Friday, December 28, 2007

Tales of Terrible Tech Support

I've had more than my share of tech support ordeals this year. I can't resist ranting, but I'll try to keep it brief.

I switched our DSL service provider from SBC to Earthlink back in July, 2006 because SBC pulled a bait-and-switch on us (the initial inexpensive DSL suddenly doubled in price) and because Earthlink offered a good price on phone service and high-speed DSL combined. Ironically I had heard that Earthlink had excellent customer support, and that made me more inclined to switch.

I'll spare you the details: after months of our DSL not working periodically for days at a time, way too many phone calls and several appointments with technicians, they finally dialed back the "high speed" service to plain-old DSL and it became (almost) reliable. But the experience left me bitter. Earthlink didn't actually provide the DSL, but contracted to Covad who would come out and "fix" it, but then it would stop working. And of course every time I called Earthlink I had to explain the problem and repeat the history of the problems to a new technician, who would usually have me try the same thing I had tried each time without success before finally escalating it. Sadly, I think this kind of technical support is average. For Earthlink to provide above-average technical support they would need to identify customers with chronic problems and assign a technician to the case whose job is be a contact person and do what it takes to provide satisfaction. (I think this would probably save them money in the long run and would certainly buy them a lot of valuable good will.)

So I decided (after letting the Earthlink contract expire) to switch from Earthlink to Comcast to get a higher-speed cable-modem, and Comcast could also provide phone service (and continue to provide our cable TV service). Hopefully this won't prove to be a mistake, but it has been another painful transition.

It took a couple months before Comcast actually came to do the installation. We booked two appointments that were cancelled because Comcast could not coordinate the porting of our phone number from Earthlink.

After everything was finally installed, it all worked for a week or so and then stopped. I seemed to be having problems with the cable modem and my old Linksys BEFSR41 router. (Don't take this link to be an endorsement--do not buy it--and keep reading if you want to find out why I recommend you think twice about buying any Linksys products.) It just stopped getting an IP number from the modem (even though my computer could when connected directly to it). I tried upgrading the firmware, but couldn't through its web interface and couldn't when I tried their Windows software (no Mac software provided) on my PC at work.

Finally I called Linksys tech support. To their credit, I was not on hold for long (and they provide 24-7 support). But I was told the product is out-of-warranty (I've had it for 2 1/2 years) and I had to pay $30 for "extended warranty" tech support. The "specialist" technician I then spoke to had me press the reset button for 1 minute (I had tried 30 seconds as the manual recommended) and it worked. I should have had him help me upgrade the firmware, but sometimes I actually do practice "if it ain't broke don't fix it" and I figured I could always call back.

Everything worked for a couple days, and then the cable modem stopped working. I called Comcast and was told something confusing about the modem being activated but my account wasn't, or maybe it was the reverse. The technician couldn't fix that: I had to wait up to 3 working days for it to be fixed in their big computer in Colorado. And since it was the Friday before xmas, that meant we'd have to go almost a week without the Internet.

Yesterday afternoon I tried the cable modem again and it worked, and after some fiddling I got the router working. But then last night our connection died again. The modem wasn't responding, so I called Comcast and spoke to a technician without any time on hold. He had me disconnect the modem and ground the coaxial cable. Then he reset the modem and everything worked. (We'll see how long that lasts.)

But then I couldn't get the router to work. So I was back on the phone to Linksys. But the technician told me the $30 "extended warranty" had expired after 7 days! She wanted me to now pay another $33 for another 14 days of "extended warranty" service. I refused, and tried unsuccessfully for some time to talk her into escalating my case without the extra charge. Finally it became clear that all she could do was keep reading for her script and that she was trained not to hang up, so I finally (politely) said "good-bye".

I'm disputing the $30 charge on my card--I'll get some satisfaction knowing that even if I don't get my money back that it will cost Linksys (Cisco) more than $30 to deal with my dispute.

Ironically I emailed a complaint to Linksys at the email address provided in the receipt for the $30 charge, and received a response saying they have "discontinued the e-mail support channel for Technical Support Inquiries."

