Monthly Archives: January 2008

Tough Days

December was hard. Sickness, Liza’s sleep issues, travel, a death in the family. January seems to be no better. Liza continues to have sleep issues that are detrimental to the whole family and we’ve had another death in the family. I’m sure that we’ll say more later but right now we sure could use some thoughts and prayers from you guys out there.

My Son the Future Writer

Just now I asked Eli to tell me a story.

It started out well enough with a mouse named Gerald.

Gerald lived in a green house but oh, yeah, he was really a boy.

This part seems good. Nice world building with the green house. It’s a fantasy story with a mouse-boy character. I’m starting to dig it.

His dad was named Stephen and his mom was Misty and he almost forgot his sister named Liza.

Uh-oh the lines between fiction and fact are blurring a bit too much for my taste. If it’s fantasy wouldn’t he have other family members as other animals?

Gerald, it turns out is also a robot. He can only jump from square to square and then only at certain times of the day. When sunlight hits him.

Okay, back to the fantasy story, now a sci-fi thriller with a jumping robot. The squares are the comforter pattern on my bed. The sunlight is streaming though the window. Nice mix of reality and made up story.

The end.

Wha? Where’s the rest of my story? Obviously we need to send him to a writer’s workshop or three to get his word count up.

Cassie Edwards, Wide-Ranging Plagiarist

I swear, I wasn’t going to say a thing about romance novelist Cassie Edwards and her sticky-fingered plagiarism problem, but the latest round of revelations regarding her sources is too crazy not to share.

Back at the beginning of the month, one of the writers at Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books, a weblog reviewing romance novels, pointed out eerie similarities between some of Cassie Edwards’s books and other books.

A word on Cassie Edwards. Between 1982 and 2007 she wrote 100 books. That’s some four books a year. I’ve known of some very good authors who’ve done two novels a year for a year or two — Charlie Stross and Elizabeth Bear come to mind in science fiction circles — but four a year? We’re entering Gilbert Morris crank-turning formula territory here. She’s taken a Harriet Klausner approach to book writing.

Given that speed, and given the strictures of the romance novel genre, I’m not surprised she turned to plagiarism. Not that she sees anything wrong with what she’s done. As the days have gone on and Edwards has defended her work, claiming that she not only didn’t know she should credit sources, but that “[w]hen you write historical romances, you’re not asked to do that”.

Sadly, as I learned during my days as a teacher, plagiarism is like a stack of Lay’s potato chips. You’re not going to eat just one. And it’s the mind-boggling breadth of what she stole that blows my tiny mind.

How about an article about ferrets? Paul Tolme, the article’s writer, was quite taken aback at how his source material was used in Shadow Bear.

The prose is standard romance-novel shlock. Bramlett’s bosom heaves. Shadow Bear feels a longing in his loins. On page 195, after several false starts to stoke the furnaces of readers, Bramlett and Shadow Bear finally get down to business. They have sex in his teepee on some animal pelts. Hungrily, their sinuous bodies rock and quake until both explode in rapturous pleasure. When the teepee flaps are rocking, don’t come a-knocking.

Then, a few pages later, as Bramlett and Shadow Bear bask in their postcoital glow, my ferrets arrive on the scene.

Let me pause there and let you enjoy that image.

“They are so named because of their dark legs,” Shadow Bear says, to which Shiona responds: “They are so small, surely weighing only about two pounds and measuring two feet from tip to tail.”

Shiona then tells Shadow Bear how she once read about ferrets in a book she took from the study of her father. “I discovered they are related to minks and otters. It is said their closest relations are European ferrets and Siberian polecats,” she says. “Researchers theorize that polecats crossed the land bridge that once linked Siberia and Alaska, to establish the New World population.”

This is one of the most egregious as you know Bobisms I’ve ever seen. But there’s more! It wasn’t just reference books she stole from. She took passages from Oliver La Farge’s Laughing Boy, winner of the 1930 Pulitzer prize. Best of all, she adapted parts of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha. Really!

If you’re going to do something, you should commit to it with all of your heart and mind. Edwards certainly has done that with her plagiarism. You have to have admire someone who will steal from The Song of Hiawatha.

Liza’s Sleep Training, Part 2

So, you may ask, how’s the whole sleeping at night thing going?

