Archive for July, 2015

July 30, 2015

Alexis at Eight Months

Dear Alexis,

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

My goof ball

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


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

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


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

Love Always,
Mommy & Daddy

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 21, 2015

Timeline of a Baby Nap

0:00 – Place drowsy, but just barely conscious baby down in the crib. The goal: a two hour nap. The booby prize: a single sleep cycle.

Clock begins.

0:01 – Baby eyes flutter open. Head begins to rise off of mattresses. Hastily grab the nearest binki and insert it into baby mouth. Careful not to jab it in the eye! Baby head drops back down with a thud. Baby eyes are closed.

0:05 – Time to make the get away. Remember to avoid the squeaky floor board.

0:06 – %$&! Stepped on squeaky floor board.

0:16 – Haven’t moved. No sounds from the crib. Slowly arch neck to get a better view. Baby appears motionless. Possibly dead. Better not check. Continue to exit.

0:18 – Shut the door as slowly as humanly possible to avoid making a single sound.

1:00 – Door finally shut. Tip toe down stairs.

1:15 – Time for that bathroom break you’ve been pretending you didn’t need for the past hour. Also food. Definitely food.

Consume anything that can be eaten in it’s current state. Do not open chip bags, pop soda cans, or wrinkle wrappers. Opening the refrigerator door can be risky. Fruit is a good choice. Chocolate is a better choice. Remind self to buy more chocolate.

3:00 – Baby is still asleep. To nap or not to nap? Shower or not to shower? Better wait out the sleep cycle. Check mail.

10:00 – Hear a dull buzzing noise. The neighbor is mowing the lawn. Silently curse neighbor for making noise. The rational part of your brain that realizes it’s perfectly reasonable for someone to mow their own lawn in the middle of the day is too busy thinking about another piece of Chocolate to help you see this.

15:00 – Tummy still grumbling. Time to chance it and make a sandwich.

17:00 – Still no sounds from upstairs. Start daydreaming about napping. Open up laptop, start tinkering on the internet.

45:00 – Suddenly realize you’re past a sleep cycle! Do a little jig on the inside! On the inside! DO NOT MAKE NOISE! Head upstairs to nap yourself.

55:00 – Baby’s awake.

July 17, 2015

Name Uniqueness Analyzer

It lives!

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

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

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

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

July 13, 2015

A Different Economy

Three years ago Domingo and I needed furniture. The guest room was become a nursery, so the spare bed was going away leaving us with a falling apart futon. We decided in addition to our nursery feature a pull out sofa bed was in order for the office, especially if we wanted to host company like my parents. We paid $800 for one from Penney’s. We are once again in need of couches. We found ourselves once again in Penney’s. That same sleeper sofa now sells for $2,000. It’s a different economy. Prices are up. Our price point is staying the same, which sadly means quality is down.

I have returned a large number of our purchases to date; there was the picture frame with the shattered glass, the cube organizer with the giant gash across the top panel. Then there were the items I kept but needed to order a replacement piece for; the patio chairs with the gashes in the back pieces, and the media storage unit with the warped screw holes. Finally there were the purchases I didn’t return, but I’m not happy with; the dented dresser, and the garage shelving with rust.

We purchased two new office chairs. Neither one had the assembly instructions or user manual! I could understand the assembly instructions being absent from one box, but what are the odds of both our office chair boxes being sans instructions?

The two area rugs I purchased are nice, and I love the dinning room table, but my batting average isn’t great.

On the bright side, I haven’t had a single issue with customer support. In each case I took photos of the damage, but customer service took me at my word and was quick to accept the return or send the replacement. In my hunt for the assembly instructions for the office chairs I visited the manufactor’s website. I kid you not question 6 on the frequently asked questions specifically addressed missing or incorrect assembly instructions!

