Sam’s Story: Week 57

Okay, now what kind of person doesn’t wave back to a baby? A cute little kids waves at you in public and you just ignore her? I mean COME ON!

Yes, Sam’s newest thing is waving. She waves at me and Ger pretty much whenever we step more than 5 feet away, and she sporadically waves at people in public. I took her grocery shopping with me last night and she waved to some guy that was frowning at mangos as he poked and sniffed them. The guy looked right at Sam, who was waving and smiling at him, and then turned away to inspect some bananas. What, did a baby kill this guy’s parents or something?

Anyway. Nothing huge to report on this week, other than after deciding that the swear jar wasn’t a very aggressive savings strategy Geralyn decided to open a school savings account for Sam. We’ll contribute a little bit each paycheck to make sure that Sam can attend the finest pre-schools. College? Pft. Yeah, right. She can pay for it the same way I did: have a mom that worked at the University library and got full tuition reimbursement.

The only other thing is that we’ve been experimenting with taking Sam to one nap a day. Everyone is telling us that kids her age start engaging in such marvels, and that it’s awesome because they’ll sleep for like 3 hours at a time, giving you a huge chunk of your day to do anything you want …as long as you don’t leave the house. Or make any noise. Sam has resisted, though. She seems to do fine missing the morning nap, especially if she’s distracted, but she hasn’t quite caught on to the idea of extending her other nap to compensate. So she wakes up from her afternoon nap after the typical hour, and then by early evening she’s pissed at me, Ger, that talking frog that Nana gave her, and the world in general. Since filling her sippy cup with coffee is apparently out of the question, we’ll just have to play it by ear.

Now, pictures:

You may notice that we bought Sam a new book: The Velveteen Rabbit. I know this is a classic, but I’d never read it before. I was actually kind of surprised to find out that it’s about a stuffed rabbit that, like a little boy’s other toys, is somehow sentient. But when the boy gets some kind of disease all of his toys are thrown into the fire as they scream in horror and curse the cold, uncaring universe. Well, that last part happens off camera, but that’s essentially right. Only somehow the Velveteen Rabbit is saved by magic and turned into a real rabbit so that he can eventually die of old age or a hunter’s bullet.

So yeah. Great children’s story. My kid’s warped now.

WoW: Wow.

At work I’ve started referring to my daily To Do list as “my Quest Log.” I think I may be playing too much World of Warcraft.

Yes, I’ve taken a flying leap onto the World of Warcraft bandwagon and landed squarely in the dogpile. For the philistines among you, World of Warcraft (WoW), like its less talented and slightly buck-toothed brother EverQuest, is a “massively multiplayer role-playing game” (MMORPG) where you play with and against hundreds of other human players at the same time in the same game world. Despite attempts to break the mold, the emphasis is still on building a better and better character with better and better equipment and better and better abilities. It emphasises the “just a little more” hook and is kind of like crack cocaine injected directly into your eyeballs.

I held out on WoW for a really long time because I was literally afraid for my life. Not that I’d die, but that my life would be radically changed nonetheless. In college and grad school I was REALLY addicted to MUDs –that’s “Multi-User Dungeions,” the text-only predecessor to today’s modern MMORPG. I managed to keep my grades up, but everything else was secondary. I’d get up at 4:30 or 5:00 IN THE MORNING so I could play for a couple of hours before work or school. I’d play between classes. I’d play late into the evening. I’d play while my girlfriend watched TV in the other room. On some Saturdays when I didn’t have to study the sun would slide all the way across the sky without my even noticing.

I had “Leafy Greens,” one of the most powerful characters on the whole MUD where I played, but it cost me a LOT of time. I was only set free when the University computer that hosted the MUD was abruptly shut down and never brought back. I pushed back from the keyboard, took a deep breath, and said “Okay, that’s over. Never again.”

