Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fathering for the Complete Klutz

Welcome to fatherhood. I can’t think of a more rewarding and terrifying responsibility. You got your partner pregnant, remember? You’re not only responsible for taking care of her every need; you’re responsible for taking care of all of your child’s needs until the day you die.

I know what you’re thinking, because I had the same thoughts myself: I don’t know anything about babies. My partner is a woman. Women have a built-in Wikipedia of secret baby information that I don’t have access to. I will screw up, and ruin my child.

Here’s the secret: women don’t have a built-in Wikipedia of secret baby information. Nobody does. Every child is different, and nobody knows how to raise your child. Except the two of you. You’ll figure it out together. There are things that have worked for other parents, with their children. Yours is different. You can listen to their advice, but think of them like IKEA assembly instructions: suggestions, not absolutes. It might work for your baby, it might not. Remember, everyone leaves the hospital with the same level of experience with their baby: none.

So dive in. Roll up your sleeves and get some experience. Your baby’s not getting any younger.


Keep one hand on the baby at all times. Seriously – they tend to roll. This can make changing a diaper complicated, if you haven’t taken the time to get all your materials laid out properly in advance. But you’re a guy, so you’ll figure it out. Even if you’re rooting around underneath the changing table, looking for stuff – keep one hand on the baby.

A note about boys. When you first open up that warm, wet diaper and the cool air hits the nether regions, it sometimes invokes a secondary event. Be ready for that.

You’ll notice if you’re following the primary rule (keep one hand on the baby at all times) that you have only one hand left to change the diaper. This takes some practice, especially undoing the tape strips without ripping them off the diaper. Practice beforehand. You’ll accumulate several cubic feet of stuffed animals in the weeks surrounding the birth. Practice on them. Get to where you can change a diaper left-handed, behind your back in pitch darkness. You may be called upon someday.

Your First Outing

The mother has decided you need some “bonding” time with your child, so she’s kicking the two of you out of the house. Don’t panic. Babies rarely starve or explode if they are away from their mothers for less than an hour. You got this. Make sure the diaper bag is packed. Bring one extra baby outfit in case of a blowout, and off you go.

Where to? It doesn’t matter. Babies are big absorbent stimuli sponges. Babies are undiscriminating. Take her to Home Depot. Her mother may have different ideas, but your baby doesn’t care. It’s all stimuli.

Dealing with Advice

As a new father with a baby, you are obviously completely incompetent. You will get advice from everyone, especially at Home Depot (“Who takes their baby to a hardware store?”). Accept it with the love it is given, ignore it, and take comfort in the knowledge that you are the father of the most beautiful baby in the world. They’re just jealous.

Bath Time

The mother, your mother, pretty much any female will insist that you give your baby a bath. From their perspective, it’s a great photo opportunity. From the correct perspective, it’s probably the most dangerous situation you can put your baby in. Water? Hard metal surfaces? We’ll get through this with comprehensive risk assessment and mitigation.

Drowning – Babies don’t really get very dirty. They spend most of their time indoors, and are generally carried when outdoors. So you don’t need to submerge the baby. It’s more about wiping down. Two inches of water is plenty.

Severe head trauma – Remember the one-hand rule.  It’s a little tricky, because now the baby is slippery. Never. Let. Go. I use the Vulcan Nerve Pinch. Also, never take your eyes off the baby.  Don’t worry about knocking stuff over while you’re groping around blindly for the shampoo. You’re in the bathroom. Everything is covered in tile. It’ll clean up.

Poisoning – Babies don’t get dirty (see drowning), so you don’t need shower gel. Babies also don’t really have hair, so you can get away with nearly-invisible amounts of shampoo. Keep in mind; anything you hand to a baby ends up in his mouth.  As a distraction, give him something to suck on. Just make sure it’s at least as big as your fist. The shampoo bottle is not a good choice.

