Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Big Day for Joshua

Today Joshua was baptized, and he also played Baby Jesus in the St. Francis Living Nativity.

A photo album can be found on Facebook here.

I'll have to write more about the whole day later -- too tired now!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Baby Sam and the Broken Wrist

We are all surviving the beginning of the end of 2008 reasonably well. Sam had a little accident and has a fractured wrist, and is now wearing a temporary splint which he is trying to eat, and in a day or two he will get a little cast he can use to bash his sister with. I say "fractured wrist" as if his hand were dangling at a funny angle or something, but really it is a tiny fracture hardly visible on the x-ray. It was hurting him, though. He took some kind of a spectacular spill off the bed and landed on a ukulele. It took us a while to figure out where he was hurting, since he is not quite verbal enough to just point and say "it hurts here!" and we could not find any bruises. We finally noticed that he was favoring his right hand where he is usually left-handed, and then if you squeezed the wrist in a certain spot it felt just a bit swollen, and he would complain. Anyway, he will heal quickly; apparently 2-year-olds heal broken bones in 3 weeks or less.

Veronica loves her new sibling. She was well-prepped. Sam -- it is hard to say. He had kind of a strange weaning. I think he was jealous of the baby before it even arrived and so started biting all the time when he nursed, and so he got negative feedback, and basically stopped nursing. Now he won't nurse even though he really is young enough to still nurse, and Grace has a milk surplus, so she is bottling it up to sell at Whole Foods. Just kidding. Sam is getting a little of the overflow from a cup. Joshua is quite overwhelmed, though. He is doing his best but sometimes just gets hosed down with milk and then he looks like a victim of some kind of dairy explosion.

Joshua is settling in although he is the fussiest baby we've had. For example, if he wets his diaper he insists that it be changed immediately, where Sam would go happily around for hours with his diaper sopping wet. Joshua wants to nurse every two hours pretty much to the minute, which makes it hard for Grace to get much sleep.

Are you an amateur radiologist? Did you spot the fracture? Click on the image to zoom in. The ER doctor showed me where it is. I've marked the approximate spot on this view, which was taken at a different angle, but I probably have the precise contour of the crack wrong; it is hard for me to tell since I haven't held real human bones in my hands like he has. The fracture is in the head of the bone where they often absorb impact and split slightly, which you could say might even be a design feature. It is interesting to note how few bones are visible in Sam's wrist. Most of the bones of the wrist have not calcified out of their cartilagenous precursors yet, which illustrates how flexible and shock-absorbing babies are!

One last shot: the bones on the right are in Sam's forearm. I was holding Sam on my lap, and holding his arm in position while they shot the x-rays, with my own lead apron on. I think the extra bones are some of my fingers at an odd angle since my hand was wrapped around his arm, and the stitching on my sleeve seems to be visible as well.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Crystal Head

John Hodgman is right - it does have a very clean flavor with very slight syrupy after-taste. It's pretty good vodka. But the main reason for buying it, of course, is because the bottle is really cool.

It is the preferred beverage of mole-men everywhere.

It isn't carved out of a solid quartz crystal. There's a seam in the glass. But the detail on the head is still quite nice. It isn't a real cork.

In these times of economic uncertainty, wouldn't you prefer a beverage that, whenever you drink it, reminds you of your own eventual death? I thought so!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bad Dad! No Biscuit!

Grace left me in charge of the baby while she went upstairs to take a shower. Next time she will know better!

Think of it as my revenge for all the middle-of-the-night banshee wailing.

Paging Aphex Twin!

Paging Whitley Streiber!

Paging David Lynch! White courtesy telephone, please!

But seriously... he's actually getting bigger by the hour, given that his input and output seem to run almost continually. He's getting more comfortable away from his mom, and is starting to spend a lot more time looking around without looking terrified. He cries less, his cord stump fell off, he's training for the Olympics, and his application to MIT was just accepted. All good!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Baby Update

I am off work this week, although I wound up spending a few hours at the office to help out with some code issues. Joshua is doing well and nursing steadily away trying to get bigger, although in numerous small meals which makes it a bit challenging for Grace. He is not sleeping very well during the night, which means that Grace and I are also not sleeping very well during the night. He does take some longer naps during the day, so maybe his day/night cycle is just turned around a bit (kind of like his dad's is normally). After three very easy babies, this may be the one that is a little more challenging!

