Archive for January, 2012

Recommended Reading: Breastfeeding in The American Philatelist

My father-in-law is dabbling in stamp collecting and as part of his hobby he receives a copy of the The American Philatelist. The January 2012 issue has an absolutely fascinating article by William Moskoff entitled “The Campaign To Reduce Infant Mortality in the Soviet Union 1917–1939”.

With women in the factory workforce, Russia started to experience a tragic infant mortality rate. “In 1917 infant mortality was 350 for every 1,000 live births among women who worked in factories.” Moskoff writes and notes that was 2.7–3.5 times higher than the U.S.

Recognizing the issue, Russia took measures to educate its people. How did they deliver their message? Postal materials! Postcards and stamps provided instruction on topics such as how to bathe a child and how only doctors should remove bugs from a child’s ear (apparently common enough to warrant a postcard). Another thing the propaganda prescribed… breastfeeding!

“Nothing can substitute for the milk and heart of a mother.”
-Caption from a Government Sponsored Postcard, 1920

I thoroughly enjoyed the article and appreciate all the research William Moskoff put into it. Definitely check it out… at the very least to learn about the soskas rural infants were given while their mothers were working. Crazy!

You can read the article online here and download a full PDF of the The American Philatelist from the same site.

January 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm Leave a comment


Well it has been a while since I did one of theses posts, but I just happened to be looking at my Site Stats and I realized I just passed 800,000 views on January 23, 2012.

# of Views Date
0 March 3, 2006
100,000 July 16, 2007
200,000 March 5, 2008
300,000 September 26, 2008
400,000 April 12, 2009
500,000 ~December 15, 2009
600,000 ???
700,000 ???
800,000 January 23, 2012

As always, thanks for visiting!

January 25, 2012 at 11:40 pm 2 comments

New Appreciation For…The Sparkles Girl (Sad Packer Fan)

Yesterday morning I enjoyed feeling smug and superior to a young lady featured in a YouTube video entitled, “Sad Packer Fan” (Hat Tip, @HokiePhotog).

In the video, the main character is distraught at Green Bay’s recent playoff loss.  She really, really, really wanted to see them win the Super Bowl and even went to the effort of painting her fingernails with green sparkles to secure a win.  Although she had the best intentions, that gesture backfired and undermined the very team she sought to help.

Oh I laughed at her silliness, forwarded along the link and laughed some more and then went about my daily business.  On the agenda besides work — our “Solid Food Initiative” with little Sagan.  On Monday, Sagan had been to the pediatrician and when we described how much milk he was eating overnight, the doctor recommended increasing his intake of baby food.  And truth be known, we were being a little lackadaisical with solids thus far.  In the past weeks, he’s tried a variety of vegetables and ingested his fair share of rice cereal, but it wasn’t an every day occurrence.

So yesterday, we decided to take the initiative seriously.  In addition to his usual breast milk intake, Sagan had two meals of rice cereal and then in the evening he had what we thought was a pretty hearty supper of green beans and breast milk.

Alas, last night he woke up numerous times and all in all ingested roughly 13 ounces of breast milk.  13 ounces!  That was twice as much as he was eating at night when we talked to the pediatrician AND about the same amount he ingests when he is at part-time daycare… you know, during the actual day.

His consumption was so much, I had to do an emergency unplanned pumping session in the middle of the night (I often have planned pumping sessions at night which is a different story).  On the outside, I may have looked stoic, quietly trying to find some kind of comfortable position to hold my head so I could rest my eyes.  But on the inside I was that Packer Fan!!!

Instead of blubbering on about sparkles, however, my thoughts were centered on another item of the same color.


I have no doubt our little family will eventually figure out this whole solid food thing.  In the meantime, though, maybe I shouldn’t laugh so hard at people on the Internet.

I am just one more sleepless night away from completing my transition into the Sparkles Girl! : )


January 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm 3 comments

Redundancy – Routers, Switches…and Pacifiers

Hardware is not my forte, but I know enough to know the advantages of redundancy. The vendor that hosts all our web applications knows that as well. Every vital component needed to keep our sites going are doubled up. If any one of those components fail, a replacement steps up to the plate. They do this with network switches, routers and even power. They also offer georedundancy. You can have duplicate copies of your servers in multiple cities. If say the Charlotte, North Carolina server goes down, the Chattanooga, Tennessee server can take over.