Now that we’ve addressed the primary bath time risks, relax and have fun. As I said, babies don’t get dirty, so bath time is not about cleaning, it’s about getting naked. Babies love getting naked. But don’t you go getting naked. Someone needs to be able to get everyone out of the house safely if it suddenly burst into flames. Keep your shoes on at all times.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Two years of ditching the pump

Has it really been a year since I last posted? I've no doubt lost any readers I may have had, so this will be an exercise in discipline rather than communication.

Sparkii - 2 years in

Total miles16,202
Fuel cost$626.75
CO2 emissions2,750 lbs
Average daily use22.2 miles

Relative to the car it replaced (Toyota Echo), we saved almost $1,300 in direct fuel costs, plus another $150-250 in maintenance (oil changes). We also "saved" almost 7,000 lbs of CO2 emissions.

We still charge most nights to 80% capacity. That gets my wife to and from work, and a trip to the grocery store/mall/church. Our longest trip to date was 65 miles up to Whidbey Island last summer.

We have had (knock on wood) zero maintenance issues. None. It's a new car, of course, but it's also a brand-new model. I was expecting at least a few first-run manufacturing issues, but have been very pleasantly surprised at the quality of the car.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

A Year of Driving with Electrons

Actually, it hasn't been quite a full year since took delivery on January 18th, but it's easier to keep records on a calendar year basis. Here's the data for 2011:

  • 8,302 miles
  • 2,693 kWh of electricity
  • 1,130 lbs CO2
  • $312 operating expense
  • 2 low-battery warnings
  • 0 strandings

Compared to the car we were previously using, we saved approximately $700 and 3,500 lbs of CO2.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Memory Hole entry #1 - Ivar Giaever

"I am a skeptic. Global warming has become a new religion. I am Norwegian, should I really worry about a little bit of warming? I am unfortunately becoming an old man. We have heard many similar warnings about the acid rain 30 years ago and the ozone hole 10 years ago or deforestation but the humanity is still around. The ozone hole width has peaked in 1993." --Ivar Giaever, WSJ, 2008

Dr. Giaever is a Nobel laureate. He is a global warming "skeptic". He is also a deceiver. We did, in fact, have warnings about acid rain 30 years ago. The EPA responded by creating a cap-and-trade system for sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide emissions have dropped 40% as a result of this and other actions. The ozone hole did not peak in 1993. Production of CFCs peaked in 1993, with the adoption of the Montreal Protocol. Unfortunately, CFCs persist in the atmosphere for decades. The ozone hole continued to increase in size, with the peak occurring in 2006.

I have no doubts of Dr. Giaever's qualifications in the field of superconductivity. He should leave climate science to others.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Haven't updated on the Leaf recently. Sparkii continues to plug along, doing duty as our primary vehicle. He takes my wife to work, my son to school, all of us to the store. Power consumption is beginning to climb as the temperature begins to drop. Here's a chart showing how driving range has varied with temperature over the past 11 months:

So what's going on? Is the cold affecting the battery? Are EVs a failure in freezing temperatures? Not really. Thinking outside the box just a bit, cold storage facilities use electric forklifts. And it gets a lot colder inside a meat locker (-35C) than it does around here. So what is it? It's the heater:

Internal combustion engines are notoriously inefficient. Only 20-25% of the energy from gasoline goes into moving the car forward. The rest is turned into heat. As I'm fond of saying, "gas engines are an 80% efficient furnace that provide locomotion as a by-product".

Not so with electric motors, I'm afraid. On the plus side, a typical electric motor converts 90% of input energy into motion. On the minus side, there is almost no waste heat to keep us comfortable on frosty mornings. So we have to dip into our precious stored electrical energy to heat the car. You can see from the chart above that as the temperature has dropped, our accessory (non-motor) consumption has climbed from the low single-digits to nearly 25% of the total.

Still, I prefer having an efficient electric motor and being in control of our energy/comfort trade-off. We can always follow President Carter's advice and put on a sweater.