Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gallant Eating

Gallant learned to eat this weekend.  It was fascinating.

He had two food blends.  One was steamed Asian pear mushed through a baby food mill and then mixed with infant rice cereal and formula powder.  The other was baked sweet potato mixed with infant rice cereal, formula powder, and some water.

(The rice cereal and formula powder add calories and iron as well as improving digestibility.  Constipated infants are no fun.  But perhaps "Constipated Infants" is a good name for a rock band.)

Friday night (and prior) he was only able to get food down if we touched the roof of his mouth after putting food in his mouth.  He would involuntarily push the food out of his mouth with his tongue unless we triggered his sucking reflex to override his gag reflex.  Holding a spoon in his mouth that way was awkward, so we fed him by putting the food on a fingertip and letting him suck on the finger.

Saturday he was able to eat from a spoon for a few bites each meal.  The standard infant spoon feeding method worked: wait for him to open his mouth, put in a spoon with food, pull out the spoon so the food is scraped off onto the top of his mouth and upper gums, and wait for him to swallow as much as will go down.  But at lunch his gag reflex returned after a few minutes, and we would again need to trigger swallowing.  At dinner time exhaustion was the problem: without the sucking reflex eating was too much effort and he almost did fall asleep sucking on my wife's fingertip.

Today was the first day he ate solid food at all three meal times.  He ate from a spoon in that standard way, and made surprisingly little mess.


For the non-parents who read this, eating solids is great news.  Infants who only have milk (or formula) for nourishment usually cannot sleep through the night.  They wake up hungry and needing to make wet poops.  Gallant was no exception, usually waking up every three or four hours.  He would fall asleep at 7pm or 8pm but then wake during the 11pm, 3am, and 5am hours with a diaper change required during the last two wakings.  But solids are more filling, take longer to digest, and produce fewer pooping times.  We might soon be able to get a six hour block of sleep!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dinosaur Livestock

 Many fantasy settings, including the one I am designing, include dinosaurs.

I was curious which dinosaurs would be used by people as livestock.  Unfortunately, searching the internet for the phrase "dinosaur livestock" merely informs you that Dinosaur, Colorado is a ranching town.

(Tangentially, it has a population of 320.  Is that still a town?  Do we have villages anymore?  I know historically that hamlets are too tiny to have a church whereas villages are larger but do not qualify as towns because they lack either the palisade wall or the regular market that attracts visiting merchants.)

Books about dinosaurs were quite simple when I was a child.  They all features a few dozen varieties.  We even believed in the brontosaurus back then.

For extinct animals, dinosaurs have apparently done very well during the past few decades.  Now there are hundreds of them.  I have no idea which are amazingly obscure and which are known to all today's five-year-old boy dinosaur fanatics.  So in my RPG I cannot simply list a few examples of dinosaur livestock.  Attempting to be specific will either confuse readers or doom me to recite a list of dozens of names.

The web's main resource for finding small dinosaurs seems to be the table at the bottom of a web page so brightly colored that at first I doubted its reliability.  But it seems to be well-researched.

As five examples, let's consider both carnivores and plant-eaters.

Among the "lizard-hipped" dinosaurs the saltopus and lesothosaurus are bipedal carnivores the size of rabbits or chickens.  As reptiles they lay eggs, so in a fantasy setting they might resemble chickens that also keep the farmer's rats under control.  But owning too many would make them difficult to feed and not cost-effective.

For plant-eating dinosaur livestock there were several varieties of sauropods suffering from insular dwarfism, including the magyarosaurus, europasaurus, and ohmdenosaurus.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I am enjoying learning how to play blues harmonica.  So far my instruction is from two library books.

Apparently there are three main elements to blues harmonica: trills, rifts, and bending notes down.  (A fourth element is making use of the Circle of Fifths to play five half-steps higher than the harmonica is tuned for.  But the musician need not think about this.)

Bending is a very organic endeavor involving mouth shape that is difficult to teach either with a book or in person, since no one else can see or feel the size and shape of your vocal cavity.  The tips are thus interestingly varied.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Playing the Harmonica, 2nd edition on page 120 lists its "Ten Tips for Bending Draw Notes"
  1. Think your notes lower
  2. Try whistling a high note and then a low note.  Then sing a hgh note followed by a low note.  Do you feel what happens to your vocal cavity and airflow?  You want to get that same feeling to bend your draw notes.
  3. Stay relaxed.  Place the harp deep into your mouth.  Maintain a controlled, focused airflow
  4. For starters, play a 4-draw and without doing anything else tilt the harmonica downward slowly.  You'll hear the pitch flatten.  You do not want to do this when bending a draw note.
  5. Focus on dropping your tongue flat against the bottom of your mouth, lowering your jaw, and opening your throat wide.  If you feel your nose pinch shut that's good.
  6. Purse (pinch) your lips slightly.  Don't overdo this.
  7. Mouth a "weeeh" vowel sound while drawing the note and then switch to an "aauh" vowel sound.
  8. Just think about sticking your jaw out there like Popeye the Sailor Man.  Stick it out and be proud.
  9. Practice bending with both the pucker technique (easier) and tongue-block technique.
  10. Do not breathe the air any harder.  Creating a draw (or blow) bend does not require more air.  Blowing or drawing harder only makes your bends more difficult.
For comparison, Blues Harmonica by Tom Ball on page 25 lists his tips, some of which are identical and other in direct opposition.
  1. Say "oooh - aaah - oooh - aaah" to yourself while drawing the note
  2. Say "oooy - oooy - oooy"
  3. Raise and/or lower your jaw a bit
  4. Shift your tongue back in your mouth
  5. Pinch the wind supply by tightening the tension in the throat
  6. Tense your lips slightly
  7. Suck harder!
UPDATE: For the sake of comparison, here are four websites with their lists of advice.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


