Monday, August 31, 2009

Foot Empowerment

The difference between pregnant, swollen feet and the feet of a mother? The first are slightly moist, featureless dough dumplings; the second are fox-thin, veined and calloused and spread-toed. The first are for resting on dainty cushions, or propped helplessly into stirrups. The second, for standing on tile or wood or pavement – they are as impervious as shoes, even though they can finally wear them. The pregnant foot is sufferingly elegant as it is rubbed, oiled, manicured. The mother foot is superhuman, slender, beautiful in its efficiency. No colors are needed on its nails: it sneers at the pampered feet of the waddling masses. Mom feet are ruthless. Mom feet are sexy. Mom feet kick the asses of pigeon-toed misogynists. Mom feet have power.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Doc Rendezvous

Yes, that's Buzz Aldrin rapping about going into outer space. I'm hip with that hop.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Super Scooter

The super scooter has arrived.


I receive, from time to time, missives from King Arthur Flour, a delightful little company in Vermont. They first attracted me with their tasty bread machine mixes, and they have kept me by feeding my foodie needs. Today, however, they have made me happier than ever before. Today, my friends, they published a recipe on how to make real NYC black and white cookies. My favorite cookie. My most favorite cookie. I cannot extol its virtues sufficiently. Think on it: a soft, lemon cookie, half of it coated with just the right amount of sweet, sugary vanilla icing, the other half lovingly draped in a more robust chocolate icing. Is there anything more wonderful in the cookie world? No, I say. Assuredly no. So-- time to start baking.

Here, for the curious, is the recipe.

And here is a picture of how they'll (I hope) turn out:


I used to be one of those annoying little children who corrected people when they put prepositions at the ends of sentences. Or used adjectives in place of adverbs. As a matter of fact, I still correct people, though I get paid to do it. The big difference between being a prick of a youth and an editor is that editing makes a person very much aware of how much we all mangle English. It isn't hard to do!

That said, I refuse to join the Ben Franklins of the world who love painfully phonetic spelling and have moved "beyond" punctuation. This is partly self-preservation: if I refuse to see what professionals consider errors, I'm out of the job. So, too, I love good communication. English, when written well, is a beautiful thing to behold.

Thus, while I now avoid correcting people in public (unless asked), I still take pains to notice English... shall we say "deviations"? That brings me to this blog. I've found that while most people hate being corrected, they like to titter over the mistakes of others; I'm no different. So here is the glorious new label, "worldedit," wherein I make fun of the English of my fellow nameless humans. Click the label on the right side of the screen for grammar, syntax, and spelling joy.

First batch of botched English!

Typed on a bright orange sticker on the front of Adobe Photoshop Elements 7:

US $20 Mail-in Upgade Rebate

(I've always wanted an upgade. It's the fabled fruit which produces the key ingredient of Gatorade beverages. Harvested before it becomes a downgade.)

Typed as a question on the final test in a game design class:

"You are part of a team to develop a game, what does the terminology need to be used to communicate to others within the team in developing the initial screens and menus the player encounters when first starting the game?"

(This question is about communication. If that's irony, it isn't Socratic.)

The second example was provided by a vulpine friend of mine. If you see anything I ought to include in a worldedit entry, feel free to email me at

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Now that I've broken the ice with a thoroughly businesslike entry, I'll brave the introduction. I admit it's more like a sequel, both to my first post, and to Sparrow's first post (in which he gloriously outlined his intentions for the future). Naturally, since Sparrow did things one way, I'll have to do them in another way. Time for displaying my foresight in answering non-frequently-asked-questions!

What's the difference between Fox and Sparrow, the persons?
Sparrow tends to be florid in his writing; Fox can be painfully precise. Sparrow muses; Fox pontificates. Subjects will vary widely, but Fox will tend toward specific issues like the colonization of Mars, EPing, or grammar.

What do you two DO all day?
Write! And it's not a joke. Sparrow does a lot of writing (and teaching) in his line of work; Fox edits for money and writes for sanity. Nurturing Thorn is also a big part of life, since we do not put him in childcare. That is a responsibility we share utterly.

Who is Thorn?
Thorn is our son. We've decided to refrain from using his name here to protect his privacy.

