What do babies cost?

What do babies cost?

Answer one. Nothing. You just need a member of the opposite sex, and for most of you, a diagram. Har har.

Answer two. Your sanity. The best years of your life. Ho ho.

Answer three. Good question, let’s figure it out.

I’m sure you could raise a baby on biscuit crumbs and dishwater, but I doubt very much that any of you would do that. You want the best stuff, or if not the best stuff, the *right* stuff.

So let’s imagine you’re expecting a baby. I know lots of you are at the moment. I can only imagine the rest of you are stuck on the diagram, but read on anyway, you might learn something.

Before you bring the baby home, you will need:
Car seat: $130
Car seat frame $100
Changing table $200 (one of our best buys)
Diapers, wipes, tissues $50
Poo bin $50
Whole bunch of wipes (cloth diapers are good) $30
Baby swing $50
Glider $300
Cot $150
Mattress $20
Nest $40
Stroller with bassinet (pram) $300
Sheets, covers, towels etc $100
Plastic bath tub $20
Mobile $60
Clothes $200
TOTAL $1600

Ongoing costs PER MONTH for the first 3 months
Takeaway food (not kidding) 50×30 = $1500
Formula 15×15 = $225
Breast pump $70
Diapers, wipes $60
Poo bin refills $15
Clothes $300 (a complete change every month)
Trip to doc $60 cab $10 cover
Toys, books $50
Washing 3×30 $90
TOTAL $2390

I’ve linked to the ones we liked.

On top of these monthly costs, remember that one of you isn’t working, or you’re paying for daycare. Also there’s hundreds of little things to buy that aren’t on this list, and there’s things that don’t really work to waste your money on.

Remember that you spent lots of money paying for taxis to the doctors while pregnant, and myriad creature comforts to get you through that time.

If you haven’t just moved across the world, spending all your savings in the process, grumble grumble, then you can probably acquire some of the initial items through a baby shower.

If you’re comparing this to your annual salary and thinking, “oh this is ok”, try comparing the monthly against the amount you’re currently saving each month. Then remember that you need to actually start saving more, for college, for school, for emergencies.

And if you live in SF, don’t forget to upgrade your earthquake kit.

3 month extras
Mat $50
Jumperoo $80
Bibs (as many as possible) $150

6 month extras
High chair $20
Solid food $5 a day = $150 per month
Child proofing the house $TBC

Optional extras:
New camera $600 (I bet you buy one)
Better stroller $500 (because you shouldn’t have tried to save earlier)
Another cot (because he/she won’t sleep)
Flights and hotels for visitors (some of them)
COFFEE

TOTAL COST FOR THE FIRST SIX MONTHS $17,440

about twenty thousand dollars

Mark, Steve and Bill

I finally got to watching The Social Network. It’s fun, though I think it focuses too much on the precious “idea”. The film itself even notes that Facebook-alikes existed at the time: myspace, friendster et al. The idea was far from unique.

What I’ve always respected from Facebook is that they went against the grain of thinking at the time. We’d tell clients that their users would never give up their personal details without the promise of something in return. Facebook proved us wrong – people would (and still do) happily surrender every tiny detail of their life into a website, for no good reason.

Ok, so the film focussed on the legal issues (though didn’t even touch on the privacy issues), and apparently a “legal thriller” is a legitimate film genre. The film ends just as Facebook is taking off.

Facebook’s river of success has many tributaries. The film shows how single-minded and hard working you have to be to run this sort of site – that’s important. Despite the programmer’s bravado, “I built this in a week”, we lie – successful websites require an inordinate amount of everyday work and attention to detail.

For every project I’ve ever worked on, I can look back at the core concept, the basic code at the heart of the system, and yes, that probably took a solid week of coding. It’s just the finishing touches that took the other 18 months.

Facebook’s story is also one of constant reinvention. We had the exclusive-members-club mentioned in the film, before becoming the stalker’s handbook, and then an email replacement. When they launched Apps, the world woke up. There were pirates, pokes, vampires, and all sorts. Google felt the need to launch OpenSocial to compete. Little widget apps were the future. Until Facebook decided the idea was tired, and they killed it. Suddenly the apps were hidden out of reach. Boom. And now, the timeline, the canvas, the ticker. Facebook is all about reinvention.

