Discover more from Ben Mann Monthly
Ben Mann Monthly October 2022
Baby Euda, concrete, horror, oats, clogs, hedonism, aliens
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Experiments and experiences
Eudaemonia born, paternity leave started
Our daughter Euda was born Oct 8, 2022! In retrospect, Diana had a relatively easy labor. What I've learned since follows.
We had trouble distinguishing labor contractions from other contractions. For labor, when a contraction hits, you shouldn't be able to speak or walk! It's common to have a little fluid start coming out before water breaks.
There is a surprising amount of controversery over whether to get an epidural. It was a life saver for Diana. Get it as soon as the doctor recommends. She was really suffering beforehand.
The hospital includes meals for the mother, but not the father. Order food for both people anyway. No one's going to care, and it makes it so you don't need to find your way through the warren of hospital corridors to get outside.
Gifts: ask for consumables. Everyone's going to want to give you clothing, but that's the easiest thing to get secondhand from your friends and neighbors. They grow so fast they'll only wear the outfits a few times before it's time to switch. Instead, ask for diapers. Babies need an average of 10 diaper changes per day for a year, so you'll need 3650!! Sizes start at N, not 1. People you hardly know will send you all sorts of stuff. It's weird!
You'll want mittens to prevent the baby from scratching her face for the first week or two.
Secondhand everything is the way to go. This stuff is built to last, and by the time people are done with it, they have too many other things to think about and just want to get rid of it.
Amazon baby registry: there's a complicated UX to figure out, but even if no one uses it aside from you, you can get a 15% discount on any baby-related purchases if you click "redeem benefits".
Bring a phone charger to the hospital. You'll want to communicate with people, start tracking things in baby apps, take photos, and look things up. Most things you can do without because the hospital will provide them, like a toothbrush, but they didn't have any chargers for some reason.
It took a few nail-biting days for Diana's milk to come in, and our Kaiser lactation nurse told us to start a "triple feeding plan" after a few frustrating days passed with a very sad baby. Triple feeding means for every feeding session, start with breast, then pump, then formula feed by taping a small tube to your finger and using a syringe to deliver the formula. This was a huge amount of work and left us exhausted. On top of the hour of hands-on time, there was also cleaning all the equipment afterwards. On the plus side, we knew exactly how many calories she was getting. We also qualified to rent a hospital-grade pump due to Euda's weight drop. Later, another Kaiser lactation nurse told us she couldn't believe we'd been put through that, that it doesn't make sense to pump immediately after you nurse since you'll be dry anyway, and that this other nurse must've been mistaken because it always takes a few days for the milk to come in. Now she's strictly nursing and it's easier for everyone. We hired a speparate lactation consultant anyway and learned a couple of new positions that were more comfortable, found out which bottles and nipples were the best, and a few other useful tips.
Read Cribsheet before and after birth. Beforehand you'll be listening, but you won't have a burning need to know the information, so you'll quickly forget. When you've already experienced the problems, the information will stick.
At the hospital they taught us to burp Euda in a sitting position. I found this far easier and more entertaining than throwing her over my shoulder where her head could flop around.
Within a few days she started to develop a crusty rash around her anus. We bought some diaper cream and it went away in a day or two.
Swaddling seems complicated, but it's not. Even so, we found this SwaddleUP to be much more effective than traditional swaddles. She never escapes, and it holds her hands up by default instead of down, which she prefers.
Diana and I traded off night shifts when we were doing triple feeding. Once she starts pumping again, we'll likely resume.
Conscript your parents and siblings if you can. Even if you can afford paying for help, it's a great bonding experience. See also The Tail End. Counter to Cribsheet's recommendation, having 1:1 care from people with a stake (ie, not people you're paying) makes a measurable difference, even if the effect size is small (source).
If you haven't figured out how to get her to stop crying, put your pinky in her mouth, nail side down. She's more likely to take it than a pacifier, and you've always got your pinky on you.
Buy a second-hand Snoo. We waited three weeks thinking we could do without, but it's been such a game-changer having it that it's worth the money. We found one for $700 on Facebook Marketplace. It's cheaper than a night nurse and will last till she's ~6 months old.
Most of all: you'll be hacked. Maybe you won't feel an overwhelming sense of connection and love, but you certainly will think this organism is very cute and needs you. It's completely helpless, it makes cute or scary zombie-looking-for-brains or chirping or squeaking noises all the time, and it looks a bit like you did a long time ago. Despite only being a few weeks in, I can already see it's a heroic effort to raise a child. I can't help but empathize more with people around me. After all, every one of them was a helpless baby once, and someone cared enough to shepherd them to adulthood.