Bad. Then Worse. Then better. Then the worst. And then last night, better. Are we home free yet? I don’t know. Are the bad nights due to her cutting approximately five teeth (that I can count) at the same time? Maybe. Here’s the sleep diary from where we left off in Part One.

Tuesday, Day 5
No morning nap at school.
Afternoon Nap –
fell asleep in the car on the way home from school. Big surprise there! Slept about 40 minutes.
Afternoon Nap #2 – rocked 2 times, slept from 4:30-5:10.
Bedtime – 7:15, rocked twice. Asleep by 7:30. Woke and fed at 3:30. Awoke again at 5:30 cried off and on until up at 6:30.

Wednesday, Day 6/Day 1, Crying it out
Morning Nap – 8:20-9. Fell asleep eating. Big surprise after the 5:30 routine.
Afternoon Nap – Asleep by 1. Woke at 3:15.
Bedtime – 7:15. Rocked at 9. Cried off and on from 9-11:30. and then from 12-12:30. Slept till 7.
This is the day that we realized she wasn’t responding well to the rocking to drowsy and then putting her in the crib. She would immediately stand up and start wailing for us to come back. I now realize (after the haze of sleeplessness has lifted) that her sleeping was tied to her prop – eating. We started letting her cry after this day which effectively started our time table over.

Thursday, Day 2
Morning Nap – at school, in the swing, 30 minutes.
Afternoon Nap – 1:20-3:45
Bedtime – 7:30. Awake at 8, 9, 1, 4, fed at 4, awake at 7:15.
I didn’t take good notes on how long she cried at all these times. And it’s been long enough now that I barely remember what was going on that day. I make better notes in other days.

Friday, Day 3
Morning Nap – 8:30-9:30.
Afternoon Nap – 12:30-1:45.
Afternoon Nap, #2 – 4-5.
Bedtime – 7:20, cried until 7:40. Woke at 8:30, cried a couple of times. Slept until 7:45.

Saturday, Day 4
Morning Nap – Slept 9-9:30.
Afternoon Nap – Went down at 1:40 cried until 2, slept for 30 minutes, milk at 2:30, slept until 4:30, when I woke her up.
Bedtime – 7:15, woke at 8:50 cried until 9:25, woke at 10:40 cried until 11:15. Woke at 5, fed. Woke at 7.

Sunday, Day 5
Morning Nap – Slept 8-8:30.
Afternoon Nap – 12:30-2.
Afternoon Nap #2 – 4:45-5:15.
Bedtime – 7:20, cried until 7:40. Woke at 8:30, cried until 8:45. Woke at 2:30, fed. Woke at 6:45.

Monday, Day 6
Morning Nap – 9-9:45. I put her down and she did great but when I sneaked back in to cover her up, she wasn’t yet asleep so I had to start over.
Afternoon Nap – 12:15, cried until 12:30. Slept until 2:30.
Bedtime – 7:15. No crying!! Woke at 10, cried until 11:30. Woke at 6:15.
Vowed to take her to the doctor on Tuesday because of the extending night crying jags and possible continued ear infection.

Tuesday, Day 7 (yesterday)
Morning Nap – 30 minutes at school.
Afternoon Nap – massively put off due to the 2 hours at the doctor’s office. Fell asleep in the car on the way home. Slept from 3:30-5.
Bedtime – 7:30, cried 5-10 minutes. She grouched in her sleep at 10ish but went back to sleep on her own. Woke at 6:15.
The doctor loaded us up with some Magic Mouthwash (benadryl, maalox, lidocaine) to rub on her gums before bed and told us to dose her with ibuprofen before bed as well. Was this the magic trick? Don’t know. We’ll see tonight.

Things I’ve learned:

1.) Yes, her sleeping really was tied to eating/sucking. I didn’t think this was true a few days ago. The diary comes through again on this one. A few days I’ve used the pacifier for nap so that she could still suck but not be attached to me. This morning I put her down with the pacifier and when I went in to get her after nap, realized she’d flung it half way across the room. I am working to break the nursing as a prop cycle. Last night, after we nursed, I talked to her for a while about snuggling with her lovie when she needed to. So she was definitely awake when I put her down, but grouched only for a short time.