But I did do it again last week when I bought WoW, installed it, and brought Leafy Greens back to life. I have to admit, it’s been a really fun week and I love the game. It’s well done in almost every respect, but I’ll leave the high praise to the reviews. The game is so huge, though, that the intimate social aspect that I enjoyed so much in MUDS is largely lost. It seems that you can’t really get to know the people you play with unless you join a guild or know them outside of the game.

And while I’m really into the game, I’m not really into it any more than I’m usually into a good game of any other kind. I want –badly– to play it when I have free time, but I’m not obsessed with rearranging or paring down my schedule to create time to play it, and I still manage to shower every day and clean the cat box.

In the meantime, look me up on the Uther server, Alliance side as “Leafygreens” the Druid. I’ll be on most evenings unless my real-life Quest Log needs attention.

Sam’s Story: Week 56

It’s been a busy weekend. As I mentioned, Sam has been sick last week with some kind of stomach bug. It started with projectile vomiting, but quickly moved on to explosive bowel movements. At one point she somehow managed to get the stuff up between her shoulder blades and the nape of her neck. I’m still not sure how that happened. Ger caught the brunt of it over the week, but I had a long weekend off work and got plenty myself. The good news is that she’s over it all now; I’ve never been so happy to see a diaper full of solid poop.

Funny thing is that especially towards the end, Sam never really seemed upset or cranky unless she had just yarked all over herself. And since Ger and I were shopping for a new sofa set, we decided to tempt fate and spend most of this weekend out shopping. Having Sam along was like having a cute little time bomb in the back seat with a wet, squishy payload –and when she went off, it was time to GO HOME NOW NOW NOW. Still, by Sunday she was better, though the whole thing had worn her out.

Sam’s still a good sport about things like this in general, but I’ve noticed that she’s realized that if she sees something she wants she can cry and we’ll usually give it to her. And if we don’t give it to her quickly enough, she keeps kicking it up a notch until we do. Case in point: with all of Sam’s nifty new toys, her favorite thing to play with appears to be a bowl of fruit. She loves to just sit there and put the fruit in and out of the basket. Last night she spotted the basket during dinner, pointed at it, and started screaming because we didn’t immediately fetch it. We finally had to put the whole thing in the cupboard.

I know her bag of communication tricks isn’t very deep at this point, but it still feels manipulative and I worry about it developing into a habit that she’ll use to get what she wants all the way into her 40s. Yet she’s too young to really be given orders, much less be reasoned with. Weren’t things supposed to get more and more simple as she gets older? I guess I’ll just have to turn to denial and alternative medicine.

Developmentally, Sam is still trucking along. She can stand up by herself –we’ve seen her do it several times. She just doesn’t seem very interested in repeating the feat too often. Her first tooth is almost completely in and it now has a little neighbor moving in right next door. Unfortunately because these two teeth are all alone and they’re coming in kind of crookedly, when Sam smiles she looks kind of like a little hillbilly baby. If you know where I can get a tiny little banjo and corncob pipe, let me know.

Lastly, thanks to everyone who sent Valentine’s Day gifts to Sam. She got an outfit from Nana and Grandpa Madigan, cash from her other grandparents, and two outfits and a cool little handmade photo album from her Aunt Shawn. That kid ended up doing better than anyone I know, and she’s too young to even date. I guess everybody loves Sam.

Sammy Sickie

For those of you playing from home, Sam has been sick with some kind of stomach bug. I went in to check on her yesterday morning to find a big puddle of half-digested peas next to her in the crib. Which, you know, kind of explained the retching sound I had just heard over the baby moniter. If Ger managed to feed her anything at all yesterday I think she got a full refund a few minutes later, so basically Sam didn’t eat at all yesterday. Then our DVD player broke and we couldn’t even turn to our Ultimate Solution to Crankyness in the form of Baby Einstein DVDs.

Her crib was yark-free this morning when she woke up, though, so hopefully she’ll be over it.

I am once again a master of the web

I mentioned a while back how I was elected, through what I think was an uncontested race, to the office of “Vice President – Web Publications” for the Personnel Testing Council of Southern California. This is a fancy pants way of saying “Webmaster” as my duties seem to wholly consist of updating the website.

