Archive for May, 2013

Both Domingo and I felt horrible we didn’t get toys with buttons and knobs earlier. When we did pick them up (at 8 months) Nicki seemed beyond ready. As a parent you’re always wondering if your mistakes are screwing up your child. How much more improved would her finger dexterity be if we had been practicing it all along? Would increase finger dexterity have lead to more exploring, and would that have lead to building more of those lifelong neural connections and pathways? Am I screwing her up for life?!

We were determined to always have at least one next stage toy around. That way we’d catch and accommodate these mental shifts sooner.

A reassembled Easter Egg by Pooky

About a week ago we noticed Nicki making a rattle out of an old tissue box and the plastic Easter eggs we still had lying around the house. They’re still out because she loves them. She can now take them apart with ease and get’s them back together by mashing the two halves until one is smooshed snuggly inside the other. Not bad for a ten month old. We started to think that maybe, maybe she’s not that far away from being ready for building blocks. We were planning to get MegaBloks for her birthday, why not get them now?

While quite the demolition expert, she hasn’t mastered the art of building… yet. She did get two pieces together although I think there was a bit of luck in that. But that isn’t stopping her from loving the blocks. She pulls apart whatever Mommy and Daddy make, bangs them together and against other toys to make noise, and flips the car base upside to use as a bucket, turning it into a “fill and spill” toy.

Tonight she started sorting them.


She crawled around the room picking up all the single blocks and throwing the rest to the side. Notice the car? All singles! Color me impressed.

Maybe we’re not quite ready to build, but those pathways? She’s got ’em.

It’s been a long couple of weeks. Multiple days working past midnight, graduation requirements stress, etc. So I decided to decompress by making cookies and cream fudge.


I really like the recipe on the back of the marshmallow cream jar. In my experience it’s super easy, makes the best traditional fudge, and is the easiest to modify for fun flavors. Want peanut butter fudge? Substitute 12 oz of peanut butter chips for chocolate. Mint Cream? White chips, and add a teaspoon of mint extract. Orange cream (my favorite!)? White chips and add a tablespoon of orange extract.

For these I substituted white chocolate, and added an extra half teaspoon (for 1.5 total) of vanilla when making the fudge. I used my mortar and pestle to grind up an entire package of Oreos to sprinkle on top. Easy Peasy. Well, except for grinding up the Oreos. Next time I’m using slightly stale, and softer, Oresos.

I lost my candy thermometer a few years ago, and never bothered to get another. Instead, I stir the mixture on medium high/high heat until it starts to boil, then down to medium/medium low for 5 minutes. That works just fine. I’ve also substituted reduce fat butter for full fat butter and seen no ill effects.

I keep assuming the reason I’m taking more photos these days is because I’m forcing myself to pick up the camera more often. As I think about it, though, there are more opportunities to pick up the camera: crawling, walking, even just playing with toys. She’s doing more so there’s more memories to capture and save for posterity.

This weekend I was looking for something different to capture on digital film. I poked around on the internet, but was coming up empty for ideas until I stumbled upon a photo of a sweet baby boy looking out the window. The boy sat on the floor, his back to the camera, flanked by a stuffed animals. (ETA: I finally found the photo that served as my inspiration!) It was such a sweet photo. I thought of our living room window and how I had used it for my DIY maternity photos almost a year ago to the day.

As luck would have it, there was a cloudy drizzle early this morning, is unusual for this time of year, giving the curtains a soft glow. I couldn’t resist.

Whenever I look at this photo I instantly image a few decades into the future, but also think back to a year ago when I stood in the same spot. My heart, it melts.

I shouldn’t lament the end of of posed baby photos. It’s true, I can’t pose her anymore. She’s going to do her own thing. Sometimes that will work for the photo I have in mind, sometimes it won’t. Nicki didn’t want to just sit still in front of the window, peacefully amoungst the stuffed animals like the boy I saw in the photograph. She wanted to play. Even her favorite a stuffed animal sitting by her side would not distract her from grabbing the curtain and twirling it around herself.

The best photos aren’t forced, anyway.

I’ve been germinating a few start-up ideas in my head for a few weeks now. The most promising of which are mobile apps ideas. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the non-technical details. How could I make this actually work? How would I start a business and be profitable?

