Baby Birds

For the second year in a row we have acted as tenants for a family of Barn Swallows. A lady swallow built a nest in the eaves outside our front door last year, and this year she reused it for her second clutch. The Barn Swallows, despite their propensity to make a massive mess of our front stoop, are both adorable and incredibly useful because they consume massive amounts of insects. According to, Barn Swallows can each eat about 850 insects per day.

I attribute the mosquito moderation at our home in part to the HOARDS of Barn Swallows that reside in our neighborhood. On our evening walks we see dozens upon dozens soaring overhead.


Over the past month or so we’ve enjoyed watching Mom Swallow fly to and from the nest feeding the little ones. Just in the last week and a half the birds have all learned how to fly. They venture out during the day and come back to the protection of the nest at night where Mom continues to tend to them.

To the swallows: you have an open invitation to the DiDo household’s front stoop. Come by anytime.


In 2005 Genevieve Loussouarn, PharmD, Charles El Rawadi, PhD, and Gilles Genain, PhD published an article on the Diversity of Hair Growth profiles – Or, how fast hair grows on average based on race.

Their findings across a variety of races suggest hair grows by between 250 and 400 micrometers per day. Right now, the world population is 7.4 billion. For our back-of-the-napkin calculation we’re going to ignore children under the age of one, of which there are about 150 million in the world (per That gives us 7.25 billion people. Then we’ll estimate 1/2 of men over 50 are bald (I think this is conservative), reducing the number by 750 million or so… and voila! we have 6.5 billion full heads of growing hair! Using maths, and taking the mediaun hair growth noted by the scientists above of ~350ish micrometers per day, we can estimate that the world’s heads grow about 2,275,000 meters of hair a day or about 1,580 meters per minute. That’s 60 miles per hour of hair.

That’s a HEAD of hair. Now if we take 100,000 hair follicles per head we’ve got 6,000,000 miles of hair being produced globally per hour. If we could magically consolidate all this to a single follicle it would be launching hair out at about 1/100th the speed of light!

Recommended goal of humanity: increase population and expand to different planets/star systems until we are 740 billion in number, at which point we will collectively be manufacturing hair at the speed of light.


I got my hair cut this weekend. Needless to say, it was overdue.


Harry Potter

We are reading Harry Potter. We are on book 4.

The nurse, Madam Pomfrey, is able to LITERALLY grow bones back in people’s bodies, yet Harry Potter hasn’t once asked to have his eyesight corrected. Glasses fogging up during Quiddich? Let’s just use a quick ever-clear spell on the glass. Ahh perfect, this makes much more sense than chanting “opiticaperfect!” and granting the most critical player on the team Eagle vision.

Come on people! Get your magic on!

In a fantasy/science fiction book it’s usually breaks in logic and common sense that bother me more than disobeying the laws of the universe.


There are those points in one’s life where maturity escalates rather abruptly. Going to college, having bills for the first time, starting a full time job, buying a house, getting married, and of course having a kid.

I think of all of these, only did the arrival of J.Atlas not remotely fit to my preconceived constraints.

Prior to the J.Atlas arrival friends, family, and coworkers were generous with comments. Many were cliche.

“It’ll change your life forever!”

“It’ll be the best time of your life.”

“Enjoy sleep now, while you can!”

“It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love!”

“It’ll be hard, but it’ll get easier.”

“You’ll stop doing all your fancy cooking as soon as that baby comes.”

All those messages sunk in and collected together in my brain into some sort of strange network of assumptions. Now 3 months in, I can admit that nearly all of these assumptions were wrong. Here are my discoveries so far:

  1. Babies aren’t that hard – Okay, caring for a baby is challenging, but not in the way that I thought. I had assumed that the toughest part would be the baby screaming or fussing while desperation sucks life out of you. Like a Dementor from Harry Potter wearing a diaper. But really, that’s not all that common. It happens, but it’s not the norm. The biggest challenge for me so far has been working in a new environment with Jen. It’s the classic challenge of paired management. For me, as a father and husband, navigating our relationship through his development can be genuinely tough. Being supportive when I need to be supportive and trying to communicate what I think is best for the little guy while being respectful to Jen’s preferences. This is legit hard. The baby’s easy.
  2. Sleep is not gone forever – there is no question we sleep less than we did before. But it’s not as hard as I thought. It’s just kinda what we do now. That’s it. It’s the new norm.
  3. We have tons of time – Seriously. We have tons of time. We just can’t really use the time. Boredom is surprisingly everywhere. What do you do after you’ve played with the rattle, read him a book, sang a few songs, bounced him, gone for a walk, and after all that only two minutes have passed? You just kind of do it again. This is the real time sync that people hint at. It’s not that you don’t have time, you just don’t have the luxury of choosing how to use it.
  4. Overall, life isn’t that different – People say everything changes, but it doesn’t. We are still us. We still have dinner together and enjoy walks. We have a little man that we carry with us, but we are still us.