I'm going to buy a new Apple AirPort Extreme. Apple is the one company that has provided me only positive tech support experiences.

My rant is long enough, so I'll save the details on my problems with Popcorn, Toast and Spanning Sync for another time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007 is back from the land of stale websites

I finally made time to update I haven't uploaded any photos since December 2006, so I've got some catching up to do. But instead of starting with January (2007) and working my way towards the present, I decided to upload the most-recent photos (from November) and work my way backwards, while still regularly uploading recent photos.

Note that while I said "upload", I'm actually uploading the photos to Flickr, and writing about them (and linking to them) on As I wrote, I expect it to evolve into a photoblog.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I took Gabe to a hockey game

I took Gabe to see the San Jose Sharks play the Dallas Stars on Saturday. (A friend at work got my the tickets and took his son who is about the same age.) I was a little worried that Gabe would miss his nap (which he still seems to need and takes every day without fuss), but he did great.

I felt like I was passing on a family tradition: my dad took me to many hockey games as a kid. (For years we went to the Centennials games, and we saw the short-lived Cowboys play a few games, and we went to several Flames games, of course. Ya gotta love Wikipedia.)

But one tradition we didn't continue: Gabe actually stayed awake for the entire game. I used to fall asleep during the game, and then wake up between periods to watch the Zamboni.

We got up and walked around during the breaks between the periods, and enjoyed eating an ice-cream sundae during the start of the third period that we bought during the break. After the game I bought Gabe a t-shirt, which he proudly wore home and all-day yesterday.

Gabe did very well following the game. He was a little overwhelmed at first, it took 5 or 10 minutes before he'd remove his hands from his ears--hockey games are much louder than they were when I was his age. But before long he was cheering loudly and clapping and yelling "score"! I was impressed when we got home and he explained that it was fun, but that the Stars won 3-2. (He missed the empty-net goal.)

My New Blog

I decided to start a new (second) blog, on Python practices and patterns. See my first post there for an explanation.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Contest photos

I enjoy listening to The Apple Phone Show podcast and reading their blog.

They have a couple contests running right now.

As the entry to the first contest, I uploaded these two photos of Elleda and Gabe I took with my iPhone to

2007-08-11-15-26-18_IMG_0011.JPG 2007-08-11-15-42-11_IMG_0012.JPG

This blog post is my entry to the second contest.

Monday, November 19, 2007

First family bike ride

A couple weeks ago both Gabe and Elleda renewed their interest in their bikes. Actually, in addition to the larger bikes with training wheels that they each have, they both also have a smaller bike with no training wheels. Gabe gave his a shot back when he learned how to ride without training wheels, but he found the smaller, lighter bike harder to balance. (I see that I blogged about him wanting his training wheels back in May, so I don't think he's tried to ride without them since then.) However the idea got planted, we found ourselves taking those smaller bikes to the park.

For Gabe, learning to ride his bike again was just like riding a bike. Because he could easily put his feet on the ground while sitting on the bike, he could stop easily. That gave him his confidence back. But he still needed our help getting started.

Elleda didn't want our help, and didn't even want us to watch. So we watched out of the corner of our eyes. (She really did seem to have performance anxiety--she did better when she didn't think we were watching.) She was persistent. I think she figured out how to ride (for the first time, without training wheels), stop and start without help in less than an hour.

I think seeing Elleda figure it all out for herself gave Gabe some incentive. Gabe announced proudly this week when I got home from work that he could start by himself.

So Saturday I took down Claire's bike from the garage roof and re-inflated the tires, and went out and bought a WeeRide seat for Henry and mounted on my bike. After everyone awoke from their naps we went for our first family bike ride. We were pretty ambitious: we rode probably a little more than a mile to the local Jamba Juice. The kids did great--no complaining, they stopped and walked their bikes across the street and through a busy parking lot, and (aside from the parking lot) they rode all the way there and back. I was especially impressed with Elleda--she's now quite confident on her little bike. I even saw her ride right off a curb.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Unconditional Love

I just listened to another excellent episode of This American Life. In Act Two, "Dave Royko talks about the decision he and his wife faced about their autustic son's future..." which got me thinking about our short-lived fears about Henry.