Unfortunately the old website (archived here) appears to have been done in a WYSIWYG editor. The code looked like someone had filled a paintball gun with <font> tags and unloaded the thing on the hapless web. It looked fine to the end user, but it made it hard for me to update. To remedy this I spent a chunk of my weekend recoding the whole thing from scratch. It’s a very simple design, but I think it turned out okay. Observe for yourself.

I had told myself that I’d never code another site using HTML tables, and that my next web project would be structured and laid out using only the glory of cascading style sheets (a.k.a., “CSS”). I have yet to get around to teaching myself the necessary CSS skizzles, though, so the PTC-SC site makes use of tables. And you know what? I’m not so sure that’s such a bad thing. I don’t understand the bad rap HTML tables have gotten, really. I make good use of server-side includes and CSS for all the style stuff (no more <font> tags!) so it’d still be a snap to update the colors and layout. I only nested the tables one level deep at most, so page loading isn’t a problem with today’s modern super computers.

So honestly. Tables. Not that bad.


Okay, so I’m using an old picture for today’s pic of the day because I forgot to do it before leaving for work today. This is from a trip Ger and I took, pre-Samantha, to the San Diego Science Center. I actually can’t wait to take Sam back.

Sam’s Story: Week 55

Swear Jar funds this week: $2.50. It would have been less, but the vending machine at work stole my money.

Sam’s big thing this week has been using her walker, so now she has something in common with old people. I showed her how to push it and walk behind it one day, and now this is ALL she wants to do whenever it’s in sight. She’ll trot along behind it, giggling and gufawing like an imbecile (but in a cute way) until she rams into a wall. She’ll then pull back a step and ram it a couple more times just to see if it’ll give, then look at me and start squawking for me to remove this wall immediately so that she can get on about her business. So I get up, come over, turn her around, and send her off in the opposite direction like a wind-up toy. Giggle giggle, WHAM, bump bump, WAAAHH, repeat.

Sam’s other thing this week is that she has started this low, slow, throaty laugh whenever she sees something coming that she likes –bath, nursing, food, drink, et cetera. She’ll close her eyes halfway, curl her upper lip, and start going “Huh, huh, huh-huh-huh, huh huh.” It sounds just like Beavis and Butt-Head, and it’s as frightening as it is funny.

Talking has progressed a bit, so that she doesn’t identify every animal as a cat. She still knows what a cat says (“Rower-rower-rower”), but has added what a turkey says (“Gagga-gagga-gagga”) to her lexicon. I don’t think she doesn’t really understand the questions; rather, she just hears me say “cat” or “turkey” and knows what sound to make so that I laugh, smile, and clap. She’s playing me like a fiddle, in other words. To test this, I asked her “Sammy, what does anything that’s NOT a cat say?” She smiled at me and said “Rower-rower-ro–” at which point I jumped up, pointed at her, and shouted “WRONG! YOU LOSE! I’M STILL SMARTER THAN YOU! YEAH! UH! YEAH! UH-HUH!”

I’m now told that this kind of behavior is not appropriate, but I’m still not sure, as it wasn’t specifically mentioned in the “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” book I read.

Now, pictures:

As you can see, over a quarter of those pictures are of her pushing her little walker around and looking pretty happy about it.

Two girls in their jammies, reading

I thought this was kind of a sweet picture. The secret to our eventual success with getting Sam to nap regularly was routine. Twice a day around the same times, read her two books. Then close the blinds and curtains, put her in her crib, and give her musical mobile two twists. She’s almost always out like a light.

Apples and oranges

With all of her toys made of molded plastic, Sam’s favorite plaything is whatever’s in our fruit basket. She loves to hold and slober all over the apples, oranges, and avacados we keep in there.