On the one hand these experiences are frustrating. It’s adding to our delay in fully moving in. But it’s not aggravating enough to adjust my price point to match the new economy. In my experience price is not necessarily an indicator of quality. My current laptop is a prime example. We spent nearly twice as much my current laptop than I’ve spent in the past in hope that it would last a little longer. It’s been a major disappointment. Less than a year old it will occasionally restart when I set it down. Besides, prices vary widely. I’ve seen as much as 225% on the same product from two different, comparable merchants. Let that be a lesson to always comparison shop! My favorite method these days is a reverse image search on stock photos.

I’m unwilling to spend more if I’m not assured of quality. At least I do eventually get the product I want at the price point I want. It just takes a little more effort on my part.

We’re nearly there with furniture!

July 10, 2015

Targeting Mismatch

Personalized Re-targeting is a type of advertising designed to turn would-be customers into actual customers, by showing the would-be customers products they previously expressed interest in. You may have noticed that some products and merchants seem to follow you around the internet. You may have viewed a product on one website and then noticed an advertisement for the same product on another. Advertisers are hoping to lure you back to their site to complete the transaction by reminding you of products you previously looked at. After all, you must be at least a little interested in the product to have viewed it the first time. Or so their logic goes.

Personalized Re-targeting has been around for years. I’ve encountered this behavior before back in 2011. Only then re-targeting made sense. The past few weeks the re-targeting I’ve witnessed has just been a waste of advertiser dollars.

Domingo and I are in the middle of furnishing our new home. High on that list was a new dinning room table. I spent a few days browsing different tables online before making a purchase. For the next week my facebook feed was filled with ads, not just for the table I purchased, but for the other tables I viewed as well. All from the same merchant. “Still on your mind?” the caption for one ad reads. “Don’t let this one slip away!” reads another. I didn’t. I had made the purchase.

I suspect it’s extremely rare for someone to purchase the same dinning room table from the same merchant in two transactions over a short period of time. If I’m being generous I would assume it’s slightly less rare for someone to purchase two different dining room tables from the same merchant in two different transactions. The ad broker monitoring my behavior and tracking me as I viewed all those dinning room tables should have also noticed I added one to my cart. But no. If the ad broker did observe the check out process, they decided to remain blissfully ignorant of the transaction. As a result I’m shown ads that don’t interest me. It’s not only annoying to the consumer, it wastes the merchant’s ad dollars.

This afternoon I purchased a kitchen table. My news feed is once again filled with advertisements featuring the new table. Same problem but different product and different merchant.

I’m all for personalized advertising. (Yes, please do help me find good area rugs that go with the furniture I’m purchasing!) Targeting advertising doesn’t have to be a nuisance. In order to not be a nuisance, however, it’s going to have to get a bit smarter.

July 5, 2015

We Be Three

And just like that another year has passed.

I can’t believe how fast time is flying, or how big my little girl is getting.

This year we thought it would be fun to kick off her birthday party with a big surprised. She loves balloons, so what better way to celebrate the big ‘3’ than waking up with a 3 foot high helium balloon? Before going to sleep ourselves, we snuck the giant balloon into her room. Wouldn’t you know it was the first night in weeks she woke up to go potty in the middle of the night? She spotted the balloon instantly and was so excited I was afraid she’d never go back to sleep. She kept talking about the balloon that ‘Santa’ brought. We decided to just go with it. Santa brings birthday balloons now, don’t you know?

So much has changed these past couple of months. New home, new daycare, new classroom, new routines. Nicole missed her old daycare (and told us so!) but is adjusting to the new one well. They have a ton of activities, and bouncy castles. We’ve been here about a month and they’ve already bounced in an inflatable bouncy castle twice. I’m not planning on switching daycares any time soon, but if I were, bouncy castles are clearly a new requirement.

My most precious memory of this age is the way she expresses herself. For the longest time ‘Sure’ was her affirmative response to yes/no questions. “Would you like a cupcake?” Sure, she’d say with a slight head nod as though her answer was anything less than an emphatic yes. These days ‘little bit’ is her new yes. As in “Are you the cutest thing ever?” Little bit. Little bit, indeed.