It's been only a little over a month since I wrote "The flood gates are opening", and those gates have been opening ever wider since. We've lost count of how many words Henry uses on his own (and he will repeat very many other words after hearing Claire or I, or even Elleda or Gabe say it). And he has begun to say a few two-word sentences, like "Bye-bye Mama" or "Hi Dada".

We are so very lucky.

Friday, August 24, 2007


I very much enjoyed the Google Test Automation Conference. The quality of the presentations exceeded my expectations. You can watch them on YouTube. (Also check out the comments on the "Community Thread" on Google's Testing Blog. And there is a GTAC Google Group.)

My favorite presentations were:
There were several presentations on testing web applications, which were very interesting and enlightening but that kind of testing isn't a priority for me at Altera right now.

And as I expected, it was an excellent opportunity for networking and exchanging (and generating new) ideas. I fought my introverted tendencies and made an effort to talk to someone new at each opportunity (especially during lunch and at the reception Thursday night). Everyone I met was a pleasure to talk with and several took particular interest in my work. (Two gentlemen in particular gave me some very good insights and pointers at the reception.)

Google was a generous host. They organized the conference and provided their facilities and breakfast, lunch (and dinner Thursday) at no change. All the attendees received a "goody bag" with a t-shirt, notebook and pen and a light-up fridge magnet, and the speakers were given what looked like very nice laptop bags. And we were all invited on a Hudson River boat cruise tomorrow morning. (I'll be there.)

Sure, Google can afford it and they will benefit from their largess; but they still deserve credit for being a class act. (That reminds me of years ago when Microsoft was lauching DirectX and reserved Great America in Santa Clara for the exclusive use of about 100 developers. But that's another story.)

This was actually the second-annual GTAC. Next year it will be in Hyderabad, so it's unlikely Altera will send me (though perhaps they'll send someone from Penang). It I want to be invited back though, my best bet is to submit a speaker submission; this year they invited everyone who do so (even if they weren't chosen to be a speaker).

I'm on YouTube!

I'm in New York City for the Google Test Automation Conference. Today was the second (and final) day. I signed up (and managed to get enough votes to be selected) to give a lightning talk at the end of the day today, the AV folks at Google already have a video up on YouTube.

I thought I would just be part of one long video of all the lightning talks, but they went to the trouble of posting just my talk. We each had 5 minutes to talk, and if we exceeded that time limit we'd be pelted by plastic balls. (And the audience was just waiting for the chance.)


I posted the photos you see me taking with my iPhone on Flickr.

I also found my photo on Picasa Web Albums. It's not bad...that's my good side.

But it wasn't all about me. :-)

I'll follow-up with a post (or two) about the conference itself.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Art of Pitching has a very interesting "Interactive Graphic" on The Art of Pitching. I recommend you check it out ASAP, before it's no longer free.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Legend Of Jack Cust

Worth reading:

Tonight is a good night to post this; Cust hit a grand slam and drove in seven of Oakland's 16 runs (vs. Detroit's 10).

He's got 17 home runs (leading the A's) in 240 ABs for just over 14 ABs/HR, which doesn't compare to A-Rod's 11.6 ABs/HR (Ryan Howard's is under 11!), but it's up there. (I wish I had time to write a program to figure out what percentile that puts him at.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Radio Lab

Episode 336 of This American Life ("Who Can You Save?") contained an excerpt from the show Radio Lab from New York Public Radio. The TAL web site calls Radio Lab "arguably the most groundbreaking new show in public radio." That could be; it's certainly very good. It's a little like This American Life, but with an emphasis on science.

Like This American Life, a podcast of Radio Lab is available. My favorite episode (so far) is "Memory and Forgetting" (which I gave a rare 5 star rating in iTunes).

Elvis Costello podcast: The First 10 Years

If you're an Elvis Costello fan then you'll enjoy his "The First 10 Years" podcast. It's available on iTunes, or through

The flood gates are opening

You may be aware that Claire and I have been concerned that Henry hasn't started talking. Well, I guess we don't have to worry about that anymore. (We'll have to find something else to worry about.) In less than one week, he has said these words for the first time:
  • bye-bye
  • please
  • hot
  • up
  • open
  • car
  • why (he was imitating Gabe when he said that one)
I'm sure I've forgotten a few.

