12/25/08 - Merry Christmas

I seriously doubt anyone will be checking my website on the 25th of december, but I hope everyone has a great Christmas. Forget about the presents, remember what the true meaning of Christmas is. If you aren't religious or simply scoff at the concept of Christianity, that's fine, but at least realize that the holiday has turned into a sorry excuse for marketing. Spend the holidays with family, friends and enjoying the time you have, not the things you have.


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12/22/08 - Advanced Math and the 12 Days of Christmas

For those of you who don't know, I have a bachelor's degree in Computer Science with a minor in math. I'm 1/3 of the way to getting my master's in Applied Computing (but have no plans on going back to finish...that's a story for a different post). At one point, my desire was to get my master's in math, but UCA did not offer the degree path I wanted to take. I say that, only to explain why this next posts makes sense on my blog. I LOVE math, problems, numbers and any combination of those.

At my work Christmas party, there were several games and prizes and one of the questiosn during one of the games was to calculate how many total gifts were received during the 12 Days of Christmas. For those not familar with the song, here are the lyrics.

Before I go any further, I want to explain that I will be using fairly complex mathematical equations, so if you are geniunly terrified of the entire subject of math (which I've met several people who are), I recommend that you stop reading now. Also, as a disclaimer, some purists would say that two gifts are received during the first day of giving, both the partridge and the pear tree, but I do not view it this way, it is considered all one gift in my book. Other versions of this problem state that the maids a milking had to be milking something and therefore you have to count those items as well. The drummers included a drum and drumsticks, so on and so forth. For simplicity, I am considering each item to be the actual number as stated in the snog.

At first thought, it seems simple enough, just add 1 for the first day, 2 for the 2nd day, and so on until you add 12 for the 12th and final day. Or basically, a summation of the numbers 1-12. This can be denoted as follows:

The answer to this equation, is of course 78, but that answer would be incorrect, because we simply calculated how many gifts were received on the 12th day. If you go back and look at the lyrics, by the end of the song, the receiver of gifts has been given a total of 12 partridges in a pear tree. This means that on day 1 they receive 1 gift, day 2 they receive a total of 3 gifts, and on day 3 they receive 6 gifts. This is a double summation problem as denoted in the following equation:
\sum_{n=1}^{12} ({\sum_{m=1}^{n} m})

This is not quite as easy to solve, but with the help of simple summation rules, we can get it down to a simplied version. Those rules I'm referring to can be found, summarized and explained on these two websites: yongyoon.net PDF File and UCDavis Summation Rules page.

Summation Rule 2 on the UCDavis page says that we can simplify to this equation:
\sum_{n=1}^{12} \frac{n(n + 1)}{2}} = \sum_{n=1}^{12} \frac{n^2 + n}{2}}

By using Rule 1 and Rule 2 found in the yongyoon.net PDF file, the following equation jumps back to something a little more complicated, as follows:
\frac{\sum_{n=1}^{12}n^2 + \sum_{n=1}^{12}n}{2}}

Now using Rules 2 and 3 from the UCDavis page again, we can simplify further, removing the summation sybol (sigma) completely:
\frac{\frac{n(n+1)(2n+1)}{6} + \frac{n(n+1)}{2}}{2}}

When n=12, as we are solving for, we simplify this even further to the following, easily solved equation, which as you can see gives the magical answer of 364.
\frac{\frac{{12}({12}+1)(2*{12}+1)}{6} + \frac{{12}({12}+1)}{2}}{2}} = 364

In summary, the whole point of this was to solve mathematically, the total number of gifts received during the song "12 Days of Christmas". The basic premise is that the base equation is a double summation. Every day, the receiver gets that days presents as well as a repeat of all the previous days. For simplicity, here is the "final answer":
\sum_{n=1}^{12} ({\sum_{m=1}^{n} m}) = 364

*To create the fancy LaTex images, I used Roger's Online Equation Editor. It appears that it is a free resource, and he even offers hosting of the images provided. Although I do not generate much traffic at all, I didn't want to steal any of this bandwidth and therefore am hosting the images on my own site.


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12/19/08 - When it comes to Makenna...I'm in trouble

I have another update on how fast Makenna seems to be progressing lately. While doing our stand up practice, she started falling forwards, i would catch her, make a noise and stand her back up. First of all, she thought this was hilarious. Second, after a few times of this, she realized she could move her legs and as she fell, would take one step and keep on falling. A few times, she got two or three quick leg movements in (I don't really call them true steps just yet). So that was part of the progress we made last night.

