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shalom
I just upgraded all of our email to Google Apps (they will host your email for you now).  My spam has gone down something like 90-95% (2-5 pieces a day), and I love the interface (it works the way I do!  I've kept all my email for the past 6 years in the hopes that I can search through it).  Mary's not liking the interface though; the lack of folders and split pane interface are getting in the way.

I am loving Firefox 3, but I just ran into a Firefox / Flash issue making youtube stop loading videos after 2-3 seconds.  The solution seems to be to uninstall Flash and install the Flash 10 beta.  Youtube not working at launch is a pretty big deal :(

Sophie Is Born!
shalom
Sophie was born on 5/30 at 8:49PM, and she is beautiful and perfect at 7 lbs 2 oz.  Pictures.

The leadup was long, with 4-5 days of increasingly strong contractions.  The hospital was no help calming us down; due to legalities, pretty much every time we called in nervously about some small thing they would ask us to come into Labor & Delivery for monitoring.  We went 4 times before we finally stayed.  The doctor broke the bag of water (rather quickly, within a few minutes of the decision), then we contracted all day, didn't make quite enough progress with the pitocin, and they C-Sectioned.  The procedure seems like it's a lot less stress on the baby, though the mother goes through a longer recovery.

Babies are fairly simple creatures apparently; only 4 basic needs, and she cries when any of them need to be met.  It's actually algorithmic pretty much: try the 4 things until one works, and baby stops crying.  If baby cries, I try the burp, check the diaper, try to soothe her to sleep, and if all else fails, hand her to mommy to feed.

Breastfeeding on the other hand is a pain in the ass.  Here's the math.  The baby can't hold more than 3 ounces presently, and generally only wants 2 ounces per feeding.  The baby needs roughly 24 ounces of feeding per day according to the pediatrician.  24 oz / 2 = 12 feedings per day.  This means that the baby needs to eat every 2 hours.  Now, breastfeeding takes 30-40 minutes, and they want her to pump for 20 minutes afterwards.  That means you will spend literally 12 hours out of your day feeding.  Another 7-8 napping, and you are out of time.

Sleep is OK; we're sleeping when the baby does generally.  Rules out most REM though given the above schedule (2-3 hours between feeding).

(no subject)
shalom
The Netflix "Watch It Now" movie download thing doesn't work with Firefox?  How do you justify making something not work with Firefox these days??  15% of the U.S. market and 30% of the European market isn't enough?

Free Play
shalom
With the baby upcoming, more and more child-raising stuff is invading my consciousness.  It's not that it wasn't there before, it probably was, but now when I hear NPR the stories about children pop out at me.

A pair of stories on "free play" (completely child-directed play) really caught my attention.  The idea is, through toys and structured activities, adults are deciding too much for children, leaving less and less room for them to self-direct--to decide things for themselvesAn empty roll of toilet paper used as a gun means the child had to really decide it was a gun and hold that idea in his mind, and act on it.  Giving them a toy gun (let's not focus on the fact that I chose a gun :) leaves a lot of that choice out of the picture--it's a gun, just use it like a gun.  The first story was on the effect of standardized tests on the dwindling amount of "free play" in kindergarten.  "It's just kids screwing around, they should be spending their time constructively!"  The second story was about an equally fascinating program called Tools of the Mind, which emphasizes "mature, intentional make-believe play."  i.e. let's make sure kids do more "screwing around" and therefore learn the awesome skillset that comes of it.

In my own childhood, despite my playing a lot of NES, we played a lot together outside, and our creative play was indeed oddly directed.  I ended up the "choreographer" of a lot of the play, which involved letting the others know the setting we were playing in (the couch is a spaceship that just crash landed on the planet) and the specifics ("the alien is over there!").  According to those people, I was building leadership and decision-making skills by the act of deciding what completely imaginary thing to do.

My worry now is, I don't know how much "playing outside with others" kids do these days.  Does it still really happen?  Or is it all "arranged visits" motivated by fear of kidnapping and predation?

BTW, the NPR site is amazing.  The cross references between radio stories could have me playing around and listening for hours on end.  The lack of user comments bugs me though--I often like to look at others' thoughts on the stories, and people will often have poignant anecdotes or points of their own.

3.6MPH Strike
shalom

Just got back from a "morale event," as they put it here.  We went to Lucky Strike bowling arena in Bellevue, which has a bizarre upper-class lounge-atmosphere with pictures on the wall that are as close to suggestive as you can possibly be, without actually being suggestive.  You know, the woman drinking through a straw looking at the picture, but the look is only almost-come-hither, and the straw is really skinny.  The babes fighting with pool sticks that are almost in the proper position to suggest lewdness, but not quite close enough that you can be sure that was the intent.

The alley shows the speed of the ball, which became a central element in our games.  I racked up the slowest strike: 3.6 MPH.  It's all about rolling the ball rather than sliding it (so that the spin it picks up is less random).

