Archive | August, 2012

bar mitzvah

31 Aug

We are going to the second nephew’s bar mitzvah this weekend. The last one was more or less a turning point in the family history. We’ll see how this one goes…


Dear Baby

23 Aug

You are just over 20 months now. In just a short turn of the season you’ll be 2. This past year has mostly been focused for me on keeping you alive, keeping you healthy, learning who you are becoming. I have found that the first 12 months required much more focus on physical tasks than psychological development. Poop. Food. Sleep. Naps. Brace. Rash. Croup. Nurse.

We have cleaned bottles, and diapers, and clothes; brushed hair and teeth; shushed and soothed, rocked and reassured. Everything is ok, you are safe, go back to sleep. Drink more water; eat your oatmeal mush. Your interior needs have been, until now, pretty basic. We have read to you and with you from the start, and we play and give comfort and encourage and cajole. When you were happy, you laughed. When you were sad or tired or hungry or scared, when you wanted a thing, or got too wound up, you cried. When you met something or someone new, you stared.

But this new you, you at almost two? You are getting to be a person, baby. On Sunday, sleeping in the pack-and-play beside our bed at the cousins’ house, you woke up before dawn. Rustle, rustle. Then: “big. city. bus.” And then back to sleep. Big city bus. I came into your room on Tuesday, and you looked into my eyes and said, “Doc Seuss cards?” The Doctor Seuss cards with letters and opposites? Sure. What does a sheep say? A fish? A cow? You know 20 of these, I am running out of animals whose sounds I can reproduce. A late walker, you are a very verbal toddler.

You take naps, sometimes an hour, occasionally as long as three! You sleep from 7pm to 6:15am, which keeps me on my toes and keeps mama sleepy most of the time. I suspect that this is part of your plan. You eat lots of fruit, blueberries and blackberries and raspberries. Bananas and sugar plums, grapes and apples. Although you used to eat spinach pie pretty regularly, it has become more challenging to find vegetables you like. You still eat the sweet potato and white bean baby food puree. If vegetables are fed to you in soup form – lentil, matzo ball, chicken – you are more likely to eat it. You eat steak, cut up into tiny pieces, joyfully calling out ‘meat!’ while you do so. Couscous and rice are in, chickpeas seem to be out. But when they are in falafel form, then you will eat a whole ball of them. For breakfast, you ate mush for a long time, and we are now graduating to oatmeal. Which, really, is just more adult mush. If anything is remotely hot, you look at it with disdain, ‘hot. hot. hot.’ We have to tell you, no it is not hot! Perfect! You can eat two cups of plain yogurt at a time. And you would do it every day if we let you.

You like to feed yourself, calling out ‘baby’s!’ for when you want to do it yourself. Your fine motor skills are good and getting better. You like to take bites that are too big, and your spoonfuls are too large as well. We have been telling you to tap-tap the spoon to get some of the food off of it. ‘Baby’s!’

I used to joke that we would have an easy, sleeping baby. And people laughed at us and said, just wait. But you were an easy infant. And then I said, no, we are not going to have one of those difficult toddlers, we ordered a nice, delicious, easy one. And they said, just wait. But so far Baby 1.5 is a super-easy baby.

And in the last week or so, we taught you to say, “I love you, papa. I love you, mama.” It sounds garbled and cute and smiley and brimming with life. I love you too.

Call me maybe

10 Aug

From my friend Jenn:

gfxCardStatus for MacBook Pro

10 Aug

Ok, more tech tips. On the late model (2008-2012) MacBook Pros, there are two graphics cards. If you want to see if this is the case for yours, go to the Apple Menu -> About this Mac -> More Info (and then System Report for mine). Under the Graphics / Displays tab, you will note that there are two listed.

For me, these are an AMD Radeon HD 6770M, and an Intel HD Graphics 3000. The Intel card is ‘integrated’, while the AMD card is ‘discrete’ (i.e., attached). When you need a higher-power graphics card, the Mac is supposed to automatically switch to the more power-hungry one. There is a toggle for this in System Preferences, under Energy Saver. But….

But the switcher kind of sucks, and most of what you are using your computer for does not require the discrete card. Plus, when you are on the go, or on the sofa, you often want more battery than higher graphics.

Sooooo, a college kid named Cody Krieger wrote a small piece of software that allows you to control this switching. I have mine set so that when it is running on battery power, it runs ‘integrated’, and when it is plugged in, it runs ‘dynamically.’

The upshot of this is that I am getting literally hours more battery life out of my laptop than I used to get.

There is an Ars Technica article about the hows and whys of this little piece of software. Highly recommend.


9 Aug

As part of NewsFree August, I thought I would include some tech-y tips. If it’s not your cup of tea, here are some cute pandas playing on a slide.