Claire and I can't get over how cute he sounds. He's always been a babbler, but it's lovely to hear him say real words.

Go see "Once"

It's been quite a while since I've seen a (IMHO) great movie. I've seen quite a few good ones, and a reasonable number of very good ones over the last couple years. (I don't get the opportunity to go very often, so I'm pretty careful to only see ones with good reviews from critics I trust.) But a great movie only seems to come along every two or three years at best.

Once is a great movie. It made me feel deeply as only a great movie can do. The music is spectacular. (The first thing I did when I got back to my computer was order the soundtrack.)

If you can go see it, then don't miss it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

17% closer to catching-up

I spent a little time the last couple evenings sort through photos, and finally got the December 2006 photos uploaded to our web site and Flickr.

That's one month done and five to go (six when the end of June comes).

I'm out of practice culling the good photos from the just OK, so there are 43 to look at. I didn't like any of them enough to tag "5stars", but I guess this one is my favorite:

Monday, May 7, 2007

"Survival at a Price in an Iranian Prison"

I also recommend this story that I listened to during my run today. (Also downloaded from the NPR Story of the Day podcast.) There's a book excerpt at the story page.

Scott Simon is a brilliantly natural interviewer.

"Farmworker to Surgeon: Immigrant Lives Dream"

I enjoyed listening to this story during my run this today. (I downloaded it as part of the NPR Story of the Day podcast.)

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Habeas Schmabeas

This episode of This American Life deserved to win a 2006 Peabody Award. The Bush administration may have had good intentions in denying the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay habeas rights (and Geneva Conventions), but it seems pretty clear now that now they’re struggling to cover up some quite shameful mistakes. This mess could use plenty more of this kind of sunlight disinfectant.

Friday, May 4, 2007

The A's April

The Athletics Nation blog has an interesting summary of the Oakland A's April. I wonder if any other team has had as many injuries to key players; Yankees and Jays fans may be feeling sorry for themselves, but I think the A's have it worse.

I "watched" the last two games against the Red Sox--on TiVo after the kids were all in bed. The A's played quite well in both. I almost woke up the kids groaning on the play where Piazza was injured.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Henry's catchphrase

I wrote the following in an email to a friend, and thought it worth posting...

Henry can say "Uh oh!" (when he's in the mood), but while he babbles almost constantly, it's almost always the same thing: "wha-jeez-dyatch" (or something like that). He makes it work for him; we've thought he was saying "What is that?" and "Me touch that." I'm told the crossing guard at Elleda's & Gabe's preschool was convinced he said "What's up Dennis?" He reminds me of Elleda, who babbled past the age of two, and then skipped the one and two word stages and switched very quickly to complex sentences.

Henry is starting to understand too. He's very happy to bring things to Mommy, Daddy, Elleda or Gabe. And he certainly understands what items belong to which of us--he'll decide to bring Elleda her teddy bear, or Gabe his blanket, or Claire her shoe. (He very proudly brought me one shoe yesterday as we were getting ready to go out to the park.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

A Weekend Surprise

Not a weekend goes by where--after spending some sustained "quality time" with the kids--I'm not surprised by something they do. This last weekend the surprise that stands out in my memory occurred Friday evening, when Claire and I took the kids to the park. Elleda chose to bring the tricycle with extra wide wheels. It's very stable and so she feels confident going quite fast. Gabe wanted his "Razor" (scooter--more on that below), and I took one too so I could keep up. Elleda and Gabe had a couple races, and Elleda kept winning. (It didn't hurt that she kept giving herself a head-start before yelling "Go!") Gabe was getting frustrated, and Elleda noticed. So she let Gabe get a head-start and held herself back and let Gabe win, and called him the champion. I thought that was very generous (and shrewd), especially for a little girl who has a few months to go yet before she's five (and who also doesn't like to lose).