Final Conclusion

I think when it’s my turn to hurl broad generalizations at expecting parents, I’m going to put it this way:

Babies increase life’s standard deviation. It’s like the bell curve of emotion has flattened a bit. The lows are lower, the highs are higher, but overall the mean and median remain unchanged. You respond with more maturity; maturity being nothing more than the ability to better handle broadening of our own personal happiness confidence intervals.


Having a baby makes gifts easier. A’int nothin’ a Grammy or Nana doesn’t want more than something baby-esque*. Jen had a good idea to make a little love poster using prints from Johnathan’s feet as the letter V. I think the original concept came from Pinterest or something, but we decided to tweak it a little for marvelous effect.

We took a couple canvases, covered Johnny’s feet in paint, used them as stamps, then caligraphied (Is that a word?) the rest of the text. The work was executed in the bathroom where we could quickly wash Johnathan’s little feet off once we had finished the prints. It worked really well, even with the little man squirming around like a fish out of water.


Then when it was just edging on unbearably cute, we grabbed a different canvas and made a giant grotesque canvas one with my feet.

Here’s Mom D at the unveiling. First with the feet of her youngest grandson:

Mom D

And then the completely ridiculous feet of her son:

MikeD Footprint

Mission accomplished.

*this sentence has a triple negative, the logic works out.

We Stopped and Oh, did we ever Shop

I think it’s safe to say that most people do not have as strong a relationship to their grocery store as they do to, say, their clothing establishment ( all the way!), bank (Dwolla thank you very much), or hardware store (Lowes or bust!).

In fact across the history of Mike D, I’ve mostly gone to the closest cheapest place.

In college that was Price Chopper. In Meriden, Shop Rite – until Big Y bought the location. Then it was Big Y.

Once we moved to Clinton, there were a collection of grocery stores all within the same driving radius. We ended up picking Stop & Shop. Stop & Shop isn’t known for their amazing prices, but Jen and I found an environment that was friendly to couponers – and we went all in.

And then came the gas points.

We started tentatively with Stop & Shop’s gas points, like a first date where you don’t know how things are going to pan out. We were flirting and it seemed like it had massive potential. It works like this: when you buy certain items you get a bonus amount off per gallon. For example, buy 6 cans of Progresso soup get $0.40/per gallon! You could stack these deals to get up to $2.20 off per gallon for up to 35 gallons.

$2.20 off 35 gallons? Take a good look at those limitations. By purchasing gas tanks for extra storage I could hit the limit of 35 gallons every time. At $2.20 off per gallon that equates to a savings of $77. Add in a coupon or two and we’re talking Black Swan savings.

The gas points got us and got us good. We were calculating fill ups and buying exactly what we needed to fill our tanks, it felt invigorating and intoxicating, like gambling and winning… more than just winning… we couldn’t lose.


Oh sweet, sweet, savings

As the price of gas dipped below $2.20, the emotional impact reached Miss America crowning levels of elation. 35 Gallons for $0.00? Color me addicted. And there we stayed, glued to the chair of our proverbial slot machine – pumping in our nickels and pumping out dozens upon dozens of cans of beans, boxes of eggo waffles,  packages of Mama T’s Perogies, Prego ready meals, tomato sauces, barbecue sauces, bags of chips, maple syrups, hundreds of cat food cans, countless pounds of cat litter, dozens of pounds of sugar, and thousands (literally) of gallons of gasoline. For two years we have been living this dream.

And then Stop & Shop caught on.

Oh the humanity!

Like a bad breakup

The announcement that on August 10th they would be changing the limits to $1.50 off per gallon with a 20 gallon limit… it slapped me in the face – hard. My spirits plummeted.

I can’t blame them. I think it’s a smart business move. Surely we aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the system. I can’t be sad to see it go, I’m by no means entitled to such savings – but I am thrilled to have been part of this program. It has been a shopping experience like few others.

Unlike most people, I think it’s safe to say I have developed a strong bond with my grocery store. I can’t say that I won’t explore other chains in the future, but I’m deeply grateful for our Stop & Shop gas points experience.

