The Engineer’s Baby – Communication

Baby’s can’t talk. This shouldn’t be a big surprise to everyone, but I’m watching some dumb-ass program where the actress is teaching her child hand-signs. Certainly he can learn hand-signs earlier than he can verbalize clearly, so she is … What? Getting her kid to use a communication method that he won’t need in a couple months? Setting back his verbal training by months? What? So she doesn’t have to figure out when the kid wants milk?

Baby’s communicate all the damn time. Pardon my “french” but I’m tired. Sure, the first few months the communication is mostly … occasionally literally  … crap. Babies can’t communicate what they want, a lot of the time, because they don’t know what they want. If my girl could speak she would say:

“Daddy! I feel bad, something hurts! Make it better!”

Yeah, I don’t know what hurts her, but it could be:

1) Position. Come on, she’s flailing around with her arms and maybe it just isn’t comfortable sitting like this. Sometimes changing her position helps, sometimes not.

2) Hungry. She doesn’t seem to know (about half the time) that she is hungry rather than miserable for some other reason. She sometimes tries to get fed just to get held. Realizes she isn’t hungry about 1 oz into the bottle.
3) Bodily functions. Sneezes, hicoups, farts, poops. All the horrible things her body keeps doing to her.

4) Sleepy. This is a doozy. It apparantly feels weird to be tired. Heck, I’m tired all the time. SOMEBODY LAY ME DOWN FOR A NAP! She doesn’t like it as much as I do.

5) I’m bored now, entertain me.

So, language is great for communicating what you want, but doesn’t do much for communicating random impulses that might not have anything to do with the outcomes you desire. Everyone is full of such things, managing them is what our “software” does as we grow up. But babies aren’t hiding anything. You just have to watch them and work out what the are “communicating.” It really doesn’t change that much as they grow up. They just lie more with their mouths as their bodies tell you the tale.

I’ve got a 16 year old boy, but I know when he’s up to no good. (His Ninja abilities kick in, and since they suck, I know he’s hiding something.) My 22 y/o daughter manipulates me. Yeah, I see it when she does it, but hey, she is my little girl, she has a right to wrap her daddy around her little finger.

Learn  your kids. they are worth watching. Yeah, you might have to give up an illusion or two, and stop trying to manipulate them so much. But watch and learn. Language has its place, but knowing how your kid tries to get information out of herself and into yourself is a lot more important in the grand scheme of things.

Quantum Computers

Quantum Computers

This is so cute. They have built a 4-qbit computer to do a simple factoring task. Reducing a number to a factor of its primes. In the future, they intend to have 128-Qbit machines that generate huge primes – and remove them – for encryption.

Right now, a 4-bit machine can do 3X5 with 50/50 precision. Basically, they had to write a mathematical method that would let a 4-bit machine do anything. The code they were running is roughly 50/50 on finding a prime, so the toy computer performed as it was supposed to. It did a simple job fast with appropriate accuracy.

Lets double this every 6 months – 8,16; 32,64 ; 128 … 2 years 6 months till they  have a 128 bit quantum encryption machine. Anyone want to lay bets against Moore’s Law? I’m picking a “newspaper roll out date” of January 2015. I’ll put 10 bucks on it if anyone wants to postulate a different date.

BTW: I was watching Blade Runner last night. I hadn’t remembered that it was set in November 2019. Lets get cracking, I need me a couple replicants and a flying car! 


Second BTW: Fifth Element and Blade Runner in the same night? What is SyFy thinking? It is almost like they are having a relapse. I tuned in at 4 am and they were playing Battlestar Galactica. Really? Are you back to Science Fiction this week? Its like having a cheating spouse. 

“Sure, you’ve changed your ways. Lets see how long it takes you to go back to your professional wrestlers.”

The Engineer’s Baby – Costs

I just got the third bill from the hospital, this one says I owe another $636 dollars. I paid $1000 at the door. The woman who ran my insurance had it calculated to the dime before Monica left the building. I was still shell-shocked from the birth, the day before, so I just handed her my debit card and we rang up a THOUSAND DOLLARS on a charge. Apparently she was wrong on the dime…by a lot of dimes.

