Keep them in footy pajamas

There’s a distant planet far away, home to a civilization at least as advanced and sophisticated as our own. They have split the atom, they have invented peanut butter, they watch reality TV. They drive around in solar-powered autonomous cars. They’ve developed warp drive, and can travel vast distances through space and time in the blink of an eye.

Why haven’t they arrived here? Why haven’t we heard from them?

Because they’re still wearing onesies, sleep sacks, and footy pajamas all the way into adulthood.

They’ve organized themselves into different gangs, identifiable by their clothes: there are the Striped People, and the Tutu People, and the Pastel Teddy-Bear People, and the “I Love Grandpa” People. Most of their clothes are either way too big or way too small, and any pockets are ornamental or (at best) nearly useless—too small, or sewn on at the wrong angle. They’re always tripping over their cuffs and they’ve got nowhere to put their keys, and half the time they can’t use their hands because their sleeves are too long, or the cuffs have been inadvertently folded over, and they haven’t figured out how to fold them back.

They’re constantly getting their socks wet, or sitting in puddles by mistake, and it takes them forever to change their shoes.

And just as they’re about to go anywhere—to conquer a distant planet, or even head across town for some groceries—one of them inevitably has to go to the bathroom, and everybody else has to wait around as the offender struggles all the way out of and then back into his clothes. And by then one of the others has to go, or somebody has spilled strained peas on her onesie, and everybody has to wait around (again!) while she changes into something else. 

So despite their advanced technology and highly-developed social structure, they hardly get anything done, and instead spend most of their time struggling into and out of their clothes.

Configuring and integrating a new Crying Machine: initial report

We recently took delivery of a second Crying Machine.

The new model is significantly smaller and more compact than our old Crying Machine. (Frankly we’re astounded at the miniaturization in the new one, especially when the units are compared side-by-side. And we thought the old one was small!)

The new unit has a slightly different build and coloring than our first machine. (Some customers might complain about inconsistent quality, but we’ll give the manufacturer the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to artisan batch production.) Like our last one, this newest model came out of the box with a fully-functioning klaxon and wastegate assembly, though it’s not totally plug-and-play: you still have to do a lot of troubleshooting, reconfiguration, and systems integration to get things running the way you want.

After three weeks, we’re still ironing out the kinks in our unit. For example, we wanted to run our Crying Machines in a failover configuration (i.e., only one unit should be crying at any given time, with the second unit ready to take over only if the first one shuts down). But we still haven’t figured out how to sync the two units correctly, so they often run in parallel instead. This is particularly irksome if we’re transporting both units in the same enclosed vehicle, and their alarms go off simultaneously. Then we’re caught trying to troubleshoot two Crying Machines, our Barking Machine, and at least one of the Swearing Machines all at the same time. This failover behavior might have something to do with our daily scheduling algorithm getting thrown off during the new unit’s initial break-in period. (And let’s be honest: we’ve never really been able to get our morning batch routine running consistently anyway, what with socks, hats, and other peripherals strewn about our staging area, and the mad scramble to get all units powered up, fueled, configured, and deployed in the proper sequence.)

We’re also still working out the correct feed rate on the new machine, so after three weeks our fueling process is still a bit ad hoc. We’ve found that the new machine often develops an air bubble during fueling. (Vapor lock? A loose vacuum hose?) A series of taps or thumps on the back of the unit is usually enough to burp air out of the system and reset it. However, sometimes fuel overflows and is ejected with little or no warning.

Luckily the new unit goes into standby mode pretty quickly and readily–specially in transit–and we’ve already figured out how to put it into standby mode if it panics–a job that goes much easier when we’ve managed to load it with enough fuel to last through a long recharging period before the next reboot. (One lesson learned the hard way: don’t forget to empty the accumulated dump files and reset the wastegate assembly before attempting a shutdown!) In contrast, our older unit often gets stuck in a Why-loop before we can get it into standby mode, especially if we miss the recommended evening shutdown window. And if we’re not careful our older unit can go into full system meltdown before we’ve had a chance to start the shutdown routine; at that point we just have to let it spin up and wind down on its own, and hope for the best. (I’ll chalk that one up to a programming/operator error; we’re still learning the ins and outs of proper system management, even after almost three years with our first Crying Machine!)

One other nice feature of the new unit: it’s backward compatible, so most of the accessories and peripherals we already have for the first Crying Machine–transport buckets, slings, swings, white noise generators, diapering systems, cladding, etc.–work just fine with the new one. And luckily our legacy Barking Machine/perimeter alarm system has self-calibrated to accommodate the new addition. (Good thing, too: we removed the tags from the new machine almost as soon as we got it home. And then of course the belly-button thing fell off and got lost, voiding the warranty. So we can’t really return it at this point anyway, even if we wanted to.)

Meanwhile, our older Crying Machine is refining its own meltdown algorithm, and perfecting its higher-language whining and other communications protocols. More on that in a later post….