Illustration of Network Redundancy (Source: Cisco)

Ryan and I waited nine weeks before introducing Sagan to the pacifier. It was well-received. I believe Ryan even used the word “miracle”. Once we introduced the pacifier, some peculiar Sagan behavior suddenly started to make a heck of a lot of sense. He liked to suck for comfort. When you are sucking on a bottle, you are always going to get milk regardless of your hunger level. Sometimes Sagan wanted to suck without milk. Of course, we didn’t know this. Sagan would cry for his bottle and then smack it away…and then cry for the bottle again. We just thought he was an indecisive little dude. Once we saw him with the pacifier we realized– he knew exactly what he wanted all along.

That pacifier has become such a key component (for the time being), we can’t risk having a single failure point… especially considering my mother’s miniature pinscher has developed a taste for them. We practice a mini version of geo-redundancy. We keep pacifiers in our bedroom, our living room and the car. As an added safeguard, each location usually has its own redundant supply.

If one pacifier goes down [on the dirty floor] or is eaten or lost, there is another to take its place.

Redundant Pacifiers
Redundant Pacifiers

We also have redundant supplies of diapers, wipes, clothes, blankets…and of course, key breast pump components.

We may not have the five nines of uptime, but just like with networks, redundancy helps keep our operations running smoothly. 🙂

January 5, 2012 at 11:25 pm 2 comments

The Samurai and Spit Up

Samurai 1890

Whenever we are caught in a rain storm, Ryan walks calmly. His precipitation velocity is equal to his non-precipitation velocity.

“The Samurai doesn’t run in the rain,” Ryan paraphrases Misuyuki’s Five Rings, “He accepts his drenching with dignity.”

I take a similiar approach with Sagan’s spit up. It happens and when it does, I may wipe up Sagan promptly, but I’m really in no hurry to rectify my own garments. I accept the return of my own milk with dignity.

When Sagan spits up on other people, however, the situation is radically different. I snag the nearest towel, bib, blanket, clean diapie, used napkin, crumbled up receipt or whatever else may be handy and hurry to dab up the mess.

Over the holidays, Sagan’s Uncle Jason held the prize of receiving the most spit up. Christmas Eve Eve, Sagan had a big meal followed by a vigorous playing session. Soon enough Sagan’s supper waterfalled out of his mouth right onto Uncle Jason’s lap.

“Oh! Oh!” I stammered as my eyes scanned the immediate area for a blanket. I spied one on the coffee table. I snagged it and rushed over to Jason to help. Now armed with the appropriate equipment, I leaned in.  Suddenly I froze.  I looked at my outstretched arm.  It was just a centimeter or two from its destination.  

“Uh…..Maybe [your girlfriend] should clean this one up.”

So here’s my revised spit-up cleanup policy:

Scenario Priority
Spit up on yourself Samurai Mode – Can Wait
Spit up on other people’s shoulders and arms Top Priority – Clean up ASAP
Spit up on other people’s crotches Delegate

Drawing above by Kamikasineo

January 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm 4 comments

Favorite Tree of 2011, Punctuation Category

On Christmas Day I met a retired park ranger and had a most delightful conversation with him.  I knew we were going to get along when I asked him what his favorite type of tree was and he broke his answer down in categories (Flowering tree, general use tree, shade tree, etc).

He’s a wise man.  I would have a similar issue trying to narrow down my favorite type of tree.  I would even be challenged to pick my single favorite tree of 2011.  But if I were to be asked, “What’s your favorite single tree in 2011 that resembled a punctuation mark?” well, then, that’s a question I could provide a definitive answer to!

Ryan, Sagan and I ran across this “Exclamation Point Tree” (or if you would prefer, “Bang Tree”) on the Bull Run Occoquan Trail between Bull Run Regional Park and Hemlock Overlook.

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Exclamation Point Tree
Bang Tree

So there you go! My Favorite Tree of 2011, Punctuation Category.

January 1, 2012 at 11:28 pm Leave a comment

Some Things That Did Not Get Blogged About in 2011

Well, goodbye 2011! I’ve seen a number of blogs highlight their favorite posts of the year. I’m going to highlight some of the forgotten posts– the ones I never got around to writing. 🙂

Billy Goat Trail – A Return Trip

Billy Goat Trail - Greg, Ryan and Ryan Climb Rock Wall

My Birthday Hike this year was on Maryland’s Billy Goat Trail along the Potomac River. Ryan and I thought it would be fun to do a group hike on that trail. As luck would have it, my friend Greg Z organized a group hike that following month. The weather was sketchy at first and we did have to wait out a storm under a bridge, but after that we had the trail almost all to ourselves.
Billy Goat Trail - Purple and Blue Wildflowers

My favorite part– my friend Greg Z told me when some of the people in the group were struggling on the rocks, he watched me get further and further ahead. Apparently he pointed and said, “THAT’s the one that’s pregnant.”