Oddly enough, I paid $1700 for my daughter in 1990, and I didn’t have a good insurance. It was “college student crap” that I’m sure the administrators made me get when I was an undergrad physics student in Knoxville. I would never have gotten insurance for myself (being an immortal college student). I think it was required, but it allowed you to see the school nurse/medical practitioner. The same one who prescribed me beer for my ulcer – which did in fact cure me. I guess that $100/month insurance was probably the best deal I ever made.

This insurance is closer to $300/month, and buys considerably less.

I recommend that if your wife is pregnant, you check out the local hospitals. Drive out to them and take a look around. They look pretty much the same, but if (for some reason) it looks like a roach motel or Frankenstein’s Castle you might want to drive a little further. Maybe I could talk about the good and bad in those delivery and post-care rooms, but not right now.

You can get a price for no-insurance child birth and it runs about $8000 these days.  When you are considering natural childbirth and the standard anesthesia, etc. That only applies if you pay “day of service.” You make them wait a week, and you’ll see the $34,000 bill delivered to your post box.

Why is it so high? I have no clue. But my insurance paid  $6,679. WIth the $1600 I’m paying, we ended up spending about $8,279. It looks like insurance is worth having, but only just barely. These aren’t necessarily the biggest costs in having a baby, so watch the old budget.

What else is there? 
    Car seat & Stroller. Yes, there are cheap ones for $100. So you can get out cheap. But the good stuff costs good money, I spent $120 on the car seat and $600 on the stroller. I haven’t regretted it yet.
    Breast feeding gear $250
    Pillows (yes, buy the stupid expensive pillows) $120. I could go on about these things forever, but pregnant women can’t lay with their legs together, need support for their bellys, and the breastfeeding pillow has been called “genius.”
    Bottles $100
    Diapers are nearly too cheap to notice, but you’ll go through 10 a day, get the box of 100! Get two…
    Furniture is the real killer, a thousand buck in crib and dresser aren’t uncommon, but a normal person can avoid these costs by shopping cheap or just dealing with it.
    Basinet, Cradle, pre-crib – $100
    Play Area – $120
    Bath Tub – $50 
    You say: “Hah, my house came with a bathtub, I don’t need that cute plastic thing that looks like a mini water slide with a thermometer and baby sprayer.”
    I say: “Enjoy denial, it is a lot of fun while you can get away with it, see you next week when you pick it up along with the matching ducky towels and the little plastic cart for her shampoo.”
    Clothes – look, if you can’t restrain the “ain’t that cute” impulse, you might as well just set your money on fire, you can blow $100 every time you go to the store.
    Beer – $10/week – Cures stress, helps you calm down, helps you sleep.
    Food – Folks, this is probably very important in the budget world. Yeah, Monica’s breastfeeding so we haven’t cleared out a single can of dry baby-food. BUT, the Enfantomil is $25/can at Krogers and $17 at Walmart. If you’re blowing through a can every other day… shop around for the good deals.

This list could go on forever, which just tells you to watch what you spend. I know I don’t and regret it weekly. (or perhaps too Weakly to fix my behavior. Oh well.)

Beer Review

I actually haven’t been drinking much this week, but I figured I should catch up from last weeks … um … test schedule. I TESTED Sam Adams Octoberfest and Imperial White. Yeah, they have out Octoberfest in August…

Is Octoberfest better than Boston Lager ? … no, not really. It is a nice “lawnmower” beer. Maybe a good transitional beer. So, if you have a buddy who never drank nothing but Bud or Miller, but was willing to upgrade for Octoberfest, then this beer is a good transitional. I’d rather it had a bit more… something. It isn’t hoppy, it isn’t malty, it has a nice flavor and a nice odor, it is easy to drink. I guess I just expected more from Sam.

Imperial White is a LOT more. The mouth feel is BITE. Not a drinking beer, definitely a sipping beer. At 9% alcohol it would probably kill you in any case, but it wouldn’t be enjoyable to chug it. Lots of malt, sufficient hop to cut the malt, and a lot of FLAVOR. In a crappy Belgian White, this is a mouth burn in a dry beer, relatively unpleasant to drink – which is common in a lot of these beers. There is enough malt to smooth out the bite, so it is interesting to drink. Not going to be one of my favorite beers, but I was very pleased to try a beer that was this different to drink.

Almost picked up a 6-pack of Sam Adams I didn’t recognise, nearly got it to the register before I realized that they had bottled a SHANDY! Holy Crap, don’t they know that shandy is a waste of good lemonade and good beer! Both are very drinkable things, but if you mix them together by mistake, pour it down the drain. Yeah, I know Brits love Shandy and Germans mix with Cola… Lucky they are athiests, because God would not look kindly on their poor lost souls.

