Monthly Archives: June 2007

KLZA

You’re listening to KLZA, your station in the mornings for dirty diapers. Tonight’s lineup includes breathing heavily from 10:30 P.M. until 12:00 midnight, followed by three hours of random cries and wheeps that are guaranteed to wake you up at odd intervals. At 3:00 A.M. we’ll have the half-hour crying-and-feeding show, and then an hour of a rocking chair’s squeaks and muffled snuffling. KLZA will then be off the air until 7:00 A.M. when we resume normal programming.

KLZA is supported by listeners like you and by Archer Daniels Midland Company. ADM. Because not everyone lives on breast milk.

Stressing About Baby Names

A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about parents stressing over what to name their baby. The article discusses parents-to-be hiring numerologists and consultants to help them choose a name, and talks about naming a baby as an act of marketing and branding. Thus you have an ad exec and author of eight books on baby names saying, “We live in a marketing-oriented society…. People who understand branding know that when you pick the right name, you’re giving your child a head start.” The best part of the article by far is about how two people who work in marketing approached the problem.

As one of the founders of Catchword, a corporate naming firm with offices in New York and Oakland, Calif., Burt Alper says he and his wife, Jennifer, who also works in marketing, felt “tons of pressure” to come up with something grabby.

Although Mr. Alper typically gives clients a list of 2,000 names to mull over, he says he kept the list of baby names to 500, for simplicity.

I understand the anxiety. Misty and I spent some time debating what to call our two children. But, really, people, settle down. There are too many stressors when dealing with pregnancy to add avoidable ones. There are a couple of rules to remember. One: whatever you name your kid, other children will make fun of them. Two: the history or meaning of the name won’t change how others react to your child. When someone meets young Chloe, they won’t think, “Huh, that name is derived from the Greek and has verdant connotations,” or, “Oh, she’s named for her great-aunt Chloe.” They’ll think, “I knew a Chloe once, in college. I hated her.” And there’s nothing you can do about it.

So relax. Pick a short list of names. Think them over. Your child will grow into whatever name you give them, until it seems perfectly right and natural. Oh, and run your names through this interactive name explorer that shows how popular names are in the US based on Social Security data. Not because it’ll necessarily help you, but because the explorer is cool to play with.

The Three Laws of Baby Sleep

The three laws of sleep as applied to a household that contains a new baby are remarkably similar to those involving entropy. To wit:

1. You can’t win.
2. You can’t break even.
3. You can’t get out of the game.

Also note that while sleep cannot really be created, it can easily be destroyed.

HOMEWORK: Given the three laws of baby sleep, what is the individual probability that, while Misty was feeding Liza at 4:00 A.M., Eli got up? What is the individual probability that, while Stephen was rocking Liza to sleep at 4:30 A.M., Eli got up again? What is the combined probability?

Comments Have Gone Missing

Something hinky happened to our comments overnight, and we have lost a chunk of comments from about June 20th through 10:00 CDT today. We’re working to restore them from backup.

UPDATE: We figured out the problem. For those who care about technical details: Spam Karma 2 went crazy and manually spanked a bunch of comments.

Friday Night Videos: Suicide

Pearl Jam: Jeremy (1992)

When I think about how music videos changed between the 1980s and the 1990s, this one plays prominently in my little mental timeline. Its imagery and subject matter is very striking, and how Jeremy’s parents and his classmates are represented intrigues me. The effect is blunted somewhat by this tiny pixellated version, but VH1 and MTV haven’t really aired this video since the shootings at Columbine.

Arctic Monkeys: Leave Before the Lights Come On (2006)

This is less about suicide and more about how we have trouble connecting to other people. Which, really, is one of the underlying causes of most suicides. It’s also bleakly funny, and has less blood than the previous video.