2.) This process has been harder (and longer) with her than with Eli because we’ve tackled so many things at once. With Eli we stepped through it (or ignored it altogether) so it wasn’t what feels like a never-ending cry-a-thon. I phased out his middle of the night feedings first. Then we let him cry it out at bedtime. I never messed with naps. I let him sleep on me and then the couch. Then he moved to taking naps on his Pooh couch in his room. He never took naps in the crib. When he got his big boy bed then he started taking naps there and that was only about a year ago.

3.) Both Eli and Liza didn’t/don’t respond well to either me or Stephen being in the room but not picking them up. This means ultimately: the dreaded crying it out. Before you tell us what horrible parents we are for doing this know this, if there were any other option we would have taken it. I’ve read just about 50 books on sleeping and we’ve tried all the solutions I thought were viable and a few we made up ourselves. Ours are the all or nothing kind of kids I guess and us being in the room trying to be supportive and helpful made the crying go on and on. Neither Stephen nor I are made of stern enough stuff to listen to that kind of crying for hours and hours on end.

I’ve worried every night this week about whether or not she’s still sick, or is the crying related to her teeth or is she just tough enough to keep wailing to let us know she’s mad we aren’t coming. She isn’t still sick. Possibly her teeth are bothering her. She’s definitely willing to cry to let us know she’s mad. All that goes to show you girls are just tougher than boys.

Yesterday, I decided for 15 minutes part of her crying was due to separation anxiety which she shows no signs of at any other time. My girl Liza is just tough and not going to be denied or if she is denied she’s going to let the world know about it.

I’ll keep you posted on new developments.

The Best MP3 Player Ever

People praise Apple for their design sense. One of the reasons iPods have sold like they have is because they’re made of shiny and dusted with a light coating of tech-sexy. Their interfaces are innovative and easy to use. They made a usable touch-screen interface, for goodness’ sake. Every time I see an iPod Touch, I have to sit on my hands to keep them from finding my wallet, opening it up, and dumping every bit of cash I have into Steve Jobs’s bank account.

I never thought I’d see an mp3 player that could beat Apple’s for design sense. My friends, I was wrong.

Giant mp3 player that must be seen to be believed

Look at the size of that thing! It’s huge! It’s as if someone looked at the mp3 player market and said, you know what, no one is making boombox-sized mp3 players, especially ones that hold 256 MB worth of songs. Perhaps the company is banking on parachute pants becoming fashionable again. It’s the only way you could carry this player, and even then everyone could look at your crotch and see what song you were listening to.

If you’re not going to wear parachute pants, and for all that is good and true please do not, there’s only one thing you can do with it.

A celebrity endorsement of the giant mp3 player

[tags]mp3 players, ipod killer, that’s no moon[/tags]

Rule of Toys

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but with two kids comes about 12 times the number of toys. When Eli was Liza’s age, all his toys would fit into this nice little wicker basket. I bought the basket because I thought it would be handy to carry his toys from room to room in it. That basket sits in Liza’s room now and it holds about four smallish toys and those ring hooks (used to attach toys to the stroller) and a couple of baby spoons she chews on. There are toys in the kitchen again. Toys in the master bathroom again. Toys in my bedroom again. Toys in the living room again. There’s enough toys here for nine kids–and no, that’s not a personal goal.

Believe it or not I have sort of a hard line about the kid’s toys. Here are my guidelines:

1.) The bulk of the toy population must fit in their rooms. I relax this slightly when they are babies just because it’s easy to have them spread out around the house for when you move from room to room. And also, Liza can’t really carry her toys back to her room. We do have a chest in the living room that holds toys. I do this because there are a few big things Eli plays with that are easier to spread out in the living room. To accomplish rule 1 I have rule 2…

2.) Toys must be regularly purged. This usually happens after Christmas and birthdays, and I am ruthless. I purge at other times too. Like, if we can’t reach Eli’s bed for bedtime, then I’ll see if I can clean out the cruft. If the toy is now too young for Eli, I put it away for Liza. If it’s still good and we aren’t saving it for Liza, the Eli’s preschool gets first crack at it. If they don’t want it, it goes off to a thrift store. If it’s broken, it goes in the trash. These first two rules used in combination allow rule 3…

3.) There will be no toy/play room in my house. I understand that some people feel it’s a must. If that works for them, great. If I’m going to have another room in my house, please let it be a guest room so my friends and family can close the door when they sleep, not a room for sad, old toys to accumulate. Now you might say, “Misty, why do you get a toy room (office) and the kids don’t?” My answer might sound a bit juvenile, but here it is anyway. It’s mine and Stephen’s house and we get to say what the rooms are used for.

