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Showing posts from April, 2011

Night-night time

Forget Goodnight Moon, here's a bedtime book written by a tired, frustrated parent: The cats nestle close to their kittens. The lambs have laid down with the sheep. You're cozy and warm in your bed, my dear Please go the f@#k to sleep. Read more:

Friday afternoon music break

Another Japanese band, Mouse on the Keys. They're on the same label as Toe .

Better parenting through science

Owen's latest obsession is basketball. Scratch that, Owen's obsession has been basketball, for a while now. He practices his shot twice a day, once at school and again after school on the hoop we bought him for his birthday last year. His practice routine is to shoot until he scores some predetermined number of points, usually 50 to 100. Like most young basketball players, he has been spending a lot of time shooting long-distance three-pointers. However, after missing several in a row he gets very frustrated, which starts a negative feedback loop that causes him to miss more shots (lack of concentration), which causes him to get more upset, etc. Sometimes he's able to remind himself of what Kobe says: "I'll make the next one." But unfortunately, the more his shot improves, the more he's unsatisfied with anything less than perfection. I had been at a loss lately because, while I'd like to tell him that the likelihood of making a shot is just that, a m


while mar loves glee, owen loves justin bieber. i learned this the other day at breakfast when he was singing a song that i hadn't heard before. when i asked him about it he told me it was called "baby" and he'd heard it at a friend's house. since then, we've downloaded a few bieber songs, listened to "baby" on repeat in itunes, and had multiple conversations about the biebs, including the all important conversation about daddy's "allergy" to pop music. o (upon seeing a youtube video of bieber): is that what justin beaver looks like? me: yup o: he's a kid, not a beaver?!?! me:(lmao) yup o: oh, i thought he was a beaver who could sing. you know, like a cartoon fantasy! ----- the next day, again about "baby" o: do you think that justin bieber made up this song by himself? me: i don't know, maybe. likely, he is singing words that someone else wrote o: or maybe he had a dream about the song and just woke up singing

Waiting on waiters

Over at Slate there's an excellent new tech piece on the possibility of replacing waiters in restaurants with small tablet computers, on which customers can place their orders and pay at the end of the meal: It works like this. The company manufactures tablet computers with full-day battery lives and a credit-card reader attached. The interface is easy enough for a grade-schooler to use. You select what you want to eat and add items to a cart. Depending on the restaurant's preferences, the console could show you nutritional information, ingredients lists, and photographs. You can make special requests, like "dressing on the side" or "quintuple bacon." When you're done, the order zings over to the kitchen, and the Presto tells you how long it will take for your items to come out. Want a margarita in the meantime? Just add it on the console, and wait for the waiter to bring it. Bored with your companions? Play games on the machine. When you'

Having fun with language

Via Ta-Nahisi Coates , check out this awesome video about the strict adherence to the rules of language vs. just having fun with words. This really resonated with me since I put a lot of time into my writing but often get hung up on the specific rules. The key question is: "Did you understand what I was saying?" Of course, this is a bit different for speaking vs. writing. The written word lasts a long time and often doesn't have the person there to help out with meaning, when needed. There's no chance for a "huh?" followed by a quick clarification when someone reads your paper 10 years after its publication. The problem for me is that my attention to detail in my technical writing too often spills over into my daily conversations, which has a tendency to make me trip on my words when I get self-conscious about the pronunciation of a word or the phrasing of a sentence. I also correct people too frequently. Just ask Erin about how I can be a stickler for misp

Taking Chances

Marcus has a favorite song. Maybe it's more of an obsession at this point. I've been listening to a soundtrack from Glee (yes, I watch the show & yes, I love Will Schuster). When Marcus gets a "pick" of a song, he consistently says "I want numbah 6, my favorite tong, Taking Chances" . I've learned the words and it's become his most requested bedtime song. In due time, I'll snap a video of him singing---- he knows all the words. Without fail, he'll always ask for "one more time"....

craigslist, oh craigslist....