Cheese Preferences in 12-Month Olds Named “Sam”

Ger and I were arguing one day about what kind of cheese Sam likes better, Cheddar or Swiss. Yes, we argue about these kinds of things. Before we had a kid we debated politics, philosophy, and the ontological mysteries of the cosmos, but now it’s pretty much “How much did Sam poop today?” and “Which cheese do you think she likes better?”

I figured, though, that we need not rely on pure speculation for the answer to this last question. If my Ph.D. in Psychology is good for anything, it’s determining cheese preferences in little girls. So I concocted an experiment, ran it, and wrote up the results below. Yes, seriously.


The researcher was interested in cheese preferences among babies who are his daughter. The implications for such research include grocery shopping planning, general happiness of the population in question, and giving the researcher something stupid to write about on his blog.

A review of the baby literature yielded very little useful information. It has been found that babies prefer “Buh-buh” and “crapping themselves” but little substantive research has focused on dairy products in particular. Obviously, this highlights the tremendous value of the present research.

Given the dearth of research on the subject, the researcher was not comfortable specifying a specific hypothesis about cheese preference. Instead, he will simply test the null hypothesis:

H0: Seriously, Sam doesn’t care.


The study employed a simple 2×1 within-subject, repeated measure design. The rest of this section describes the sample, stimulus materials, and procedure employed in the present research.


Uh, pretty much just Samantha. I really don’t care about anybody else’s kids, so she’s the entire population of interest.

Figure 1: The population

Stimulus Materials

In an effort to keep the research manageable, the researcher decided to limit his investigation to Cheddar and Swiss cheeses. Also, these are the only ones we ever really get coupons for. A block of each cheese was procured from the local grocery store and each was cut into many half-inch cubes for a total of 76 pieces.

Figure 2: Stimulus Materials

Each type of cheese was then placed in a special, scientifically prepared, plastic container. Okay, they’re not special containers. They were just these little Tupperware containers that we put all of Sam’s food in. But we do it scientifically.

Figure 3: Materials Preparation


Each day the researcher or his assistant (hi, Geralyn!) would run 5-7 experimental trials. Each trial involved sitting the Subject in a high chair and placing two cheese cubes –one Cheddar and one Swiss– in front of her. It was then noted which type of cheese the Subject ate first and this information was coded on a specially prepared piece of paper. Using, uh, a pen. A scientific pen.

Figure 4: An experimental trial in progress

After the Subject made her choice, the remaining cheese cube was removed (often under protest by the Subject) and two more pieces were placed on the tray. The left/right order of the cubes was varied so that if the Subject had a preference for the cheese on the left or right that error variance would be evenly distributed across conditions.

Data collection was spread out over 12 days lest the Subject become really, really constipated.


Table 1 shows the distribution of cheese choices made by the Subject across all 76 experimental trials. The “Observed” row shows the number of each cheese cubes actually chosen while the “Expected” row shows the number of cubes one would expect her to choose if there were no preference.

To test the Null Hypothesis of no preference, the researcher took the categorical data in Table 1 and conducted a Chi-Square analysis. As you may remember from your remedial math class in junior high, this is the formula for Chi-Square test:

Where O is the Observed cheese choice for each type (Cheddar or Swiss) and E is the expected choice. Filling in the values from Table 1, we get an observed Chi-Square of 1.895:

Referencing a table of Chi-Square distributions, it is noted that with 1 degrees of freedom, an observed Chi-Square of 1.895 does not reach the critical value for alpha = .05 (or even .10). Thus, the null hypothesis is not rejected.


Well, just like my dissertation and my master’s thesis, I’ve once again failed to find significant results. Samantha appears to prefer neither Cheddar nor Swiss; she likes them both equally. During the course of the experiment she chose Swiss more often than Cheddar (44 Swiss cubes vs. 32 Cheddar cubes), but the difference was not large enough to rule out random chance as the cause as opposed to a taste preference.

Future research might investigate the question of whether the Subject more often prefers the cheese on the right- or left-hand side to the extent that this overwhelms any other preference.

So there. Can I get tenure now?