4.) All toys must be put away at bedtime. This rule, I’ll admit, can be exhausting. At the end of the day, trying to pick up, get Eli to do his part, and get the kids to bed taxes me to the limit. However, in my mind, it’s a short slide from leaving toys out to anarchy. So no matter how tired I feel, the toys go away. This actually serves a couple of good purposes. After the kids are in bed, it’s adult living space again and I can relax for 15 minutes before I fall asleep myself. When I get up in the morning I don’t have to face a disaster. Mornings are hard enough for me. Having to get going while battling toys everywhere would probably cause me to have to be medicated. This is also why I never leave dinner dishes in the sink.

5.) I prefer toys to be battery free. With 3 sets of grandparents this is impossible and I know it. When my sister-in-law made this rule for her son I thought it was a bit silly. There are such fun things out there with lights! and bells! and talking cows! But it turns out, most of those toys are passing fancies for my kids. They use a lot of batteries and are freaking loud.

Side note: Why do toy manufacturers make toys so loud? Do they think children are deaf and if they only make the toy loud enough they might break through the deafness? Some toys are now, finally!, coming with volume control. If it doesn’t have a switch, I tape over the speaker so that it’s not so noisy.

Eli got tinker toys and Lincoln Logs for Christmas and he’d sleep with the tinker toys if I’d let him. Those are the first toys out in the morning and the last toys put away. They are better for him creatively and they take up less space than a lot of mechanical/battery-powered toys. Also, I don’t ever have to purchase a battery for Lincoln Logs.

I have one exception to this rule and that’s activity tables for when kids are learning to pull themselves to standing. We had three when Eli was little. I know, I know that’s more than some daycare centers, so sue me. For Liza we have two. They are very useful to have in different rooms so she can pull up and not be pulling books off shelves and onto her head. Also, Eli is still amazed by them. The two of them will sit for several fives of minutes playing together.

6.) At birthdays and Christmas, only three toys per child from anyone in the family. Three from us, three from my mom, three from my dad and step-mom, and three from Stephen’s parents. That’s 12 toys, way more than enough for any one kid to play with and enjoy at one time. There are several reasons I put this rule in place. It makes it more fair to less affluent family members. Hopefully, it will keep my kids from getting spoiled by stuff. And it does help keep the explosion of stuff under control.

7.) Books don’t count as toys. We’re bibliophiles; why shouldn’t our kids be too? I know this is going to cause no end of trouble later but I’d rather move to a bigger house on account of books than toys. Priorities, people!

That’s pretty much my rule set. What do you guys do to keep the toy population under control, or do you even bother? I can’t wait to hear how you guys keep the tsunami from overwhelming you.

Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Eli Gone? Oh Where, Oh Where Can He Be?

Yesterday we made a trip to BabiesRUs to get Liza her next car seat. I had forgotten to jot down the two or three seats we needed to look at so consequently we were hanging out in the store calling our friends to have them look up car seats in their Baby Bargains book. While Stephen was on the phone, I went to get Liza a flannel sheet since her room with the humidifier running is a tropical ice box at night. I asked Eli if he wanted to walk across the store with me. He said no but as I walked away he told Stephen he was going with me.

Two minutes later I hear a page over the store intercom system asking for me to come to the front of the store. I think, “Andrew found what we were looking for and called me back on the store line? That was a weird thing to do and how in the world did he do it so fast?”

I see Stephen off to the side, still hanging out talking on the phone near the car seats. As I get to the front of the store, I realize all the store employees are looking at me. I wonder if I should brush up on my Miss America wave. I walk on up to the front and see my son sitting up on the counter with one of the employees snuggling him as he cries.

“There she is!” he cries excitedly.

I collect him and walk back to Stephen. I ask Stephen if he was missing anybody.

“I thought he was with you!”

Eli was on his own for approximately one and a half minutes before he realized he wasn’t with either of us. He walked to the front and told the women at the counter his name and my name and they paged me. We’ve never talked about what he needed to do when he gets separated. He did it all on his own.

