

We also cut down greatly on impulse deals. (“Impulse deals” is a bit of an oxymoron, no matter what the deal price, it’s still higher than what you were planning on spending anything!) The only things we got that weren’t on my list were 2 CDs (one of which I’m currently listening to) and an HDMI cable (needed for the new TV).

Estimated total savings ~ 30%. Not bad, but I’ve done better.

November 19, 2012 Try!

As a perpetual bargain hunter, I know I sometimes sacrifice quality of customer support and customer experience when I hunt the lowest prices. The less I pay, the smaller the margins/profits the retailer has, the less funds there are that can be turned around to improve future shopping experiences. It’s the price I pay (pun intended.) But there’s one place that I didn’t expect to get burned – sears.

Now, I generally think I’m a good customer. I may gripe about a bad experience privately, but I give a company time time to fix the problem. I didn’t blog about my ShutterFly experience until the issue was resolved, and even then I made it clear that I was a happy customer who would shop from them again. If someone is willing to try to fix the problem, I’m willing to let them do it.

In this case sears is unwilling to address (or even acknowledge) the problem, so I feel free to voice my frustrations here.

A little bit of background
Some products are always on sale. The undershirt I wore for my engagement photos back in 2009? They are still on sale for $9 (regularly $18) at JCPenney.

Carter’s brand baby clothes is similar. They have rotating sales that are largely equivalent (Buy one get one free, 50% off, regularly $16 on sale for $8.) If you ever buy carter’s brand clothes at list price, you’ve paid too much. Sometimes you pay a dollar more or less, but it’s usually somewhere around 50% of the list price.

My experience
On Saturday at around 10pm I started shopping on for clothes for the baby. At about 10:10 I began the checkout process. I had $60 worth of merchandise pre taxes in my shopping cart. I verified my cart total to ensure my purchase qualified for free shipping. After entering my billing\shipping information, something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. The price of my order had ballooned to $134! List price!

I immediately abandoned my checkout. I went back and viewed each item individually, all were still showing as on sale. But every time I added them to my cart my cart reflected the list price – not the sale price.

What happened
After talking to customer support and reading various similar complaints on the web, I think I know what happens. I suspect the website uses my local time in determining which sales to display. My local time was 10:10 pm on 11/17, so the 11/17 sale pricing was used. The backend system that processes the sale uses central standard time. According to the back end system it was 12:10 am on 11/18, and the 11/17 prices were invalid. But rather than use the 11/18 price, it wanted me to pay list price!

When I waited until just after midnight local time, the display price of the items in question changed to 11/18’s prices. The dropped the total back down to $68 – roughly 50% again.

That’s TERRIBLE website design. If your website shows a given price for an item, the backend system should honor that price. As a webdesigner, I can attest that it isn’t hard to synchronize all your systems on one time zone. Since Sears is a multi-national corporation, it should have occurred to them that different customers would be in different time zones, and they should have tested this scenario.

Why I’m so mad
I only just barely noticed the price in my shopping cart had changed. I don’t know about you, but once I begin the checkout process, I expect the price I’m paying to remain consistent. Had I not noticed it, I wouldn’t have realized there was a problem until I got my credit card statement, which would have occurred AFTER all the tags were cut and I couldn’t return anything. That’s $74 I almost got cheated out of!

The difference in prices on 11/17 and 11/18 was just $8. It would have cost sears $8 to honor the sales price the website offered me. Just $8. Instead their response to their website error was akin to “too bad, so sad.” Instead of feeling like a valued customer, I feel cheated. So to sears I say: “too bad, so sad” you just lost yourself a customer.

November 15, 2012

A Seat At the Table

When I was pregnant with Nicki, we purchased mostly gender neutral gear for two reasons. Even though three separate ultrasounds confirmed she was a girl, there was always a chance they we were wrong. Secondly, there is a good chance that we would want additional children, and that those children would not be girls. To a lesser degree, I also didn’t like the overly pink/princess girl motifs.

Now that Nicki is here, my resolve to avoid the pink princess girlie gear is weaker. There’s now a face to a name, whereas “future kids” is still an abstract concept. I’ve also learned that babies are much less gentle on their things than you and I, and many items may not survive to become hand me downs. Nicki also looks darn cute in a splash of pink.