Another thing I found out is that she thinks that sneezes are hilarious. If she knew who comedians were, she would probably rank sneezing up there with Mitch Hedberg and George Carlin. About a week ago, Raider sneezed and she laughed but I wrote it off, since pretty much everything Raider does is either interesting or funny to her. Two days ago though, Cristi's mom sneezed and Makenna laughed, followed by Cristi's sneeze a little while later and she laughed again. Well, last night, I had a real sneeze that made her giggle, so I faked a sneeze and she laughed again. Well, since I think her laugh is one of the most precious noises I've ever heard, I kept "sneezing" and she kept laughing. That took about 10 minutes of our time and I wouldn't trade that time for anything.

Another piece of progress we made was that she sat up for the first time. At least, it's the first time I've ever seen her do it. She was on her stomach, she rocked around a little to her hands and knees and eventually into a sitting position. She only did it once all night, but it was exciting for me. Especially since at her doctor's appointment yesterday, as the doctor went through the list of developmental items that she should be doing, she was not able to be checked off on several of those. The doctor said that she is still in an average range, but just like any other respectable parent, I have hopes that Makenna will be above average.

So, now to the reason that I'm in trouble. When she sat up, and got me excited. It has been my practice that anytime she does something really good, I clap and in my normal voice, say "Yeah!". Well, I was truly excited about her sitting up so I guess I got a little louder than normal. No more than 2 seconds after I screamed "Yeah!" my heart was torn out of my chest, stomped on and sent through a grinder, because I scared her to death. Her arms went straight out to her side, eyes as big as saucers, mouth as wide as it would go and a shriek that no baby should ever have to make. I can not explain to you how bad I felt that I did that to her. All I could do was hug her and cry. Laugh if you want that I cried about it, but I am not someone who cries at anything (ask my wife...she's tried to get me to cry). Of course, about 5 seconds after I reached over and grabbed her and hugged her she was ready to start playing again and started patting my head and laughing. I wish my memory could be so short, because I can not get that pitiful image out of my head of her so scared. So if she can have that much of an impact on me now, I am scared to death to know how I'm going to be able to handle her when she gets olders.


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12/18/08 - My baby girl is turning into a big girl.

A couple nights ago, Makenna and I were playing in the floor where she now likes to pull herself up on my chest and lean on me. She has been doing this for the past week or so, maybe a couple of weeks, and she has gotten better and better at being able to pull herself to a standing/leaning position. I do believe that simply standing up is her new most favorite thing to do.

Let me go back several months, probably 8 or so. Since she has been able to support her head, she has always been able to support her weight on her legs. If you stood her up and let her feet touch a solid surface, she would straighten her legs and be kind of wobbly. You couldn't let go of her for a split second because she would fall, but I found it interesting that she was able to do that at such an early age.

Since then, every once in a while, in an attempt to help train her muscles, I would let her wobble and fall (safely, I always caught her or made sure there were plenty of pillows blankets and soft stuff to pad her falls). She never really did get the hang of it, but eventually she learned how to always fall backwards, and always land on her butt instead of just falling straight back.

So the other night, I thought it would be fun to do that again and see if anything had changed. Well, to my surprise, she stood there....and stood there....and then about 5-10 seconds later, she finally fell backwards. At only 5-10 seconds, that isn't a big deal, but the big part of it was that as she would wobble, she was correcting herself and standing back up. She did take a step at one point, but it was not intentional and it resulted in an immediate collapse.

That is going to be our new game now though since she has figured out how to pull herself up, I'm going to start letting go and helping her train those balance muscles. Considering that she has yet to crawl and starts crying if she is on her stomach for more than 15 seconds, I'm pretty sure she will be mobile via walking well before she crawls.

Cristi got pictures of all this going on, and possibly some movies, but since I'm at work, I don't have access to that. I'm sure she will put them up on her website in the next couple of days.


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12/16/08 - I love the ice...

This morning in Central Arkansas, pretty much everything was covered in ice. The roads were slick, the bridges where slicker and you couldn't hardly walk on sidewalks and driveways. This means that the entire state shuts down, stock prices for Campbell's Soup soars and you can't find bread or milk in a 2 county radius.

