Monday, January 17, 2011

Early Claraese

At long last, Claraese is starting to emerge. I'm guessing that over the next two months so many words will emerge that I'll quickly forget this stage entirely, so before that happens I'd like to record what we have so far.

1st clear meaningful words: Three words all have been intermingled for some time -- "mom", "milk" and "more." Needless to say these are usually uttered at moments of desperation. Over time, these are starting to distinguish themselves, with "mom" often articulated as "mə mə" or "mə maaaa", milk articulated with a mid vowel ("mɪ" or "mɛ") or "more" articulated more like a single long "mə"

1st clear, common animal sound: "roar", first made in response to dinosaurs, then to other roaring animals as well. Hard to describe this sound, except to say it's kind of throaty and that there's nothing cuter than a tiny person trying to roar.

2nd clear animal sound: "moo." This one is more interesting because you can hear her articulating the "moo" as she goes -- she starts the sound at "ma" and then moves to "oo", resulting on something that sounds like "mao" or, occasionally, makes it all the way to "maouuu"

Several new words are emerging this week with more frequency, including:
- dad (də də)
- up (pəpəpə) - this sounds more like a play sound than a word, with the vowel almost unperceived and the main focus on repeating a "p" sound
- yes (ya ya) - this was produced after extensive coaching by big sister Grace.
- bye (bə bə) - this was learned as part of a fabulous game involving repeatedly hiding behind the shower curtain. She mostly still prefers to wave for this though.

Clara still prefers to communicate mostly with simple signs -- yes and no nods and pointing. It can take a fair amount of work to elicit a word from her, since asking her questions about me, say, will get her to point to me or to pictures of me or to the door (if I'm at work) but rarely to simply say my name.

As far as recognition, her vocabulary is big enough that it's impossible to enumerate what she knows and hard to estimate how many words. An example of words she certainly knows: names of all family members & friends, names of common foods, diapering and bathroom related words, guitar, music, book, radio, baby, doll, couch, table, and on...

I still find the notion of a "first word" baffling: I have no idea what her first word was.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hybrid Economics... family haulers

We're possibly in the market for a new more family-like vehicle. Like many, we're interested in sacrificing as little fuel economy as possible if we leave behind our civic.

One thing that occurs to me is that it might make sense to get a bigger hybrid vehicle, thus offsetting our decision to buy a larger car with a decision to buy a more efficient engine. Except the economics are rather astounding.

Looking at one such vehicle (the Toyota Highlander), the hybrid costs an astounding extra $10,000 and gets only ~6MPG better. Now these 6 MPG make a bigger difference in a SUV or minivan than they would in a sedan (the marginal benefit of each MPG is bigger the lower the MPG you start with), but still, this is pretty insane.

If I assume the price of gas rises to $6 a gallon (pretty hard to imagine), it would take a smidge over 14 years for this thing to pay for itself if we drive the same amount as we've driven over the past decade or so (that's 12,000 miles a year, or 171,000 miles total). It I assume a more reasonable price of $3.20/gallon, it will take almost 27 years or 320,000 miles. It's hard to imagine a battery lasting that long...

This problem is slightly exacerbated by my looking at a bigger-is-better car market -- the wise folks at Toyota figured that ecoconscious consumers wanting a hybrid would still rather have less efficient 4WD for example -- but only slightly.