This month we’ll be starting rice cereal. Nicki is showing the signs of being ready. She watches us intensely when we eat. She is extremely interested in what we’re doing with our mouths, and makes a similar chewing motion. She sits well, and mouths everything she can fit into her mouth. But the biggest sign of all is it’s getting harder and harder to keep her satisfied with just breast milk alone.

I decided on Monday to go ahead and purchase a high chair, bowels and spoons. I couldn’t help myself and bought the Disney Princess Silhouette High Chair. It also didn’t hurt that most gender neutral ones had patterns that were too bold for my taste, or color combinations I didn’t care for.

Since it’s November, and Black Friday is getting earlier and earlier, Babies R’ Us was running a series of awesome deals. First, they were offering Sophie the Giraffe for $10 with a purchase of $100 or more (the high chair was $119 list – about a dollar different from Amazon.) Since Nicki is starting to teeth too, and the internet raves about Sophie, I decided to go for it. Next they were doing a 15% off baby gear for a purchase of $125 or more – $6 to go. Of course that was easy, they had a $10 Bright Starts Sensory Plush Toy. She’s been loving those sensory toys lately. So a ten dollar toy saved me close to $20, and a cheap Sophie. I am a happy discount shopper!

November 14, 2012

The Benefits of Day Care

I generally try and stay away from “mommy wars” topics. My personal philosophy is whatever works for you and your family. There is no one-size fits all style of parenting because every family is different. Still, it’s sometimes so easy to get consumed with guilt when you feel you’re not living up to everyone else’s standards, especially when it seems like society agrees what’s ‘best’ and it’s not what you’re doing. One of those areas where I felt particularly large amounts of guilt was daycare.

There seems to be a perception held by many that only moms who can’t afford to stay home are the ones who work. It’s true that leaving Nicki at day care for the first time was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I referred to the experience as my kryptonite. For me it was harder than watching Nicki get her shots, or having her blood drawn. In both those cases I knew it was for her benefit. Society sends moms the impressions that daycare is for mom’s benefit, not the baby’s.

But there are benefits to daycare for baby as well as mom. Here are a few that I have discovered.

Between the two of them, Nicki’s daycare teachers have over thirty years of infant experience. Thirty. At an 8:2 baby to day care provider ratio, that’s 240 babies! I may be Nicki’s mom, but I don’t know much about babies besides what the books say, and both our families live pretty far away. Let’s face it, being a parent requires on-the-job training. Some days I feel like I’m fumbling my way through it. I’ve asked Nicki’s teachers for advice on everything from brands of pacifiers, to sleeping habits, teething and feeding. Sure, I don’t always follow their advice, but I’m grateful to have the extra perspective. Since they spend three days a week with Nicki, I’m getting advice tailored specifically for her.

The day care center prides itself on the level of stimulation they provide. They’re always buying new educational toys, and trying new activities. They live, sleep, eat child development. They do sensory play and baby sign language. If I was a stay at home mom, child development would only be one thing on my plate. While I think I could find some fun things via pintrest, I don’t think I can keep it up as well as a group of people whose full time job is baby development.

Then there was this week. Domingo and I got sick at the same time. I suspect it was food poising, he thinks it was a fast moving stomach flu. Whatever it was, taking care of Nicki was difficult. She was happy, healthy and wanted to play. Us, not so much. Not only were her day care workers healthy enough to take care of Nicki properly, but it gave us a chance to rest. I wasn’t able to rest when we all got sick previously. It took me three weeks to finally kick it! Being able to get well sooner meant I was able to better take care of Nicki on her home days.

My point is not to suggest that every parent should utilize a day care. (That would be just as mommy wars-ish as suggesting every mom should strive to stay home.) But there are some benefits to day care for the child, and for some parents day care might make more sense then staying at home. It doesn’t make someone less of a mom for choosing that path for her family.

This is a bit of a long story. The TL;DR version is that I purchased that canvas print two months ago, but due to a series of print errors, I only just recently received it. For the first month I was in customer service hell. I finally got some one who was able to fix the problem by reaching out on twitter. Now I’m a happy customer once again.