Speaking of which, I’ve also recently finished Steve Jobs’s official biography. For anyone who hasn’t done that yet, it turns out Jobs was an absolute arse. A complete tit. Such a pitiful waste of human life that just treated friends, family and everyone else like shit.

Until he returned to Apple, Jobs didn’t even make good business decisions. However, when he did come back, he started a massive overhaul of the company. Any every aspect of that revolution made perfect business sense.

He slimmed the range of products to something humans could comprehend. He recognised the importance of the tiny disc drive that would power the iPod, then bet the company on it. He bought a touchscreen company, then didn’t release a shitty tablet. He made the iPhone. He made products both cheap and profitable. He trusted Tim Cook. He trusted Jony Ive.

He built Pixar.

What the book doesn’t properly explain is how such a pathetic excuse for a human being could have been such a business genius, when business is often about relationships. I suspect the book is about as accurate as the Facebook film.

One person who comes across well in the book is Bill Gates. He comes across smarter, more friendly. He understands that clients wanted compatibility, and built a computer industry out of it. His only vice seems to be saying yes too often, and that’s why Windows and Office became overly complex bloatware, that have struggled to keep up with the rapid pace of online development.

Gates actually has a cameo in the Facebook film, failing to inspire a young Zuck.

Zuckerberg, Gates and Jobs. All young billionaires. but none of them lottery winners. Their core stories involve a solid education, a massive dedication to hard work (usually at the expense of personal relationships), and constant reinvention.

Now Facebook has IPO’ed, I look forward to seeing if Zuckerberg will stagnate like Gates, or simply push harder, like Jobs. And if he did push on, what would he do next?

Kindle

The Kindle is an interesting device.

I’ve had mine for a couple of years now, and I’m still happy with it. It’s everything I expected. What surprised me though, was the way it changed how I read books.

I’m not a great browser, I’ll be honest. For the nerds out there, I’d say I was the IE6 of book browsing. I tend to stick with authors I know. In a bookshop, I’ll check for the location of the Pratchetts and Palahniuks, knowing full well that I already own them all. And then I’ll cast my eye disparagingly at all the other books, and walk out.

On the Kindle it’s actually even harder. The books store simply says: Fiction (100000). Great. Thanks.

So you look up the authors you know. Maybe something, maybe nothing. Ok. What now? I look around the bus. Obviously I’m on a bus on the way to work, that’s the only chance I get to read. Unlike before, I have no idea what all the Kindle and iPad owners are reading. Bugger.

Amazon have created a chart, so I can see what the nation as a whole is reading, but I can’t get a feel for the vibe on the bus. Remember that year when everyone was reading Da Vinci code? I want that.

Maybe there could be a little screen on the back with the book title. Or maybe they should have Bluetooth, and let you sample nearby readers’ libraries.

So I found myself just flicking through the charts and I found … Asimov. I have never read Asimov. Science fiction as a whole puts me off, simply by the thickness of the volumes involved. But on a Kindle, that’s not so scary. I don’t have a heavy book, and I don’t feel like I’m embarking on another Lord of the Rings.

Before I realise it, I’m almost done with Asimov. What should I read next? War and Peace? Shakespeare’s complete works? Harry Potter?

The size doesn’t bother me. The covers aren’t off-putting, and I can even read the Pornographer’s Diaries (Danny King is a favourite author) without embarrassment. The world is my oyster.

Temptation

In my mind of minds, I’m trying to talk myself into buying a Windows Phone. I know that sounds odd, but sometimes I like to get something a little different. After all, I bought the Nokia 7380, a phone with no keyboard of any kind, and in bright sunshine, no screen either.

So I’m tempted. It looks really slick.

There’s just a few things bothering me. Please bear in mind that I have done no active research. I go by twitter chit chat, billboards and window displays. I don’t watch cable tv or look at banner ads.

I’m worried about essential apps. Will gmail work? I’m not switching to hotmail. How about twitter, facebook, ├╝ber, zipcar, sonos? I don’t hear people raving about windows phone clients.

I mean, I don’t need everything. Just those essentials..