I've seen Elleda be that giving with Gabe before, and I've been a little concerned that she does it only to appease him (and prevent a row). But this time I felt she genuinely wanted to make him feel better, and realized that was more important to her than winning.

Sunday evening we all went "around the loop". Claire pushed Henry in his little "coupe-car", Elleda rode her two-wheeler (with training wheels), I grabbed a scooter (again) and Gabe got started on his bike (with no training wheels). (I think Claire talked them into riding their bikes. Gabe was a little reluctant and asked for his training wheels. We, of course, reminded him that he doesn't need them anymore.) Claire got Gabe started and he went about 10 feet (with me right behind trying to be ready) before stopping so suddenly that I bumped into him a little and couldn't catch him in my surprise. He fell to the side but was fine. But that was enough with his bike. Claire and I tried to talk him back on, but his mind was made up. Claire, Henry and Elleda kept going, and (after trying in vain to get him to jump on his bike and catch up) we went through the back gate and returned his bike to the garage and grabbed a scooter for him. There's no sense forcing Gabe--not that I could anyway--and we have to remember that he is only three. Then we took a short-cut through the neighborhood and caught up with the rest halfway around. We had a pleasant time finishing the loop. Elleda was quite confident on her bike.

Since I haven't posted in a while, I should write something about Henry. He's a happy little guy, who especially loves it when his brother and sister play with him. (They're both very good with him.) He doesn't walk around like he's expecting to fall anymore--he's practiced enough that he can do it without thinking. Now he's starting to run a little bit.

Aside from drippy noses, they've all been quite healthy for a good stretch now. I hope we can keep that going through the summer.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Baseball is back

Two of the little pleasures of my life have returned: the major league baseball season, and the ESPN Baseball Today podcast.

The A's have lost their first two games of the season to the Mariners, who have now won has many games against the A's as they did all last season! (Oakland won 17 of 19 against Seattle last year.) Hopefully Rich Harden can prevent a sweep tomorrow. (And tomorrow's game is on KICU, so I'll be able to watch it on TiVo after the kids are asleep.)

I subscribed to the ESPN Baseball Today podcast all last year, and I don't think I missed an episode. It's just the right length: 15-20 minutes (every weekday); long enough to cover all the previous games and point out the interesting match-ups of the next day. The host Alan Schwarz and his rotation of co-hosts don't waste much time focusing on payrolls or the politics of the league--instead they focus on the games themselves--which I like. I wish I could point you to an easy way to subscribe, but for some reason there's no iTunes link on the only web page I could find: But you should find it if you search for "ESPN Baseball" in the iTunes Store.

I only wish I could download podcasts and videos of games. Last year I subscribed to's Gameday Audio, but I could rarely get it to work on Mac OS X and it was even flaky on Windows. I got excited when I read "MLB highlights coming to iTunes Store", so I've been watching for the " Daily Rewind" and "Games of the Week". (I downloaded the 2007 Season Preview from iTunes, and it was worth watching.) " Network Just Added" is prominently featured in the iTunes Store today, but when I click on it they only show the preview and "Baseball's Best". I'll keep watching.

Update 2007-04-05 09:30 PDT: I just checked and Baseball Today is right at the top of the page (describing yesterday's episode), with an iTunes link. But I'm getting an error (8006--whatever that means) when trying to update the podcast in iTunes. Perhaps that means that their podcast feed is down right now while today's podcast is being posted. (I saw the same error yesterday, and it went away later and then I could download yesterday's episode.) "Daily Rewind" is available on iTunes. I bought a 30-day "multipass" for $8, and downloaded the latest (April 3rd) episode. I'll let you know what I think.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mike Cohn's "Planning and Tracking on Agile Projects"

Tuesday last week I attended Mike Cohn's "Planning and Tracking on Agile Projects" presentation at the BayXP meeting (at Google).

I enjoyed it very much. Mike Cohn is an excellent speaker with plenty of industry experience and was able to make a two hour presentation (that started at 7:00 PM) fun.