On September 3rd I purchased a large canvas print of Nicki for her nursery. I loved the idea of having one of my photos blown up, and thought it would be very new-age-y and art-y to have. The canvas print that arrived, however, was all wrong. my baby was a reddish orange of an oompa lompa after a temper tantrum.

What I think went wrong

Print shops like shutterfly apply automatic color correcting before each print. They call the color correction software vividpix. Most of the time this software will enhance the photo, making it more vibrant. Even though I had already color correct my images, I’ve printed from them before (my wedding guestbook and Nicki’s birth announcements) and never had an issue with Shutterfly’s color correcting. The preview looked fine, so I didn’t give it a second thought.

The photo I was having printed of Nicki, however, was particularly light. She’s shoot against a white background with a white stuffed animal. My guess is to the computer, the over abundance of white made the image seem washed out. To ‘correct’ it, the software went overboard, upping the saturation to a comical level.

My Customer Service Nightmare Begins

I immediately called Shutterfly customer support upon opening the canvas print. The automated system told me the wait time was 30 minutes, and that they could hold my place in line and call back when an agent was available. I choose that option.

After an hour with no call back I started to really stew. I decided to call customer support again and stay on the line. If I got a callback while on hold I could hang up to answer. At least this way I was sure I was in the queue. This time the predicted wait time was 52 minutes.

Another hour passed.

As I waited I poked around the shutterfly website. They had the option for ‘live help’ which apparently wasn’t ‘live’, but an email form even though it was still before the 5 pm closing time. I filled it out anyway.

Another hour passed.

Finally someone answered. At this point I had been on hold in one form or another for three hours. I was beyond frustrated. I explained the problem to the support person and he said he needed to put me on hold to ‘check something’. When he came back his response was “it looks fine to me.” (Note to any customer oriented people who may read this some day: If the customer is irate after a large order, the appropriate response is not “it looks fine to me”. This is going on my nursery wall, not anyone else’s. I’m the one that needs to be happy with it, not anyone else.)

The customer support agent gave me two options: return it for a refund, or snap a picture with my cell phone so he could verify the colors were off and they could try to reprint it. Since I still wanted a canvas print for the nursery, I chose the second option. Only I could tell he didn’t know what he was talking about. A cell phone image would not necessarily be true to life colors. I didn’t want him deciding the print job was fine and dismissing my complaint again. To make the problem as obvious as possible, I printed the image to put next to the canvas print when I snapped my picture.

I called back. This time the wait was reported as 103 minutes.

102 I-so-wish-I-was-making-this-up minutes later, the system hung up on me. The office was closed for the day.

I was livid.

When I woke up the next morning I had a response to the form I had filled out. Shutterfly was reprinting the canvas print with Vividpix turned off. The next Friday I received another Oompa Loompa photo.

Since I was busy with Nicki all day, I hadn’t opened the package until the office was closed for the day. The next morning I wake up as soon as the customer service department opens up. Yes, I woke up before the baby just to contact customer support. This time ‘live help’ was working and opened up a chat window. The rep told me that “all appropriate color correction was done.” I asked what that means, since no color correcting was supposed to be applied. “Yes, that’s what I meant.” There was nothing she could do, I’d have to call customer support back on Monday.

I really didn’t want to spend another 5 hours on hold. I don’t want to waste another day on the phone. I couldn’t, I was still on maternity leave and had to watch Nicki while my husband is at work. I told myself I can live with the print. I have my friends tell me I can live with the print. But I just couldn’t. By the end of the week I still couldn’t bring myself to hang the canvas print on the wall.

I decide to try the email form one more time since that’s we’re I had the most luck last time. The customer support agent who responded was able to tell that vividpix was not turned off correctly. He suggestion I upload the image again and to turn off vividpix myself. He would apply free credits to my account so I could reprint it.

Since I don’t want to repeat this exercise yet again, and since the customer support agents didn’t seem to have a good idea what was wrong, I decide to send the image to the two most graphics experts I know, my sister and her husband. They theorized that the problem may be the color display. Basically, my computer and their printer may be processing colors differently. They showed me my photograph under different color displays on their computer and, sure enough, one looks particularly red. I do a little googeling and find that Shutterfly print in sRGB.