He's a nervous little guy, as you can see in these webcam snaps I took just a moment ago.

Thanks to Colleen Tassie, Grace McGrath, Claudia Sauer, and John and Regan Scudder for bringing us wonderful food to help out.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Noob

Joshua Gregory Potts, born 29 Oct 2008 at 11:28 a.m.

6 pounds 3 ounces (actually it turns out something like 6 pounds 2.4 ounces, but the former number got recorded). 18.5 inches long (18 on birth certificate). He's full-term but a bit small. Mother and baby are doing fine. Of the various relatives, he seems to most closely resemble Grace's father James Benjamin, who died last year.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

YouTube Can't Quite Count

Count them, then look at the number of videos YouTube says I have, then count them again. D'oh!

The problem persists after reloading the page and in several other views of my content. Weird! I'll have to check back in a day or two and see if the problem might be some kind of database synchronization.

My user page is

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sam's Second Birthday

The party was extremely modest. Sam requested a meal of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so that is what we had for dinner.

He was quite excited.

Proud Mom and sister.

Proud Isaac (with his new glasses).

Proud Dad.

Next, the cake, the blowing out of candles, and the eating. These are stills taken from a movie I recorded on my camera, which is a fairly cheap camera. My apologies for the poor image quality.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Family that Bathes Together, Thtayths Together

Tub: dirty. Babies: clean.

I was gonna include on of Isaac in the shower, but he didn't like that idea for some reason.

A Young David Lynch with Rubber Duckies

Samuel Ambrose Potts, age 23 months, contemplates his first film, "Duckiehead."

Enjoy them -- I nearly ruined my camera to get this shot. It shorted out from the steam and shut down, but seems to have recovered, although the last few files it wrote to the flash card were corrupted.

The Sign of a Spotless Mind

Potts House Media world headquarters.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Science by Mail, Packages 11-16

More element samples and other nifty things to show to students.

Here is a sample for Carbon: a really magnificent, shiny, hand-filling piece of anthracite coal. Most young people living in 2008 have probably never handled a piece of coal, but it is stuff of great significance, since it is our biggest greenhouse gas producer and the source of most of our electricity.

I also already had some small pieces of natural graphite and some small pieces of jet, which is a coal-like substance that also formed from fossilized plant material, but wood in particular. Jet is very cool stuff and someday I'd like to stumble across a real Victorian-era necklace of genuine faceted hard jet pieces, but this mourning jewelry seems to have had a resurgence among modern goths, so the real stuff has become rather expensive. (If you want to find something really creepy, though, look for Victorian hair jewelry -- not jewelry that goes in your hair, but jewelry made of hair).

But I digress, as usual. The next package contained a sample of crude oil. Given how important this is to our infrastructure and daily lives, you'd thing we'd be more familiar with the raw material, but just like we generally buy cartons of milk without seeing cows, we fill our cars with gas without seeing what the source material looks like. It's thinner and runnier than you might expect. People used to drink it as a tonic. (NOTE: I can't advise that). We might pour some out so people can smell it and touch it.

Another stand-in for diamonds, these look even more like diamonds than the "Herkimer Diamond" quartz crystals. These are cubic zirconia. They actually look brighter and prettier than real diamonds, but don't tell DeBeers. If the large one were real real it would be a 6.5 carat flawless cut diamond worth... well, Google diamond prices for yourself. Let's just say I could probably retire. The fake one cost me $10.

Next up, a sample of gallium. Gallium is a metal that melts at about 86 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, it melts in your hand, although it might take a long time to get it to melt completely. My sample came in a polyethylene bag, and I probably shouldn't have put it in a glass jar, for a couple of reasons. The first is that it expands when it freezes, like water, so it could crack the jar. I wouldn't want to have it spill -- it's both expensive and very messy. The second is that it sticks to glass, which means if you shake up the jar, it will coat the inside and you won't be able to see in, unless you melt it again and scrape it off the sides somehow.