We walked the trail the opposite direction Ryan and I took in March. It was nice to see the trail from a different perspective. Also since it was a month later, we got to see wildflowers bloom!

A Most Pleasant Day

Mother’s Day Weekend, Ryan and I went down to visit our old neighborhood in Elizabeth City. We shared honeysuckle in our yard with some of the neighborhood kids. When Ryan went to shake Khalif’s hand, Khalif would have none of it.

“Nah, man.” Khalif said, “We hug.” And so they did. I believe that was our first neighborhood kid hug.

I was six months pregnant at the time and some of the kids marveled at how fat I was.

“It’s only temporary,” Ryan chimed in. Then when the subject came up again, “The pounds are going to just melt off.” Although he directed his statements to the kids, I know who his real target audience was! He was making sure his wife kept her self esteem in tact. : )

We went by Earth 383 for Free Comic Book Day. A number of the neighborhood kids joined us and Ryan organized a large game of RoboRally.

Elizabeth City May 2011 Visit - Moving RoboRally Pieces

One family wasn’t present, so the dogs and I walked over to their new home. When I was still a block away, the youngest kids spotted us and started shouting out my name. They ran inside and their older siblings emerged. The 17-year old son who always seemed somewhat indifferent, came running out with the biggest smile and hugged me in the middle of the street. I spent the remainder of our time in Elizabeth City visiting with that family.

Elizabeth City May 2011 Visit - Vicky and Vick (By Ryan Somma)

The next stop was Ryan’s parent’s house in Virginia Beach. When we returned home, I went swimming in the lake behind their house with my sister-in-law and her fiance. The water was the perfect temperature and it was so pleasant and relaxing to be swimming by manicured back yards along side of ducks and seagulls.

We finished our day with a big family dinner at a local Vietnamese restaurant. There, I got my very first Mother’s Day card… that Ryan had secretly gotten his relatives to sign. It was a great day from start to finish.

My Relatives Kick Ass…Literally

New York Shaolin Test Day - Rachelle with Broad Sword
In May, Ryan and I got to visit the New York Botanical Gardens and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. That was just an added bonus though. We were really in New York to watch my sister-in-law test for her black belt in Shao-Lin. All the forms she and her classmates had to remember and execute was simply awe-inspiring. That afternoon also brought me the worst heartburn of my entire pregnancy courtesy of a “Magic Bar” I bought as a concession. I still made it through the entire gestation period Tums-Free.


Seattle Bug Safari

Seattle Bug Safari - Goliath Bird Eater Tarantula 4 (By Ryan Somma)
In May, Ryan and I visited Seattle. Our outings were blogged about except the Seattle Bug Safari. We very much enjoyed our visit there. The employee working that day was extremely friendly and informative. You could also see that they take their Yelp reviews seriously. One of the reviews indicated that people were getting confused and thinking the Gift Shop was the extent of the business. When we arrived, there were signs making it clear the Bug Zoo was in the back.

Annual Black Friday Cookie Decorating

Cookie Decorating - Sagan Decorating with Daddy
My family held our annual Black Friday Cookie Decorating again this year. Although we were late on the invites, it was heavily attended. When all the sugar cookies got decorated, some enterprising young girls started to decorate the other variety of cookies. Sagan also decorated his first cookie (with Daddy’s help).


Bull Run Occoquan Trail – Bull Run Regional Park to Hemlock Overlook

Bull Run Occoquan Trail - Henry, Sagan, Vicky (By Ryan Somma)
In December, Ryan started playing Skyrim. The scenery in that game is amazing and Ryan found all the walking in the game made him want to get out and do a real hike. So on December 3rd, our family took on a one way trip along the Bull Run Occoquan Trail. We traveled 7.5 miles from Bull Run Regional Park to Hemlock Overlook. This section may not have been as scenic as Skyrim, but it was still gorgeous in its own right. You walk along the water, get to see some rapids, pass by a memorial pet rock pile and see some neat trees along the way. This outing was Sagan’s longest hike to date (post birth).

January 1, 2012 at 11:02 am 2 comments

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