Sunday, August 31, 2008

the boys

i love this series of photos of the boys!
many thanks to our pal, jon for taking them.

Friday, August 29, 2008

"but i'm not tired...."

it always amazes me how the amount of sleep we get can so deeply affect our ability to function on a daily basis! the past few days left me feeling like i was swimming underwater, and frankly down in the dumps. piecing together a total of four hours a sleep a night, entertaining a three-year-old, and soothing/nursing a newborn seems to be a recipe for crankiness.

anyhow, last night marcus gave me the best gift at the perfect time. he slept for a 5 1/2 hour stretch! meaning i got to sleep for almost that long! whew! i woke up this morning feeling like i had superpowers. i even got to brush my teeth by myself before owen woke up (not that i don't enjoy our daily discussions of bubble-gum toothpaste vs. "spicy" toothpaste).

we had marcus' one month check up this morning, then met up with some of our favorite people on the island at the zoo. it was a low-key zoo visit, lots of strolling in the shade and sharing of a cream-cheese & jelly sandwich. we got home a little past the usual nap time, and o-man was pulling out all the excuses under the sun to avoid nap. "but i'm not tired... i just want to rest on the couch...i need to play with my toys... i want a snack". on and on, all the while rubbing his eyes. we finally settled on "1 short hour" of time in his room with the door closed. after about 20 minutes he was up and walking around. he wandered into our bedroom where marcus and i had just fallen asleep, climbed into the bed. an hour later he was still asleep when i woke up.

i'm smiling right now writing about it.

in related news - owen got a big boy bed! many thanks to auntie amy and uncle david!

sweet baby feet

we love this ring sling from zolowear

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Opening PDF files withing Firefox 3.0

Sorry, no news about Owen and Marcus in this post. They're doing great, but I just wanted to do a quick post about Firefox 3 which may save many of my fellow astronomers/Mac users some time and effort.

I just spent most of my morning trying to figure out how to get Firefox 3 to open PDF files within a browser tab like Safari. I was about to give up and go back to my two-browser approach (Firefox for viewing with ad-blocking, Safari for reading astro-ph, etc.) when I finally came across this solution:

It turns out all you have to do is install a simple PDF plugin and you're in business. Surprisingly this is not anywhere on the Firefox Support webpage, nor is it in the many Mac/Firefox forums I read through (most of these were all, "Just use Safari. Mehhhhh meh MEEHHH!")

The only glitch I ran into is that the first PDF file I tried to open looked like a blank file with a huge horizontal scroll bar. The problem turned out to be that the default viewer setting was at the maximum zoom, so I was only looking at the upper left corner. I zoommed out by right-clicking and selecting "Actual Size" and then it was just like I was reading PDF files in Safari.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

It's all about the incentives

It was not our finest moment. Erin was sitting by the front door looking disheveled, distraught, very near tears. I was exhausted, embarrassed and shaken. Erin looked up at me and pleaded, "He's a good kid, right? Please tell me he's a good kid and it's going to be okay." Our team captain was down and the relief pitcher (me) was getting shellacked on the mound. Not a pretty situation in the Johnson household.

The kid in question was down the hall splayed out in front of his room screaming his head off because he had been punished for refusing to put his shoes on as directed. As a result, I had just revoked his dessert privileges for the evening; this after revoking his DVD privileges for hitting me. In so doing I had exhausted two of our most important sources of leverage on the boy. Owen no longer had a reason to behave (or live, judging by his pitiful wailing), and I was seriously considering the "nuclear option" of paddling his butt. These liberal parenting techniques be damned, I was gonna give him something to cry about. While we eventually rallied without resorting to violence and got him calmed down, but it was clear that we needed to modify our tactics. We needed a carrot to go with our sticks.

One of my favorite authors is Tim Harford, the author of the book Freakonomics and the column The Dismal Science. The main idea behind most of Harford's analyses is that complex and often seemingly irrational human systems (e.g. economies) can quite often be understood much better by simply seeking out and studying the underlying incentives. This is because people generally act in their best interests. There are plenty of examples given by Harford in his book and articles, but my favorite example is from my own experience.