Contract. The phone is cheaper, granted, but I think they’re still pushing me into a contract. But what if it’s a turkey? I don’t want to be stuck with the same turkey for two Christmases.

You know how cool it is to watch movies on your four inch phone? Honestly? It’s rubbish. Rubbish. So how about you throw me a smaller, sexier phone that fits in my pocket? Get freaky on me. I think your styles can handle it. I won’t watch more than YouTube videos of cats anyway.

Finally, my android phone. Everything about it is annoying me now. I’ve got a Nexus One, and I’m so over it. Every time I dock it, I curse the stupid delay, the lack of notifiers on the screensaver, the fact that I can’t differentiate ringtones between my wife’s urgent call and the bastard automated calls. That damnable lock screen. I hate this phone.

Ok, this is irrational, because the phone is fine, and I’m just tired of the quirks. Understood.

But to every one of those points, I look to the iPhone and sigh. How much better will life be when I have an iPhone? Maybe I just can’t possibly bear to buy anything else.

So to Microsoft/Nokia I say: reassure me. Give me billboards, give me window displays. I’m ready to take the jump.

Promise me it’ll be ok.

How to visit a friend with a baby

Until recently, I didn’t have much experience with babies. Even when I knew it was coming, I still stayed away from friends with babies, because I felt I wouldn’t know what to do. I was sure that when I had my own, I’d figure it out.

This is true. You do figure it out.

But, hey, it might be that you’re visiting a friend with a baby (like us for example, please come and visit), and you haven’t had your own sprog yet. How do you behave? Here is a handy guide.

Say hello to mum. If not first, then at least second. It’s easy to forget, what with the baby.

Wash your hands before touching the baby. Golden rule, no exceptions.

Don’t take the baby. Ask, if you want a hold. But not straight away. Let the baby get used to you. Babies have a phase called “stranger anxiety”. If the baby screams at you, back off and give it time.

If the baby cries, keep clear. This can be a stressful time for the parents, especially with a guest present. Don’t hover, don’t help, just stand back and amuse yourself. Maybe take a walk.

Be prompt. You have no excuse not to be on time. We might be late – we have a baby. But don’t leave us hanging around waiting on you. It’s surprisingly disruptive (babies need to be changed, fed, napped, exercised), and besides, it’s just rude.

Don’t get all up in the baby’s face. You don’t shove your face into every strangers nose. He can see you. There’s really no need to be less than an inch away.

Don’t offer advice. Don’t take us aside and suggest we might be doing this wrong, or that wrong. You have no idea. Even if you think you have an idea, keep it to yourself. Instead, compliment us. Tell us how big and strong the baby is, how happy he is, what an amazing job we’re doing.

If you find yourself in the kitchen, tidy up and wash up. Observe the local practises (there may be equipment just for baby stuff). Try to find yourself in the kitchen regularly!

Take your cues. If we’re yawning vigorously, and asking about how you’ll get home, then take the hint and go.

Finally, here’s the best point of all. It’s the best. The winner.
“How can I help?”
Simple question. Ask it often.

We parents will thank you for following these rules. If not out loud (we’re busy), then in spirit.

We thank you.

I miss running

I haven’t been running for a long time – since my baby was born. There’s just not enough time and energy for it these days. We wake up for the second or third time that night at about six am, pull the little one out of bed and try to soothe as best we can. By the time we’re all fed and watered, it’s about 8.30 and I’m rushing to the bus stop.

I don’t really miss the long run to work though. It’s a slow four miles along the coast, avoiding traffic lights and the famous San Franciscan hills. I just jog at a steady pace. The distance isn’t hard, just the boredom. Long distance running is pretty dull – you have to have a lot on your mind to be able to run without getting really bored.

It’s running fast that’s more fun.
Not a run, not full speed even.
I mean a full-on sprint.

That extra burst of energy you throw in when you’re already going full speed. When your arms are pumping as hard as your legs, reaching out to claw the air closer. When the skin on your face starts moving against the bone. When you shift your weight down and back, so your feet can make maximum contact with the ground, but it’s still not enough. When you forget about breathing because it’s just another distraction. When every muscle in your body is working maximum power, maximum speed, just to propel you forward.

That’s the kind of running I miss.