His slides for this and other presentations at

Here's some bullets summarizing what I took away:
  • story points are for estimating stories in a product backlog
    • they are numerically relevant, but intentionally “unitless”
    • 3 key advantages (see page 14 of the slides):
      1. forces relative estimating
      2. focuses estimation of size (not duration)
      3. puts estimates in unites that can be added together
        • (he says “time-based estimates are not additive”)
  • sprint backlog tasks are estimated in hours
  • velocity (calculated across sprints) is calculated in story points
    • do not succumb to the temptation to use the task-hours from a sprint, because story points are quick estimates, and task-hours are much more carefully prepared
  • planning poker is fun and effective
    • it has been shown empirically to work (see pages 19-24)
  • release planning can be easy
    • (if one has a product backlog with estimates in story points, and has some data on past velocity)
I have both of his books:

Agile Estimating and Planning User Stories Applied

I haven't made time to read Agile Estimating and Planning yet, but User Stories Applied For Agile Software Development came in handy for a project at work.

You may also want to check out

Henry is walking now

On Friday Henry started to spend more time walking--just in time for our first camping trip of the year on the weekend. (He walked around inside the tent-trailer and around the campsight--we have to watch him even more carefully now.)

Over the last couple days he's spent more time walking than crawling. Claire dropped him off at work this afternoon (while she took the kids swimming) and I let him wander around the office--he spent the whole time walking. He's still quite tentative; he waddles along with his feet wide apart. (We've got to get it on video.)

But I guess it's official: he's a toddler now.

"Me ride bike no training wheels"

Gabe has had his choice of several different tricycles (that we just managed to accumulate without really trying) ever since he was big enough to climb onto them. He never showed much interest. But even a year ago he was interested in two wheel bikes. Early last summer Claire bought him a medium-size bike with training wheels; I thought it was much too early. But he caught on pretty fast. He didn't like having the training wheels though; he would notice every time someone (of any age) rode by without training wheels: "Wow! No training wheels!"

For the last few months he's been asking to ride a bike with no training wheels. A couple weeks ago a neighbor gave us a tiny little red two-wheeler (that their son outgrew) and he was eager to give it a try. We took him to the park and he did alright, but he'd forget to steer while concentrating on balance, and visa-versa. We had to hang onto the seat and handle bars while he got started, and continue to hold onto him or the seat and be ready to grab him when he went off the path or lost his balance.

Last Friday Claire suggested I take the training wheels off his larger (blue) bike, and we went to the park. I guess the bigger wheels made it easier for him to balance. Before long he could ride by himself (while I ran alongside) and even start to turn when he had to.

We took the blue bike camping this weekend (I had the red one packed, but he asked for the blue one) and he spent every moment he could on his bike (when I was available to take him). It didn't take long at all before he was riding up and down (small) hills and turning and going quite fast (with me running beside him). On Sunday he went on a couple quite long rides (stopping only occasionally), and he was even starting to learn how to stop and put his feet down.

Now he's talking about going for bike rides with Mommy and Daddy on their bikes. He's determined (and skilled) enough that it probably won't be long where he can start and stop on his own so we can do that.

If I sound proud it's because I am. And I have a right to be; he only just turned three, after all.

He's certainly a strong-willed kid. We've been struggling with and focusing on the negative side of that coin lately. So it was a pleasure to see the positive side. He's got plenty of potential--our job will be to support him and teach him discipline so he can harness all that ability and drive.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

So much for the "Straight Talk Express"

I found out about this on Matt Bors' blog. He links to a New York Times blog post with more detail.

I wonder how Giuliani has (or will) answer these questions.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What a mess

Today I listened to This American Life episode "By Proxy" (#327). I was deeply moved by Ira Glass's interview of "Basim" in "Act Two"; but I wasn't moved to action or filled with love for my fellow man. Is there a word for when one is already disillusioned and surprisingly becomes even more so?

I won't summarize the interview; I do strongly recommend you listen for yourself. But what I found moving was that this Iraqi interpreter for the US Army is clearly a good man, trying to do the right thing. But tragically he had to leave Iraq for his and his family's safety, even though he realizes that there's no hope for Iraq if everyone like him leaves.