Yesterday I had my most satisfying craigslist experience to date. I found a great dining set, had it delivered and we were rid of our old set in all before sunset. Perhaps it was all those Saturday morning garage sales I went to with mom and Aunt Anna Marie when I was young, or maybe it was watching Grandpa sort through the treasures in his garage on Santiago street..... whatever the reason, I love the process of taking something old and giving it new life. Anyhow, I've been watching the furniture section of craigslist for about 6 months, waiting for a dining table that was big enough to accomadate a large gathering but not too big for everyday use. Sure enough, I spotted one midweek, thought about it for 2 days (taking a major risk) then called and arranged to take a look Saturday morning. I arrived at 9am, just before the two others who had arranged to see it, proposed a lower price & arranged for it to be picked up & delivered by lunchtime. Just as the Johnson fa

Well in advance of Father's Day

Some advice to fathers, from Louis CK

On Apple Remotes and Remotely Controlling Apples

Last week Erin and I gave in and purchased Apple TV . What is Apple TV? you ask. Well, it's a little black box, about the size of a coffee shop brownie, that sits next to your TV and allows you to access YouTube and Netflix on a screen bigger than your laptop's. This doesn't sound very magical, but our family watches a lot of YouTube (as you can tell by my frequent video links), and Netflix Instant has finally matured to the point were I can browse and find videos old and new that are worth watching. Hello, David Attenborough documentaries! There are a couple of downsides. The biggest is that Hulu isn't available through Apple TV. Boo! Erin suspects this is because Apple would prefer to charge you $2.99 per episode of popular TV shows rather than letting you get by on your $8/month Hulu Plus subscription. I guess you gotta love the player but hate the game. The other downside was more minor, and fortunately easy to fix: the infrared remote that comes with Apple TV l

Murmurs of Middle Earth

Pogo is at it again! Owen and Mar are way into this video. It's funny, but from the moment they first laid eyes on a tiny bit of Tolkien they were totally hooked. Owen is obsessed with the story of Gandolf, and loves to hear the story of the "fire monster," especially the part where Gandolf yells, "You shall not pass!" Of course, he and Mar are way too young to watch the movies, and their attention span is no where near receptive to Tolkien's meandering prose. So for now, the story of Frodo, Gimli, Gandolf and the fire monster are a part of our family's oral tradition, and Pogo's music stands in for the elvish poetry.

Devilishly counterintuitive

First of all, I'm excited that Recreational Pedantry has a fresh post. Prof. Wright, it's been too long! I hope you're back. Secondly, the post is awesome. The idea is to donate $1 to a cause you oppose in order to cost them money in postage and effort down the line: So, for just $1 you can cost right-wing causes (like Bachmann's campaign?) hundreds of dollars over the years. That's actually a great investment! What are you waiting for? Keep tabs on the "enemy", cost them time and effort, and support your local recycling efforts on your end -- send in your check today!

Air travel tips

After my not-so-fun previous post on flying, allow me to lighten the mood somewhat and offer some advice on how to make air travel bearable if not fun (that smoothie helped a lot!): 1) Buy a pair of Bose headphones, but get the kind that fit around your ears. Together with an mp3 player you'll block out most of what makes flying annoying: other people. Be careful, though. If a flight attendant sees the little red light on during takeoff and landing, they'll ask you to turn them off, likely in an annoying, passive-aggressive way, such as "We DO ask that all passengers turn off their electronic devices." Oh yeah, well I DO know that my FAA-approved device poses no serious danger to your plane. If it did, you would have confiscated it before I planed . And yes, I said "planed," as in the opposite of "deplaned." To avoid this conversation, just put a small square of black electrical tape over the light. No red light, no hassle. 2) Try this: when t

On irrational security measures

I'm currently flying across the country (actually, laid over in Charlotte) having just slogged through LAX security this morning. As always, I had to remove my shoes, take out my laptop and throw away what remained of my coffee. I had to throw away my coffee not because the amount of liquid exceeded the arbitrary 3 oz. limit, but because the original cup once contained, or could potentially contain more than 3 oz. Into the box full of shampoos, deodorant and bottled water it went. I'm sure everyone felt a lot safer as a result. It was similar to the time I had my beautifully gift-wrapped bottle of authentic Chinese Maotai ripped apart and taken from me by the Newark TSA staff because...well, because...I don't even know anymore. It doesn't matter that I could have gotten that liquor through the checkpoint if were frozen and packed into a box. Or poured into a dozen individual 3 oz bottles. It doesn't matter if those dozen 3 oz bottles contained napalm instead of liq