The September 2011 Wellness Letter concluded with advice about spending money for happiness.
1. Buy more experiences and fewer material goods.  Experiences (vacations, education classes, concerts, shows, etc.) stick with us but the pleasure gained from a new possession quickly fades.

2. Spend money on others.  Giving activates brain areas associated with the happiness of receiving rewards, and produces happiness by strengthening social bonds.

3. The "buzz" of pleasure from a purchase wears of quickly even if the purchase is large.  Spend money on many small pleasures instead of one big purchase.

4. Delay the actual purchase.  Anticipation is often as significant a pleasure as ownership.

5. Prioritize spending to reduce your every-day hassles and make yourself feel a little spoiled each day.  This affects overall happiness much more than spending on occasional vacations or major life events.

6. Read product reviews to make sure your purchase actually causes people to become happier.
What do you think?

I would add to their second point.  Giving gifts is only half of a dynamic.  The other half is realizing that in one sense we do not really own our things (because when we die we cannot take them with us) and we do not really own what we have given away (because other people claim those)--so the only items we really own are what we are giving away right now.

Personally, the fifth item is key for me.  Because of my wife's celiac we do a lot of baking and the granite counter tops we has installed a few years ago are a huge help as well making our kitchen a nicer place to be.  Because of my tendon condition, allergies, and the hours I spend holding an infant our spa is a huge health benefit.  I'm not a gardener but I know folks who spend money to have a pretty garden which in turns helps them have more peace and rest each day.  Some items provide ongoing happiness, and those are key.

(Ironically, the fifth item is also the one I do worst at.  My family is way above average with thrifty lifestyle choices that save money but increase hassle: heating with a wood stove, using cloth diapers, grinding our own flour, baking our own bread and cookies, etc.)

Finally, I must be an oddball because for me anticipation has nearly zero pleasure.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Teems are Coming to Town

The other day Smiley was singing to himself: "The Teems are Coming to Town!  The Teems are Coming to Town!"

I could not tell whether he was saying teen, team, teem, or something else.  So I asked him, "What is a teem?"

He thought for a moment and then replied, "A teem is some who sings, 'The Teems are Coming to Town!'"

"So," I asked, "Does that make you a teem?  Because you sing that?"

He again paused to think.  "I'm still working on that," he replied.

Gallant's Busy Week

Yay!  That long-lasting cold is finally done.  But enough about me.  Little Gallant had an exciting last week.

On Tuesday he started reaching up to communicate that he wanted to be picked up from his high chair or exersaucer.  He does not always do this, but he does it more often than not and it's a help in knowing what he wants.

On Friday he learned to scoot himself backwards when on the floor on his tummy.  He hates this.  He wants to go forwards.  Previously he would push with his left arm more than his right arm and spin like a gimlet.  That at least gave him a different view.  Now he is retreating, which is progress in the world of muscle coordination but certainly does not seem like progress to him.

He also tried Asian Pears in his mesh feeder bag and loves them.  They are sweet and just the right firmness to provide a soothing challenge for his need to gnaw.  Last night he tried puréed carrot and tried to eat it but was not nearly as impressed.

His appetite is increasing.  A four-ounce bottle is now seldom sufficient.  We took from storage the rest of our eight-ounce glass baby bottles.

Last night Gallant even had a 4.5 hour stretch of sleep.  Woo hoo!  Some day my wife and I will again be able to sleep for six hours at a time.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


Sorry I have not been blogging much.  For two week's I have been under the weather, with the second cold Smiley brought home from his new preschool.

Right now Smiley is helping me mop the kitchen floor, which has not been mopped since Gallant was born five months ago.  Smiley is strong enough to use the mop's lever that squishes the sponge mop head.  The kitchen is only turning into a wading pool very slowly.
Me: My turn now.

Smiley: Why is it your turn?

Me: We mop to get the spots off the floor.  You are doing great with getting the floor wet.  But I do better at cleaning away the spots.

Smiley: Yes.  My job is to get the floor wet.  Your job is to get off the spots.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

BlendTec - Tropical Carrot Soup

Carrots are cheap.  Carrot soup is warming and nice in cold weather.  Time for a third blender soup!

  • 500 grams carrots, steamed (1 pound of carrots is close enough)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice

Put everything in the blender and blend on "soup".