It's even more clear from listening to his story just what a mess the USA has made in Iraq. It's unlikely, but I hope that someone who has some power to change things there (I'm thinking Robert Gates or David Petraeus or someone with their ear) will hear this.

I remember hearing about Colin Powell warning George Bush before the invasion about the "Pottery Barn rule": if you break it, you buy it. "W" certainly has broken it real good, but his successors are the ones who will pay for it and have to fix it. And that's going to take a very long time.

This American Life is undoubtedly my all-time favorite radio program. It's consistently excellent, and not infrequently outdoes itself. I've paid to be able to download it from for the last 4 or 5 years, but recently they've made a free podcast available. Don't miss it; every week.

Monday, March 12, 2007

My Little Pony Live!

Saturday we took Elleda and Gabe (and Chloe) to see My Little Pony Live! (Jo babysat Henry.)

We managed to avoid the temptation to buy $15 coloring books, $10 magic wands, $5 balloons; the kids didn't try to talk us into anything. (Chloe did briefly, but I guess she didn't have her own money.) I'm not as disciplined when Claire's not with me--I bought Elleda a $20 program & coloring book when we went to Disney on Ice.

The show itself was cute. There wasn't much to the story (though I found it more coherent than the My Little Pony books that I always hope Elleda and Gabe don't pick for their bedtime story), and I didn't find the songs very catchy. But the kids seemed to have a good time.

I found out Sunday that it did make an impression on Elleda. She described the show in great detail (much more than I thought her capable of) to her Auntie Louise.

"Congressman Holds No God-Belief"

"Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) is first Congress member in history to acknowledge his nontheism."

This is a big deal. (I sent him a thank you email.)

According to Wikipedia, he's not up for reelection until 2009. I hope he runs again, but I doubt he will. I suspect the only reason he was willing to make such an acknowledgement is because he plans to retire.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

I survived the weekend

Claire met a friend in San Francisco last Saturday morning, and came back Sunday evening--so it was just me and the kids all weekend. This was my first time I did this with all three kids. Claire last took a weekend "off" sometime before Henry was born. But it was easier this time.

Elleda is quite eager to please and so for the most part she was no trouble. And Gabe was surprisingly on his best behavior most of the time. (I say surprisingly because most of the time Gabe's nature is to push the boundaries unless they're made very clear and he has no choice.) Sunday afternoon he came upstairs with me (while Elleda played with the computer and Henry napped) and helped me tidy up. He even picked up the whole wagon-load of Mega Bloks without even having to be asked.

And one of the sweetest moments all weekend was after Gabe accidentally hurt Henry and then (with minimal prompting) cheered him up by playing "catch" with him for several minutes with their Dora ball. Henry ate it up (as he always does when he gets any attention from his brother or sister); he let out a big laugh every time Gabe gently tossed the ball to him and then would eagerly throw it back for more.

Bedtimes--which used to be the hardest part of being on my own with the kids--have gotten much easier with all three.

So that leaves mealtimes. Henry is at the age where he just can't resist throwing everything off of his tray, so we're constantly looking for new ways to distract him while we feed him. And Gabe and Elleda just can't sit still and eat. But even if they did all co-operate, I continue to have a deep dislike of preparing meals. But I had no choice, and I managed just fine.

It was interesting observing Elleda over the weekend. I can see a lot of myself in her. Several times she just needed to be by herself. And (also just like me) she likes to stay indoors. When Gabe was anxious to go to the park (and Henry was awake so we were ready) Elleda would invent a new game (or even let Gabe decide what to play) in order to distract him.

One other moment that stands out in my mind was Saturday afternoon while Henry napped (but after Gabe and Elleda awoke from brief naps), we curled up together on the couch and watched The Incredibles. What a great movie. I enjoyed it as much as the first time. It was over the kids' heads, but it was fun to try to explain it to them. It certainly kept their attention.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

My bed was wiggling

Elleda came downstairs a little while after going to bed and said "my bed wiggled". Claire made a joke of it ("Was Teddy jumping on the bed?") and we both knew not to say the word "earthquake". (Elleda asks just about every night "Is there going to be a power-cut?"--we had a power failure at least six months ago. And she also asks almost every night "Is there going to be a fire?" since her class had a field trip to a fire station a month ago.)