This is the time that I really enjoy. I've always liked the challenge of driving in inclement weather. This has been the case for as long as I have been able to drive. At least since I was 18 anyways when I got stuck for the first time in my red truck. It was only two wheel drive, and for some reason on the way up a slight incline, the cars in front of me decided to stop. I was able to stop with no problems but when I tried to go forward again, I slid backwards just off the side of the road and had to come back the next day with Cristi's great uncle to get it unstuck.

Since then, I've never been stuck, of course I've also always had four wheel drive vehicles. Several years ago I was on the way home at about 2:00 in the morning from a friend's house during a big freeze and after passing a car that was stuck, I decided to just drive around and help people as they needed it. I pushed a BMW bumper to bumper all the way down JFK from North Hills all the way to McCain, that was a lot of fun. For those not familiar with the area, that's about 2.5 miles. After making sure they made it home, I drove around hoping to find other civilians that needed my assistance. Needless to say, at nearly 3 in the morning at that point, most people were sane enough to not be out on the roads.

The only problem I run into is that on days like this, I always stay up late the night before because I know that school/work is closed or a late open, so I can sleep in, so I never get out on the roads before the salt trucks can get out there and the sun starts warming things up. This morning though I did get to drive down 440 which is basically one big bridge. It had not really been salted so there were some fairly treacherous areas.

I guess it is a bad thing that I have no fear, but I can only remember one time that I ever did not have 100% control of my vehicle. I've lost traction many times, I've slid around corners more times than I can count, and I've hydroplaned my fair share. But in each of those situations, I was in full control, fully aware of where my vehicle was headed and how the maneuver would end. The one time that I did lose control was on the night mentioned above. On the way down a hill in a subdivision with cars lining both sides of the street, I was attempting to slow down and lost traction in all four tires. I slowly began turning sideways and there was nothing I can do but try to steer back on course and hope that I stopped. Luckily, I only slid for 10 feet or so, but I learned a very valuable lesson. Although four-wheel drive allows you to get going in pretty much any condition, it doesn't help you stop.

Well, this post kind of got out of hand, but it was fun to relive those memories. I'm hoping that today, things melt a little, it rains a little more and then over night everything freezes over again because I've got to go to work so I'll be getting up early to get in on time.


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12/13/08 - I'm too busy (see: lazy) to put up the pictures.

Over on my wife's blog (Clicky), she has put up some very recent pictures of my beautiful baby girl. I actually took several of the most recent ones, but just haven't taken the time to get them up here. There's also a video from a last Sunday where I got her laughing pretty good.

The last week or so has been amazing for me in regards to my relationship with my family. I don't really know what it is, because I can't seem to place my finger on any one thing that changed up my mindset. But all I have wanted to do when I get off work is go home and play with makenna, put her to bed and then hang out with Cristi. I have turned on my 360 once in the last two weeks, and quite frankly, I haven't missed it. If I had more time in the day, sure, I'd log on and play a few rounds of Gears, but as it stands, that is at the bottom of my list of things to do.

There have been a few things that have contributed, but like I said, there isn't one glaring item that sticks out as the driving force. First, we started a bible study based on the movie Fireproof starring Kirk Cameron. It's a couples study that's main focus is to both reignite your marriage, as well as push out some of the negative influences that are currently in your relationship. It has been really good, but I told Cristi last night, I have been really impressed with our marriage as most of the 24 chapters we have covered to this point have simply been reminders of things that we have always done.

Another big thing that has started happening is that Makenna is definitely more interactive. When she was younger, she just laid there and would kick around sometimes. Now, she really goes for it, constantly wants to climb up me to stand up, and loves wrestling (basically, I just pick her up and swing her around and then "pin" her with a big hug). She talks a lot more and is really starting to show a personality.

I think the weather has played a minor part in my priority switch as well. During the summer and spring, almost all I can focus on is cutting grass, building up GrassGuys, and doing anything outside that I can. I'm hoping I can do better this next year so I can spend more time at home with my family, but years past, that is the way it's been. Now with the cold weather and dreary days, it's so much fun to climb up in my chair, throw on a blanket, put Makenna in my lap and let her just play. My TV helps too because now with the way our living room is laid out, I can see the larger TV from my chair (and the TV swivels so that it points right at my chair).

So there ya go, my family means more to me now than it ever has, and I'm loving every bit of it. I can only hope that my family is enjoying my time as much as I enjoy theirs...