(I steam the carrots by cutting them into thick "coin" slices and microwaving them for three or four minutes.  For coconut milk we use Trader Joe's Light Coconut Milk since that is what we have handy; if you use normal coconut milk you probably need less heavy cream.  For pineapple juice I use the juice from Costco canned pineapple chunks and eat the pineapple chunks separately as a snack.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Light the Fire Again

Yesterday I wrote that our dehydrator was currently enough to keep our house warm.

Well, this morning I lit a fire in our stove downstairs.  Not because of needing heat, but to help dry out the house.  Not only our windows, but even the inside of the front door was dripping wet this morning.

Five Times

Recall that I drink my yerba maté at one-fifth normal strength.

I noticed the package has a text box proclaiming "Antioxidant Power: When brewed as directed, this tea provides an ORAC value of 10,000 umolTE/240 m, which is  five times stronger than a typical cup of green tea brewed with a tea bag."

Is the five coincidence?  Or are the antioxidant-containing compounds what makes the drink seem "strong enough" for my taste?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

More Trick Less Treat

A few days ago I was at a party for Nathen and folks brainstormed how to make Halloween a bit more high tech using a computer with a wireless webcam.

Decorate the approach to your home.  Put up humorous signs or tombstones or something.  Make visiting trick-or-treaters move slowly past a well lit spot without noticing that you just took a photo of someone's face with the hidden webcam.  (If everyone in that group of trick-or-treaters is wearing a mask then take a group shot.)

When they ring the bell, play a spooky song.  This gives you time to print out that photo of a face and cut out they eye holes to make it into a mask.  Give the mask to your accomplice.

Answer the door and give them candy.  Talk a bit about their costumes or the candy or the weather.  Meanwhile, your accomplice leaves the house from another door and sneaks behind them, wearing a mask of one of them.

Say good night and smile.

Extra points if your accomplice is the family dog.

Gallant Gumming

Gallant is enjoying food.

His older brother started eating injera at six months.  Gallant is interested in food a month earlier, and has started trying to eat.  His list of tried foods has some other early photos.

Rice cereal was a bust.  He wants something to chew, not a nearly liquid substance.

Injera is his favorite.  His infant gag reflex is still too strong for him to get any appreciable amount down.  But he enjoys tasting it as it travels from his high chair tray to his bib and then to the floor.  Here is a photo from tonight's dinner.

Tonight he tried our mesh feeding bag for the first time, with avacado.  That was a great success.  The mesh end tasted interesting, and the handle end allowed a short break for some chewing-teething.

I think he consumed more avacado than injera tonight, even though much more injera went into his mouth.  If we actually cared about him eating food we would use the mesh bag more often.  But he is still young enough (a few days shy of five months) that eating is only for entertainment: his tasting and our enjoying a way he keeps himself occupied during dinner time.

Gallant's First Foods

Back in 2008-2009 I used my blog to keep track of when Smiley first ate different foods.

Might as well do the same for Gallant!  Only the first few will have photographs.
  • Oct. 5th - rice cereal
  • Oct. 24th - injera
  • November 1st - avacado
  • November 10th - Asian pear
  • November 13th - carrot (puréed, he was already teething on raw carrot hunks)
  • November 17th - sweet potato (microwaved 2 minutes for a nice texture for in the mesh bag--slightly squishy but not mushy, as well as puréed)
  • November 20th - oats (ground to be extra fine before made into oatmeal)
  • November 22th - applesauce
  • November 24th - pumpkin
  • November 30th - peaches
  • December 5th - great northern beans
  • December 7th - tomato
  • December 9th - corn 
  • December 13th - onion
  • December 16th - parsnips and beets 
  • December 19th - broccoli
  • December 23rd - cabbage
  • December 28th - potato
  • December 30th - orange (juice in squash and onion soup)
  • January 1st, 2012 - quinoa (ground to be a porridge, mixed with other foods)
  • January 2nd - pinto beans
  • January 6th - green beans 
  • January 9th - mango (nerd quip: "Mango is always yummy!")
  • January 12th - raspberry
  • January 17th - kiwi
  • January 20th - sunflower (in Trader Joe's sunflower butter) 
  • January 23rd - spinach (cooked - don't give babies raw spinach!)
  • January 29th - egg yolk
  • February 1st - yogurt and blueberries
  • February 7th - pineapple
  • February 28th - artichoke hearts


I do not mention our dehydrator often.  But we use it a lot.

This time of year it is especially nifty.  The temperatures (in Fahrenheit) are in the low 60s during the day and about 40 at night.  If we keep the dehydrator going and do some baking each day then we do not need to heat the house with the stove.

Last week our farmer friend Annette sold us a box of Asian pear "seconds".  These are great for dehydrating.  They dry in two days and taste like candy.

Our Nesco dehydrator is old enough I cannot find it for sale, but I think this one is the new version.  We like this model for two reasons.

First, the drying happens top-down.  This means the bottom is cool enough it will not hurt a wood floor or table.  It is also more pleasant to add trays while the machine is on if the air does not blow up into your face.

Second, it has at least 750 watts of heat.  The 450 watt models can only handle 4 to 6 trays at once.  Being able to dry 12 trays is nice.  (I can prepare eight trays of pears in about half an hour, and apples are even quicker with an apple peeler/corer.)