Oh, the MS cafeteria in Bellevue is really great.  20-30 floors up, awesome view, you can even sit outside.  The food is kind of froofy, but they offer a fresh-made hamburger with spices and onions in it that is really awesome.  I'd go back.


Put Down The Woobie
shalom

We're trying an experiment at home now.  With the exception of scheduled WoW raids, I'm off the computer till 8PM and Mary is off the TV till 8PM.  So far it's resulted in more books, NPR, organizing the scrapbooking room and getting some stuff done around the house.  It's been pretty tough though--I keep jonesing for the Internet to fill the small minutes.  The Internet is my woobie.


"Test Tube Babies"
shalom
 I only recently learned that "test tube babies" were not actually grown in test tubes, and find myself severely disappointed.  The general messiness, risk and failure rate involved with using a living host to grow your baby is far too high.  

I would be a fan of incubating babies in labs if we could get the environment right.  It would eliminate developmental problems due to too much / too little sugar, smoking, drinking, lunch meat (yes lunch meat!!), exercise, sleep and breathing problems with the mother, accidental injuries that can cause miscarriage ... the list goes on.  Not to mention the delivery room is messy, icky and freaking painful and I am not looking forward to that portion of the birth.

It could allow you to solve other problems if used effectively: if you got it cheap enough, you could institute safe, non-sterilizing birth control methods on a global basis and choose when and how many children to have.  It puts too much power in the hands of the government, for sure, but are we using the powers effectively?  The amount of irresponsible parenting out there is just staggering.  Population problems abound.

And there is an inverse relationship between economic status and child-having that bothers the shit out of me.  I understand there can be countries where everyone (including those with good genes) is impoverished, but the relationship holds in the U.S. too.  Evolution is still happening, it's just that it's no longer natural selection, we're selecting for less intelligent, less motivated people!  A little control might be in order here.  The temptation to abuse it would be far too great, but does that mean we should just ignore the problem?

OK yeah, I'm just terrified of the birthing process I'm going to have to help with in a few months.  But still, one can dream.

Books and Games
shalom
I've been re-reading through some series lately and found some books I like.

- Charles Stross: I discovered him through Accelerando, and have been devouring his other books.  His visions of the future are just plain awesome.  Maybe there's other stuff like it, but I'd never heard of the idea of a technological singularity before, and I had never really thought through the legal implications of being able to upload and download yourself into a computer (including the ability to make copies).  I'm just fascinated.  His blog is fascinating too, BTW.
- Incarnations of Immortality (Piers Anthony).  I read this as a kid but haven't done it for a while.  I just got through Wielding A Red Sword.  I love this series and the personification of deities.  It really brings them down to earth, so to speak.  (Wow!  Evidently there's a recently-published 8th book in the series called Under A Velvet Cloak, about the Incarnation of Night.  So there's something new to look forward to too.)
- The Riverworld Saga.  Mary's dad sent me this, which I'd never heard of.  It's a really interesting premise--everyone in history has been resurrected on a single planet with a river running through it, given all the basic material things they need to survive (no scarcity of basic necessities like food and shelter), and let them run wild.  The main bit of the story is the main characters (many of them famous) trying to find the source of the river and the people who put them there, to find out why.  He doesn't explore the actual social implications of the setup as much as I'd like, but he does explore them, and it's pretty interesting.
- The God Delusion.  Costco had this in paperback and it looked interesting.  So far it's an enjoyable read but not a ton new to me.  It does, however put a different spin on atheism--particularly that most atheists should be significantly less apologetic or low-key about their beliefs than they are (me included).

In the world of games, we've got ourselves a Wii.  I already have the 360 but just had to try this thing out.  Even Mary likes it!  The WiiSports seems to be the main game for it.  I like tennis best, though boxing seems like the best workout--we are sweating when we're done with it.  Mario Galaxy is relatively traditional in the main player experience but the second player controls are very innovative.  Basically rather than control an actual character, which she doesn't enjoy so much, Mary can point at the screen and collect stars, and she can point at an enemy and press a button to "freeze" them.  Kind of a low friction alternative.  The latest Zelda and Metroid both have their Wii things (slashing the sword is neat), but are still relatively traditional for all that.  I haven't tried Mario Party yet though I hear that is tons o fun.  I also heard Mary would like Trauma Center.

Games with "reality" controllers (not sure if there's a name for the genre) have really caught on with us.  We've got Dance Dance Revolution Universe with a couple of pads (which my family played over Christmas, including my dad).  It's a blast.  Recently Mary got me Rock Band too, which is so much fun.  It turns out I like the guitar a lot more than I thought I would, and the drums are tons of fun.  It's fascinating; I know that they don't teach me everything I need to know, but I am definitely getting better at rhythm, fingering and limb independence, and I find that when I listen to songs I can actually pick apart the different instruments--which I couldn't or didn't ever do before.  I'm not as much a fan of the karaoke, but I bet Mary will be when I get her on it.  Also, the songs on Rock Band are a lot more recognizable than the crap on DDR (though DDR is still fun I'd like to dance to songs I can recall).