When I was living in Berkeley, my friend Paul and I started a poker league called TREPS. We played tournaments every two weeks and our club had about 30 regular members. The problem we ran into is that we could never start on time. This meant that players who showed up at 6pm had to sit around for 30 min to an hour twiddling their thumbs while the later players trickled in. And since our tournaments tended to last 4-6 hours, if we didn't start until 7 we'd end up playing past midnight, which was a big problem since the rec room we used was only open until 11:30 pm. So how do you get people to show up on time without pushing them away by using punishments such as fines? To solve this problem, Paul and I came up with a pretty neat incentive scheme.

Each poker tournament typically started with 3000 chips, and players attempted to knock out other players by winning their chips, which also allowed them to accumulate more chips and stay alive longer. The last player with chips won the money in the prize pool. At the start of the next season we changed the starting stacks from 3000 to 2500. The incentive was that on-time players received 500 "bonus chips" to bring their stack up to 3000. Late players simply started with the "standard" amount of 2500, putting them at a small disadvantage to the on-time players. We instantly went from having only 10 out 30 players showing up on time, to having 28-29 players showing up on time. On the other hand, our previous methods of docking chips and/or money never improved the on-time rate and often drove players away.

This case shows that incentives don't even need to cost anything to be effective. It cost nothing for us to give out 500 extra chips. In fact, the extra chips didn't result in any more chips that players had in previous seasons! But the bonus was enough to make people leave their homes earlier and check traffic reports in order to get to the games on time. Pretty cool solution.

So what does this have to do with 3-year-olds? Everything, as it turns out. We're trying to teach Owen that following directions is an extremely important and worthwhile thing to do. But Owen is 3 and has a hard time seeing past his own interests. So why not harness his selfishness to get him to do what we want? After all, it works for grown-ups

After much thought and research, we eventually came up with a very effective incentive scheme. Every time Owen follows directions he gets a sticker on the "Following Directions Chart" posted right above his bed. Five stickers and he gets a treat ranging from an ice cream cone to a Matchbox model car. Neither of these things cost us much of anything. Each prize costs about a buck, but we were regularly giving him these types of treats anyway (because he's our first born and we spoil him, I admit it). But just like the poker example, the value of the incentive is irrelevant. By earning stickers he gets the immediate satisfaction of knowing he pleased us and that he did a good thing, while being able to visibly track his progress to a wonderful prize. All we need to do is gradually increase the required sticker count and he'll eventually learn that following directions leads to more natural rewards. Namely, sane parents who can stand looking at his smug little face. (Just kidding. Mostly.)


Epilogue: You may have noticed the second chart in the movie. This other chart is for calming down on his own, rather than escalating from merely sad to fully apoplectic. In the movie, there's only one sticker on the Calming Down Chart, but Owen has actually calmed down twice. On the second one, he noticed he had only one sticker to go to get to a car on the Following Directions Chart, and he asked if he could transfer the sicker over. Erin, seeing that the logic of his argument was unassailable, happily relented and allowed the procedural change. Owen not only earned a Mercedes SL55, but also learned the art of negotiation. This will be good in the long term, and potentially challenging for us in the short term...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

2 weeks & counting

we hit the 2 week mark on the 16th, and are feeling the effects of sleep deprivation. duh, right!??! it's almost humorous how i forget everything right now, and thinking of the words for things is absolutely a challenge. yet, i feel somewhat like a genius for remembering how owen slept much better swaddled at the beginning, and have started swaddling marcus for bedtime. we're trying to shorten those "witching hours" (lately from about 8-11pm) and i'm hoping the warm bath & then swaddling will prove to be our solution. speaking of baths, he lost his little umbilical cord nub at 1 week & can now take real baths- talk about some speedy healing!

here's some more photos to tickle your fancy. thanks again to you all for your warm well wishes!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Elmo and Owen

Here are pictures of Elmo's Mother and Father. Notice anything?

Elmo's mom is orange and his dad is red. Yep, Elmo and Owen are a lot alike. Owen is 1/4 black, and Elmo is 1/4 yellow!

while 1 do

Taking care of a newborn is a lot like debugging code. You try something new and wait to see if it makes things better. If not, try again. And just like with programming, there are only about 5 things to check, yet you spend hours before you figure out, "Oh! It's the same thing as before. Why didn't I think to check his diaper again?!"