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12/12/08 - White Chocolate Chip and Cherry Chocolate Cookies

The following recipe is based on a recipe that my mom has been using for as long as I can remember. Anytime my brothers or I needed food for school, or a potluck required a dessert, my mom would break out the Rainbow Cookies, and they have always been a big hit. In short, they are simply cookes made with cake batter.

Well, I shared the recipe with a lady at work, and she tried using devil's food cake, and then adding white chocolate chip and toffee bars, so I figured I'd try it a little different, and boy am I glad I did. Something to keep in mind, there are no rules to what you can put in these. If you have a thing for yellow cake, and absolutely love almonds, just replace the cake batter to yellow cake mix and use almonds instead of chips and cherries. The skies the limit. My next attempt will probably include mints and dark chocolate in a chocolate batter.

Here's the recipe for you to enjoy.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the following ingredients until combined, do not over stir. Mix by hand as the mixer will cause the batter to tighten up too much.

1 box of Devil's Food Cake mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil (I use canola)
1/2 cup water

This will create the base batter. It will be very thick, but that is what you want, just stick through the stirring, your patience will be rewarded. At this point, add to taste chopped dried cherries and white chocolate chips. When I say chopped dried cherries, I made the pieces slightly larger than the size of a chocolate chip. As a starting point, I believe i used the following

1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries

Place in ping-pong ball sized blobs on a baking sheet (I use a pizza stone) and bake for 8-10 minutes depending on your oven. What worked for me was 10 minutes in the oven, letting rest for 5 minutes, removing that batch and then starting again with the next batch. It took three batches to finish off the batter and made a total of somewhere between 3 and 4 dozen.

If you've got any "to die for" recipes, feel free to share them. We also made a pizza a while back, but that wasn't nearly as interesting as the cookies, so you get the cookie receipe instead.


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12/10/08 - I hate the dentist, still.

Yesterday I had a dentist appointment. I had to get a teeth cleaning and a filling. The teeth cleaning I can handle, to a point, but the filling is not something I particularly enjoy. Let me rephrase, I hate any work on my teeth. I don't like people talking about teeth around me, I don't like other people touching my teeth, or really even thinking about touching my teeth.

This time around, since I was getting the gas for my filling, I was given the option to use it for the cleaning as well, and you better believe I wasn't going to pass it up. That stuff is amazing. The problem yesterday though is that it made me a little sick to my stomach. Every once in a while, I would get so high on the stuff, I'd have to start breathing through my mouth to keep from throwing up. It didn't help that while waiting between cleaning and the filling, I laid there for probably 15 minutes or more (the actual amount of time is blurred by the fact that I was high on laughing gas). I do recall listening to the same song multiple times and that song is over 5 minutes long.

I recall while under the influence that I had several really good ideas for blog posts, but alas, my memory has failed me so I'm blogging about the fact that I had some good ideas.

I'm going to spare everyone the details because 1) I don't want to relive the experience and 2) if I ever came across a website discussing teeth procedures, I would never visit again. The whole thing sucked, and I did not feel well for several hours after the procedure. The appointment was at 7:00, lasted until 9:00 and I didn't feel like actually getting up and moving around until about 1:00.

Although I hate the dentist, one thing I actually do enjoy now is the polishing part of the procedure, mainly because they use Chocolate flavoring now which is pretty good and there is no scratching going on, just a light buffing motion on the teeth.

On a side note, Makenna loves standing up. If there is anything around that she can grab, she will try to pull herself up and she is pretty good at it too.


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12/6/08 - Makenna is going to send me to my grave...

So weekends are my time to take care of Makenna. For the most part, I love this. I don't get to spend much time with her during the week, so being the primary care giver, it is pretty much a requirement that I get to spend a lot of time with her. Most weekends are great. She takes a nap in the afternoon, and between then and bedtime, we just play, watch football, play some more, eat, and then play some more. This plan works great until bedtime.

For some reason, my daughter thinks it is the worst thing in the world to fall asleep. I'm pretty sure she gets it from me, because I don't like sleeping very much either. The difference is that when I get tired, I go to sleep. Makenna on the other hand, she would rather stay awake and cry. Let me rephrase that, she would rather stay awake and be held...otherwise she will cry.