I contacted customer support to see if they can print the image in a different color display. Its a long shot, but would save me from recallabrating it. Short answer: no. The agent suggests I use the preview option to verify the image is correct after I upload it, promising it will print “exactly the same.” Except I did, and it didn’t. In fact, not only did my photo look beautiful in the preview view, it looked wonderful on the receipt shutterfly printed and included with both oompa loompa canvas prints. The only option left, per her recommendation, was to change my color display to sRGB and color correct yet again. That’s when I discover my monitor is already set to sRGB. The color display wasn’t the problem.

It gave me an idea. Even though my monitor was in sRGB, I could still tweek the colors. There’s a range of acceptable skin tones. I split the color channel in my graphics program. Splitting the color channel shows me the proportions of red, green and blue. Sure enough, the red channel looks a bit blown out.

Here’s were we’re really expanding outside my comfortable zone and skill level. My goal was to adjust the skin tone so that it’s on the pale yellow end of the acceptability range. That way whether it prints as is, or on the redder side, I will still be happy with it. Only, I’ve never done this before, and the current version looks beautiful to me. Since it wasn’t printing red at home, I would have no way of knowing when I tweeked it enough, or too much. I was effectively flying blind.

Since I was modifying the image, it would be my fault if the image printed too pale. I couldn’t get mad at Shutterfly if this reprint was still not up-to-snuff. Thus I decided this is would be my last attempt.

I finish the redesign and login in to shutterfly to order the reprint. Only I have no promised credits. I email shutterfly again to ask for the promised credits. Their response? I would need to mail the canvas print back to them so they could verify the color problem. On my dime. Totally Unacceptable. I just went through the exercise to fix the reprint myself. A month has passed since I first placed the order. I was not going to spend more of my money and time. I was previously willing to walk away, but this response had my livid once again. I was the paying customer, and I once again wanted (demanded?) satisfaction.

At this point it had been 3 phone calls, 5 hours on hold, 3 emails, and 2 chats. I took to twitter and complained. Loudly.

A Resolution

After a couple days of angry tweets I finally get a response. Through a series of direct messages the customer service agent offered to reprint the canvas print again. Her plan was to ship it to herself and verify the quality of the print. Once she was satisfied the problem was resolved, she would send it to me.

Another month and three reprints later, she had a reprint she felt comfortable sending me. Shutterfly didn’t use my modified image and I never found out what was wrong. But that doesn’t really matter now, does it? I finally have a canvas print I’m happy with.

Would I use Shutterfly again?

Yes and no.

To their credit Shutterfly was willing to reprint the canvas print four times. I doubt there are very many places that would have gone to that level of effort. Shutterfly didn’t give up, and I really appreciate that. I achieved my goal of having a canvas print I could be proud of in her nursery. I am once again a happy customer.

On the other hand, the first month was hell. Each time I’d call back a different agent would direct me to do something else and I got the impression more than once that the customer sales agent didn’t believe there was a problem with the print, and thought I was trying to defraud the company. I wasted an awful lot of time and energy on this project, and spent too much money to be treated that way.

So yes, I will use Shutterfly again. Just not in the near future.

October was a better than expected month for me. Remember how it took a full year for me to make my first dollar? And then six months to make my next? In October I earned a full dollar. Updating my blogging revenue probability model with October data also shows me it will only take me 573 years to reach $1,000,000 in revenue instead of 615! Wahoo! Kidding aside, the increase in traffic has me wondering if maybe my blog could become something. In the last four months the number of visitors to my blog has doubled. (It’s the newborn photography. Too bad I have to wait for the next baby to expand on those. Maybe you’ll find non-newborn baby photography interesting in the mean time?)

I’ve been thinking a lot about what direction to take my blog, what type of blogger I am and what type of blogger I’d like to be.

Professionally, I’m a data scientist. My blog gives me an opportunity to make an internet name for myself. On the other hand, I’m fairly new to the domestic thing, and I’m still figuring things out. Blogging helps me put my skills to the test. Sometimes people like me, and I get pinned on pintrest. Other times they offer handy suggestions and ideas that help me grow.

I love to shop (especially bargain hunting around Black Friday), and I love to give my opinions on purchases. I don’t think I’m cut out to be a blogger who does those reviews and giveaways. For one, at less than a dollar revenue per month on average, I won’t be funding any giveaways any time soon. While I would love to get products for free to review, (at least in theory, ‘free’ is my favorite price tag), I’m way too small a blog for that. Besides, I’m still a novice blogger finding my voice and I wouldn’t want to come across as promoting a product because it was free to me. For now my plan is to stick to discussing only products I bought myself.