The things to check:

1) Diaper? Check it, change it.
2) Hungry? Give him to Mommy.
3) Gassy? Burp him.
4) Uncomfortable? Switch position (try other shoulder maybe).
5) Tired? Walk around the apartment bouncing lightly and patting his back until it feels like your arm is going to fall off.

Somehow I always miss one of these. Or, it takes me an hour to cycle through them and by then it's another problem. Or it's the dreaded combo.

I really thought I'd be a seasoned veteran after Owen just 3 years ago, but I feel like I'm starting over from scratch. Not that I mind, because I enjoy the problem solving aspect. Plus, Marcus is really dang cute. And unlike code, he makes funny little noises, and smiles when he farts. I need an EMACS plug-in that squeaks, grunts and sighs randomly from time to time. Something like BabyWAVE. You'd forget to close your for-loop and it'd be all, "Sqeak! [belch] Ahhhh."

The other thing I need to do is take notes from Erin. Mommy is really good at this!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Stochastic thought of the day

Did you know that the men of the Aka Pygmies in the northern Congo soothe their young ones by letting the babies suck on their nipples until the mothers come back from gathering food in the forest? Medical researchers think this may be why men evolved nipples, despite not having active mammary glands. So they're more than just decoration after all! Must have come in handy for our ancient ancestors when Mommy was away getting FroYo.

Not that I know anything about that first-hand...

Just sayin', s'all!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

just can't get enough

here's little m, snoozing away

daddy, baby-wearer extrodinaire

owen likes to remind me that baby marcus' feet
are smooth, while his own are bumpy. but not
as bumpy as mommy's.

proud big brother playing outside

time for a big boy bed; toddler bed is lookin'
mighty tiny

owen's favorite things - getting ready for bed

snoozing in the sling

nonna's in love

wide awake!


snuggling with big papi

owen says "you wanna wear my crown, king papi"

can you tell i'm a mommy in love?

Friday, August 8, 2008

More overheard

Owen (from the bathroom): "MOMMY, COME SEE MY POOPOO!"
Erin (from my office): "I don't like how you just asked."
Owen: "Mommy, please come see my poopoo."

Well, when you ask like that...


Owen helped me clean the white board in my office, which Owen has adopted as his own for his drawings of water slides and smiley faces. He raced into the living room to tell Mommy about it, and when she came into the office to check it out, she said

Erin: "Woooow! Look at how clean that white board is. I've never seen such a clean board!"
Owen: (after a 5 second, very thoughtful pause) "Congratulations!"

Next time you receive a compliment, you should try that reply.

Then, the other night during bath time with Nonna (grandmother), who's in town helping out with the baby,

Nonna: (singing) "Down at the station, early in the morning..."
Owen: "No, no, no, no, Nonna, please stop singing!"
Nonna: "Why?"
Owen: "Because it's kinda scary for me."
Nonna: "So you're saying I should keep my day job?"
Owen: "Yeah."

If you want to hear it like it is, just ask a 3-year-old.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

More Pics

Here are some pics from Marcus's 2nd and 3rd days. The 3rd day (today) was his homecoming.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Marcus vs. Owen (t = 1 hr)

Here's a comparison of Owen's and Marcus' baby pictures at 1 hour old. Erin and I have differing opinions: one thinks the two boys look different as newborns, the other thinks they look very similar. Not that it matters too much, seeing as they're both perfect in every way. What do you think?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Introducing Marcus

Erin gave birth to a beautiful baby boy at 10:15am today. I'd like to introduce you to Marcus Asher Johnson.

How 'bout some numbers:
Weight: 7 lbs 3.7 oz
Length: 19 3/4 inches
Head Circumference: 13 inches
Chest Circumfrence: 13 inches
Cute factor: 11 out of 10

We sure were surprised when Marcus turned out to be 22% lighter than his 9 lb 4 oz big brother! I sure like the lighter package and slimmer form factor of the '08 model Baby Johnson. I'm home now for a short time while Marcus and Mommy sleep and eat at the hospital. Marcus is a champ with a breast. He latched on immediately when he was only 2 hours old. Johnsons are fast learners :)

We should all be home together by Monday night. Thanks for all of you kinds words and well wishes! Here are some pics (more to come):