Real Science News

NASA has really been producing the last few weeks. The picture below, mutliply stolen, is one of the first views of the Gale crater where Curiosity touched down Sunday Night. One good site for news is

Lets be clear, the Curiosity was following in the footsteps of the Carl Sagan landers – Spirit and Opportunity. Like the Constellation project, this wasn’t a “great leap” for science, but a baby step forward, held by the hands of giants. Only the landing itself, retro rockets and cranes, was spectacular and new. By the by, that usually results in large craters.

NASA is a three time winner of the Andy and Casey award for Mad Science – so we are all surprised when it failed this week. Lessee if I can remember, a previous Mars Lander, The Comet Temple-Tuttle, and the Stardust mission. Despite the obvious loss to my cause “Bad Science Stage Shows” I can still appreciate that NASA has made it to Mars for a real science mission.

ps. Shout out to Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow 10th anniversary at Dragon Con 2012!

Unlike DARPA, which had a failure with a scramjet this week. Unfortunately the waverider was over water, so no crater could be found. *tear*

The X-51A Waverider was dropped from beneath the wing of a B52 bomber on Tuesday.

Still, a scramjet is an exciting project. It is notoriously tricky to get a jet up to speeds where it can ignite a scramjet. I don’t believe it is possible below MACH 5, and can move up to MACH 9 or higher. This is a speed on the order of 6800 mph, or 3 Km/s – called klips. A very fine velocity to have. Sure, missiles, rockets and NASA’s scramject go faster, but this is DARPA’s project and surely they aren’t wasting millions of dollars just to replicate some other agency’s findings…

The Engineer’s Baby – Sleep

Sleep has become a scheduling and engineering problem. Lets go over the variables.

Sleep. You have to have it, but there are only two of you. (If there are others, the problem becomes more manageable by leaps and bounds. Yeah, Mom came over for a week, we can run through another mother, but sooner or later we have to deal with the baby with just us.

Rule of Thumb – 4 hours. If you don’t get 4 hours in a row, you probably won’t be smart enough to drive in traffic in the morning. Sure, the little 1 hour and 2 hour naps help, but that is just with exhaustion. It is the 4 hour “deep sleeps” that keep your brain cells working. Doesn’t hurt to get two a night. Not likely with a baby.

The baby sleeps in 2 – 3 hour increments, so no, she doesn’t listen to your body’s stupid needs.

My wife is breastfeeding and pumping, but we do supplement with formula. I usually use 1 formula bottle and one breast-bottle every night.

1) I get the wife into bed before midnight. I take on the 11 pm or midnight feeding. I put her down, I crawl into bed for nap #1.
2) Baby gets me up between 1:30 and 3 am for her second feeding. The first thing to remember is to turn off the baby monitor as soon as you get up, this lets the long-sleeper sleep. This feeding is usually fomula because I don’t have to warm it up from the fridge. I dump 4 oz of purified water into a bottle, throw in a couple scoops of formula, and we’re off to the feeding. She is usually crying hard by then, so I don’t really like waiting 5 minutes to get the formula warmed up.
3) Put the baby down, turn the monitor back on, Nap number two…
4) If I’m lucky, she sleeps till 5 am, which is our designated hand-off point. If she wakes at 3:30 – 4, I’m back to the races. Hopefully I have a bottle of breast-milk in the fridge, or I’ll have to make a second formula bottle.  Heating breast milk is simple. Put the bottle in a coffee cup, put the cup in the sink, turn on the hot water. Go get the baby. Come back, shake the bottle, (When you shake the bottle the temperature drops from the exterior heat of the water to the interior temperature of the cold breast milk. )drop the bottle back into the cup. Sooner or later the bottle stays warmish when you shake it, then baby’ll drink it.
5) 5 am! Yeah, I go to bed and if the baby is awake, I wake the mommy. We’re both happier if she sleeps till 7 am, but hey, not likely.
6) 9 am, yeah, late for work. I need to move the handoff to 4 am, but that means getting the wife to bed before 11 pm. Not there yet. Too little time for the wife and I to have personal time.

I’ll tell you straight out, engineer or not, I know what a lack of personal time does to a relationship. You need to get hours in the day which are just you and your wife. Hard to do between baby, work, other children, etc, but make those hours happen.