Thank you Stop & Shop for one heck of a ride.


On Saturday I got an MRI.

I’ve had a lump on my shoulder for a really long time and recently it started discomforting me at night. I went to get it checked out a week or so ago, and my Doctor advised an MRI. Now that I’ve experienced it, I figured I’d share my knowledge so if any of you find yourselves someday strapped down and rolled into the mouth of the Magnetic beast, you will be fully prepared.

MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging

How does it work? The MRI uses colossal magnets to align all the polar stuff in your body. Then radio frequency pulses are fired through perpendicular to the newly aligned stuff. The frequency pushes the polar stuff out of alignment. When the radio is turned off, the now misaligned stuff spins back into alignment releasing energy. The energy is recorded. Different tissues release energy differently so the techs are able to “see” what’s inside. Basically it’s Magic.

What’s it like?

MRIs are big ticket machines so the scheduling, at least at our local facility, was pretty specific. I showed up at 3:40, filled out paperwork for 10 minutes and was promptly taken into the lab. Most of the paperwork was intended to confirm that I didn’t have any metal in my body (like pins, staples, or shrapnel). Since MRIs use seriously gargantuan magnets I can only imagine that having metal on/in your person would unanimously qualify as a bad day.

After my interview, the tech let me lock up my personal items and reviewed my clothing.

“you can keep your shirt and your sandals. Underwear is fine, but you’ll have to remove your belt and shorts.” He handed me a pair of light shorts with a fabric belt to wear instead. “And you can keep your ring on.”

I got changed and met the techs at the entrance of the MRI.

An MRI looks like a immense doughnut with a stretcher in the middle. I was invited to lay down on the stretcher. Since my shoulder was the point of interest, I put my shoulder into a form that looked like a medieval shoulder guard (fun fact: this type of armor is called a pauldron). I accepted an offer for an additional head pillow as the technician raised my legs atop a comfortable wedge.

Before the machine turned on, the technician presented me with some basic info:

  1. The machine is loud
  2. I was not allowed to move and would be strapped down to aid in this measure*
  3. The experience would last 30-40 minutes
  4. I can listen to music!

*throughout the event the techs would be taking pictures with the MRI. Since the pictures would be compared with one another they need to be as positionally similar as possible: the less the patient moves the better

“We have Pandora, what station would you like?”

“ooh, I’ll take Jazz please.”

lesson learned: never request general music genres. For some reason it seems that everyone else who thinks they have a jazz station actually have a smooth jazz station. This is a deep travesty. My 40 minutes was mostly Kenny G. For those unfamiliar with Jazz, this is like asking for Rock expecting Metallica and getting 40 minutes of Credence Clearwater Revival.

As the technicians left the room, the stretcher rolled inside the MRI tube making me feel like I was in a science fiction movie. It’s hard to describe the size of the inside. I’ve never been inside a tanning booth, but the MRI space seemed to be about that size*. I had maybe 4-5 inches from my nose to the inner diameter of the machine.

*Fun business idea: Tanning booth MRIs for people who are concerned about cancer but MORE concerned about looking hella sweet at the beach this Tuesday for Marcia’s annual beach volleyball meet-up.

My headset came alive with the tech’s voice

“We’re going to begin. Please remain still. The first picture will take 20 seconds.”

The music began and I winced with realization that this horrible synth intro would continue for 40 minutes.

And then they turned on the machine with a subtle whirring. The first three pictures (20 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3.5 minutes) all sounded like single tones at various pitches. It was loud, but not insanely so. No louder than if you were inside your car holding down your car horn. The remainder of the pictures were taking with bangs and bams in fast repetition. Kind of like a really loud sprinkler on it’s return, or a muffled jackhammer. Other pictures made a sound like what I imagine would arise if you threw a baseball inside a red six quart kitchen aid mixer equipped with a paddle and set to speed 8.

After 15 minutes, I was taken out and injected with some sort of dye that would create contrast in the blood. This was done so that if by some unfortunate circumstance my lump was a tumor, it would stand out. Tumors get blood. Fatty cysts, do not.*

*or so I was told by the tech

The process repeated for another 15-20 minutes after which I was pulled out and we were done!

Overall, the most uncomfortable part of the process was the smooth jazz. Occasionally parts of my arm felt tingly but this may have been the vibrations from the noise as much as the magnetic alignment and realignment of my tissues. I applaud the team at Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook for their professionalism and attention to my comfort.

I should find out my results this week!