I have gotten a few requests for guest posts, but I’m even less reluctant to go this route. I blog for me first and foremost. I’m so completely forgetful and writing things down is an easy way to remember how I feel, like how much I loved being pregnant. I also blog because I’m dyslexic, and I blogging is an easy way to practice writing.

Still, I do like the idea of small businessafying (yes, I’m pretending that’s a word) my blog some day. I’ve spent the last few months reading about what that will entail, and how to grow my blog/brand. It would be nice to defray some of the costs of blogging, small as they might be. Yet, I’m not sure I’m ready to make the kind of time commitment that will require. Aside from actually blogging, I’d have to work on building an audience. Most of my visitors are still one-time visits searching via keywords.

At the current rate of growth, my model predicts it will be another 4 and a half years before I get my first check (and owe taxes) from blogging. Here’s hoping I figure it all out by then.

November 2, 2012

A New Sleeping Arrangement

A long time ago I read a fellow mommy blogger’s post about how difficult it was to adjust her to move her 5 month old from sleeping in the pack n’ play to the crib. I swore that wouldn’t be me. The pack n’ play is more similar to a crib than the rock n’ play, and I knew it would be even more difficult if I waited too long. I was going to do it early.

The baby book said to begin the process at two months, but I wasn’t ready for the change. It felt too soon. At three months Nicki got sick and needed to sleep at an incline. For two and a half weeks! Here we are at four months and still in the rock n’ play. Oops.

This week we decided all naps were going to be in the crib. I knew that meant they wouldn’t be long, but I figured she’d tire herself out enough to sleep eventually. I thought she would get used to the crib and today would be “eventually” and we could transition her night time sleeping to the crib. Wrong.

We’ve had 7 attempts to nap today. She was still asleep after I put her down in the crib in 4.

Right after morning feeding (still in pjs). Asleep for 5 minutes.

Second attempt. Asleep for 19 minutes.

Third and forth attempts she woke up instantly after putting her down.

Fifth attempt, I get desperate and try a swaddle even though she’s hated them for a few months now. Success, she slept 23 minutes. Note the bed head from all the napping attempts.

Sixth attempt. I got the camera looked back and saw this.

She was getting frustrated so I decided to do a little tummy time hoping it would tire her out. It did. Too well.

I gave in. I needed a nap too. Now we have matching bed head.

It’s going to be a long weekend. Hopefully by Monday we will be successfully napping in the crib.

November 1, 2012

Nicki at Four Months

Dear Nicki,

You’re growing so increasingly fast! This past Sunday we switched over to 3-6 months clothes. That’s three months in a row where we had to change your clothing size! Even your day care teachers noticed you seemed so much bigger on Monday than when you went home on Friday. Mommy suspects you’ll be in 6-9 month sleepers soon. You have such long legs! We did manage to get some photos of you in your skeleton sleep and play for Halloween, if but just barely.

You’re making leaps and bounds developmentally. You started rolling onto your side again, something you haven’t done for three months. This time it’s clearly intentional. You’re very close to rolling over from your back to your tummy, but have no interest in the other way around. You just love to look at the world around you. You are also interacting more with your world, holding things with two hands, inspecting everything and not just by eating it.

Your personality is shinning through more and more. I’m predicting you’re going to be a social butterfly. You get so excited when you see other kids. You loved the trick-or-treaters and your face lit up when you heard a group of girls giggling at the doctors. You have a daycare boyfriend. Two, actually! You are all smiles when ever anyone looks at you, love chatting and squeal with delight when others are near. You’re such a sweetheart two. Lately when I rock you to sleep, you take out your pacifier and seem to be offering it to me by trying to put it in my mouth.

You recently discovered your thumb. I’ve noticed you with just it in your mouth rather than your whole fist. Your toes no longer offer you any challenge. You’ll grab one hand on each foot, or two hands on the same foot. Once you even crossed your hands to hold the opposite foot. Soon those toes will be in your mouth, I have no doubt about that!

Love always,
Mommy and Daddy