Who is Rose?
Rose is Sparrow's name for Fox. Sorry for the confusion, but the name pre-existed the blog.

What are your political views?
If you have to ask, lest your eyes melt from our horribly American liberalism or conservatism, this isn't the blog for you. We don't agree anyway.

Who painted the winged fox image on your blog?
Click on the image to find out.

Did you know there's a bird named a "fox sparrow?"
We sure do. Found out while making this blog, in fact. But we are stalwartly dual-animal here.

Exclusively Pumping

I meant to begin this blog with an introduction and mission statement. But since I've been asked by several people how best to go about exclusively pumping breastmilk (EPing), I decided to post my information here so I can link it rather than type the same thing over and over.

For those who know nothing about this practice, EPing is the art of maintaining a breastmilk supply without actually breastfeeding a baby. There are many reasons a woman may choose to EP -- inverted nipples, a baby's extended stay in the NICU, latching problems, etc. -- but one thing these women have in common is that they are convinced that breastmilk is best for their children. When most mothers would get discouraged and switch to formula, these moms take on the full-time task of pumping their milk for the benefit of their babies.

I had a difficult time breastfeeding the Thorn as a newborn: he had strong suction from the beginning, but tended to suck only on the tip of the nipple, which resulted in -- there's no way to put this delicately -- a lot of blood. As I am a large-breasted woman and both nipples are very inverted, the task was even more difficult. Despite lactation consultations and diligent attempts at feeding, my baby lost weight and I lost confidence. That's when Sparrow found out about EPing on a websearch late at night. Faced with the dilemma of failing at the breast or switching to formula, I decided to EP.

At three months, I now produce 50 ounces of milk a day. Some people raise their figurative brows at the number, but based on forum seatches, getting at least 30 ounces isn't all that uncommon with diligence.

Things I've learned about maximizing my milk output while exclusively pumping (EPing):

1) Make sure your flanges fit your nipples -- there is no one-size-fits-all! In order to easily measure your nipple width, try the coin method: hold a dime, a nickel, and a quarter to your nipple. Which is about the right size? Then put the coin in your flange. Does it fit? Another key to knowing your flange is too small is if your nipples look pinched and rub up against the sides.

2) In general, dual electric pumps are best, but some have more success with manuals, so experiment (it never hurts to have a backup manual anyway). Insurance may help pay for the cost of a pump, but even if you have to foot the entire bill, remember that formula feeding is far more expensive in the long run.

3) Drink at least 100oz a day and get at least 300 calories in addition to what you'd normally eat;

4) Pump every two to three hours for at least twenty minutes for the first three months (generally, every time baby would feed) -- make sure that each time you keep pumping for five minutes after the milk flow stops;

5) Make sure at least one of your pumpings happens between midnight and five in the morning to take advantage of higher prolactin levels;

6) Keep as rested and de-stressed as possible;

7) Put hot compresses on your breasts to stimulate milk during pumping and help relax you (I find that putting hot water in my breast pads makes the heat last longer than using a washcloth);

8) Have your partner feed and change the baby while you pump at night (good for companionship and helps you get more rest -- Sparrow was brilliant at it);

9) When you drop a pump time, wait a week to make sure your production isn't suffering before dropping another pump;

10) Try to hold, touch, or look at a picture of the baby before you pump -- sometimes a recording of the baby's cry also works;

11) Gently stroke your breasts from outer edges toward the nipple to stimulate milk flow and help unclog any clots;

12) Put the pump on low suction/fast repetition for the first minute or three (until you get letdown); follow up with seven to ten minutes of high suction/slow repetition (until your breastmilk stops squirting and/or you get only a drop every few reps); end with low suction/fast repetition for the rest of the session;

13) Add a touch of olive oil to the flanges if you're getting pump-burn; use Lansinoh to moisturize your nipples after pumping (not before -- it is sticky and can make the friction worse); if you've really got a pump-burn or backache problem, consider these sorts of flanges;

14) Cardinal rule: if you're looking to increase your milk production, frequent pumping at 15-20 minutes is better than infrequent pumping for longer. With the latter, it may seem like you're getting more with each pump, but the overall number of ounces per day will be lower.