I subscribe to a USGS email service, and a couple minutes later I got an email. It was an earthquake! (Neither Claire or I felt it--but we were both downstairs.)

Henry is teething

I wrote Sunday that Henry usually sleeps through the night. Of course, he hasn't slept through the night once since then. (It took me three tries to get him back to sleep this morning when he woke up at 4 o'clock.) He's got a couple molars pushing their way through his gums--I'll bet that hurts, poor little guy.

Monday, February 26, 2007


This post ended up more of a blog post than a tumblelog post, so it should have gone here (on blogger).

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Henry will be walking soon (I think)

I've been telling everyone that Henry has had the skills to walk for some time now, but he just hasn't seem interested. Late last week he started walking a little bit as his idea (rather than because Claire or I coaxed him into it) and every day now he does it more and more. I think he's getting really close to the point where he gives up on crawling.

I need to keep the video camera handy. I haven't used it much lately, I guess because we always have our hands full with three kids (and Claire's little Sony digicam is so handy).

1-on-1s with Gabe & Elleda

Yesterday (Saturday) Gabe and I dropped off the van for servicing and walked to the Silver Spur Restaurant for breakfast. (Claire and Elleda did the same thing a couple weeks ago--we stole their idea.) I didn't expect to enjoy breakfast with a three-year-old as much as I did. Gabe sat across from me at our table for two and ate most of his Mickey Mouse pancake (eggs and fruit--he gave me his bacon), and was very well behaved. And we were never at a loss for conversation. On the way back to get the van Gabe said he wanted to do something with "just Daddy, no Mommy, no Elleda, no Henry" again.

Then we went to "Blue Ball Park" and had fun racing on the steep, side-by-side slides. Gabe kept winning--he kept saying "ready, set, go!" after he already started down. He got scared when he went down so fast he lost control, flipped over onto his belly and landed face-down in the sand at the bottom. But after a little cry (and wanting his mommy) he was ready to climb right back up and go again.

Then on to Kaleidoscope where we shopped for birthday presents for John. (We got him a medal detector that we got Josh for x-mas that we heard he enjoyed, and a rocket powered by vinegar and baking soda--they didn't have the rocket-car we got Josh.) Gabe had fun playing with "the fastest cars in the world" with "simulated scale speeds up to 600mph."

Finally on to Costco to buy some patio chairs Claire had picked out earlier. Gabe wasn't able to help, but he didn't get in the way either. (He was drooling over a "big-boy bike"--he really wants to learn how to ride without training wheels.)

We got home just in time for lunch and naps. My morning with Gabe was a pleasure.

Then after some chores (including picking up a patio table Claire had picked out elsewhere), it was time to wake Elleda up for her surprise: going to Disney on Ice at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. (Claire and I hadn't talked about it, but we both knew it was best not to tell Elleda we had these plans in advance so she wouldn't gloat to Gabe and get him jealous--Gabe is very sensitive to when things "aren't fair" in his eyes--he gets that from his dad.)

We listened to Here Come the ABCs (from my iPod in my car) there and back--I enjoy it as much as Elleda does. I take a lot of pleasure in her interest in the songs' titles and lyrics. I hope as she gets older we'll have fun talking about what tastes in art and entertainment we have in common (or not in common).

The show was fun, but unfortunately the "plot" was centered around The Incredibles. Elleda would have been much happier if it was about the Disney princesses. (They only showed Cinderella and Snow White in a parade, and her favorite Ariel wasn't there.) By my standards the show was quite blatantly commercial and mediocre, but I enjoyed Elleda's excitement and interest.

I enjoyed my 1-on-1 time with both kids. I'll have to look for more opportunities to do it again. (It will get more difficult to find the time as Henry gets older, and of course he should get some 1-on-1 time too; so all the more reason to remember to make it happen every couple months or so.)

Friday, February 23, 2007

First Post

Instead of trying to come up with something significant, or trying to predict what I'll be blogging, I'm just going to get this over with and try to move on to some interesting posts.