A Procrustean Approach to Science Fiction

A few years back, a group of science fiction writers announced the Mundane SF philosophy. It aimed to take the overly fantastical out of science fiction. Among the common SF tropes it decried were interstellar travel, contact with aliens, alternate universes, and the like. Mundane SF was to focus on life in and around Earth. As Geoff Ryman, one of the movement’s founders, put it,

OK, SF content is the future, but the function of most SF seems to be about avoiding the future. So much of the inherited tropes are actually highly unlikely. Take faster than light travel… there is a ghost of a possiblity there, but people have run away with it. This is because they like it. It seems to open up horizons of adventure. It also conveys the message, we can burn through this planet and escape to the stars. I don’t think we can. I think we’re stuck on Earth. I want to write stories that are stuck on earth and throw out the unlikely tropes.

I didn’t pay too much attention to Mundane SF. Geoff Ryman may have written one of my favorite books of all time, but I didn’t need his permission to enjoy non-Mundane SF. Besides, if the Mundane SF movement resulted in good novels and stories, all the better.

Today Andrew Wheeler brought the mundane SF blog to my attention, specifically a post on spotting Mundane SF in the January issues of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s, and Analog. There are two sections I want to pull out.

A few years back when I learned about this Movement I was attracted to the idea. But I thought, surely there is a reasonable amount of mundane sf being published in short form. It can’t all be time travel crap.

“Gunfight at the Sugarloaf Pet Food & Taxidermy” by Jeff Carlson (Asimov’s): sort of a whimsical chase story; very little speculation and thus perhaps a bit too safely mundane

He’s dropping stories on an iron bed. If they’re too fantastic, he chops off their feet; if they’re too mundane, he stretches them.

Look, artistic manifestos are great for giving artists constraints under which to operate and a warm and fuzzy feeling of virtue for having hewn to them. Ones like the Mundane SF that focus on trappings and tropes are terrible for choosing what to read. When you say, “I’m going to read science fiction,” you’re already limiting yourself to certain conventions of the genre. When you say, “I’m going to read mundane SF,” you’re limiting yourself even further. And you’re not even making your decision in terms of quality. You’re making it in terms of furniture.

It’s like my friend’s review of the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice. She noted the movie’s surprising gritty realism, the avoidance of clichéd period tropes, and the actors’ solid performances. She concluded her review as follows: “And while the two-hour movie necessarily reduces the scope of the original plot, all the essential themes are present and very little, overall, is missing. Except for Colin Firth. Zero stars.” What she meant as a joke, this blog entry is taking seriously. “This story has time travel. Zero stars.

Every time you draw a circle around literature and say, these are the genres I like, you’re excluding great books. As you draw the circle smaller and smaller, you exclude more and more great books. If all you read is Mundane SF, then just within the wider world of SF you’re going to miss a lot. Iain M. Banks’s Culture novels. Jack Finney’s Time and Again. Charles Stross’s Accelerando. Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001. Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, for goodness’ sake!

You want to encourage Mundane SF? Great. But don’t limit yourself to just reading it.

Liza’s Nicknames

So because babies are so lumpish at the beginning, we tend to christen ours with a variety of nicknames to fit whatever the situation warrants. Eli had a whole bunch that I can’t remember anymore. We’ve given Liza a bunch too and here is a list of a few:

Our Little Frat Boy – Because she drinks like a fish, burps really loudly 5-6 times and passes out.
Lady Bumbo-Snuzzler – Because Dan said it would be a good English hyphenated name.
Liza Bug – This is mostly my name for her because she has about 12 onsies with bugs on them that say cute things like, “My name is Lulu and I’m a ladybug.”
The Donkey – Because she sounds like one when she’s eating.
Grub – This is a bedtime nickname because she looks like one when she is all wrapped up in her swaddle blanket.
Scrabbler – This is our description of what she does when she is very tired. It involves lots of writhing, squiggling and grunting. Also there are fists clinching and unclinching which causes scratches and red marks on the baby bearer’s neck and chest. This is her most annoying behavior.
Scrabbler Grub – As you can guess, a combo of the two listed above except because she’s swaddled she doesn’t do the fist thing, instead substitute a bit more squirming, grunting and add a bit of crying until you can get a binkie in her mouth.