Ahh, torrent. Remember back in the day, when people told you that everything in the world is on Usenet? Actually it still is. But let’s leave that for the moment, and consider torrent. I am not giving a theoretical discussion about peer-to-peer networks and how they work (plus, you can find many many descriptions of p2p on the web if you want). From Michael Carrier’s paper on innovation and copyright (p10):

The defining characteristic of a p2p network is that the transfer of files is performed directly between users. Such a system stands in contrast to the client-server model, in which the data flows from server to client. In the client-server model, computer users request information from websites (servers) that is delivered to their computers (clients).

File-sharing on a p2p network is often facilitated by the compression of music into a digital file format known as MPEG Layer-3 (MP3), which speeds up transfers between computers. Networks that contain p2p architecture offer advantages over those implementing a client-server model. For starters, p2p scales more quickly and cheaply. Instead of clients lining up at the gates of a server, users rely only on their broadband connection, drive space, and local content to send files to and receive files from each other. In addition, p2p networks are more fault-tolerant and can handle a higher load than client-server models.

On the other hand, p2p networks significantly increase the likelihood and extent of copyright infringement. Users’ easy and instantaneous access to files vastly heightens the potential for widespread infringement.

But still, many of my tech-savvy friends don’t really know what torrenting is, or how to do it. Let’s go through this bit by bit. I am assuming you have a mac. If you have a PC, it is probably the same (though possibly a touch more likely you’ll download a virus accidentally, but I don’t know that for certain).

1. What is torrent?
Torrent is a file type, life a .pdf or a .doc. It is a .torrent file. This file contains the relevant information about the actual file you want to download. So, if you want to ‘torrent’ a concert file, you find the appropriate torrent, while will allow you to download the concert mp3 or whatever as a peer-to-peer file.

Think of the .torrent file as the map. You need the map.

2. What can I torrent?
All sorts of stuff. Much of it is illegal. Some is not. I am not advocating that you download files that are copyrighted. In fact, you could spend the rest of your days with the over 1 million downloadable music, books, and movies from the Internet Archive. It is the fastest way to get stuff from the Archives. Also, you can see Andy Baio’s data from 10 years of Pirating the Oscars. Interesting, right?

I think many games companies are using p2p now, I feel like Blizzard is using it internally to download their game clients (like Starcraft2, etc.). You don’t need extra software for this.

I know, this is like buying a bong at a head-shop, where people say they’d like to buy a ‘water pipe’ for herbs and stuff. I’m of two minds about this, but ultimately I don’t see how knowing how to do something illegal is the same thing as doing something illegal. Plus, you can use a damn 3D printer to print a frickin’ gun. Seriously. We have 99 problems and spreading knowledge of torrent is not one.

3. Where do I get torrents?
You can find lots of stuff at places like Isohunt, or the Pirate Bay. Go to this Wikipedia page on torrents. Read though to indexing/searching. Consider your options.

4. What do I do with a torrent once I found one?
Get a Bittorrent client. Oh, screw it. Just download Bittorrent.

Once you have that program, it will be able to ‘unpack’ .torrent files.

5. Can you give me some tips, tricks, expectation management?
Yes! A few things to know. First, if you are downloading something illegal, you are at risk of being sued for it. Given that Pirate Bay is like the 71st most popular site in the world, that risk is probably very small. This doesn’t make your actions morally or legally defensible. It just means you are unlikely to be prosecuted for them.

Second, if you are searching for a torrent, be sensible. It is possible you will be downloading a corrupted file, which will not play (read comments, sometimes they say something). Sort by the number of seeders, to increase your chances of getting the most popular torrents for the file you want. Often you can pick and choose individual files within a torrent pack. Minimizing size minimizes time to get it.

Third, you may end up with something like an .mkv file for video. Use VLC, or VideoLAN player, to watch it. It’s an open-source, play-most-everything program.

Fourth, it probably will take a long time to download something. This is because files are big, but also because your ISP is probably throttling your connection, especially when they detect that you are doing p2p. It’s not Netflix, you’re not going to be watching your video in 10 seconds. You might, but you might not.

6. So can you wrap this up, maybe like a workflow/step-by-step?

Do this:
a) Download Bittorrent. In preferences, you can manage how much of your bandwidth you want to use for uploads or downloads.

b) Download VLC.

c) Go to Pirate Bay, IsoHunt, the Internet Archive, etc., and search for something you want to see, hear, read.

d) Get the torrent, which will launch the bittorent client, which will download the file.

e) Wait.

f) Jellybeans!


8 Aug

You know all those times you’re thinking how awesome it would be to live in…Singapore? Because their creepy government-sponsored baby-making program is 100% awesome (via James Fallows). Happy National Night!

Cookie cookie cookie starts with ‘c’

7 Aug

What has two thumbs and made cookies this weekend? THIS GUY!!