I was torn between being horrified that we let him get away from us and terribly proud that he took care of himself on his own.

He rode in the cart for the rest of the day. Not because we made him but because he wanted to.

HDMI Cable Scams

As part of the ongoing setup of my new work laptop, I had to get an HDMI cable to connect my laptop to my monitor. We ended up with a reasonably low-cost one from an online vendor. When it arrived, I was surprised to see the cable’s packaging claim that the cable “drastically reduces signal distortion” by using silver-plated, oxygen-free solid-copper conductors.

Right, see, that’s a load of crap. Let’s start with the fact that HDMI signals are digital. The signal is a series of voltage changes indicating ones and zeros. What does it mean to “reduce signal distortion”? That cheap cables send 0.8s instead of 1s? And oxygen-free copper? Yes, oxygen turns copper green and flaky, but cables don’t oxidize, especially now that they’re wrapped in a snuggly blanket of foam polyethylene dielectrics. Using oxygen-free copper over regular copper buys you nothing. Or as a friend of mine sarcastically said, “Yeah, the 1’s in binary are scientifically proven to prefer copper with extra oxygen.”

Expensive audio cables are notoriously burdened with mystical woo-woo explanations of how they prevent analog signal distortion, when the truth is that you’d do just as well with lamp cord. Now that hand-wavy approach has apparently spread to video cables, and done so in the digital realm, where the vague tissue of plausibility regarding distortion doesn’t apply.

It gets worse when you realize how much mark up stores add to cable prices. We saw this back when Misty worked for Apple while based in a CompUSA. CompUSA gave her access to employee discounts. We could buy most things from them for some 5% over cost. Looking at the store’s cost for cables versus what they were charging the public was eye-opening.

You need HDMI or DVI cables? Go to some place like Monoprice. They’ll sell you six feet of HDMI cable for under $13. Heck, even Apple (!) will sell you a six foot HDMI cable for $20. For comparison, Best Buy will happily sell you a six foot HDMI cable for $60. If you’re really looking to be fleeced, they’ll sell you a 4 foot Monster cable for $80.

I know which one I’d go for.

[tags]hdmi, cables, scams, monster cable, waste of money, monster cable costs more because of the pixie dust[/tags]

Grille 29

As Stephen promised, we have started a campaign to eat around town at more unusual places. Our first try today was Grille 29. It’s located in the Village of Providence which is supposed to be a “pedestrian-friendly neighborhood”. (The houses there look like the village on Martha’s Vineyard except without the excellent ocean views and with an added 3.5 cars per person.) Regardless, there are some good restaurants there that are totally worth the drive–er, walk.

First off, Grille 29 is a grown-up restaurant. I walked in and it was quiet except for the jazz playing over the sound system. No loud conversations. No kitchen noise. No chairs scrapping the floor. No kids. Let me mention that last part again: there weren’t any kids in there. I don’t know if that was by design or just my lucky day, but it was lovely. The decor is elegant and modern looking. They have a ginormous fish tank and a beautiful water feature at the reception desk. From afar, the bar looked extremely well stocked and there was even glitter or tiny lights over it that looked like constellations.

I ordered my usual $9 salad of mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and balsamic reduction. When I say my usual, I mean when I go to a nice place to eat I would rather spend my extra $9 on an unusual salad than desert. Some of my favorite dining experiences have been with $9 salads. Now while Grille 29 didn’t have all that many salads, never mind unusual ones, this one was excellent. The tomatoes were fresh, the mozzarella was super good and the basil looked like it’d been plucked off the plant moments before it hit my plate. I was pleased. And the highest compliment, Stephen ate some and he doesn’t even like tomatoes.

I had a tenderloin sandwich that would have been excellent if the caramelized onions and mushrooms hadn’t been over-salted. The beef was just right. A good sandwich even if I do have to drink a gallon of water this afternoon to compensate.

Stephen had Salmon Brulée which was a broiled salmon with brown sugar glaze on top of sweet potatoes. I didn’t try the fish (ugh!) but the sweet potatoes were cooked perfectly.

We didn’t get to order dessert because I had to hustle off to pick up Eli and Liza early from school due to the weather, but we’ll try to squeeze that in next time. It’s definitely worth a second visit if for no other reason than the atmosphere.