Gallium is not toxic like mercury; you can hold it in your hand, if you want to. But you probably don't want to, since it sticks to everything, and leaves a powdery, gray residue on your hands. So it pours like mercury, but mercury doesn't stick to glass like this and so is a lot cooler to pour or shake. I actually own some mercury, but I keep it sealed up in a jar inside a tin -- because of its toxicity I don't want to run the risk of a spill.

Another weird property of gallium is that it supercools. After you get it liquid, it takes forever to get it solid again. You can cool it far below its melting point -- I had the jar lying sideways in the freezer -- and it was very cold to the touch, but after an hour, some of it was still liquid. Very weird stuff. I'll have to see if I can find a more suitable container for it -- some kind of teflon-like plastic that it won't stick to would be nice, but it would also be nice if it were transparent. I'm not sure there's a plastic that meets both those requirements. I should ask Theodore Gray.

The jar is one of those tiny single-serving Heinz ketchup jars that you sometimes get in hotel room service meals. They're useful for all kinds of things.

The next item is not really an element: it's to illustrate the distinction between silicone and silicon. Silicon is an element; silicone is a whole family of compounds ranging from rubber-like materials to caulk to a dry-cleaning solvent. Silicone contains silicon. These are some of those awareness-raising rubber bracelets, in this case for breast cancer, which killed my mother in 2008.

Finally, this is a sample of calcium, which as you can see in its pure state is a metal. It oxidizes (and produces a nitride) giving itself a gray/black coating rapidly in air, especially humid air, so this sample is submerged in mineral oil, in another little glass jar wrapped with tape.

It was very blackened when I got it, which kind of ruined the effect -- the whole point was that it should look like a shiny metal, because we don't think of calcium that way. So I took it out of the oil and polished it up with a piece of emery paper, removing all the oxidation I could easily take off without sanding away too much of my sample. It's not dangerously explosive or inflammable like sodium, although it oxidizes quickly enough that if you left the dry metal out for -- I don't know, maybe an hour or two, maybe a day or two -- it would be completely gray/black with oxidation again.

Will it stay shiny in the oil indefinitely, or does oil hold dissolved oxygen that will oxidize it, just more slowly? I must confess I have no idea. I think for a really bright shiny sample you need to get a freshly cut and polished piece that is ampouled under argon gas.

That's all for this round. The packages have slowed down to a trickle! There are still a few more coming, though, most notably the iodine, silicon, and the gas discharge tubes and apparatus (that should make some nifty photos!)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Esquire Magazine's E-Ink Cover

First, the magazine cover, in two of the states it cycles through:

There's a car ad on the opposite side of the cover. I'm guessing that's what funded the whole thing. It's really unimpressive, though, and doesn't look as good as the cover; it just highlights parts of the wheels and sections of the body to give a vague impression of motion.

Ripping open the cover is easy, with a little care, and from there's it's just a matter of carefully peeling off some clear tape and pulling the panels free of their glue without bending them too badly or tearing one of the ribbon cables.

The apparatus, consisting of two panels and a circuit/battery board, and aforementioned ribbon cables:

The two panels detached. Note that unlike an LCD, even with the power removed the panel stays in the last state that it was set to.

No, I didn't break it... if I reattach the ribbon cables, the panels start animating again.

The colored sheets that overlay the panels, to give the display some color:

So, overall, the E-Ink thing is a bit of a gimmick; if they had just wanted to make the thing eye-catching, they probably could have done it cheaper by lighting up parts of the cover using some tiny LEDs. It isn't like the whole magazine came on an E-Ink screen and you could read the whole thing on it. That would have impressed me.

Can it be hacked? Well, there's not really very much here. The panels aren't true E-Ink the way the Kindle is; it isn't dot-addressable. It is like a calculator LCD, containing a series of pre-printed regions that can light up or go dark. So probably the best you could do to hack it is to drive the different segments in a different order, faster of slower. Someone could make it sound-responsive. But you can only activate and deactivate the existing segments; you couldn't, for example, rewire it to turn on and off individual characters, and certainly can't draw your own characters or display some other kind of picture. A bit disappointing as far as hacking potential goes. I'm willing to be proven wrong, though -- people are endlessly inventive!