Fixing clogged sink drain
One coffee ground too many and our kitchen sink stopped draining. When the drain-o failed, we tried to plunge the sink, but it came up through another sink in my bathroom. This suggested a T-joint somewhere in the piping. I bought a 15 ft snake at the hardware store. If the block was after the T joint and it was in an unfortunate orientation, we might not have been able to snake the blockage. Nonetheless, we took apart the kitchen sink all the way to the wall and held it shut with a hand while we plugned the bathroom sink. This yielded some black crud, but the blockage remained. Then we dismantled the bathroom sink and put in the snake. A few turns later, and we hit something smushy. When we backed it out, the bulb at the end had cought a mass of mixed detritus that looked like hard crumbled feta-textured plastic mixed with some strands of shredded thin-film plastic. We snaked again, and hit another block with 6 inches of slack remaining. We prayed that we'd crossed the blockage. When we removed the snake and ran the kitchen tap, it drained! Don't wash coffee grounds or kitchen grease down the drain, or you'll have to borrow my snake.
For the last 10 days I have not taken any medication at all. Compared to other times I tried this since starting SSRIs 3 years ago, this time is going much better! Confounding factors: I'm married, have a baby, and am on paternity leave. My sleep improved dramatically after ~48h, and probably as a downstream effect my daytime focus and alertness also increased. Mood has commensurately fallen to ~pre-SSRI levels, but I feel like I'm better able to cope now. This has occasionally led to projection, but I quickly recognized and resolved it. I've started a discussion with my psychiatrist to try either a lower dose of fluoxetine or another class of antidepressants like SNRIs.
My favorite mask is the P30i, which sends the air directly up my nose with minimal contact on the rest of my face. I struggled with low humidity for a while with the machine on the "auto" setting. Switching to manual and using 6 seems like the right level, but eventually the tube fills with condensation and makes loud slapping noises when I breathe. Increasing the tube temperature might fix the problem. Since stopping SSRI's I haven't needed CPAP to feel rested, but I do feel more rested when I use it.
Concrete - First, make cement out of limestone, iron, and aluminate, and gypsum. Then use it to bind sand or glass aggregates and gravel. Mix in exact proportions and agitate until use. (how cement is made, how do mixing trucks work)
Oats - What's the difference between steel cut oats, rolled oats, and quick oats? Once you've made oat groats, steel cut are just chopped up. Rolled smashes them, so they cook much faster, and quick oats are cut before they are steamed and rolled. (how to roll oats at home, the story of oats)
5 point Likert ratings for “I would recommend this content to a friend”, sorted
Sci-fi horror with an original premise and thorough, enjoyable world-building. Plenty of gore, lighting effects, and detached body parts.
If a meme is an idea or information that easily sticks in your head, an anti-meme is something you can't remember. How do you fight an enemy you can't think about?
When people consider hedonism, it's usually a strawman. But what if we also incorporate, for example, our long term future-discounted pleasure and pain? What about eg the pain of social disapproval, etc? There might be edge cases for sociopaths, but within a well functioning society, even they could respond favorably to hedonically-inspired incentive structures. Seemed practical and obvious in hindsight, but also a minority stance among philosophers.
As an ex-Objectivist, I found this especially interesting. Rand tries to solve the Humeian is-ought problem, but ends up going way too far and drawing some strange conclusions. This work tries to be more careful, only claiming that from the perspective of an individual, hedonistic utilitarianism could make a lot of sense.
Excellent execution, reasonably faithful to the facts. Sad story about real talent struggling with drug addiction, fame, and an abusive but effective promoter/manager.
Bad characters and story, awesome stunt flight sequences.
I am starting to learn Korean again after my previous failed attempt with Pimsleur. This is the best resource I found on how to learn the alphabet and phonemes. Need to commit time more regularly. Maybe I'll study with Euda once she's old enough 🌈.
Grabby Aliens 3/5
Nice summary of Robin Hanson's Grabby Aliens theory, which tries to explain the Fermi Paradox, or "why don't we see evidence of alien civilizations in the universe?"
TLDR: we're probably early in the history of the universe, and many rapidly expanding alien civs will eventually spread throughout the universe, possibly including us.
I haven't watched a horror film in a while. This one was purposefully confusing to increase dramatic tension, but had a good dose of comic relief to balance it out.
Thanks for reading!