I can't wait to see how this field will expand: it seems like there's so much potential, both for fun and education.  I heard on NPR that there are Rock Band/Guitar Hero-like games that actually listen to the tones you make from instruments like the clarinet (pointed into the microphone)--teaching people to play real instruments but making it fun.  That's just fascinating.  I can't find that report right now, but I'll see if I can manage it.  I heard it like a month or two ago.

In semi-related news, we got a new couch that is super-comfy.  This is good because Mary couldn't sit on the monstrosity I bought before--it was so low that it hurt her to get in and out of it with the pregnancy.  I like it, too, it's a recliner couch with basically two big seats that both recline, meaning the whole couch can recline at once.  Now we can snuggle and watch TV again, and this makes me happy :)  The couch is deep red, which is a real departure from what Mary is usually comfortable with, and which jazzes the room up IMO.  She continues to surprise me with how much she's changed and grown up since we were in high school.

We're GOING to get ethernet run throughout this house.  I'm fed up with the wireless.  It's always been great elsewhere, but the geometry here must suck or something.  I get disconnects every night, and these videos have been loading super slow.

Superbowl Party
shalom
Went to robduf's Superbowl party at MS today.  I know nothing about football (as the astonished partygoers can attest after having answered my various basic questions such as whether the Superbowl teams were selected by single or double elimination) but I can tell that that was an awesome game.  A nailbiter to the end.  I was glad of the outcome, just 'cause I like underdogs.  Mary wanted the Giants to win too since she has friends in New York.  We brought Mary's most excellent chili con queso which was devoured quite readily.

The refs appear to have cleaned up too, since the Seattle game two years ago.  That Superbowl party ended in a great deal of anger, yelling and frustration.  I think the refs were honestly a little timid about making calls now.  I hear they fired a bunch of them after that 'bowl.

Sophie was kicking Mary throughout the game.  Either she really likes football, or she likes people yelling about football.

The Past Four Years
shalom
Well, I'm back.  Looks like LJ has evolved somewhat.  There's a dizzying array of incompatible options for blogging and social networking now; I haven't figured out where to turn, so I simply reactivated this.  Anyway, I'll catch you up in a far-too-abbreviated version that leaves out tons of stuff:

I got married to my wonderful wife, Mary.  The wedding was 2 years ago on Cinco De Mayo (and how she hates it when I point that out!) in a gorgeous church in Kirkland.  Mary has been a great blessing to me and I'm lucky to have her.  I have many stories to tell in this regard, which will probably get up on the website.

Mary is pregnant!  More than halfway now.  It's a girl, and her name will be Sophie.  I look forward to teaching her and playing with her.  Maybe not so looking forward to the diapers.

I am still living in Seattle.  The weather isn't as rainy as people say, but it is rainy, and I still miss thunderstorms.  I prefer San Diego out of all the places I've been.  Nice, perfect weather, every day.

I am playing World of Warcraft on the Silver Hand server, and have for around 2 years.  I really enjoy the social aspect, the rise and fall of governments and all that.  I have been raiding with the Leftovers, a completely open raiding community that now has something like 250-300 individuals raiding every week.  I designed the web-based raid calendar, signup, slotting and points system they use as well.  The game--well, it's fun, but I'd have left it long ago if it weren't for the outside-the-game stuff.  I've learned more about politics and the reality of large systems of people in the last couple of years of playing this game than I ever knew before, and I've learned a lot about UI design as well.

I switched to a developer role at Microsoft about 6 months ago, after having learned a shitload about testing.  Distributed systems and software-as-service turns out to be the perfect place for me to learn testing and not get bored, and I am far, far better for the experience.

Recently:

We've started checking out Unitarian churches, because we are looking for some way to meet community and church was a part of both of our childhoods.  We also would like to build a community around Sophie when she is born, and some sense that there are other moral people (and others she can talk to about these things).  Unfortunately, being an atheist, church is not something I really would fit into :)  The Unitarian doctrine appears to reject the horrid doctrine of hell, to not worry about the concept of God  without rejecting it (something like 60% atheists in the "church"), and focus on the here and now of how people treat each other.  I'm honestly not sure about the spiritual content yet, but the total absence of a requirement to believe in ideas that are flatly contradicted by evidence is refreshing.  The church we checked out, East Shore Unitarian, has a fairly traditional service actually, even down to having a sort of Prayers of the People sort of thing.  Their religious education seems to be to teach the kids about various religions without making judgements, which might act as a sort of inoculation against them honestly.  I'm open to other suggestions though, and am planning to do some broader web searches to find groups.

I'm starting a job at a new spot in Microsoft soon, working on a new language (no, I have no idea if it'll ever be released, these little researchy things live and die constantly).  It sounds like a really cool gig, and up my alley, and a lot of fun.  The others in the group are super high level and very smart as far as I could tell in the interviews.  I expect to learn a ton :)