15) Keep a record of the number of pumps you do per day, the number of ounces you're getting, and the number of ounces you're drinking.

16) Don't watch the pumps! You'll only stress about it. Find something to read or listen to.

17) Many women believe they need galactagogues to increase supply. Often their supplies are fine, or would benefit from more time, calories, or liquid intake. Make sure you do research before using a galactagogue. Oatmeal, for instance, hasn't actually been proven to assist with supply -- any help is likely the increase in calories when a mother makes sure to eat regularly. Blessed thistle has been praised, as has fennel: these are in Mother's Milk tea. Again, it is likely that any increase seen is due to the liquid intake. Fenugreek is the only galactagogue I'd trust -- but be aware of potential side effects.

18) Yes, doctors used to suggest drinking beer, though they've ceased doing so. It's the extra hydration and calories that help, not the beer itself. In fact, alcohol can have adverse effects on breastfeeding. It isn't forbidden for a breastfeeding mom to drink beer, though. The alcohol content in breastmilk mimics the content in the bloodstream: wait an hour for a pint of 5% beer to metabolize, and you won't need to "pump-and-dump." However, plain old water is by far a better choice, if you're going to drink anything.

19) If your production is starting to suffer in later months, have a Pump-a-thon! That's two hours for twenty minutes each, all day.

Saving Money & Time
* Glad freezer bags are just as good at storing milk, for a fraction of the cost of milk-specific bags. Put one milk expression's worth in each sandwich-sized bag, "burp" the extra air out, and lay it flat in your freezer. When you've enough, double-bag the lot in a gallon-sized bag. Or freeze milk in ice cube trays and put the frozen cubes in freezer bags. Each milk cube is about 1 ounce.
* Instead of spending money to buy an expensive hands-free bra for pumping, try buying a sports bra and cutting small slits in the front, or looping rubber bands around the flanges and your nursing bra hooks.
* Rinse used pump parts and put them in the fridge between pumpings -- that way you'll save on dishes. You'll want to wash them eventually, but doing two pumpings with the same parts, properly chilled, is fine.

Built up a large freezer stash? Save a NICU baby! Donate your milk to an approved Milk Bank.

What Do You Use?
* Ameda Purely Yours (backpack version features a dual electric pump with manual option; you can also buy additional custom flanges and inserts to make sure your nipples get a good fit)
* Sassy MAM Anti-Colic 5oz (silicon nipples, BPA-free plastic, unscrewable bottoms)
* Itzbeen Timer (though you could just as easily use a free online stopwatch)
I use Ameda pump bottles when pumping and transfer the milk to the MAM bottles for fridge storage (or Glad bags, if I'm freezing milk). When in a true hurry, I can fit the ends of my flanges into the MAM bottles, though I have to hold onto both, since it isn't a screw-tight match. All products are available on

Exclusively Pumping :: Links: Exclusive Pumping
Exclusively Pumping Rules

Monday, August 24, 2009


I haven't had much time lately to sit calmly and observe the world around me. Dashing back and forth between my teaching obligations and my errands, I have failed to spend even a moment looking at beautiful things. I grant, too, that it is summer. Heat and humidity fail to interest me. The best flowers have faded into a verdant thickness. The trees can be lovely, but I prefer them in autumn, when their colors shift like a sunset's.

Today, however, is different. As you might have guessed from my coy introduction, I have found time this afternoon to sit. To look around. To enjoy beauty. Beauty has taken a particular form, too, this afternoon. Gilman Hall, the centerpiece of John Hopkins' Homewood campus, is being renovated. This lengthy process will come to an end, barring financial difficulties, in September of 2010. Meanwhile, a hideous scaffold sieges Gilman's historic exterior.

I'm currently sitting at a table on Q (quad) level of the MSE library on Hopkins' campus. I've sat here before. Many times recently. I have myself a little iced tea, or some water, and whatever lunch I've managed to scramble together. Sunflower seed butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches today. But, I've never looked out the window. Until today. I don't really know why. My curiosity has simply never directed me to turn my attention away from my work, from the people who bustle here, or from my own thoughts. I don't know what turned my head, but I'm glad for that little numen. For there, rising above everything else, is Gilman's clock tower. It is evidently finished. Sparkling white and copper. The time is wrong on the clock, as though trapped in a perpetual midnight, but the building is lovely.