I’m practically a profesional napper. maybe we could take it to the olympics. Hard to see a sport dominated by older men… but hey, I could follow the action in my wife’s recliner.
Thanks for listening,

The Engineer’s Baby

This is a new feature that I’ll be investigating for the next few posts. Well, maybe on and off for the next few years.  I’ll call it “The Engineer’s Baby” because, more than a mad science, baby raising ought to be a simple function of engineering processes. My baby, Dyani Elaine Altstatt, was born at 9:50 pm on July 27th. She was 8 lbs 4 oz and 21 inches in length. Born natural childbirth (more on that later.)

This isn’t my first baby, so don’t expect me to have a lot of “Gosh, I never expected that.” Goofy posts. I’ve been raising kids for nearly 30 years. One of my oldest friend’s sons is pushing 30, and I met him in the cradle. My own first-born is 22 years old in two days and  I have a 16 year old boy. They have given me a full education on child rearing.

But engineering isn’t about making a leap into the dark. It is about developing processes. What didn’t I know then that I know now? etc. This is how you develop processes and best practices. Baby Engineering 101

So lets start with the preliminaries. Pregnancy runs 35 – 42 weeks in the modern world. You have plenty of time to prepare. The woman involved will feel a lot more urgency than the man, especially if the man is an engineer. I don’t know the effect of the “nesting” hormones on a woman engineer, but they seem to be less effected.

NESTING – the woman will want a “special room” for the baby. Don’t bother working out how to fit the baby into your bedroom, which would be reasonable and all that. She doesn’t care. She wants a nest. The nest will have a bed, a cradle, a comfortable chair, a dresser and something special that was owned by her mother. It will probably need re-painting, curtains, and carpet before the furniture gets moved in.

I started this year without pay, so I understand dead broke as well as the next college student. Make sure that you and she agree on the room – the physical location of the baby room – before you get started. Get her opinion on paint, curtains, color scheme…heck, let her plan it… but 6 months before baby is born, get stripping and get the room prepped. You want a completed baby room (minus furniture) 3 months prior to expected date of birth. Get the orders for the furniture at the same time as you strip the room, because it takes months to get in some pieces. However, Baby’s R Us is fantastic about getting in the right piece in a few weeks. 

(By the way, she won’t appreciate any comments about a nest. It is the Baby Room, not a mommy room. Arguments about the baby not appreciating any particular piece of furniture are also not appropriate. It is clinical projection – the woman is literally the child right now – but don’t fight it. Making the mommy happy is 90% of your job, 10% is keeping the baby safe. If you can manage both of those, you are hitting the stride in the pregnancy phase.)

I could go on for hours about diet and exercise. Don’t let the mommy turn into a couch potato. Gestational Diabetes doesn’t always go away. Get her out and get her walking, every day. Chiropractors seems to help, back rubs and foot rubs. Eat healthy and … well … I put on 20 lbs from the ice cream and such. Hard not to eat it when it is in the house. Eat healthy and snack well. (Guys, the diet starts on day 1 back from the hospital, Ladies get a 6-week reprieve.)

Here is the last Big point. Though I’d be happy to talk/argue about any other pregnancy point. Talk to the hospital. Go to the damn classes. The whole thing, pregnancy and childbirth, is a pretty traumatic event even if you know what is going on. If you don’t…it is hard to imagine the mental damage until you have it. Also, talk costs with your doctor and your hospital. Because money can also bring a form of trauma.

Prices: Doctors vary too much to lay a price point. The cost without insurance runs around $3000 for the pregnancy and birth. With insurance it is a few hundred dollars.

The hospital will charge $10,000 if you let them. don’t. You can usually make a deal for a no insurance birth, paid up front, for considerably less. Like $6,000. For an insured birth, you will probably pay between $1500 and $2500. Again, too many variables for me, but here are some outside concepts.
1) talk to the office people (doctor/hospital)
2) get a price (up front/payments)
3) work out your finances, and get on a payment schedule for anything you can’t meet.

Yeah, even insured, babies can cost every cent you have. Keep your eyes open and your budget balanced. Figure out when you can pay what and work on it. Keep good records because you’re claiming everything on your taxes.

This is the first installment. I’d appreciate a comment or two to keep me in line. Thanks.
The Engineering Dad