I’m not a fan of the in-app purchases model. Why? It’s too easy to ‘trick’ someone, even unintentionally, into spending more than they intended or realize. A while back I taught a seminar on Facebook app development. During that time period I had a conversation with someone about one of the games in particular and he lamented accidentally spending $40 on one of the more profitable games. It wasn’t obvious to him he was being charged until it was too late. How often do we click “next”, “next”, “next” without really reading the screen when a popup prevents us from playing a game? I’m not even considering the less scrupulous app makers who target kids to get them to make in-app purchases with their parents’ phones. In-app purchases can be designed well, but that’s hard to do. While accidental purchases may be profitable for an individual game, at least in the short term, it’s bad for the consumer and bad for the app ecosystem.

I’m also weary of advertisements in apps. I have a word search puzzle game on my phone and I am always accidentally clicking on the ad because it’s too close to the search screen. While profitable for the game maker, it’s annoying for me and a looser for the company who paid for the advertisement. It’s an erroneous click, and extremely unlikely to result in a purchase, but the company who paid for the advertisement has to pay for the click just the same. Advertisements need to be placed with care. It’s a delicate balance to be seen (and thus generate revenue) but not interfere with app functionality.

The app I’m thinking of creating is one I would personally benefit from. I want other people to enjoy using my app, too. I want them to gain value from using it, and to not be annoyed by it. I want to be profitable, yes, but not at the expense of my customers. It’s more likely to spread through viral marketing that way, which might, dare I hope, even make it more profitable.

I’m becoming more and more a fan of the tiered pricing model. There have been numerous articles that have crossed my twitter feed about it, this one being the most recent. The idea is simple: some people want the bare basic functionality (low tier), while others will pay for more services (high tier). By offering multiple tiers of service, you can cater to your different audiences. You’re less likely to loose sales, because the the price conscious have an option, but you don’t loose out on extra revenue from those who would pay more. The article is specifically talking about ebooks, but the same principle could be applied to anything.

On the other hand too many choices can be paralyzing, so best to stick with just a few choices.

Right now I’m envisioning a three tiered system for my app. A free ad-supported app (with ads in a non-obnoxious place that don’t pop up on every.single.screen) a mid tier (.99 – 1.99) ad free version, and a high tier ($4.99-9.99) version with extra functionality.

Last Friday I decided to take more photos of Nicole with my old camera. I liked the last set, but silly me put her in a white onesie that was a bit too much against the white backdrop. It also generally takes a couple iterations before I get the “perfect” shot, so I always like to re-try photos. You never know when a great photo will turn into an perfect one!

The last good posed photo I will ever take, until she’s old enough to pose on request. And, ironically, the purple also looks a little washed out against the white background.

Nicki was acting hungry so after a few quick photos we took a break for an early lunch. When I put her back down on the backdrop again and she popped right up onto all fours and crawled off! I put her back down, but she would not stay put. She wanted to sit and play with the camera, not lay down. So I gave up, followed her lead, and took some photos of her sitting with my camera. After waiting so long for her to finally crawl, I was lamenting the days when she’d stay put!

The other day I decided to try for another profile like I had been meaning to do for a couple weeks. I had accomplished this shot by draping a black bed sheet over the back railing of her crib (a super cheap backdrop, especially if you already have one!) setting her down on one side, and opening the window on the opposite side to get the light streaming on her face. Domingo then holds a stuffed animal to get her attention so she’ll look in the direction of the light. We tried the same set up again, and just as with the camera photo she was off! It didn’t matter that Domingo was standing by the window, and there was no way she could reach him. She wanted to get as close to that stuffed animal as possible, and that meant pulling herself up at the edge of the crib! No sitting still for this little one. The only success we had was to finally give her the stuffed animal and let her hold it, but it was still an incredibly short photo session.

Clearly holding her toy. I’m going to try again later. Maybe I can find a different toy that I can more easily crop out.

Time to adapt my strategy.

Thinking back, the Easter photos worked so well because she was exploring her new toy, the easter basket. She also enjoyed pushing the button on the camera and watching the LCD screen change (which, incidentally, is what made it look like she was taking a photo.) She needs something to keep her occupied if I’m going to get her to stay put. I foresee many more interactable props in our future.

May 18, 2013

Hard Decisions

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.

Hmmm, how am I going to accomplish this shot?

Say “cheese!”

Let’s see how it turned out!

… huh.

Nom Nom Nom

*May not be an entirely accurate portrayal.

May 12, 2013

What do I know?

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.

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.

May 9, 2013

Missing Milestones

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.

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