Tonight, she was beyond cranky, so I knew that giving her a bath was out of the question. We jumped straight to PJs and then dinner (which has also been a problem recently). Tonight, she polished off 5 ounces, typically her dinner consists of about 3 ounces, so I was really thinking it would be a good night. She feel asleep (or so I thought) in her crib at a little after 8:00. I went out to the living room to wind down, with the plan of getting in bed at 9:00 myself, only to be startled by her screams at 8:30. Typically, a pacifier will take care of these situations, but this time it didn't work.

I tried rocking her, talking to her softly while gently shaking her in her bed, holding her and walking, and several other things that typically work. She kept her eyes peeled open the whole time. Finally, I had to just lay her down and let her cry while I turned off lights and did my nightly routine such as letting Raider out to the bathroom. I figured we would lay in our bed and fall asleep and she could just sleep with me tonight. Don't worry, this is not typical. Only twice since she started sleeping in her crib has this happened. It took her 15 minutes before her eyelids finally got heavy enough to actually fall asleep. She has been asleep now for close to 40 minutes and I'm headed there myself as soon as I finish this post.

I don't know what we are doing wrong, but she just does not sleep well. Last night she woke up 6 times (or something like that). The good thing is that she eats every time she wakes up, but it sure would be nice to get a full nights sleep with no interruptions.


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12/3/08 - TV rocks, Makenna is awesome, and Go Owls

So far the TV has been incredible. We had Dish come out and install an upgraded receiver and dish so we could get High Def channels and I have been in love. The only downside is that because of the amount of information HighDef contains, you can only record up to 55 hours of programming before it starts deleting old stuff. Now, before you get all bent out of shape and disgusted by the amount of tv we watch, let me explain. We have a few shows that we enjoy, I'm not going to lie. For me, The Office, My Name Is Earl, CSI (Las vegas, not the knock offs), Good Eats, Monk and Lost. My wife enjoys House, NCIS, Bones, Intervention, and First 48. I might have missed a couple for her, but we both enjoy Unwrapped. Recently we had to end our relationship with Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and House Hunters because it seemed like they were pushing out more episodes than we could keep up with.

Okay, after listing that, I guess we do watch a lot of TV. Before it got replaced, our receiver had over 60 episodes of Unwrapped, 10 episodes of Good Eats, and 30 or so episodes each of House and NICS. So in that regard, we don't actually watch all of the shows, we just have a lot that we could watch. Since now the signal comes in as HD, movies are awesome to watch and I've already DVRed Spiderman and watched it so I can only imagine that I'll be doing more of that in the future. Each movie is up to 3 hours long of record time, so you can see how things can add up.

So yea, the TV is great, and I really think Cristi has been enjoying it. She doesn't have as much attachment as I do, but she definitely recognizes how much clearer the picture is.

It has been a while since I've blogged anything about Makenna. I've kind of left it to Cristi to keep people updated since she has started her own blog. The biggest news I can share is that she can stand up and in the right scenario, will pull herself up to a standing position. What is funny to me is that before she could sit, she was satisfied to just lay there. Once she learned to sit, she would lay down for a while, then fuss until someone sat her up. Now, she lays for a while, then once sitting, will fuss until someone stands her up and holds her there or props her up against something. It's like she is only happy now when she is standing...whereas both her mom and I, at nights, all we want to do is go back to laying down.

She has really started eating which is a good thing. She is about as small as kids go and if I'm correct, is not even on the growth charts. Some parents say their child is in the top 75% in height and weight, others claim they are in the lower 10%. Well, we don't aren't even on the chart, so I guess we are below the bottom 1%. Her height and head size I believe are still normal (I feel like she is starting to grow into her head), and the doctor has said that she is healthy...just tiny.

She is such a good baby. She hardly ever fusses, except for night time when she is ready to eat and go to sleep. This only becomes an issue if we wait too long and she gets too tired. I don't think it will be much longer before she starts sleeping without the swaddle. It takes quite a bit of work to actually get her to sleep even with the swaddle, but she did take an hour or so nap at church last sunday without being wrapped up, so that's a good sign.

Last, but not least, a shout out to my high school. Last Monday, Abundant Life Schools (a 2A school) went up against Mountain Home which I believe is a 6A school (much larger tha ALS). The end score had the Owls a double digit winner; close to a 20 point winner. They face Cabot on Thursday, a 7A school and considered to be the best in the state right now. Apparently, three of the starting five have already committed to D-1 univerisities, and the other two will commit by the end of the year. It should be a fun game to watch, regardless of the outcome of the game.


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