We're also having a blue day here on campus. No clouds dot the sky, and so Gilman's bright, white form rises without competitor, a striking, handsome figure against the firmament. I've included a picture of old Gilman. It was lovely then, too. When the new building is finished, or as soon as I remember to bring my good camera, I'll take a few pictures. This process-- this beautification-- should be recorded. It should be noticed. I'm sorry that I haven't before now, but being sufficiently chagrined, I'll made a habit of looking up, taking a pause, and seeing the beauty around me.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mystical stones

Rose and I are going shopping for mystical stones. We're again inspired by the novel: Rumor of Gems.

Update:  We didn't make it out today, but we'll be sure to get there next week. The shop in question is called Earthly Rocks, and I purchased a lovely amethyst there some weeks ago. I hope to get a picture of that stone, and whatever others we buy, up here soon.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

4:59 am

I have a new appreciation for five o'clock in the morning. Once, and not so long ago, I considered it a benighted part of the day. If awoken anywhere even remotely near five, I would grumble bitterly, cursing my ill fortune. Since Thorn's birth, however, five o'clock has become a glorious time. I am effusive at five. Ecstatic. I sometimes even do a little dance.

Why so joyous?

My waking at five these past two weeks has been a direct result of Thorn sleeping "through" the night. Sometimes we get five straight hours of sleep now, but most of the time it is closer to seven. How delightful. How marvelous.
I never thought I could appreciate seven hours of sleep as much as I do. I don't think you can unless your sleep is interrupted every hour or every two hours for a few months (or, if you happen to be a chronic insomniac). My earlier sleep patterns (eight to ten hours at a stretch) were, I now realize, tantamount to receiving one of Hera's golden apples.* Utterly priceless.

But, aside from all of my frivolity, this is also a milestone for Thorn. He's growing up. Quickly. He's beginning to "talk," and smile, and hold his head up without support. Every day something new, and now that the days begin so much earlier, I have more time to enjoy it all.

* We moderns don't use mythological references enough. Time for that to change.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


My son, Thorn (3 months old), is sitting on my lap. And since he chooses to remain relatively quiescent, I am permitted to write this entry.

Rose and I have decided to begin a new blog. We've had blogs in the past. We use Livejournal, though I haven't posted anything significant there in ages. I've used Blogger before, but the blog I made didn't make it past seventeen entries. Recently, however, we had the lovely idea to write a blog together. Our individual writing lives have condensed, apart from work-related scribblings, to the flashes of Facebook and the tweets of Twitter, neither of which satisfies the craving to write. Independently we have failed to craft a stable outlet for our thoughts and musings, but we imagine that collectively we'll have more success.

The blog's title comes from a long series of discussions concerning totem animals. Rose's (called Fox here) animal is a fox. Mine is a sparrow. We'll sign our entries Fox or Sparrow. While many of our readers will come from Facebook, and thus will know exactly who we are and what we do, we've decided to use pseudonyms, maintaining, we hope, some anonymity. To this end I will refer to my wife as Rose or Fox, and to my son as Thorn whenever I write about them here. I don't know yet how Rose will talk about me, but I'll leave that in her hands.

I intend to use this blog to talk about books, the Classics, Roman and Greek history, Latin, anthropology, 19th century romantic literature, science fiction, fantasy fiction, the trials and triumphs of fatherhood, being a husband, the life of a graduate student in the humanities, poetry, and whatever other trifling amusements I happen to fancy. I will rarely, if ever, speak about politics, though World Events might make an appearance from time to time. I shall leave political discussions to Rose and others. My motto is the same as the musically inclined Benjamin Franklin's of 1776, who sang "I won't put politics on paper; it's a mania. So I refuse to use the pen in Pennsylvania." I agree, but I'll extend Mr. Franklin's verse to cover Maryland, New York, or any other state that I call home.

Now and then I'll include a bit of fiction, or poetry, or neo-Latin that I've written. We mean this blog, after all, to be a creative outlet as well as an informative one.

I always accept comments, and I'm looking forward to yours.

I think that's enough of an introduction. Time to get things rolling.