Storm vs. rational thought

Via The Dish , check out this amazing poem (and video) about the rational vs. the mystical. A quote: This does it so fail to hold our attention that we have to diminish it with the invention of cheap, man-made myths and monsters? Careful, though, past the 5 minute mark the language no longer entirely safe for work. The quote above comes after the 7:40 mark.

Creating time where none previously existed

Pop quiz clock on A commenter to my AstroBites post left a link for another bite-sized blog offering a zen perspective. It's of course called ZenBites , and after reading one of the posts I'm hooked. On our inabilities to make time for creative, new projects: Time has a habit of trampling over us, so softly we don’t even notice but so powerfully we become crushed over the course of weeks and years. So you gotta seize moments whether they are available or not. Can you carve I 30 minutes to put together a new blog post? No? Do it anyway. That's how the author of ZenBites has kept their blog going, and that's how stands today Time doesn’t fall into your lap. It isn’t handed to you by a kindly old gentleman. You must create it, taking from the world the raw materials you need and shaping it with your bare dirty blistered hands, pushing the clay into form from its shapeless muddy glob. It's funny, I used to make fun of this sort of

Guestblogging on AstroBites

Some of the graduate students at the Harvard Center for Astrophysics recently started a blog called AstroBites . Authors on the blog, usually grad students, provide easily digestible reviews of recent astronomy papers appearing on the pre-print archive (aka astro-ph ). The blog provides a nice intermediate between higher-level reviews of papers (and the papers themselves), and intro astronomy text books, providing a thoroughly modern view of a wide range of astronomy topics. In addition to the review articles, there are regular features on career development and general insights into modern astronomy research, from a grad student perspective. For example, this post on what it's like to observe for the first time on a major telescope, or this post on data mining. After a recent visit to the CfA one of the blog's founders, Nathan, contacted me and invited me to write a guest post on a topic of my choosing. The post Zen and the Art of Astronomy Research appeared today. Go che

It's Shaun the Sheep!

The boys' favorite show at the moment is Shaun the Sheep (pictured above). It's also one of our favorite shows, as parents. If you have kids, or if you spend a lot of time around kids, you know how difficult it is to find a good kids show. Either the songs grate on your nerves (Barney, Teletubbies), teach questionable morals (Thomas the Tank Engine), or teach nothing at all (Spongebob). But Shaun the Sheep is hip, funny, worldly, clever and just plain fun. He solves problems, deals with inter-species issues, a dances the occasional jig. If you have Netflix, watch it on instant or add it to your queue, whether you have kids or not! Note: Claymation aficionados might know Shaun from Wallace & Gromit's A Close Shave . I loved that they named the sheep Shaun, both because it's such a human name and because with Wallace's British accent is sounds like "Shorn," you know as in a shorn sheep. So great!

Owen's latest artwork

Like most kids his age, Owen produces a prodigious amount of artwork on a weekly basis. Here's a true stand-out, and my latest favorite.

Pics of Owen and Mar

Mar + Monkey = Happy Making orange juice Owen and Nonna during a recent visit Owen was sick. Mar: "We're both snuggling!" Look, Daddy, it's Utah! Evan, Owen and Natalie making their own pizzas

Saturday Evening Music Break

The whole Johnson family is digging on the Avett Brothers over dinner tonight:

Spring's right around the corner

Or is it here already? I couldn't tell while in NYC this week where it was seriously cold. Anyway, with spring comes baseball. I don't really watch much baseball, but I figure it's the cheapest sport to attend live and it's among the safest for a kid to play. I hope Owen sticks with his desire to play basketball over football, but I figure I should have a backup plan in place. Because I haven't watched baseball seriously in a decade--I was a Cards fan back in the day--I found this flow chart both hilarious and helpful (thanks Phil M.):